The true meaning of July | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Jul 26, 2017

Forty years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, a friend and I inadvertently developed a philosophy.

We’d grown up together, an unlikely friendship formed out of proximity and passion for a couple of subjects, one of which was movies. As we wandered through early adulthood, neither of us with much of a plan, we spent a lot of empty evenings at a local retrospective movie theater.

I’m not sure many of these places exist anymore, or could. They’d change films every few nights, usually offering double features, classics and dusty, obscure movies that were barely on our radars, and so we got quite an education.

At some point, we were discussing what we liked and why we liked it, and that’s when we came up with a system that I’ve never stopped using.

There were five types of movies, we decided. There were those we watched because they were entertaining in their awfulness (the “so bad, it’s good” phenomenon). Then we had guilty pleasures, films we enjoyed even though we knew they were sort of dumb.

There were also movies we liked that everyone liked. If your favorite film is “Casablanca” or “The Godfather,” get in line. Your opinion is validated by the rest of the world.

Alternatively, there are movies that are just bad. Dull, lifeless, boondoggles of wasted time and money.

Finally, there are films that are immune to conventional wisdom. They might be brilliant, they might be controversial, they might even be less than average, but they belong to us. Our affection for them doesn’t depend on a Rotten Tomatoes ranking. We know what we like.

My friend has gone on to become a bona fide cinephile, his knowledge and perspective having long ago left me in the dust. If you’re seriously interested in a specific subgenre of films, you might run across one of his books. Pretty bona fide.

But I’ve discovered over the years that this way of categorizing movies transfers easily to almost anything. Books, music, food, people, politics, comic books: If I’m in the mood to box up my likes and dislikes, I can usually find one of these five boxes.

Even the calendar can be categorized. I have no use for November or February. March and May can be entertaining, in a way, and everyone in the Pacific Northwest loves August. And I usually look forward to December, as dark and dismal as it is; the holiday sights and sounds make it a guilty pleasure month, no question.

And I tolerate no critical opinions about July. July is my happy place; even the word “July” sounds happy. If months were trading cards, I’d have a cache of Julys and my Aprils would be on eBay, looking for a sucker to take them off my hands.

There’s Independence Day, an opportunity to indulge my inner American history nerd and quote chunks of Longfellow and Whitman to tolerant strangers. July is the month I was born, too, a day that I persist in believing is also a national holiday, although this may be just me.

And every July, I’m reminded that, after three-quarters of a normal lifespan, I can make good decisions occasionally. Because I made one, once.

She wouldn’t marry me until I turned 25. It was a small thing, but apparently a deal-breaker for her, as she was a few years older and thought the age gap would look more appropriate after my birthday. I was happy to oblige. I was mostly just happy.

It was a do-it-yourself wedding, planned by two people who were old enough to take responsibility and poor enough to make it simple. We picked a spot outside of town, with a stunning view of the red rocks of northern Arizona, and a few friends and family members made the trek along a dirt road to stand with us. My father-in-law, a little unsure about the whole thing but a good sport, hung some wind chimes he’d made in a tree, the breeze providing our music.

If you ever run across the original “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” and it happens to be one of your guilty pleasures (I’m not judging), there’s a scene in which the vacationing Griswold family pulls off the side of the road in a hurry, exiting the car even faster upon discovering that Aunt Edna has apparently gone on to her reward while riding in the backseat.

Look quickly. That’s the exact spot I got married, 34 years ago this week.

I have no special insights on marriage, although I’m a fan of the institution. It’s not for everyone, but combining commitment with love is an act of creation, spawning something completely new. If you can pull it off, if you can make it work, then your life becomes simply divided into before and after. And after is always better.

I turn 59 this week. It’s an unremarkable, if penultimate, number, leaving me with a full year to figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up.

But I also turn 34, and that’s what I cherish today. As with favorite films, if you find something you’d enjoy doing all over again, it’s probably a happy story. Otherwise, I have no wisdom to offer, just best wishes to anyone willing to give it a shot. July is a good month for it.

Although I can get you a deal on Aprils. Just ask.

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