An Unexpected Twist

Pier - sunrise on Indian River, Suntree, Florida

By Judy Berman

How could I not see that coming? That’s often my reaction when I am shocked by how a movie ended. What did I miss?

I have that same reaction to a joke’s punch line that surprises me or to a story that finally reveals a hidden truth.

Most teachers will tell you that they went into teaching because they want to inspire their students. This week, a student turned the tables on me.

We’d been reading Eleanora E. Tates’s short story, “Big Things Come in Small Packages.”

Narrator LaShana Mae tells about her friend, Tucker Willis, who was teased unmercifully about being so short. She recounted his friendship with a man named Richard who said he worked with the U.S. Lifesaving Service.

As captain in the lifesaving service, Richard said he and his men “went into the ocean in the middle of hurricanes and no’easters’ to save passengers and crew members whose ships were sinking.”

Tucker was inspired, but lamented that he couldn’t do the job because of his size.

Richard told Tucker “it wasn’t the size of a person that got the job done. It was how bad the person wanted to do it.” He pointed out that tugboats pull in ships many times their size.

surfer - Huntington_Pier_Surfer

A few days later, Tucker was out surfing near the Atlantic Beach pier. As he rode a wave in, Richard was cheering him on and hollered: “Do it, Tugboat! Pull that ole wave in!”

Tucker remembered Richard’s story about tugboats, and waved back before he swam out to catch another wave.

Then he noticed a storm brewing, and that meant he better get out of the water. A huge wave crashed down on him. Tucker took the wipeout in stride and just got back on his board.

But a man who fell off his raft was thrashing about and “screaming that he couldn’t swim.”

Tucker, 12, swam over to help the man even though he was concerned for his own safety. In a panic, the man lunged at Tucker’s surfboard and they both were struggling.

That’s when Tucker saw Richard and Richard helped both Tucker and the man get safely to shore.

**SPOILER ALERT** (If you plan on reading this story, stop now because I’ll be giving away a key plot detail.)

News reporters crowded around, wanting to hear Tucker’s story. Tucker credited his friend, Richard, for the save. But when Tucker turned around, Richard was no where to be found.

Later, Tucker discovered who Richard was.

In the pier gift shop, Tucker bought a book about the coast guard. That’s when he saw an old photo of Richard and learned that Captain Richard Etheridge died about 70 years earlier in 1900.

Richard was a ghost.

One student, Brandon, amazed me with his insights into the story. He had unraveled the mystery before the author revealed this.

When Brandon told me the clues he’d spotted in the story, I was stunned. I’d missed some of the foreshadowing and the author’s hints.

This put me so much in mind of watching the movie, “Sixth Sense,” with my husband, Dave. Dave had figured out the ending long before it was revealed.

Me? I was clueless until nearly the end of the movie.

We went to see the movie again that same weekend. I wanted to see “Sixth Sense” thru “new eyes” to learn what clues I’d missed.

I did the same with this short story after Brandon shared what tipped him off. On my re-reading, I discovered subtle clues the author dropped throughout her story.

Diana Bedford Pittenger, a friend and teacher, said: “That is so much fun! I love when students can teach us.”

I’m still learning …

What plot twists in a movie or book took you by surprise?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Video: “The Pink Panther” Theme Song. Really, did you see those plot twists coming? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhHwnrlZRus 

Photo: Pier – Sunrise at Indian River, Suntree, Florida. Photographer – Dave Berman, Sept. 2014

Photo: Surfer – Huntington Pier – Author: Sameer Khan, Aug. 15, 2005 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Huntington_Pier_Surfer.jpg

 

A Black Heart and a Mobster

James_Dean_in_Rebel_Without_a_Cause

By Judy Berman

The shadier side of life. It’s a look that few get to see, except in passing or on TV.

As a cops and court reporter, some encounters were brief. But the impressions lasted a lifetime.

In court, how a witness or suspect is perceived is important. Unfortunately, “Jonnie,” a witness in a murder trial, didn’t score well.

