this is about turner classic movies and my continued need to revisit my formative years. and maybe rita moreno. no. definitely rita moreno. maybe as the short-term craps-out, my hard-drive scoops images, many black and white, and orders “more” and i oblige without argument. maybe childhood’s being party to “duck and cover,” the cuban missile crisis and the first live-televised murder (lee harvey oswald in a gritty police department basement) my default setting for warmth, reality, death and dreams is often in black and white. in the technological pissing contest labelled “progress and technology,” these memories pale in contrast to the skullfuck that human sensitivities took on nyneleven – the perfect blue sky, the already-torched south tower billowing smoke and the “surprise” as the reporter is trying to sort out the burning monolith on the right side of the screen, “thwappp” goes another airline into the north tower. this came from uptown, down the west side. this one was as live as jack ruby’s bullet. when it happened, as i gazed at the TV, it lifted me right out of my seat. america buckled just like old lee harvey on this one. that’s reality television.
oh childhood, to behold the trauma of mass-murder, live in color, on such a lovely day.
this 40-something couldn’t get enough of it. i’m sure there’s an illness associated with watching this stuff relentlessly and if there isn’t, there should be, but i’ll tell you now – it wouldn’t stop me. tracing the urban grid of NYC below the second jet, running from north to south, in the last moments before the second crash, reminds me of a sped-up film in reverse of the opening-credits of a movie that defined my tenth year on planet earth (this is possibly the bloodiest segue’ i ever wrote). the film begins as an overhead of manhattan, heading from the south end and heads north on the west side, eventually scoping down till it ends in a schoolyard….. all the while leonard bernstein’s overture plays along and later it joins steven sondheim’s lyrics to hold shakespeare together flawlessly, pitting jets (ha! – the link!) against sharks, joining tony and maria, bringing me back to rita moreno and the first stirrings of something going on “down there,” as i watched her dance while she sang “i love to live in america.” (40 years later i met her in a restaurant. if she wasn’t with her husband, i probably would have taken a shot and asked her out. that’s just how beautiful she still looks)
……did i mention that this is about west side story? it came out the year that the color TV appeared in the livingroom of our home on east 17th street in brooklyn. i marvelled at the NBC Peacock for the first time. the new TV was placed before a tangerine wall where danish-modern wall hangings (with tangerine accents) would dwell until we would move some years later. i have the exact wall hanging here at GBM. it’s like 1960′s IKEA. everything is a circle. i believe humanity is doomed to run around in circles. we might be getting smarter and smarter, but in the end we just still run around in fancier and more dressed-up circles. this isn’t an indictment about humanity. it’s just what seems to be. like shakespeare and the wall hangings in my parent’s apartment (they rented – we were urban nomads), we’ve moved from romeo and juliet to west side story. danish modern ’50′s and 60′s to the 21st century and returned to the same place. ask a Dane in the furniture business; they’d probably know better than me. i did have something to say about that movie other than miss moreno’s sexuality and i probably wanted to apply it to the world or human nature. i may have wanted to work from music and tragedy to history and power in the PBS documentary entitled “the war of the world,” and you can find it here; Niall Ferguson and the war of the world , though i think i had more on my mind than that. anyway, it’s important to listen to what he has to say. it even touches on the current hubbub about the DarkKnight movie and the Bush Administration. His thesis: Instead of looking at the 20th century as having been disrupted by two world wars with periods of relative peace before, between and after them, it is more appropriate to view much of the history of the century as a continuous bloody conflict that was interrupted occasionally for a few short, exhausted catnaps of relative calm. The only difference between what he says and what i think is that i posit that the same war’s been going on for thousands of years and it simply morphs into different theaters of death. it’s humanity’s need to have control over humanity and in the end there’s no control except for the big math, and the big math is without control. Of course, this opinion could change at any moment. just like the big math.
in between, i might have felt compelled to tell you how i got my stolen car returned last week and how it never went to california following the Joad family. it stayed in brooklyn, amassed a load of parking tickets, broke down and was left abandoned. they cleaned out everything inside the car that i owned and even vacuumed my dog maxx’s hair from the interior. they even stole the box of old russian books i had collected to give to a scholar friend of mine, which leads me to believe that maybe it was a gang of former KGB agents with no mechanical aptitude whatsoever who stole my car. they made it their own. they got real comfortable. i have to thank the toyota motor corporation for the timeliness of a certain automotive component’s demise. the engine has a “drive belt” that takes the power produced by the engine and sends it to wheels. of course, this is a simplification, but it’s the bottom line. years ago, this was a metal chain that lasted almost forever, but plastic belts are lighter, cheaper and easier to replace. this belt lasts about sixty-thousand miles and then it breaks and it renders the auto inoperable. a few blogs ago, when my car was initially stolen, i claimed that the odometer reads 152,152 and that it broke three years ago. i historically drive about ten thousand miles a year. do the math. i need to say, i am not complaining about Toyota on the quality and reliability of their automobiles. quite to the contrary, i believe they make, pound for pound, the best cars in the world. i believe american auto makers should be ashamed of themselves and should be humbled for their arrogance. what cars and motor-products were mockingly-called “rice-burners” by so many people in the 1960′s and ’70s have now grown up and kicked your asses. Auto makers in the US set the planned-obsolescence bar at about 125,000 miles. all that the other auto makers did was double that with lighter, more fuel-efficient cars. so my toyota needed a new plastic belt. see you in sixty-thousand miles. maybe. that’ll bring my car to 240,000 miles. that’s around the world ten times. but i digress…..
i was talking about a black and white childhood, color TV and west side story and the point i may have been wanting to make is that some songs are forever. “somewhere” is one of those songs. i used tom wait’s version of that song to close my Scrap Bar for many years. the word is, there’s moisture on one of the moons of saturn. maybe humanity can…