I once read (in fact it was a line from a James Bond book) that worrying is paying a dividend to disaster before it's due.
In which case over the past few days some lucky disaster has been the beneficiary of a real windfall, complements of me.
For the past few days I've been in a state of anxious worry, aka Anxiety.
Anxiety is my pet peeve, my bete noir .
On the other hand it does keep my weight in check. I do believe if I could kick back, relax, and take life in stride I'd immediately pack on twenty pounds. But if I could kick back, relax, and take life in stride the twenty pounds would be worth it.
But now I am. Not all the time. But sometimes. Like now.
Sometimes my anxiety is free-floating. Sometimes it's event-specific.
Anxiety causes people like me to mislabel life's occasional set-backs or bouts of turbulence as disasters, when in truth we're just worried that the turbulence will never settle, that we'll never recover from the set-back, which we assume will lead then to actual disaster.
But then we do recover, things do settle back to normal, and we've just shelled out a small fortune in gratuitous worry.
But Anxiety doesn't only rob me of the serenity to accept the things I cannot change as well as the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot change.
It hits me with writer's block.
Over the past few days Anxiety has been hanging around, making me pay dividends to some non-existent, undeserving disaster while it's been keeping me from writing.
People who are in the grip of mental disquiet sometimes say that they just can't get out of their head.
When I'm feeling anxious I seem to have the opposite problem. It's like I can't get into my head.
It's like Anxiety has hacked into my cerebral hard-drive and stomped each of my ideas with that big grey screen with the meh face that says:
I still have the ideas but the inspiration that creates the words to flesh out the ideas are locked behind that little red-orange meh face.
Meanwhile my mental disquiet starts taking on a corporeal manifestation in my imagination as a big purple monster with blank white eyes and horns, sort of an evil Sesame Street character called - what else - Anxiety.
As my attempts to express my ideas fall flat without the inspiration needed to make them float, Anxiety whispers in my ear, "Don't even bother. Nobody cares what you think about why the Amish might have started opening up to outsiders. Or Isis destroying the ancient art of a people. Or your daughter's quarantine."
To which I reply, "It doesn't matter whether anybody cares about what I write. It only matters that I care."
To which Anxiety, moving even closer to my ear, hisses, "But right now even you don't care. Right now all you can focus on is me, me, me!"
"Fine, I snap at this figment of of my fretful imagination, come in sit down, make yourself at home, why don't you. How about a cup of tea."
"Sure," quips Anxiety, settling its big self into a chair at my kitchen table, "But you're still not getting back into your head."
Except that, by writing this, I already am.
...Continued from yesterday:
After the wonderful Cyclorama presentation and lecture by our very gracious Amish guide I did a once around the Heritage Center gift shop while Tom chatted a little while longer with our guide.
Then we left Behalt and slogged back towards town through the still-falling snow, taking a round-about route to pass some of the outlying touristy spots:
But we walked around a bit anyway, popped into a couple of local establishments, including Sol's Palace:
You want Amish stuff, Sol's got Amish stuff gazoot:
We also stopped in a hardware store and a grocery store, both of which included several young Amish women among the staff.
Continuing the trend of tourist-friendliness we'd been experiencing this visit, these young clerks graced us with a smile and the standard "Hi, welcome to (wherever)" as we entered their stores and "'Bye, have a nice day", as we left, perfectly normal and expected verbal gestures that seemed remarkable only when compared to the silent stink-eye cast upon us during our last visit whenever we entered Amish-staffed businesses .
The wait staff was both Amish and English (or non-Amish, in Amish Country lingo),
Anyway, the staff was friendly and the food was delicious. Tom had the roast turkey dinner and I had a cheeseburger and fires, but the pieces de resistance were the desserts:
...Though in truth Tom felt, though the ice cream was primo, that: 1. the apple pie that he makes at home is much better (I could have told him that. Nobody makes apple pie like Tom's. See post from 1/31/2014), and 2. his slice was 'waaaay too big! However neither of these facts kept Tom from finishing every last bite.
My cherry pie was awesomely perfect though it was accompanied by a boatload of ice cream, which I likewise did not neglect to finish.
As we stood at the counter paying our bill one of the girls in the above photo asked us with a smile if we enjoyed our lunch.
"Ooooh, yes!" I replied.
