Susan's Blog

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Morning After

There’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night…

–Maureen McGovern, The Poseidon Adventure, 1972

Last night Ned and I went to see The DaVinci Code, which was sold out, so we opted for Poseidon, which I secretly wanted to see even more. Standing there waiting to buy our tickets I felt the way I used to when I waited for a roller coaster ride to begin. “Are we really seeing this?” I asked Ned, horrified and way-too-excited.

“We are, but are you gonna be okay?” he asked, wisely. Ned has known me for about 25 years and so he is well acquainted with my thing for the ocean. It is a bit of a phobia, in the sense of a love/hate, fascination/fear.

Ever since I was a child my family took vacations at the ocean. It would always be either at Montauk Point, Long Island (a then-unspoiled stretch of gorgeous Atlantic Ocean you get to after the famous Hamptons) or Truro, on Cape Cod. My dad was well aware of my fear of the waves, so he used to tease me about it, which was — right or wrong, for my therapist to decide — our family’s way of trying to get someone over something. Sometimes it worked, sometimes, not. Dad would make a soft wave noise and wave his hand in front of me until finally it “washed” over my face. I would both shudder and laugh.

Laura and I loved the sandbar that would occur magically, it seemed, (at low tide) and Dad would be “Flipper,” and give us rides on his back. We also had our own floats. I had a turtle, Laura had a rocket. It turns out she really envied me the turtle. I told her I didn’t know that and would gladly have traded!

But when high tide came, the waves would come roaring in and we’d have to get out. We learned how to body surf, and played “hello-goodbye,” which was a game where we sat at the water’s edge and let the waves drag us in, (goodbye) and then push us back out (hello). Mom and Dad would take some moments together and go off on rafts (back then you could take rafts into the ocean). I have a memory of seeing Mom waving from the huge waves, and feeling the terror engulf me that she would drown. How could someone be out there and survive?

But I learned. First, with Mom and Dad holding onto me, and then later, on my own. I developed a certain ocean bravado, where I would run in if Laura dared me, and she’d say, “If you go, I have to go,” and vice-versa. But deep inside, I always watched the waves carefully. Mom used to say,”Don’t turn your back on the ocean,” anytime we were wiped out by surprise. Then, in 1975, Jaws didn’t help. Dad used to say about Jaws, “If only they changed one letter, the movie would be so much better,” meaning, if the movie were Jews, it would be about Jews rather than a shark! I took him to see Jaws, which I’d seen with a friend first. I was thirteen. It was my first PG movie I’d gone to without him or Mom, and so I could tell him just when to cover his eyes.

But my parents took me to see Poseidon Adventure and none of us knew when to cover our eyes. The best part, of course, was when Leslie Nielson, the captain (back when he was still serious in these kind of roles), holds up his binoculars and says, “Oh my God!” Then you see what he sees: a 90-foot rogue wave!

The rest of that movie is, in my opinion, (that is redundant considering this blog is entirely my opinion), a gory escape that is something you can miss, only because it can’t hold a candle to that wave.

Critics have called that wave cheesy, or silly, or campy special effects from the ’70’s. But in 1972 I was 10, and at the height of my wave fascination, so it worked pretty well for me. Watching Poseidon, the remake, I have to admit that I was disappointed by the much-vaunted wave of 2006 digital effects. It looked to me to be about as real as Moses dividing the Red Sea in the Ten Commandments — stunning, beautiful, but not very scary. (Here, by the way, is an interesting riff on the Ten Commandments, thanks to Max!) A better wave is at the end of Point Break, a surfer-dude crime spree movie starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze (a real feast for the eyes). And the surfing documentary Step Into Liquid has some amazing footage of tow-in surfing, where you use jet-skis to take you directly to the biggeest waves in the middle of the ocean. Open Water was probably the most horrifying of all ocean movies; knowing it is based on a true story, of a couple who goes diving and is left behind by their tour boat, makes that only worse. It is an awful, awful movie on nearly every level, but the scary stuff is so incredibly well done it just makes your heart break for that couple.

The scary parts in Poseidon came after the wave, when there were up-close shots of the wave crashing into the boat, and the enormous force and power of the ocean could be felt as it pushed open steel doors, cracked huge windows, forced bodies up into the air and out, and you could really feel it. The worst part of all is when a mom is separated from her boy — he is trapped behind a screen of some sort — and watching them prepare to say goodbye to each other. He is calling, “Mom,” silently through the water. That was when I squeezed Ned’s hand the hardest. He said, “Go call Max.” I ran out and called at that point to check on them. (“Huh?” said Max unenthusiastically when he heard it was me for the third time that night. “Yeah, we’re fine.”)

I wonder what Nat would have thought of the movie. He has always had a fascination with the ocean, too. The first time we ever took him to the beach it spurred a lot of talk from him, albeit self-stim and not entirely comprehensible talk, punctuated with the word, “ocean.” Sheer joy on his face the entire time. He’d never seen anything like it, something so large, loud, dramatic, repetitive predictable, and yet, not. No one ever had to tease him into the ocean; he took to it immediately. He has no fear of it, even though he has wiped out on boogie boards tons of times. He and Ned go in with their wetsuits, rain or shine, 55 degrees and up, the wilder the better. Sometimes Dad joins them, looking like a walking stick insect in his wetsuit. I go in — especially if Laura is going in — but mostly I prefer to lie on the sand and get a tan and dole out the snacks.


As a kid the Poseidon Adventure was my favorite movie – up until Jaws was released that is. I totally get the love/fear thing too, but I think that’s part of the romance of it. Being on and around the ocean is always a daring adventure. When I’m by the water and thoughts of its dangers creep into my head I always think about the John Irving novel The World According to Garp. One of the characters (Garp I think), misunderstand his parents warning about the under tow pulling him out to sea and grows up with a fear of the “Under Toad”.

— added by Pete Lyons on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 10:53 am

I saw the DaVinci Code movie and thought the book was much better. Wait to rent it on DVD. They really gloss over the Opus Dei connection in the movie. They were going for the page turner incidents

— added by Anonymous on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 11:24 am

The rest of [The Poseidon Adventure] is… a gory escape that is something you can miss, only because it can’t hold a candle to that wave.

But then you’d miss the kid telling Shelley Winters: “Don’t you worry, Mrs. Rosen! We’ll pull you up! I helped my dad pull up a 600 lb bass once!”


— added by Tera on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 9:16 pm

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