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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My View of Bookstores and Bathrooms

Photo from BAM
Corporate Website
   Yesterday, my beautiful bride and I went to one of our favorite haunts, Books-A-Million.  On any normal day we love to buy a cup of coffee (two cafĂ© au lait's with skim milk, please), browse the magazines (she grabs copies of Chronicles, First Things, and the National Review, he grabs France, Analog, and Mental Floss), check out the clearance books, and make silly comments about the covers and titles we see.  As Christmas nears, we add pumpkin spice to the coffee order, search for Christmas presents for our kids and other family members (another book?), and ooh and aaah and giggle at the calendars.  (She always teasing that this year she'll get him that pinup calendar, he always knowing she's just teasing.)Here is where I would like to add an awkward bit to this quaint shopping scene:

   Neither he nor she had ever planned on walking up to the front desk and announcing that they had to relieve themselves in the bathroom.

   Yeah.  I know.  More than awkward.

   But as uncomfortable as it sounds, that is precisely the new twist to this experience.  You see, one of the corporate dingledobs at the big Books-A-Million in the sky has declared that at every BAM store across America, the restroom doors shall remain locked and inviolate.  At no time, shall any man, woman, child, or book-lover be allowed to enter the restroom of their gender without first consulting and procuring the authorization of the Books-A-Million Keymaster.  And yes, said authorization can only be procured by the verbal announcement at the front of the store that yes, you the customer, are in need of the bookstore toilet.  You could, I suppose, lie and ask for the key in order to wash your hands, but this would only be effective if you had little children wherin all within range of your voice would believe that the little brat that's been running amok in the store did indeed smear some sort of sticky substance upon your hands, arms, legs, or other less delicate part of your body.

   I blame the Occupy Wall Street crowd on this one.  I have a feeling that if I Googled Books-A-Million and Zuccotti Park I would find that they are directly across the street from each other.  And we all know what a nuisance those people made with their waste disposal issues.  More than likely they kept slipping out of their tents and into the bookstore to browse the fiction section.  We can speculate this because we know from their statements and poster boards that they have never been in any section of a bookstore that wasn't full of fiction.

   As a concerned customer of my local bookstore, already aware that such stores are losing business to the online giants Amazon and eBay, I quickly approached the store manager as soon as I realized two things.  One, that the restrooms were locked, and two, I had to use the one with the stick figure sans dress.  Oddly enough, the door with the stick figure wearing the dress was not only unlocked, it was slightly open.  I was not, however, that desperate to use the facilities.  Hence my calm, yet determined approach to the manager.

   He seemed less than thrilled to speak with me when I broached the subject.  I was polite, and simply stated my disappointment that the store had begun locking the restrooms, making a point to remind him this was generally only done in gas stations.  He was quick to make the point that it was a corporate policy.  The message was clear.  He could do nothing for me save pull out the key.

   I held my breath.  I was terrified that he would hand me the key attached to the complete works of Shakespeare.  It's not that I don't enjoy the Bard from time to time, I just wouldn't know which one of his plays to start reading while I was in there.  One can hardly be expected to make such an important choice at such an indelicate time.  To my great relief the key was not attached to any sort of book anchor.  Unfortunately, he did not hand the key to me.  He escorted me to the bathroom.  As I shut the door, I was hesitant to begin.  Was he waiting outside?  Was he, in fact, pressing his ear to the door to make sure I was not involved in any destructive shenanigans?  That kind of scrutiny can lead to certain inabilities that would leave the scrutinizer with a silence that would lead him to wonder just what the heck is going on in there?   I wanted to turn around and get out.  But then I realized that he'd wonder why I'd asked to be let in for just three seconds.  Would he think I'd just asked to go in as a prank?  Or worse?  Maybe he'd think I'd arrived too late!

   I did what I had to, making just enough noise to satisfy the man that my intentions were pure and true.  Making sure to run the water loud enough that he would be satisfied with my thorough hand-washing, I took a deep breath and opened the door.

   He was gone.  But another man was standing there, waiting to come in.  He was not a manager.  He was not an employee.  He was just another booklover like myself.  I began to move to one side when it hit me.  Was he really a book lover?  Or was he some graffiti artist, looking to spread his filth across the walls of the bathroom.  Those walls were my responsibility now.  The manager had let me in.  I was the bathroom user of record.  I would be blamed for any damage incurred.  But what did that mean?  Should I block the man until I slammed the door shut, thereby locking him out of the restroom?  A noble act indeed if the man had vandalism on his mind.  A rotten act indeed if the man had only seconds to make it to home plate, so to speak.

