Sunday, December 18, 2011
'A Disturbing Image and A Crude Gesture'
In the movie “The Next Voice You Hear,” God skips the burning bush and uses the radio to speak to humanity.
I recently saw this 1950 film, starring James Whitmore and future First Lady Nancy Davis, and found it to be a bit clunky and contrived.
But it made an impression on me because it showed how good, decent people can forget that they’re good and decent as they rush around trying to find a place in the world.
Upon hearing the voice of the Almighty, everyone starts taking life slower and being more respectful to one another.
I thought that was important and it seemed to tie in so nicely with my Day One project, where I vowed I would improve my outlook on life.
And then I decided to go the movies on Friday night and everything went to hell.
I rarely go to the movies, preferring to watch films at home. Most movies are overrated and overpriced and most theater audiences are comprised of inconsiderate morons who talk, act stupid with their smart phones, and do just about anything else they feel like doing except to clam up and watch the goddamn movie. (Not too hostile now, am I?)
But I had heard great things about “The Artist” and I didn’t feel like waiting on Netflix. So I went online to buy a ticket. And that’s where it all went wrong.
My credit card information at the ticket website was outdated and every time I tried to correct things, the website crashed. I was going nuts. Day One turned into Day None as I fumed and swore at the Internet as if it had passed me a bad check.
I finally ordered the damn ticket—or so I thought—and staggered out of the office. I was running late and since I was in a hurry that meant everyone else in New York was operating at super slow motion.
The woman at the restaurant where I went for dinner screwed up my order. When I finally got my chicken chili on rice—not the beef chili!—I had to wolf it down while listening to crappy Christmas music or risk being late for the movie.
There were two or three other people sitting alone at their tables and later I thought we looked like a modern version of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
Outside, people seemed to be a daze. Total strangers approached me, got in my way.
“Papi, you got a cigarette?” one woman asked me as I walked down Broadway.
“I don’t smoke.”
Another woman stopped me in the stairwell of the R station.
“I can’t talk to you now!” I snapped and kept going.
The train took forever to show up and when it did it crawled into Brooklyn like it was going under a barbed wire fence. Some loser at DeKalb Avenue shoved his hand in the door at the last second, holding up the train even more.
When I finally got off at Atlantic Avenue, another idiot clogged up the stairs as he walked and fumbled with his Blackberry at the same time.
And when I got to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the ticket machine wouldn’t print out my ticket. I was borderline psychotic by this time, but I got a ticket at the box office and took a seat.
“The Artist” was excellent and everyone in the audience managed to behave. But I was in such a foul mood that I decided to go straight home after the movie ended.
Today I looked over the ticket receipt to figure out why I had gotten shafted. It was only then that I saw the words “Almost there. Review your order and then click PURCHASE TICKETS.”
Oh…that’s why I didn’t get a ticket the other night. I didn’t actually buy one.
The receipt lists the movie’s rating—PG-13 “for a disturbing image and a crude gesture.” It seemed like a perfect way to describe my evening.
I was feeling pretty miserable for most of Saturday. Once again I had promised to change my evil ways and once again I had bitten the dust.
But luckily, I happened to be walking down 86th Street when I came across an old soldier who was sitting outside a bank and collecting money for veterans.
I love talking to these old timers—they’re like living history books. And since my father was a veteran, I can never get enough WW II stories.
This man—I’m so sorry I didn’t get his name—told me he was in the Navy—“and nowhere else but the Navy!”—and had fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
“Those are some of the toughest battles of the war,” I said.
The old veteran smiled.
“We had fun,” he said.
I wished him a Merry Christmas and headed for home. This man had seen things I could never begin to imagine and gone to places where getting a movie ticket was the last thing on anybody's mind.
He had lived in a time when there was no Internet, or I-pads, or any of this other crap that weighs us done and obliterates our attention span. And he’s still with us.
Day One is not going to be an overnight sensation. It’s going to be a slow, painful process as I eliminate disturbing images and refrain from crude gestures.
The next voice I hear will be my own, telling me to get back to work.