I don’t believe in astrology, though I have seen that psychic on 57th and Lex who now apparently has been reported for some sort of fraudulent activity. If you google Sara on 57th and Lex, you will see a number of entries. I tried to see her in March after her reading in December blew me away with its insight, accuracy and just eerie overall take on me and my past with no information beyond date of birth and full name.
I missed her this last trip but will see her in October, 25 bucks for 20 minutes, if she isn’t in jail. So when people say, “Oh, everyone feels badly today, the moon is in so and so and the sun is in blah blah blah,” I roll my eyes. But everyone feels like shit today so maybe it’s a weird day astrologically. Or maybe it is that even in sleepy Santa Barbara, three thousand miles from the city, it’s hard to believe this weekend will be the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
I watched two episodes of Rescue Me this week: “Jeter” and “Vows.” I cannot believe Colleen is all grown up and now married. How well I remember the tender early scenes with Tommy in Season 1, when she thinks she is a lesbian and starts to date Jennifer, much to Janet’s horror and Tommy’s delight. Or the simply breathaking episode, “Twats” in Season 2, when Colleen shows up in the bleakness of winter at the firehouse in Harlem, during the riotous banana fight, wearing that black outfit (jeans, top, jacket) with her long, blonde hair cascading down her shoulders as an angelic and even redemptive figure. She comes to Tommy, who has a special bond with his oldest child and teenaged baby girl, fed up with life in Ohio where Janet kidnaps the kids after learning of Tommy’s ultimate crime at the end of Season 1: “widow-banging.”
I would love to finish the season but my boyfriend only saw Season 6, never went back to see the earlier seasons and is not invested in the show though he was okay with watching Season 6. The first night I slept over at his house, he invited me over to cook for me and I told him that unless he could tape the show, I would not be able to come over that night. J taped the show and we watched after dinner.
Rescue Me has obviously had a formative influence on my life as a 30-something. It’s somewhat ironic that thirtysomething had the most formative influence on my teen years of any TV show, with its depiction of the sort of life my education and upbringing trained me to expect (urban, professional, affluent), but that Rescue Me, a show about people whose life experience could not possibly be more remote from my own–working-class Irish and Italian Catholic firefighters and their families in NYC–not only defined but reflected my psychic life in my 30s. I was depressed and I hated my life for several years before 9/11, but the depression did not become truly catastrophic or disabling until after the Twin Towers went down.
(A story for another day, but I got evicted for crying too loudly the week before 9/11 and had to go apartment hunting the day of 9/11 and the few days after–quite frightening for me on every level–and while my mother was able to prevail upon the owner, 9/11 hit me hard for the obvious reasons as well as this idiosyncratic one. They were also pissed at me for parking in the fire lane–for which I had a reason, not a good one, but a reason–and for one other stupid thing related to my patio.
I did get evicted, not for non-payment of rent, but for the noise level of my crying and screams in the middle of the night and early mornings in 2006, which was only slightly less devastating and turned out to be one of the best things ever to happen to me as I got out of Death Gardens, where I lived for a decade though I could easily have afforded a much better apartment in Santa Barbara. Mom couldn’t prevail upon the daughter of the owner–by then dead–who lived in Manhattan and was quite frankly a monumental bitch no one liked. I have written on Victorian Chick that homelessness–not literally but figuratively–has been a dominant theme in my life and that due to this accident of timing, 9/11 and homelessness have always been yoked in my mind.)
The only other two shows which shaped my third decade of life were Grey’s Anatomy and Gilmore Girls, far closer to my world in every way, and in my late 20s and early 30s, NYPD Blue, a show about a quite similar people, though don’t tell someone on the FDNY than he is in any way similar to those who serve on police force of the greatest city in the country and perhaps the world. I have often said that Bochco’s seminal drama about NYC cops was my Rescue Me before Rescue Me, and that just about the time the great cop show was winding down, Denis Leary’s and Peter Tolan’s show about firefighters filled the void for me left by the sad departure of Andy Cipowicz and company from my life.