   This was all really more than I had bargained for when I decided to go into the bookstore for a coffee and a chance to browse the magazine shelf.

   I let the man in and walked away.  Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead, right?  After all, the manager should have been standing there waiting for me to come out.  If not, what was the point?  Shouldn't he have checked to make sure I hadn't written free verse poetry on the stall door?  (Though if not there, where else would it be appropriate?)  Shouldn't he have made sure I flushed?  What is the point in asking for the key to begin with?  Would he have said no?  I'm sorry, you can't use our toilet.

current website logo.
I'm not kidding.
To protest the new
policy, write:
or call:
   Next time, I'm gonna be the second guy.  I'll just wait until someone else announces to the checkout crowd that they need to use the bathroom.  Then I'll saunter along behind them, and wait until they come out.

   Seriously, no one wants to have to tell the world they have to use the restroom.

   I gotta go.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Post-Thanksgiving View

   Thanksgiving is over.  Which is a funny thought.  As if we've given our token thanks and can get on with our thankless lives.  I don't mean to sound harsh about that.  I mean, if I meant to be harsh I'd point out that none of us actually spent any time during Thanksgiving being thankful.  I know: thanks for pointing that out, right?  But that's not my point here.  And neither is it my point that we lead pretty thankless lives.  We don't, for the most part.  I just meant it sounded like that's what I meant when I said Thanksgiving is over.  I'll move on.  You can thank me later.
   Thanksgiving is really not much more than a pre-game warm up for the Christmas season.  We get a chance to reconnect with the relatives we've lost touch with over the year, as if to say "okay, so we know where to find each other for the upcoming festivities, cool."  The Thanksgiving meal is sort of a rehearsal dinner.  I mean, really, it is the same food, you know.  Set in the same order, the same dishes, and eaten with the same comments.  Which is cool, I'm not saying that's bad.  I mean, would we want it any other way?  We have that option, but never seem to take it.  Anyone make a big pizza Thanksgiving dinner lately?  Or maybe had a Chinese food theme?  Sure, the tradition of turkey and all the trimmings is a nod to the Pilgrims, so we might stick with that.  But at Christmas, we don't serve up Stromboli, or fajitas either.  And I'm pretty sure, without any Internet researching, that turkey, stuffing, and ambrosia salad is not a traditional meal based on the eating habits of first century Jewry.  (It's a word.  See my post on the Louisiana State Library for more details.)  Added to this pre-game atmosphere is the new rage of shopping the night of Thanksgiving.  I'll get to that in a minute, but just realize that the shopping is ostensibly for Christmas presents.  Taken as a whole weekend experience, I think my pre-game analogy is pretty accurate.
   The traditions of Thanksgiving, from my own experiences, go something like this:
   I always enjoyed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I tried to pass that on to my kids, with off and on success.  They weren't always interested, in fact, they weren't always up at that hour.  But if you ask them, they'll insist they love to watch the parade.  And for the most part that's true.  Me, I enjoy watching the floats more than the balloons, the balloon handlers more than the balloons, too.  I have not become a fan of the Broadway performances.  If they could perform them while marching in the parade, I would be a bit more impressed.  Attempting to drum up ticket sales on the side of the parade is a little less noble.  March, dance, sing, and chew gum at the same time, if you please.
   The smell of Thanksgiving is heaven, and it has nothing to do with eating.  When I smell turkey in the oven, the fragrance of mashed potatoes and gravy, the aroma of corn casserole, I slip through time back to the days at my Grandma Manier's house, or to my Aunts' houses, and certainly to my mom's kitchen (wherever that happened to be, depending on the year).  It doesn't just bring back the memory of eating.  That is a part of it, I suppose, but it mostly has to do with preparing it, and the associated fellowship of the women in the kitchen  and the men and kids scattered elsewhere.  I use to love to slip into the kitchen and listen to my mom chat with her sisters and her mother.  They were always very interesting, and usually ended up pretty silly by the end of it.  Add to that the sound of the electric carving knife and the picture is pretty complete.  This moment in my memory seems to last for hours on end at the start of each Thanksgiving.
   Cheering on the hapless Lions is pretty important for this day as well.  I have cousins in Detroit and so I always cheered for their team.  So many of those years we had the honor of being able to see Barry Sanders scamper about, which was always a treat.  I cheered for the Cowboys every year until Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry and America's team became...something entirely different.  Now we jeer the Cowboys with gusto, which has become quite the tradition in and of itself.  This all sounds exciting, but usually the Lions are losing by halftime and we fall asleep, and only wake up in time to see that the Cowboys are winning, which gives us reason to roll over and go back to sleep, or we see the Cowboys are losing, which gives us reason to scoop out a second (or third) piece of pumpkin pie with too much cool whip and cheer their demise.  It is, after all, a loving holiday.
   In the old days, we watched Mary Poppins every Thanksgiving night.  It wasn't available on blue-ray, DVD, VHS, Betamax, or Lasardisc.  But every year it was on TV, and we watched its heart-warming, slightly disturbing theme until it was time to go home.  My kids might have started a new tradition this year, as we all gathered around for the holiday-themed Die Hard, basking in the glow of its hear-warming, slightly disturbing themes.
   The tradition in my own little family is to spend Thanksgiving night trimming our Christmas tree.  We make a big deal of it, hanging the stockings on the staircase, putting together the fake tree, stringing out the lights and figuring which ones still work.  Drinking sparkling apple cider.  If we are lucky, it will be cold enough to wear robes or sweatshirts.  Christmas music plays as we hang the ornaments, the garland, and lay out the skirt.  When they were little, the kids loved to lay under the lit tree, watching the funny shadows cast by the twinkling lights.  It was all pretty magical.  Now, the kids have it down to a science, and the tree looks much more sophisticated, elegant, beautiful.  But I still sort of miss the tackier, goofy trees of yore.
   I'll admit to shopping at midnight this year.  But the funny thing is, I wasn't looking for any real deals out there.  I was about to go to bed, realized I wasn't tired, and asked the kids if they wanted to go shopping for the fun of it.  I really just wanted to see the loony crowds out there.  Yeah, I picked through the cheap DVDs at Wal-Mart, and bought a few random items, but mostly I enjoy the madhouse energy of crazy ladies rushing around trying to grab the big deal before any one else.  I actually have a fond memory of this, a few years back, when Alex and I got up super early and went to buy a big-screen TV.  Braving the crowds, we were able to get the one we wanted, rushed home, and had it hung on the wall and working in time to surprise everyone as they awoke with an early Christmas gift.
   I suppose the simple point here is that I had a great Thanksgiving weekend, and am incredibly thankful for the family I have and the chance to spend time with them.  All of my kids were home this weekend, and that is not always easy to do anymore.  I am sorry that I could not see my family up in PA, but I am thankful that I feel that way, since not everyone is sorry to have missed their family on any holiday.  All in all, God has been far too good to me.  Not that I'm complaining.  And I'll try not to be thankless throughout the rest of the year.
   (This post, as you might have guessed, was just a warm-up for my Christmas post.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

