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.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-16-2018


How long does one continue looking at the tip of a cigarette once it’s been lit? Humphrey Bogart knows. Man and cigarette. And creeping awareness of all the heartbreaking moments to come. You and your cigarette alone in a room, even if you’re not alone, technically, taking the time it takes, because all the demons with all their fires are coming for you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-17-2018


I thought I might leave this blank today. Travelling and distracted. I thought I might say something about the blankness of some days. But the days are never really blank, and I’m always having this conversation, even when I think I’m not.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-18-2018


Exciting discovery: I had noticed the lemons, hers curving and feminine, his horizontal and masculine, and I had noticed her hand, beautiful and claw-like. But what I had not noticed is that her fingers and his fingers precisely follow the forms of their respective lemons. Could this be intentional, or is it perfect only because nobody ever saw it but us in this instant?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-19-2018


I assume he’s beginning to flick his lighter shut. One make assumptions of physical trajectories even at this speed, even if he’ll have weeks to change his mind. In other words, the speed of an action doesn’t alter our expectations for it. Not sure how that insight could possibly enrichen your life, but there you have it. Put it to good use.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-20-2018


The ring on his finger has come more into the light, the wedding band on the wrong hand, or the Ukrainian hand. But it’s not a wedding band. It’s more like a signet ring, a coat of arms to be pressed into a wax seal. I look it up: his mother was an heiress, he grew up in a vast apartment on the Upper West Side, so there could have been a family coat of arms. His father’s name: Belmont DeForest Bogart.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-21-2018


A man like Bogart gets you thinking about how things should or shouldn’t be done – the etiquette of lighters and watches and cigarettes and rings – but I’m not convinced of the boutonniere worn with the pocket square. Yes, I’m pretending to write an article for a men’s magazine in order to put off confronting that look on Miss Grahame’s face. She’s got a thousand ways to gut you. This is one. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-22-2018


I hadn’t noticed the gap between his arm and his body. Will he light a cigarette for Miss Grahame and reveal more of the blonde under spotlights in the background? Could that possibly be the head and ear of a horse over his left shoulder? Is this story something other than we had assumed it to be? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-23-2018


The faint white slivers of moons at the top of the black of Gloria Grahame’s décolleté. Bring on the night. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-24-2018


When it becomes difficult to find meaning in life (i.e. this 1/24th of a second), we remove ourselves and read about life. I’ve started the original book: In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes. Here’s the epigraph, by J.M. Synge: “It’s in a lonesome place you do have to be talking with someone, and looking for someone, in the evening of the day.” Pretty obvious, if you ask me, evening of the day or not.

In a Lonely Place on 10-25-2018


At this point we have to assume that the shadow off Bogart’s right shoulder looking like a man in a fedora is either the man who killed Riggs, the partner of Gilles (from the shot 3 weeks ago), or the ghost of Riggs himself. I’m going with the ghost. And then you really have to deduce that the hidden woman under bright spotlights is even more significant than previously assumed. Elementary, my dears.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-26-2018


The shadow of the man in the fedora over Bogart’s own right shoulder is the ghost of Gilles’s partner Riggs, who had fallen in love with the hidden woman under the spotlight here, but then so had Gilles. The plot thickens. And this was their mistake: you can fall in love with a woman who seems to live perpetually in sunshine, but never, ever one drawn like a moth to a spotlight.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-27-2018


Smoke appears. Bogart’s still staring down that lighter. The success of any gesture is in the follow through. There also appears to be a tuft of smoke at the top of Bogart’s head, although it could be a few stray hairs. And then the curtain, so perfectly vertical and rigid here that it could have been carved of wood.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-28-2018


Landscape with handkerchief, boutonniere, and smoke. Japanese mountain, moon obscured by fog, wisp of clouds above. I don’t know what the bowtie could be. A bat.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-29-2018


Should we talk about the horse over Bogart’s left shoulder? The one showing a top of an eye and an ear? To quote Shakespeare, who is beloved by this horse (especially the late tragedies), “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends.”

In a Lonely Place on 10-30-2018


The woman under the spotlight behind Bogart’s right shoulder, whom I have begun to imagine in great detail, is often mistaken for beautiful, but the truth is that her obvious vitality is amassed by extinguishing others. She casts shadows of the men she passed through to get to the spotlight. Riggs is dead now, hovering above her shadow in his fedora. And Gilles? Gilles is now hardly more than a shadow himself.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 10-31-2018


Message received today: “Your posts are hilarious. And quite touching, actually. More than Miss Grahame, she’d want you to call her Gloria. G-L-O-R-I-A, Gloria. More like Van Morrison, less like Patti Smith. And he’d definitely want you to call him Bogie. I just have a hunch.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-01-2018


And so I return to the horse over Bogart’s left shoulder and over his right, in the fedora, the shadow ghost of Riggs, so unwise in love. If David Lynch had made this movie, he would have us assume the horse was real, and that Riggs was not dead in any definitive sense, merely relegated to a parallel dimension. Everything is real. So here we go… ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-02-2018


She moves slower than smoke, and with more mystery. Every day I find some new emotion in Gloria Grahame’s face. Love, boredom, anxiety, desire. Today, in this 1/24th of a second, she’s thinking about a man she loved, but doesn’t anymore. It’s that simple. Now she isn’t thinking about him anymore.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-03-2018


I’m trying to read the time off Bogart’s watch. 3:00? 3:15? Could it really be that late at night? Or has the speed of the Lonely Place thrown everything off? Probably we’ve entered another dimension detached from time. Probably.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-05-2018


Today she looks so innocent, girlish. She looks as if she’s borrowed her mother’s fancy earrings to play dress-up. Was she really so different yesterday? No, but I saw her that way, so what is it about me that makes her more innocent today? ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-06-2018


