Sunday, December 02, 2012

Arden, RIP

                                                                 My dog Arden died.
                                                       He died about three weeks ago.

     I'm still getting used to him not being around.  I will blame my tardy blog entry on this event.  It's only partially true.  But still, I'll allow Arden this one last gift to me.
     My world is very different.  No more walks every day.  This is both terrible and fantastic.  No Arden to greet me when I come in the house.  For at least a week, after he died, when I came in the door, I could hear the jingling of his tags.  Auditory hallucinations embedded by repeating situations.  I hear his familiar click along the hardwood floors.  I still wake up at night and think of his last moments alive, which I witnessed, and for which I'm deeply thankful.  We knew he didn't have long, he had a tumor on his heart after all, but he'd lived so much longer than anyone expected he would (in that sense, he was like my brother Bill.)
   One night Arden was breathing particularly quickly.  Maybe even hyperventilating.  He wouldn't sit down.  Michael and I stayed up with him. It was hard to tell if he didn't want to sit down or he couldn't sit down. I figured if we went to bed, he would lie down.  We went to bed, and then I got up at 11 p.m. and he was still panting and standing.  I went back to bed, but got up at midnight, he was still doing the same thing.  I called the emergency 24 hour vet and they said to bring him in. Michael and I got dressed, Arden happily got his leash on, jumped into the car, looked out the window with expectation. I was in the backseat with him.  Then he wanted to get down off the seat.  I helped him get down. He died right there in the car. He did not look like he was in any pain, he just laid down and put his head to one side, but all the muscles in his face relaxed in this very final un-alive way.  I said to Michael who was driving "I think Arden just died."  Michael put his hand back behind the driver's seat, stroking Arden's fur.  "Yes." he said.  "I think he's dead, too."
    It was so dark outside, I could only see Arden when we went under a street lamp.  It created an eerie otherworldly effect.  But yes, he was dead.  They took his body at the emergency vet's office.  They were very kind.  There were many tears.
    Now, as I type this, his ashes are sitting on my desk.
    I am very sad.  In shavasana, at the end of yoga class, I am often crying - thinking about Arden.
    On the other hand, I am deeply relieved.  I was tired of worrying about him, tired of all the responsibility.  I don't want another dog.  That was my dog.  I had a dog.  I had the best dog I could imagine for me.  I have ten years of memories about him to enjoy for the rest of my life.  I wouldn't be surprised, when I reach the end of my own life, to see images of Arden running towards me.  His existence is so deep inside me.

    But let's move on, people.

    My book is done, done, done! It is coming out April 3rd. I am very happy that it's over and I'm already onto two more projects. I am writing a screenplay named "Fork."  This is something I am going to try to direct myself, here in Wilmette.  It's a small delicate story about a couple and their two kids graduating from high school.  I can shoot in my own house.

    The other project is my next book, "My Beautiful Loss-of-Faith Story."  This is the book that goes along with "Letting Go of God."  I am finally writing this book, something I've threatened to do for so long. I feel productive and able to accomplish things at the moment.  I didn't realize that just completing my mother book would give me such confidence in finishing other projects. I heard someone say once about their father, "He was a great finisher of projects."  Wow, what a great phrase. I struggle so mightily with that. I have no problem starting things!  But isolating the specific act of finishing projects is helpful when thinking about it.   It's an act unto itself, the finish.  Just the idea of being "A great finisher." I love it.  I want to be a great finisher.  I must say, at the moment I'm optimistic.

    I haven't listed my movie watching for three months now.

    Here are the movies I watched in September, October, and November of 2012

    1.)   Melancholia, 2011, directed by Lars von Trier
    2.)   An Unmarried Woman, 1978, directed by Paul Mazursky
    3.)   My Summer of Love, 2004, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
    4.)   Alice: Darkness, Light, Darkness, 1988, directed by Jan Svankmajer
    5.)   Grapes of Wrath, 1940, directed by John Ford
    6.)   Another Country, 1984. directed by Marik Kanievska
    7.)   La Havre, 2011, directed by Aki Kaurismaki
    8.)   Lady From Shanghai, 1947, directed by Orson Welles
    9.)   How Green Was My Valley, 1941, directed by John Ford
   10.)   I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, 2006, directed by Jeff Garlin
   11.)   Drums Along the Mohawk, 1939, directed by John Ford
   12.)   Great Expectations, 1946, directed by David Lean
   13.)   The Earrings of Madame Du, 1953, directed by Max Ophuls
   14.)   And Then There Were None, 1945, directed by Rene Clair
   15.)   Wee Willie Winkie, 1937, directed by John Ford
   16.)   Judge Priest, 1934, directed by John Ford
   17.)   Jolene, 2008, directed by Dan Ireland
   18.)   Man on Wire, 2008, directed by James Marsh
   19.)   Lincoln, 2012, directed by Steven Speilberg
   20.)   Street Angel, 1928, directed by Frank Borzage
   21.)   History is Made at Night, 1937, directed by Frank Borzage
   22.)   The White Ribbon, 2009, directed by Michael Haneke

