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 12-03-2018
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 12-04-2018
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 12-12-2018
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 12-21-2018
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.⠀