Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

The Serious Chicken: ‘Philadelphia’ almost 20 years later — progress and hope

I made the egregious error of watching “Philadelphia” tonight because apparently I wasn’t sad enough after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s loss in the NBA Finals to the malodorous Miami Heat.

I made this error, also, with a pain in my heart because my Big Man Cat, Percy, has gone missing. It’s my fault, I guess, for letting him be an outside cat. But he had the spirit of a wildcat, one that just couldn’t thrive inside. He became a happier, nicer cat after being allowed outside. Now I can’t find him – it’s been two days. I hope he comes home, but I am not optimistic.

But my woebegone state isn’t the reason for this blog. No, it’s the subject matter of the movie “Philadelphia,” a movie that contains  not only my favorite actor (Tom Hanks) but some of my other favorites, too – Denzel, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards… it’s a fantastic film. And it’s kind of old, I guess, though I don’t see it that way. It came out in 1993 and is one of the first mainstream movies to deal with AIDS.

I remember the day I went to see the movie — it was in a crowded theater, I think in Texas, and when I left the theater, I went to the bathroom, and huddled around the sinks were women leaning on each other, crying uncontrollably. I was angry. I was angry at how Hanks’ character was treated — I was angry at how Denzel Washington’s character treated that gay man who approached him in the drugstore. I was touched by how Denzel came around, however, and saw the movie for its powerful points more than the horrific death scene. The other times I’ve watched it, I’ve cried about the obvious. But the first time, I was just sad about the whole sorry state of affairs.

It seems so archaic now, fewer than 20 years later. In the last month, someone living with HIV has recovered and says he feels great. I share a business umbrella with the most famous HIV-inflicted person, Magic Johnson (it’s still weird to think Magic and I are co-workers. He has just a tad more cache.) It’s 19 years since “Philadelphia” came out. The first known AIDS death in the United States was 1981.

When Magic was diagnosed, I didn’t know any gay people, let alone anyone with AIDS.

And I still don’t know anyone with HIV, or not anyone who’s public about it. That’s because that great fear, that rampant bias and “gay plague” that was stoked in the 80s and 90s has fizzled —  thanks mostly go to safe sex missions, clean needle missions and changes to the rules of blood donation and transfusion. One of the characters in “Philadelphia” is a woman who got AIDS from a blood transfusion. There’s an nonverbal exchange between that character and Tom Hanks’ Andy while she’s on the stand. She says she feels no different than anyone else who has AIDS. It’s tender, it’s merciful, compassionate and soul-crushing.

It’s been 20 years-plus since Magic made his announcement. He’s doing great – and that announcement’s china anniversary was made into a documentary by the company that employs both Magic and I. It touched on the phobias, the fear, and how grown men much like Denzel’s character in “Philadelphia” put it all aside and played with or fought for their friend.

My, my my – I love this progress. I do wonder, however, if Magic hadn’t come along and made his announcement, would it still be called the gay plague? Would the uneducated masses be circling hospitals with “GAY: GOT AIDS YET” signs jutting into the air?

I like to think not. I like the direction our world is going in, this embracing of compassion and love. Now that I’m away from a state that’s doing its best to keep its large gay population unhappy, I see that it’s kind of a select deal. I honestly believe the next generation won’t see any difference. The learned behavior of gay bashing and racism isn’t being taught by as many teachers anymore.

I thank God for that. I also thank God for people within my home state of Oklahoma who fight for what is right, be them gay or straight. Two dear friends of mine who happen to be a married couple, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, have fought for marriage equality for as long as I’ve known them. I worked with them for more than  nine years. They worked in separate departments at my newspaper, but across a small divide from each other. They lived, worked and fought marriage inequality together. I never once doubted their commitment to each other or their mission. I just wished they didn’t have to fight it. They walked into the offices of our newspaper and told the Powers That Be that they were going to do this – and the newspaper kept them employed. They keep fighting and refuse to move out of Oklahoma just because the number of people pushing Bibles down their throats has increased.

Do those pushing the Bibles really know what they’re talking about? Of course not. The basic tenets of Jesus’ teachings is love for all. Therefore, preaching any type of hate or participating in any kind of racism, exclusion or hate is against Jesus’ teaching.

It’s that simple. And what I said about the next generation being pro-gay marriage? All it takes is a look at another Oklahoma, Carrie Underwood. She’s a country girl, born and raised in Checotah, Oklahoma, and a proud alumna of Northeastern State University, the school from which I graduated. She came out (haha) recently as an advocate of same-sex marriage. A country singer from Oklahoma – so very proud of her. Also proud of our president, who many think may have hurt his campaign by coming out as pro-gay marriage. How could he not? Gay bashing, racism and gender bias go hand-in-hand. As a woman, I’m a member of the most-discriminated against sect of the population. How women can be racist, anti-gay or anything else is beyond me.

