It's simply darker. Perhaps they just don't have as many streetlights as we do in Chicago, as are planted in Manhattan. But it's more than that. Darkness lurks and envelopes this place when you get clear of the klieg lights, actual and mainly figurative. Here where everything ever done by man and woman to defy age, gravity, climate...where the reversal of every unpleasant manifestation of life has been assayed. The desert night waits and crashes down, rendering all that hopeful, well-lit striving particularly futile, nightmarishly false. All of which makes fertile ground indeed for the poet that is David Lynch. That particularly American clash of darkness and light, innocence and seamy experience.
If a movie and movie house have truly taken you in, it's always a little jarring to emerge back onto the sidewalk or street. All the more so if you entered by daylight and emerge into the night on Beverly Boulevard. Particularly if you've just seen the charming East German/Polish take on science fiction entitled First Spaceship on Venus.
Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be relatively free of time and obligation and have decided to see another film the same evening, practically around the corner on Fairfax Avenue. Having some time before that 10:30 screening at an establishment called Cinemfamily (formerly the Silent Movie Theater), you might alight in a bar on Fairfax, perhaps an exceedingly agreeable little joint called The Kibitz Room.
The Kibbitz Room is the bar attached to the famous 24-hour deli, Canters. On this particular Tuesday night, at this particular hour, it is an exceedingly agreeable place. The best bars seem happily stuck in a decorative time warp. So it is with the Kibbitz Room, all black leather of seat and booth, gold and black metallic latticework of screens between the windows that separate the narrow bar from the deli. It's seems like the 60s at its most restrained.
The two guys tending bar are friendly and eccentric in their way. When the older and more hirsute of the pair wanders to the juke box, his younger colleague say no more Hanson, that if he hears "MMMBop" one more time.....You get the sense that this exchange has occurred before, that they have their routine, their schtick, down.
But no, it's not that perfect example of bubble gum pop, it's the magic carpet of Paul Desmond's tenor sax leading us, along with Mr. Brubeck dinstinctly at the keyboard of course, into "Take Five."
It's followed by some Charlie Parker and John Coltrane (the soprano sax years).
Even as the booths fill, there's a notable hush. Perhaps this has to do with the adequate but not overpowering volume of the juke box, over which no one feels the need to shout. But among seemingly comfortable mix of patrons, black and white, there's an almost cosmopolitan ease. You are privy to a few conversations, and there's nothing particularly sublime being uttered. And much as you're aware that this city is perhaps the world's leading producer of bullshit, of shrieking, self-satisfied stupidity, such is not the case in this bar at this moment.
The first drinks, the first time in a bar when everything seems just right tends to produce the desire to have your mail forwarded to the joint, to take up residency. Or conversely, never to return, lest all subsequent visits fail to live up to this first impression. As you step out onto to Fairfax Avenue shortly after 10:00 p.m., you're not sure which it will be.
Obviously, there was a fair amount of Twin Peaks fatigue by 1992. Despite the overwhelming success of the television series, Lynch's feature film consideration of the same central story did not make much money. When "Firewalk With Me" premiered at the Cannes festival, the reaction was apparently howlingly negative. Heard among the chorus of disapproval was none other than Quentin Tarantino, who offered this insight, "After I saw Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me at Cannes, David Lynch had disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different. " Take a moment to consider the profound irony of the statement and its source.
A youngish crowd take their seats - some conventional, fixed movie seats and lots of folding chairs - in the simple screening room of the Cinefamily. One young, blonde woman wears wings on her back, which will make sense if you've seen the "Firewalk With Me." With the traveling, the driving through L.A. traffic, the evening's previous film, the three pints of porter....you frankly struggle to stay awake through the 134 minutes of the film. And yet, how can you not? You are reminded just how good is Sheryl Lee in this film, how it easily it could have been ridiculous without her. You are reminded that David Lynch is a genius. And as you see again how the death of poor Laura Palmer played out, as you witness the black lodge denouement of the film, all you can think is "wow."
Oh, the little expeditions of the mind. Dare one say, of the soul. Whether the dark is of the Los Angeles variety, that of Chicago, or Walla Walla, Washington, it throws down its unseen barriers. You find there's an animal instinct to lay low, to cower. You push through it, out into the night, or you don't.
But when you do venture forth, despite the darkness, the enervation and leaden habit, there are the little victories to be savored. To be in an unfamiliar place in a largely unfamiliar city, to take a place in a crowd of moviegoers. You wonder in retrospect if they feel it, these kids about you, are alive in the moment. Or maybe the unheeded fragility of this freedom is integral to the gravity defiance of youth.
For your part, in the particular moment, you feel the little victory, the success of this ridiculously modest expedition. And you can almost weep at the sweetness of it.