Trainwreck

A Review of Trainwreck, From a Girl Who Actually Lost Her Father to M.S.


My dad wasn’t a tough talking, Mets-loving, “drinker”. He was rather soft-spoken most of the time, a Yankee fan, and I can’t ever recall seeing him take a drink. I don’t know that I could qualify as a train wreck. My sexual tally is probably not as high, I’ve never smoked anything, and I’ve probably never had more than 5 drinks in one night (except when I lived in Scotland for a year… because that’s what you do in Scotland). But I can relate to Amy Schumer’s masterpiece Trainwreck more than the average viewer, and I thank her for that.

For basically my entire life my dad battled with Multiple Sclerosis. I could have phrased that as “suffered from” or “struggled,” but it was a vicious war from the very beginning, as he was a mighty opponent. Sure, the enemy was subtle in its tactics – numbing his feet, shooting pain throughout his body, weakening the vision in his eye – but make no mistake, it was a war. Maybe there wasn’t a lot that could be discerned from the surface, aside from his gait, his hunched posture, an angle that decreased in degrees with years if not months, or the cane that he used to walk, because he refused to use a wheelchair until he had literally no choice. He was always afraid that kids would just think he was a clumsy drunk. Being an art teacher, he hated for students to catch him vulnerable.

A year after I moved to New York, to start graduate school, my dad suffered a massive heart attack. I was at work, at a fancy museum gift shop helping with inventory, when my sister texted me that something wasn’t right with him; he was having trouble breathing. I couldn’t bear to say anything to my supervisor – himself a middle-aged man who had just mentioned an appointment he had to get on a treadmill and have his heart tested. I got through the day, crossed the street and walked up alongside Central Park West, terrified. No matter what was wrong with my dad, I knew it wouldn’t be good.

When I was in first grade he had a grand mal seizure at the breakfast table. From what I remember, he was at the table with my mother, and my sister and I were in her bedroom, down the hall. I have a blurry memory of seeing my mom hold my dad’s arm as he jerked around in a chair. I have a distinct memory of my mother shouting to us to call 911. Of course, I was maybe 6, it was all very traumatic, and it happened fast. I don’t remember paramedics arriving, I don’t know if my mom went with him, or what happened with us while he was gone.

I remember hanging out on our patio when he came home, and that he seemed most afraid of scaring us. Somehow I knew, even at that age, that most of all our dad didn’t want to scare us. He was worried that we would view him differently, that we would be afraid of him. I don’t think we were. We just wanted him to be better, and even as a little kid, it sucks to know that you can’t do anything. And with a disease as mysterious as Mutliple Sclerosis, when nobody can really do anything, well imagine what that does for a kid’s sense of reassurance.

I can recall some other times my dad was sick before the divorce. With the diagnosis of M.S. came new medications and treatments, a lot of which have unpleasant side effects. It was unusual for my dad to be home during the day – he worked a lot as an illustrator for newspapers and in freelance. Seeing him home, and sick, was very odd. He didn’t want us to see him vomiting but I could hear him.

After a while he returned to work and immersed himself in so much medical information that he probably could have been a doctor. My dad went through every “ABC” drug. He even began going to a local support group for M.S. that he ended up leading. I know that couldn’t have been easy for him. Softie that he was, talking about emotions with anyone, let alone strangers, was not easy for him. I only saw him cry a few times in his life; when he found out his only brother had cancer, and then again after his heart attack when he was terrified of death.

SPOILER ALERT

Just like in the movie, with Amy’s dad, death struck without warning in our story. After a person suffers the trauma of a heart attack, in a body already ravaged by M.S., you could imagine that 24 hour care is essential. Surviving the essential reparative surgeries on his heart, we knew the road ahead would be difficult. He kept getting sick – various infections, fevers, confusion – they even told us he had early signs of dementia. Well no shit. What do you think happens when you have scar tissue in your brain? It finally came to a point when we had to say enough was enough. Do you know how fun it is to have a young female doctor, probably your age or younger, look at you with concern as you tell her to “just make him comfortable”? It was more fun when I asserted that no priests or other such religious people were allowed near my father. The mere sight of someone like that would surely alert him to end times, and I didn’t want him to have any stress.

