Moving People: Capturing Humanity on Film

Image of guest blogger Maureen Batty

By Maureen Batty

Part of what appeals about movies is watching someone else grasp the human experience. Two films quickly came to mind when I first considered the idea for this piece.

In the Oscar-winning film “As Good as it Gets” (1997), Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson) — who struggles with what seems to be a form of high-functioning autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder — returns to his psychiatrist’s waiting room and says to those sitting there, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

I love how Nicholson’s character has that moment of clarity many of us have — when we realize that as much work as we do on ourselves, we will probably never best all of our flaws and will be forced to accept what our lives might look like in light of that revelation.

In the Adam-Sandler-does-serious vehicle “Spanglish,” mother-in-law Cloris Leachman matter-of-factly tells her daughter (played by Tea Leoni), “Lately, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”

The 2004 movie wonderfully deflates the assumption that self-esteem is a right no matter how badly we behave or treat others. Tea Leoni’s surprised “I’m the problem when I expected to be comforted?” reaction is awesome. That line reminds me of “I’m the bad guy?” — when Michael Douglas’s that’s-the-last-straw-of-life’s-inconveniences, rampage-going character in “Falling Down” (1993) realizes he’s the problem.

For our continuing series on the collision of arts and human nature, I asked three very different people to tell me about a movie scene or quote that struck them as brilliantly placing its “finger” on the pulse of human nature. Two of our sources went for the nature of love, one for the nature of morality; all of them moved me to put their movies in our family’s Netflix queue.

Here’s what they had to say:

Rebecca Thomas, Miami

Rebecca Thomas art

“You don’t know about real loss, ‘cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.”

– Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) in “Good Will Hunting”

Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting

Robin Williams and Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting” © Miramax Films

It’s hard to beat Robin Williams when it comes to delivering memorable and poignant lines that encapsulate human nature, whether it was William’s portrayal of John Keating in “Dead Poets Society,” the genie in “Aladdin” or the title character in “Patch Adams.” Over the course of his career, Williams’ characters provided such an overwhelming amount of unforgettable lines and sentiments that it’s nearly impossible to choose just one.

And, yet, the line above from “Good Will Hunting” has stuck with me for reasons I didn’t realize would be applicable to my life at the time I heard it spoken in 1997, at the mere age of 25.

The concept of basic humanity and how love factors into our own individual human experience are essentially, well, conceptual in our younger years. As children and developing adults, our definition of love is overwhelmingly unrealistic and egocentric: We love to get something in return, or to accomplish a goal set forth in our minds, or because we expect to be loved. However, as we grow and experience love in all of its various forms — religious, romantic, familial, platonic, et al. — the concept becomes much more realistic and tends to be shaped more by how we love, whom we love and what our capacity is to continue loving, despite the losses we may experience as a result of having loved other, imperfect humans.

The ability to carry on despite the losses and learn to love in new and different ways, in my opinion, is the very nature of what it means to be human.

Rebecca Thomas by day is a marketing manager for a commercial real estate company in Miami, Fla. By night, she does flat-fee web and graphic design for Backpocket Marketing Group.  The yoga, reading, movie, wine, music, and fantastic food enthusiast cares deeply about autism awareness.

Tracy Cox, San Francisco

 

Tracy Cox artOne recent film that I loved not only as one of the best genre films of the last decade but as one of the best films period in that time frame is Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008). The premise of the film itself is a study in human nature.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne struggles with trying to do the right thing as a crime fighter while dealing with the huge ripple effects he has created as a vigilante. Regular civilians, inspired by his actions, imitate him, and get killed for it. He breaks laws he wants upheld. He creates his own surveillance state, convincing himself the ends justify the means. And of course, Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as The Joker is the psychopathic antithesis to Batman.

Two of the film’s scenes that put their finger on the pulse of human nature have always stuck in my head:

Christian Bale and Michael Caine in "The Dark Knight" © Warner Bros.

