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Don’t Wait To Stop & Smell The Roses (Or Eat The Cheese)

Don’t Wait To Stop & Smell The Roses (Or Eat The Cheese)
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Photo: Courtesy Sony Picture Classics

LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

“Let’s pretend we don’t know where we’re going or even who we are.”

When these words, which have an unhurried, enjoy-the-journey vibe, were said by “Jacques” (Arnaud Viard) to “Anne” (Diane Lane) in the film Paris Can Wait I scoffed, just as she did; the very idea seeming as off-brand for me, as for her.

I have one speed, which is “GO,” and usually don’t stop for roses-smelling or much of anything else. In fact, most the time I feel as though I’m wishing my life away. If I have a particularly long to-do list, my utterances throughout the day (starting at dawn) go something like: “Is this day not over yet?” If I have a meeting at the end of the week, I spend the first three work days wishing it were Thursday. And, if my husband, Neil, or children Luke, 22, and Meg, 19, are away, well, the end of their travels can’t come fast enough, with me X-ing the days on the calendar like a prisoner counting the moments until release. Sometimes when our family goes on trips, I sound more like a child than an adult, constantly querying: “Are we there yet?” with a “How much longer?” chaser.

So, at the beginning of the film, I shared the temperament of Anne, who is married to “Michael” (Alec Baldwin), a show biz player married to his iPhone.

She is traveling with him on business; first to Cannes, with their end destination being Paris. Not wanting to fly with an earache causes her to beg off a last-minute detour. She will use ground transportation and meet Michael in The City of Light. When his colleague Jacques steps in and offers to drive Anne, well, hey, why not? But then, her companion, turns what she hopes will be a get-there-tout-suite, seven-hour car ride into a leisurely two-day road trip. My head would have blown off after the third hourly cigarette break.

Also, I’m not sure how well I would have handled it when the car broke down and he flew into action by laying out a blanket for a brie and baguette picnic, then posed as though he were sitting for one of the Impressionists.

The movie got “eh” reviews. In fact, the most impressive thing about it is that it was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola’s 81-year-old wife Eleanor. (Clearly, it’s never too late to try something new.) The documentary filmmaker based her first feature on a 2009 experience she had when she accompanied her husband to the Cannes Film Festival.

I didn’t really appreciate the message of the movie, until a bit later when I was talking to a colleague/family friend, who is 82. He was noting all his projects: the self-published book he’d just completed; the other he had paused writing and would pick up again; how he makes sure to go somewhere or do something (hike, swim, play billiards) each day; and a new fishing trip he is planning. He confided that the most valuable thing to him now is time, and he wants to use his wisely and enjoyably.

I suddenly found myself appreciating the outlook of Jacques, who honestly, I had pegged as an irritating, time wasting, control freak.

He wasn’t, after all, trying to postpone Anne’s joy, but bring her some with the opportunity to see the country through the eyes of a native/expert, as well as partake in Provençal meals, which got more close ups than Alec Baldwin.

I’ve decided that summer is the perfect time to see if I can tap into my inner Jacques; I’ve started to stop every hour and take a (non-smoking) break, if only to look out the window; instead of making a beeline for a destination (even if it’s just to the store), I’m going slightly out of my way and taking side streets, discovering businesses and interesting looking buildings that I didn’t know existed even though they’ve been a couple of blocks away the whole time I’ve lived here; and for Memorial Day weekend, when my family went to our usual haunt of Montauk, I pretended I didn’t know where I was going or even who I was.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.