The Observer fell down the steps of The Observatory after an ice storm a few years back. One moment: sure feet in under us. The next: hovering in cold space, adrift in the morning air, time slowing to enough of a crawl that we had time to wonder how much the emergency room bill was going to be, tucking chin into chest, thinking: Is my tongue in? Because I do not want to bite off my tongue. I need that. And then impact, gravity gravitating, the blow rippling through the cold muscles and joints, every pore of the old steps felt as if through the fingertips: the chipped edge, the pebbled stone, the hard twist of the iron handrail when our elbow rapped it on the way down. The old, primate fear of falling, played out and practiced in a thousand dreams that jerk you awake on the cusp of sleep.
We wound up with a spectacular horseshoe-shaped bruise at the top of our butt crack. Other than that — and a lingering ache we drowned in Advil and hot tea — we were somehow mercifully spared. Lucky boy, Spouse had said, waiting on Yours Truly like a broken invalid.
Remembering that fall, we take it easy in the snow and ice these days, imagining what it will feel like to crack a kneecap or elbow on the sidewalk, to separate a shoulder, to whack the noggin that seems to be the only thing we've got anymore that works half-ass well; to go down. Walking the ice to get to the office this morning, it seemed we'd developed a natural set of those X-Ray Specs we used to lust after in the back of comic books — pants and jacket and shoes melting away, skin transparent, so that all we could see was the treacherous ice and the bones and ligaments and joints inside the flesh like a hidden ants' nest of highways, ready to shatter, twist, tear, shred, break, fracture.
You know you're getting old when even the winters of Arkansas have gotten too terrifying. The Observer may have to fly further toward the equator before it's all over, a bird seeking the sun. Miami, maybe. Havana. New Orleans. At least down there, the only thing you have to worry about slipping on would be a discarded pair of thong underpants, which is a much better story for rehab than: I slipped on the ice, and re-entry did a number on me.
Speaking of thong underpants and contusions, The Observer went to see the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie over the weekend. No, really. While we're definitely not the target demographic, we are a student of popular culture. Too, we figure than any book that can get a couple hundred million people to put down their smartphones and actually read for a few hours is at least deserving of some respect. Not a lot, but some.
VERDICT: Fifty Shades of brown. Possibly 51. Literally the worst movie The Observer has ever sat all the way through.
See, it's about this dude who The Observer is pretty sure is a serial killer. Rich? Yeah. Good-looking? Sure. Nice car, apartment, helicopter and egg-shaped glider. But also: stalky, growly, emotionally void, not real big on consent and clearly in need of medications that don't include Viagra. At one point, Anastasia Steele asks him how many spankees he's stabled in the fluffy bedchamber just down the hall from the Red Room of Pain over the years. When he snarled "15," we whispered to Spouse that he must be running out of room in the basement floor. She shushed us.
Around that time, a guy following his own comely lass up the stairs at the theater — and we are not making this up — ripped a spectacular fart as he passed with his buckets of soda and popcorn. When a guy breaking wind is the most memorable thing about a film screening, that says something that can't quite be put into words, though it did somehow manage to encapsulate The Observer's feelings almost exactly.
A modest prediction: destined to become the Valentine's Day version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," with people shouting out responses to the wooden dialogue, throwing toast at the screen and covering their heads with newspaper during the scenes in which Ms. Steele strolls through the rain in a light cotton blouse. We'll get on writing the audience dialogue soon, and dire punishment awaits all who don't join The Observer for The Spanky Horror Picture Show next Valentine's Day. We mean it. Here, sign this contract.