My old college buddy, Scott Price, just wrote a great story for Vanity Fair about Barry Levinson’s movie, “Diner.” There were a handful of us at Chapel Hill, including Scott, who went to see Diner whenever we could — initially at the Carolina Theater, then at the Student Union. Although the title of the movie suggests that it is about food, it really has nothing to do with that. Yes, there are a number of food references (Earl eating the entire left side of the menu, including the fried chicken dinner; the ubiquitous french fries and gravy), and some important scenes take place in a diner, but the movie is about friends and growing up. And, as Price writes, “ Diner dissected the male animal’s squirrelly devotion to sports, movies, music, and gambling.”
Price’s article brought back some great memories. I can’t tell you how many times we’d recite lines from that movie, how we could relate to it. And the simple reason was because, in many ways, the characters were us. We were into sports and movies and music and food and girls like the guys in Diner. Fenwick and Boogie and Shrevie and Modell were guys struggling to find themselves; but throughout it all, they had each other. We were just like them. Figuring things out. We had a lot of growing up to do, yet we weren’t thinking about that. We were concerned with the Tar Heels, Tim’s lost teeth, The Jam and XTC and U2, and the lousy food at Chase Hall. We created fictitious bands and wrote about them (Fat Girls Explode — yes, it’s distasteful, but we were not even 20 yet).
It’s now been 30 years, and I still think of those days. I don’t think I’ve talked to Scott (who goes by S.L.) Price in two decades. He’s actually a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, but when I saw that he wrote this piece, it took me back to those days in Ehringhaus Dorm. But it also reminded me of those old friends with whom I’ve lost contact. I exchange Christmas cards with Tim, who lives outside Chicago, but that’s the extent of our contact. Craig is in Charlotte, married to a high school friend of mine. Ethan and Joey and Dave and Jon Schmidt? I have no idea where they are. But today, I’m thinking about them, because of a movie. Because of a story.
And now, I want some french fries with gravy.