Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

These days it's rare that my wife and I get out to see a movie in the theater, and even rarer that we share a movie experience as rich and captivating as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While everyone may take away different messages from this movie, we both felt that it clearly and charmingly conveyed the message that regardless of how you look or, in the case of Benjamin how you age, the body is only a vehicle for the soul. Yes the performances were excellent, the makeup effects and cinematography, exceptional, but I didn't leave the theater thinking about those elements. Instead, both Elizabeth and I were compelled to turn our thoughts to our own mortality, our obligations and roles as we move through time. But don't get me wrong - this wasn't a runaway sappy flick! Stragely enough, although emotionally draining at times, the movie was so well crafted that it felt more cathartic than burdensome - more life-afirming than preachy. Look, we are all aware of our short engagement on this planet and most of us don't need a movie to remind us of that. What if though, there was a movie that didn't set out to do anything but tell a beautiful story, but ended up making you feel great to be alive? That's the power of this movie. If you've experienced this movie and feel the same, or walked away with different messages, please share.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I don’t have it so bad

The TV show, Dirty Jobs serves two purposes for me. On the one hand, I enjoy the juxtaposition of Mike Rowe tossing out one-liners while casually shoveling road kill into the back of a van. On the other hand, and even more profound for me, is the impact the show has on how I view my own job. I think we all have days where we look around our work environment and ask ourselves how we ended up where we did. Don’t get me wrong – I like my job, but sometimes I take it for granted, and that’s where Dirty Jobs comes in. No matter how bad of a day I’m having, I know it’s a thousand times better than if I had taken a different vocational path and become the sludge containment officer at a water treatment plant. Believe me – there were times in my past that I was nearly forced into taking that detour.

That being said, I’m certain that to all of you who currently hold dirty jobs, the thought of sitting behind a desk in an office all day sounds equally appalling. In fact, there’s probably enough of you to constitute a suitable viewing audience for a show named “Clean Jobs.” But let’s leave that for another discussion. For now, I’ll continue on my campaign to have all of my office’s ‘motivational’ posters of rock climbers and eagles snagging trout from a lake replaced by prints of men with shovels standing next to small mountains of animal parts in a cattle rendering plant. Customers might get offended, but the resulting productivity will be well worth it. Thank you Discovery Channel for keeping it real.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hard Candy

I brought an assortment of hard candy to work today. We have a shelf along ‘writers’ row’ upon which we deposit quasi-edible jetsam from our household pantries. Amazingly, no food, regardless of type or freshness ever stays on the counter more than one day. Today’s goodie selection reminded me of my many visits to an old neighbor’s house. Clorinda McCumber was in her 70s when I was five, and she had a coffee table situated between the couch and the TV that supported a huge, seemingly bottomless dish of hard candies. I’d walk next door whenever the mood struck and Clorinda would let me in without question. She had a color TV where ours was black and white, so I’d use that as an excuse to sit on their couch and pluck away at the congealed mound of petrified ribbon candy. Clorinda would be in the kitchen or her sewing room, so my secret candy binges were strictly between me and her perpetually-drowsy Basset Hound, Duke. By this point of the confection’s life cycle, it was futile trying to separate the individual candies, so I’d use the handle of the metal nutcracker from the mixed nut dish and quietly chip away at the sticky heap, sending razor-sharp white and red shards in all directions. Duke watched me from his pillow near the fireplace with never more than a hint of curiosity.

My family moved when I was six, but about a year later we visited Clorinda. I stood in the kitchen with my parents as the three adults chatted and I eventually glanced toward the living room. Duke was standing with his front paws on the coffee table and was licking at the mass of ribbon candy in a predator-like frenzy. I stared at him for a bit as the notion sunk in that this behavior was probably not new. My throat began to close up a little and as I cleared it, Duke turned his eyes toward me, but continued licking. We stared at each other for a moment or two, or at least as long as it took for both of us to feel comfortable with the fact that our little secret was as safe as ever.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Daughter is With Me All Day

I keep a picture on my wall at work that Juliana drew for me. Even
better than a photo, it keeps me connected to her throughout the day.