In a Lonely Place

In a Lonely Place on 08-13-2018


A first glance: a woman singing at a piano, a man drinking next to another woman (hands posed on the table, smiling more than a regular would, surely his wife, taken for granted), and another woman behind a lamp, maybe beautiful, head drawn sideways into some sadness. Only the women seem to be listening to the music. They all have the same hairstyles.

In a Lonely Place on 08-14-2018

Day two, seeing nothing but the two lamps, too symmetrical not to be intentional. Although the stripes of one are angled like the woman’s head behind it, and the stripes of the other are straight like its corresponding woman (too straight in every sense, I fear). Are the women unknowingly corresponding to the decor? Meanwhile I like the man less and less – something too soft and satisfied. As I wrote that, I first noticed his shadow.

In a Lonely Place on 08-15-2018


Today I’m drawn immediately to the shadow on the chair behind the man, yesterday’s discovery. The shadow pulls me out of the scene and into the world around it, so that now I’m standing with the crew behind a low spotlight flooding in from the left, making that phantom man on the chair, although we can’t see the shadow from where we stand behind the light, because only at the source of shadows do the shadows entirely disappear.

In a Lonely Place on 08-16-2018


Are there still cocktail bars with walls made of curtains? If I ever found a cocktail bar with walls made of curtains, I would never leave it. Something’s hidden. Eavesdroppers to be stabbed as if you were Hamlet, or girls with painted cheeks whispering things you don’t want to understand. Beyond the curtain are what we call dreams, and I would like to sit there sipping a martini as it moved almost imperceptibly behind me.

In a Lonely Place on 08-17-2018


Put the angled piano straight up on the wall, and it would be another fold in the curtain. Nothing more to say than that today, but it was satisfying, as if I’d found Waldo (who I recently learned is called Charlie in French, for no apparent reason). Our tendency towards pattern recognition has undoubtedly created whole religions, and when putting pianos on the wall I understand the primal satisfaction of even irrational synthesis. I build a house in the woods to keep the monsters at bay. Bienvenue.

In a Lonely Place on 08-18-2018


Today I’m only seeing necklaces hanging in parallel. His bowtie seems insufficient, impotent between those shining rocks. Diamonds and pearls, forged in the depths of earth and sea. Granted, it’s a tuxedo, but a floppy silk bowtie? How does he even stand a chance?

In a Lonely Place on 08-19-2018


The singer is beautiful. I hadn’t mentioned that yet, which is how it often is with very beautiful women: because their beauty is so obvious, nobody ever thinks to mention it, like an embarrassing secret we politely keep to ourselves, a philandering husband or an insufferable kid. She’s been lost in this note with her eyes closed for a while, left dress strap lightly indenting the muscle of her shoulder. But of course you’d seen that too.

In a Lonely Place on 08-20-2018


I could say something about the Civil Rights movement, Nina Simone, “A Change is Going to Come”…. This movie was shot in 1950. At the pace of this experiment, King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech would come in the year 449,280, more or less.

In a Lonely Place on 08-21-2018

Today looks the same as yesterday, as hard as I’m trying to notice a change. Maybe her eyes have closed slightly more. What I do know for certain (I think) is that the man’s drink has been at his lips since the beginning of this, which already seems like weeks ago, although it was less than half a second ago. At some point, as you look at the world around you, you will force yourself to see some change, and you will give it significance, in order to make it till sundown.

In a Lonely Place on 08-22-2018


Her martini, or whatever it is, is so fixed that it’s beginning to seem unreal. It’s one of the first things I notice every day (draw your own conclusions), but now I’m even starting to doubt there’s alcohol in the glass, and I’ve also become convinced she’ll never pick it up. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie, so I can’t remember the actual fate of the drink (assuming I even noticed it, which is unlikely), but I’m absolutely convinced she’ll never touch that glass. Is that the definition of pessimism, or depression? Lack of faith in change? Also, a cocktail should never be mere decoration. Obviously.

