The second time you die

There is a Jewish saying that goes something like you die twice – the second time you die is when your name isn’t spoken anymore. In other words, when the last person who knew who you were passes on, your name will die with them.

This saying shows how short a time we are on this earth. So, we better make the best of it. I have long told my children what I learned. Your name is the most important asset you have. When people hear your name, what do you want them to think?

Would it be she was a real a person? He would give the shirt off his back. Or, would it be, I never trusted him. She was selfish and mean-spirited. Knowing we cannot please everyone, we can strive to be the best version of ourselves. We can endeavor to be kind, fair, honest, hardworking, etc. and when we fall short, we can acknowledge that we have and make amends.

Even if we are not effusive or outgoing, we can still represent ourselves well. More often, it is the folks who do not draw attention to themselves that do the heavy lifting and show up everyday on time. As I have been around the block a few times, I have observed that a person’s true value is often uncorrelated with how much they beat on their chests. The louder the false bravado, the more dubious I become about the boasting.

My step-grandfather was the only grandfather I really knew. My mother’s mother divorced her first husband as he was a “rolling stone” as The Temptations used to sing about. Ironically, my blood line grandfather’s brother, was one of the finest of men and he and my step-grandfather would fish together. Neither of these fishermen were boastful. They were hard working men, who spoke little, but when they spoke, you listened.*

I remember my step-grandfather as he was a very generous and genteel man. He was a builder, a master bricklayer which left his hands quite rough. Fishermen and women know that you need to be careful handling catfish, as their fins can slice your hands. My grandfather’s hands were so rough, he could simply grab a catfish, unhook it and throw it into the bin. I also recall a day when five us caught about one hundred fifty fish. My grandfather caught over half of them but he never said a word as he would reel them in.

False bravado is not a term one would use to define my step-grandfather. But, he is remembered well. And, he is remembered in the manner in which I would like to be.

*Note: My bloodline grandfather’s brother married one of my grandmother’s older sisters. So, two brothers married two sisters. Yet, the irony of my grandmother’s second husband being a fishing buddy of the brother of her first husband is interesting. The other less ironic note, is both sisters were gregarious characters, who married and settled down with quiet men.

Four more movies worth a look

I decided to mention a couple of movies that are more mainstream. Some of these, you may have seen. So, here goes. I will not spoil the endings, but must caution you on reading the comments.

A Perfect Man – released in 2013, it stars Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn, with a co-starring role for Louise Fletcher. I have always liked Tripplehorn, as she brings a vulnerability to the role of the wife of a womanizing husband played by Schreiber. She continued to give multiple chances to her husband until she finally leaves him. After over-hearing him talk to a perfect stranger on the phone as he canceled airline tickets for them, she decided to call him as a wrong number and fake persona to hear him flirt and open up with her. She learns why he is the way he is and that he does, in fact, love her. The movie is directed by Kees van Oostrin and is written by Larry Brand and Peter Elkoff.

The Good Heart – released in 2009, it stars Paul Dano, Brian Cox and Isild Le Besco. Cox is a cantankerous bar owner who has a bad heart, which is not a surprise given how he lives. He befriends Dano in the hospital who is his roommate after Dano tried to commit suicide. Dano is a kind soul who is in need of a helping hand, so Cox’s character brings him into the bar to help him. They learn from each other, but their relationship is tested when Le Besco, a woman who has no place to go, is invited to stay with them over the bar owner’s objections. Cox plays irascible characters quite well and Dano has this innocent countenance about him. The movie is written and directed by Dagur Kari.

Tully – released in 2018, it stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis and Mark Duplass. Theron plays a mother who is suffering from post-partum depression while nursing her third child with her husband played by Duplass. Theron has never hesitated to play roles of women who are struggling. Davis plays Tully who is hired to be a night time nanny, so the mother can get some sleep and recover. Davis tells her she is only there to help her get over this period. The two women bond as Theron sees a lot of who she used to be in Davis. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody.

