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On being the Duckie.

Published February 21, 2016 by mandileighbean

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I love 80’s culture; movies, music, fashion – all of it. I’m something like a girl anachronism, born 18 years too late. I should have come of age in that decade of magic, of decadence. It was the last era of wholesomeness (even despite the extravagance). Things really seemed possible then.

One of the greatest artistic – and yes, I used the word “artistic” – endeavors from that decade is the movie “Pretty in Pink.” I wrote a blog post two years ago about when I met Andrew McCarthy and was irrevocably charmed. He was intelligent, charismatic, and incredibly talented. Because of my undying affection for the actor, I can honestly say I’ve seen that film close to twenty times. One such time was Wednesday night, when a good friend and I traveled close to an hour to watch the movie on the big screen. The film was released for a brief second time to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

We knew the lines, we knew the plot, and we knew the music. What sense did it make to pay to see the film? One could argue it did not make any sense at all, but then again, I was shocked to see how many others had traveled to see a movie they’d already seen. I have always had a decidedly human problem of thinking my inclinations and hobbies are unique and singular and special. I’m proven wrong time and time again, but in frustratingly human fashion, I’m still always surprised when I realize my passions are shared.

At any rate, the film as was entertaining as ever, and there was something thrilling about seeing it on the big screen. I could imagine I hadn’t missed my favorite decade, that it was opening weekend and I was enjoying it all in real time for the first time. In danger of overdosing on nostalgia that was never really mine to begin with, my good friend leaned over and asked me if I ever had a “Duckie” while attending high school.

For those of you who may not know, Duckie is a character from the film. He’s hopelessly, shamelessly, desperately, and even embarrassingly devoted to his best friend, madly in love and utterly heartbroken over the unrequited nature of the relationship. He admits he would die for her, stands by and patiently suffers as she chases after another guy, and even lets her go so she can fulfill her wildest, romantic dreams while his remain unfulfilled. It may not be as traumatic and dramatic as all that, but forgive me; I have never had a Duckie.

I’ve always been Duckie.

I’ve always been the friend in the background, lingering and pining secretly – sometimes creepily – for a friend I never really had a chance with. I remember at one high school dance, I was asked by a mutual friend to break up with her boyfriend for her; a boy who was my close friend and whom I had been crushing on fairly seriously. Why I agreed to be the harbinger of such devastation I’ll never know. Maybe it was because I was eager for any excuse to talk to the boy, and maybe because such an episode could escalate and strengthen the friendship. I hope it was because I wanted him to hear it from me, a real friend, because I could soften the blow and handle the whole thing delicately, properly. Whatever the reason, I took a deep breath to steady myself, to prepare myself, and left the gymnasium. I stepped out of the double doors and into the bright hallway, blinking against the harsh fluorescent lights. I looked for my friend, and he wasn’t hard to find.

He had tried to hide himself on the far side of a short but wide trophy case, but his long legs stuck out. He was sitting on the gross floor with his back against the uncomfortable and random brick wall. He was opposite the refreshment table, but despite the flurry of activity, he was looking down at the dirty floor with a can of soda clutched in his hand. He was out there all alone and looking especially despondent, like he already knew what was coming. I breathed a small sigh of relief; my job would be easier. I walked over and sat beside him.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

I figured it’d be best to just come out with it, do it fast like ripping off a band-aid. “Hannah wanted me to-”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. He cut me off, but didn’t say anything else. He took a swig from his can.

“Oh,” I said. I was slightly dismayed by the building, awkward silence. I looked down at my hands and tried to think of what else to say.

“You don’t have to sit out here with me,” he mumbled. He hadn’t made eye contact with me.

“I know I don’t have to. I want to,” I smiled. He looked up and returned the smile.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I remember we had a good time. So while being Duckie can be limiting and heartbreaking, it’s also pretty awesome because being a friend is awesome. Sometimes a friend is all a person needs.

Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself as of late.

 

 

On objections.

Published July 15, 2015 by mandileighbean

“Love is a book that never closes.”

I need to stop drinking spoiled milk.

A respected coworker of mine read the manuscript for Moody Blue and told me she enjoyed it, believed it had merit and promise. She readily commiserated with me about how every literary agent has been rejecting me. I received one such rejection in the mail yesterday, which makes it seem very official and makes it sting just a little more. Well, I think it was a rejection – just my query letter sent back to me in a self-addressed stamped envelope; feels a little like suicide. It’s an odd feeling to be rejected by one’s own hand.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #25: “I think I survived pretty good, actually. You should see everybody else.”

“Though we cry, we must stay alive.”

