Friday, May 17, 2013
It was warm December night, typical for Miami Florida, 1967. I had finished my first quarter at Georgia Tech and was home for a couple of weeks, just before starting on my not so illustrious career at Pan American World Airways. The quarter had been a success from an academic standpoint but a disaster socially and culturally. I had no car, little extra money and was at an all boys school. I had not thought out the social angle myself, and what were my parents thinking, sending me, in the prime of my hormone rage, into a situation with such little opportunity to meet any women?
I was a nerd to boot, which did not help. I studied all week and on the weekends as well. Many of my classmates were valedictorians of their respective high schools and I was insecure about my abilty to keep up. Later I learned many had attended very small schools with inadequate prep for a place like Ga Tech. Despite living in downtown Atlanta, I had limited assess to movies and other cultural venues
At home I had my parents car to use. Ecstatic as they were about my acceptable GPA, more than me as I recall, they threw a few dollars my way in an effort to ease my tenuous financial situation. Adding to this good fortune, I was able to reunite with my high school girlfriend, who was also home from college. Without cell phones or even a regular phone in the dorm room, and no car to travel on the weekends, long distance relationships were almost impossible, and rarely did anyone, especially a nerd, even attempt to continue one.
My girlfriend was good looking. She had beautiful very white skin that stunningly contrasted with her jet black hair, excellent facial features and hazel eyes. She was diminutive but curvaceous in all the appropriate places. Her name was Marilyn which greatly added to her mystique from my perspective, having never fully recovered from Marilyn Monroe's death 3 years earlier. When I picked her up early that evening in the 1964 Buick Wildcat, I had no idea the night would evolve into one I would never forget.
In addition to being a nerd, I was also a philistine. I labored through assigned literature readings with little joy and less wonderment. I had never been to art museum, and rarely to a concert. I did occasionally go to movies but never thought about them beyond the credits. That all changed in one night.
We decided to go see a new release at The Gables theater on Miracle Mile in affluent Coral Gables Florida, just a few miles from her house. The movie was called The Graduate, the lead played by Dustin Hoffman, someone we knew nothing about. We had not spoken to anyone who had seen it, and had zero expectations.
I remember watching the movie in a novel way, viewing it with an absorbing keen interest. I don't think I missed a single line but never had a clue what any character was going to say or what would next happen. I was first puzzled and eventually bewildered. I doubt I laughed at the funny parts, uncertain if the director meant it to be funny. When the credits ended, I was not able to get out of the seat. I was truly stunned.
We eventually made it to the traditional "parking" place behind some hospital and tried to figure out what it meant. We talked about it for quite some time, and BTW, nothing else "happened", sorry to disappoint those of you with prurient interests. My mind, For The First Time, was like a hornet's nest, disturbed, all parts buzzing with high energy. For more than a week I could not get the movie out of my head. I did not need to see it again. I was able to go over it scene by scene from memory, gradually coming to the realization I had witnessed an iconic piece of work.
From that point on, I felt every movie, play, novel, piece of music or even a painting or building was potentially mind altering. That someone in our time, not necessarily a Shakespeare or a Mozart, would be able to create a piece of work that could tickle my soul, gave me an overriding optimism and a power to endure anything. All was good. Movies became my passion and shortly thereafter, The Ainsley Park Theater opened in Atlanta, showing first run Indies and Foreign Films. I practically lived there my last 2 years of college
So what happened to Marilyn? I used to worry about that one. Besides being a nerd and a philistine, I was a pretty poor excuse for a boyfriend. Had I scarred her for life and put her in a convent? I did not go back to Miami much and lost track for a long while. Several years ago, her good friend Kathy had a birthday party in North Georgia on a weekend I was riding my bike in the mountains. I got wind of the gathering through Kathy, with whom I had been in touch, regarding a family member of hers with a neurological problem. I managed to more or less invite myself. Marilyn was there with her husband, whom she had married right after college. She was fine, great actually. Her husband and I had a few similarities. He was a doc and bike rider. He appeared to be a fine product of thoughtful WASP breeding, not like moi, the somewhat disturbed product of two conflicting neurotic immigrant cultures, Irish and Sicilian. I immediately liked him a lot. He was bright, easy going and very nice to her.
Perhaps it was hubris, but I somehow felt I had been a positive influence on her choice. The 3 hour drive back to Macon, ordinarily a penance, was a delight