Just another Sunday afternoon in New York

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An assemblage of umbrellas in front of the Guggeheim. Photo: JH.

An often sunny Sunday yesterday in New York, with temperatures reaching up to the low 50s.

I received an email from my ex-wife Sheila who lives out in Michigan where she says it is now very cold and expecting snow. She sent the message with this photograph she took from her hotel room window in Kaual, in Hawaii, having flown in the night before from the “frigid temps” of Detroit.

I wrote her my thanks for the photo, and added my experience in the not so tropical island of Manhattan yesterday afternoon.

A room with a view in Kaual.

Sunday in New York. Just came from a screening of Can You Ever Forgive Me, a film biography of a woman writer named Lee Israel. She died five years ago. The actress who plays her is a woman named Melissa McCarthy.

Now I never go to the movies and I never watch television. It’s not so much that I’m not interested but my life is my work and although it isn’t everything I might ideally want it to be, it is everything at this time in my life. So when a friend asked me to go see it, I wasn’t really interested but I said yes.

Firstly, I accepted my friend’s invitation because she invited me to another screening a couple of weeks ago and I backed out last minute because I didn’t want to go because my deadlines were piling up. Period.

So I said yes. A Sunday afternoon, the beginning of my work week and the beginning of worrying about what I was going to do/to write/ about what, whom, where, why. This simple task is accompanied by a long spell of evasion that eventually is overcome by the fighting child within. Going to a movie about a writer was not what I’d consider a cup of tea, since I’ve drunk a lot of that “tea” myself.

The other reason I was encouraged to say yes was because another woman friend of mine, a very sharp, sophisticated and good woman (and a woman of not a few words when she excited about matters filmic) was talking to me about the Oscars coming up and she told me she’d seen them all.

What did you like? asks I who hasn’t seen any of them and have no plans to. “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” she said. “Melissa McCarthy is brilliant.”

I don’t/didn’t even know who Melissa McCarthy is/was although the name was vaguely familiar to me. My friend who knew this about me, said she was a big star in a certain kind of movie — lowbrow comedy – which did not interest her. However, she added again and again, referring to Can You Ever Forgive Me, “She is brilliant. She’s gonna get the Oscar. She is unbelievably brilliant.”

Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me. Photograph by Mary Cybulski / Twentieth Century Fox

So when I got back home, still kind of silently reeling from what I’d seen, I looked her up. The character she plays, Lee Israel, is a plain Jane of too-wide, too-tired and in an up-a-creek-without-a-paddle life. She is so plain and ordinary in this film that you can even wonder why you’re watching a movie about her. Ha! Brilliant direction and writing too. Her life is so day-to-day like (almost) all of our lives. Drab and mere. Except as the shit comes in more and more, this drab girl has at least the gumption to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Therein is the catch.

Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant as Lee’s longtime friend, Jack Hock.

Then I looked up Ms. McCarthy on Google and watched a video interview of her about the film and the character. Have you ever seen her? She looks nothing like the lady on the screen with no makeup. Makes me laugh because men don’t usually realize What A Difference makeup makes;. Because Ms. McCarthy is a rather beautiful woman. She was sitting down and I take it she is also a big girl. But she talked about the character with wisdom and deep insight and compassion for her and for the Self. She’s an extremely brilliant actress. She has the ability — a rare one for all of us, for “doing nothing” while performing. She’s just there, like the rest of us standing, walking, looking, moving. You watch her DO NOTHING. Brando had that great talent.

The video is excellent (there’s more than one of a series). McCarthy is one of those people who has a natural magnetism. You can’t resist listening to her in this interview. You see where the movie’s greatness came from: the artist portraying the artist, honestly and truly.

So that was my Sunday afternoon in New York.

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