No, it’s Not 1950…

…but you wouldn’t know it from the Love’s Embrace Kay Jewelers ad that’s been playing every five minutes in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. Or, as many know it, Singles Awareness Day. They also played this puppy before Christmas. Not everyday Kay Jewelers forks out for a rain machine, so they’re getting their money’s worth.

Run Lady

Woman receiving a pendant that captures the comfort found in each other's arms.

The 30 second spot begins with a mountain cabin in an electrical storm. A man and woman watch the storm from the window. There’s something not quite right about the guy. A little bit of smarmy, a little bit of mock turtleneck, a little bit of purposefully unshaven, I don’t know, but it adds up to a whole lot of not right.

The man is given the unenviable task of delivering the line: “In all the years we’ve been coming here I’ve never seen a storm like this.” Not even Marlon Brando at the height of his powers, let alone this guy, could bring this line to life. It is dead on arrival.

And then, it happens.

A crack of thunder and lightning.

And the woman spooks.

Do you hear me, people? The woman spooks. In a whirl of fright she spins away from the terrifying lightning and into the arms of smarmy guy. Okay. Here are a list of things that spook at electrical storms:

  • Horses
  • Rabbits
  • Very small children
  • Some dogs

Please note adult women was not on the list. Not even ALL dogs are on that list, only some dogs. I’d like to think that if a good percentage of dogs have the maturity to handle a situation, we would go ahead and presume that adult women would also share this fortitude.

After the woman has been forced to spook into smarmy guy’s arms, she must then listen to him say, “I’m right here,” and yes, the line is imbued with the sort of condescension you’ve already come to expect from this commercial. He then adds, “and I always be.” Again, NOT EVEN BRANDO. So many hands were dirtied in the creation of this thing! No one is free from sin — not the writer, director, smarmy guy, the ad campaign team, NO ONE. Not even our leading lady, who, so far, has managed to bring a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain elan, to this sad endeavor, leaves unscathed.

After enduring these many humiliations she must deliver her one and only line. Now, I may be projecting, but when she gazes up into smarmy guy’s face, I swear I see a look in her eyes, a look that says, “kill me now. I’ve just been forced to spook, whirl into a smarmy’s guy’s arms, and now I must deliver my line, ’cause Mama’s gotta pay the rent.” And she does. She says, “don’t let go. Ever.” NOT EVEN BETTE DAVIS– okay, no, I take that back. Bette Davis could make anything work.

Meanwhile, the narrator informs the man, “now you can surround her with the strength of your love.” You know, it wouldn’t be so bad, if hadn’t we already been treated to the spooking, the  condescension, the smarminess, but delivered at the conclusion of that nonsense it just sounds like so much chauvinism.

Sigh.

And in case you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it, here’s the spook in action.

P.S. Apparently this ad took heat back in November because it struck a lot of people as feeling like a slasher/horror film. I think that’s giving this guy way too much credit.

Dear Universe

puppy

Justin Bieber, recording artist

I think this is the seventh day in a row that I’ve opened the front door to discover a basket. Inside that basket, nestled into a fuzzy red plaid fleece, is a Toy Poodle puppy. The puppy has Joey Lawrence’s hair from the 80’s and his name tag reads Justin Bieber. Every day I close the door, hoping he finds some other family to live with, but the next time I turn around, there he is again! Universe, you may have become confused, but Toy Poodle puppies have no sway over me. I do not want a Toy Poodle puppy, I will not ever want a Toy Poodle puppy. Please take your Toy Poodle puppy and put it somewhere else.

What was that, Universe? Oh, yes… that. {sigh}

Yes, I did say the exact same thing about the female Chinese Crested Hairless that you insisted upon dropping off, not only at my doorstep, but in my car, at other people’s houses that I happened to be at, at the gym. I didn’t want her either, and seriously, Universe, you stacked the deck against her when you named her Lady Gaga. Who wants a Chinese Crested Hairless in the first place, let alone one named that?

Chinest Crested Hairless

Lady Gaga performs at the Grammys.

Yes, yes, Universe, it’s true. I did eventually bring her inside and she became part of the family. What can I say? Paparazzi broke me down and Bad Romance did me in.

