8 Life Lessons Learned from The Darjeeling Limited



Once last summer, I called in sick to work because fuck work. I rolled myself a joint without a filter and smoked it while walking through a labyrinth of alleyways, on a weeknight, and I think I was listening to Rubber Soul. I walked to the park and sat under a tree and listened to Tomorrow Never Knows and imagined myself as a famous writer in the future kissing a dude I really should never be thinking about, kind of like it was a movie, set in my future self's kickass apartment and the part where Tomorrow Never Knows really kicks in was when he'd kiss me-
       "WHOA WHOA WHOA HOLD UP LAURA JANE," I thought, "You really need to never be thinking about things like this, ever," so then I put a year-long Fatwa on myself listening to Tomorrow Never Knows because, hey, you know, sometimes tomorrow knows, you know? And then there was a space with no music. "What's ANY SONG IN THE WORLD I can be listening to that isn't going to snap me into losertown daydream fantasyland about assholes" I asked myself, and scrolled down to K as in Kinks because my love for Ray Davies overrides my love for any and all other men I have loved, wished to love, and ever will love. I chose This Time Tomorrow.
      I went outside for a second, in the middle of writing this paragraph, to go sit on my porch and smoke a cigarette and try to hear This Time Tomorrow on headphones the way it sounded then, when I thought "Oh, okay, wow, okay, this is literally the most beautiful song that has ever been written," but I think that what happens is that when you love a song, you only get one Great Listen of it- you loved it before the Great Listen, and you'll love it after the Great Listen, but you'll never get back to the Great Listen itself. It's impossible to have your mind blown by the same thing twice.
      Tonight, I kept tuning it out to watch my across-the-street neighbours celebrate Italy winning a soccer game; mostly, it made me think of the word sandpaper, and I liked And I watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by- I relate to Ray Davies' tendency toward sadness, to being the mopey type of guy you'd have to be to see the clouds as something sad. I don't know, I don't know about "most people," but I get the impression that clouds are for most people a light, happy thing.
       I came back upstairs and searched "liz barker this time tomorrow" in my gmail to find out what I wrote her last July 11th, when I came back upstairs from having my mind blown and emailed Liz Barker a Youtube of the song and the question "What does this song sound like to you? (Hahaha, such stoned phrasing). She wrote back, "my brain is mush and all i can think is it sounds like the beginning of 'the darjeeling limited.' also, it sounds nice. what does it sound like to you?" and I wrote back "THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SONG EVER WRITTEN," but I thought she was confused. I thought she was confused about the Kinks. I thought she was mixing up This Time Tomorrow with Strangers, the only Kinks song I remembered being in The Darjeeling LImited, which I'd only seen once, back when I'd decided I was too cool for Wes Anderson, which was a bad decision. I am not and was never too cool for Wes Anderson; being too cool for Wes Anderson means being too cool for great art, and if you think that great art is a thing it's possible to be too cool for, you're lame. Sorry! You just are. 
        I re-watched The Darjeeling Limited the next day, and as it turned out, I'd been wrong. This Time Tomorrow is very much a part of the beginning of The Darjeeling Limited, and it goes like: 

Lazing in the living room with a song too beautiful to be blasting overtop of my roommate getting bleary in the kitchen with his buddies, I guess I'll probably write about this summer next summer huh, I might be impervious to the song alone forever but that night I thought "I'm the kind of person who always has to run for the train, but makes it," and it still makes me shiver, all of it, and that's what my half of this story's all about.
        It's about being a train-runner-catcher, a shaky-handed sunglasses-wearer, a pill-popping belt-borrower, sad-eyed snake-loser, a fidgety kid-killer. It's about how deeply I relate to the character of Peter Whitman, the Adrien Brody brother; I thought I had some things to say about Jack/Jason Schwartzman and Francis/Owen Wilson, and also Wes Anderson himself, but I ended up deleting them. It's like how when you have a crush on someone, you'll quietly orchestrate all conversations to veer in the direction of whatever subject matter might prompt your fellow conversation-haver to say his name, and just hearing it, it thrills you. 


