Prius on Maiden – The Wolf Approaches

Biba and I returned to check on the Prius  last night on Maiden Lane

24 days after Hurricane Sandy  – November 22 (Thanksgiving evening)

Yes, it is still there, getting dustier and sadder. And now there is a notice on the lamp post right beside it. The time is coming. Only four days until The Wolf of Wall Street arrives. And the odds are heavily against them using the Prius for any chase scenes.

Movie Endings: The Good and Much Worse

(Warning: This entire blog is a spoiler alert.)

Movie endings are sadly predictable. No matter the genre – Drama, Comedy, Romance or Action/Thriller – the tendency is toward that moment of understanding, that smile of recognition that we’re all in this together, as seen in so many films such as Casablanca, Dumb and Dumber, When Harry Met Sally and Avatar. But there are those few that stand out – for better and much worse. At the head of the Much Worse would have to be Super 8  (Abrams, 2011), a misguided combination of E.T.  and Close Encounters. Absolutely everything is resolved at the end: all characters touch and understand each other.They also all understand the alien which has terrorized their town and watch in loving awe as he departs to his distant world. (No, I am not exaggerating.) The Grey (Carnahan, 2011) is a close and terrible second. After watching the wolves terrorize and kill everyone else in his group lost in the woods, the audience tenses in anticipation as Liam Neeson finally straps all that broken glass to his knuckles to battle the mother of all wolves…and the film cuts to the credits. And not only that, the film actually cuts back to the scene, after the epic battle, both Neeson and the mother of all wolves dying in the snow. Other disastrously bad endings include Melancholia (Von Trier, 2011) – a giant planet crushes all life on Earth – A.I.  (Spielberg, 2001) you think it’s finally over, and a title card appears “2,000 Years Later” – and Angel Heart (Parker, 1987) – when Mickey Rourke finally realizes that he’s the murderer he’s been chasing all along. (Not a few films have fallen into this self-made trap.) It’s not easy ending well, but there are certainly a chosen few worth mentioning. It is truly heart-wrenching to watch the final shot in Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948) when the boy forgives his father for trying to steal and takes his hand. And it’s hard not to choke up in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Hughes, 1987) when Neal (Steve Martin) discovers Del (John Candy) alone at the train station and takes him home for Thanksgiving. The Deer Hunter (Cimino, 1978), too, has a gut-wrenching conclusion when the cast gathers for a funeral and sings God Bless America, despite the hell they have been put through with the Vietnam War. Another film that oddly stands out for me is Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (Hough, 1974). An obvious derivative of Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967), the film chronicles a pair of wild thieves who, when they seem to have finally outrun the law, are suddenly crushed by a freight train. The end. One of the greatest Hollywood endings almost never happened.  Being There (Ashby, 1978) is the story of Chance (Peter Sellers) who has lived in isolation as a simpleton only to be thrown into the world and become an adviser to the President and perhaps will be a leader himself. The final image is of Chance walking on water. We don’t know if this is because he is Chosen or he just doesn’t know any better, but it is a riveting moment. The producers hated the idea and told Hal Ashby to re-cut the film, which he promised to do…and instead actually delivered the film personally – with the ending intact – to the theaters for opening night. It was only after the positive audience response to this ending that the producers relented. This story itself has to be one of the best endings I have ever heard.

Hurricane Sandy in The Hamptons

Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects have been well documented in New York City and the surrounding environs. The New York Times published a fascinating map on the flooded areas just today. But Hurricane Sandy’s damage is even more far-reaching, as it goes all across Long Island, to the Hamptons and beyond.

Flying Point Beach, Southampton, October 13, 2012 (Two weeks before Hurricane Sandy)

Flying Point Beach in Southampton, shown above, had been some 40-50 yards wide, all of it long and flat. It has since been pushed back at least 30 of those yards, right up into the dunes in parts. It has torn out fencing and grassroots, leaving behind a dark black residue. And while the ocean still breaks at the same edge, the water now flows across a wide shallows where there once was sand. There are also hundreds of trees down all over the region There is a certain beauty to all of this, even if it’s broken scattered, or just detritus. But even if it isn’t appreciated by all, as they say, life does go on. 

The Promise of Opening Credits

I was at a comedy show – Sean Cullen – years ago in Vancouver, stupidly sitting in the front row, when he was asked me, “What’s your favorite part of the movie?” I answered, “The credits.” This got a big laugh out of him and everybody else after he repeated it several times over. It was an easy laugh, I guess, but I really did mean it. The credits are such a promising moment, the distribution logo rising from the gloom; the Paramount mountain is one of my favorites, fading in, about to be encircled by stars.The music comes up, and the first credit fades in from black. Anything is possible. Imagination knows no bounds.The movie begins. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958) has to have one of the greatest openings not only for the drama of it – there’s a bomb! – but the sheer logistics and technical merit of the initial 3 1/2 minute sequence. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), modeled after the opening sequences of many James Bond films, has technical merit too, but it’s more a wild ride than anything else. In terms of visual and aural splendor, two poetically astonishing films come to mind. The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998) combines images of nature, poetic voice-over and the introspective music of Hans Zimmer to convey an eerie calm while Werner Herzog’s stunning opening sequence in Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1973) offers a sense of doom through the clouds of the Peruvian Andes and hypnotic soundtrack of Popol Vuh. Another great opening sequence has to be American Graffiti. A simple establishing shot of Mel’s Dinner, coupled with a montage of characters arriving and the iconic music of Bill Haley creates an invigorating atmosphere of innocent excitement. The movies go on from there; some moments are good, others not, and it either ends early or goes on too long…but you always have another credit sequence to look forward and a mountain surrounded by stars.