Today it seems Bogart’s looking down at his iPhone. I don’t like typing the word “iPhone” here, much less with the word “Bogart” in the same sentence. I just looked down to check my messages, but Gloria Grahame hadn’t texted, because Gloria Grahame never texts. She just thinks distant thoughts you’ll never capture. Retweet her thoughts and instantly you’ll have no followers.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-07-2018


We haven’t seen his eyes. We’ve only seen hers. I think they’re in love, because I’ve decided to continue to believe in that magic, but the eyes of new lovers indicate better than anything how the love affair will end.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-08-2018


The tip of Bogart’s cigarette is now burning, a white spot. The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can only change forms. So what was lost in the lighting? Miss Grahame looks almost angry today, so maybe the flame was ripped from her, and little by little, as the careless cigarettes are lit, you become colder.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-09-2018


I miss the languid smoking of cigarettes in black and white movies, but then you watch the movie at one frame per day, the way his eyes now seem so aware of his hand moving towards the cigarette for a puff, and the ritual seems interminable, an absurdly long-term addiction distracting him from the life he’s meant to be living. Look up, Bogie! Take the puff and be released.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-10-2018


Now Bogart’s hand, like Gloria Grahame’s, is claw-like. Surely these details could never be directed. Unless there was a director for the movie as a whole, and then practically infinite other directors for each 1/24th of a second, a parallel world of obsessive lunatics unacknowledged by the Academy.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-11-2018


Just take the cigarette between your fingers, Bogie. You’ve got our attention. I’m begging you.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-12-2018


The woman in the spotlight is moving slightly out from behind Bogart’s right shoulder. I hadn’t noticed her earring before, if that’s the glint at her cheek. Her dress appears low-cut, because of course it would be. Talk about dramatic tension.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-13-2018


So maybe I cheated, by zooming in today, imagining I’d discover something else (and yes: the embroidered smaller square on the cocktail napkins, which are cloth). You utilise the technology. But you’ve already lost. You failed at the moment, which is gone. And this one. And this one. And this one. Gone.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-14-2018


Scientifically speaking, I think that if Bogart put his fingers almost to Gloria Grahame’s cheek, almost touching her skin, just as his fingers all in a line appear to be just almost touching his cigarette, molecules would align to make up the distance, and these two would birth constellations.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-15-2018


We’re ignoring you, Bogart, until you figure out what it is, exactly, that you want. So: Gloria Grahame was born Gloria Hallward. “She particularly felt her upper lip was too thin and had ridges that were too deep. She began stuffing cotton or tissue under it, which she felt gave her a sexier look. Several co-stars discovered this during kissing scenes.” (Wikipedia)⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-16-2018


Gloria Grahame’s marriage with director Nicholas Ray ended the year after this movie (1951) when he caught her in bed with Anthony, his 13-year-old son. She was married to a writer named Cy Howard from 1954-1957, and then married Anthony in 1960. One son with Nicholas, a daughter with Cy, two sons with Anthony.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-17-2018


Bogart’s fingers, finally, are indisputably on his cigarette. Now we can anticipate the moment, in days or weeks, when he moves the cigarette from his mouth and maybe looks up at us. Life goals: essential, but sometimes better left unexamined. At some point everything – friendship, coffee, exercise – is a leap of faith.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-19-2018


The horse behind Bogart’s left shoulder (I’ve decided to be convinced that’s what it is) cannot talk, but it is extraordinarily sensitive to human speech and seems to understand a wide range of vocabulary. He accompanies the woman behind Bogart’s right shoulder – Britt, I’m calling her, a name that seems to me as overlit as she (not to mention her brittle little heart!) – to most of her important social functions, such as they are.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-20-2018


Britt, the woman behind Bogart’s right shoulder, calls her horse, which is seated beside her, Thumper. She thinks that’s cute. It is Thumper who, in his devotion, on what had been meant to be a riding picnic in Topanga Canyon, trampled Britt’s sometime lover, the agent Riggs, to death. Riggs, in his signature fedora, still haunts them both in the folds of the curtain. Britt is as yet unaware of this, but Thumper sees, and is feeling skittish. Of course there’s more to the story.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-21-2018


I woke up this morning still terrified by a nightmare in which I’d slept for a week, then woke up in a panic, at which point I actually woke up in a panic. But the dream panic wasn’t over missed appointments or lost time. It was because absolutely everything around me, even after sleeping for a week, was exactly the same. It didn’t matter whether I slept or not, whether I existed or not. Oh wait…⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-22-2018


Britt called up Riggs on the telephone one night. She told him she’d been out riding in the hills. She didn’t need to say she’d been riding Thumper. Riggs already knew that. She’d taken him out to the stables one day, and Thumper had refused Riggs’ carrot. Britt had laughed like a horse, and Riggs had wondered what he was doing with his life, but really, at this point, all of this was beyond his control. It was as if he’d become someone else.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-23-2018


Riggs thought it would be over when he was dead. He didn’t know he was going to die, of course, but he knew he was headed towards some definitive disaster. But it just keeps going, even after the disaster. His shadow haunts Britt just as closely as he actually did, shadow-like, in life. He’s still looking for answers, even if he now understands that there are no answers, only stories, and unfortunately this is his story as it currently stands.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-24-2018


I once knew a man who smoked with all five fingers. Elegant in every other way, his five-fingered smoking seemed to indicate a whole-bodied need, and I decided then that need is the opposite of elegance. Yes, it must be trivial to spend time thinking about elegance, but it’s generally a more reliable indicator of character than kindness, bravery, or beauty, if you ask me.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-26-2018


I don’t yet see any ash at the tip of Bogart’s cigarette, so I’m wondering how long it will take a cigarette to disappear into smoke at this speed. Four minutes to smoke a cigarette in the world? So, in the Lonely Place, just under sixteen years per cigarette. Imagine that nicotine high. The high would just become who you were. And even chain smoking, you could live till 400 with little risk of lung cancer, never having smoked more than a mildly rebellious 12-year-old.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-27-2018


The cigarette has left Bogart’s mouth.

