• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Every Little Breeze Seems to Whisper Louise

Last week I went to the movies, and while I was waiting outside for my friends (yes, I do have friends), I saw a famous novelist slip into the theater alone. By slip I mean he walked in, umbrella under his arm, like a normal person. My heart rate went up, my pulse quickened. I wanted to follow him in and call out to him and tell him that I meant to read his last book. Of course, I was paralyzed. Didn’t move. What movie was he seeing, I wondered. Would he be in my theater?Did he come here often?

Was he now, as I was standing under a dripping awning, buying popcorn and diet Coke inside? More important, why was he alone? By choice or circumstance? I usually go to the movies alone, prefer it really, so why did his being alone strike me as…sad? Because he’s a great writer, or famous. Though I suppose the term “famous novelist” is one of the great oxys of all time.

If someone is talking at the movies, do you:

a) grind your teeth

b) move your seat and throw a dirty look their way

c) call the usher

d) hush them

e) get aggressive

45 Responses

  1. My favorite was the elderly couple in the Clint Eastwood movie a few years. Every time the car came on the screen, the husband yelled, “GRAN TORINO!” and then just “TORINO!” the entire movie. That was way better than the movie. We still call each other up and say, “Torino!”

  2. The famous novelist hit you with his umbrella, didn’t he.

  3. There’s a famous novelist? What does it look like? Does it walk on two legs? Does it have wings? How many eyes does it have?

    But there should be no surprise that this famous writing object was alone. As a writer, you know writers are always alone. Doesn’t matter if they’re with other people or not.

    Jetzt das Kino: I rarely go to the movies anymore. One of the main reasons I stopped going is because I had reached the point where I was turning around and telling the talking audience monkeys behind me to shut the fuck up. I’m not kidding, I was really doing this. It always worked. One time the jabbering monkey got up in a huff and complained to the on-duty lackey, who replied that maybe I had a point. But I realized after a time that such behavior on my part was a form of gambling. The day might come when a psycho-monkey would whip out his nine millimeter in response to my directive and provide me with new punctuation. So I thought, why don’t I stay home with my wife and our NetFlix and keep blood pressures lower all around? And that is what we do. We don’t pay no five bucks for fuzzy sugar water at home, neither.

    And that’s a wrap!

    • One evening, when the theater was very crowded, a pre-teenish chubby boy walked passed me to get to another seat when I was already seated in the row and he said, “Excuse me.” And went on. Something on the toe of his shoe ripped my leg open and by the time I got to the counter in the lobby to ask for a bandaid there was blood running into my shoe. It was quite a mess. I didn’t get paranoid about the anonymous shoe weapon boy til some months later. Better story.

  4. Oh, lord, I get so aggressive that I’m surprised I haven’t ended up in custody. At The Lord Of The Rings (which, btw, I didn’t even care about, I was there because my bf insisted and I was mentally making a grocery list while Dobby hid the ring in his underpants or whatever) I leapt (leaped?) across three rows of people to berate some loudmouthed twatstick who was going on, at a really high volume, about how mediocre the effects were. I was in his face and snarling about the fact that this wasn’t his fucking living room before I realized he was all of fifteen and on what appeared to be a first date. In my defense, he did have creative and ironic facial hair.

    I long for a private screening room. Which flies directly in the face of my chosen profession. Prices and prizes.

    • Shanna: I’m in love with your prose style. Twatstick: best I’ve come across since, five years ago, a student used “fucktard.”

  5. Maybe that famous novelist was thinking, “OMG, there’s Betsy Lerner. I love everyone on her client list. I wish I was on it . . . I wonder if she’s seeing Cowboys vs. Aliens, too. Maybe she’ll run out of jujubes and I can lean over and offer her some . . . ”

    In order, depending on the persistence of the loudmouth:

    a) Until I can no longer hear the movie over my molars

    d) I’m a librarian — it is the rare person who can ignore my professionally-honed hush . . . though tweens and under appear to have some natural resistance and my kids are genetically immune

    b) I’m a mother — my dirty looks leave psychological stains

    e) Only once. It was so worth it.

    (your movie theater has ushers? I thought they were extinct . . . )

  6. Movie theaters still have ushers? The ones I go to only have security guards, and I’m not anxious to retrieve one of them in case they confiscate the flask of whiskey in my purse.

