15 August 2008

No Elegy for the New Socks


Took BART into San Francisco this morning. Among my traveling companions was a quintent of suburban late teen girls. I surmised that they were headed into the city for some shopping. About the only thing more common on a BART trains (save commuters) than late teen girls going shopping is the mother and young teen daughter headed into the city to shop.

The striking thing about the gaggles of teen girls is how interchangeable they are. No, they don't all look alike. Some have blond hair, some have dirty blond hair and some have strawberry blond hair. Some wear shorts and others wear short skirts. Some have deep tans and others deeper tans. Some talk like the girls on those MTV reality shows, Laguna Beach and The Hills and some...well, they all talk like that, actually.

They're all pretty but virtually none are beautiful or interesting looking. They're ultra conformists. I suppose if I were a 17 year old boy I'd view them differently. Check that, I know I would.

I got off at Powell Street Station and entered the vertical maze of shops that is the San Francisco Center. It is, of course, quite a drawing card for our aforementioned teen travelers.

I was headed for the Dockers shop to buy some white socks. Yes I went to buy socks. You see I picked up some socks there a few months ago when on a clothes shopping trip with the missus. They are the most comfortable socks I've ever owned. Well those three pair are not enough. I sought more.

As I made my way around the center in search of the Dockers shop (where is Lewis or for that matter Clark, when you need em?). A young woman asked me where I was from. I'm pretty savvy and can tell the start of a sales pitch when I hear one but I wasn't sure what her game was and bit. Then she asked my name and beckoned me toward a stand of what looked like cosmetics. Before I could high tail it out of there she had my hands in salt. "When was the last time they felt this soft?" she asked in what sounded like an East European accent. I granted that it was probably not since I was a baby. She applied a lotion, then a gel (just to the hands and arms, in case you're wondering). Then she laid on the sales pitch. I was intrigued until I finally got a price quote. At $60 a pop I made my excuses and much to her obvious chagrin went on my way. I was certain these were wonderful products that offer softer and cleaner skin but I had socks to buy and money to save. The scent of these magic potions is with me yet, but so is the all the money they'd have cost.

Found Dockers. Good news. The socks were there and on sale no less.

As I made my descent to the ground floor I got to one level where the down escalator was neatly hidden away. I stood looking for it in vain when another young woman with an East European accent asked me where I was from.

Been there, done that. I responded with a question of my own, "where's the escalator going down?" She wordlessly pointed me in the right direction.

Had lunch. Then back on BART for a short trip to the Embarcadero. Went to the movie theater there that bears that name to see Elegy starring Ben Kinglsey and Penelope Cruz.

Best new movie I've seen in many moons. Kingsley is a magnificent actor. Imagine watching Gandhi (1982), Schindler's List (1993), Sexy Beast (2000) and this film on consecutive days. You'd have a hard time believing it was the same bloke in all four.

In Elegy, Kingsley plays a New York-based professor, author and weekly cultural radio show host, David Kepesh. He's an aging Lothario with one failed marriage to his credit that spawned a disaffected son played by Peter Sarsgaard, an actor who I much admire. Patricia Clarkson, still another thespian of whom I am quite fond, is a part time lover. Dennis Hopper, who I'm less enamored with, gives a nicely understated performance as a poet and the professor's best friend. I guess now I like him too.

Cruz is one of the professor's students. In her Kepesh initially sees just another roll in the hay. What instead ensues is one of those May-December romances that make can make for an interesting film. Or not.

It clearly works in Elegy because there's not a cliche in the whole film. It is unexpected, nuanced and often moving. Cruz is physically stunning with a performance to match. In two days I'll be seeing her again in Woody Allen's latest, Vicky Christian Barcelona. Life is good.

Yes I loved Elegy but it was still the socks that made the trip.

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