Then Tom and I waddled from the restaurant to our car like two stuffed geese and returned to the Berlin Resort where we made our way to our room, cranked up the heat, flopped onto the hyper-comfy bed and spent the remainder of the afternoon in a food coma.
A little later we got up and did a few turns around the many hallways since the snow was too deep to walk off our pie around the hotel grounds.
Semi-convinced we might never need to eat again, we let the dinner hour come and go then headed to the hotel movie theater where I had reserved "Nacho Libre" for the 8:00 show.
On Sunday morning, amazingly, Tom and I woke up ready to eat once more. So we headed back to the hotel dining room for breakfast, this time served by someone other than the Amish lady from yesterday, but it was still good and once again included those sublime cinnamon rolls, of which I partook a goodly portion.
After breakfast we took a swim and a dip in the hot tub, then it was time to leave the wonderful Berlin Resort and venture back out into the snow.
And so we left Amish country, this time, unlike last time, feeling amicable towards the place and the people and looking forward to our next visit.
Though next time we'll probably skip the pie.
...Continued from yesterday:
I think it had been about 4 1/2 years since my last - and first - visit to Berlin, Ohio, also known as Amish Country.
As chronicled in a couple of previous posts (see posts from 7/1/2014 and 7/2/2014), after that first visit I left Amish Country harboring zero desire to ever return to that land of hand-made country crafts and unfriendly locals.
But here I was again, in the heart of Amish country of my own volition (See yesterday's post), this time more espoused to the idea of enjoying the offerings of this neat hotel we were staying in,
...than to having any interactions with the Amish, whom I'd previously found stand-offish to the point of hostility.
However even with this idee fixe of Amish animosity towards anyone but themselves securely screwed into my brain I must admit that I still found the Amish, their history, and their culture of non-materialistic simplicity (unlike the folks they sell all their stuff to) intriguing.
And so while we were here I wanted to re-visit Behalt, the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center which offers a lecture on the history of the Mennonites and their two off-shoots, the Amish and Hutterites.
So in spite the snow that was pouring down on Saturday morning Tom and I decided to head out to Behalt after breakfast.
Breakfast at the Berlin Resort was the standard hotel buffet line but the food was good
Anyway, as we entered the dining room I was quite surprised to see that the kitchen was being run by a portly, middle-aged, grandmotherly-looking Amish woman. I was even more surprised when she returned Tom's bright, friendly, "Good Morning!" with a bright, friendly "Good Morning!" of her own.
"See that?" said Tom, "she was friendly to me."
I had to concede that she was indeed.
A few minutes later the lady hurried out with more coffee and notified the guests with a smile, "Got some more coffee for ya!"
Which I likewise had to admit was a manifestation of friendliness. And normalness.
I felt the screw holding together my notion about unwavering Amish unfriendliness loosening about a quarter of a turn.
After breakfast we headed out into the snow and drove a few miles down County Road 77,
...until we reached the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center.
The last time we visited Behalt our very cordial tour guides were a Mennonite man and woman. This time our guides were, again to my surprise, two Amish men. Two friendly, talkative Amish men.
In fact one of them, a man about my age, approached us almost as soon as we entered the Center and showed us a book that he'd written on Amish life, assuring us that this book gave a true and honest representation.
I chuckled to myself and thought, Amish or English, we writers are all the same, always wanting someone to read what we've written! Of course we bought his book.
The other guide, who appeared to be in his mid-40's, then took Tom and I, the only visitors at the moment, into in the Center's Cyclorama, a room in the round on which is painted an enormous
10' x 265' mural depicting the history of the Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites from early Christianity to the present. The mural was painted by Heinz Gaugle, a Catholic artist with an interest in the Amish and the preservation of their history and culture. He worked on the mural from 1978 to 1992.
The guide then gave us a half-hour lecture, pointing out the events represented in the painting as he spoke.
It was a wonderful and spell-binding presentation. At the end of his lecture our guide then talked candidly of the struggles that Amish have nowadays trying to follow their religion, customs and culture while adapting to life in the present. He said that the Amish must deal with the same problems within their communities as society at large: depression, unhappy marriages, alcoholism, as well as the problems created by the commercialization of their culture.
I was amazed and, in truth, honored, by this Amish man's openness with us.
And, though this man perhaps believed that he was merely educating two interested tourists on the history his people, for me he did more than that: he, with a little help from an articulate book-writer and a cheerful kitchen worker, changed my feelings and my mind.
