Eye of the Story
The White Album is my favorite reading we’ve done in this program so far. I had never heard of Joan Didion, prior to this quarter. My interest in her work has sparked since reading this book and I can hardly wait to read more by her. I have had a growing interest in the art and culture of the 1960’s since first hearing about the Black Panther’s and the Beats in my middle school humanities classes. I was initially intrigued by the prospect of dropping right into that time period and getting a feel for the events and vibes of that era from someone who lived it. What I didn’t think I’d get was that feeling similar to the one described by Sebald in Rings of Saturn of having lived her experience exactly has she lived it, which isn’t a completely unique reaction, I’m sure. The first essay, sharing the same title as the book itself, is what sparked the closeness I personally felt.
What truly caught my attention in this essay was a thought from the opening in tandem with number 7, in which she talks about the list taped to her closet door, in its entirety. In essence, what she’s talking about come down to two things. The first being a longing for control over our own destinies through a linear narrative and how that particular notion of how life plays out is ultimately not reality. The second being, in order to get to that point, we have to own our imperfections and come to terms with the fact that there will always be something missing so long as we strive for an exact ideal.
Didion claims, “[w]e live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience (11.)” This shifting phantasmagoria, a nightmarish circus, is a spot on description of the infinitely unpredictable nature of the reality which we choose to not think about, for sanity’s sake. For Didion, lack of control in a world where everything seems to have certain elements of order and structure is equal to chaos.
The list further perpetuates this notion. “It should be clear,” she says, “ that this was a list made by someone who prized control, yearned after momentum, someone determined to play her role as if she had the script, heard her cues, knew the narrative (35.)” This list is her safety net, keeping her from chaos.
Last year I attended a rally for Bernie Sanders at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Maximum capacity at the stadium was 20,000, and 28,000 supporters showed up to fight the establishment and the billionaire class. I stood in a line that rivaled the massive cue of fans at the Paul McCartney concert I went to in Salt Lake City. I was with my sister, Louise, and some other people form my high school. We bought Bernie pins and stuck them to our shirts. We found what we thought was the place where people who had RSVP’d (we had) were to line up. A grumpy middle aged man grumbled “I don’t think so! End of the line is back there.” So we made our way to the end of the massive crowd and waited to be let in. Already I was shocked at the turnout. Bernie Sanders, the guy who won’t take anything from ‘Big Money.’ The guy who the media did everything in their power not to cover. The socialist! It was amazing, and spirits were high because we all knew it. Luckily, when the time came we barely snatched up some seats and sat down to listen to the old man preach his unapologetic message: we will win and there will be a revolution. It was like a rock concert as Bernie explained to us that by redistributing wealth back to the working class, we could accomplish free tuition, health care, and proper retirement. “It is a disgrace” or “it is a national atrocity” were some of Bernie’s favorite taglines. As the night went on his hair got messier and his hand gestures wilder. Passion was the word of the night.
In 1993 the first tower was bombed unsuccessfully in NY. The stage direction of the actors at play led the media to believe in an impenetrable morality and staved off that old cold war feeling of imminent domestic destruction.
For being so aware of the ways in which we were all put in our places at the institution of public school, who would ever imagine that after 9-11 we could all ever live out our imaginations as adults. We saw both the planes and the resulting falls. In our eight-year-old minds we envisioned King Kong and Independence Day fireworks. Remember the eleventh.
In a way we were entertaining ourselves with alternative possibilities as our grade school teachers were sobbing and taking phone calls. The president came on the news that day and stated the obvious, Britney Spears sang about American Pride, and there was footage of the falling man. Firefighters the saviors of that day rested peacefully under ashes and showering through the sun were half burnt financial documents and ashen Wall Street Journals.
Later we forgot why our cell phones are tapped right out of the factory.
It came to be that Fox’s stronghold on our minds became fastened to our chests like the booming heart beat of a “suicide bomber”. Propane tanks were rigged in Times Square and costumed Mickey Mouse never had a chance to save the kids; only thing that helped was the air dropped packages of Teddy Bears that parachuted from Oklahoma City.
In ’02 at the Peach March were barricaded freethinkers and schoolteachers blocking traffic with their bodies parallel to double yellow lines and steaming potholes.
In many ways, the strategies of Mrs. Dalloway reflect the strategies I am trying to employ in my film. Virginia Woolf seems to effortlessly weave together a multitudinous collection of experiences, memories, and impressions from multiple perspectives. She accomplishes this through employing poetic prose that illustrate the mysterious yet undeniable connection between our subjective thoughts and the physical/visual world. The green dress Clarissa mends reawakens Richard’s contempt for her life style; the pen-knife Richard toys with reminds Clarissa of her annoyance to his oblivious attitude. This is not only done convincingly with each of the book’s central characters but also with people who seem to be there only by happenstance, such when the airplane flies over London and we are privy to the brief musings of a those who see it.