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Gerard was sitting on the last of the long, stone steps that led to the solid, impressive-looking double doors of the church. Blood from his mouth and nose stained the front of expensive button-down shirt. His mouth had finally stopped leaking crimson, but his nose was still dripping. He had been watching fat, scarlet droplets fall and explode onto the concrete between his feet, which were stuffed into shiny shoes. Carefully, he prodded at his swollen, bleeding nose. Gerard winced from the pain. He thought it might be broken and he nearly laughed aloud. That’d be perfect, just fucking perfect.

What a sight this poor devil made for the casual passerby; some unapologetic sinner cast away, nearly sprawled out on the cathedral steps, bruised and bloody. A humorless smile stretched his thin lips as he cautiously felt around his left eye, which was puffy. A black eye was rapidly appearing and though he probably deserved it, all of it, it didn’t make the sores better. If anything, it made it worse. He hugged his knees, bringing them close together, and rested his aching head upon them. He thought about what had happened, relived every aching, humiliating moment, just like he would from time to time for years after, until he gave his last breath. He lapsed into these deep thoughts and lost his surroundings.

“Holy shit.” The words were drawn out – each syllable was emphasized. The voice broke Gerard’s reverie, startled him to attention. He perked up and saw Frankie walking towards him across the parking lot. She was his best friend – only because she was his only friend – and she was smiling ruefully, like she was only moments away from gleefully shouting, “I told you so!” Gerard supposed he deserved that too, just like everything else. As Frankie neared, she stated the obvious. “You look terrible,” she said, seating herself beside Gerard, but two steps higher so her knees weren’t somewhere near her chin. She stretched out her legs, perfectly content to be where she was, perfectly content to blatantly ignore the dramatics and their consequences in favor of the sunshine. Gerard thought it indecent.

“I survived pretty good, actually. You should see everybody else.”

“Had to fight your way out of the church, huh?” Frankie asked, snorting laughter. “Makes sense.”

Gerard shut his eyes tight in a lame, cliched attempt to block everything out. He tilted his head back so the sun could shine against his face to perhaps calm and soothe him. In a tired voice, he said, “Look Frankie, I only called for a ride. I didn’t ask for-”

“For what? A lecture? Well, too fucking bad,” Frankie growled. “You told Ronnie you could handle it, promised her you wouldn’t make a scene. And what did you do, Gerard?” She was met with silence. After a few moments, Frankie roared, “Tell me what you did!”

“I objected!” Gerard fired back. His eyes shot open and he spun to face Frankie, aching, spinning head be damned. “I stood up and objected, just like in the movies! I waited until the priest asked, and then I jumped up and told the whole goddamn church and everyone in it that I still loved Ronnie!”

“Why?” Frankie asked. She was pushing it, but didn’t seem to care. She never did. “Why would you do that after -”

“Because I thought it would work, obviously!” It was Gerard’s turn to interrupt. “That was my plan the whole time!” He pointed an accusing finger towards Frankie. “And don’t you dare act like you didn’t know! Don’t play shocked and innocent with me, Frankie. If you really didn’t know, you wouldn’t have warned me against going.”

“I don’t know why I even bother,” Frankie said. She sounded disgusted, but she wasn’t yelling anymore. “I should just save my breath because you never listen.”

Gerard turned away, sheepish and ashamed. He looked down at his trembling hands, eyed the minor scrapes, defensive wounds. Truth be told though, he didn’t really fight back. How could he? He was wrong. Done fighting, he said, “You were right, Frankie. You told me so.” He took a second to compose himself, to try and keep his voice from cracking. “Can you please take me home?” He failed – the evident tremor in his voice roused compassion from Frankie. She squeezed his shoulder.

“Of course,” Frankie said. She got to her feet and moved to stand before Gerard. She offered her hands. He hesitated just a moment before accepting the offer. Frankie pulled him up into a standing position and as the moved to stand beside one another, Gerard slung his arm around Frankie’s shoulders. To help Gerard gain some stability, Frankie looped an arm around his waist. Together, they began wobbling towards Frankie’s car. Gerard squinted against the bright sunlight and licked the right corner of his lips. He could still taste blood.

“So,” Frankie began because if there was ever silence she would always be the one to break it, “who beat the hell out of you?”

Gerard smirked but hung his head. “Kevin,” he answered.

“That fits, since he’s the groom and all,” Frankie conceded. “But honestly, I had my money on Mr. Gates kicking you in the balls.”

“Ronnie’s dad? No way – that guy loves me.”

“Even now?” Frankie asked, skeptical.

Gerard considered. “Well, he didn’t exactly stop the villagers with the pitchforks, but I wouldn’t say he encouraged them either.”

Frankie snorted laughter. “So what now?”

Gerard sighed. “I don’t know,” he confessed.

On why “Gatsby” is so great, and why you should see it twice.

