“The Citizen Kane of the digital era. . .”


That’s not me talking. That’s what the great editor (great friend) Dov Hoenig said about  Birdman the other day, as his wife Zoe and I were trying to shorten the distance between London and Seattle over the phone.

My enthusiasms you can take with a giant grain of salt.  Dov’s you should take very very seriously.  The secret in the IMDb listing of his 40+ films, abroad and crucially with Michael Mann, is that it spans movies shot on film (Thief, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans) and digitally (Heat, Collateral Damage) and he knows the virtues and frailties of both.  Never heard Dov — impassioned but also measured and serious — be this swept away before and this seems the time to share his fervor.

What particularly revved me up was seeing Birdman a second time last week. I’d forgotten just what a deckle-edge comedy it is, with all its soulfulness.  I think it’s a reflection of my inner Olive Kitteridge that I’ve held fast (for 3 months!) to not just popping in the screener so that my husband could see what I’ve been hyperventilating about, but insisting on a dark quiet theatre, so he could see it as it should be seen, in its full wonder.  Worked, too; he has come back to moments from it, again and again.

I wasn’t much help, have to say, when he asked what it was about, (his second favorite question after “What’s the running time?”) because it’s not about any two-sentence summary.  Fox Seachlight and New Regency are doing a full court press currently in Los Angeles, showing all of director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s films, with a section of “themes ” from Birdman added each night  (Risk, Respect, Love, Honesty, Truth.)

Well, okay, if you say so; I’d never disrespect the publicity arm that has brought this film to so many podiums and Best Of awards thus far. Still, highlighting themes does sort of tear up the — sorry, but there’s no better word —  soaring quality of the film. The camerawork of  Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) appears to be one pell-mell, hurtling, breathless single take, following Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson, indelibly stamped as the alter-ego of Birdman, a very dead franchise, as he dares to transform reclaim himself one last time — on Broadway.  (More about Keaton’s unsparing brilliance to come — as they say.)

I did like it Saturday night, when the beautiful Inarittu (below) won the Directors Guild  Award, and someone had to ask him flat-footedly What It All Means. Full of the moment, and translating from inside his head, the ebullient director answered,

“The actor as the representation of every human man who has a creative process. It’s about anyone with ambition, anything we feel; we try and fail, we question, we go deep then we rise up again.  I wanted Birdman to be an extension of that state of mind that every human being has [had] in his life, embodied in an actor.”

(Thank you Deadline Hollywood.)

I think of all the awards this shimmering film has accumulated  — and the uber-reliable IMDb logs them at 139 won and 163 nominations, excluding its 9 at the Academy Awards* — the one that truly took me aback was winning Best Film from the Producers Guild.  Until I thought about that for a long minute.

Yes, of course that Guild could be considered the bastion of old Hollywood.  I don’t even want to look at the stats on its lily-whiteness or average age or how many women are members.  But Inarritu’s words stuck in my mind:  he made his beautiful film for anyone who has a creative process, who has ambition, who tries and fails, goes deep and rises up again.

How could it not have struck a chord with Hollywood’s producers — very possibly the biggest risk-takers in the business? .

* Let’s celebrate every single nominee:

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Alejandro González Iñárritu
John Lesher
James W. Skotchdopole

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Michael Keaton

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Edward Norton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Emma Stone

Best Achievement in Directing
Alejandro González Iñárritu

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Nicolás Giacobone
Alexander Dinelaris
Armando Bo

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Jon Taylor
Frank A. Montaño
Thomas Varga

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Aaron Glascock
Martín Hernández


Wait, wait! First the Golden Globes, THEN the Oscar nominations.

I know, I know: old and slow. My only possible defense is that we have either been guests or had guests since December 23rd, a sojourn involving passports, dear distant family, dear semi-distant friends and a last emotional good-bye at the airport yesterday. The cats barely know what lap to turn to, while I’m summoning up all my reserves to turn up in two  matching shoes.

To get to those Globes: they were just Sunday and I know I’m behind on the newspapers, but where’s the outrage? Or even the irony over the results of the Globes TV Movies or Mini-series category I’m talking about the sublime Olive Kitteridge, anchored by the unsparing eloquence of Frances McDormand, being beaten by the TV show Fargo. Let’s be honest, the initial good will of  Fargo-the-miniseries would never have existed without our collective infatuation with McDormand’s singular character in, ummm, Fargo-the-film. (Just the memory of the actress’s back, squared in rectitude as she marched up to get her Fargo Oscar in 1997 is enough to kick off a smile.)


