Every time I think about scrubbing routine, I think about the end of
Here's a guy, Ben, who has always played the straight and narrow, done everything in life he had planned up to the end of college. And then, he scrubs routine.
Most everyone wants to change course, and each for his own reasons.Ben does it for a woman -- well, if you want to get technical, two women. But it's the daughter, Elaine Robinson, he really wants. And as he steals her away from the arranged wedding in Santa Barbara, the two hop a bus and plop down in back with unchecked daffiness.
|So...you wanna grab some dinner?|
I just got back from vacation. Vacations can be dangerous. Sure, you're free of work; you can relax, get in touch with your non-work self. But if you get too comfortable, you see yourself too well in another light -- what you might be like if you lived in this place. Needless to say, it's always sexier than the kind of person you are back home.
|The Love Tester in a Nashville bar. Like I said, sexy.|
But man, this vacation...
I went to Nashville, Indiana. Sounds like a joke,
right? I know it doesn't sound like a place you take unpaid time off work to go see. Frankly, I thought the same. I went up there to see my longtime late-nite TV idol, Joe Bob Briggs, host a B Movie Festival at the Brown County Playhouse. The show was great, of course; I mean, this guy's my hero. He could've stood on stage and spun plates -- poorly -- and I would've thought it was genius. But it was when I left the
theater, when I walked down the main drag of the town, and when I branched off into the little avenues and plazas of Nashville, with their casual diners and low-key coffee shops, knick-knack craft boutiques and bookstores that I really began to feel transported, almost out-of-body. I felt like I lived there.
One of the great filmmakers ever is Albert Brooks, just because he doesn't take shit from "The Graduate". I think his entire career has been based on re-writing the ending to that movie, or at least elaborating on it.
|Life is good! (as long as we've got the Nest Egg)|
"The Graduate" is great because anyone who has ever had a flash impulse can relate to it; we may find it cathartic to find Ben throwing his future away in one grand romantic gesture. We may find it so great, in fact, that we misinterpret the ending as a triumph of human courage. Now, I know many folks may watch the movie and see the ending for the downer it really is, but the first time I saw it I genuinely thought it was more uplifting than "The Shawshank Redemption" -- until I got a little salt on my skin and noticed the dire consequences our impulsive actions really weigh on us. This, of course, was around the time I began to notice Albert Brooks.
|I made a big mistake.|
See, all week I've been coming back to the same spot: am I really thinking clearly, or is this just an impulsive desire to scrub routine? Does it really matter, anyway?
Think for a second if Albert Brooks did "The Graduate", and the flick started right when Ben and Elaine hop the bus. Where would those forlorn faces, having just turned a distinct one-eighty, take them? First, they'd probably go get some dinner; Ben did just drive half-way up the Northern coast of California without stopping to eat, and Elaine was probably saving her appetite for the wedding reception later that night. But after that, it would most likely turn into a nightmare of bad decisions and harsh, unforeseen logistics. Oh, and let's not forget they've only been on one date, so there's a metric ton of flaws they don't know about each other. Remember "Lost in America", when David's wife, Linda, reveals she has a gambling problem -- after she loses the Nest Egg? And they're MARRIED for God's sake!
But even Brooks, practical storyteller that he is, wouldn't leave it in the dumps. Well, the ending might still be a little sour -- even open-ended -- but there is always that resolve that "The Graduate" can't give it's characters. Just look at David Howard in "Lost in America". This guy has eight hundred bucks to his name, taken away from over $100k after a single night's layover in Sin City. He's a bum with a motor home, forced to take a job as a school crossing guard in Safford, Arizona. When it looks like he can't get any lower, he has a revelation: this sucks.
|"Just run me over while you're at it. That's ok!"|
So this is some hot, good news for the choices we make, whether they be impulsive or planned: the more unfortunate path is the one where you don't scrub routine. In fact, it really makes you dumb. Sure, maybe the worker bee, humdrum life I'm living really is meant for me -- as it's meant for David Howard. Maybe the life that waits for me in Nashville, Indiana will find me broken and destitute, but, if nothing else, I'll be wiser -- not dumber! I know 'wiser' don't always cut the moose, or put bread on the table...but these days, after college is over and all I have to do is work, what else can I trust in to do new things with this life, or learn about this world?
Again, my God, this could just be impulse rationalization taking over my brain, tempting me to ruin my life. How can I know for sure?
Well, here's one last thing...
The Law of Gravity says everything must come down to its proper place. A ball can sit on the ground for a hundred years. It may be flicked up the slope for a few chaotic, disorienting seconds, but it'll always find its place again: back on the ground. Ben knows he wants something different. It may be Elaine Robinson, or it may just be to get his sneakers dirty. But he has to try something new, if only to see where he'll end up. David Howard may not know this when he 'drops out of society', but he definitely knows it after his wife gets a management job at Der Weinershnitzel.
Sure, a ball doesn't have a mouth, and it doesn't have to eat -- but, yeah, it knows where it'll end up, even after a little rolling around. I guess that would be good enough for me.
Ramen's still .25 cents a pack, right?