On Ribs, Texting, and L.A. Story

Last night, around 2am, I couldn’t sleep. It was my ribs again. The cough that I’ve had since before Christmas finally seems to be waning, but the damage is done. My right ribs and the soft matter just beneath them feel shredded. The slightest pressure irritates them. I’ve taking to sleeping on my left side, but even that doesn’t completely solve the problem. So when the Little Miss woke us up around 2am last night, I had trouble getting back to sleep. As often happens, I let my mind wander. Kelly was also having trouble sleeping and had gone downstairs for a snack. After a while, I considered texting her to ask if she was okay. I thought I’d text her: “R U O K” but I wasn’t sure that would make sense to her. (Are You O.K.?)

Considering that, I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, L. A. Story. I’ve written about L. A. Story before. But tonight, as I was laying there in mild pain, trying to get back to sleep, I had a sudden realization. In that scene where Steve Martin first encounters the signpost, and the signpost asks him, “R. U. O. K.?” Martin is essentially predicting the “texting” phenomenon that would arise a decade later. Indeed, when Martin’s character doesn’t understand what the sign is saying at first, the sign responds, “Don’t make me waste letter.”

Moreover, there is another scene which anticipates social networking. While driving to brunch with his disgruntled girlfriends (played by Marilu Henner), Martin asks, “Who are we having brunch with again?”

Henner replies, “Friends, and friends of friends…” When I heard this line last night, I immediately thought of Facebook, and how you can share things with friends, or even with “friends of friends.”

As you may have guessed, I ended up watching the entire movie last night between the hours of 2 and 4am. I’d guess that I’ve seen the movie one hundred times, but there are new little things I notice each time I watch it. The funniest new thing I noticed last night:

Early in the movie, when Harris is at the stationary bicycle park, quoting Shakespeare about L.A., we see in the background a man fall off a recumbent bike; apparently he is having a heart attack. I’d noticed this many, many times in the past. But what I never noticed before is, as the paramedics are carting away the fallen man, another man quickly jumps onto the recently occupied bike. I’d never noticed that before and it was a very funny touch.

Each time I watch L. A. Story, I expect to find it has lost something. This has happened with other movies that I’ve admired. But it has not happened with L. A. Story, at least, not yet. I get into the movie and laugh, and recall my own years (nearly 19 of them) living in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the most startling revelation, watching the movie last night: the movie came out in the summer of 1990, nearly 23 years ago. Steve Martin is currently 67 years old, which would have made him about 44 in 1990, and more than likely 42 or 43 when the movie was made. He was only two or three years older than I am right now when the movie was made. That’s a little scary for a guy who saw the movie opening weekend, in a movie theater in L.A.–and was only 18 years old at the time.


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