Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Caftan Woman: Movie Memories on the Lake Shore

All this month, the Cafe is celebrating "movie-watching memories." Today's guest post is by Caftan Woman, who blogs about classic films and life. Click here to visit her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter via @CaftanWoman.

Henry Fonda in My Darling
The XL Laundromat on Lake Shore Boulevard is about as far away from a movie palace as you can imagine, yet that is where the memories I relate today all happened. It’s been about three years since the owner, Gyeong, put in a big television. Kiddie programs help keep the little ones calm that are there with their mom or dad. Many of the Lake Shore inhabitants seem to get a kick out of Jerry Springer. Whenever I show up, especially if the place isn’t too busy, Gyeong always switches the channel to TCM. I’m not sure when it first started. It may have something to do with the time I almost came to blows with the heavy set fellow who spoke disparagingly about My Darling Clementine. I choose my fights well.

Occasionally Gyeong’s husband puts in an appearance at the shop. He always looks stern and he never speaks to any of the customers, only to his wife in Korean. One day when TCM was airing Sea of Grass, the “mister” smiled at me and nodded. “Katharine Hepburn,” he said. I smiled back. Did you know that it is not music, but the Connecticut gal who is the international language?

A dreadful day last autumn. A day when I could no longer put off doing the laundry. Iron grey clouds, a biting wind off Lake Ontario and a drizzly rain that intermittently showed the strength of a downpour. I filled the bundle buggy and imagined myself a pioneer braving the elements. Six city blocks to the laundromat doesn’t really compare to a barren prairie or dangerous forest, but we do what we can to get through the day. I picked up my Lake Shore breakfast of coffee and lottery tickets at the 7-11 and settled in for The White Cliffs of Dover, the Clarence Brown directed movie of Alice Deur Miller’s poem about love and loss between the wars. The one other customer, a girl of about 20, yet trying to look older, exclaimed: “Hey, do you know that’s Black and White?” Gyeong said: “Good movie. You watch.”

I sipped my coffee and worked on my continuing efforts to become nonjudgmental. I told myself not to judge bad dye jobs. The only reason Caftan Woman has “embraced her emerging silver tresses” is because she is too lazy to dye her hair. At least others are making an effort. I must remind myself there is nothing wrong with a tattoo. The fact that I relate tatoos to the line-man who was our neighbour when I was a kid and to the roustabout who would stay with us when the carnival hit town at the end of the summer…well, that was a different time. Besides, unicorns are whimsical.

Our laundry companion tried to spend some smoking time in the parking lot, but the weather drove her back inside where she accepted Gyeong’s offer of a cup of soup and sat quietly while the movie went on. A couple of times, she chuckled or made a comment on some character’s behavior. She asked about the time the story was set it. I briefly outlined WWI, pointing out that a couple of blocks away was a parkette named Vimy Ridge for a battle fought by Canadians in that war. She’d always wondered what that meant.

I was ready to leave before the end of the movie and as I packed up our young friend asked: “What’s her name?”

“She’s Irene Dunne,” I said. "She’s not always in sad movies, she can be very funny too, and she sings like an angel.”

My tattooed friend smiled and her voice had a mixture of wonder and admiration when she said: “She must be what they mean when they say someone is a real lady.”

Gyeong patted her on the back and said: “Good movie. You watch.”


  1. Beautiful as ever, CW. A real lady, Irene Dunne, and you. And perhaps one day, that young woman who is beginning to learn about such things. And I love this: "Did you know that it is not music, but the Connecticut gal who is the international language?"

    I love Gyeong and the Mister. I feel like gathering the clothes from the hamper and driving up there to do laundry with you and watch movies.

  2. Thank you, Jacqueline. I have no doubt you'd feel comfortable at the laundromat. Gyeong is particularly fond of musicals and handed me a tissue with no comment when I started to weep at the end of "Show Boat".

  3. CW, what I love about your post is that it shows the power of cinema to transcend generations and, yes, even location. A great movie (or performance) can cast its spell on anyone at any time. A couple of years ago, I watched THE DAY THE EART STOOD STILL (the original) with some young friends. There was fidgeting during the opening scenes and perhaps some muffled comments about it being in B&W. But by the time Klaatu decided to get know Earthling better, the young viewers were hooked. And I was happily surprised--here's a movie over 50 years old with no action scenes (except for some melting tanks) and a lot of talk. The same thing has happened to me. I was on a business trip once and decided to channel surf on my hotel room's TV before bed. It was 11:00 and A PATCH OF BLUE had just started. Two hours later, I turned off the TV. I had no intention of watching it all the way through, but good movies compel us to watch and we cannot turn away from them! Thanks for a great contribution to this month's theme at the Cafe.

  4. This was an absolutely lovely post, Caftan Woman. I so enjoyed the images you created of movies crossing barriers of language and age. And with one of my very favorites, Irene Dunne, too.

    Thank you!

    Best wishes,

  5. Rick, it's true and a true test, when a movie compels you to stay with it despite inconvenience and other intentions. Those movies and the memories they create are extra special.

    Thanks for letting me be a part of the November series.

  6. Thank you, Laura. It seems to me that the most special movie moments always come with the movies that have a bit of age to them.

  7. Oh, thank you for that. What a delightful post. What a delightful laundromat! Laundry never seemed more charming than in this article.

  8. Caftan Woman, I really enjoyed reading about your wonderful memories. I really did not start watching movies until about 10 years ago. So, I have great interest in this months celebration "movie-watching memories."

  9. Lucie, I used to get a lot more writing done at the laundromat before they put in the TV, but it really does bring a touch of charm.

    Dawn, isn't it wonderful that all those movies were there waiting for you?

  10. Loved reading your wonderful memory post, C.W. Once again I am reminded that movies have power.

  11. Great story, Caftan Woman! I have to admit, I wouldn't worked hard not to be judgmental as well and not say "No kidding, Sherlock" when she said the movie was in black and white.
    This was a very clever way to discuss classic films, thank you for sharing :)

  12. CW, this is such a heartfelt post about your beautiful laundrette. It is wonderful to see someone elevate above their preconceived notions that black and white means old and not worthy of watching. Very well done. Loved it!

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