Not at ALL What You Thought

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ghost Rider Commitment Opportunity

Last weekend, my girlfriend was out of town on business, or pleasure, I forget, so I ran off with her husband –---to see the Ghost Rider movie. (We took our respective kids.) Girlfriend’s Husband and I had been looking forward to this movie since it came out, but Girlfriend wasn’t at all interested in seeing it. And nobody, but nobody, makes Girlfriend do what she isn’t at all interested in doing. Especially if it’s just goin to a movie. From her point of view, life’s just too short.

And she is my best girlfriend, excepting my sister, so it surprised me that we didn’t see eye to eye on this movie. We see eye to eye on nea’bout everything else: politics, religion, literature. . . .For example, when LOTR hit the theatres, our families hit the theatres, too, bought the vidjos and watched them over and over again, analyzing every symbol, deconstructing the grave critiques of literal-minded Tolkien groupies, and, incidentally, lusting after Orlando Bloom’s Legolas. When The Return of the King was on its way to us, we planned a LOTR party, so as to refresh our memories with the first two movies just before hittin the theatre again.

God, we were the blackest LOTR geeks I knew. And we didn’t care.

But Girlfriend was right when, at the beginning of our relationship, she termed me a member of her husband’s “July Babies” club. We were born in the same month, and, as Girlfriend had suspected in the beginning, we had similar tastes in foolishness. Just a sad thing when said foolishness is scrutinized (I mean, if you can bring yourself to believe it, it looks even more foolish under scrutiny), but there it is. For example, I think all of us were waiting through the trailers before one of the LOTRs showed up on the screen when the Transporter 2 trailer showed up. Girlfriend’s Husband leaned across Girlfriend and looked at me. I leaned across Girlfriend and looked at him.*

“You see the first one?” he asked.
“Aw, yeah,” I replied. “Sweeeet fight scenes.”

The commitment to Transporter 2 was established, albeit to separate viewing and the vidjo version. (Life, after all, is too short, and money too important, by the way, to spend on Transporter 2 in the theatre.)

Way, way, way more important than my newish “July Baby” membership is a Thing I have for Nick Cage. He’s not a BABE or even a great actor, but I just love him. I can't explain why. I just do. Loved him nonstop since Raising Arizona. Been watching Raising Arizona, on the regular, in fact, since the thang came out on vidjo, and then forced my kids to watch it (and, as a result, Goobs is intermittently addicted to it**). Forced myself to watch National Treasure, too, but was, ultimately, glad of it, because I’m an extremely loyal person. Even so, when I saw the trailer for Ghost Rider, I was a little surprised. Now, Girlfriend’s Husband is the comic-book nut, and knew the Ghost Rider story, so I felt justified in my surprise when it was clear that he shared that surprise about casting. Regardless, though, we were committed to seeing this movie. The trailers hinted at way cool special effects, Nick Cage seemed as loopy playing Johnny Blaze as he’d been playin H. I. McDonough, and . . .well, it was the next thingy in our comic-book-to-movie collection. We had to see it. And at the theatre. This wasn’t one of those flimsy Transporter 2 commitments you hear tell about.

Problem was, every time I mentioned Ghost Rider to my friends, Girlfriend would sigh and roll her eyes. She was clearly not committed. And I had known and loved this couple long enough to know that if Girlfriend dug in her heels, Girlfriend’s Husband was not interested in changing her mind. That’s just not the way they relate to each other. Which is prolly one of the reasons why their relationship works. But then Girlfriend went away to New York. And got snowed in.

This was the Ghost Rider Commitment Opportunity.

Girlfriend’s Husband made a coupla thousand calls to New York***, we snatched up our kids and, placing them around us in really good stadium seating, we saw the movie. Nick Cage had new hair (has had new hair since Nat’l Treasure, in fact) and looked only about twice Eva Mendes’ age, but, overall, I was pleased. The story was new to me as a non-comic-book reader, but archetypal (one of those soul-sellin dealies), so also comfortably familiar. Cage was weird and wonderful and hilarious. The special effects delighted and scared me. (Y’all know I’m a wuss where the cinematic depiction of True Evil is concerned, and the folk sittin at the PCs during the making of this movie really had Chops. And I ain’t mad at ‘em. I mean, think about it: if you must have Lucifer and a few of his minions in a story, don’t you want them to be all you imagined them to be?) Sam Elliot was just a transcendent BABE, as per usual. And the Good Guy triumphed in the end.

I did have some issues about the movie, though. For one thing, the ending was just silly and overwritten. Girlfriend’s Husband and I listened to the final speech Johnny Blaze makes to Lucifer, and I whispered, “That makes no sense.” Girlfriend’s Husband whispered back, “Naw. That’s deep!” and then, after a beat, we both fell out laughing.

Listen. You do not want to sit in the row in front of us, any combination of us, at a movie theatre.

