Abigail had been going through what John Bunyan called the Slough of Despond, beset by forces beyond her and our control, and of course I have been going through it with her. We needed a mini-vacation and Abigail had heard about a good movie at the local theatre. At leaving time, we gathered at the front door, there to find a sprightly Christmas card bearing a gift – a movie pass for this very theatre – left by my wonderful assistant, Laura Buck.
The movie, “Green Book,” is worth a dozen gift cards. It tells the story of a “Negro” concert pianist who is about to perform at a number of locations in the 1950s South. No fool, he gets, not just a driver, but a street-smart guy from the Bronx, a bouncer for the Copa Cabana nightclub. It is a superb contrast – the urbane, cultured pianist and the rough Italian, which makes for sharp comedy. But, in spite of the many laughs, this is not a comedy. At one point, the tough guy is shocked that the pianist does not know the music of Little Richard or Aretha Franklin. “I’m blacker than you are,” he says. Later, the pianist, who turns out to be gay, laments, “I am not white enough, I am not black enough, I am not man enough. Who am I?” The white guy, on the other hand, who talks crudely, eats crudely, drives crudely, does everthing crudely, is completely comfortable with his identity. When he says, “If they don’t like the way I talk, screw them,” he expresses his whole philosophy of life. It is a movie of the abrasive edges of life and the almost-too-smooth compensations of culture, where sometimes toughness is called for and sometimes rising above it in high dignity wins the day, it is a story overall of despair and redemption.
Abigail and I had dinner afterwards and talked about the movie. We also discussed her Slough of Despond with a little more perspective than before. It was the perfect mini-vacation.
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