As the saying goes, we all have good days and bad, and that’s I suppose as it should be. Without the bad, we wouldn’t know how good we’ve got it when things are going well. And often it’s through pain and disappointment that we hone our strength, our resolve and insight, and discover how resilient we can be.
I’d like to joke that this isn’t true, how it’s just some old saw, but it is. It really is.
This week, I was turned down for a job I really, really wanted, and received the rejection email at the perverse hour of 7:00 am. I wondered, is it too early for wine? I know this is small potatoes compared to the heartache many people are facing in the world. Heck, it’s but a gadfly of annoyance next to some of the travails me and mine have seen this past year. But even so, it stung.
On any given day, week or year, my ability to cope with bad days waxes and wanes like the tide. Usually I’m pretty buoyant, and I just keep on trucking. Rejection in all its forms is a reality of life, and perhaps especially the writing life. I know this to be true. I know persistence is the only viable response, and I know, too, that Stephen King was rejected dozens of times before Carrie was accepted for publication. These mantras usually carry me through, but the other day, none of it made much of an impression.
On rare days like that, when all else fails to cheer, I fall back on what Good Husband calls my Happy Movies. I’ll snuggle up on the couch in my jammies wearing my 1950s librarian glasses, often with that
bottle glass of wine, and lose myself in comedy. A friend recently reminded me that humor is often how we cope in the toughest circumstances, and he’s right. And that’s why comedy, and the capacity to laugh while in the jaws of hardship, is one of the most beautiful of all human qualities.
So whether your day is going swimmingly, or if you’re tempted to curl up on your own couch with your head tucked under a pillow, I’d like to share with you a sampling from my pantheon of Happy Movies.
To watch Cleavon Little ride into Rock Ridge astride his Gucci saddle, while Count Basie and His Orchestra play him on in full regalia amid the sagebrush, is to observe a thing of beauty. Mel Brooks takes aim at racism and general stupidity with what may look like a pearl-handled Colt revolver, but don’t be fooled; in this movie, Mel’s brought a Howitzer.
You might wonder how a thinly veiled indictment of Vietnam about surgeons and nurses in wartime Korea can be funny, but Robert Altman makes it happen. I always dissolve into snorts of mirth when Henry says, “Goddammit, Hot Lips, resign your goddamn commission!” And watching these characters find reasons to laugh amid the absurdity and violence of war always puts my own woes in their proper perspective.
The Blues Brothers
When I’m feeling like my life resembles crazy-stalker-jilted-fiancee Carrie Fisher’s “Curl Up & Dye” beauty salon, The Blues Brothers can be counted on to come to the rescue. I start to get ants in my pants when Jake orders two whole fried chickens and a Coke, and Elwood asks for dry white toast, because I know what’s coming. And when Aretha Franklin belts out “Think” with the diner patrons in her pink apron with gravy stains, even if I’ve got a fever of 102, I’m up and dancing.
The Princess Bride
Sometimes I forget, to my peril, that one should “never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but Vizzini in The Princess Bride always sets me straight. Wesley, Buttercup, Fezzik; I love them all. But my favorite, of course, is Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya. When he battles the Six-Fingered Man to avenge his father’s death, I don’t know whether to cry or cackle at his dogged refrain, “You killed my father…prepare to die!” Inigo is a lesson in tenacity and heart.
So, to the makers of these films, I salute you. You’ve seen me through many a dark day and reminded me that laughter really is the best medicine. Comedy shines a light in the darkness. And wine, too, of course. Definitely wine.
Does a good comedy pick you up when you’re feeling down? What are some of your favorite funny movies? What else cheers you when life deals you jokers? Share your stories with me.
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