I went to meet a friend of mine for dinner yesterday in Murray Hill (Kips Bay really) where he had just recently moved. Since this was to be my first time going to his new place, I asked him to send me the address and I was tickled to discover that he lives in a building called “The Future”. Although built in 1991, the lobby and elevators had all kinds of funny 70’s era touches that approximated what the future would look like from that vantage point. When I got up to his apartment, I made several small jokes about Logan’s Run, but my friend gave me a perplexed look. Impressing on him what an important cultural touchstone this was (and since I hadn’t seen the film in over two decades), we went back to my place and rented it.
I had forgotten how very bad the special effects were. They apparently hired some student architects to make the cardboard model of the city, which looked like…well, a cardboard model of the city, especially as the camera moved in at various angles. I was flabbergasted to find out that this movie won a few awards for special effects, but I guess that what the state of the art back in 1976. The premise of the film is that in some post apocalyptic future, resources are tightly controlled and in order to maintain balance in the bubble city in which they live, everyone must die at age thirty. The main character of Logan, initially a kind of police enforcer of this system, decides to run from it once his time is up, rather than submit to his own destruction. More interesting were the rather conservative social messages of the film, despite its utopian/dystopian trappings of easygoing sex and sexuality. After the main couple of Logan and Jessica escape the world of the bubble city they live in, they learn from an old man (played hysterically by Peter Ustinov) what life was like “before”, when children were born to actual parents (instead of in a lab) and raised by them. They are further shocked to discover the concept of monogamy and life-long partnership, which they think they would like to try, novel though it is. To drive home the nobility of this lifestyle and the contrast with the world they have come from, the characters at one point have to escape the city by moving through a kind of orgy club where they are sexually assaulted by a mass of writhing naked bodies. Still earlier in the film (and in a wonderfully prescient take on internet hook ups) Logan is a home relaxing (in a Kaftan of course, this is the 70’s view of the future) and viewing channels of people (male and female) available for sex and beaming one into his apartment. Another conservative point would seem to poo poo the idea of managing limited resources at all, and with the destruction of the bubble the city people are cast out into a kind of eden (no mention of what caused the prior apocalypse, whether the world outside is safe, etc, but it looks like there are plants and sunshine, so it must be ok). From here one imagines they have regained a state of innocence or grace and must now learn to cope in the “real” world. Good luck with that I say, you may not realize it, but you are all dressed like Peter Pan.
Arbeit, arbeit. Although I had planned on not spending more than six or so hours a day on this project (especially given my low quote), I have far exceeded it. Oh well, I want the project to be a success. And as I have known in the past but somehow conveniently forget, Germany is a land of perfectionists, and it is fairly easy for me to get caught up in that sort of logic. There is of course no such thing as perfect, and chasing it too heartily will make one most unhappy. Although I love being here and working with Olaf, he can at times have some difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. He tends to focus on the smaller details with the same or greater attention than is paid to bigger things. Fortunately, I am able to discuss these things openly with him and he is not deaf to the critique. It probably both helps and hurts our work relationship a little that we are such good friends.
And it is not all work really. There are walks by the lake in the lovely neighborhood, wonderful dinners with friends prepared by Olaf (who is an excellent cook btw), and the occasional drink out at a local bar. Last night we watched a movie I had never seen before, Cactus Flower, with Goldie Hawn and Ingrid Bergman in one of her best roles ever. She has the most perfect, icy delivery of very funny and cutting lines. I was on the floor in tears.
My friend Ricky shared with me a classic of Argentine cinema last night, as we screened the comedy “Esperando la carroza” (Waiting for the Hearse). Released in 1985, it was quite the send up of various social strata in Argentina at the time. The dialog was very fast paced and very funny. Lucky for me Ricky had the version with English subtitles. It is apparently one of those films that many people (and especially the gays) know absolutely all the lines from. So in that respect I guess it is a bit like Mommie Dearest or All About Eve.
Dallas and Dmitri (at whose house I am staying in LA) had a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I hadn’t seen it in a while and had to watch. I find the message very Hollywood in a lot of ways, and sweet in others. At one level, the idea that unless you are willing to jump into loving others you are in a cage no matter how glamorous your life may otherwise seem or be is sweet. The same could be said of so many experiences that life holds for us. On the other hand, there is some pretty scary dialog from the film along the lines of “You belong to me, I love you!” This is the message of so much of our culture, that we can posses people as well as things. I strongly believe that despite all the noise and urging, we can not, nor should we strive to. We should enjoy the sharing we have with each other for as long as it is, but when it changes or is gone, strive to appreciate that as well. Every part of life can and should be celebrated for what it teaches us. To need things to be a particular way is to miss what beauty is actually there in front of us and a part of us. Buddhism teaches not that we don’t strive for things, but that we accept with equanimity what is, regardless of whether reality reflects exactly our original goals. I can’t count the number of times in my life I have had some difficulty or struggling that turned into joy and bliss, either from the lessons learned or from the cause and effect of an unexpected outcome.
To paraphrase the song, we are crossing the river at every moment (and in style) not someday, but today. If we let ourselves.