Published May 17, 2013 by mandileighbean

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Well, I suppose I have put it off long enough; upon seeing the film twice, it is long overdue for me to share my thoughts on the most recent cinematic adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby.  However, before I discuss the movie, I must make it known that there are spoilers abound and that I am – as one student charged me – almost unhealthily obsessed with the novel.  I read it every summer and have particular passages committed to memory.  The novel changed my life in the sense that it helped me to decide that I wanted to be a writer and while I struggled in that endeavor I would teach high school English.  The novel also confirmed in my mind that I could be hopelessly romantic and naïve in a dignified sort of way that made me more of a heroine than a sap.

That being said, I left the theater the first time with an uneasy kind of feeling.  I was not sure how I felt about what I had just seen, other than that it was visually stunning and somewhat emotionally moving as I was dabbing at my eyes behind my 3D glasses.  Was it the 3D component of the film which left me unsettled and uncertain about my level of enjoyment resulting from the viewing experience?  I actually tend to avoid movies in 3D as I find them incredibly hokey – call me a snob, but for me, 3D movies lack artistic integrity and forsake story and structure for the almighty dollar.  3D is a gimmick that unfortunately seems here to stay.  Like I said, I am being a total snob and robbing a medium of all of its merit because it does not suit my particular taste, and though doing so is unfair, it is what it is and I will not apologize.  I will, however, advise my readers to take everything I write with a grain of salt, considering the extremities of some of my artistic prejudices.

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But allow me to hobble off my soapbox to contradict myself and explain how the 3D worked so well in the movie.  The scenes that depicted Gatsby’s lavish parties and outrageous lifestyle had to be filmed in 3D, I now realize in retrospect.  Consider the adjectives I just employed; lavish and outrageous.  What better way to convey such excess than through the 3D element?  It did look as if the confetti were raining down upon me, and so helped create the illusion that I was simply another Nick Carraway, within and without in the vast mansion, reveling and sneering at the reckless, careless behavior unfolding all around.  Though Nick did not have to pay for his admission ($13.25?!  Really?!), I believe my doing so was completely worth it – and mind you, I did so twice.  The 3D party scenes helped to create an almost tangible sensation of claustrophobia.  As Nick squeezed through Gatsby’s front doors in an impressive throng of strangers, and as tensions soared and tempers flared with the heat in that cruelly cramped room at the Plaza Hotel, I felt smothered and that I was too close.  Like Nick, I had had enough of everyone.  The way the 3D manipulated my emotions and even level of physical comfortableness was both complete and masterful.  I was impressed.

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So why was I so undecided after the first viewing?  I considered this as my second viewing began, and thought maybe the casting did not quite sit right with me.  However, when Leonardo DiCaprio is first shown in the film, when he turns and offers that glorious smile that Gatsby gave Nick and so impressed him with in the novel, I am smiling and smiling so that my muscles are sore and I am seemingly incapable of stopping.  I must admit though that I have always been enthralled with the idea of DiCaprio playing Gatsby.  Conversely, I was thoroughly disappointed with Tobey Maguire being cast as Nick Carraway, hoping for a larger personality, an actor more likeable.  But I noticed that when Maguire plays Nick as disoriented, disappointed, disillusioned, or drained, I felt the same.  Though I love Jay Gatsby in a way that only a complete and total lonely, melodramatic bookworm can, I was frustrated and disgusted with him when Nick was in the film – performing a complete 180, as they say – and I can only contribute that to Maguire’s performance.  When I read the novel, I am staunchly loyal to Gatsby in an irrational kind of way.  For Maguire to prompt me to question that loyalty after years and years of nothing but is a testament to his talent, and I was too harsh when I first judged his casting.  Joel Edgerton as Tom was flawless and Carey Mulligan played Daisy brilliantly, although I did not find her able to create a more sympathetic character; she was just as repugnant to me on screen as on the page, but I think that is a matter of personal taste.

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Then was it the incorporation of the modern music?  Though many of my students complained about the anachronistic soundtrack and score – which greatly surprised me as I believed it, was engineered with them specifically in mind – I rather enjoyed it.  I love art and I love style and the music aided in putting the film over the top in both respects.  I love the thought behind it, using modern day music of another generation of excess to show the universal, transcendent dangers behind such thoughtless, selfish behavior.  The novel is timeless, so the music does become an inconsequential detail, but to drive that point home with the very same music as the vehicle is genius and daring, and I cannot help but be impressed.  I also compulsively listen to the majority of the soundtrack which means I must enjoy it (unless it is only for its connection to the novel, which is stretched and strained to be honest).

