BONNIE AND GIBBS AT PETSMART

We had to take the dogs and go somewhere for a couple of hours this afternoon. The exterminators were exterminating and all life forms with four or fewer feet had to leave. And stay gone for at least two hours. It has been beautiful for the last week, but today, it rained. So there would be no long walks by the river. Instead, we took the Scotties on their first joint excursion to PetSmart. Bonnie has been there before, but it was a long time ago and she has forgotten. Gibbs … well … his life has been rather limited. Everything for him is a first.

Neither dog is properly leash broken. Our bad. Rather than wrestle with them as we walked through the aisles, we put each dog in a trolley and pushed them around. Bonnie whimpered every time we passed another dog.

I could hear their mental conversation.

“Hey, Gibbs!”

“Yo, Bonnie!”

“What is this place? Why are we here? What are they doing to us? Is this going to hurt?”

“I smell DOGS. I think I smell cats, too.”

“Gibbs! I’m pretty sure I smell birds. Birds! Maybe we should bark. You wanna bark?”

“Naw, Bonnie. I’m going to hunker down and worry.”

“I guess I should worry too. Woe! They’re putting us back into the car … and nothing happened. We’re driving again. Is there going to be soap?”

“They might try to look at my ears. I don’t like it when they look in my ears.”

“I’m scared, Gibbs.”

“Me too Bonnie. Let’s crouch in the back here until we find out what’s going on.”

Then, we stopped at the supermarket. While Garry and the two dogs waited in the car, I went inside. And bought things. I came out, opened the hatch. Put stuff in the car. The dogs looked at me, fear and concern wrinkling their little brows. I patted them, then closed the gate.

“Bonnie!”

“Yeah, Gibbs.”

“Nothing has happened yet. Now I’m really scared.”

“Me too, Gibbs.”

We drove home. Walked them to the gate. Put them in the yard and closed the gate. They sat on the front step, too perturbed to go inside. What did this mean? What was happening?

They are still waiting. Luckily by tomorrow, the terribleness will have passed and been forgotten.

THE UNUSUAL WAY MY MOM MET HER HUSBANDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother had two husbands, both of whom she adored. She was also widowed twice – once at the age of 29 and once at the age of 64.

Both her husbands were doctors. Both her husbands were much older than she was; 15 years and 26 years her senior (my Dad). Both were named Abraham, although my Dad later referred to himself as Abram. Her father’s name was also Abraham. Have a Freudian field day with that one!

She also met both doctors in similar ways – by going to them for help dealing with a serious illness.

When Mom was in college at the University of Wisconsin in the 1930’s, she took a commonly used, over the counter drug to help her stay awake and cram for exams and papers. Years later the drug was banned because it was discovered that it killed off white blood cells, eventually, killing the drug user. So Mom started to get sick.

The school doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Finally someone called my grandmother and told her to come and get my Mom so she could die at home in New York City! So Grandma brought her home and started looking for a doctor who could save her. Enter a brilliant young doctor named Abraham O. Tumen. He became known as A.O. so that’s what I’ll call him.

Mom and A.O.

A.O. came up with a risky but creative treatment plan. Since Mom’s white blood cells were being destroyed, he reasoned that to save her, he had to get her white cells to start reproducing again. He thought he could do that by giving her an infection, like Typhoid Fever. Theoretically, that would stimulate her immune system to fight off the infection. It could kill her, but she was dying anyway. This might give her body a chance to fight back.

A.O. claimed that the minute he saw my beautiful mother sitting in bed, in long braids, he thought “I have to save this woman because I’m going to marry her!”

The family put it’s faith in A.O. and he gave Mom Typhoid Fever! Mom remembered being deathly sick with a very high fever. But she also remembered gradually getting stronger and recovering. It was almost a year before Mom could leave the house and start her life again.