But that’s not happening with this Justin puppy. And I mean it.

Humiliation – It’s What’s For Dinner

The tale I about to tell occurred many moons ago, arguably in 2003, but also quite possibly in 2004. These things are open to debate. One thing I know – it was July.  In the middle of the hottest month that sits right in the middle of the hottest season.  Hot, hot, hot.

It was a Friday, and I had spent my day trying to divert the course of a river. (It was eating away at my in-law’s lawn.)  I thought I could do this by transferring gravel from the far side of the bank to the near side of the bank. So it was shovel, dump, shovel, dump, all day long. Actually, it would be more accurate to say shovel, sweat, dump, shovel, sweat, dump, shovel, sweat, dump. Over the course of the day I drank two glasses of water. I thought this meant I was staying hydrated. This was back when I was young and stupid. I would exit the day older and wiser.

I hear that my sister and her then-boyfriend are going to be passing through town, so we make plans to eat at Sardi’s. Sardi’s is a local legend and purveyor of the best ribs in the South. I know whereof I speak – they catered my wedding. During the college years Sardi’s was our official hang-out. It was like a second home.  But after this Friday I would not return to Sardi’s for two years.

Sardi's Den

The site of my humiliation.

I shower, get cleaned up, I’m feeling great, looking forward to dinner. We have a lovely time. Our waitress is young and fun and cute and a good server. I would later come to look at her as a kind of personal savior. I am ravenous. We order fried things. Lots of fried things. I eat lots of fried things. Lots and lots of them. I also order two margaritas, but they are very small, on the rocks, and weak. Talk begins to wrap up. And I begin to not feel so well.

I go to the restroom. Nowadays, Sardi’s has redone some of the bathroom. At the time, it was rustic, with a concrete floor. Possibly I inspired the switch to linoleum. I exit the bathroom and wind my way through the overcrowded, jam packed dining area. Such is the nature of Friday nights at Sardi’s. Everybody else is up at the front, paying. We say our good-byes and go outside. All the while, things are starting to go bad. They are, in fact, going real bad, real fast, real hard. My hearing and my vision start to fade. My neo-cortex short circuits, and the reptilian part of my brain comes to the forefront, insisting I go into protectionist mode. You don’t want the lions to know you’re the sick zebra.

Instead of telling anyone that death appeared imminent, I instead tell Evan that I have to go to the bathroom. Nobody notices this is weird, as I just went. He smiles and says he’ll wait in the parking lot. I go back inside, get halfway across the crowded dining area, and pass out. As I fall I grab the straps of a woman’s purse that’s hooked over the back of her chair. I try to keep myself up, but I go all the way down. I immediately come back to, and stagger to my feet. I hear a guy laughing. He thinks I’m hammered. He says, “oh my God!” while laughing, in that “I can’t believe that girl is so trashed!” kind of way.

My response? I slur at the man, “be cool, dude. Be cool.” Clearly, I was not in my right mind.

I manage to get myself into the bathroom and I close myself into a stall. I try throwing up, but nothing comes. I try going the bathroom, and that’s when all of a sudden I was in a wonderful place. It was garden-like, my friends were there. It was peaceful, pleasant, there was much laughter. I remember thinking, “this is so lovely, I’d like to stay here forever.” But there was something nagging at me, something trying to tug me away from this heavenly spot. It was a voice. It sounded alarmed. And slowly, my focus returned, and I realized it was the voice of my waitress.

Who was scaling the wall of the bathroom stall in order to come save me, as I had passed out, hit the concrete floor with my head like I meant it, and given myself a concussion.

The nimble woman managed her way over, unlocked the door and soon I was being tended to by a cadre of truly awesome women. People, tip your servers nicely. You never know when they may be saving what little of your dignity you have left. Yes, dignity, my friends. As attentive readers may have noticed, I was trying to go the bathroom when I Greg Louganis’ed my way into the concrete. Which meant that while my mind was in heaven, my body was sprawled out on a dirty bathroom floor, bare rump side up.

Not only was it as awesome as it sounds, it was even awesomer than that.