The Sixth Sense – released in 1999, it stars Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. Osment and Collette were nominated for Oscars as was M. Night Shyamalan as director. and writer, and the movie itself. My wife was puzzled that I had not seen such an acclaimed movie. Willis plays a child psychologist who helps a tormented young boy who we know from many movie advertisements, “I see dead people.” Collette plays Osment mother and there is a reason she also gets an Oscar nomination. Olivia Williams plays Willis’ wife who we learn is suffering from depression. While the movie focuses on the boy and his doctor, the mother-son relationship is also key. And, Willis and his wife’s relationship is not unimportant as we see him struggle with his wife’s depression wanting him to do more to help her.

All four movies are good, but the latter two get more acclaim and rightfully so. Let me know what you think below. Also, I will repeat to those who have not seen the movies to be mindful of spoiler alerts below in the comments. Commenters, please edit your comments to not reveal too much of the plots. .

A few movies we stumbled onto worth a viewing

We are blessed to still have a vintage movie rental store in my city. It was never a chain store, but one that has stocked up on a deep inventory, a veritable library, of old movies and new ones. It also has movies that are hard to find online for viewing. But, the best part of the selection process is the in person browsing looking through mazes of aisles on organized genres of drama, comedy, action, horror, science fiction, foreign films, series, etc.

The older movies can be rented for five days, so I usually will pick up four of them at a time. Often, I will read the summary or select one based on the actors in the film. Not all of them are great, but usually they are worth the effort. I think over the years, we have only stopped watching one or two.

On the last two visits, five of the eight movies I picked are excellent, in our opinion even though their critical ratings of each vary. And, the other three were good, so they were worth the investment. Here is a quick summary of the five to which we give a thumbs up.

  • Fathers and Daughters (2015) – starring Russel Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Kylie Rogers, Jane Fonda, Octavia Spencer, and Diane Kruger. Crowe is a Pulitzer Prize author who loses his wife in an auto accident because they were arguing and he lost focus on the driving. Seyfried is his daughter as an older woman coming to grips with her own life, after losing her mother when she was so young. The movie flips back and forth to just following her mother’s death and to her young adult life. Rogers charms us as the younger version of his daughter.
  • Night Train to Lisbon (2013) – starring Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Charlotte Rampling, Melanie Laurent, Martina Gedeck, Lena Olin, and several others. Irons coaxes a woman off a bridge in Bern where she was about to jump. She follows him and when she eventually leaves, he finds her coat with two tickets to Lisbon and a book that fascinates him with its life lessons and story. He travels to Lisbon to meet the author after the book’s owner eludes his efforts to find her. The story involves him connecting many dots with people who knew the author as he is moved by the impactful story. For the viewer, we are allowed to see what happened in earlier events.
  • Lebanon, PA (2010) – starring Josh Hopkins, Samantha Mathis, Rachel Kitson and others. This story involves an ad executive returning to Lebanon, PA to bury his divorced father and settle the affairs. He meets a cousin, a single father, and his two children who live across the street and watched over his father. The son is successful, but adrift not sure if he is doing what he wants to do in life. He becomes a mentor to the young teen girl who is his second cousin and befriends an unhappily married woman who taught with his father and remembers his kindness. The story is tinged with a sense of melancholy.
  • Lovely, still (2008)- starring two favorite actors, Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, along with Adam Scott and Elizabeth Banks. Landau is a man living alone who works at a retail store, but early on you pick up he is in early stages of dementia. He comes home to find Burstyn in his house, as he left his door open that morning and she was seeing if he was alright. They begin a romance that is both touching and worrisome as you keep waiting for a shoe to drop. It is a lovely film.
  • Lies in Plain Sight (2010) – starring Martha Higareda, Chad Michael MurrayYul VazquezBenito Martinez, Rosie Perez and others. The story is a of an obviously smart blind woman returning from MIT for the funeral of her best friend and cousin who committed suicide, a shock to her and her friend’s family. She is close to the family as her mother had passed and she would often stay with them as her father worked. She learns of many small lies as she tries to figure out what happened and remembers things her cousin told her, as there was no suicide note to explain it all. Eventually she suspects things that come to a head with her discoveries.

I hope you enjoy these. If you have seen them, let me know what you think. Also, what are some other films you recommend?

RESPECT – a movie worth watching about Aretha

My wife and I saw the terrific biopic about Aretha Franklin called “RESPECT” yesterday starring Jennifer Hudson. Hudson does a highly commendable job as Franklin, but that is less a surprise given her credentials and that Franklin asked her to play the role before she passed.