So if it was not the inclusion of 3D nor the cast nor the music, then why was I less than impressed upon the initial viewing?  How could I fall so completely in love with the film after watching it a second time?  Are not first impressions the most important?  Upon pondering these questions, I am left with only one conclusion: my mood.  What had been going on with me?  What had been different about the second night?

I cannot remember being so excited for a theatrical release.  I bought my tickets early online and like a child at Christmas, could hardly sleep the night before.  The day of the film dawned and I was ecstatic.  I wore my shirt with pearls to school, falling short of the zeitgeist aura I was going for, but the students appreciated it, especially the sophomores who had read the novel with me earlier in the year.  They knew that Friday was “Gatsby Day,” and that I had planned my lessons accordingly.  We watched the trailers, noted the visual and auditory symbolism, and tried to decide if Baz Luhrmann assumed those viewing the film had read the book.  I was so captivated I even cheated – for lack of a better term – and showed the trailers to my freshmen classes to inspire them to see the film, read the book, or do both.  I barely survived my weekly hour of home instruction, excitedly and breathlessly discussing my plans for the evening with the student’s mother.  I went to the spring concert for chorus and band at the high school because of a promise to my students, and they seemed genuinely excited to see me and I was genuinely proud of them.  I was beaming and sad to leave a little early, but one student even said to me as I was on my way out, “Aren’t you seeing the movie tonight?”  I was pumped.

The movie started at 9:30PM, but I had planned to arrive at the theater around 9:00PM to avoid crowds, buy snacks and to avoid any anxiety.  I made these plans with my viewing companion whose name has been stricken from the record to prevent any kind of social faux pas.  So when it was 8:45PM, I left the concert (missing the last song, mind you) and called my viewing companion, fully prepared to meet this individual at the theater.  However, I was somewhat perturbed to learn that at 8:45PM, mere minutes before show time, the individual was at CVS with plans to continue on to Wawa.  I let it go though, because I realized that everything was within minutes from home and that I may have been overzealous in planning.  There was no guarantee the theater would be mobbed and purchasing snacks beforehand would be cheaper and would save time.  I relaxed and my viewing companion decided to meet at home just past 9:00PM.  I headed home and waited with juvenile excited.

9:00PM came and went … as did 9:05PM … as did 9:10PM … as did 9:15PM … as did 9:20PM.  We did not head to the theater until 9:30PM.  I was furious, seething.  Having planned meticulously and purchased the tickets, I could not fathom how someone could be so absolutely thoughtless.  To make matters worse, upon arriving at the theater, we had to wait on a lengthy line for our tickets despite being already purchased, and then I was charged twice (but I was handed a cash refund, so really, I can’t complain).  By the time we are actually inside our designated theater, the previews have started and the screen is malfunctioning.  It seemed that nothing could go my way.  Perhaps at that point I did not want to enjoy the movie to aggravate my viewing companion who, ironically, enjoyed it very much.  But that would be cutting of my nose to spite my face, wouldn’t it?

The second time around, my viewing companion who is named Raina, was not only on time, but early!  We went to an absolutely gorgeous dine-in theater in Edison.  We had a drink each, a delicious entrée and shared a delightfully sinful dessert.  Despite the food, I was more aware of my response and involvement in the film, my changing emotions that never failed to match those of the narrator and the way I ached for Gatsby and despised Tom and Daisy.  I felt as though I had taken a long, hard look at myself and those around me.  I was Nick Carraway – observing, within and without – but I wanted to be Gatsby, unfailingly hopeful and tragically romantic.  When I told Raina that I was Gatsby, she agreed without hesitation.  My first viewing companion actually turned back to me as we walked along and said, “You really want to be romantically tragic, and like a hero in a story, don’t you?”

Of course.  That being said, go see “The Great Gatsby.”  And do yourself a favor: see it twice.

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On being in love with every actor.

Published February 19, 2013 by mandileighbean

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“I never let what happened stay in the past.”

I was better than I usually am on Valentine’s Day this year – I remained cheery and optimistic until the next day.  I woke up, logged onto Facebook, and was immediately inundated with nauseatingly adorable gifts and status updates.  Without the students to exaggerate the negativity and thereby make it unattractive and absurd, a bitter taste filled my mouth and I instantly felt blue.  I am sure the Radiohead song playing softly in the background did not help.

On top of that, I did not lose a single pound for the second week in a row.  I only have myself to blame because I have not been counting my calories like I should.  I can try and blame it on my menstrual cycle or stress (teacher evaluation workshops, the backdrop for the play falling over), but the truth is that I have been weak.  I am disappointed in myself.  I am ashamed.

