Monday, September 24, 2007

Timeless TV

It's funny what you remember from your childhood.

Thanks to our library's fabulous DVD collection, I've enjoyed watching some favorite old TV shows lately: MacGyver, Remington Steele, Northern Exposure and, yes, even Hart To Hart. (I'm hoping they'll order Moonlighting soon.) What's fun, of course, is getting to see with adult eyes the programs I used to look forward to as a kid or a teen...shows that helped form my notions of storytelling structure, character development and romantic comedy.

Some episodes hold up remarkably well to the scrutiny of time and maturity. Others, not so much.

The curious thing is that when an old program I'm watching now (some two or more decades after it first aired) strikes an emotional chord in me, I have to work much harder to think like a writer. The very timelessness of certain scenes pulls me into the show and makes me forget to analyze the pacing, the character arc, the dialogue exchange, the plot escalation or whatever. (I give writerly reasons like this for allowing myself the luxury of DVD procrastination. I'm working. Really.)

And, yes, just as often I'm thrown off by some woefully out-of-date pop-culture reference or by some really terrible hair or clothing style (i.e., Teri Hatcher guest-starred on MacGyver once and, oh, the huge, dreadful earrings!), but I'm still shocked by how many times the writers and directors of those now-old TV shows got the human drama just right. How they pinpointed the most universal social dynamics and the all-too-common fears men and women have about being in relationships with each other--be they work, family, friendship or love. How, even though I know about the inevitable demise of these characters, the aging of the real-life actors, the replacement of these programs with others several seasons over, I can still return immediately to their lives, and to a time when they lived out my earliest ideas of what constituted "funny, romantic, smart and interesting." And I'm so glad we have the DVD technology to bring them back...if only for a few hours.

Anyone out there have some favorites, too?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Persistence in Action

I recently celebrated a big birthday (and, no, I'm not publicly stating the number). As a result of the festivities, I'd dined out all week and consumed far more desserts than absolutely necessary (and, no, I'm not stating that number either). After several such days of overindulgence, however, I found myself at the nearby high school track, attempting to walk off a few of the pounds I'd gained.

That's where I saw my inspiration.

Male or female, I'm not sure (I don't really know my snapping turtles well), but I thought of him as a "he," and I studied him with unfailing fascination as I took my laps on the cushy blacktop surrounding the football field. The track is enclosed by a metal chainlinked fence and successfully keeps out most children and many adults. I happened to find one of the gates unlocked, so I slipped inside. Mr. Turtle was already in there, halfway around the track, up against the fence on the grass. He proved to be the only other living thing (besides a swarm of mosquitoes) that I encountered on my walk. Like me, he was getting his exercise. Unlike me, he clearly wanted to do it elsewhere.

Mr. Turtle kept trying to get out, but that fence created problem after problem for him. His shell was too large for him to slip beneath the chains. His body was too short to boost himself over. His legs were too stubby and lacking in dexterity to click open the gate. It seemed a hopeless business.

But, boy, did he keep at it. I watched him, continually amazed, as he plodded up and then down the linked boundary. After some 17 laps (mine), I could tell he'd inched to within striking distance of his goal (a large gap under one of the locked gates with enough space to allow him to pass beneath it, shell and all). And I could also tell that he didn't realize how near he was to succeeding. He didn't know to make a beeline for the magic spot. He didn't know his struggles would be over the moment he got another few yards down the path. Instead, he kept checking the fence every foot or so, sticking his neck through the chainlinked holes, stretching his chunky body to its fullest in an attempt to reach above his obstacle, taking additional steps forward when this didn't lead to freedom. Trying again, and again, and again.

God, I was so proud of him.

And, even though I didn't get to stay long enough to watch the glorious moment when he made his escape, I had utter faith that he would. Soon. And I appreciated his silent but powerful reminder.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Gelato is Coming to Town!

Is it wrong to get so excited by this?

Yesterday, I made a quick stop at our local Piggly Wiggly. (I love them for their soft bakery cookies, their thin-sliced Angus garlic roast beef and their "lite" chocolate soy milk, not so much for their questionable mushrooms or their inedible specimens of zucchini, though...) As I parked the car, I saw a sign on the building next door that nearly made my heart stop: A gelato shop! Coming soon!

Oh, YES!!!!!

Now, I love ice cream. I really love it. I also love frozen yogurt, frozen custard, sherbet, flavored Cool Whip and even Tofutti. I'm not that picky. If it's sweet and it's frozen, I'm a fan. But gelato--the ultra-smooth, Italian variety of flavor-infused ice-creaminess--is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite.

When I was in Italy, I was known to order up a large gelato cone three times per day (at bare minimum). The chocolate-orange cone I had in Florence one summer remains a highlight of that trip, on par with my first viewing of Michelangelo's "David." I took a ten-week Italian language class for the lone purpose of learning how to order gelati (the plural of gelato) while abroad. I was that dedicated.

So, is it too presumptuous of me to ask the manager of this new shop if they'll be carrying my favorite flavors? Or, to loiter around the entrance in hopes of snagging one of the newly hired workers and pressing him/her into telling me the exact date of the Grand Opening? Or, to whip all of my friends into a frenzy of anticipation over this delightful gastronomic addition to our little city?


I think not...