In a Lonely Place on 08-23-2018


I was in Amsterdam yesterday. Today I’m in Paris. I change. The Lonely Place stays almost the same. Really I don’t change.

In a Lonely Place on 08-24-2018


Twelve days into this experiment, each of these words seems to matter a lot, but a thousand days in, they won’t so much. A moment means almost nothing in a film that goes on forever. There must be a mathematical formula, irrelevance increasing over time on a curve towards infinity. Thank God we’re spared eternal life.

In a Lonely Place on 08-25-2018


I used to wear pocket squares, even in my uncompromising form-follows-function days. I don’t wear them anymore, even though decoration, digression, as a style, now interests me more than simplicity. Too much of everything else now is only exactly what it is.

In a Lonely Place on 08-26-2018


Her eyes are like a lizard’s today, vertical slits. I’ve moved into the metaphors now, apparently, slathering on a layer of fiction to help me get through the day.

In a Lonely Place on 08-27-2018


I’m tempted to flip back to yesterday and see why I thought her eyes were like a lizard’s, but I’m trying to keep this experiment as close to life as possible, and you can never flip back to yesterday, despite your repeated attempts.

In a Lonely Place on 08-28-2018


The song must have turned. Her eyes are widening quickly (quickly in her world), her teeth have bitten off a lyric. In front of the blonde woman’s hands, there appears to be a miniature woman lying on her side, head to the right, just beside the lamp. Where did she come from? In a Lonely Place, directed by David Lynch.

In a Lonely Place on 08-29-2018


I’ve been so distracted by the singer’s face (approaching pure beauty today) and then by the miniature woman (still lying on that back left table, or not), that I’ve been completely ignoring the man, whose eyes are suddenly cast down to what may be a fly in his glass. Even at this speed you miss things, and I grow uneasy at the thought of everything else I’ve missed since yesterday.

In a Lonely Place on 08-30-2018


Fly still in man’s glass. Just went into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water to see if one actually looks down into a glass when drinking from it. No. I raise my head with the glass. So there’s a fly in there. But even if there’s a fly, the fly has no relevance to the scene, so we’re witnessing some terrible acting. I’m going to call him Gilles. I realize I’m being hard on Gilles, and have been since the beginning.

In a Lonely Place on 08-31-2018


Major happenings with Gilles’s glass. He’s lowered it to the one spot where it catches the light. Yes, he’s scene-hogging today, Gilles. Though to be fair, for him it was just 1/24th of a second to hog. At another speed, I wouldn’t have reproached him for it. Velocity changes feeling. There’s probably a formula in that too. I don’t think Gilles loves his wife.

In a Lonely Place on 09-01-2018


Gilles’s glass still catches the light, but less. The singer’s lips are opening, her teeth have parted. Her untouched glass casts a shadow I hadn’t previously noticed, and the shadow appears to be cast in opposite directions, towards her and away. Am I repeating myself? I can’t remember.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-02-2018

Someone watching this experiment from the land of one-second-per-second found the singer’s name: Hadda Brooks, born Hadda Hapgood, once called the “Queen of Boogie”. She was married once, in 1941, for about a year, to a Harlem Globetrotter named Earl “Shug” Morrison. Then he died of pneumonia. I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. I’m not sure facts add much to life. This film is in my head.

In a Lonely Place on 09-03-2018

Hadda Brooks was born in L.A. “Highlights of her life included singing at Hawaii’s official statehood ceremony in 1959 and being asked for a private audience with Pope Pius XII.” (SF Chronicle) She also appeared in Sean Penn’s 1995 movie The Crossing Guard. I should stop this. Information is a distraction. I’d prefer to walk into that bar and listen, or at least imagine I’m doing it.

