Friday, April 29, 2011

Essential Cinema - 50

From Cinema

The Shoes Of The Fisherman

Anthony Quinn ... Kiril Lakota
Laurence Olivier ... Piotr Ilyich Kamenev (as Sir Laurence Olivier)
Oskar Werner ... Fr. David Telemond
David Janssen ... George Faber
Vittorio De Sica ... Cardinal Rinaldi
Leo McKern ... Cardinal Leone
John Gielgud ... The Elder Pope (as Sir John Gielgud)
Barbara Jefford ... Dr. Ruth Faber

Michael Anderson

James Kennaway
John Patrick
Morris L. West novel

Erwin Hillier

A Russian bishop exiled to a Soviet gulag for 20 years is thrust into the Papacy by forces beyond his control.

How power can come in unexpected ways to those that least expect it. Those that live a simple life can sometimes see things much more clearly than those at the center of the storm.

I liked this film. It has a lot of flaws, but the concept and pageantry of the film makes it somewhat epic. It delves into some of the hidden ceremonies within the Catholic Church and gives a sense of what it must be like to be a part of the oldest organization known to mankind. Anthony Quinn alone is worth watching. He plays the lead role of Bishop Kiril Lakota with understatement and intensity. As a simple man that has seen more horror in his life than most, he finds himself a duck-out-of-water in the political intrigue that surrounds the Vatican. He must find ways to cope and change the direction of the church and its place in a changing world. All of the actors in the film seem to be relishing their roles, which make them appear larger than life.

What I didn't care for in the film were the sub-plots. The philandering television reporter played by David Jansen served little more than to narrate some of the intricacies of the Catholic Church. His estranged relationship with his wife did nothing to move the plot along and seemed to be little more than a distraction. His huge metal-ball hand-held microphone also seemed just downright odd.

The sub-plot of Fryer Telemond with his writings about the meaning of faith and the concept of what God is also seemed to have little relation to the plot, with the possible exception of making Kiril question what faith is and to think outside the box. Oscar Werner is a joy to watch, but I think he was somewhat wasted in this role.

The only other thing I found disappointing was the soundtrack. For a film of this scope and grandeur, I would have expected something more sweeping in scope and religious in tone. What Alex North gives us is something akin to 1960 pop inspired background music which just did not do it for me.

This film is somewhat dated. It was shot in the 1960s and predicted what the world might have been like in the 1980s, with the cold war adversaries of the United States, the U.S.S.R. and China still playing a game of nuclear brinksmanship. The future didn't turn out this way, but it is still interesting to speculate how it could have been.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which is located on the LaserDisc Database.

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) entry for this film. The listing of all the LaserDiscs that I have reviewed on IMDB can be found here.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Am I Obsessed?


I made a decision a few weeks ago, that I was going to stop collecting LaserDiscs. I have over 600 of them, all filed and stored in plastic sleaves for protection. I have set up a small media room to view them all (when I retire) and have them all cataloged online.

So, last weekend, the wife wanted to go out and find a new area rug for the dining room prior to Easter dinner and she wanted me to go with her(to help her carry the thing if she found one she liked). I agreed, even though I was bone tired after having worked in the yard most of the day.

We found the rug she wanted and loaded it into our truck. On the way home I needed to stop by Ace Hardware to pick up a toilet part for the toilet that was re-installing. Before we go there, we deceided to stop by a local Savers (a type of thrift store here) to see if there was anything that caught our eye.

While browsing through the old record albums,.....I came upon the Holy Grail of Laserdisc collections. I found over 45 of them, many unopened and all either hard to find concert disks or foreign films that are rare as hens teeth, even on DVD. [Brucie loves him some Truffaut, Goddard and Fellini] At $3.99 each, they were cheaper than anything I could find on ebay. Needless to say, I plunked down almost $200 for the whole collection and wheeled them out to the truck.

So now my collection is pushing 680 Laserdiscs. According to my online LaserDisc tracking database account, that is over 1,199.3 hours of video that I can watch, which is well over 50 days worth of viewing, non-stop. If you want to browse my whole collection you can see it on the LaserDisc Spreadsheet in my Google documents account.

