Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Essay on Life Or Something Like It

I saw Zero Dark Thirty today. Wow, intense, very intense. It hit me after the movie that Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. I have zero recollection of where I was when I heard the news. Normally, I remember some specific details of momentous events. I was on the way to the gym, getting gas when 9/11 happened. And since I had my headphones on at the gym, I had no idea what happened until I got home. I remember watching Neil Armstrong step on to the moon in our old family room in front of an old-school, wood paneled, 4 legged TV. And of course, with many Vikings losses, I can tell you exactly what I was doing. May 2, 2011 is also the day I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. That I remember very well. So I guess I was a little preoccupied and unaware of the Bin Laden news.
Over the past month I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln. All are great. Silver Linings and Lincoln, I’d see again. I’m not sure I could see Zero Dark Thirty again. I would watch Hurt Locker again, also directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Very intense. There’s that word again.
There are a handful of movies that I’ve seen many times and if they came on today, I’d stop what I was doing to watch. Of course, assuming they were uncensored and uncut. The movies include The Freshman, Raging Bull, Caddyshack, and The Godfather. Life or Something Like It is also one of those movies. Randomly, I was thinking about it yesterday.

Life or Something Like It is a 2002 romantic comedy starring Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns. It did moderately well in the box office. I’ve convinced people to watch it and usually they think it’s just ok, despite my characterization of it as a hidden gem. But really, it is nothing spectacular. Something about it though has always resonated with me. Jolie’s character is Lanie, a bleach blonde TV news personality in Seattle. She dates the star of the Seattle Mariners. She’s on the fast track to making a move to New York to become a national face. Edward Burns, of Brothers McMullen fame, is Pete, her cameraman out in the field. Pete is a divorced dad who is grounded and comfortable with where he is in life. He is who he is. They are polar opposites.
Things change when Lanie interviews a homeless man, Prophet Jack, who has an uncanny, unexplainable ability to correctly predict things. He tells Lanie that she will die in one week and that her life has basically been meaningless. This leads to an on camera breakdown when she leads a crowd in the singing of the Rolling Stones I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.

Around the same time, early 2000s, the Mariners in real life were a very good team. Ichiro, my second favorite baseball player of all time, was tearing it up. (Greg Luzinski, the Bull, of Phillies fame will always, always be number one. Massive calves. A friend used to say I had Luzinski calves). The Yankees, though, prevented the Mariners from ever winning a World Series. Irony is that Ichiro, in the twilight of his career, now plays for the Yankees.
After Berenson yesterday, I came home and flopped onto the couch, flipping through channels. The zero isn’t working on the remote so that’s annoying. It was raining, I’m still not 100% from my cold and mindless TV sounded good. I came across a new reality show with Pete Rose and watched a couple of episodes. I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about Pete Rose. Baseball ought to put him in the Hall of Fame, but I’m not overly bothered by the fact he isn’t. Rose is crass, crude, and very happy with who he is. He’s got a hi rise condo on the Vegas strip, watches a lot of sports, and roams the casino at Mandalay Bay with its intoxicating coconut scented pumped in oxygen. Damn you Pete Rose, you stole my life.

After watching Pete Rose, I dozed off wondering what if 10 years ago I had gotten a job in Vegas and had my condo where I could sit by the window watching people scurry about the strip.
This would be a life very different than what I have now and is very different from having a lake house in a small town, with a pontoon boat, and hosting an annual bbq for any friend or family who wanted to come.

Pete Rose says in one episode that you only live once and you better do it right. That’s his philosophy for being who he is. I whole heartedly agree. He meant it to justify living the way he does, unapologetically. There didn’t seem to be any moral message in Rose’s statement. But one could take it any way they choose. What’s right is personal to each of us. I’m not against the occasional 8 am beer and occasional gambling. Moderation my friends. I was in Vegas when I realized I was seriously sick back in 2011. Living right for me now, means something below moderation and above abstinence. Living right means doing what I need to do to stay healthy and alive.
I've never been fond of attention. I can be passive aggressive, overly sensitive, and am bothered with myself for being on a constant search to find balance and meaning. Public speaking used to be a giant fear for me. I’d get clammy at family holiday meals when there were more than 7 or 8 people and I had to say something to everyone. I hated it. I think I’ve mentioned before that since the diagnosis, this fear is gone. Still not that into small talk. But speaking up and speaking publically? Not a big deal any more. This as a major life change all on its own.

A condo in Vegas or a lake house are very different environments. If I had to pick one over the other, for many years I’d lean to Vegas. Now I’d say I clearly lean toward the lake house lifestyle. It’s much healthier and much more real. I will say though, that even leaning towards a lake house, the anonymity one can assume in Vegas sounds mighty enchanting. My whole life, I liked being in a place loaded with perfect strangers, all friendly, willing to chat, but really not at all interested in who I am. I need close people now. I can’t go it alone.
I absolutely love hanging out at airports. For me, there is almost nothing better than having a drink at an airport bar, listening to conversations, watching people, trying guess to where they are going and why. It’s not that I am thrilled with travel, but I am thrilled with the anticipation of travel. Actually with many things, the anticipation is better than the actual thing.

Life or Something Like It is about two opposites merging. Balancing their differences and finding happiness along the way while maintaining their individuality and quirks. That’s my goal. That’s me. I’d love to dye my hair green or blue or purple. I hate work clothes. I’m not good at self-promotion. Unfortunately these things are incompatible with my work world. Leslie, bless her, supports and encourages my individuality. I want to ride my bike and wear absurd clothes. I want to be respected for my opinions. I want to be feared. I want to be liked. I want material things, material things that really mean nothing. I also want to sit on the edge of the Grand Canyon every year to take in, what for me, is the most beautiful place on earth. I want to blend in to the environment but I also want to be recognized when I am having a tea and walking my pup.
Crazy right?

Balance seems to be the key to a successful life. But how do we balance love, trust, humility, ego, honor, respect, and individuality? That’s a lot of different shit. Maybe they don’t all go together. Can I drive a pimp daddy gas guzzling sedan while also being keenly aware of how much toxic shit is floating around in our air?
And this brings me back to message of Life or Something Like It. Lanie and Pete are looking for balance. They are who they are. While they want more, they also want exactly what they have. Lanie is faced with her own mortality and in quick fashion tries to figure these things out. Pete and Lanie adjust. Turns out perhaps you can get satisfaction.

Maybe, though, everything I just wrote is utter bullshit and I simply like the movie because Angelina Jolie is the star. Hard to say.

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