DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: ‘Oceans’ to Toto, movies open us up

THE WOMAN BEHIND me wasn’t ready to talk.

We’d come to Port Townsend’s Rose Theatre for “Meet Me at the Movies,” a free program of entertaining clips from popular films. This one began with the scene from “The Wizard of Oz” when Miss Gulch, aka the Wicked Witch, takes Dorothy’s little dog Toto away from her.

It’s traumatic. I cringe. Then Toto escapes, and I rejoice while feeling a similar vibration from those around me.

“Meet Me at the Movies” is an event the Rose has every three months; the next one is set for 1 p.m. Feb. 19. The program and the freewheeling discussion led by host Mary Jane Knecht of Chimacum are open to everyone, while especially friendly to people with memory loss. Each “Meet” has a theme; the most recent was animals.

We watched the charming Rex Harrison in “Doctor Doolittle,” urban birders in the “The Central Park Effect,” urban cats in “Kedi” and finally the nature documentary “Oceans.”

Like magic, the movies and the animals unleashed our emotions. After the Toto clip, several among us spoke of dogs we have known and loved; the “Kedi” trailer, with felines lounging around the cafes of Istanbul, got one woman remembering the cats she observed in Greece. Each locality had a feline community with its own culture, she said; the cats in the beach towns tended to be laid back.

Others recalled encounters with the local deer, Newfoundland dogs, songbirds and a snarky pet parrot. Knecht, a woman of skill and gentleness when it comes to leading a discussion, had us enjoying ourselves.

The woman right behind me, though, stayed quiet. When her companion asked if she wanted to tell a story, “no” was the emphatic response.

Then Rocky Friedman, owner of the Rose Theatre, spoke up. He helps Knecht introduce each clip, but otherwise he’s not a big talker.

It was the “Oceans” excerpt that opened him, and the rest of us, up.

Many mornings, Friedman rows across Port Townsend Bay. One day, after his rowing partner of 19 years had passed away, he spied a seal. The graceful animal came closer — to touch Friedman’s boat with its body.

“I decided that seal was Alice, my friend,” he said in a soft voice. Now, when he and the seal meet, he says, “Hi, Alice.”

Another man recounted an experience in Bonita Springs, Fla. In waist-deep gulf waters, he was visited by a dolphin.

“I cupped my hand around its dorsal fin,” he said, and the dolphin took him for a swim, delivering him back to the shallows afterward.

Just before the end of the program, the formerly reticent woman behind me joined in. She painted for us a picture of one bright day when she saw a whale.

A “humongous, black and white” vision rose up out of the sea, “so gently, like a dance,” she said.

“I will never forget it.”

I’m happy to tell you that “Meet Me at the Movies” is back not only this month but for programs every quarter at the Rose (235 Taylor St., downtown). In the Feb. 19 program, Knecht will show and chat about movie clips on the theme of artists and museums. This should be fun, what with so many good pictures out there about creative people through history.

Then comes the spring edition May 7; the theme that day is vacations and travel. Aug. 6 will have movie clips around a sports theme, and 2019’s final edition Nov. 12 will have Knecht showing and discussing movie clips about another essential, sensual topic: food.

Meet me there.

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Feb. 19.

Reach her at [email protected]

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