15 April 2014

I do not think it means what you think it means

There are approximately 7.2 billion people in the world today. At some point in our world’s history, one of those 7.2 billion people studied the other 7.2 billion people in the world and determined that the females in the bunch were giving birth to 255 people per minute.  Four and one-quarter babies every second.  In the time it will take you to finish this paragraph, more than 130 little Aries kids will have unhappily come into this loud, bright, scary, cold world; more often than not born to happy parents proud of what they had accomplished. Forgive me if I’m dwelling. I wrote this paragraph after spending a few days in Philadelphia, dealing everyday with the consequences of overpopulation, of men and women who couldn’t keep it in their pants: thousands of similarly-dressed parasites involved in the same deeply-meaningful conversations about careers and love and the world’s problems; all while fighting for the last stool in the bar, the last parking spot on the street.

Three and one-half years ago, Mrs. Benchly and I invited 100 or so of the aforementioned 7.2 billion people to gather outside by the Maine seaside in their Autumn Saturday Best. After the familiar “Once Upon  a  Time” melody  serenaded all 7 of the beautiful  flower girls,


and with the sun shining down upon us, preparing itself for one of its more memorable sunsets, one of our friends, a man of the [friendly] cloth, informed the other 99 or so guests that “marriage, marriage is what brings us together today.” She was not The Princess Bride, I was not Westley, but ours was indeed true love, passionate and pure, which ultimately became a green union of yellow and blue built confidently as if by Masons, sealed with a kiss and a vow that “we shall keep together what share of trouble our lives may lay upon us. And we shall share together our store of goodness and plenty and love.” After a seemingly endless journey to find love, a journey at times so disheartening and soul-crushing that it inspired Papa Benchly to say­—a month before I met Mrs. Benchly—that some people were just not intended to find love, this was the ending promised to us by Hollywood and its subsidiaries. When we said “I do, I do, I do,” we were signing on the dotted line of our Happy Ever After contract. This we believed, because how many married folks remember the fine print of their vows, anyway?

Our honeymoon was, cliché or not, perfect. We ventured to the Pacific Northwest in the autumn, with raincoats in tow, and returned home two weeks later nearly sporting suntans. Mrs. Benchly rearranged our travel itinerary so that I might browse the hallowed grounds of Powell’s Books. On. Our. Honeymoon. Love. On more than


one occasion, I walked around a park taking pictures of flowers. Again, love. We returned home to our dog, Agatha, the best dog in the world who smiles when she greets you and who falls—into your body and asleep—when you ask her to “snuggle.” For our first anniversary, we ventured to Germany in the autumn, and two weeks and 1400 pictures of sunsets, castles, and mountain peaks later, we


returned home with those same unused raincoats folded neatly in the same spots in our luggage, two metaphorical foreshadows thinking to themselves, “should we be worried?”

We suspected there might be a problem before there was one. Mrs. Benchly told me her fears before marriage, before law and God said we should try. If you were naïve, as I was then, you would say, as I tried to say then, that we were prepared for anything. But you wouldn’t be prepared, as we weren’t, because when you prepare for anything, for your share of trouble, what you’re really doing is praying to whomever will listen (wishing, really) to ensure your store of goodness and plenty and love. Isn’t that what Grandpa made you believe you’d get?

After a year, I wasn’t nervous. Maybe I was a little bit concerned, but that’s not the same thing. But then we entered a university study at the hospital because it gave us free access to expensive medicine. And then the study ended and we found ourselves stuck in congestion on life’s highway surrounded by lanes of traffic flowing freely until we moved into  them; two Michael Boltons watching  their  

loved ones speed by them to their full-house destinations. And then we went back to the hospital (sans university study) because it gave us access to expensive medicine. We placed our checks in their hands like tokens in a slot machine; hospitals and casinos are not all that different. And then the treatments ended and we found ourselves staring at the same mile marker, faced with a realization that our dream of a life without pain was sold to us by a con artist. 

There isn’t really a good word for our current reality. I keep coming back to the word that does not mean what one might think it means. It applies in a sense—our reality is not one either of us ever envisioned for our future—but the word still doesn’t mean what one might think it means. Even so, I can’t help but use this word. I use it to describe the reality that has been written for us. I use it to distance ourselves from this reality; to pretend that we’re characters in a beloved movie just two hours and one wheelbarrow away from a happy ending. Because then, when I can imagine our life existing in such a script, I don’t mind so much the countless scenes in the lives of those around me. The lives whose scripts don’t feature the word that does not mean what one might think it means.

