Essays and rock & roll. Looking and listening. Nostalgia versus skepticism.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
An Origin Story
The family, the eight of us, in the rec room, watching one of the great Biblical Movies, the name of which is gone now but for the wide-screen melodrama, the green and yellow suburbs outside a sad replica, breezes moving through crab apple trees, old folks waiting patiently for the bus, on the screen there's plagues and pestilence and bared chests, passions nameless to me but for the language spoken by actors' faces all turned to divine light and Will, what the nuns said, what the priests muttered, here in Technicolor! and popcorn in our laps, riveted, we're watching a wide shot of a long, rumbling chunk of ground a violent crack in the middle groans and the land is torn down the middle an abyss into the vast dark of which tumble men and women and children in gasps and screams and Cool! I say aloud to no one really, and my mom next to me slaps me hard on my thigh, That's not cool she says quietly and within the warm burn of my siblings turning to look I shrink away from the drama when another rises to meet it, the burn of the motherly scold, of course, the embarrassment, but more, the nausea of fascination and wrongdoing, the lure of spectacle and anguish, an easy lesson in childish perspective except that this one took, tattooed me, as hard I tried to rub it off the next days weeks months it lingered, the danger of pleasure, Schadenfreude the wrong word even if I'd known and understood it, pleasure not in the agony of the poor desert people plummeting to certain death but in the wide-screen staging of it all, the spectacle, a new window onto yet another adolescent confusion: that where? between violence and its telling, the world and its imagined doppelgänger, makeup and hair and lights and Action! sweetening the misery all around me, but no it's not cool.