Thursday, August 05, 2010

Kicking and Screaming at 35

Over the weekend I attended a reunion with my high schoolmates. After the Ateneo basketball team had managed a squeaker against National University, those who attended the game went out for dinner at Berting's at the Home Depot compound in Ortigas.

Suffice to say, looking at the growing paunches and lack of hair (especially on my part), I thought that we had definitely gotten older. But it still felt like no time had passed at all as we joked and horsed around-- especially after the wives had gone home on their own.

But time had definitely passed us by. Most of my close friends have either disappeared or gone abroad. We can now count some companions who have passed on to the Great Beyond. One proud parent passed around a picture of his new-born son to other friends who were parents-appreciative on their own.

Outside, I saw a group of high school kids who could have been us during our younger days when we would go out for a few beers and ogle girls. Then, we were too caught up in our own world and all we worried about was meeting girls and passing our studies.

Then, we eventually graduated from high school and went to college and our own separate ways. Now we're parents, husbands, homeowners, corporate executives, basketball coaches, managers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and even a divorcee.

My question is: have we done enough in this life? Is this all there is to it? At our ages, what have we done in the past years that was so remarkable? And what do we need to do to make this life worth something more?

Strangely enough, I've been walking down a '90s path nowadays as I remember songs like The Proclaimers' "Walk 500 Miles" from Benny & Joon and Paul Westerberg's "Dyslexic Heart". from Singles. Those songs still packed a punch the way I remember them.

My friends and I were movie buffs and we dug the soundtracks of the movies we watched like Sleepless in Seattle and Reality Bites. (Yes, we somehow gravitated to watching romantic movies despite being male. We never admitted it but we were all hopeless romantics.)

It was around that same time that I started watching talkie movies (in laser disc format even!). You know what I mean about talkie movies: these are movies that spend the most part of the running time featuring scenes of two or more people just... talking to each other.

Obviously, the most famous movie of this kind was Before Sunrise starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Who could forget Hawke and Delpy wandering the streets of Vienna talking about everything under the sun (and moon) before parting ways?

On my part, one of my favorite talkie movie time is this unknown flick by Noah Baumbach called Kicking and Screaming. At that time, this movie resonated with me because it told the story of four college graduates who had no idea of what they were going to do with their lives after finishing school and spent most of their time whinging in bars.

I first saw this on cable and I only caught the tail-end of the movie. In the near-ending scene, two friends-- Grover and Max-- had just sent off a third friend at the airport. As they exit the terminal, Grover suddenly runs back inside and heads to the ticketing counter.

At the counter, he asks airline girl if he could buy a ticket to Prague. Unfortunately, the woman behind the counter says there are no tickets left for a flight that's about to leave in an hour. Grover then launches into a long monologue that laments his inability to just do something big in his life like going to Europe. He also drops hints about a girl named Jane who had gone to Prague and left him behind.

"Send me to Prague. Please." Grover begs.

Convinced, the girl says she could get him a seat on the plane. Grover is elated and you could see in his demeanor that he's actually managed to convince himself as well. The girl then asks for his passport and Grover's face drops: he has no passport.

Later on, I discovered the story behind this scene: Grover and Jane were a couple but Jane decided to go to Prague to continue her studies. Grover-- unable to leave his comfort zone-- decided to let her go. This wishy-washy aspect of Grover's character is seen over and over again throughout the movie.

Piecing what I've seen of the movie, I finally realized the importance of Grover's big act in trying to follow Jane to Prague-- and what his failure meant.

That's when I realized at the time that it would be a good idea not to forget to make the occasional grand gestures that makes life worth living. That--and that if you're going to do a grand gesture, you better make it count.

On a last note, I just want to share this conversation between Grover and Jane taken from the very last scene of the movie (before they had become a couple and were still classmates in one class).

In a flashback mode, Jane is walking on the sidewalk and Grover runs up to her to ask something. They get into talking and Grover exclaims in surprise about being classmates for years without noticing each other. Jane says she had always noticed Grover.

For a moment, Grover is quiet and then he says:
Grover: Ok, the way I see it, if we were an old couple, dated for years, graduated, away from all these scholastic complications, and I reached over and kissed you, you wouldn't say a word, you'd be delighted, probably, but if I was to do that now it'd be quite forward, and if I did it the first time we ever met you probably would hit me.
Jane: What do you mean?
Grover: I just wish we were an old couple so I could do that.
I had to laugh as Jane's face (played excellently by Olivia d'Abo, one of the few names I recognized in the cast) shifted back-and-forth between embarrassment to amusement.

We should all be lucky if we can make grand gestures like that at least once in our lives.

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