Christian Bale and Michael Caine in “The Dark Knight” © Warner Bros.

In the first, Bruce Wayne is trying to understand the motives of The Joker. Michael Caine (as Bruce Wayne’s butler) explains that not everyone has a logical thought process. He tells the story of a jewel thief who couldn’t be caught for months. Eventually, they found he had been throwing the jewels away. He says:

“Some men can’t be reasoned, bought or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

In the second, the Joker has outfitted two boats with huge amounts of explosives — one boat is filled with convicts, the other with normal citizens. Each has the detonator for the other boat. The scenes shifts back and forth between the boats as time counts down. On the boat filled with convicts, one of the toughest grabs the detonator and refuses to use it. On the citizen boat, a business-type guy takes the detonator, wants to use it, but can’t do it. So there are the most violent in society ­— understanding exactly what that violence is and will do, refusing to take part. And then there are the citizens; they really want to save themselves by doing something horrible, but they just can’t cross the line.

Tracy Cox is a graphic designer (krop.com/tracycox) and artist (tracycox.com) who loves movies and basketball and is addicted to “The Twilight Zone” and “The Simpsons.” He also likes to create music on his laptop (soundcloud.com/quphonic) and practice martial arts. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and “one cool cat named Neo.”

Ken Barnes, Washington, D.C.

Ken Barnes Art

(Spoiler alert:  If you’ve never seen “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the Oscar-winning 2008 Brad Pitt movie based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, you should seriously consider watching the film, viewing the trailer, or reading the book before reading further.)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

A scene near the end — if there is an “end” — of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” includes this voice-over narration of Benjamin’s letter to his daughter, who never knew him:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

This is a movie full of impactful scenes, and this one in particular is heart-wrenching because it invokes that “stranger in a strange world” feeling that we all feel time to time (or all the time, if one thinks too much).

The scene with the voice-over also ties together many affecting aspects of the movie:  the shock of learning long-concealed secrets; the life-altering impact of happenstance (Daisy getting hit by a taxi after a chain of small circumstances are traced, Daisy being too busy and self-centered to connect with Benjamin until they are closer in age); the heartbreaking helplessness of dementia (in reverse, as Benjamin grows very young); and the redemptive power of selfless devotion (Queenie, the woman whose doorstep Benjamin’s father leaves him on, caring for the “old” helpless Benjamin at the beginning of his life, even though she doesn’t know him; Daisy caring for the “young” helpless Benjamin, who can’t remember her, at the end of his life).

It’s a surreal fantasy story, but underneath the dramatic plot beats the pulse of humanity: we all want what’s best for our children after we’re gone.

Ken Barnes is an aerospace engineer in suburban Washington, D.C.  He has a beautiful wife and daughter (both of whom are happily aging in the proper direction) and enjoys music, playing chess and tennis with his daughter and watching movies with his wife.

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Maureen Batty is a Detroit-based freelance writer, editor and lover of how human nature and the arts collide. www.liveloveedit.com.

Check out the first story in the series.

 

©Maureen Batty and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Maureen Batty and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Moving People: An Exploration of Inspiration and Human Nature

Image of guest blogger Maureen Batty

By Maureen Batty

Being deeply moved by the written word always seems like a bit of a hijacking.

I am comfortable, usually in my own home, when someone suddenly takes over my heart, my breath and that feeling in the pit of my stomach from an entirely different location — where the author first put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard.

It happened months ago when I read John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and cried so hard I thought I was pregnant.

It happened again just a week or two back when I was editing a gorgeous piece of writing that ended suddenly, perfectly and unassumingly with a man changing his mind. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? But the writer had so completely sucked me into this man’s firm mindset that when he surrendered it for the love of his child, I felt the importance of his change of mind.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Sometimes the effect isn’t heart-stoppingly dramatic but memorable. It happened when I was reading “Unbroken,” that incredible story of an Olympic athlete whose plane went down during World War II. Author Laura Hillenbrand just dropped the slightest mention of Edith Frank tending her infant daughter Anne Frank and I was absolutely enchanted by her way of providing context.

