Ah, April...

April was beautiful, though when I told her that she'd said, "Nah, maybe I'm cute, but not beautiful." Bullshit. She had freckles, auburn hair, big breasts, and eyes that subtly changed color with her mood. Never seen eyes like that on anyone else's face. Beautiful. And also, her breasts were big.

She was 18, too young for me, and too attractive. I was 22, not yet fat, but already disheveled and dumpy-looking, not fit to even ask her out. Ask I did, though, and yes she said, and we went out for five years. I thought we were in love, but in retrospect it was only a strong physical attraction. Whatever the heck was in it for her, I still don't know.

When we talked about things that mattered, they were rarely the same things. She liked night clubs, and I can't dance. She liked country music, and I... did not. I have counterculture tendencies, and she was a Republican. She liked liquor, I drank cherry cola. She played soccer, and I fell asleep watching from the grandstands. She was close with her extended Irish-American family, and I phoned my folks maybe once a month. "I'm a good Catholic girl," she said, and I was agnostic.

She wanted to save herself for marriage, which meant no penis-in-vagina sex, but she wanted to do everything else, and we did.

Regarding her virginity, I was perhaps too much of a gentleman. Our first big break-up came after I'd rebuffed her a few times while we were sweaty and horizontal. If she wanted to change her mind and boink, I said, please say it some evening before we're on the verge. Make a calm, reasoned decision please, not a moist and fevered one she might regret the morning after.

That was a considerate thing to say, right? Wrong, I guess, because one day she told me she'd met another man and given him what she'd never given me. "Sorry, Doug, but I'll always remember you as a friend." Oh, man, that hurt.

When he dumped her a few weeks later, she remembered me, and we started going out again. I wasn't one to hold a grudge, and indeed, I wanted to dial up that man and say thanks, because after her short time with him she had no hesitation whatsoever with me. There was never any doubt that we were going to screw like light bulbs, every night.

Ah, April... those years were excellent but exhausting, until she said goodbye again, and the second time she meant it.

That was long ago, but April still visits my dreams, and weirdly when she appears it's usually from our early "just say no" era. Dreams from the "yes yes yes" era would be more enjoyable, but they almost never happen — where can I complain about that? Probably it's a symptom of one of my psychoses.

In last night's dream it was early years again. April and I were lying on the couch in her family's living room, slobbering all over each other, mostly naked, and we finished each other gloriously, but as always without actually boinking. Then we got dressed and stepped into the next room, where her parents, sister, and annoying kid brother were at the big table, all waiting for us. We joined them for dinner, and from my chair I could see through the flimsy curtains into the room we'd just left, and I knew the whole family had been watching us. What the hell does that mean, Dr Freud?

Then April and I went for a walk in a park, and I bought her an ice cream cone, but before I could hand it to her she was flirting with some other guy. She went off with him, and when they'd finished whatever they did I chased after her again, just to see her safely home.

I don't know what that part of the dream means, either. Certainly it never happened. Every ice cream cone I bought for April, she licked. Probably, same as everything else in my life and in this zine, the dream means nothing.

Ten years after we would've been divorced if she'd married me, I don't know why I still dream of April. The gamut of emotions she stirred in me was fairly narrow — affection, horniness, sadness, and always, horniness.

After dreams of her I always tell myself what a fool I was... and wonder whether I'd be a fool all over again... and probably I would. Even when it wasn't quite 'sex', holy crap the sex was amazing, and after it was actually sex, oh my god.

Sorry if all the above is disgusting. It was good for me, but not for you? Maybe I wouldn't have dreams of April if there was any woman in my life now, or even a chance with any woman.

♦ ♦ ♦

What with buying Kallie dinner last Thursday night, buying some bargain marijuana on Sunday, and buying new voice-mail yesterday, there's almost no money in my wallet. And there's no bank account, so buster, I am broke. 

LeeAnn and Stevi owe me a week's pay, though, so it's not an emergency. I'll borrow a few dollars from the zine's printing fund (that's where your three bucks go) to take myself to a triple feature at the Four Star Cinema. They're showing three films I've read rave reviews of, all for one discount matinee admission.

Can't say no to that, so I packed seven sandwiches, a bag of popcorn, and two big jugs of water into my backpack, and left home early enough to poster the Haight with my new "I'll do anything" stickers. 

As I was slapping one onto a telephone pole, I overheard a bodega shopkeeper obeying the law, refusing to sell a pack of Marlboros to some high school kid who'd probably left his fake ID at home. Being a good citizen by my definition of the term, when the boy came out I offered to buy his smokes for him. He smiled and said sure, so when I came out with his cigarettes, I laid my grown-up lecture on him: 

"Remember, a law that won't let you do what you want to do, in your own space, to your own self, is a law nobody ought to obey." He frowned and shrugged like I was crazy, and of course he's right.

