"There's too much people
Sometimes, it's about the being there. There
being, where people tied by a common thread, come to gather
for a common purpose.
That purpose might be one of a serious nature,
or something as celebratory as a parade in honor of the hometown
team making good. Which was the case last month with the New
York Giants; winners of Super Bowl X-L-V-I.
So there we were in a crush of people, at
least an hour before the festivities were scheduled to begin.
And as one women behind us exclaimed in a cell phone conversation:
"There's too much people already." But it ain't
about grammar, its about…well what exactly is it about?
And why are we here?
We don't even root for the Giants.
If anything, the Jets have been our team since the
coming of Namath in the new testament. But we are fans of
this city. And we are fans of fans, replete with their sarcasm,
dark humor and sense of doom— until a day such as this
arrives. Those who don't follow sports, would never understand
this. We who do follow sports, don't really understand
it either. But there we were.
Though baseball is really our game, through
all the years of New York Yankees' dominance, we
never attended any of those parades through the "Canyon
of Heroes." Even during our coming of age, when we lived
within shouting distance of these "ticker tape"
extravaganzas—where figures of national and international
prominence were so honored—we were never there.
There was that one parade though, on Thursday
March 1, 1962, that we had badly wanted to attend. John Glenn,
the first American to orbit the earth, would be passing through.
Astronauts… were heroes in those days. But our high
school, Brooklyn Tech, would not permit its students to take
the day off to honor him. Which was ironic, given the role
technology and engineering had played in Glenn's great achievement.
Obediently, we trudged off to school that
day, hating all those in authority who seemed to revel in
raining on parades. But it's only been fifty years. We'll
get over it.
Anyway, there we were among the unwashed masses
(the 99%?)—of which we really are a member despite any
delusions of grandeur—standing, waiting, watching some
pre-event time-killing activity. Most prominent being the
passing of "footballs" of toilet paper rolls, back
and forth across the street divides. And then the cheer, when
an errant pass happened to hit a cop. And the cop would turn
and smile, and toss it back into the crowd. For this was no
Then there is the dancing to Latino rhythms…
the shouts in mock derision— "deez are nobodeez!"
aimed at "VIP's" (read 1%-ers?) who would pass by
beyond the police blockades... the occasional checking out
of the five helicopters treading sky overhead.
Finally...it all begins.
And with each passing float, a collective
cheer rings out in tribute to these surrogates for fame and
fortune. But also in some vicarious way, we the people, seem
to be claiming part ownership of this victory. "We did
it man, we did it," could be heard along with the smacking
sounds of high-fives!
And as time, and cars and floats roll by,
it now becomes about waiting for "The Second Coming."
That of quarterback, Eli Manning…biggest… hero…
of them all.
The crowd behind us has swelled to biblical
proportions—fifteen to twenty people deep. All that
is missing, are the fishes and loaves. Then suddenly, while
holding the Super Bowl trophy aloft as if the Holy Grail,
Eli has arrived!
In the frenzy that ensues, we have all to
do to catch him in a frame or two, which can only been seen
later, when blown up in Zapruder-like fashion.
And just as suddenly as he
appeared… he just as suddenly was gone. His time amongst
us was so brief.
Then the crowd begins to disperse, secure
in the knowledge that their cell-phone shots, will prove that
these scenes of celebration were real. And in departing, we
all are seemingly high on the intake of that abundance of
camaraderie and good will. It was time for lunch.
The Small Bang Theory
Where were you when you first heard:
that the Titanic had sunk?
that the market crashed?
that Earhart was missing?
that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor?
that Kennedy was shot?
that King was shot?
that Bobby was shot?
that Lennon was shot?
that the Challenger exploded?
that the World Trade Center came tumbling down?
that the first of childhood friends had died?
Those earthquakes that level other hemisphere
wherein two or three thousand go at a clip?
Isn't that a shame. And where and when
was that Tsunami again?
The one that killed over 230,000 people?
His time was running on the same rails
His heart once given to a teenage crush
stopped like some cheap watch they hawk on the corner.
He pitched the team to a championship.
He cut up behind the teacher's back.
He took you for a joyride in his uncle's car.
The legs turned to jelly
when you first heard.
Silence is Golden
Most years we could care less
about the Academy Awards. They rarely reflect our taste in
movies. Not to mention all the hoopla surrounding them, which
is a turnoff. But this year was different.
Perhaps it was because our movie going had
increased substantially in the last year, and that we had
actually seen many of the movies nominated. Or perhaps it
was because we had a "dog in the hunt." That dog
being, The Artist. It spoke to us, so to speak. And
as we are about to reveal what it said, perhaps a spoiler
alert is in order: If you haven't seen the movie and intend
to, scroll down past this piece.
Though The Artist pretty much swept
the board on Oscar night in the major categories (also winning
two technical awards along the way), we still believe that
there is much more to this movie, than the critics have given
credit. Even though most reviews were extremely favorable.