Saturday morning, I watched a good-sized portion of the movie “Mannequin” while eating breakfast.  When I was younger (and only slightly more impressionable than I am now), I was absolutely obsessed with the movie.  Reasons for my obsession seem obvious – such as Andrew McCarthy at his most vulnerable, quirkiest, and most appealing – but upon deeper reflection, it is so much more than that.  There is something dangerously intoxicating about what one creates loving its creator in a singular, unique, and romantic kind of way; like creative types can cure their own loneliness and save themselves.  That aspect of the “fairy tale” is reassuring but at the same time, it is worrisome because does it not suggest that those same quirky, odd, different, creative people cannot find romance organically?  Unless there is some kind of divine intervention or fantastical happenings, are weirdoes never to find love?  Maybe that’s why the first blog I created to promote my writing was titled “Letters to Eliot” and was comprised of nothing more than pathetic and embarrassing love letters to a fictional character of my own creation.  Is that really so different from falling in love with a mannequin?  At least the mannequin was tangible and at least it came to life and at least it loved its creator back and at least they lived happily ever after.

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Regardless of the deeper meta-fictional meanings of “Mannequin,” (or if they even exist) I am once again infatuated with Andrew McCarthy.  I keep playing the scene where we met over and over again – the way I made him turn to me and smile, the way I made him laugh, his inexhaustible charm, and the strength of his embrace when he hooked me around my waist and pulled my close.  It was like it was scripted, which is why I am so disappointed in its lack of an ending.  That same Saturday night, Hallmark Channel aired a new romantic comedy which was unbearably corny, but it starred Andrew McCarthy as a brooding cowboy and naturally, I was enthralled.

I also watched a 45-minute documentary about Elvis Presley called, “Elvis: Summer of ’56.”  It was all about this girl named June Juanico and her relationship with Elvis.  It was surreal to hear her describe how he pulled her aside after a show and kissed the back of her neck, of how he called and wrote, and how she felt comfortable enough with Elvis to adjust his belt.  It is incredible to think anyone could have genuine, intimate moments with the King of Rock and Roll.  June understood that sentiment; she called it quits after Elvis was rumored to be involved with Natalie Wood (and who could blame her?  There’s no competing with Natalie Wood!)  And believe it or not, it seems that even Elvis understood the sentiment because when speaking of the insane amount of screaming, crying girls, he said, “They don’t love me, they love the idea of me.”   I am going to include that in my second novel or die trying.

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Sunday was a great day.  It was Dad’s 52nd birthday, so I am especially glad that it was beautiful and bright, albeit windy and cold.  We all went to Mass together.  Mikey faked (I think) a stomach ache and did not join us for the Olive Garden.  I had many glasses of wine, too much pasta, and I laughed heartily.  Most importantly, Dad enjoyed himself.  On the way home, he tried to freeze Sam and I out by rolling all the windows down and locking them in place because Sam and I had been good-naturedly tormenting Mom (flicking her ears and whatnot).  I tried to distract Dad by giving him a Wet Willy in his right ear so Sam could sneakily slide her arm between the left side of Dad’s seat and the door and unlock the windows.  My efforts failed, but Sam managed to reach the controls for Dad’s seat, so she moved him up and forward, shoving the steering wheel into his chest and the tops of his thighs.  He looked silly and absurd and wildly uncomfortable.  We all laughed until we couldn’t see straight.

Upon arriving home, we descended upon the furniture in the living room.  Dad lounged across the love seat, Mom claimed the chair and I was solo, sitting upon the sofa, until Sam came and lay down, stretching her legs over me.  We were all comfortable, we were all watching “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and we were all together.  It was a beautiful day.

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Paul Newman’s blue eyes and Elizabeth Taylor’s violet eyes were just as glorious as the sky I observed while walking and jogging that night.  The wind made me feel young and restless and wild, like it kicked up all the old, dry negativity within me and swirled it so that when it settled once again, it was something more like optimism and vitality.  The quickened pace of the blood in my veins and of the air in my lungs, with the moon nearly directly over my head so that I had to awkwardly crane my neck to see it, with the tiny, twinkling stars, and with the darkening, layered shades of blue of the evening sky, made me feel incredibly grateful to be alive.  That night, I fell in love with life, and with love, and with possibility.

I want to fall in love this summer.

I have been highly critical of the band Fall Out Boy in the past, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t have some fantastic lines.

“I thought I loved you, but it’s just how you looked in the light.”

“I could write it better than you’ve ever felt it.”

Sixth way to blast my blubber: write a list of reasons why I want to lose weight:

–          I want to be as beautiful on the outside as I am on the inside.

–          I want to be appealing to beautiful men.

–          I want to be noticed by beautiful men when I go out.

–          I want to feel sexy.

–          I want to look sexy.

–          I want to be healthy.

–          I want to have more energy.

