I was introduced to eBay
last week and right away I found a number of things I considered bidding on. In my first week on the service I've picked up a Nintendo Virtual Boy
and two vintage Mario
figurines to complete a collection I began in 1989. Then, just as I was ready to put away my wallet for a little while, I came across something that I knew I had to have, no matter what the cost: an autographed press kit
photo of both Steve Martin
and John Candy
from Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
. People have asked me why I'd want such a thing. After all, I can't play it, I can't sing along to it, and it won't do anything besides hang on my wall. One person I told about my purchase chided that I'd paid $83 for an 8"x10" black and white poster, but I don't see it that way. This autographed photo is a symbol of special memories of my father.
It was my father who introduced me to the film. I was already a fan of both Martin and Candy at the age of twelve, having laughed myself silly at such classics as Who's Harry Crumb and Three Amigos!, but I had no idea the two comedic geniuses had made a movie together. One summer evening in 1993 I was having a movie night party with some friends and we had rented a few videos: classic episodes of Late Night with David Letterman and some newly released video that has been lost to faded memories. Dad brought home another tape for us that night, but he didn't just toss it on the VHS pile. He pulled me aside from the party and said that he thought I'd like what he'd picked up. He didn't tell me who starred in the movie or what it was about, he just handed me the tape and asked that I watch it at the party. The movie wound up being the last film of the night and we all laughed ourselves stupid as classic characters Neil Page and Del Griffith traveled from New York City to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. The party ended afterwards, everyone left, and I passed by Dad on my way to bed. I told him how wonderful the movie was and that he'd made a good pick. "I want to watch it again before it has to go back to Blockbuster," I told him. "How about we watch it right now?" he said, and I was definitely up for it. If such a thing was possible I laughed even harder the second time through the movie. Dad laughed just as hard, and seeing as how the various aspects of his job always had him stressed and sometimes soured, it was a joy to see him laughing, to see him happy.
Seeing as how PT&A is a Thanksgiving movie it appeared on cable TV near the end of November that year. Dad and I were there for each airing the weekend it was on, and we logged three viewings in a single two-day period. It wasn't so much about the movie - after all, we'd both seen before by now - it was about doing something together. We were both always so busy (I with school and he with his job) that our paths rarely crossed for any length of time, but when that movie was on responsibilities stopped so we could see it. In the years that followed we always made sure to catch the movie whenever it was on television. We were always sure to watch for the scene deleted from the video tape, the famous airplane food scene, and eventually we would recite our favorite lines together with the film.
In September 1996 I was stricken with what was then the worst flare-up of Crohn's Disease that I'd ever endured. I was restricted to bed for months and forced on to an all-liquid diet. I was given the go-ahead to eat a little something soft and small on Thanksgiving, and my first meal in nearly nine weeks - two spoonfuls of mashed potato and a sliver of turkey - was eaten in front of our annual viewing of PT&A. When I graduated high school in 1999 and moved away to begin my new life my parents helped me to move my belongings and settle in at my new apartment. I wanted to do something nice for them for all their help, and the gift I gave my father was a nearly-out-of-print VHS tape of our favorite movie. When I visited them at their new home in Illinois that December, Dad and I watched our movie together like we always had. Even after all that time and the many changes in our lives, we could still watch that movie and put all our troubles aside for those 92 minutes. In 2000 the movie came to DVD and my parents sent me a copy for my birthday. Each time I visit I bring the disc with me for us to watch in glorious widescreen on the big screen TV.
This all brings me back to the question of why I had to have the autographs. This picture of Martin and Candy sitting on a trunk in the snow means more to me than just memories of a hilarious movie. It means more to me than the $83 I paid for it. Whenever I look at this picture I will think of the special times Dad and I have shared watching an oft-forgotten comedy classic together. I will think of looking away from the television screen and seeing him smile and laugh at Steve Martin's legendary monologue from the hotel room scene. I will think of that after all these years my father and I can always sit together and share something special.