Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
– Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, lyricists, and Marvin Hamlisch, composer
When I saw that our local movie theater, the Cerrito Theater (10070 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, 510.273.9102) was going to show The Way We Were on Valentine’s Day, I knew where I was going to be eating dinner that night. But it took some time to convince David to go. He agreed to go, and it’s one of the most sentimental Valentine’s Day “gifts” he’s given to me. It’s hard to believe that the movie celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. I remember seeing it in the theater when I was 10, and subsequent times after that (although I will say that I forgot a lot of the details of the movie). While the movie is flawed (read the Wikipedia entry on it; it’s fascinating) and those flaws were more evident tonight, it brought me back to the 1970s, to a nostalgic period in my life.I had created this acronym to describe myself when I was growing up – RISS, which stands for romantic, idealistic, sentimental, and sensitive. So you can imagine how this movie played out to a girl with that kind of hard wiring. I had a big crush on Robert Redford back in the day. And while I never considered Barbra Streisand beautiful, I admire her tenacity, passion, comedic impulse, and her sensuality, especially in the way she twisted her lips and worked her long fingers around Hubbell’s neck and shoulders and those blond locks.
I confess I had a little Katie Morosky in me in college. There is a scene in which Katie expects her story, which she crafted for three months, to be publicly praised in her creative writing class; instead, Hubbell’s story is read aloud. The next scene shows her dashing through the campus and stopping at a trashcan to tear up her story and throw it away. In one of my early creative writing classes at UC Davis, I modeled one of my stories after James Joyce’s Araby. The problem was that I stupidly mentioned it in class after a classmate asked me about technique. My professor, whom I admired greatly back then and still do to this day, said in his very formal tone of voice that it is fine to write like James Joyce but only if one is James Joyce. Everyone in the class laughed, and I was mortified. After class, I dashed across the quad to my dorm room, where I literally threw myself on my bed and cried. After my weeping, I sat up and told myself, well, you wish to be a writer, and if you want to write you have to put yourself out there. You have to accept the criticism, and learn and grow from it. It has never been easy, but it’s still true.
The second affinity I have with Katie is my sense of social justice and activism, which I confess was much grander and more passionate when I was younger, especially in high school, college, and in my twenties. I was very big on Greenpeace. In the same way Katie was handing out strike leaflets on the college campus, I was distributing Greenpeace cards that said “Club sandwiches, not seals” and “No veal this meal” in the dorm dining hall. The back bumper of my lemon of a Volkswagen Rabbit was covered up with various stickers about saving whales and other such sentiments.Lastly, the college scenes reminded me of my own crush on a fellow English Department student, whom I scared away with my intensity. I asked him out to lunch and relived the encounter when reading about it in my college journal this past holiday. I had to laugh at the remembrance. He ordered the Steinbeck Salad, which astonished and delighted me because Steinbeck was one of my favorite authors at the time. But the kicker? He told me he wanted to join the Peace Corps. Just like I wanted to do. I remember meeting my roommate after lunch for the scheduled debriefing. I was head-over-heels in love. Steinbeck, the Peace Corps. It was meant to be. Only in my head. And so I completely empathized with Katie’s college crush on Hubbell.
One thing I appreciated in viewing the movie this time around was Streisand’s fashion sense through the decades. I thought I had more retro outfits, but not one that more closely matches the aesthetics of Katie Morosky. But I’ll give it a go, with an Enrado twist.
Watching the movie was a total indulgence for me. A walk down memory lane, making for a memorable Valentine’s Day evening. Next stop? The Mel-O-Dee Bar (240 El Cerrito Plaza, 510.526.2131) on karaoke night to sing Babs’ song!