In a Lonely Place on 09-04-2018

Again something missed, so obvious to me now: her earring, diamonds clamped to her lobe like a barrette. Really it’s overwhelming to think of everything I’ve missed, of the other lives I might have lived if my eyes, here and there, had landed only a few centimeters left or right than they did.

In a Lonely Place on 09-05-2018

I’m still annoyed with Gilles for obsessing over the fly in his glass. He’s the only one not listening to the song…except for us. We’re not listening to the song either, which may be why I’m annoyed with Gilles. Neither of us hears the music.

In a Lonely Place on 09-06-2018

I see no change. I’m frustrated. I want some revelation, a new perspective, but nobody ever had a revelation because he wanted it. So here we are.

In a Lonely Place on 09-07-2018

Gilles’s wife’s name is Rose. That’s the name I’ve given her (on the far left, to his right). For months now she’s been dimly aware that Gilles is hiding something. She senses a darkness behind him. In bed at night, this shadow is there. The shadow is there as he stands at the kitchen counter drinking coffee, eyes cast out the window at the phosphorescent hummingbird feeder. She does not want to see the shadow. Rose has always lived in the sunshine, a hummingbird herself.

In a Lonely Place on 09-08-2018

The light traces Miss Brooks’s scalp where she parts her hair. This morning I took this image with me to a cafe in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris. I have been sitting here for half an hour, and I have not seen a single woman with parted hair. Why do women outside the Lonely Place no longer part their hair? Styles return, style is a wheel, but when did women last part their hair?

In a Lonely Place on 09-09-2018


Yesterday I read that Georges Perec wrote a little book called An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. He spent three days on the Place Saint-Sulpice writing down whatever he noticed. I went out and bought the book and read it at the Café de la Mairie on the Place Saint-Sulpice. Later I read that that book was eventually adapted for the cinema.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-10-2018


Rose is being polite. Her mind is making bright lists (even her mental penmanship is impeccable) and wondering what she missed. The woman on the right, however, exotic under palm shadows, is really listening to the song. She’s in the Lonely Place. I used to think that self-assurance was the most attractive quality in a person, but now I only find it attractive when accompanied by a lack of self-assurance.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-11-2018


Gilles has noticed the shadow himself. He was playing racquetball the other day at the club, and Riggs, his partner in the agency, had commented on it. The shadow hadn’t been too obvious under the lights of the court, but then he hadn’t been able to wash it off in the shower.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-12-2018

Is she – Hadda – really playing the piano? Do her arms move? I’ve been so lost in abstractions that I haven’t noticed. Philosophically, or constitutionally, I’m convinced that details are all that give anything a point. And still I miss most of them.

In a Lonely Place on 09-13-2018


The woman on the right is listening, but not seeing. The music accompanies some private obsession. There was a phonecall, a bottle of perfume hurled to the floor, but no tears, because she’s disdainful of tears. Life is a series of situations through which she must infallibly maneuver. I’m calling her Lana. Every moment feels like a mistake. Lana is becoming a woman I knew.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-14-2018


In the indistinct spot on Lana’ s table, I think I can see her hand clasped around a half dozen pencils. So with those pencils did Lana draw the miniature woman who reclines on the table in front Gilles’s wife, the languid banana-sized courtesan? “I’m sorry.” Yes, of course, that’s what she should have said over the telephone, but it would have pleased him too much.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-15-2018


The gleam of Gilles’s glass seems to have stayed on his lip, like a cold sore. Am I seeing things that don’t exist? His partner, Riggs, has disappeared, but no one can know. Their clients – his clients – would leave for other agencies. He hasn’t found the moment to mention this to Rose.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-16-2018


Look at something, even something beautiful, long enough, and it does not become more beautiful. It becomes unsettling. I do not trust these people. Hadda, maybe, but her arms haven’t moved in days, or at all, which makes me think she’s faking it, so really I don’t trust her anymore either, even if I find myself inclined to.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-17-2018