To be continued...
So, Tom and I decided to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary with a weekend in Ohio Amish Country.
I know, I know.
I know that I’ve previously pronounced Amish Country to be the least hospitable country on the planet (See post from 7/01/2014).
Except that I found a Groupon for this nice-looking place, the Berlin Resort,
But on the other hand it advertised a nice-looking pool, killer-looking work-out facility, and -here was the clincher - a movie theater right in the hotel!
And then it turned out that the place gave a military discount as well so we thought, eh, why not give Amish Country another try? If we didn’t like it we could spend the weekend in the hotel watching movies, right?
So we set off early Friday afternoon in the beautiful sunshine that belied the 10-degree temperature outside.
We picked up U.S. Route 62 where it passed through Gahanna and drove north-east for two hours over two-lane roads...
...to the town of Berlin in Holmes County, the heart of Ohio Amish Country.
Now, though surrounded by lovely farmland and scenic open areas,
But as the weather was bad this weekend the traffic congestion was not what it was the last time we visited on a lovely fall day when you could've sat half the day behind a line of cars and the pedestrian traffic was well nigh impassible with a mighty phalanx of people looking to snag them some Amish stuff to take home and love.
Anyway, The Berlin Resort was on a hill on the outskirts of town.
After we checked in Tom and I took a once-around the building, which was huge and labyrinthine, all twisting and turning hallways that one could easily get lost in. (The next day I did get lost and had to prevail upon a housekeeper whom I fortunately ran into to guide me back to my room).
Tucked about here and there were cozy little sitting spots:
The hallways smelled new, of fresh-cut lumber, and everything about the place had a clean, simple-but-pleasant look and feel.
Though there were plenty of amenities:
three work-out rooms, the two above plus a free-weights room,
a barber shop, manicure shop,
...a little gift-shop and snack bar, and if the weather had been nice we could have gone outside and hung around the patio fire pit, gazebo and children's village:
But in truth I was most intrigued by the prospect of an on-site movie theater.
Turned out it was a miniature theater that showed 3 movies a day, one at 5 pm, one at 6 pm and one at 8 pm.
The 5 pm movie is always a 50-minute documentary about the Amish.
For the other two time slots the hotel has a list of films to choose from and the movies are chosen by guests on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, for example, on Friday evening by the time we arrived the 6 o'clock film had already been chosen but the 8 o'clock slot was still open, so after looking over the list of movie options I requested "As Good As It Gets" for the 8 o'clock movie.
Tom decided to check out the Amish movie - interesting but a bit longish, he thought - while I stayed in the hotel room and chilled.
After the Amish movie we decided to got out and seek some chow. Of all the offerings of the Berlin Resort, a restaurant is not among them.
In fact, it seems to me that the whole town of Berlin, for all the tourists it supports, is decidedly short on restaurants. We could find only three along the main strip.
We opted for one of them, East Of Chicago Pizza,
..but best of all for dessert there were these little all-you-can-eat iced cinnamon rollesque things.
But considering that I about ate my weight in cinnamon roll thingies, the meal was a pretty good deal.
After dinner we got back to the hotel just in time for our movie, which we shared with about half a dozen more viewers. Tom and I took the front-row seats.
"As Good As It Gets" was a great movie, a two-kleenexer starring Jack Nicholson as an obsessive-compulsive misanthrope who in spite of himself gets thrown into a relationship with two unlikely people.
I could get easily used to watching my movies in a spot like this one.
Claire is back from her 6-week tour of duty fighting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.
When I talked to her yesterday, Friday, she said she felt fine and happy and she sounded good, if a bit jet-lagged from her 48-hour trip home.
That trip home started last Tuesday when she left Kono by UN helicopter for Freetown,
... then she flew out Wednesday from Freetown to Brussels where she was free to wander the airport for a few hours' layover, then from Brussels to Newark, New Jersey, where she land on Thursday afternoon around12:30 pm .
Then, in the Newark airport at the entrance to U.S. Customs, began her pre-quarantine re-entry process.
As Claire stood in line at Customs she wondered if the agents would know that she'd just returned from West Africa. However when she handed her passport over to the customs agent she could see that he was in possession of a list of names on which hers was highlighted.
Claire was immediately escorted away from Customs to a room where several Homeland Security agents were waiting for her. They were dressed in Ebola gear, though somewhat lighter than the gear Claire had been wearing in Sierra Leone .