The acting is excellent with Forest Whittaker playing her dominant father, Audra McDonald playing her mother, Marlon Wayans as a first love interest, and Skye as a young Aretha. The movie pulls few punches showing Franklin’s shortcomings (such as her bout with alcohol) as well as her many successes.

However, the music, its creation and its performance, is what got folks clapping in the theater. Seeing Hudson as Franklin work with musicians to create “I’ve never loved a man” or with her sisters to adapt Otis Redding’s “Respect” is worth the ticket by themselves. Seeing Hudson perform “Natural Woman” and “Amazing Grace” are quite eventful.

The movie is directed by Liesl Tommy off the screenplay written by Tracey Scott Wilson based on the story by Callie Khouri. I will not give any more of the plot away, but simply encourage you to go see it.

The past serves as a reminder

Two old shows that my wife and I enjoy are focused on the past, especially when it rears its ugly head. An American produced show is called “Cold Case” where a team based in Philadelphia work unsolved cases that resurface. The other is “Unforgotten” which is a British produced show that works previously unknown crimes.

“Cold Case” has a unique style where they reveal the initial set-up of the crime, but not who did it. They go back and forth with the younger version of the character for a few seconds, so you know which older person that is. “Unforgotten” is told over a series of six or so shows, one crime per season. A body is discovered and the team has to begin to find out who, what, when, where and how. Both teams are led by imperfect leaders with their own set of problems.

The two shows tell us the past is never fully behind us. I know I would not want my past mistakes being brought up today, although I can confess I never murdered anyone. But, we should learn lessons from our past mistakes. Our friend Amanda revealed a quote on her blog the other day about focusing on the lesson and not the pain of the mistake (see link below)..That is easier said than done, but is a better goal than saying “woe is me.”

When people, businesses, organizations and governments do not heed the mistakes of the past, they are truly destined to repeat them. The US did not learn the lessons of Vietnam and invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq. A senator named Jim Webb who served in the military said if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay for thirty years. That was eighteen years ago.

In the book “Built to Last,” the authors’ data revealed the most admired and successful companies tended to promote from within to the CEO position. They knew what worked and did not and who to listen to and who not to. I have seen many a new CEO come in and make changes that repeated past mistakes. Even if they came from within, I have seen CEOs repeat an earlier mistake due to arrogance. I am thinking of one large bank that no longer exists who made two of the worst acquisitions that should have been avoided for the same reason – both hurt the bank’s reputation. And, that should not have been news.

People are prone to do this in their personal lives. They believe their new partner will change for the better. They ignore signals that they have seen in previous partners. The most basic of signals is this one – if a partner treats you poorly when he or she is courting you, what do you think he or she will do once you became married or more serious?

The author Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book “Blink” speaks of ignoring our subconscious signals when we make poor decisions. Our gut instinct is our collective history of experiences that tell us things before our conscious recognizes it, if it ever does. The examples of the book are many. A firefighter who tells his crew to back out of building as it is burning in an unusual manner. The art expert that knew immediately a painting was a forgery, but could not articulate why. The counselor who could tell with about ten seconds if a couple she was counseling was going to survive.

These people were not guided by whims. Their gut instinct told them something was amiss before they could articulate why. In the firefighter’s case, the fire was burning in the floor below, so his crew would have crashed through the floor, e.g. Their past experiences told them how to act. In organizations, the experience is collective, so sometimes a few people might know an action is poor (like Senator Webb did), but they do not have the power to influence leaders. Or the leaders were to blinded by their own arrogance to take advice.

The past tells us many things. While we should not be slaves to the past, as times do change, we need to understand what happened and why, so as not to avoid the same mistakes.

https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/sunday-quotes-helpful-resources/

Thursday Threads – freedoms do require accountability

Since I am headed out the door for a day trip to garner fresh produce at a place called The Peach Stand, I thought I would pull out a few threads to twirl around our fingers as we contemplate issues.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that freedom of speech does give you license to be an asshole (sorry folks, the real word is needed), provided you do not hurt anyone. A person now known as the “profane cheerleader” won her case, but missed the message. Just because you can be an asshole, does not mean you should. We must be accountable to each other and for our actions and words.

