Saturday, January 09, 2010

Remembrance of an adolescence skipped

Would you know my name
if I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same
if I saw you in heaven
From "Tears in Heaven", Eric Clapton and Will Jennings, 1991

A couple falls in love and agrees to meet in six months at the Empire State Building - but will it happen?
Plot summary of ""An Affair to Remember" 1957, IMDB

"Protect your child from lead poisoning and window falls"notice
Every year, as a New York City resident, I am required to fill in the "Protect your child from lead poisoning and window falls" notice. I understand it came about after Eric Clapton's four year-old son Conor, fell 53 floors to his death through the open window of a New York apartment in 1991.

Since then, every year New York City residents are reminded of this tragic event. I believe the law requiring window guards has been successful, and since the Conor Clapton tragedy, no child has fallen to his death in Manhattan.

Another New York tragedy. This one entirely fictional.

I remember it whenever I'm tempted to get out of the traffic-side of a cab. I expect it's an urban legend, but ... word has it that it is in fact illegal to step out of a cab on the traffic side, because of the character Terry McKay, played by Deborah Kerr in "An Affair to Remember".

In the movie, Terry a singer meets playboy Nicky Ferrante (Cary Grant), on a European cruise. They plan to meet later on the top floor of the Empire State building. Nicky arrives early, and while he is waiting, he hears an ambulance siren in the distance. Little does he know, but it is an ambulance on its way to pick up his beloved Terry who got out on the traffic side of the cab and was run over by a car. She's crippled as a result of the accident and the rest of the movie involves the ill-fated couple almost meeting and then not, as Terry heroically avoids Nicky Ferrante, not wanting to burden him with her disability.

ASIF any normal woman could consciously keep herself from Cary Grant - arguably the most handsome and sexy man in the history of cinema - for any reason whatsoever!

I first saw "Affair to Remember" a hundred years ago at a drive-in somewhere in Melbourne. I remember it vividly. The occasion, not the movie.
With Uncle Jack
It was circa 1960 and Melbourne was black-and-white and stagnant. The Beatles were yet to hit the world scene. D. H. Laurence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" was banned, and the few enlightened people who were forced to stay in the place were still reeling from the Leader of the Opposition's comment in favor of the "White Australia policy" - "Two wongs don't make a white."

My little brother and I were being brought up by our mother, a single parent in the years before divorce was common. Our dad had "visitation" rights although I doubt that word was used back then.

Occasionally he'd pop over from his new home in New Zealand, and get well and truly drunk before "the visit". Mostly he'd want our mum to come along on our "outing". I expect now, that he probably still carried a flame for her.

He'd also take along his brother Jack - for moral support.

And off we'd all go. I believe brother Jack was a "crim". But I liked him. Of all of us, he seemed the most normal.

My brother and I would sit in the back seat with my dad who would settle down with bottles of beer and yell what he thought were clever sayings. Sometimes he'd quote at length from Shakespeare, preferring the role of Iago in Othello. Whatever.

New York Commuters - Yes one is pretending to be a horse
An outing with dad. What fun.

I remember cringing in the back seat of Jack's car, hoping like hell that no one I knew would see us.

And so it happened that on one of these visits we were taken to see "An Affair to Remember".

I only know the plot of the film because I saw it again years later. For all dialogue was drowned out, back at that drive-in 100 years ago, as our father kept anticipating Cary Grant's lines and repeating them badly. The beer flowed. Bottle tops flew out the car windows. "I still love your mother!" my dad breathed in beery breath over us.

Gradually the cars around us left, unable to hack the middle-aged yobbos yelling at Deborah Kerr to "fer gods's sake get over it, get real and get into bed with Cary Grant", in the vernacular of the time.

No wonder I skipped adolescence and went straight from child to adult.

No wonder I saved all my money from my first post-university job and got the hell out of Dodge.

And perhaps, no wonder I chose to later on, live in New York City. Where you can do almost anything and no one looks twice.

Yes, the more I think about it, my fate was sealed the moment Deborah Kerr exited the New York cab on the wrong side. From such small and apparently inconsequential actions, whole lives are changed.


Anonymous said...

I think the movies that did it for me were: "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" which I saw at the Regal in Bondi Junction (3 times) and "The High and the Mighty" which I saw at Hoyts, Randwick in 1954? "Gotta be a pilot," I said to myself. And sure enough, it affected the rest of my life.
As for getting out of Dodge, that too was a great idea. Australia in the mid Fifties was nowhere for a person without an education. Don't think I could'a hacked Noo York, but San Francisco was really 'beat' and I already was wearing a black beret.

Tim said...

Uncle Jack was cool !

Anonymous said...

Theres a cheer for bureaucracy - a letter can save lives.

The White Australia Policy was 'adopted' to stem the flow of boatloads of Chinese to Australian goldfields. Indentured to wealthy Chinese masters, it took years for them to repay their passage. By today's standards it might be called slavery or trafficking. We must be careful of revisionist history - it works both ways.
I enjoy reading your letters.

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