Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's Casual

There are things in life that we see, or hear, and remember for no particular reason. The memories lie dormant, only to pop up years, or even decades later, and provide critical positive (or negative) life lessons.

I saw the movie, "The Landlord," (1970) when I was 13 or so. Beau Bridges plays Elgar Winthrop Julius Enders, an undirected man born into privilege. As IMDB says:

"At the age of twenty-nine, Elgar Enders "runs away" from home. This running away consists of buying a building in a black ghetto in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Initially his intention is to evict the black tenants and convert it into a posh flat.....soon he has other thoughts on his mind. He's grown fond of the black tenants....."

Eventually Elgar fathers a child with one of his tenants. In the penultimate scene, after the mother gives birth, a disengaged Elgar visits her in the hospital, just to be polite: shirttail hanging out, hands in pockets. He asks her if she's going to keep the baby boy. She says no, she's putting the baby up for adoption. As Elgar's leaving, she adds that she hopes the boy is adopted by a white family, "so he can grow up casual... like his father."

The last scene shows Elgar returning to his building with his baby son, full of newfound purpose and responsibility.

I didn't think about this movie again until.... I was 29, too: going out, getting & spending, owning a bunch of cars, having fun. Then out of the blue one day that contemptuous line came back to me, and it served as a much-needed reminder that my 'adult' life should be something more than what I'd let it be thus far: casual.