Saturday Morning Chaos -- 02/5/00
Movie Rentals:
  • Notting Hill - yeah, okay, so it's a chick flick, but so what... it's a perfectly reasonable Friday night kick back and relax kind of movie. I will admit that this is a case where the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts; there are many individual scenes that are interesting or amusing but the film as a whole fell somewhat flat for me (and Nancy agrees). It may simply be that the basic premise -- a love affair between a super successful American movie star and a nerdy British bookstore proprietor -- is just too far-fetched for complete suspension of disbelief or it may be that there just did not seem to be any real chemistry between Roberts and Grant. I tended to find that scenes that involved the odd-ball supporting characters much more interesting than those with only the stars. There was, however, one absolutely marvelous scene for Grant, although it is really more of a demonstration of the magical powers of modern digital technology. Roberts and Grant have parted and she is away from England for many months; this is where once-upon-a-time we might have been treated to a view of pages being ripped from a calendar. Instead we watch Grant walking through Portobello Road through Notting Hill, walking past the throngs of street merchants and pushcarts and all the various storefronts. It begins to rain and he turns up the collar of his sports jacket, the rain stops but the weather is obviously colder, people are wearing heavier clothing (and we need to note one very preganant woman he passes), and it begins to snow, and he continues walking through the snow-covered street with Christmas decorations in the shop windows, and then it is sunnier and the snow is gone, and the people on the street are no longer wearing winter coats, and then they are dressed for summer weather (and we see a woman with her baby) and Grant finally reaches his shop. A delightful two minutes or so... In fact, I would classify this as one of those scenes that is worth the price of admission (uh, in this case, a $3.50 rental fee). There are some other nice scenes and I think it is worth watching, but certainly not a top ten of the year movie.
  • Slamnation - I rented it and watched the first ten or fifteen minutes or so Friday night (after watching Notting Hill but then had to drive to the high school to pick up Sean when the bus got back from the tournament. When I got back home I surfed the web for a while, catching up on some journals I had not had time to read during the week. Today is disappearing and I don't know if I will have time tonight. It's due at the video store by six p.m. Sunday. It is a documentary about the national Poetry Slam contests, where teams of poets compete in declaiming poetry before a live audience, with scoring by a panel of judges. I found the little bit I watched to be interesting. It had lots of cutting back and forth between snippets of contests and interviews with various participants and organizers. I hope that will stop and they will actually show a significant chunk of competition without the jumping back and forth.
I've probably mentioned somewhere or other on these pages that Sean, my 14-yr-old high school freshman son, has joined the school wrestling team. He is a big kid, almost as tall as I am and a lot beefier, built like a football player. As recently as three or four days ago he could easily have passed himself off as a college student... and then he shaved off his beard (yeah, he had a full beard, and I mean full and thick)... and suddenly he looked like a high school kid... it seems Coach doesn't approve of beards on his wrestlers, wants them to look cleancut and clean-shaven... and then Friday after school he got his hair cut in a sort of Marine Corps shaved sides buzz cut (I specified Marine Corps because it gives Sean something of a resemblance to my youngest brother-in-law, an officer in the Marines.) Could barely recognize him! The reason for this change in appearance was the State Tournament...

Sean got to wrestle Friday night in the freshman 215 pound class and he won! He was very excited when he got home from the tournament. Although he had been rather noncommital in the past about whether or not he wanted any parental attendance at his meets, he was now extremely excited and wanted Nancy and me to be there today when the tournament continued and he would get to wrestle again at least once (and, if he were to win that match, he would then wrestle again later in the morning... apparently only eight schools had freshman wrestlers in the 215 pound class). He would have to be at the high school at 9:00 am to take the team bus or we could drive him in order to be at the tournament by 10:00 a.m.

I had assumed that I would be dropping him off at the school to catch the bus and then Nancy and I would drive up to Cumberland a bit later without worries about a deadline as long as we got there in time to see his match, but he wanted to ride up with us. I had never been to Cumberland (Rhode Island may be a small state, but even so...) before and wasn't even sure quite where it was other than up there around Providence somewhere... so I went online an printed off a map and directions... hmmm, further than I had thought, take I95 towards Providence and then take I295 around north of Providence, almost to Woonsocket... gee, this looks as if it will be tight for time, tough to get there by ten, but I also can't quite see how a school bus could make the trip there in less than an hour (given that they aren't likely to leave exactly at nine, etc. and only some of the trip would be highway driving, some of it would be through town with traffic lights, etc.) but off we go, not getting started until quarter past nine... but by keeping well above the speed limit on 95 and 295 I was able to reach the Cumberland exit just about at ten a.m. and it was only a couple more miles to the high school.