During that year as an invalid, A.O. spent a lot of time with her. She just thought he was being a conscientious doctor. After all, she was only 19 and he was 34! Finally one day, A.O. told her he had two tickets to a concert and asked her if she wanted to go. She assumed he was offering the tickets to her. She didn’t realize that he was asking her out. So she happily took the tickets for herself and a male friend! The next time, A.O. made sure she understood that he was asking her to go out with HIM.

 They were married for nine years before A.O. died in her arms from a massive heart attack at the age of 43. It was Valentine’s day. Mom got his humorous Valentine’s Day card in the mail later that morning. She kept it the rest of her life and I still have it!

How Mom met my Dad is an even stranger story. While married to A.O., my mother suffered from blinding, debilitating migraine headaches. A.O. had heard about a new field called psychiatry that was making headway in treating migraines. So he contacted a prominent New York City practitioner named Abram Kardiner, my father. Mom started to see him as her therapist. He succeeded in curing her migraines and he eventually dismissed her as his patient.

A.O. with my Dad

Somehow, during the analysis, Dad had met A.O. and they had hit it off. So after Dad stopped being Mom’s therapist, he became Mom and A.O.’s single friend. They became so close that Dad invited Mom and A.O to spend weekends with him and his then girlfriend at his country home in Easton, CT. This means that Mom spent time with her first husband, in the house that would become her summer home with her second husband! Strange?

Dad was the first person Mom called when A.O. had his heart attack. Since Dad was a doctor, she called him even before she called her parents. He was with her when A.O. was declared dead.

Mom and Dad dated for three years before they married and had me. Dad was 58 when he married her (his first marriage) and 59 when I was born. Perhaps their shared love of A.O. contributed to making their marriage so special and so successful for the next 32 years. Dad’s relationship with Mom’s first husband didn’t seem unusual to me until I was a young adult. But then again, the unique way my Mom met her husbands didn’t seem unusual to me until then either.

THINGS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

I read a post about health care in which the entire comment column was made up of people fighting tooth and nail to get rid of health care. Most of the writers were obviously not well-educated people. That’s another way of my saying I don’t think I’ve ever seen such awful language pretending to be English. I’m not talking about typos. These are people who are, at best, barely literate.

And all of them, deeply and powerfully full of hate.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

They were frothing at the mouth with fury at the Democrat’s attempt to keep health care available to everyone. The very idea that this ought to be a battle about serving the health needs of the American people … and not about offering bigger tax cuts for people who already have more money than all the people I know — collectively.

They were furious. Enraged. Spewing violence and filth and hatred. To get rid of health care.

I did not get involved in this “conversation.” It was more an abscess than a conversation, a deep infection which will probably cause someone’s jaw to fall off.  Eventually. There would have been no point. These are not people who are listening to anyone but themselves. They have made up their minds — years ago I think — and do not wish to be confused with facts contrary to their preconceptions.

Aldrich Street as the sun sets

Imagine, for a moment, how much good these same people could do if they were fighting for something worth fighting for? If they were fighting tooth, nail, fang, and claw to keep the water clean. To stop air pollution. To keep developers from flattening every last tree and paving over anything alive and growing. Imagine, if you will, that all of these angry people could be persuaded to care about things that will matter not only to politicians, but to their grandchildren and the children who come after that.

Imagine the power we would have if we could stop hating and start caring.

Imagine.

I WAS BROUGHT UP ON A LIE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother was very clear about the kind of person she wanted me to grow up to be. She wanted me to have all the ‘good’ qualities she felt she possessed. The list is long.

I was to be kind, caring, considerate and giving; compassionate, empathetic and loyal; a good listener and good friend; sensitive to the needs of others, ‘there’ for family and friends and generous with affection, praise and support of any kind. Also honest, trustworthy, down to earth and non-judgmental.

Quite a tall order. But my mother believed she had all those traits so why couldn’t I have them too? A noble goal in life. This is the description of a wonderful person, the person I have always tried to be.

My mother often told me that she would always love me, but she would only want me as a friend as well if I became “her kind of person”. That put fear in my very soul. I wanted nothing more than the love and approbation from and lifelong friendship with this amazing person.

