Day 287 4/9/14: Meditations at Jack Webb’s Grave

Yesterday I fulfilled a longtime dream and made a pilgrimage to the grave of Jack Webb. I am proud to say that we share a birthday (April 2), and although I was a little late, it felt good to sit on the green slope of Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills and reflect on immortality and Dragnet.

An activity like this should always be done with a dear friend, one who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the 1970 “Night School” episode  which, Joe Friday tells us, unfolds on a mythical April 2. While enrolled in a psychology class,  Joe Friday busts a mouthy fellow student when he spies a bag of pot in the pusher’s binder. When traveling to the grave of Jack Webb, one’s companion must understand the pathos of the not quite pink or red or orange cardigan Joe wears to night school or at least possess a passing acquaintance with outdated drug vocabulary, and be able to separate sugar cubes and cartwheels from reds and yellows and rainbows.

I am lucky enough to have such a friend in Connie Pearson.  We passed through the gates of the grand, palatial cemetery and in the Forest Lawn gift shop, I bought a little plastic HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign for $1 and obtained a map from the information desk which led us to Jack’s stark no-frills marker.  Connie and I wrote notes of thanks to Jack, impaled them on the birthday skewer and stuck it in the ground. In the distance on a far away hilltop, we saw a deer grazing on some memorial flowers. Beyond the white statue of Moses in the green semi-wild mountains, we heard the weirdly joyful yips and howls of coyotes.

As I stared into the gorgeous pine boughs overhead branching in seemingly infinite directions, I remembered another tree, one in the infamous “Blueboy” episode. A teenage LSD enthusiast and dealer takes one too many “sugar cubes” paints his face half blue and half yellow, “like an Indian,” and tries to chew bark off a tree.  “My hair’s green,” he proclaims. “I’m a tree!” When Joe Friday and Gannon find him in a park, the young freak has dug a hole in the ground and stuck his entire head in it.

In Los Angeles, meditations on nature often lead straight to the land of pop culture. I remembered a long ago picnic at a sea cave at Leo Carillo beach, an attempt to escape the city. Almost as soon as my boyfriend and I had set our basket down, Geena Davis walked out of the cave in a golden bikini, followed by a photographer from Harper’s Bazaar. Incredibly tall and trim, Geena Davis looked like Venus. Another time preparing for a horseback ride in Malibu Canyon, I met a visibly distraught Jan Michael Vincent. JMV is also a Dragnet alum: see 1967’s “The Grenade” in which the sullen surfer-handsome Jan has acid thrown at him in a movie theatre.

Connie and I talked about how Jack might like this spot in the Sheltering Hills section, with the coyote dens behind him and the 134 Freeway and Warner Brothers studios before him and how he opened each episode with a “This is the city,” mini-narration of 1960s L.A., and how we always wondered how these little anecdotes about the LaBrea Tar Pits or the crowded freeways would inevitably connect with the burden and responsibilities of the badge. We debated ashes vs. burial. We talked about things that had gone—not just the people, but eras and places, whole states of being,  disappearances were harder to trace and difficult to describe in the typical vocabulary of loss. But the hot, still afternoon was too beautiful to feel too sad. Besides, how could we complain when the coyotes and the deer managed to survive on the vanishing margins of wildness? How could we not smarten up with the stern fact of a great man’s mortality written in the ground? So we gave our thanks to Jack Webb, walked down the hill, climbed into the car and left to find our place in the story of the city. Image

Day 250 3/2/14: If You’re Feeling Lost….

This is a poem by Robert Frost called “Directive.” 

Back out of all this now too much for us,

Back in a time made simple by the loss

Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off

Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,

There is a house that is no more a house

Upon a farm that is no more a farm

And in a town that is no more a town.

The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you

Who only has at heart your getting lost,

May seem as if it should have been a quarry—

Great monolithic knees the former town

Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.

And there’s a story in a book about it:

Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels

The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,

The chisel work of an enormous Glacier

That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.

You must not mind a certain coolness from him

Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal

Of being watched from forty cellar holes

As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.

As for the woods’ excitement over you

That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,

Charge that to upstart inexperience.

