steve martin

Planes, Trains, & Free T-Shirts

Every Monday night a local theater, Penn Cinema, presents what it calls The Heart of Lancaster movie series. They show classic movies such as Rear Window, Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, and Christmas Vacation. It’s a really cool way to see some of your favorite movies on the big screen again or, as is often the case, for the first time (Rear Window on video is cool…on the big screen is truly the way it was meant to be).

Before the movie begins, the theater owner comes out and asks trivia questions related to the evening’s film, giving people the chance to win some fun prizes. When Sarah and I went to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail I won a nifty little chip clip.

But last night they showed Planes, Trains and Automobiles and I wasn’t about to settle for a chip clip. I was determined that my years of studying Steve Martin and his works would not go unrewarded. The trivia questions are usually pretty tough, and I tried to imagine what the questions might be. As I waited for my buddy John to pick me up to see the film, I stood outside my apartment playing the film back in my head, thinking of every possible detail that could be quizzed.

The name of the ad campaign being studied in the opening (and very final) scene? Ibis.
The actress behind the counter at the Marathon Car Rental company? Edie McClurg, who was also in John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The name of the movie Steve Martin’s wife is watching while she waits for him to come home? She’s Having a Baby, also directed by John Hughes and starring Kevin Bacon who has a cameo in PT&A.
Any other John Hughes connections in the film? Ferris Bueller‘s Ben Stein plays the airline attendant and Molly Ringwald’s grandfather from Sixteen Candles is seated on the other side of Steve Martin in the plane.

So when the time came for the trivia to begin I was hoping I wouldn’t freeze up and choke on something I should have known. The question came and, I have to admit, for someone who’s seen the movie 30-plus times, it was a no-brainer.

“What are the first and last names of the two main characters in the movie?”

My hand shot up with lightning-fast speed and before I even realized my hand was in the air, the manager was calling on me, “The young man in the black coat.” (He called me “young man.” Heh heh heh. Sucker. My good genes fooled ’em again!)

I answered with all the calm confidence of Ken Jennings playing Celebrity Jeopardy. “Neal Page and Del Griffith.”

So if you see me walking around in my new Dolby Digital T-shirt with an oddly happy spring in my step, you know why. I just wish I could go back in time to when I was a teenager watching Planes, Trains… for the 20th time. My mom asked me, “Why do you have to watch that movie so many times?”.

Because now I have an answer.

My Life with Indy

Unless you’re living in a cave filled with Kali worshipers, you’ve probably seen the trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. To say I was excited to catch my first glimpse of the new flick would be putting it mildly.

But then it hit me that a lot of kids who make up the precious 18-23 year-old demographic so many of the movies try to nab were toddlers the last time an Indy flick unspooled. I mean, my wife was only 6 when the third Indy film came out (and yet she’s a huge fan of the trilogy. She’s cool like that. She knows her good 80s flicks even though she was in diapers when they premiered; she was only 2 when Back to the Future was in theaters – man I love making myself feel old – but she’s still a fan).

It doesn’t seem like that long ago when that boulder first chased Indiana through the cave. But I guess I was 10 years old and I went to see it on a Saturday afternoon with my little sister, who would have been 5 at the time. Those were definitely different times when you could drop off a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old at the movies by themselves to watch the faces melt off of Nazis. We got home and couldn’t stop ranting about Raiders of the Lost Ark. My brother (who had opted to go to the swimming pool instead of the movies) knew he missed out.

Three years later when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom rolled around, I was an official Indiana Jones movie geek. Before it had even come to theaters, I already had the soundtrack (on vinyl) and had it memorized. I knew every trumpet swell, every smash of the timpani, and had the crescendos down pat. In fact, when I sang along with the opening song – a rendition of “Anything Goes” in Japanese – I remember a few of the people in the audience giving me the stink eye. I had the collectible behind-the-scenes book as well as the cheap novelization of the movie and I had begun to go to the library and photocopy magazine articles about Steven Spielberg. I couldn’t fully understand at 13 exactly what a director does but I knew his name and I knew he had a lot to do with it, and I wanted to have something to do with cool movies, too. I recognized his name from E.T. and that was when I knew whatever it was he did…I wanted to do it, too.

When Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out I was 18 and I knew everything you’d ever want to know about Spielberg. I studied his films and pored over every article I could get my hands on. And yet, Indy 3 disappointed me. I think this is the first time I’m saying this publicly.

The rest of my family, especially my dad, are such Indiana Jones fans, I couldn’t bring myself to confess that I didn’t love the third one as much as they did. And, if you know me, the reason for disliking it may seem odd. In the years since then, I’ve continued to be a fan of Spielberg but my tastes have veered to the comedic arts. I’m still interested in film but that is coupled with a love for stand-up comedy and all things Steve Martin, Dane Cook, and Will Ferrell.

And yet my complaint about Indy 3? It was too funny. Too goofy. Too much slapstick.

Sure, the first one had a few good laughs but for the most part, Indy was a serious down-to-business guy who got himself out of narrow scrapes and once in a while shot a guy instead of using his whip for a laugh. But all of a sudden he was running around with Sean Connery like 2 of the three stooges, complete with head bonks, slaps in the face, and pratfalls. Indiana Jones was never a comedy before… why were they trying to make it into one now?

And yet, even with this bitter taste in my mouth, I still remain a huge fan. I am trying to keep my expectations low and at the same time I’m really anxious to find out what happens next to our hero. The trailer that is online made me smile and even laugh and who knows, they may try to make Indiana funny again. I forgive them already if they do. I’m just looking forward to hanging out with my old buddy again.

Shut My Mouth

Life is filled with all kinds of opportunities to learn and one thing I’m learning is to keep my mouth shut. Or, more specifically, when to keep my mouth shut.

As much as I think of myself as an easy-going and carefree guy, I almost hate to admit that I actually have a lot of routines and have become a creature of habit. You have to do something this way or that way. Well, you don’t have to do it a certain way but there are certainly better ways of doing something.

Or at least that’s the mindset I realize I have. Or had. Have. But I’m trying to shake it.

Marriage will definitely show you areas you need to work on and brings to light all of those rough edges that may need smoothed out a bit. Sarah, whether she wants to or not, has been teaching me that I don’t have all the answers or know all the “right” ways. I know. You’re probably as surprised as I am, because I pretty much thought I had everything figured out.

The biggest area I’ve been challenged on, oddly enough, is cooking. Sarah approaches the kitchen differently than I do and I can learn something from her outlook. Let’s say the subject is a pasta dish. I’ll go online or check one of my cookbooks and find out what I need. If it calls for a cup of sauce, I’ll measure out a cup. A half teaspoon of garlic warrants a half teaspoon. I follow the directions step-by-step and am usually rewarded with a tasty meal.

Sarah tackles it entirely differently. If Sarah wants to make that same pasta dish, she jumps in and just….starts to make it. Tackling it from a I-think-this-is-probably-what-goes-in point of view, mixed with a what-if-I-put-this-in approach straight from Ratatouille she goes to town. Measuring cups and measuring spoons are nowhere to be found.

I found myself warning Sarah about doing it “that way.” You can’t just throw things in there and hope it’s the right combination. That’s not how it’s done, shouldn’t be how it’s done, and is only a recipe for disaster.

And sometimes I was right. Sometimes there was too much garlic or things would burn. But being right never brought the satisfaction I would normally get from proving myself correct and I wasn’t sure why.

Some girl once told me that Elijah Wood (he played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) played the little kid from E.T. I told her that no, that kid’s name is Henry Thomas. And she insisted it was Elijah Wood. We went back and forth and I finally had to email her a link to IMDb (Internet Movie Database) to prove I was right. And that felt good. I showed her.

But in the case of Sarah and her cooking, I never felt good or vindicated when it turned out I was correct in my warnings.

And I don’t think I should.

It shouldn’t be about who’s right or wrong (or more specifically if I’m right or wrong). I was thinking about this early this morning and realize now that every time I tell her that she’s doing it wrong, her method is incorrect, it sends the message I don’t trust you.

And the most ironic thing about it? I end up criticizing one of the things about her I love most: her zeal for life, the fact that she goes into it knowing she can do it the fact that she can’t never enters her mind — doubt never settles in long enough to tell her otherwise. I could use a little bit of that myself.

Last night Sarah wanted to make quesadillas. I’ve never made them myself but have been in the kitchen when my uncle John made them. The point is I’ve never made them myself. And yet for some reason when Sarah said she was going to try to cook them in the oven I still felt the need to point out they are cooked on the stove top in a griddle.