–          I want to live longer.

–          I want to finally lose the weight and prove myself wrong.

–          I want to better myself and improve.

–          I want how I envision myself to be reality.

–          I don’t want to feel ugly around my beautiful friends.

–          I want to feel better about myself and feel confident.

–          I want to be the full package; funny, smart and pretty.

–          I want to change my life.

On being a bombshell.

Published January 28, 2013 by mandileighbean

Another two pounds lost; I am ecstatic!  I am celebrating personal achievement because when it comes to “The Biggest Loser” competition at work, I am far from being in the lead.  Rumor has it that someone lost seven pounds, and that another participant completed a four-day fast to boost his or her start.  I am not that competitive; winning would be wonderful, but if I lose every week, I will be happy.  The competition is more of a motivating tool than anything else.  The monetary spoils of victory will have no value when measured against how I look, how I feel, and the confidence I will gain.  Although, I might just be saying all of that to make myself feel better about my inevitable loss – only time will tell.

Whenever I mail anything, which is not all that often in this digital age, I am always reminded of that scene in the movie “Grease,” where Marty is sending a letter to her boyfriend in the Marines, so she sprays the exceedingly feminine stationary with her perfume.  Personally, I believe that to be a wonderfully romantic idea.  Just the other day I found myself in the local post office, sending a copy of my novel to a friend and included a short letter.  I penned a heartfelt note using a ballpoint pen filled with royal blue ink onto fashionable stationary, with a black and white paisley boarder around its edges and matching envelopes.  As I licked the edge of the envelope flap to seal it, I thought about what a sensual, intimate gesture it would be leave just the tiniest trace of lipstick around an edge; the faintest clue of my physical existence.  Naturally, this train of thought led me to the scene from the aforementioned movie, and I wondered if lipstick on the envelope and perfume lightly but noticeably scenting the stationary would work, or if the subtlety of it all would be lost on a man.  Do they notice such things?  Would the thought and planning that went into such a gesture be used to evaluate it?  Does anyone ever truly receive back the effort he or she put into an endeavor?  I think it’s a wildly romantic idea; there’s real optimism in the belief that a complete and total return of an emotion exists.

That makes me think of the fictional character Jay Gatsby from the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I just ended reading the book with my sophomore students and it is officially my favorite novel of all time.  Its themes and romantic imagery and brutal honesty, with its undeniable cynicism watered down by the an almost untraceable strong hope, reminds me that I am inadequate as a writer (but who isn’t when a novel like The Great Gatsby is the novel against which all others are measured?) and that, like Gatsby, I am terribly lonely and clinging to memories from years ago, formulating schemes based on those ghosts of my pasts and inevitably setting myself up for disappointment and devastation.  That is not to say that I am depressed and delusional – just hopelessly romantic, no matter what the cost.  Some call this naivety, but I believe there is an honorable and dignified kind of stoicism in still believing in the good of people and the power of love, as trite and cheesy and impossible as it may seem.

I did not intend for this entry to be so “deep” (for lack of a better word), but it is a beautifully and bitterly bright Sunday morning and I am on my second cup of coffee.  I feel much like a validated author this morning.  I think the cozy, intellectually stylish sweater I am wearing helps, too.  All I need are thick-framed glasses and all the time in the world, and I could be the perfect picture of writer.  Appearance is half the battle, after all.

Speaking of, the goal of this week’s way to blast my blubber was to “adopt an avatar.”  This goal was remarkably effortless to meet because I have been adopting an avatar every day of my life.  I never see myself for who or what I am, but for who or what I would love to be: a bohemian, artistic intellectual, with the matching wardrobe and accessories.  However, as I become more of a woman and less of a girl, I am tending to gravitate more towards elegance and an understated kind of drama.  I have all of these plans, hopes, and dreams about my future.  I want to be in love with a completely brilliant, brooding, and eccentric man.  I want to be thin with straight, white teeth.  I want to be a wildly successful writer.  All of these wants (that are almost suffocating desires) are within my reach if I am willing to put in the work.  I need to go out more so I can meet new people.  I need to call the dentist and schedule an appointment.  I need to count my calories, keep a food journal, and exercise.  I need to promote my book.  These aforementioned needs are most often rationalized away, pushed aside, and delayed in their realization because currently, I am frustratingly lazy and unfortunately unmotivated.  I watch too much television.  I play too much computer solitaire.  I eat too much.  I sleep too much.  I don’t write enough.  I don’t read enough.

