No Country For Old Women, Either

I went to see No Country for Old Men tonight. The crowd gathered outside the theatre, and they wouldn’t let us in because the cleanup crew was still going thru from the showing before. I stood there, nose in Bleak House. I can’t stand crowds (which is clearly why I live where I do, and why I choose to go to movies on 42nd and 8th at 7:30 pm). The best way to deal with the push of crowds is to just read, and totally divorce myself from the possible mayhem.

I was reading the chapter about poor little Jo being tended to by Mr. George and Mr Woodcourt, and it got so sad at the end, I was in the last paragraph of the chapter, that my eyes filled with tears. I was standing in the lobby of the theatre, surrounded by a pressing crowd, anxious to get inside the theatre, and I was aware of none of them.

Suddenly, a voice next to me said, “Excuse me …” I looked up.

It was a little old woman, probably in her 70s. She had on a nice wool beret, a scarf around her neck and her eyes glimmered with clarity. She said, “I hope you don’t mind my asking – but what Dickens is so engrossing you?” Her energy was so forthright, so … so NICE … that my normal urban reserve (especially in crowd situations) dissolved immediately.

I said, “Bleak House.”

She gasped and put her hand over her heart expressively. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

“You’ve actually caught me kind of crying right now … it’s SUCH a good book!”

“Rather ‘bleak’, is it not?” She laughed at her pun.

I said, “Yes.”

She said, “I just love Dickens. I can’t do without him.”

I was in love with her. I said, “God, he’s just so wonderful …” (Normally I don’t like being interrupted while reading I got so sucked into this woman’s energy which was lovely.)

She said, “I think my favorite is Tale of Two Cities …”

I said, “That’s one of my favorite books of all time, I think …”

She said, “I love Great Expectations, too. Have you read this book?” gesturing up to the marquee, meaning Cormac McCarthy’s book.

I shook my head no and she said, “Oh, you must! I am so eager to see the adaptation and to see how they deal with the character of the sheriff. I have read reviews that give it 3 stars, they seem to have some reservations about it, but I’m very excited to see it. You really have to read the book!”

Suddenly, a wave of emotion came over me. This woman, in her 70s, coming down to go to the movies, by herself, all excited to see what “they” did with the adaptation of a book she had enjoyed, standing in the midst of a huge jostling crowd, and she noticed I was reading Dickens … and had to reach out. This woman knows how to live.

We walked into the movie theatre together, chatting about Cormac McCarthy’s other books, and then parted, saying, “Enjoy!”

So maybe one day I’ll be a little 70-year-old woman going to the movies by myself. Maybe I’ll be hyped up to see the adaptation of a book I just read, and maybe I’ll chat with someone else in line about the movie we’re about to see. And I’ll be open-eyed and curious and interested. I won’t be lonely or sad.

Maybe everything will be okay after all.

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17 Responses to No Country For Old Women, Either

  1. tracey says:

    Oh, hon … so tender and lovely. Your little clear-eyed angel.

  2. just1beth says:

    I want to go kiss her. And Sheila, NEVER doubt that you will be reading books and questioning and pondering and watching films and discussing and CONNECTING with many, many people in deep and meaningful ways- not just in cinema lines- welllllllllllllllllllll into the future. You will not be a Grey Gardens cat lady. NO. No kittens on parade. Nor iguanas for that matter.

  3. red says:

    Beth – hahahahahaha You know my fears!!! If there is ever an iguana loose in my house, I will know it’s time to make some changes.

  4. jackie says:

    I LOVE THE DICKENS LADY! And in response to Beth’s kitten comment, a thought to ponder: if Phantom’s stage crew is on strike:


  5. red says:

    paper kittens ….

    ahhh, we are bringing all the threads together now!!

  6. Marisa says:

    Just lovely. This also made me so sad because it sounds just like my paternal grandmother who passed away a year and a half ago. She was very short with a cap of snow white curls and she always wore a beret (she said that men find a woman in a hat mysterious, so you should always wear a hat – and she always did) and she read voraciously until her eyesight was so poor that she had to settle for books on CD. But she was sharp as a tack her entire life, even unto the end (and had a very sharp wit). Sometimes I felt she was more awake than other people.

    Anyway, my grandmother was the sort to ask what you were reading and have read it and recommend another book and just start a conversation. Everyone who met her was captivated by her.

