|Pictured: Mike and I|
Sideways was, for my social group at the time (Mike, Dwight, Ian) a pivotal film. I'm not quite sure why it resonated so deeply with us; we were all young, just on the cusp of graduating college, our whole lives stretched out in front of us like smooth highway pavement. Dwight just at the age where he could legally buy wine, which the two of us drank from mismatched NY Wine Trail tasting glasses while watching 80's movies on VHS tapes in my overheated basement apartment. We drank cabs mostly, the occasional Pinot, no fucking Merlot, although I have developed a distaste for Merlot long before the movie came out. And to this day, the Sideways poster Mike snagged for me from the movie theater he worked at still hangs framed in my house, as it has in every apartment since he gave it to me.
Maybe we gravitated towards the movie because all that sudden freedom came a certain sudden uncertainty. Would we fail, the way Miles had? We all quietly identified with his speech about the thin-skinned grapes. We all wanted to pretend we were Marv and Dwight and Gail, but deep down, we were fraught with anxiety about our work, our abilities, the expectations put on us as new college graduates facing a world that didn't look a whole lot like the one in the post-graduation brochure. I was working at FYE, Mike was working at the movie theater, Dwight was waiting tables and Ian was doing flood cleanup and temp work. It was a difficult time, but it was also one of the happiest. We had something, a piece of art, that united us. We quoted it endlessly, working it into our lexicon like code. We took turns being Miles, being Jack, each of us in our time being obsessive, boisterous, melancholy, charming, hopeless romantics, hopeless dogs.
So this year, for my 29th birthday last Monday, he got me the sequel, Vertical, with the intent that we would read it together and discuss it. I almost cried when I unwrapped it, I was so touched. It was an acknowledgement of where we'd been, what we'd lost, what we still had--each other. Seven years later, through moves and heartbreak and rejection and loss and anger and frustration, we still had this . . . and, like Miles and Jack, we still had each other.