It was a bit of a retro summer around here. The string of balmy days made for a perfectly perfect perfection of a season - the kind of summer you are already nostalgic for before it's even over. On Project Runway, a 1940's throwback with matte red lips designed and sassed up a storm and the lifestyles of the early 1960’s burned up cable on Mad Men. On hot days I found myself reaching for comfortable Target dresses, what they used to call "housedresses," to wear instead of shorts.
In pursuit of the green life, I didn’t rehire the lawn guys who cut our grass for the last four summers and did the work myself. With a push mower and a rake.
As Randy would watch from the deck with a beer and his I-phone, I kept thinking of the scene from Richard Yates' 1961 novel, Revolutionary Road, where suburbanite April Wheeler mows the lawn much to the pain of her hung-over husband Frank.
"A shrill metallic whine cut through the silence of his sleep....It was his own rusty lawnmower, which needed oiling. Somebody was cutting the grass in the back yard, a thing he had promised to do last weekend....It was April herself, stolidly pushing and hauling the old machine, wearing a man's shirt and a pair of loose, flapping slacks, while both children romped behind her with handfuls of cut grass....April slowly and heavily brought up the rear, pulling the lawnmower behind her, blowing damp strands of hair away from her eyes with a stuck-out lower lip. Everything about her seemed determined to prove, with a new flat-footed emphasis, that a sensible middle-class housewife was all she ever wanted to be and that all she had ever wanted of love was a husband who would get out and cut the grass once in a while, instead of sleeping all day."
It was my second reading of the novel before I added up the equation - the story is set in 1955; April is pushing a rotary mower, not a gas-powered one.
Revolutionary Road is being made into a Christmas release film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, all growed up and reunited from the Titanic. I'm so curious to see what they and director Sam Mendes will do with characters whose internal lives are so at odds with the way they behave. Frank Wheeler, the main character, is searching for the one thing he is incapable of – authenticity. He knows it when he sees it, but actually being real always seems just out of his grasp.
"The rest of (April's) story was that her father had shot himself in a Boston hotel room in 1938, and that her mother had died some years later after long incarceration in a West Coast alcoholic retreat. 'Jesus,' Frank said on first hearing these facts, one irritably hot summer night in the Bethune Street place (though he wasn't quite sure at the time, as he hung and shook his head, whether what he felt was sorrow for the unhappiness of the story or envy because it was so much more dramatic a story than his own.)"
Here's some just released footage from the film. Looks intense. I hope they capture some of Yates' black humor as well as his ability to chronicle the dying of dreams.