Tag Archives: literature

Lame Adventure 336: Annual Exams and Future Goals

Recently, I used a half vacation day I had bank-rolled from The Grind on what turned out to be one of the most glorious days of summer in the Big Apple.  It was sunny and warm with low humidity and a welcome breeze.  I felt like I was a in soot-dusted paradise.

Spastically branched tree against clear blue sky.

Unfortunately I had to undergo my annual poking and prodding exam at 10 am.

All aboard and spread ’em.

Of the four women sitting in the waiting room I was the one from the earliest vintage.  In fact, I was the lone dried fruit.  I brought my own reading material, a copy of The New Yorker, since I have no interest in magazines about starting a family or raising children.  Opposite a sign that requests patients to silence their cell phones a woman in her twenties sat obliviously playing a game on her Android that emitted a steady stream of shrill whistles and pops. I tuned her out and proceeded to read a short story written by Alice Munro, Amundsen.  It seems that every year I’m due for this exam The New Yorker publishes one of her exquisitely crafted tales set in Canada, Munro’s homeland.  I no longer need to keep a note in my calendar about when to schedule this appointment.  The telltale reminder will be the publication of yet another bleak yarn authored by Munro.

My concentration was destroyed by a loud, high-pitched child’s voice in the distance repeatedly screaming, “Hi!”  The voice comes closer and the culprit, a rambunctious toddler sporting a head of tight red curls, enters with his entourage — his massively pregnant mother (who makes a mad dash for the bathroom), his father, grandmother and stroller the size of a Smart car.  They must have forgotten to pack the dog, cat, hamster, parrot and goldfish.  In his left hand the tot is holding a toy airplane.  The index finger on his right hand is digging so deep in a nostril I half expect it to wriggle out an ear.  His voice is raspy and I ascertain that he must be recovering from a cold.  He and his posse are on the far side of the waiting room. I say a silent prayer:  stay there Little Germ Factory.

A genius invention.

Even though I arrived fourth, the nurse appears and announces my name first. I reason that this is because I’m essentially dead inside so examining my internal ashes can be completed at warp-speed. If any of the others object that I’ve been elevated to the top of the pecking order, they don’t show it.  I’m so small and quiet, it’s possible that they have mistaken me for an end table.

While waiting for my doctor I photograph the replica Monet on the wall.

Examination room wall art inspired by a funeral home.

I am infinitely more intrigued with the pain intensity scale that’s decorated with emoticons in various stages of pleasure, stress and agony a.k.a. my life story in four words.

No ones laughing out loud in this group.

If I had designed that chart I would have shown the tortured emoticons with their mouths agape screaming silently for the entire neighborhood to not hear.

When my doctor arrives to give me the professional finger I have put my camera away.  We chat briefly.  She asks me the usual questions that prompt the usual lies concluding with:

My Doctor:  Do you exercise?

Me: Yes.

My Doctor:  Really?  You’ve gained weight.  Two pounds.

Me:  I’m sure my metabolism has slowed.

My Doctor: Eat healthier.  Exercise.

Me:  I actually eat very healthy – fruit, vegetables, fish [inaudible muttering] all that sort of boring thing.

My Doctor:  Cut back on the carbs.  Really exercise.  Okay?

I don’t argue.  As I dress to leave I know that she’s right.  Over the course of the next year, not only will I shed the two pounds I’ve so gluttonously gained, I will lose three more.  Yes, I am going to shed two and a half times the pounds I’ve gained over the course of the next 365 days.  Therefore, when I return a year hence, demarcated by The New Yorker publishing yet another downbeat tale quilled by Alice Munro, I will be lean as a whippet.  Losing five pounds is attainable.

See you next year!

On my brisk walk home (this counts as exercise), I’m feeling determined.  Goals are good things.  I will kick-start the new leaner me by going to my grocer’s where I purchase four yogurts.

The Fage yogurt quartet

Then, I eat this.

Fat soloist fresh blueberry scone.

I’ll wrestle this beast of a goal starting tomorrow.

Lame Adventure 114: Un-astonished

This weekend I eagerly awaited Saturday when Milton and I were seeing Gatz, a more than eight-hour long marathon reading of The Great Gatsby, complete with two intermissions and a dinner break, currently playing in a sold out run at the Public Theater. I was also avidly anticipating Sunday when I tuned into the season ending finale of Mad Men.

