...a pair of movie scenes come to mind as I spare a moment to reflect on this national day of giving thanks. Two classics I enjoyed in my younger days, not realizing then how they'd couple to create my own personal drama played out on the eve of this holiday season...
In 1991 Keanu Reeves teamed up with the late Patrick Swayze in a movie called, "Point Break," where Ohio State graduate and FBI Agent, Johnny Utah, travels the Cali Coast in pursuit of Bodhi, (Swayze) and his gang of surfing bank robbers. They follow the high tide, riding the sharpest waves and leaving a trail of dirty cash in their wake.
Following a series of breathtaking scenarios and stunt-ridden chase scenes, Reeves manages to capture Swayze on an obscure Australian shore line, under a curtain of steady rainfall, an enormous Pacific wave gathering force in the background. Johnny has Bodhi handcuffed to his own wrist, the two of them watching the climatic event of the "Thirty Year Storm" wreaking utter havoc to the swirling waters. Utah's pursuit of Bodhi had lasted nearly a year, spanning the globe. He got his man, but was too exhausted to celebrate.
Inexplicably, Bodhi somehow manages to talk Utah into setting him free in order to catch one last wave...the largest point break ever laid eyes upon. The Aussie stronghold catch up to Johnny Utah, confused and screaming in protest while Bodhi, muscling his board, fights the turbulent currents en route to the gathering monster.
"We'll get him when he comes back in," an Australian cop says.
Johnny Utah watches Bodhi meet the wave, a surfer rising to ridiculous heights, then turns his back on the chase. "He's not coming back," he says, reaching for his FBI badge. Without looking, he flings the glistening badge into the water as the final credits begin crawling up the screen...
In 1994, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman joined forces to create "The Shawshank Redemption," arguably one of the greatest movies ever made.
The scene I recalled this week, was when Andy Dufresne, (Robbins) under the clapping of a mid-night thunderstorm, burrows out of prison by way of a sewer pipe, Freeman's voice narrating in the background... "Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to. Five hundred yards...that's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile..."
Andy Dufresne, wrongfully accused of killing his wife, had spent the last nineteen years in the Shawshank Correctional Facility. Before departing, he'd leaned into Morgan's ear the day before in the yard, and mumbled, "Time to get busy living, or get busy dying."
Under a steady downpour, the tumultuous skies denying any hint of moonlight, Andy Dufresne drops from a pipe full of feces, to a small creek, and freedom...the prison looming like a sleeping giant in the background. He rises to his feet, lifts his arms to the skies above, and breathes free air for the first time in nearly two decades...
...a few weeks ago I received a phone call. As it turns out, a smaller manufacturing company in the area, ironically one that I've driven past every day along my route to the monster conglomerate that's employed me for the past decade, has been in search of a quality control inspector...someone with big business experience, yet with an urge to scale down...to escape big business politics. A person in search of less suits, while experiencing a bit more gratitude along the way. In their eyes at least...someone like me.
From my desk, I accepted the offer quietly, expressed my thanks, and hung up the phone. My wife at my side, she asked, "You got it?"
"I got it."
"I'll be home every night."
"And the pay?"
I hesitated, released a breath, then, "It's good."
...my resignation was met with negative response from my employer, a monstrous place with gated entrances. A place resembling Shawshank. A place where we're known by our badge number, and not much more. Where I've spent countless hours per week, receiving little gratitude in return, while quenching every spare minute of my time I once used for my family, for coaching, and for writing.
And yesterday, my last day on the job, I thought of Johnny Utah, tossing his badge into the salty waters, turning his back on an unforgiving career. I reached for my I.D badge, yanked it from my waist, stepped into the department office, and like a smallish frisbee, tossed my plastic badge onto my superior's desk. Then I turned and left, refusing to look back.
Minutes later I left through the barred gates under an obscene hour, and was met by steady rainfall.
...and I thought of Andy Dufresne, exiting that sewer pipe, dropping to a rocky creek bed...to freedom.
I raised my face to the sky and released a breath, the air tasting a bit cleaner than the day before.
The new job will allow for ample time in the evening...time to gather around the dinner table with my kids...time to once again coach my youth ball teams...and time to write.
As "South of Charm" enters the galley, a three-headed monster of story ideas have been disturbing my late-night solitude...yearning for attention...demanding to be scribed. And now I'll have time.
Thanksgiving 2010...indeed a day to give thanks :)