The prosecuting attorney said jurors just didn’t like “Jonnie “ Other factors were weighed in, too, of course: how consistent the witnesses’ stories were, how the witnesses held up under direct and cross-examination.

“Jonnie” said he had a “black heart.” I didn’t doubt it.

When “Jonnie” strutted into the courtroom during the retrial, he was a pale imitation of James Dean or tough guy Marlon Brando. He wore a tight, short-sleeved black T-shirt and black jeans. His thin, dirty-blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

One thought came to mind: dangerous.

Several times, “Jonnie” turned and gave a cold, hard stare to the defendants at the trial. They’d killed “Jonnie’s” father during a robbery. Neither was convicted of murder. They accepted a plea bargain to a reduced felony charge.

His thinly-disguised contempt for them was palpable.

Marlon_Brando_Streetcar_1948_d

“Jonnie” agreed to meet me the next afternoon, after the trial, for a follow-up interview. He wanted to meet near where he lived, but I preferred to meet him on more familiar – and less threatening – turf outside the paper I worked for.

He was a no-show. Maybe it was for the best.

Much of what he told me about the men he believed responsible for his father’s death was libelous and slanderous.

Or death threats – which my paper did not provide a platform for.

Those encounters are not confined to the news business.

A waitress, at one of our favorite restaurants in Central New York, once told us about some mobsters who dined at the fancy restaurant she worked at in Florida.

One night, she was serving wine to a large group of huge tippers. They gave $500 to the valet for keeping an eye on all their cars. Others also benefitted by their largesse.

She had difficulty reaching this one man at the end of the table who was up against the wall. When the waitress reached in front of him to pour the wine, another man stopped her and told her it was bad form in their culture.

The waitress, a self-confessed wiseguy, responded: “Whatever.”

Another employee told her that the man at the end of the table was “the man.”

“Right. He’s the man. He’s the man,” she said.

After the group left, she was told that “the man” was John Gotti.

“Here everyone else is getting $500 tips, and I’m worried I’ll be sleeping with the fishes,” she laughed. (They left her no tip.)

John Gotti and Sammy, The Bull, Gravano

The incident rattled her.

Her home was next door to the restaurant. But, as she was nervous about what the mobsters might do, she said she drove a route that took in most of South Florida.

 

Have you ever had a close encounter of the dangerous kind? Or of a celebrity, or weird kind?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Music Video: “Bad Company” by “Bad Company”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0ryRksbQvU  

  1. Main Photo: Marlon Brando – “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1948) – Photographer: Carl Van Vechten – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Marlon_Brando_Streetcar_1948_d.jpg
  2. Photo: James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) – publicity still for the film.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e6/James_Dean_in_Rebel_Without_a_Cause.jpg/540px-James_Dean_in_Rebel_Without_a_Cause.jpg 
  3. Photo: John Gotti and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano - http://www.history.com/topics/john-gotti
  4. Video: Interview with Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Diane Sawyer   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoTK1o2-QQ4

Your Wish Has Been Granted

Zoltar - Watkins Glen, NY - July 2014

By Judy Berman

I wander thru the crowd, pleased to see a familiar face.

If anyone can grant me a wish, it will be this dark, mysterious stranger. His piercing, blue eyes meet mine, probing to determine what brings me to him.

Suddenly nervous, I hesitate before I ask. Then, stammer: “I want to be a kid again.”

Zoltar stares. His mouth agape. He shuffles a few cards, utters some mumbo-jumbo, and then he sits silently as the arcade machine spits out my fortune.

Big - Josh - young - and Zoltar

In the movie, “Big,” (1988), Josh Baskin (young Josh played by David Moscow) is humiliated when he’s not allowed on a carnival ride because he’s too short. When he spots Zoltar, an antique arcade fortune teller machine, he tells Zoltar that he wants to be big.

A fortune slides out. On it: “Your wish has been granted.” His transformation takes place overnight, and he must adapt to the changes. Josh is physically bigger. Now played by Tom Hanks, he has a 30-year-old body, but he’s still a kid inside – nearly 13.

Josh enjoys the perks of the adult world – being paid for what he loves to do, having an apartment and a beautiful girlfriend. But he soon discovers that he misses his family. He tries to find a way to return to them.