The show’s place in my consciousness has shrunk immeasurably in the last two years in no small part due to Facebook (and Season 5 was very weak, not up to par at all in my view, because the WGA strike in 2008 dictated such a long wait after Season 4 that Fx or Leary and Tolan decided to do a 22 episode season, with disastrous and diluting effects on the season as a whole). But I still love the show and would probably watch reruns more often if my boyfriend liked it. FB, travel, and now Victorian Chick have all but eliminated television from my life, as well as cut way down on movie consumption and I haven’t even seen Season 6 of Grey’s, which still sits on my boyfriend’s coffee table a year after I purchased it. Of course I never saw Season 7 in primetime as I would never disrupt narrative continuity of a show I loved.
But last summer I did enjoy Season 6 and there is a long scene between Sheila and Tommy from dailies I found on Youtube about which I wrote an essay on FB in Discussions on Denis Leary’s page. It rang no bells for me so it had to have been from Season 5, a third of which I missed. (I’m assuming the essay is still there. I was the only one writing anything serious and I have some 25 essays on all of Denis Leary’s work including the comedy and the film.)
The long scene in which Sheila argues that Tommy’s mom and Janet bear more than a passing resemblance both to each other and to Phyllis Diller ranks with the best scenes in the first three seasons between Sheila and Tommy, who not only have phenomenal chemistry but a deep bond over Jimmy’s death and the overall desolation of life for those left above ground after the Twin Towers buried so many.
The article in last week’s LA Times (Calendar section) quoted a line from the pilot I had in which Tommy tells Janet that “normal is buried” under the wreckage and that all that remains is for him and his brothers to make sense of life above ground. That pretty much defines the dramatic valence of the show and all the comedy and sexuality fit within that tragic construct. (You can go to Denis Leary’s Facebook page, click discussions and scroll down to the essay whose title I forget but you can’t miss it as it reads like a lit crit title with the obligatory colon and refers to the dailies with Sheila and Tommy.)
In the article, John Landgraff, the guy at Fx involved with the show, called Rescue Me “brilliant and messy.” He says that some episodes belong in the modern television hall of fame and others do not. I thought it was both true and brave of him to say this and for Leary and others to accept this valid assessement. “Jeter,” so titled because early in the episode there is some dispute over which guy in the crew is Jeter and which is A-Rod, is a powerhouse episode which made me cry at three separate scenes. I don’t follow baseball but apparently one of the players is known as the hot-shot seeker of glory while the other is known as the guy who gets the job done without grandiosity or concern reputation. And after Lou reads the letter Tommy has given him to read in the event of Tommy’s death, Lou tells Sheila in a gut-wrenching scene that Tommy isn’t Jeter; he’s Mickey Mantle.
I happen to have no use for baseball and referred to it as “18 half innings” as a child sitting through my brother’s games both as player and coach of Little League. But I love baseball movies and I love it when guys love baseball. I broke the “guys must love sports” rule (but never make me watch any sport other than college football which I love) when I began to date my boyfriend over a year ago. He’s from Houston and I know more about football history and strategy than he does! He doesn’t follow any sports and he never even played sports.
And no, he’s not even “vaguely gay”, a phrase from Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night I adore. He shoots guns, has enormous and wonderful broad shoulders and arms from lifting weights in college and is definitely straight, so I overlook this extreme peculiarity and slight flaw. It’s just not normal for a straight man to be utterly oblivious to sports.) Tommy and the rest of the guys at 62 Truck love all sports as we learn in the classic “blowjobs and ballgames” scene in “Gay,” the masterful second episode of Season 1, but baseball has a special mystique for them all.
As early as Season 1, episode 3, Tommy and his father, played by real-life World War II veteran Charles Durning, bond over baseball in the brilliant phone call with “subtitles” with the written subtext of the spoken conversation which underlines the lack of honesty and doublespeak which exists between Tommy and his father. It’s very funny. “How’s Ma?” Tommy asks. “She’s at the market. She’s making her famous tuna casserole, God help us,” replies the father, while we see the subtitle, “You mother’s driving me nuts.” “Who’s pitchin’, Clemens?” “No, that other piece of shit, Petitt.” There was a time I had almost every script in the first two seasons memorized, but I cannot remember the rest of the conversation though remember Durning says something funny and awful about Petitt and how it would be better if something terrible befell him.
