“Marley & me” & Me

The week after Christmas my part-time merchandising job imploded in a nasty confrontation with my only (and certifiably insane) coworker.

I hadn’t had the job for very long (five weeks?) and was frankly shocked that I found it so quickly. I was hired on the spot, with the interviewer sheepishly saying things like, “Are you sure you want this?” and “It doesn’t pay much,” and finally, “It’s yours if you think you want to take it.” Hey– I live in Michigan. The state with the worst unemployment rate in the entire U.S.

So yes! I took it.

I won’t go into all the gory details, but there was definitely a REALLY GOOD reason he was being so weird about the whole thing. I’d just lost a job a week before taking it–A job with a big bank that I had planned to retire from (just like lots of other people in the U.S. in 2008) and at 55 I was feeling kind of shocky. What was I going to do now? In this economy?

So when I lost that dumb put-stuff-on-shelves job too, I immediately went into a state of panic and depression.

When I get into that state of mind, I take myself to the movies. It always helps.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is not a great time to show up at a matinee. My first choice movie was sold out, and the only thing left with some seats available was “Marley & Me.” Oh great, I thought, a dog story. I have a dog. If I wanted to watch a dog I’d go home and watch my dog. But I was desperate. So I bought a ticket.

It turns out the guy who is the star of the movie is from Kalamazoo, the city where I live and lost my own job. The movie tells the story of this guy’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston (well, in the movie he’s married to Jennifer Aniston) and the family they eventually have together. Before they have their first child, they get a golden retriever puppy to see how they will handle responsibility and stress.

They name him “Marley.”

“Marley” turns out to be a handful. He eats furniture, wrecks doors, smashes into walls. He poops on the beach and in the ocean. He devours a gold chain the author gives to Jennifer as a make-up gift, and the poor guy has to hose through dog poop piles for a week before he finally fishes it out. Marley jumps out car windows, breaks free of his leash, terrorizes a house sitter, knocks over bags of dog food, and in general aggravates the snot out of his clueless owners in a thousand ways.

They don’t train Marley. He is dubbed untrainable by exactly one dog trainer so they don’t try. I have a Malamute, so I know how stubborn dogs can be, but I also know they will mind if you make them, and that they are happier with a few limits enforced. So this bothered me–this, “Oh tee hee Marley’s so bad ain’t it cute?” Um, no. No it ain’t.

They start to fight with each other over kids and stress and the dog. They have one kid, then two, then three, and through it all the dog creates chaos and poops on things and eats pillows and they fight over who is working harder. This is meant to be heartwarming, and my sense of it is that in the book (on which the movie based), it probably is heartwarming. On film however, we can’t tell how this guy writes, so the movie has to keep telling us he writes great and it’s all very heartwarming, which gets annoying. Because it’s not heartwarming, it’s stressful and annoying and even disturbing in some parts. I don’t want to be told by a movie about how some guy I don’t know writes. That’s a waste of perfectly good celluloid.

There I was, trying to decompress, watching these strangers ignore their dog and have petty marital battles and then occasionally turn to the screen to say, “You’re touched, right? Isn’t this just freakin’ heartwarming? Did we mention it’s Disney?”

All I could think was: train your dog, quit fighting, stop telling me what a great writer you are and pay attention to making this movie.

In the end, Marley gets sick, then gets sick again, then is put to sleep, on camera, while everyone, including me, cries. We see the funeral with the wife and kids, only one of whom has the good sense to not say any last words over Marley’s grave, noting, “He knows. I already told him.”

Smart kid.

I am 1000% certain Marley is in a better place now. And so am I. I’m working at home. As a writer.

Have I mentioned I’m a really good writer?

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