There were a number of cars parked in front of the school... but the school buses would probably be in the back... so found our way around to the back of the school... big empty parking lot, no school buses, no school bus tire tracks in the light coat of undisturbed snow on the parking lot... back to the front... all the doors are locked... I finally find an open door and discover a swim meet in the school pool... nobody knows anything about a wrestling tournament. Maybe it was it their middle school? Sean is insistent that the gym they were in the night before was decoranted with many banners and flags proclaiming various Cumberland High School athletic victories, couldn't have been a middle school.

Have to avoid panic. It is now 10:15. Where can this freakin' wrestling tournament be? He is sure it was going to be in the same place it was last night. Okay, down the road, ah, there's a bank, dash inside and ask the tellers: does anyone know of another school gym in town or something like that where they might be holding a wrestling tournament? They tell me where the middle school is... but as I leave the bank Nancy is coming in to tell me that Sean has just been thinking that maybe it was Cranston and not Cumberland!

Zoom! Back onto 295... heading for Cranston (even though Nancy has told me that she has to pee really really badly)... should I take the exit to route 37 or continue a couple miles further to 95 and take that to the Cranston exit (which is a route I have taken four or five times and know a little bit)... make a quit emergency pit stop at one of the shopping malls in Warwick and (now that Nancy is no longer threatening violence) back on the road... get into Cranston (which, although I know how to find, I don't really know my way around)... stop for directions... Excuse me, could you tell me how to find Cranston High School? Do you want East or West? Uh, east or west what? Cranston East High School or Cranston West High School? Whichever is closer to where we are now. (Hey, a 50-50 chance, right?)

The directions given to the closer of those schools didn't work out quite right (turns out their hand wave as to which way to go had been reversed) so I stopped at a service station to get better directions. As I was going back to my car the kid pumping gas asked why we were looking for the high school because maybe he could help figure out if we really wanted Cranston East or Cranston West... when I told him the state wrestling tournament he told me he had gone to a wrestling tournament last night but it hadn't been in Cranston... it had been in Coventry!

Coventry! Were we doomed to visit every town in Rhode Island that begins with the letter C? What about Carolina? Or Charlestown? Oh, yeah, they don't have their own high schools, they're part of the Chariho consolidated district... so I guess Coventry must be our last best hope...

Heading down I95 on our way to Coventry... it is now well after eleven a.m.... and Sean decides that there is no reason to show up at this point -- he will already have forfeited his match and maybe it would be better to wait until Monday to face Coach. So we head for home.

Reach home shortly before noon after having driven more than 110 miles and accomplishing nothing... Sean is extremely upset. He had been very nervous and excited about his match on the way to Coventry but ever since determining that we were in the wrong town he has been thoroughly obnoxious, angry and upset and snapping at everyone (everyone meaning Nancy and me)... Nancy is quite pissed off at him about his attitude... she understands how disappointed and upset he is and that his obnoxiousness is because he is so angry at himself... but she is still pissed at his rudeness and is not speaking to him long before we arrive home. Later she marvels at how I was able to keep cool and calm. I will admit that there was a time when I would have become quite upset and angry and cranky but somehow I have learned to relax and chill out. I'm not saying that I never get upset, but that I have learned to say okay, this situation is screwed up, so given that it is, what can I do to fix it or at least to cope with it. I think that after life has given you a certain number of hits, you either become an angry person or you learn to roll with the punches and concentrate on savoring the good times. (Okay, end of philosophical pronouncement.)

I had planned on going for a run in the afternoon sunshine but I spent much of my time in the basement instead. We ate lunch when we got home and then Jennifer asked me if I wanted to work on the bookcase we had been building. We had started this project last weekend and had gotten the various pieces of wood cut to size and had planned on working on it this morning until the wrestling roadtrip had intervened. So she and I had a good time together working on this bookcase. Neither of us are carpenters and the finshed product will just be a bookcase for the basement, not for the living room or the den... but it was a very pleasant way to be together. We had to stop work when I realized that I needed to make a salad to bring to my mother-in-law's for dinner tonight. (We usually get together there for Sunday dinner with Nancy's sister and her family who live on the same street as their mom, but this weekend another sister and her husband and child were in town today.) Maybe we can finish the bookcase on Sunday.
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