In a Lonely Place on 11-28-2018


NSFW WARNING. The consolations of looking very, very (too) closely: with Bogart’s hand moving away from his mouth, I’ve just noticed that the black shadow on Gloria Grahame’s arm, melting into her dress directly above her clawed hand, was created by Bogart’s hand, and that’s their first physical contact. Boom. They’re sneaky, these two.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-29-2018


Lots of research today, keeping busy, being strategic about this. These two paid with their bodies. Six years after this film, at age 56, Bogart had his esophagus, two lymph nodes, and a rib removed. He died of cancer a year later. Also: Bogart and Bacall both suffered from what is now called Bogart-Bacall syndrome (BBS), “an ongoing hoarseness that often afflicts actors, singers, or TV/radio voice workers who speak in a very low pitch.” Stick with me.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 11-30-2018


Testing a theory, because I’ll need a few new theories to get through this (and possibly whole new philosophies and religions): love is motion. A few weeks ago, before she froze, I thought I might love Gloria Grahame. But now she’s only beautiful, something I glance at for a moment, then glance away…. I refuse to give up on her. I have faith.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-01-2018


The cigarette is coming away quickly. Bogart’s shadow on Gloria Grahame’s arm has disappeared. Britt, in the spotlight behind Bogart, has said something meant to be charming which she has indicated with laughter that shatters in the air like a champagne glass tossed against the wall. Beside her Thumper does not laugh, because horses do not laugh. He is glad of this, since he remembers the feel of Riggs’s skull beneath his hooves and isn’t in the mood even if he could be in the mood.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-30-2018

I wrote about love being a matter of timing, a rare occurrence of existing in the same moment as someone else, of having your speeds coincide, and here, look at them: each suddenly seems ten years younger. They’re dancing together across decades.

In a Lonely Place on 12-03-2018


Britt, behind Bogart’s right shoulder, imagines her life as a movie, and naturally she is its star. She has memorized all her lines so that each comes naturally. Riggs hadn’t even really been her agent, but he’d found her that first role. She’d slept with him for that, and then he fell in love, and wanted to manage her career. Now she’s about to star in a surf picture set in Hawaii. Riggs was against it, of course.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-31-2018

And what I hadn’t noticed yesterday, if it was there yesterday (don’t look back), is the shadow of his cigarette and hand on the sheer silk of her dress, like the shadow of the ghost agent Riggs in his fedora in the background curtains, like a cigarette that belongs to someone else and will haunt the two of them, but you can’t go back.

In a Lonely Place on 12-04-2018


At regular speed I’m sure it’s dashing, but in the Lonely Place, Bogart is looking at that cigarette as if it’s some unidentified object he doesn’t recall having just extracted from his mouth. You need to live at the right speed. Slow something down enough (or speed it up enough, presumably), and life loses its sense. Not that you, reading the 5th second of this experiment on its 114th day, needed me to spell that out.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-05-2018


Britt, still mostly hidden to our eyes, is off to Honolulu next month, and will fall in love with a soulful guitar player onscreen (offscreen there will be beach photoshoots hinting at a romance). Her contract stipulates that Thumper, her horse, travels with her, and this is still a sticking point between her and the studio, given that she gets seasick, carsick, and trainsick, but not planesick, and they claim the airlines won’t accomodate, which is ludicrous, she feels, given that somebody’s bound to have a private jet. I’ve never in my life so much wanted to set eyes upon a woman I’ve decided is a nightmare.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-06-2018


Is it me, or is that whole cigarette glowing radioactively today, like a slot of white fire on Bogart’s jacket? Is it me, or has that cigarette become a character of it own, entirely unlikable? And is boredom the mother of anthropomorphism?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-07-2018


There are days in my life – this is one – where the tape could be played backwards or forwards without making the slightest difference. The cigarette could be moving down or up, and it wouldn’t matter at all.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-08-2018


At his death in 1957, Bogart weighed 80 pounds. John Huston gave the eulogy: “In each of the fountains at Versailles, there is a pike which keeps all the carp active, otherwise they would grow overfat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood.” Not sure I follow the metaphor, but tell me more about these fountains of Hollywood! Bring me Anita Ekberg in a black dress and a sturdy pair of water wings!⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-09-2018


Insanity (n) – the result of looking too closely at something. Coincidences become infallible signs. Systems become self-evident. What am I talking about? Just this: the smoke drifting up from Bogart’s cigarette has taken exactly the same form as the lemon in Gloria Grahame’s glass. Is that what chaos theory is? String theory? God?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-10-2018


The Dancing Town. A Devil with Women. The Bad Sister. A Holy Terror. Women of All Nations. Marked Woman. Swing Your Lady. Men Are Such Fools. Racket Busters. Invisible Stripes. Two Guys From Milwaukee. These are a few of Humphrey Bogart’s films I’ve never heard of.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-11-2018


We’re going to have to give Britt’s upcoming Hawaii picture a title. Honolulu Lulu. Aloha Death. Hula Troop. Lei Lady Lei.