    Considering this is three months of movies, it's not very many.  I usually watch more.  But wow, now that I've typed them out and looked at them all, what a wonderful group of films! I couldn't honestly say which one had the deepest impact.
     I only saw one movie in a movie theater, and that was "Lincoln."  I loved it, I ate it up, I think this is one of Spielberg's best films.  (My personal favorite is "Munich")
    The biggest surprise:  "My Summer of Love."  This film got so little attention.  It is Emily Blunt's film debut.  I think this is a perfect film. Really, there is not one moment, not one frame that I would change or that doesn't work. It's plot is inevitable and yet surprising.  When my friends come in January (I have three friends who come here every January for a little four or five day film festival - we watch movies in our basement home theater) I am going to show this film to them.  It's gorgeous and horrifying - a story of two girls and their friendship. One of them is wealthy and one is very poor.  Emily Blunt is great, but the other girl - oh my god, Natalie Press, she is incredible - astonishing.  This film is creepy and puts you on edge.  It also breaks your heart.  And makes you angry.  And - god, just get this film and watch it.
     One day Mulan was sick and home from school with a fever. We watched Alice, Darkness Light Darkness, a bizarre surrealist film by a Czech filmmaker.  It was the perfect kind of hallucinatory experience to have when you are a little bit sick.  Mulan loved it.  We talk about it together all the time.  It's a version of Alice in Wonderland that Salvador Dali would make.
     "Great Expectations" exceeded my expectations.  I think it's David Lean's best movie.  I watched it twice, once alone, and another time with the whole family, including my mother-in-law, Norma.  We all enjoyed it thoroughly.  I think it's time for me to finally read Dicken's book.  I have read so little Dickens.  Like none.  And he was one of my father's favorite authors.  In fact he called me Pip when I was little (he also had a dog named Pip, but to be honest, I never thought of this as an insult.)
       I watched "Wee Willie Winkie" with my own mother and Mulan one afternoon just before Thankgsiving.  I wanted Mulan to know who Shirley Temple was.  This is her least cutsie-singing-tap dancing role and directed by John Ford.  It's pretty good. I was glad that Mulan liked it.  That's another one we've spoken of several times since viewing it.
      "Street Angel" - oh God! I am discovering Frank Borzage, he directed at Fox along with Ford and Murnau.  Janet Gaynor is so entrancing in "Street Angel" - a classic, maybe THE classic Whore-Madonna story.  A lush, gorgeous silent film.  I'd seen Borzage's "History is Made at Night" many, many years ago.  It has the most ridiculous plot, it just proves that if the actors have chemistry (and Jean Arther and Charles Boyer really combust) it doesn't matter how ludicrous the story is.  You just want to watch them together.
    When I finished the book, I gave myself a present: the "Ford at Fox" box set, 50 movies he directed while at Fox.  I got it on sale for $250 (regularly $300) and now I see that it's $187.  You have to get it people!  The documentary that goes along with it is quite good, and there's wonderful commentary by Joseph McBride, and others, on some of the films.  "How Green Was My Valley" and "The Grapes of Wrath" both have incredibly insightful and informative audio commentaries that I watched right after seeing the films.
   "The Earrings of Madame Du" is possibly the best film ever made.  The DVD I got has extras too, great commentaries and even the original short story.
    I am still digesting "White Ribbon."  I had wanted to see this film for a while, since it won the Palm d'Or in 2009.  But I put it off.   I thought it was going to be a long, long film about child torture and molestation.  Children who all become Nazis later.   And, well, that's true.  But it's so magnificent.  And the film leaves so much unanswered, expertly unanswered, it's not dogmatic or manipulative.   It's not just about kids turning into sadists from being used sadistically either.  It's about the legacy of pain and how it plays out, it's about the half-life energy from oblivious land-owners and the desperation of migrant workers and the deep psychosis in the underbelly of religion and about the gossip and claustrophobia of small towns.  God, it's so magnificent, this film.  I watched it twice.

  Now, onto books.  I actually have no idea what books I read in the last three months. I know that at this moment I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior: A Novel."  It's breathtakingly well written.  In fact, I want to stop writing this blog so I can go read more.
   I do have my Kindle in front of me, so I can tell you what I've recently read from looking at that: "Writing in Pictures" by Joseph McBride.  This is the best screenwriting book I have ever read. It is head and shoulders above any other one.  I have it both on my Kindle and I got the hardcover version.  "Drift" by Rachel Maddow and "What's The Matter With White People" by Joan Walsh.  They are both political pundits with whom I feel have a great deal of important things to say. I recommend both books heartily.  "Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church" by Jason Berry.  Of course I am obsessed with the Vatican and money.  I shouldn't say "of course" because I tried for many years to keep my disgruntled feeling towards the Church concerned mainly with their dogma.  I tried to look the other way when it came to the sex abuse and the money scandals.  But now I'm ready to know, and jesus  (ha!) there is so much to know!  "The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder & the Mafia" by Paul Williams is good too.
    What else?  I will say I am not so into the Kindle anymore.  I like an actual book. My need to flip through pages, glance at the back, see how far it is until the chapter is over - all these things are annoying or impossible on the Kindle.  Actual books I read?   I did read Ayelet Waldman's "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits" which I thought was fantastic. I still have images in my mind, scenes from this book, that I feel were directed - they were so film-like.  I love her details.  I read "Sense and Sensibility" again - I think I have to read all of Jane Austen's books again.  As you get older, they just get better.
   Oh, I forgot.  I read, "Carry the One" by Carol Anshaw.  Brilliant.  Just a wonderful narrative and it all takes, well it mostly takes place here in Chicago.  She is one hell of a writer.  Great details, like Ayelet Waldman.

   All right people, that's all I can think about for right now.