Chapter 1: Family Guy - It was Saturday night. The kids had been busy all day and Maria's friend Ruby was over. Carrie and I had been busy all day too and it was time for dinner. We all went to get a burger, came home, and decided to just relax and have fun. We started with a game of Bananas, a simplified sort of Scrabble-like game in which each player builds words in his/her own array. Players draw additional hidden letter tiles as they consume all of their own and they can exchange duds for new letters, but at a rate of 1-to-3. If not careful, a player can amass a large number of tiles.

When the pool of letters has been consumed and a player has utilized all of his/her letters in his/her array of words, then that player ends the game by declaring "Bananas". Like Scrabble, the player must then justify all of the words he/she has spelled. Any misspelled words or questionable spellings and the would-be winner is declared a rotten banana.

In the past I have been declared a rotten banana on more than one occasion and I am also considered a curmudgeon who, rather than choose more tiles from the pool, which I would then have to incorporate into my array of words, I prefer to sit idly by (doing nothing) waiting for the pool to dwindle so that I maintain just the minimum number of tiles. When the pool is then depleted I quickly finish off the game. Curiously, despite the apparent simplicity of this strategy, being well within the bounds of the rules, mind you, I am routinely declared a rotten banana. I am still studying the dynamics of this seemingly simple game to try understand why abuse of power does not guarantee success.

As a concession to Carrie, on Saturday night I agreed to adhere not just to the letter of the law, but to play in accordance with the spirit of the rules. Bananas is a family game. I consumed my initial 21 tiles pretty quickly without exchange and so I was soon acquiring tile after tile, one at a time, and incorporating them diligently into my array. I could see that Carrie was about to finish, so I went out on a limb, as I often do, and declared "Bananas". I argued that our internet connection was broken and that everyone should believe me that "shance" is an old Irish spelling of "chance" and is found in the OED. I thought this a fairly reasonable approach and much more believable than saying that "shance" is the proper, but little known, spelling of "shants", those pants with the zipper legs that can be removed and converted into shorts.

Needless to say, play continued as I, the rotten banana, sat, sullen and licking my wounds. The next round ended much better, I thought, until I was questioned on my word "punity". Hey, if "impunity" is a word then I darn well ought to be able to declare "bananas" with "punity". I guess that sort of sums up the whole problem that I have playing bananas.

Chapter 2: Fine Wine - So there we were, sharing family time, the five of us (with Ruby) playing a friendly game of Rotten Bana... er, Bananas. My credibility already damaged, Carrie instructed me to do something useful and get her a glass of wine. I was already sipping a glass of "Vieille Ferme", a $5.99 "house wine" that we only consume when we are alone and want to pamper ourselves on the cheap. Problem is, the bottle from which I was drinking had been opened a few days before and somehow the screw cap had been lost.

For me, such red swill evokes the smells and tastes of the old farm regardless of the extent to which the bottle has breathed. Carrie screwed up her face and said that I should open a new wine, as the Vieille Ferme was off. I obliged by going to the "wine cellar" to retrieve a fresh bottle. The first bottle that I pulled out of the cardboard box in the dining room, called "Well Red Organic", had a drawing of a library of books on the ticket. Ahhh, one of those wines with a name that is a play on words. Not a good sign. Carrie said that that bottle had been one of 45 bottles given to us as gifts at our recent housewarming party and that that particular wine had been given as a door prize at a Reach Out and Read fundraiser last year.

I proceeded to open the re-gifted bottle at Carrie's request. At the first sip, she grimaced and raced to the sink to spit it out. I too thought that the wine might not be the best, as the smell, when I opened the bottle was not attractive. I reminded Carrie that she was the one who had requested the Reach Out and Read wine, so I could not be blamed for serving her a sub-par swill. I offered to find her a better wine, but she was put off by the idea and decided to drink tea.

At that point I should have remained silent but instead proceeded to discuss all the bottles of wine that we had received at the party. I had inventoried them, checking to see the value of each online, so that we could be sure which bottles were worthy of guests and which were more appropriate to an evening of Bananas. I recalled reading a review of Red Well Organic. The reviewer had said something to the effect "I am all about living Organic, but this stuff is killing me". Carrie suggested that if I loved her, I might have revealed prior knowledge of the wine to her before serving it. What the hell, occasionally one has to go out on a limb.

Chapter 3: Romantic Comedy - With Bananas ending in frustration and a bad taste in her mouth, Carrie suggested that the kids take their DVD movie upstairs and watch TV in the sleepover room while she and I watch an adult movie downstairs. This seemed reasonable to me and I had three movies from which to choose. I had been to Blockbuster to return some movies recently and had browsed the shelves for interesting films that I knew nothing about.

One sounded like a drug-violence shootout on the Mexican border requiring the audience to wear bullet-proof vests and the list of actors included no recognizable names. Another seemed more main stream but one has to wonder why the reviewer quotes on the box appear without stars or thumbs. If this movie is so great, how did we miss it last year? Also, it was 2 hours and 48 minutes in length. How 'bout the third one? Well, it was of normal 2 hour length. It included 4 well-known actors although the lead was an unknown with an unpronouncable name. The description was of a mysterious figure traveling to Spain to meet someone. Vague-sounding description, exotic locale, handsome unknown actor, the word "sexy" appears in the synopsis AND in the reviewers notes. Hell yeah, this was the one for me.

Carrie harbored doubt. She wanted to go for the nearly-3-hour film, as it had apparently actually been released in theatres at one time. I convinced her that an exotic adventure in Spain was just what we needed to see. I recently watched Dead Man, directed by Jim Jarmusch and enjoyed it quite a-lot. This one, Limit of Control, is another Jim Jarmusch film and is touted (on the DVD box) as the "ultimate Jim Jarmusch film - Surreal".

We watched the film. Carrie hated it. I found it fascinating and could not understand Carrie's accusation that "once again" I had duped her into watching some awful movie. Then I made the mistake of looking up the reviews online. Representative reviews include such statements as, "two hours of my life that I can never get back", "designed to test the limits of our patience", "I've only ever seen one movie worse", "patience-testing and vacuous", and "Boiled to a facetious essence". What does that mean, boiled to a facetious essence? I think Jim Jarmusch should make a film exploring just that question.

Epilogue: Poor Pitiful Me - I am unable to defend myself. I am perceived as having bizarre taste in film, as being a snobby cheat at Bananas, and of trying to poison my wife. I tried to explain to Carrie that these are all just tests that we face in life and that deep down I am a romantic. She scoffed and left me to puzzle over Spanish neo-contemporary facetiousness. She joined the kids to watch an episode of The Partridge Family and to fill the mental void left by Limit of Control with something meaningful.Poor misunderstood me. I do everything I can to pamper my lovely wife and she still thinks I am negligent. Poor, poor pitiful me.

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