*This exchange, by the way, just this minute reminded me of the several and various exchanges between girlfriend and me, later on, every time Legolas showed his uh. . . .chops.

** I’m a Bad Mother.

***Actually, this fact has nothing whatsoever to do with the logistics of watching a movie with the girlfriend of one's wife. Nothing to do with movies, at all, unless one needs material for a True Romance.

Dear Brother Jesus, I thank You for properly supervised fun with friends and family.

Two Games

Two Saturdays ago, I got to see two basketball games –FREE. Of course, one involved Auntie’s First Nepphie’s team, and the other involved Goobs and Juice’s team.

Basketball has always fascinated me. Or, rather, basketball players --but only since little family members’ve started playing. Professional basketball, because I’ve seen (snatches of) it on TV, the world of fantasy, doesn’t enthrall me the way watching kids I know reach out and grab that brown sphere from the air. And (since I’ve been watching little family members play) it’s not just those kids. Those middle-aged referees glance over at the ball for a nano-second, and then the old hands, seemingly of their own volition, find and palm that thang and throw it at some kid, whose hands can do likewise. You know, in most contexts, it’s considered cruelty to throw things at kids, but here, apparently, it’s some kind of art.

It’s called hand-eye coordination, and it’s a foreign concept to me. In fact, the only coordination that I’m the slightest bit familiar with is ball-head coordination. Until fairly recently, any ball in the vicinity was magnetically attracted to the lump a coupla feet above my butt.

Back to the games. In the organization for which AFN played, the boys wore expensive shoes, matching uniforms, prescription goggles and mouth guards. The boys played in a spacious, spotless community gymnasium. AFN’s team was extremely skillful, especially AFN, who always knew where the ball was and what to do with it. What impressed me more than that, however, was his new skill: working the team. He wasn’t as focused on Taking the Ball to the Hole as he had been the last time I saw him play. I was so proud of the way he passed that ball to other players, guarded his man and quickly advised members of his team during the smallest of breaks between skirmishes.

But even AFN wasn’t as entertaining to watch as one of his teammates, whom I’ll call Spud2. That child. He was about three feet tall, but instead of seeming to worry about being taller, Spud2 brilliantly used his lack of stature to score points. Instead of trying to throw over the heads of the taller boys guarding him, he dove down and dribbled under their arms. He passed between the legs of his opponents. Once, when he was knocked down, he still managed to sink the ball. He was a Bad Man of twelve (and I told him so after the game).

I would’ve enjoyed the game more, though, but for the behavior of some folk. One guy did some extra-loud coaching throughout the game. Somebody else, upon hearing a comment from a stranger, rose from the bench and seemed about to physically harm said stranger, but a couple of men held her back (with quite some difficulty). There was cursing and insult-throwing, second-guessing of referees’ rulings.

All from the parents, you know. The kids (with one notable, foul-crazy exception) were great sports. They grinned and helped each other up off the floor, whatever the jersey's color, and never complained about what the refs said. They just kept playing the best game they could. And, most importantly, AFN’s team won big.

The second game was held at a cramped court in a Baptist church. Team members wore white tees and various-colored shorts. Their coaches brought pullover jerseys and distributed them to whatever players happened to show up. Once everyone had suited and warmed up, all the players got into a circle and prayed while spectators kept silence. The teams of the organization Juice and Goobs played for were co-ed, and some of the sneakers the kids wore were raggedy. (In fact, Goobs keeps a pair of raggedy kicks just to play in. Her “formal” pair is for church.) These kids also had that hand-eye stuff, and they were also ingenious with what folk used to call “mad skills” and common courtesy.

But the parents encouraged all the players, laughing at mistakes (as the players did) and cheering every basket made. We nudged each other and made fun of our kids, regardless of the jersey's color. The kids, of course, were great sports, and when Juice and Goobs’ team lost, they shook hands all around, prayed and ran off the court, grinning, to Capri Suns and proud parents.

I pondered the dissimilarity in atmosphere between these two games. Why were the parents in the first game so ugly to each other, such bad examples for their children? Why were the parents in the second game so accommodating and easy-going? Was it the religious trappings in the second game that made the difference? When I was at the community center, before I went to the church game, I thought so. But later, when I watched the game at the church, I realized: the players at the church, all the teams, were black. At the first game, AFN’s team members, all but two, were black. And there were only white players on the opposing team. A racial rivalry in the air of the first game seemed to be expressed in the animosity among the adult spectators. The woman who had to be held back from throttling the stranger? At the end of the game, she said, with relish, “White people hate to lose to black people!” The folk with her murmured in agreement.

Personally, I don’t believe she was right. But she –and many of the people around her—believed she was, and I believe that made the difference among the grownups.

Fortunately, our children didn't seem to be affected by that difference.

Dear Jesus, brother, teach us adults to become as little children. Soon.