Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/20: COVID 19 in my Head, Didn't Enjoy *The Nice Guys*, "Dog Tales"/Harriet Potter and *Bewitched*

1. Very little actually happens in The Age of Innocence. So far, this has been a story of invitations, of visits, trips, and of flower deliveries. Characters choose a particular costume for each visit, depending on the time of day. Often they dine on duck and turtle and mushroom sauce and other fine foods. Or, they drink tea. Each of these visits is a drama. Tensions develop between characters. Others develop within the characters, in their minds and in their feelings. It's the psychological and relational tensions that keep the story moving along, in addition to Wharton's sharp critique of wealth, status, and etiquette in the 1870s, the early days of the Gilded Age.

I'm wondering if other readers, in March 2020, are having the odd experience with their books that I'm having with The Age of Innocence.

From time to time, I forget that I am reading a story set in Manhattan about 150 years ago.

I catch myself feeling concern that these characters are going to spread COVID-19. Newland Archer, at one point, boards a boat and travels to Florida where May Welland, his fiancee, is on holiday with her parents. My first thought was, "Newland! You must shelter in place! Don't travel to Florida! Don't risk spreading the caronavirus!"

My anxiety lasts a matter of seconds. I get my head straight soon enough, relax about Archer's trip and, about other parts of the book, all these visits, and continue lying low in Kellogg, reading about the toll the wealth and boredom of these characters takes on their souls.

2. Debbie looked at a list of movies someone online recommended for those who enjoyed Knives Out. We decided to give The Nice Guys a try.

It didn't work for either of us. It helped sharpen my ideas of what kind of movies I do and do not enjoy and The Nice Guys fell squarely into the latter category. Oh, well. We'll try to pick a more enjoyable movie for Tuesday night. (In all fairness, let me add that I did some checking around and, in not enjoying this movie, Debbie and I are in the minority. Many viewers enjoyed the buddy movie chemistry between the characters played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling; many found the movie very funny; many enjoyed its 1977 L. A. world of disco and pornography vibe. We were not among the many!)

3. Once The Nice Guys concluded, our evening got really fun and enjoyable.

I took a minute and looked at the PBS app on our smarty pants tv and, upon checking out episodes of Nova that were available, clicked on "Dog Tales", a program dedicated to the long, deep history of how our canine companions became domesticated. Debbie and I became immediately absorbed in this world of dogs and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

The program helped remind Debbie that she hadn't updated me for a while on how Harriet Potter is doing. Harriet belongs to Debbie's friend Hannah. Hannah adopted her in India. Harriet had been treated badly on the streets of -- well, I don't remember the city in India. Back in June, 2017, Harriet arrived by plane in D.C., was staying with another friend of Debbie's and Hannah's in Maryland. We volunteered to take her in, have her certified to travel in the USA, and take her to the airport to be flown to Seattle. Our first attempt to transport Harriet failed, thanks to American Airlines regulations, but, a couple of days later, I drove Harriet to a United Airlines flight out of Dulles and everything was in order and Hannah and Harriet were reunited in Seattle.

I loved the few days Harriet lived with us and, tonight, when Debbie told me that Harriet is doing splendidly in Salem and is great with Hannah's newborn baby, I was moved by Harriet's courage. Harriet Potter survived the terrible hot liquid burn someone inflicted on her in India. While her back is scarred, her temperament is not -- an observation the vet in Colesville, MD had made three years ago when certifying Harriet to fly and a fact that moves me every time I hear it repeated.

When "Dog Tales" ended, I was in the mood for some television programming from 50-60 years ago and, on a whim, clicked on Bewitched.

Neither Debbie nor I had watched Bewitched for decades and we both were flabbergasted by what a pointed satire of suburban life it is and had no idea (from our memories of the show) that it was a subtle and sharp critique of the prevailing conventions of marriage and the domestication of women. We watched four episodes and realized that when we first saw this show in 1964, its clever ways of calling into question the very values the surface of the show was portraying went right by us in our youth.

I am pretty sure we'll be returning to IMDb television again and again to watch more episodes of Bewitched, this sly series that seemed so silly to us years ago and looks so smart to us today.

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