Now that I have seen both, I am in a state of anti-climax.

Gatz is set in a shabby office that a worker enters one morning. As he waits interminably for his ancient malfunctioning computer to boot, he opens an oversized Rolodex and out pops a weathered paperback copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. The worker starts reading the book aloud, and as his colleagues and boss enter, everyone assumes a role, or various roles in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, even though none of the actors look much like the characters Fitzgerald illustrates. The excellent reader, Scott Shepherd, becomes Nick Carraway, the book’s narrator. I agree whole-heartedly with every critic that called this premise by the theater company, Elevator Repair Service, inventive.

The New York Times chief theater critic, Ben Brantley, called Shepherd’s performance “astonishing.” Time Out New York went one step further and called the entire six-hour production “astonishing.” Astonishing to me, is entering my home and finding Barack Obama in the kitchen making me dinner, not seeing a veteran theater professional deliver a terrific performance. I expected Scott Shepherd to pull this off, and he fully met my expectations. Scott Brown of New York Magazine called Gatz a “spell-binding” six hours. Hm.

The one clear-eyed critic who nailed this production perfectly was Elizabeth Vincentelli of The New York Post:

“Still, hearing a book read aloud wears really thin. “Gatz” comes with a hip reputation — it was extended twice before opening, and has been performed around the world — but it’s as maddeningly tedious as it is brilliant. By the end, my mind was as numb as my butt.”

Furthermore, our performance seemed to have endless lampooning on stage that elicited so many peels of laughter from a novel we never considered remotely comic that Milton remarked, “This is so camp, I feel like we’re watching a marathon Carol Burnett skit.”  We found that disconcerting, and we know we’re in the minority here, but we thought it was an insult to the beauty of Fitzgerald’s prose. The guy sitting next to me was the loudest howler in the theater. I am certain that throughout the first two acts, he thought he was watching a hilarious comedy. I wanted to stick a sock down his throat.

Following the 75-minute dinner break, I briefly suffered food coma during Act 3, but Act 4, when there was little for our audience to laugh at, redeemed it for us. Afterward, Milton told me that he could not get gay male porn star, Billy Wild, off his mind. This is because Wild bears a striking resemblance to Scott Shepherd.

Scott Shepherd channeling Nick Carraway.

Billy Wild channeling Scott Shepherd?

As for Mad Men, featuring the somewhat Gatsby-like Dick Whitman-invented Don Draper, played brilliantly — but not astonishingly — by Jon Hamm, I will sum up the finale with a single word that could pertain to the entirety of season 4, “Douchbags.” And I mean that in a good way. Rather than join the dedicated herd compelled to deliver a blow by blow recount of every gulp of alcohol, tryst (including allusions to oral – woo hoo), chunky heave and clever bon mot, that was swallowed, spewed, and snarked this season, I will resist the urge to reveal any spoilers and simply say that it appears that no animals were abused in filming, with the possible exception of those worn as vintage furs. Mad Men remains a consistently entertaining TV show, and for anyone who has yet to follow it, it’s a very enthralling form of escapism and worthy of DVD rental. I am already looking forward to season five.

Series creator, Matthew Weiner, blows his former boss, Sopranos creator, David Chase, completely away. Week after week, every episode of Mad Men is compelling and unlike David Chase, Matt Weiner does not start sub-plots, drop them and leave the viewer hanging. Overall, Mad Men is a superior TV series, well written, well researched, well acted, even though The Sopranos was not TV, it was <cough> HBO. Provided AMC does not prematurely pull the plug on Mad Men, if Weiner is allowed to wrap this series when he’s ready to do so, I give him a big vote of confidence that the last episode of Mad Men, whenever that will be, will be a million times more satisfying than the over-hyped, ultimately flaccid and forgettable series ending finale of The Sopranos.

Matthew Weiner, not exactly the second coming of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but a terrific TV creator.

Meanwhile, I am also relieved that I probably have at least 39 weeks where I no longer have to feel obligated to bring my life to a screeching halt Sunday nights at 10 pm to tune into Mad Men, not that I anticipate I will accomplish anything of life-enhancing significance with that extra 39 hours. If I did, that would be astonishing.