Tells a Low-Down Tale
By Michael S. Goldberger
Seething is the word that comes to mind as writer Dennis Lehane’s “The Drop,” about very bad doings in the underbelly of contemporary Brooklyn, unfolds. It seethes with ill will. But what makes it even more disquieting is that, lounging at Cousin Marv’s neighborhood bar, you mightn’t know at first blush what illicit things happen here. You wonder, perhaps having an innocent pint or two, how often you’ve unwittingly sat amongst those involved in the most perfidious of pursuits. Cousin Marv’s, you see, run by James Gandolfini’s Marv, is a drop joint.
That is, those criminal powers that be, in this specific case the Chechen Mafia, use Marv’s as a way station where they temporarily park each night’s ill-gotten gains. Some probably know it, but, like Tom Hardy’s Bob Saginowski, the tight-lipped but very observant bartender who is actually Marv’s cousin, keep their mouths shut. Stoical, resolved in his fate among the shadows of misbegotten souls he serves, he utters no aspirations other than to maintain the status quo: “I just tend bar.” The tavern’s namesake, on the other hand, is a mass of bitter disappointment.
From snippets of acerbic repartee between Marv and his blood-linked barkeep, we gather that the tavern owner might have resisted the cancerous encroachment of the villainous thugs that now ostensibly own his establishment. However, shortsighted, prone to bad judgment and a glutton for excesses that inevitably compromise a smalltime guy, he has sold himself to the Devil, and it appears there is no Daniel Webster to reclaim him, except for Bob… maybe.
If we know anything from director Michael R. Roskam’s slyly rolled out plot tidbits and character exposition, it’s that Bob is a strangely loyal sort, even in the face of his cousin’s thoughtless castigations. This assumption will be tested and further information will be forthcoming, all splendidly mixed in with odd circumstance and seemingly unconnected subplots. Oh, and there’s one heckuva big surprise in store…extra astonishing because, to paraphrase a detective investigating a holdup at Cousin Marv’s, “You don’t see it coming.”
Inasmuch as he’s the narrator, or simply because he seems a lonely sort destined to spend his days among the seedy, unfortunate and baseborn, we’re happy when a slight glimmer of purpose other than mere subsistence enters Bob’s life. It comes in the form of a yelping pit bull puppy he finds discarded in a garbage can in the front yard of an equally lonely sort along his route home. Nadia, a waitress portrayed by Noomi Rapace, standoffish for good reason, softens just long enough to help Bob shop for the items he’ll need to be a full-fledged dog owner.
Whether Bob and Nadia know it or not, romance attempts to gift the sordid air with its hopeful fragrance. Shades of Adrian and Rocky (“Rocky”-1976), although a full degree more dire, they mistrustfully maneuver and size each other up, daring not wish aloud for what might make their bleak existence more bearable. It’s nicely executed and, in a film ripe with subtle metaphor, suggests a supposition or two. Like the sapling that sprouted through the concrete in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945), perchance love, too, might defy its obstacles and detractors.
Bob wants to name the pooch either Rocky or Mike, but prefers the latter. Nadia says Mike is no name for a dog. Such lighthearted banter in the face of constant fear amounts to whistling past the graveyard. Surely something will come along and ruin the simple joy of discussing the frivolous and casual. Thus, enters stage left crazy and threatening Eric Deeds, menacingly played by Matthias Schoenaerts. He says it’s his dog and wants $10,000 for him. Huh? Really?
To stir the pot a bit more, local legend has it that Deeds was responsible ten years ago for the still unsolved killing of neighborhood regular Richie Whelan. Mr. Roskam tosses out a few similarly uncertain accusations and dark secrets, cunningly weaving his crime drama with smartly released tangential clues that both startle and make us wonder where all this bad behavior is heading. Further convoluting the ambiguity between good and evil, resident detective Torres (John Ortiz) has some thought provoking observations about Bob’s church attendance.
Watching this moody meditation, not quite retro film noir, but close in that its desperate characters aspire to little more than survival and a farfetched dream or two, I remembered a conversation I once had with a veteran stockbroker at a party. I asked how big he thought the underground economy was. He answered without hesitation, “As big as the aboveground economy.” The shock and alarm of worlds in our very midst that dismiss the rules of civilization we know is frighteningly entertaining, especially when their surprises get “The Drop” on you.