All my dad had was two young daughters – me, 27, trying to stick out on my own in the big city, and my sister 28, in town and doing the best she could to deal with emotions and the endless barrage of medical terminology, bills and legalities. When he first entered his care facility, we kept up the illusion that he would return home. I had fantasies of somehow finding a way to be able to afford at home care. Of course our meager resources were quickly devoured by the medical care system. The condo had to be sold. I spent my month off between summer classes and the fall semester packing up his possessions.

Years before, our dad had to put his father in a home because he had Alzheimers and needed surveillance. He had been living with our dad in his condo until we were afraid that he would set the place on fire. It killed him to watch his father die, especially in a care facility. He always asked us to promise not to put him in such a place. There is guilt there that I will never get over.

The place where he settled could had been much worse. It could have been cleaner for my liking – the food could have been more whole, plant-based, and nutritious than the decrepit junk they served. But most of the nurses were genuinely caring, and they even let our dad have a corner of a recreational room for one of his giant easels. But by the time he wheeled himself down the hall, with his repurposed briefcase full of paint tubes, and got set up, he would fall asleep, slumped in his chair. He never did finish that final painting.

I did my best to put on a brave face when I went to see him. In the year or so he was there I did a lot of crying in transit. While driving, on the subway, on an interstate bus. The great thing about crying in New York city, say in line for a bus at 5am behind Port Authority, is that nobody gives a shit. In fact it’s almost like everyone silently understands. I highly recommend it.

The people that didn’t seem to understand were my peers. The shiny, bright, happy graduate students I was surrounded by, had no idea what I was going through. How terrified I was every time my phone made a noise.

For a lot of people who see Trainwreck, they’ll think it’s just funny, maybe even empowering how Amy Schumer would portray a young woman who is always out for a good time. For those of us who have used the cloak of a good time to mask the really really bad time we are truly having, it makes more sense. I once had a guy I was sort of seeing, look me in the face and ask me why I had to be “so crazy”. Good question. He had no idea what I was going through, and I’m sure didn’t genuinely care, but couldn’t begin to understand. Another winner, an actual boyfriend, new little of my father’s plight, and one night when I finally broke down and talked to him about it, which felt like littering in his hygienic, carefully curated Brooklyn world, he reacted as if I had told him that I didn’t get the lead in the school play or something.

In the movie, when Amy finds Aaron, and is confronted for the first time by a guy with a heart, she doesn’t know what to do. It’s a beautiful storyline, and I at least won’t ruin that for you, but it did leave me a tad resentful. I didn’t have someone like that by my side when my father died. I didn’t even have any friends at the gathering we held, in lieu of a funeral. I did have that bartender, though, at the karaoke bar in the East Village, who gave me a kiss on the cheek upon leaving way after all of my friends left. Oh, and I had sporadic booty calls to bask in the glow of (declined, thank you very much) from the guy who called me crazy.

I find it interesting that Schumer would choose to have her dad die in the movie when in real life he is still kicking. I can’t help but think that she is trying to prepare herself. I tried to prepare myself for most of my life, and it was pointless. But I didn’t have a film contract, or Bill Hader, so maybe she’ll have better luck.

Just like a microcosm of life, this movie truly made me laugh really hard and cry really hard, at some points simultaneously. It wasn’t flawless, but it struck a deep nerve. Right through the myelin (that’s an M.S. joke, people). I could be pissed with Amy for going ahead and taking my idea for a movie about a gal with daddy issues, but I don’t begrudge her. Just like the song used during one of the montages, Wilco’s Please Be Patient With Me, I feel like this movie offers people insight on how to deal with broken people. We can’t control the events that shape us, especially the ones early on. But we can choose what we do with the shape that results – even if it’s lumpy, has crooked fingers and transparent skin (all metaphors. Definitely just metaphors).

It feels silly to admit, but Amy gives me hope. She uses her pain to entertain others, and to create her success. I’ve got a surplus of pain and I am eager to make use of it. She also gives me hope for finding someone compassionate and willing to explore a mess rather than run from it. But I still refuse to dance to impress anyone. Especially to Uptown Girl. Everybody knows the best Billy Joel song is We Didn’t Start the Fire. (Just kidding, it’s totally A Matter of Trust.)