In a Lonely Place on 12-12-2018


Off in dreamland, musing to make the time pass, I’ve missed something. Today I entered the Lonely Place, and it was obvious: Bogie’s head has turned towards Gloria Grahame. And isn’t that how it always goes: suddenly, without warning, you notice she’s sitting right there, has been all this time? Decades from now, it will have become an essential feature of the story you both tell, your total cluelessness in the beginning. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-13-2018


Oh man. He’s going for her now, and I’m on tenterhooks, which at the speed of the Lonely Place I had time to look up (not that it helped: “hooks used to fasten cloth on a drying frame or tenter”). Action makes the heart grow fonder, and today there’s too much to take in: as he moves towards Gloria Grahame (Gloria? Do I dare?), he’s going to block out Britt completely and Britt is going to cease to exist. There will just be her horse, Thumper, finally revealed. Ecco equine. I can’t wait.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-14-2018


Britt Langley stars in Hula Troop, an exotic romance set on the fun-filled beaches of Hawaii. A beautiful heiress travels to Honolulu to compete in the world swimming championships and falls in love with a naval lieutenant sailing off to war…. That’s what she’d been promised, but no, it’s this: Fabian Ridgely stars as a handsome sailor, who falls in love with a beautiful heiress/champion swimmer whose supportive friend, poor, is played by Britt Langley. She’s flying out next Thursday, coach, without Thumper.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-15-2018


Riggs the semi-agent (before he died), haunting Britt in his fedora in the curtains over Bogart’s right shoulder, does not stick around because he hopes to save her from Hula Troop, which he knows will cripple her career, but because he wants to understand how she could have appeared to love him, but actually didn’t, not even slightly. In truth, he never really believed in actors or acting (which partially explains why he was never much more than a semi-agent). He believed that emotions can’t be played convincingly unless they’re truly felt.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-16-2018


Good evening, Mr. Bogart. Took you a month, but thanks for joining us. May I present Miss Gloria Grahame. She doesn’t change. She just stays beautiful and inscrutable and perfect, so I imagine we’ll spend another month of you staring at her smooth cheek, but this, at least, will make some sense.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-17-2018


His eyes go wide, his mouth drops open. Finally he comes alive. But she’s a beautiful statue. Will she come alive too? Is love just the improbable occurrence of two people coming alive in the same instant?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-18-2018


Hey, blondie. I wondered what mattered, and then I looked up, and nothing else matters at all. Don’t even look at me. Just stay like that forever, and I’ll stay like this, and I won’t want to live any other way. I’ll give up cigarettes and other distractions. I’ll let the lemon in my glass droop and curl down into my glass like yours. It doesn’t matter in the slightest. It doesn’t. Just this.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-19-2018


I take everything back and beg your forgiveness. Bogart’s timing was perfect. He needed to smoke that cigarette with total concentration for a good two to three weeks. Now so much is happening at once. There are weeks where nothing seems to happen, and weeks where it all seems to happen at once. Look up behind Bogart’s head, the new development of smoke. Thumper the horse is smoking a cigarette. He’s in a bad place, worse than I thought.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-20-2018


You want the song to be playing. You want to hear that voice. You want it to be this moment, right now. You want to be swept away. This is the moment, this 1/24th of a second, the one that really matters. I promise it is.

In a Lonely Place on 12-21-2018


I considered signing up for a neighborhood art class today so that I could learn to paint the shadowy lines on the sheer part of the top of her dress, then make a map of it, and set off wandering through it without a compass.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-22-2018


You’ve spent a lifetime perfecting the art of smoking. Your technique has become iconic. It is one of your major contributions to society (take just one gesture to absolute perfection, and you will become immortal), although it will soon kill you. But turn to that woman in that bar, and a cigarette becomes a clumsy impediment between your senseless fingers.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-23-2018


Gloria Grahame’s head has turned slightly, and her eyelids may have dropped, the first significant movement from her in weeks. Is she preparing to make him work a bit harder for it, after his weeks of smoking, or is she turning towards him too? Stay tuned. Love at 1/24th of a second.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-24-2018

There is no Christmas in the Lonely Place. Or there may be, but we’ll be long gone.

In a Lonely Place on 12-25-2018


Oh man. She wants the cigarette, wants him, everything. Bogie here is just barely holding on. His face has gone numb. It’s really your only choice with something like her. Shut it all down, batten the hatches, hope to survive.

In a Lonely Place on 12-26-2018


This cigarette was lit 72 days ago. Still it has not sloughed off any ash into that glass tray. That’s a miracle at our speed. Maybe every apparent miracle is something ordinary existing in parallel at a radically different speed.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-27-2018


I don’t think I’ve even mentioned Bogart’s character’s name. It’s Dix (Dixon “Dix” Steele). Here’s how Dorothy B. Hughes, who wrote the novel, describes him: “A young fellow, just an average young fellow. Tanned, medium light hair with a little curl, medium tall and enough weight for height. Eyes, hazel; nose and mouth right for the face, a good-looking face but nothing to remember, nothing to set it apart from the usual.” Be grateful to the casting director for ignoring all that, though I do like “enough weight for height”.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-28-2018


Everything’s happening in the foreground now. Bogart’s shifting to his right, making Britt vanish (towards her commercial flight, about to take off for Honolulu?), leaving Thumper to finish his drink before going off to roam the grassy fields alone, deep in horsey thought. Forgive me if I can’t catch you up on all that backstory in a frame, but then we never catch up with the backstory. All we know is the moment, and the occasional glimpses the moment gives of everything else in history.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-29-2018


Look at her face. Look at him unguarded and in love. It’s a miracle he doesn’t melt into a puddle. his boutonniere soggy on the floor. On my lips I can already feel the cigarette on her lips.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-30-2018


I wrote about love being a matter of timing, a rare occurrence of existing in the same moment as someone else, of having your speeds coincide, and here, look at them: each suddenly seems ten years younger. They’re dancing together across decades.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 12-31-2018


And what I hadn’t noticed yesterday, if it was there yesterday (don’t look back), is the shadow of his cigarette and hand on the sheer silk of her dress, like the shadow of the ghost agent Riggs in his fedora in the background curtains, like a cigarette that belongs to someone else and will haunt the two of them, but you can’t go back.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-01-2019


She will take a puff. I know it, and that is the dream, to eliminate relentless freewill and be infallibly directed to the next moment, and the next, and the next. To live a life like a movie written by a master. Until we scream.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-02-2019


Just an outline of Britt’s hair remains in the background along Bogart’s right shoulder. Her plane is taxiing along the runway, set to take off for Hawaii, where it’s unlikely that any man will offer her a cigarette like that, his shadow hand moving up her dress, her beauty moving the man to coincide with his darker self.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-03-2019


Tonight when she opened her closet and slid dresses along the rail, did she think, “Something that will match the shadow of his hand on my chest”?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-04-2019


Smoking gave Bogart the cancer that killed him. Somebody, anybody, tell me it wasn’t worth it.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-05-2019


She’s not flinching. He’s kept her waiting. She’s not about to giggle or bat eyelashes. No, she’ll see his poker face and double it. Here she is in the novel: “The girl didn’t move for a moment. She stood in his way and looked him over slowly, from crown to toe. The way a man looked over a woman, not the reverse…. After she’d finished looking him over, she gave him a small insolent smile. As if he were a dolt, not Dix Steele.”

