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My coworker Chris was tucking his five-year-old son Miles into bed last night.
“Dad, I don’t want Mom to die.”
“Well, Miles, we all die.”
“Dad, can you build a time machine so we don’t have to?”
“Anything is possible, son, but I don’t think I’m smart enough to do that. Why don’t you get to work on it?”
Miles paused, and Chris could see the cogs turning in his son’s head.
“Okay, Dad, but I don’t think I can build it out of my legos.”
To get a cone in this town?
There are no less than four McDonald’s within five miles of my house. Much like Wal-Mart, it is my express endeavour never to travel there. But once in a while, a guy gets a hankerin’ for something unhealthy to eat. I while I will never again eat any of their beef, there’s nothing quite like the soft serve they…serve.
So over the past week (since New Year’s Eve, actually, when the craving first hit) I have been trying to get my grubby little paws on an ice cream cone from Mickey D’s. The 24-hour establishment in Cape Canaveral claimed their machine is down (I’ve since checked back and it’s still down). Something about the only guy who knows how to service it being on vacation.
That same night I figured I’d try the McDonald’s down the street in Cocoa Beach, but they were closed. Added bonus: I got an erroneous speeding ticket on the way back home. In the long and sordid history of me and Johnny Law, this will be the first citation I show up in court to protest. It was New Year’s Eve, people. There were cops everywhere. I categorically deny even flirting with the speed limit. I honestly think the cop pulled over the wrong guy, or was just fishing. My radar detector didn’t go off. Not to mention she pulled up behind me with her lights on while I was at a red light. Stopped. And she claims I was doing 50 in a 35. Um, no.
Anyway, the ice cream! So two nights ago I figured I’d try my luck with the Mickey D’s on Merritt Island, also a 24-hour joint.
“Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like a cone please.”
Ten seconds of silence.
“I’m sorry, our machine is down.”
“That’s funny, so’s the one in Cape Canaveral. What’s going on here?”
“Um, I don’t know?”
“Well when are you gonna have it fixed?”
“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know.”
Fine. Thanks for nothin’.
All this brings us to this evening. As I mentioned earlier, I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. But my new roommate Antonio (a co-op student from Puerto Rico) needed new flourescent lights and a shower curtain for his bathroom. What are ya gonna do? On the way there it dawned on me. Aha! This Wal-Mart has an in-house McDonald’s, for maximum this-is-the-depressing-state-of-America effect! My cone! I could almost taste sweet, creamy victory.
I should have taken a picture of the plaque with the photo of the manager. There are few more dispiriting things I have seen in this town. I waited ten minutes for the people in front of me (one guy was running the show, register, iced coffee, grill, fries and all), only to find out…
“I’m sorry, we don’t have an ice cream machine.”
“Well then what are the Oreo and M&M hoppers for?”
“We sell McFlurries here, but they arrive frozen and we have to blend them. They’re not like soft serve. We’re not like…a…real McDonald’s.”
It must not be in the stars for me to get this ice cream cone. Perhaps a few days from now the headlines will read:
Salmonella Outbreak in Merritt Island
CDC Sends Specialists to Pinpoint Origin
Dairy products suspected
As easy as demonstrated by the security guard at the gate this morning. I pulled up to show him my badge and he said,
“Alright, you da man. Handle ya bizness now, George.”
“Thanks man,” was all I could managed as I chuckled.
“Alright now, baby.”
Best Thursday I’ve had in weeks.
I see a lot of movies. No, seriously. A lot. I’d estimate it at about 90% of major releases. One in ten I will refuse to see on principle, but even then, I see a lot of stinkers. And lately, I’m becoming more and more disturbed by violence in movies. Not that they’re getting more violent, which is arguable, but perhaps that I’m becoming more sensitive to portrayals of violence. Every day it becomes harder for me to see the artistic merit in or believe any justification for abusing the suspension of disbelief and inserting powerfully negative images of human depravity directly into the minds of millions of viewers.
Regardless of whether it’s something they “want to see,” or it’s “a reflection of the way things really are,” or “it sells popcorn.” But I digress.
I don’t get to see art films anymore. I saw as many as I could while at school in Knoxville, but now that I live on Merritt Island, the closest arthouse theater is nearly an hour away. I guess east Tennessee isn’t so backward after all, huh? I used to be 15 minutes from a theater that had ten art and independent films going at any one time. Take that, Orlando. But I’m digressing. Again.
All of this is to say: I love film. Really, really love it. I am passionate about it. I sometimes avoid previews so as to experience a movie fresh, with no hype or preconceptions. I use movies as motivation to get in a six-mile bike ride. I put up with a lot of dross just to make sure I don’t miss the gems. I would write reviews if someone paid me to do it. I’m giving you all this lead-in to prepare you for what I’m about to say.
If you haven’t seen Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche in the new film “Dan in Real Life,” go see it. NOW.
I could wax poetic about the soundtrack (Sondre Lerche!), the setting and cinematography, the script, the acting, everything. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. Trust me when I say this: this is the best romantic comedy of the past five years. But even to pigeonhole it into that category is a disservice. It’s also a family movie…but no. It’s more than that. This is one of those movies that defies genre. This is film at its best: a reflection of life. What it is, and how we want it to be. Projected. Right there on the screen.
This movie is real. It makes me want to have family gatherings like that. It reminds me of the good times I’ve had with my family. I couldn’t stop laughing at the sometimes delightfully subtle humor throughout the film. I nearly cried three times. But most of all, and I’m being completely genuine here: this movie gave me hope.
I don’t own many DVDs. I don’t watch many movies more than once. Maybe 1 or 2%. This is a film that I will add to my small library. This is a film I would want my children to see.
Go see it.
So I’m minding my own business at the urinal, lost in thought as I hearken to nature’s urgent call. Per man rule #26, I ignore the sudden appearance in my peripheral vision of a figure at the stall to my right. Without warning he breaches the unspoken code of silence in the porcelain palace. In an instant I recognize the voice as my coworker Pete, but maintain my posture and refuse to look up.
“It’s attached to you, you’ve seen it a million times, and you have a huge target. There’s no need to stand their gazing admiringly at yourself.”
It took a full five seconds for his words to register. Before I could even begin to laugh, he continued.
“I mean, I know it’s magnificent. I’m sure women tremble at the sight. But you should just look at the wall like the rest of us and get the job done.”
It’s quite an experience to chortle, somewhat uncomfortably, half-wondering whether to laugh or to be embarrassed, all while holding your member in your hand.
“This is by far the best toilet room conversation I have ever had,” I managed to muster.
Later, as I chuckled to myself while I washed my hands, the metajoke dawned on me.
His name is Peter Johnson.