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31 May 2012

The Chronicles of Benchly: The Mummy, The Saint, and The Matrix


Ever since July 22, 1993, the night of my first movie date, I have saved every ticket stub I've ever been handed by a teenager saving up for college. I started doing so simply because I had trouble throwing away anything. (How could I toss history into the garbage? What if I forgot it? Would I be doomed to repeat Batman Forever?) But over the years, after countless moves, some great, some The Last Airbender, the mug in which I kept these stubs began to overflow and I slowly felt weighted down by all that cinematic history. And so, I set about writing down each movie and tossing away the stub. Most of them were difficult to read at that point anyway and it was only a matter of time before the ink disappeared altogether and I'd be left with blank papers telling a fading story. 

Last night, I finished documenting all of the movies I have ever seen in a movie theatre (indoor or drive-in). After doing so, I threw out most of the stubs and kept only those of my favorite movies of the last 20 years (Toy StoryAmelieMementoThe MatrixMoulin RougeThe SimpsonsThe Sixth Sense). I don't really know what to do with this list. It's my movie-going history, yes, but there's no real value to it other than for me to look at it and say, "Wow, I've been to a movie theatre nearly every other week for the last 20 years," or "Wow, I really loved Moulin Rouge!" And so, I'm sharing it with you, my dear readers (read: reader) in the hopes that you'll find some comfort in the realization that you weren't the only one who saw Spice World

Without further ado, I present to you every movie that Mr. Benchly has ever seen in a theatre since the summer of 1993: 

