Monday, December 27, 2010

lost in new york

I do remember at some point during my childhood thinking about the subject of independence with regards to Christmas mornings spent with my family, finding it a bit difficult to think of not spending Christmas with my immediate family, that it seemed quite difficult to imagine, and I wondered at what age it was that my mom stopped spending Christmas with her mother, wondering if it was my birth, my being, that brought about that change, or whether it had occurred earlier. I thought about this time in my life when such thoughts occupied my mind while on my way to New Jersey on Christmas morning, my thoughts now entirely different, the ease with which these things are done, with which adulthood comes, that it all seems far less remarkable, and certainly less traumatic than it does to the imagination of a young kid.

I spent Christmas Eve in my apartment with Jacob, not wanting him to wake up alone on Christmas morning, and the two of us watched Home Alone 2: Lost in New York while stoned. He fell asleep early on in the movie. He always falls asleep when we watch movies together. The movie was really touching off things in me, the movie and its predecessor staples of my childhood that I pretty much know line for line. There is certainly something of the irrational in my love of this movie, but there are reasons for it, rational ones even, reasons I want to get at, explore.

There is the face of Macaulay Culkin. As an adult actor, his face has failed to convey the same thing, but as a ten-year old, that face was such an expressive thing, showing all the mean aspects of children that often fail to come across on screen, probably why I identified with him so much as a child, why I loved these movies so much and still do. A ten-year old that knew everyone else was stupid and couldn't understand why your parents didn't get it also. He was egotistical and bratty, prone to mood swings, ruining everyone else's holiday. And his face conveyed all of this, the knowing raised eye brows, the sullen lack of expression when sent to the third floor to sleep, the sense of being wronged. It's all there on his face. As a kid, there was a bit of physical attraction felt toward Culkin - a bit of envy for sure tied up in the thing as there often would be for most of my attractions until I was well into my mid-twenties. He was white and blonde and rich and friends with Michael Jackson and kind of naughty and he seemed quite cool to me than as a child. So it's a bit weird to grow up, to approach the age of 30, for Culkin to have already reached that age and to rewatch these films where he is ten and you recall those feelings and still love his facial expressions.

Watching these films now, I also cringe at the excessive violence in a children's movie, the bricks being tossed over and over again at someone's head, criminal though he may be. I am also struck watching Home Alone 2 by how he does not simply call the police to catch the robbers, but rather sets up an elaborate house of torture to physically harm these two as much as possible before turning them over to the police. Kevin McAllister is quite the sadist, doling out pain without the slightest hint of remorse or doubt.

But it's a beautiful movie, especially if you first encountered it around the age of 10 and can still recall those viewings as you watch it some decades later, those feelings coming back to the surface, the joy shared by the viewer as Kevin looks into the camera from a waiting area in LaGuardia airport, the Manhattan skyline serving as a backdrop behind him as he says, "My family's in Florida? And I'm in New York? My family's in Florida! And I'm in New York!" Then a cut to Kevin riding in an old yellow cab over the Queensboro Bridge and the idea of New York coming to life on the screen and in your own imagination. And I live in this city now and it is always such a treat to see how New York is depicted in films, always mythic and huge and a magical place, and it's amazing because it's true, because I want it to be true, because you do too, and in our daily lives, our trips here or there, we make it so, we look at the Empire State Building a certain way, like we would a cathedral in a European city, and say "Holy Cow," marvel that we live here, wowed by our surroundings.

On Christmas Eve in New York, with my boyfriend curled up next to me on our couch, I watched these events unfold on a fictional Christmas Eve in New York, Kevin encountering the Bird Lady, who was always draped in pigeons. The oddness of Kevin, a ten-year old, befriending an elderly person goes unexplored, it making perfect sense to all the ten-year olds watching it who think of themselves similarly, as too smart for everyone else in this world, other than the oddball elderly person that everyone looks at weirdly, an affinity there. And despite the fact that Bird Lady plays the same role in Home Alone 2 as Old Man Marley, the shovel guy, plays in Home Alone, the interaction between the two of them does yield one of the movie's most beautiful moments, Kevin discoursing on how one has to be fearless in loving:

Bird Lady: I’m just afraid if I do trust someone, I’ll get my heart broken.
Kevin McCallister: I understand. I had a nice pair of Rollerblades. I was afraid to wreck them, so I kept them in a box. Do you know what happened? I outgrew them. I never wore them outside. Only in my room a few times.
Bird Lady: A person’s heart and feelings are very different than skates.
Kevin McCallister: They’re kind of the same thing. If you won’t use your heart, who cares if it gets broken? If you just keep it to yourself, maybe it’ll be like my Rollerblades. When you do decide to try it, it won’t be any good. You should take a chance. Got nothing to lose.

And as Bird Lady replies after this, there is a little truth in there somewhere, maybe even a lot of it, the whole of it.

We woke up early on Christmas and opened the presents we had bought for each other. I then headed off to New Jersey to spend the rest of Christmas with my family. I opened more presents, them becoming more and more something I care less and less about. I ate a lot of chocolate, a lot of spinach dip, saw True Grit, and then once back at my mom's house, watched Home Alone 2 a second time, this time at my sister's insistence. It was airing at 4:30 on ABC Family and she had been waiting all day to watch it, was so excited, and yes, we had to watch it. Of course, we did, because we will always be children and in love with this movie, because there was a time when we owned Talkboys and used to play with them and dream about burglars and setting traps for them, because we know all the funny lines, have heard them a million times, and yet still laugh.

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