Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Found in Boxes

October 5, 2005

While preparing for this current move to Europe I started the packing and sorting out process with my most valued things, the items I keep in small leather boxes and envelops near my chest of drawers, where I can always get to them. And even though the pile has become cluttered in the last ten years and nearly impossible to get to, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was there. This area is something like the cigar box that little boys keep under their beds, with magic rocks and toy soldiers and other treasure and secret things picked up in their travels. Well, so too are the things I collect and keep in my special place.

Two items in particular caught my attention this weekend; brought me up short, made me stop what I was doing and get out my glasses for a closer look. One was a picture taken of me early one morning on the bike path on the beach between Venice Beach and Santa Monica. It was taken by a woman who was never quite my girlfriend. We tried, but it just didn’t work. We liked each other a great deal and had so much fun riding our bikes around Santa Monica in the morning and visiting friends together and hiking and talking about the world. She was an expat southerner like myself and had the familiar, soft-spoken sound to her voice that felt like home and best friends left behind. To this day I think about her and miss her company. We ran into each other on Madison Avenue one day a few years back. She had married and looked very happy and I was happy for her. In the picture I am standing next to my bike, wearing a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt I picked up during the filming of a movie. The picture was taken 13 years ago and in it I looked happy. The moment is so clear in my mind I can smell it. I don’t have many pictures from that time or from any time in my past really, so this one is special and will certainly be among the things I bring with me wherever I go.

The other item I found was a large brown envelope filled with stories given to me by a bar tender I met during the last movie I made. She worked in a terrible little bar on the ground floor of the building we had rented for our offices. Years later it would be the nearest bar to the World Trade Center site still open for business after the bombings of September 11th. In the days directly following the disaster I remember walking by and seeing the sign out front advertising “nearest beer to WTC” and thinking what an unsavory character the owner of that place was and remained. There were more than a few nights when she pulled down the gates out front and bolted the door and kept the bar open for me. We would sit and drink and talk about writing and life. It wasn’t until sometime later, after I’d finished the film and moved on, that she showed me her stories. They were still works-in-progress but they bowled me over. In them her main character describes her feelings as she goes out on her first night as a call girl. She describes getting dressed for the night, the clothing, lipstick, hose, shoes – every detail of the evening down to the sound her Honda civic made as she pulled up to the curb a block away from her customer’s house. This was the first story I read but there were others in which she described her coming of age in a sub-culture of flesh and commerce where her main character was the commodity, and it was all so real, the details so vivid that reading the stories was like looking over her shoulder. I could smell the heat of the dressing room of the strippers preparing themselves for a show, I could feel the tension of the John as he watched her dance to the music she played on the boom box she brought with her and placed on the coffee table in the living room.

It all came back to me as I pulled the pages from the envelope this weekend. She’s married now and had a child and I still hear from her now and then. Her stories will travel with me when I go.


Blogger Demented M said...

Hi Richard! Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

I'm sooo jealous of your move--sounds like a lot of fun. New beginnings are always so full of possibility--hope it works that way for you!


2:39 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

There will always be those moments that will take you back. For me that's one of the best things about life- those people in those moments.

Because everytime I would go through hard times it's remembering those sorts of things that gave me the hope to go on, knowing I would have moments like those again someday :)

Best of luck with your move! Have you ever been to Germany before?

2:40 PM  
Blogger christina said...

I'm really enjoying your writing, Richard.

I also have a little stash of memories that I take out every once in a while to remind me of good thing from the past.

Hope the moving preparations are going well. Cologne is such a great city.

8:37 AM  

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