I tried to escape again last night, but they caught me. As expected, Stage One of my escape route was easily accomplished: distraction. A few beers with a good friend, some spicy Chinese food, and a visit to some old stomping grounds all lay the groundwork for my estimated departure from reality. Even in the early stages of my escape, I could feel them hot on my trail, but they couldn’t see me; I was well hidden, darting swiftly under the smiles of others. I also made sure to smile as much as I could — you have to blend in when you’re on the run. But I could sense their approach from just a few feet away, and that’s when I moved into Stage Two: run. It worked for only a few minutes, and although I’ve never been much of an athlete, soon it was necessary to accept the pain of the third and final stage of escape: run faster.
And so I ran. I ran past the school where I used to create entire new universes out of sand and water. In my childlike sprint, I wished I could bury all the world’s guns in that sand until they became sand themselves and crumbled away forever.
I ran towards the swings with the strength that comes only from the youthful desire to be the first one there. I ran to the first movie theatre I could remember, and to the last one where I felt safe.
I ran to friends who made witty jokes with me; jokes that would have sounded ridiculously inappropriate to anyone other than the two of us.
Finally I ran into the safety of an apartment — The Apartment — but this time all I found another universe that was created in the sand.
Yes, I ran and they caught me, but not until after I made it home and enjoyed two hours of freedom. Protected by both my apartment and The Apartment, I could close the door and lock myself in, away from the dreaded Consciousness Police. Yes, those slivers of Truth and Fact that we believe we can ignore into nonexistence, if only we can outrun them (or, at the very least, not to look directly at them). I figured the Consciousness Police had no perceivable way of reaching me, as long as I had not one but two apartments and a door safety chain to keep them all out.
How I enjoy Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine together in The Apartment (1960). This five-time Oscar winner of a movie is somewhere on my list of top-ten favorites and certainly deserves its own posting. Both the major and minor characters are played to perfection, and I enjoy The Apartment more and more with every viewing. It should have been the perfect “Stage Three” of my escape route, but this time I just couldn’t run fast enough to make my getaway.
My mind is refusing to process the latest in this painful series of heartbreaking shootings. The actuality of what happened in Connecticut was pounding on my apartment door, demanding that I let it in and stare directly into its monstrous face. But I wasn’t ready yet. How can I deal with something that is so unimaginable and yet frighteningly commonplace at the same time? I want to write about films, not guns. This process of writing about old films with the prayer and hope of keeping them alive for the next generation has been one of my life’s few true loves thus far. Five months ago when I wrote about the movie theatre in Aurora, CO, somewhere under the sadness, a foolish optimism convinced me that this time, the country had truly learned. I’m waiting for that feeling to return . . . I’m too young to lose hope.
The world is in strong need of a happiness injection, but before modern science takes us there, all I can prescribe is a weekly dose an old movie (increase as needed). It helps distract; it provides a temporary escape; it may even help you to run a little faster when times are tough. And when that doggone Consciousness Police finally busts down your door and thwarts your escape plan, you may be ready to deal with what they have to show you.
We can escape, but surely not forever. If I’m lucky, soon someone will turn to me and say with a smile, “Shut up and deal.”
Academy Awards for The Apartment (1961): Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Story and Screenplay), Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Black-and-White)