It wasn’t until my late 40’s that I fully realized the sham I had grown up with. My mom was a narcissist, possibly with borderline personality issues. As with most narcissists, she got worse as she got older. She ended up being self-absorbed, controlling and selfish. Everything had to revolve around her but everyone had to think that she was the virtuous person I described above. Her primary goal in relationships, including with me, was self promotion.

Mom gave endless advice to friends (she was a psychologist) but never talked about her own problems because she didn’t want people to know she had any. She was judgmental about everyone and everything but herself. Her life had to be perfect. She had to be perfect. I had to be perfect since I was a reflection of her. (She used to say that I was a clone of her and I was thrilled!)

When it came down to it, she gave very little to anyone that wasn’t comfortable, convenient and self-serving. Here is a graphic example. When I was 40, I had a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old. I needed her help to leave an abusive, bi-polar husband, who was also abusive to the children. Mom had repeatedly encouraged me to leave and had said that she would do anything to help get me out of my destructive marriage. When the time came, she refused to help me. She said she couldn’t help financially because it would put a strain on her cash flow. Alternatively, she couldn’t let me and the kids live with her in her SUMMER HOUSE in CT. because it would inconvenience her cook (we would be using the kitchen) and cramp her social life (we would be using her guest rooms).

She expected me to accept these as totally valid reasons for her ‘inability’ to help me. I stayed with my ex for another eight years.

The literature on narcissism says that most children of narcissists either become narcissists or become subservient enablers to narcissists. I didn’t realize it but I was groomed to be the perfect narcissist’s side kick — in my mom’s shadow and at her service. I became a satellite. A small planet revolving around her sun. Unsurprisingly, my first husband, though bi-polar, was also a narcissist. For 25 years, my mother and husband fought with each other — constantly — over who would control me and get my ultimate loyalty and devotion. Each devoted themselves to trying to get me to push the other out of my life. I was a human wish bone.

The silver lining in all this is that I became the ‘good’ person I was brought up to believe my mother was. On the down side, I’ve had to learn to be less selfless and stand up for myself. I’ve had to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. I’m just learning how to be there for other people while staying true to myself as well.

I can be proud of who I turned out to be, so I guess that’s my happy ending. I just have to learn to forgive my Mother for not being the person she claimed to be and who I grew up admiring and emulating.

MOM WAS RIGHT

My mother was not a regular kind of mom. This confused me a lot while I was growing up. Other mothers made cookies, kissed boo-boos. Hung out with the other mothers in summertime. Swapped recipes. Watched soap operas.

July 1963

My mother didn’t bake anything, much less cookies. She was a terrible cook because she hated it. She was an unenthusiastic housekeeper and the whole “huggy kissy” mothering thing eluded her. She didn’t watch soap operas, loved the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. She never graduated high school She read voraciously and constantly. Especially about science and space. She was fascinated by quarks, black holes, and antimatter.

She never kissed a boo-boo; I don’t remember her kissing me at all. She wasn’t that kind of mom.

Mom-May1944

She had no interest in gossip, recipes, or cute stories about anyone’s kids. She wanted to talk about politics or the space program and which nations were so hopeless they needed a complete redo, from scorched earth up (she had a list). I think if she were still alive, she’d probably add the U.S. to her list.

She enjoyed talking to me about being young when FDR became president. How, when the National Recovery Act was passed, there was a spontaneous parade in New York that lasted 24 hours. Ticker tape and all. How the government had surplus crops during the worst years of the depression, and government agents took the extra food, dumped it in vacant lots and put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving.

I thought she was just paranoid, but recent events have made me change that opinion.

She didn’t trust government, was sure they were spying on us. Positive J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us. He had a long list — and we were on it. She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yuk) and natural medicine when no one seemed to have heard of it. She wanted all religion out of schools and government.