We’re coming to the edge, Running on the water

Last week I watched Working Girl again, and was pleased to discover that it had an original theme song, created by Carly Simon. The track plays over the ending credits, but if you pay well attention, you can notice it as a motif throughout the movie.  I’m not a big Carly Simon fan by any means, but the song, and the fact that it is hers, fits so perfectly with the late 80s style of the entire work. It really is a masterful slice of life for career women of that time.

And the guitar player looks like Judge Harry Stone from Night Court!

Somehow this won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1989. Even more incredible: “”Let the River Run” is the first of only two songs to have won all three major awards (Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy) while being composed and written, as well as performed, entirely by a single artist – the other being “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen from Philadelphia” (Wikipedia).

It is a perfectly corny song, that left me wishing that more films had such companion music. When did Hollywood stop taking soundtracks seriously?! Then it got me to thinking about other supporting character roles the Staten Island Ferry has played in music videos. What came to mind first? Madonna of course!

Madge dedicated this song to Pope John Paul II, who called for Italians to boycott her Who’s That Girl World Tour in 1987.

Classic. I remember watching this video as a kid and more than anything just fearing for Madonna on those stone steps that are missing a railing.

Surprisingly to me, the only other work I could find that was filmed on the Staten Island Ferry was this much newer work called “All Day” by Girl Talk.

It doesn’t do much for me, perhaps because I know they basically just morphed the song “Tenderness” by General Public. Also, if a girl like the one in the video was near me, dancing on a boat, she better be able to swim. To cleanse your palate:

Too bad there isn’t a companion music video for Trainwreck, set on the ferry.

Set Me Free

I think Robyn’s inspiration is pretty clear.

Free free set them free…

Shine sweet freedom, shine your light on me…

It’s sad that this is where my brain goes.

IN WHICH A PERSON CONTINUES TO LONG FOR ERAS SHE DID NOT LIVE THROUGH, VINTAGE ROLLING STONE MAGAZINES PART 8

The 1981 issues may not have yielded much, but they did offer these gems:

1Elviscountrified

September 17, 1981

2standbyyourman

National Reno Gay Rodeo?! I feel like Rolling Stone used to be so much more progressive. Now the only suggestive content is tawdry pornified dreck like the recent Kardashian cover, which pales in comparison to this Brokeback Mountain precursor!

3stevienicks

Stevie Nicks on the September 3rd, 1981 issue.

4Pretenders2ad

I wish I had been able to see The Pretenders.

6pretendersareforreal

5pinkoveralls

If these pink overalls were mass produced, where have they all gone to? Why can’t I find a vintage pair!?

8seanandyoko

Sean and Yoko

9alicecooper

Alice Cooper just being himself.

10jockeyad

Jeans briefs! Sounds comfy.

12keif

Keif. No regrets. November 12, 1981.

11hallandoates

clap-clap

13belzer

Richard Belzer before mostly being known as a tv cop.

14andyandchrissie

Andy Kaufman and Chrissie Hynde! Brought together thanks to the magic of the TV show Fridays.

15Princead

An intense Prince ad.

16pretenders

Chrissie Hynde serving face. In awe of that eyeliner and fringe game.

17U2ad

I wish that was all that stood between me and Bono. Rawr.

18zappa

Zappa. Go for the good stuff.

19Pettyad

Tom might not be traditionally good-looking, but I could fall for that.

20reaganeating

Isn’t this disgusting? I hate watching people eat, generally, but Reagan takes it to another level of yuck.

21Pettycover

Petty, fighting the good fight!

22GEsmith

G.E. Smith!

23bruceskating

February 5, 1981. Bruce looks cold.

24bruceboardwalk

Nary a man can rock sideburns like Bruce could.

25brucecloseup

26dolly

Dolly!

27beegeesblondie

I love this because somebody added their opinion to these two acts.

28GildaGE

One of the best couples of all time, Gilda Radner and G.E. Smith.

29Lennon

I’d love to see John Lennon having a “hard day with the baby”.

30firstfamilygilda

I need to see this!!!!!

31Lennonthrowingshade

One of the best pictures of John Lennon ever. Throwing shade at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who according to Mia Farrow, was a total creep.

32lennonlounging

It’s so interesting to see icons doing even mundane things.

33strummerandmick

Joe Strummer just being the most.

34elvistrustad

Ad for Elvis’s Trust album.

35andykaufman

Andy Kaufman earning his keep.

Coincidence? I think not.