My View of Louisiana's Poets

Attendees of the Louisiana Book Festival take advantage of
the perfect weather on the grounds of the State Capitol Park.
A few weekends ago, our great state of Louisiana held a book festival in Baton Rouge.  The Louisiana Book Festival of 2011 was held on October 29th, on the beautiful grounds of the State Capitol Park, with panels and readings held in the Louisiana State Capitol Building.  I had the great privilege of attending this festival as the escort of one of the four poets invited to participate in the Louisiana's Poet Laureate's presentation of Louisiana Voices: A Poetry Panel.  I escorted, of course, my wife, Jennifer Reeser, who, along with Amy Fleury, Thomas Parrie, and Mona Lisa Saloy, read portions of their gifted poetry during an early morning panel in the House Committee Room on the first floor of the Capitol.  (It has been suggested that I am Jennifer's personal paparazzi.  Though guilty as charged, on this day I fulfilled this role for all of the poets.)

Julie Kane
    The panel was put together by Julie Kane, the present State Poet Laureate.  A Professor of English at Northwestern State University, Julie is the author of many books, most recently her fantastic poetry anthology Jazz Funeral, a wonderful collection of poems centered around New Orleans.  Julie is a great ambassador for poetry in this state, full of talent and graciousness in equal measures.  About the only disappointing part of the panel was the fact that she did not have time to read a few of her poems for those of us in attendance.

