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Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
When I was 14, my dad bought a copy of It’s a Wonderful Life on video tape. To this day, there are things that still make me sentimental about not only the movie itself, but that particular version of the 1946 holiday chestnut. Dad purchased a colorized edition of the picture, in part because it was severely discounted. The Jimmy Stewart classic, in gloriously grotesque shades of pale pink and aqua green, could be found in department store bargain bins due to the fact that film preservation purists had been extremely vocal in their displeasure over the colorization of bygone Hollywood screen gems. I agree with this now, but because I fell in love with the hideously over-corrected version, that’s the way the movie looks and feels right to me. Another odd personal hang-up of mine is that because Dad first had me watch Life in August, I can’t go a summer without sitting down to re-watch it. There is a moment during It’s a Wonderful Life that still tugs at my decidedly tough, normally unsentimental heartstrings. Clarence the angel, played by Henry Travers, reminds Stewart’s George Baily about the value of his life and the role his very existence has played in the lives of everyone he’s ever come in contact with. The line from Clarence that I opened this post with always rings true with me and I hold on to it during the times when depression threatens to knock me down. To say that my life reaches beyond the interior walls of my mind and touches people in good in positive ways makes all the difference to me. I can live down the cliché about life’s glass being half empty, because life is lived to the fullest potential while I cut through the clutter of doubt by being optimistic and helping others live their lives.
I never liked the whole bit about whether life is a half empty glass or one that is half full. Life is full of opportunity no matter which way we look at it. Glasses are for sipping, but you might as well drink from the fire hose (as long as we’re coining clichés here). The thing to do is take Clarence, or whomever is giving you greeting card style advice, and reach into the lives of everyone you meet. If the “glass” is truly half empty, the only thing to do is fill it all the way to the top. I have depression and one of the signs that the disease has pushed my brain into a corner is the moment when I start thinking of life as half full. One of the mighty snap outs is to stop staring into the proverbial glass and fill my life with meaning through love and service to others. Thank you, old colorized pink and green Clarence. You gave me a line to keep life’s glass full.
I’m having a week. Not necessarily a bad week. Just a week. The kind of week that reveals my true blandness and exposes all of the nerdy qualities that I’ve unintentionally cultivated over the years. For starters, there’s the issue of trying to mail video cassettes back to Netflix instead of the DVD’s they’ve sent me. I have a lot of movies on video sitting in milk crates down in my basement. That’s what I did as a young, single man back in the day. I purchased high quality motion picture entertainment on VHS tapes and displayed these purchases prominently in my apartment(s). The height of decorating panache was having tapes sitting proudly in milk crates. Now, of course, I can’t get rid of the tapes. The Titanic set is one of the worst offenders. I needed two Netflix envelopes to get rid of that. Our mail carrier caught what I was doing and left the tapeflix on my doorstep. Right before I chose to own Titanic on tape (for inexplicable reasons), a Blockbuster clerk asked if I’d like to rent the movie at a discounted fee. “No.” I said trying to be polite “I heard the boat sank. Someone gave away the ending.”
Video tapes aren’t completely useless. We pitch them like horseshoes in the summer, for instance. Some are irreplaceable relics. My colorized copy of It’s a Wonderful Life is so familiar that I can’t watch the movie in it’s original, glorious black and white. George Bailey and company are rendered in sickening shades of pink and orange. Bedford Falls takes on the appearance of Ocean Boulevard, and I feel inclined to sing “Oompa Loompa, Doopity Doo…”. I may take a crate of tapes and try to sell them. I hear there’s a thriving black market around Amish Country for VHS copies of Harrison Ford’s Witness.