    I LOVED this little story.

  7. red says:

    Marisa – I love the bit about wearing a hat and her philosophy about it!! I really think she was onto something!

    She sounds terrific! You know how many old people seem cranky and bitter? Probably that has a lot to do with, you know, growing old and having their bodies start to fail, etc. – that makes you cranky – but I think a lot of it is that they are jealous and angry at youth. I notice that a lot. These are the, “When I was a young girl, everything was different and MUCH better” people. If you always feel that way about anything that is young – then of course you will feel bitter.

    Anyway, I just want to avoid that at all costs, if I can. I would rather be a bright-eyed lady, who reads reviews in the paper, and goes out on a Wed. night to Times Square to see a movie … open and clear and interested – not bitter and cranky. Bitter cranky people would be like, “Movies when I was young were MUCH better!” etc. etc.

    I loved this woman – I looked for her afterwards, because I wanted to see what she thought – but I couldn’t find her in the crowd. I won’t forget her though.

  8. Lisa says:

    For the first time, I saw a trailer last night for “Atonement.” I’m feeling sort of a leery excitement.

  9. Kate P says:

    What a wonderful encounter–gave me chills. Sometimes when things like that happen, my mom says it’s your guardian angel paying you a visit. Ya gotta wonder.

  10. red says:

    Lisa – I saw the trailer last night. Of course they had to make it seem like a whodonit murder mystery, to appeal to the people who haven’t read it or who wouldn’t like it …. – but so far so good.

    Fingers crossed.

  11. allison says:

    it is encounters amid the crush of New York that make living here so magical. we fastidiously shut out the noise and the crowds and then, unexectedly, someone reaches through our barriers and we are reminded what it is that we love aboutt this city, and what it means to connect…even in a place where it is often easier to just rebuff the world and self-inhabit.

  12. De says:

    I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have someone come up to me to chat about the book I was reading. I’d love to have a passionate conversation with someone who is as crazy as I am about books.
    I want a “Sheila Moment”!!!

    Btw…reading No Country For Old Men right now. It’s really good! I recommend it.
    I’m afraid to see the movie. I don’t want to ruin the images I have in my mind from reading the book.

    What did you think about the movie?

  13. red says:

    De – It scared the shit out of me, first of all!! Just the LOOK of it gave me the creeps.

    Javier Bardem is totally awesome – actually everyone is great. Josh Brolin gives a terrific performance – like, he’s a total Marlboro Man movie star now – he was great.

    It’s filmed beautifully – it literally is so creepy-looking at times that the hair rises up on your neck.

    Tommy Lee jones breaks my heart.

    I’ve read a couple reviews where people didn’t like how much it “wandered” – but I thought it’s “wandering” was one of its greatest strengths.

    I’d be interested to hear what you thought – and I am totally gonna read the book now!!

    And yes. I love that little old woman for being courageous enough to speak to me – and to be so polite and lovely about it. I just loved her!!!

  14. De says:

    I withdraw my recommendation for the book. Maybe it’s me but I wasn’t thrilled with the end of the “situation” and McCarthy’s rambling from the Sheriff character who didn’t seem all that important until the end.
    I found myself completely uninterested towards the end which was so bizarre because I couldn’t put the book down at the beginning and middle.

    Maybe the movie will turn out better for me.

  15. red says:

    De – I read your review on your site as well. I have heard similar sentiments from other people – who obviously feel that this is one of his lesser novels. I still have to read it though!! When I’m done with Bleak House, which should be in about 2012 at the rate I’m going!

    I hope you still see the movie though – I’d really love to hear what you think, having read the book.

  16. Michael says:

    Sheila – Lovely, lovely story. It sounded like you were both by yourselves…why do you think it was that neither of you suggested that you sit together during the film?

    It would have been so neat to have heard what she thought of the movie.

    I’ve had a few of these types of moments. And, at the time, I didn’t pursue continuing the contact beyond the moment either. Is it some kind of spontanaiety protocol that nudges us not to go beyond cherishing that brief, amazing moment of being so completely in-synch with another human being?

    Or maybe they *are* visits from guardian angels, as Kate’s mom says.

  17. 2007 Books Read

    (in the order in which I finished them, understanding that very often I read many books at the same time). I count re-read books, by the way. I’ll include links to any posts or book excerpts I might have done…

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