As I’m assisted into a sitting position I hear some of the servers suggest I am intoxicated. My waitress, God bless her, insists that I didn’t have much to drink, that there was no way my problems were being caused by alcohol. I vaguely gestured in her direction, slurring, “what she said.”

So, after some time Evan appears, and a bit after that, the EMTs arrive, and, finally, I puke up all that fried stuff in my stomach. And I immediately feel ten times better. Although still concussed.

Eventually it’s time for me to make my exit. I am, how do you say? Ah yes, humiliated, but there is no way out other than to go through the dining area. My sweet waitress assures me that we’ve been in the restroom so long every table has since turned over. I leave the bathroom and find she is right. It is a small comfort as I make my walk of shame to the parking lot.

And so, kids, the lesson here is – stay hydrated! Hydration is important! Without it, you can pass out half naked in public and that’s not fun! So don’t learn that lesson the hard way, take it from me – drink eight glasses a day, no matter what!

VICTORY, INDEED

People, prepare yourself for an awful lot of ALL CAPS. Why? Because I am EXCITED.

I just watched a FANTASTIC movie called “Dark Victory,” with Bette Davis, some random dude as the love interest, named DR. FREDERICK STEELE, a very young Humphrey Bogart as a stable boy, and Ronald Reagan as a good time Charlie and drunk.

IT WAS THE BEST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN.

Long story short, this proud, rich girl (Bette) discovers from this famous brain surgeon (clearly, a somewhat sci-fi career in 1939) that she has – not a brain tumor or brain cancer, but a “growth.” He operates, even though she is very fearful, and afterwards learns that it is malignant. How long does he have to wait for test results to come back? Thirty seconds. That’s all it took. The other surgeon just looks at it and goes, “it’s malignant.”

So, instead of telling her she is going to die in 10 months, he tells her best friend. Her best friend asks in a quavering voice whether she will suffer. He then tells her, helpfully, that about four hours before she dies, her vision will dim, then be gone altogether, but other than that, she will be totally symptom free for ten months. He knows this. Don’t ask me how, but he appears pretty certain. He then tells the best friend, SHE MUST NEVER KNOW.

Yes, they must keep it secret from her that she is dying. Friends, I tell you, go look up this movie for no other reason than to hear DR. FREDERICK STEELE deliver the line, SHE MUST NEVER KNOW.

LOVE IT. 

So, DR. FREDERICK STEELE falls in love with Bette (naturally) and decides to marry her to make her last few months super happy.

Bette’s best friend is appalled by all this deception (SHE MUST NEVER KNOW!), but doesn’t do anything about it.

Just before moving off to Vermont, Bette happens upon her case file. She sees all these concurring opinions from different doctors that she has a “PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE.”

Perplexed, she asks DR. FREDERICK STEELE’S secretary, “what does prognosis mean?” and the woman goes, “what’s going to happen in the future,” and then Bette asks, “what does negative mean?” and the woman goes, “that there’s no hope.”

Bette, who has heretofore seemed very bright and well read, asks the woman, “what does negative mean?”

Answer, “that there’s no hope.”

 You can see why this is the BEST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN.

Davis and Bogart

Humphrey Bogart, Stablehand. Bette Davis, Awesome.

So then Bette makes a glorious scene, breaking up with the doctor and her best friend, and then goes through an entertaining period of hard drinking and hard riding (there’s a lot of upper class white Connecticut horse riding in this movie) but rebuffs the advances of Humphrey Bogart, who demands of her, IS IT BECAUSE I AM A STABLEHAND?!?!

Of course, it’s really because she’s still in love with the doctor.

So, she comes around and decides to marry him after all, and they go off to Vermont.

BEST SCENE IN THE MOVIE.

Bette is sitting in this huge country kitchen with not one but two servants behind her, reading a letter from her best friend Ann about some horse show, and she says:

“Oh, why do people make their lives so complicated with their big houses and all their horses? Here we have nothing, Martha (Martha being the white servant) but we’re as happy as we can be!”

DUDE. YOU HAVE A HUGE COUNTRY HOME IN VERMONT WITH A HOUSEKEEPER AND A COOK.

“Here we have nothing, Martha, but we’re as happy as we can be!”