She was in favor of the death penalty. She felt there were people who should be taken out and shot. No long terms in prison (too expensive). No decades of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain and justice would be served.

That was my mom.

She gave me Knut Hamsen to read and a grand piano for my 14th birthday as well as appropriately anatomical books about sex. She figured I needed accurate information so I could make informed decisions.

She hummed most of the time, sang the rest of the time. She got the words wrong all the time. She read me poetry when I was small and treated me like an adult. She was a grimly determined atheist and would eagerly debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express them. But she made sure my brother had his Bar Mitzvah and never ate pork. Tradition.

She was the most cynical person I’ve known. I was always sure she was wrong, that people were better than that. I can’t even imagine what she would say about the way the world is turning out. I expect she would feel vindicated because on some level, this is exactly what she expected. She did not believe in the goodness of human beings or that god would step in to rescue us. With all my heart, I wanted her to be wrong.

So here I am. Nearly as old as my mother was when she left this earth. I think my mother would like this version of me. I think she always liked me, possibly more than I liked myself. It just took me a long time to “get” her.

I’m very glad she isn’t here to see how the world has changed.

OLD NUMBER TWO – THE FIRE ENGINE WHO COULD AND DID!

PHOTOS OF OLD NUMBER TWO – THE FIRE ENGINE THAT COULD AND DID! 

Photos by Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

Number Two started life in Milton and has moved around some. It finally, when it no long was able to do its job as a fire truck, came to rest in a field in Uxbridge, across the road from the post office. It just sat there, by the road. Every now and then, I’d stop by and take pictures of it and feel a bit sadder as it got older, more rusted, and started on what could only be a long road to the crusher.

FROM 2012 THROUGH 2016

One day, it disappeared. I was glad I’d taken so many pictures.

old number 2 fire engine

Old Number Two in the snow

I knew it is an inanimate object. Just an old truck. Metal and glass and rubber. An engine that ceased running years ago. A fire truck whose time came and went. But these old vehicles worked hard and died in service. They are more than chunks of old metal. They are history. They’ve got soul.old number 2 fire engine truck

They are packed with memories. Fires, rescues. The history of all the places they worked.

OLD NUMBER TWO FIRE ENGINE

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because the countryside has many veteran trucks and other vehicles quietly rusting in fields, often keeping company with the growing corn and the grazing cows and sheep.

old number two fire engine wheel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We invest our things with personality. Maybe we can’t help it. We are alive and we share at least the sense of life with those things with which we share our world. Then, yesterday, I got this note in my “contact box.”


Hi Marilyn,

I hope this finds you well. I saw those fantastic photos you took of Old Number 2, the Fire truck. I just wanted to let you know that Old number 2 may be gone from where you took those photos, but it lives on. I saved it from the scrapper back in November, and it still resides in Uxbridge, in the north end. I figured you’d like to know, seeing how fondly you wrote about it. I’m glad to know someone else cares about the truck like I do. It makes my efforts in giving it a new life much more meaningful.

Before I found this contact box I had tried messaging you through Facebook, so if you’d like to get in touch with me you can through there, or through my email.

Thanks for all those great photos of the truck through the years. They give me a great reference to show me which parts it had but were stolen over time. It makes my job of bringing it back to its old glory much easier.

Thank you,

Erik 


So we had to go take pictures! There will be, I hope, many more to come. I hope we will see Number Two back on the road again … soon!

Still alive!

From the right side …

Photo: Garry Armstrong – From the right

Photo: Garry Armstrong – From the back

Long nose of the engine

Within lies the engine

There are a lot more pictures and many more to be taken. I’ll keep you  up to date. Now, if we could just rescue the old Unitarian church across from the Commons!

IT’S A SUNNY DAY AND WE’RE GOING TO ORDER A DOOR

The sun is shining and today is door shopping day!


It was pouring last night, but they promised a sunny day today and for once, they delivered. It’s bright and beautiful out there and in a few minutes, my son and I are hitting the road, hopefully to order a door for the house. I haven’t entirely worked out how I’ll pay for it, but since I absolutely need it, there’s no choice but to get a door.

