Love And Marriage

The brides and grooms in Doug Block’s documentary, march down the aisle, and recite their vows. They laugh, cry, greet guests, kiss each other, their parents, relatives and friends. Their eyes shine. Their hair is perfect. They dance, bask in their joy, look forward to a future of happiness, even bliss. And celebrate love and marriage in an endless barrage of toasts.

Twenty years later: 112 Weddings

Fast forward to seven, ten, fourteen years later. How well have these couples fared? Are they together? Divorced? On the cusp of something new? Block, revisits the beginning, middle and end of some of the 112 Weddings he filmed starting 20 years ago when he needed to make some extra money to support himself and his career.

The result is beyond brilliant. He sought to make wedding videos, and instead found the messy facts of real life, hidden in the spaces between words, cannily revealed by the nods, the eye rolls, the hand gestures, the point and counterpoint of dialogue in distress, and conversation that emerges from between the pores of resentment, laughter and love — that place where life and dreams bounce off each other and leave us wondering: what happened? Where did it go? Where did I go? How do I get it back?

During the interviews the women fare better than the men. They are emotionally smarter, more sensitive, more willing to listen and compromise, while the men get lost in their egos and retreat into soured disappointment with the way things are. Like the husband who loses some weight and goes from being the unsought after chubby boy to the desirable middle aged man with money, departing his 14 year marriage to seek out a more worshipful woman who is grateful for his precious presence. And the one who begins with a wife-rant. Then finally admits it was not his wife who was crazy off the wall and needed to be “committed,” it was him. But there are some who rise to the occasion with grace, compassion and a loving concern that never wavers.

A Man of Grace

The most stunning among these is a man whose wife was, only a few years before, an exceptionally beautiful bride, and now suffers from a depression so dark and deep she seems stuck at the bottom of a well with no desire to climb out. She sits immobile in their living room, ignoring their young child and her husband as he points out her fragile victories. Telling her that each step forward she takes is precious, no matter how small, that he has faith in her, and will be there for her no matter what. But she’s unable to accept his stalwart praise and counters his faith with a blank despair. Yet he refuses to give up. He wills himself to see her healed. He dwells in possibility.

Movies, Film, Art, Truth

There are too many stories that deserve telling for me to share, and it’s clear that the nature of this film is as much a reflection of the man who made it as the couples who agreed to participate. I suggest that you find a way to see it. You will not be sorry.

Some people make movies. Some make films. Others make art. In 112 Weddings, Block has made art. And beyond that he has captured that elusive, forbidden, much discussed but rarely mastered quality we spend our lives and loves seeking, even when we don’t know it.The truth.

Use the following imagery should you want to live and love in truth..

The Mask

Close your eyes, breathe out, and see yourself standing at the foot of a hill.  At the top of this hill is a house. Follow the path that leads up to the door. Go inside and find a trunk. Open this trunk and see that it is filled with masks. Pull out a mask and put it on. Now find a mirror, and look at yourself. What do you see? How do you feel?

Choose whether to take off the mask or leave it on. Breathe out one time, and open your eyes.

* 112 Weddings will be shown on HBO starting June 30th 


The Wonderful World of Real Live Books

When I was a kid, my Aunt Roy (the woman who used a man’s name instead of her own so that potential clients wouldn’t discount her business savvy) gave us gifts galore from the time we were babes. The best among these were books.She loved books and was determined to pass that love along.

The books she gave us were Real Books. Hardcover. Paper. Beautifully illustrated. Finely bound. I remember how it felt to open the covers, to turn the pages. I recall how they smelled and felt, the sound they made. It was an adventure I couldn’t resist. It opened the door to other Lives. Possibilities. Selves. Magic. Worlds!

My Brain Says Yes – But My Heart Says No

Today’s books come in different forms. Many of these electronic. No paper involved. Look, I get it. Less trees cut down. More ways to publish. Easier access. You can read them on your iPhone. Your iPad. Your kindle. Your Nook. That’s good, right? Maybe. Maybe not. My brain says yes.But my heart says No.

I can’t begin to imagine swiping at the screen of my kindle as I read my child a bedtime story. Even the word “swipe” seems  wrong. Harsh and mean spirited. No match for turn. Could there have ever been a lyric “Swipe, swipe, swipe,” as there was a “Turn, turn, turn?”

Paper Does It Better

As for  paperless libraries, so strange and mishapen is the concept, that it echoes with strains of Rosemary’s Baby. The library of my youth was on Woodycrest Avenue, where it came together with Shakespeare, across from Nelson in the Bronx: we were a bit low on money but we were rich in neighborhood references to the greats. Light streamed through the multpaned windows. The smell was of books, books books. Glue, paper, wood tables and floors. I was enfolded by the silence, but for the whisper of pages being turned.

Would I like to return to then and there from here and now? At moments, yes. But I admit to loving my iPad too much to let it go. It turns work into play. So Instead, I settle for imaginal visits and dreams, and talking with old friends who remember it as well as I do.

What it comes down to for me is Paper does it better.
Kindle is a convenience. Paper is an experience. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Not for anything at all!

The following image may bring you back, or forward, as the case may be:

                      The Book Reader

Close your eyes and imagine a book. A book you’re holding in your hands,that suddenly grows as large as a house. Go inside this book and become part of it, making the story and adventure your own. Feel the feelings. Smell the smells, taste the tastes, hear the sounds, and embrace the vision. Notice what happens and how you feel. Then open your eyes and return, knowing you can do this again at any time you choose.




