Saturday, August 27, 2011

Water for Elephants

Bedewed in Shakespeare's Garden
I am escaping New York on the cusp of a lock down due to 2011’s first monster tropical storm – Hurricane Irene.  This time, my wanderlust is taking me to a well-loved stomping ground, the California coast where I’ll be hanging with the ladies (Jackie, Nancy, and Cora).  The trip was well-timed (phew) with JFK slated to shut down today at noon and NYC already on a lock down.  It is as if Mayor Bloomberg wants to make up for all of the failures during the monster blizzard that closed out 2010 – the one that delayed my escape to Africa.

The move on the flight today was Water for Elephants – a film adaptation of one of my favorite modern novels.  A love story set within a traveling circus.  Once I got over Reese Witherspoon and Robert Patterson being cast as star-crossed lovers, I settled in for what was an almost flawless film adaptation.  That is high praise from me – it is only the second time that I’ve said to myself -- film lives up to the book.  Surprisingly, the other time this occurred was with the Lord of the Rings' trilogy.  Peter Jackson’s epic homage to the work of J.R. Tolkien. 

Thinking about Charging (Tanzania)
I was not ready to like the trilogy – I had read, re-read and read again the epic adventure that spanned three volumes and created a fantasy world bar none.  I had well-imagined visions of hobbits, wizards, dwarfs, ents, elves, and other magical creatures.  And had richly painted in my mind the worlds they inhabited.  Yet, they were wondrous – the visuals were not my visuals but somehow that did not matter as I sunk into each movie and wondered at the choices that were made to bring these complex narratives and richly imagined worlds to life.  True genius.

The flaw in today’s film was that it did not feature nearly enough of Rosie the elephant.  That’s what happens when one brings a book to film – choices are made, scenes not filmed and characters not fully developed.  And elephants do have characters – from restive young bull elephants looking to make their mark on a herd to stately matriarchs guarding their babies as they teach them how to survive in the wild. 

The other thing I missed was learning about Jacob's other life – his end of the road, so to speak, in a cross between an assisted living facility and a nursing home.  There, he was nourished by his past life adventure and saddened by his current living arrangements.  There was something poignant about the way that Sarah Gruen depicted his life that added a texture to the book that was missing from the movie.  At the end of the film, it was hard to believe that this father of five was running away to join the circus.  A stark difference from the book.

As I write, Irene is pushing into Maryland and the NYC subways have been shut down.  That is hard to fathom – the complete shutdown of the city’s transit system.  The Mayor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the low lying areas of the city.  The airports were closing to incoming flights at noon and JFK's JetBlue terminal was even more of a zoo this morning than usual.  But here I sit,, in an extra leg room seat (you would think I was tall) on my way to California.

It’s a good day to be leaving on my own adventure to California.  This time, we’ll be visiting Hollywood and staying at the Hollywood B&B.  It’s hard to fathom but yes, there is a B&B with a screening room, off-street parking, and a pool near all the Hollywood tourist hot spots.  A couple of nights inland at the casinos and then ending up at the Hotel del Coronado for a few days of R&R.  It’s my third trip this year – I rang in the New Year in Tanzania and saw Fourth of July fireworks from the beaches of Oahu.  It will be nice to feast my eyes on the nuttiness that is Hollywood and sink my toes into the sands of Coronado Beach.  An added plus, a trip to the Griffith Observatory with a plan to stand in line to look through the telescope.  A whole lot more accessible than the observatory on the Big Island.
Perhaps Nancy B and I will finally figure out whether we will have a 2012 adventure to Egypt or at least settle on the time of year we want to go.  One of many trips to dream about even as I sate my own wanderlust with this annual jaunt to the West Coast.

Waves (unknown location)