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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

lining up the bones (saved by chicken shit)


Halfway into shooting the scene it dawns on me that E is talking about life to a collection of dirty chickens in some farm. I wrote this all on the pages of Whale episode two in August. We rehearsed it, made it thoughtful, hesitant, honest. The costume looks perfect. Her shoes are scuffed and crusted with mud. I braided her hair with the same red hairbands. But standing here, checking focus, making little adjustments it becomes clear to me how odd the scene is, how awkward and half-desperate it is. All the same, E makes it real. I knew what would ring sincere from her, and gave her the right words. She twists her mouth around, pulls the sweater around herself, tells the chickens not to give up hope.

There is a cat and a little dog and a rooster making mayhem, and after we shoot her scene and I am just doing pickup shots of the chickens by themselves she dances around the place laughing and warm in my jacket that is ten sizes too big for her. I smile to myself, satisfied that I have found a way to make something beautiful with E, something personal and profound, something we are both very proud of.

It may rain soon. There is shit splattered across my bags, the tripod, my boots. It smells like my childhood, that sweet, sour wine smell of chicken shit.





I have been thinking about how so many of the great writers, the great artists were assholes as people. Terrible parents, terrible husbands, selfish, lonely creators of masterpieces. Of course there are exceptions, but the truth is hard to ignore. In art school we used to pretend that if you were crazy then you made good art, so if you were conservative you were probably a dud, shooting creative blanks. I know it is all a myth now, a story told by fools. There was one Van Gogh, that's all. Crazy made him, but Robert Frank was just inspired. Fante wrote the bible as far as I am concerned, but he slept with every woman, drank and gambled his family's money away and was a terrible father.

Every day I try to line up the bones, make E's lunch in the dark, try to run my hand across V's soft face before taking E to school. My first thought is to take out the garbage, or that we need light bulbs. The art comes second, third. There are guitars in the closets. There is a tall pile of pages to edit, to circle the corner of the page in blue and note the lost comma, or the one that needs to go away. A camera stands on a tripod in the corner, its lone eye staring back at me. When did I use it last?

The wind is blowing, a low moan. I hold V in my arms while N takes a shower and we look out at the tree tops bending hard, leaves skipping away from them dry and brown. She slaps her tiny hand against the glass, banging some message to them. N told me not to worry about who will read my new book when it is done, that E and V will read it someday and that is all that matters. I look at her across the kitchen table in the dark on a Saturday night, the thread from the teabag twisted around the handle of her mug the way she always does. I try to imagine what life was like when I was living alone on 1st Street, cameras and guitars around me and how I never wanted to go back to an empty house, how I was jealous of everyone on shoots that went long as they called their wives to say they would be coming home late.

I can barely remember that old life now.



Comments

liv said…
These photos were so appropriate in color. E needs a role written just for her.
Marco North said…
Liv - that is exactly what I did - it is easier for her to act, and at the same time gives her confidence to make interesting character choices based on the script....
jeannine nye said…
your prose is utterly right for the gorgeous moody pictures,and that darling girl of yours, is growing up fast to be a real beauty inside and out.. I admire your strength in being a lone parent, and doing a great job too I am sure. I enjoy knowing how you are getting along and will be back again, meanwhile sending you best wishes from the UK and hope the cold is not too severe again this winter.. J

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