Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Am I a Slacker?

It's funny how our movie choices can fit an appropriate theme, even when we're not going for a theme.

I actually might have been going for a Father's Day viewing theme this past weekend, as one of the three movies I picked up from the library on Saturday was The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. The Way is explicitly about father-son bonds, as Sheen plays a father grieving over the death of his adult son (Estevez) on a hiking excursion. I didn't know exactly when we might watch it, but I thought it was a good roll of the dice to accompany two safer choices, Say Anything ... and Heathers, the latter of which we watched on Saturday night. My wife had expressed an interest in The Way in the past, but we both decided it seemed too heavy (even though I didn't actually know the son died when I first rented it).

No, the inadvertent theme occurred when my wife took my son out for a couple hours on Sunday afternoon, allowing me to watch a movie. That was my one Father's Day request -- a couple hours of peace and quiet in the afternoon to watch a movie at home. She did lots of other nice things for me, but that was the only thing I specifically requested.

The question then became: Handed such a rare and luxurious opportunity, what movie should I watch?

I wanted it to be something I hadn't seen before, as I've done a pretty good job re-watching old favorites in recent years. But I didn't like the selection of new movies at the Redbox -- at least, not for this particular occasion -- and I didn't want the title I chose to be too much of a gamble. I wanted it to be something I knew there was a good chance I'd like.

So that morning, I browsed through our Netflix streaming and decided on Richard Linklater's Slacker.

Having already seen most of Linklater's movies, I considered it a serious hole in my filmography that I had yet to see the film that put him on the map. Many credit Slacker with helping usher in the indie film movement that has thrived over the past 20 years, and for that reason alone I should have seen it long before now.

If you aren't familiar with Slacker, it's a free-form, essentially plot-less journey through a day in Linklater's home base of Austin, Texas, meeting more eccentric characters than you can shake a stick at, each of whom has some philosophy on this thing we call life. The most meaningful frame of reference for me was Linklater's Waking Life, which came along ten years later, which I own and have seen four or five times. In fact, I came out of Slacker thinking slightly less of Waking Life, which I now recognize as basically a rotoscoped version of Slacker (rather than the completely original entity I imagined it to be). Or, to reverse engineer it, Slacker was a live-action Waking Life. The "story" weaves you in and out of conversations transacted by a wide array of Austin residents, the majority of whom are in their early 20s. You get a little snippet of what makes them tick, and then you move on.

The theme part of it? Owning a new home has confronted me with the question:

Am I a slacker?

In other words, instead of lounging on the couch on a Sunday afternoon -- even if it is Father's Day -- should I be out hammering nails and drilling holes? Should I be engaged in real "father" activities, like making sure my house is everything it can be? Even if it is the one day of the year fathers are supposed to get a day of rest?

Vance, you slacker.

It's no secret I'm laid back. My wife is much more forward-thinking about most of the things in our family life, whether it's the next stage of our son's development or the next stage of buying (and then improving) our home.

But I did tell myself that once I was a homeowner, I was going to be more proactive about things related to the house than I have been (for maybe obvious reasons) with things in the places we've rented.

How soon is too soon to tell if I'm already failing in that resolve?

Granted, this past weekend was only our second full weekend in the new house. There's no deadline for getting things in 100% working order -- a condition most homeowners will tell you it's impossible to attain, anyway. We haven't had a housewarming party yet, and if/when we do, we will likely time it to coincide with our son's second birthday -- which is not until the end of August. So even if we needed time, we've got time.

But the problem with the essential slacker mentality, the kind that's on display in Linklater's movie, is that it always seems like there's time. "Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?" "Laid back" is the generous way to characterize it. "Lazy" may be closer to the truth.

I've always wanted to be one of those guys who DIYs home repairs and figures out ways to make his home sparkle just a little bit more. Because I wasn't turning out to be one of those guys wasn't my fault -- I didn't have a home yet. There was no way to measure what I'd become when I did in fact find myself in those circumstances.

And I know two weekends is too early to make any judgments, but for now, I'm a bit worried that I won't be that guy. If my own history is any indication, I'll be the guy who lives with things that are partially broken, because really, I don't mind that they are. The "glass is half full" way of looking at something that's partially broken is that it's partially working.

I've made a couple status updates about home ownership on Facebook, and one response I got stood out to me. It seemed to perfectly encapsulate the pressures we put on ourselves when we own a home -- pressures to be some idealized version of ourselves that may not really be true to our nature, almost out of necessity. The guy quipped "Here's a quote that will soon become so true for you: 'Did you have a nice weekend, or do you own your own home?'"

Ha. You can't have it both ways.

The thing is, I do like to have a nice weekend. For now, I'm just basking in the glow of having the home. I don't really care if it's got approximately 37 things of varying magnitudes that need to be worked on. There's time. There's always time.

If that makes me a slacker, then so be it.


Travis McClain said...

I hadn't thought about it until just now, but home ownership - once held in such high regard it was a requirement for voting - becomes entirely meaningless during the zombie apocalypse. Maybe that's why it has never held the faintest appeal for me.

Vancetastic said...

Right. If I manage to survive, I can have any home I want. Even possibly Bill Murray's, if he goes before I do.

Travis McClain said...

If you'll recall the documentary, Zombieland, Murray was not yet gone when survivors claimed his home.

Also, it occurs to me that the joke about good weekends vs. home ownership must have been made by someone who had avoided all the other pitfalls that have ensnared pretty much everyone I know. Good weekends became a thing of the past long before any of my friends owned their own homes.