Saturday, June 25, 2011


'Kay. So I promised not to write a novel again when I blogged. But then somebody extra special died. I learned something new today. I learned the debut episode of Columbo was directed by a 25 year old Steven Spielberg. I'm in my 40s and I never knew this before. Neato.


As a kid, it was clear I wanted to be an actor. I was the nerdy cousin who inflicted my grandiose ideas of entertainment upon my twin and other extended family members and friends to put on some form of cabaret or play during family get-togethers and I was quite the bossy little director. I'm sure I had a vision each time I made them learn lines I'd made up and waltzed them around the concrete basement so they'd learn their blocking correctly.

Falk called Columbo an "assbackwards Sherlock Holmes"

Growing up, I watched Columbo. I was a little obsessed with character acting and I remember being impressed that "that guy could do that with his one eye". I thought it was part of his character schtick. I didn't realize he really had a glass eye. Because of his stature, I remember thinking he was Irish when I was a little girl. He had that glint in his eye. Both eyes. (And not because one was glass.) He'd lost his eye due to cancer at the age of three.

Peter Falk.

What was not to love? He was that sweet mixture of self-deprecating humour and humility married with a distinct aura of wisdom wafting off the shoulders of his shabby trenchcoat. He was Columbo. But he was also an incredibly versatile and talented actor.

When I was growing up videos were unheard of. The only way you'd hope to see some of your favourite films was to try to catch them on television. Every year, my siblings and I would scour the new seasonal copy of the TV Guide for when our favourite movies were going to run. At Christmastime, we knew what to expect and mark 'em down on our calendars: It's a Wonderful Life, the original A Christmas Carol in black and white with Alistair Sims; we'd highlight in the guide when White Christmas was on and The Year Without a Santa Claus.

But the rest of the year, we had to pour over that guide with a fine tooth comb for stuff that would run maybe once and on some obscure date. Classics like: Twelve Angry Men, To Kill A Mockingbird, Duck Soup (really anything Marx Brothers), The Quiet Man, Mrs. Miniver, How Green Was My Valley, What's Up, Doc?, Murder on the Orient Express and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Falk played the taxi driver in that last one - this was pre-Columbo days. What an ensemble cast with the great comedic brilliance of: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Edie Adams, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers and my personal fav from the film, Jonathon Winters. But no matter how brief the appearance, even in an ensemble production, Falk would shine. That aura, again. I read that, as an actor, he was always late. This makes me love him more somehow. HA!

When interviewed on the role of Columbo, Falk said, "I'm a Virgo Jew, and that means I have an obsessive thoroughness. It's not enough to get most of the details, it's necessary to get them all. I've been accused of perfectionism. When Lew Wasserman (head of Universal Studios) said that Falk is a perfectionist, I don't know whether it was out of affection or because he felt I was a monumental pain in the ass." A Virgo. No wonder I loved him. A fellow Earth sign. And he was about as down-to-Earth as you get.

I think of him in another role I loved of his: the grandfather in The Princess Bride. One of his lines was so Falkian, I'd wonder if he adlibbed it except that William Goldman wrote the damn thing. I love that Goldman, who wrote screenplays for films like The Marathon Man, All the Presidents Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and A Bridge Too Far also wrote The Princess Bride. He authored the book first, then penned the screenplay. In that film, the grandfather (Falk) tells his grandson, "when I was your age, TV was called books". Amen.

Falk's character also explains that everytime Westley tells Buttercup, "as you wish", what he's really saying is, "I love you."

The film that made me want to join the circus
and become a Trapeze Swinger

When I was 22, I fell in love with a film directed by Wim Wenders called Wings of Desire. I remember seeing it during its first run at the local indie cinema - the only places those days you could catch foreign films. I remember being so stunned by that film, I sat in silence while all the final credits rose slowly upwards on the screen until the projector actually turned off before I was able to move and leave the theatre.

I tried to order the soundtrack and it took me 3 years to finally find a copy I could purchase. The original score was penned by an amazing musician named Jurgen Knieper. A crush inevitably developed on Nick Cave.

That film gripped my heart in so many ways and I kept returning to see it. I must have seen it maybe 10 more times over the next few years, grabbing any chance I could when it ran again. And every time, there was something new that I had missed before. There just was so much depth to that film. So many layers. And it held more meaning for me once I fell in love for the first time finally myself.

One of my favourite aspcts about the film is that Falk plays himself. He's Falk in Berlin doing Columbo but you get the real sense that this really IS him playing himself. And you totally believe that he can see the angel Damiel, played brilliantly by Bruno Ganz. Maybe it's the glass eye that makes you believe it. For me it was one of the special qualities of that film - how the children can still see the angels. So it's no surprise that an adult like Peter Falk can, too, with his childlike spirit and amazing insight.