If the profane cheerleader never learns that lesson, she will be like a certain former president in his 70s, that remains an enfant terrible, even at his age. I mention him as the other court story is people involved with the January 6 insurrection are starting to get sentenced. Some will get light sentences, as they did not harm people or property, but others will likely receive more. As these sentences start to pile up, they will stand right in front of those Republican elected officials holding white paint brushes trying to paint over the insurrection as if it did not happen.

That accountability stuff is important, especially with folks who feel entitled to do anything they want. In their minds, it is OK to treat airplane attendants with disdain and threaten them. It is OK to show road rage which has been a growing problem even before the pandemic. It is OK to rage at slow service in restaurants, who are understaffed as they build back up their business. But, it is not OK. You can disagree without being disagreeable. You can share disappointment, without being uncivil.

Yes, the freedom of speech gives Americans the right to be assholes. But, there must be accountability along with that. That Jesus guy speaks of treating others like we want to be treated. If someone chooses to be an asshole, the offender needs to know it gives others the right to ignore you and not consider your raged filled or threatening words and actions. We need leaders to lead in this area, being representative of our better angels not or worst demons. Emulating a deceitful and bullying former president is not the example to follow.

There is an old saying that is more true than not. Those folks who are the least tolerant of others tend to elicit more tolerance from others with their own actions and words. What the intolerant ones do not realize, is people will eventually vote with their feet and not want to be around you or lessen their time with you, if that cannot totally avoid you. In other words, people tend not to want to suffer fools. So, at least be accountable for your own sake.

Have you ever wondered…

Since I am in need to write something apolitical and, hopefully, funny, please enjoy the following. And, do offer your “wonderings” in the comments.

Have you ever wondered….

why it is nigh impossible to move cooked riced from one container to another without spilling some of it on the counter?

-why spilled oil and vinegar based dressings will invariably miss your napkin and find your shirt or blouse?

why a yellow towel, shirt, blouse, dress or shorts will eventually be stained by other clothing in the wash – some dark clothing will sneak its way in there?

-why your talkative friend who needs an audience will call as you prepare for dinner?

why some folks don’t understand that once you find yourself in a hole, the key is to stop digging?

-why too many men don’t realize a truism, a man will never be shot while doing the dishes?

why women and men tend to have different definitions of what it means to go shopping – something about that hunter/ gatherer difference or maybe it is in that Venus/ Mars article?

-why the best retorts you think of may be better left unsaid – something about winning a battle and losing a war?

why people fail to realize that there are very few one way communication problems?

-why more couples don’t realize those who tend to work at their relationships and marriages tend to have more successful ones?

why husbands and boyfriends don’t realize that their wives or girlfriends do not want you to fix their problem, they want you to listen as they vent?

That is all for now. Please forgive the generalizations used for humor as I recognize everyone is different and relationships vary. What are your thoughts?

Those what if questions

As we age, we sometimes reflect on what might have transpired if something happened differently. It is an interesting exercise, but also makes you ponder what is important to you. With this in mind, here are a few what if questions.

  • What if the girl or boy you felt madly about reciprocated with the same fervor? If that happened, then you may not have met your wonderful spouse and had your terrific children
  • What if you turned down a drink invitation from someone who would become the most important person in your life?.
  • What if you got the job you desperately wanted in another town? Would your career path have dramatically changed?
  • What if you had not changed your mind about leaving a job and went to another employer? Would you have shortchanged yourself?
  • What if you had not said yes to joining a charity group to help people in need? Would you be less open minded about the plight of others?
  • What if you not said no to a road less traveled and did not veer off to explore some wonderful venues?
  • What if you did not mend a fence with an old friend or relative before it was too late?

We are the compilation of our life experiences. Some of those experiences were heart breaking and some were exhilarating. Yet, we benefit from the learning. We benefit from the relationship, even if it ended some time ago. We benefit from the reflection we could have handled something better than we did. We benefit from opportunities as they teach us so much.

We each have loved and lost. We each have had relationships with people who cared either more or less than we cared about them. That is one of time’s oldest stories. Relationships are hard work. Finding and keeping one where you are on the same path forward is also hard, but oh so very rewarding.

