Day Off

Sunday morning. Coffee and a little chocolate bread. Right after breakfast – scrambled egg and bacon pizza – the computer does what it always does by shooting me suggestive winks and come hither glances from across the room. Don’t you need to send some emails, big boy? How about you and me do a little light editing? You look like a guy who hasn’t graded a test in a while?  

Perhaps it’s the scrambled egg pizza or the downright stormy weather (it’s dark out at 11 am), but I make the decision actively (I pounded my fist and freaked out the cat sleeping on my lap, so very active) to take the day off. You might be saying: Hey, it’s Sunday! Of course you took the day off, that’s a no brainer! You might also be saying: Who cares, asshole? If you’re in that second category, then well shush. If you’re in the first, yes, you are right that it’s Sunday, but Sunday is very rarely a complete day off for me, what with articles and book and editing work that doesn’t seem capable of discerning a Sunday from a Tuesday.

It’s not that I am always productive, but I sometimes exist in a frustrating half-at-work/half-at-ease world which goes straight against the sage advice of a former king fu instructor. “Totally work or totally relax. Don’t do something in between.”  

Which is exactly what I do sometimes on a weekend. Something in between. But not today. Today I decide to take the day off. I make it official (after the first pounding) by writing it in my journal. According to the entry at 24-5-20 11:09, I have three simple points on my to do list.  

  1. Watch movies
  2. Eat junk food
  3. No work & No Pants  

Movies. This is not easy for Burke and me, as we have very different ideas of what a “fun and relaxing movie” entails. I prefer comedy, she prefers movies in which the characters’ lives are ruined in the first ten minutes and are only punctuated throughout the movie by their lives somehow becoming worse until everyone dies in misery at the end. Fortunately, today Burke suggests that we keep it light and funny and so, after a brief game of dueling Netflix accounts, we settle on a movie.

One of the writing tasks I gave given my students this semester was a review of a comedy. As I was interested in developing their ability to write about new input, I gave them a choice and one of those choices was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I broke my rule by introducing the students to something I love (only to have them destroy it before my very eyes with apathy). Their reactions to Ferris ranged from true love to genuine concern about the message from this troublemaking truant. More importantly, it put me in the mood to watch movies I grew up watching.   

With that in mind we start today with Parenthood (1989 – directed by Ron Howard, starring everyone from the 80s and early 90s). Steve Martin – wry, witty, tense and feet dragging. I have seen this movie only once, many moons ago, and I am thrilled to report that it has stood the test of time. It’s a light (mostly) family-friendly comedy, but the storylines have a lot of meat to them and the characters are very real (maybe not Keanu). I have found in my old age that some of my favorite classics are only made classic by nostalgia, which is like gin for a subjective perspective. I recently rewatched Ghostbusters and was astounded that there’s one scene of any actual busting of ghosts. Parenthood’s best line: I like to kill a guy, slip around in his guts, and then make balloon animals. By the end of the movie I comment that I think Steve Martin could read me the phone book and I would laugh. But then I remember Cheaper by the Dozen and I know that ain’t so. Nostalgia and hero worship at bay, I break rule number 3B by putting on pants and going out to the store for supplies.   

The day true off is a day off from a healthy diet. Your intestines and spleen also need a day off from functioning properly and if you’re smart, you’ll give them what they want once every couple of weeks. Imagine how bored your heart would be without the occasional challenge to its smooth work. The gall bladder’s life would seem fruitless without the need to digest the fat store of a bacon cheeseburger now and then.

The day started with chocolate rolls and scrambled egg and bacon pizza. Lunch is a bag of tortilla chips and salsa with cheese dip. When we began our venture to the store the goal was vitamins. When instead we come through the door forty minutes later with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (caramel and chocolate shell) the feeling is as though we went out hunting rabbits and came back with a grizzly bear. As we start movie number 2 and eat mugs of ice cream, we promise we will eat like normal human beings in the evening. But if ever a shared look between two people conveyed “we are crossing our fingers, right” it’s the one we offer as My Best Friend’s Wedding begins.

My Best Friend’s Wedding is a romantic comedy in which Julia Roberts tries to break up the marriage of her best friend Dermot Mulroney to Cameron Diaz. It was a global box office bash back in 1997 and remains a quintessential 90s comedy. Of the film, I remember the Say a Little Prayer scene and scrape up a few witty quips from way back in my memory. Burke remembers that all of her friends’ mothers loved it in the 90s. Today we last about sixteen minutes before turning it off. The less said the better.     

We replace it with This is the End (subtitle: very fucking not Parenthood) which is an apocalypse comedy (themes not often paired) and which features Seth Rogan and his gang at a house party. The world ends while they are buying candy bars (or somewhere at minute 35/as the characters enjoy the film’s 80th joint). What follows is 90 minutes of extreme vulgarities, demons, and, perhaps more notably, those demons’ dicks.   

These guys are one of the farther spaceships in the comedy galaxy, but I like them. They seem like a bunch who love the same comedies I do but who were influenced by the more surreal comedies out there. Basically, they kind of remind me of Monty Python with the word “cum” in it about 10,000 times. Personally, I appreciate their slightly more realistic films like Knocked Up and The Forty Year Old Virgin. Still, watching Jonah Hill get screwed by a well-endowed demon and then classify it as “something not-so-chill happened last night” was stomach-pain funny.

Real Life Intervention

In the afternoon I talk to my dad and we discuss Steve Martin movies until my dad can somehow work in the Armenian genocide. When I scoot him away from this topic, he shifts over to Donald Trump. Soured by the time I get off the phone, I break and check my email to find that a student has written with a problem. I dash off a quick email to my boss about it and then close my computer. It is pouring outside.

I am very aware of the fact that I am lucky – I am one of the ones who can work from home during this quarantine. Cue Rogan and gang and demon dicks. But we all need a day away from phones and computer screens and the unrelenting absurdity and antics of an asshole U.S. president. A day away from opinions. Lucky though I am to be able to work during this stressful time, being away is just as important.

To rally, I declare that I will make pork neck steaks, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. Burke does her part by opening the bouch, which is what we call our couch when it is folded out into a bed. When I come back we eat on the bouch and make mistake number 2.

That mistake’s name is How Do You Know. There is no way for me to address all of the questions I have about this movie, which would include Why did you make it? And what the f**k was wrong with everyone in the movie!?

Reese Withersoon plays a pro softball player who spends the entire movie distracted and aloof to things happening around here. When I started counting (and before shutting the movie off) she said “huh?” in response to a question 9 times. Paul Rudd spends the movie making witty one-liners to nobody and then commenting on his own witty one-liners that nobody seems to hear. Jack Nicholson is a one man hard-nosed platitude generator. It was painful. Nothing made sense. I have watched romantic comedies in which I felt that nobody should end up together, but this is the first one I’ve seen where I got the impression that the characters agreed with me. In the end, it seems that the best thing for everyone would be to go home and start again.

Which is exactly what we do, metaphorically. We are already home, but we turn off How Do You Know (great question!) and turned on Christmas with the Kranks. I know what you’re thinking. Well I don’t know, but I can guess. The thing is, this is the last movie we’re going to watch before bed and it has to be light and fun and cheery. And there’s something about Tim Allen falling off a roof that fills me with cheer and joy. It’s a movie about two people who decide to skip Christmas and who get a bit obsessive about it so that they are in a war with Christmas to some degree. Spoiler alert: Christmas, as it always does, wins in the end. And so it does today too.

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