When my son was born and, especially the first few months, when I would hold him and nurse him, or lie him down to change his diaper, he would look up at me and then up, further up - he would look past me, he would gaze at the ceiling and sometimes he would giggle and smile. I swear to God, a few times he pointed. Now I'm not religious at all, but I'm a spiritual girl. And when he'd do this, sometimes the hair rose on my neck. I wrote a short piece on my photography blog as a kind of nod to this. When asked about death, Peter apparently once said, "it is just a gateway." I can believe in that. Damiel is mortal now so I hope Cassiel is showing him the same kinda ropes. Welcoming him to that other side with a warm "Compañero!" I like to picture that.

To smoke, drink coffee. And when you do it together, it's fantastic!

Today I read that Peter suffered Alzheimer's when he died. Apparently he had trouble remembering who Columbo was. It sucks to read that. He was so brilliant at playing an absent-minded detective. Of course, that was just acting - not just for the role, but the character himself. Columbo was only pretending to be absent minded while he was solving the crimes and figuring out the criminals he pursued. One thing for sure, whatever he suffered with dementia, we will be slow to forget his legacy.

To this day, Wings of Desire remains my very favourite film.

The scene where Falk describes to Damiel what living a mortal existence is like may have been scripted but you get the sense that Falk is 100% behind the scripted words. That Falk knew Life should be lived just like that. Every little thing appreciated.

"Just one more thing..." We're heading out to the video store right now as I finish typing and I'll cross my fingers Wings of Desire is there. I haven't seen it in years, but tonight, after I put him to bed, I yearn to crawl under the covers and turn the lights out and extend my own hand for a shake. And as I watch, I'm going to whisper, "I can't see you, but I know you're here...I wish you were here. I wish you could talk to me. Cause, I'm a friend." I hope he hears me.

The same day Falk died, New York became the largest state in the United States to legalize gay marriage. Little steps. A small gain after this huge loss. Maybe a gift to the betterment of humankind from the other side.

A wink from a glass eye that could see beyond the gateway.
As you wish, Lieutenant. As you wish.

In a final scene of Wings, a motorcyclis is killed and an angel bends over him to recite this poem as he moves from Life into his next existence.

Appropriately, named The Song of Childhood, here it is. For you, Peter.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Yes, actually, I am still recovering from the Harper majority win, why do you ask?

When I last posted, I was going to follow up my political plea with a post called The Hangover or The Morning After The Night Before. Unfortunately for the next reign of Harper there is no morning-after pill. I am still floored. What galls me is that violent riots shook Vancouver the other night when the Canucks lost the Stanley cup but people DIDN'T take to the streets after Harper WON! The riots post the Bruins win left a bad taste in everyone's mouth across the Nation.

I don't mean to imply I encourage such a disgustng display of sorelosered-ness, but if it had happened after the Harper win, I might have understood a bit more what inflamed the rioting. I don't understand those nimrods in Vancouver who left the rest of their city and country flabbergasted and ashamed. When you witness around the world what people actually riot for, when it's legit - the right to vote, to overthrow a dictatorship, stuff like that - what happened in BC makes you just shake your head. Pathetic.

My girl

The thing is, I really was going to write a response to the Harper win, but my dog died two days after he was voted in. She was 14 years old and I first got her when she was about 9 or 10 weeks old. I can't write about her right now. But I do plan to write a memorial post dedicated just to her. Her loss kind of knocked the wind out of my sails for a bit and I didn't care much about Harper anymore (the ire over his majority win is rearing its ugly head once again, though, to be sure. It's like a zombie that will not stay underground.)

say cheeeeeeeeeeese

Also, since I last posted, my baby turned two years old. Jesus. So yeah. I've yet to write about all I feel about that. Since the last post there's been a death, a birthday, a wedding and a baptism. It's like I've been cast in a Mike Newell film. I guess it's true what they say: when one door closes, another always opens. If a door ever closed on Harper, though, I hope it just stays shut. No welcome back mat rolled out for him again, please, Cosmos, I beg you.

So that's the current plan: I'll be playing some 'ketchup' for the next few weeks and will endeavour to post briefer, more concise, blog-sized, edible posts more often rather than being absent for months at a time and then trying to catch up by writing a novel. I've lots to say...but I'm going to have to work backwards a bit to catchup and then I'll just move forward at a better, more regular pace from there.

fresh maple syrup

Thanks, again, for your patience. And the condolences I know you send to me. For the Harper win. For my doggy loss. The weather has been matching the mood of these events pretty well over May - it was both wet and cold. But now the sun seems finally to have located where I live. I think he just got lost for a while there. With solstice approaching this week, I really do want to believe that summer is finally here.

We could all use a little Vitamin D right now. It's time.