Following that, in an act enough to make our Fran swear off getting all dressed up forever, she lost — a seeming impossibility –in the Globe’s Best Actress category, to Maggie Gyllenhaal as The Honorable Woman, running, running, running as she brought peace, sex and swell clothes to the deadly Israeli/Palestinian cats-cradle.

Did the assembled Hollywood Foreign Press see Olive Kitteridge?  Did its essential Yankee-ness not play well with them, or just not as well as a semi-optimistic middle-East melodrama?  Unlikely that we’ll ever know, but the double loss is as stunning as it is opaque.

HBO put together a pretty representative trailer for Kitteridge, for those outside the HFP who missed it. (You can find it at the IMBd listing for the film.)  I’m especially partial to it because it opens with McDormand and an actor new to me, Cory Michael Smith, who seems to positively glow with potential (as well as a darting sense of humor.)

It’s unfair, really to single out Smith, when each of Kitteridge’s actors seems the inevitable. . irrevocable choice, top to bottom: Richard Jenkins as Olive’s husband, against all odds, in for the long haul; Zoe Kazan as “the mouse” at his drugstore and in his life; Peter Mullan as Olive’s singular fellow-teacher, a man with a passion for, among others, John Berryman; John Gallagher Jr., as Olive’s deeply put-upon adult son, Martha Wainwright’s lounge singer extraordinaire.  Clearly I cannot run through each actor and character, there isn’t a wrong player in this chamber piece, you’ll just have to meet them for yourself. You will, won’t you?

OliveK_Fran & RJ

Watching it again, post Globes, was the chance to pick up on more of its almost throw-away snap and edge. To notice the way Jane Anderson’s canny adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s multi-prize-winning novel lingers here and pares there to fit into 4 hours (even though, as McDormand said — channeling Olive — “Could have been 6.”)  To consider the ways in which Lisa Cholodenko has bloomed as a director (from her blazing opener High Art.) To remember the startling collaboration of actress and director once before (Laurel Canyon), as Cholodenko pulled out usually hidden facets of McDormand, which have deepened into this portrait of the prickly, wounded, complex Olive. Mostly, the fun of a second viewing came from watching all the interactions, delicate or blunt, among this pitch-perfect cast, and to luxuriate in the story’s deep humanism.


And then I simply wanted to sit on the floor and howl in outrage.

Well, time to pick myself up and make a note or two about the Oscar nominations. Plenty to celebrate — and howl about — there. Helluva way to observe Martin Luther King day, Academy. .


The remarkable Mr. Champlin

It’s rare that you can say that one person changed the trajectory of your life, and for the better. Charles Champlin, who changed mine in every way, died on Sunday. He was 88, and at the end he had Alzheimer’s but the earlier deviltry was that in 1999, he’d developed age-related macular degeneration that left him legally blind.

That must have been purgatory for someone whose life had been the graceful  consideration of books and films, films and books. As the writer that he was, above all else, he wrote about his AMD too, in a sliver of a book, “My Friend, You Are Legally Blind.”  Purportedly, it’s about ways to get the better of the disease; it’s really a look at lifelong  gallantry.

The persona that Champlin presented to the world: a man foursquare as the aviator glasses that became his trademark, wasn’t all of him, not by a Hammondsport mile. The essential Champlin who could shift among a half-dozen settings and arrive intact and unruffled at each one, was compound-complex.  He’d have to be; he was functioning as an editor, an essayist, a critic, most certainly a teacher, a lecturer, a sometimes author and a card-carrying devotee of the hurly-burly of Cannes. And, somewhere in all that, he and his extraordinary wife Peggy were raising a family of six.

Television, which can bring out the worst in the most surprising people, brought out Champlin’s warmth and curiosity; he drew the audience in as close as his guests. He was unparalleled in conversations with filmmakers of every stripe, on television or over a companionable Scotch. They loved him, and why wouldn’t they? They got smart, deep, appreciative conversation without a knife in sight.