Any detail can ignite within us an emotion or recollection because, as isolated as we may feel from each other’s subjective experience, we all draw understanding from the same universe that produced us all.
I too want to incorporate this polyphonous view in my film. In some ways I have simplified the task and in other ways I have complicated it. Since my script focuses on the shared history of two siblings, the subjective comparison on a shared world is almost literal. However, where Woolf blends emotion and perception with poetic pros, I want to do the same with projected images retrained dailogue, which at the moment feels more opaque (although a certain amount of inaccessibility is permitted if not required).
Where character and visual impression cohabitate so well in Mrs. Dalloway, I’m developing them separately. It will take time before I can start to blend them, which in short means that my project is a fragmented mess at this moment. I remind myself that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and that I should not shackle myself to the high standards of matching the level Woolf’s composition.
I’m still trying to access the multitude of perspective within myself.
Sometimes Joseph cannot hold a pen for the notes he takes of the books he does not finish. People think he’s a bad guy; he thinks he is because of it. Many have seen Joseph’s pain in the layers of stressed and shadowed skin under his eyes. Sadness seems to leave so many creases. I don’t think he’s ever sober; I don’t think I am, ever. Joseph will get there first. Even if it’s just a couple dollars more. This week I think the book is McCarthy—Child of God. He’s made it to page 101. I’d cry if he finished.
Joseph could play the piano as if he packed concert halls: the convoluted and jumbled off key is in a nostalgic beauty like when you remember something that you can’t quite remember all the way. His fingers piece it out. The song’s already there. It’s cautious but deliberate. I just help him with the money. Which is bouncing around like juvenile, pursed lips. It’s harder to look us in the eye if we’re looking up to you. That’s when the pressure is revealed in the permanence of mapped dark circles and bags. Let’s talk business. That’s what it comes to, right? Joseph’s never dry. Ain’t nothin’ to worry about.
It was the weekend in Bellingham at Western, a cold Friday or Saturday in mid October. The winds that often blow through town had a message on them that night. All week people had been talking about the block party. A party that encompasses an entire apartment complex and parking lot. The party of the year, one that was accessible to everyone, even freshman. I got ready in the dorms and headed out to a friends house to further prepare for the night. We were planning on departing around 10:30pm, the party was planned to start at 9pm. As we ‘prepared’ we sat on the front porch watching the belligerent students sloshing by.
We got some updates from passerbys that by 10pm the party had already gotten out of control and the cops had showed up to break things apart. People were getting angry. The majority of the 15,000 students at Western had heard wind of this party and they were on the trail. Because the block had been shut down the mob moved into the street. Swaying their ground the blocked off one of the roads, impeding traffic and a main bus line.
Another group was waddling up the street towards campus, it was 10:30pm one last update before we make our move. The group informed us that the party was stationed on the corner of Lorell park. Lorell park was pretty close to my friends house so we started walking towards the fray. Crossing the grass we could see a crowd had gathered on three sides of one intersection blocking all three streets. On the ‘unoccupied’ street cop cars began filing into line for about half a mile down the road.
Tensions were rising fast, the students began to chant, I cant remember what they were chanting at first.. slightly inaudible, but then the second chant came around and it was clearly identifiable. “Sea Hawks! Sea Hawks! Sea Hawks!” I cringed inwardly, the mob gained momentum with this seemingly classic hit. The energy of the mob swelled with their voices, they found strength in the verbal reassurance of their entity. Someone threw a bottle. It found its landing strip and shattered accordingly spewing glass across the pavement towards the first cop car. Again, this action turned to sound ignited and fueled the mob, more bottles were launched, vagabonds ran into near by houses and grabbed anything that would satiate this audible need for chaos. Plates and glasses and mugs were swiped and thrown up into the air. Someone started yanking the stop sign loose on the corner, others seemed to agree and went to assist. A few minutes later the stop sign was free from its gravestone grounding and air born, chucked by a stray piece of the mob. Why did they rip out the stop sign you may ask? Why are they mad you may ask? What happened next you may ask??
