Monthly Archives: September 2009

Film Zombies

             The most horrifying local news in Walnut Creek is that our downtown Blockbuster Video is closing. The rent is too expensive, they said. This is puzzling. Most of Blockbuster’s aisles are crammed with popular horror DVDs like Saw (Saw I, II, III through Saw LXXVI), The Ring (Ring 1, Ring 2, Ring 3, Lord of the Ring), Friday the 13th (11 films), Drag Me to Hell, Drag Me Shopping, and Final Destination, in which a group of friends who narrowly missed being crushed by a falling Acme Company anvil are stalked by a psychopathic coyote.

            Finding quality films at Blockbuster has never been a problem. The last time I was in Blockbuster, for example, I checked out three honored classic American films– Gigli, I Know Who Killed Me, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. 

            Seeing “Zohan,” I was reminded that Andy, my 22 year old UCLA Theater School graduate, has been playing basketball at John Wooden Center for the past couple of years with Zohan’s director and lead actor, Adam Sandler. They do have several things in common—–both are actors, Jewish, and love basketball. Adam’s second daughter is named Sunny. Andy had a pet rat named Sunny. Both Adam and Andy have actually seen You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

            The two don’t talk much when they play. Andy’s been timid about schmoozing with Sandler.  (“I don’t want to be an annoying fan.”) Recently, however, Andy became determined to break the ice.

             Andy’s usual icebreaker is to describe how he injured his shoulders; how he acquired scar tissue from torn tendons in his legs; how many years he’s lived with chronic leg pain; how he may have fractured his nose recently when a player elbowed him in a game; and the number of times his throat has been scoped for vocal cord polyps. Andy can also graphically relate his history of having a major uni-brow.

            A few days ago Andy returned to play basketball after a several weeks away from the UCLA Campus, including three weeks at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert where, to his delight, he acquired an interesting upper thigh rash following fecal contamination from the sand.

            As Andy practiced shooting hoops, he saw Adam Sandler stroll into the Wooden Center gymnasium.   

            “Hey, Adam,” he said, approaching Sandler with a cool saunter. Andy put  the saunter down because it was too cold. “Do you remember my big white ass?”

            [Editor’s note: This is an actual quote and clearly an untested Andy Icebreaker.]

            Sandler said he remembered Andy. He didn’t mention Andy’s big white ass. He continued dribbling and shooting.

            “I just graduated UCLA’s Theater School,” Andy said cheerfully, “and I’m trying to find a manager or agent. Oh, and I’m looking for an apartment and a job. Also, I have plantar fascitis.”

            “Well, I graduated from NYU’s Tisch School,” Sandler said, referring to the drama school that considers itself better than UCLA’s theater school. He looked up at the rim, aimed, and scored more points. “And as far as getting a job, I just hired my three nephews for my film company.” He did not disclose any personal physical defects.

            When the basketball game ended, Sandler turned to Andy and said, “Danny, send me a resume and a headshot.” Andy thanked him profusely and then, anxious to prolong the conversation, described a troubling lower bowel disorder.

            Andy didn’t mention that he has no current headshot. His resume lies buried within the computer stored in his weather-beaten 1996 Chevy Caprice, along with most of his worldly goods, as he drives around and around L.A. looking for an apartment that’s close to possible jobs and medical facility with a trauma unit.

            Both Andy’s and his older brother Jordan’s interest in acting was sparked by the (pre-Blockbuster) films I showed when they were young. I carefully selected classic movies and avoided ones that might cause nightmares and permanent trauma. Then they’d go a neighbor’s home with its floor-to-ceiling screen along one wall and state-of-the-art Dolby sound system, and watch acclaimed children’s films like The Land Before Time in which a sadistic Tyrannosaurus attacks and kills a mother dinosaur.  

            Jordan, now a junior at San Francisco State University, enrolled in a Theater class this semester called “Movement I: Developing the actor’s free and responsive body.” Andy took a similar movement class at UCLA’s Theater School, and “the free and responsive body” he developed led to his lengthy nude performance in The Devils. Jordan was just bumped from the Movement I class because of class size limitations. This was good news. It is a well-established medical principle that a mother can have only one son appear nude on stage during her lifetime.  

            With Blockbuster now departing, and the boys generally living out of the house, I watch Netflix-rented movies with Alan and friends. Selecting movies for friends can more difficult than for children. Caryn refuses to watch westerns because “there’s too much dust.” Sylvia can’t stand violence, which eliminates 95% of films. Susan enjoys only romantic films or films about animals, particularly cats. This may be because as a child, Susan discovered a dead cat frozen stiff under her house. She laid it carefully on an aluminum foil-covered tray which she shoved into a preheated 325 degree oven in order to bring the cat back to life or to roast, depending on which occurred first.