Amy Fleury
     Once the readings began, I was struck by just how fortunate Louisiana is to have such poets writing today.  Amy Fleury started things off with her insightful poetry from her book Beautiful Trouble, highlighted by an unforgettable piece about caring for her ageing father.  Though she is a native of Kansas, she is currently the director of McNeese State University's MFA program as well as the editor of The McNeese Review, and Louisiana is fortunate to have her now.  As a transplant to Louisiana, I appreciated her keen, newcomer's observation as she described the sounds of a Louisiana night, including the sound of the lazy mosquito truck passing by.  This is not something most people think about around here.  Amy, however, was able to weave that great audio image into her poetry in such a way that I actually smiled nostalgically at this usually annoying and always silly nighttime intruder.

Thomas Parrie
  Thomas Parrie followed up with several selections, the strongest of which honored the land and heritage lost when the Toledo Bend Reservoir was built in the 1960's.  The poem did a great job of focusing on Native Americans' struggles for identity due to such losses without devolving into a bitter rant.  Parrie, now in Tennessee, is a native of Monroe, Louisiana.  Though he did not say it in his introduction, his poetry made it very clear he has Native American blood running through his veins, and certainly his soul.  The often repetitive cadences of his verse put me in mind of the slow, drum-beat rhythms that once might have been heard around his ancestors' campfires.  (And, in truth, are still heard today.)  Hypnotic, they helped to drive the words deeper into the listeners' hearts.

Jennifer Reeser
 Next up was Jennifer Reeser, a poet dear to my heart, as you might imagine, who read several of her hauntingly beautiful poems about Louisiana, including one of my favorites of hers, Louisiana Broke My Sleep.  She finished up with the tribute Watching New Orleans Drown, which reminded us all of what our State has been through and just how important it is that these voices should be heard.

Mona Lisa Saloy
 To round out the panel, New Orleans native Mona Lisa Saloy, Professor of English at Dillard University and author of Red Beans and Ricely Yours, gave us a humorous, touching, and soulful look at growing up in the Big Easy.  She finished her reading with a song, a perfect way to celebrate Louisiana poetry and New Orleans.  Her local idioms meshed with her sharp observations kept me always on the verge of a smile, a laugh, or a lump in my throat.  As an outsider who loves New Orleans, it was quite touching to hear an insider's view.

Though Louisiana has been through a great many trials in the past few years, we can be assured that such occasions have not gone unheralded.  This is just a sample of the many voices of this State that are being heard as they tell of our experiences, our hopes, our disappointments, and our triumphs in a land that is always a little mystifying to outsiders. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

My View of the Louisiana State Library

Recently, I was honored to be able to accompany my wife to a gathering of Louisiana authors, in Baton Rouge, for the Louisiana Book Festival.  The party was held at the Louisiana State Library, just across the mall from the State Capital Building.  My wife was one of four poets who were participating at a panel being held the next morning.  The party that night was catered by Mansur's on the Boulevard and music was supplied by a very good jazz quartet.  We did not know too many of the authors in attendance but we had a pleasant time.
     However, I was in a library, or rather, the library of our state.  I could not resist the impulse to browse.  I did not stray far, sticking close to the food.  So with my camera in hand, I ducked into the nearest stacks and began to look for anything interesting.  It was a habit I'd developed as a youngster.  I still fondly remember browsing the stacks in the basement of my father's seminary, checking out the books available in Notre Dame University's massive collection (a book on concrete engineering that I spied there might just be the solid foundation upon which my love of books is built), and spending an hour in the library of Temple University dusting off copies of the Congressional Record while my brother attended his racquetball class.
     It didn't take any time at all for me to find what I was looking for.  I discovered I was in a massive section of Who's Who books.  Who knew there were so many categories of Who's Who?  Not I.  I found so many Who's Who that I needed a What's What in Who's Who to keep track of all the Who's found within.  I found Who's Who in Germany, Who's Who in France, a surprising number of Who's Who in Canada, followed by Who's Who in the Arabian World, in the Midwest, in the East, in the Orient, and so on and so forth and who knows who else was listed who might have distinguished themselves in Whoville?