In a Lonely Place on 01-06-2019


“Gloria Grahame’s character is called Laurel (Gray), and this is how Laurel is described in the novel: “Her eyes were slant, her lashes curved long and golden dark. She had red-gold hair, flaming hair, flung back from her amber face, falling to her shoulders. Her mouth was too heavy with lipstick, a copper-red mouth, a sultry mouth painted to call attention to its premise.”Nicholas Ray must have read that and instantly known that the only woman who could play Laurel, and her premise, was his wife.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-07-2019


Even in the excitement of an approaching ecstasy, our minds still wander. I say this because today I’m perversely ignoring the foreground for the background, where Britt’s as good as gone to Hawaii, and Thumper her horse now stares despondently into his whisky.

In a Lonely Place on 01-08-2019


Comedy exists in the instant, too – the quick slip on the banana peel, the twitch of an eyebrow, repartee. If we weren’t in the Lonely Place – if we were living at the speed of life – nobody would dream of suggesting that Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame appear ready to perform a trick where he sticks his cigarette up her nose.

In a Lonely Place on 01-09-2019


She’s enchanted by the game, but for him, it seems to me, the moment is not a game. It’s a hope. Look at his face uncharacteristically open and pleading. When my shadow meets me again at your lips, please let it disappear forever. And then I think about how she hated her lips, stuffed them with cotton, then finally destroyed them through surgery.

In a Lonely Place on 01-10-2019


Researching what I did yesterday, which is as prescient as I seem to get these days: “Grahame’s concern over the appearance of her upper lip led her to pursue plastic surgery and dental operations that caused visible scarring and ultimately rendered the lip largely immobile because of nerve damage, which affected her speech.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-11-2019


Actors have their angles, and we’re meant to look at them from the left or the right, so when she turns, and I notice a nose larger than expected, is that because I wasn’t meant to see it from this angle, or because I’ve noticed the nose and so it’s grown bigger in my mind?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-12-2019


One of the greatest joys of childhood is the uncontainable excitement of waiting. Like cannonballing from a diving board or shouting gleefully at fireworks, we lose this capacity as we get older. But then, so rarely, we briefly remember how it felt. Maybe we even actually feel it. Looking today, I think I felt it.

In a Lonely Place on 01-13-2019


I like her even better for her fingers. I’ve been watching her so closely that I know they’ve drawn up under her hand, even more claw-like, and I like her even better for her nerves. They won’t stop her. They’ll only give her the hint of shame everyone needs to keep going.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-14-2019


“Reading in Dorothy B. Hughes’s novel today:’You won’t change your mind about a drink?’

‘It’s food I want.’

She didn’t want food, she wanted what he wanted. ‘You’ll get it,’ he told her.”””

In a Lonely Place on 01-15-2019


It’s better to use different ways of talking about the same thing than the same way of talking about different things.

In a Lonely Place on 01-16-2019


I did some accounting today. 157 days, 157 frames, so we’ve watched only 6.5 seconds (at 24 frames per second). This moment with the cigarette, I remember now, is why I chose to write about this minute, although seeing it at this speed has diminished, or stretched, some of its charm (at least that’s how I feel today). In any case, the lesson is this: never do the math, because in life the math never adds up.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-17-2019


I’ve been holding off on quoting the movie’s most famous line, but maybe now’s the time: “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-18-2019


When his hand meets his hand (so close), will his head also move neatly into the shadow of Riggs’s fedora on the curtains in the background, and then will he become the ghost in the shadows, or was that the man he’s been all along, all the cigarette work nothing more than a brilliant disguise?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-19-2019


This last moment before her lips touch the cigarette may take a week. It’s hard to maintain that excitement for a week. It’s hard to maintain that excitement for half an hour. Further complicating my satisfaction, it seems they may both be pausing here to savor the game, but at 1/24th of a second, pauses cease to exist, and what was punctuation becomes an impenetrable 2000-page tome of experimental fiction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-20-2019


A quick digression (yes, I’m confident we’ve got the time): this year, late 2018, is 1440 on the Islamic (Hijri) calendar (exactly the same as the number of frames in a movie minute!), but the Islamic year, made by the moon, has 354-355 days, so those moon years are slowly catching up to Gregorian years, which clock in at 364-365, and some quick research shows that in 20912 (a leap year, incidentally), we’ll all be able to wish each other a happy 20912 in perfect harmony. Should be fun.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-21-2019


OK. This is the moment that made me fall in love with Gloria Grahame. No distractions. I shouldn’t forget what brought us here. This is the moment that made me want to spend almost four years of my life on a minute. I spent weeks wishing he’d stop smoking that cigarette. Now I’ve spent weeks wishing she’d smoke it. Here we are. That’s addiction.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-22-2019


Shadows move across the land and into the bars of Los Angeles. They have slipped into her bloodstream and darken her from within. Look at her eyes, suddenly tired and smudged beneath. Now I’m watching, waiting with total concentration, for her fingers to come undone.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-23-2019


Oh Gloria. I’m going to call you that now because I’ve gotten to know you a bit and have something important to say, something personal. You were a foolish, foolish woman for hating your own lips. Humphrey Bogart’s admiring eyes are upon them. This was your moment, but you must have been miserable.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-24-2019


At the world’s speed, this was one of the most romantic in movies for me, but at the speed of the Lonely Place, the moment now looks to me like one of mutual exhaustion. They’re happy tonight, I recall, but even if you’ve never seen the movie, you have to wonder whether they have the reserves to make it out of the lonely place together.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-25-2019


I feel as if I’m living in Miami. The days right now in the Lonely Place are beautiful and practically identical. Incidentally, it’s surprising that Miami hasn’t birthed dozens of influential philosophers, much more than Vienna, given that if there’s one thing this experiment has taught us, it’s that boredom is the mother of philosophy (among several other things, given that boredom is more or less the only mother here).

