Coming To A Theater Near You

Sometimes A lot of the time I amaze myself.

A movie idea just came to me and no doubt it’s gonna be warmly embraced by Hollywood’s top studios. Let the negotiations begin! Since I’m the ultimate triple threat, they will probably want me to write, produce, and star in it.

The idea came to me Saturday, shortly after Al’s memorial service at The United Churches in our fair city. The service was another amazing remembrance of a remarkable person. Similar to the one for my in-laws last year. At that one, my wife and daughters did a beautiful job capturing what made them so special. If watching a slide show of a person’s life and listening as family and friends reflect on how they left the world better than they found it doesn’t inspire you to consider how to best spend your ever shrinking time, then something’s wrong.

Forget psychedelics, forget chasing fame and money, forget vanity in all its forms, nothing is as inspiring as positive people’s life stories. Just ask anyone involved with hospice care. Al’s three sixty-something daughters told unique, funny, and moving stories about their father. And another friend talked about how Al lit up the retirement community he was a part of and had to be held back when hiking in the mountains even into his 90’s. The quintessential extrovert, Al embraced life to the fullest. He said he would sleep when he was dead. Long live the memory of Al Walter.

Back to my homerun of an idea. Remember Wedding Crashers? Well, how about Memorial Crasher?! Part Ted Lasso, part Ricky Gervais’s After Life, Memorial Crasher is the story of a dude who has lost his zeal for life, meaning it’s the story of most of us. Just can’t find the loving feeling he enjoyed in his youth. He’s surviving sure, but not thriving. He breaks out of his malaise after attending a memorial service for a close friend. As per usual, his resolve to be a better person and live life more fully only lasts a few weeks, then he slowly reverts to his formerly alienated, disconnected, somewhat negative self.

So he concocts an antidote to his default condition. He scours obituaries in local papers and church bulletins, and when he finds particularly inspiring ones, which happens about once a month, he crashes the memorials. No one ever knows he has no connection to the deceased. That way he receives a steady stream of reminders of what’s most important and is continually inspired to be more selfless and daring.

Consequently, his life is transformed. His focus shifts from himself to others. He cultivates gratitude for how little time he may have left. He becomes a much better neighbor, friend, and person.

And picks up several Academy Awards along the way. 

Winning Time

HBO’s Winning Time is the story of the Los Angeles Lakers 1979 season.

Apparently the Lakers hate it, but I dig it. The Lakers don’t like it because they aren’t making any money from it, they have no control over how the story is told, and it reminds people how good they were in past incarnations.

Also, Magic doesn’t like it because he has a documentary coming out that covers a lot of the same territory. And being famously surly, Kareem doesn’t like it because he doesn’t like much of anything.

I await each episode because I was living in SoCal at the time and a huge Laker fan. Apart from apparently exaggerating Jerry West’s anger management issues, the casting is outstanding.

Also, the attention to period detail is Mad Men-like, meaning off-the-charts.

At the end of a recent episode the Lakers have a day off. Laker coach Jack McKinney‘s wife informs him she’s taking the car and he should go play tennis with Paul Westhead, his ace assistant. After she leaves, the workaholic coach begins scribbling in his notebook, then suddenly heads to the garage of his suburban home to grab his racquet and shiny red Schwinn bicycle.

The next 90 seconds are shot mostly via drone. The successful but simple workaholic, the home, the street, the neighborhood, the sunlight, the Beach Boy music, the Schwinn all felt bizarrely familiar. I wasn’t watching someone else’s life as much as reliving my own. My dad played tennis most weekends in the 1970s in SoCal. He didn’t ride his Schwinn, but there was one in the garage. Long story short, the producers magnificently nailed the ethos of time and place.

One other less obvious thing to note. The fact that the Laker coach’s family only had one car speaks volumes about the NBA’s fledging status in 1979.

Highly recommended. As long as you’re at least 17 years old and not too prudish.

We’re All Fools

If I was stuck on a deserted island, and could only have one person’s writing to keep me company, Richard Russo would get serious consideration.

Russo introduces his beautiful essay, “My Father, The Fool” by writing, “I’d run out of sympathy for COVID skeptics. Then I remembered my father’s stiff neck.”

Highly recommended.

Monday Required Reading

You Can Learn to Love Being Alone.

“People who pursue solitude of their own volition ‘tend to report that it feels full — like they’re full of ideas or thoughts or things to do. . . . In this way, it’s distinct from loneliness, a negative state in which you’re disconnected from other people and it feels empty.”

Putin’s Bloody Folly in Ukraine.

“As Putin spills blood across Ukraine and threatens to destabilize Europe, Russians themselves stand to lose immeasurably. The ruble and the Russian stock market have cratered. But Putin does not care. His eyes are fixed on matters far grander than the well-being of his people. He is in full command of the largest army in Europe, and, as he has reminded the world, of an immense arsenal of nuclear weapons. In his mind, this is his moment, his triumphal historical drama, and damn the cost.”

The style and substance of South Carolina basketball’s Dawn Staley.

“‘She loves on them hard,’ associate head coach and longtime confidante Lisa Boyer says. ‘She’s playful with them, she’s hugging them, she’s there for them. I think they sense the fairness. I think they sense the genuineness of her. She speaks to them — it’s not some fairy tale. She’s telling them the deal.'”

“‘I owe basketball,’ Staley says. ‘I’m forever indebted to it. It engulfed my life for the positive. The game has gotten more of my time than my friends and my family. I feel like on a smaller or larger scale, it can impact my players’ lives in some kind of way.'”

A Renowned Community of Quilters is Taking on Copycats—and Winning.

“’We put a lot of work into it, and it’s about our life,’ Charley says of quilting. . . . We used these quilts for warmth. It was about our struggle, and our survival.'”

“Charley might feel differently, she offers, if these makers — who may have, say, studied textiles at art school — sent some of their profits back to the community that inspired them. But that doesn’t happen. “This work is ‘inspired’ in your mind, because you see the quilt pattern,” Charley says. “But you don’t know my story. And you’re going to try and duplicate it — and go to Joann Fabrics to do it?’”