A Little Pinch In 'The Beach Bum'
Hedonic Time in The Land of Flowers and The Fountain of Youth by Victor Jugo De Naranja
Tim Urban has a post on time and aging somewhere on his blog Wait But Why. An image of a ninety year human life in weeks. You can look it up. It’s an image that puts things in a novel zoomed out perspective that doesn’t come natural to most of us moderns. I thought about it when we were on our way back from Israel in the middle of Corona. Where would we land? Back in Texas? Somewhere North? Somewhere South? Florida, maybe? The Carolinas?
We ended up making berth in Appalachia.
In America, the average person spends about 936 weeks with his or her parents before leaving the harbor and sailing out into the world. What is that?:—about 6,570 days between birth and smoking age. And after that you see your parents for maybe 12 weeks in the summer for the next four years. And then 2.5 weeks for a winter vacation, and maybe 1.5 for a Spring break; though, Spring breaks in college are not normally go home affairs. So after you reach smoking age the average United States of American will spend the next four years spending maybe 16 weeks with family: siblings, parents.
After college, though, the visiting numbers decrease even further. Visits home, on average—and I’m estimating—probably come down to the two or three remaining national holidays worth traveling for (if we’re even celebrating and traveling in this now G-dless country): Thanksgiving. Christmas. Easter. Which are at best a week a piece; at worst, an afternoon a piece. Three afternoons.
Three afternoons a year until death.
If your parents are fifty years a piece then you will see them 60 more times before they die; maybe 80 more times. But probably less.
So what starts out as great river of time spending every waking moment with your parents and siblings, ends up being dried up trickle in a small dormant stream.
There are historical, religious, philosophical, sociological, hemispheric, evolutionary, metaphysical, esoteric reasons for this. You already know them, so I won’t bother repeating them. But they are all often lost in the busy-ness or dogmatic lethargy of life until you are pinched in your beach bum by some novel view of time mapped out in an image; or some scene in a movie.
I was watching Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum (2019) two nights ago. And there was this scene that struck me. Moondog, the bum protagonist, is at his daughter’s wedding. He does not like her prospective husband. The prospective husband does not measure up to Moondogs vital-physical-hedonic ideals or expectations.
And so Moondog is giving this speech—it’s a beautiful speech, really; the movie is actually littered with beautiful moments of speech from Baudelaire, and D.H. Lawrence, and Matthew McConaughey’s (Moondog) Kerouackian improv orations—And so Moondog is speeching about the birth of this daughter he is giving away; he’s describing the moments when he peeled back of the curtains of goop and gunk to place his hands on both sides of his daughters head and bring her out into the world. And Moondog looks to the future son-in-law whose name he can’t remember (and neither can I) and he says something along the lines of: “And now I give her into your hands to take out into the rest of it.”
And that moment moved me. I have a daughter myself, and I was there when she came into the world. And I’ve been there every day since she’s been awake in this place…
Anyway there’s much more I could say about this hedonic masterpiece. About the locale: The Land of Flowers and The Fountain of Youth—the metaphysical meaning of this movie and the moment it occupies in our grand narrative arc; About the freedom of Harmony Korine, a truly liberated artistic spirit. If you know, you know. You can tell. ☗