Thursday, September 18, 2008

WASTED ON THE WAY

"What makes you grow old is replacing hope with regret."
--Patty Loveless, "Too Many Memories"

How do I love country singer Patty Loveless? Let me count the ways. She was never as high-profile as her chart contemporaries Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood, but no female country singer of the '90s cut to the core of my soul like she did. The lyric above is from a song on one of her best albums, 1997's Long Stretch Of Lonesome.

It reminds me of scenes from two of my favorite movies of the '00s. (Or maybe it's the other way around: The scenes remind me of the song.) One, is in 2004's Sideways when Virginia Madsen compares the trajectory of human life to the life span of a bottle of wine: "And then, begins the inevitable decline." Goose bumps! For this sublime movie moment alone, she should have taken home the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. (My apologies to the great Cate Blanchett, who won for mocking Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.)

The second, in the 2002 film The Hours, is a dialogue between Meryl Streep and Claire Danes, who plays her daughter. Meryl talks about her current disappointed self vs. her younger more optimistic self. In her youth, she explains, she'd wake up every morning and wonder, "Is today the beginning of happiness?" Much later, she continues, she realized that peaceful easy feeling, that hopefulness she once felt every day upon waking, was happiness.

This is a concept that I think most people miss. But it was never lost on me. Life--and people--are disappointing for sure. In my own optimistic youth, I never dreamed that my life would turn out the way it has, that pushing 40, I'd have no traditional nuclear family, that I'd feel so ambivalent about the journalism career in which I'd always aspired to excel, that I'd wake up every morning alone. Today, I was talking to a 21-year-old about life, and he asked me, "¿Pasa rĂ¡pido la vida?" Yes, it does go by so quickly. (Diane Keaton said it first, to Jack Nicholson, in Something's Gotta Give.) Thankfully, moving to another country has helped me to recapture the feeling that Meryl talked about in The Hours and avoid the gloomy fate that Patty Loveless sang about.

Regrets, I have more than a few. But you've gotta have hope, too.

DOWNLOAD Patty Loveless: "Too Many Memories"
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