I had a very late meeting in Marin tonight, so late I decided to crash at my folks house instead of heading back to the city. Rolling in at 10 o'clock, I found my father sitting by the fireplace enjoying an aperitif and smoking a pipe like he's about to introduce an episode of Poirot.
"Really, Dad? You really do this?"
"What?!?!" He lit his pipe with matches from a restaurant that's been closed for a decade.
My mother emerged from her bath in a robe and sat across from me upstairs in the TV Room.
"What are we watching?" she asked.
I had decided upon Out of Africa.
"Karen has just returned from Denmark." I caught my mother up. "She left Africa because her shitty husband gave her syphilis. Apparently, she could only recover in Denmark which is no longer home to her."
My entire childhood, my mother's held this torch for Robert Redford I never understood. On and on she'd go about Robert Redford and his incredible jawline. When I finally saw Out of Africa, I got her point, what with his divine natural highlights and wardrobe made entirely of Banana Republic's original concept.
Now, of course, I can't stop watching Out of Africa. Not so much for Robert Redford and those divine natural highlights. But for the clothes. And the music. And Meryl Streep who keeps getting punched in the face by life and still manages to tie her kenete cloth just so.
Mom and I like Meryl as "Karen from Denmark (which is no longer home to her)" mainly because she gets out and works her coffee bean farm along with what my mother has deemed, "her slaves." She also doesn't take a lot of shit from men and has a very "them's the breaks" attitude about everything.
"Oh, my husband gave me syphilis.
Oh, my coffee bean farm burned to the ground.
Oh, my seriously hot but unwilling to commit boyfriend died in a tragic plane crash.
Well, I guess I'll just dust myself off and create a protected reserve for this tribe I just happen to have adopted before heading back to that shithole, Denmark to write a best-selling novel about the whole thing under a male pseudonym. "
Mom and I noticed several things in our shared viewing of Out of Africa. The first is that Robert Redford's character, "Denys" is always peeling fruit. Constantly. In nearly every scene, he's got an orange or a pear or some weird African delicacy which he's slowly and sexily peeling, yet never eating. Every 10 minutes, my mother would scream out, "Look! Look! He's doing it again!"
The second thing we noticed is that it's both reassuring and upsetting to know that hot American guys in Kenya circa 1913 didn't like to be tied down by labeling relationships.
At one point, Karen's getting pretty fed up with Denys just coming and going whenever the hell he feels like it. To which Denys points out that some chick wants to join him on another one of his sexy safaris. Karen, who's ex-husband cheated on her to the tune of syphilis, tells him to forget it and Denys goes, "You have no idea the impact those words have on me."
Karen then tells him to get the hell out as my mother leans back into her chair and says matter of factly, "Well, I have to say I agree with Meryl Streep."
Finally, and I'll say his till the day I die, I love how people just dramatically show up in movies. Denys doesn't call or write ahead to say when he'll pop back into town. No, that would be boring and unoriginal. Instead, weeks go by with Denys in Somalia or Uganda until one day, Karen's walking back from the coffee bean fields to hear music coming from her veranda. And there, with his divine natural highlights and confidence and record player is Denys. He's landed the plane he learned how to fly "yesterday" on her lawn. He then hands her aviation goggles and flies her over the sweeping plains and beaches of Africa as thousands of gazelles leap across untouched wilderness.
That, gentlemen, is how one just shows up. Until, of course, one crashes his plane and dies just before he's going to show up, reconcile and finally commit to sticking around for awhile. My mother and I watched in stoic and respectful silence as Karen eulogized Denys at "their" spot on the hill. Which is exactly the moment my father decided to extinguish his pipe and wander upstairs.
"What are you guys watching."
"Nothing! Shut up! Robert Redford just died!"
So engrossed inside this cinematic moment, estrogen errupting from our extended hands imploring him not to take another loud step, our extreme response prompted my poor father to finally ask, "In real life?"
*In an exciting twist, today (the 18th) is Robert Redford's birthday. Equally importantly, it is also Brett's. Happy Birthday, Dallas! You're my favorite eyepatch-wearing, wheelchair-bound, much older than me, queeny-Asian pen pal...