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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Friday, August 07, 2009

If You Leave, Don't Leave Now

Yesterday was just a regular day like any other.

I had a fun, yet semi-cloud filled day walking on the boardwalk with an old college roommate. We don't get to see each other a lot, so we did what most old friends do- we spent part of the time reminiscing, part of the time catching up. Experiences like that are bittersweet. It's great to look back, but looking back also reminds you of how much time has really passed. That's where the sad part kicks in.

When I got home I went on Facebook to check the old status updates and immediately saw these words, "No! Not John Hughes, too! ..." Immediately, I saw red. Although the words weren't plainly stating what happened, a knot started forming in the pit of my stomach, imagining the worst. So I jumped on Google, typed in John Hughes and got back the dreaded results, "John Hughes dead at 59".

A wave of sadness rushed over me. Instinctively, I turned around and posted my thoughts about John Hughes and his sudden demise. I wrote, "(Janet) is sad John Hughes died. Now the illusion he would ever make a sarcastic, yet heartfelt teenage movie comeback one day is officially dead, too."

So, for the big question that may be on some of your minds, what made John Hughes so special? Well to me, it was so many things. For starters, he captured what it felt like to be a teenager better than any other writer before or since, (although Kevin Williamson sure did try his hardest to claim the title at one point). How a man in his mid-thirties managed to recreate those awkward moments that were so painfully beautiful is what made him a true artist. Not only did he capture a time period so perfectly, he made the portrayal timeless. Sure, those films are riddled in eighties fashion and slang, but somehow their goodness transcends any tackiness. That in itself is a gift my friends.

Not only did he have a knack for wonderful storytelling, he also had an amazing eye for talent. I'm not sure how much involvement he had in this process, but it still needs to be said that his movies made stars out of relatively unknown actors such as Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Macaulay Culkin, John Candy and so many more. Casting of those films was so precise. You knew this because when you tried to imagine the confident Ferris Bueller played by anyone other than Matthew Broderick or the lovable Duckie portrayed by someone rather than Jon Cryer you simply cannot. Go ahead, I dare you.

As if being a talented writer/director/producer wasn't enough, Hughes also had a hand in creating wonderful movie soundtracks. Suddenly songs were synonymous with moments. If I hear "If You Leave" I am instantly transported back to THE prom in Pretty In Pink. When "Don't You Forget About Me" comes on the radio I see Judd Nelson pumping his fist in the air as he did during The Breakfast Club. When The Commitments made a remake of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" famous, it was good, but it would never suprass Duckie's lip synching in the record shop. And who could forget the usage, or should I say OVER usage of Yello's "Oh Yeah? Which was prominently featured in two Hughes films alone, Ferris and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, along with many others over the years.

There were many stories about when, why and how John Hughes unofficially bowed out of Hollywood. Some say his downfall started after a falling out with his then muse, actress Molly Ringwald. In fact, some of those same people would argue neither of them would ever be the Lennon without McCartney or peanut butter without jelly. You might be powerful on your own, but never as powerful as you were together.

Others say it was the beginning of the end when Hughes started "going soft" as he went from depicting the jaded, teenage era to the light-hearted family fare of movies like Home Alone or Curly Sue. I have to say I'm more inclined to fall in line with one of these people. While Home Alone was a monster hit, it was never one of my favorites and I never saw the big deal. But then again I think I also held a bit of a grudge. It was almost as if Hughes and Ringwald were the parents and they split up. Culkin was the new wife, or the Hagar to Ringwald's Roth, if you will. Odd comparison, but it works. Sometimes a different kind of magic isn't magical at all.

That's not to say that his death itself isn't sad enough, but to me it was more than the death of a person. Essentially it is the death of an era, too. Not that he ever would have been able to reclaim those glory days of cinema, or that he'd ever really want to, but just the possibility that it *could* happen one day was enough for me. In fact, in looking over some of my old John Hughes related blog posts, I found this one. Written over four years ago now, I had completely forgotten about it. Obviously the movie never came to fruition and even if it ever had it probably would have paled in comparison, but there was hope and on some level, hope was enough.

