Sunday, September 18, 2011

James Cromwell at the Supermarket

I went to bed at 2 this morning and drifted into a dream that carried me all the way through to 9:14 a.m. It's amazing how dreams that seem to only happen in an hour or two turn out to have encapsulated seven hours of sleep.

Last night, I was thinking about the supermarket, any supermarket here. I need more frozen blackberries and yogurt for the coming week. In that dream, I found myself at a supermarket, looking for yogurt. Not many Greek yogurts in one refrigerated case, and then I encountered apparently a former co-worker at The Signal, even though I didn't recognize him, and I would have. We reminisced about our days there, I asked him what he was up to, and we moved on.

And then, in an aisle full of crackers, I was behind a tall man who was picking up a box from the top shelf, and it turned out to be James Cromwell. Yes, Farmer Hoggett from the Babe movies, but for me, a West Wing fan, former president D. Wire Newman in the 5th season episode, "The Stormy Present," one of only two episodes I liked from that season, but a slight disappointment to me, because though I could get the feeling of life after the White House from Newman and his deceased successor Owen Lassiter (the funeral in the episode takes place at his presidential library in Costa Mesa), there wasn't enough discussion about the personal impact of the White House from Newman or from former acting president Glenallen Walken. Instead, the focus was on the protest situation unfolding in the Middle East, and Newman's experience with the same royal family during his term, and Walken's opinion about what should be done. I liked the scene of Newman telling Bartlet how he felt after his MS was revealed to the world, and of Walken talking to Bartlet about a trip he took to China with Lassiter. But there was that golden opportunity, squandered, also because of a "B" story of Josh trying to negotiate a settlement between North Carolina and Connecticut about a copy of the Bill of Rights stolen by a Civil War soldier.

In the dream, my intention was to ask Cromwell if there had been anything changed in the script, any sections of exactly what I had hoped for that were excised. I began talking to Cromwell, telling him that I know others would ask about Babe, but I really wanted to know more about his role as former president Newman, to learn about the filming, to see if anything had been left out.

Also at the supermarket was a contingent of his family, on hand because his mother or father was dying, which is strange to me now because his mother, actress Kay Johnson, died in 1975, and his father, director John Cromwell, died in 1979. Or maybe it had been an aunt or an uncle, but either way, they were there for support and to get him back to the hospital in due time. I remember also nieces and grandchildren there too, and at the end of the dream, a 14-year-old granddaughter who had actually seen the episode I was wondering about, but all I could muster was telling her that her grandfather did was excellent in it. Some things are too important to let questions about other things creep in.

There seemed to be his family in nearly every aisle. There were instances in which he dashed off, and I encountered them, and they answered some of my questions, but not what was truly important to me. It was remarkable how tight-knit this family was, a rare quality.

That's all I got out of the dream. I think if I'm to get any hypothetical answer about the missed opportunity, my next dreams are going to have to involve John Sacret Young, who wrote the episode. Or maybe even executive producer John Wells, since he was at the head of that atrocious fifth season after creator Aaron Sorkin and chief director/co-executive producer Thomas Schlamme were fired at the end of the fourth season.


  1. That is a great dream. I never watched West Wing and would definitely talk about Babe, although I don't know what I'd say. So, it's a good thing James Cromwell never invades my dreams.


  2. This was the first time that ever happened, and I hadn't even been thinking about the episode before I went to bed. But that episode has always bothered me for that reason, particularly because I'm fascinated with presidential history, especially presidents looking at their administration(s) after enough time has passed. As soon-to-be-former First Lady Abigail Bartlet (Stockard Channing) says to soon-to-be-former president Bartlet (Martin Sheen) in "Tomorrow", the final episode of the series, about his daughters being at the farm when they arrive in New Hampshire, "We're just afraid you might have some re-entry issues in returning to live amongst us mere mortals."