The agents asked her a number of questions: What was her seat number on the plane? Where had she come from? Where had she stayed? Had she been to any funerals? Touched Ebola Patients? Touched dead people? Had she been sick?
Claire said the Homeland Security agents were quite stern with her, but she felt some sympathy for them for their having to wear that bulky gear and be in the same room as someone whom they'd been told might have Ebola.
Furthermore the gear must have been uncomfortable as they kept reaching under their masks to itch their faces or rub their eyes, while Claire kept thinking, Dudes, don't do that!
After her interview with Homeland Security she was taken to a second room where she was asked the same questions by a second round of stern interrogators.
At the end of this questioning she was handed a phone and a thermometer then led to a third room for a third interview, this time by representatives of the Centers For Disease Control. The CDC people were actually quite nice.
The she was led to a final room where she was asked the same questions one more time for good measure, then given instructions on how to use the phone, which was to be used exclusively for communication with the Illinois Department of Health.
Two hours and four interviews later Claire was finally cleared and free to run like crazy through the Newark airport for her connecting Flight to Chicago. She zipped through the gate at 2:49, after which the plane doors immediately closed and the plane took off at 2:55.
When she arrived in Chicago to minus 7- degree weather Miguel was there waiting for her with her coat, which she'd sent home from Boston prior to leaving for 90-degree Sierra Leone.
When Claire and Miguel arrived home they celebrated with take-out from Penny's,
...But of course they couldn't go inside the restaurant because Claire wasn't supposed to, so Miguel picked up their food and they ate at home.
After dinner Claire, on beyond exhausted, headed straight for bed.
The next day, Friday, yesterday, Claire received her first visit from the Illinois department of Health and her 21-day quarantine officially began.
The Health department representative was all strictly serious business as she read Claire her rights then made Claire read the quarantine order out loud before signing it. Claire was then warned that she would be taken to court if she violated her quarantine.
The representative sternly advised Claire that for the next 21 days she must stay away from public places. Claire may go outside to take a walk though she is required to keep a diary of anyone she comes into contact with. Claire asked if she might be allowed to go to the grocery store to buy food. The representative wasn't sure so she called her supervisor who said that Claire may go to the store to buy herself food but that she must keep a diary of anyone she comes in contact with in the grocery store.
Finally the representative had Claire take her temperature with the thermometer she was given at U.S. customs and the representative checked the reading. She informed Claire that she would be back every day for the next 21 days to have Claire take her temperature in her presence so that she could verify the reading.
Maybe Claire and the Health Department representative will become friends.
I have a friend whose son is a young doctor who also was in West Africa fighting Ebola. He lives in Pennsylvania and was likewise under quarantine when he returned, but rather than receiving a daily visit from the Health Department he was required to take his temperature every day, photograph the reading on the thermometer, and email the picture daily to the Health Department.
In New York health care workers who've returned from West Africa are warned that during their quarantine they may be required to submit to a blood test to make sure they haven't taken Tylenol in an attempt to disguise a fever.
All of which begs the question: If someone who'd been dealing for six weeks with Ebola up close in all its ravaging and horrific glory started feeling the teensiest bit sick or feverish themselves, wouldn't they be on top of getting treatment for themselves on their own initiative? Like wouldn't they be on the horn in a micro-nanosceond? Would they really try to pull one over on the Health Department by hiding their illness so that they could avoid getting treatment?
I mean, would they really?
As I recall, on Saturday, February 19, 1977 Philadelphia was still under about a foot of snow and hadn't seen the sun in weeks.
But for me everything was coming up daisies that day:
I also recall being slightly ticked that, though I wanted a guitar wedding, which I had:
...Anyway, we were still required to pay the frumpy old church organist, who we didn't want and didn't have.
But that was infinitesimally small stuff, forgotten by the actual day of the wedding.
And I recall that on that day the sun came out for the first time in weeks. I considered it a good omen. And so, though it was only about 30 degrees outside, I got a bee in my bonnet and decided that because the sun was shining it would be wonderful if the wedding party walked the quarter mile from my parents' house to the church.
Believe me, I'd never do or require another human being to do such a thing now.
In any case, I guess none of us were any the worse for wear for our slog through the snow.
