In the film “Manhattan” there’s a scene where Woody Allen lies on a sofa with his trademark furrowed brow and tries to list things that make life worth living. In these cold, cruel days of winter and recession, I keep going back to that scene. I keep thinking of all the unemployment and foreclosure and misery. I wonder if we’re on the road to recovery or still spiraling.
People have a bunker mentality now. We’re circling wagons, cutting losses, staring at the bottle. Is it half empty or half full? Fingernails are getting chewed to the nubs. Flags are at half-mast. Lights are low. The “better angels of our nature” (as Lincoln said) are now folded up and being sold on Craig’s List. Dogs are hungrier. Streets are meaner. Harsh words come quicker. Is all this good for us? Are we learning what matters? Or are we dying with a watery gasp in a flood of corporate greed?
In the spirit of Allen’s melancholy Isaac Davis, I have come up with my own reasons for living. In no particular order, here are the things that keep me going:
1) THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. It’s a novel that came out in the year 2000. It was written by Michael Chabon. It’s about comic books. And it makes me glad to be human and proud to be a writer.
2) MY KIDS’ LAUGHTER. Ultrasonic whistles will rouse dogs. Snake charmers use their pungi flutes to mesmerize cobras. When I hear my kids giggling I melt. My kids’ laughter should replace antidepressants.
3) FRANK ZAPPA’S GUITAR SOLO ON “PENGUINS IN BONDAGE.” It’s the first song on ROXY AND ELSEWHERE. The lyrics have something to do with kinky sex and Kleenex wrapped around coat hangers. But the solo – a blues epic channeled through a hive of effects – sends me.
4) BRAISED SHORT RIBS. Marbled USDA choice. Brown them off in butter. Then roast them slow and low in soy sauce, scallions, brown sugar, ginger and Pinot Grigio. Closest thing to God you’ll ever find on a plate.
5) THE SOUND BARRIER SCENE IN “THE RIGHT STUFF.” Phil Kaufman directed it. Brilliant guy. But credit Levon Helm, the greatest singer in rock and roll, who says, when he drops Yeager from the B-52, “Put the spurs to her, Chuck!”
I could go on.
Maybe that’s good.
I feel better already.