Where were they all not twenty years ago?

They think too much of having shaded out

A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.

Make yourself up a cheering song of how

Someone’s road home from work this once was,

Who may be just ahead of you on foot

Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.

The height of the adventure is the height

Of country where two village cultures faded

Into each other. Both of them are lost.

And if you’re lost enough to find yourself

By now, pull in your ladder road behind you

And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.

Then make yourself at home. The only field

Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.

First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,

Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,

The playthings in the playhouse of the children.

Weep for what little things could make them glad.

Then for the house that is no more a house,

But only a belilaced cellar hole,

Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.

This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.

Your destination and your destiny’s

A brook that was the water of the house,

Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,

Too lofty and original to rage.

(We know the valley streams that when aroused

Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)

I have kept hidden in the instep arch

Of an old cedar at the waterside

A broken drinking goblet like the Grail

Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,

So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.

(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)

Here are your waters and your watering place.

Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

Day 248 2/28/14: “All Places Exist in the Body”

Some truths we think we know. Then we actually live them. For me, one such truth is: “All places exist in the body.”  I first fell in love with this concept in 1995 at U.C. Berkeley when a poetry teacher of mine mentioned it.

In the class, I wrote a short piece about a guy I’d been absolutely nuts about when I was very young—this poem was economical, but full of dreamy sensuality and ribs rising, and concluded with a kind of hazy philosophizing that nothing was really lost if “all things exist in the body.” I changed “places” to “things” thinking there was really no difference.

But I didn’t know then that remembering with the body means more than a breathless nostalgic lust, or the addled mind throwing the mostly forgotten body a bone.

All places exist in the body. The distinction matters.

When my father died, leaving the house I had known and loved and returned to for 44 years to his mentally unbalanced wife, I became an exile. We’re all exiles. We were born exiles, after all. But we live here a while and we forget. Then someone dies or the door forever closes on some beloved place.

I learned that losing a place does not feel the same as losing a person.  And while I know better than to apply linear timelines to grief, when the initial shock and frequent, exhausting crying jags over my father subsided, the house, the fields, the woods moved in.

They took residence in my body in a way that memories of the dead never have. The opposite of an exorcism, a new settling began. I now understood that properly remembered, a well was also a throat, that doors were breasts, that the lifting of old latches, the bark of disappeared trees, all the obscure pleasures of warm mud and cold stone had to have some place to go. But not to become projections–the ever-thinning, forever looping films of the mind. These things had to go where they could grow, a place where all the restless spirits of habit could find their place.

This kind of remembering, this very physical presence that aligns the outside with the inside, so much that teeth take on the silent weight of stone walls, this kind of memory-as-occupation feels at times almost supernatural. I tried to tame it with a poem:

A moon-bright field raises hairs on the arms.

Wrists go numb remembering dark brooks.

Horses become instinct, thirst.

What it can no longer return to

in the old way, the body rebuilds, reclaims

as if to say: there was always only here.

Is this wholeness at last?

The translation of all loved things

to their essence

The barn less brick

than silence that agreed for a time

to gather itself into manger and beam

The poem ends, but the house still shows up. What does it want of me? There is no danger of forgetting.

Maybe only a simple transmission of information, the declaration of an obscure fact:

On the cellar walls, long ago strangers recorded snowfalls in soft pencil, along with recipes for elderberry wine. We added to these our own statistics of startling snowfalls, how much fell, how little stayed. In the barn, the births and deaths of horses are written in blue on the inside door of a hay strewn cupboard.

I don’t know what this means. Carried in the body, it no longer even feels like a memory, just a code that if finally broken, might save someone else.

Day 223 2/3/14: On Story and Healing

imagesI am privileged to have Deena Metzger as my teacher. When I read her recent essay What Story is And How it Heals, I thought FINALLY! an understanding of story that makes sense to me.

P.S. What does it mean to enter into a council with animals? Click here to read about Deena’s work with elephants in Africa.

Day 207 1/18/14: Ram Dass: Living The Mystery

imagesIn “Instant Karma!” a song written and recorded in one day, John Lennon posed the eternal question: “Why in the world are we here?” answering the unanswerable with a single, powerful certainty: “Surely not to live in pain and fear.”

