Sunday, May 20, 2007

Together at Last

My column for next week is about movie-making, inspired by the made-for-TV movie shot on our street ten days ago. I didn’t see many movies when I was a kid because we lived a distance from the theater. At college I discovered that I was nearly the only girl there who hadn’t seen The Wizard of Oz. I didn’t see Fantasia either, and Bill was happy I could at last see it because he had been so influenced by it when he was a boy.

I never caught the movie bug even when I lived where I could see them more handily. When my granddaughter or my daughter came home, we would have a film festival of video tapes, and at least once go to the theater, but that was about the extent of my movie-going.

A number of things have happened in the last year to make me more interested. My daughter has been in several movies and TV shows. When Bill came home from the hospital, my son bought us a TV and DVD player and installed them in the living room. Up to then the TV had been relegated to the basement. About the same time, our cable network added a classic movie channel to its lineup. The kids gave Bill DVD’s for his birthday, and we have been renting them as well. Am I right in thinking that TV stations are playing more movies? Watching movies is great for keeping our minds off our troubles. Over in Anecdotal Evidence, Patrick quoted Theodore Dalrymple on art and transience, and I used that quote in my column to note that videos and DVD’s have made movies less transient. I find it strange that an art form so universal and so influential has nearly passed me by, but I am glad that at last I have had a chance to participate in it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Creating Reality

We have a heavy snowfall warning for tonight, 15 centimeters. Everywhere we went today people would bring the subject up and then immediately say, “But it won’t last long.” This morning the radio announcer twice made the joke that the definition of summer in New Brunswick is “eight weeks of poor snowmobiling.” Once about twenty years ago it snowed on May 23. I committed the fact to memory.

The movie being shot on our street is supposed to take place in March, and all last week they tried to make it look like March by strewing leaves over our freshly raked green lawns (ours was still brown.) They ran out of leaves and so would have to rake up the leaves from one lawn to use on another lawn. They are probably telling themselves that they should have waited.

I told the assistant location manager that I was going to write a column on the movie shoot, and I have been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls. Those movie people sure know about publicity. I will just use the anecdote to begin the subject of movie-making in general.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Making Art

They started filming on our short street last Wednesday, a made for CTV movie, Sticks and Stones. Thursday afternoon we were to see the surgeon to find out the results of the bronchoscope. Thursday was also Bill’s 75th birthday. That morning I broke down briefly and said I couldn’t bear the wait. We looked up the street and saw a lot of commotion, walked up to see what was going on, saw our neighbors sitting on their front stoop, sat with them for an hour, chatting amiably, watching the filming action across the street. One of the crew came and sat with us a while and the location director came too to talk.

When we got back home, our writers group came to sing Happy Birthday to Bill, bearing a rose and a gift certificate from the local bookstore. Then another neighbor came to say happy birthday, bearing chocolates. The location director came to tell us the road hockey game was going to be played in front of our house, filming our house, because our lawn was the only one on the street that is still brown and the action was supposed to be taking place in March.

All of this distraction made the wait bearable. And, miracle of miracles, the news the doctor delivered was good, the best we could have hoped for. Bill’s cancer, as far as can be determined, has not spread, is operable, the size of a marble. He is in good enough condition to undergo surgery. “Surgery is the only chance you have to be around next year.” They will take the top left lobe out. “So, should I go ahead and book the surgery?” “I don’t have much choice, do I.” “No, you don’t.”

When we got home our front yard was teeming with people and equipment, and about twenty little boys with hockey sticks were sitting on the curb. I sent out e-mails with our news, talked to our kids, and then we sat in the living room watching the action through our picture window. Our sons of course are highly amused that just where they played road hockey will be on TV. Bill wrote this poem about 30 years ago.


The roadhockey game out under my window
Is like the Chinese soup
With grandfather cabbages thrown in
Decades before
It simmers through the years
As the bulbs in the streetlamps
Have been replaced a hundred times since it began

Enter the fray my little son
Little onion into the stew
The original ingredients have long since been devoured
But they have left their legacy:
The game itself, a roiling flowing two-sided thing
And a meaningless astronomical score.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On Being a Man

A four year old daughter of our friends has decided she would rather be a boy. She wants her hair cut short (it is long and easily tangled) and she would like to be able to pee standing up. I agree that the last would be convenient in public restrooms and out in the woods, but for me the best thing about being a man is that I wouldn’t have to carry a purse (pocketbook in the USA). If anyone were to invent an adequate substitute for a purse, he/she would earn my undying gratitude. There is the backpack, but this is even more inconvenient to carry to the grocery store. I have been experimenting with different ways to carry the necessities. Some years ago at a college reunion, I received a passport carrier you hang around your neck as a momento. It almost carries the necessities, and I have been using that recently. The trouble is that it doesn’t carry everything, so that, for example, I found myself at Blockbusters without the list I usually carry of the 50 or so films recommended to me for our new DVD player. As a consequence, we chose three films that proved not to be hits. One was The March of the Penguins. Bill doesn’t like animal documentaries at the best of times, but said he, “This not only was about animals, it was about animals that were suffering.” Another one was a sappy version of Emma in which Mr. Knightly was played by a movie star no one who had cherished the book would regard as even remotely Mr. Knightly-ish. The third one we chose only because it had the word Harvard in it and was in the comedy section, Stealing Harvard, and it proved to be silly and funny, just what we need. Of course if I were a man, I probably wouldn’t have cluttered up my pants pockets with a list of movies. The cardiac specialist who was looking after Bill pulled a lip balm out of his white coat pocket and applied it while he was talking to us. That did make me wonder what else was in that pocket.