In a Lonely Place on 01-26-2019


The shadow of his hand won’t completely meet his hand. The cigarette creates the slightest distance. The light comes from an unexpected place, higher than I’d thought. This is what goes wrong for Bogart in the movie: the light’s there, but he doesn’t know where to look for it. He can’t meet up with his shadows and work it out. She looks as if she’s going to bite off the tip of that cigarette.

In a Lonely Place on 01-27-2019


Today got away from me. But then months have gotten away, years. So it’s not surprising that 1/24th of a second might get away, that this instant might be identical to the one before or after. And now that I just wrote this, I look again, and smoke suddenly trails up from that cigarette, as if every frame is secretly alive, secretly every other. I think that’s what they call Buddhism.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-28-2019


The smoke curls higher, so she must be puffing, and I think of her hatred for her own lips again, because Gloria Grahame’s smoking without her lips.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 01-29-2019


On Gloria Grahame, Nicholas Ray, and this movie, from the London Review of Books: “It was widely reported that Grahame’s contract contained a ‘Mr and Mrs’ clause, which allowed her husband to ‘direct, control, advise, instruct, and even command my actions during the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day except Sunday, during the filming’. She was forbidden to ‘nag, cajole, tease, or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him’. She agreed that ‘in every conceivable situation his will and judgment shall be considered superior to mine and shall prevail.’ Even so, Ray moved out of their home.”

In a Lonely Place on 01-30-2019


I wonder whether stillness, perfect stillness, makes everything look like a sham, like death must be a sham, and whether it’s movement that makes us believe.”

In a Lonely Place on 01-31-2019


I once boarded a gargantuan cruise ship in the Miami harbor. Even from the highway we could see the giant No Smoking symbol painted across its hull. Approaching by foot with our suitcases, loudspeakers everywhere blared the good news: this was a non-smoking boat. Better: the boat’s construction dock had been a non-smoking dock. I was young, but even then I understood the folly of virginal girders, and that soon enough people would want to make everything virginal again.

In a Lonely Place on 02-01-2019


From In a Lonely Place, the novel: “He seldom left the apartment in those days. In the outside world there was time; in time, there was impatience. Better to remain within the dream.”

In a Lonely Place on 02-02-2019


He’s leaning in and looking more vulnerable by the day, wanting more than she appears willing to give. Maybe every love story, in the end, is structured around whoever’s got what passes for the nicotine.

In a Lonely Place on 02-03-2019


Studying Bogart intently today, making him the center of my universe in order to eliminate the universe, and an ear is a funny thing. I’d like someone to explain to me the fetish (artists who cut them off, lovers who long to lick them). A woman once said to me (while smoking a cigarette without hands): there are no explanations, only stories, and I guess this is the only way to understand an ear fetish.

In a Lonely Place on 02-04-2019


I should be telling you about the shifting patterns of smoke, and your potential for self-transformation. I should be pulling you aside for epiphanies, ripping the scales from your eyes every 1/24th of a second. I should be seeing so much that the sun rises and sets in our bones, and we encompass time. I should be a visionary. But I’m not. And we’re exactly the same people we were yesterday, whatever we want to say or do about it.

In a Lonely Place on 02-05-2019


Here’s what’s clear to me today: they hadn’t rehearsed this scene. She hadn’t thought through the mechanics of smoking a cigarette held by somebody else’s three fingers and thumb. And he, in the last couple years of his life, knew he had the chops. He was already Bogart, and didn’t need rehearsals, and this is why he had become an icon. So you just do it. When you reach that place, even the imperfections, especially the imperfections, become an essential aspect of your genius.

In a Lonely Place on 02-06-2019


A quote by Sartre read today: “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Thankfully we’re not alone.

In a Lonely Place on 02-07-2019


On her second week of shooting in Honolulu, Britt, now just a speck of blonde the background, managed to roll a tear down her cheek while thinking of absolutely nothing. This was the cue for a surfer to die. The producer, with whom she is now sleeping, wants her to change her name to Britt Starr, and although the double-double-ending does seem kind of fabulous (even daring?), at the same time she feels it’s important to remain true to herself, which is what she’s thinking when the director calls for a second take and she rolls out another perfect tear.

In a Lonely Place on 02-08-2019


On the table in front of them, their drinks sit squarely in the center of the shadows of their faces, which have been laid down like appetizers. Then the drinks lay down their shadows back to the left, flattened by another light, as if a sun has moved across a sky quicker than the earth can adjust, as if tomorrow is now, or yesterday.

In a Lonely Place on 02-09-2019


If cigarettes were inextinguishable like this, I could write a story about a single cigarette, passed hands to lips, from an L.A. bar and out into the streets, hands to lips up the coast to San Francisco, hands to lips across the sea, friends and strangers hands to lips, until the universe, in an instant, exhaled a single perfect smoke ring.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-10-2019


Okay, here comes the night. It’s in her smile. His shadow up her neck. I am rejuvenated. It happens every time. Patience is the answer to absolutely everything.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-11-2019


Charles Manson: The way out of the room is not through the door. Because then you just go into another room, which leads into another room, which leads into a bigger room. And you’re still inside your cage…. The way out is to be willing, man. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-12-2019


Breathe. You’re at one with the moment. Nope.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-13-2019


When people say they’re trying to live in the moment, I assume they mean trying to live without the ceaseless distancing of oneself from the world. In other words, without internal commentary. I am trying to live in the moment. The problem is that I won’t shut up.