So, is this healthy, or am I a some sort of obsessed fruit cake?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Generalized Rant


Welcome To The Collective

I don't usually rant anymore (although it was the original inspiration for this blog back in 2004), but this past weekend was an exceptional one, so allow me to digress.

Rant #1

So you think you are an individual?

A lot of things have been going through my head in the last few days. Most of these things are annoying me. So in an attempt to avoid scheduling a doctor visit to get a prescription for Prozac, I am just going to unload on fine readers.

About a month ago, there was a syndicated anxiety story that came out of the morning news shows about how the camera in your smart phone ‘records’ the information about where the pictures were actually taken by using GPS coordinates. The worry being, that you could take a picture of your 5 year old daughter in her cute Easter Sunday dress, post it on Facebook, and that tech savvy pedophiles could determine exactly where you live so they could come and snatch your daughter off your front lawn. (can you say living in fear people?)

Now this past week, the media is all over the discovery that Android phones and iPhones have been tracking the user’s movements and they can tell where you have been for the past 3 months. (Gasp, big brother is watching!)

This all leads back the naive concept that most people believe that the Internet is this anonymous place where you can do all sorts of things and no one will ever know where you have been or what you have done. It is time to wake up and sip some Red Bull people. Technology and the Internet is the most track-able and public place every created. Anyone can track back an IP address and know where and who sent that scathing anonymous letter to your ex-spouse.

The police can subpoena any phone company and get records of who and when you talked to someone for as far back as a decade.

All newer smart phones have GPS signals that let police and the phone company know right where you are at any given time. This comes in especially handy if you call 911, since the dispatcher can send first responders right to your location, in case you are in a strange city and don’t know the cross streets for that house that is on fire.

Thank goodness those pedophiles aren’t that bright, since even an erased hard drive full of naked little boys can be restored and all those downloads from Denmark can and will be used in a court of law.

The fact is people....we are a collective. Just like that race of aliens on Star Trek called “The Borg”. Except, the Borg were a hive like race where individuals were assimilated into a collective which had no empathy or soul. What the Borg lacked was good marketing, like Verizon and ATT. If being part of the collective was super-cool with all sorts of gadgets and distractions (think Farmville and Mafia Wars), then folks would be jumping on the Borg-Wagon.

If you want to be an anonymous individual, put down your phone and live in a shack. It won’t be nearly as much fun, trust me. And even then you will be watched.

Remember that Hubble Space telescope? The telescope that peers into distance galaxies to determine the origins of the universe? Well, economies of scale state that it just isn’t practical to build only ONE of something that complex. The U.S. government built several, and launched them all secretly. Only they aren’t aimed at space, they are aimed at us. Those babies can see a dime on the ground and tell if it is heads or tails. They can also definitely tell what you are doing whenever someone in power wants to know.

The Taliban never see or hear the Predator or Global Hawk drones that fly at 10,000 feet and watch their every move. You won’t either. To say that big brother is watching us would be an understatement. We are trained to despise this invasion of our privacy, until we are lost in the wilderness or trying to find an escaped criminal on the loose in our neighborhood, and then it is OK.

The world has changed people. Adjust your thinking and stop paying attention to all the anxiety news that you see in the media. They are pandering to you because they believe you are chumps with loose change who can be talked into buying sugar water and cheap threads at Old Navy.

Rant #2

Donald Trump and the Presidency.

I don’t know if you think Mr. Trump is a savvy businessman that knows how to delegate or if he is nothing more than a flamboyant P.T. Barnum media whore. But the fact that he is thrust into the national spotlight solely on his ability to manipulate the media speaks volumes of how the concept of politics has changed.

Training and commitment to serving the public good are no longer a prerequisite. Now it is just money and the ability to project a persona in front of a camera. I personally doubt that Mr. Trump would be effective as a president, but I could be wrong. He might be our next Theodore Roosevelt in the wings, willing to walk softly and carry a big stick. I personally hope that Ivanka Trump is made press secretary...(hubba hubba, what a news conference that would make).

