Tuesday, February 08, 2011


My wife draws me a bath on her birthday... Isn't that a nice gesture?

There’s a young lady in my life whose birthday it is today, and the nice thing for her is, no matter how many birthdays she has, no matter what the date on her driver’s license tells everyone else, she will always be young to me. Or at least younger than me, which is not an insignificant fact when you start taking up residency in your ‘50s-- everyone seems younger than you are. She’s not good at acting her age either, which is usually a good thing because it has to do with redirecting the obsessive and distracted characteristics of my personality to things that are more important than the everyday worries that can so easily get me down; it’s only a bad thing when I have to remind her to take her drinking glass, which may only have a swallow’s swallows worth left in it, off the table and to the kitchen sink. (Both of us missed the Housekeeping 101 section of Home Ec in high school, so no slings and arrows in this department, lest I get hurt.)

Without getting into details, the woman I call the missus has been going through a very tough time for quite a while now, and since Thanksgiving it’s only been tougher. Fortunately, she’s surrounded by coworkers who care so much more about her than she ever imagined they did, and by friends—the live ones and the Facebook variety—whose support has been immeasurably valuable in keeping her eyes on the prize. Then there are our daughters, who are in their own worlds, as eight and ten-year-olds always are, both of whom have been nothing less than her saving grace, what with their beauty and inquisitiveness and concern and flat-out craziness leavening every moment my wife spends with them from the tolerable to the blessed. I can only hope that the contributions I make to her life are half as constructive and inspiring and poetic and comforting as the ones my girls manage to conjure without even thinking about it.

We don’t go out much anymore, especially not on our own. Baby-sitters are hard to come by, and when you get one, they can be a costly add-on to the evening’s entertainment expenses. But this past Saturday the parents of my oldest daughter’s best friend, upon hearing that our evening out to celebrate my wife’s birthday on Saturday night had fallen through when our baby-sitting plans failed to materialize, generously offered to take our two for a Saturday night sleepover at their house. Voila! We were free, and so was the baby-sitting. So we carted ourselves away to West Hollywood and a lovely little Moroccan-Spanish-Greek-influenced eatery called Cayenne Café which was beyond delicious. The waitress, who was as delightful as could be, was very helpful in the choosing of just what we wanted in a wine, neither of us being well versed in the grape. The blissful sigh that accompanied her recommendation of the avocado crostini as an appetizer was all the hard-sell we required, and it would turn out that the sighs were well warranted. We munched the crostini, drank our respective vinos (Patty’s on the sweet, crisp side, mine on the full-bodied, dry side, as apt two descriptors for their respective drinkers as you’ll ever see, I suppose) and enjoyed each other’s company in a way that we simply haven’t in a long while, perhaps the best birthday gift of all. Her couscous Morocco arrived and the only thing that kept me from stealing it away was the fortuitous arrival of my own pasta el Greco, which was so good that it pushed away any other thoughts of culinary thievery I might have had. It was so satisfying, I didn’t even consider using the spoon they provided me so I could chip away at Patty’s bread pudding dessert.

The dinner finished, we bid farewell to our waitress and made our way out the front and one door down to the evening’s second phase, a double feature at the New Beverly. We visited Cayenne Café largely because of its proximity to the theater, but also because Michael Torgan, the New Beverly’s owner/operator, gave us a very generous gift certificate to the establishment for my birthday last year. We’ve been looking for an occasion and/or opportunity to use it ever since, and finally the stars aligned. Michael had a Henri-Georges Clouzot double feature (of sorts) on tap, which after some work I convinced Patty would be an excellent way to commemorate her birthday. She enjoyed the documentary on Clouzot’s unfinished film L’Enfer, entitled Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, but felt it might have gone down a little easier had she more context as to Clouzot’s career—she’d never seen one of his films. Myself, I found the seemingly endless footage of Romy Schneider in various states of dress and undress, filmed water-skiing, in costume tests, and for the film’s many proposed hallucinatory sequences, pretty fascinating, though they did seem to suggest, at least for me, much more of a creative crisis than one specifically brought on by crippling depression. Clouzot’s strangely compelling descent into artistic mannerism and desperation seemed even more inexplicable when placed against the evening’s second feature, the inexorably paced, profane and quick-witted thriller Diabolique, which was completely unadorned by anything beyond Clouzot’s icy assurance, the brutal brilliance of Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse and the fragile insecurity of the ill-fated (on and off screen) Vera Clouzot (the director’s wife), three points in a troubling triangle of murder, deception, religious fear and cynical manipulation. Perhaps not the most ideal film with which to commemorate the one you’re married to, but a beautifully scary and entertaining 100 minutes at the movies nonetheless, and best of all Patty loved it.

So, on this, the very day of her birth some 26 or so years ago (plus or minus five, I’d say), I just want her to know that if I could I’d be Ewan McGregor in a tux for her, and she wouldn’t have to be Renee Zellweger in a pillbox hat, or Claudia Cardinale, or Eva Mendes, or Jennifer Tilly, or any of the other cinematic beauties routinely celebrated within these virtual pages. Who she is, well, that’s most certainly enough for me. She’s the beauty and the brains from which all the rest of the beauty and brains in my life have sprung. That’s always been all I’ve wanted, and it continues to be. May our days together still be many, my dear, wherever and however they are spent. Happy birthday to you, sweetheart. I love you. Let’s go to dinner and the movies more often.



Patricia said...

My most beloved hubby, this post may be my best birthday present ever (in my 68 years of living-- which my 8-year-old guessed was my age). Second best was the wonderful dinner and the cinematic introduction to a wacky and genius French madman long dead, at the best movie theater in the world. You made what I thought would be my worst b-day into one of my best. Despite the fact I swooned to the pic of Ewan, you are the tops, the most handsome, most talented, sweetest man, and I would never tranquilize then drown you, and I'm the luckiest dame.

Sheila O'Malley said...

Beautiful. Brought a lump to my throat. And Patricia's comment too. She is one "lucky dame"!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Aw, you dames! Can I take the tux off now? It don't fit!

Sheila, see you at the Film Noir Blog-a-thon next week! What are you writing about?

steveswanson said...

what a great birthday present.

Peet Gelderblom said...

You guys are just about the sweetest couple I know. Lovely piece, Dennis. Then again, it must have been easy to write with such a lovely wife!