In a Lonely Place on 02-14-2019

I’m starting to wonder if maybe Gloria Grahame wasn’t a smoker, though I find that hard to believe. I want to go back and watch her other movies now, to see if she does it with conviction, but I can’t imagine her not habitually devouring them. Do we have an unfounded tendency to think in movie categories (bad girls smoke cigarettes), or do certain characters really destroy themselves in specific ways?

In a Lonely Place on 02-15-2019


“Everything is too far away in the past, or mysteriously too close.” – Marguerite Yourcenar

In a Lonely Place on 02-16-2019

I was going to tell you about my feelings today, but tomorrow they’ll be different, and I must build on stronger foundations than that, so I’ll build on this 1/24th of a second, then the next 1/24th of a second, and then time will be on my side.

In a Lonely Place on 02-17-2019


Bogart had a vertical scar on the right of his top lip, which is the place he notched his cigarette. The story is that when he was in the Navy, he was charged with transporting a prisoner. When changing trains, the handcuffed prisoner asked for a cigarette. Bogart looked down for a match, the prisoner punched him in the face, and fled. So you can understand why Gloria Grahame’s such a relief, beyond the obvious.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-19-2019


That shadowed cheekbone, that dress, those wakening smiles. But falling in love with this moment is like falling in love with a millimeter.

In a Lonely Place on 02-20-2019


One half of his bowtie sullenly casts its shadow, the other, finding itself in the light, flashes two dimples. Neither half droops as Gilles’s bowtie once did. I reproached Gilles for it then, but surely it’s a fake, Bogie’s perfect bow. You begin to wonder if you got it all wrong, if there was truth in the drooping, but you can’t accommodate any further revisions right now, so you don’t.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-21-2019


Two important developments to report (either they’re new developments, or my attention has wandered): through the top of Gloria Grahame’s glass, there appears to be something on her dress, like miniature lips turned sideways. A brooch? Or something on the glass itself? And then (and this is a shocker!), around Bogart’s right shoulder the outline of Britt’s head has clearly reappeared. Dying to know what happened in Hawaii.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-22-2019


They’re listening to the same music. Hadda Brooks, from way back in the summer, is still playing the piano across the room. The same rhythm, the same song. That’s what’s giving them possibilities we can’t even see.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-23-2019


They’re coming alive. Their smiles are moving up into their eyes. But in the background, Britt, with her spot of lit blonde hair, is not smiling. Back from the Honolulu shoot, she lost the part by sleeping with the man who, in retrospect, was the wrong producer. Story of her life. For once she just wishes they would be who they were supposed to be. Also, the producer has now been reported missing, circumstances suspicious. “Don’t talk to me about circumstances!” she thinks.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-24-2019


More on Britt, just a speck of light over Bogart’s shoulder: Hula Troop, that whole catastrophe, had been meant to make her a star. Then last night, the ghost of Riggs, haunting the curtains in his fedora, came to her in a dream. “Britt,” he said, “I’m aware that you had your horse Thumper kill me. I warned you against Hawaii. Surf pictures are the Fat Man and Little Boy of movies…..” She frowned. “I mean like bombs,” he said. She snorted. Then she woke up, went into the kitchen, and scooped herself a rare bowl of ice cream just to get away from his dream words.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-25-2019


Apparently Howard Hughes, owner of RKO Studios, who made In a Lonely Place, never saw the movie. He’d think this experiment was crazy, but then he was certifiably nuts. Afterwards, he wouldn’t let Gloria Grahame film with another studio, insisting she take a small part in Macao, which sounds more up Britt’s sleeve, especially now that she’s been kicked off the set of Hula Troop. Britt’s got a fresh start, so to speak, although of course there’s no such thing.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-26-2019

Look at the way their faces are made. Cheek-to-cheek, they would fit perfectly, Bogie’s jowl beneath Gloria’s high cheekbone. Which begs the question of whether it’s better to fit perfectly, or learn to accept the terrifying spaces in between.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-27-2019


What is that fern, or desert palm, at the top of Gloria’s right shoulder? Is it the shadow of tufts of her hair, dramatically sticking out in a way we can’t imagine in two dimensions? Her earring? Or is it the weekend she spent with a sweet boy, too sweet, last year in Palm Springs, back when she wasn’t sure she could keep doing this, the loneliness of Tuesday nights, the angry telephones, the whispering mirrors, and had wanted to believe in something good?⠀

In a Lonely Place on 02-28-2019


They lived at the same speed. They coincided in the Lonely Place, like the Gregorian and Hijri years in 20912. They both died at age 57. I have just turned 45.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-01-2019

Have I written about her nose, larger than expected? I just noticed it today, but there’s a faint memory of noticing it before. I still think it’s beautiful (and of course it is), but imagine how quick love would fade if we could remember everything. That nose, always that nose, every day that nose. Forgetting saves the species.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-02-2019

There is only this moment, this 1/24th of a second, and the only rule is “Look”. 

In a Lonely Place on 03-03-2019

In the world as we currently understand it, only the men who fight to the very top are finally freed for true greatness. To them I’d like to reintroduce the men who love.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-04-2019

I was feeling inspired today and briefly thought that while I’m doing just a minute of In a Lonely Place (where one frame per day will take me almost four years), what if I just went ahead and did the whole movie? Then I did the math: this movie’s 89 minutes, at one frame per day, would last 351 years. Rarely has my own mortality been made so clear to me, but instead of inspiring a sense of urgency, I no longer knew what to do with myself and have wasted the rest of the day in what can only be called extreme fashion.

