The Coffee Pot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, March 1, 2024

March 1, 2024: The Coffee Pot on 7th Avenue in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Another Week: Number 62

by | March 3, 2024

Transitions usually aren’t linear. Often there’s a “two steps forward, one step back” cadence — similar to an optometrist homing in on a lens power by asking, “Which is better, A or B?”

Although it portends disaster for our planet, I am selfishly grateful that these weeks of my overwhelming grief have coincided with the mildest winter southeastern Wisconsin has ever known. Had this been a typical February, with Siberian breezes piercing the walls under grey skies, I might have drunk myself into a coma.

Instead, on Tuesday, I was still sober and nearly skipping through Petrifying Springs in shirtsleeves and my lightweight new Skechers walking shoes (purchased at half price via Amazon Warehouse).

Wednesday we dropped from 67 degrees in the wee hours to 18 by the time a couple of delivery guys were bringing two new recliners into my house. Amy’s friend Wendy needed a power lift chair, so she picked up Amy’s recliner last week, and I put our remaining recliner to the curb on Sunday night, because its seat was collapsing after 25 years of use. The new chairs were on sale at Macy’s. They’re simple and solid, great for laptop work, and the wide wooden arms give me a place to set my phone and my Kindle.

My sister Karen continues to carefully watch over me, regularly checking in and getting me out of the house for company and meals.

Thursday we got bowls from Poke Plus on Kenosha’s southwest outskirts. I became a poke lover in Hawaii, and the Poke Plus Hawaiian Bowl was pretty good, although I question the inclusion of corn. Our mom is not a raw fish fan, but she loved their Steak Teriyaki entree. It was “tender,” “flavorful,” and “they give you a lot.” Jackpot!

Friday, the legendary lenten fish fry truck at Captain Mike’s in downtown Kenosha was out of commission, so Karen and her husband Kevin took me to The Beer Gardens instead. I had some delicious fried walleye with tots and slaw and we discussed the virtues of malt vinegar vs. lemon juice and democracy vs. authoritarianism. It’s been years since I hung out in a Kenosha bar on a Friday night. The patrons have gotten older.

Back at home, I’m slowly trying to figure out who I am and what I do now. I sit in one chair. I sit in the other chair. I listen to music on Pandora. I listen to MSNBC and CNN via TuneIn. I read about Hitler on my Kindle.

When I think that the girl I loved for 42 years is now just somebody I used to know, it can send me into a sobbing fit that makes it hard to breathe.

But little by little, I’m sorting things out, scanning photos, extracting junk from the basement, packing plastic boxes, invoicing clients, getting my hair cut, cooking oatmeal.

Spring has officially begun. A few windows have opened. I walked 11.13 miles this week.



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May December (2023)

Do you remember the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal from the late 1990s? She was a 34-year-old elementary school teacher when, in 1996, she began a sexual relationship with her student, a 12-year-old boy of Samoan descent who looked bigger and older than most 12-year-olds.

May December is loosely based on that scandal. So instead of Mary Kay, Julianne Moore plays Gracie. Instead of Vili Fualaau, Charles Melton plays Joe Yoo who was 13 at the time. And instead of a school near Seattle, it started at a pet store near Savannah, Georgia.

It’s also 23 years later, and actress Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) is set to play Gracie in a movie about the scandal, so she has come to the couple’s impressive home on Tybee Island to study Gracie and generally research the role. But “research” puts it too clinically. You know how primitives think a photograph might steal their soul? Elizabeth’s project is more like that.

The movie, which my sister Karen and I watched Thursday night via Netflix at my mom’s, is about the confrontation between the two women. How far will Elizabeth go in trying to embody Gracie? And how will their tug of war affect Joe, who is caught in the middle while the whole town is forced to relive an uncomfortable episode?

Directed by Todd Haynes, whose films provoke a certain level of discomfort in the first place, May December is an unsettling watch — not so much because of the backstory, but primarily because the motives of Gracie and Elizabeth are difficult to discern. Each of them is driven in her own way, but we never really see what they’re driving at. Their magnetic repulsion remains civil, simmering beneath the surface.

Samy Burch is nominated for an Oscar in the Original Screenplay category, and the performances by Portman and Moore are both valiant. When Charles Melton is not strong and silent, there are some scenes where you can feel his pain.

All in all, though, I didn’t get much out of this movie besides tension.



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Priscilla (2023)

Saturday I was back at my mom’s. A couple of weeks ago, we watched 2022’s Elvis together and Mom enjoyed it, so this time we streamed Priscilla on Max.

The movie is directed by Sofia Coppola, who has made some good films. This is not one of them.

Jacob Elordi, familiar as a disturbed villain in Euphoria, is cast here as Elvis Presley. He has a passable accent, but none of Elvis’s irrepressible hillbilly charisma and little of Elvis’s later menacing recklessness. He’s just tall.

Cailee Spaeny stars as Priscilla, and she’s just as devoid of mystique as she spends most of the movie standing around alone.

They walk through the tired story like human placeholders. Priscilla meets Elvis when he’s stationed in Germany and she’s just 14. He eventually moves her into Graceland and keeps her like a bird in a cage while he travels out west to make crappy movies and have steamy affairs with Ann-Margaret and so on. They both pop pills.

The sets are dull. Graceland is basically represented by a long sofa.

Elvis barely performs at all. His entire Las Vegas residency is denoted by a shot so cheap, it made me burst out laughing: We see Elvis from behind as he takes the stage with his theme music playing. Beyond him, obscured by the glare of the lights, are the silhouettes of maybe a dozen fans going wild. That’s it.

The only thing that perked me up for a minute was a brief period when Elvis was obsessed with metaphysical books recommended by his hairstylist-turned-guru Larry Geller. I have read a bunch of books about Elvis, including Larry’s If I Can Dream: Elvis’ Own Story. This is the first Elvis movie to mention Larry or that little-known side of Elvis.

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was an over-the-top kaleidoscopic explosion of sound, color, and personality. This film is the exact opposite — tedious, washed out, and lifeless, with a bewildering soundtrack to boot.



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