Posts tagged Jack Nicholson

Rodent Surprise…in Kyiv, Ukraine

The following is a story about a furry guest to our flat when we taught in Kyiv, Ukraine. I had e-mailed this to family and friends back in March 12, 1999. Maybe it is one of those “you had to be there” but I thought it was VERY funny at the time and even now these 13 years later.

“I just have to tell you about our “book” study tonight.  We usually have about 12-14 people over every Friday night and they are mostly bachelor men.  There were more women tonight but the mix is very international.  We have one Scotsman, one British gentleman and one German. The rest are Ukrainian and all very interesting in one way or another.

Anyway, Nicolai is a very quiet, computer nerd type who comes, but he is always late.  Tonight was no exception, he rang the doorbell after all 12 people were settled in our living room.  He also came in with a rodent which was crawling all over the sleeve of his jacket.  At first I was shocked that he had this white mouse in his hands but he quickly arrested my surprise by producing a cut-in-half, plastic 7-Up bottle that he put his little pet in.

Meanwhile, my husband was overseeing that everyone had recited their memory verses in the adjacent room.  This seems to be the Ukrainians’ favorite part and they do it well.  So as not to disrupt the meeting, I asked Nicolai to bring his little pet into the kitchen and put it on the counter for safe keeping.  I was still in shock that he had even brought it along with him. (I didn’t recall that Ken had asked for “show and tell.”)

So everything went along smoothly until the phone rang when we were in the middle of prayer at the end of our study.  Ken jumped up to answer the phone in the other room and no doubt checked the kitchen to see about treats that we would feed to our guests afterwards (another favorite part of the guests’ evening). What to his wondering eyes did appear but a nice, healthy mouse inside a bottle!!! I could hear movement in the kitchen as our prayers continued in the living room. Judging by the noises, I just KNEW my warrior husband was doing combat with the mouse [I had no idea that the first thing he grabbed was a potato peeler to stab the little creature]  The next thing I heard was his opening the entryway door and throwing the bottle (with mouse inside) down the garbage chute in the outside hallway, it tumbled nine stories below [think “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson throwing a dog down the chute].

Mission accomplished, my fearless husband had protected me from the rodent surprise in our kitchen.  Immediately after prayers were done, Nicolai headed for the kitchen not knowing the demise of his pet.  I followed close behind him knowing I would have to help smooth out the inevitable outcome for poor Nicolai. This was going to be an unpleasant reality for him.  Keep in mind that the mouse had plunged nine stories to its final resting place, “rat heaven.” As soon as I told Nicolai that my husband had undoubtedly disposed of his pet down the chute, he bolted down the stairs (disregarded the elevator) to check the garbage bin in the basement.

Eventually Nicolai came back to our apartment looking dejected and I didn’t even have it in me to say I was sorry.  I did explain to him that Americans don’t like mice in their kitchens and Ken had only done what husbands feel naturally inclined to do, KILL the rodent!  Nicolai left early knowing that he should never bring his furry pets to our place again.

When all our guests had left, my husband gingerly informed me, “Did you know there was a mouse in our kitchen?” I had to tell him yes and that it WAS Nicolai’s pet.  End of story…or so I thought.

The sequel about Nicolai’s “mouse” was that he did admit to Ken that it was his fault for bringing the pet the other night to our home in the first place.  Then at church the following Sunday he showed me his NEW pet that he had just gotten for “big bucks.”  He told me that I should show it respect and then he informed me that it was a baby rat.  I had to admit that it DID look cute with little beady, black eyes for a white rat. However, my husband is quite adamant about Nicolai NOT bringing him to our home next Friday night.  Hopefully this is the end of story…”

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“As Good As It Gets” in Kazakhstan

I feel like the Helen Hunt character, Carol the waitress,  from “As Good As It Gets” which came out the same year Titanic did.  Both Jack Nicholson and Hunt deftly swept up the Best Actor and Best Actress award against all the other awards Titanic captured.  These two actors deserved it, I’ve watched this movie maybe about ten times.  The lines in AGAIG are quick, quirky and very funny.  The one simple line I especially like is delivered by Carol to Melvin, “Pay me a compliment, Melvin.”  Then she instructs him with, “A compliment is something nice.”  I’m waiting for some word of encouragement or even a compliment from my employers about my teaching these last two years at my “former” place of employment. 

The three misfits in this hilarious comedy are probably based on real life people in New York. It would be very difficult to make up these characters and their lines from one’s imagination. First is Melvin the neurotic, but very successful novelist. Next Helen, the cash strapped waitress who is also a single mom living with her mother. Finally, Simon, the gay guy who is an artist but has hit rock bottom, he is friendless and without money to support his lifestyle.

I claim to be similar to the Helen Hunt character of Carol and as a New York city waitress, she had a service mentality. She served Melvin his daily meals. I came to Kazakhstan to serve the people and was barely paid minimum wage after paying all the expenses of airfare and housing in high priced Almaty.  As a working Mom, Carol had to take care of her ailing son.  I taught academic English courses to my Kazakh and Kazakhstani students so they would not fail their classes in their future academic career.  Carol, the waitress, was uneasy about getting involved with Melvin because he was so rude to everyone and to her.  She regained her dignity when Simon made her feel good about herself.  He drew her from an artist’s point of view because he valued her beauty as a person.  Westerners are like that, identifying the individual for the gifts and talents they possess and reveling in that.

I see Simon as personifying Western ideas, he was accustomed to a fine lifestyle of luxury and the fine art.  However, that crashed in around him when his flat was broken into by vandals and he was beaten up very badly.  I see at our place of employment there is a fair share of America bashing going on since supposedly our institution was based on an American system of education.  Discrimination against Simon and at the same time against anything American seems to be in vogue for some people at my institution of higher learning.  Some say negative things to my face about how America has done this wrong or we as Americans aren’t correct on some other policy.  What do people say about Americans behind my back?  I shudder to think.  Well, Simon loves his little dog and that’s what helps get him through his ordeal.  Incidentally, the little dog plays an important role in this movie.  I believe he should have gotten an Academy award as well for bringing Melvin and Simon together as tolerant “friends.”

However, Melvin has an evil streak coursing through his cold veins.  At the beginning of the movie, he throws Simon’s dog down the garbage chute.  No reasonable explanation is given except that he seems to hate Simon and what he stands for.  Melvin is full of paranoia and he needs therapy.  Melvin has a huge ego and is a frustrated, demanding old man but paradoxically writes novels about romance. Yet he knows nothing about love and spends his life pretending there’s nothing wrong with him. He has to have everything completely sanitized and clean and he locks many doors to his flat because of his many fears. 

Enter Carol the waitress into the picture to encourage Melvin, the twisted old novelist, to re-enter the human race of compassion. She boldly helps confront his fears about relationships head on. The rest of the movie portrays how guy meets girl and with the help of a gay, the two finally get together all the while taking baby steps. There is “give” and there is “take.”

That is why I would love to say to my former employers, who have acted like Melvin sometimes, “Pay me a compliment…a compliment is something nice.”  I guess if there were a sequel to this movie, it would be that Melvin broke up with Helen. That part makes me sad.

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