I just can’t help but think that the vetting process to find a national leader seems awfully bastardized if our primary criteria is how many times their face appears on a super-market tabloid that we see when we are checking out at Safeway or Piggly Wiggly. If that is the case, then Angelina Jolie has some killer chops for being Secretary of State.......(grooooowwwlll).

I have learned to strip away all of the folklore that was taught to us in social studies and high school history and get down to the real nitty-gritty of what this country was all about and how it was ‘supposed’ to be run.

The old men in white wigs back at Independence Hall in Philadelphia didn’t envision the United States as it is today. They saw it as something totally different. A few key points;

They only envisioned men voting. Women and slaves were not educated enough to be in the know about important matters.

It was assumed that only ‘landed gentry’ or ‘business owners’ would vote. Laborers, were sort of grouped together with the women and the slaves. Jefferson pushed through the whole one man one vote concept, but that was later modified by Hamilton through his argument for Federalism.

In Hamilton's argument, the populace as a whole, could give their ‘opinion’ at the polls and vote at the local level, but when it came to matters of state, ‘electors’ would be elected that would vote on their behalf and in their best interest, regardless of how the populace voted. Therefore, we live in a Republic and not a Democracy.

The founding fathers did not see the Presidency as a position of policy making. The President was set forth to do ONLY two things. He was the commander of the armies and would lead the country in war. He had the power of veto if he felt that the Congress was not acting in the best interest of the country.

Everything else in government was envisioned to be done by the Senate and House. Foreign policy, budgets, interstate commerce, weights and measures, and the creation of all laws were supposed to be overseen by congress. The current power of the presidency has ‘evolved’ over time to be a policy making wing of the government.

Franklin, Hamilton and Jefferson all saw a republic that would be represented by numerous political parties, as many as 15 or 20. Not just Democrats and Republicans. They know that discourse and compromise comes from many factions working together. When we just have two parties, it is a win / lose mentality which fosters extreme partisanship.

When a few select power brokers (the DNC and the RNC) present us with candidates for high office, the reality is that these are fabricated choices that have specific speaking points bundled together to appeal to the largest voting blocks. This in effect, means that the average voter ends up voting for the less of two evils. Not the candidate that they truly want to represent their ideals.

This is akin to being given the choice between Mussolini and Hitler. Benito is charismatic and makes the trains run on time. Adolf is a real organizer and is ruthless at getting things done. Which one do you want? If you make the stupid statement that you want neither, they are both DICTATORS!, then you are shunned for not supporting the 'American Way'. Voting for a failed system, only supports the failure of the system, it won't change anything.

Which is why, I don't really care if Mr. Trump gets into office, if he does nothing will change. It will just make for slightly better news copy, when he tells the President of France, "Nicholas, you're a cheese eating surrender monkey, Your Fired!"

Wal-Martion Landing Zone

P1020671_2_3_tonemapped by lotus_07
P1020671_2_3_tonemapped, a photo by lotus_07 on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Contemplating the meaning of life in a Walmart Parking Lot. This image is more of an experiment than anything else. It is comprised of three long exposures (over 3 seconds each). The camera was propped on the hood of our car, while I waited for my wife to come put of the store. Images processed in Photomatix software. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix Digital set to manual mode. f-stop of 8.0 with shutter speeds between 2 and 8 seconds.

My Web Log: Hypocrisy

Follow Me on Twitter

Hiding Out

Originally uploaded by lotus_07

Self Portrait, Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera. Blog Posting Test.

See the original here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Droid Dump #2


Random Scenes From Life

I have more than one web log. This is the main blog where I post most of my writing. I also have a picture blog hosted on Flickr where I post most of the images, either film or digital that I produce. There is a final web log, that is my YouTube account, where I post videos and motion pictures.

But I take a lot of pictures that never make it onto any of these web logs. Great artist don't produce perfect creations all the time. A lot of what they do ends up in the dumpster. The public only gets to see the good stuff that they want you to see.

In order to safe guard the voluminous amount of memories that I take with my smart phone, I have learned that it is best to download and archive what is on my smart phone from time to time, least it get lost or stolen. I have set up a folder on my Apple Mobile Me account for this purpose. I have just finished uploading the last quarters worth of images from my smart phone.

