James Finn: January 2009 Archives

zoom.jpgI can't tell the difference between one car over another.

Everyone is driving around in a repulsively overweight SUV (present company included) or some sort of gray smallish car. How the hell am I supposed to know who you are? Get a God damn "I Heart Nixon" bumper sticker that'll allow me to recognize which idiot you are.

There is one car that I'll never forget. My Mother's orange Volkswagen Squareback. At the time, that orange automobile = Mom. As far as I was concerned, it was quintessential Mom, one of a kind. When I saw it parked around town, I knew she wasn't far away.

Recently I came across a VW Squareback, an orange one. It was parked on a side street in Brooklyn.

Who lives here and what the hell are they doing with my Mother's car?

I was tempted to knock on the front door to the house, but I thought it was better to enjoy it from afar. A flood of memories came back to me.

One day, Mom asked me to paint her car. PAINT-HER-CAR. Holy cow! That sounded...important. At the time, I don't think my age hit the double digits yet. I felt privileged about the thought, and exhausted at the same time.

Little did I know that it was magic paint. Mom put food coloring and water in a big bucket, and handed it to me with a brush. So off I went to re-paint the car, in good spirits the whole time. Of course, what ever color I painted it, it always stayed the same carroty colored vehicle.

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newman I was a kernel of an employee on The Today Show at the time. He came on the show to promote a new film called MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. I remember just gawking at him, as he casually spoke with the segment producer and sauntered around eating fistfuls of grapes and sipping coffee in the green room. I wondered why I thought this old guy was so freakin' cool. When the Executive Producer walked in to welcome him back, Newman placed his paper coffee cup between his teeth, firmly shook little Jeffrey Zucker's hand and winked. What just happened? Who can pull that off at seven in the morning?

After his segment was over, I walked him out to his car. I had the urge to say something else to him, anything. I needed to tell my siblings and my parents that I actually spoke with Paul Newman. He put on his sunglasses and headed toward the revolving exit door to the NBC building out to his black sedan, and I said, "Nice glasses." He looked at me with a slight wrinkle in his brow and said, "Kid, I've had these things for forty years." And with that, he was gone.

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This is the story of Paul Sylvania. Paul lives alone in a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan, located a few blocks north of Columbia University on the Upper West Side. He spends his days nearby behind a counter at "Justin's Deli & More" making omelets, toasting bagels and pouring coffee for the typical ungrateful throng of New Yorkers that grab-and-go as they dash off to their own versions of a repetitive day.

His mornings never fail to start off the same way. He wakes up at 5:45am, takes a shower, gets dressed in a pair of dark slacks and a white button down shirt, then eats a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, all while the morning news is heard in the background being spit out by the local talking heads. After he brushes his teeth, he heads out the door to the establishment he has worked at for the last seven years.

On this Monday morning, he enters the deli and does one last thing for himself as part of his morning ritual; he opens his wallet to take one dollar bill out and places it on the counter near the New York Lottery machine. Justin Koehler, the owner, looks up at Paul and says, "feeling lucky today, Sylvania?" Paul responds with a sigh, "a dollar and a dream, right?" Paul enviously looks up at all the faded lottery tickets exclaiming the previous winners' earnings dangling above the lotto machine. While their intention is to encourage and excite future customers, Paul can only see it as a fat middle finger to him.

After getting his ticket, Paul carefully folds it into fours and places it in his wallet sandwiched between two twenty dollar bills. He then heads off to the grill to put on his apron.

Now, you might expect Mr. Sylvania to proceed through his day full of regret and boredom about his life. I would agree with that assumption, but that's where we would be wrong. Why wouldn't he be, right? He is exhausted by the end of every day and heads home with a consistent frown on his face and the smell of bacon on his shirt. For some reason, as soon as Paul puts that ticket in his wallet, between the two twenties, he comes alive. It's as if someone injected a large amount of caffeine in his system. Paul becomes an entertainer, occasionally bringing smiles to the regulars as he excitedly echoes their breakfast orders through a musical yell, "one scrambled egg white omelet with a side of turkey bacon coming right up" The people that are lined up to order their breakfast of choice begin to wonder how he will announce their order.

How did this happen? What are we missing in this story? Does he think he has a winning lottery ticket in his back pocket? We need to keep watching this man to find out more...

Here we are in his apartment on Tuesday morning, and we see a cereal bowl with a couple of remaining mushy cheerios making it's way around the milky shallow remains of Paul's breakfast. As we look up, we get a glimpse of him apathetically heading toward the door. As we follow Paul, he seems to be the same as he was yesterday morning. He enters the deli, and again takes out a dollar. We see a similar conversation with his boss, and again the folding of the ticket and the procession over to the grill to get his apron on and get to work. As he begins to head over to his work station, we see him skip. Yes, skip! Does he think he won the lottery again? Is this man a bit slow?


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by James Finn in January 2009.

James Finn: December 2008 is the previous archive.

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