Aliveness snapshots: 80′s songs at 5:30am and double-socks and dorm memories and gorgeous cinematography and English muffins with my kindergarten teacherJanuary 27, 2013 – 9:53 pm
I feel extraordinarily alive today. I’ve felt this way for weeks, it seems — days, at least — it’s become normal to me, and I want to capture it and how I think as a snapshot in time for later-Mel, because I think I’m writing in a slightly different voice than I used to several years ago. Snapshots.
Dodging cars as I run between libraries and hallways and coffee shops to do my work at night, breaking up research proposals and signal processing grading with neon walk signs reflecting off rain-slick streets, the crunch of sand and salt under my old sneakers, which have worn toe-holes so large that I now wear double socks to keep my feet from freezing in them (new shoes are on their way). Singing loudly along to 80s music in my mother’s minivan on the way back to campus at 5:30am, with a blood orange sun hauling itself through winter-bare trees and melting over the frosted fields. Effortlessly joking with the barista who made me my last matcha latte before the 5 Weeks of Eating Food That’s Good For Dancing Mel — I have more of my father in me than I sometimes like to admit.
Seeing my godson Ewan on Skype for the first time last night. Making big chili bowls with Mark and Megan. Seeing the inside of Mindy’s dorm for the first time; chilling in a suite with college students makes me realize how much I am no longer a college student; that was another day and age and time for me, when Gallimore ran Star Trek marathons in our living room for his humanities capstone and Kristen made limoncello in our fridge and I learned to unicycle in the hallway and wandered pajama-clad and barefoot in and out of friends’ rooms in the middle of the night. I loved it, and I loved the IMSA dorms and hauling up huge cardboard banners with Sharon and Sneha to prank our wing before graduation and sneaking across the hall to the rooms of Weiwei and Joyce and Kitty and Erica after curfew so we could stay up all night talking. I loved growing up in dorms. But I’m not that kid any more.
A lot of movies lately, mostly due to Mark and Randy; yesterday I watched a record-topping (for me, anyway) 3 films: 2 documentaries plus Pitch Perfect (which is okay but not great; Anna Kendrick can only save so much of a script that’s trying too hard to multitask, so just enjoy the funky vocal arrangements while they last). One of the documentaries was Waking Sleeping Beauty, about the resurrection of Disney animation that occurred when Randy and I were little kids — we were watching filmmakers battle behind the scenes to make the first film we ever saw in theatres (Beauty and the Beast). The other documentary I’d like to write more about another day, but can’t find the words to talk about it quite yet.
I love cinematography. It’s what won me over about Les Miserables, which is an overly dramatic and completely implausible plot with characters designed solely for the purpose of justifying heartrending solos about how life sucks (either because I was overly idealistic and got pregmant, or because jail has embittered my crufty old heart BUT WAIT IT’S REDEEMED NOW) or dying (I’m about to do it, she’s about to do it, please don’t let him do it, all those students did it, etc) or really, really stupid romances (I see you across the street and do not know your name but but but MADLY IN LOVE! and/or listen to me be so madly in unrequited love that I forget to use an umbrella or step inside during this downpour!) or combinations of the two (look, I have unrequited love and I’m dying!) I mean, they’re good songs. It’s just… once you acknowledge the only purpose of the plot is to somehow justify the existence of dramatic songs, the movie improves.
But the cinematography — oh, the cinematography, and the lighting and props and costumes and makeup that created this visual world! Some shots are also overdone (anything involving Javert, and the cameras swooping through CG cities — did CNN helicopters really cover the student revolt?) but some are just beautiful; the sun shining through a sodden French flag in the opening shot; the desperation wearing through the threads in Fantine’s dress, the camera serving as another dancer in the rapid choreography of “Master of the House,” the close-up on Marius grieving his friends that lets us see the tears streaking down his freckled, sun-lit face, the camera unflinching. I’d like to learn more of that someday — how to be that unflinching camera, how to hold my gaze on something through a lens. Summer’s crash course on learning documentary filmmaking with Joe Hunter will be excellent.
Incidentally, one of the “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” extended close-ups lets you see what I think is a slim earphone tube that would deliver the live piano music into the actor’s ear; it curls nearly invisibly into the bowl of his ear much like slim-tube hearing aids do.
More snapshots. Howling along to 80s music in my mother’s minivan at 5:30am driving back to campus. Drifting off on an air mattress in the living room, curled under a sleeping bag, talking with Randy. Fluorescent supermarket lights during late-night shopping runs. Long drives. Old friends. I hadn’t seen Ashley since high school, hadn’t seen her brother Kevin since he was a little boy — and there he was, telling stories about being an architecture student in New Orleans during Katrina, with our kindergarten teacher (who grew up there) telling stories of her family, that neighborhood… jam and English muffins and oatmeal, and then following Ashley and Kevin to their house, seeing their parents again (they look the same as when I was in middle school and slept over at their house every now and then) and realizing I had never driven to their house before — that the last time I had visited, I was probably 14 and my mom had taken me.
Going over childhood photo albums with Randy and Mark and Megan in my parents’ basement — all of us as tiny children playing together, Mark and Randy at my 6th birthday party, Megan and Mindy in strollers and bowl haircuts, me and Jason fighting, hugging, fighting-while-hugging, looking at something shiny off-camera, dutifully smiling for formal family portraits, sprawled in a pile of leaves on the ground, riding a tricycle, coming down a slide. Whose stamp collection is this? Dunno, one of my parents’. Coin collection? Jason’s, inherited. My “collection” is a tiny box of pressed pennies, long abandoned. I collect these writings, I think. I collect the words I’ve written.