Director: Ron Underwood
Writer: Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel
Cinematographer: Dean Semler
Producer: Irby Smith
by Jon Cvack
Time is accelerating in such a way that I’m nearly nauseated. As of this writing, coming up is my yearly bros trip for Memorial Day weekend, which looking back my photos, feels like it just occurred, which once over, will signal start of summer where I’ll promise myself to go to the beach more and be outside, but will end before I ever have the chance to try, meaning my birthday is around the corner where my girlfriend will take me out of town, returning to scary movie month which will fly by, followed by thanksgiving and Christmas soon after, where I’ll be able to take ten days to reflect on how I’m possibly back to my parent’s house which feels like I had just visited. Granted, Covid has disrupted nearly all of these, and Christmas no longer looks as certain.
It feels like I’m in that scene from First Man (2018), where the capsule begins spinning out of control, going faster and faster and crashing toward Earth. As dark as it sounds, my parents will die far faster than I expected. If I have a child, they will grow from infant to teenager quicker than I could ever imagine, and while such a thing forces you to appreciate each moment, what I find myself struggling with is that anything - whether good or bad - will come and go like a bullet train passing by. Time moves so fast that while even remaining present, it’s not possible to fully appreciate or despise a moment. I will be middle aged very soon, I will have less time to live than more very soon, and then I will be dead.
I don’t mean for it to sound so grim as I don’t actually find it entirely depressing. I’ve explored meditation three times in my life - high school, college, and right after college, and none of them ever stuck. As of last January 2018, I’ve continued the habit mostly twice a day, at least once a day, and missing it altogether maybe one day per week. Similar to exercising a muscle - and I really want to emphasize the physicality of this - meditation allows me to brush my thoughts back as they wander into obsessive and grim dark holes - about my career, work, or life in general.
What I’ve gained is an ability to remain present within the moment and throughout the last eighteen months I find myself more aware and appreciative of each and every moment - whether beautiful or sad. I find myself less offended by everyday frustrations, realizing I’m often being either unsympathetic to the situation or others involved, or letting a negative emotion waste my time (of which there is little of). It can’t remove those nasty feelings altogether, but I find myself engaging in arguments and debates less and less, and making more of an effort to understand and calmly explain more and more.
In saying that, it’s shown me that there’s no reason to dread life’s speed. It’s a sad, but inevitable reality. We are animals, and like how animals sleep, shit, procreate, and eat, they too will die and there’s no reason to be offended at our inevitable end. We humans are fortunate enough to be aware of each moment, and more and more I find it hard to get too upset about how fast life goes. It’s an awful cliche - but the point truly is to appreciate each moment as much as you can, as the speed of life isn’t going to make it worth anything else. Writing about this film and others is something I genuinely love doing whether anyone reads it or not. It’s an activity that makes life pleasurable.
Released in the early 90s, City Slickers is about a 38 year old radio ad salesman Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) who takes extreme adventure vacations with his best friends - the unhappily married grocery store manager Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) and the rolling stone sports equipment store owner Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby). We open up on their trip to Spain where the three have decided to run with the bulls, with Mitch getting a horn in the ass and vowing to give up on the adventures.
He returns to New York with his wife Barbara (Patricia Wettig) and kids and on the day of his 39th birthday, he wakes up depressed. Forty is around the corner and he feels unfulfilled. Last time I saw this was when I was twenty or so, and the ideas seemed so distant. Now, I’m nearly six years from this age, and knowing that’s only one college and the first two years I was in LA, before I was even with my fiance, I know it’ll be here before I know it, which means I’ll be forty in no time at all.
Mitch arrives at the office to find out his boss is unhappy with his work and wants to have more oversight for the time being. Later, Mitch gives a disastrous career presentation to his son’s class (one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s earliest roles), giving a fantastic monologue about aging (see the link).
He returns home to the birthday party, where his two best friends hang out - Ed with his latest mid-twenties conquest, and Phil who fakes being asleep so his wife won’t bother him. Things are at ease, and Ed reveals their next journey to a cattle drive in New Mexico. All points aside about where these people get this much consecutive time off, Mitch is apprehensive, saying he was going to visit Barbara’s parents in Florida for the next vacation. A twenty year old cashier then comes storming inside the apartment to tell Phil that she’s late. His wife yells and Phil finally snaps, unleashing all he’s been holding inside for years, immediately realizing that he’s both lost his job and marriage, and with two kids to feed, isn’t sure what he’s going to do.
The party clears out and Phil’s episode triggers Mitch, who flips back to depression, telling Barbara how he’s felt like he’s lost that something; which I can’t describe anymore than that empty/bored feeling you get when a job becomes routine. Although they have plans to go to Florida with Barbara’s family, she says she wants him to go on the trip; that he’s not asking, but telling him that he needs to go on the trip in order to find himself, and in a bit of heavy turn, suggests that they might have to think about a separation if he can’t.
They all agree and head to New Mexico, where we meet the other participants of their cattle drive - a Ben & Jerry’s inspired brother duo Barry (Josh Mostel) and Ira Shalowitz (David Paymer); a father and son Dr. Ben (Bill Henderson) and Dr. Steve Jessup (Phill Lewis; the film’s only black characters); an attractive single woman Bonnie Rayburn (Helen Slater; the main story’s only woman); and of course, the Oscar winning role of Curly (Jack Palance; who for those who don’t know or remember, did a one armed push up upon accepting his award).
Continue to Part 2...
BELOW: One of my favorite monologues
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