If I want to be a bombshell, I should be a bombshell.  So, my new avatar that I will use to motivate and inspire me on my way to weight loss and creative success, will simply be known as “Bombshell,” and she looks a little something like:

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bombshell1

bombshell

Whining and seeking pity are wasteful; a waste of time and a waste of words, which are my two most precious resources.  I need to be about it.  There are no excuses left.  I did earn a full-time teaching job.  A company did publish my book.  My life’s pieces are not going to come together of their own accord and produce a pretty, little picture.  I have to engage my own destiny and put the puzzle pieces in their proper positions.

This is not a revelation or a realization; it is only restating common sense.  I want to live up to the compliments I receive.  The psychology teacher said I looked great, that she could tell I was dieting and exercising, and that it was paying off.  I cannot be a fraud; I have to put in the work.

A respected English teacher complimented my writing.  She said my voice was strong and entertaining, and that my attention to detail was strong.  A math teacher asked me to sign her copy and I was too touched to write anything spectacular.  I hope it was what she wanted.

If I want to be a bombshell, then I should be a bombshell.

If you want to be a bombshell, then you should be a bombshell.

On steak and eggs.

Published October 15, 2012 by mandileighbean

The other day, when I was running, I noticed the road kill had been removed and had been removed quite thoroughly.  Macabre as it may be, I looked intently at the previously gory scene for any kind of remnants, for any kind of tangible proof that the dead possum had been there in the first place.  There was no evidence – the pavement was stained, no organs had been absent-mindedly neglected, and there was absolutely nothing disturbed or out of place.  Admittedly, I was relieved that my eyes did not take in anything that would upset my stomach, but I was also somewhat saddened.  That poor creature had been wiped from existence.  It was no longer living and as far as I know, I am the only who knows and cares enough to write about it.  I understand that the possum was not a sentient being and was not a pet and that to some factions of thought its death is not a tragedy but a mere continuation of the pattern of existence we are all traveling along.  I can understand, acknowledge, and accept all of that and still be upset because I worry and fear that the same fate belongs to some human beings, some that I may even know.  I have already discussed how a wasted life is my greatest fear.

“Looper,” the new science fiction film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis tackles that same theme, in a manner of speaking.  It is about time travel and while that may set off some alarms, the story does not become mired down in hypotheticals and impossibilities and trivial aspects.  Rather, the story focuses on the passage of time as humans grow and age and learn and live.  Time spent on Earth means different things to different people and it even means different things to the same person at different times.  It also reviews and challenges the cyclical nature of time and goes so far as to hint, in my always humble opinion, that it is our responsibility to be cognizant of this cycle, and to sacrifice our own cycle of time to break a cycle in which a neighbor is suffering.  “Looper” was a remarkable film and without a doubt, it is a new favorite.

In the movie, both male leads order steak and eggs for breakfast at a diner.  I did the same today.  Yes, I ordered steak and eggs because I saw it in a movie once.  The eggs and hash browns and toast and coffee were great; the steak was okay.  It wasn’t the best cut as it was very fatty, so I’m going to try the order again at a different diner.  The diner experience was not ruined, however.  I talked with an older man about football and his father’s military service.  I thanked a table of enlisted men for their service.  I chatted with an elderly couple about the economy, employment and the weather.  When the female half of the couple observed me hunched over many sheets of lined paper with a pen clutched in my hand, she correctly assumed that I was an English teacher with papers to grade.  However, I was not grading papers; I was working – or trying to work – on my second novel.  Why didn’t I tell her that?  Why didn’t I explain that I was a young, up and coming author?  Why did I falter?

Maybe it’s because I do not have a physical copy of the book and as such, my dream has not truly been realized.  Maybe I’m afraid that if I say it out loud, it won’t come true because it is still only a wish, a desperate fantasy, a silly girl’s imagination running away.

Who knows?

On hate and the waste of it.

Published July 24, 2012 by mandileighbean

Yesterday, I wrote on the importance of love.  Following that train of thought, it is only logical to arrive at the conclusion that hate is unimportant, in the sense that it is senseless; there’s no point to it.  I’m not just talking about forgiving and forgetting those who wrong us, but also about the bigger issues, such as the prejudices and cruel assumptions that at times can plague society and thereby cripple the brotherhood of man.