BRILLIANT.

If only Martha had been given a line in reply.

Bogart randomly shows up for a visit and she tells him to put Challenger (her favorite horse) in the Grand National. He tells her, “you look great, Judy, why, you make me think all these prayers I’m saying are actually working.”

Bette says good-bye to him and then runs up to her best friend going, “there’s a storm coming! The sky is getting darker.”

BUT IT’S BRIGHT SUNLIGHT.

So we know Bette’s totally about to kick it.  In about four hours. And so does Bette.

Dying Bette

This is where she kicks it.

Bette then sends her doctor husband off to New York to win some prestigious doctory award, and then, with the help of her best friend, she plants some hyacinths, the doctor’s favorite flower, WHILE BLIND AND DYING.

I’m telling you, BEST MOVIE EVER.

She then sends her best friend away and goes upstairs and dies.

I mean, CAN YOU BEAT THAT FOR ENTERTAINMENT????

I THINK NOT.

Best freaking movie I’ve ever seen.

Addendum: My friends Wooster and Bond inform me that it is a tragedy that a USC Film grad was not previously familiar with Dark Victory, the best movie that was ever made. I concur. Bond adds, “that random dude is George Brent.” Apparently he was a notorious womanizer and blah, blah, blah super famous blah, blah, blah made a lot of movies. All I know is, he played DR. FREDERICK STEELE and gave me my favorite movie line of all time, “SHE MUST NEVER KNOW.”

Strange City Run

Of all the pros associated with running, arguably the pro-est of all is the first run in a strange city. It’s not everyday you get a first run somewhere new and it’s an experience to be savored, every step of the way.

 Somehow you wake up early, knowing the run is out there, waiting for you. You dress in the dark in the hotel room. Whoever you’re with will still be asleep when you return. Even if you’re alone, you still dress in the dark. Now is not the time for artificial light.

 The morning is grey and overcast, but you can still feel the early. In the hotel lobby men and women move forward determinedly in suits and ties, coffee cups in one hand, bag or briefcase in the other. But not you. You alone wear a grubby t-shirt from college, your favorite running pants and brand new Nikes.

Out into the cool air you go, and the run begins.

And this time, the run is in Savannah, Georgia. In the early 1700’s the first European settlers in Savannah laid out a city built around oak-filled squares. Some are impressive, others modest, all have paths and lawns and Spanish Moss and benches and some have statues and fountains and plaques explaining the history of this particular square. Some are surrounded by homes, others churches and inns and restaurants and others still by parking garages and assorted other modern invaders.

 The founding fathers of Savannah did not create these squares to foster community or to ensure Savannah’s legacy as one of the most beautiful cities in the South. No, their calling was much more forward thinking. “Three hundred years from now,” they said, “people will be so fat and have so little to do that they will run for no reason other than to get rid of their fat. During this bleak and unfortunate time, these ‘runners’ – as they will be called – will benefit mightily from the incentive these squares will provide. They shall think to themselves, ‘if I just go a little father, I’ll get to see another square.’ And so it is that we shall build these squares, so that we might provide comfort to these pour souls of the future.” The founding fathers of Savannah were both merciful and far-sighted. 

Savannah

Doesn't that make you want to run?

But even in a city bereft of such run incenting squares the first run offers up delicate delights. You move through the landscape but never become a part of it. This is not your town, but someone else’s, and as you go along, too quickly to be spoken to but not so fast as to miss anything, you get to see these someones, see them in their town.

Down in a daylight basement coffee house a man places flowers in the center of the tables. He does not see my feet run pass, he is too intent on his tables, for he knows that the breakfast crowd will be here before he knows it. In the fire station a man wipes down an already gleaming truck, his face is serious, set. Three people, looking weary, wait for the bus, their eyes studiously gaze upon nothing, and certainly not upon me, a stranger in their town.

The morning is for natives, for deliveries and set-up, for work and duty. Not even the dog walkers are up yet. Only the people who must be, the people who belong, the people who run this town are here. Later will come the cars to the point of traffic, visitors to the point of tourists, but right now it’s just me running and the people running the town. Life is made of such simple pleasures.