Hooray for Hollywood!!

My family, half jokingly, says, were it not for sarcasm and movie quotes, we would never speak to one another. While that statement is slightly hyperbolic, the truth is that we watch movies. A lot of movies. And we quote them early and often. When it comes to films, we’re fairly omnivorous and enjoy a good “film for the common man” as much as we do rarefied ones. Essentially, we’ll quote The Jerk in the same conversation as The 400 Blows and think nothing of it.

We quote them for distance, seeing who can go the longest without muffing a line. FYI—I still hold the record because I managed to do most of the “damage control” scene from One, Two, Three.

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We quote them for accuracy in all mediums as evidenced by this text conversation my brother and I had regarding one of our all time favorite flicks, The Fugitive.

However, there is something even more wonderful about movie quotes than simply parroting them for an appreciative (or sometimes annoyed) audience, and that is delivering one that is perfectly timed and fitting for a specific situation. As you can see by this top five list, sometimes the quote is perfect in its purest form, and on other occasions, a slight bastardization is required for optimum humor and applicability.

So, without further ado, I give you our best uses of movie quotes in various situations…

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5. “The nine-year-olds from the karate school are karate-ing the picket fences.”–Jaws

Image from http://stars.ign.com

This one is mine. My cousin, who was then nine, was taking Tae Kwon Do lessons. My aunt had given him specific instructions not to use his rad new moves on any of his friends as school, which of course prompted me to say, “Why not? All the nine-year-olds from the karate school are karate-ing the picket fences,” perfectly mimicking Polly’s voice and karate-ing gesture, of course.

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4. “Sweep the leg, Johnny.”–The Karate Kid

This one was executed by Jarrod while standing atop the Hoover Dam. Yes, many a “dam” jokes were made, but after that, he looked over and saw a young man in a huge air cast and using crutches to hobble around the national landmark. (Though why anyone would put up with sore, aching armpits for a tour of a dam is beyond me.) Jarrod looked over at his friend and delivered the line under his breath. Sadly, only the group he was with (all there for a Vegas bachelor party) got the joke.

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3. “Let Polly do the printing.”–Jaws (Yes, again. Don’t judge.)

Image from http://www.yourprops.com

My dad flawlessly delivered this one when he and Mom were driving home one afternoon. They passed one of the ubiquitous fruit stands common to Florida roadsides, this one offering boiled peanuts and peaches. Well, the enterprising young man stationed there had crafted his sign using a piece of plywood and some paint offering his wares from “Geogria.” Well, he started out with grand plans, making each letter gargantuan in size. But by the time he got to “peaches,” the most essential term to advertise, he’d run out of room and had had to cram it in the corner. My father saw the sign, snorted, and said nonchalantly, “He should have let Polly do the printing.” Genius. That is all.

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2. “I have to push the pram a lot!”–Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail

Once again, Jarrod was behind this masterpiece. We were in my father’s new store–a Sam’s Club–without any of the steel in place. It was a glorious span of virgin concrete, and two forklifts sat parked by the front door. Dad handed us each a set of keys and told us not to go crazy. Naturally, we drove around the store at full speed (which was nearly equal to the brisk pace attained by elderly mallwalkers) and quoted Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider episodes the entire way.

We ended up near the receiving docks where the baler (A.K.A–“The Cram-A-Lot”) was housed. Jarrod looked at it then at the stack of uncrushed boxes sitting outside it and finally at my dad who nodded like a some kind of retail Caesar. Jarrod squealed with joy and exclaimed, in mock baritone, “We get to use the Cram-A-Lot!!!!!!!!!” He finished the beautiful moment by dancing up to the leviathan machine singing the closing bars of the song.

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1. “A couple of wavy lines…”–Ghostbusters
 

Strangely enough, though we are a family who prides ourselves on our comic film quoting prowess, the number one pick was uttered by a relative stranger–a friend of mine named Brock who came in to help me when I was the director of a Sylvan Learning Center. (I needed a calculus tutor, and he was perfect for the gig.) Well, before the center opened for tutoring, he and I were setting up and had a few minutes to spare. A deck of multiplication flash cards was on his table, and I grabbed them to see if he could do the entire stack before I had to open the door and let in the insufferable hooligans adorable children eager to learn. About eight cards in, I said, “What about this one?”

No lie…Brock looked at me nonchalantly, raised his left hand and gestured the shape as he delivered the quote, “A couple of wavy lines.” I’m only sad because no one else but I was there to witness this samurai-level quote. Thank you, Brock, for allowing me to experience “The Quickening”… albeit by proxy.

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How about you all? Are you movie quoters? What are some of your favorite lines? Any great stories about perfectly-delivered ones? I’d love to hear about them. 

Also, what are some of your favorite quotable films? As you can see, we usually go for the classics, but I bet there are some hilarious ones (GASP!) we’ve never seen we might want to plumb the depths of for new material. Please leave a list in the comments below!

Because Muffins Don’t Bitch

A co-worker and I once had a lengthy discussion about how wonderful it would be to own a bakery/coffee shop in a small town square, one where patrons came each day to get a cup of well-made joe and one or more of our homemade baked goods. In our version of the story, everyone was whistling, walking or driving to their own joyful place of business, or taking it easy on a lazy Saturday morning in our establishments, reading the paper (either in print or on their laptop…using our free WIFI access provided for customers of course!), and generally enjoying life. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? What could be better than doing something you enjoyed, something that made the lives of others more pleasurable, and then being home by 3:00 PM? After all, I could use that time to write, to participate in local theater, and to volunteer at church to help others. My time would always be spent doing something useful and that would, I’m sure, make the world a better, happier, and shinier place.