Choices are:

Wood — No way! I don’t care how fancy it is or how much it costs. Wood rots fast in this climate and it would need replacing in just a couple of years.

Fiberglass — If affordable, they are strong, look for all practical purposes like wood and do not rot.  (Note: Not affordable! Not even close!)

Steel — Steel are now designed to look just like any other door, though they do not imitate wood to the degree that Fiberglass will. You can paint it, but you can’t stain it. Cheaper than Fiberglass. Much cheaper than wood. Very sturdy, but might rust or dent. Still, it’s significantly cheaper than Fiberglass and will probably be our best bet. The styles look just like any other door with sidelights. I am NOT sure how you put a doggy door in a steel door. That’s a bit worrisome.

This is it! Bought it. Delivery in a couple of weeks!

I like simple doors. A lot of them come with really fancy glass, but this is not a fancy house and all that etched glass and other designs would look (I think) out-of-place.

Now, I have to figure out what color I want. Would green clash? Some kind of blue with white trim?

THIS WHEEL GOES “ROUND AND ROUND”

The wheel of meanness, bad manners, incivility, and cruelty just keeps rolling. Here’s an example:


“If you don’t approve of my having my dog in my bed, too bad. The dog lives here and you don’t.”

On the surface, sounds okay to me. I’ve got dogs. Mostly, they do pretty much whatever they want. So as far as I’m concerned, she can sleep with her dogs. She can give them their own place at the dinner table. Her dogs. Whatever she wants to do with them, short of cruelty, is fine.

But … what’s the point of posting this? Are you intending to make anyone who doesn’t sleep with their dogs feel bad about it? Are you angry because your friends have criticized your sleeping with your dog(s)? Is this a big problem in your life? In which case, maybe you need more dog-sensitive friends?

Or are you trying to shame me (who you have never met) for not sleeping with my dogs?

The dogs favorite game is to stand on the top step as I slowly move on up the stairs. They think being above me is hilarious. Maybe it is.

We do not sleep with our dogs. We adore them. Play with them. Overfeed them, then feel guilty about it. Take the best care of them we can … but sorry, we are not sharing the bed.

Is this okay with you, whoever you may be? I mean … is it okay that I have enough trouble breathing without another hairy body or two in my bed? That my back is bad enough without trying to twist myself around two dogs?

Every time I bump into these “memes” on Facebook, I wonder if people understand how rude it is. Do the posters understand other lives may be different and questions like this — which remind me of the old classic, “Do you still beat your wife?” — are intended to make other people feel bad? That other people have their own issues and stuff like this sounds mean-spirited and petty?

The unpleasantness of social media is infecting our world. It’s like a disease and it seems to make many people think that however they feel, right this minute … they have the right (First amendment?) to blast it all over the Internet. My question is why so many people on social media are consistently bitchy to everyone? Not confining their ill-temper to the people at whom (presumably) it was really aimed, but targeting every person who directly or indirectly comes in contact with their timeline.

What’s with the constant snarky, nastiness? Is there something wrong with being nice to other people? Would a dollop of kindness and civility ruin someone’s day?

I’m weary of everyone accepting the overall meanness and unpleasantness as “normal” for this world. Just because you have a right to do it and can’t get locked up for doing it, doesn’t suggest it’s a good idea. It’s not a launch code to go bomb the world with your negativity.

Everyone has a right  to many things, but what’s your point? What are you trying to prove? To whom are you proving it? All I get from it is that you have bad manners. It doesn’t make you more free, brave, or independent. Just nasty.

What this makes you, is RUDE.

MONEY IS MORE PERSONAL THAN SEX

How many times have you heard someone say “It’s just money,” as if money is no more than a way to pay for “stuff” and has no other value to us. We all know it isn’t “just money.” It’s much more than that.

For all the horrible details of the latest disaster, please see SCAMMED AGAIN.