And then I stopped.

I wasn’t helping. I wasn’t doing any good. If anything, I was taking the joy of cooking out of it. And even though my tone was friendly what I was saying was wrong. She’s showing love by cooking my dinner and all the thanks I had to offer was to let her know she wasn’t doing it the right way?

I was instantly angry with myself. Who was I to say what’s right and what isn’t? How long ago was it when I was trying things for the first time and they didn’t always turn out like the picture on the box? It wasn’t so long ago that I should have forgotten about it already.

I decided to shut my mouth and let Sarah do her thing. And she rocked it out. I don’t even know how she ended up making them and I didn’t ask. I ate an entire plateful and even had some of hers that she couldn’t finish. She did an amazing job and I was again upset that I would ever think to tell her she was wrong.

I’d like to blame the fact that I was sick all weekend for my lack of tact and thought, but why make excuses? To paraphrase Steve Martin, sometimes I’m just a big dumb guy.

Reading Railroad 2007

Well, here’s a list of the books I read in 2007. I have been trying each year to read more books than I did the previous year, but didn’t quite make it in ’07. Some books took almost forever to get through (“Lisey’s Story,” read in 60-minute increments every couple of weeks while I was at the laundry mat) and others I zipped through a bit quicker (“Born Standing Up,” read cover-to-cover in just under two hours).

So, here they are. Because I know you care. :)

A Girl Named Zippy – Haven Kimmel
The Shining – Stephen King
The Traveler – John Twelve Hawks
The Dead Zone – Stephen King
Cycle of the Werewolf – Stephen King
Book – Whoopi Goldberg
Ricky Gervais presents: The World of Karl Pilkington – Karl Pilkington
The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
The Mothman Prophecies – John A. Keel
Jaws – Peter Benchley
Cyrano de Bergerac – Edmond Rostand
Tourist Season – Carl Hiassen
Lisey’s Story – Stephen King
Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About God, Dreams, and Talking Vegetables – Phil Vischer
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Born Standing Up – Steve Martin

A Steve Martin Christmas

So, yea, Sarah got me the new Steve Martin autobiography for Christmas. I read it in just a couple of hours. Funny how quickly it goes when you’re really into a book. It’s called “Born Standing Up” and is a rare insight into a very private person. It was a great read and I was encouraged by how many things he experienced I was able to relate to (fortunately, having sex with Stormie Omartian was not one of them. But who knew?).

Sarah also got me a box set of DVDs. Yes, the one I blogged about a few months ago. The 10-disc Saturday Night Live “Best of” collection, featuring the best of Steve Martin (of course, we watched that one first), Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Will Ferrell, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, and Adam Sandler.

Yea, I got some stuff for her for Christmas but it’s not nearly as awesome as what she got me.

A Pretty Good Day

We’ve all been asked the question whether it was in an email survey or a MySpace bulletin blast or even in conversation over coffee and fries: What would your perfect day be like?

I’ve never really cared for that question because I don’t have an answer for it. There are so many things I like to do, so many people I like to be around….any combination of those things could very well constitute a “perfect day.” And just what exactly makes a day perfect? Is it the way I feel at the end of the day? Or could it possibly be the way others feel who I encountered? I don’t have an answer, and won’t pretend to be wise enough to tell you what would be the perfect day.

But I’m also not naive enough to deny when I’ve been blessed with a pretty good one.

Saturday was one of those days. I won’t go into detail on how it began but suffice it to say Sarah and I are newlyweds and we enjoy partaking in activities that are common to those usually stereotyped with the recently-hitched.

I had an audition for a play at 1:20. Because it’s a darker show I couldn’t go in with my usual Steve Martin ha-ha monologue I usually use. I went in with a new one I had just learned a couple of days before and was ushered in to the audition room while Sarah waited in the lobby, excited to be joining me on an adventure where I had promised her sightings of intense actors in “audition mode”.