“The Drop,” rated R, is a Fox Searchlight Pictures release directed by Michael R. Roskam and stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini. Running time: 106 minutes
By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
What kinds of reacher grabber tools can you recommend for seniors who need help picking things up off the ground? I bought a cheap one at Walmart a few months ago that doesn’t work very well for me and would like to find one that does.
—Need a Hand
A good reacher grabber is a very handy tool for anyone with mobility issues. It works like an extension of your arm, allowing you to reach down and pick things up off the ground without bending or stooping over. It can also help with reaching and grabbing things in high overhead places, as well as areas that are difficult to get to.
But with so many different reachers on the market today, finding a good one that works well for you is not always easy. Depending on your needs, here are some top options to consider.
If you want a reacher primarily for picking up small lightweight items around the house, the “Aluminum Reacher with Magnetic Tip” by Duro-Med is multifunctional. Available in 32 and 26-inch lengths, it has a trigger-style handgrip with a serrated jaw that provides a secure grip when lifting objects. It also has a magnet built into the tip for picking up lightweight metal objects like a paperclip and a small hook (or horn) that aids in retrieving things like clothes, shoes or keys. But, because of its lightweight design, it doesn’t work as well at retrieving heavier items like canned goods from shelves.
For retrieving small and medium-sized items, the “Ettore Grip’n Grab” can handle most chores. Available in 16, 32 and 50-inch lengths, it has a soft comfortable trigger handgrip and a rubberized jaw that’s strong enough to lift objects up to 5 pounds and up to 4 inches wide, yet sensitive enough to pick up something as small as a dime. The jaw can also swivel 90 degrees to reach things in awkward spaces.
Ergonomic handle reachers
If you have hand or wrist arthritis that makes gripping difficult, the 31-inch “Medline Reacher” has a handgrip that lets you use all five fingers to close the jaw for better gripping power. Or, consider the new “HealthSmart GripLoc Sliding Reacher,” a 43-inch two-handed reacher with a power slide handle that opens and closes the jaw (no hand squeezing required) and a twist lock that locks the jaw when it’s clinched to secure your item.
For easier storage or travel, the 32-inch “EZ Reacher Collapsible” has a slip-joint in the arm that allows it to fold in half. It also has stainless steel fingers with silicone suction cup tips that do a nice job of picking up large and small items; and a pistol grip with an optional safety lock that locks the jaw onto items without continuously squeezing the trigger.
Adjustable length reacher
If you need a reacher for various lengths, the “PikStik TelescoPik” has a lockable sliding shaft that adjusts from 30 to 44 inches. It also has a trigger grip and a rotating rubberized jaw that can lift up to 5 pounds.
For outdoor use, the 36-inch “Unger Nifty Nabber” is ideal for heavy-duty jobs. It has a rubber-coated jaw for a strong and reliable grip with a built-in magnet, an aluminum handle and can lift 20 pounds.
Where to Buy
You can buy reacher grabbers at many pharmacies, retail, medical equipment and home improvement stores. But, because it’s a specialty item, the selection is very limited. You can buy one online at amazon.com, which sells all of the top reachers at prices ranging between $12 and $40. Just type the product name in the search bar to find it.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
By Ginger Isham
Thursday’s dinner at our house was a new recipe and an old dessert, plus a green salad and buttermilk biscuits. I have been making a new recipe every week for some time now. Ninety percent of the time, a new recipe is OK’d by the men of the house.
Hay and Straw
1 package linguine (16 ounces)
2 cups julienned cooked ham (use low fat, low sodium)
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup half and half (I added 1/2 cup)
1 small can chopped black olives (optional)
Cook linguine according to directions, drain and keep hot. Saute ham strips in butter for 3 minutes or until little crisp. Here, I used part turkey pepperoni as I did not have enough ham. Add peas and cook for 3-5 minutes. Stir in chopped black olives. Stir ham mixture, cheese and half and half into linguine. Serve. Another time I might add a little chopped onion, garlic and /or grated carrots and sauté with the ham.
Iowa Depression Applesauce Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, and baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered, unsweetened cocoa (optional)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup raisins, optional
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
Cream sugar, butter and egg. Mix dry ingredients and alternately add to creamed mixture with applesauce. Stir in raisins and nuts. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool and ice with Penuche Frosting.
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blend sugar, salt and milk in saucepan. Bring to boil and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Add butter and vanilla and cool. Beat in confectioner’s sugar until creamy. Let set until consistency to spread on cake. (I put in frig a few minutes). Frost cake and decorate with whole nuts. I store cake in frig indefinitely. Wonderful frosting for cakes, cookies and cupcakes. Can spread between graham crackers also.
Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.
By Mal Boright
Having captured five of their six early season victories on the friendly grass in the Hinesburg hills, coach Stan Williams and his undefeated defending champion Champlain Valley Union High girls soccer team opened a three-game stretch of away contests Wednesday afternoon (after the Observer’s press deadline) at Burlington High.
The Redhawks travel to St. Johnsbury Academy Saturday for a 10 a.m. collision with the Hilltoppers. They motor to South Burlington High Tuesday for a 7 p.m. evening meeting with the Rebels.
Win number six came Saturday, a 5-0 Spirit Day rapping of visiting Spaulding High of Barre.
With gusty winds behind them, CVU rolled up a 4-0 advantage by halftime and eased through the final 40 minutes with the wind not much help to the visitors.
Naomi Burhans scored twice in the first half and assisted Audrey Allegretta on the lone tally after intermission. The helper was a favor repaid as Allegretta had picked up the assist on Burhans first goal, just over four minutes into the game.
Catherine Cazayoux and Megan Gannon also booted home pointers, while midfielder Paige DuBrul passed off for three assists, all in the opening half.
Spaulding goalie Megan LeCours had more business than a 75 percent off sale at Old Navy. She made 17 saves, some leaping spectaculars and even had help from the posts, which denied goals by Cazayoux and Allegretta.
In the first half, Spaulding did not get a shot in the direction of CVU goalie Maddie Turneau until there were 13 seconds to play.
Turneau had one easy stop and Michaela Flore had two after taking over for the final 30 minutes of the game,
Williams said after the contest that Sierra Morton could miss some games due to a leg injury.
By Mal Boright
With the schedule getting into mid-season tough, the Champlain Union High boys soccer team heads for St. Johnsbury Academy Friday and its only scheduled meeting with the usually stubborn Hilltoppers.
St. Johnsbury took a 5-1 record into this week, its lone loss a 3-0 blanking at South Burlington High Friday.
The 5-1-1 Redhawks were under the lights Tuesday at Buck Hard Field in Burlington to face the 1-2-1 Seahorses.
Since bowing 2-1 to Rice Memorial High’s veteran outfit at the Essex High tournament in the season-opener, coach Katie Mack’s Redhawks had put together five straight triumphs, outscoring foes 27-1, plus a 0-0 draw with Burlington High on Tuesday.
The latest win came on Spirit Day Saturday at Hinesburg, a 4-0 zip job over visiting Spaulding High.
Max Brown was the leading point popper, knocking in a pair of goals. Cooper O’Connell also scored, as did Elliott Mitchell late in the game on an assist from Jacob Russo.
CVU goalie Oscar Kelley had one save while CVU attackers forced Spaulding keeper to kick out 10 shots.
“It was the best we have moved the ball this year,” said Mack after the victory. “We had a lot of opportunities.”
O’Connell was the Big Scoring kahuna last Wednesday as the Redhawks routed Harwood Union’s often pesky Highlanders 8-0 in Duxbury.
O’Connell scored three times, while Ollie Choiniere and Richard Baccei each potted two goals and Russo nailed one.
CVU unlimbered 18 shots on goal to the Highlanders’ two.
By Mal Boright
With tasty results from near-to-home cooking last Saturday, the Champlain Valley Union High cross country teams will be hitting the big slab of I-89 (and I-93) this Saturday for a regional invitational competition in Manchester, N.H
The Redhawks made their first Vermont appearance in two weeks a good one at Hard’ack last weekend, as the girls won their division while the boys finished a close second to victorious Essex High.
The Redhawks’ Sophia Gorman sped to a 15-second win over runner-up Emma Farrington of the Hornets. Gorman posted a time of 19 minutes and 54.9 seconds.
“It was Sophia’s first win this year over Emma,” said coach Scott Bliss.
CVU had just six girls running, and four made it into the top six finishers.
Behind Gorman were Carly Neeld (third), Meara Heininger (fourth) and Jennifer Ireland (sixth).
The boys team total of 39 points was just eight behind winning Essex, led by triumphant Andry Chmykld in 16:58.4.
CVU’s Tyler Marshall was second in 17:11.5, followed by teammates Calvin McClellan (sixth), Elliott Eastman (eighth) and Tyler Wong (tenth).
Bliss said the boys kept improving. “It was another step forward,” he added.
“That is our goal,” the coach concluded. “To keep trying to get better each week to be prepared for the end of the season.”