How Turner Classic Movies saved the day
Last Friday, Mr. wOw was all sanguine about the apocalyptic event advertised as Hurricane Irene. He’d been fooled before, about forces of nature that turned out fairly benign. Also, he is of hearty Irish-Italian stock. My goodness, what is a little wind and rain while I drink and whip up a batch of lasagna? (Okay—I don’t drink at home and I don’t cook anymore. But you know what I mean.)
B. and me joked about the TV hysteria. Then, on Saturday morning, early, I noticed that our next door neighbors had kindly taped up our front door—and their own. They also provided sand bags for us! Across the street, others had also taped their windows. The rest of the block was fleeing. For hours, all I heard were the sounds of people loading their cars with children, pets and valuables.
I was a little less sanguine. But not yet nervous. B. awoke later. I mentioned the window-taping, the sand-bags, the exodus. He was pretty cool. “Taping windows doesn’t help much in a hurricane, in fact not at all.” B. knows a lot, so I let that go. Still, I was uneasy. And I didn’t want to be.
I went to the supermarket, which is only yards away, and bought a few things—soups and such. But I wasn’t hoarding for disaster. I was convinced the cataclysm was just going to pass us by. I checked in, via e-mail, with my one Hoboken friend, Mike. He was on his way into Manhattan to celebrate his niece’s birthday or something (Mike loves his family). But, I gasped, in e-mail reply, “Bloomberg is shutting down all transit, how will you get back?” Mike replied coolly that New Jersey transit wasn’t going down until 6 pm. He’d be back by then.
B. was fixed in front of the TV in the living room, watching every dramatic moment of…nothing yet.
I went upstairs to my room and tried to watch The Food Network and read a book. (Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This is the first of her Amelia Peabody series, which I will acquaint myself with further, as I enjoyed this one quite a bit.)
BUT…I was lured back to my computer. I typed in “storm Hoboken” and found to my shock that our lovely mayor, Dawn Zimmer, was urging everybody to get the hell out of the town that spawned Frank Sinatra. And then I heard, on the street, cop cars passing by, announcing that “all those in ground floor apartments must evacuate—immediately!”
Just as I was absorbing this, my friend Mike e-mailed. He’d heard about Mayor Zimmer’s warnings, and though he referred to her as a “panicky bitch”—he had not voted for her– he was not returning to spend the night in Hoboken. His father was driving him back in, just so Mike could pick up a few things, and then he’d be taken to safer environs, not so close to the water. (He had kindly offered me and B. his fifth floor apartment, in case we were deluged.)
So now Mr. wOw was really not at all sanguine. In fact, he was more I’d-like-some-sangria!
I wafted downstairs, pale, lovely and distressed. Distressed, anyway. “Are you sure about the windows?….Later on, should we put the cats in the bathroom upstairs, so they won’t be blown away?…Do we have candles?….Water! Do we have enough water?!.. should we pick things up off the floor now, in case of first floor flooding…why the hell do you have so much shit on the floor anyway?!”
B. was a brick and assured me we’d likely have some ceiling leaks—as we always do, in a heavy rain—but that he wasn’t expecting to make like Noah. In fact he was so sure, that by 7:00 pm, he was surprised that our fave Chinese place wasn’t open—we couldn’t order in. Now it was raining rather heavily, the wind was—windy—and I exclaimed: “You expected delivery?! Everybody’s been ordered to evacuate!!” B. said: “Oh, well, there’s some left-over chicken.” He ate that. I chewed my lip.
Just as B. predicted, ceiling leaks opened later that night (early Sunday AM, to be precise.) Now, I was electrically awake. The rain was pounding and the wind was howling. I had but one respite—Turner Classic Movies. Lucky me, it wasn’t a 24 hour tribute to westerns. TCM was honoring the divine Carole Lombard. And so, from 6 AM Sunday to 1 AM Monday, I was on board for Miss Lombard, from 1933 to 1942. When I wasn’t wandering up and down through our cozy three-story house checking on the leaks, I was huddled on my couch, in my memorabilia-packed room, gasping over Miss L.’s beauty, charm and talent.
I was even luckier that my all-time favorite Lombard movie aired just as the weather was scariest—“In Name Only.” I’ve seen it a million times, this tale of unhappily married Cary Grant, his materialistic wife (the great Kay Francis, at her most wicked) and Carole, as the spirited artist, who fights the good fight against being drawn into Cary’s life, but…hell, it’s Cary Grant.
In my heightened state, I appreciated more than ever Miss Lombard’s naturalistic acting, how she elevated every scene, how even her most casual gesture and facial expression conveyed a universe of emotion. Though she gained her fame as an antic comedienne, “In Name Only” is her masterpiece dramatic performance. The last twenty minutes of the movie are intense beyond belief. (If you don’t cry, just remove yourself from the human being category.)
And as always, I was hypnotized by the movie’s final showdown, between Carole and Kay:
“You’d rather see him dead than be with me.”
“You don’t love him. You don’t love anybody except yourself.”
“I gave up love for what I have now. Do you think I’m going to let you or anybody take it from me?”
“All you get from Alec is money. He’ll give you everything.”
“If Alec gave me every cent he had it wouldn’t be enough. But someday his father will be dead…”
I will spare those who haven’t seen the film its final, exquisitely satisfying dénouement (notice how I love these fancy schmancy French words.)
Anyway, by mid-afternoon Sunday, the worst (which for us hadn’t been bad at all) had passed. The house was wet in spots, it was dank, but our windows were intact and the sandbags hadn’t been employed. We had never lost power.
B. wasn’t smug. He hugged me tight. He knew I’d been far more frightened than he’d ever known me to be, or that I’d let on, verbally. (Mr. wOw’s face reveals everything—I’m a terrible liar.)
I just wish I could have hugged Miss Lombard.