I’ve Got A Few Recommendations. How About You?

During our vacation on Cape Cod in October, my wife and I poked around the cute town of Chatham one fine, sunny afternoon. While my much better half busied herself in the aisles of a store or two, I went into the Chatham Orpheum Theater to try and find out which films would grace its screens in the upcoming weeks. Thumbing through the theater’s brochures at the ticket counter, I overheard a conversation taking place between the guy behind that counter and a patron. They were discussing literature, and one of them mentioned Cacciato. Man, I’d heard of Cacciato, so I opened my trap and said so.

“Are you talking about Going After Cacciato, the novel by Tim O’Brien?” I asked them. The ticket seller gave me what I interpreted as one of those Huh, this asshole knows about Cacciato? looks, but I wasn’t offended. Anyway, it turns out that the two fellows mostly had been gushing over another of O’Brien’s works, The Things They Carried. They briefly told me about the book, which came out in 1990 and, like Going After Cacciato, was inspired by the time that O’Brien spent in 1969 and 1970 as a soldier in Vietnam. It sounded intriguing. “Do you want me to write down the name for you?” the ticket seller asked. Indeed I did, and so he did. Into my wallet the slip of paper went.

Not long after I got back from vacation I borrowed The Things They Carried from a local library. I finished it last week. And I have to say that the gents were right. A series of interconnected, semi-fictional stories about the Vietnam War (pre, during and post), the work impressed me. It doesn’t glorify war, doesn’t dwell on battles. What it mainly does is lay on the table the emotions and mindsets of people attempting to deal with potential, immediate and imaginary dangers. You’ll find the good, the bad and the ugly in this book. And also the mysterious and the truly touching. In the best of the stories, O’Brien’s words come at you like the blows of a patient, precise boxer. Clearly, I recommend The Things They Carried.

Recommendations. There are a few other new ones kicking around inside me. And there’s no way I can contain them, so desperate are they to meet and greet cyberspace. With no further ado then, here they are.

A biopic of sorts about the late Fred Rogers, host of the legendary kids’ show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, has just come out. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is its name, and it stars Tom Hanks as Rogers. Now, I know that Fred was a strong force for decency and love. But his nasally voice, his sloooow talking pace, and his unnervingly calm manner never appealed to me. Nevertheless, my wife and I went to see the film a handful of moons ago. And I loved it. Having read no reviews in advance, I was happy to discover that it is not a typical biopic. Instead, it’s an imagined examination of the relationship between Fred and a cynical journalist named Lloyd Vogel, who is assigned, in 1998, to interview and profile Fred for Esquire magazine (the movie is drawn from the friendship that developed between real-life journalist Tom Junod and Fred).

A Beautiful Day rings very true. Hanks is Fred. And decency and love are largely what the movie is all about. Will Lloyd Vogel come to believe in the powers of Fred? I ain’t saying. Will Fred start talking faster and become the type of guy I’d want to discuss sports, music, food and girls with? Nah, but that’s more than okay. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood flirts with sappiness here and there, sure, but it got to me anyway. That’s because it gently aims for the heart and doesn’t miss.

Hey, it’s almost dinner time in my household, so I’ve got to wrap this up. You know what else is good? Beers from Magic Hat and New Belgium breweries, that’s what. In November I bought variety packs of their robust, soul-satisfying ales. And I’m going to apply those same adjectives (robust; soul-satisfying) to the coffees that Allegro and Green Mountain coffee companies turn out. My wife and I are hooked on several of their roasts. I’m tempted to use the adjectives also to describe myself, but I’d be lying out my ass if I did. So, I won’t.

The ball is now in your court. What’s been ringing your chimes recently? Down below is a section where you can enter your comments.

Before I go, though, I have to mention and recommend a golden oldie — Bernadette —  that has been stuck in my head for a few weeks. I’ve heard it dozens of times in my life and always dug it. But when the tune came on the radio not long ago it walloped me like never before. Bernadette, by The Four Tops, was released in 1967. And it’s never gone away. Such a great song. The desperation in lead singer Levi Stubbs’ voice sends chills up and down my ol’ spine. I don’t like having earworms. But if I’ve got to have one, this is an excellent choice. Bernadette!

134 thoughts on “I’ve Got A Few Recommendations. How About You?

  1. ckennedyhola December 9, 2019 / 8:22 pm

    Great recommendations! Nate, Alex, and I saw Knives Out. Alex and I hung on every word and loved it. Nate didn’t love it, but he didn’t hate it, either. We also saw Brittany Runs a Marathon. It got three enthusiastic thumbs up from all of us–along with Ready or Not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 9, 2019 / 10:14 pm

      Hi there. My wife and I want to see Knives Out, for sure. If you haven’t seen Motherless Brooklyn, you might want to look into it. It’s an old-style detective movie. I liked it a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ckennedyhola December 10, 2019 / 9:22 am

        I just read the book. Our book club chose it and we’re meeting tomorrow to talk about it. Loved the book. I’m definitely interested in seeing the movie–thanks for the recommendation!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, Another Blogger December 10, 2019 / 9:59 am

          Hello. I’ve read an interview with Edward Norton, who wrote the screenplay for the movie. Apparently the book and movie have very different plots. I haven’t read the book. But the Motherless Brooklyn movie is real good. See ya!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. thewonderer86 December 10, 2019 / 10:14 am

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’m off to Vietnam at the end of the week, and will give ‘The Things They Carried’ a go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. roughwighting December 19, 2019 / 5:35 pm

    Chatham is our favorite town to visit when we drive down to Cape Cod. Never in the summer, though, Fall and Spring is lovely and less crowded.
    I read The Things We Carried when I was tutoring at the high school a few years back and fell in love with Tim O’Brien’s writing. Have since read most of his books. He’s a treasure, and his writing shows how writing from the heart in not necessarily fancy or eloquent words can hit the reader between the eyes solidly and memorably.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 19, 2019 / 11:53 pm

      Hi there. You describe O’Brien’s writing style very well. I might read another of his works next year. Right now I’m reading The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie. It’s real good. I like the jauntiness and humor that she writes with. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

      • roughwighting December 20, 2019 / 8:01 am

        Thanks for the reading suggestion. I haven’t read Agatha in many years, yet I’ve heard several readers exclaim about how much they’re still enjoying her mysteries.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. veeds December 21, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    I’m wondering why there were two Mister Rogers movies a year apart (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “Beautiful Day”) The former is a documentary of course, while the latter is more of what I call “docu-drama.” One cynical friend claims that the documentary was put together as a way of jumping the gun on the latter. But I’m not sure if it’s all just a coincidence. Rogers died in 2003, so why the sudden interest (if 2 movies in 2 years can be considered “sudden”)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 21, 2019 / 2:35 pm

      Hi there. It’s likely that the ideas for both movies were forming at about the same time, independent of each other. Even though I never paid any attention to Fred, I ended up seeing both films. I like the new one better than the doc.


  5. Silver Screenings December 22, 2019 / 4:47 pm

    Fab recommendations, and a special thanks for posting the song “Bernadette”. It’s been way too long since I’ve heard it. I listened to it here twice in a row.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jeanleesworld January 1, 2020 / 8:05 am

    I read O’Brien years ago, and I, too, remember it being a powerful read without putting any sort of tint on the material. And Four Tops is one of my FAVORITE old-school groups. “Sugar Pie, Honeybunch,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Same Old Song”….they had SO many good songs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 1, 2020 / 9:42 am

      Hi, and Happy New Year!
      You’re right — the songs by The Four Tops are tops. Those recordings will always sound great.

      Liked by 1 person

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