    Whiskey in a movie theater? Of course! It’s the only way I can tolerate the constant yapping of the young and unraised, the eyeball-zapping of texters’ white-hot screens, and the generally unfavorable element of humanity that gathers in a theater for the $5 discount showing.

  7. I’ve avoided the big multi-plex theaters after witnessing a fistfight before the movie even started. Now, I patron our last mono-screen movie house in a small neighborhood. The old man who owns the theater is a hoot and he diligently monitors the behavior of the audience.

    PS: happy birthday eve; you know you MAY see a bit of that constellation right before dawn!

  8. I’m rarely brave enough to throw a dirty look. I squirm and cast a look in their general direction. It never works.

    I’ve never seen a novelist, famous or otherwise.

  9. B. But, the dirty look is never very effective in the dark.

  10. Best was when I treated myself to a midweek, midafternoon movie alone, something I loved to do when I lived in Manhattan. There couldn’t have been more than 10 of us there, including an elderly couple, one of whom was hearing-impaired.

    When the film began, his wife repeated every line of dialogue so that he — and all of us — could hear it. I rolled my eyes while a few others harassed her into silence.

  11. I love that you were nervous when you saw him.

    I’m a teeth grinder but have noticed that I am much more tolerant now that I have kids. If I go out without them, I could really care less what the crowd is up to.

    I went to see “Midnight In Paris” and there was an older couple in front of my husband and me. They would guffaw together at different points in the movie and before I knew it part of the experience became watching them watch the movie.
    They would laugh and then my husband and I would laugh because they were just so happy to be there together and full of life, and we were just so happy to be out without the kids.

  12. I am dying to know who, of course. Who was this masked man with the umbrella?

    Once, I was the only person in a movie theater. It happened to be Christmas day. My very first Christmas day after the big d. Every cliche, every sorrow.

    The movie I saw was some artsy French thriller, and after I stopped sniveling over my lot, I realized that because nobody else was in the theater, not only didn’t it matter if I made noise, but the decree to silence my cell phone was moot. I decided to disobey every rule I could. Fuck it. I slurped my soda. I played Scrabble on my phone. I texted up a storm.

    It all just made me sadder. Like that famous writer.

  13. Happy Birthday Betsy!

    Been known to shush anonymously

    I was once on the receiving end of a lecture at a movie. My crime? Making too much noise digging into the popcorn tub…

  14. I usually just ignore them and let someone else do the dirty work. In NY, there’s always someone ready to shush you.

    • Did you know you share a birthday with Robert Shaw from Jaws? Some of the best damn lines ever delivered in a movie. Hope you feel the love today.

  15. Happy,happy birthday Betsy. I’m too cheap to go to a theatre. Plus I’m always the one talking so it’s safer for me to watch movies at home with my teeth grinding, hushing, aggressive better two thirds.

  16. When I worked in D.C., I saw Dustin Hoffman and Muhammad Ali (at different times; not together) in person, doing ordinary things (walking). But recognizing them was enough excitement for me. My natural tendency is to leave people alone.

    I don’t go to the movies anymore, the patrons are so damn noisy. If “e) get aggressive” includes imaginarily mow everybody down with a tommy gun, that’s me. I think I also saw that dastardly politician, Newt Gingrich one time. I wanted to kick him in the nuts, but I just slitted my eyes at him. He didn’t notice.

  17. ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-nuh

    you say it’s yer birthday!

    Well, Happy Birthday, then.

  18. I’m guessing who. Who is a famous male novelist? Who you would respect enough to be made nervous seeing? Phillip Roth. Maybe Coetzee. I’m guessing Mr. Roth. He is the umbrella under the arm type. I’m guessing you already know a couple of the younger famous, or wouldn’t be so blown away by them. Roth.
    I now politely tell people I can hear their voices and I don’t want to. Or I switch seats. I no longer worry about hurting feelings, as I used to. Sometimes I am the talker, though. “What just happened?” “I don’t get it.” “I fell asleep–who’s he?” Then the husband says sssshhhh!

  19. Happy Birthday Betsy!!
    (Why yes that double exclamation point is absolutely called for, thankyouverymuch)

    May today find you with more wonderful stories than you know what to do with right after you get off of the phone with competing offers on your screenplay.