Some us likewise decided to walk from my parents' house, where everyone was invited to chill between the wedding and the reception, to the reception, which was held in the basement of Pavio's Italian Restaurant, which was at the end of the block from my parent's house:
I always thought mine was the best wedding that had ever been: best ceremony, best reception hall, best food, best band (that was back when weddings still had bands), best time ever,
... Until I attended four more weddings that were somehow every bit as superlatively wonderful as my own was:
I guess nothing colors your world like love.
Last Sunday I talked to Claire for what will probably be the last time until she lands in the U.S.
Monday was to be her last day of work in her little jungle clinic in Kono. Yesterday, Tuesday, she was to leave Kono for Freetown, this time by helicopter, thank goodness. Her last trip from Port Loko to Kono was six hours of being thrown around in a truck over torn-up roads.
Today, Wednesday, she has a free day in Freetown which she plans to spend at the beach.
And then tonight she'll fly out of Sierra Leone to Brussels. From Brussels she'll fly to Newark where she should arrive tomorrow around noon.
And that's when I'll start to worry.
In all honesty I feel more anxious for her well-being when she arrives in Newark than I have the whole time she was in Sierra Leone. Even though the Ebola hysteria from a few months back seems to have died down in the general population I'm worried about how she'll be treated when she arrives at customs. Aside from the ordeal of nurse Kaci Hickox I've heard horror stories of health-care workers returning from West Africa being held for hours in small rooms at customs and missing their connecting flights. Or having the police called on them as if they were criminals for going into a plague-stricken country to try and rescue the most vulnerable people on the planet.
Of course one hopes that things have changed since the time Kaci Hickox was used as a pawn by Chris Christie and Maine Governor Paul Lepage to score political points for themselves from the national Ebola scare. One hopes that Newark airport now operates under a more scientifically enlightened and less politically-driven policy than was in effect several months ago.
It's not even that I fear that Claire will be in any real physical danger when she goes through customs.
I just don't want her to be mistreated. I don't want her to be the victim of ignorance or politics on her return to her country. I don't want her to be be submitted to any undue roughness even if it's only verbal. Her heart is too kind. Her soul is too good.
I hope by tomorrow afternoon I'll be able to admit that I was being ridiculously anxious and that my worries were for nothing.
I'll keep you posted.
Anastasia and Christian Fifty Years Later, Or
Fifty Shades Of Grey Hair
A Dramatic Conception
Cast of Characters: Christian, Anastasia, Payne, TV Announcer
Setting: A living room
ANASTASIA, dressed in a house coat, hair-net and slippers, sits in front of a TV set.
CHRISTIAN, dressed in a flannel shirt, high-waisted pants and white tennis shoes, wanders around the room carrying a stick with a long crepe-paper streamer tied to it.
CHRISTIAN: Anastasia! Where’s my bifocals? And where’s my whip?
ANASTASIA: Oh, go whip yourself, Christian! I’m watching ‘The Price Is Right!’
(Christian mumbles irritably, looking around the room)
(Enter PAYNE, stage left))
PAYNE: What are you two bickering about now?
ANASTASIA: Payne, go help your father find his bifocals and his whip.
PAYNE: (Sighs) Dad, you’re wearing your glasses, and…Aw, what’s this? (Takes the crepe-paper stick whip from Christian, holds it up). “Really, Dad?”
CHRISTIAN: I exercise control in all things.
ANASTASIA: Not anymore, Mister! Payne, run out to the store, we’re all out of Depends!
(Christian starts taking off his shirt)
PAYNE: (Sighs) Fine! Dad, would you please not take off your shirt right now?
CHRISTIAN: But I want to play the piano!
ANASTASIA: Oh, put on your shirt, you're not playing that piano right now! It's almost time for the Showcase Showdown!
(Christian stands in front of the TV, blocking Anastasia's view)
CHRISTIAN: I said I exercise control in all things!
ANASTASIA (Stands up): If you don't move your butt from in front of that TV I'll smack you one!
CHRISTIAN (Moves up close to her): Maybe I'd like you to smack me one, Mother!
ANASTASIA (Moves closer to him): Maybe I'd like you to smack me one, Dad!
(The two of them reach around each other, trying to smack each others' butts)
ANASTASIA & CHRISTIAN: Oh, yes, oh yes, oh yes!
(Payne gets between them, moves them apart)
PAYNE: WOULD YOU TWO PLEASE STOP IT!!!? Geeze, you're crazy! Both of you!