In this humble blog, one of my recurring questions has been how not to shut down in the face of suffering–both my own internal sadness and the suffering of animals, of aging parents, etc.

Today I  discovered this terrific and invigorating podcast that grapples with all of these things–a 1996 Ram Dass lecture called Living the Mystery which I highly recommend. (NOTE: Skip the introductory part. Ram Dass is funny and dynamic.  Listening to this narrator is like hearing someone describe a movie in exhaustive detail and thereby  sucking all the energy & surprise out it. START listening at 17:59! 

Day 194 1/5/14: A Post-Christmas (Sort of) Fable

images-2The other day walking around the Hollywood Reservoir, I  discovered a tree covered in Christmas decorations. Two trees actually. “Festooned” with decorations might be pushing it, since this is January and as glittery it appeared, a tinge of belatedness vibrated at the edges. Large silver bells, flat stencil-style presents and glittery disco-style bulbs that are either silver or green and garland gold and ribsy. Everything shone in that I-don’t-recognize-the-meaning-of-January Los Angeles sun.

As I paused at the tree, some weird cocktail of juvenile delinquency and middle-aged nostalgia intoxicated me and I thought about stealing one of the silver disco balls. After all, it was Christmas and surely this tree had been decorated for a lark anyway and stealing was probably built into the design of a publicly decorated Christmas tree. But almost as soon as this impulse surfaced, like a good ex-Catholic, I immediately drown it in a tidal wave of shame and self-loathing.

Then I noticed the sign spinning and breathing among the ornaments. Handwritten and cardboard it said something like:


I’ve been trying to develop a more sophisticated version of God than “hypercritical eyeball that reads your every thought,” but this sign wasn’t helping.

As a kid, I read our Christmas tree like some annual, familiar, but always slightly altered text. The ornaments had specific histories, and their placement in the branches varied, and so the story they retold each year created slightly altered tones and new narrative possibilities. Only the nativity scene with its jagged broken donkey ear assumed the same position—perched on two barely developed branches near the trunk in the dark center of the tree. I always knew where it was, and yet my eye always came upon it as the surprised or lost child in a fable encounters a house in a primeval clearing.  The story I usually concocted had something to do with the proximity and juxtaposition of the holy and the kitschy–the baby Jesus bathed in the red and green light of the lights. On that outskirts of that sacred hollow, a Snoopy with antlers instead of beagle ears skated on an invisible pond.

We had had a tarnished silver disco ball on our Christmas trees in the 1970s, but my favorite ornament was the glass red Silent Night bulb with its white church steeple and its simple wave of snow. It reminded me of the words of another hymn—“The First Noel” and its cold winter’s night “that was so deep.” The line stuck with me long after midnight mass  because I could sense eternity in it. That a night could be deep made me reconsider darkness itself as it settled over our house and across our fields.  That sort of deep rolled like a storm cloud. It unfurled like a passage, wide and silent.

I suppose light has its own depth. The cardboard sign, somewhere between a plea and a warning framed itself in needles of light that jumped off the haphazard garland. It reflected me back at myself like the disco ball ornament I’d considered stealing. If I was living a myth (and who says I’m not?), my theft of the ornament would end in a haunting, my guilt fractured into a thousand spirit fragments in the  miniature mirrors of the disco ball that I’d hung it blithely on my rearview mirror. Distracted by its mocking, spinning death whirl, I might drive my car into a ditch and no one would know I’d died of a heart attack brought on my ghosts before internal injuries.

This is the season of the naked and the abandoned. The fallen.  Christmas trees haunt the alleys. I find the sight of these briefly coveted messengers of joy quite depressing. A tree if it is to be sacrificed, surely deserves to be an object of contemplation longer than the Christmas season or at least recycled to return in some fertilizing capacity to the earth. Passing these desolate trees on sidewalks, I feel their silent reproach. It’s as if I’m in church all over again: I died for you. There is something that sees hidden deep in those branches, something stolen from the pagan forest dragged inside and draped with new religion, then stripped again and forgotten.

