Piano recital tonight – the first of the events that signal the end of spring and the school year. (G)Nat did well, although we’d chopped her piece in half because we simply hadn’t had the time to hammer out the last part. It was all I could do to keep her from racing through the piece – kids sometimes think that faster = better. She played it slowly, with nice dynamics, and unexpectedly added a final Doh two octaves down as punctuation. That alone earned supper at Perkins.
So we had supper at Perkins. Kids eat free on Tuesday, after all. That was the rumor once upon a time, anyway. And pie was $1.99 with an entrée! I presented my bill at the cash register, the time-honored Act of Dad, and the hostess gave me a scrap of paper to sign. “I remember once when kids ate free on Tuesday,” I said.
“They still do,” said the hostess.
“Oh! Well, it’s not on the bill.”
“I can change that,” she said. “We usually make the change at the register.” I wanted to ask why they didn’t make the change on the bill, since it is the Act of Dad to wander up alone, pull out the billfold, and settle up. Kids aren't always in evidence. Case in point, now, here, this. But the waitress had seemed harried, so never mind. I was given another scrap of paper.
“I thought pie was $1.99,” I said. Now I felt like Pinchpenny McMiser, intent on getting one over on Perkins.
“Good catch,” she said, and she adjusted the bill. I was given a third scrap of paper.
I tipped fifteen percent, because service had been lackluster and most of our requests had gone unfulfilled; the hostess noted the tip, then flicked her eyes up to me as if to say “you were supposed to tip on the undiscounted price.” And I suppose I was supposed to. But let’s just leave it there and part friends.
Outside the clouds were forming those popcorn clouds.
I’d seen the same formation last year on recital day. If they never come again I'll still expect them, every year.
Since my wife had come straight from work, (G)Nat wanted to drive home with Mom. She wanted to race: first one in the garage wins. I said that wasn’t safe. Then winked. I was behind them all the way home, but didn’t mind driving slowly: the “Jupiter” movement from Holst’s Planets was on, and I love that piece and all the unearned English nostalgia it provokes. The old England. Roast beef and gardens and dark satanic mills and the Titanic and Kipling and Flashman and Gilbert & Sullivan, Vaughn Williams, Stanford, Anthony Burgess’ stories of a Mancunian childhood spent in music halls, all the confident clear-eyed virtues that were helpless against the rise of Cool, and eventually ended up sitting inside with the doors locked while yobbos heaved in the street and the evening ululations laid out the terms of a parallel culture. Morris cars and Carol Reed films and drawing-room murders; muttonchops and muskets. Swift and Pope.
That England. Not this one. And I kept thinking: play it faster. Faster is better. This version was stately and a bit overweight, but it gathered its strength around the time I pulled up next to my wife’s car at an intersection, waved, and did a right-turn on red. I could hear my daughter’s protest: NO FAIR! But it was fair indeed. I was just taking the back road. I turned up the radio and rolled down the windows and darted through the back streets with Jupiter blasting as loud as it would go, and if you know the piece, well: I hit our block at the last few seconds, and entered the garage on the last three notes, exactly.
Life should have a soundtrack as often as possible.
I watched “National Treasure’s South Dakota Adventure,” because I enjoyed the first one. The second starts out with great promise, but the plot twists and archeological intrigue seemed to peter out halfway through. Jokey and breezy enough, but those endless action set-pieces at the end are wearisome, and I get a cramp from holding down the fast-forward button. I can accept one or two ancient pieces of technology that still work as though freshly greased, but I can’t buy super-complex Aztec technology that operates like a 52-ton Swiss watch. Made out of stone.
Also watched “Manhattan,” because I hadn’t seen it in a very long time, and it was on in HD. At the time it came out I agreed with everyone else: masterpiece! A winning blend of humor and heart, a gorgeously shot love-song to New York, a new step in Woody Allen’s career as America’s most highly-anticipated filmmaker! Now it looks like a NAMBLA recruitment film from a creepy old perv. First of all, it’s not that funny. It has its moments, but compared to “Annie Hall,” the laughs are few, and rely either on persona schtick or pseudo-intellectual references. It is beautifully shot – I remember this scene, which struck me at the time:
The left half of the screen reads as a completely flat image in various shades of grey, and Woody – sorry, Alvie Singer – sorry, Nathan Zuckerman – sorry, Isaac Gurldidler – moves in and out of the depthless hall. He's in the living room:
He's in the bathroom! In the same plane, it seems:
Then he disappears into the lines on the left side, and pops out a few seconds later:
Like I said, it struck me at the time. It means nothing, but it looks nice. So they did it again later, perhaps to emphasize the Loneliness of Manhattan Spaces:
Or just because it looks cool and shows off mastery of deep focus. I don't know, but I do know that the high sheen of Art - great composition, masterful use of the monochrome palette, perky Gershwin songs - help you lose sight of the essential sin in the middle of the story: we’re asked to sympathize with a 42-year-old man having a sexual relationship with a 17-year old. He couldn’t even make her legal for the plot’s sake, which suggests he was making a point right under our noses. No one objects in the movie, so why should the audience? His best friend doesn’t object. The girl’s parents, who are conveniently absent right down to the point of not caring where she spends the night, don’t object. The wife of his best friend is amused by it all in that oh-so-sophisticated way (and she wants children, which makes it doubly horrible; you can’t even count on the older wiser women in Manhattan to point out the wrongness of the affair) and the clever neurotic basket-case girlfriend, whom we kinda like because she’s sorta Annie Hall, is oblivious.
You could say this was all a comment on the mores of New York at the time, but Woody gives that big speech about doing right, and being well-thought-of when you’re bones, and he’s clearly the moral center of the movie. We root for him, and if it's supposed to be a triumph at the end when he comes around to the necessity of continuing the affair with a minor, she's turned 18. So it was all okay.
Never mind what’s wrong with him; what was wrong with us that we didn’t find this appalling at the time? I'm sure a few did, but I don't remember much harumphing about it.
Also watched, on the recommedation of Netflix, a movie called "Charley Varrick." An early 70s crime caper, with Walter Matthau as a cropdusting bankrobber. Here's his sidekick:
Recognize him? No? Here:
Andrew Robinson, who played Garak the Tailor in Deep Space Nine. He almost as a Cardassian throat-thing going in the first picture. (To my surprise, he wrote a novel about his character, and it'a well-regarded.)
The bad guy (yes, it's a seventies movie, so the fellow who masterminded a bank robbery that ended with two dead policeman is the protangonist) was a courtly hitman played by Joe Don Baker, known to MST3K fans as the immortal Mitchell.
Here we see the effect of opening up a trunk loaded with TNT:
Kills you deader than dead, but leaves your clothes intact. It's the early Carter-era neutron TNT. The movie can be safely avoided by all but Matthau completists. Suffice to say he wears an expression of sour forebearance through the entire movie, punctuated with a goofy smile. It's a stretch, I know.