            Hollywood has already optioned that story to make “a classic children’s film.”




Working Out with Boobs

            I passed my annual mammogram test yesterday. The radiologist’s office uses new digital mammogram equipment, so rather than placing your breasts in the old, painful waffle-iron type machines, the technologist artfully positions you snugly, aided by the latest equipment, a recycled car crushing machine. When I was finished, the technologist, as part of the more patient-friendly attitude, expressed appreciation for my bravery and told me I could keep the new personal Patient Spatula used to scrape breasts off the bottom breast tray.

            As is my custom, I tied my temporarily flattened breasts together, and drove over to the gym so I could use 24-Hour Fitness Breast Resuscitation equipment. Not all 24-Hour Fitness gyms carry these, which operate like jacks for changing car tires. First, however, I got on the stationary bike that I try to use three or more times a week. The bikes are the only pieces of equipment in the gym that don’t require you punch somebody first in order to claim one, unlike the popular treadmill and elliptical machines.

            People like me on stationary bikes stare serenely at the overhead television or at a book they brought. Treadmill and elliptical users are intense and sweaty. They can’t understand why, after running or stomping 45 minutes to an hour, they’re still standing in the same place. They actually believe, because some faulty monitor on the machine tells them so, that they’ve completed two miles or more. When they’re finally thrown off their machines for going over time limits, they can’t understand why they’re still at 24-Hour Fitness, rather than two miles away at Starbucks.

            My doctor told me I should do the treadmill or elliptical machine for my cardio. This was bad advice: From working my ass off and getting nowhere, I developed high blood pressure.   

            As I pedal away on the bike, a parade of big-muscled jocks (male and female) pass by me on their way to the back room of equipment. I’m reminded why I’ll never really fit in 24- Hour Fitness: each person sports a tattoo. I’ve never been one for body piercings or body art. When, decades ago, women began to pierce their ears, I used to pretend mine were pierced, too. I’d clip on my ear lobes those metal book rings used for binder notebooks. They looked good except for the attached notebook paper.  These days I buy clip earrings at department stores, which, aware there are four remaining women in the U.S. without pierced ears, simply recycle the same clip earrings every year. I can choose between plain gold or silver loops, which oddly enough resemble metal book rings.

            When tattooing became popular, I naturally wrinkled my nose at the thought. During my youth, the only people I saw with tattoos were Navy servicemen or ex-cons. We understood that being confined too long can make you either color your skin permanently or kill someone.

            What began at my 24-Hour Fitness as nubile 20 year olds flaunting a few cute tattooed flowers and butterflies became a gym epidemic of dark blue web-like designs covering entire arms, legs and backs of both genders. Why is there this need to make oneself a human road map? A poll in 2003 showed that a third of Americans with tattoos said it made them feel “more sexy.” In other words, the larger the tattoo the sexier one feels. People covered with tattoos are close to spontaneously combusting. If this isn’t frightening enough, they will also be denied medical coverage for being, to use a bank term, “Overdrawn.”

            When tattooers run out of skin and body piercers need new ideas for piercing placements, they can advance to Body Suspension. In Suspension, a supposedly sane person agrees to have approximately twelve hooks pierce his skin around the shoulders, upper arms, back, and behind the knees, then be lifted by machine off the ground a foot or two where he remains motionless or dead, depending on how he feels. The hooks most commonly employed for flesh suspension are deep-sea fish hooks, normally used for fishing sharks and octopi. 

            Suspension has been credited to, or blamed on, the Mandan Indian tribe which hosted Lewis and Clark in 1804 during their trip west. While history does not recount Lewis and Clark agreeing to be suspended by hooks, independently or in tandem, the Mandan Indians could scarcely be faulted if they suspected Lewis had an unhealthy fixation with Body Suspension: for the Expedition, he brought along 125 hooks and gave away many as “presents.”  

            While I have not had tattoos or piercings, I’ve tried Modified Body Suspension: this occurs when the cowardly mammogram technician leaves you suspended from the digital x-ray machine hanging by your mashed breasts while she, unwilling to watch your Suspension, races away to take the x-ray behind you.  

            By the time I’m released from the rigors of the mammogram’s Modified Body Suspension, and driving to 24- Hour Fitness for breast resuscitation, I remember with satisfaction the late British actor Richard Harris in the film A Man Called Horse.  His character is suspended by his chest in an Indian ritual known as “the Sun Vow and Breast Enhancement.”  He also endures the extreme pain of Suspension, but for his bravery he wins the hand of a beautiful Indian maiden whose only flaw is a sadistic fetish for sagging male breasts.