Harvard may have given him his humanistic grounding; or perhaps his faith. It may have come from his being wounded during the war, or from finding his way up the ladder at Life magazine or when he was an arts writer in London. Anyone’s guess.Truthfully, it’s innate.

Surprisingly, the one thing Charles Champlin couldn’t — or maybe wouldn’t —  do was color nicely inside the lines. He had a flair for the unpredictable, or perhaps for great escapes. How else to explain his presence at the tiniest of events, a Critic’s Choice Sunday in Marin County, where he brought his almost-favorite film, Beat the Devil, to talk about with as much joy as though he’d made it. (This was the end of the 70s, before film festivals mushroomed after every rain.)

Catalysts can be pretty damn mysterious.

Beat the Devil performed as expected, Champlin probably better, his pleasure was expansive and infectious and he loved a good audience. Every other part of the evening was a disaster.

It was a night of out-of-gas rides from the airport, a missed dinner, a missed early flight home and — as it turned out — an honorarium paid with a bounceable check. Don’t look at me. I was certainly part of the critical melee, but mostly I was on hand because I was the only one of the gang who knew what Champlin looked like.

At the point when he’d missed the early LA flight, Champlin’s urbanity kicked into overtime. He stood us, his shell-shocked hosts, to a round of drinks.Then a second one. And at that moment, eying his briefcase bursting with Loyola students’ papers, I asked if he’d look at some of my stuff, because after 3 years at the Pacific Sun, my great editor had left and I was adrift.

Believe me, no sensible person agrees to read reviews and interviews by the second-string writer on a hippie Marin County weekly, at the end of a semi-disastrous night. For that you have to credit  Champlin’s streak of unpredictability.  

Forever searching for the father/uncle/teacher who knew best, I honestly hoped that he’d point out where I’d gone off the tracks or ask why I hadn’t picked up on Hitchcock’s influences. Did I have the vaguest idea of a critic-editor’s life at a major newspaper?  Please!  I knew. I’d seen The Front Page.   

Still, I was in no way prepared for Champlin’s voice on the phone, many weeks later, saying with no preamble, “Why aren’t you doing this for us?” In some perverse way, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, except that it was.

I wanted a teacher. I got a mentor. He put me to work as a stringer for that terrifying mensch Irv Letovsky, who edited Sunday Calendar and implanted in me the rule I still use for sticky details:  “Write around it! Write around it!”

I came down the next successive summers to review during Kevin Thomas’ vacations. Then I came home to Mill Valley, to my girls, my cats, the intriguing man I had met. Everything seemed in perfect balance, until the afternoon in 1980, when Champlin, on the phone as always, told me that, since he was moving over to Books, he wanted me to take over his chair as the film critic.

That is not predictable behavior . It’s not corporate (certainly not LAT corporate), it’s barely comprehensible, but it is exactly how my life changed, and who changed it, coloring outside the lines in bold zig-zags.

Did we spend the next decade in perfect professional accord?  Don’t be childish. Did he hire me because I didn’t seem exactly. . .assertive? I have no idea. I do know that, more than once. I wrote something that royally pissed off some of the very old guard, causing him no end of tidying up. It was something we never talked about. I’m sure he had to stand up for me, more than once. Learning by doing can be tricky, and mentorship isn’t all roses.  Did we spend long lunches, talking about books and movies, about people in them, and how best to write about them?  Do you have the vaguest idea of a critic OR an arts editor’s life?

What I know absolutely is that Charles Champlin’s humanity or curiosity or both, let him take a huge risk and because of it, my life expanded like some stop-motion flower, one astonishing layer after another.

Thankfully, I was able to tell him that, in time. But it can’t be said enough:  thank you, dear companionable, singular Chuck, for the riches of my life.

Errors, omissions and general hilarity: it’s Awards nomination time again

Appalling to discover what it takes to get me back here, isn’t it?  Nominations morning. Kiss and cry time.  So much real, consequential stuff came down during the last months of 2013, yet, mostly, I hung back from writing.  Omit a few names on the Academy Award ballot and I’m fired up, ready to go. I fear it’s simply the mark of the beast, so better get to it. The less frivolous stuff is TK, I swear. .