ANASTASIA: We most certainly are not, young man! We're perfectly normal, aren't we, Daddy?
CHRISTIAN: We certainly are. We're perfectly normal. Always have been.
PAYNE: No, you've always been a couple of nut cases, the both of you!
ANASTASIA: That is no way to talk to your parents! Go to your room right now, young man!
CHRISTIAN: Do as your mother says!
PAYNE: What? I'm fifty-two years old! This is my house! You can't send me to my room!
ANASTASIA (Sweetly): Oh, now, Payney, we just want you to go to your room because we have a surprise for you.
CHRISTIAN: That's right, Son. While you were out we had your room painted. Go look at it.
PAYNE: What? Oh, no, not again! (Payne hurries away, exits stage right, immediately returns) Holy Crow, how many times do I have to tell you, quit painting my room red! Oh, I give up!
ANASTASIA: Payney, dear, why don't you run off to the store now?
PAYNE: I'm leaving, I'm leaving! Here! (Hands Christian back his whip and heads towards the stage left exit).
ANASTASIA (calling to Payne): Where are you going, Krogers?
PAYNE (Stops, turns back): No, the A&P.
CHRISTIAN (Chuckling proudly): That's my boy! Laters, Son!
(Payne exits stage left)
(Christian snuggles his nose against Anastasia's cheek as he strokes his whip.
CHRISTIAN: How about a little A&P right now, Mother?
ANASTASIA (Giggling): Well, as long as I can watch the Showcase Showdown.
CHRISTIAN: However you want it.
(Anastasia sits back down in her chair and watches the TV. Christian begins swinging the crepe-paper streamer against the back of the chair, continues swinging at the chair and grunting until the end of the scene)
TV ANNOUNCER: Let's pull back the curtain and see what's in store for our lucky winner!
TV ANNOUNCER: This Swish 'n Swirl front, back, and side-loading microwave washing machine!
ANASTASIA: Oh, yes!
TV ANNOUNCER: And this 250-Inch glow-in-the dark Hamflung flat-screen TV and toaster oven!
ANASTASIA: Oh, oh, more!
TV ANNOUNCER: And this Muscle-Boy super-sonic lawn mower with window-washing and gutter-cleaning attachment!
ANASTASIA: Don't stop! Don't stop!
TV ANNOUNCER: And these beautiful his 'n hers Toto jet-spray ultra-soft-seat custom toilets!
ANASTASIA: Oh, oh, oh....
(Lights out to the sound of game-show music)
So, you can go see Fifty Shades of Grey if it floats your root beer, but if you'd like to see a much better cinematic representation of deviant human sexual behavior I'd suggest you check out the 2013 comedy-drama Don Jon.
Don Jon stars Joseph Gordon Levitt, who also wrote and directed the film, as Jon Martello, a handsome young working-class Jersey guy who has his pick of willing young women for one-night hook-ups.
But in spite of all the women he sleeps with, he's addicted to watching online pornography. The real women he picks up at dance clubs don't measure up to the fantasy women in the videos he incessantly watches on his laptop, and he's unable to lose himself in real sex the way he does in virtual sex.
And it's this need to lose himself that drives his pornography addiction, just as it drives all addictions.
Like the much less believable character in Fifty Shades Of Grey, the main character in Don Jon needs to exercise control in all things. He cleans his apartment relentlessly, works out at the gym obsessively, never misses Sunday morning Mass or Sunday night dinner at his parents' house. He goes to confession weekly and counts his weight-lifting reps at the gym by saying the Hail Marys and Our Fathers he's been given for penance.
But on weekends Jon goes clubbing with his friends to show off his perfectly sculpted hair and body and check out the women and rate them on a scale of one to ten, being always on the look out for the elusive "dime", or perfect ten among the offerings.
One night Jon finds her, his "dime", a girl name Barbara Sugarman (played by Scarlett Johanson) whose curvaceous body culminates his vision of pornographic perfection.
The only problem is that Barbara refuses to go home and jump into bed with Jon. So he pursues her and takes her out on a date, after which she still won't sleep with him. She makes it clear she won't sleep with him unless it means something.
Barbara's chastity serves to inflame Jon's desire for her and they begin seriously dating, with Jon mistaking his constantly simmering lust for love.