This thought was only strengthened and reinforced during a recent weekend trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Wayne and I chose to splurge and have breakfast both mornings there in a little cafe/diner known as Cockadoos rather than the cheaper and more pedestrian options like Denny’s or any analogous variations of it. While there, we gorged ourselves on chocolate chip pancakes, cathead biscuits and sausage gravy, a pulled pork omelette, sweet potato hash browns, and a Memphis special known as “The Shag”–an Elvis inspired dish made with two pieces of French toast filled with peanut butter and bananas and topped with whipped cream and blueberries.

I can’t imagine what kind of dietary seppuku I committed that weekend by beginning each day with the food there, but I didn’t care. (Granted the other places we frequented–Gus’ Fried Chicken, the Rendezvous, and the Peabody Hotel bakery among others–likely didn’t help either!) It tasted great, the service was fantastic, and we were able to mingle with locals and fellow visitors before our day began.

Just click on the link and look at the place; I dare you. From the decor to the food to the attitude, this is exactly the kind of place I’d like to own and run each day for both breakfast and lunch. Everyone there was happily working, eating, and talking, including the kitchen and wait staff!

Oh, and did I mention that the place was completely and utterly PACKED both mornings!? Really, I think they bordered on a fire hazard on Saturday because there were so many people sitting around waiting to eat or who were engaged in the act at a table or at the bar. The place is making money; it has to be. Imagine that!? They simply use their creativity and work ethic to create a pleasing place filled with quality food, and people reward them as we did–by becoming repeat customers and spreading the word to others. There’s something beautiful to that for someone in my situation. Their rewards are immediate and tangible after all. People pay them in cash and in praise for their efforts, and as long as the results are the same each time, that cycle of unmitigated awesomeness will continue to repeat itself into perpetuity.

The thought is positively intoxicating and leaves me high on a sugar and blueberry fueled endorphin rush each and every time I allow myself a moment to think about it. And that isn’t often. I liken it to a bright bird in a pet store left looking out the shop window at its fellow aviary friends happily eating birdseed under a park bench. Why think about something you can never have or torture yourself with dreams about life outside the bars that define your world? Paul Laurence Dunbar captured the impulse perfectly in his poem “Sympathy” in which he, as a black man in a white world, identifies with a creature that’s told it must deny its innermost self and be content with its restrictive lot. Granted, I am by no means oppressed. I do not live in fear of lynchings or of being barred from doing something because I’m X instead of Y. However, I do understand the concept of a gilded cage. I am relatively safe–my job makes me a solid living, I occupy an apartment in safe (albeit painfully vanilla and WASP infested) town, and I am never required to go without basic needs like food and clothing. Do I have everything I want? No. But I cannot complain, and that is why I feel truly guilty each time I do.

At the risk of sounding like Quint in the town hall meeting in Jaws, “You all know me, know what I do for a living…” Yes, I teach, and I do so in a place where I am the living embodiment of a fifth wheel. In a nutshell, I teach English in a technical college. Please know that I am a firm supporter of the technical college system; I think it is a valuable place for an ever-growing populace in America. People who come here get training for work that more Americans need to be doing if we ever want to get back to our roots as a nation, one that knows how to get things handled and make things that last. Our soul is in that which is technical.

However, ENG 1101 and 1102, the two classes I teach, are often the barrier that stands between them and that job training. Often, I am nothing more to them than a hinderance and a nuisance, something that must be checked off a required list of classes, and that, I must say, can sometimes be hard on someone who does love the subject. Yes, there are many students who enjoy my classes and who thank me in some small way for my help over the course of a quarter, but they are rare. There are a great deal more who come to me with only complaints, excuses, and threats than there are with praise and thanks. I work long hours grading, lecturing, and handling other forms of paperwork and minutiae that I don’t plan on elaborating on here. (That’s a blog for another time.) In short, I make a living, but I rarely feel alive in my chosen career. More often than not, I’m going through the motions and trying to do the best I can.

Is there any wonder then in the fact that I often fall prey to the siren song of my imaginary muffins sitting on the shelf in my equally ephemeral cafe? After all, as I’ve said to others, muffins don’t bitch. They don’t send you to pointless meetings or require you to earn continuing education credits; they don’t question your motives or your knowledge and why they need it. Muffins simply wait in their elemental form for you to mix them in the correct proportions and slip them in to rise, like gooey fruit and chocolate filled phoenixes, from their own floury ashes.

I know what you’re thinking–Jamie, you’re not thinking of the early mornings, the customer complaints, or the other problems ranging from product delivery to paperwork and taxes. Your glass is unfairly half full. And you’d be right–I’ve worked in a restaurant, but I have little knowledge as to how to actually run one effectively. And I am certain that if I did undertake such a business now that it would be doomed to failure no matter how good my recipes were or how cheerfully I crafted them. I am a realist in this regard. However, as Jane Eyre says in the novel by Charlotte Brontë:

I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: ‘Then,’ I cried, half desperate, ‘grant me at least a new servitude!’

In this scene, Jane has been working for eight years as a teacher at Lowood School where she herself was taught, and as she looks out the window of her room to an open road, one she has never travelled, she begins to think of a new career as a governess. Like her, I’m not asking for perfection, for true freedom to be whatever I wish whenever I wish it. I only desire a change of scenery, a new world of work built on different expectations and principles that I can use to challenge myself and see just how successful I can be.