Cabin in the Sky
(originally posted 3/12/2013)
You think I want to write about tits and farts all the time? I know you certainly don’t want to read about them 24/7. I want to write about transcendent things every now and then, the powerful emotions that lurk in all of us, but to do that I have to figure out what’s important and what’s trite. What leads to those moments that have us hurting or exalting?
There are certain scenes in certain movies that I can’t watch with anyone else in the room. For some reason the writers and actors have conspired to create something more than a movie scene. Take for example the ending of Dead Poet’s Society where Robin Williams is leaving the classroom and one of his students stands on his desk and says “O Captain, my Captain.”
See, I didn’t want to say “holy shit” there. I wanted to explain what it makes me feel but “holy shit” is the only way I can get it out. I realize that for someone who claims to be a writer that might be a strange thing to admit but I can’t help it. Words fail. The scene overwhelms me. If you haven’t seen the movie then there is no way I can explain it but when the Robin Williams character looks up at the boys all standing there I am truly moved. Somewhere else. Elevated.
And I’m never moved. I’m always where I am, much to my chagrin. I think people who are constantly looking to be moved in some way find it hard to actually get moved.
Another example of a scene where I get wrecked is the end of Man on Fire with Denzel. The scene on the bridge with the little kid. Holy shit. And the song is playing and he’s bleeding out…
You get the idea. There are a thousand movies with similar themes and solid acting but everything just seems to come together to provide that one moment where the whole is greater than the parts. The parts being us.
Sometimes the moment is such that the parts are great at pointing out the hole.
For me the greatest of these is the scene in Almost Famous where Penny Lane is sitting on the airplane and it suddenly dawns on her that the 15-year-old writer is in love with her. She looks out the little window and sees him in the terminal waving. He is running along as the plane taxis out to the runway.
And she presses her hand against the glass.
That image is frozen in my head.
There is something about it that makes me ache inside. Not a dull little thing but a dam-breaking kind of pain. A yearning.
Then I realize that these scenes need me. They need my entire life to make the moment work. I connect with the material and that’s why it’s so powerful.
I’m not even sure why the hand pressed against the glass gets to me the way it does but it’s only because I’m too scared to find out. I know somewhere inside me there is some reason, some scene in my own life that causes it to hit home.
For a few seconds I stop trying to fight it and just let it happen. I let that amazing song give me permission to miss being young and in love and the heaping helpings of naiveté that come with them both. The quiet sighs replaced by a wracking sob whose origin I don’t quite understand and for once I don’t try to hold back. That tear rolling hotly down my cheek is part of it all. Embracing a past heartbreak that allows me to become part of something bigger. The tear running all the way to down a much-larger ocean.
Is it because I’ve had a few moments like that in my life and there’s one in particular that seems to be stuck in my head the way a popcorn kernel sticks between your teeth? She was in the doorway, not on a plane, and we didn’t say goodbye until the next morning and I was the one who drove far away never to return.
But I was as close to being in love with her as I was capable at the time and she stood in the doorway and all the light in the room seemed to make its way behind her to help silhouette her and add a bit of glow and seeing her made both the inseam of my pants and my heart ache a bit and I know I used the word “her” too many times but that’s only because you weren’t there.
She was on an outbound plane but at the time she didn’t know it and neither did I or I would have chased her down the tarmac screaming not to go without an ounce of shame.
So now I know why my eyes burn and my chest heaves as the guitar plays the theme from “holy shit.”
Then the scene is over and reality sweeps back over me and I hope nobody walked into the room and saw me being such a wimp.
Maybe I write because I’d like just once to provide that for someone else. I just want to keep writing in the hopes I’ll stumble on something greater than my own words.
And maybe for a moment transcend. Make you forget you’re reading and put you somewhere else even for just a “holy shit” moment.