While driving and enjoying a little Tom Petty yesterday it dawned on me how similar part of “Freefallin'” is to a part of a Belle and Sebastian song “Judy and the Dream of Horses”.

Exhibit A: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Freefallin'”

The third verse includes:

“And all the bad boys, are standing in the shadows

All the good girls, are home with broken hearts”

Exhibit B: Belle and Sebastian, “Judy and the Dream of Horses” 

The fourth verse includes:

“the best looking boys are taken

the best looking boys* are staying inside”

*(i could have sworn it was girls, but their official site says boys. I wouldn’t be surprised if they change it a lot.)

Now obviously Tom Petty’s classic was written a lot earlier than the Belle and Sebastian tune. It was the opening track on his 1989 solo album (his first). Judy and the Dream of Horses was on Belle and Sebastian’s 1996 album If You’re Feeling Sinister.

There’s also the horse similarity. Judy and the Dream of Horses; and Tom Petty’s girl loves horses.

If I didn’t know any better I’d say that Stuart Murdoch was inspired by Tom Petty. Luckily to good results.

IN WHICH A PERSON CONTINUES TO LONG FOR ERAS SHE DID NOT LIVE THROUGH, VINTAGE ROLLING STONE MAGAZINES PART 7

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June 7, 1973. The height of technology.

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Daltrey, piercing even in black and white. (June 7, 1973)

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The Master of Erotic Despair, Leonard Cohen. Dayyyum. (June 7, 1973)

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Utterly classic. Ad from June 21st issue, 1973.

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Maybe these hip people are listening to Bowie on their Hear Muffs!!! (June 21, 1973)

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“A young man’s search for the things that everybody wants.” (July 5, 1973)

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More like hot Mid-Western, amiright? (Dylan is from Minnesota…too much of a stretch? July 5, 1973)

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Glorious. (July 19, 1973)20150328_145820

Isaac. (July 19, 1973)

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George. (July 19, 1973)

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I’d like to wear that on the subway, next to a man spreader. (August 16, 1973)

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I had wondered about this. The oldest copies have not held up well, what with the folding. (August 30, 1973)

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Sleepy Van Morrison. (August 30, 1973)

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New York Dolls ad, August 30, 1973.

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Roberta. (September 13, 1973)

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I wonder how much praise the person who came up with this concept received.

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Maybe if I am ever famous I would shill for something, but only if I actually liked to product, and only if I could pose in an ad with it like this. (September 27, 1973)

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A timeless Ralph Steadman piece, September 27, 1973.

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Persistent pant campaign. (October 11, 1973)

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David Carradine serving major face. (October 25, 1973)

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Slumber party at Al Green’s house! (October 25, 1973)

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Liza Minnelli, Alice Cooper, and Ronnie Spector. How did the camera not combust?! (November 8, 1973)

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Crazy. (November 8, 1973)

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This accompanied a piece called “Hatboxes Full of Dreams” about beauty contests. I like that flashbulb quality image layered over a solid color. (November 8, 1973)

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Gimme Mick. (November 8, 1973)

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Bowie’s marketing and style presence really set the bar. (November 22, 1973)

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Also great design, though I don’t know about the cherub. Plus OVERALLS (November 22, 1973)

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Radical. (December 6, 1973)

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Could you imagine what would happen if 70s Lou Reed and Loudon Wainwright III got together? What would they talk about?

(December 6, 1973)

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I should research who designed ads for Apple Records. (December 6, 1973)

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I feel like that is a genuine smile on Diana’s face. (December 20, 1973)

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This goof again. How could I not? The colors, the colors! And the curls.  (December 20, 1973)

Apparently I jumped to 1982…

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Belushi and Aykroyd. Can we talk about the name Aykroyd? The more I look at it and say it in my head the stranger it seems.

dickies

I’ll tell you where you went wrong – you placed overalls in the past. Overalls are the present and the Future!

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Indeed.

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Again, not praising the actual product, just the design of the ad.

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Zappa babies.

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Diane Keaton is the coolest.

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Worlds are colliding! Joe is such a babe.

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Now that’s a dynamic layout.

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Damn. Sanity versus insanity.

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IN WHICH A PERSON CONTINUES TO LONG FOR ERAS SHE DID NOT LIVE THROUGH, VINTAGE ROLLING STONE MAGAZINES PART 6

Lest you think I’ve found better ways to spend my time, this little ongoing series of my adventures pillaging dusty old periodicals continues!