But it doesn’t have to be the written word; anything that puts a finger on the pulse of human nature — movies, music, photography, architecture, theater and even a television commercial or a comic strip — can take you completely away from your present moment, whether it lifts you up or weighs on your heart.

From time to time in this space, I hope to explore what moves people. To kick things off, I asked three very different people this question: When you think of how human nature and the arts collide, what inspires you?

Here is what they had to say:

Eno Laget

Strawberry by street artist Eno Legat

“I don’t think of collision, ever. It’s more like human nature and arts mixed is a colloid (I am suspended in a continuous phase of another component). Here, I am fog, or I am paint — body and spirit mixed by a source I cannot see, yet I know is real. I have been made and set into motion for a purpose I do not understand because my mind is too puny. Yet, I choose to believe in the driving force that created me for some duration that is beyond my control.

“I am foam rubber. No matter how often depressed, I return to my original form to be in service of my purpose. The tension of this continuous suspension is inspiring. Maintaining balance is a challenge I embrace. To be neither swallowed, nor spit out by the dominant culture until I wear out is the goal.”

Eno Laget is a Detroit-area street artist. He is featured in “Canvas Detroit” by authors Julie Pincus, Nichole Christian and 25 other inspired photographers and contributors. Eno Laget exhibited the above mixed-media image of a woman called Strawberry, who reportedly was killed for knowing too much, at Red Bull Creation in summer 2014.

Michelle Jimenez

Meghan-Trainor-All-About--Bass image

“These days, it’s Meghan Trainor’s song “All About That Bass.” This catchy, fun tune is an instant pick-me-up and an unexpected source of inspiration for a serious soul like me. Though the song encourages a positive body image for all, its message of self-acceptance helps ward off my never-ending and very human drive toward general perfection that goes beyond just trying to attain that perfect number on the scale. To name a few items on my list of elusive perfection: Perfectly clean house, perfectly fed, groomed and happy child and perfectly energetic and engaging wife.

“As a new and first-time mom, I’m still adjusting to the work-life balance, and I welcome any message out there that, after a day at the office, makes it a little easier not to cringe at our atrocious kitchen floor or beat myself up that my toddler’s sharp nails again didn’t get clipped before bed or that I won’t be able to keep my eyes open long enough to watch my husband’s and my favorite TV show. It’s all about that (self) acceptance.”

Michelle Jimenez is a wife, mom and professional communicator who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She most enjoys spending time with family and friends, romping around with her toddler and engaging in creative expression.

Tara Michener

Image of Tara Michener

“So many opportunities to grow, learn, change and develop exist in simple works of art. As humans we see ourselves in paintings, we express ourselves in crafting, we find ourselves in our ability to write a story.

“I specifically think of my own journaling and thought sketching and how my therapeutic creative writing details my own personal experiences from a fiction perspective.

“While human nature and the arts collide in many ways, I am most inspired when I speak to someone who shares their thoughts with me about how my children’s fiction has allowed their child to have a deeper perspective on bullying, diversity and/or self-esteem.”

A counselor, writer, consultant and more, Tara Michener of Novi, Mich., is the founder of “Professionals Against Bullying,” which supports those who have been affected by relational, social and physical aggression. She adores her husband and son, and enjoys running.

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Maureen Batty is a Detroit-based writer, editor and lover of how human nature and the arts collide.

Learn more about Maureen at www.liveloveedit.com.

Inspired to share your own thoughts on the topic human nature and arts?

We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

©Maureen Batty and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Maureen Batty and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 2014

Summer 1975 – Part 3: Leeches, Love and Swim Lessons

 “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
Maya Angelou

The lights already were dimmed, the cartoon was over, and the seats were scarce when we arrived. My dad took up position in the front of the theater, my brother went off somewhere to my left. I settled into position with a bucket of popcorn and a white cardigan to keep me warm. It was my first time sitting alone in a theater. I was excited, nervous, and then “Jaws” began.