A long time ago — back in 1972 — I had a friend who was earning almost nothing. Everything cost much less back then, but poverty is poverty, whatever the decade. I remember him saying “Self-respect begins at $150 a week.” Self-respect costs much more in 2017. As for us, what we have is what we get from social security plus a minuscule pension. There won’t be more. Never. No raises. Ever. We are poor and we will get poorer.

I have learned to cope with poverty. I count pennies. I buy the least expensive thing I can that might accomplish my purpose — which, I might add, is exactly how I wound up in this current mess. I try not to think what our income will look like in another ten years. It barely covers life now. I shudder to imagine what life will be like in 2027.

Maybe I won’t be here. Right now, that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Home again

So, in addition to my anger at being scammed, there is shame and pain. The embarrassment of realizing that — again — I am a moron. To say I feel like a fool doesn’t begin to cover it. To put this in perspective, most people will happily give you full details of their sex life before they will tell you how much money is in their paycheck.


Sex is personal. Money is more personal.

Money is intimate. It gives us status in society. It sets our “cultural” level. Money is rank. Money gives us power to make choices. It lets us make mistakes, but shake them off. If I had “real” money, I could shake this off and move on. I’d be wiser than before and more careful, but it would be just a bump in the road without being a tragedy.

When you have enough money, you really can say “it’s just money.” Instead, I’m left with a hole where money used to be … and a door I will still have to replace. There’s no way around it. No amount of wriggling is going to change the story.

The next time something financially egregious happens to someone you know, before you pat them on the shoulder and say “Hey, its ONLY money,” remember there’s a lot more going on. Ego, self-respect, social acceptance, power, pride, and self-worth. We are all tied to money in highly personal ways. It’s why people who are literally going broke and declaring bankruptcy will often disappear from your life. Without telling you what happened. They are too ashamed to talk about it. They would rather leave town and hide than admit they lost their money.

It’s not just money. Ever.

THE FIRST CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR – BY ELLIN CURLEY

This is one of the funnier old family stories.

My family believes that it documents the first time being a conscientious objector was used as a rationale to get out of military service. The concept didn’t exist in World War I.

Abe was my grandmother’s brother. He was a nebbish and a schlemiel. He was not too bright, whiny, screwed things up a lot and the family often had to bail him out. For example, in around 1908, he and my grandmother had first class tickets on the ship that was bringing them to America to live. He lost the tickets. New tickets had to be procured, but this time they were steerage. My grandmother was not happy with him.

My grandmother and Abe

Abe got drafted and somehow managed to snivel his way through basic training. He was scheduled to ship out to Europe to fight in World War I. The family got a call. It was Abe. “They want to send me overseas to get shot at! I’m not going! I’m coming home!”

He went AWOL, was caught, thrown into the brig and faced a very long prison term. Or worse – he could be shot!

Whenever the family faced a serious problem, the person to call was Ivan Abramson, a well-connected cousin. He was brilliant, charming and knew a lot of “important” people. He was a producer in the Yiddish theater and I think he had something to do with gambling. He was definitely “a player”. One of the people he knew was the Secretary of the Navy. Go figure. It just so happened that the Secretary was coming to New York City to review the troops before they shipped out. A perfect time for Ivan to talk to him about Abe.

So, picture the military pomp of a formal viewing ceremony. There was the Secretary of the Navy, the troops, the press, Cousin Ivan and – Uncle Abe, dragged out in chains, crying. The story goes that Abe was pleading with Ivan to “Save me! Don’t let them shoot me!”

Ivan was clever and made a persuasive pitch to the Naval Secretary. He said that Abe belonged to an obscure Jewish sect that didn’t believe in violence. He said that fighting in the war would be against all of Abe’s religious convictions. He argued that this should never happen in “the land of the free” etc., etc. The ploy worked. Or he paid off the Secretary in some under the table way we’ll never know about.