  20. Happy birthday Betsy

    I hate going to the movies on my own – makes me feel like PeeWee Herman or something. Best movie house story – I was camping in northern Ontario with.my 3 youngest kids, we had an amazing day at the beach when my 2 sons found they had tiny leeches stuck all over them. They were totally freaked out – I was not unnauseated myself, I hate those fuckers – and just wanted to return to civilization. The only way I could calm them down was to promise them I’d take them to the movies in the nearest town. So we headed to Parry Sound- Bobby Orr’s hometown ! – to see some crappy kids movie. This scruffy little goon sold us our tickets while eating his Dairy Queen burger. Nice. We went to buy popcorn and other assorted junk – from a guy who looked suspiciouly like the scruffy admissions goon, though his burger was now half gone. We went into the theatre itself, which looked vaguely post-apocalyptic, with holes in the walls and seats reclaimed from a dozen different long gone theaters. The movie started and I looked up into the projection booth and … Yes, same dude, the burger now just a greasy nugget in his fat little fingers. Very lean organization. We forgot all about the fucking leeches.

  21. Happy b-day, B!

  22. Happy Birthday! Think about Jerry as you hum “I will get survive”.

  23. Happy birthday! May no writers whine in your presence today, all editors and publishers be agreeable, and the day fly so you can get out of there and celebrate a little. My pup barks her hello and happy b-day too, slobber included.

  24. B, the repeated passive-aggressive stare. If that doesn’t work, then I will move on to D, the hush.

    I was at a film festival recently where this woman was taking photographs of the screen. With her huge-ass camera with the bright, bright screen glowing in my peripheral vision. The camera was set to make a little “click” noise with every photo she took. This was so ridiculous that I got out of my seat, crouched down in the aisle by her side, and nicely explained that her photography was extremely distracting, both visually and audibly. She apologized profusely — I almost felt bad for shaming her — and she put the camera away. Then, minutes later, she took it out again, turned off the clicking sound effect, and tried to sneak in a few pictures here and there. With that damned bright light the whole time.

    Fortunately, it was a French documentary about an orangutan or something, so the theater was essentially empty. I moved clear across to the far end away from her.

    I, too, am dying to know who this novelist is. Like Alice, I thought of Roth, but for some reason my first thought went to Pynchon. Which is kind of ridiculous but makes the whole slipping-unnoticed-into-a-theater thing even better.

    Now I have to share this..

  25. happy birthday. time for a new lipstick called ‘edgy’ or some such.

  26. Was this in Connecticut, and a Nobel-level novelist? Or New York City? He was older than you, yes? Kreskin: “I’m getting a P…. or a D? Is it a D? No, P. I’m seeing…. a Jew. Is it a Jew?” Mike Douglas stands in background, looking gay. But not as gay as Merv.

  27. Hush them. Perhaps aggressively if they don’t shut it. That’s right up there with loud upstairs neighbors on my list of pet peeves.

  28. I will tell you my Famous Person story and you will laugh.

    There is an agent I super-respect and admire for her accomplishments and drive.

    Would not in a million years expect to meet her. Arranged to meet her assistant, knowing that The Agent would not be available at that time. So I would be able to relax and just be myself.

    So said agent shows up instead.

    It took all my self-will to act somewhat normal and relaxed as I pitched her the book. And she listened & didn’t hold up her hand to say “so you’ve written a novel they make people read in hell? As punishment?”

    I guess agents aren’t the demi-gods of myth and legend. They still scare me, though.

  29. Ask my husband to lower his voice to a whisper or save it til we get home.

  30. Happy birthday, Betsy. You’re the bomb-diggity.

  31. Would frisbee a cone of silence over theater talkers if I could. Instead I glower and shush librarian that I am annoying everyone Larry David style.

    I hope you have a wonderful birthday wherever however celebrated.

  32. Happy Belated Birthday!

    I’m a hush-er…is that bad?

    But I agree with one of the comments above, I bet he saw you and thought. Oh, my…I’m alone…did she read my last book?…I wonder what she thought of it?

    I hope that you had a wonderful day yesterday!

  33. I like to turn to them and whisper, “Since you don’t seem to care about the movie, let me save you the trouble of watching and just tell you how it ends.”

    Even better if it’s my second viewing and I can make good on my word.

    Hope no one or nothing has ruined your birthday…

  34. Are you still celebrating? Hope it was a good one.

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