In a Lonely Place on 03-05-2019

In the Lonely Place, hangovers last a decade or two.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-06-2019


The smoke has wandered down from Gloria Grahame’s hair to snake along Bogart’s right shoulder, as if Riggs, the ghost in the fedora shadowed in the curtains, is inhaling it, and I imagine armies of ghosts out there, purifying the world of its toxins, a spectral filter we fear only because it now contains the worst of us.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-07-2019


The smoke at the cigarette’s tip has now risen very slightly and halos the hint of blonde hair belonging to Britt, whose career feels as if it’s in shambles. At night she cannot sleep. She drives out to the stables, and under the cold starlight she brushes Thumper’s hair in long, slow strokes that leave him shivering. When sleep finally feels possible, she weaves back to her bedroom down deserted country roads, and crashes into the pillows for nightmares of Riggs’s murder, of investigations narrowing like a noose around her neck, and the sweet thrill of killing again, like crushing a cool grape between her teeth. Tomorrow must be different. Every day that she can live correctly, in body and mind, is another alibi.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-08-2019


Thinking of Britt’s alarming bloodlust, reading Emil Cioran: “Our place is somewhere between being and nonbeing – between two fictions.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-09-2019

The days I’ve squandered with Britt have regrettably caused me to miss some of those moments that come but once in a lifetime: his smile has spread to show a gap in his teeth, and from her clenched hand, if I’m not mistaken, her index finger has extended. Gloria Grahame is relaxing, and in registering this, I realize that I’ve relaxed too. There will never be time for all the moments you missed, but nonetheless there will be time.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-10-2019


“You always see something. You never see nothing. If you don’t like what you’re wearing, change the channel.” – Frederick Seidel, “Song to the Moon”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-11-2019


So Gloria’s gin-and-tonic just got up the nerve to turn to Bogie’s gin-and-tonic and ask what his percentages are, as in whether he thinks he’s principally gin or tonic, which is apparently a thing among G&Ts. Nonetheless, Bogie’s gin-and-tonic is annoyed by the question, believing that life in a glass is too short for small talk. When he was young, Bogart’s gin-and-tonic wanted to be a firework, and although he had the fizz, he lacked the height.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-12-2019


For the first time in what feels like years, Bogie’s gin-and-tonic’s mood is hopeful. “Turning a new page,” he thinks, although he realizes that feasibly, there’s not much of a page to turn. Yet recently he’s had this idea that he might actually be climatic, like clouds or rain, not something merely poured. This glass only encapsulates his current form, but he has others, and someday the sun will call him up into a cloud over a river flowing to the sea. And then he’ll be his true self. Not like this.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-13-2019


Gloria Grahame’s gin-and-tonic glances sidelong at Miss Grahame, desperate for feminine pointers. She presses an ice cube against her lemon peel, hoping to curve it ever more seductively. A bead of moisture rolls down the outside of her glass, and although that might be considered embarrassing, she feels a little lighter, a little lither. Now she’s staring at Bogart’s gin-and-tonic, staring so hard, but he’s just oblivious, apparently content to be nothing more than a measly gin-and-tonic. Why doesn’t he have bigger dreams? Why can’t he transport her? She stares even harder. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-14-2019


Someone in the Lonely Place with us writes: “…her big earrings, his handkerchief looking like a shrimp beignet in a Chinese restaurant, his reclining hair, her perfectly shaped eyebrows, his ring, her absence of rings…[this goes on and on and on, and is humbling].” Sometimes you need to have it pointed out, the reclining hair. A friend who sees only what we see in the mirror is no friend. ⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-15-2019


We have learned that Bogie’s gin-and-tonic once dreamed of being a firework, but Gloria’s gin-and-tonic, if she were aware of this, would surely find it pretentious. They are liquid in a glass only as wide as a mouth, nothing more, but nothing less. They are united by low places, flowing always to the bottom, and then if they can, flowing even lower. If he could simply accept this, he’d be a whole lot happier. But of course that’s just her two cents.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-16-2019

Here’s what Bogie’s gin-and-tonic wants to say to Gloria’s gin-and-tonic this very instant: “You see how the smoke from her cigarette flows like liquid right across the gap between them, as if he’s sucking it in with his teeth? I don’t know, I was just wondering if you’d noticed that.”⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-17-2019

The lemon peel in Gloria’s gin-and-tonic is not like a parasite embedded in its host. It’s more like a heart or a soul or a sex appeal. The lemon glances through the haze of the gin and the tonic at Miss Grahame’s fingers, still mostly clenched after all this time (all this time?) and she (she’s a she, this lemon peel) wants to stretch out past her limits, until she’s all zest.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-18-2019

“Instead of paying attention to the faces of people passing by, I watched their feet, and all these busy types were reduced to hurrying steps – toward what? And it was clear to me that our mission was to graze the dust in search of a mystery stripped of anything serious.” – Emil Cioran⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-19-2019


As the two gin-and-tonics fizz, while lamenting the uncompromising distance between them, while dreaming of cracks in the glass and ecstatic flow, Bogart delicately holds the cigarette now as if it’s a flower, black gap between his teeth.⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-22-2019


“There are new entrances to my body, their edges outlined in blacks and grays and reds like the entrances to the face of a young girl.” – Monica Youn⠀

In a Lonely Place on 03-23-2019


(In the background, the shadow of the ghost of Riggs in his fedora covers the body of Britt, his former lover and murderer, like a heavy blanket. She shudders and makes another New Year’s resolution, three months late. No – make it a forever resolution: always have an alibi, at every instant, now and now. Never let yourself slip, because you know what will happen. Perspiration moistens her forehead, and she wonders how long it will take to be not like this.)⠀