April 28, 2014
I took myself on a date tonight, conveyor belt sushi and The Grand Budapest Hotel, an hour long meet-up with a young woman interested in how I got to where I was in life (dating myself on a Sunday night?) sandwiched in between.
I met her after solo sushi. She drank canned cider. I drank soda water and almond bitters. I shared my journey in television, and I encouraged hers. We both politely nodded and smiled at the bartender as he misremembered seeing me at that very bar not 5 months ago meeting up with another woman having a similar conversation. He must've missed the part where I said, "I've never been to the upstairs bar at the Arclight before," when I first arrived. I wouldn't mind if his story were true: I enjoy making new friends and encouraging them to follow their dreams.
I got a seat on my favorite row in the Arclight theater system: Row C.
I caught the tail-end of a trailer about Tom Cruise dying over and over again at the hands of Emily Blount in a post-apocalyptic universe. People in the theater were laughing. I wasn't particularly amused as I don't imagine dying is a pleasant experience, but at least you're dead and won't remember it. Not true for Tom; I felt bad for the character. I then thought about Captain Jack from Doctor Who and smiled.
The film started.
A lone INGENUE traipses across a wide shot of a snowy graveyard in impractical (for the weather) knee socks. The camera pans precisely 15 degrees to accommodate the rule of thirds as she stops in front of an HERM covered in hanging KEYS. She hangs a KEY of her own--a tribute. The camera abruptly TILTS down as she consults a beautifully illustrated book cover which reads: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
My gut filled with dread: here we go again. Too cute for life. Too little substance.
I have a prejudice against Wes Anderson. If you asked me I'd say that I do not care for his movies, but if I really think about it I've seen every single one of his movies, most of them in theaters, and every single one of his movies I have enjoyed despite myself. Not liked. Not loved. But enjoyed. Despite myself.
But this movie: I love.
And I think I love it for two reasons:
1. Real problems.* Much substance. Great jokes.
2. The ebullient, effete Ralph Fiennes.
I met Ralph Fiennes ten years ago at The British Library after attending a reading he did of W.H. Auden poetry. My friends and I were standing in the doorway of the lounge, coming down off the high of Auden's modern romance, regenerating from being devoured by Ralph's wolfish sibilance.
He popped out of a door to find us on the other side. I was struck by his geothermal green eyes, strawberry blonde hair, and massive head (if you've ever seen a movie star in RL, they all have gigantic heads).
"Oh, hello," Ralph Fiennes said, surprised by a gaggle of 21-year-old girls in a sea of 60-year-olds. We were clearly nerds therefore we should definitely be feared.
My friends couldn't talk. I was least nerdy, so I did all the talking. I thanked him for the read. I asked him to sign a tiny book of Auden poems I brought with, but I couldn't find a fucking pen to save my fucking life. He watched me as I dug through my bag, his eyes sorry for my misfortune. I let him off the hook. He said goodbye and exited stage right.
I've wondered all these years if he had a pen on him I could've borrowed.
Those same friends and I would have poetry readings in our house on
We invented a new tea: Earl Grey and Lady Grey steeped together: Baby Grey.
Electric kettles with calcified heating elements. Tea cakes from Sainsbury's. Mismatched dishes and mugs on a white pine table.
Tina would read us her original poems--the words alighting to the tip of her tongue, booming across the kitchen table, vibrating rings into our tea.
Tina and I cemented our friendship in William Wordsworth's home, Rydal Mount.
We walked the gnarly 2 mile path from Wordsworth's other home, Dove Cottage, in Ambleside, to Rydal nearly 10 years ago to this week. The weather was sublime. My heart leaps up as I think on the beauty. "How could one live in Ambleside and not write poetry?" I thought, standing in the front garden of Dove Cottage. "Really, Wordsworth had no choice."
Tina and I toured Rydal Mount, spending most of our time in Wordsworth's library paying particular attention to the sofa where Samuel Coleridge would come down off of his heroin highs and laudanum lows.
We laughed and laughed into our hands, stifling our glee out of respect for history, imagining Wordsworth and Coleridge as the ultimate odd couple: Wordsworth tolerating Coleridge's insane ramblings and fever dreams he turned into dizzying poetry, as Wordsworth methodically puts pen to paper, hoping to capture the glory of a daffodil, envious of Coleridge's inspirational addiction: "But why must he always come to me when he's withdrawing, he disturbs my work!," thinks Wordsworth. Talk about an albatross...
We removed ourselves into the garden to laugh openly.
I captured Tina on video spinning around in the garden as Coleridge...
...screaming for Wordsworth to look what he can do! Tina fell to the ground in peels of laughter. I hit STOP on the DV recorder.
I watched the video for the first time in 8 years on December 3rd, 2012, the day after Tina died. She was more like Coleridge than both of us could ever know.
She was the greatest undiscovered writer I ever met. Her ideas were lofty. Her intelligence unmatched. Her wit surgical. I was a writer, too, but I always deferred to her, beta to her alpha abilities.
She suffered. Little could still the churning. The churning. A symptom all writers suffer. I've found a way to ease mine, to tie it down and manage it, but little could tether her. She needed something bigger, but she ran out of rope before she could find it.
Third reason why I love The Grand Budapest Hotel:
It makes me think of Tina.
I wish she could've seen it. She would've loved it, too.
*I acknowledge that the Fantastic Mr. Fox had real, big problems, but I still only merely enjoyed the film, despite myself, because puppets freak me out!