Thursday, January 17, 2008

Old Joy

Randy and I drove to LaSalle last Saturday, for Kate's dad's memorial service. Our friend Kate and her husband Ehran have had a tough month; Ehran's best friend Jim died in an electrocution accident before Christmas, leaving a wife and young daughter. Two deaths of fathers, one prepared for and foreseen, one incomprehensible and blindsiding.

The countryside was beautiful between here and LaSalle. January light renders all colors pastel, all shapes shadowed. We saw a round barn, a llama huddled against the wind in the mud of a cow pasture. Enormous wind-farm turbines appeared out of the mist like something out of H.G. Wells.

I looked up from All the Pretty Horses, noticed the handsome curve of Randy's freshly shaven jaw and said, "It's nice to get some time together alone. It's like date night!"

"Yeah, only without the date and the night," he said and smiled.

I had been waiting, waiting for the chance to talk to my husband about Old Joy, a film I heard about months ago and finally caught on the Sundance channel. The spare plot from a story by Jonathan Raymond: two old friends go for an overnight hike in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. They hike through lushly beautiful forest, find a hot spring, take a soak and go home. But in the space of their two days together, we see the chasms that have emerged between them.

One clings to a slacker lifestyle, always ready with a beer and a good story, even though the charm is wearing thin; the other is expecting a baby and looking at his friend's chronic irresponsibility in a new light.

I related to Randy the film's climax, if you could call such a quiet moment that, when the slacker friend tells an alternately hilarious and sad story, ending with something like,

"I said, 'I think I'm going crazy, man!' And the Indian lady, she was in her fifties, with a dot on her forehead, hugs me and she says, 'It's okay, it's okay. Sorrow is joy that's been all used up.'"

Randy was taking the off-ramp from 90 west to 294 south by the airport and we were curving and climbing and I wept, telling the story, because that is the sadness of Kate's father's funeral, isn't it? He had sixty-two years of marriage and five children and good and respected work as a dentist in a small town and grandchildren and lots of golf and in his retirement invented ingenious ways of retrieving golf balls and we are just sad because of all that joy, right? Kate tells us her father and mother would make necklaces from the gold he used for dental fillings. She likes to picture them together, melting the bits of gold, then dropping them into cold water to make free-form shapes. Her father made their wedding rings.

On the way to the service I complained about Randy's map computer that sends us on a route to the northwest when LaSalle is clearly south. I'm jealous of that map bitch, cause my husband pays attention to her. "Complaints are worn out compliments," points out Randy and I laugh and laugh because he is just the kind of guy I like.

Here's an interview with Jonathan Raymond.

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