Friday, July 12, 2013

A Stark Morning, A Night Without Pain, A Message from Beyond

It was a Stark morning ...

No, that is not the opening line of my Great American Novel. Rather, it was how I spent the better part of the waning hours of the a.m. on Friday. As is my custom in semi-retirement, when I wake up most mornings I turn on the TV to see what’s playing on Turner Classic Movies. Programmers had set aside today as a tribute to Joanne Dru, not an actress I have followed but she did appear in some notable films. First up for me was All the King’s Men, the 1949 movie adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, a not so veiled telling of the rise and assassination of Huey Long, the 1930s populist governor of Louisiana. 

Broderick Crawford played Willie Stark, a hick who takes on the corrupt establishment, but in his ascension to governor becomes as corrupt as those he displaced. It’s a portrayal that earned Crawford an Academy Award and reminded me that the late James Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony Soprano shared many of the same acting traits as Crawford’s Stark, an ability to show ruthlessness and a vulnerable side. Both actors also scored leading man’s roles despite their portly shapes and less than glamorous profiles.  

(Spoiler alert) After Stark was whacked at the end of All the King’s Men (a fate we are uncertain befell Tony Soprano), I wandered down for breakfast and decided to watch TCM’s next feature, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. I get nostalgic watching westerns as they were my father’s favorite movie genre. I’ve probably seen She Wore a Yellow Ribbon a dozen times, but it’s a great John Ford movie, with perhaps the best John Wayne performance as U.S. Cavalry Captain Nathan Brittles serving the last days of his 40-year military career on an army post in the Southwest. About two-thirds of the way through the movie the location was identified—Fort Stark! 

Joanne Dru might have been the featured ingenue in both movies, but to me it was a Stark morning.

The Great Experiment Begins Saturday Night: That’s when Gilda and I will end the day on a new Sleep Number bed that can adjust each side to the firmness desired. 

Five years ago Gilda’s back ached. Our bed was too soft for her. We bought a Tempurpedic foam mattress. Her back pain went away. Mine started. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed without hoisting myself aloft on the frame of our iron bed. Gilda attributed my lower back pain to lack of exercise. A reasonable hypothesis, except that my back rarely hurt when we’d travel and slept on non-Tempurpedic beds.

My constant, constant, nagging finally paid off. Two weeks ago she agreed to try out the Sleep Number (it didn’t hurt my case that my brother and his wife have been sleeping on such a bed for the last 10 years). The bed comes with a 100-day trial period. I’m really hopeful a softer bed will alleviate much if not all of my pain, while Gilda can keep her side of the bed as firm as she desires. Without back pain I might even be enticed to exercise more, though let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Message from the Beyond: Another inanimate object signaled me the other evening, but I didn’t pick up the cue. I’ll spare you details of the issue under consideration, but it was provocative enough for me to want to send an immediate complaining e-mail to the members of a synagogue committee with whom I serve. Each time I hit “send” on the iPad the transmission failed to go through. One of the email addresses was wrong, or so the iPad said. 

I had a choice. Either wait till the next day to inquire about the right address or simply strike the offending address from the list of recipients. I chose the latter, only to find out a short while later I had misinterpreted the issue. I wasted no time sending my apologies to the committee, also explaining that “perhaps my iPad was being protective and suggesting I shouldn't send it (the first e-mail) out to anyone. As someone who believes inanimate objects have sent messages to me in the past I apologize for missing the signal.”

For those not familiar with my belief in inanimate object communication, here are a few examples: 

The day I was giving my Chevy Vega to my brother-in-law after 13 years of loyal service, the muffler fell off and the car barely trudged a few blocks without stalling out; 

On my last day of work, as I walked up Park Avenue under the protective cover of a large umbrella given to me by one of the hotels we used for our large retail conference, a wind gust blew the canopy inside out. As I struggled to right the umbrella, the metal shaft broke in two, leaving me the handle and about three inches of shaft. The decapitated handle hangs above my desk at home, a constant reminder that even if people sometimes don’t know when to say goodbye, inanimate objects do;

As I was considering a temporary position in Cleveland shortly after retiring from my employer of 32 years, Gilda handed me an article from The NY Times, “36 Hours in Cleveland”. Was the article telling me to go after the three-month position, or was it saying that 36 hours was more than enough time to spend in the lakefront city. One thing is certain, however. Another inanimate object was sending a message.

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