Monday, May 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Oy Vey

It’s Mother’s Day. 

Did you think I was kidding?
The kids are far away this year but have acknowledged the day to my satisfaction. Since, they claim, there was no groupon for a gilded sedan chair carried by six brawny  New York City fireman (am I right, ladies?) wearing only their water proof over-alls to carry me around the house all day, we made do with phone calls and lovely flowers.

That, however, does not fill a day.

Especially one where women all over America are being rushed through rigidly enforced “seatings” and eating rubbery chicken marsala in crowded restaurants.  Sigh…that actually sounds really good to me.

Of course there is laundry and the litter box is a bit ripe in the mid-May warmth but the rule is that mothers are forbidden to perform unpleasant chores such as cooking, dishes and, especially, scooping cat poop. Also, Seth is out doing “stuff” which I suspect is husband-speak for “Quit pouting and stop drunk dialing the kids.” So I am alone. 

With the TV.

That means but one thing: watch something Seth would never choose to see. 

That might mean a frothy rom-com or one of those shows that chronicles the early weeks of a litter of kittens. For those who aren’t seasoned veterans of the remote control, those shows do exist…and I meow them. But, today, there is no room for cuteness. There is only room for one thing--pull down the shades with me, America: we are watching “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The movie, for those of you who have been hiding under a sedan chair or simply choose to live a life out of the gutter, is a clever idea: an actual love story cloaked in the extremity of black leather and chains. 

Exploring a menu of sexual dominance and submission was the vehicle which made this routine tale a boffo best seller, first in the form of a trilogy of books  -- which are little more than horrible writing punctuated by what, essentially, is porn -- and today’s movie.

It also made the writer, E. L. James, rich beyond measure. I have yet to stop asking myself why I didn’t think of this approach first. Ms. James says the idea came to her in a dream. 

I only dream that I’m running through the darkened halls of my high school wearing a panda costume not having studied for an important exam being given in a room I cannot find. These dreams, unfortunately, do not translate into successful fiction but, thanks to Fifty Shades, a sizable percentage  of women in America wish their husbands bough their underwear from Fruit of the Loom's new leather line.

Having recently come to “Demand” TV, Fifty Shades has been nagging at me for a while. I read the first book and half (okay, for God’s sake, three quarters) of the second but, after one too many “descriptive” passages, I realized there are only so many ways to “skin a cat.” *

I soon lost interest .

The real Fifty Shades.
In a nut shell, our leading man, Christian Grey, likes to boss his girls around. In a big way.

It also doesn't hurt that he is drop-dead handsome, dresses in the finest fabrics, lives in a zillion dollar apartment and owns the universe. Anastasia Steele, his victim/love interest is virginal, naïve and mumbles.

Starting to get the picture?

Bought in bulk by Mr. Grey...
Virtual unknowns were ultimately cast in the leads because no self-respecting actors would touch the parts. It will be interesting to see if Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson will ever work again…out of the porn industry, that is. Truth be told, they weren’t all that bad, but if I had been the director, I would have sent Mr. Dornan packing as soon as I noticed that his eyes often do not blink at the same time and that Miss Johnson has a facial portfolio of one and a half expressions.

Anastasia Steele, our heroine – who quickly goes from wearing dowdy skirts and peter pan collars to sleek dresses with no panty line, if you catch my meaning - -- is falling in love with the young multibillionaire who has little interest in personal ties (only cable ties). Emotionally stunted somehow in his youth, he is a mysterious mogul  who likes to give spankings. The catch is that Anastasia is crushing on this dashing nut job who has everything but a dental drill locked in his special “playroom.”

I prefer a game of Scrabble in my playroom.
Anastasia soon puts up with all varieties of lunacy (never once suggesting to Christian that he may want to chat with a therapist) including what I found much scarier than a riding crop and alligator clips: Christian’s penchant  (and, apparently, the  author’s vision of how seriously rich people recreate ): piloting horribly dangerous forms of air travel from helicopters -- where our hero pays zero attention to the controls -- as well as some sort of futuristic plane that doesn’t seem to have an engine.

All in all, there was lots of lip biting, meaningful eye contact and enough naughty bits to cause me to leap several feet in the air when Seth barged in, er, I mean arrived home.

Let’s face it--If  you’ve read the book, you know you are going to watch the movie when your husband is on jury duty. If you haven’t read it but want tips on etiquette when hanging  from the ceiling while wearing a blindfold and handcuffs, then I definitely recommend it.