Terri Garr

Teri Garr is so cool. Also I want an applause sign (February 17, 1983).

dustin hoffman

I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Dustin Hoffman. (February 3, 1983)

bowie shark

Bowie shark.

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Ooh bad boy Petty tearin’ up currency (February 3, 1983).

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Petty tour ad from the January 6, 1983/December 23rd, 1982 double issue.

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Sigh. Elvis Costello also in that double issue.

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Jumping back to 1972 with this Bowie cover. Dig that headline.

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Now that, is a rock star. Same issue as above, November 9, 1972.

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November 9, 1972. I had no idea Martin Mull was ever so big. I think my only reference point for him was his stint on Roseanne. Which perhaps sells his career short, meaning no short shrift to the brilliance of Roseanne. He was annoying in that role though.

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Pardon the blur; I guess Bowie makes me unsteady. The caption: “Bowie in New York: “America is the loneliest place in the world”. January 18, 1973.

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Poco ad, January 4, 1973. Funny how once you discover something, it pops up in your life again.

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Certainly not just a children’s book author. January 18, 1973.

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Look at Zappa in that sweater vest. March 15, 1973.

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Poor Ronnie. March 15, 1973.

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I love illustrated ads. So rare these days. Also March 15, 1973.

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Words to live by. April 26, 1973.

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Trippy ol’ Todd, May 10, 1973.

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Kim Fowley, May 10, 1973.

And now, back to the 80s.

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How have I not seen this movie? August 19, 1982.

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Be still me heart. Joe Strummer. Same Tron issue.

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Worlds are colliding!

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I’ve got to keep up the Hall and Oates quota around here. November 11, 1982.

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Bittersweet. From the October 28, 1982 issue.

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Just a coupla cover boys. E.T. July 22, and Sly July 8, 1982.

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Laurie Anderson in that July 8th issue too.

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I couldn’t agree more.

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Ach. I love these two. June 24, 1982.

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I would’ve hit that. June 10, 1982. (Do people still use that phrase?)

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Let’s end this post on a high note. As high as the hemline of Brokaw’s shorty shorts:

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Developing

I was pretty lucky in my youth. As a teenager, when I began to show an interest in photography after a Saturday morning course at a school the next town over (and another class in a local community college), my dad bought me secondhand photo developing equipment. I set it up in the room of our house that used to serve as an in-law apartment. There was a sink, plenty of counter space and a closet that worked a charm as a darkroom.

I don’t think I was talented in photography. I might have an eye for composition, but the trickier aspects of the art – tweaking settings and dilutions of chemicals – didn’t hold my interest. Plus it’s a rather expensive hobby given the cost of the special paper and fluids, not to mention film itself. But to think back now on how my dad made that investment in an interest of mine is really profound for me. I’m not someone who excites easily. I think when he saw my interest in taking pictures, he was hoping it would last with a little support.

Anyway, I remember listening to this Aimee Mann song on repeat in that little workspace of mine. I had the Red Vines CD single, an import I think. All of this came to mind as I heard “Save Me” at the end of a show the other night. I’m not sure why I find this song so powerful. I don’t really believe that another person can save you. As Courtney Love said, “Nobody’s gonna pull up in a limousine and say they’re going to save you. That’s not how it happens. You save yourself from drowning, that’s how you do it”.

I think the tone of the song is what digs at something so deep inside me. Aimee sounds so forlorn, but even as she makes her plea to be saved, she doesn’t sound pathetic. It’s not begging. It’s almost like she’s daring the person to step out of himself and have anything to do with her.

Plus it’s always comforting to hear someone acknowledge the “ranks of the freaks,” and sort of validate how difficult it is to fit in or find people you really relate to. It’s a hell of a consolation prize if it means being in her company.*

 

* Though I wish I were truly in her company so I could get a little closer to that Ted Leo.

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My one fleeting moment with that vegan dreamboat.

They’re still there, he’s all gone

When these uber patriotic holidays roll around, I tend to think of this classic. Maybe it’s best I don’t go into my personal politics and stick to Bruce adoration.

The lyrics, for those who think it’s just a fun sing-a-long about pride:

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”

I had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.