A tale of two gems

Lexus Dec to RememberIt strikes me that the two most heavily marketed words I hear after every Black Friday are:

– “Gems” (as in “The right gems tell her everything she needs to know”). Like what? That you’re now officially living below the poverty line?


–  Lexus (as in “Make this a December to remember”). No thank you.

And, so, I’ll ignore Lexus completely while turning my attention to two very different kind of gems: fascinating documentaries about two radically different men.

The first, called “David McCullough: Painting with Words,” is a 39-minute homage to my favorite biographer and historian, David McCullough.

I’ve read every one of his books, ranging from The Johnstown Flood and John Adams to The Great Bridge and, my personal favorite, Mornings on Horseback.

And, yet, having read millions of words written by the man, I knew next to nothing about him.

“McCullough”, like its subject, is no ordinary documentary. Sure, it chronicles his rise to fame and fortune but, more importantly, it explains exactly how he targets each new subject.

The researcher and author will spend countless hours reading personal notes and letters written to, and from, his subject and, in the process, get so close, that he considers them friends. He says that, based upon the minutiae he’s unearthed up to a certain point in, say, Truman’s life, he knows exactly what step the subject will take as an impending crisis thunders on the horizon. It’s fascinating stuff.

The other gem is, one might say, a horse of a different color. Called “Fall to Grace,” it picks up the life of former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who dominated the tabloids after first, resigning in the wake of same sex harassment suits about to be filed by staffers and, secondly, enduring a brutally messy front-page divorce.

After those gut-wrenching ordeals, McGreevey completely disappeared from public sight. But, he never left The Garden State. Instead, he embraced his homosexuality, moved in with his decidedly upscale Wall Street partner and choose to pursue two distinctly different paths:

– Working in female correctional institutes and halfway houses in which he has helped countless junkies and criminals turn their lives around.

– Renouncing his Catholicism since it vilified love between two men, branding it as a mortal sin.

Instead, the erstwhile Democratic hotshot (and presidential hopeful) embraced the far more liberal Episcopalian faith. McGreevey became deeply religious, served mass every Sunday and even studied to become a priest (the Church powers-that-be rejected him, not knowing if he truly had a calling or was merely running away from his past).

Each gem is rich with insights into the images and reputations of the two men in question.

The first is nearing the end of an illustrious career (yet still plans to write 27 MORE books) while the other has found true, inner peace and is fully immersed in not only writing a completely different, and unexpected, second chapter in life, but embracing and accepting whatever benefits or sacrifices may lie ahead.

So, put down the check book long enough to hold off paying for a temporal gem and instead invest a few minutes in learning more about two, true gems of humanity who have lived far richer lives than many of us can ever hope to attain.



One thought on “A tale of two gems

  1. Thanks for the heads up about the McCullough documentary.Charlie Rose has done some pretty good interviews with him,which have revealed something of the man, but look forward to checking this out.