Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Line Up The Dishes And Smash Them - Slowly - With The Steak Tenderizer

"When I die, don't tell nobody. Just bury me in the backyard and tell everybody I left you."

There are only two weeks remaining before I leave Austin and depart for New York University. My seemingly mundane journeys around town are starting to carry unusual weight and deathly significance; if I have dinner at a particular restaurant, it feels like The Last Supper, as if I must pay my gratitude to the restaurant owner for having served such magnificent food to me for nineteen years.

The first major casualty of college came last Friday, when my longtime friend Bolton Eckert headed north to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The second major casualty will be this Tuesday, when the effervescent and jovial Cora Walters will be departing for Reed College in Portland, Oregon (to be specific, Cora is first going to Santa Fe, where she lived for some time before coming to Austin, and then going camping with friends, before arriving in Portland just in time for orientation).

In my August 12th post, I wrote the following of Cora: "She is an incredibly smart and well-read young woman who has no problem with being completely pretentious in taste, which is probably why we get along so well." Indeed, she is one of the smartest and most savvy people to ever walk the halls of Austin High School - who else would write their Visual Media class final on director Lars Von Trier, or dress up as one of the Heathers from Heathers (1988, Michael Lehmann) for Halloween?

Along with being one of my best friends in high school, Cora and I also starred in countless productions together as Red Dragon Players at Austin High. I can recall first meeting her during our 2006 production of High School Musical, where she served as Stage Manager while I played the school disc jockey, Jack Scott - a character who, sadly, never made it to the High School Musical movies. One day, I will write Jack Scott his own spin-off musical, and he will have his revenge.

Cora and I really bonded, though, during Austin High's 2007 UIL One-Act Play, Round and Round the Garden, written by Alan Ayckbourn. Round and Round the Garden is the third play in The Norman Conquests series, which recently won Best Revival of a Play at the 2009 Tony Awards. I played Norman, the man-child assistant librarian whose one aim is to make the women in his life happy, including his wife, Ruth (Anne Goode), her sister Annie (Charlotte Mann) and her sister-in-law, Sarah (Cora Walters).

Round and Round the Garden became the first Austin High UIL One-Act Play to advance to the State finals since 1989.

The next year, Cora and I starred in Dearly Departed, written by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones. In this Southern comedy revolving around the funeral of a family's patriarch, she played Raynelle Turpin, the recent widow, and I played her firstborn son, Ray-Bud, a hard-drinking tightwad with a grudge against his dopey brother, Junior (Lucas Loredo).

In 2008, our UIL One-Act Play, Jason Milligan's father-son drama ...And the Rain Came to Mayfield, advanced to the State finals for the second year in a row, a back-to-back feat not accomplished since 1957 and 1958, respectively.

Last year, Cora and I starred in George Bernard Shaw's masterfully intelligent British comedy, Major Barbara. I played Andrew Undershaft, the brilliant weapons and artillery manufacturer, and she played my estranged wife, Lady Britomart. Our fiery scenes together resembled something akin to a verbal tirade between Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson) and any Judi Dench character.

Our final stage appearance together was as man and wife, again, in the 2009 UIL One-Act Play Over the River and Through the Woods, written by Joe DiPietro, which took Austin High to the State finals for the third year in a row, and ultimately won the State Championship last May. Cora and I both received State All-Star Cast awards for our performances as Aida and Frank Gianelli, the loving grandparents of the protagonist.

I firmly believe that the best friends I will ever have are those with whom I have shared the stage - there is no greater bond than the one between two people who rely on each other in front of a large audience. Most importantly, she and I were part of something very thrilling together in high school, and the memories will not fade. She will be departing on Tuesday, but make no mistake - when I see her again in a few months, it will be the same as it ever was.

Tonight, Cora and I went to South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery, which serves delicious Torchy's Tacos, a wide variety of shaved ice, and the rare opportunity to have your own personal fire and make delicious smores. Most notably, though, the outside venue offered a free screening of Grosse Point Blank (1997, George Armitage), a very funny movie starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver, as part of their week-long John Cusack Festival - which, oddly enough, does not include Say Anything... (1989, Cameron Crowe), the quintessential Cusack film. It was an excellent venue altogether and a great way to spend a final night with Cora before she leaves. Reed College is very lucky to have her intelligence, brilliant wit and exuberance for the next four years.

On the subject of film, I most recently saw Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated adventure, Ponyo, which, while not nearly as good as his Oscar-winning Spirited Away (2002), was very impressive. Until tomorrow, to the left is the latest image from Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, which opens on October 2nd and, unsurprisingly, is the film I have been waiting for all year. I suspect the great director and his very talented star, Leonardo DiCaprio, are making yet another masterpiece.

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