Tonight, I watched the film “American History X,” starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and directed by Tony Kaye.  It tells the story of a reformed neo-Nazi who does his best to keep his younger brother from making his mistakes.  It is incredibly powerful and moving, and offers up an important lesson that at one point or another, we all lose sight of.  If it were up to me, everyone would see this film.  While the language is obscene and some scenes are clearly disturbing, it is never gratuitous or manufactured.  The film is genuine and authentic, and that is where the power lies.  The characters are identifiable and thoroughly developed so there is an emotional investment, regardless of an audience’s personal politics.  Released in 1998, I did not note any antiquated aspects.  The film most definitely holds up some fourteen years later and is still, in my opinion, incredibly poignant and relevant.  The film exhibits art at its best; beautiful and educational.  The cinematography is perfectly juxtaposed against the story, which is penned remarkably well so that a lesson is learned without anything being too preachy or pretentious.  This film is honestly one in a million and were it not rated R, I believe a solid until on tolerance would couple the film with readings of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and Night by Elie Wiesel.  Honestly, if it were up to me, everyone would view this film at least once.  Love is the greatest gift we have and the strongest bond we can form amongst ourselves.  Anything that would belittle or try to destroy that compassion and companionship, such as hate, has no place in our lives.  I understand that sentiment is easier said than executed and may, unfortunately, be idealistic for the environment in which we live.  That does not mean that the sentiment is any less accurate and should not still be strived for daily.

PROMPT: A woman whose husband is killed during a tour of duty overseas decides to turn her home into a boarding house.

PIECE: Diane sat on the edge of her bed, breathing slowly.  She allowed her lungs to fill and she felt the expansion in her chest.  Then, she deflated her lungs and felt her whole body kind of relax and smooth.  Her high-heeled shoes rested firmly upon the wooden floor of the bedroom with strong ankles that did not cave one way or the other.  Her knees came together not only because she was wearing a dress, but because she was terribly knock-kneed.  Her hands, which had finally stopped shaking about a month ago, rested on her lap in a professional and detached kind of way, calmly folded.  Her back was ramrod straight and she was mindful to keep her shoulders lowered from her ears so that the vultures named anxiety and grief would have nowhere to perch; at least not for today.

Beside Diane was the expertly and lovingly folded American flag she had been handed at her husband’s funeral by a white gloved Marine.  She had been unable to without it since the funeral.  It had been a year since and as the flag became a near constant companion, the bedroom had become a stranger.  She had not slept in the bedroom since Nathan had left for Afghanistan and had abandoned it for good when she learned Nathan was never coming home.  Like a ghost, she had traversed the halls of the home silent and numb.  The house was quiet and empty in a way that was rather unsettling.  For three hundred and sixty five days, Diane ate a small breakfast and small dinner at the counter in the kitchen.  The time in between was filled with a blaring television that she looked through rather than watched, prostrated upon the couch.  It was no way to live, but she couldn’t bear to leave the last space Nathan had occupied.  His life insurance allowed her to keep the home and live comfortably, but her father was already discussing the time when the money would run out, which it would eventually because she hadn’t been to work in a year and she had no intentions of returning.

As comforting – or rather, as familiar as it was to wallow in her grief, Diane knew it could not be a permanent state of being.  Nathan wouldn’t be pleased and if she were allowed to keep on living, it had to be for a reason.  Her broken heart hadn’t killed her yet, and as long as the organ continued to beat, she had to continue on.  Thus, she came to the decision she would turn the home she had shared with Nathan into a boarding house.  The silence she despised would be filled by happy travelers and their families.  Life would bustle through the halls once more.  She would be able tp keep her mind occupied and her hands busy with the upkeep on the place, just as the necessary renovations to the home had done.  Diane also realized she could hang Nathan’s picture and his medals near the front door, prompting the patrons to ask questions and allowing Diane to contribute to keeping her husband’s memory alive.  Everything was prepared and today, she was set to recieve her very first customers.

There was just the matter of the flag.  She turned her sorrowful, but gradually lightening, eyes to it.  When Diane left the house, the flag traveled with her, in the passenger seat of her car.  She had spent a solid three months cradling it like an infant.  Her father-in-law had mentioned something about letting go and moving on and to appease him and all those worried about her, she stopped carrying it around.  But wherever she was, so it was.  But she couldn’t have that now, couldn’t be seen carrying it from one room to the other, clutching to it like a drowning victim would a life preserver.  People would find it sad and creepy, and no one would want to stay there.  Diane had decided it was time to deal with the flag.  She had debated buying a case and placing it beside Nathan’s picture near the entrance, but thought such a shrine might be a little too morbid and bring the war too close for comfort to her wearied travelers.  Besides, Diane wanted to feel its cloth beneath her fingers whenever she wanted, as it reminded her of the way it felt to smooth Nathan’s uniform before he left the house.  It had to be discreet yet easily accessible.

She was going to leave it in the closet of the master bedroom but as she couldn’t stand to be in the room and was thereby renting it out, such an option was not logical.  Diane was going to place it somewhere in her bedroom but she feared she’d never leave the room, that she’d be prone to slipping back into her fugue state, simply sitting and stroking the flag, doing no more than wasting away.  Diane liked the tactile features of having the flag in the home, but it was time to move on.

Today, before the first boarders arrived, she would drive the flag over to Nathan’s mother and father.

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