See, I’ve been this way for my whole life and my mind will never change. I didn’t know any gay people when “Philadelphia” was released– or at least none who had come out. Now I know hundreds of gay people. I don’t care – I don’t even think about it. Just like I know hundreds of black, Asian, American Indian, Hispanic and otherwise “brown” people and don’t care.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here – but I am so lucky not to have absorbed any of that learned behavior. My mother certainly didn’t teach it to me, but I was faced with it. I did grow up in Oklahoma, which has its share of haters. But it also has its share of freedom fighters – and they go beyond the three I mentioned. It’s refreshing, and it gives me hope for the future. Kind of like “Glee” does. Imagine if something like “Glee” had come out before AIDS – would there have been less hatred? Would “Philadelphia” never have existed?

I don’t think so. We had to learn to be tolerant, sad to say. We had to learn to appreciate everyone for their uniqueness. Even if we don’t really feel that way deep down. We had to learn to tamp down that hatred. And that’s what progress has taught us since the days of “Philadelphia.”

Also, since I’m a 14-year-old girl at heart, I am watching the show “Pretty Little Liars” lately. It features a young, gorgeous lesbian who’s coming out. Can you imagine that, even in 1993? It was such a big deal. Heck, it was “Star Trek” days when people were freaked out that a white man kissed a black woman. It’s just mind-blowing.

I was blessed to have been born with bedrock in my spirit that doesn’t seek to hate. It could’ve gone the other way, but it didn’t, and I’m thankful for that – to God, to my many gay friends, to my parents for letting me be me. And I’m not alone at all — thank God there are millions of people who think with less hate in their hearts these days. If you call that a sign of the end of days, maybe it’s time for a reckoning. It’s nice to know we’ve got a little more peace and a little less hostility in our future.

And while the idea of “Philadelphia” might be outdated, it’s what it took to wake us up from the sleep of hatred and ignorance. It took that movie, and the lyrics to the song the movie inspired, “Streets of Philadelphia” sung in Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar, anguish-filled brogue, that had to get us there.

Here they are, in case you forgot them. The line that gets me to this day is “and my clothes don’t fit no more.”

I  was bruised and battered and I couldn’t tell
What I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn’t know
My own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me
Wastin´ away
On the streets of Philadelphia

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia

Ain’t no angel gonna greet me
It’s just you and I my friend
My clothes don’t fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip the skin

The night has fallen, I’m lying awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia

And while we’re at it, here’s the video

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Days of wine and ratty panties

This will definitely be TMI, but I just realized that I’m wearing perhaps the oldest pair of panties in my collection. For a pretty decent reason, one that I’m about to share.

My job is trying to kill me, slowly but surely. I would go all Norma Rae on it, but I’m not as cute as Sally Field. (My mom was; she looked like Sally Field, and my dad looks like Tom Hanks, but I digress.)

I got up this morning feeling sickish, and didn’t go to Job 1, opting to work from home, which is actually OK for Job 1 because I get a whole lot done while there. So I got up, slowly drank coffee and came alive and sat down and wrote a blog for Job 1’s website. It was actually pretty good, considering I felt like squid were attacking my guts with powerful, strangling appendages.

I was starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, I’d make it through this day, despite dropping everything I touched. I have this type of day once a week, and sometimes I just lose my shit and start yelling at my pets, then apologizing profusely, or sometimes, like I tried to do today, I talk myself down. I was proud to have that moment of Zen take over.

I even used my rainbow coffee cup of gladness, but that’s another story. I might be OCD enough to have certain coffee cups for certain days and/or moods. I might believe that said cup will bring me good fortune. I might be crazy.

So then my friend Lauren asks me if I want to go to lunch, to which I say “yay!” because a) I love Lauren and b) I love lunch. Just to make sure I wouldn’t embarrass myself and not have lunch money, I checked my bank balance, moving target that it is. I never have any idea how much money I have. I usually just keep cash in my wallet and hope for the best.

But today, I was also curious if I got my tax refund. So I go to my bank’s website, see that I’ve gotten my tax refund, do a small victory dance, and move about my day. “This day’s gonna turn around,” I say, silently congratulating myself. I kiss Leon on the nose and pat a cat just so they’ll feel my joy.

But then, I look further down the register : My last paycheck from Job 2 — my full-time, in-chargish job, the biggest contributor to my income — is short by about $150. Did I rationally think, “Oh, it’s probably just a screw-up because we had that blizzard where I had to use my paid time off and they accidentally docked me pay”? Of course not. I called payroll, and when they didn’t answer or return an email, it only made me crazier (and more sick to my stomach.)

My mind went into complete conspiracy theory mode. By the time I had to go to work, I was convinced that I’d been demoted and they just hadn’t told me. Or that my wages were being garnished by mafia bosses from a covert deal I made once when I was between being abducted by aliens and getting a root canal.