Kenny lamented over Ruby and Lucille

The iconic singer Kenny Rogers passed away last week. Rogers had a brief career as a jazz musician, but is more famously known as a rock and roll, then country singer.

As I was thinking about his career, I focused on two powerful songs about imperfect men, who lament over their wives’ infidelity. The point is not to challenge why these women have done what they did. Rogers captures the anguish of these men.

The first is called “Ruby” and was released in 1969 as part of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The second is the country song “Lucille,” released in 1977. Here are the initial lyrics to each.

“You’ve painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadow on the wall tell me the sun is going down
Oh, Ruby, don’t take your love to town
It wasn’t me that started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore
And yes, it’s true that I’m not the man I used to be
Oh Ruby, I still need some company
It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and needs of a woman your age, really, I realize
But it won’t be long, I’ve heard them say, until I’m not around
Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town.”

“In a bar in Toledo across from the depot
On a barstool, she took off her ring
I thought I’d get closer so I walked on over
I sat down and asked her name
When the drinks finally hit her she said ‘I’m no quitter
But I finally quit livin’ on dreams
I’m hungry for laughter and here ever after
I’m after whatever the other life brings’
In the mirror, I saw him and I closely watched him
I thought how he looked out of place
He came to the woman who sat there beside me
He had a strange look on his face
The big hands were calloused, he looked like a mountain
For a minute I thought I was dead
But he started shaking, his big heart was breaking
He turned to the woman and said
‘You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille
With four hungry children and a crop in the field
I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times
But this time your hurting won’t heal
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille.”

I found these songs powerful for the anguish portrayed by a disabled Vietnam veteran who cannot satisfy his sexually starved wife, as well as the farmer who toils so hard, not realizing his wife has had enough of such a hard life.

Anguish is a heartfelt emotion. I am certain the women were anguished as well leading them to their choices. But, to me Rogers wanted to portray the anguish of these imperfect men. And, perhaps the anguish of the situations.

Visiting people and places is the ticket

I wrote a few years ago about the wonderful visit we had to New England, made more enjoyable because we reconnected with some relatives. The combination of using a visit to a place to visit people can be marvelous, the caveat is to make sure it is people who you want to be around.

The past few days, my wife and I did a similar kind of visit to my home state of Florida and roots in south Georgia. Starting with my hometown of Jacksonville, we stayed with my brother and visited with his oldest daughter who is temporarily staying with him. The next night, we had dinner with his son, who we had not seen for a few years. It was wonderful to catch up. Earlier that day, we had yet another four hour lunch with my three best friends dating back to grade school, along with their wives. We did hear a few new stories, along with the old, and got to catch up.

The next day we drove to Tampa where we spent a couple of days enjoying its wonderful River Walk and a cool place called the Oxford Exchange suggested by our niece, my brother’s youngest daughter. The key to our trip was to visit with her, which was lots of fun. But, while there, we got to meet our blogging friend Gronda, who I had never met in person. She is a delight and has lived a wonderful life with various experiences, which she shared. We walked to and from the restaurant with Gronda, which was on the River Walk, as we sat outside and enjoyed the meal.

As for meeting our niece, it is lovely to meet her now as a wonderful young woman, as contrasted to the child we saw grow up. Meeting her alone in her new home city was quite fun. We had a nice brunch at the Oxford Exchange which is a rehabbed old building filled with shops and restaurants.

Finally, we ventured north and had a wonderful meal with members of my father’s family in south Georgia. I won’t mention the town, because everyone knows everyone else. There were eight of us, which included the three children (and their spouses) of a man raised with my father after his parents divorced. My dad was brought up largely by his aunt and her husband, who had two children as well. This aunt had helped raise his mother, as her biological mother was not part of the picture.

We had so much fun catching up, trading stories and filling in gaps in other stories. I hope the visits spawn reciprocal ones. It did with our New England trip. In fact, another niece we reconnected with in Maine is coming down for a few days later today.

I cannot emphasize enough how happy we are to have made these trips. I recognize this may not be newsworthy, but let me say don’t wait until it is too late to connect or reconnect.