When I was a little girl, I was OBSESSED with old movies. Well, the comedies anyway. I saw them all. I loved Betty Hutton, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby…I loved them all…even Danny Kaye. Tony Curtis was on my list. He was cute and was silly enough to wear a dress in Some Like it Hot. And my young mind was unencumbered by all the faults of alcoholism and drug abuse and whatever. Those were invisible to me. He was just fun.
I went to France to go to school for a year when I was 17. I was trying so hard to be cool, but everything was new and I was not cool. Probably not for a single moment while I was over there. I learned a lot about myself…but one of the big things I began to become aware of while I was there was that I was closer to the fumbling around slapstick style glamour of those old movies I loved than the sophisticated bored glamour of the film and music stars of my day. I have totally settled into that now, but I was just figuring it out then and it was slow going.
I dragged two of my friends with me to the Cannes film festival that year. Somehow I was expecting the streets to be absolutely littered with movie stars. I had seen the pictures in the gossip magazines. We would see them in cafes and on the beach and walking down the street. Strangely, we saw almost no one. Almost.
On a side street we took to cut through to the main drag I spotted Tony Curtis walking down the street. It was just us and him. The rest of this tiny little back street was empty. Without thinking I yelled out “Mr. Curtis!” My heart was racing a mile a minute. He certainly looked a lot older than I remembered…but he still carried himself like a movie star and it was unmistakably him. I wanted to tell him how much his movies had meant to me as a kid. I wanted to tell him how cool I thought it was that it seemed like he did not take himself too seriously. I wanted to tell him that of all the movie stars I could have stumbled upon in Cannes that year, this unexpected meeting was far and away the most exciting one that could have occurred for me and that I could return to my dorm completely satisfied that I had met him. He turned toward the sound of my voice and I panicked. I jumped into a doorway and he did not see me.
I don’t tend to regret a lot about my life. What has happened has brought me to where I am and I rather like where I am. But I do regret that moment. I have no idea why I panicked. I am not typically afraid of approaching people. I have actually met and talked to some serious movie stars since then and it was not that big of a deal. But this was Tony Curtis. He was a little unreal to me. I just could not hold it together.
Tony Curtis died yesterday. And, of the many deaths of people I have grown up watching, this one hits me just a little bit harder than most.
That was me on the back street in Cannes, Mr. Curtis. I just wanted to say thank you.
What a vapid start to this entry…but there it is. And it is true. I swear I don’t think I have ever been to a lovelier city than Vancouver.
There is no arguing the beauty. Across the Pacific, tall mountains tower over the water that is as deep as they are high. Colorful flowers I have never seen before grow a bit wild here in the summer. Dense hedgerows cloister homes along the main boulevards. Waterscapes and art are built up around the city belying a culture clearly in love with the aesthetic. Perhaps inspired by the art of nature there.
And the people are nice. Like, really nice. And not in that “duh-i-have-to-be-nice-to-you-because-you-are-the-customer” kind of way. The way they are nice feels like a habit. Like something they do involuntarily, like breathing. Even the street people begging for money are gentle, “maybe you will have some change on your way back?”
The rains are gentle. The cold is gentle. The newspaper headlines are gentle. It is a nice place to rest.
It did not occur to me until last night what I was missing in this place. I could not figure out why I felt so uncomfortable there. Then it hit me. I had not heard anyone laugh since I arrived. No one. I was constantly in meetings…on trains…in crowds…in restaurants…in shops. No one laughed. No one erupted in anger. I saw no one who was clearly unhappy.
I am not suggesting that my four days in Vancouver represents a complete picture of the city. In that time, I realize that my experiences are extremely superficial and can only represent my personal snapshot from the pieces of the city I visited. But I leave here today feeling a little odd. I wonder how long a fiery person like me would last in the kind of world that, at least in my small impression of it, did not appear to have a lot of emotional variance going on. At least publicly.
Still, it was nice to rest. And I really did feel peaceful in this lovely city.
I am a sucker for a story. Even if a movie is terrible, it takes an act of congress to get me to walk out of it…I have to know the end of the story. This is why I am addicted to blogs. I long for people’s stories. I check my regulars every day and am always looking for new ones. Some make me laugh. Some make me think. Others make me feel. The ones that make me feel are my favorites. Today it is Issa who has me thinking.
Issa does not exactly write as much as she opens her heart and pours her feelings into her blog. Reading her blog feels almost too personal…like I am reading her diary. Her pain is right there…right up front. So is her love, longing, joy…whatever she is feeling. She is not a clever writer…I have never read a witty turn of phrase from her. Yet she has many many followers, because she is completely there. People identify with her because she is real.
It occurs to me today that I write to entertain, not connect, and I hate this. It is not that I think there is anything wrong with entertaining, but it is not what connects us…human being to human being. And it is not who I am. I am wildly emotional. I work hard every day to restrain as much of my crazy emotional life as I possibly can. Virtually our whole lives are spent packaging ourselves for how we want to be seen. And all of us for a secret longing to really know who everyone is. To really KNOW them. I believe this guarding of our own truth is responsible for our lack of real connection. It’s not that we are alone, there are people all around us, it’s that we are not authentic enough to connect to.
My challenge to myself now is, can I put down years of messaging to “hold my tongue?” Can I just make a decision to stick my neck out and write what I feel? Can I show you my shadow? Can I share my dark side? The parts of me that embarrass me? Am I brave enough to do that? Am I as brave as Issa?