contemplating jazz

It’s been an emotional week.  That’s not the best thought to have on a Monday morning, but there are far worse.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see Kill Your Darlings at the fancy theatre in Evanston.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, the film is a biopic of Allen Ginsberg and the New Vision.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Allen Ginsberg, you clearly didn’t date any Artists in high school.  Good on you.

It’s a beautiful film.  Truly beautiful.  The cinematography is inspired.  The writing is incredibly textured.  The acting is dazzling.  The costumes made me salivate.  I believe this is the first full-length film for director John Krokidas and, good golly, am I excited to see what else he puts out.  I can easily say that it’s the best film I’ve seen this year, equaled only to The World’s End because both have such an astonishing focus on detail, quality, and cohesion.

I’ve been harping on this to everyone I talk to, but if you can see this film, go.  This is what films are supposed to be.

On my birthday, I went to see the first two films in the Cornetto trilogy and a talkback with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  Now anyone who’s known me for any length of time can tell you that I become a flailing giggle-puss in the presence of these films or any other projects on which these three enormously talented men have collaborated.  I left the theatre in a daze.

That’s what I want to do, I thought.  I want to sit on a stage with my two best friends and talk about something beautiful that we created together.

I was reminded of that thought this weekend.  There’s a moment towards the end of Kill Your Darlings were Allen is given back a paper by his rather stuffy poetry professor.  This is a man who mocked him for his love of Walt Whitman, who chided his assertion that writing in rhyming couplets and established meter was doing nothing to further the canon.  The paper in question is one that had been deemed unacceptable by the school.  When Allen removes the paper from its envelope, his teacher has penned the following message:

Keep this.  Keep going.

When I see films like these (or read books like these or witness theatre of this caliber), I walk away feeling inspired.  I’m lost for words.  I’m filled with a sense of purpose, as silly as it sounds.  I probably shouldn’t put so much stock in entertainment.  But then again, I never said I wasn’t ridiculous.

There’s so much mediocrity in the world, so much of the day-to-day that we get wrapped up in.  There are so many blogs and books and articles about happiness and mental well-being, and so much of the focus is on living in the present moment.  It’s not bad advice by any means.  Live life to the fullest.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Today is a gift, etc.  But for me, living in the present often requires forgetting there is a future at all.  On the cusp of a panic attack while waiting for the next train, I must focus on the cold, autumnal air and the stab of my stubby nails in my palm.  While riding a wave of wild depression, the thought can never be things will be better someday because I have to make it through this day and this day is shit.  Everything has to be taken a day at a time.  That doesn’t leave room for next year or next month or even the day after tomorrow.

But then there are those rare moments, moments in dark cinemas with my closest friends, or under the covers with a paperback and my favourite tabby.  All transient — only brief seconds in the whole solemn history of everything else.  Moments where I see little miracles:  where frames of film or a tangle of print or passing monologues reach past their walls and into my soul.  And all the years of theatre classes and scribbled fancies in textbook margins rise up in me, and I think, That’s what I want to do.  That’s all I ever wanted to do.

And even rarer — even sweeter — are the times where I find myself mid-slog through yet another draft of yet another unfinished piece and I realise, oh my G-d.  That’s what I did.

That’s something I can do.

It doesn’t happen often.  But sometimes it does.  And then I remember the future.

Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends.  Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness.  You say what you want to say when you don't care who's listening.  -- Allen Ginsberg

Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening. — Allen Ginsberg


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