Abe was discharged from the navy and released back to his family. He continued to cause problems for everyone for the next 60 odd years! But I like to think that he had one shining moment, inadvertently paving the way for future conscientious objectors. It would be the only candidate for shining moment in his life. So I’m going to stick with my story!

A LATE QUARTET – BEAUTIFUL MUSIC AND FILM

A LATE QUARTET (2012)

Director: Yaron Zilberman
Writers (screenplay): Seth Grossman, Yaron Zilberman

The Cast:

Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Robert Gelbart
Christopher Walken, as Peter Mitchell
Catherine Keener, as Juliette Gelbart
Mark Ivanir, as Daniel Lerner
Imogen Poots, as Alexandra Gelbart
Wallace Shawn, as Gideon Rosen
Anne Sofie von Otter, as Miriam.


Garry and I watched A Late Quartet  the other day. We read the reviews — and it sounded like a movie for grown-ups. There have been a dearth movies starring adults — men and women — which are not about getting old. Jokes about getting old begin to get old after a while, so we were ready for a grown-up movie about life and living.

The reviews were right. It’s a fine movie.

If the movie has a “hero,” that would be Christopher Walken who plays against type with elegance and grace. Add Marc Ivanir — usually playing an Israeli CIA sort-of-bad-guy on NCIS (he actually is Israeli and a hero) — as the dedicated, haunted first violin. Phillip Seymour Hoffman did his usual excellent job as the quartet’s jealous second violin. Catherine Keener (on viola) is the “could be better” wife to Hoffman  It’s a great mix of characters and some of the best work done by Walken and company.

Their movie musicianship is realistic. They did not actually perform the music on the sound track, but it looked like they knew their way around string instruments. Some of them may have had some early training, the rest were coached for the movie. However it was accomplished, the cinematographer was able to follow the actors’ performances closely, without resorting to long shots to disguise their identities. Well done!

While doing a little research on the stars, I discovered that Walken attended the same university as Garry and I. He was probably there during one of Garry’s years at Hofstra University. Walken was there for just a year, then left for a gig in an off-broadway show. It was news to us that he’d been there at all.

It is one of the many ironies of Garry and my education that most of Hofstra’s most famous graduates are not graduates, but attendees who left before getting a degree. We had a good drama department. Perhaps the biggest measure of its success is how many of its students were “discovered” before they got degrees, then went on to fame and fortune. No formal degrees, but plenty of magic.

Although it doesn’t hurt if you know some classical music, the movie works just fine if you don’t.

The Story

It’s the 25th anniversary of “The Fugue”, a classical string quartet. Time is catching up with them. Christopher Walken, their cellist and oldest member of the quartet has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and needs to retire. The first violinist is in love with the second violinist’s daughter, and the second violinist wants to be the first violinist … and sex in the form of “oops” infidelity adds enough spice to imperil the survival of the quartet if the rest of their problems were not disruptive enough.

Walken as the sensible, down-to-earth member of the group, dealing with his own burdens and unwilling to tolerate the childish carryings-on by the other performers, is wonderful. “The Fugue comes first,” he says, or words to that effect. It’s interesting to see Walken cast as the stable, adult, not even slightly crazy, member of the group.

The Music

A Late Quartet refers to Opus 131, one of a group of string quartets written by Beethoven towards the end of his life. It is magnificent. I’ve rarely heard this piece performed at all. It’s challenging music, written when Beethoven had already lost his hearing, yet was still able to hear it in his head. It’s one of Beethoven’s most complex, intense pieces and it’s beautifully performed.

I love the music, studied classical music for many years. I love Beethoven. He is my favorite composer, whose music I play as I drift off to sleep at night and whose symphonies have been my companion on many journeys through my life.

It did not disappoint us. It’s not a light piece of fluff, nor is it depressing or hopeless. Problems come, problems are addressed, problems are resolved. Not everything has a happy ending but within the limits of what’s possible, these adults work out through their issues — music, health, personal, and relationships — like … adults.

How refreshing!