Chrissie runs naked into the ocean with a boy in the distance. She gracefully kicks her legs, enjoying the freedom of the sea, as the music becomes more ominous. Then her body jerks. Something is very wrong; and then, well, it only gets worse.

“Jaws” ruined any chance I would learn to swim that summer but that was OK. Running through sprinklers with friends from school, riding my bike, hanging out with family, and seeing movie after movie at the Fox and Mercury theaters made everything all right with me, for a while.

Freckles, big smiles, and that he lived in far away Connecticut with his new family pretty much sums up what I knew about my grandfather. When my parents announced we would get to fly on an airplane without them and there would be kids our own ages, I was all for a short summer adventure to see him. How exciting it was when the stewardess stuck the American Airlines pin to my shirt and I watched as the city became ever smaller.

What I most remember about the drive up the road to Grandpa Joe’s ramshackle house was the smell of asphalt, the way it burned my nostrils and turned my stomach, as workers paved the road for the first time. Waiting for us outside the house were a few of Grandpa’s children; at first stoic and cautious, they soon became eager to show us where we would sleep and play. The very next morning, the trip became less than an exciting reunion.

“I can’t do anything with this,” she said. Despite my protests, she grabbed the shears and cut off my long braids. Tears fell as I watched clumps of my hair fall to the wood floor.

The offending barber went by Twinkie, though her name was Sarah. Only a few years my senior, Twinkie was the middle of five of Grandpa’s “other” children. Darryl and I were the same age, Lisa a year older. Grandpa and his wife, Betty, had three older children as well. One strung out on drugs, who sat in the living room staring at the floorboards and two others who no longer came around. They also fostered two teenagers, George, who was a little slow, and Joseph.

“It’s a funny color anyway,” Lisa said of my hair. As if given permission, Twinkie kept on cutting.

More than anything, Grandpa seemed to prize his guns, his hogs, and his hounds. Perhaps his sons, those that were his blood, were valued somewhere on his list; yet I imagine they ranked fairly low. At night, Grandpa took the boys hunting for raccoon, bear, and whatever else he could scare up. By day his wife — for some reason we called her Aunt Betty — beat Joseph and George with switches for whatever offense she could dream up and hollered at us kids to serve her in some manner.

A city girl whose food came from the grocery store or outdoor market, I wanderBlack-and-Tan-Coonhound-2ed the potato fields trying to fathom how they grew, befriended the many dogs and cats that roamed the property and climbed the fence each day to say good morning to the two large hogs penned up just out of sight of the house. I learned a lot while I was there, like pop is called soda in most of the country. I learned how folks kill snapping turtles; and how, when you cut off their heads, their eyes scan the area looking for their still-wandering bodies. I learned to make blueberry milk with real blueberries stolen from a neighbor’s bush and that pickle juice was the closest I would get to my mother’s fresh-squeezed lemonade. And I learned I could not eat the bacon and chops from the freshly killed hog I had petted and named.

Despite Grandpa’s attempts, though, I did not learn to swim. His first attempt was at a community swimming pool. I don’t recall the ride there or the ride home, only that I was content to sit on the edge with my legs dangling coolly in the clear waters while everyone else splashed about.

“What do you mean you can’t swim?” Grandpa hollered. Someone had replaced the smiling man with a large, blustering red-faced man with a booming voice. “You’re going to learn this summer,” he declared, and then he pushed me in.

Slowly, I sank to the bottom as bubbles like cheap green crystal rose to the surface. There I sat, watching Grandpa’s boots motionless at the edge above me. I dared not move, lest he push me in again. Then there was a churning and a parting of the waters and I was being pulled out of the pool. It was Joseph. Later that afternoon, I heard Joseph’s cries as Aunt Betty beat him with a stick.

