Monday, August 18, 2014

A Lifetime Ago

It was a night for tacos and commemoration.

We were the first people in Boka Tako Bar where tonight's empanada special was scallop and bacon with ancho remoulade, an irresistible combo with Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc.

He followed that with the Gauntlet, the best order for anyone who's a first-timer at Boka (which he was), while I chose my own trio (not my first Boka rodeo): fish, crispy pork belly (my fave of the three) and chorizo and stuffed myself silly .

With a solid soundtrack of Interpol, Pinback and Band of Horses playing, we watched as the place filled up almost entirely. I know the one time I arrived at 7, the place was standing room only.

I won't make that mistake again.

Bulging at the seams and with hungry diners waiting for our booth, we took a walk around the block in the sultry evening air so humid it felt heavy before driving over to the Byrd.

The James River Film Society was doing a celebration of Robin Williams' life by showing "The World According to Garp," a film I hadn't seen since it opened in theaters in 1982.

When I'd suggested it to my date, I loved his response. "Always up for a John Irving creation!" Like me, he'd enjoyed many of Irving's books and resulting films.

There was a decent-sized crowd, nowhere near full, but I'm not sure how well advertised the benefit screening was.

No question, the movie has aged well and the performances - Williams', Glenn Close's and John Lithgow's - still resonate, although it's one bad '80s costume after another.

And because it's based on a John Irving book, it's full of the kind of odd occurrences (Garp and his new bride looking at a house to buy when a plane crashes into it) and characters (a pro football player transsexual, a kid discussing getting glass eyes to coordinate with holidays ).

As always, I reveled in the cultural details: nurses wearing white uniforms and caps, wall pay phones, kids thinking being taken out to dinner was a big deal.

Oh, yes, and kids didn't wear seat belts, whether in the back seat or up front in Mom's lap.

Most telling about cultural shifts was the scene where the child Garp is pretending to be a military pilot on the roof of the dorm. When he slips, hanging from the roof and calling for help, students and teachers come running.

One adult yells to the students to get their mattresses quickly to put under the roof line in case Garp falls.

I can't help but think that the same event today would elicit two very different responses: calling the fire department and taking pictures instead of just problem-solving to handle the situation at hand.

One of the most striking things about Robin Williams was not how young he was (31), but how lithe and agile he appeared, even playing a teenager believably. Most of my memories of him are as a solidly-built (and extremely hirsute) middle-aged man.

Before the movie, manager Todd Schall-Vass said that given the range of his career, truthfully they could do a whole week of showing classic Robin Williams movies (not that they were planning to).

Absolutely true. I'd hope for "Dead Poets Society" and "Fisher King" as numbers two and three.

But what I'd really prefer is for us not to have a reason to commemorate him yet.

But the last line of the John Irving novel warned us. "In the world according to Garp, we're all terminal cases." Sadly.

Better to remember Robin Williams' last line in the film.

"I'm flying."

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