It started on Saturday. I was getting my hair cut at a neighborhood barbershop. They started playing Dog Day Afternoon on their television. I didn't immediately recognize the movie even though I had seen it some years ago. I was instantly taken with the opening. There was a beautiful Elton John song playing that I was not familiar with, but which had those qualities that the best Elton John songs have: somehow even though you only half understand the lyrics, you are sent tumbling into some deeply sentimental state, realizing the beauty and comedy in the sadness of this human life. Even though you don't really understand all the lyrics, you can hear it, the meaning, in those piano chords, the moments of restraint and then the clanging build, keys pressed harder and harder, and in Elton John's voice its sad wails sings his subject's name, Amorrena. You can hear what it is he is feeling. You feel it too. It doesn't even matter what he's singing, what the words are, because you know what he's saying. You hear the feeling.
This song happens over shots of a seventies New York City, images of which always stir something inside of me, which show the city I dreamed it to be before moving here, shows the city in some state that seems in some ways better, shows a time now forever lost before air conditioning and cellphones and everyone staying indoors to play on the Internet, before huge impersonal chain stores ate up every single block.
Together, the two of them, the song and those opening shots of seventies New York that it serves as the soundtrack to, sent me far, far off somewhere. I have been there since Saturday. I like wherever it is I ended up. I play the song on repeat again and again throughout the day, wanting this feeling, this sentimentally to continue, still hearing the deep feeling in this song each time, sometimes hearing new aspects to it that I had not heard in the many, many previous listens to it over this past week.
I have been reading Dancer From the Dance this past week also, often doing so while listening to the album this song is from, Tumbleweed Connection, on my headphones as I ride around the city. I listen to this sad song about ardor and distance and read this novel about a gay culture also gone, men struggling with the closet in a way that I think will feel more and more foreign to people just discovering their gayness, that the process they will go through will be so different (thank God!) than what men of these earlier generations went through, and this book will seem so silly and repressed to future generations who may not get what these emotional struggles were about. There is so much shame and self-loathing on just about every page of this novel. I love those subjects though, which is probably why I like these early gay novels so much. My head is swooning reading about these moments, seeing so much of myself in some of these scenes, in some of these actions:
"That night he got out of bed and put on his maroon polo shirt, which everyone said he looked so handsome in, and went downstairs and drove off in his car, where he did not know. He just drove. He drove around that wilderness of gas stations and fast-food franchises that surround Washington as once the armies of the Confederacy had, drove around in that crimson glow of doughnut shops and new-car showrooms, in which all things, cars, faces, bodies, gleam with an otherworldly light, and he kept driving - never admitting what he was about - until he came to Dupont Circle and there he stopped and got out under the green trees and met a man and went into the park and blew him." (73)
As once the armies of the Confederacy had [surrounded Washington] - what a gorgeous and unexpected phrase for describing the suburban fast food places encircling DC.
I sigh at pretty turns of phrase, at scenes of love, at the way Elton John's voice says everything sometimes, at the cute guys on the subway, at this one guy I see on Scruff who I have an insane and probably hopeless crush on. There is so much beauty out there to see and take part in. Just keep playing that song you like. Play it again and again without care if it makes you feel like this, makes you feel more alive.