The Firm – 7/22/93
Sneakers – 12/23/93
Jurassic Park – 6/17/94
Forest Gump – 7/31/94
Lion King – 12/29/94
The Brady Bunch Movie – 2/17/95
Outbreak – 3/18/95
While You Were Sleeping – 5/18/95
Die Hard With a Vengeance – 5/31/95
Congo – 6/16/95
Batman Forever – 6/18/95
Apollo 13 – 7/12/95
Waterworld – 7/29/95
Something to Talk About – 8/28/95
Showgirls – 9/29/95
Seven – 10/20/95
Copycat – 11/3/95
Get Shorty – 11/4/95
Nick of Time – 12/1/95
Toy Story – 1/1/96
Toy Story – 1/6/96
Twelve Monkeys – 1/12/96
Heat – 2/3/96
Broken Arrow – 2/23/96
Twister – 5/15/96
Twister – 5/17/96
Mission Impossible – 6/9/96
Twister – 6/15/96
Independence Day – 7/3/96
A Time To Kill – 7/24/96
A Time To Kill – 8/1/96
A Very Brady Sequel – 8/27/96
That Thing You Do – 10/4/96
The Ghost and the Darkness – 10/14/96
That Thing You Do – 10/19/96
Ransom – 11/8/96
Romeo and Juliet – 11/14/96
Star Trek: First Contact – 11/23/96
Daylight – 12/10/96
Jerry Maguire – 1/4/97
Star Wars – 2/1/97
Star Wars – 2/22/97
Empire Strikes Back – 2/24/97
Donnie Brasco – 3/16/97
Return of the Jedi – 3/17/97
The Saint – 4/4/97
Liar Liar – 4/11/97
Volcano – 4/25/97
Murder at 1600 – 5/10/97
Grosse Point Blanke – 5/12/97
Scream – 5/18/97
Best Friend's Wedding – 6/28/97
Contact – 7/19/97
Air Force One – 8/4/97
Conspiracy Theory – 8/9/97
Men in Black – 8/21/97
Conspiracy Theory – 8/27/97
Excess Baggage – 9/1/97
Face Off – 9/5/97
Event Horizon – 9/13/97
In and Out – 9/27/97
I Know What You Did Last Summer – 10/17/97
Kiss the Girls – 10/18/97
Life Less Ordinary – 11/1/97
I Know What You Did Last Summer – 11/8/97
The Jackal – 11/21/97
Starship Troopers – 11/22/97
Alien Resurrection – 11/26/97
Boogie Nights – 11/28/97
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – 12/6/97
Scream 2 – 12/13/97
Titanic – 12/20/97
Spice World – 1/24/98
Great Expectations – 1/28/98
Titanic – 2/6/98
Good Will Hunting – 2/28/98
Man in the Iron Mask – 3/20/98
US Marshals – 4/2/98
The Object of My Affection – 4/20/98
Deep Impact – 5/9/98
Saving Private Ryan – 8/1/98
Snake Eyes/Ever After – 8/8/98
Armageddon – 8/24/98
54 – 8/31/98
The Negotiator – 9/52/98
Truman Show – 9/12/98
Return to Paradise – 9/20/98
Urban Legend – 9/22/98
Saving Private Ryan – 10/10/98
One True Thing – 11/14/98
Pleasantville – 11/21/98
Enemy of the State – 11/23/98
Shakespeare in Love – 12/8/98
Shakespeare in Love – 12/29/98
In Dreams – 1/12/99
Varsity Blues – 1/21/99
A Simple Plan – 1/28/99
Payback – 2/11/99
Office Space – 2/16/99
Cruel Intentions – 3/3/99
October Sky – 3/16/99
Ed TV – 3/23/99
Go – 3/25/99
Life is Beautiful – 3/27/99
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels – 3/28/99
10 Things I Hate About You – 4/3/99
Never Been Kissed – 4/8/99
The Matrix – 4/12/99
Pushing Tin – 4/21/99
A Bugs Life – 4/24/99
The Mummy – 5/4/99
Cruel Intentions – 5/8/99
Star Wars: Episode 1 – 5/29/99
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me – 6/11/99
Blair Witch Project – 8/1/99
The Sixth Sense – 8/8/99
Sleepy Hollow – 11/26/99
The Talented Mr. Ripley – 12/26/99
Man on the Moon – 1/2/00
Cider House Rules – 2/24/00
Bamboozled – 11/6/00
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – 12/2/00
What Women Want – 12/15/00
Cast Away – 12/28/00
Cast Away – 1/1/01
Hannibal – 2/9/01
Finding Forrester – 3/10/01
Blow – 4/8/01
Angel Eyes – 5/26/01
Moulin Rouge – 6/9/01
Moulin Rouge – 6/11/01
Moulin Rouge – 6/13/01
Memento – 8/12/01
Rat Race – 8/20/01
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 8/24/01
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 9/9/01
Zoolander – 9/30/01
From Hell – 11/7/01
Monsters Inc – 12/15/01
Amelie – 12/31/01
Amelie – 1/6/02
A Beautiful Mind – 1/21/02
Black Hawk Down – 2/3/02
Return to Neverland – 2/16/02
Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones – 5/25/02
Austin Powers in Goldmember – 7/27/02
Signs – 8/22/02
My Big Fat Greek Wedding – 9/13/02
My Big Fat Greek Wedding – 9/20/02
One Hour Photo – 10/20/02
Punch Drunk Love – 11/16/02
The Ring – 11/23/02
The Ring – 11/25/02
The Emperors Club – 12/2/02
Catch Me If You Can – 12/25/02
About Schmidt – 1/5/03
Adaptation – 1/11/03
Old School – 3/22/03
X2 – 5/2/03
Mystic River – 12/02/03
Kill Bill: Volume 1 – 12/8/03
Russian Ark – 4/4/03
The Matrix Reloaded – 5/18/03