As for me, if anyone ever uttered the words “This is called a flogger,” I would have immediately been clawing at the door but there’s nothing like a little sado-masochism to make your Mother’s Day more interesting. I hope you all enjoyed your day, too.

* Apologies to Buzzy for inappropriate use of a cat metaphor.

I do not accept your apology.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Coach, Mr. Fab

After my son, Charlie, recently learned that his beloved baseball coach, Chris Fabiani, left our hometown to coach elsewhere, he requested to be a guest columnist in the newspaper and therefore, a guest blogger, for this week. I am, of course, delighted to welcome my son to my blog and hope it's not his only appearance in this space. Here is his tribute to his former coach and lifelong mentor…..

Millennia from now archaeologists excavating New Fairfield’s Tegmeir Field will find a decayed baseball buried somewhere near right field. The only people who could tell you why that baseball is there would be long gone by then - the 2001 WPBA 12-year old travel team and their coach, Mr. Chris Fabiani.

Recently Chris Fabiani, lovingly known as Mr. Fab to generations of aspiring New Fairfield Major League Baseball players, took a coaching job outside of town. 

For years, Mr. Fab coached here, starting with our WPBA travel team and eventually taking over as the high school freshman baseball coach. I wanted to take the opportunity to remember a few stories from my time with Mr. Fab and thank him for all he’s done for this town and those he coached.

Mr. Fab knows baseball and is a fantastic technical coach, but that’s only part of what makes him special. Mr. Fab never lets his players use age or inexperience as an excuse. He expects everyone to acquit themselves as adults, own up to mistakes, and respect him as well as each other. 

Playing for Mr. Fab was fun--after all, he’s a funny guy, but it was also demanding. There was no babying or coddling. In a world of participation trophies, Mr. Fab mixes tough and fair, fun and serious. If you want recognition from Mr. Fab, you earn it the old fashioned way.

Mr. Fab, knowingly or not, also teaches his players lessons with utility far beyond the confines of a baseball field. When I was 10 years old or so Mr. Fab wanted me to try third base for an inning. It was a new position for me and I nervously took my spot at the hot corner. As it goes in baseball and life, the ball finds you when you don’t want it to. With runners on first and third, a batter hit a sharp ground ball right at me. Instinct took over and I fielded it cleanly, but then froze. The runner from third broke home and I was stuck between throwing home to get him out at the plate or taking the easier out at first. Instead of doing either, I panicked and did what any nervous 10 year old would do: Started biting my fingernails. There I am, with a baseball in my mitt, a runner heading to first and home, chewing on my finger nails. Everyone was safe. 

Suddenly Mr. Fab's voice boomed like a foghorn from the dugout: “Get your fingers out of your mouth and throw the ball!” 

The inning ended and on the way in Mr. Fab rubbed my head. “Come on, are you serious? You’re better than that!” He never let me forget that moment and to this day, I use the memory as a prod into action when frozen by indecision.

Mr. Fab also has a great sense of humor. Once, at a skills competition, he engineered a perfect practical joke on a poor unsuspecting player (me). Positioning a cameraman to the front, he slipped silently behind me and plopped a Yankees helmet on my head. Now, I am a proud Mets fan and was horrified enough to have such blasphemous equipment on my head but imagine my further horror when I realized Mr. Fab had sent that picture into this very newspaper to be seen by the whole town. 

Another time, during a particularly awful season — where every hard-hit ball of ours went right to a fielder and every one of their dribblers found its way through the infield — Mr. Fab arranged a ritual burial of a baseball, signifying the end of our bad luck and a rebirth of our season. I can’t remember if it worked, but I’ll never forget the vaguely religious ceremony Mr. Fab concocted for our benefit. Somewhere out there in the right field foul territory of Tegmeir Field that ball is still buried.

Fun stories aside, Mr. Fab is special because he cares and works hard for his kids. He’s special because he’ll drag a bucket of balls to the field and throw extra batting practice and he’s special because he’ll spend hours trying to teach you a knuckle curve, which never, ever, ever works… sorry, Mr. Fab, but it’s true!

Mr. Fab has spent a lifetime crafting young ballplayers and helping turn them into men. He’s done it for hundreds of people in New Fairfield, and we were all better for it. Speaking for the NF kids you’ve coached over the years: Thank you, Mr. Fab, for demanding the most of us, treating us like adults, and making us better young men. The lessons you taught us on the ball field stay with us still.

Good luck on your new team, although I suspect it was actually their good luck to land you as their new coach.

Charlie Szold