Thursday, November 1, 2007

Familiar Stranger

I was a bit of an eccentric child.
It was like my heart was always 5 or 6 steps ahead of my head.
I don't think much has changed.

When I was about 8 my mom, as most dutiful cultured mothers did, recorded a movie off of TV. It was HBO's production of The Pirates of Penzance and when I watched it I was completely taken by it. I loved the music. I loved the costumes. I loved Rex Smith's boots and Linda Ronstadts' effortless running scales. I loved Kevin Klein's acrobatics and I loved the painfully obvious fake parrot. I watched it over and over and over again. Any minute of spare TV time had me lost in the poor wandering one's and catlike treads of it all. I was so diligent a fan that it pretty much drove the rest of my siblings insane. Especially when they just wanted to play Zelda. It got to the point that my brother stole the video tape away from me, and after a mad around the house screaming pursuit for my most prized possession, he opened up the flap and totally crumpled up a good portion of the tape. He didn't break it but there was always a delightful snow storm as Angela Lansbury sang about her wrinkles - and I was OK with that.

School and life encroached in on my available TV time so I gradually weaned myself off of it and when I got my first DVD player I was making a list of the movies I felt necessary for my personal library and Pirates of Penzance had a top 10 spot. I located one through the KCET store and stat down for a night of fun with the old friend of a movie that it was. It had been a good 10 years since I'd seen or heard a note of the production. Needless to say, I was very excited.

What followed was one of the most schizophrenic experiences of my life.

Every look and eyelash blink of blocking was totally familiar to me. It was written on my DNA. Every note of every song was a friend. I knew every aspect, dimension and angle of this production but it was a whole new movie. I was watching something I intimately knew, but for the first time. It was a completely different show but the same at the same time. I've never forgotten it.

Goonies was an even stranger experience - Chunk is Jewish! I never knew. It was like I met all of them after knowing them my whole life.

Also when I was a kid there was this hymn we used to sing a lot at church. More than we do now. It was always kind of funny to me because it had the same melody as the merry go round at the local McDonalds so it never felt right, but there was a line that caught my attention, even as a munchkin, and still resonates in me.

Yet oft times a secret something whispered, “You’re a stranger here”
And I felt that I had wandered from a more exalted sphere.

So all of this, coupled with the infinite wisdom of Sesame Street, has been a cornucopia of food for thought for me and left me wondering, honestly child-like wondering about things. Why is something familiar but totally new at the same time? I know that coming back to things with a new set of eyes and experiences and using the vellum of art to make my point is more than a little subjective, but I think there are deeper principles in play. Something much more significant than childhood movies seen with adult eyes.

I've noticed that there are times that something pushes me outside of my normal everyday-living-my-life-frequency and for a moment or two and I feel completely outside of myself. My family has an emotional sepia frame placed on them, some friends reveal themselves to be sheep skin laden opportunists, and nearly everything I turn my mind to seems familiar but disconnected from me. Even the sound of my voice has sometimes seemed foreign.

It doesn't happen often but it slightly haunts me until the next displacement.

I drive the relatively same route to work. I see every shop and person that regularly waits for the bus every day. Twice a day oft times, there and home, but do I know them? No - they're all familiar strangers.

Everything seems to be.
Conversations. The same words from different mouths
Movies. Same jokes in different frames
the face of my watch

Things usually click back quickly and the sepia lifts but I feel changed. I feel educated and usually kind of sad. But not the defeated kind, just the displaced kind.

In my frequency or out, the sine wave never stops. The music never goes away. And among the handful of things I've honestly learned it's that I've got to belong somewhere; even if it's among familiar strangers.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Your last line "And among the handful of things I've honestly learned it's that I've got to belong somewhere; even if it's among familiar strangers" is very powerful!

I think we all feel that way in some way, but not all of us have the talent to voice it with such eloquence. Thank you for that!