By Joe Florance:
I have been called a robot on a few occasions. Emotional repression ran roughshod in my family of origin.
"There, there . . . now stop crying" hung above the hearth.
My siblings and I had to touch the calligraphic sign before dinner each night.
I would say "good times," but I never liked that phrase, and if I ever said it, it is normally said ironically (I felt the need to double up on the irony in order to offset the prescribed initial irony, so really came off like an asshole).
Now, I can't say it because of those damn Morongo casino commercials. Dude, what is their ad budget? Was that included in the latest stimulus package?
Good, bad, and ugly, that whole thing was a part of my upbringing. I found myself not crying when others would cry, and many times would judge others for crying. Not to their faces, of course, but inside. Not deep inside. The shallow inside. Wading pool. No, that's too deep. Like the end of a wave at the beach, about ten feet beyond the wave where the sand sort of feels like it could be wet, but you can't really tell. There. That level of inside.
Crying? Why is anyone crying? Now, at events where it totally made sense to cry, like funerals, I would just look around at the crying people and start a conversation with myself:
"Hey, why aren't you crying?"
A normal response would be something like, "Not sure."
Which was followed up with, "You hungry?"
"Ask someone to go to lunch after this."
"Who are you gonna ask?"
"I know. He has the suburban. We can all fit."
"Thinking Taco Bell. We never go there."
The 80s were a deep time for me. Aaron was my best friend. No way did this convo happen in my family. I knew there was no way in heaven, hell, Valhalla, or whatever that we were going to lunch. Lunch? During lunchtime? With the family? You must be stupid. We are going home where families belong. To be fair, it wasn't all bad. We would get pizza from Barros Pizza every once in a while. My memory has it at once a month because boy were we STOKED when Dad gave the green light. Those nights, we didn't even have to touch the mantra sign before eating! And periodically, we'd get Chinese, like when Halley's Comet appeared or if we met a stranger that shared one of our birthdays. The birthday thing happened a couple times, but after my conspiracy-theorist father would not stop questioning "this obvious shakedown," we all thought Chinese wasn't worth it.
With this as the backstory, crying should have been commonplace.
Not on my watch!
When my kids were born, I didn't cry. I laughed, haha. Really fooled everyone on that one. Know who was crying? That's right, my stoic dad! What? What a wimp, right toxic masculinitists??! Who's with me?
But one day, it happened. I was watching Toy Story in the theatre with my wife. I was 24. Trying to remember the theater—I believe the Irvine Spectrum but don't hold me to that. The scene where Buzz tells Woody he can fly and Woody says he can't and Buzz says he can and goes to prove it by "flying" off the bed. Oh, c'mon, you remember! Buzz hits the ball, bounces around the room, gets spun around by a mobile, and then lands right next to Woody and proclaims, "CAN!" That made me cry. Damn it, Buzz Lightyear! Also, it was an audible cry. A what's happening look around, and oh, that guy is crying cry. There was no comforting from my wife. It was a shock. This!? This is what makes you cry!? Why on earth are you crying? Okay, I deserve that.
The tears were welling up as I typed that last paragraph, haha, but why? Is it a loss of innocence? An empty feeling? Something in my eye? I took a moment to collect myself and this is what I came up with:
In regards to Buzz and Woody, the belief in victory will make me cry every time.
Throw in humility . . .
Robert De Niro telling Bradley Cooper at the end of Silver Linings Playbook that he can't let Jennifer Lawrence get away; he says, "I know you don't want to listen to your father. I didn't listen to mine." And he ends up saying that Cooper better not "fuck this up." They stare at each other for a moment, and Cooper embraces De Niro and says, "I love you, Dad." Crying as I type this. Damn it, you two!
Add magic . . .
I was in the car with my daughter the other day, and Steve Winwood's "Valerie" came on the playlist. There has always been something about Steve Winwood. Not a guy who covets the spotlight but oh, so talented. I got confused. I thought "Valerie" came out when I was in high school, but it was earlier in 1982. The first song of his I loved was "While You See A Chance." "Valerie" came out just a year later, but the song didn't register with me until I was in high school. All I remember of it was "I'm the same boy I used to be" and the great keyboards. I'm normally terrible at lyrics. I can't remember them nor can I understand them but driving with my daughter that night, I heard them clearly:
"Someday, some good wind
May blow her back to me.
Some night I may hear
Her like she used to be."
I was wiping my eyes like crazy. She's an angel, a lost love, magical, the yearning, the longing, the yearning, the longing—all with that great voice and those keys. Obviously I'm listening to it now and, yes, paused it to wipe my eyes and type this. Damn it, Winwood.
Throw in some incredible skill . . .
YouTube clips of Dr. J (basketball superstar on the Philadelphia 76ers) made me cry the other day. He was so amazingly good and amazingly humble. What a hero. Crying. Damn it, Dr. J!
Now, it doesn't stop; I see these elements in everything.
A promo for all the movies coming out on HBOMax . . . pass the Kleenex.
It's good, though, for a lot of reasons. Mainly, I'm not as robotic as I used to be, and I see that there is a lot of joy out there.
Look for it, you'll see it too.
Joe Florance owns and operates Circle of 10 Talent. He encourages people to pursue their dreams, and helping them do that fulfills his own.