I  like to imagine the tree on the edge of the Hollywood Reservoir still decorated in May or June, surprising those running or walking along the sandy shoulder of the road, the silver bells in the silent dry light of summer, the ragged breath of garland, the words lodged in its living branches.

Day 190 1/1/14: A Matter of Life and Death

For the second year in a row, I spent New Year’s Eve at a Buddhist mediation center with friends. This is a tradition that I never really consciously initiated, but one that I highly recommend. It is nice to enter a new year in the silence of meditation or following the rhythmic drone of prayer in a softly lit room while people are lighting fireworks or firing guns or generally acting like madmen in the dark outside.

The monk was funny. After talking about resolutions (regular flossing, fitness) and the power of the mind, he recommended a meditation that appealed to me: “I may die today.” “Or,” he said, looking out at the hundred or so people filling the tiny hall, “it’s likely that some of you might die this year. Not everyone will make it back here next New Year’s Eve.” This focus on death is designed to help us remember what’s important, which in Buddhism is resolving to become a better person and through this discovering some sort of peace which we can share with others.

Later Connie, Gail and talked about the countdown to my descent in the shark cage in South Africa in June. I made jokes about dying in the shark cage, because to joke about death is to at once acknowledge it and ward it off. It would be too perfect, too absurd for me to be eaten by a white shark when the whole point is to live to tell about it, to describe what it’s like to meet this old friend, this old fear, this dream human face to conical snout.What do their eyes look like, really? What’s the exact nature of their blackness, or up close are they really pure black at all?

Today I took down my brand new calendar and filled in all the numbered days until my shark trip, my uneven purple digits scrawled over the white space of unlived time, dwarfing the sensible preprinted numbers of the calendar. What are the odds, I wondered, that I won’t live until June? What is the numerical value of certainty or uncertainty?  I thought of the opening lines of Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi”: “Every step of the way/We walk the line/Your days are numbered/So are mine.” And I thought of my favorite piece of Buddhist scripture, “The Five Remembrances:”

I am of the nature to grow old.

There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill-health.
There is no way to escape having ill-health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

Sometimes I think that more difficult even than death itself (which promises, at least in my view, a degree of contentment, which brings with it the fulfillment of work that here remained unfinished, which is a state of perspective and unity), is the fourth remembrance.

Inescapable change, the separation from people and places, things that I am sometimes fooled into believing are permanent simply because they endure for twenty or forty years. Maybe later I will decide that the infirmity and indignity of old age is tougher, or that facing death whether it comes in the form of a shark, or dark, rapidly dividing cells, defies my attempts to tame it with philosophy. I don’t know.

But I do know that in a world in which everything dissolves and departs, we have to have some ballast, be it a prayer or tradition or the habit of matching every day with a number to make life feel at last, real to us.

English: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dy...

English: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan by Elsa Dorfman (1975) (Photo credit: Wikipen

Day 164 12/6/13: Taking A Walk in Los Angeles

GreetingsFromLosAngelesNow that my shark class is winding down, now that we’ve discussed the threat of overfishing and the horrors of finning, now that we’ve explicated “The Shark” by Mary Oliver and written about how power pivots on the ability to speak, now that we’ve learned about the wondrous diversity of sharks, their hidden traditions (intrauterine cannibalism) and their supernatural senses, I’ve rounded out the semester with readings about the importance of awareness (David Foster Wallace’s brilliant Kenyon Commencement Address) and action (Derrick Jensen’s Loaded Words: Writing as a Combat Discipline).

I am hoping to plant seeds—something that might take root and grow beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Don’t forget about the natural world. Be present. Get out of yourself. Try to be of service.

I thought I had better follow my own advice and go walking in Los Angeles on an afternoon at the end of the year. The light looked almost stormy streaming from robust clouds, random in its distribution of illumination and shadow.  I decided to walk toward a less-traveled neighborhood, near the newly converted Kadampa Meditation Center where I went to meditate the other night, remembering once how I’d almost rented an apartment near there in an old Spanish building with a ship for a weathervane, hallways full of antiques, and, the landlord revealed with a degree of pride, a ghost.

