Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Making of Movie Memories. Or Juvenile Delinquency. Take your pick.

During a conversation about movies recently, I mentioned that I love watching The Goonieswith my 4-year old son. "Isn't that movie kind of scary?" said the other mother.

Yes. Yes it is.

"And doesn't it have some dirty language?"

Yes. Yes it does.

When one of the Goonies says "damn it!" my son always shakes his head no and says, "We don't say 'damn it,' do we mommy?"

No. We don't. I answer proudly.

And yes, The Goonies also has a fake suicide, guns and a dead guy all of which I try to obscure by stretching myself in front of the television at the opportune moments.

Motherhood takes flexibility.

But truth be told, I don't really care. To my son it's all about the treasure hunt in a dark, spooky cave and booty traps. "That's what I said, 'booby traps!'" (For those who know the film.) Throw in a big, buttery bowl of popcorn, piles of blankets and ... ta-da! one fuzzy childhood movie memory. If there's any latent psychologically damage from low-level violence, I'm sure he'll be fine.

Goonies, after all, do teach resilience.

How could I deny him? Movies add so much color to childhood. And I want my son's to be colorful. Mine was. Not just because I am one of seven, but because my parents took us with them. Everywhere. To boxing matches, the horse races. And best of all, the movies.

I remember us kids in slippers and pajamas piling into the station wagon to watch triple features at the drive-in where "family-friendly"meant the kids sat on blankets spread on the ground leaving the parents alone in the car.

Then there were the rainy Saturday afternoons sitting on a scratchy carpet remnant in a cold library basement listening to the hypnotic clack of the film projector spinning out movies like Fantastic Voyage, a 1966 sci-fi film where scientists shrink themselves to attack a deadly blood clot in some guy’s body. Very creepy in a medically invasive kind of way.

To this day, I can't help wondering if a team of miniscule scientists has stowed away inside the syringe each time I get a shot.

And when Star Wars was released my dad took us to see it, not once, but 13 times. In a row. The last time, the local theater owner didn’t have the heart to charge him. I remember feeling like a starlet, pulled out of line, the red rope unlatched just for me. "Please. Just go in. Your money's no good here."

There's a reason the zombie film Shaun of the Dead is my idea of the perfect romantic comedy. Seeing Amityville Horror on the big screen as a child will do that to you. So will getting locked in the basement by your brothers afterward. It took months before I could go into our basement's dark, dank fruit cellar, a Portal to Hell if ever there was one.

You don't have to tell me twice to "Get out!"

And sometimes the right movie is a gateway to wondrous, transformative, albeit slightly deviant, things.

Enter Heavy Metal, an animated, R-rated, rock-and-roll extravaganza that my father took my brothers and me to see. We liked it so much that he let us hide under the seats between shows, dodging ushers sweeping up popcorn, so we could watch it again without paying. Very rock-and-roll.

Actually, I'm not sure which was more transforming - the movie with it's blond, buxom, sword-wielding heroine kicking ass in a leather bikini or committing a misdemeanor with my family. But as a tall, skinny, frizzy-haired girl with glasses, braces and poor posture, I took whatever help I could get.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Stop the Bus! I'm Having a DC Moment.

If you aren't a very political person, living in Washington DC will change that.

Politics is all around you. It permeates the air. It's in the water. Along with lead and trace pharmaceuticals.

Take for example the DC moment I had yesterday. I'm sitting with my son on the H4 bus going to Whole Foods to buy some bulgar wheat. I had just read in this Magic Foods book that I really need to eat this grain if I want to live longer. And since I do, buying bulgar wheat moved to the top of my to-do list.

The bus passes by Sidwell Friends, the Quaker school where the Obama girls go. I look over and see Malia swinging a tennis racket with her classmates on the court just a few yards away from the road. Sigh. I hope my son gets into a good school where he can learn tennis. The DC school lottery, where parents learn the fate of their children's education, is tomorrow. And even with all my research and leg work, it feels so arbitrary. No chance of getting into Sidwell. It's private, for one. And even with one of their teachers, make that one of their former teachers, facing allegations of child sex abuse, it's still the elitist of the elite.

I know. I don't equate the Quakers with Elitism either. But there you have it.

The bus stops alongside a triad of young male professionals you might normally see in this neighborhood wearing black pea coats and khakis. Except these guys are all wearing dark sunglasses and have the distinctive white spiral wire curling behind their ears making them look like very casually-dressed androids. Oh. "These aren't the droids you're looking for." These are Malia and Sasha's Secret Service detail.

As the bus passes them, I wonder how they are trained to see us. Us Everyday People. Who arouses their suspicions? I bet that homeless guy hunkering down in front of a brick wall doesn't concern them at all. He could even leave one of his many bags unattended and they wouldn't blink. A luxury afforded the homeless.

I feel like waving. To the Secret Service detail. Not the homeless guy. Not that I have anything against homeless people. He would probably enjoy it. Then again, who am I to assume. But I don't wave. To anyone. Waving may be classified as stalker behavior, enough reason for them to throw me and my child in that Secret Service paddy wagon parked down the street.

DC is small. If you live here long enough you're bound to have many DC moments. And this one is warm and fuzzy. It involves children and Quakers. How could it not be?

Some DC moments aren't. Like the time my husband and I were having lunch after a Michael Moore matinee featuring Fahrenheit 9/11. Love him or hate him, it's really quite impossible to feel ambivalent after watching one of his films. I was sitting there feeling considerably non-ambivalent about the whole Let's Attack Iraq thing when then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice passed by on her way to her usual table. Her jacket sleeve brushed my back.

"Check, please."

Love her or hate her, Dr. Rice is not warm and fuzzy.

My husband's favorite DC moment, officially on record, involves Veep Dick Cheney, his motorcade and the Middle Finger.

It's the little things.

Please don't think us stark, raving mad partisans. Some of our closest friends are Republicans.

Well. That's exaggerating things a bit.

But I was nearly eviscerated at a party once for daring to question some of Obama's campaign promises. What can I say. I was raised on a healthy diet of Mark Twain and taught to distrust all politicians. Even the hot ones.

Anyway, if politicians didn't fudge the truth just a wee bit, we'd have to scrap all those good political jokes. "Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed frequently. And for the same reason." One of my favorites.

But it wasn't my intent to be political. Here or in general. It's just hard to avoid when you live in this town.