     I came to a stop when I discovered the collection of Who's Who in World Jewry.  I have to admit, I hadn't even known that Jewry was a real word, let alone an acceptable word to describe the Jews.  After all, has anyone ever been accused of anti-jewry?  A quick check of the online definition of jewry gives the following as the first definition: A section of a medieval city inhabited by Jews; a ghetto.  This is actually the second definition listed at the, although it is listed first on Google's search page.  The first definition is simply The Jewish People.  I seriously doubt, however, that anyone of the Jewish heritage calls themselves a member of the Jewry.  At least as late as 1989 this series was being published, though I cannot find an edition produced beyond that date.

Who's Who in Library Service was the next little oddity I found.  This was a definite case of nepotism, as books go.  You have to wonder just how many people out there really cared about who was the latest, most important and influential people working in libraries in the Sixties and Seventies?  Okay, I'm sure someone did.  And that someone knew a big shot Who at Who's Who who gave the go-ahead to research, write, and publish a series of books (multiple latest editions, mind you) of who was tops in keeping books organized in 1966.  Of course, the fact is, judging by the size of the books available, there were precious few people in library service at that time.  But at least we know who the heck they were, right?

     I was pretty jazzed to find this next set of books.  If only I would have had the time!  Oh, to be able to sit and browse the list of the extraordinary men and women catalogued in the latest edition of the Directory of British Scientists.  Surely I would have come across the British scientists who had developed all of the awesome science they were doing (to steal a technical term from '60s science fiction movies) in 1964.  Or even better, the wilder, more astounding science done in 1966!  I'm sure James Bond himself had to check out one of these books in order to keep track of who Blofeld was going to kidnap next!  It is no stretch to suggest that the volume on 1964-1965 looks quite worn and heavily exposed to the elements.  There's no telling what kind of exhaustive research was going on as multiple library users combed the depths of this historically essential tome.  Perhaps the Hardy Boys had to check it out in order to discover who that guy was living down the street with the laboratory in his Gothic basement.

     Matching the theme of my interests in cemeteries, I had to stop and admire the Annual Obituary.  First of all, there's no ignoring the publisher's great taste in using the image of a dead tree as the identifying symbol for this list of the recently deceased.  Sure, the tree has died, but it still stands in the open, for all to see, slowly decaying in the exposure of the elements, waiting for the termites to eat out its internal structure until its eventual collapse.  Someone on the Annual Obituary's staff had a wicked sense of humor.  I tried not to puzzle too much over the fact that our library only had copies of this grave collection (oh, I'm so sorry about that!) from the years 1980 to 1987.  I can only guess that this was the reason:  The Eighties were indeed the greatest decade ever, taking into account the music scene of that time, and so it is no wonder that Louisiana wanted to keep a detailed record of those who died in those influential years.  Why stop in 1987?  Well, that was the year this song made it to number one in the charts , which was probably the beginning of the end for the greatest decade of music ever.  Music wouldn't be listed in the 1987 Annual Obituary, but it took its first steps in that direction that year.

     I shouldn't have been surprised to discover the large sections of criticisms aimed at Short Stories (most certainly written by editors!) and Literature in general.  As you can see in the photo on the left, the brown section is the vast collection of Contemporary Literary Criticism (more than 200 volumes in print) that the library keeps.  Since everyone has their own opinion on what they read, I doubt very much that anyone reads these volumes.  Who needs to hear what the critics think of any book that's been painstakingly written by those tenderhearted literary writers?  We can form our own insulting opinions and sling them across the Internet without the slightest effort.  This series, therefore, has become painfully obsolete!

     The last books of interest I was able to capture before we headed out the door was this great little series entitled What Fantastic Fiction Do I Read Next?  I often hear this question from my kids, who, bless their hearts, think I know a thing or two about books and can offer them advice on what great books are out there waiting for them.  If I should ever fail them in that endeavor, I can rest assured that they can always check out this volume and get some advice on what to download to their Kindles.  Or their laptops, or their phones (remember when those were for speaking to people with actual voices?) or to their Xbox 360's, or who knows what next?  Perhaps they'll be downloading books to their calculators.  Or even to their pencils, which will then write out the text onto space-age paper.  At any rate, I hope next year's edition of What Fantastic Fiction Do I Read Next? will include my own books which will soon be hitting the shelves in the coming months.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My View of the Movies of 1997 (Fourteen Years Ago)

On the 2nd of November, fourteen years ago, my fourth son was born.  I can't believe it's been fourteen years since he was born.  Friends and family can't believe my wife and I have gone fourteen years without having any more babies!  Here then, is my view of the films that opened that wonderful year:

