And here’s to you, Mr. Nichols…

Yesterday’s  forecast hint at a chance of  rain.  A rain of tears in the passing of Mike Nichols –  the husband, father, friend, colleague and Director that leaves behind a graduate as well.

Not just any graduate.  The Graduate.

Based on the novel by Charles Web, the 1967 iconic film, The Graduate,  swept the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Mike Nichols), Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman) and Best Actress (Anne Bancroft).

The Graduate.  It sounds so important, so official.  Disciplined. Confident.

So who better than Dustin Hoffman to play the role of the most insecure college graduate to ever walk off a campus.

Screenwriters Buck Henry and Calder Willingham penned it so well.  “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.”  As college grad Benjamin Braddock  wonders aloud if the oh-so sophisticated Mrs. Robinson  would even entertain such a notion.   Seduce her daughter’s boyfriend?  A young man half her age?   Benjamin?Benjamin Graduate

Back then, actor Warren Beatty would have easily nabbed the 1967 ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ cover.  But this?   This was Dustin Hoffman.

Ironically, that same year, The Graduate was up for Best Picture against two of the sexiest, ruthless  outlaws in the biographical film, Bonnie and Clyde.   Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty) both got Oscar nominations for their lead roles in the Oscar nominated film as well.

So why can’t I stop smiling?

Because with Mike Nichols, the Director, we could expect the unexpected.

In reality,  Dustin Hoffman was just 30 years old when the film debuted.   And, Anne Bancroft was only seven years older.  But her suburban aura and his naivety onscreen were toxic; yet painfully funny.

And of course, Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics and music underscored the roller coaster of emotions that Mike Nichols captured for audiences.

Worldwide.  For decades.

In the end, even Bonnie and Clyde were no match for Mike Nichols’s Graduate.

 

 

 

 

The Graduate

Mike Nichols directed one of my all-time favorites, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft and Katharine Ross.  It was written by the incomparable Buck Henry who penned the one liner that advised Dustin’s character (Benjamin) to get into this new field:  “Plastics.”

And do I even have to mention the music by Simon and Garfunkel?  I didn’t think so.

Freshman at Alcatraz on Mom's Day

The Freshman at Alcatraz with Mom…

The graduate in my life that year was my youngest son, Stevie.  Ironically,  he graduated  from San Francisco State University with a degree in Environmental Studies with aspirations to rid the world of plastics.   The entire family headed north to commemorate the monumental day.

Final score: four college graduates.   As the endless summer was starting, our tuition payments were ending.    And we have empty wallets to prove it.

My friend, Rose and I hit the road first.  I warned Rose,  aka Stevie’s Godmother, that I had watched Thelma and Louise the night before – a Ridley Scott film based on Cali Khouri’s Oscar winning script  starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.  With a breakout role by some new talent named Brad.  Does Brad Pitt ring a bell?

Yes, a great film but a lousy choice  if you’re setting out on a seven hour drive through two of the busiest freeways in the world.  We had plenty of coffee so what could possibly go wrong?

Rose  let me drive her car which was a good idea as Rose was voted Worst Mom Driver  – by any kid that got in her car. That’s almost an honor.  A Lifetime Achievement Award.  Isn’t it?   Think about it.   No carpool nominations.  No frantic calls from  neurotic Moms on overdrive to pick up their mini Einstein from Physics for First Graders course.   Brilliant, Rose.

The next morning, I warned Rose that I watched the chic  flick of all time.  From here on out, she was Thelma and I was Louise.  She laughed lightly to which I replied rather abruptly ala Louise: I mean it!   ‘No Grey matter ’til we hit the open highways, north of LA.’  As it was, my hair turned one ugly shade of gray as we crawled through the worst LA traffic I’ve seen in a decade.  So I  suggested  my designated Thelma start reading  after our first pit stop.

My husband called as we passed by Magic Mountain:   So, what page are you on?

The ‘we need more coffee, it took two hours to get through LA and this Louise isn’t in the mood right now’ page.

One quick pit stop and two coffee refills later, we were armed and dangerous.  We  whipped by the Madonna Inn, San Luis wineries and Stanford without even a mention of the book.  Instead, we swapped horror stories and cherished moments about parenting, sibling rivalry, report cards, team Moms and overbearing coaching Dads; all while juggling our respective careers.  This Thelma and Louise had survived.  We were still in the game of this thing called life.   One day we  would have time to take long, lazy vacations to read the entire Grey Trilogy in one week.

But first, we had to navigate the Bay Bridge in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen in San Francisco.  So glad I packed my retro purple leather bomber jacket.

The rest of the family arrived the next morning.  For the next four days, we celebrated with the graduate. We dropped into Stevie’s day  job at Doc Martens on Haight Street. We visited a Napa Valley winery. We even rode across the Golden Gate Bridge on the open roof top seats of a 3-story bus.