The Trouble With Garbage

My new home is in a low-rise rental building, barely a year old. It boasts a courtyard, a gym, a pool, fountains, and a lobby with a social area that includes a fireplace. The front faces downtown Silver Spring, with Movie theaters. Restaurants. Shops. Public spaces. Whole Foods a block away. Civilly suburban. The back faces private homes. Clean. Green. Mostly quiet.Tall trees. Blue sky. A nice contrast, a peaceful haven. My deliverance from the difficulties of New York. Or so I thought.

My old home in Manhattan is two-faced as well. One side faces town. Brick low rises. Modern high rises. Dense living spaces. Lots of doormen. Traffic galore. And ample noise. The other faces the River. Carl Schurz Park. Boats on their way from here to there. Cool and breezy in Summer. Freezing in winter. It has its advantages. For 18 years I called it home.

Different yet similar — Their chief common denominator is garbage.

In the midst of my former stomping ground, they (the city, it’s politicians, the garbage Mafia, etc) are building a 10 story Marine Transfer Station, aka a garbage dump, smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood and a community sports facility, right next to the park. Once completed,  500 garbage trucks, will line up, day and night, to do their thing. The new pseudo-liberal mayor, the city council, the state reps, the congress people, senators, etc., are mostly on board. Garbage, it turns out, is good for the neighborhood. It’s hopeless to fight City Hall on this one. It’s going forward despite Sully Sullenberger’s warning that it’s a really bad idea. That it’s right there in the La Guardia flight path, and will inevitably draw large populations of birds that may, indeed, clog the engines of these planes, as they did his own in 2009. But these pilots probably won’t be as adept at landing on the East River as Sully was on the Hudson.

Where I live now, the garbage issue is different. The dump is inside not outside. Less dramatic, but up close and personal. Last week I washed the floor of the recycling room at midnight, where for reasons I can only guess at: laziness, entitlement, incivility, ignorance, stupidity, short-sightedness, whatever, the floor was covered with a gooey liquid waste. The tenants here practice garbage control like some people practice birth control. Haphazardly, and ineffectively, hoping for the best. This means using the chute for whatever fits easily, or isn’t too heavy to lift, while leaving the rest in open bags on the floor like huddled masses yearning for social redemption by wiser, kinder tenants, and a more alert management team.

Much of my social life here is generated by the people I meet in front of the trash room, most of us stunned and saddened by what we see, though no one else I know of has taken to Swiffering the floor at night. If things get worse perhaps they will.

Yesterday I spoke with a woman in the leasing office. She agrees this is awful. But solutions are hard to come by. Perhaps, only the negative will turn things positive. I.E., Once the bugs and vermin arrive people will become more amenable to better behavior. To closing their bags and throwing them down the chute instead of dumping them on the floor. To getting beyond their selfish gene. Maybe! God willing. If we’re lucky!

In my old building in New York it was easier to deal. With only six apartments on a floor the situation was contained, but the attitude was the same. While we were in the midst of  a severe rodent infestation, I mentioned to the board president that it might serve us and the building well, to double-bag our garbage.  ”What?” he said. “You want me to gift wrap my garbage?” There is no answer to such, um, well, to such Garbage. Best to elect someone else, which we did. But how do we screen new tenants regarding cleanliness, caring, team effort, and community values? And how do we get those already here to join in the effort when all management cares about is whether you’re paying the rent.

We will soon find out. Till then, I’ll keep my mop at the ready. Perhaps we can form a neighborhood watch. And once we catch the dirty rats that are doing this, the rest, as they say, will be history.

But wait! There’s light on the horizon. Yesterday, when I threw out my trash at 1A.M, the floor was clear, the bins were closed, there was no sticky stuff for me to mop up. Perhaps our letter writing campaign has taken hold. Either that or the Garbage Fairy waved her magic wand while no one was looking..I’m not picky. I’ll take either one.




I never applaud at the end of a movie.  It seems ridiculous, even stupid.  But last Sunday, when I saw Jon Favreau’s “Chef,” I broke my own rule, got down, got stupid, and clapped my head off, then danced my way through the streets to Cubanos, a restaurant that’s a ten minute walk from the Majestic Movie theater in Silver Spring, Maryland, my new home. I needed to keep the spirit going. To stay in the groove. To bask in the glow of this delightful film.

Some things can’t be explained. This is one of them. I’ve seen better movies. But none that made me feel this good. And that counts for a lot.

If you like great music. If you’d like to see a kid actor you could swear isn’t acting. If you like cooking, eating, dancing, New Orleans, road movies, cool restaurants, food trucks, nasty critics, crazy chefs, buddy love, Scarlett Johanson, Robert Downey Jr., Oliver Platt, Sophia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, and Latin-American culture, go see this movie now.

It’s a summer movie. It gets you out there. At Cubanos I ordered a Mojito. I had never tasted a Mojito. It’s a dangerous drink. I thought it would be like a Margarita. It’s not. I was looped after one sip. I was hugely happy after two. I was speaking Spanish after my third, and one of my table mates thought I actually WAS speaking Spanish. HA!

It might be time to learn. Not just to mimic the tone, the rhythm, the accent, but to speak the words and know their meaning. It’s got something English lacks. Its got spice and heart and music.  I  want that, even now.

It’s what “Chef” has too. It’s “Life Lite. Who couldn’t use more of that?