It’s now Sunday, it’s been a long day. I had bought plane tickets last night for my brother and i to head home. we both needed to return to school and felt like we had said our goodbye to grandma. my mom didn’t understand and was a crying wreck. She wanted my brother to stay with her. it was a control thing more than anything. without getting into too much detail he had to sneak out. i kissed my grandmother goodbye. i felt her cold hands and placed a note i had written to her in it. i knew i would not see her again. this pained me more than i could explain. so as i left out the front door and my brother climbed out a back window and over a fence, my mom broke down crying and begged me not to go. and that was hard. but i had to get back to school, i was now telling myself this was my grandmas wishes. my brother and i met up at a Lowes hardware store down the street. we had no ride to the fresno airport from madera so i had to call a cab. this taxi was cash only so i had to go get cash back at the store by making three purchases. the cab ended up being about $100 and we got to the airport on time. we got to our terminal safely early and sat there looking out some giant windows. my brother and i sat in silence for the most part. really for most of the day we didn’t speak to each. i think this was in fear of someone mentioning grandma. we didn’t want the guilt of us fleeing back to Washington to become known to each other. the plane ride got played over in phoenix Arizona. we were there for about 3 hours. we were there until about 5:30 when or next plane took off. we sat in this terminal once again in silence. the sky outside had turned a pale blue with oranges and pinks streaking across the landscape. i don’t think i had ever seen anything like it. i started to cry. my brother saw this and he too started to cry. at some point i realized this and we shared a silent look of acknowledgement. this lasted for a about a minute as we wiped our tears and tried to appear less sad. the plane ride home wasn’t too bad the sunset as we took off was too beautiful to describe and the foggy starlit fight was haunting to say the least. absolute yugen. we landed in pdx and our father picked us up, we then got some food and started heading up north to take me back here to olympia. my father got me some groceries and dropped me off. i said goodbye to him and my brother, we once again shared a look. i told him to take care of himself. i think he will be fine, probably better than me. as they left some friends come into my suite and i told them about my past week and the long day. they seemed like they cared and offered consolation. they then retired to their respective rooms. by this time it was about midnight, and my phone had been dead for hours. i plugged it back in and was surprised to see a text from my mom. my grandma passed away at 11:20 that night, roughly around the time i got back to my dorm. peaceful and in her sleep she took her last breath. my mom said “she had returned to the stars”. i wept alone in my room for the next hour.
Prompt: Talk about an author who speaks to you the most.
Out of all the choices I would say Didion, because I like the subtlety that her memoir writing poked through. She had the ability to describe the house she lived in in 1971 and the memories that came with it while really talking about a historical event that she witnessed. She had the ability to make the story not completely about her and that’s why people question if it’s memoir writing or not. She inspires me in my own writing because of her beautiful descriptions of simple places like a home she lived in or a broken rib that amounted to serious questions about age and her place in the world. She is able to relate to events even if she didn’t live them and makes the reader feel as if she is an expert on them.
I also felt a connection to Lise Yasuo’s film Family Gathering. She was able to document a hardship in her family many years after the fact. The pain that they went through in the internment camps during WW2 has a similar connection to my own writing. My grandmother was in the Japanese run concentration camps though. It makes you look at the real issues that came with integrating yourself back in society after becoming a “criminal” to others.
the basement of your mother’s farm is vast but
to me this morning is tiny and tight, as if
my little futon was moved into a cardboard refrigerator
box while I was sleeping and I didn’t notice until now.
But rapidly my eyes adjust and I can sense the depth
of the room. Pool table and card table, couches and chairs,
tv and fireplace,giant tuba hanging, endless boxes,
the expanse is stuffed but well organized.
Margaret farts in her sleep cutely and occasionally
snores which was also charming. There is plenty of light outside but only
a sliver makes it through the slit windows and it is too
dark to read. I lay on my back looking at what holds the house up.
Columns and frames and board slats, and I think if i was committed
or OCD i could pass the time counting the rows of boards and
i try and get to 40 and lose interest. But now your aunt and grandma
are awake, puttering about in the kitchen right above me. I can
hear everything they say but can’t quite understand. Your grandma
apparently is 94 and you have to listen very hard to tell what she is
saying even when she’s in the same room. Your aunt is more audible
and she is frustrated with your grandma’s elderliness and confusion
and your grandma is eaquily frustrated but probably cannot say as
much for herself. They carry on for awhile. I think I hear your voice in
the kitchen so I walk up flights of stairs to find you but only your aunt
was there, back turned, washing dishes so I slunk back downstairs unnoticed.
I try waking Margaret up by sending texts to myself so my phone will
beep but it doesn’t work. I read by the light of my phone for awhile.
I go upstairs to the studio bathroom and try to put all the yoga balls back in
the shower but they keep tumbling right back out. I wonder how they were
put in before. I only bumped the shower curtain a bit last night and they all came
tumbling down on me. I remember more of last night while trying to go back to sleep
and my half dreams confuse me of what actually happened.
lately i just don’t want to see anyone i know, or would have to talk to,
unless i feel thoroughly prepared. i like to keep my headphones on
or my nose in my book and it is such a relief when i think some
acquaintance is about to sit next to me on the bus but choses elsewhere,
or when some acquaintance crosses my path and we terminate our
acknowledgments of each other at “hello”
not sure why this always happens to me in winter. i like people
very much. my stamina for interactions simply deflates in
the winter time. i like to focus all my energy on one particular
person, who feels good to be with, who gives me mutely