First the outrage, then the love.. It seemed to me that three actors absolutely held their films together and at least two of them, Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Joaquin Phoenix (Her.) did the best work of their lives. Unfortunately, the Actors branch didn’t agree.(Churls among us might even call it Redford’s first unmannered performance, but you know churls.) 

I would have put Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips as the hard pressed, resourceful freighter captain on that list too, except that, idly, I started to watch Philadelphia on TCM the night before the nominations, and after Hanks appeared, I couldn’t stop. No matter how that film sits with you, then or now, watching it cleared up one thing fast for me. Captain Phillips isn’t a career best for Hanks, it’s simply what he’s been doing all his acting life, working with a strength, integrity. delicacy and — within limits — range that has only intensified with time.

If there’s an irony to Hanks’ lack of recognition, it’s in the supporting actor nomination for the terrifyingly good Barkhad Abdi as Captain Phillips’ chief adversary among the Somali pirates. Guess who Abdi is shoulder to shoulder with for 90% of his scenes? You have to have flint to strike sparks.

Before we leave Captain Phillips, its editing nomination (for Christopher Rouse, in his third film for director Paul Greengrass) seemed virtually inevitable, but how could there not be one for Greengrass himself?  Shades of Ben Affleck and Argo, although that didn’t turn out too badly, if anyone can remember back to the 2013 Awards.  

I am going to hold the fierce good thought that Fruitvale Station’s complete shut out for director Ryan Coogler and actors Michael B.Jordan and Octavia Spencer only gives Independent Spirit award voters a clear sense of what they can do to right some big oversights. The Indie folks love stuff like that; it makes them look less like panting wanna-bees and more like Spirit voters.of old, free thinkers who gave Best Director awards to Lodge Kerrigan, Everett Lewis, Whit Stillman, Nick Gomez, Carl Franklin and, oh yes, David O. Russell. Those were the days.

L. to R.: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, director Ryan Coogler

And while we’re in Omissions vein: I really hope it didn’t look too much like Jonestown over at the T Bone Burnett scatter Thursday. To call attention to Burnett’s immaculate round-up of folk songs which gave the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis its very backbone, CBS Films sent prospective voters everything but an Inside Llewyn Davis scratch ‘n sniff. You may have noticed the double-truck ads. For this massive effort they got two nods, for Bruno Delbonnet’s rapt, incisive cinematography and for the trio who did the sound recording. Entirely worthy but well short of high CBS hopes. Harsh, Academy, truly harsh.

What might be called the Inside Llewyn Davis Situation has not gone unnoticed close to home, either. Tucker and Lily feel keenly the lack of recognition for their orange brethren (all 3 of them) who gave character, attitude and certainly legs to Llewyn Davis himself.

Before we leave film music, you won’t hear more heartfelt American bluegrass than in a gem hidden among the five Best Foreign Film nominees. The Broken Circle Breakdown, from Belgium is a stunner, an intimate contemporary love story whose brilliantly fractured narrative carries a genuine gut punch. It may take a minute to adjust to a bluegrass lead  singer whose other mode of expression is her artful and ever-expanding tattoos, but this is a case where her ink is beyond decorative, it’s her message to the world. (Great good news: Scarecrow,Video, invaluable and essential as ever, tells me that Broken Circle has a March 11th DVD release.)


We should all have known Sally Hawkins (a supporting actress nominee for Blue Jasmine) years ago, after her effervescent, many-faceted Poppy in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky (2008).  As I remember (a dangerous phrase), a broken collarbone on another shoot, before Happy Go Lucky’s U.S. release kept her from doing the intense NY publicity push Leigh’s film needed. Her performance became a cherished, “minor” prize-winning open secret. She picked up awards from stateside critics’ groups, a first at Berlin, even a Golden Globe during that group’s more louche era, but for Academy voters she might not have existed. As of Thursday morning, she does. She’s in one of the most densely packed major categories, still. . .she’s there, at long last. (And what did Hollywood find for Hawkins first, for her quirky, lean-in-closely unique fizz?  Godzilla.)

I’m glossing over armloads of favorites mainly because, with the exception of Gravity, which mercifully I saw before House Arrest began, I’ve watched almost everything else on screeners. Each time I do, I imagine sharing the room and the moment with the film’s director, sleepless after weeks balancing the sound, correcting the color, getting every finicky detail tuned to perfection. . . . Oh the horror, the horror!!!

