Going To The Movies

“You have to see Diner,” Howard said. An inordinate number of Howard’s sentences began that way.

“You have to see, try, eat, hear.”

And when Howard said something had to be seen, tried, eaten or heard you tended to make a real effort to comply.

So I went to see Diner.

Howard and I were born in Baltimore, as were our parents and one of our grandparents. The other three landed there after joining the Jewish flight from Russia and Poland. We’re Baltimoreans and even though I’ve lived in New York more than half my life now, I still consider myself – and Howard - Baltimoreans.

So Barry Levinson and Diner struck a cord – we knew those people, grew up with them and eventually ran away from them.

Then Levinson came out with Tin Men, which was totally unfair, I thought. Really, where did that man get off following our family around like that? I know it wasn’t true but I could have sworn Levinson had been following the Ashmans around, taking notes for years. Our Dad was an installment man and then sold ice cream cones but the world he – and we – lived in and that Howard had written about, was not dissimilar to the one of Tin Men. Howard’s play, The Confirmation evoked a similar time and a similar sensibility.

When Tin Men came out, I thought about sending Levinson a copy of The Confirmation, but I thought Howard would get mad at me so I didn’t.

The last movie Howard and I saw together was Levinson’s Avalon. It was 1990 and we went to a movie theater near Howard and Bill’s home in upstate New York. AIDS was taking its toll and Howard moved slower and needed help more frequently.

The three of us, Bill, Howard and I, made it to our seats, the lights went down, the screen lit up and there was Baltimore – Levinson’s Baltimore, in an earlier time and with more accents to be sure, but also our Baltimore.

But when we hit the Thanksgiving scene, with the tables of relatives and kids and the mishagos of family drama and fuss, for a brief, lovely moment, we were home again.