Since first hearing the news, my awareness of all things Hughes has heightened. Stories about a famous person always surface after they die. That's also when you discover the supposed true measure of a man. It has been refreshing thus far to read nothing but good things about the man and his work. From famous actors expressing their sadness to fulfilled fans conveying their gratitude, all in all, it seems like Hughes was a stand up, non Hollywood sort of guy. In fact, at age 59, an alleged farmer and the father of two children (another rumored reason he left the limelight), Hughes was also married to the same woman for 39 years. A 39 year marriage that not only lasted the Hollywood days, but outlasted them? This is just one of the many reasons why Hughes was so one in a million.

Some of you reading this, mainly those who were not touched by his work in the same way, might be thinking I'm crazy. To you, John Hughes was just a man who made noteworthy films some twenty years ago. It's the same mixed mentality about Michael Jackson's death. Some were appalled regardless of what he did or didn't do over the years. Then there were those who felt he was iconic and no amount of time passing could take that away from him. Others felt his day had come and gone and that his death now was not nearly as prolific had it would have been at the height of his fame and fortune. It's all about perception. But when it comes to the untimely deaths of men like Hughes and even Jackson, I always revert to what once was. Somehow, on some level, their mortality, even if unexpected, reminds me of how much time has really passed, thus bringing this post full circle.

Sometimes it's not even about the death of a life but rather, a life change. The example that comes to mind in all of this was the day the world found out Michael J. Fox had Parkinson's Disease. Not only was Fox so young, his image was synonymous with active, spunky youth. Although the optimistic Fox still lives on, the memory of what he once was would only be that, a memory. It's the fact that things would never be the same again. That's not to say that they ever really would. Looking back is pointless anyhow. But that doesn't stop the nostalgic part of me, a big part, from doing this every so often anyhow.

I don't know what it is that makes so many of us look back with fondness, but it's a popular phenomenon evidenced in pop culture in so many ways. As a society, we're always either looking back or looking forward. It's so hard to truly enjoy living and appreciating the here and now. But as the great character of Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it".
Sunday, August 02, 2009

Off The Deep End

As anyone who has ever known me can tell you, I'm a rather simple girl. In fact, there are really only two things in my life that, on a grand scale, I've consistently wanted. Those things are a dog and a pool, and not necessarily that order. I also want a full on waterfall wall in my house and a personal salad bar that is stocked at all times, but that's not important now.

Last fall, after getting married and moving into our new home, we attempted the dog thing with disastrous results. It's weird how you can spend so much time wanting something, but still give no thought to what wanting said thing actually means. While I wanted the dog, when it came right down to it, we rushed into the actual decision, if that makes any sense. We took on a puppy that would require a lot more maintenance and care than either of us were prepared or ready for. We also took on a puppy that within a few short months time would clearly pass me in height and weight. So needless to say the dog, that dog, didn't work out. But most of you knew that already.

However what we did inherit when we bought this house was an above ground pool. I was so excited to get this pool as all my life, my parents had a huge yard that was oh so pool ready, however ready for a pool they never were. I think I could have talked my dad into it easily. My mom, on the other hand, was another story. So when I moved into this house I was super excited to finally have a pool of my own.

Only the problem was this. Last year we moved in in mid July. A few weeks after that we were getting married, and a week after that we would be on our honeymoon. Then, a few weeks after that the summer would be over and I'd be back at work. So last summer, although my first official summer with a pool, was not the summer to truly enjoy said pool. Instead it became an expensive headache of maintenance worries. My husband wanted no part of the pool, swimming or otherwise, so the burden, since I was the interested and seasonably unemployed party, rested on my shoulders.

Last summer I had to make a lot of phone calls to get someone to come out and help stabilize our pool and try to teach me some of the basics. Some people laughed at me when I called 1. because I couldn't answer their "simple" pool related questions and 2. that I wanted so much help to maintain a *shudder* above ground pool, of all things. Ultimately I did find one guy, and his son, who were willing to come out and assess the situation. He was a little rough around the edges, but a nice enough guy and hey, he was probably making more money than he should of off of us anyway.

When the season came to an end, the pool was stable, but our cover was not. Still, not being home the day we got the pool closed, my husband who wanted to be done with it just had the pool man put the old cover on the pool. Apparently the pool guy did warn that the cover was not in great condition, but my husband was tired of dealing with it for the season and just wanted it to be over for now. Of course that was a decision he'd pay for some eight or nine months later.

