Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Assistance


Me & David, San Francisco 1987


It was the day after my birthday in 1987, I remember feeling many things because there were so many people missing from my birthday celebration that year. I'm not sure if that event supplied the motivation for me to do it. Maybe anger, depression, helplessness, or selfish self-absolution of survivor guilt. But I marched right down to the Shanti AIDS hospice and volunteered. That was my big response to the epidemic while living in San Francisco.

Afterwards I had a celebration cocktail at the Midnight Sun and felt better. I felt even better as my calves started to ache their usual ache ascending the Castro to Divisadero hill. I was feeling smug by the time I arrived at Geary St. At Pacific St. I was down right causy, stopping people I knew, asking them if they had volunteered, making them feel bad if they hadn't. If had owned a motorcycle and a set of nipple clamps, I would have rolled with Dykes On Bikes.

The next week I received communication from Shanti. I was to be screened. Screened? Why, I mean I filled out the forms and talked nice to the lady at the counter. Plus, I minored in Psych. I realized that Shanti embraced a more Eastern philosophy; no coddling, no enabling, you let the guests work through their own issues. But a screening too?

OK, I will be screened, whatever that might be. Screened, in this instance, turned out to be a euphemism for 8 hours of psychological testing. There were 100 people in my group. The leaders of the 'screening' told us up front only one or two of us would pass. At the end of the day two of us had passed. I was one, Girlfriend X was the other, this is how we met. What were the deciding factors in our selection? We were the only two the leaders felt could remain completely unemotional and objective in a crisis situation.

Girlfriend X and I did the Shanti thing for 6 months. In fact, that was the maximum allowable time you could do that Shanti thing. We both to this day consider it the largest learning lesson of our lives. And although we both catch hell about our ability to 'switch it off', we both realize we could have not survived that 6 months without that ability.



If you have that ability to 'switch it off' you might be able to watch this film to the end, otherwise I bet you will switch it off. The Sea Inside won in 15 categories, yes 15, at the Goya awards last year. Goya is Spain's equivalent to the Academy Awards. It deserves every single one.

Its a difficult film to watch, emotionally, but rewarding if you can make it to the end. Just get yourself a box of tissues beforehand because its going to drag your heart all over the place and chew it up like a pupppy with your favorite shoes. Your favorite new shoes. Your favorite new Kenneth Cole shoes that you've never worn but you bought for a big date tonight.

Ramón Sampedro(Javier Bardeem) is a quadriplegic who wants assisted suicide. Right, a very explosive and emotional situation to start. But the creators have dealt with this issue with such compassion and grace that you will feel your own staunch opinion ebb and flow with the story.

Ramón is confined to bed and incapable of any movement yet he reaches and causes profound changes for everyone who crosses his path. While he cannot fulfill his own dreams, he does so with everyone else, not by any action, but simply by allowing others to see themselves through his eyes.

I won't discuss any of the details because you should see this unbiased. But what I will say is that I liked that they did not dwell inappropriately on the ethical, moral, religious or legal facets of this issue. What comes beaming through is a story of love and loss; how they both are inextricably paired, and how one does not, cannot exist without the other.

What will break you down in the end - its a true story.



13 Comments:

Blogger ScottyFerguson said...

Thank you Jim. I'll put it at the top of the list. I seem to need a reason to cry lately? Go figure?

11:38 AM

 
Blogger Adam said...

I cannot wait to rent it! Sounds amazing!

8:34 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Scotty, an occassional boohoo is good for you, no reason necessary :)

8:25 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Let me know what you think, Adam!

8:26 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Sounds awesome... i'll have to see if Blockbuster has it.
And about that big hair .... I think I had that very same style back then too. *LOL
"The higher the hair, the closer to God!" er, Buddha in your case. :)

10:47 AM

 
Blogger The Persian said...

That whole Shanti turn on turn off things sounds interesting.

*runs off to research this*

I've known too many hard people in my life, incapable of great emotion (or choosing to shut it off), so the whole idea kind of scares me.

I will have to try and check the film out. Sounds very sad, but as you point out, it achieved great critical sucess, definitely worth seeing.

11:34 AM

 
Blogger Sangroncito said...

I was a Shanti volunteer in the 80's, too. (a practical volunteer, the ones who did the laundry and cleaned the bathroom). Heavy stuff, both physically and emotionally.

It's been raining non-stop in SF since I got back...will it ever stop? I've never seen an April like this in SF.

2:50 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Jim (who muses), But of course you did, all the cool kids had Duran Duran haircuts then!

I cant imagine you with that do since I've grown attached to your Vin Diesel look ;)

12:39 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Jim (who Persians),

As always you bring up a good point about 'hard' people. I started to write a response but it turned into a post, so I'll do that soon and dedicate it to you :)

Shanti.org (but you already found that!)

12:45 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Sangroncito, I bet you were a good Shanti volunteer!

Rain? SF? I can only remember one week in the late 70's when there was steady rain in SF, really, it was more like a steady mist.

I'll hope for a break in your dampness!

12:51 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved this film. you're right, it's a love or hate thing...nothing in between.

11:11 AM

 
Anonymous Andreá said...

BTW, I'm the "Anonymous" poster...

Andreá

11:13 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

You have wonderful taste Anon Andreá :)

11:30 AM

 

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