Weekly Rochester Events #429: Harvey's Blood Circulates
Thursday, March 29, 2007
So last Wednesday, I decided to take part in that national promotion for a free iced coffee to celebrate the first day of spring from Dunkin Donuts (1500 Mount Hope Ave.) I had brought my own cup but the automaton behind the counter ignored my request. I also decided to be nice and get a single donut. Although I could have left with a cup of iced coffee and a donut, I also got a plastic cup, lid, and medium-sized waxed-paper bag. We are so totally fucked as a country when advertising (i.e. the bag and cup) is worth more than ecology.
Taking things out of order a bit to keep the ranting all up front, the following and most recent Wednesday morning I was on the radio for The Coalition of the Shrill show. This is our last show as our engineer Geoff is taking a job in Colorado after graduating from RIT. I decided I might as well be more bold than average. I stumped Jen and Ramesh with a bit of satire: I said that we need to worry deeply about our troops in Iraq because as far as I know, none have been killed by the billions of tons of weapons of mass-destruction hidden in Iraq — the insurgents must be sandbagging them and will probably bring them out soon. I also threw out there that Republicans hate freedom — there's no other way to explain why they keep taking it away with every new Patriot Act other than that they despise critical thought and people expressing their opinions. Finally, I said this administration shall forever be known as the "9/11 Administration" because their attacks the Constitution are as severe as Osama bin Laden's on America.
Anyhow — rewinding back to last Wednesday evening (and getting out of my rant mood) — I decided that I'd go get some light entertainment so I went to The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) They started with two animated Looney Tunes shorts. I was disappointed that the first: Now That Summer Is Gone was a bland parable about a squirrel who gambles away his nuts. The other, Speaking of the Weather, was a 1950's-contemporary piece telling the story of a robber through the characters on magazine covers — rather clever, really. The feature film was Susan Slept Here and at first glance seemed cute and rather funny, but very light. Of course, if you scratch below the surface, it's a cunning satire of Hollywood — I mean, the plot is that a 17-year-old orphan girl is brought by the police to a film writer's house as a "Christmas present": they knew he wanted first-hand knowledge of a juvenile delinquent for a script. In any other context it would be a bit of dark comedy at best, but this presented it in such an airy way gets explained away with the "only in Hollywood!" subtext. By that respect, it's pretty good.
Saturday, Ali had a day off so we got to trek to The Rochester Public Market (280 Union St. N.) and O'Bagelo's (165 State St.) together. We also went to The Little (240 East Ave.) in the afternoon for a screening of 51 Birch Street. I had reported that the eldest sibling, Ellen Block would be at both early-afternoon screenings [naturally, I swear I read it] but after we discovered she wasn't there, I went back and checked and she was to attend the 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows. It wasn't much concern as I didn't really have any questions.
The film was a really startling documentary. Filmmaker Doug Block just assumed his parents' 54-year marriage was a success. However, 3 weeks after his mother, Mina unexpectedly died, his father married his secretary and moved to Florida. Apparently Doug — a documentary filmmaker by trade — had returned to the family home as it was being packed up to film it for posterity. He found his father was unusually open to conversation and he was shocked when he offhandedly asked if he missed his mother and his father replied, "No. It wasn't a loving association, just a functioning one."
At that point he decided to go back and review old footage and photographs of his family and try to figure out what was really going on. The story takes a couple unexpected turns, especially they discover that Mina kept a detailed journal from psychotherapy in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It's through this that some of the inner workings of his parents' lives are revealed.
I noticed that as the film went on I thought everyone in it was more beautiful. I have known for a long time that I have a bias when I first meet or see someone — I judge their overall attractiveness and, at this point in my life, I mostly treat that as a snapshot baseline rather than as a lasting impression. However, I had always assumed that this baseline would shift more positive or negative based on the beauty of the inner person — how virtuous or talented they were, for instance. What I discovered in this film is that it's not the beauty of the inner person, but the accuracy to which it's portrayed. In other words, the overall beauty I see in people comes from them revealing an honest representation of themselves.
On Sunday we went to see Our Town at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) — recall that we won tickets at the Geva Comedy Improv show a few weeks ago and were able to schedule in the final performance. I thought it was an okay play. The first half was rather bland — a document of "typical" life in a small New England town. I include the quotation marks because I think it was a stylized view of the people of the town, shooting for milquetoast caricatures wherever possible in an attempt to represent the average folks but failing to reveal the quirks of their minds. However, the second half was excellent: it started with marriage and ended with death. Even the treatment of death from that era in history was pretty bold (the play was written around the turn-of-the 20th Century) — the cemetery was a group of characters watching just above the horizon and discussing the afterlife. In that way it was a tremendous document of life back then.
After the performance, Ali and I were waiting to say hi to Tim Goodwin who sent us the tickets. We talked about how hard it must be to do a performance or two each day and have to summon tears. We talked about our own motivations — me revealing that I tear up at the end of Babe when that little pig has his day in the sun. Of course, we both ended up thinking about the things that get us to cry, so there we are laughing that we're crying for no good reason in the Geva lobby. In retrospect, maybe I should have let Tim think we were deeply moved by the performance ...
