The movement is westward, racing along the swarming freeway, chasing the sun, accelerating towards the sea, in your painted wagon, in your rental car, further, west of here, west of your life, toward some old dream, some new darkness, away from the old world.
It's a race we always lose. We move too slowly. We can't outrun the gathering dusk. The sky turns carotene orange. The palm trees turn into cartoon silhouettes. You settle for the next best thing. You find somewhere to park, you briefly stand in line, buy your ticket, step inside.
You're glad you made it, but it's not quite as you imagined. You were deceived. You believed the word of mouth. The scenes you saw in the trailer had other, lesser meanings when seen in context. There was less than you expected, less of everything, fewer explosions and car chases and sex scenes. The exposition was clumsy. The dialogue was flat, the performances wooden. You got restless and thought of walking out before the end.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the light from the projector. Someone a few rows back seems to call your name, so you turn your head. You're staring into the source, but what do you see? Motes, beams, shapeless light. The images are now behind you, being thrown over your shoulder. The light's nothing till it hits the screen. And perhaps it's nothing much even then: ghosts, shades, chemical traces, digital enhancements, special effects that aren't so special.
You move through the museum, steady as a Steadicam, through the waxworks and the hall of fame. You preserve memories that may or may not be your own, memories of big names and has-beens, shooting and falling stars, the holy and the wholly corrupt. It all decays: the body, the film stock, the remembrances. In the theater and the VIP room and the pet cemetery, the operations of nature continue: a constant fading, a simplification, the crumbling of structure.
In the cinema of your imagination you run the only movies you own. You are the lone viewer here, the only customer and one who's not easy to please. You watch the pterodactyls and the winged dragons, the mutant slime, the things from the lab, the girls in the fur bikinis. You watch the cartoons and the newsreels, the shorts and documentaries and stag films. It all passes before your eyes like a life, yours, and it all looks so old hat, so last season. Was this really the blockbuster you awaited so eagerly? Was this the hot ticket you'd have killed for?
The house lights are always dimmed, the aperture is always contracted. There's always a twist in the final reel. You settle down, kick back. You close your eyes and wait for the next movie to start.
Copyright © 2004 by Geoff Nicholson
The Hollywood Dodo
Following the death of his wife, Henry Cadwallader, an English doctor, insists on accompanying his aspiring actress daughter, Dorothy, on a trip to Hollywood. He fears she will fall prey to corruption and sleaze, but finds that it is actually he who is being corrupted at every turn.
On the flight to LA, they meet 'auteur of the future' Rick McCartney. Rick's trying to get the backing to make a costume drama set in seventeenth-century England about a man who owns what he fears is the last dodo on earth.
Dorothy Cadwallader's quest for fame begins badly and goes downhill from there. Meanwhile Henry becomes involved with a former actress turned estate agent. The lives of Henry and Dorothy once again intersect with that of Rick McCartney to dramatic effect as the characters find themselves drawn to the brink, where dreams die and extinction threatens.
Sharp humor and keen observation drive Geoff Nicholson's satisfyingly oblique look at America's obsession with stardom.