So if you want to check out a lot of the random stuff I have been doing, click on the web log title above or on this link to see what I have been up to.

(if you want to check out Droid Dump #1, it can be found here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Minds Eye


rummaging for old 8mm stock....visions of the dead, the historical detective.

Shared Memories


Short Story idea / concept.

Story Idea.....

Blog Support / Writing Group.

Varied over time, personal details, various charators, the hurt, the lustful, the insightful...commenting, criticing, encouraging.

Some lost over time.

Member eventually becomes nurse in hospice. Jaded, hateful, scorned, depressed. Eventually realizes that one of the patients is one of the long lost blog members.

Recalls his work done anonymously. She comes to realize the intricies of his life, his insight, his reach for the heights and his downfall.

Reveals all to him, but he does not remember and slips away. She realizes, he is tears lost in rain.


Nature has it's own clock


The third world….and why it isn’t always best to be first. Being number one is a lot of work. Do you really want to work that hard? You are always a target when you are number one.

Filling up the tide pools, the wind, the sun, the moon, slow movement like the workings of a clock.

Trash – landfills as opposed to random distribution

The ‘need’ for order, regimentation, oversight, protection. The trappings of an anxiety ridden society.

No clocks, no radio, no media.

Fireworks and other dangers….the lack of litigation and the free market that it fosters.

No franchises, capitalism at the basic level, little regulation.

Leaded Gas / Diesel / The Ocean / Cooking Lard …. The smells of Mexico

Things work, but just barely, there are a lot of buttons and knobs missing.

Power rests in control of the few (government) and not in the ability of the masses to influence society.

As a child I would have hated this, boring and remote – disconnected. As an adult, sometimes, I think it is the only thing that keeps me going.

Watching the surf and seagulls to the strains of Beethoven’s Fur Elise or Rachmaninoff’s Vespers. A calm life, a moving life.

Forced to slow down, the struggle, breaking the bad rhythm / cycle.

Constant stress

The GOOD Tequila…..

Music on the beach….iPod and the tide.

David Hans Schmidt and his fiance, lessons never learned

Media Projection


The Case For Censorship?

In the future, what will / should be censored

(religious dogma / political ideology [propaganda])

Calculated Time line of media sinking to ratings.

Toilet / Gross Humor





Leave It to Beaver - No Toilet


Marilyn Monroe - Steam grate pictures (some like it hot)

The $64,000 Question

I Love Lucy - First Pregnancy

Julia (first black woman on TV)

Gilligan's Island (Mary Ann and Ginger)

Petticoat Junction

I Dream Of Jeannie - no naval (woman kept as pet)

The Smoothers Brothers - political humor, off color.

All in the Family (toilet flushing, race, gender issues)

Bullet - First film to show graphic gunshot death with blood.

Three's Company - Gay Overtones, living in sin

Farah Fawcett Nipples

Will and Grace - openly gay stereotypes

Murphy Brown - Pregnancy out of wedlock

Full rear nudity - NYPD Blue

Jerry Springer - Throwing Chairs and Pregnancy Tests

Janet Jackson SuperBowl nipple slip

Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?

Lindsay Lohan / Brittany Spears - Panty-less / Pregnant / Rehab

All Reality / Team Shows require (Anglo, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay team members)

Paris Hilton / Kim Kardashian / Brittney Spears Sex Tape

$1,000,000 Game Show Prizes

The Bachelor, institutionalized Gold-Digging

The Soparanos - graphic violence and glorification of crime.

Jamie Lynn Spears - Pregnant at 15 by a 17 years old

The Black Theatrical Comedies - centered on a black audience (chosen as opposed to forced segregation)


- <52 Years>

The Real Interview

If You Were A Tree.....

Weeding out the idots to work for.....

1st person perspective of the real job interview.

Management Questions:

Why do you think you would be good for this position.

What is your worst trait?

What is your best trait?

