Wisconsin Lutheran College, seen from the 8th floor of Froedtert Hospital's Center for Advanced Care, June 16, 2023
Wisconsin Lutheran College, seen from the 8th floor of Froedtert Hospital’s Center for Advanced Care, June 16, 2023

Another Week: Number 25

by | June 18, 2023

Being actively involved in cancer treatment places you inside a kind of Habitrail from which you can see daily life going on outside as usual, but you’re enclosed within limited chambers and the few paths connecting them.

There’s the highway commute to the hospital, the parking garage, the elevators, the hospital room, the doctor’s examining rooms, waiting rooms, specialty services, and the hospital cafeterias.

Back at home, there is the recliner, the bed, the bathroom, and a lawn chair if the weather is nice.

It’s somewhat like a COVID lockdown — but with weakness and vomiting.

The plan is for Amy to get chemotherapy all summer.


Of Human Hearts (1938)

While waiting for Amy to get released Friday morning, we tuned to Turner Classic Movies on her hospital TV.

Of Human Hearts, a 1938 movie starring Jimmy Stewart was playing. As it began, Amy was sitting in her chair and rolling her eyes at the hokey dialogue as the family of Parson Ethan Wilkins (Walter Huston) arrives in a hardscrabble Ohio town.

“Why are some of these old movies so weird?” she asked.

As the plot unfolded and the young boy transformed into full-grown Jimmy Stewart, Amy’s energy waned. She got back into bed and was in and out of sleep. At one point, I had to wake her because I couldn’t believe what was unfolding. “You’re missing it,” I implored.

She opened her eyes and regarded the TV screen for a moment. “I’m hallucinating,” she concluded.

In the movie, Stewart’s character — much like the George Bailey he would later play in It’s a Wonderful Life — is frustrated by the confines of his crappy little town and wants to do what he wants to do. In this story, his ambitions create a rift between himself and his parents.

What he wants to do is become a doctor — a surgeon, in fact — and before you know it the American Civil War is raging and there is Dr. Wilkins in the thick of it, operating on wounded Union soldiers.

That’s when everything goes completely surreal.

Dr. Wilkins is summoned away from his duties to Washington D.C. by the President of the United States. As you may recall, this was Abraham Lincoln, portrayed here by John Carradine.

President Lincoln initially questions the surgeon — then suddenly pounces, castigating him for having so little communication with his mother that she had presumed him dead.

To correct this, President Abraham fucking Lincoln forces Dr. Wilkins to promise he’ll write his mother regularly — under threat of court-martial or some such. I kid you not.

Chastised and trembling, Dr. Wilkins agrees. The end.

Incidentally, Jimmy Stewart’s mother is played by Beulah Bondi — who also played his mom in Vivacious Lady, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Meanwhile, “staunch Republican” Charles Coburn, cast here as Dr. Charles Shingle, was — according to Wikipedia — “a member of the White Citizens’ Councils, a white supremacist group which opposed racial integration.”


Tom Petty and Garry Shandling

This video popped up in my YouTube recommendations feed. I don’t know the backstory.

We did watch The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (2018) some time ago, and that sad chronicle describes the anguish Shandling suffered at the end of his life. You see him here trying to put something together, but he can’t really articulate what it is.

It’s interesting to hear Tom Petty describe his habitual pacing, presumably surrounding a performance.

“The sad thing is it takes three cameras to feel good” shows that Petty had a keen comedic mind himself.

And boy, did he ever smoke a lot.



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