And, Scene: Crimes and Misdemeanors

“In reality, we rationalize, we deny, or we couldn’t go on living.” ~ Crimes and Misdemeanors

Introspec

 

The first time I saw Crimes and Misdemeanors twenty-five years ago, I was in many ways still a kid. Barely 21, thinking I had all of life’s answers, I was working full-time as a nude stripper in Waikiki.  My proudest accomplishments involved hoards of cash accumulated on my garter and snorting mountains of cocaine behind the plush velvet ropes in various VIP rooms throughout the city.

This is your typical Woody Allen film, full of dry humor wrapped in cynicism, dipped in self-deprecation. A fan since Annie Hall, I knew sinking my teeth into this existential drama would not disappoint. It doesn’t hurt that the cast is a list of my faves, ranging from Martin Landau and Angelica Huston to Jerry Orbach and Alan Alda.

This is a movie that lifts the veil of ethics and morality. We examine the lives of two very different men, Judah Rosenthal and Cliff Stern – which can easily resemble the devil and angel on our shoulder. Their lives intersect one another as they take different approaches to solve serious problems that they initially brought on themselves. Their choices are based on what’s right and wrong, good and bad, and how each of them has rationale behind their decision.

As someone who has always danced on the razor-thin line of both morality and ethics – I could more than relate.  I asked myself the obvious question when lost in the language of Allen’s script.

What would I have done?

Even now all these years later, I find myself referencing this movie when attempting to pick up the pieces of collateral damage from yet another one of my brilliant fuck-ups.

My brain is a trip. I can’t remember what clothes I wore yesterday, but sitting in regret and reflection during my sunset drive home on the Pacific Coast Highway, I remembered every word – and recited out loud – the final monologue of this movie:

“We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions. Moral choices. Some are on a grand scale. Most of these choices are on lesser points. But! We define ourselves by the choices we have made.

We are in fact the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to have been included, in the design of creation.

It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.

And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.” ~  Crimes and Misdemeanors

The final scene:

 

“We define ourselves by the choices we have made.” So true, it hurts.

Whether or not I finally get my shit together remains to be seen. But at least I’ve got old movies to keep me company as I continue to try.

 

 

 

 

Christine Macdonald

In honor of Ohana

Ever since I learned of my friend Peter’s passing, I have been on the fence about purchasing a ticket home for a long weekend so I could attend his Celebration of Life event next Sunday. Flying to Hawaii is not cheap – and justifying such a short trip is tough when you live paycheck to paycheck.

But I am following my heart.

There is something magical about Hawaii and if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I mean. As soon as you exit the plane you feel it: the warm trade-winds weaved within intoxicating breaths of tropical flowers greeting you like family.

Then there are the people.

There is a certain Ohana (family) atmosphere among the people who live on the island I’ve never come across anywhere else. People open their homes and hearts to you in a way that not only makes you feel welcome, it touches your very soul.

Peter was someone I considered part of my Ohana during a time in my life when everything else around me was chaotic. I was in my twenties and in the thick of my stripping career and he worked at a club where we gals hung out after work. It’s a perfect recipe for shallow bar-talk, but my conversations with Peter were anything but.

Peter was a renaissance man – an artist and dreamer. We dished about books, music and movies but most of all about life; what we wanted to be when we grew up – what drove our passion.

I lost touch with Peter after quitting the stripping life and just last year (through Facebook) was elated to have reconnected again. I was thrilled to learn he lived in Los Angeles, a mere hour away. We emailed one another the night I found him and both admitted to be crying, marinating in sappy reunion-Ohana-love. I promised to catch up with him in person, as did he. But life happened, time went by and we never did see each other. And now he’s gone.

I had no idea Peter suffered clinical depression. When I found out he took his life last week I was catapulted to a place of unbelievable shock but most of all, pure sadness and empathy. Everyone who suffers depression has their own story and I don’t assume to know his exact pain, but I know the dark corners of wanting to end it all. That is what jolts me the most about his story. I wish I would have shared my history with him. I wish, I wish.

So here I am, a week after his passing, happy with my decision to go home. His memory lives through all of us who were blessed to know him. His Celebration of Life event will be as spectacular as he was. We’ll dance to his favorite songs and share laughter remembering his spirit.

Even though I never had a chance to see him again, I know he’s proud of the life I’ve made, so many years after leaving the stripping world. He knows how influential he was to me and how our talks helped shape the woman I am today.

“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” ~Richard Bach

Christine Macdonald