Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Random Late Winter Thoughts

Ok. I'm back. I've been processing the culture, overwhelmed by the huge wave of Change, with Mr. Obama surfing its tunnel. Isn't that a pretty accurate word picture of the situation? I mean, its only a matter of time. Or, maybe not.

Robin and I went to see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Here's what I noticed. There was a wide-angle view of a massive Indian ghetto: one non-stop motif of roofs, under which a million people dwelled. It looked from the outside hopeless and forlorn. What do these people do? How do they live? Ah, but the film provided the answer! They lived in community, a man smoking a homerolled cigarette, running the projector as a boy wound his way among the gathered extended family to find a seat to watch an old B&W movie. A chase scene of kids being run down by police through the dense undergrowth of alleys and buildings, only to be apprehended by a burnoosed mother, the final authority. In fact, life in these poverty-stricken holes is probably happier than it is in the average American city. I mentioned this to Robin on the drive home. Apart from the occasional plague of disease that gallops unstopped through a community like this, the happiness quotient is probably rather high. Certainly the sense of dynamic community, the human bustle of daily vocation, is alive in these beehives of humanity. I liked that aspect of the film.

Otherwise, it was a bit saccharine. You could guess where it was going early on, and it went exactly where you guessed. But the dance scene during the credits was a lot of fun.

It is the end of Winter, 08/09. I took the opportunity afforded by the lack of snow but also the still-frozen ground to take Ms. Anke, German Shepherd extraordinaire, back over the fields to the woods overlooking Hook Lake (Calling it a lake is stretching the truth, but what is it? A two-foot-deep, three-square-mile pond with an island in the middle of it. But eye candy nonetheless) . We found the hunters' path, still snowy and packed from the guys' who came through carrying guns and hopes of squirrels, or coyote, or deer. Anke was in a state of unbelieving delight: free to roam after a Winter of being walked along the road. The smells were almost more than she could bear, and her due diligence was scanty at best. So many animal tracks, so little time!

The track led down a snow-loaded path to a stream, which Anke managed to cross after some canine hesitation. And back to Hawkinson Road, at the famous Peter Birch Bend (Another story for perhaps another time). And back over the hill to home.


I've been listening a lot to last year's Death Cab For Cutie release, NARROW STAIRS. The lead singer is also a poet, and his lyrics are very...poetic. That is to say, they accomplish what poetry does: it creates a unique, rich world that no other medium can create. Their song CATH..., which has been haunting me for a week, is a great example. It describes a woman who has been a part of a community of friends--perhaps since college days?--and who has finally decided to marry. But this isn't a marriage of love, but of necessity. The issue at stake--take it for what you will--is Cath's heart. "Her heart was dying so fast..." goes the line. You must take it for what you will, but you are expected to understand that this dear old friend Cath, in a life of silent but subtle desperation, has made a choice to marry that was probably not the best choice. The music is very powerful (I am in its thrall, so in two weeks, I'll think it is shallow and over-emotive), and does a nice job of expressing the underlying tragedy of the situation. Some lyrics:

Cath....she stands
with a well-intentioned man.

But she can't
relax
with his hand on the small of her back.

And as the flashbulbs burst
She holds a smile
As someone would hold
A crying child.
As I processed these words, listening to the song: well. I was really impressed with how in so few, indirect words, the writer expressed something very deep and complex.

Cath...
It seems
That you live someone else's dream.
In a hand-me-down wedding dress
where the things that could have been are repressed...

And everybody will ask what became of you.
But your heart was dying fast
and you didn't know what to do...
Well, as I said, the thrall will pass. But we've got three tickets to see the band in April, so maybe not.
This is not a happy band. Lots of human failure, lots of sadness. But some really complex and interesting lyrics.

There is a palpable fear of failure in the air among the tight community of self-employed service businesses that I am associated with. Well, perhaps "fear of failure" is too much: it is rather a deepening sense that what has been happening to others may soon happen to us. We check in with each other from time to time, happily referring work to each other; bearing perhaps a triumphant little referral that will help to keep the wolf from the door. I regularly hire perhaps ten sub-contractors in my line of work, and always hope that they are successful. But if the trickle-down stops trickling...

And, as Winter trickles to its conclusion--there are at least two nasty snow systems yet to pass through our way, hallelujah!--the family news from afar is good: Jeremy is relatively happily ensconced in a basement apartment in Denver, with his shoulder hard to the wheel of academia. And our oldest, Colin, has just finished two years of teaching in Korea and has moved across the sea to China, where he will be teaching for perhaps another year. He promises to bring his very self home in July, and I await that in high ernest. A package arrived from him today, containing a Gogol novel and another by Cormac McCarthy--both for his old man--and a collection of Deadwood westerns, which he entreats us not to watch till he is home to watch them with us. And, three of the ugliest ties I've ever seen. I am going to assume that he wore these things in the line of duty, and has now discarded them. They appear to have served as padding for the other items.

Unless he has in mind me wearing them to church?

I'm about finished with BLEAK HOUSE, which is in my mind Dickens' finest work, extraordinarily funny and creative. There is much to say about it--not the least of which is a type of Christ found in the book--and I'll try to gather my thoughts for some of that, soon.

5 comments:

Ethan said...

I have to read McCarthy's "Blood Meridian." Also, I have to read some (more) Dickens. Also, your random thoughts are interesting/enjoyable to read.

indecisivegirl said...

Hello Mr. Gee, you have a nice blog here. Colin and I have been in touch, usually via Facebook, so thanks again for giving me his contact info a while back. I see he has indeed moved on to our billion-dollar business partner, China. I hope all goes well for him there and that you will all have some good family time soon!

Bruce Gee said...

Nice of you folks to drop by and visit!

Yes, it was Blood Meridian that Colin sent home. He was also raving about the Gogol novel, DEAD SOULS,which I'll rip into next (I have BRIDESHEAD REVISITED on the shelf, but it may get bumped).

Indecisivegirl, why are you indecisive? And who, more to the point, are you? My old brain doesn't conjure up a face.

I'm somewhat optimistic, fool, about Colin's next stop. I think he'll really like China. As one of his friends told him "China has lousy expat bars, but better food." Those ole expat bars are overrated anyway.

BTW, I need you two to weigh in on my latest Chatpack Question.

indecisivegirl said...

Hello again! Actually, if you look at Colin's photos on his Facebook page you will see a few that I tagged him in. They are photos of myself, my Alaskan friend Pam, and a herd of Taiwanese at your home making honey. We also dragged Colin out with us for Chinese food one evening and I believe that picture is on there, as well.

Why am I indecisive? It's the quarterlife crisis! I am just around the corner from age 30 and still unsure of what I am really supposed to be doing with myself. Like really, really doing.

I will have to think of something good to post in regards to your chatpack question - that is a tough one! (Do IV bags containing wonderful painkillers immediately following surgery count? Now that is a beautiful thing...)

-Jill

Bruce Gee said...

Thanks, Indecisive. I'll check out the photos.

Ah yes. The quarterlife crisis. I think I vaguely remember that. It follows the Twentysomething Crisis, and is followed by the MY GOD I'M FORTY crisis. After that, there are no more crises. Just pure bliss and contentment.


Really.

And maybe, someday, a mortgage burning party.