Later, this Thelma and Louise loaded up on every kind of  Trader Joe’s gourmet goody to go with our six bottle value pack of Chardonnay as the newest members of a wine club.  But, we learned that we could have got the exclusive wine a whole lot cheaper.  Later on, Uncle Paul would join us for the celebratory feast on Saturday night to toast our losses and our gains.

But first:  the big day.  By Saturday, the fog had lifted and the sun made a special appearance on the foggiest point in San Francisco.   Hence, we spent four hours on the field of SFSU on  the hottest day that I can ever remember in San Francisco.  Ever.  The purple leather bomber jacket stayed back at the condo. Four sons and four graduates later….

It all  flashed before my eyes as I sweat in those bleachers.Stevie Pirate!

 Suddenly, it was all over.

Stevie was now Steven. Was it worth it?

Preschool jitters; little league, middle school angst; high school pranks?

Homework wars, SAT scores?

Drivers training,  prom night,  broken hearts? College tuition, Top Ramen.

Blood, sweat and tears. And more tears?

Worth every last shade of gray.

Eat, Play, Surf

Bali SuspensionSo what happens when you eat, play and surf too much?  You post a blank blog.  But you don’t even realize it until two days later.

I’ve always had a love affair with Bali.  Yet I had never been there until a month ago.  Like a school girl crush, I could fantasize about my Bali.  My Bali was pristine, tranquil – devoid of modern chaos.   My Bali was not the result of Eat, Pray, Love – the bestselling book by Elizabeth Gilbert. Or the Julia Roberts movie of the same name.

My Bali was prompted by my bucket list.  I wanted to surf in Bali, darnit.  So did my dear Hawaiian friend, Dyanne. And my husband and my son.

Four people, three different flights and one weary group of travelers later, we descended on Bali.  We shopped and dropped all our hard-earned money.  Yes, I had heard about great prices but spending is believing! We ordered silk suits; we ate amazing food; we ordered custom surfboard bags; and we ate more amazing food.

Then jet lag kicked in.  Yet all we had was instant coffee.  Instant coffee?

Yes, the Balinese need to work on their coffee.   They either have instant coffee or brewed coffee that is thicker than lava rocks.  And just about as crunchy.  By Day Three, I was having serious caffeine withdrawals, so Dyanne and I headed over to Deus Customs.  http://www.deuscustoms.com.  My son, Danny was floored that dear old Mom knew all about the coolest, hippest spot in Bali.  My husband, Rick was clueless as he drifted away during his daily massage.

Deus is a combo surf shop, motorcycle shop, art gallery, restaurant and music venue with locations in Venice Beach, California; Sydney, Australia and Canggu, Bali.  And Deus is also the only place in Bali that knows how to make a real cup of coffee and some serious French Fries.  I got my coffee fix. Dyanne got her French Fry fix.

We still had our appetite for a real surf session, though.

But first  we embraced the hustle and bustle of motor bikes loaded down with entire families whizzing past sacred grounds – a  sharp contrast of eastern traditions and western values.   Strip malls. Temples.  Monkeys. Expats. Kuta nightclubs.  Hordes of tourists.  Lots of booze.

And of course, the Balinese people.  And, their spirituality.   That was the best part.  The depth of their spirituality.  The worst part?  The barking dogs.  According to Hindus beliefs,  starving dogs were thieves from another life. No food, water or shelter for those thieves.   Well, that may very well be true but they were a real downer for this dog lover in this lifetime.   Equally sad?  Picturesque beaches plagued with piles of trash from neighboring storms in Jakarta and Java.  Plastic bottles overshadowed nearby ancient temples.  How do we stop this global insanity? How…

Danny dragged me off my soap box long enough to book a week over in Nusa Lembongan. After a 25 minute boat ride,  it was there that we would quench our Bali craving.  Serenity, tranquility, spirituality.

“It’s what Bali used to be like” was the mantra we heard from tourists and island natives.

We checked into an amazing villa up on the hillside with spectacular views of the Bali skyline and the magnificent volcano engulfed in turquoise waters.  And a refrigerator full of Bintang Beer.  Check it out at:  http://www.balivillanusa.com.

Shipwrecks, Lacerations and Playgrounds became our new vocabulary.  World renowned surf breaks hosting a hand full of locals and tourists.

Timing is everything.  And we timed it just right.

We headed over to Monkeys Surf Shop; rented boards and jumped on a local water taxi.  The handmade goods of Ubud and the plastic overload on windswept beaches became a dull memory.  Bali bliss was just a paddle away.

Our boat driver, Wayan, couldn’t believe that Dyanne and I would get wet.   Let alone, surf.  We dove in and surfed with local kids with grins the size of coconuts.  We surfed with Aussie surfer Karl and his girlfriend, Tasha.  And yes, we surfed until our bodies ached. Bali Surfer Girls Small

Wayan was impressed.  Dyanne and I were the two oldest female surfers he had ever seen.  I suppose some women would be offended.   Not us.

