Reach Out and Touch Someone

I have a binder where I put receipts for everything my wife and I have spent on maintaining and improving our house for the past 24 years.

On the front inside pocket is a flyer I saved that was in a little box planted in the front yard of this house in order to attract buyers.

It is officially the first page of the binder.

And on this flyer are two color photos:  the largest of the house, the smallest of the real estate agent’s smiling face.

I don’t know why but I had an urge to locate this realtor online to see if she was still selling property.  And lo and behold, she was—in Indio not Burbank.

I texted her a photo of the flyer and told her how much we have enjoyed living in the house for the past 24 years. 

Within an hour, she texted me back, thrilled that I would contact her.

“That was so thoughtful of you!  So happy that you and your wife are still enjoying your beautiful home!   Thanks for thinking of me.”

Weeks earlier I had another encounter with someone from my past.  My favorite math teacher Mr. Kolpas had recently passed away and I called his widow to offer my condolences.  I told her that I would make a copy of a film with her and her husband who acted in a film I made in my late teens. 

When I sent her the video, she was overwhelmed with joy, not only to see Mr. Kolpas but to see the house that was their home for so many years; she shared it with her daughters and grandchildren.

“Thanks so much. Wow. We were so young. Kids got a kick out of it. Thanks!”

Around the same time, I was going through my other 8mm movies I made when I was a teenager, some I hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years.  I screened them for my wife, and during one film I discovered something.  Back in 1975, I filmed a shot across the street from a gas station.  I It is the same gas station that I still go today to service my cars.  And the owner, Tony, is still there since he opened his business in 1971.

I had to show him this because he appeared in the long shot.  What’s interesting, too, is you can see a car being attended to by three different employees in uniforms.  That was the time when gas stations began transitioning from full-service to no-service.  And a younger Tony was next to the car.

I took my cell phone, videotaped that scene and the next day drove over to Tony’s and said, “Guest what, Tony?  I’ve known you since I was 17 years old.”  Then I showed him the video.

“Your son wasn’t born yet?” I asked.

“Not yet,” referring to the middle-aged man who works with his father.

“Boy, I wish we could go back to those days!” he wistfully commented.

It makes me feel good to let others know I am thinking of them or that I appreciate them.  And I was especially glad to do it when they are still around.  Connecting with others helps us feel human and alive.

Loss of Polite Language

When I was an English teacher, I instructed my students to elevate not denigrate their language.  I wanted them to raise their level of discourse so others would view them in a positive light.

It has become a harder lesson to teach when one observes how people speak today.  It seems that being careful with one’s words is a quant antiquated ideal.

When newly elected Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address to Congress in 2009, Republican congressman Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!”

It was so shocking that a congressman would interrupt a president while delivering his most important speech of the year that Congress voted to condemn him for making that remark.

Fourteen years later, as Joe Biden is giving his second State of the Union address, congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene yells out, “liar!” which is worse than saying “you lie.”  Other Republicans, yelled “bull—-!”

And were any of these elected officials condemned for their obscenities?  No.

Remember how solemn this annual speech by the American President used to be for over 200 years?

Since when did the House Chamber of the United States turn into a wrestling match? This special club of 535 men and women can’t be polite for 90 minutes for a once-a-year event that is televised for all to see.  They end up disrespecting their own line of work by acting like thugs.

Later that same night, I’m watching LeBron James overtake Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s all-time scoring NBA record in career points, and you’d think this guy who many believe is the greatest of all time would recognize the gravity of the situation when they stop the game to allow him to speak about his achievement, but no. 

Instead of choosing to show humility and grace, he finishes his speech on live television with his family and mother in attendance by uttering, “F—, man.”  It seemed he was speechless, so the first word that popped into his head when he couldn’t think of what to say was the f-word.

It proves that no matter that how many billions he has in his bank account, he is bankrupt when it comes to class.

I can’t imagine the NBA all-time greats like Jerry West or Magic Johnson speaking that way at that moment.   In my book, LBJ will never surpass KAJ in terms of intelligence and dignity.  That record remains his alone.

In my last column, I wrote about how certain groups these days are hunting literature from the past in order to delete words that would not be acceptable today.  I wrote that these people should focus on the time in which they live.

For example, funny how the people with sensitivities to the word “fat” look the other way when it comes to the other f-word.

Why is it okay for the word b—- to be ubiquitous in nearly every Hollywood production?  I’ve seen reality shows where the characters’ nicknames for their friends is the b-word. 

Do you know that one of the films nominated for Best Animated Short Film is called “My Year of D—-,” a slang word for penis.  The film was made by women.  I wonder if a man had made a similar film called “My Year of P—-” if that would have received the same positive attention?

When it comes to entertainment, word appropriateness is in the ear of the beholder.

Why aren’t more people outraged that a six-year-old actor says the f-word?  Whenever I’m watching a film or TV show, and a young actor starts saying foul language, it immediately sucks me out of the drama, my mind thinking about the type of parents who would prostitute their own children to say filthy things just for a paycheck. 

If the parents aren’t going to monitor it, then it is up to the writers, producers and directors who clearly don’t have a moral compass.

All the money in the world would not persuade me to allow my 7-year-old to say “f— that s—” for the sake of entertainment.

And often the adult characters in these scenes don’t react in any negative way to their “children” swearing.  I don’t get it.

“The White Lotus” had a family where the teenaged daughter spoke frankly about sexual activities using slang that would make a sailor blush.  And not a raised eyebrow was seen on either her mother or father.

That show, by the way, has sex scenes in it that would have earned it an X rating by the MPAA back in the 1970’s.

It would not surprise me if a full-blown porn film is made by HBO or Netflix very soon.

Songwriter Cole Porter said it best with his aptly titled tune, “Anything Goes.”

“Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.

Anything goes.”

That was written in 1934.