Now that they’re rushing so many films back into theatres,  I am looking forward to getting my fill of repeats on very big screens (12 Years a Slave, Gravity — Yes again. And again —. perhaps even another fling with The Grandmaster) before they all go away, March 2nd, and only the winners survive.  .

Let me finish with a Kite Day update. First: I can say absolutely that I walk better than Bruce Dern.  I always did.  As of last week, however, I can now get up the stairs to our bedroom — and all my clothes, and while you might not want to see my knife-work from up close, I’m cooking again.  Next is our car’s stick-shift, which is still a bit beyond me, although the day can’t come soon enough in some quarters. My husband has taken to calling me Miss Daisy. He says all he needs is the cap.

The Quilt Room — and beyond

More than high time for some fresh news, clearly it’s Fall at our house.

Fall in Seattle 2013 Made it to the second visit to the Orthopedic Clinic in our own car.  Everyday stuff for you, I know. You weren’t along for our first Yellow Cab wheelchair van experience, where a strong and patient driver helped Herman lock and load me into the very back of his van. Barring the part where both arms came off the wheelchair as both men tried to lift it, I’d say it went well.

Herman was in the van’s middle seat and I was behind him, in the well created to hold wheelchairs. And, I noticed, whatever hadn’t been chucked out from the past few meals, stuff I could see because I was wearing my glasses. So I was able to watch the progress of a roach which appeared on my husband’s headrest, and sat there for a minute, judging whether it could make the leap into the back of Herman’s thick hair.

You wouldn’t believe how quickly someone will move, at the hissed syllable, “Roach!” It moved my husband into the safety of the middle of the van and gave me time to watch the large-ish spider which popped up next. Spiders!  Pffft! As nothing, compared to relocating a roach. Don’t know which one of us the spider clung to, but once we got to the nice shiny white floor of Treatment Room 2, he decided all was safe, and started across the floor.  Splat! End of our wildlife saga.

So, that was Visit 1.  Visit 2, under our own power, was bliss. For this, I learned to go down three steps to get me out, via the garage, and into the alley and our car.  God-like surgeon doesn’t want to see me for 3-4 more weeks (we chose 4); new bone growth in the shoulder hasn’t yet shown up on the new x-rays, but he’s confident that it’s beginning.  And so we settle in for the wait.

We’ve moved into the Quilt Room right on the ground floor.  Usually it’s where we put up   two guests: bathroom right next door. My office at the end of the hall. Cozy. Companionable, I’ve always thought, since there’s a main bed and a trundle below that can be pulled up to nestle next to it, or separated, as we have things now.

The bookshelves here are floor-to-ceiling along one wall and its corner. (“Books!” a visitor once commented, facing this collection in Los Angeles. “Such good sound bafflers!”) Lying on the trundle, trying to square myself away for a night of lying with as much movement as a tomb effigy at Westminster Cathedral, I line myself up so I’m at a crisp right angle to the books. It seems to bring a little order to the randomness of our days now.

The cats, who hang out here a lot of time anyway, seem agreeable to sharing. Lily now owns the utterly unused wheelchair each night; I can barely break the news that it’s going back any minute now. Tucker likes my husband’s bed, but he ‘s good about sharing when I unexpectedly crash…

Tuckerand SB on bed

I adore this room, especially its pumpkin colored walls which make the small space glow, but truthfully, I don’t usually come in here to read. I head for a small chair with lots of natural light, at the end of our long, railroad car of a house. As a result, I’ve almost forgotten some of the stuff on the Quilt Room walls.

At the time when, like Jane Austen ladies, “we” were all beavering away doing handwork of one generally useless kind or another, I made this timid box. The main reason it has survived is that each one of the three daughters has forbidden me to chuck it.

Collage soloI am painfully aware of its deficiencies, but there is one bit in there which has also kept me from heaving it.  It’s this postcard, written 102 years ago and postmarked on my birthday..  It was sent from Pearl, in Dell Rapids, South Dakota, to her sister, Minnie (Mrs. Minnie Herrick, in Onaga, Kansas.)

Pearl wrote:

Dear Sister:

I got your letter together with Edward’s. I went to Episcopal Church tonight and to the Catholics last Sunday.  I wanted to know what some other people believe.  I certainly  found out last Sunday night.