On the afternoon of my twenty-seventh birthday, I gave a homeless man a cigarette, and he grabbed my hand. "You have the shakes!" he said.
        "No I don't," I lied, and he told me he gets the shakes too, "when [he] [hasn't] had a drink." This worried me. I hated him. 
        I ran into him again an hour later, standing in front of the Bay Street subway, staring at my hand. 
        "Hiya, Shaky!" he called out, and I thought of Peter Whitman, when Jack calls him "Rubby" to Francis and Francis asks "Rubby?" and Jack says "Yeah, you know, Rubby," and massages his temples while furrowing his brow in the Peter style. I made up the title "Rubby & Shaky," 2 fake JD Salinger novellas about Peter Whitman and myself, and it made me feel a little better about my probably having early-onset Parkinson's disease. I drank two Negronis with dinner and it didn't go away, so I'm definitely not the same as the homeless man.
      And I have these sunglasses now, these sunglasses that I've decided now count as a legitimate extension of myself- they aren't my dead dad's, but if my dad were dead and owned sick sunglasses you better believe they would be! And I can't understand how anyone in their right mind can bear to sit at a table across from me. I never stop moving them around: on my face and off my face, in my hair, pushing my bangs back, now I'm fussing my bangs out from under them and now they're in the neck of my shirt and now they're on the table and back on my head and I'm wearing them. If I were a character in a movie this sunglass bullshit would definitely be an idiosyncratic thing about my character, but I'm not, and if I were a character in the movie, I'd definitely storm out of the scene to go read my brother's short story all teary-eyed in the bathroom, call it muscle relaxER instead of what it's obviously actually called ("relaxant."), sorry I'm just too busy taking my sunglasses on and off my head to bother remembering about it, "Maybe whenever you're about to take out your tooth you should say something like Please forgive this because it's actually kinda..."
           "These Germans are bothering me." "Can you not order for me please?" Getting married expecting to get divorced; abandoning my pregnant wife to go be a sullen dick to my siblings on our spiritual journey in India. Yeah whatever man, the lamb mango and cookies sounds great. I'd totally say yes to soup and scrambled eggs. Give me your belt, and I'll tell you I can't accept it as I tie it around my waist in a strange and unfashionable fashion. I just impulse-bought a poisonous snake because I don't fucking know and I cared about that snake more than I'd ever cared about anything in my life for five minutes before losing both interest in the snake and the snake. This paragraph only makes sense if you're watching the movie as you read it, write it. Fuck the itinerary. I'm gonna go pray at a different thing.


I'm into self-improvement. I used to do this thing of riding on airplanes from Boston to Los Angeles and writing up big lists of all the ways I could make my life better (putting less sugar in my coffee, spending less money on booze, going on big thinky walks more often, trying to learn to meditate or whatever -- stuff like that), then arriving home and trying to put those plans into action so that I could continue evolving into My Most Amazing Self. Most of the time you end up falling back on everything within a week, and you feel like a failure, and it's super-depressing. So I don't really do that anymore. Taking a cue from Billy Crudup and his girlfriend-wife-thing in Almost Famous, I've made this summer The Summer I Decided To Be Free Of All Rules. My current number-one role model is either Wooderson from Dazed and Confused or Snoopy, but I still very much identify with Francis Whitman and his obsessive need to schedule every moment of day for optimal spiritual betterment.

     Francis is cranky and a control freak and kind of a pill but I do believe he's sincere, that he truly wants to fix his family and be a better person. It's admirable and maybe even essential to try to get better all the time, but being all rigid and calculated and self-serving about it will probably never lead to much good. So I think that a nice happy medium between Francis Whitman and Wooderson/Snoopy is Cher Horowitz, whose relentless self-improvement is so joyful and chill and inspiring/inspired. We should all strive to do something good for mankind or the planet for a couple hours, in addition to taking care of our minds and bodies. And let's all try to remember that tis a far, far better thing, doing stuff for other people. 


I don't quite get Jack but I dig his whole romantic steez: walking around in the bathrobe from the hotel where he last had sex with his ex, smashing her perfume bottle with a flashlight so the train car will smell like her, playing that goddamn Peter Sarstedt song all the time. When they're stranded in the night and sitting by the fire and Jack asks "Wouldn't it be great if we heard a train go by in the distance?", I relate so hard. He wants everything to be lovely; he's a sweet little jerk in bare feet and he loves the Rolling Stones and his characters are all fictional; he's the one who helps the little kids string together the flower garlands for the funeral. I'm happy for him that he will not be going to Italy.