We came and we conquered.  Then we washed it down with a cold Bintang with our newfound friends.   This would be the Bali we came to know and love.

That night we celebrated our new Bali.  We all hopped on the motor bikes that were part of our villa rental package and headed to Sandy Bay Beach Club Restaurant.  We splurged on a giant fresh lobster that cost a whopping $9 USD.  Frequent Bali travellers had warned us that we’d feel like millionaires and for one fleeting moment, we did.

For a week, we embraced the spirit of Nusa Lembongan that was on hiatus in Bali.

The highlight of the trip?  Metals Holiday. It started out with a morning blessing of the refrigerator and microwave in the villa.   Of course, every motor bike on Lembongan was blessed that day.   Mind you, this is as normal to them as an Egg McMuffin is to McDonald’s.  We took a scenic drive over the suspension bridge to the other side of the island on our blessed motor bikes.  Holy moly, good things those bikes were blessed.  Half the wood slats were missing on the suspension bridge.  When Dyanne got to the other side of the bridge she vowed that she would never ever ride on a motor bike with my husband again.

Then she hopped back on his bike.

We followed that excitement with a snorkeling trip and an epiphany.  In my next life, I want to be one of the colorful fish I saw down under.  Disney and Pixar fishies never had it so good.  That night, I opted for an outdoor shower that was built into the indoor bathroom.  Shampooing my hair under a full moon to the chants from the nearby ceremony capped off the perfect day.  Sheer nirvana.  Until…

At exactly midnight, a loud bolt of lightning struck the utility box on the property that caused a blackout on this tiny island.  An ironic twist to a very heavy Metals Holiday, don’t you think?

As I boarded the plane home, I knew I would return.  Not for more custom board bags that cost less than a dinner in Laguna Beach.  No.  In fact, there will be no shopping when I return for Nyepi Holiday (pronounced nippy).

According to Wikipedia – Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are: no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Donna, the villa owner explained it this way:  All flights are cancelled for 24 hours.  No incoming flights.  No outgoing flights. No tv.  No internet.  No cell phones. No commerce. No barking dogs.

Only the sounds of silence.

Imagine.

A real vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bobs of The World

After a rough weekend, I took a long walk on the beach to clear my head.  I’ve walked that stretch of beach known as ‘Hole in the Fence’ for 15-plus years.

All of a sudden, a weathered man named Bob, emerges out of a beat-up van with a huge smile and bestows me with not one, but two bouquets of discount flowers from Trader Joe’s.  He may have even found  them dumpster diving.  Doesn’t matter. They are some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever received.  Judging from his van and its contents, I’m guessing Bob’s van is not his home away from home.  But rather his home.

It still doesn’t matter.  Bob is one of the richest guys I’ve ever met.

Thanks Bob for filling that hole in my Monday with an act of kindness.

Happy Monday to the Bobs of the world.

#flowerpower #MondayMonday #Bobsrule #whataboutbob

Bob's bouquet

American Snapshot

What a year.  It’s only mid February yet we’ve already had record breaking January box office sales, the American Sniper debate and of course, fumble gate. The stage was set for more recording breaking audiences with Super Bowl ratings. And we delivered.   Over 100 million viewers witnessed a play that will be discussed for decades. Oh heck, possibly centuries. Long after were gone.

Then came the Grammys, Kanye, the Sponge Bob upset and some serious Grey matter.

Up next – the Oscars.  The crème de la creme.  The highest achievement in entertainment.

But the image that will stay with me for the rest of my life took place in a local theater on a cool California evening.

It had nothing to do with big budget films or high priced athletes or entertainers; box office tallies or football rallies.

The mood was somber even as movie goers settled in for the most talked about film of the Oscar season – American Sniper.   There was no sense of urgency to get that mega popcorn and drink; or scan that latest text.  This was a different kind of movie.

When Bradley Cooper locked eyes on his target; we locked eyes on him.

American Sniper

American Sniper  Copyright 2015 Warner Bros.

For over two hours, nobody spoke a word. Nobody even checked their Iphones.  As the final credits rolled, grown men and women got up in silence. No small talk, no armchair critics. No political debates or rants – or raves, for that matter.  Just the sound of silence. A rare commodity in this day and age.

As we spilled out into the lobby, my husband ducked into the adjacent men’s room.

Then it happened.   A scene that played out on the small screen of  real life.

My husband came out of the men’s room with tears in his eyes. Visibly shaken. When I pulled him aside, he whispered…”Grown men are in there weeping.”

It was just too much for them. Even more than any Super Bowl play, or trophy or award.  Imagine that.

 

© Copyright www.MaggieFranks.com 2014