My friend Adam called yesterday and asked if I might be interested in taking the kids to the Woodland Park Zoo today. Justin's calendar was clear today, so at about 9:30 this morning we were heading to the zoo. Justin has been there a few times, but I've only been there a few times to attend concerts on the lawn (Steve Earle & Pink Martini . . . separate shows.) I found that I had to put up an emotional wall while chauffeuring Justin from habitat to habitat. I've always found zoos depressing, especially the primate exhibits. I was shocked that they have a snow leopard at Woodland Park. The snow leopard is one of the most elusive animals known to man. And they have one captive. The animal was nowhere to be seen. I was happy after-the-fact that we had bypassed the elephant exhibit. I would have been reminded of Hansa's death earlier in the summer and my emotional wall would have crumbled, or at least fractured a little.
I have one more day to clean the house before we leave for Vancouver Island on Sunday. Jen did quite a bit of cleaning today (bless her heart) before collapsing and getting some sleep before work tonight. We have friends house-sitting during our short vacation, otherwise I wouldn't be so concerned about the neatness of my surroundings. Justin can so quickly erase an afternoon with of picking up and straightening. I was happy to find out that the town where we'll be staying, Sidney-by-the-Sea, has more bookstores per capita than any other town in Canada. I could always use a few more books. There's also a bug museum in Victoria. It's right down the street from the wax museum. I don't think Justin or Jennifer would enjoy the wax museum as much as I would. There's something about those life-like figurines that is so . . . meltable. Having Justin along limits us to a certain amount of outdoor free-form activity. He's under two and still in diapers, so afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress is out. For Justin, as long as he can wander about picking up various rocks and sticks then he is a happy human. Myself? Just give me reading time and plenty of it.
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) - I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this classic. I used to be able to recite it line for line along with the film, but thanks to many hours spent with a therapist I don't do that any more. But if I were King of the Forest . . .
- Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971) - Don't even talk to me about the remake. This was after Burton had the unmitigated gall to remake the original Planet of the Apes. WTF? The original film has great music by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. It has one of Gene Wilder's greatest performances. And I have the memory of seeing it at the Drive-in when I was but a wee child.
- Contact (1997) - My favorite Robert Zemeckis film (Yes, I enjoyed it more than Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Romancing the Stone.) I love Jodie Foster as the impassioned astronomer Ellie Arroway with her quest to make the ultimate long distance call. I have to admit thought, that I get more and more annoyed with Matthew McConaughey every time I watch this film. I was a fan of the original novel by Carl Sagan and I thought Zemeckis did a nice job with the adaptation.
- Groundhog Day (1993) - It drives my wife crazy that I watch a movie over and over again that is about a man living the same day over and over again. It's also about self-redemption and the value of Right Action. Bill Murray is brilliant as the acerbic and melancholic Phil Connors (Yeah, like the groundhog Phil), with outstanding comic support from Chris Elliot and Stephen Tobolowsky. I still laugh enough to blow milk out my nose every time Phil Connors gets hit in the head with a passing snow shovel, while standing at the payphone . . . that's if I drank milk.
- The Bridges of Madison County (1995) - Yes, I've heard that the book is laughably bad, but whatever the book may be like, it inspired a wonderful movie scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, Unstrung Heroes, and Living Out Loud, which he also directed.) and directed with subtlety by Clint Eastwood. It also has yet another in a long line of amazing performances by an actress named Meryl Streep. I watch this movie again and again for those first scenes of dialogue between Eastwood and Streep. They feel so natural that I just want to step into that summer afternoon in Iowa and join them for a cold ice tea on the veranda. But Francesca (Meryl) and Robert (Clint) probably wouldn't want me along, since two's company and three's a crowd and all that. I also have a soft spot for Annie Corley, who plays Streep's grown-up daughter. She also has the role of John Turturro's wife in Box of Moonlight, another favorite film.
- It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - I'm a sucker for Frank Capra's films celebrating the common man and small town virtues, but this one is my favorite of the bunch. Whenever I'm in the mood to cry buckets (and yes, I do get in those moods) I play this movie. I don't believe in angels, or that the poor working-class will ever triumph over the Potters of the world, but this movie helps me to believe differently, if only for 130 minutes. Other Capra films I'd recommend: Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, You Can't Take It With You, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
I think that it's enough time spent on this inane list for now. I'll have to come back to this list, so that I can wax rhapsodic about Dirty Harry. I just love to gush about my favorite onscreen fascist, Dirty Harry Callahan. I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? I once traded my entire collection of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines for an original one-sheet of Dirty Harry. That's when I knew I was growing up. The Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver and Ray Ban Balorama sunglasses became symbols of cool for me. I became that loner wearing an army surplus jacket and standing at the edge of the crowd. At least that was me through my three years of high school until I made the brilliant decision to join the United States Air Force at age seventeen. After the recruiter gave his presentation he asked if I had any questions. I asked, "Do you have any terms less than four years?" "No," he responded. "It's four or six years." I sighed, "Okay, four years it is then." All of a sudden I became just another shaved head in olive drab uniform. But that's a story for another day . . .
It is now past the midnight hour and I can feel my limbs withdraw and my complexion start to change to orange, as I transmute into the proverbial pumpkin.