How would you handle this situation? (what choice do you make)

Name three things you did well in your last job (accomplishments)

Name three things you failed to do in your last job (failures)

How do you deal with an irrate customer? (dealing with stress)


Employee Questions:

What is your company / corporate goal? (regardless, it is making money)

What is the NYSE ticker symbol for your company? (don't know - out of touch)

Where is your office procedure manual and who is in charge of updating it / how often? (center of the office and quarterly would be good answers)

What is your average employee turnover in a year? (potential mine field)

Who has the MOST knowledge in your department (experience / longevity). (usually the secratary that has been there 12 years, if so, why is she still a secratary)

The Fringe

What is good for you is never easy.

Escaping the masses.

The collective experience leads to wanton desire. Sleep late, eat more, want more, struggle for the scraps.

In the morning, cold and quiet, no cars, no traffic, solitude. The mind wanders, set freen while the rest of the world sleeps. The images that go unseen (the homeless a sleep, time to read the grafitti, the cats on their porches, empty skyscapers light up against the pre dawn sky.

There isn't any waiting, at the intersections, on the weight machines, in the lap pool. The world is yours, on the fringe.

Not an easy place to get to. The allure of the flannel sheets on a cold morning is hard to let go of, as is the dannish with creamed coffee, or the remote control after a hard day at the offices. This is what the masses do. This is what they are trained to want. Think as a collective, all want the same thing, while all the while assured that they are still individuals.

On the fringe, we become the true independent, removed from the goose stepping march of the commuter, removed the from the talking heads of the morning news programs.

If you could float along your neighborhood streets while everyone is asleep and spy the world from a different angle, wouldn't you? If the world were a quiet and safe place with no worry or stress, wouldn't you want to go there? You can, it lays on the fringe. The fringe of your day, the fringe of the city, the fringe of your society.

The hardest part is just getting there the first time. Once you make it, you will wonder why you waited so long.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fiction 101 - Chapter One

This is a test of the Shorpy Blog Concept....image uploaded from hard drive

Shortened story, dreamlike imagery, questions of the past, answer given much too late.

A warm summers day at Hoster’s, working in my parents Resturant..

I found out that they were going to send me away to school that summer. Far away, to a town in New England. I didn’t want to go. But times were bad in the city. Really bad, with the depression and a lot of organized crime.

I didn’t like New England at first. It was strange, cold, I had not friends and their customs and manner of speech seemed funny. I felt like a real fish out of water.

My grandparents had a green house where they grew flowers.....Hot, wet......with the aroma of a million plants. Then I found out that my parents were missing. But money kept coming in from a bank account.

Years later, when my son was in school, he came home with question about something that he had seen in school during social studies and current events. A old car had been dragged out of the east river in New York.

The final key was that my father had fallen in with the wrong crowd. When he was found out, he made allowances for me and sent me off, knowing that he couldn’t follow me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Illuminating The Neighborhood


How Much Bureaucracy Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

This is an actual e-mail that I sent last week to the city councilman that represents the neighborhood where we live in Phoenix, Arizona. It is pretty self-explanatory. You can't really be too upset over something that you don't have and never expected to get. But don't promise us something and then never deliver, that just makes people angry.


Dear Councilmen Nowakowski,

I am one of your constituents living in the Encanto-Palmcroft Historic Neighborhood. I am writing this e-mail concerning the Historic Street Light Restoration Project that has been slated for our neighborhood for quite some time.

The Encanto-Palmcroft Historic Preservation Association (EPHPA) was advised of this project in the summer of 2009. The City Historic Preservation office made a presentation to the EPHPA that was very impressive and comprehensive. They indicated that work on restoring the street lights would commence in January 2010 and take about three months to complete.

Suffice to say, that it is now April of 2011 and to my knowledge, no work has been done on this project. It was the EPHPA understanding that this project was being funded by a Federal Historic Preservation Grant that the city had applied for. The money for the project was approved, available and could not be used for any other historic projects.

I understand that there were some delays regarding design specifics that had to be resubmitted, and due to staff turnover because of the ongoing city budget crisis, however, this delay has passed the extreme and is now approaching the ridiculous. Many residents are doubtful the restoration will ever take place.

For a project that should cost the city nothing and in turn beautify our neighborhood to take this long reinforces the cynical attitude that many of my friends and neighbors have regarding government in general.