My parents called sometime after that, asking if I were having a good time. Twinkie pressed her ear to the other receiver to hear my response. Whether it was there or not, I saw the threat in her eyes and said, “yes.” My parents extended the visit another two weeks.

Grandpa’s second attempt at getting me to swim was at a local swimming pond. We kids poured out of the pick-up like trash being dumped. Most ran straight for the water but Joseph picked me up and hid me behind a blueberry bush near the edge of the woods. Soon, kids came running from the water screeching for help. Leeches were stuck to their arms, legs, and backs.

“It’s good for you,” Grandpa declared, hushing their cries before he burning off the bloodsuckers.

Later, when the deed was doniStock_000014855214_Smalle and everyone piled back in the truck, Joseph came back, kissed me on the forehead, and called me, “Sister.” Whether Aunt Betty beat him for helping me or for being in her presence I will never know, only that Joseph knew it would happen and he protected me anyway.

Joseph and I wrote letters for a while; but after a few months, his stopped coming. My mom said he ran away and joined the army. Now, when someone talks of love and courage, I think of Joseph.

“That’s what love does — it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end. When you go after something you love, you’ll do anything it takes to get it, even if it costs everything.”
Bob Goff, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

Missed the first two stories in this series? Read Summer 1975 – Part 1 and Summer 1975 – Part 2

© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Summer 1975 – Part 2: The Barbie Doll Trial

Have you ever witnessed children whose energy is so contagious you cannot help but soak up their joy? They sing and bounce happily in their seats in the grocery cart; they smile and wave at passersby because a returned smile is all the affirmation they need that all is right in tiStock_000000869552_Smallhe world. I was that child. I skipped down the street to Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” or “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”  But then something changed.

I’m not sure who appointed the judges and jury or how I came to sit in the defendant’s corner on the Lee brothers’ front porch. Yet there I was, standing trial for “doing it” with David, the 10-year-old boy next door.

A wise-faced high-school kid pounded his makeshift gavel, calling court to order. First up was Angela, who eagerly provided her testimony. “I stopped because I heard them doin’ it,” she said. I wondered how she could lie so easily, so convincingly. She kept going, “Then I looked in the window and saw David on top of Leslie. They were naked. They were doin’ it.” The other kids giggled.

As David stood to give his testimony, a hush overwhelmed the children. They listened as he detailed horrifying particulars of how we “did it,” describing events I did not believe possible. I wasn’t that girl. Sure, I liked boys but I didn’t even kiss them — not yet. My stomach tossed and churned as I searched for someone in the crowd who would come to my defense; yet no one did.

“Get up,” I thought. “You don’t have to stay here for this. This isn’t real. Get up and go home.” The path was clear.

All I had to do was stand up and walk across the porch past the potted flowers and the kids with their biting grins, get down the stairs, down the street and back to my home where Snoopy and Teddy the Bear where waiting for me in my purple room.

But my friends were not my only betrayers that day, my body turned against me as well. Root bound, I remained planted on my concrete perch like a tree jutting from the sidewalk of Manhattan. I looked to the judge, a large boy with warm eyes that seemed to say, “I’m sorry but this is the justice system and you are a necessary victim of it.”

“I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Finally, I got my chance to speak. “They were dolls,” I said unconvincingly. “David was playing with the dolls.” And that was all. Why? Fear of public speaking, fear of what the other kids would think if I said something wrong?

More testimony poured forth from indistinct forms and voices ominous. Each child’s words are vapors to me now, just cookie-cutter lies the collective was anxious to devour. The trial lasted Payback. Internet Concept.either ten minutes or four hours after that before the jury — comprised of some older children whom I now assume were acting out their high school civics lessons — gathered to deliberate. As they pondered, something occurred to me: David and Angela set me up. This was revenge for his missing teeth.

