Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This Week In Not Surfing

Pattern recognition and the testing of hypothesis - this happens after it does that- (like predicting the weather) and voila: self awareness, popping out of consciousness and misconstrued as identity.

And this surfing you’re doing is just the same, subject to an added tyranny of physical achievement. Like watching surf videos on Instagram and whispering into your scalp, “I know what that feels like.” Or someone interrupting your leg lifts at the gym to show you a screen full of forecasts of greens and blues; the very person he’s showing it to no more than a jangle of biological apps with a microphone, camera and speaker attached. But the recognition is appreciated and you might as well be vain while you can.

In Paris I stand next to the ruggedly handsome steadycam operator leaning against the wall. I know a few ruggedly handsome steadycam operators. They seem to come consistently in that varietal, steadycam operators being often the coolest cats on set, lounging until takeoff; disinterested until the action starts. And frankly he already looks spent, his eyes glazed over the same way they arrived. I’ve worked with him once before, shooting soccer players. This is an altogether different sort of shoot, but a slack exhaustion wafts around his square jaw just the same. Those few years ago he mentioned a surf trip so I dug for an in. And indeed his vacant eyes unglue, jogging into life, blinking, just waking up, misunderstanding my angle, my language, then recognition flickering. And for a moment I have him. He mentions Costa Rica, then Nicaragua. I tell him I technically own land down there and he sits up straighter, actually looking at me. “Technically,” I say, “I actually haven’t been there in years.” And the assistant director calls us back to set, receding the depths. After the champagne shot we shake hands simply and he looks at me, nodding, already somewhere else.

And years ago visiting a friend in New Jersey not long after his mother died, before having his own children, on the train platform, before our return to the city, he told me one thing he’d learned from his mother’s passing: Organize your photos. It’s too much to ask your survivors to parse through boxes of negatives.

And one aphorism might be: “It is not the body we desire, but its proximity.”

And one, two or three might be:

He peers at them through his long-concocted crooked smile making sure everyone gets a hello and a hand, dutifully, equally sure the ends of his eyes crinkle so it feels like a private invitation into this, his little fiefdom, impishly housed in a recklessly untucked dress shirt, resolutely unfastened and allowing the louche to have its way in the form of an inward bend from chest to belly wrapped in a working-class undershirt stuffed into his wool suit trousers. Really, he was glad enough that everyone had shown for another Sunday lunch- his second wife having produced a truly marvelous one, complete with a scribbled name cars at each seat and wonderfully prepared Jerusalem artichokes- and even more happy to disappear mysteriously for a few minutes now and again. Allowing his guests to have their say (even prodding their confidence with one of his trademark sidelong winks) his only job. And god only knows what he’d dream about later in the night.

It is, one has to admit, the easiest thing to do and sometimes the only way to get away, so there’s no morality hanging around when she lights up and drags a little shallow drag through the filter. Besides, they’re American Spirit Blacks, and she did spend all morning doing as told, wanting to smile and nod to make everyone feel better, but acknowledging the expectation to stay in character, aloof as defined by people paid less but with more power. Anyhow, they all seemed to have switched to the electric type at least a year ago and she still isn’t quite ready for that.

The light is low, even at midday, so what warmth of the sun skips beats on her skin during the train ride back. She'd somehow scored a window seat returning from the farm owned by the posh boyfriend who’d got her the sort of pregnant that wouldn’t last the same way it hadn’t been expected. And she decides to tell the man in the seat next to her the story she hadn’t even yet told her mother. First though, she needs to ask him his age, abruptly, and it feels a little funny. But she wants to know. And he doesn't seem to mind either confession, his or hers. Almost maybe in a disappointing way. She doesn't want more, but certainly not less. She just doesn't want to be dismissed. And she doesn't feel that way, not for the moment, well not at least until later when she’d pointed out that his tube station was at the other end of the platform and he’d forgotten to use her name when saying goodbye.

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