Man on the Train – 7/16/03
28 Days Later – 7/19/03
Legally Blonde – 7/24/03
Dirty Pretty Things – 8/30/03
Lost in Translation – 10/17/03
Scary Movie 3 – 11/1/03
The Matrix Revolutions – 11/8/03
Elf – 11/9/03
The Human Stain – 12/16/03
Mona Lisa Smile – 12/28/03
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – 12/30/03
Big Fish – 1/14/04
Love Actually – 1/17/04
Big Fish – 1/25/04
The Passion of Christ – 2/28/04
Cold Mountain – 3/4/04
21 Grams – 3/9/04
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 3/21/04
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 3/28/04
The Triplets of Belleville – 4/4/04
The Girl Next Door – 4/17/04
Kill Bill: Volume 2 – 4/19/04
Envy – 5/14/04
Mean Girls – 5/22/04
Anchorman – 7/10/04
Fahrenheit 9/11 – 7/24/04
The Manchurian Candidate – 7/30/04
The Village – 8/7/04
Open Water – 8/28/04
Maria Full of Grace – 9/12/04
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow – 9/17/04
The Incredibles – 11/6/04
The Incredibles – 11/19/04
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason – 11/24/04
The Grudge – 12/2/04
Closer – 12/4/04
Oceans Twelve – 12/12/04
Oceans Twelve – 12/21/04
Sideways – 12/27/04
Finding Neverland – 1/1/05
The Life Aquatic of with Steve Zissou – 1/3/05
The Motorcycle Diaries – 1/14/05
The Wedding Date – 2/12/05
Kung Fu Hustle – 4/30/05
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – 5/1/05
Monster in Law – 5/13/05
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – 5/31/05
Batman Begins – 6/15/05
Wedding Crashers – 7/17/05
Crash – 7/19/05
Red Eye – 8/31/05
March of the Penguins – 9/8/05
Junebug – 9/16/05
A History of Violence – 10/11/05
Saw II – 11/18/05
Good Night and Good Luck – 12/13/05
King Kong – 12/19/05
Hostel – 1/16/06
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1/20/06
Brokeback Mountain – 1/27/06
Munich – 2/7/06
Match Point – 2/24/06
Capote – 3/30/06
V for Vendetta – 4/15/06
United 93 – 5/15/06
Thank You for Smoking – 6/1/06
Poseidon – 6/4/06
X-Men: The Last Stand – 6/9/06
A Prairie Home Companion – 6/18/06
War of the Worlds – 7/9/06
Lady in the Water – 7/23/06
Little Miss Sunshine – 8/30/06
The Illusionist – 9/13/06
The Prestige – 11/4/06
The Departed – 12/1/06
The Holiday – 1/5/07
Blood Diamond – 2/2/07
Letters from Iwo Jima – 2/5/07
Dreamgirls – 2/12/07
Notes on a Scandal – 2/20/07
The Queen – 2/24/07
Babel – 2/24/07
Children of Men – 3/2/07
Grindhouse – 4/15/07
Vacancy – 5/4/07
28 Weeks Later – 6/2/07
Hostel 2 – 6/13/07
1408 – 6/26/07
Transformers – 7/1/07
The Simpsons – 8/3/07
Rescue Dawn – 9/17/07
30 Days of Night – 10/26/07
I Am Legend – 12/22/07
No Country for Old Men – 1/14/08
Cloverfield – 1/24/08
Juno – 1/27/08
Atonement – 2/1/08
Michael Clayton – 2/10/08
10,000 BC – 3/14/08
The Happening – 6/24/08
Get Smart – 7/16/08
Tropic Thunder – 8/24/08
Burn After Reading – 9/12/08
Transiberian – 9/27/08
Man on Wire – 9/28/08
In Search of a Midnight Kiss – 10/1/08
Nick and Norahs Infinite Playlist – 10/4/08
Role Models – 11/18/08
Quantum of Solace – 11/21/08
Rachel Getting Married – 11/24/08
Happy-Go-Lucky – 11/26/08
Four Christmases – 11/28/08
Synechdoce, NY – 12/15/08
Slumdog Millionaire – 1/13/09
Frost/Nixon – 1/23/09
Milk – 1/24/09
The Wrestler – 1/27/09
The Reader – 1/31/09
The Reader – 2/2/09
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – 2/3/09
The Great Buck Howard – 4/26/09
Star Trek – 5/22/09
Land of the Lost – 6/4/09
Star Trek – 6/4/09
Flash Gordon – 7/25/09
(500) Days of Summer – 8/16/09
Funny People – 8/18/09
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – 8/22/09
Where the Wild Things Are – 10/24/09
2012 – 12/18/09
Sherlock Holmes – 1/8/10
Avatar – 1/31/10
Hot Tub Time Machine – 4/3/10
Toy Story 3 – 6/20/10
Inception – 7/16/10
The Last Airbender –7/16/10
Tron: Legacy – 12/18/11
The Illusionist – 2/12/11
The Adjustment Bureau – 3/12/11
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – 12/30/11
Limitless – 5/6/11
Your Highness – 5/6/11
Bridesmaids – 5/21/11
Paul – 5/21/11
The Hangover Part II – 6/24/11
Super 8 – 6/24/11
Contagion – 9/10/11
Goonies – 1/26/12
The Artist – 2/25/12
The Hunger Games – 3/30/12
The Avengers – 5/12/12
American Reunion – 5/12/12
The Avengers – 5/27/12
Dark Shadows – 5/27/12

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