While I am not blaming your office for this delay, this is the sort of mismanagement that your office should be watching out for regarding the management of the city center and the historic neighborhoods. I believe that there must be contractors that could be creating jobs with this grant money. It would also have been a point of pride to have the street lights on display for our recent Historic Home Tour in March 2011.

We have our home tour once every two years. Do you think it might be possible to have the street light restoration project completed by our next tour in 2013?


Bruce Johnson
EPHPA Newsletter Editor
Phoenix, AZ 85007


It has been almost four days....and I have never received a follow-up response. I'll keep you posted. Although many of my neighbors have read this and have applauded the content.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Mexico Option


Bruce & Sue On The Beach

Sometime in the near future, my wife and I plan on leaving. Where we will end up we haven’t decided. We just know that we can’t stay here. Phoenix, Arizona is not a good place for your health, physical or mental.

We have a lot of friends that say the same thing. They are just biding their time until they can leave. In fact, we don’t know a single person that actually plans on staying in Phoenix and retiring here. This seems a bit odd, considering that just two years ago this was the second fastest growing city in the country behind Las Vegas. Something must be attracting people here.

There are many reasons why long-term Phoenicians no longer want to stay here. Personally, the reasons that my wife and I have is the hypocrisy of the infrastructure here. Governments and business here claim to have a higher standard than they actually do. This manifests an inability of almost any organization in Arizona to do the simplest task correctly, if at all.

The latest instance of this type of thing occurred yesterday. I had to take part of my day off to pick up a check from Phoenix City Hall. Now mind you, this is my day off from work, and I conservatively consider my time to be at least $40/hr on my days off. I don’t get a lot of them and they are VALUABLE to me.

The check I was to pick up was a refund for some historic preservation work that was done to my mother’s house. My mother past away last year before the work was completed. When it was completed, the city issued the check to my mother....who was deceased.

So I took this check to my bank with my mother's death certificate and a letter showing me as the executor of her estate. The bank would not accept the check. They said that they would not accept it unless it had my name on it.

So we went back to the city and requested that they reissue the check. This had to be approved by a committee and they came back to us stating that they could only issue the check with my mother’s name (since she had entered into the contract with the city), but they could issue it as payable to my mother OR me OR my brother. We agreed to this and they stated they would cut the check and mail it to us.

Months went by and we heard nothing. We contacted the city and they stated they had mailed it, but it never arrived. We requested a stop payment and a new check issued, which we would pickup. They phoned yesterday that the check was ready. I picked it up and noticed that was made out incorrectly. It was made out my mother OR myself AND my bother. This won’t work because my brother lives in a different state and is frequently out of the country. The bank refused to accept it again, so now we have to ask that the check be reissued a third time.

What is the end result? This has taken almost 10 months to resolve and we still are not done. The cost in man hours to my wife and I is probably in excess of $1,000. (Remember that $40/hr figure from above?) The check is for only $4,000.

The issue here isn’t the money. The issue here is that this is the NORM. I have never had any dealings with government or business in this state where this type of red tape and incompetency was NOT the case. Gone are the days when you filled out a form, spoke to a competent individual and a problem was solved or service was rendered correctly.

Yet, we are still told the lie that organizations and civil service are competent and well run.

So this all means that something that used to take 3 hours and $80 to complete or fix, now takes 3 weeks and $800. Yet we are still promised 3 hours and $80. Repeat this scenario four or five times a week, and you understand why everyone wants to leave.

However, I have been around long enough to realize that a lot of this is just perception. It isn’t that everyone else is incompetent. The problem is that my expectations of others ability to do their jobs correctly is too high. I should learn to expect less and be happy as a clam if anything gets done all! This appears to be the mindset that I am supposed to have. Unfortunately, it isn’t the mindset that my parents instilled in me when I was growing up. They taught me that there is always a better way of doing things if we just work hard and think. I am not yet willing to give up those lessons that they taught me. I remember the days when things DID work and I miss them.

Which is why the wife and I have been contemplating the Mexico option. We go to Mexico often and we love it more each time we go and find it harder and harder to come back when the vacation is over.