Now I ask you, with all its searching mystery, could you have thrown it out?

More, when there’s more to tell.  Thank every single one of you who have hung in there and stayed in touch. You cannot know what it has meant. And you can see for yourself how well things are going:

SB selfir

Kite Day

Because September 22nd was a beautifully windy Sunday, my husband and I, and my dear, visiting brother, Jerry, went to exercise Herman’s big, wonderful rip-stop nylon two-handed kite, sort of a rainbow-colored flying wing, at Gas Works Park.

He was doing so nicely with it that he offered me the reins. I took the left hand wrist-strap reins, took the right ones. . . and a good gust took me — until in disgust at how useless I was as a kite steward, it slammed me to the grass.  (I was only dragged, my feet never left the ground.) Cracked my pelvis in a couple of places, and my shoulder in a whole lot more, at the point where ball and socket meet.  As bad luck would have it, both on the same side. And I am right-handed.

hhwithkite2From then until today, as Herman and I start the sixth week of rehab here at home,  I have …umm  fallen in among the most extraordinary, gifted, generous, scrupulously careful, funny and caring gang of professionals, from rescue teams to healing ones, working in one city, and in one hospital,  Seattle’s UW Orthopedics.

Part of the trick of getting me to the UW was protecting that shoulder, while we all hoped it might still just be out of its socket. The odd, ungainly inflatable cushion that one of the five Fire Dept. rescue crew came up with looked like a pteradactyl that had settled in for a bite of my shoulder, but it protected perfectly.  It was at that point that movies began to float in and out of the next 5 days.

Somehow, I learned that my ambulance attendant’s wife’s name was Brie.

“Oh my.  THAT’S a great movie name,” I said.  “Bree Daniels.”

“Jane Fonda,” he said,.  We both took a minute of reverie.

“And that dress that unzipped all down her back.”

“Umm hmm.”

Then we both tried to remember the name of the movie with Bree Daniels.  The driver couldn’t help, she was roughly Jane Fonda’s age when she made the picture.  We two memory-wrapped fans were useless.

We arrived at the hospital, I got straight into the doing-something-about-this-situation-fast  room, the ambulance crew waved and left. . . when, as they had almost pulled away,  my attendant friend reappeared in the doorway, shouting:


“Klute! Of course! Thank you!”  And I finally relaxed.

The luck which has surrounded me and my whole family, lifelong, hadn’t left.  Scanning my dozens of x-rays was the best possible “provider” for me:  a smart,  bemused orthopedic surgeon who read my background history, and decided that at 82, it made a lot more sense to let the bones heal on their own, rather than opt for a surgery involving pins, nails , and who knows what-all.  He delivered this opinion, omitting nothing:  it was very possible that I’d get a range of shoulder motion back, but all would not be as before.  I probably will not be able to raise that arm above my shoulder.

 “So, from here on, it’s the John McCain wave?”  I asked.

I saw his mouth curve nicely.  “Afraid so.”

“Could be a lot worse,” I said.

Then, in one all-seeing measure of alertness and goodness, this young god at the top of my UW pyramid, listened when I said that, as a demi-claustrophobe, if they planned to save me from blood clots with knee-to-ankle plastic pneumatic stockings which squeezed and released, rhythmically, all night long and most of the day, I would take manicure scissors to them.  He wrote me a pass, good for the whole five nights I was there, that excused me from them.

So, with Herman “sleeping” nights in a corner of my room, we both embarked on an intensive five days of learning: how to get from bed to portable biffy; how to begin to get a tiny bit of strength back; how fortunate I was that the right (bad) leg is still, somehow (OUCH!) weight-bearing, plus all the skills I’d need if — as we were determined to do — I came home, instead of being sent to a rehab facility.  So we began a campaign with any staff who would listen.  They were plentiful.

My teachers came to the UW from all over the world: Franklin, well over 6’1″, from Nigeria, who was security and gentleness itself at 2 ayem, as he helped me navigate to the biffy by my hospital web belt . (If I’ve lost SO many names and remembered his, it’s because Franklin is a name that threads through my family. Well, that and his pure sweetness and strength, there in the dark.)

