“Hey, man, are you all right?” — “Yeah, I’ll die soon, then it’ll all be over…”

My father passed away over a year ago this last August.  There have been a few of these posts that have been difficult for me.  “The Cowboys” and “Blues Brothers” come to mind.

This one will be another challenge.

Every time I think of this next movie, I think of my dad.  We were only able to watch it together one time, unfortunately. I think that the reason being was that it was hard for him to watch it with other people.

He was a man that had a hard time letting go of his past self.  I might be reading into this (I’m sure I’m going to hear it from my sister if she happens upon this), but it is how I feel.

Make no mistake, even though we only saw it one time together, my father L-O-V-E-D this movie.

67 GTO

My mom and my uncles used to tell me stories about my dad’s 67 cherry red GTO that he used to “rod” and race when he was in high school.  It had a 400 in it and he had a pair of brass knuckles for the handle of the manual gear shift.

I was told he loved it.

My father was a man of few words and if someone else was willing to talk about it while he was in the room, he’d let them.  I used to look over at him when other people were telling his stories.  He always had a mischievous grin under his big beard as he listened sitting in his chair with his arms crossed.

He used to talk about what a mistake it was to ever let that GTO go.

“Man, I could kick myself,” he’d say.

As it pertains to “American Graffiti” I always felt that my dad was reliving his own life when that VHS was spooling through the machine that projected those images of the cars driving around that town in that movie.

AG cars

It wasn’t just the racing that brought him back (there’s really only one quick scene).  It was the culture that was relived in that movie. I can’t think of a movie off hand that knew it’s own tone better than this one, and it never surrenders that message throughout.

The dialogue alone gave my dad flashbacks:

“Oh, rats.”

“Don’t you think the Beach Boys are boss?”

“Hey, man, who cut the cheese?”

“…it only took me one night to realize if brains were dynamite you couldn’t blow your nose.”

People don’t talk like that any more.  The “assumed innocence” that oozed from the 1960s bled out all over the screen after George Lucas created “American Graffiti.”

For my father, this was as nostalgic for him as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “War Games,”Back to the Future,” etc. (you all know where to find the list) 😉 were for me.

I think that as much as he enjoyed it, he wanted to watch it alone where he could reminisce in his own mind.

I remember randomly taking some looks back at my father as he would watch on and he had some tears in his eyes, in moments through the film that seemed out of place.  I think that the movie just moved him very closely and “took him back”…and he knew he really couldn’t “go back.”

Later I remembered asking my dad why he got rid of his red GTO.

“Well son, I wanted to get married and have a family.  That wasn’t a family car and as much as I miss it, I’d never keep that damn thing if it meant I couldn’t have you guys.”

As I sit writing this and choking back some tears, I remember thinking how corny that sounded to me when I was in junior high.  All it does is make me want to cry now. Looking back, it was a rare moment where my father was trying to have an honest conversation with me about how he felt.  Now that I have a son of my own, I understand it.

At the end of the day, “American Graffiti” is a great movie that I will watch hopefully many more times before I pass.

I love the atmosphere, the dialogue, and the “young” actors (Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Charles Martin Smith, and Harrison Ford) that had the energy and zeal that this 1960s portrayal needed.

Trying to explain scenes and plot points in this movie would not only do it injustice, it would confuse the hell out of everyone.

I remember when my parents first rented it.  I asked them what it was about and they couldn’t really explain it.  They just kept saying, “It’s about the 60s,” and “You’ll just have to watch it.”

We did watch it…

…and they were right.

——

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15 thoughts on ““Hey, man, are you all right?” — “Yeah, I’ll die soon, then it’ll all be over…”

    1. Amazing how powerful that medium can be, isn’t it? Sometimes you don’t even know how the artists are manipulating our emotions until you’re in the middle of tears dripping down your cheeks…I love movies…

      Like

  1. What a poignant and touching post. I love when people share their personal anecdotes when speaking about film, we used to do that often in Uni. I love American Graffiti, it oozes nostalgia, which really appeals to my golden age thinking. This was one of the first movies that my parents went to watch at the cinema together and I remember watching it for the first time really late one night, many years ago, and as it came to the closing minutes of it’s runtime, it started to go light outside, so I really felt like I’d spent the night with the gang. Brilliant – and glad to have found your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy it. I appreciate your time! That is an awesome way to experience that movie. I love the “one last great night together in our small town.” I grew up in a town like that and we used to do that. Drive around, get some food, pull pranks fight, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lost my mother ten years ago but there are so many songs and movies that bring back happy memories she never really talked about her life in Jamaica before she came to England but I always had the feeling she didn’t want to remember from the little I did weedle out of her .But I am glad us kids got the best of her And we have so many moments that touch all of us .I am sorry for your loss but the good memories you have will sustain you. Lovely postx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. My father was the same way. Not much of a talker and he never wanted to talk about how he “felt.” He wasn’t perfect, but he was my dad. He is loved and missed. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to
    be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or tips.
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  4. My dad wasn’t a movie guy but your story about asking your dad why he got rid of his car made me tear up.
    My dad was in the Navy when Ford released the Mustang. He always wanted one but being on a ship well, it didn’t make sense.
    Fast forward to 1983 looking for a first car he & mom swore they wouldn’t buy for theirnewly licensed 16 yr old daughter😊 I wast so happy to have tbe 1966 Mustang he chose for me! On the occasional morning I would head out to drive to school only to find it gone and a note with the family sedan telling me dad drove it to work (90 miles each way).
    Great movie and love your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy to hear that story. I am picturing those things in my head. What a great advertisement that could be for Ford. Remembering things like that is what keeps people alive for those that have not met them (I’m speaking of my son)… I hope you have a great rest of your Sunday. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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