Yes, it is a comedic film. Yes, it is about
a man unable to make a transition and go with the flow. Yes,
it has an upbeat ending, expressed through a spirited dance
number, that sends audiences blissfully out the door. But
The comedy is self evident. As ought to be
the tragedy. And though the latter is often indicated in broad
fashion, it is in keeping with the style of the Hollywood
story telling, way back in the day. And the idea of doing
a silent movie in 2011, about the passing of the silent movie
era, was simply brilliant. If brilliance can ever be simple.
Secondly, regarding the interpretation of
that which drives the protagonist, George Valentin—stunningly
played by Jean Dujardin, as his Best Actor Oscar might indicate—
we think the critics came up short. Which is why we have been
so strongly touting this movie to family and friends since
we first saw it.
Conventional wisdom has it, that George Valentin
is simply an arrogant man who stubbornly refuses to change
with the times. And that he mocks the coming of "talkies"
because of an outsized ego. We have a different take. One
that says, he is hiding behind a shield of arrogance,
because in truth, he is deeply insecure. This is indicated
over and over throughout the movie, in ways both direct and
For starters, the only one with whom he can
make a connection, is his dog Jack; in movies and in life.
The dog (played by a Jack Russell named Uggy, who steals a
scene or three along the way) goes with him everywhere. The
dog's constant presence is more than just a warm and fuzzy
Then there is his marriage which has turned
sour, because he has trouble communicating with his wife.
In effect, he never talks.
Though his on screen persona is one of a dashing
man, a Lothario, he is far from it when off camera. This is
particularly in evidence, in the scene in which he finds an
aspiring starlet Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice
Bejo brilliantly) in his dressing room, embracing his jacket
while imaging being in his arms. He doesn't take advantage
of her in a situation where it would be so easy to do so,
given what he has just witnessed. Instead, in a loving moment,
he pencils in a small beauty spot on her face, which will
come to be just the right touch that will help to put Peppy
on the road to movie stardom.
Now it is 1927, and the "Talkies"
are about to come in, big time. Which of course, if you think
about it, can only be a death knell for the career of an actor
in American cinema, who has a French accent. Although we don't
know that at the time, and therefore are unable to make that
Soon enough, the inevitable happens. No longer
a bankable box office star, his life hits the skids. And it
is important to note that the studio boss does not bend over
backwards to convince him to go with the times and move on
to talkies. The boss, John Goodman, just sadly shakes his
big fat head. Because he realizes that with his "impediment,"
Valentin's days are numbered. In turn, via those very talkies,
it is Peppy Miller who becomes the new megastar.
Finally, after all the trials and tribulations
of George Valentin, we come to… That Dance Number. And
now the movie is one of sound, with the click clack clacking
of happy feet. It is a transformation as surprising and captivating,
as was the going from black & white to color in The
Wizard of Oz, the first time we all saw it.
When the dance concludes, the director asks
if they would do another take. George Valentin responds with
the only two words he will ever say— "With pleasure."
And with a French accent. And we lost it. The movie now came
in on us in a rush, bringing it into immediate and sharper
thematic focus. Those two accented words take the film to
a whole other level. A place beyond a boy-meets-girl "feel
Peppy had come up with that dance idea as
a means to get Valentin back on his feet; figuratively and
literally. Even though she now has the kind of clout, wherein
she could have gotten the studio to write a part in a new
movie for a man with a French accent, she instead gets around
it all, by getting George a part in which he doesn't have
to speak, but dance!
And there it is: unconditional love and gratitude.
All told in a way, we had never quite experienced before.
In the absence of dialog, in the absence of
a vocalized "I love you"—which we once stated
in a poem as having the value of all of twenty-nine cents—it
is the audience that has to fill in the blanks and tie it
all together. And when we did, we found ourself reaching for
Picture a Palindrome: #3
GAGA SEES ONO! ONO SEES A GAG!
Lin: A New Twist in the Great American
Regarding fame, and who is or isn't famous,
Jay Leno once said:
You're not famous until my mother
has heard of you.
And soon, our mother at age 91, and decidedly
not a basketball fan—having almost no inkling of the
sport other than the fact that she used to catch us playing
it in the park on a winter's day without our jacket on ("You're
going to catch a cold! Where's your jacket?")—even
she, will know the name of Jeremy Lin. Belief-defying stories
invariably have crossover appeal; they wind up in the main
It is a story that reads as if it that might
have been written by some Hollywood hack. Imagine pitching
this "high concept" to studio heads:
"A Chinese-American… devout
Christian… Harvard graduate…turned professional
basketball player, is cut by two teams. Riding the bench
with a third team, the New York Knicks—sleeping
on his brother's couch because he has not gotten his own
place yet in the city—is suddenly put in the lineup
23 games into the season. And at that, only because the
team has been going so badly and run out of options. He
turns out to be a superstar! He immediately leads his
team on a long winning streak, and becomes the talk of
the town. And the nation!"