There was the nighttime RN, who somehow always seemed to get the joke, no matter how arcane; the magically gentle pre-dawn phlebotomist, also from Nigeria, whose headwrap was secure and spectacular, all at once.  The crowd grew to include an fourth-generation Japanese-Chinese RN and a matinee-idol handsome Persian.

Then there were my spark plugs, the Occupational Therapists, who taught me the daily nuts and bolt of the new normal, and the Physical Therapists, who covered all the rest.  And it became clear that, in order to be allowed to go home, we had to persuade both  of them that Herman and I could manage.  (We had, after all, managed after my 2 major/3 minor eye surgeries, and then back surgery.)  Herman, they had no doubt about; with me, the learning curve was a bit more steep.

As for that strain of the movies: day before they finally said I could leave, the OT announced that I could have a shower.  ????   Who knew that the inside of my very own bathroom had two lovely, wooden pull-down seats and a long, lovely shower head.

Or that J. , a fresh-faced 27-year old son of the Bronx, would be my shower buddy?  I tried to spare him.

“This is nothing for your eyes, believe me.”

“I’m a Health Care Professional,” he said, with a grin.  We’d had other, long conversations before this. Somehow, I learned about his passion for really old movies.  Black and white, he said.  The 40’s.

All went perfectly, except that I needed a shower cap.  J. decided to improvise with a white towel, which he tried to put on my forehead and knot at the back.  Wouldn’t hold.

“J., J!”  I said, “Lana Turners turban in The Postman Always Rings Twice.”

The movies never let you down.

They let us go home. We’re safely settled.  After their initial shock at The Bruise pictures (home day #2) all three daughters came to believe that all will be well .   (Caitlin, most recent in the rotation of daughters, just left after 4 days here, having flown from her current FS posting in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.)

caitlin Medicare now gives me an OT and a PT, sometime two a day.  And a gentle woman who tosses me into the shower.  My only complaint is exhaustion.  Since I cut out the hard drug, three nights ago, I can now read AND comprehend, and even try a bit of email. Mostly, we are healing hermits.

That luck I mentioned has also given me my friend Janaki, who has made it her business to see both of us through this.  She’s my trainer, sink hair-washer, she’s even made us multiple dinners with our borrowed crock pot (thank you, Elaine!)  She has put up with my inclination toward melodrama, and seen that there are snacks on my tray. . .er Command Module, that trails me everywhere. And crucially, she is a fresh and avid fan for my sacredly saved 13-episodes of Rubicon, which somehow she missed, all those years ago.

The rock-solid hero of the day is, of course, this person.

hhoncouch When we had our 31st anniversary just last month, I somehow believed I knew a lot about my husband, but I don’t think either one of us knew the depths he was capable of, until he went into action and stayed there, every single blessed day since the 22nd of September.

Somehow, the droll edge to his wit has never disappeared, certainly his tenderness hasn’t. He has managed resilience and a measured, honest look at what each day has brought us — and he makes it all seem like progress.

What neither one of us could have dreamed was how much his deep political savvy could lighten the day, as we watched the wanton savagery and limitless malice of those Tea Party fools, who cannot accept two elections and a Supreme Court decision.  If you like great ad hoc political commentary, you don’t get better than HH, in full voiced outrage..

As he copes with shopping, cooking, the dishes, the laundry, a few details of recovery have been cruel and unusual — waking up with me the necessary three times each night left him as sleep-deprived as any new father. . . and he is at the same time, working downstairs in his office every day as Pace and Hong Auctions rises and expands.  (Prolonged cheers!) Now — ahem — I am up and down again, without waking him. At this point, I call anything progress.

So, that’s us, these days.  However, lest you think that this unusual event has left either one of us with  anything against kites, take a look at this for the sheer beauty of their airy lives.  (If you feel the need to skip, do NOT miss the ending.)

Oscar p.s.

Oh crumb buns! This should teach me always to crib from my betters.

I just did read Tom Shales’ nifty Oscar piece, and realized to my horror that I had left out three of the night’s highlights: Shirley Bassey and her full-throated reprise of Goldfinger; Adele, and what turned out to be her Oscar-winning performance of Skyfall, and Barbra Streisand, whose tribute to her friend and long time collaborator, Marvin Hamlisch, with The Way We Were, was everything she must have wanted it to be: shimmeringly perfect.

Apologies all around!