Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

The famous first line from the novel Rebecca.

Actually, it was Santos, a coastal city in Brazil. Early this morning, I dreamt I went to Santos again.

As most of you know, I spent about eight and a half months there—so long that even though I haven’t seen it for well over a year, it is as fresh in my mind now as it was then. I have a map all but etched into my brain of most of the streets of four “bairros,” or neighborhoods, in Santos. I would still know the most efficient ways to get everywhere. And because I went about on foot, I know the aspect of the streets, the homefronts, bakeries, bars, and salons. So many salons! The skate park in the middle of my area, where the eternally busy Afonso Pena intersects Canal Four. The quiet, tree-lined streets where trim little buildings on stilts stand shoulder to shoulder like sentinels.

I can go on, but the details in my head mean nothing to anybody but me.

There is something to be said for going everywhere on foot.

Some people’s dreams are characterized by scary, intense sequences, or consist of various montages of nonsense. My dreams—when I remember them, which is not often—almost always provoke thought. Last night, as I said, I dreamt I went back to Santos. I don’t know how I got there. I was supposed to be somewhere else. In fact, I had momentarily been somewhere else—at a party with family and friends or something. But suddenly, I was in shorts and a dark green shirt I don’t actually own in real life, and it was noon, and I was in Santos. The sky was a beautiful partly cloudy. It looked light a hot day, but felt pleasant. I found myself on a busy road that vaguely resembled Afonso Pena—the dividing line between the nicer bairros and one called Macuco. I wandered around, almost in a trance or daze. I wondered how I’d gotten there—I assumed by plane—but it didn’t really seem to matter. There were lots of pedestrians, everywhere. All around me were the old, old houses, with tall, narrow wooden doors—houses that in real life, I always imagined sailors having once come home to, but now are filled with immigrants from the Northeast. I went places I could never go again as a tourist. I thought, “I’m going to walk all over Santos, even the Center.” The Center is not a safe place in real life. It made me feel invincible, the idea of going there. I passed by buildings that even now I can see in such detail that I wonder if I really did see them once.

I caught my reflection in a window. My hair was short and slightly flipped out. I looked really hip! I swear—I swear—I passed some people I actually saw or knew or something in Brazil. I caught some of them looking at me, maybe wondering where they had seen me before. I felt triumphant, returning as a competent tourist, well-dressed, confident. It’s as if I were glad to prove that missionaries were human, too—not always dowdy their whole lives. I didn’t feel out of place as a blond. Lot’s of people were blond, though fake. And I knew the language.

In my wandering, I ducked into a kind of alley, walked into a little paved courtyard, and suddenly found a view of the city. There was a carnival in the distance, with swings and one of those crazy spinny things that people always get sick on, and a Ferris wheel. In real life, there is no carnival in Santos, and a view of the city is only possible from one of the hills in the center of the island. But in my dream world, anything was possible I guess. Even for a solitary American girl with no real money and no passport to feel safe. It occurred to me to feel nervous that I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing and a U.S. $20 bill in my pocket, no cellphone, nothing… But this fleeting moment of panic was replaced by awe as I walked the old streets of Santos feeling exactly like I’d come home.

My memories of Brazil haunt me, because they seem so much like dreams. So totally different was my life there than it is here, it is hard for me, in some ways, to believe I was actually there. It’s my driving force to go back. I guess…I guess I just want to go see if it’s really there the way I remember it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Going Very Early to Movies

There’s definitely something about Utah Valley and the general lack of acceptable entertainment that sends people in droves to the movies. Really. You’d think the movie industry worldwide would have pulled itself up out of the economic slump by now, if through nothing else than through Utah Valley’s unbridled enthusiasm.

Yes, I’m talking about Harry Potter.

Now. I have spent no less than a million hours of my life waiting in lines to get into blockbuster movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and (heaven forbid) Star Wars episode three. But I no longer relish this practice. I no longer absorb the expectant energy of the people in line with me, eagerly awaiting Heath Ledger’s phenomenal evilness, or Robert Downey Jr.’s irresistible bad boy antics. You might say I’ve grown bored of it all. I still like movies, but I don’t particularly enjoy lines.

Well, I made an exception today, for Harry. I even went to the trouble of buying the tickets two days in advance. I even…bothered to go stand in line (yes, you heard me…or…read me) a whole hour in advance. Die-hard early-going-blockbuster-line-waiter-inners no doubt scoff. One hour is really not early enough for such a big movie on its second day of release. True. But I figured that at least the four of us going wouldn’t get stuck sitting in the front row. Not even the genius of Harry Potter can ameliorate the effects of a permanently crooked neck. Anyway. I went early, stood in an enormous, amorphous line, finally got into the theater with what I thought was time to spare…and lo. It was nearly full.

You must imagine my rage. (But—do not imagine too carefully lest you overload your central nervous system.) In this same circumstance, some people would see the joy in the situation: families coming together to enjoy a nice, well-made, pg-rated masterpiece. (Which it was, by the way.) But I? Oh, no. I’d had a long day at work, and what I saw was whole families of twelve who’d sent their two little pit bulls three hours ahead of schedule to spread jackets, purses, arms and legs and whatever else on hand across ten other seats so that the rest of the fam could quite comfortably arrive two minutes before the film was scheduled to start. It was enough to make one sick with rage! I had already demeaned myself by arriving a whole hour early. Perversely, it wasn’t even because I was such an HP fan that I willingly wait in an unmoving line for three hours. I was merely playing by the necessary rules to get four seats together. Just four. Is that a lot to ask?

By the time I got into the theater, a mere half hour early, the seating was still underway.

Seating, in a movie such as this, is always a bloodbath. No sooner do you turn your back on two potential seats, then bam! Taken. One must be impulsive. You see a seat, you take it, you throw yourself bodily across it, because the minute you hesitate to consider whether this is really the seat for you, you’ve lost it. Your claim is staked by someone who was a fraction of a second less circumspect than you. (It’s unfair, but that’s life in the theater. Alas, there is a little bit of Darwinism at play.) And then, since the only two seats left together are two of the six handicapped seats, you are forced to plant yourself thither. Right in front, in the aisle. Exposed. Conspicuous. Like a sore thumb, or a growth on the fringes of society. Everyone walking by, tripping on your legs (which you tuck shamefully away) looking askance—and judging.


What if someone in a wheelchair actually comes in? Which one of the six of us poor schmucks in the front is going to move? It is a frightening hypothetical. All joy is leached out of the experience. All expectation quashed by the single, bitter thought, “This damn movie better be worth it!”

Well, it was, happily. And no amount of my pre-show annoyance tainted the actual experience. My final word is this: go see Harry Potter. But—and I can’t believe I’m actually advocating this—show up a little earlier than I did.


I need to write more and more often!


And, I had such lofty goals for the summer...