Saturday, May 29, 2010

There’s something about Marty (and a coupla other thoughts this Memorial Day Weekend)


Well, it's Memorial Day Weekend and I don't really have any plans.  A dozen years ago I would've been up to my eyeballs in things to do, five years ago I'd be happy just for the long weekend, and now I can only wonder what's going on & if things will always be this way. 

I don't mean to sound like I'm down... I suppose introspective would better describe it.  Earlier this week, I saw that TCM was airing the unedited version of "Marty", a favorite movie of mine. (I don't think I've ever seen the full version.  When MGM initially released this, for reasons unknown they edited out certain scenes.) 

I've just finished watching it, and I admit it--there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

For those unfortunate few who haven't seen it, Ernest Borgnine plays a lonely Bronx butcher who lives with his Italian mother, his brothers and sisters all married.  He's loved by family and friends, but has long accepted the fact that women just don't find him physically attractive, and he'll always be alone.

"Marty, please; you go to da Stardust Ballroom, it has plenty of the tomatoes!"

His mother worries that he'll die alone, and when she hears of the Stardust Ballroom (a popular gathering place for both couples and singles) from her younger newlywed son, she convinces Marty to go. 

And it is there that he meets Clara (Betsy Blair), a female counterpart to his own, plain and unassuming, who had come to the Ballroom on an arranged date, only to be rejected after arriving and is now alone.  Marty witnesses the rejection, and feeling sorry for her, asks Clara if she would like to dance.

"Clara, us dogs, we gotta stick together and look out for each other!"

They spend the rest of the evening in a small coffeeshop talking, comparing notes and offering advice to the other.  (Clara wants to take a teaching promotion but is afraid of moving far from home; Marty wants to buy his own butcher shop, but worries about a new supermarket moving into the neighborhood.)  

And in those quiet hours, a romantic interest evolves, and when he takes her home she asks him if he will call on her again.  He shyly answers yes & says goodnight, walks quietly for a bit, then runs to the bus stop.  He stands at the sign, happy and surprised; he can't believe his good fortune.

After Marty leaves, Clara enters her home & knocks on her parents bedroom door to see if they're awake.  She sits on the edge of their bed and quietly tells them she met a very nice man that night, and how they spent the night talking--just talking.  And he'll be calling on her tomorrow afternoon, and he is apt to be nervous as he is a butcher, and considers himself in a lower social class, but he is a good & kind man, and a very good butcher.  She is glowing.  Her parents lie there, not saying a word.  When she says goodnight & leaves the room, her father murmurs "I hope he calls."  

Without giving away the ending, the movie ends on a hopeful note & was masterfully done.  (It received the 1955 Academy Award for Best Picture, and Ernest Borgnine won for Best Actor.)  

But who really moved me was Clara (Betsy Blair), real life wife of the legendary Gene Kelly.  She somehow managed to portray 'the plain girl' yet was poised and radiant, all at the same time.

Betsy Blair with husband Gene Kelly, they were married from 1941-1957.  She left him and moved abroad.  She later remarried & became a speech therapist.

The film also serves as wonderful time capsule of the era, considered overrated for years, then vastly underrated & now hopefully not forgotten.  Written by the brilliant Paddy Chayefsky, it's an American treasure.

When I was reading about Betsy's marriage to Gene Kelly, I found this excerpt from a 2003 interview she did with The New Yorker.  When asked why she left Gene Kelly, she said this:  “How could I have left Gene, this wonderful man, after 16 years of marriage?  This perfect husband, father, friend, protector, provider, hard worker.  I loved and admired him as a brilliant actor and dancer as well as a good, good man! To this day, I can’t explain it.  I preferred freedom."

We always want most what we don't or can't have, I suppose.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Deluxe Compartment in the Sky: We’re Movin’ On Up...

US Steel Bldg

A week or so ago, a blogger friend of mine wrote an interesting piece about the cursed origin of the office cubicle--those bland workspaces squared off with faux walls, rows and rows of corporate tedium. (Well, those weren't his exact words but that pretty much sums up how he sees them, as a white collar prison.) 

And I suppose there's a few million office workers out there who feel just the same way (and God knows I've spent the last couple decades in them too & not always happy about it either). 

But I’m still excited about my news on this one; on Monday (May 3 2010) I am taking up residence--well, work residence--on the 21st floor of the US Steel Building, the tallest structure in the 'burg.

No, I didn't get a new job; my company (UPMC Health Plan) is moving it's offices into corporate headquarters where our parent company, (University of Pittsburgh Medical Care) moved from Oakland to downtown Pittsburgh in 2007.  They didn't just move there, they took over the top floors and slapped the UPMC logo across the top of the tower too.  It was a strange sight for many, myself included:  everyone knew this as the US Steel Building.

On the far left, the UPMC logo is all aglow on each side of the US Steel Tower

The US Steel Building is the tallest skyscraper in Pittsburgh.  Built in 1970, it has 64 floors and approximately 2.5 million feet of leased space.  It was renamed the USX Building in 1988, but changed back to US Steel in 2002.  (I know, statistics are boring but they're still worth mentioning.)

So this past week, our department was offered a tour of the floor we'll be occupying.  Everything was brand new, and 'done green' with lots of natural and energy-saving lighting, bamboo flooring in public areas such as the lounges & conference rooms, & even the walls, cabinets and desks are made with recycled materials.


Entrance to the employee kitchen and lounge (photos courtesy of Erin Ondrish, my coworker who went on the tour with me) 

When we were walking about I couldn't help but be very impressed.  It seemed that everywhere I looked I saw either sky (windows everywhere) or a terrific assortment of abstract art that adorn the interior walls.  I think the only artwork we had in our previous office was the lame caricature I did of my coworker Erin, which hung above her desk!

Speaking of desks, my new workspace; it may look bland here, but it also has a great view

We're right in the center of downtown and just steps away from Macy's, restaurants & the like.  I'm also much closer to old friends & former coworkers from other companies, we have a food court & gym on the lower levels and I suppose it doesn't hurt that my morning bus-stop is right outside the front doors!

The view from our windows of the plaza below

I don't mean to sound melodramatic here--after all, the US Steel Building houses a few thousand tenants.  But for some reason, perhaps because of my 'late start' in this industry (I was 28 when Omega Systems hired me as a programmer) I can't help but appreciate where I am now, compared to twenty years ago.  In the late 80s, before finding a way to go back to college, I was unemployed & broke and living in the attic of my best friend's rural house outside of Waynesburg, wondering if things would ever change for the better. 
Well, when I showed these pictures to my sisters, Donda said "Wow fancy digs!!" and Shawn said "Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm amazed how far you've come.  This sure is a long way from that musty attic."   

I couldn't agree more and am thankful.