Before I could speak up, however, the jury declared they had a verdict. When I replay the scene even now, I see myself refusing to stand, arms folded across my chest, when the boy-judge called my name. “You have been found guilty,” he said, “by a jury of your peers.”

I did not cry or scream of my innocence, then. It was done. Instead, I went home and played on the swings in my backyard, played HORSE with my brother, and put the Barbie’s back in the closet where they belonged. Still, I took the verdict to heart. Obviously, I did something wrong, I thought. It wasn’t until years later that I came to understand silence is a form of acceptance. I was guilty, alright, guilty of inaction.

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”

— Albert Einstein

The world we navigate as adults is not much different from the playground or the school lunchroom. There are bullies, liars, vengeance seekers, and the lemmings that follow them. There are also confidants and earthly protectors. I met the latter when my parents shipped us off to see our grandfather.

Missed the first story in this series? Read Summer 1975 – Part 1: Kung Fu Fighting

Read “Summer 1975 – Part 3”

© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Summer 1975 – Part 1: Kung Fu Fighting

“Jaws,” Jimmy Hoffa, and the Barbie doll trials: That was 1975, the year I learned to pretend to let go.

Pretending, of course, was a skill I had been honing since toddlerhood when I was queen of the hill and the class bully my serf, when Brussels sprouts were Martian heads and I did the earth a service by devouring them, when a car wash was the belly of an angry sea monster and I lived to tell of its defeat. I was a master fantasizer, a fiction writer in training. I was imaginative and precocious. Most of all I was content, and then summer came.

It started well enough: Temperatures were conducive to plenty of driveway kickball games, front yard TV tag, and backyard chicken with friends on the jungle gym. My brother and I got along better than usual: Meaning, neither of us was trying to kill the other. In fact, I was his secret weapon on the football field (aka our backyard). I was fearless, fast, and fairly strong, not at all like the typical girl, which was good. Calling me “typical” was as bad to me as me calling the dog a “little m—-f—’er” was to my parents. But one day, the game was a bit rougher than usual and resulted in the injury of one of my neighbors.file7841289514020

I say this in the passive (“resulted in”) as if I had nothing to do with it. Perhaps I was over-exuberant. Perhaps it was time for his baby teeth to fall out. Perhaps he should have sucked it up and not cried in front of everyone, again. Or, perhaps his mother should have held her tongue. Still, I question the cause and effect and feel the need to assign blame.

Here are the highlights as I recall them: David* — the youngest of two, older, playboy brothers and two sisters — had the football and running swiftly toward the goal. My brother told me to get him; so I leaped, surprising myself by knocking David face first into the dirt. But there was no rejoicing in my victory. Instead, David sobbed miserably as he unfolded himself from the earth. As he raised his hand to his mouth, someone howled David’s front teeth were gone. The boy’s sobs grew louder, and it wasn’t long before his mother came running from the house.

She surveyed the damage, asking David what happened. When he mumbled something only a mother could decipher, she looked at each of us accusingly until her eyes settled on me. Then things got worse. For all the neighborhood boys to hear, she declared: “You can’t play with Leslie anymore. She’s too rough for you.”

It was the 1970s, and we were in Detroit. Machismo was rampant. KC and the Sunshine fordBand’s “Get Down Tonight” topped the charts; President Ford declared America done with the Vietnam war and survived his second assassination attempt; Carlos the Jackal attacked OPEC; and “Three Days of the Condor,” “Rollerball,” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” were a few of the year’s top films. Men were called dudes and “Man” prefaced or ended every sentence. “Man, did you see that dude down at the car wash? He seemed a little light on his feet, man.” Or, “Man, that dude was Mac, man. He was pimping that ride.”

So, you see, David was humiliated. He was punked by a girl, a very small girl.

My scant friendship with David ended that day on our imaginary football field with him running head down into the house and his mother giving us one last reproachful glance. But it would not be my last interaction with the boy next door.