It’s so interesting that the same street can live multiple lives in the same city—Palmerston, Alexandria, Kenmore—to walk these streets north of Franklin is a different world than their southern extremities. I paused at the Kadampa Center; the formerly Christian church where the burning thorn pierced heart in the stained glass window has been replaced with a lotus flower, and then headed north on Palmerston. I love to look at architecture in Los Angeles. I love the curving, quiet streets where houses can’t make up their minds, yet the incongruities are somehow awkwardly resolved—the Spanish roof sheltering a porch of Corinthian columns. The green shingled house with the curving storybook path. My head felt like a camera that pans, reveals. All I wanted was to walk deeper into a place I did not know, past rambling brick houses with dark Tudor windows whose solemnity is relieved by the reflection of manicured grass.

Climbing a hill, I noticed Christmas lights emitting a steady, secret glow from a blasé hedge while above, on an overhead branch, a Halloween skeleton floated in the breeze—clearly articulated “life-like” skull, skinny mummy arms, and a body that ended abruptly in streaming burlap rags. The arms were wide and fleshless palms open. I’d seen pictures of Jesus in that same attitude of supplication. This skeleton, streaming like a flag in the sudden breeze, naked skull limned with golden light, appeared to be preaching, perhaps to the rosebushes.

I love California, but my early Northeastern life has structured and nurtured my deepest responses to nature. I find myself always drawn to those houses shrouded in tall, green trees because they remind me of the places (once real now memory) that I am afraid to return to, fearing that great undertow of memory will sweep me out to sea. Today I found one such place. The green trees (tall, tall-evergreen and deciduous) seemed less brooding than expectant. When I peered over the curved iron gate, I noticed a half-hidden house. A modest pale green turret with narrow windows, felt monastic, regal and I flashed on the uneven shards of colored glass on the cover of the St. Patrick’s missalette I left on an empty pew a thousand Christmas Eves ago.

But I couldn’t feel sad. I had no need for remembering when everything felt so generous and alive, the trees rising up from the ground dotted with eyeholes, and the sudden blue and white of a house like a bright postcard from Santorini. I thought: Everything keeps changing shape—the streets curve, the houses assume their forms and postures, the tree roots declare themselves busting through the concrete. The memories of all the places that we can never return to, grow like living things in the body, their roofs push at the ribs, their fields unfold, erasing thought.

I kept waiting for the spell to break. Surely all would dissolve into quotidian reality as the light changed.  Yet even as I headed back toward Franklin, past all the apartments and vintage stores turned invisible from being endlessly seen, even as I cursed the errant plastic bag skittering across Vermont Avenue, there by the 7-11, in the rounded nest-shaped bush next to the bus stop, a dozen or more little brown and white birds popped out of the hollows between the branches, all chattering at once, all looking at me. Don’t just survive here, the birds told me sing, sing.

Day 155 11/27/13: Winter Meditation

Meditation is a strange thing. It can take you to some surprising places. There are the meditations when I “go deep” like David Lynch talks about in his book on creativity and meditation “Catching the Big Fish.” Then there are the meditations in which I keep thinking, but more in pictures than in words. Still thoughts. Still coming and going. But pictures–fading like slide shows or lingering like living dreams–actual places I can travel to.

I was listening to some music that is supposed to open the heart. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between healing and shutting down. Both involve a certain kind of closing. So tonight I thought I had better think about opening whatever it was in me that might have closed.

As I sat with my eyes shut, listening to this wordless music, head lolling like the helpless subject of an B-movie hypnotist, I began to smell evergreen trees. A very old and specific scent of Christmas branches wrapped in white paper. My sister Janet was sentimental, a record keeper. When we found a particularly beautiful tree, a full, robust tree, she always clipped a branch from it. Sometime in early January, she would put it away with the ornaments wrapped in white paper. The next year we’d find it rust-colored, the emissary from a previous December, a once glorious now sad and ancient thing. I used to think that the branch was an example of Janet’s excess–that her desire to catalogue and organize and preserve every experience from a movie matinée to a play list from a Bruce Springsteen concert was noble, understandable, but often too much. A gilded lilly. But because Janet died before she was 40 years old, I cannot help but think that  she saved things because some part of her might have wordlessly understood that, as Rilke said, she was meant to “disappear early.”