It isn’t that Mexico is any better run than Phoenix, Arizona. In fact, if anything it is run worse and is a bit more corrupt than the United States. But they have one thing going for them what we don’t. They don’t have higher expectations. For them, it is a good day when the car starts and you don’t have a tooth ache. If their day ends with a cold beer and a shrimp cocktail, it was a good day. They know that most things don't work and they are OK with that.

Better to live in a place where everyone expects nothing, than in a place where everyone expects something and gets nothing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

Salt and Pepper

Because there is an opera that surronds all of us. We either sit in the audience or get up on stage. Don't be a wall flower.
(First Published March 14, 2007)

The Space In Between

Black & White, Mustard and Ketchup, Ying & get the idea. Everything has its counterpart.

On my recent day off from work (I take a lot of them, seniority has it's perks) I took my car into the shop to have some work done on it. If you have read enough of my ramblings, you know that my car is not a practical thing; it is more of a hobby. It is also more of an expensive hobby. I guess it is considered one of those mid-life crisis toys that men get when they turn 50. It is also one of those things that every 18 year old dreams of having. Let me tell all you young'uns one thing, the reality isn't quite what you dreamed it would be.

So on my day off I am driving the "Red Rocket" to the other side of town for some $150/hour TLC. I am passing folks left and right and turning a few heads as I go, which is basically what this car is designed to do. More than once, I have driven down the interstate and thought to myself that "I am living the dream", while at the same time calculating in my head how much it is costing me to traverse each mile of asphalt.

I ended up at the dealer and droped off my toy, handed over the keys, chit-chated for a while and left. The dealer has never worked on the car for less than 10 days and I knew I wouldn't be seeing the Red Rocket again for a while. That is just part of owning an expensive adult toy. There are long periods of separation.

Since my wife was home sleeping off some anesthesia from a recent dentist visit and in no shape to drive a car, I hopped on the local bus system for the 2 hour bus ride back to our house. This was the other side of the coin.

Phoenix is a driving town. It is built on the assumption that everyone has an automobile. Although, Phoenix has improved its bus system over the past few years. They had to, with the shifting economy and the influx of immigrants that need to ride it. This city is really spread out and you can't walk anywhere, especially when it is 110 degrees in the summer.

I boarded the west bound bus at its terminus and grabbed a prime seat. What I got to see over the next 2 hours was a succession of folks getting on and off the bus at almost every stop. There were construction workers with tools, office workers, students, elder folks in wheelchairs, some transients, and a whole mess of young Hispanic woman with several toddlers in tow. After a few stops, the bus was standing room only.

As I sat in my chair with my sunglasses over my eyes and my iPod plugged into my ears, I got to watch this whole inner-city opera of characters come and go to the strains of Nino Rota's music composed for Federico Fellini's early films of the 1950s and 60s. It was all a bit surreal.

I mused how each of them would react to driving the rocket to their destination. I wasn't being smug or condesencding. I just wondered if they thought they would ever be living their dream and what it might be.

I as I stared into their faces, I saw the cross section of America that many people don't see while commuting to work in their Chevrolets and Lexus. Some of these bus riders had aspirations and hopes that hadn't been crushed by corruption or bad luck. Some had lived hard lives and it showed in the lines around their eyes and on their foreheads. Some didn't seem to have a clue and were just going through the motions.
This was the 'melting pot' that we all hear about in history books and in social studies. It is a real thing, not just a cliché.

If the politicians that are spending mountains of money to get themselves elected president really want to get my vote, they need to ride this bus for a week. They need to give up their seat for an elderly woman; they need to stand next to the foul smelling drunk. They need to contemplate the 15 year old rapper with the tattoos and the pierced lip. They need to stand holding on to a strap for 50 minutes until their anlkes swell and their feet hurt. They need to become one with the 'melting pot'.

This is one of the little things that the Red Rocket has taught me. It is just one end of a spectrum. Seeing the spectrum from both ends has given me a much better view of all the things that lay in between. Strength isn't found at the ends, it springs from somewhere in the middle.

Sleeping Bus Rider