What the Coffee Table Said
by Peter Shelton
Nov 20, 2010 | 1077 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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The coffee table was piled high with stuff, as usual. We had a visitor coming, a friend from New York who stopped in rarely and so warranted a neater living room than the semi-pigpen we allow when we are home alone. I waded in.

First thing to get put away was the road atlas. We’d had it out to look at New Jersey. We’ve been watching old episodes of The Sopranos, and Ellen wanted to see where the Pine Barrens are. I’d also wanted to check on the whereabouts of Wasilla, Alaska.

That little bit of research happened after I read Nancy Franklin’s hilarious review of Sarah Palin’s new “reality” show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. This was in the current issue of The New Yorker, the one with John Boehner on the cover giving a fist bump to President Obama, who is offering a post-election open hand. The cover art is titled “Bumped.”

Franklin’s piece on Sarah Palin’s show is called “Mush!” Nancy Franklin is my new hero. She writes: “When Palin talks, my whole being wails, like Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding’s ex-husband knee-capped her: ‘Why? Why? Why?’”

Next to be cleared off were The Week magazines. The cover of the most recent one features George W. Bush and his memoir. Subhead: “Dubya’s doubt free review of his presidency.” You betcha.

Then I started in dealing with the movie reference books. We had all four of them out on the table – giant, paperback heavyweights that we use to help us sift through the infinity that is Netflix.

The heftiest volume is Ephraim Katz’s The Film Encyclopedia. We’d brought it out to look up D. W. Griffith, the influential and controversial director of Birth of a Nation and 450 other films (yes, 450 other films!) from the silent era. We’d just watched Orphans of the Storm, a two-and-a-half hour gale of a melodrama Griffith made about the French Revolution, released in 1921. Birth of a Nation generated storms of protest over Griffith’s sympathetic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan. Orphans of the Storm, though clearly set in the 18th century, was chock full of intertitles condemning “Anarchy! Bolshevism!” Griffith apparently, like George W. Bush, was not one to let facts get in the way of his prejudices.

My Netflix list, scribbled on the back of an envelope, was buried under there somewhere. I pulled it out and noted a couple of titles gleaned serendipitously from page 1,034 of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. One was Ordet, from 1955 by the Danish director Carl Dreyer. Leonard got me with the line: “certainly the movies’ final word on the struggle between conventional Christianity and more personalized religious faith.” Wow. Four stars. And the other was Orgazmo (1997), by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. This one’s about a Mormon kid on a mission who gets talked into starring in a porno movie in L.A. “Raunchy and offensive.” Can’t wait!

I put the Netflix list safely aside and tackled Ellen’s stack of library books. She’s been on an Elizabethan history kick. She just finished The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. Her latest is about Elizabeth’s dad, Henry VIII. The other night E quoted Weir as saying the king had been falsely stereotyped by Charles Laughton’s film portrayal. We all think of Henry as ripping a leg from a roast pheasant and then, chin dripping with grease, tossing the bone to the wolfhounds. Not so, says Weir. The real Henry was extremely fastidious and never would have eaten with his hands.

Down I dove, through the rustling paper: Offers from bank card companies. My own newspaper from last week with the photo of a distressingly cute prairie dog on Page 1. Catalogues. Insurance renewal forms. Ski magazines from a few months ago.

There was the Top 50 Resorts issue, in which Telluride scored at No. 11, behind the Aspens and ahead of Mammoth and Heavenly in California.

I have trouble with Ski’s ranking system, always have. Alta, for example, was voted No. 1 in the Snow and Overall Satisfaction categories, No. 3 in both Value and Weather, No. 5 in Challenge and Scenery, and so on. And yet they rank it 28th in the West. Go figure.

At the bottom of the mess was a Mountain Gazette with a black-and-white cover photo by old friend Bob Chamberlain. It shows what I’m quite sure is Bob’s own ski boot shelf in his garage in Glenwood Springs. There are several pairs of old leather boots and a couple of newer, soft-flexing Rossignols. In a space between them he had written, on the sheetrock in felt pen, “JUST SKI.”

I chucked the trash, recycled what I could, wiped off the crumbs and polished the glass top. Then I put “JUST SKI” back on the coffee table, in the middle, tilted just so.

Peter Shelton’s blog is peterhshelton.wordpress.com

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