      The place to start is at the top.  The biggest movie of that year was a little movie about a boat that failed to make it across the Atlantic Ocean.  Yeah, that's it.  Titanic.  Now, I could say that I was there, first in line, knowing it would become the biggest movie of all time (for ten years, anyway), but that wouldn't be true.  In fact, I did not see it in 1997.  I did go and see it in 1998, since it was still at the cheap theater then, and I thought I would finally go see what all the buzz was about.  Still don't know what it was all about.  It just wasn't my thing, which is strange.  But I tend to dislike anything that is wildly popular.  I'm sure that means there will come a day when I will not like this blog, either.
     Anyway, one movie I remember seeing in the theater in 1997 was Air Force One, one of those great movies where we got to see Harrison Ford's wife in danger, and we then got to see him beat the crud out of everyone who was generating that danger.  The great joy here was that the biggest bad guy was Gary Oldman, who also starred in another villain role in 1997, as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, in the nearly perfect The Fifth Element.  Here again, I'll be honest.  I did not see this in the theater, and I think a Mangalores would be within his rights to kick me for not doing so.

     Tomorrow Never Dies was a great movie to see in the theater that year.  Michelle Yeoh's kickin' performance (that's a literal description) is phenomenal.  Watching her and Bond on that BMW motorbike was pure action poetry.  Great stuff.  Those two should have married and made little perfect spies.  All of the buzz that year was about Terri Hatcher starring in this movie.  Sorry, Ms. Hatcher, but Ms. Yeoh stole the show.  Pierce Brosnan comes close to being the best Bond, but that is just a personal opinion.  He was also good that year in the nearly forgotten Dante's Peak, which I also enjoyed seeing on the big screen earlier that year.

     Star Wars (Special Edition) was released throughout the early months of 1997, and sure, I took my children to see it.  That was fun, and I'm pretty sure at least three of my kids can still remember that.  It was pretty cool to see it all again, since I had only seen the first movie in the theater as a kid, and the second and third movies only on TV.  It was also super cool to see my youngsters get a kick out of it.  My oldest son was the same age I was when I first saw Star Wars, so that was a nice connection.

     The Saint was by far the best movie of that year.  Jennifer and I had a rare night out without the kids and we fell in love with this movie.  It is one of our favorite movies to pull out and watch.  I doubt that a year has gone by since we've rewatched this wonderful film.  It is full of adventure, and has fun villains, chase scenes, and a bagful of Val Kilmer's comedic disguises that never gets old.  I was a big fan of Simon Templar, having watched it every afternoon when I was a kid down in Venice Florida.  Roger Moore was perfect in that role, and Kilmer never dislodges him from that spot.  He does, however, add a great new chapter to The Saint that is fun to watch.  I recently read that Kilmer believes his version was a fiasco, which is a shame.

     The rest of that year was made up of big budget movies that I missed for one reason or another.  We were a bit busy raising four kids with a fifth one on the way.  I did not get to the theater to see The Lost World: Jurassic Park, or Men in Black.  I have since seen both and was not impressed either one.
     Just as The Saint became a favorite for Jennifer and me, one of our favorite romantic comedies came out that year:  Fools Rush In.  This one we did not see until it came out on video.  It was an immediate classic for us.  Many of the rest of the average movies that showed up that year we eventually saw on video (gasp!  How did we ever watch such blurry films?!) and there were a few that were pretty good, but I won't try to list them here.  Suffice to say, we spent our share of money on video rentals (and late-fees, I'm sure).  At the time, I was pretty convinced that a video store could make a fortune renting videos and selling pizzas, and delivering them at the same time.  Turns out I was half right.  I just didn't think the movies would be delivered by mail.  And the video rental business was so big then I wouldn't have believed that in fourteen years, there would be only one store left in our area still renting movies.
     Times they are a changin'.
     But movies aren't.  We are actually beginning to see remakes of movies that were made in the 90's.  Whatever.  The kinder, more gentler decade was not the best for Hollywood, but there were a few years that were above average.  Come to think of it, any year that could produce The Saint and Fifth Element wasn't too shabby.
     Come to think of it, any year that could produce a kid like my youngest has got to be one of the best years ever.  Well, at least one out of the four best years ever...I mean five.