I could barely concentrate. I was so worked up, I was already deducting the $150 per two-week period that the Mafia Goons were going to be taking out until I retire. “I’ll have to cancel my cable, I guess,” I actually said to myself, outloud. “And I hope I didn’t use ALL that ham that people keep giving me. I’ll need it to live…”

I called my boss, the level-headed Mr. Brown, to tell him I was near a panic attack and accuse  him of turning in an incorrect  time slip when I was snowed in, and asking if they can garnish your wages without telling you first.

He talked to me in a very Don Draper-like tone, dismissing my rant, probably, as something that happens when a woman’s near her “time.” Actually, he was nice, and I felt better. But not completely.

I barely got ready for work. I put on sad clothes: The type that show no care or interest in what I’m doing. I didn’t even judiciously pick out panties. I grabbed the first ones I saw, which I believe were purchased when I was in seventh grade, in 1987. I hope I’m wrong about that. I didn’t put any care or interest into my wardrobe or makeup. I look like a hobo’s slightly better off estranged wife. I think my sweater has a hole in the armpit.

And of course, payroll kept me on tenterhooks all day, calling around 2:30 p.m. to tell me that yes, it was a problem on their end, and they even offered me a cash payout.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’m completely exhausted from my brain’s little trip down hysterical way. Or that I look like complete ass.

Oh well, at least I’ve got that money back. And I get to keep my cable. And I’m trashing these panties when I get home.

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Keep the change, ya filthy animal (The Top 5 Movies I Always Watch)

Happy Sunday. It’s bright and sunny in Oklahoma, I got up and went to church this morning, and drove home with the windows down, even though snow drifts the size of mountain goats still adorn every square inch of Oklahoma soil.

We’ve reached that hideously ugly part of a blizzard, when the snow is grayish-brown and heaped into unnatural peaks. Regardless, I drove around after church, going nowhere, just driving, with the windows down.

I’ve been listening to this U2 collection I put together a few months ago. It’s basically all of “The Joshua Tree” and bits from all the other albums. “A Celebration” is a song I’m particularly fond of right now, and it’s not the easiest to find. I cabbaged onto a rare version of the “October” expanded edition, and “A Celebration” is among the B-sides or demo songs.

The song contains a lyrics, “I believe in the Third World War, I believe in the atomic bomb/I believe in the powers that be, but they won’t overpower me.” Bono, as usual, was being defiant in the face of war, something I’ve admired about him since the band first came around. People took it the wrong way, like Bono was pro-war or something, and he yanked it off the final copy. It’s a shame, really, because it’s a fun, upbeat, positive, spirit-filled song.

Isn't he cute? This is before "Party Monster," of course.

This wasn’t going to be a blog about U2, more about the end of the winter weather epidemic… and how I felt trapped in my home last weekend, unable to go anywhere, and all I wanted to do was leave. This weekend, I’m home, and I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere. I’m watching “Home Alone” for the 367th time. Or at least it seems that way. I end up watching it every time it’s on, regardless of where it’s started. When I got home from church, it had just started, so here I sit, watching MacAuley Culkin at his cutest. Love that scene where he scares the pizza boy with the movie scene. Turns out it’s a fake movie, I learned today, made just for “Home Alone.”

I do watch “Home Alone” every time it’s on, and it’s probably No. 6 in my Top 5 “Always Watch” list. Here are the rest:

1. Shawshank Redemption. I seriously will watch this every time it’s on. Recently, I even recorded it so I could watch the whole thing. One of my favorite movies, and always entertaining.

2. Forrest Gump. This probably is my favorite movie of all time, since it stars the actress who reminds me of my mom (Sally Field) and the actor who reminds me of my dad (Tom Hanks.) And it’s a great story, and me and my BFF Renae can quote it start-to-finish.

3. Parenthood. I love Steve Martin like I love no other. I can find a Steve Martin quote for everything. And he’s great in this movie, as are Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Jason Robards and Dianne Weist. Even Keanu was good in it.

4. Raising Arizona. “Mind you don’t cut yourself, Mordechi!” is just one of the thousand lines of quotable material in this far-superior-to-most comedy. I will always love this movie, and I still see it as unpredictable, though I’ve seen it 157 times.

5. Schindler’s List. I said after I watched it the first time that I’d never watch it again. I’ve seen it about 20 times since. I almost can’t stomach it — I’m a bit of a holocaust buff, as sad as that sounds — but it’s such an inspiring, amazing story. It took me a few times to fully grasp everything that was going on, too. Once you get past the initial shock and tragedy of the events of the time, you can really see how it happened. Amazing stuff.

What are some movies you watch over and over, regardless of the fact that you know them by heart?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a couch to lie on. And laundry to do. And beans and cornbread to make.

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