Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jimmy Van Heusen, Screwball Comedies & Romance - For Better or Worse

Early yesterday morning, I was half-listening to NPR and half-dozing when I heard Frank Sinatra.  I know many people would respond to that stimuli by falling into a deep, deep slumber, but that man pretty much always gets my attention.

Turned out to be a story about Jimmy Van Heusen, close friend of Frank's and composer of a whole lot of classic songs - "High Hopes," "Call Me Irresponsible," "Love and Marriage," "Come Fly with Me," and more.

But the thing that stuck in my head is this:  
"He was a real partier, and yet the romance in his songs is something that came from another part of him, because I would not say that in life he was a romantic guy," Feinstein says. "I mean, he didn't get married until the age of 56 — that was the first time he got married! But then here he is, writing all these songs like 'Darn That Dream' and 'Polka Dots and Moonbeams' and 'Love and Marriage' and 'The Tender Trap' and 'All the Way.' And I don't think that he actually believed in those songs, you know? But he knew how to express what people wanted to believe in."
First, I kind of want to parse that quote out a bit.  There isn't really a connection between being a romantic person and marriage.  A late marriage, or no marriage, doesn't necessarily equal anti-romance.  Being a bit of a partier doesn't either.  I'm not trying to paint Mr. Van Huesen as a wounded heart adrift in the big-bad world, waiting for twuu wuv to finally arrive at 56, it's just that the logic of this comment is a bit wonky.  And, based on the same scant information, an argument could be made that a belief in the songs he wrote is the reason why he was a bit of a gadabout and married so late.  If you believe in this stuff, you don't settle.  You're human, you engage in life, and so you get labelled social butterfly, noncommittal, party girl, etc.  Labels that get uglier and meaner the older you get.  Not that I know anything about that...

Second, that quote made me think of this blog.  I don't actually believe in these films either, these screwball comedies.  Well, I don't believe in the mechanics of them, but I do believe in the spirit of them.  I believe life is about figuring out what you're about, and determining how you're going to walk your walk.  I believe it's possible for people to be seen and understood for what they are, and sometimes even by people they see and understand right back.  I don't believe it happens in terms of "happily ever after" very often, but I absolutely believe there are chunks of time in most lives where things line up pretty nicely.  Here and there.  Now and again.

I also believe that the people around you can make or break your success by way of your being what you are, and so you have to choose wisely.

Writing this blog is oddly nerve-wracking for me, because writing a largely unread blog about - well, there's no way around it, about Romance, puts me on a very slippery-slope.  One wrong step, and I could slip into a ravine full of pet-hair coated active-wear worn 24/7 (but never for actual exercise), excessive bumper stickers on my car, friends and family scratching their heads and wondering where it all went wrong for me, etc.

Essentially, I often fear that screwballs and rom-coms will turn out to be a kind of gateway drug, that if I focus on them too much, then years from now I'll end up navigating my "change of life" with a fixation on some 21st century Fabio, and a stack of dog-eared, dopey bodice-rippers stuffed into a home-made quilted calico print bag.

These aren't fully irrational fears.  About 15 months ago, I bought I pair of Dansko clogs for a job that required a lot of standing and was destroying my feet.  That job is long gone, but the shoes remain.  I die a bit inside each time I wear them in public.  The slightest glimpse of those ugly, functional, orthopedics is like a visit from The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, showing me the direction this could all be heading for me...  If I'm not careful.

These fears, they're some of the reason I don't write here very often.

Yet learning about Jimmy Van Heusen has alleviated some my trepidation.  He wrote sweet, romantic and optimistic songs, he worked as a part-time test pilot, and he ended up buried in the Sinatra family plot.  His songs were part of him, but just a part, and that part doesn't seem to have limited his evolution as a person.  Likewise, there's no reason my fondness for screwball comedies will necessarily lead to a socially problematic lifestyle.  

Perhaps I will adopt Mr. Van Heusen as a sort of patron saint of this blog, maybe if I light a candle each day and ask for his assistance in getting out of my own way, I'll start posting more regularly.


However, getting rid of those clogs is a definite must.  That single act will improve a whole lot of things --- frequency of blog posting and much, much more.  Horrible, horrible shoes.

(I watched this movie SO many times in Jr. High)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Marty & Mandy's New Year's Eve Monopoly Extravaganza

It was meant to be a very civilized New Years Eve.  Dinner, a few cocktails and a game of Monopoly.  But things took a turn when I landed on Boardwalk and was bankrupted (as goes life, so go board games).

Long story short, Marty's victory revels left him unfit to drive, and I had to take his keys.

I'm grateful that his charming disposition has returned with the light of day, but now I can't get him to leave.

Vanity Fair | January 2013 (photo Sam Jones)

Don't get me wrong, I love him at least as much as everyone else does, but...  Sigh.

(Happy New Year!)