Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking up

I carry on. I'm still not feeling 100%...but the sun has tried to come out a few times in the past couple weeks (today a notable exception, ugh). The cherry trees up and down my block have blown out in full pink puffy madness. I dug out the weedy, bereft planters on my deck and front porch and filled them with pansies. I went to one baby shower yesterday and have another on the calendar for next week, and you really cannot put up much of a fight in the face of cake and presents and bubblegum cigars in pink and blue, dinosaur-patterned sleepers and an inflatable bathtub in the shape of a big yellow duck. My spirits, they are lifted. Possibly with some grunting and straining, scrabbling up the side of a cliff, hanging onto roots...Wile E. Coyote passing me on his rocket sled on the way down...but I'm getting up there.

This, as much as anything, gave me a boost this week: an outbreak of "spontaneous" musical theatre in a Belgian train station.

Sure, it's rehearsed and expertly coordinated. I've watched it five times (shut up) and can see, now, that even some of the "bewildered" onlookers we're shown at first are in fact plants, who drop their bags and rush in as it keeps going, and going, and going. But when the schoolkids come boiling down the stairs? I am totally powerless to resist them, or the white-haired grandma singing and dancing her heart out, or the dude trying to stay cool by the ATM, but he can't help clapping along. Love. It. Nothing like this ever happens to me, but I've always wanted it to--perhaps because of that steady diet of movie musicals when I was a kid.

The train-station locale helps, too--there's something about such a place, a cathedral to banality most days. You rush through your commute oblivious to the beauty around you--the spectacle of the space and of the tide of humanity storming through it--until something makes you look up. What? It reminded me of my favorite scene in The Fisher King, where Robin Williams's homeless, addled character spots the girl he secretly loves, coming through Grand Central Terminal.

I first saw this when I was in college, at the Bronxville NY cinema packed with probably hundreds of commuters who took the Metro-North in to Grand Central every day. I'll never forget the sound they made when this scene came up, when everyone started to dance: aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, a collective sigh, a little chuckly swoon of romance vocalized by every person in the room. All of us recognizing something we'd forgotten to look up for, for far too long. This is what it's like, I thought then and think now, to be in love in New York (and with New York). When you're in love, Grand Central looks like this all the time.

So. Dancing in train stations. It's probably for a commercial of some sort--many of the related YouTube links go to a similar all-hands dance-off in a London station, shot for T-Mobile. But don't tell me. I'd rather it was a prank for the sheer joy of it, the Belgian version of one of Improv Everywhere's missions--a gift freely given, something to make others walk away wondering, and grinning to themselves a bit every time they remember. It's working for me: it reminds me that I can't be unhappy forever, in a world where this happens, where people come together to turn out these little moments of wonder amidst the everyday grind. Look Up More, they say. I'm trying.

(Allow me to also recommend some other favorites from the IE folks: Frozen Grand Central, The Moebius, Romantic Comedy Cab, and Will You Marry Me?)

* * * * *

Coincidentally, The Sound of Music was on ABC Family last night. Is that considered an Easter movie?...maybe because it has lots of nuns? Anyway, I ended up watching the first third or so, up through the "Do-Re-Mi" number in fact. It was an interesting experience; the songs are practically embedded in my DNA, but I had pretty much forgotten any and all of the dialogue and scenery between them. Maria wanted to join the convent because she used to spy on them over the wall as a child and enjoyed their singing? That is...not the most substantial commitment to faith I've ever heard, let's just say. When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian, but because I thought they got to live in the library. Later, I discovered the holes in this theory. Maria.

But it was fun. Sis prized the soundtrack album, on vinyl, a bit before she discovered Madonna and Run-D.M.C. I remember when the movie used to get an annual network airing--around Christmas, if memory serves--nuns again? It was a Television Event, and we'd get jammies on early and gather around the set, maybe even have popcorn. But! It's a long movie. Mom was a stickler about bedtimes, and I can remember at least once, probably on first viewing, being sent to bed precisely when the VonTrapps were fleeing the Nazis. Seriously, Mom! Come ON!

"They get away. Go to sleep," she'd say, turning out the light. Yeah, that worked. Sweet dreams! Heh.


Sis said...

That is the first album I ever bought...The Sound of Music. I bought it from DJs at Northgate Mall with allowance saved up for God only knows how long. Do you remember finding that album many years later in the garage, and MOLD had grown all over Julie Andrews face on the cover? Not so pretty.

Holly said...

Thanks, you made my day too!
Next time you come visit me, we'll hop the train over to Salzburg and take the Sound of Music tour, okay? (I'm serious!) I can't imagine it with anyone else.
I remember being very disappointed to find out the Von Trapps moved to Vermont. Maria has a terrible reputation in that little town, too... go figure.