I just watched the most gorgeous movie I have seen in years. The music, the costumes, ah, the fabrics, the textures. You can just imagine how things smell and feel and look. Of course I am writing of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.
I first fell in love with Tilda Swinton when she starred in the film Orlando. I had merely skimmed the novel by Virginia Woolf in high school, having been transfixed by her other works. To the Lighthouse was required reading in high school. I barely listened to a word Swinton uttered in Orlando, and gazed, mouth agape. She was more than simply beautiful, she was interesting looking. Otherworldly. Who better to play the part of an ancient vampire?
I had to re-watch the opening scene many times. That deep bass drum beat, the haunting, slow, grinding melody with a distinct Middle Eastern flavor. Somehow, the spinning room, the slow motion, the ecstatic expression on the faces of the characters – it echoes my own fizzy pink wine tipsy. It brought me back to conversations with my father.
Oh, my father.
I’ve spent the past few months being mad at him. Well, rather I was trying to be mad at him. I wrote out vicious screeds and imagined passionate confrontations where we would have it all out at last.
Only then he calls me and we fall into our typical easy conversation and all my anger; well, who am I kidding? What anger? It’s not that it evaporated, it’s just like it never existed. You see, it seems my father and I are entangled, in ways even he couldn’t imagine. But something about me scares my father. He never seems to be able to talk to me when he is sober. I think it scares him that I am probably the only person on the planet who sees him clearly.
Anyways, let me explain.
Many of the Gods in my life are because of my father. He was in the military, and somehow the contact with the lands and cultures of North Africa, India, Northern and Western Europe, Turkey, Greece, Egypt was absorbed and then later injected directly into my blood, my genes, my spirit. These are the cultures and Gods who call to me, sing to me, who come to me in my sleep, who show up constantly in unexpected synchonicities.
America isn’t a melting pot. Or a patchwork quilt. Or any other cutesy simile we come up with. America is a curator, a collector, an archiver. After all, this nation was born under the sign of the crab. We don’t blend cultures to make our own special brew; we collect cultures and put them under glass. We get upset when we find that the culture we have so carefully sampled from and curated has now changed and evolved. What do you mean these people no longer do/believe/practice the things we have tasted, heard, seen, experienced? We are horrified!
So, while this connection, this entanglement with my father was long ago forged, I am a typical American – the curator remains objective, yes? Untouched by their collection. Moved by its beauty, its wisdom perhaps, but not really a part of one’s self. Only, I’ve taken a much more active role in making it all my own. Perhaps this is why he finally calls me after all these months – perhaps he senses that I’ve been screwing around with the molecules at the other end of the universe.