Big - Josh - adult - Zoltar3

Like, Josh, I look to see if the robotic fortune teller will grant my wish.

Strange. Isn’t it? We always think life will be better if we could trade places. If we could be older, younger, richer, smarter, more athletic or more popular.

When we’re young, we don’t know the adult worries of holding down a job, scrambling to pay bills or staying up nights worrying about a sick child. We don’t see the challenges. We only see what we perceive as greater freedom and to be on our own.

As adults, it’s also easy to forget youths’ troubles. Worrying about avoiding that bully who views you as a human punching bag. Fretting about failing a course … and, maybe, a grade. Trying not to be noticed when you’re with all of the other wallflowers at the school dance. Knowing you’re always on the outside looking in.

In my case, I forgot that, when I was little, everyone looked down on me. They didn’t have any other option. I was one of the smallest kids in high school – 7th thru 12th grades.

At 4 feet 6 inches in 7th grade, kids joked that my nickname should be “Squeaky” because I was too small to be called “Pip Squeak.” That’s when you learn to develop a sense of humor about your, er, shortcomings … or die a thousand middle-school deaths.

I think it will be a blast – even if it’s just for a short while – to return to those carefree days.

I miss climbing trees, exploring the woods and creeks with my Cocker Spaniel and hanging out with my friends. I long to re-experience the excitement a child feels at special times like his/her birthday or Christmas.

Zoltar - fortune2 - June 2014

I clutch my fortune in my hand as I walk away. I turn and look wistfully at Zoltar before the crowd envelopes him. Then, he disappears from view.

On the way back to my hotel room, I bypass all the shops. What’s the point? Who knows what size clothing I’ll need in the morning after my transformation?

This will be great, no matter how it turns out. As Frank Sinatra once sang: “Here is the best part. You have a head start if you are among the very young at heart.”

 

What would you wish for?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Movie video: “Big” with Tom Hanks as Josh and Elizabeth Perkins as Susan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCmyX6CYhI0 

Movie video: Zoltar in “Big” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIeMRRGxmwQ 

1. Main Photo – Zoltar Speaks arcade machine – Watkins Glen, New York – taken by Dave Berman, July 25, 2014

2. Photo: “Big” – screenshot – young Josh Baskin (David Moscow) asking Zoltar to grant his wish.

3. Photo: “Big” – screenshot – Tom Hanks as ‘bigger’ Josh Baskin, asking Zoltar to grant his wish.

4. Photo: my fortune – June 2014 – from the Zoltar Speaks arcade machine at Circus Circus casino/hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

Escape to Freedom

Shawshank Redemption

By Judy Berman

Sometimes, life hems you into a holding pattern that’s hard to break away from.

You might be reluctant to strike out on your own when you have the status symbol of the decade: a job. Leave a steady paycheck and benefits? Whoa!

Others plot and plan their escape. They see a more hopeful future elsewhere.

Colleagues’ reaction to their departure is like inmates who are giddy with excitement to see one of their own set free. For them, life is a prison.

Visions of their boss hovering over them – like the dementors in “Harry Potter” – have them tossing fitfully in their sleep. They feel that once his/her shadow has crossed them and/or their work, all joy and life forces have been sucked out of them.

The question is: “What are they prepared to do?” Give up, accept the hand life has dealt them or move on?

Those are the choices Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) faces in “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994). The movie, written and directed by Frank Darabont, was based on the Stephen King novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.”

Dufresne, a banker, is sent to prison for life for the murder of his wife and her lover. He didn’t do it, and yet he has to endure the hardships that accompany such a place.

Despite this, he has hope and quietly bides his time for an opportunity to fulfill his dreams. He tells fellow prisoner, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) that it’s a choice of either “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”

Red, who narrates the film, is a fixer. He’s able to get contraband: cigarettes and whiskey. When Andy asks if Red can get him a little rock pick and a Rita Hayworth poster, no problem. Red quickly warms to this quiet, soft-spoken man.