Yesterday I claimed that observation doesn’t increase beauty, but corrodes it, so of course today, for the first time I’ve noticed, a beauty spot appeared on Hadda’s cheek. What I wrote yesterday was obviously nonsense, but somehow we have to fill the time with conviction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-18-2018


Hadda closes her eyes to find a feeling to attach to a phrase. And perhaps Gilles closes his eyes to take the feeling she sings inside. But no, mere thoughts obsess Gilles. Nobody has found Riggs’s body yet, and Rose cooked meatloaf for dinner. She’s probably making mental shopping lists right now. So long as she doesn’t forget his marmalade.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-19-2018


Or maybe a singer should never especially try to convey feelings. Maybe the attempt is enough to counterfeit everything. Maybe hitting the note is enough. Maybe if you’ve got the talent and the patience to do that perfectly, the feelings convey themselves. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-20-2018


Gilles is still looking at his glass. He shouldn’t have another drink, but he knows he will. He had wanted to make Rose happy, taking her here. It’s so easy to make Rose happy, but this was a mistake. He had told her there was a new singer whom he and Riggs might sign. But Hadda Brooks, Queen of the Boogie, does not know Gilles exists. Possibly unrelated, but at this point who knows: I looked at the dates, and her husband the Harlem Globetrotter is already dead.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-21-2018


Why do the folds of the curtain behind Gilles’s head look like two vertical antelope devil’s horns today? For some reason the fictional names I pick off the top of my head tend to end in s, so there’s always the dilemma of the apostrophe, or the full apostrophe s, that second s like the shadow behind Gilles.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-22-2018


“I don’t care, I don’t care,” Lana, in the corner, had told him over the telephone. “Obviously you do,” he’d replied, “or you wouldn’t be saying you didn’t.” Face to face, she would have killed him. Of course he doesn’t care either, doesn’t know how. Their indifference just uses different vocabulary. But really it’s not indifference, or they wouldn’t have been on the telephone. So what now? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-23-2018


An old friend, in town and looking for fun, sits across from me as I write this, so there’s no concentration for (quick glance, first detail I see): Hadda’s lips. Beer or wine? Red or white? More or more or more or more: those are your options in life, really, even if you imagine you might streamline yourself. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-24-2018


Stop thinking about it, Gilles, and take that sip. And for your sake I hope that on set in the ’50s they used real alcohol. Rose is an unremarkable statue, and I’m beginning to sympathize. Your wife arises every morning in a black dress and pearls, a sweet smile on her face that may, after years, finally signify nothing. And maybe as you look into that drink, you long for the crooked-grinned catastrophes.

In a Lonely Place on 09-25-2018


Consistency is an overrated virtue. What we may appreciate most in others is change. Surprise me, especially when one day looks like the next. Of course I probably just say that because I’m in the Lonely Place. Don’t go.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-26-2018


Sunshine in Paris this afternoon, slightly chilly. I’m talking about the weather. We talked about it last night. There are dinners where everything could be predicted with meteorological accuracy, dinners that might as well have been lived at the speed of the Lonely Place. I wonder what the stage hands are doing out of frame.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-27-2018


Life is elsewhere. Yes, I realize that life is where you place your attention, but I’m still focusing on the stagehands out of frame: stained blue jeans, maybe, a murmured joke, a cigarette butt, the camaraderie of work, where the song’s always changing, whistled maybe by Chas in the props department, who drives a red DeSoto.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-28-2018


So we make stories in order to tolerate time, or to put it a bit more aspirationally, to make something of it. Gilles’s partner Riggs has been murdered, but he didn’t do it, but he knows who did. At least that’s the story he’s telling himself. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-29-2018


There is the sense I’ve gotten something wrong, that there’s some glitch in the technology, a bug in the system, a frozen screen. Messages should be getting through to me that I’m not receiving.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 09-30-2018