And then from our childhood house I found myself on a little rise above the pasture. I am standing by the water pump. The night is so quiet and cold and the moon has made everything almost a metallic silver. Even the wood of the gate looks somehow like metal. The moon has a wreath of frost around it. And the stars–I can see them all. The sky is cold. It is so quiet in the New Hampshire night that I can hear the horses chewing the hay in the field. I can hear their lips thudding in the dark. I never want to come back to Los Angeles where I never see stars, where it is never so quiet as to allow a person to hear all the many variations on the word “rustle” where it is never so cold that the water freezes in the pump.

I am so confused about time. Was this so long ago? I was there. I remember the cold light. The little hill and the horses. Maybe eight years ago. I stood in the dark on the little rise and I listened to the horses and saw my own breathing. I looked at the stars. And now I am stunned–not so much that it is over–the horses, the house, the fields, the winter nights that I would volunteer to go out to the barn and fetch the buckets and plunge my hand into the deep scented darkness of the grain bin–all of these pleasures, pure pleasures–but that they ever happened at all.

Part of what meditation does is to help us, through silence, merge with something greater. To step out of language and into that infinite, often blissful place. In those meditations that enter the big silence, I  feel transcendent. Free from language, free from identity, free from linear reality.  Sometimes the darkness seems to move, to part, as if I am traveling through it.

Other times meditation  plunges me into some very specific places. Like the little hill above the pasture. Maybe I was meant to see moments like this as more than “a memory,” but a state of being fully alive. Did I not feel a oneness with all things as I stood listening to the hay move and the tails swish and the hooves stamp? Did I not feel complete as I looked at the moon and the frost? Did I not know a wholeness as rich and true as any mystic when I stood upon that worn hill and listenedwinterscenecharl2–my eyes open in the dark.

Day 122 10/25/13: Overheard While Meditating

Cropped screenshot of Humphrey Bogart from the...

Cropped screenshot of Humphrey Bogart from the trailer for the film The Petrified Forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I had the first shark dream in a long time. I only remember fleeting details: night sea (a common setting),  a white belly, a thin black line for a mouth. Although sharks rarely  drift through my dreams, they often materialize in my meditations, appearing and disappearing just as they do in the oceans. Silent images—another kind of thought.

When I meditate in my little office at school, I hear the urgent scratch and peck of someone writing in chalk on the other side of the thin wall. Across the hall, hollow and booming, lectures on economics: the virtues of spreadsheets, the falling markets. When I meditate at home on the couch, the blissful silence is often invaded by street noise. How I achieve higher consciousness when I can’t even transcend Los Angeles? Applause and laughter erupt from the 12-Step meetings in the church basement next door. Other times I hear one-sided Hollywood phone conversation– an unseen starlet squealing about an upcoming audition, or a deep-voiced man describing an upcoming job to a potential stunt guy:

So here’s the scene:

The wife is cooking for her in-laws (car roars past) and so she takes butcher knife and cuts off her husband’s (motorcycle speeds by) and feeds it to him. Think you can do that? Can you light yourself on fire? Are you good with smoke? Knives? The husband’s a football player-esque type. Your general asshole.

If all of life is an illusion, Los Angeles is the illusion within the illusion. Living here for so long, I’ve experienced many a surreal collision between past and present, the living and the dead. Walking through the Hollywood Forever cemetery, I once found a man building a styrofoam mausoleum for a horror film. It  looked as solid and cold as the actual stone tombs that house the first movie stars and passengers from the Titanic.

Even if my meditations are often interrupted, L.A. feels like the perfect place to contemplate the fleeting nature of all things.

Driving through a block of Hollywood Boulevard, I once found myself surrounded by cigarette billboards and 1940s cars, under a marquee advertising a Humphrey Bogart movie. I needed a few minutes to orient myself, to understand this movie wasn’t a revival showing, not a matter of nostalgia, but a meticulously organized, briefly resurrected world as bright and new as it must have been in 1945, that would likely be gone by morning.