Daily Archives: November 10, 2018

When Men Wore Business Suits to Cut the Grass

When I was a boy in Stamford Connecticut, it was common to see old men mowing their lawns and doing other outdoor work, while wearing tattered business suits, white dress shirts and black wing-tipped business shoes. These men had grown up during the Great Depression, and to them wasting anything was considered an actual sin.

Adults wore old suits and white shirts to work in the yard. Kids could be more casual

Adults wore old suits and white shirts to work in the yard. Kids could be more casual

People dressed very formally to go to work. There was no such thing as “business casual”; not even the occasional “casual Friday.” When people’s formal business clothing got too worn and frayed to wear to work, the suits did not get thrown out. These old suits, shirts, and dress shoes, became the outfits men would wear while working in the yard, painting their house or fixing the gutters.

Even the Three Stooges wore suits and ties while working as plumbers

Even the Three Stooges wore suits and ties while working as plumbers

As children, we used to secretly laugh at these old guys toiling in the Summer Sun wearing white dress shirts, black socks and black wing tips. If it got too hot, some of the old guys would doff an old formal business hat, the kind you see in Humphrey Bogart movies.

Of course, we kids could not even imagine what the pain and hunger of the Great Depression had been like. The idea of not have enough food in America was beyond our  comprehension.

People who lived through the Great Depression never forgot the hardships

People who lived through the Great Depression never forgot the hardships

All of the old men had come out of poverty many decades before and the United States was prospering as never before. The old guys all could have afforded to simply throw out the old suits. They could afford to hire other people to mow the laws, paint houses or rake the leaves, but they did not. It was a matter of pride for people of that generation to never pay someone else to do something you could do yourself.

leftover rice became rice pudding

leftover rice became rice pudding

The women who grew up in the Great Depression had the same mindset. My Grandmother was a fantastic cook, yet she never threw anything out.  If she made rice one day, the extra rice never went in the garbage. It became rice stuffing or part of chicken and rice soup, or even rice pudding. Not a single grain was wasted.

Before the days of Business Casual"

Before the days of Business Casual”

Almost all of the Great Depression generation is gone now. Frugality has given away to conspicuous consumption. In my Grandparents day, people were taught to never show off how much money they had. In fact, to the people of that generation one of the rudest things someone could do was to ask someone else how much money they made. If you did that, the immediate response would be, “none of your business.”

As a kid, I made fun of these old folks. Now, looking back, I realize that their way of life had real value. Never wasting anything and never buying more than you need might be a happier way to live. The 2008 housing crash and subsequent financial crisis would not have happened if people had not bought homes that were many times more than they could actually afford. People of my Grandparents generation would never have done that. There is also real value in never showing off how much money you have and never asking anyone else about their financial situation. Living like that you learn to view people based on their core values, not their relative wealth.

The company where I work went to business casual long ago, and yet I still have a closet full of suits. Some are good enough to wear out to dinner or parties. Quite a few are rather worn and tattered but I have never gotten around to throwing them out.  I just can’t put the old suits in the garbage without thinking about how upset that would have made my Grandparents. This time of year, my yard is full of sticks and leaves that need raking. It seems to me that one of my old suits would be the perfect outfit for that. Perhaps with a pair of worn-out black leather shoes.

Kidding – if Mister Rogers was on the edge of insanity.

In Showtime’s Kidding, Jim Carrey plays “Mr. Pickles”, who is exactly like Mister Rogers except that Mister Pickles is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. Kidding is a wonderful series, and explores what it is like to try to be a truly good person in a violent and unfair world.

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in "KIdding"

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in “KIdding”

For a long time life was perfect for Jeff Piccirillo (Mr. Pickles). He had a children’s show loved by the world. He and his beautiful wife Jill (Judy Greer) had twin sons. Then the unthinkable happens. A stoplight malfunctions. His wife and children are in a horrific car accident and one of the boys is killed.

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in "Kidding"

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in “Kidding”

How does a family recover from that? In the real world, many families never recover. Jeff and his wife separate, and the remaining child, William (Cole Allen), begins acting out in school and hanging around with older troublemakers.

Judy Greer, Jim Carrey & Catherine Keener at the premier of "Kidding"

Judy Greer, Jim Carrey & Catherine Keener at the premier of “Kidding”

While all this is going on, Jeff must still be the happy Mr. Pickles to the world. He has to show up to work every day and sing happy songs to adoring children and parents who love him. And the truth of it all is that Jeff (Jim Carrey) actually is a good person who believes the world can be a wonderful place.

Ginger Gonzaga plays Jim Carrey's cancer-patient girlfriend in "Kidding"

Ginger Gonzaga plays Jim Carrey’s cancer-patient girlfriend in “Kidding”

Jeff wants to use his own tragedy as a learning experience for children. He does a wonderful, gentle episode talking to kids about death, but the production company won’t allow that episode on the air. The production company is controlled by Jeff’s father Sebastian (Frank Langella). Unlike the gentle Jeff, Sebastian is a nasty son of a bitch who is more interested in the money than the message.

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Instead of trying to help his son, Sebastian wants to replace him with an animated Mr. Pickles. A cartoon character would never get depressed or try to introduce messages that would make the sponsors uncomfortable. The real Fred Rogers made sure to never commercialize Mister Rogers. Unfortunately Sebastian has turned Mr. Pickles into a money making machine, with advertisers and product tie-ins to toys and kids food.

The cast in Kidding is terrific. Judy Greer is wonderful as the wife who can no longer take being married to “America’s saint.” She no longer wants to try to be forgiving and happy all the time. She hates the driver who smashed into her car, and thinks it is not natural that Jeff tries to find “meaning” in every event.

Catherine Keener is Jeff’s sister Deirdre. She loves Jeff, but still agrees with her father that Jeff needs to be replaced. It does not help that her own personal life is a mess, with her husband Scott (Bernard White) leading a double life.

Cole Allen (William) is perfect as the troubled surviving twin son. Most shows do not know how to properly portray kids just entering their teens. Most shows either have the parts played by people in their 30s, or else the lines are like nothing a real kid would say. Kids and teenagers don’t handle tragedies the same way adults do. They tend to shut down, act out or both. Cole Allen has remarkable acting skills even at his early age.

Ginger Gonzaga is Vivian, a beautiful cancer patient who Jeff befriends while he is touring a hospital as Mr. Pickles. The two quickly become passionate lovers, but others question if the relationship is healthy. Has Jeff really fallen in love or has he purposely chosen a woman who he knows will not be on this Earth for very long? Is Jeff so afraid of losing another loved one that he went out of his way to pick someone who he knew ahead of time he is going to lose?  Vivian herself is aware of this situation and questions the relationship. However, she and Jeff are kindred spirits who can show each other their deepest fears and emotions.

Kidding is a wonderful show. It is a dark comedy without ever getting too dark or too silly. Jim Carrey plays Jeff as complex and conflicted individual who we want good things to happen to.

  • We give Kidding 4 Stars **** The only reason we did not give it our highest rating of 5 stars is that it has a couple of raunchy sex scenes that the series would be better off without. Some of the gay sex jokes are a little much and don’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the show.
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