No discernable change. If we’d attempted this gastropodic experiment in 1950, when this movie was made, impatience for transformation would have had us screaming into each other’s mouths and birthing rock & roll years before its time. Disco would have been over before I was conceived. We would have torn down the Iron Curtain with our bare hands in 1951.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-01-2018


I sat on a cafe terrace this morning staring at the Lonely Place. Hadda hasn’t opened her eyes for days – weeks? – and so I attempted the eyes-closed experiment at her speed. Did I last a minute? Twenty seconds? It seemed like an eternity, like every 1/24th of a second was a day. You start to hear the world turn. People must think you’re crazy. You start to feel crazy, too, and alive.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-02-2018


If the Lonely Place moves at 1/24th of a second per day, then our brains must move closer to a day per 1/24th of a second, a thousand scattered thoughts in an instant. I wonder how many times in his mind Gilles has brought that glass to his lips in this 1/24th of a second. You’ll notice that I’m obsessed with Gilles’s glass and will draw your own conclusions.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-03-2018


“She hasn’t changed a bit,” people sometimes say of old friends, which is understood as a compliment, but also hints at some unnatural bargain, as if at a certain point these friends chose to stop living lives of any consequence.

In a Lonely Place on 10-05-2018


You won’t believe what just happened to me.

In a Lonely Place on 10-06-2018


Oh man. Where to start? I could spend a lifetime here. Stendhal wrote that beauty is the promise of happiness. That last shot ran for 53 days. I’d be happy if this beauty lasted for 533. At least that’s how I feel today.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-07-2018


He is Humphrey Bogart, she is Gloria Grahame. I love him in this movie, but it made her my number one. Slow gestures, stoned talk, reluctantly charmed with a twist of the lip, so tough but so obviously doomed. No, let me be scientific: I think her eyelashes have moved, up or down, since yesterday.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-08-2018


Her hand on the table like some beautiful claw (she’s nervous), a smile so faint that I may have put it there myself (she likes him), an empty ashtray (they’ve just arrived), the lemon in his glass, masculine, squared and horizontal, and in hers, feminine, curving down into her drink. Gin and tonic, I’m guessing.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-09-2018


Have her eyes shifted? I thought she was looking at him, but now she’s looking past her drink. You can’t pin her down, Gloria Grahame. She’s got her own ideas. I’m riveted. There’s not enough time in the day, not to mention in 1/24th of a second.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-10-2018


Recently at a Ukrainian wedding I learned that there the wedding band is worn on the right hand, not the left. Bogart had married Lauren Bacall in 1945, but he’s not married in the movie, so you’d assume he removed his, but maybe he compromised and made it Ukrainian.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-11-2018


Bogart’s fist, her beautiful claw. Oh boy. This relationship is not going to be a cakewalk. Not that you’d want it to be a cakewalk. Not that you know what a cakewalk is.

In a Lonely Place on 10-12-2018


She’s looking away from him now, clearly. He’s not paying her enough attention, which he’s concluded is the most efficient way to kindle her desire. I imagine she’s listening to Hadda on the piano, because Gloria Grahame is one who, in the Lonely Place, would listen to the song, self-sufficient.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-13-2018


The face of Bogart’s watch is again telling faint time. Maybe the minutes have been stirred back into existence by the apparent imminence of the lighting of his cigarette. Momentous occasions. The handkerchief in his pocket looks like an iceberg on a moonlit night.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-14-2018


Cigarette lit – I may be developing a gift for premonitions. For several days I’ve noticed the woman hidden behind Bogart’s shoulder. She’s lit even more brightly than Gloria Grahame. Above her is what looks like the shadow of a man in a fedora. Maybe it’s the man who killed Gilles’s partner Riggs. Now I regret that I didn’t have more time with Gilles and his wife. You start thinking you’ll have forever.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-15-2018


That look. Gloria Grahame may surpass me here. Words seem like kid’s stuff. She was married to Nicholas Ray, the director. Then she was married to Nicholas Ray’s son.⠀