Not even Steven Spielberg could make this
And yet in a sense—albeit with a new
twist—it is an old story. It is the Great American Story:
Child of an immigrant to America, or member of a minority,
gains fame and fortune. And it is an especially melodramatic
one, when witnessed through the lens of sports.
This "Linsanity," as it has come
to be called, has begun to spread across the globe. There
are now even New York Knicks fans in Taiwan, where
Jeremy's parents were born. And soon enough, everyone's mother
will have heard of him.
Quote of the Month
When I find myself in times
Mother Mary comes to me
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Meanderings from New Orleans
February 27, 2001
Tuesday 11:55 pm
Finally got to see this piece of Americana,
Mardi Gras. "See" is the operative word.
It is about seeing, it is about being seen. The exhibitionist;
the voyeur. The breaking of taboos. The forbidden fruit…see
but not touch.
Women baring their breast for beads; men bearing
their beers…a man has to show nothing, but up.
The whole Mardi Gras sub culture is fascinating
to say the least. I mean, perfectly sane adults donning masks
and wearing outlandish costumes?
For the first time in 35 years…I received
ashes. (Remember man, thou art dust. And to dust thou
shall return.). Hearing it in English…is particularly
poignant. The place: St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest continuously
active cathedral in the U.S.
Then got caught in the rain, and the ashes
upon my forehead smeared. A very interesting birth to death
to rebirth metaphor.
James Carvelle was the speaker and he was great…funny,
charming and mostly what I'm taken with is his sense of humility.
He closes with a response he would give to
a hypothetical question he would one day get from his daughters,
as to why he would so staunchly defend Clinton in the Lewinsky
scandal. "There are good friends who do bad things. Forgive
the bad things and support the good friend."
"You are good girls who will one day
do a bad thing. And when you do, come tell your daddy first
because he will be the first one to forgive you."
Thursday conference…Gail Sheehy—highlight.
Dinner as guests of AOL.
Somehow when I did this two years ago it seemed
We catch the 544 Club—"Gary Brown and
the Feelings" presiding. We stay through two sets. The
place empties out and we are still there. The guy plays just
as hard with just as much passion—even more in the second
set than the first—even though there's a handful of
From the moment we enter we are assaulted by waitresses…they
hold one end in their mouths, the recipient, the other. Two
vials at once. They remind me of high school chemistry test
I had hit it off with them the night before at the hotel upon
returning from the Forbes dinner. We went to our
private party at the House of Blues.
Walking down the dying streets, a gregarious black man on
a bike calls to us. Next thing you know he and I are crooning
"Up on the Roof." He then does a solo of "Amazing
Grace"…it is wonderful. He is tipped well.
As a token to me, his partner, he offers his neckwear: beads
and plastic breasts. "You the Tit Meister."
This part of the city is mesmerizing. Walking
down quiet streets, balconied buildings, wrought ironed embellishment,
brick and shutters…in praise of the small moment.
February 21, 2012
What happens in Vegas…stays in Vegas.
What happens in New Orleans…stays on the internet.
A woman at around noon, strolls up Bourbon
St. totally naked. Except of course for paint on her breasts,
and paint where a thong might go.
The mask, the beads, give way to Ash Wednesday in this, "…a
surprisingly devoutly Catholic city." (Frommer's)
by Ron Vazzano©
February 23, 2012
"Compared with recent years, gun violence
was minimal along the parade routes, although a pair of shootings
did mar the festivities." (The Times-Picayune)
We spent the day visiting the "Louise"
and "Oak Valley" plantations. Oh how complex has
been the history of our nation. Slavery up close. No political
This time I drink the Kool Aid…the hurricane…sazerac…"Goodnight
Irene"…bedpost beads…roasted oysters…Commander's
Palace …cemetery across the way: "Don't get
up" …streetcar with no name…life—two
hours— on the Mississippi…up the river WITH a
paddle…mules in diapers; no wonder no dumps on the streets…Preservation—jazz
tradition—Hall …on every other corner
Royal music breaks out…Club 544 still here…singing
a different tune though…Stella!…Ann Rice
lived here…Tennessee Williams drank there…alcohol
in plastic cups…Truman Capote slept here…art every
twelve feet…Blue Dog…the Idea Factory
no longer makes cows…"Pops" is bigger than
any bishop…Fountain still spurting…"brides"
on Bourbon lift up their gowns…in a flash they are gone…a
dog named Okey-Dokey…
…Laura sold the plantation and married
a Protestant…no women cops…no fat cops…no
Asian cops…no politically correct cops…a cop poses
with a bare breasted woman…Spanish, French, Caribbean,
African, Native American…Joan of Arc is golden here…why
do Jesus people bother? Who is going to see the light tonight?…voodoo
is haunted…then there's the vampires…Code Noir:
but who could enforce it?…copper-sided dueling pianos…the
pianists are women and come in pairs…I have seen through
the almond holes, the view…a sight to "bebold"….dogs
are in costume…gays are in costume…straights are
in costume…and an accountant named Handy is Rex…a
reason to like the French. Finally.