Andy also is a problem-solver. When he overhears a guard complaining about taxes, Andy finds a solution. His experience in banking proves to be a boon for prison guards at Shawshank and at a nearby prison, and the corrupt warden, Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton).

Inmates also benefit. A convict crew, working a roofing detail, get ice-cold beers because Andy made that request in exchange for his financial advice to the guards. Later, Andy finds a way to get state funding to expand the prison library.

Years slip by. Andy helps a new inmate, Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows), pass his high school equivalency exam. One day, Red tells Williams what Andy is in for. Williams tells Andy and Red that an inmate at another prison claimed responsibility for two murders that were identical to Andy’s case.

It appears that freedom is within Andy’s grasp. But Warden Norton sabotages those plans. Norton fears Andy knows too much about the scams, kickbacks and money-laundering schemes behind bars.

Shawshank Redemption 3 - Copy

Andy tells Red that he dreams of living in Zihuatanejo, a Mexican Pacific Coastal town. He tells Red that, if he’s freed, he should go to a specific field to retrieve a package that Andy hid under a large volcanic rock.

One day, Red takes his old friend’s advice. Red shrugs off concerns about violating his parole. He heads for a Texas border town to cross over into Mexico:

“I doubt they’ll toss up any roadblocks for that, not for an old crook like me. I find I’m so excited – I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I imagine it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at the start of a long journey, whose conclusion is uncertain.”

shorebird

Red has to remind himself that “some birds aren’t meant to be caged. When they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice.”

Life might seem more dreary and empty with their absence.

Red truly was a changed man because of Andy. Andy gave Red the one thing he thought he’d lost years before: hope.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Movie trailer: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hB3S9bIaco  

Main Photo: Shawshank Redemption (1994) – DVD cover

Photo: screenshot of Shawshank Redemption – Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) in the prison yard.

Photo: Shorebird – taken Dec. 19, 2006 by vastateparkstaff   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/95/DSC_0050_%285842092357%29.jpg/640px-DSC_0050_%285842092357%29.jpg

Drug Raid – The Cupboards Were Bare

Drug Raid - in Dudley, United Kingdom

By Judy Berman

Minutes after an undercover police officer made a drug buy from the back window of a house, I heard him over the police radio.

“It’s a go. There are three people in there.”

Then, six police officers, dressed in black, ran down a city street and around the corner.

With guns drawn and two mighty whacks with a battering ram, they knocked down the door and ran in.

The suspect tossed $350 and 12 baggies of crack cocaine out the window. Investigators said the suspect had 11 baggies on him, and he’d just sold three.

It was like the movies. Only, this time: no guns blazing or suspects jumping out of windows to avoid arrest.

This is from the way-back files when I was a cops reporter in Utica, New York.

It was a rare behind-the-scenes look for me at what goes down during a drug raid. Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo gave the go-ahead to me and to one of the Observer-Dispatch’s photographers to join the investigators.

We wanted to be in on the action from the get-go. But they were overly cautious – and with good reason. What if something happened?

“You never know what’s behind that door,” said Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, the department’s senior investigator of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Liability concerns and safety are the reasons why many police agencies hesitate to grant this kind of access to reporters and photographers.

I told the police chief that a story I was working on – about 7 ½ years of drug arrests by SIU – would look a lot better if it was tied to a drug arrest – with me and a photographer along.

Rotundo was a savvy man. He agreed.

Once inside, the investigator, who wore a Stetson, smoked a huge cigar as he searched for evidence. He wore plastic gloves because “these places aren’t the cleanest,” and to protect himself if one of the suspects was bleeding.

He’s hearing nothing but polite denials and excuses from one of the women in the house.

“No, officer, I just came here to see my cousin, Angel,” she claimed.

The officer disagrees.

“You’ve been seen coming to this drug house several times and were inside when a drug buy was just made,” he said.

Then, he starts singing “Angel in the Morning.”

In the kitchen, there’s a box of baking soda on the counter. A cigarette butt is out in the drain.

I gingerly open a fridge door by using my pen on the handle until one of the investigators gives me plastic gloves. Inside, there’s only a can of Sprite.