Rode a #33 bus to Geary Street, and postered some more poles and laundromats, leaving plenty of time to ride a #38 to a lovely picnic at Sutro Heights.

I climbed to the top of the hill and sat on the edge, chewing a cheese sandwich as the wind ran through where there used to be more hair. Far below and to the south was the Great Highway, which isn't at all great, and a long sandy beach, which is. To the north, looking down was Cliff House, and the fossilized remains of the famous Sutro Baths, which were sadly before my time. Fifty feet in front of me and a thousand feet below was the infinite ocean. Quite a fine view, and worth the bus ride.

Munching a PBJ, I watched and listened to waves that stretched forever, as they bashed into boulders, then seeped slowly, injured, to the shore. The wind from the west was so strong and steady that the trees have grown up crooked, tilted, and gulls soared but barely moved at all, trying to wing their way out to sea. Nibbling a carrot, I laughed at the extreme insignificance of my own life.

Sutro Heights is not a place to spend much time, though, because the wind, howling and haunting and magnificent as it is, never lets up and gets irritating after a few minutes.

Besides, there was a young couple grappling or copulating on the tower steps behind me, so I walked away to allow those darn heterosexuals some privacy, and watched discreetly from behind a tree.

♦ ♦ ♦

I've seen thousands of movies. Many were awful, many so-so, some were pretty good, and once in a great while something wonderful happens, and you know ten minutes into it that you're watching a work of art.

Such an experience is To Live, an intimate epic from communist China. It's about a lovable ne'er-do-well named Fugui, who gambles away his family homestead, and is left with nothing. To survive, he goes into business as a puppeteer, until he's drafted to fight in the Chinese Civil War.

It would be a disservice to reveal the twists that come after that, and besides, the joy of it isn't in the plot, it's in the characters. All of them, major and minor, feel true to life with a depth uncommon on the screen. They each have motivations that make sense and relatable shortcomings, and there's often a cynical sense of humor as they deal with the daily disasters and delights of life.

When one of these people died, I bawled. When another fell in love, I bawled again. Then I bawled over the end credits, despite what's essentially a happy ending. To Live is superb, the kind of movie I'd pay to see again, and maybe I will.

After something so authentic, so true to life as To Live, something like Three Colors: Red seemed trite indeed. In this one, everyone's motivations are a mystery, and none of the characters quite make sense, not even the dog. Someone's worked hard to ensure that the script and camera are always artsy instead of real. Every detail along the way seems intentionally obscure for a while, then maybe longer, which quickly grows tiresome.

Tell me a story, damn it. Don't make me guess what the story might be.

Near as I can piece it together, Three Colors: Red is the story of a pretty face. The lead actress is pretty, and her pretty face is the focal point for almost every shot. It's always perfectly lit and immaculately made-up, and almost always in close-up. I like looking at a pretty face, sure, but if you're going to build an entire movie around a pretty face, the face should be able to act. This face, attached to someone named Irène Jacob, has exactly one expression — bewilderment. No matter what happens, she's pretty and bewildered.

Anyway, the pretty face meets a super-cynical old guy who used to be a judge, and he has a house full of fancy electronic equipment that allows him to eavesdrop on all his neighbors, which is icky and invasive and made me feel like a schmuck just watching.

At one of the movie's many boring points I slipped out to pee, and when I came back the credits were rolling, so I don't know how it ended. Also, I don't care. Despite missing the conclusion, I feel fully qualified to judge the movie pure piffle.

Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet was one of the best films of my 1993, so I've been looking forward to his next effort, Eat Drink Man Woman. It isn't another banquet, but it's more than a light snack.

This is an easygoing comedy-drama, the story of three grown sisters who still live at home with their father. One daughter is very yuppie, the next is a repressed schoolmarm, the youngest sells hamburgers at Wendy's, and their father is a master chef who's slowly losing his sense of taste. Four interesting characters, and each of them has a big surprise. 

This is a family where love learns to overlook all the differences — a family the opposite of mine, but I've heard that such families exist. It makes for an engrossing show, despite an ending that seemed sorta contrived.

To be fair, I might have enjoyed Eat Drink Man Woman more if it hadn't been the last feature of the night. Three movies can be a lot, especially when they're three rather big movies. Even the stinker, Three Colors: Red, was at least trying to offer more than your typical franchise flick.

On my way out I said good night to the nice Chinese-American man who owns the Four Star, and felt guilty for sneaking my own snacks into the theater. Sorry, man. I'll come back some day when I'm rich, and buy Dots and Twizzlers and popcorn.

Riding the bus home and remembering To Live, I was a little misty-eyed again, because the story took some not-so-subtle jibes at communism and totalitarian China, which probably ensures that the director will never be allowed to make a movie like that again. It's the same everywhere, but probably even more so in China — you gotta kiss the bossman's backside, and if you don't, you're done.

From Pathetic Life #11
Tuesday, April 18, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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