Friday, April 25, 2008

The Lives of Others.......

You know how you watch the Oscars.....and always think: "Wow, that sounds great.....I gotta see that film!" Especially when it comes to foreign films.

I dunno. Since 90% of you are younger than I, and have acutal probably get to go to movies. The last film I saw in a theatre was actually "Pan's Labyrinth"....but you all know I am a Spain fetishist, so it doesn't count.

And it was two years ago.

Tonight....when I was supposed to be posting about Tassajara and Spring!......Brendan brought home some films to watch. There was a strong hint of "Family Bonding".....and since we have this new family, I thought I had better do some Bonding.

What? New family? What....adopted Mormon children from San Angelo? No......just Nike.

Nike's family has temporarily dissolved, so we are walking that thin line.....once again....between all the various government agencies that are: "Here To Help Us!"

Nike's situation is that if we try to get her some help by telling someone official about her family situation......the mere fact of her being with her family would violate her probation.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Inspector Javert.......

We are back to getting up at 6 something and trying to make the 7:10 bus in The Village to Carmel High. And back to calling Ann Berry at CHS with excuses for those missed first periods when we don't make it. And those second periods. For Ann Berry.....getting phone calls from me in 2008 about failed car batteries, fallen trees, mountain lions, washed out driveways, obscure allergies and ailments for a high school sophomore....must be like getting chicken pox again at age 55. First, there were my three Robert Klem-kicker......and Arwin......then Chloe for three years. I am a seventeen year migraine for poor Ann Berry.

Last night as I was settling in to watch the Daily Show and fall asleep (at 8:30.....) I rallied and realized that at our advanced age we are probably not providing a really good intellectually stimulating and supportive environment for Nike. We are so worn out by human contact and food esoterica that at home we just grunt at each other, micro-wave some organic pad thai and retreat into dark corners.

So last night I crawled out of my den to check with Nike: "Are you OK? Can I get you anything or help with anything?"

"No. I am fine. Thank you so much for letting me stay here......." generous of us. To let one of the smartest, most emotionally brave and durable people I have met in a decade sleep in the empty spare bedroom? What a drag it is to have a happy, smiling face to deal with at 3pm and 6am. Like mother birds are bummed by all those little chicks going "Cheep, cheep, cheep."

And her alternative available spot to live is on the couch at Rippling River in her drug-dealing uncle's State funded apartment.....with his dogs, his girlfriend.....Nike's mom and her little sister. Nike's mom actually called me the other night and in a drunken moment demanded that I bring Nike home so she could help her Mom fight with her Dad.


One of Mom's more precious moments recently was demanding that Nike pay for the family groceries at The Store, since their charge was maxed out. When the fifteen year old demurred....Mom screamed for all and sundry to hear: "You are lucky to even be on the planet. You were just a drunken mistake!"

I was worried about our legal position in all of this.....we are marking time until May 6th, when Nike's probation ends....and she can possibly self-emancipate. We all think of it as Nike's real birthday. I was somewhat assured when Nike's social worker spent the afternoon with her yesterday.......and dropped her off at our house for dinner.

Maybe my house isn't so bad after all......

"Nike...we love having you here. You are helping us, it is not us helping you....

Do you have homework?"

The next thing I knew I was in a discussion about physics....and the dreaded "E" word.


Awww, Jesus. I fetched my college physics teacher was the actual Richard Feynman......and Stephen Hawking, and Carl Sagan (who used to eat in our restaurant every Friday in Ithaca). I even had a biography of the equation e=mc2....and a book about who got Einstein's office at Princeton.

The poor girl.....she had no idea of the geekdom she had inadvertently submerged in. We talked for three hours about entropy, and tried to figure out if you really could measure it with a Go board like Feynman said.

And missed the goddam 7:10 bus. "Uh, Ann. Nike missed first period due to an excess of...... entropy."

No shit. I think that is my family motto, though I don't know how to say "excess entropy" in Gaelic.

Some drunken mistake.

Anyway, back to Family Bonding. Brendan grabbed "The Lives of Others"....a German film about the Oscar winner from last year or the year before.

I was thrilled...but I speak German. The three of us sat on the couch with Puppy and watched a long, intricate, finely cut examination in German of morality, ethics, love, loyalty....and the power of The State.

The film examines the East German Secret Service (Stasi) and their investigation into the loyalty of a writer and his actress lover. It is a Romeo and Juliet of the George Bush era.....well, actually the Erich Honecker era (it is tough to keep these dictators apart) before the Berlin Wall fell.

The film is devastating. Brendan loved it because all the scenes shot in East Berlin reminded him of Prague when he first arrived. I loved dissecting the sub-titles take on the actual language.....and how apt the whole theme of utter State invasion and dominance of private life was to our situation today.

The kids missed it: "Wow. I am sure glad I didn't live then....when the government could totally tap your phones and invade your house, and wreck your life if you didn't agree with them....."

Uh, kids......check out the FISA debate...and Telecom immunity. You really think every text message, email and cellphone call you have ever made is not available for scrutiny? That it is up to those holding the data to decide if and when and where to bring you down?

This is to the kid who checked out GoogleEarth and saw his ex-girlfriend walking down the street with the new guy......

Nike did get the ethics and courage theme. The rest had never occurred to her.

The Stasi agent....number the role of the priest in Romeo and Juliet almost.......deflects the State scrutiny away from the hero just enough to create a little space for him. At the cost of his own career. Like Javert letting Jean Valjean slip away at the end of "Les Miserables".

At the end of the film it all clicked for her. The subtlety, the fine lines and fine choices, the daily balancing act, the threats, the courage in the face of ultimate power and ultimate drudgery.

I watched her actually expand before my eyes as it all registered: "This is what I do!"

Some "drunken mistake"......


Blogger Pexster said...

You're on a roll. Must be spring. Keep 'em coming!

6:40 PM  

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