Utica drug bust - UPD Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Berman)

Other than salt-and-pepper shakers, the cupboards are bare.

After the raid, Deputy Chief Nick Yagey joked that I was a con artist and had hoodwinked investigators into letting us go inside the drug house.

“You weren’t supposed to take any photos identifying SIU members,” he said.

Yagey claimed he could ID one who was bent over searching thru a couch for evidence.

“You couldn’t pick that face out of a crowd,” I challenged, knowing that SIU had vetted the photos before publication so no undercover officer was put in jeopardy.

“His butt, maybe,” I laughed.

Fortunately, Yagey was laughing, too, when I left his office a few minutes later.

 

Kudos to the police officers in the Utica Police Department who often assured my safe passage as a cops reporter at some very dicey scenes – especially Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo, who died in 2010, and Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, who died in 2001.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Trailer: The French Connection (1971) – Undercover cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) in his famous high speed chase in pursuit of a criminal – great film. But this is reel life – not real life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP_7ZopT6oM  

Music Video: Bad Boys (1992) by Inner Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVBB2upbVys&feature=kp  

Video: Dragnet (1951) – TV show starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday. The just-the-facts ma’am detective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj-qhIGTXdU  

Main Photo: Drug Raid – in Dudley, United Kingdom – taken Feb. 22, 2013 by West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg/640px-Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg

Photo: Utica Drug Raid – Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Manzer Berman) at the scene of a drug bust in Utica, New York.

 

Grapes of Wrath

Migrant Mother - Florence Owens Thompson - 1936

By Judy Berman

My role model is a paroled prisoner, an unrepentant killer.

After four years in prison on a manslaughter charge, his concerns were only for “today.”

Time and life’s experiences shifted Tom Joad’s focus from selfish self-interest to helping others in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

He is one of the reasons I root for the underdog – personally and when I was a reporter.

The politics and social injustice that existed when the book was written have changed. But the book still resonates 75 years after its publication on April 14, 1939.

Like many families in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Joads are forced to leave Oklahoma. A drought turns their land into a “Dust Bowl” and renders it useless to grow crops and to make a living.

Landowners and banks evicted tenant farmers. Some homes are torn down by tractors, leaving residents with nowhere to go.

They’re told that there are jobs in California. Before they can get to the Promised Land, they are taken advantage of by crooked car salesmen and dishonest pawnbrokers when they try to sell their belongings to pay for transportation and for their trip.

Migrant worker's family, Nipomo, California

Defeated, they pack what possessions they can and drive down Route 66 in rickety cars and trucks to California where they – and thousands of others – head to migrant camps in search of work.

Life on the road is hard and fraught with danger. The Joads and others are treated with hostility because so many Okies are flooding into California and there’s not enough work for them. Some are starving.

Ma Joad, the family’s strength, believes that helping others will be rewarded. While there is greed, she has also witnessed kindness from strangers. She repays that by feeding some of the starving migrant children at the camp.

Early on, Tom Joad and Jim Casy, a family friend and ex-preacher, begin to wonder why the tenant farmers aren’t organizing a union to fight the injustices of poverty wages and harsh treatment at migrant camps.

They’re told that if they do organize a protest that they will be black-listed from the camps. That means they’ll never find work.

When the Joads settle in at the Weedpatch camp, a government-sponsored place, it appears their luck has changed for the better. But trouble still follows them.

A Farmers’ Association plans to sabotage the camp. They fear that the Okies are a threat to their way of life.

Work is again hard to find. The migrant workers are paid far less than promised and it’s not enough to feed their families. Casy urges them to strike.

Their protest is met with violence and motivates Tom to work for the community’s good. He’s on the run.

Ma Joad fears she won’t see him again. Before they part, Tom comforts her and vows to continue to fight injustice wherever he finds it.

Grapes of Wrath - Henry Fonda - DVD cover

“I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ – I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry ‘n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll be there.”

My colleagues at the Observer Dispatch in Utica, New York, paraphrased that quote to reflect on my career at the paper.