During the WGA strike, one of the best mini-sodes for Crackle was “Juiced,” about steroid use by baseball players and it is an appropriate episode to remember on the eve of the 10th anniversary as it takes place the morning of 9/11. In a relaxed, hilarious discussion infused with the camaraderie between crew members for which the show is known, Tommy argues that shooting steroids is fine as long as everyone does it equally, on the theory that higher scores are more entertaining. All is fun and games until they get a call and Sean spills coffee on the New York Post, on the front page of which we see certainly the most famous date in American history since WWII: Tuesday, September 11.
I adored *61 on HBO, the simply marvelous story of the home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris during the tumultuous season in which there was some truncation of the season as I recall which resulted in the addition of the asterisk to the home run record. Billy Crystal as everyone knows (and Denis Leary even mentioned on a talk show once), is a baseball fanatic and I guess he got to throw a pitch out at a Yankee game or something. Maybe he even got to play part of an inning and Leary joked that if Crystal could do that, he should be able to as well. I think Crystal even had a producer role in the HBO film and seem to remember a press junket when the movie aired about how this was a dream come true for him. See, Billy Crystal, Denis Leary: cool guys love baseball. Tommy has some of the greatness in his own field that Mantle had in his, along with the tragic self-destruction and sweetness that movie locates in surely one of the most beloved figures in American baseball history.
So when Lou goes to give Sheila her letter (no one is supposed to read these letters of course until Tommy is gone, but Lou does anyway) and tells her that he’s “the Mick” after burning pictures of all the men, women, children Tommy has saved, it’s impossible not to cry. One is already a bit weepy when Sheila reads the letter. I will watch the episode in the morning and transcribe the full text of this amazing letter, read by Tommy himself in the background, but suffice it to say, there will never be another Sheila and Tommy.
Sheila and Tommy were great together in those first two seasons and then she went genuinely cuckoo for a time. She came back around and when Damian ended up a vegetable, she handled it poorly and I blame her for the distintegration and termination of the Mickey relationship. In an episode before “Jeter,” Tommy lovingly but firmly tells her Damian is never going to wake up and regain full consciousness, no matter how many crazy, esoteric and costly treatments she buys for him.
But in the end, I think that Janet is beyond redemption as a wife. I sympathized with her pain, but I have come to believe her unwillingness to get help for herself as a classic, controlling wife of an alcoholic is not forgivable, and while she is a good mother in a lot of ways, she’s just very bitter and cold much of the time. I find her immature and in the part of Season 7 I’ve seen, I’ve been far more impressed with Sheila’s emotional growth and evolution. The crazy quotient has been turned way down and I find her support for Colleen’s wedding–not merely money, but emotional support–to be a mark of character and integrity, particularly since as she admits in “Vows,” when she drinks to excess and loses it at the wedding, it must kill her to see Tommy with Janet, rather than her.
My boyfriend wants me to come upstairs and watch The Lincoln Lawyer, which he just picked up from Blockbuster. I cannot stand McConnaughey as a rule: big ,dumb, Southern oaf. That Southern charm just doesn’t win me over except in very rare circumstances and he’s just a moron. That J Lo movie with Brigitte Sampras (not her real name, but she is married to Pete Sampras) was moderately amusing, but I just cannot bear him. However, I liked the trailer and the reviews were extraordinary and I don’t want a demanding film tonight. I have been under the weather and as I wrote on Facebook status tonight, I think I need one of those “I’m going to be 40 soon and 3 days a month do an imitation of a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patient” vitamins.
I’m not nearly as sad on this decade anniversary as I thought I would be–I really do have a blessed, rich, easy life and after all the shit I’ve been through I’ve come to the conclusion I deserve to be happy even when others are not (a lesson I owe to tens of thousands of analysis, I might add)–but it is weird really to internalize that 9/11 was 10 years ago. It is also weird to think of Rescue Me coming to an end–it actually was shot a long time ago and it aired Wednesday, but it won’t be “over” for me until I watch it tomorrow–and I have no doubt that were I alone in my apartment, I would be able to linger on this more than I am able to being here with my boyfriend and needing to be present in a way I don’t when I’m alone.
The 343 who died saved thousands. They are heroes and as Tommy says, the survivors who saw 60 brothers die in a day, have been unjustly vilified for the personal flaws regular folks all have. They also didn’t get a raise for a few years if the show is accurate. The fallen and their brethren are true men of honor and courage, not “glorified garbagemen” as Tommy says to Damian in Season 2, episode 11, one of the top ten scenes in the entire 7 seasons of the show.