Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No. 568 – Woke Up This Morning

Performer: Alabama 3
Songwriters: Rob Spragg, Jake Black
Original Release: Exile on Coldharbour Lane
Year: 1997
Definitive Version: None

When I started at The Columbus Dispatch, as I mentioned, my commute home took five minutes. When Debbie and I moved to Gahanna, that became 15 minutes. After we bought our house in 1997, the drive was closer to a half-hour.

At first, Debbie would wait up for me, more or less, as she had before we bought our house. But now, I wasn’t getting home till almost midnight. This was a problem because Debbie was an early bird. She had trouble staying up to 11, let alone midnight. In other words, she was never awake when I’d get home. She’d be curled up asleep on the sofa in the family room. So I’d wake her up to take her up to bed—sometimes going, too, usually getting back up if I wasn’t ready to go to sleep.

I told her she should just go to bed, that she didn’t need to wait up for me. After a while, I finally persuaded her to do this. I did this for her benefit, but it ended up being a bad idea, because even just seeing each other for a brief period when I got home was good for the relationship. Now, I was just staying downstairs to watch TV, so as to not bother her, and we never saw each other during the week.

It got so it felt at times like we were living separately together, at least during the week. I guess that’s why I did all my yard work during the week, because I wanted to maximize my Debbie time on the weekends.

During this time, in 1999, I made three late-night TV discoveries that became seminal viewing for the first half of the Aughties before I moved to Chicago:

* The first one was Dress to Kill, an HBO special by Eddie Izzard. I had seen Eddie Izzard on the Dennis Miller Show on HBO (back before he turned into a right-wing buffoon), and he seemed funny enough, so I started watching the special, and within five minutes, I was laughing out loud and making a mental note about checking the TV guide so I could tape the show the next time it aired.

Dressed to Kill, in my inexpert opinion, is one of the five funniest stand-up comedy specials or films I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Put it right up there with Delirious by Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor Live in Concert.

* The second was Fight Club. I kind of wanted to see it when it was in the theaters but never quite got around to it. Jin saw it and began to badger me nonstop for about a year. “You GOT to see it.” OK.

When I saw it was coming to HBO, I set up the VCR. When I got home, that night, I flipped on the TV to get a little taste. Have you seen it? I’m not going to spoil anything, but there’s a sequence when Edward Norton’s character meets Brad Pitt’s character on an airplane that is surrealistically funny. The scene starts with Norton’s character waking up from a dream where he’s in the middle of a plane crash. I turned on the TV at the precise instant Norton says “Every time during takeoff or landing, I pray for a crash or a midair collision. Something.” And then it takes you through the very graphic and violent midair collision before his character says, “If you die on a business trip, life insurance pays triple.” Then he wakes up.

I turned off the TV. Woah! What the heck did I just see? Now I REALLY want to see this movie. But I didn’t want to see any more not knowing where I was in the story. It turns out I was close to the beginning, and Fight Club became one of my favorite movies of all time and almost weekly viewing after Debbie and I split. I haven’t seen it in years, but I bet I still can recite half of the movie. I might have seen it a few (or a hundred) times.

* The third, of course, was The Sopranos. (Can’t write about this song, which, of course, is the theme song for The Sopranos, without discussing the show, right?)

Paul at work had been talking about it, and I had seen previews on HBO. One night I came home and flicked on the TV and joined in the middle of, something like the fifth or sixth episode of the season—the one, if you’re familiar with the series, where A.J. first comes face to face with what his dad does for a living. It’s an excellent episode, and I was hooked.

I started watching each week, by myself. When the season ended, HBO showed all the episodes again, and I taped them all and quickly got Debbie hooked. I stopped having access to HBO when I moved back home from Cleveland in 2004, but I had already parted ways with the series, so it was no big deal.

But that epic first season remained regular viewing. When I moved to Chicago, I got Laurie hooked on 24, and watching the show became a weekly event. When that show ended, we moved to older shows on Sunday nights. We’re now on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but the first one we moved to was the first season of The Sopranos. Even though she’s not a big fan of violence, she loved it.

And why not? Again, if I may don my reviewer’s chapeau, it remains in my opinion the best single season of any TV show ever.

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