It’s a comparison I’ll cherish always.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie clip – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Famous “I’ll Be There” speech in the movie by Tom Joad (Henry Fonda)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2JR3FmvVAw  

Video – John Steinbeck and Grapes of Wrath – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqaTv8cCWeg  

Photo – Migrant Mother (1936) – Florence Owens Thompson – (Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California.) Photo by Dorothea Lange, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg/461px-Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg

Photo – Migrant worker’s family – Photography of Florence Owens Thompson, known as “Migrant Mother”, Pea-Pickers Camp, Nipomo, California.  Photo taken 1936 by Dorothea Lange http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg/754px-Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg

Photo – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Henry Fonda as Tom Joad – DVD cover

 

 

The Ultimate Irish Wake

Weekend at Bernies - main charactersBy Judy Berman

Going out on your own terms is exactly what Walter George Bruhl Jr. did. He wrote his own obituary, and it’s hilarious.

“There will be no viewing, as his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, so he would appear natural to visitors,” according to CapeGazette.com.

This reminded me of Bernie Lomax in the movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” (1989).

An Irish wake is an occasion for both sadness and merriment. In this movie, death is a dark comedy.

Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) had it all: a cushy executive job at a New York-based insurance company, a flashy sports car, hot babes and a beach house with endless parties.

He was the ultimate host. Just one problem. He’s dead.

Despite that, he is still the life of the party.

No one seems to notice that the party-guy is a real stiff.

That wasn’t the ending Bernie had in mind when two of his employees – Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) – discovered someone ripped off the firm for $2 million.

Hoping this would lead to a promotion, they couldn’t wait to tell Bernie. He lured them to his beach house for the weekend with the promise of a fun getaway.

Weekend at Bernie's - screenshot - Bernie Lomax arranging hitInstead, Bernie turns to his Mafia partner, Vito, and asks him to knock off Richard and Larry because they discovered his scam. The mobster, however, decides Bernie’s the one who’s got to go because he’s been getting greedy.

Having an affair with Vito’s girlfriend was the final nail in the coffin.  The mobster orders a hitman, Paulie (Don Calfa), to rub out Bernie.

Before Richard and Larry arrive at the beach house, Paulie kills Bernie. When they find his body, their weekend plans appear to be dead in the water.

Then, the partiers arrive. Richard and Larry prop Bernie up. With his sunglasses on and perpetual goofy grin from the fatal drug overdose, no one notices that he’s shed his mortal coil, and the party goes on.

Richard insists on calling the cops until he sees his office crush, Gwen Saunders (Catherine Mary Stewart), walk in.

The next morning, Richard and Larry discover a taped phone message that Bernie had accidentally recorded. On it, Bernie tells the hit man to kill his two employees and make it look like a murder-suicide.

That’s when they realize that their best bet for staying alive is to make it look like Bernie is still around.

Larry has rigged it so that Bernie appears to be waving as friends pass by. They also tie his shoes to theirs so it appears he’s walking with them. And Bernie keeps popping up in all the wrong places.

The sightings of Bernie convince Vito that Paulie has botched the job. So Paulie’s ordered to return and take care of Bernie permanently.

That’s a tall order for a guy who just won’t stay dead, and it’s driving Paulie crazy.

So, Bernie is having the time of his life death. But, I would rather have the last word like Walter George Bruhl Jr., who died March 9 in Punta Gorda, Florida, and wrote his parting shots in his obit.

For years, I’ve told my husband, Dave, that I want an Irish wake with me standing in the corner with a glass of wine. Also, a ticker-tape parade.

He assures me that he’s working on this as we speak. I’ve asked my friends to nag remind him of my final wishes.

That would be the ultimate send-off.

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Movie trailer: Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) – starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCTgcZ6ImsQ 

Photo – Weekend at Bernie’s – http://www.stumpedmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Weekend-at-Bernies.jpeg

Photo – Weekend at Bernie’s – screenshot – Terry Kiser as Bernie Lomax – arranging hit

Walter George Bruhl Jr.’s obituary. http://capegazette.villagesoup.com/p/walter-george-bruhl-jr-dupont-co-retiree/1139838