On June 21, 2023

Dying to change

One of my college roommates called me up to tell me that he died recently. He’s a bit of a jokester, so I laughed off his initial statement. But then I sensed an air of forlorn seriousness in his voice. 

It turns out he wasn’t kidding. 

I’ve known “Phil” for 35 years, and if I were to pick one friend who could claw back from the clutches of death, it would be him. He’s actually been tempting death for decades, so I’ve always considered him the most likely candidate to end up deceased within our college friend-group.

And yet, he continues to survive. 

I met Phil in the late 1980s during the first couple days of college. He had the dorm room directly across from me, so I couldn’t help but know him. He was a short, stocky guy with blond hair, good looks, and a magnetic personality. 

One day he noticed I had a football in my room and asked if I wanted to toss it around. We proceeded to play catch for a good hour, chatting about our respective lives while challenging each other’s athleticism. I found him to be sincere, funny, and immensely charming.

Phil was always up for a good time, but somehow still managed to get his work done. He honed this skill during our four years of college and built upon it in the years after graduation. This was an admirable trait when we were younger, but as the years passed, the impressiveness of his stamina faded significantly. 

I knew Phil had a problem with alcohol after the first night we partied together. It was a genetic thing with him. When a certain amount of alcohol hit his system, he changed into a different human. I don’t pretend to understand the brain chemistry of alcoholics, but in Phil’s case, there was a physiological element to his addiction that co-opted him both physically and mentally. 

We all noticed this transformation, comically referring to it as “Phil’s Event Horizon.” It was all fun and games back in college, but even then I knew Phil’s propensity for excessive drinking was going to cause issues in his life. 

And it did.

After college, Phil got into sales and enjoyed great success. He traveled the world and spent many years living in Asia, profiting from his good looks, charm, and immense salesmanship. He was also known as someone who took great pleasure in wining and dining his clients. 

However, while sales can be a wonderful, rewarding profession, for an alcoholic, it can also be a constant threat to personal well-being. 

Through the years, Phi had bouts of sobriety coupled with long stretches of unbridled partying. The sober moments were usually brought on because of incidents that involved disgruntled employers, exhausted personal relationships, or the law. 

Unfortunately, none of Phil’s wake-up incidents permanently altered his lifestyle. As such, he’s grown into an older, worn-down, less impressive version of his once vivacious self. 

Phil was at home recently and, while getting up to grab something from the kitchen, had a cardiac event likely brought on by excessive drinking. Luckily someone was present and called an ambulance. When the EMT’s arrived, they shocked his heart back into shape and he survived. 

I listened intently as he told me how helpless he feels with his inability to control his alcoholism. I gave him my usual insights about getting healthy and not trying to attempt sobriety alone, but I’m afraid it fell on deaf ears. I also told him how I hoped old age would bring us together for many more rounds of golf.

This week’s feature, “Old,” contemplates how we might feel about our lives if our timeline for living was massively accelerated. If the scenario of “Old” were true, I’m confident my friend Phil would consider a different approach to his limited time on earth. 

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and released during the pandemic, “Old” follows the story of several guests at an exclusive tropical resort. The group are all on vacation for various reasons, but there’s a common thread that finds them together on a remote beach one afternoon. 

In typical Shyamalan fashion, “Old” not only tweaks your curiosity, but also stresses your sensibilities with an intriguing storyline that leaves the viewer helpless to understand where the plot is headed. Check this one out if your a fan of Shyamalan’s style. It’s full of his traditional weirdness and thought-provoking story arcs, which is the main reason I love his unique filmmaking.

An eerie “B-” for “Old,” now available for rental on Amazon Prime.

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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