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Archive for August, 2012

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Life is a movie, viewed in a cinema, not at home on a television, or on a laptop.

Because life is a movie, the medium of the cinema will never die. The experience allows one to escape his own life, and momentarily live another.

Life, like a movie, is a personal experience shared tangentially with others. The others are cast to your side, front, and back. You can see the those who come before you, (or came before you, so to speak), in the rows ahead of you, the outline of the back of their heads glowing light silver, but the rest of their features lie in shadow. They are your predecessors, who you will only faintly know. Your peers, the people you share life with and know best are seated at your side, facing the screen with you. Their faces you can see (know) best, because they are illuminated by the pale light of the screen. However, you never truly see them. They are best viewed in profile, and their true character is revealed in their reaction to the movie. You can hold hands with your other, but that’s about all the seats will allow. The movie (life) is the only thing with which you’re both intimate.

Behind you, you can hear the ones who come after you, the future generations. You can hear them, but not see them, unless you really wrench yourself around in your seat. You can see their faces best out of all the audience, because you as their elder understand who and what they are, better than they do. But staring back at the audience is somewhat of a movie taboo; you find many of them staring back at you, hopeful you’ll go away so they can enjoy the movie.

The film itself, independent of the individuals watching it, is a life, or a world into which one can escape. The lives that experience the film are separate from it, but they all enjoy, endure, and share the same life. The experience of it differs only in the minds of the observers. The movie starts out like a small life; the audience, like a child, learns the rules of the world being portrayed, learns who is who, and is soon sucked into the comedy or drama. For some, the film will be so engaging it will fully supply the movie experience: an escape from real life via a vicarious experience. For others, the film will be boring, or too long, or hit-or-miss. This can be said about both a movie, as well as the experience of a human life.

When it’s over, the lights come on, and you can see who your fellow travelers were. In color.

No matter how advanced entertainment will become, the cinema will not die. The ability to get away from your familiar surroundings and find yourself engaged in a tiny life, a microcosm of real life, is entertainment that is here to stay, because life itself is a movie, viewed in a cinema.

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In a Rainbow

Last summer, my wife was pregnant (3 months, in July, when this took place) and we lived in a one-bedroom apartment above a hair salon in downtown Tilton. New Hampshire. Downtown Tilton is a canyon of turn-of-the-century brick buildings through which Route 3 comes to a grinding halt. The sounds of ripping, revving Harley motorcycles, cars with chopped mufflers, and worn disc brakes all echo and amplify off the buildings, and made our apartment sound like we were in the front rows of a high-octane demolition derby. To add to this, the fire station was directly across the street, and when 18-wheelers came by, the house rumbled. We couldn’t close the windows because we didn’t have AC except in the bedroom. We were at home during rush hour in the early evening, and my wife was passed out on the couch. A condition of her pregnancy, and of chasing after kindergarteners all day, she would go comatose for about an hour or two upon arriving home.

While she lay passed out, I probably played a video game on my laptop that was on the desk pushed up against the bay window overlooking the street. We had the ceiling fan and the box fan in the window on full blast, but it was still so hot the laptop could barely stay conscious. Below us on the street, the parade of rush hour crawled through downtown. The shops here are mostly hair salons, antique stores, and one huge used book store that had a nice, mystic nature to it. All the rich stores were down in the miracle mile, housed in large steel boxes surrounded by acres of asphalt. Downtown Tilton was home to the curios and refugees of the store world. On the sidewalk, an old lady browsed through the table outside the bookstore that held VHS tapes for a quarter (or free, if you exchanged tapes), a woman struggled to parallel park in front of the flower store, and barefoot kids wearing swimsuits made their way down to the river.

The laptop expired from heat, so I lay down on the couch. I dreamt it was raining, and that I lay in a field, getting wet. But when I woke up, it was just sweat. My wife woke up at the same time, and we just kind of looked at each other, as if we were both drugged. Then I realized it wasn’t entirely sweat that was on me; the box fan in the window had been spraying me with rain. It really had been raining. In fact, the rain was just ending. We heard a distant rumble of thunder, though it could have been an 18-wheeler going through town.

We decided to go for a walk. The rain would be over soon – it was just a summer shower, the quick hit-and-runs we get in New England. We take an umbrella and step outside. One side of the sky is nothing but brilliant gold and yellow – the rain is pouring between us and the sun. The other side is black as midnight. Standing against that side of the sky is an ancient, brilliant white Protestant church, as blinding as snow on an alpine glade in spring. The downtown buildings all stand out against the black. They looked so clean and bright it seemed like you could see every brick, every sheet of green copper on the edges of the roof, every piece of wrought iron decoration. The traffic had died down. The hair salon we lived above was closed. A few drops of rain still fell, so we opened the umbrella. It was a golf course type, so I could hold it over both of us. We made it a few steps, and then noticed the most ridiculously huge rainbow that has ever dropped to earth. It was a brilliant beam arcing against the black, cloudy sky, and landing right behind the fire station. You could count every individual beam of luminescent color, like jewels filled with sunlight, stretched into rays. Ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, amethyst, standing silently in the sky.

We stood together in the sweet smell of warm, wet asphalt, with steam rising from the road, and rainwater still dropping from the eaves of the buildings and onto our shoulders as I held the umbrella to the side so we could look up. The vehicles made shushing sounds as their tires rolled through puddles. We stood together, watching the rainbow that was so close it felt like we were inside it.

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There is no word for the illumination the world holds after the sun has set, up here in the north. Not in English, anyway, and not in any other language I’ve heard of. (If anyone has a word for this (I imagine it would be from a Scandinavian or Arctic Circle country) please let me know so I can use it as a loanword))

Technically, the word is ‘twilight.’ Yet, twilight connotes a darkness, and the evening light we enjoy during the summers up here in New England is not darkness, but a sourceless illumination that seems to come straight down from the sky, without casting shadows. It’s so easy on my eyes that I feel as if they were made for this summer evening light. After the sun sets, the air condenses as it cools, smells intensify, (smells of grass, of pine, sometimes, the scent of an emerging skunk) and the wind calms to nothing. Everything quiets down, and everything is cast in the sweet evening light. You can enjoy a campfire’s color, but still see everything around you. People’s eyes look bigger and softer, and their faces more slender.

When you walk in the fields in the summer evening light, distances seem shorter. The world is cozier than in the day. Flowers, their color bleached by the sun in the day, are now in Technicolor. When you walk in the woods in the summer evening light, you can see the sky through the canopy of leaves. The canopy is so dark it’s almost black, so the patches of sky beyond it are sunset pink cutouts of light.  Things seem closer than they really are, and the forest seems to close in on you. Pools of water on the shadowy ground become bright, jagged-edged mirrors of the sky above. If you are on a lake, and in a canoe, the water turns to glass, then it becomes a double of the sky above, and the shoreline is a mirror image of itself. The beauty may be pierced by the call of a loon.

Here in New Hampshire, the forest is at its most quiet immediately after the sun sets. The bird songs fade, and the squirrels and chipmunks (which rustle through the leaved during the day, sounding louder than a moose) are safe in their nests. If you are in a clearing, the only sound is that of crickets. The moon grabs your eye with its luminescence, even though it’s not yet dark enough to see the stars. And once it is dark enough for the stars, the evening light is gone, replaced by night.

Standing in the summer evening light is more delicious than swimming in the lake in the day.

 

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