Afterward we figured we'd use one of the coupons in the Entertainment Book for a bite to eat. We started at Nathaniel's Pub (291 Exchange Blvd.) but I rejected the option because the TV's were blaring sports. We drove to The Merchants Grill (881 Merchants Rd., formerly Hitchcock's) and although the TV's were also on, it wasn't nearly as noisy — this time Ali said she'd really like a real meal rather than just as sandwich, and she suggested The Garlic Pit Pasta House (696 Ridge Rd., Webster). I drove from Culver to Empire to 590-North but then I took the Ridge Road exit thinking I could go east from there — a mistake I recall each time I repeat it every 5 years or so. Since you can't actually cross the Irondequoit Bay, we looped around for 15 minutes and ended up at Culver and Empire again. We took Empire around the bay and arrived at the Garlic Pit only to find it was closed.
So we drove all the way back to The Elmwood Inn (1256 Mount Hope Ave.) near my house and ate there. It was the first time I stepped foot in the place in over a decade: I really wasn't a regular patron but I've been maintaining an ever-fading boycott and by now it was quite irrelevant. See, during a snowstorm in the 1990's I found a car stalled in the left-turn lane from Elmwood to northbound Mt. Hope with a woman and her young child. I parked my car and went to go help — I pushed the car around the corner then another guy started helping. I suggested we park the car in the lot for the Elmwood until they could get it towed — at least get it off the street. Someone from the place came out and told us, "you can't park that car here!" and we had to leave it at the side of the road. Jerks!
Fortunately, the place was really quite nice. Both Ali and I had a great meal and felt a lot less cranky after driving for a friggin' hour looking for a decent place to eat. I may actually stop by now and then, especially now that I've broken the habitual boycott.
Tuesday turned out to be a most peculiar day. I often take walks from my house to the canal path as it's just a quarter-mile away. I was walking east toward East Henrietta Road around 1:30 when I saw what seemed to be someone lying in the path, way off in the distance in front of me. I assumed my eyes were mistaken and it was just a dark patch of water running off the hill on the left to the canal. However, when I got to about a hundred feet away, I realized it was somebody getting up — apparently they had crashed their bike. By the time I got there, the guy had gotten up and was picking up the shattered outer-shell of his bike helmet (the thin plastic part, not the protective foam inside.)
He was older than I was by quite a few years. I asked him if he was okay and he said he said he didn't think he was injured. He said, "I guess I must have just passed out — that's never happened before." He had obviously been riding hard and I thought he might have overexerted himself. Then he said, "I think those are pieces of my helmet. I must have crashed." That seemed like an odd thing to say. I asked where he was headed and he said, "East Rochester: which way is that?" I thought he was probably not remembering stuff correctly. I had a plastic bag with me so I picked up some of the pieces of his helmet and he said, "Are those pieces of my helmet? I guess I must have crashed." I told him I thought he had some memory loss and that we should head to East Henrietta to find some help.
Well, it took us quite a while because every 15 seconds or so, he'd ask what we're doing. I'd tell him he crashed his bike on the canal path, he's got some memory loss, and that we were looking to get some medical help at East Henrietta. He'd pat himself down looking for injuries and often say, "are you sure I'm not dreaming?" I asked him his name and we introduced ourselves, then I got his wife's name and phone number — you know, just in case he passed out or something. I said, "do you remember what my name is?" and he didn't, adding, "are you sure I'm not dreaming?" I spotted a police car patrolling the The Monroe Community Hospital (435 E. Henrietta Rd.) parking lot so I flagged him down when we were close enough.
I was disappointed to learn that because this guy was conscious and refused an ambulance because he "felt fine" that the cop couldn't request one. I told the cop that he had memory loss and I proved it several times. The cop suggested we go to the hospital lobby — they're not an emergency facility but they should be able to help.
Well, five or six bike-crash-memory-loss explanations later and we arrived at the hospital. We got hold of his wife and she called the family doctor who suggested she pick him up and take him in. Over the next 20 minutes I hung around and slowly the guy could make new memories — he remembered my name and where he was. It had been an hour of him acting like Leonard from that movie Memento. I had given him my card with a note on the back describing briefly what happened. He must have read it 10 times, somewhat surprised at what it said each time. Eventually he made it to the doctor's office and I stored his bike until they could come get it.
It turned out that he didn't appear to even have a concussion although they're running some more tests. I talked with him later that night and he remembered riding on the path but not the crash, but then some memories of being at the hospital. I thought it was totally fascinating to get to talk with him and he had no idea what we just talked about. [And no comments from the Peanut Gallery that this seems like a perfect match where I can just keep talking and talking!]
Anyway, the family has thanked me and everyone keeps saying how he's lucky that someone like me found him. I disagree: I think that most people would have helped. Maybe the only lucky part was that I was aware enough to know that he was suffering memory loss. As things turned out, the worst case would have been that the poor guy would have had memory loss and no way to tell why — he probably would have been okay if he tried riding more but he would have been pretty lost for an hour.
At some point in the middle there, I wondered if the power of suggestion was getting to me. Are you sure I'm not dreaming?
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About the title ... William Harvey was born 429 years ago in 1578 and discovered that blood circulates in the human body.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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