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Monday, December 23, 2013

Walking on Water

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
MATT. 14:29-33

We spend most of our Florida vacation within site of the Gulf of Mexico, but -- with the exception of our eight-year-old traveling companion -- most us us limit our actual immersion to splashing around right in the fairly miniscule waves.  

Last winter, the proprietors of a surf shop a few blocks from our rented house caught my attention with a strange contraption that looked like a cross between a surfboard and a kayak.  You stand on it like a surfboard, but -- rather than skimming on the crest of a wave, you paddle it like a boat.  Though I am about as graceful as a drunken giraffe during an earthquake, it looked like fun, and I wanted to try it. By the time I got the nerve to talk to them about it towards the end of our stay, the wind and currents had picked up and made conditions unsafe for a beginner.

That's me!
Since then, I found out this "has been a thing" since 2005 when it came over from Hawaii, but really took off in the past year or so.  Several friends have used them on northern New Jersey's lakes. People's little kids were doing it. A senior citizen with an enviable torso glided past us on one right near the water's edge during one of our daily walks. I was not going to miss the opportunity again this year!

So midway through our trip, I marched myself over to the languid youth guarding the pile of  equipment on the beach.  He has a cake job at this time of year, before the snowbirds and college kids arrive, we shared the beach with only a few other people so he mostly has to sit there and hope someone wants to rent something.

There were no lessons... after about a five-minute description of what to do, he dragged one of the boards into the water and guided it past the breaking waves.  I flopped onto it, managing not to go off the other side, and followed his advice to start out kneeling until I got more confident with my balance.  After five or ten minutes, I tentatively got to my feet and lasted a few minutes before flying off into the drink.

Unperturbed and glad I had not yet made it to where my friend Linda was waiting with a camera, I scrabbled back onto the board and tried again.  Before long, I was standing more than kneeling, and getting used to the sensation of trying to balance on top of a giant pan of Jell-O.  I am proud to say I didn't fall again, and made my way slowly up and down the beach, hoping the wake from a passing speedboat wouldn't send me flying right when I was in range of my intrepid news photographer.

By the time my rental hour was over, my quads were like rubber bands, but I was hooked.  I can understand how this is the Outdoor Industry Association's reported #1 new sports activity for 2013.  I also think it will help me in the gym, since it requires constant engagement of your core muscles and awareness of how you are distributing your weight.

Speaking of weight, I cringed when I saw the photos. I hate pictures of myself to begin with, let alone shirtless ones, and studying for the Project Management Professional exam plus some medical issues meant it was not a very outdoorsy summer for me! Hopefully I can find more chances to "SUP" next summer which will help counteract too much computer time.

"I feel pretty, o so pretty"
At the end of our week on the beach, we headed to Busch Gardens in Tampa for a day before flying home.  I was kind of amazed how in-your-face Christian the Christmas (clearly not Happy Holidays here!) decorations and music were.  But my point (yes, there was one!) of mentioning our visit there was that we saw a hippopotamus swimming underwater.  This huge animal, which lumbered slowly around its enclosure on land, was positively as graceful as a dancer as it moved through the tiny fish and plants that surrounded it.  Similarly, as uncomfortable as I was with the sight of my pale, flabby self, there was none of that while I was actually cruising, albeit slowly, on top of the waves.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Maybe it's a Cloudbust

Ignatius of Antioch - Bishop & Martyr (107)

Last week -- after a very long wait -- we screened Cloudburst, a 2011 film of which Netflix apparently has one copy.

In my book, this film had three things going for it: Olympia Dukakis (playing gay, no less), Nova Scotia (playing itself), and a hot guy (Ryan Doucette).  How can you go wrong?

(from left) Olympia Dukakis, Ryan Doucette, Brenda Fricker
I wanted to see it at the Montclair Film Festival (especially because Dukakis was present for the screening) and wasn't able to get a ticket (probably because Dukakis was present at the screening).  She is a heroine in the town where she once lived and operated the Blooming Grove Theater Company.

The premise is as follows:  Stella (Dukakis) and her partner Dot (Brenda Fricker) have lived together for decades, but are being separated by Dot's granddaughter Molly (Kristin Booth) who is convinced that Dot's failing eyesight means Stella is incapable of caring for her, and she resorts to trickery and the fact that her husband is a cop (maybe the only cop in their small town) to get Dot away from Stella and into the rural Maine version of Shady Pines.

Emboldened by tequila, Stella hatches a plan to spring Dot, and they head off to Canada, with the idea of getting married.  Along the way, they pick up a hitch-hiker with the unlikely name of Prentice (Doucette).  Prentice is, inexplicably, almost always half-naked.  I have been to Maine and Nova Scotia:  It is not that hot, even in the summer. 

Prentice's story is that he left his dancing (modern, not exotic!) gig in NYC when he heard his mother was dying.  He's hitching his way back to Lower Economy (not be confused with Upper Economy) to see her.  He's a little nervous about exposing his parents to a lesbian couple, particularly since Stella has no filters and is regularly mistaken for a man.

When they arrive, Stella is sequestered in the truck, but Dot needs the rest room. Prentice gets her in the door and then apparently forgets about her as he sits eating cereal and talking to his mother (who -- other than a hacking cough -- seems well enough, and offers no explanation as to why Prentice was summoned home).  They quickly agree that he can't stay there (apparently they just had extra Cheerios they needed to finish). Dot gets herself into a bit of trouble I will not describe, which hastens their departure and leads to possibly the strangest scene in the movie.  Sufficient to say, we see more of the native twigs and berries than was really necessary.

Having given up his job to see his mother for ten minutes, Prentice seems remarkably calm about being homeless, unemployed, and having no plan for the future.  He agrees to accompany Dot and Stella into Canada and witness their wedding, perhaps in part for lack of anything better to do, but (I like to think) also out of a genuine desire to help them. He reveals a level of intelligence and complexity behind his initial trashy opportunism over the course of the film, as the couple's situation sparks some innate compassion and perhaps a sense of belonging he hasn't felt at home in a long time.

Of course things do not go entirely as planned.  They make it across the border with Prentice's dignity being about the only casualty, but cold feet lead to the seemingly counterproductive summoning of Molly, who tries once again to assert her will to keep the women apart.  The skirmish that follows leads to Dot finally getting to the root of what is driving Molly's behavior.  I will not spoil the ending, but it's not exactly happily-ever-after.

This quirky film kept me engaged, but the characters' seemingly self-defeating behavior both endeared them to me and made me want to understand their motives better than the film allowed.