I watched another Blockbuster Buy-One-Get-One-Free movie tonight, A Slipping-Down Life with Lili Taylor and Guy Pearce. It's a movie based on the novel of the same name by Anne Tyler, one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, "A Slipping-Down Life" is one of Tyler's weakest novels, and the movie doesn't bring anything new to the table.
The only adaptation of an Anne Tyler novel I enjoyed was The Accidental Tourist; probably because her protagonist, being a travel writer, had to do something. So many of Tyler's characters are inert, and when they break out of their constraints, they generally end up realizing that the place they started is where they wanted to be all along.
A lot of people get annoyed with Tyler, and I can see their point. How many novels, set in Baltimore, featuring washed-out, desperately middle-class people can you read about? And yet, there's a hopefulness to all her novels that I find charming. She does character study very well, and internal motivations take the place of plot (for the most part).
In A Slipping-Down Life (the movie version), there just isn't any internal motivation at all. Lili Taylor and Guy Pearce put in great performances, but they're working with absolutely nothing but a series of seemingly random actions.
There are a number of novelists who I believe shouldn't have their work translated into film, and Anne Tyler appears to be one of them (with the exception of The Accidental Tourist). Breathing Lessons was dreadful, and Back When We Were Grownups was turned into a feel-good movie, when it's really a desperately sad story.
Still, I own it, and I know why it was in the bargain bin. I owe it to myself to watch some DVDs that I'll enjoy. I still have the entire season of Firefly to watch, so I think I'll start in on that tomorrow.
I wanted to go on another bike ride today, but when I took out the bike, I noticed that the cable for the front brakes had snapped. It wasn't something I could fix right then (I hope that there's a kit that includes whatever is needed to fix such a thing), and I didn't want to ride around with only the back brakes working, so I scrapped my long-distance ride.
I slumped in the comfy chair after dinner, having skipped the gym to go to the dentist today, then I realized I was being ridiculous and threw on some running clothes and went for a run around the lake (just one revolution this time). It felt great.
There's something about running during the night that appeals to me. I used to do it all the time, but got out of the habit when I started working nights, and my late-night runs would have essentially been early-morning runs. The air is crisp, there's no sunlight to blind you or burn your delicate skin (if you have delicate skin as I do). There are less people going around the lake.
I don't know why, at 209 pounds, I'm in better cardiovascular shape than I was at 185 a couple of years ago. Sure, I've been running off and on, but when I was doing it more regularly, 3.3 miles could be a chore, and now I just breeze through it. It's weird. I wonder if it has anything to do with my outlook. I don't do the little OCD things I used to do when running before ("If I reach that lamppost before the next song begins, then everything will be okay at work today..."), and I let my mind drift while I'm running. It's an enjoyable experience for me, and I hope the weather holds out so I can do more of it outside.
While I was running, an idea that I'd had but dismissed for a play popped back into my head. Originally thought of as a ten-minute (as everything seems to be with me), I realized I could write it as a longish one-act. It relies heavily on the audience believing that something is a theatrical conceit, until it's revealed that it's not a conceit at all, that these characters are actually doing what they're "pretending" to be doing.
If it had to have a logline, it would be, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? meets I Know What You Did Last Summer."
Putting it that way makes it seem like a crapfest, doesn't it? It's totally evil. Very manipulative, and two of the three main characters have no redeeming qualities at all. I'm into the evil, these days. I don't know why. I used to write all sweetness and light, but now I'm exploring the dark side.
The dark side shall claim me, I fear. I'll be Darth Playwright.
As I mentioned above, I went to the dentist today. It was time for my right-quadrant cleaning and scaling, which is about as nasty as it sounds. Basically, I sat still for an hour and a half while a very nice Irish woman stuck sharp metallic instruments into my gums.
The dentist numbed me up before the procedure, but Novacaine doesn't work all that well on me (it wears off very quickly), and I asked to have the lower half frozen first, then the upper half, since Shannon (the hygenist) was going to work on the lower half first, and I knew that the Novacaine would wear off on the upper half before she got to it.
I was basically given a pat on the head and told that this wasn't possible; that I'd be fine with all the shots happening at once. Everything numbed up very nicely once the needles went in, but as Shannon poked and prodded and scraped with her instruments of torture at my delicate gums on the lower half, I felt that pins-and-needles feeling in my upper teeth and lips.
Rather than cause a fuss, I decided to suck it up and let Shannon finish the scaling (which is exactly the opposite of what every dentist tells you to do...you're never supposed to scratch your teeth with sharp objects, but it's okay for a hygenist to stab you repeatedly in the teeth and gums with pointy metal spikes) without another shot of Novacaine. It was painful, but I figured it was temporary, and I was being manly about the whole thing. Or foolish. The two are often indistinguishable.
When she was done, she told me that the gums will have to heal up, that I'm to floss (I do already) and rinse with Listerine (I do anyway), and everything will have cleared up nicely. I was bordering on gingivitis, so she nipped it in the bud, so to speak.
After the procedure, I went back to work (I was given permission by Jan to just work from home, but I knew I wouldn't get anything done if I did that) and the pain hit. Several Tylenols didn't touch it, so I called the dentist and asked if this was normal. Evidently, it is, and I was told to double up on Motrin.
I did so, and that did the trick (sort of). My teeth are still sore when I eat, but they do feel much cleaner and plaque-free.
I have to go back to have the left quadrant done next month. Oh, the joy of it all!
Tomorrow is Jayce's wake. I'm, of course, not looking forward to it, but I want to express my sympathies to his family. I don't think I'll attend the funeral mass on Saturday, since I'm not Catholic and I have no plans on going to the cemetary (which I think should be reserved for family and very close friends).
Wakes are odd things. I know that some people find them morbid, and I do as well, on one level. On another, I think it's a way for a family to transition from one stage of life to another. It's a formal ceremony that allows everyone to come together and talk about the person who is gone; cry if they have to, joke if they have to, just come in and say their peace and leave if they have to.
I guess it's just a cultural thing that's been programmed into me; I've always attended wakes for relatives who have died. Without them, it feels somehow incomplete. There's nothing wrong with other traditions, of course, or no traditions at all, but to me, a wake is the step where the family hears all the happiness the person who's died has brought to other people, get to sit with their loved one (yes, it's just the shell of their loved one, but it's, I believe, a way of finalizing the idea that the death is real), and get to let all their emotions out in public, if they're that type of people.
I just know that after work, I'll don a tie and jacket, drive to the funeral home, and say my final goodbye to Jayce.
And then I'll probably strip off the funeral clothes, put on my running gear and be thankful that I have another night in which to run.