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December 28, 2014
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The Big Chill


Seven days in, 2014 has (IMHO) been a challenge. Last week (during the blizzard) I had an unfortunate run-in with a deer while navigating my way home, and although I’m happy to be alive, I’m sad that Bambi didn’t make it. The front end of my pickup is gone, but both Dharma (the Wonder Dog) and I survived, and for that I’m grateful. Desperately wanting to smoke, I managed to get the truck into the garage (after five attempts), shoveled a path to the front door and hunkered down, (foolishly) glancing at the thermometer. Cringing at the reading (minus eight), I flipped on the television, seeking diversion. Scrolling through my choices, I threw an ashtray at the wall and wept. “200 Cigarettes” was playing, and while I might be a fan of Ben Affleck and Dave Chappelle, I was in no mood. Grumbling and cranky, I flipped channels. Because of the holiday, re-runs were rampant, so I began a search for a film that would take my mind off the temperature, smoking, my truck and snow. I love old movies and am a fan of both Bogart and Bacall, but “Key Largo” sounded frustrating, (too many palm trees) so my search continued. “What are the odds?” I whimpered to the dog as “Coffee and Cigarettes” appeared on screen. Described as “a series of vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes in common,” it did not seem prudent, so I continued to scroll. “Turner Classics sounds safe,” I rasped at the screen, and having never heard of Warner Brothers’ “Bright Leaf” I settled into the couch, covered in blankets, with the pup ensconced on my lap. I dimmed the lights, ignoring my desire to smoke and sighed. Minutes into the movie, made in 1950 and starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal and (once again) Lauren Bacall, I sat up and screamed, causing the pup to run for cover. As it turns out, “Leaf” centers on a 19th-century tobacco farmer (Cooper) building a successful cigarette empire, while seeking revenge on old enemies and finding romance (Bacall). Oh Em Gee. A preview of “Now Voyager” featuring Bette Davis blowing smoke in Paul Henreid’s face was enough to cause me to turn off the TV, while flinging the remote, howling.