Barbara, meanwhile, has relationship fantasies of her own. While Jon loses himself in lust fantasies of Barbara, Barbara loses herself in romantic fantasies of Jon as the man who lives to please her, fueled by the old-fashioned happily-ever-after Hollywood romance movies she devours the way Jon devours pornography.
In one scene Barbara brags to a group of her girl friends that though they just celebrated their one-month anniversary she and Jon haven't yet "done it", to which her friends reply, sighing enviously, "Oh, that's soooo romantic!"
And so Jon continues to please Barbara - and by extension his parents, who are overjoyed that he's finally found someone - and to please himself by continuing to secretly watch pornography.
All goes well until the moments when Jon and Barbara each in their turn are hit with the reality of the other person who finally emerges from the fantasy.
Ultimately it's from a thin, pale, sad older woman (played by Julianne Moore) whose path crosses with Jon's that he begins to learn that sex is like conversation: it can only be good and engaging with a person you feel comfortable letting down your hair with and opening yourself up to.
The movie Fifty Shades of Grey opens tonight in Columbus.
I read the reviews this morning in The Columbus Dispatch and The New York Times.
The reviewers of both newspapers shared the opinion that the film's dialogue was so bad that it was funny, and the parts that weren't funny were just bad. Still, both agreed, the movie was better than the book in that the movie at least had spiffy sets and music.
I can't say I care if Fifty Shades of Grey got rotten tomato reviews, I wasn't going to see it anyway. The movie is based on a book whose storyline, as I understand it to be - a girl who likes being dominated by a rich, handsome powerful guy - doesn't really appeal to me.
Now I have to admit that my judgement is based mostly on what I've read and heard about it as I didn't read the book. Or much of it anyway. But I did try to read it.
At least four times I grabbed a copy of Fifty Shades Of Grey off a store shelf open to the possibility that I might buy it, take it home, and read it. And at least four times, after perusing a few pages, I had to put the book back on the shelf.
It wasn't because of the dirty parts - three out of four times I never even got that far. It was because the book was written in the written-for-adolescents- style of a girly, powder puffy series of books my daughters used to read when they were in middle school called Sweet Valley Twins.
Only not as well-written as Sweet Valley Twins. Dumbed down about fifty shades. But Fifty Shades of Grey definitely has a cutesie pre-teen style to it.
Which I guess shouldn't come as a complete surprise as E.L. James used to write online Twilight fan fiction, which consists of spin-off Twilight stories written by Twilight fans for other Twilight fans to read. Apparently Fifty Shades Of Grey started out as just another Twilight fan fiction story, but then it started going off in a direction of its own, as stories will do as you're writing them, so the author replaced the Twilight characters with new characters and just let the thing rip. So to speak.
(I actually used to make up Berenstain Bears fan fiction. When my kids were little they loved the Berenstain Bears books so much that they sometimes asked me to make up more stories about the Berenstain Bears for them. So I did. Only my Berenstain Bears stories never took the kind of a turn that E.L. James' Twilight stories did).
Anyway, the final time I reached for Fifty Shades of Grey - I was meandering around in the book department of Sam's club - I decided to look for some of the book's dirty parts, just to see if that's what all the fuss was about.
I felt like I was reading "Sweet Valley Twins Go Slutty." Or at least one of the twins.
But the experience left me cogitating upon two questions: With all the millions of pages of pornography that must be slithering around out there, what is it about this particular book that raised it to a legitimate mainstream hit? Gave it the special classification of "Mommy Porn", as if it were a special kind of porn that's an appropriate read for your women's book club? (And I'm not making that up, I know of women who have read it for their book club).
To this question I think I've come up with the answer:
I think the book's sex parts are carried along by the non-sex parts, which are so innocuously written as if to appeal to the normal preoccupations and fantasies of a 13-year-old girl (I'm not that pretty, my clothes aren't right, my BFF is so much cuter than me but it's me that he likes, he's so rich and gorgeous, I can't believe he likes me). Kind of like S&M mixed with M&M's.
My second question is this: Why the heck are women by the billions reading this thing past the first two pages?
Is it because this is the only way they can get away with reading porn? Or because women like their porn wrapped in pink cotton candy? Or could it be, as many students of human behavior have written, that deep down inside women have an unconscious desire to be dominated by a man? That they like to be in a position of feeling submissive?
To these questions I do not know the answer.
I'll have to roll 'em by by the Panera Posse.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.