Prius on Maiden

I took Biba out for her morning walk the day after Hurricane Sandy. We found this car on Maiden Lane just below Pearl Street, a Toyota Prius, most unfortunately parked.

October 30 – One day after Hurricane Sandy

I didn’t think much about it except that I would hate to have found my car hit by one of the few trees in Downtown Manhattan. I imagined the owner was still in his apartment, calling his family, telling them that he was all right.

Biba and I came down Maiden Lane again the following morning; the car was still there.

October 31 – Two days after Sandy

I thought about how it would almost be worse to see the smashed hood and windshield without the tree still on it. I thought that the owner – let’s call him Tim – had probably come down to find it, cursed, and gone uptown to power his computer and email pictures of his afflicted Prius to the family. They could forward them to the insurance company for him.

A day later, three days after the storm, and the car was still there.

November 1 – Three days after

I figured that Tim had realized that there was nothing he could do about this and decided to deal with everything else first – water, power, food. If the city towed it, so much the better.

One week later, a day after the Nor’easter, the Prius was unmoved.

Tim had probably left town to get away from everything. Maybe he had got a ride with his girlfriend to her parents’ place in Virginia. He could have a proper shower there, sleep, and forget about all of this. That made sense.

Days turned into a week and then some; nineteen days in all; the Prius remained..

November 17 – Nineteen days after Sandy

Did Tim leave New York altogether? Was he not coming back? Was he that upset about it? Was it even Tim’s car? Or had he borrowed it from his girlfriend without asking and now he couldn’t admit it? Had he abandoned it just to get out of a lie? Didn’t he realize that the police would tow it eventually, and she would find out then?

November 18 – Twenty days after Sandy

No, he didn’t realize that. He was leaving it here. He didn’t care. He didn’t really love her anyway. It wasn’t worth the hassle. At least he had had those few good warm days in Virginia. The truth was that he had never even liked her or her Prius that much. I mean where had all of this environmentalism gotten him in the end? It had got him here. He had always dreamed of something else, something exotic and incredible. The Mercedes Sedan CLS…now that was a car!

Mercedes Benz CLS

He knew that he could really love that. (Poor Tim.)

My Bad Side – The Pitch

The time has almost come to get an agent. The book needs to be pitched…

Crystal and Dee Sinclair started life as a news story.

SACRAMENTO, June16, 1978 Two young girls – one an infant of 14 months – were found alive on Wednesday afternoon, beside their recently deceased mother, Dorothy Keynes, 33. Ms. Keynes was undergoing treatment for depression after the father of the children, Mr. Raymond Sinclair, was killed in alcohol-related single-car traffic accident on Sunday, May 4.

Lillian Murton of Sacramento Social Services made the discovery on a monthly wellness visit. Neighbors along the 7400 block of 21st Avenue expressed outrage that Social Services had not been to the home in the past week.

The elder sibling, 3 years of age, is believed to have fed both herself and her infant sister in the days following their mother’s death. The children are currently being treated for dehydration at U C Davis Children’s Hospital; their names have been withheld. Mrs. James Keynes of Pittsburgh, the mother of the deceased, has filed for adoption of the children.

My Bad Side begins many years on. Crystal, now 27, defiant, knows that her life was borne of tragedy and accepts that with a drink. I’ll tell you what everyone is like. Ever think about torture? Ever think about what that is? People torturing others, I mean, people actually willing to literally torture another person, strap someone down and torture, tear off their fucking fingernails, put wire through their flesh, burn their fucking eyes out, what the fuck else? These people will watch, just watch, another person freak out and scream. And for what? Because they fucking can. Because they can get away with it. That’s who we are. That’s what this is about. We’re fucked. We’re so completely and entirely fucked. (201)

Dee, desired and adored, was too young to remember, and yet the memory persists. She chases after it like a childhood dream, desperate for contact and pushing everyone away.  I had a tightness creeping inside. It wasn’t bad. It was more like almost remembering something, not what I had been told; it was more of a biological thing, molecular. It was spinning in my head. Words wouldn’t go together; the sounds were broken apart. I wanted this. I wanted to move into this, whole, that glacial wall of light, the sex, in and out in one pristine act. It was my promise. (157)

The sisters try to understand each other, but they don’t know how to forgive and feast on their addictions instead.

Downtown Manhattan: Guts on View

Downtown Manhattan has been under invasion for three weeks now. I’m not talking about the wind and tidal surge…but rather the vehicles and machines that followed. It started sensibly, almost innocently, with the official Disaster Response vehicles in tandem with the water pumping trucks and fuel tankers. There were also the portable generators and tractor trailers.  But then, the vehicles became ominous and strange.The streets began to look less like Manhattan and more like Terry Gilliam’s dystopic film Brazil. And so I began to ask myself: Just what are these daemonic vehicles and contraptions? Are they taking over? The answer wasn’t as mysterious as I had imagined. After a pittance of research, I learned that these imposing, brooding machines are generally one of three things. They are either mobile – albeit massive – generators, mobile – albeit massive – boilers,

Go Giants!

or mobile – albeit massive – dehumidifiers. In other words, the guts of the buildings are no longer hidden in the basements but outside, naked, for everyone to see. Yeah, I think you get the picture.