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Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 | link
I have had a very awesome day today. It started with a perfectly ripened nectarine and an iced coffee and ended with a taco from my very favorite taco outlet and a mini chocolate torte from my very favorite mini chocolate torte outlet. And in between, I took myself to go see Garden State.
When I was twenty I went to school at Oxford Polytechnic for a year and was surprisingly derailed by the experience. Part of it was that the Polytechnic turned out to be an uncomfortable union of a midwifery college and a cartography school (maps + birthing canals = not as much funny as it should be). Part of it was plain, simple homesickness -- the college I went to was about a half hour from where I grew up, so that junior year abroad was really my first time away from home. But more than that, on a much more fundamental, un-pin-downable level, I was thrown by the subtle foreignness of England. The lack of a language barrier had deceived me into thinking there was no culture shock to experience, but there were all these little things, the weird chanting at soccer games and the having to explain impossible-to-explain things like fraternities and the no Reeses Peanutbutter Cups. In some ways I really enjoyed the differences. I liked thinking about why we say "bangs" when they say "fringe," especially since "bangs" is so much less intuitive, bangs-bangs-bangs, what does that even mean? Also by extension "fringe clip" totally makes sense while "bobby pin" gives me nothing, no sense. But those little differences snowballed, they joined forces and built up a momentum that left me feeling pushed off to the side of things.
I've heard the sensation of misdiagnosed head medication described as a floaty feeling, where you're hovering just above your own body, watching yourself navigate the world with bemused detachment. That's kind of what that whole year felt like. I had friends, but I still spent a lot of time on my own, walking around galleries and touring scenic gardens and sketching painfully self-aware things in my journal. I remember it as a chilly and quiet and isolated time, except there also was this added under-feeling, too, of haunches being gathered for important things to come, like being in a cocoon, secretly preparing and transforming for some big and great change.
The feeling that Garden State left me with was kind of like that. Jill describes it as movie intimacy, Adrienne calls it "nostalgia for the now," but whatever it is, that tight, personal, please-don't-let-it-end bond, with the tears and the glee and the regret, Garden State and I shared it. The Royal Tenenbaums and I had it, too. And Lost In Translation. And "Carry the Zero" by Built to Spill, listening to that song tugs at me in similarly complicated, sad, and hopeful ways.
Garden State also had this freakish coincidence of actors from other things I just happen to have seen recently -- the lawyer from Norma Rae, the sadistic cracky kidnapper from "Six Feet Under" (oh my god, and "Monk" just came on, and the same actor is playing a dimwitted gun salesman!), Bilbo Baggins -- which, for me, added an extra layer of surreal recognition to the experience of the movie. And Natalie Portman gushes natural talent and beauty and at least one very cute sweater, and I really love Zach Braff's writing and directing, it's small and sweet and close enough to spoon with but doesn't pull back from the hard, big things like death and love and first kisses. And he manages to capture Los Angeles in a neat little ten minutes. He also has very huge lips.