As fall turned to winter and winter to spring we slowly but surely started to see our crappy cover, the one we were advised not to use, cave in bit by bit. So when it came time for the big reveal, a stable pool that really should only need to be shocked needed a hell of a lot more than that. In fact, my husband and my father in law ended up having to drain the whole thing after finding a slew of organisms, both dead and alive, inside. It's probably better off I didn't see this first hand for myself. I did however, get to see the husband actually put on waders to do the job which in itself, was a sight to behold. Apparently the pool drained, but the last bit of "stuff" wouldn't come out so some thing a ma jig had to be rented to finish off the job.

Once the pool was drained, it had to be filled up like new and stabilized from the start. But stabilizing a pool, if you remember, was something I never fully mastered from the year before. Oh and did I mention that I had about a week to figure it all out as we were having our first bbq and told people to bring their bathing suits? So off to the pool store I went. Now going to the pool store is a funny experience. While I love handing over a sample of my pool water and being told what to do, the skeptic in my always wonders how much of it I really have to do, or if it's just another lame attempt to get me to buy more chemicals than I really need. It's just like when I take my car in for an oil change and they inevitably tell me I need something else, like fuel injection service, whatever that is. Maybe I do need it, maybe I don't. But the fact that I don't know if I can trust the source is what upsets me the most.

One thing I will say though is the girl I got at the pool store to help me totally gave me instructions like pool maintenance for dummies. Not only did she tell me which chemicals to use, she saw how panicked and overwhelmed I looked, so she went that extra step to put specific sticky notes on each container telling me what I had to do and in what order I had to do it. Thank you pool girl, wherever you are. Yet even with the directions it was a time consuming and somewhat awkward process, mainly because of the way our pool is situated. It's hard to explain, but I'll try. Our backyard is a little bit hilly, so it's almost as if our pool was built into a hill. Nice shrubbery surrounds the perimeter of our pool, too. Together this gives the appearance of our pool being an in ground pool although it's not. It also makes say, broadcasting chemicals over the surface of the pool harder to do because it's not easy to actually walk around our pool. It also makes plugging the vacuum in a two person job since you can't be in two places at once and like I said..there's the whole "you can't easily walk around the pool" thing.

So for the most part, I maintain the pool solo as much as I can. We bought these test strips and I stared learning pool terminology enough to at least halfway hold my own if a pool related conversation should ever arise. And since I am home a lot this summer, I've been using the pool a lot, too. I have no idea if I'm maintaining it the way I *should* but considering I haven't grown any extra arms or legs and my hair hasn't turned green, it can't be all that bad. And while we run the filter faithfully and I need my husband's help to vacuum, overall skimming it is easy since I go in every few days and clean out the miscellaneous bugs and leaves in their majority before they settle at the bottom. Yes, overall things have been a lot better since last year.

That was, of course, until yesterday.

Yesterday started off like any other, sun filled day and so I decided it would be a good time to vacuum the pool since I was going to be out there anyway. My husband plugged the vacuum in and all was well. After about a minute he told me he wanted to turn off the filter pump for a second to add more water. I couldn't see what he was doing. All I know is that when he went to turn it back on, it wouldn't turn on. At first we thought it needed a minute or two...or ten. But a few minutes turned into a few hours and still nothing. All we did get was some humming which might have been a good or bad thing, who knows. He swears he saw smoke at one attempt so I told him to cool it for a while. He was certain that the next day it would work fine as it has happened before. I'm certain that was just a feeble attempt to try to stop me from worrying about the inevitable.

This morning I woke up and tried the switch again. Not only is it still not working, now the humming has stopped. I don't know if I should have or not, but I liked the humming. The humming gave me hope. Now all I hear are the sounds of silence and as a result, I feel frustrated. I have no idea how to troubleshoot a problem like this safely, even after researching possible causes. It could be a clog or a tripped circuit, but while both of those are I suppose easy enough to fix, neither are easy to fix by ME. In fact, I'll be honest and say that playing with electricity+water scares me anyhow.

So now I feel like my false sense of security has been snatched out from under me. My husband says he'll look at it again today, but that doesn't give me hope as we both know he does not know what he's looking for. I suppose there are some ways he can troubleshoot it if he does try. But more likely he'll want to call someone to come out. And once again I feel that burden falls on me....and our wallets, too. It might seem like a shallow thing to want your pool to just be usable, but that's really all I wanted. Right now though I feel like I'm more inclined to sink than swim.



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