Seven years ago, I showed up to Design III class with a blood-soaked paper towel wrapped around my thumb and my professor told me, "Laura, you're a person things happen to. You have to learn to prepare yourself for that." I got an A- on my final; the comment read Would have been an A+ if it wasn't for the sloppy craftsmanship, would have been an A if it wasn't stained with blood.
        "He's dead, he's dead. The rocks killed him," is how the sad part begins, and it ends with "I didn't save mine," and I lose my shit every time I watch that part of the movie, when the kids get stuck in the river and Peter's covered in blood and holding the dead kid, because I know I wouldn't have saved mine either- that's just the kind of thing that happens to the kind of person things happen to. And I know that two-thirds of whoever's reading this are kind of annoyed at me right now, wondering "What the fuck is this girl going about? There is no connection between Adrien Brody in a scene from a movie that came out awhile ago and the time she bled all over her homework assignment," but this isn't a story for them. Those people wouldn't run for the train, and if they did, they'd probably miss it. 
        This is a story for the rest of us. This is a story for all the people who can't show up to anything without some wild new anecdote tucked under their belt- your roommate's a hoarder, the dude you're dating has a secret wife. We're the people who get Toxic Shock Syndrome. We win raffles, consistently order the worst thing on the menu, experience deja-vu with striking frequency, will one day get struck by lightning and live. This is a story for all the people who don't get to lie in bed with their significant other watching episodes of The Office and eating Zebra Cakes on a Thursday night, the kind of blood-stained individual who can't even pull of getting a massage at a chichi spa on their fucking birthday without a nickname-happy stranger waltzing in and bleeding all over it, and you've learned to be so so super-cool about it, you're not even mad about it, like, you're not all, 

you know, angry-eyed. But when you're locked up in a bathroom stall after your co-worker's hippie modern dancer dad just waltzed into your stupid job to tell her how much he loves her on Father's Day, when you're taking videos on yourself on your iPhone at 3-o-clock in the morning to see what you look like when you're speaking with your eyes to other people, "Sad-Eyed Peter Whitman of the Lowlands" is the joke I always make,

This is a story for everyone who read that paragraph and realized, "I would have killed my kid too." 


Sweet Lime's real name's Rita and she's lovely. I love looking at her; so do the Whitman brothers. I'm happy for them that they get to have Sweet Lime for the first segment of their spiritual journey: she's enchanting, and being enchanted is so important to getting by.
      Even if you're not gulping cough syrup on a train somewhere in India, you should try to get a Sweet Lime into your life. It's good to be in the presence of someone preternaturally gorgeous, someone you're never really going to get to have, even after the hot sex. When someone's that exquisitely sexy it overpowers you in the dreamiest way; it makes your heart beat harder and your blood go faster, it sweeps you up and gets you drunk and reminds you that the world is so much more than what you've carved out for yourself. It gives the promise of the possibility of escape and that might be all you need, if you pay close enough attention, if you really engage in the hotness experience.
      So I love when Jack says "Thanks for using me" and Rita says "You're welcome," and it's not acknowledged that he used her too. But my favorite Sweet Lime moment is when she comes to bring them tea in the morning and wakes Peter by pushing his sleep mask from his eyes. I adore that gesture, the familiarity she assumes. Peter seems the least taken with her, but if I were him I'd probably be in love forever.


I have all these romantic ideas about brothers, but not really from observing actual brothers. Because it's physically impossible for me to actually experience what dudes are like when there are no women around, movies are as good as it gets, and some of my favorites are the ones in which dudes just sit around and shoot the shit and are alternately kind and awful to each other in their cool, easy, rascally sort of way. One of the things I love most about Darjeeling Limited is when they fight or even just bitch at one another, how petty and mean and little-boy-like they become. I love when two of the brothers huddle together and whisper about the third, how amusing and sad it is that they're always so suspicious of each other. And I love when they gang up together, throwing rocks at the train after they get kicked off in the middle of the night.
     But the best is when they have that cool psychic fraternal thing, like when Jack comes back from being with Rita and he crawls into bed with Francis and Peter cutely lowers his head down from the top bunk, and Francis asks "Did you just fuck that Indian girl?" and Jack denies it and Peter says "Something just happened." I really like believing that brothers have that sort of telepathy.


I love when we meet the mom and realize that that's who Francis is trying to be, with his constant making of agreements and ordering for everybody else. I love her eye makeup, and her suggestion of talking without words, and I really like the agreement she asks the boys to make before bed -- I think they're all very good rules for life in general: "A. We'll make an early start tomorrow morning and try to enjoy each other's company in this beautiful place. B. We'll stop feeling sorry for ourselves, it's not very attractive. C. We'll make our plans for the future."
     She abandons them but they're all right. When they wake up in morning and leave their cornflakes and mango and porridge to run to the top of that hill and do their little peacock-feather ritual at last, they all seem so happy and free. They love each other so much.


  1. The idea of the "GREAT LISTEN" is so very perfect, and such a very right idea to give that moment you have with a song. This makes me very excited. I've had those thoughts about feeling that way about a song, but I've never sorted them out so well.