The two guys conducting the audition were really friendly. They took my picture, I did my monologue, we chatted for a few short seconds, and I was finished. I felt good about the audition but then again I’ve felt good about other auditions and nothing came of it so I don’t have any expectations. Auditioning is actually much easier than many of my friends seem to think. It’s my theory that ever since “American Idol” came around people tend to assume all auditions are conducted the same way. You go in, do your thing, and the panel tears you apart if they didn’t like you. Fortunately, most people actually conduct their auditions in much the same way an 8th grade boy dates a girl. You go in, try to put your best foot forward (or at least an acceptable foot) and if you’re not what they’re looking for you just…never hear from them.

I left the audition and described to Sarah what went on inside as we returned to the car. From there we drove to Chuck and Ann’s place. It seems they had a recliner they no longer needed and Sarah and I were more than happy to take it off their hands. Their house was all decorated for Christmas and it felt nice and cozy inside (not that their house isn’t always nice and cozy. They definitely have what I refer to as “a grown-up house.” Or at least a “more-grown-up-than-mine” house. There are no Simpsons DVDs on kitchen shelves or boxing trophies in the front room.). It’s always nice to hang out and visit with Ann and so our little jaunt to Strasburg was a nice little boost to an already-pretty good day.

A few hours later Sarah and I drove to the station, picked up the video camera and the station van, and made the 40-minute drive to Reading, PA (pronounced redding….and yes, they do have a Reading Railroad) to catch up with my old pals The Katinas. They were one of the bands signed to Gotee Records while I was still there back in 2002-2004. They are five brothers from Samoa and are definitely the real deal. They actually remind me of hanging out with my uncles and cousins. Lots of laughing and then more laughing. The only difference is, these guys can sang. They are on the road with Michael W Smith and “American Idol’s” Melinda Doolittle as part of a Christmas tour.

I hadn’t seen the guys since December of ’03 and I was really excited to get a chance to hang out and catch up. I had contacted their manager Niel about getting with them to record an interview for the station and was hooked up with their road manager Zander. He met us at the back gate and greeted us with a hug and a smile (we would later learn that Zander is the guys’ cousin, which immediately explained how accommodating and welcoming he was). He led us through the backstage maze and into the guys’ dressing room, where we would be doing the interview.

Four of the guys were finishing up eating in the craft services area but Joe Katina was already in the green room and I got a chance to introduce him to Sarah and catch up on what he’s been up to. We talked for about 10 minutes and soon the other brothers began to trickle in. Sam, Jesse, and the twins John and James. There were of course lots of hugs and laughs and reminiscences (who could forget their endless hours of Madden NFL on the tour bus?) and after a few more minutes the interview was underway.

The guys did a great job – as always – and as I reached the end of my questions I decided to put the guys on the spot. I asked if they wouldn’t mind singing a bar or two of something a capella. Until you’ve heard these guys sing, in person, with no instruments, you haven’t heard singing. The guys smiled, whispered to each other for a moment or two, and then out of nowhere broke into an amazing version of my favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night.”

With their first note I felt my arms painted in goose bumps and Sarah teared up as well. Even though the camera was still rolling, she couldn’t help but clap when they were done. Our own private mini-concert with some of the best vocals I’d heard live since I don’t know when. It’s hard to describe in words, so here’s a link to the video I recorded of the song.

We wrapped up our time and Zander told us we could hang on to our All Access passes and stay and watch the concert. It was such a special night and I was so glad Sarah was there to share it with.

After the concert was over we got to check back in with the guys for a few more minutes and say our goodbyes. They even gave us three bags of Hawaiian coffee before we left!! When Sarah and I left the venue, we were still reeling, almost unable to believe what a great night we had. And it wasn’t over yet.

After dropping off the video camera and the van at the station, we made our way to Reflections a bar/restaurant to watch Stacey’s brother Aaron, who is the drummer for Kheris. Considering we were at the Lancaster Coffee Company the night before to see our buddy Tom Herr play (with percussive accompaniment by Mindy Lapp) this had indeed become a weekend full of great music (and friends!).

So, was it the perfect day? I don’t know. I don’t even know if such a thing is possible here on Earth but Sarah and I both agree that this weekend we got pretty darn close.

Nothing important

I saw Saturday Night Live for the first time in like 8 months this past weekend. Steve Martin was the host and it wasn’t a bad show. I laughed out loud on a few occasions and was glad to catch the groove again.

Today when I leave work I’m heading to the library to pick up a copy of “The Aristocrats” I reserved. Let the swearing begin!!