Monday, December 15, 2014

cheryls on the trail

1. strayed

A long time ago I interviewed the poet Eileen Myles, and she said something about how traditional narrative is structured like the male orgasm, where it’s all about building to a climax. I know that theory is probably a little cringe-inducing to some postmodern feminists, but is it inaccurate?

I don’t know if Wildthe movie (I haven’t read the book! I know!)—is structured like a female orgasm, but it manages to take a long, weighty, satisfying journey without really having a climax. Or maybe it has a series of small climaxes. I would say that it is structured like the long hike that provides its frame.

It was weird to see a '90s period piece, though. Weren't the '90s like five years ago?
As Cheryl (yay for more Cheryl representation! I feel like, in pop culture, Cheryls are always someone’s off-screen bitch ex-girlfriend) embarks, largely unprepared, on the hike that will take her from the Mojave Desert to Ashland, Oregon along a multi-terrained mountain ridge called the Pacific Crest Trail, she reflects on the things that brought her here. Namely, her mother’s death, the end of her marriage to a good man she cheated on and a lot of wild, unsafe acting out via sex and drugs.

Not the PCT.
We see these things in short flashes at first. A woman’s nipple, a horse’s eye. Then we get the longer stories. Her memories are like memories: unbidden, meandering, sweet, painful. Her hike is like hiking: mundane, meandering, difficult, full of beauty too powerful for even the most cynical city kid to ignore. Jean-Marc VallĂ©e directs with a light hand, seemingly understanding that in life and in hiking, there are more small moments than big ones. But the small ones add up.

AK and I saw the movie with my friend/coworker Sierra and the Meetup women’s hiking group she leads. It was kind of like getting a big group of girlfriends together to see Sex and the City, and kind of the complete opposite. Sierra is a tough cookie (she’s climbing a hundred peaks this year, for one thing), but her eyes were puffy at the end. As were AK’s. As were mine (but you can never measure a thing by whether it makes me cry—if it’s not so bad it actively pisses me off, I’ll probably shed a tear or five).

The scene that got me? Cheryl’s mom has a horse she loves, and after she dies, Cheryl has to figure out what to do with the horse when it too gets sick. I don’t think I’m giving away any true spoilers here—it’s not that kind of movie—but turn away if you’re really hung up on plot. Anyway, there is a gunshot. She imagines she has shot her mother.

In the only recurring dream I’ve had since I was a kid, I discover that a long-dead pet in fact hasn’t died, but has just been neglected—by me—for years. Imagine dirty rat cages and bird cages, animals ridden with tumors and skinny with malnutrition. After my mom died, she started playing roughly the same role in my dreams. She would reappear, back from the dead, only for me to realize with a sinking feeling that I’d moved on. My dad had a new girlfriend. What were we supposed to do about that? Or: I knew she’d been resurrected only to die again, soon. Or: I knew that one of us was going to live and one of us was going to die and I was rooting for myself and felt like shit about it.

So killing one’s pets and mother is a thing that unfolds in my subconscious, oh, once every couple of weeks. It was shocking and cathartic to see it on screen.

Selfie with dog and crazy hair.
2. klein

I have no ambitions to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but on Saturday I did venture with Tara and crew on a fire road up to the Hollywood sign. I’d had an anxious week (which is bleeding into this week), and it was good to get out of my own head and hang out with people and a couple of dogs I didn’t know all that well. They were a likeable group, and it was a clear day washed clean by rain.

Last week in L.A. there was a huge structure fire, a storm, flooding and a murder-suicide. We all needed a clear day.

Hike leader Tara (right) and Franny, the trusty dog she co-parents.
Tara made caprese sandwiches and little squares of pumpkin pie for everyone, and told us stories about the history of the area. Who built the sign. Who jumped off it—an aspiring actress who, had she lived, would have learned she was about to be cast in the story of a suicidal woman. I took that as a cautionary tale never to give up, although arguably she was convincing in that audition because she was already super depressed.

Better to keep trudging ahead, even when you can’t see the trail, even when your feet hurt and you know you’re supposed to be thankful you have fucking feet, but you don’t feel full of gratitude and you have no real idea what you’re doing with your life anyway. One foot in front of the other. It’ll get you…somewhere.

No comments: