Charles [Memory] Lane; or, A Case of Presentimentality

This is not a trip down memory lane. I prefer not to take such excursions. It is not that I mind the detours or the seeming futility of not arriving at anything worth my time away. It’s the roadblocks that are difficult to face. According to my map, memory lane is as serpentine as Lombard Street. Remembering means climbing it upward; and all too frequently I tumble back down before I reach the address for which I was heading.

The storage capacity of my mind seems to have been exhausted some time ago and my recall is imprecise at best. Perhaps this is why I became intrigued by audio (or radio) drama. No matter how old the recording, sound drama is the play of the moment, the moment at play. It is a time art, freed from the boundaries of space, for which reason it has been called one-dimensional. It is born of sound, and sound perishes as soon as it is produced, save for the repercussions it leaves in our minds.

Why is it that we undervalue the moment and exalt eternity? Surely, the fleeting instant is not any less precious than the constant of the forever. I do not believe in the attainability of eternity; nor do I long for it. It seems to have increased my respect for the momentary. Being forgetful, I am rather in awe of what is temporary.

No, this is not a trip down memory lane. It is an inspection of alleyways; which is to say that it is introspection rather than retrospective. Writing is a matter of choosing what is worth capturing, whether for one’s own sake or the benefit of others. I used to be more highly disciplined in the strict adherence to my self-imposed boundaries, the theme of broadcastellan. As a result, my writing began to strike me as generic; it appeared to bear little resemblance to my everyday. I still try to remain within the bounds of what this journal can hold without it bursting into some sprawling mess less defined than life itself; but I realize now that choosing requires listening, an openness to whatever might suggest itself.

Sometimes, subjects seem to choose me. Unexpected connections come to mind and I feel compelled to trace them and track down the attraction. When I wrote, for the first time, about Gloria Swanson yesterday, I neglected to say that I had just been listening to Sunset Boulevard (the only Andrew Lloyd Webber musical I can abide, chiefly due to its source of inspiration). On the lookout for a subject, a search that often begins and ends in my checking pop-cultural anniversaries, I discovered that, sixty years earlier to the day, the star of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. had made a rare appearance in a radio thriller. I already had Swanson on my mind; now, she forcefully stepped into my frame, ready for another close-up, prompting me to dig up the recording of said broadcast and share my listening experience.

Last night, something similar occurred. I was watching Frank Capra’s silent comedy Matinee Idol (1928), followed by a documentary about the director (pictured above). When I returned to my computer, I read the news that one of the players in Capra’s repertory company, Charles Lane, had died that very day, 10 July, at the age of 102. You may catch up with his remarkably long career in film and television reading this obituary by fellow web journalist Brent McKee.

Now, I have already watched a number of films featuring Mr. Lane this year, including Second Fiddle, You Can’t Take It With You, and The Lady Is Willing; but, frankly, I did not notice him, however ably he performed these small parts (in Second Fiddle, he is only heard, not seen). It seems as if Mr. Lane insisted on my attention. So, tonight, I’ll let him change my schedule, as I take in my third successive Capra film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (duly recorded in my movie diet account to the right).

Thank you for insinuating yourself into my everyday, Mr. Lane. I’ll be watching out for you.

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