Monday, May 3, 2010

Somewhere in time

Los Angeles television used to have a newsman named Ralph Story. His segments during local broadcasts covered stories that often reached an "off the beaten path" status. Then he had a show called, "Things That Aren't Here Any More," and for Los Angeles natives, that list is long.

Bunker Hill (scene of John Fante stories and Angel's Flight railway), the Pacific Electric Big Red Cars that ran from the mountains to the sea, Mt. Lowe, a tourist attraction high above Pasadena reachable only by funicular and a narrow railway, all the amusement parks along the coast, the movie palaces on Broadway (though some have made a comeback through restoration and Mexican wrestling), gone.

Each of our lives, I am certain, contains such vanished sites of memory and significance. The stories of Brigadoon and Camelot - wonders which lived briefly, magically - resonate with our pasts, especially seen through the lens of our own losses. I grew up with dime stores, plentiful and vast in Pasadena, even more legendary in downtown Los Angeles...lunch counters a block long, Cokes that never tasted as good anywhere else, carnival rides set up in the basement at Christmas, much missed, enduring.

Eventually, memory seems to take on an aspect of longing and with longing comes a pang of suffering, which makes those mental visits to the past some of our most bittersweet moments. In spite of a determined commitment to being in the present, I have to believe that even the most pragmatic mind can become lost in reverie. First-hand experiences and those relayed by DNA have taken residence in our cells; they have built us to be who we are.

I wonder about historians, devotees of people or times other than today, and how difficult they find the commute between worlds. The in-depth study of a subject surely creates an intimacy; a lifetime spent with, say, Benjamin Franklin or the Incas, the Ballet Russes or Confederate battles, will reveal their weaknesses and beauty. Will that study create a force that pulls the researcher into the world of his subject, a kind of homesickness for what would appear to be known intellectually? Are we only haunted by our own memories or does collective thought make us vulnerable to all the moments that have ever been?

It is no secret that I experience time as a fluid state and contemplate the extent to which each of us resides in a world built of then, now and tomorrow, a hovering presence just out of sight which we know by intuition. Time undulates, it swirls - I can't tell you why but the current seems to be clockwise - and my impression is that we are afloat in its limitlessness, which simply mirrors the continuum within.

I am not the first to find this puzzling. Maybe such curiosity is what draws anyone into writing (or attempting to write) science fiction; Jules Verne and I do share a birthday. Maybe it is a symptom of imbalance or over-active imagination; maybe it is a form of wisdom that would require several lifetimes to shift from speculation to fact. If you know of any scholarly, genius types who share this vision, will you let me know? Meanwhile, you will find me here on my imaginary raft, testing the current's flow.

1 comment:

Donna B said...

Hello my friend...just stopping by to say HELLO and looking forward to seeing you on Saturday...hugs