Saturday, September 8, 2012

Foreign Parts: A Joint Effort

Those of you who know me well, know that at times I tend to talk about certain films out of, well, my ass. It's a flaw, but one that's not going anywhere. As evidenced by what I'm about to say about a movie Jonathan saw, wrote about, and talked about with me.

Those of you who know guest blogger Jonathan Alexandratos well, know that he manages to come across films that escape the radar screens of most of us. Hence Foreign Parts, a 2010 documentary that tries to capture a neighborhood that is slated for annihilation. It's sort of a pre-apocalyptic movie on a local scale. The neighborhood, shadowed by the Mets new stadium in Queens and anchored by a massive junk yard, is slated to be destroyed to make room for stuff like Best Buy and whatnot. This loss is a given. The people interviewed express a range of emotions about the imminent destruction of their neighborhood and livelihood.

Jonathan and I agreed that stuff changes, and that's not a bad thing. There is a botany to growing cities, and it means that places and environments have to die in order for a place to remain vibrant. But it is a bad thing to forget--to not document the people and lives that were and now aren't. And that's what Foreign Parts aims to do. And because (I hear) the film is such an unconventional documentary, less narrative and more impressionistic, and because Jonathan is creatively empathetic, he wrote his review as a poem. And here it is.

By Jonathan Alexandratos

To kill time between sacrifices,
Iphigenia watches documentaries.
One, Foreign Parts,
Set in Willet’s Point,
Comforted her in Tauris
By giving her misery a bonded bedfellow.

She watches,
As a 5’2” man in a Parka
Saws at the bowels of a steering wheel
And then drags it
Across a snow-covered scab
That doubles as a driveway.
A part she doesn’t know the name of
Goes clackety-clack along the way,
Sounding like all the seconds of a clock
That will never get ticked.
Iphigenia hates to be morbid about it,
But she can’t help but reference the spinal cords
Of prisoners, and heathens, and other entities “xeno-”
That have met the other side of the knife.

An old man worries that the AirTrain
Will trample on
And re-gash the landscape of his last 76 years.
He wonders, “Where are you gonna put the bulkhead!?”
He knows his vote doesn’t count
Because he never bought a computer
And therefore doesn’t get the emails
That change dates and times and the urgency of things.
He says “plane” instead of “plan”:
“What kind of plane do you have!?”
Or is it “plain”?

Iphigenia tries to choose her words carefully.
She never purchases WhiteOut,
For fear this will only give her permission
To make mistakes,
Thus embarrassing her, fatally, at the alter.

Possibly the same guy who decapitated that steering wheel,
Is the same guy who dances to the “Mister Softee” theme,
As the ice cream truck Dopplers from there to here and beyond.
He dances on the white part of the concrete
Flanked by two rivers of sludge
Even after the truck has long passed,
Its tracks thinned by the wheels of a small pushcart,
Making Iphigenia think the dance and the ice cream truck
Were just a happy coincidence,
And not evidence of some dry cause/effect relationship.

The mouths
Of a man and a woman
Give birth to albino ectoplasm
As the ponder the annihilation of their world.
Iphigenia reminds herself that Tauris,
Might someday be a shopping mall.
And that really would make ceremonial solemnity of the place
A great deal more awkward,
If it had to come with, say, a coupon.

Hasidim offer to do a mitzvah
And another mitzvah
And another mitzvah,
If that one doesn’t take.

The Taurians do not wear snow
The same way they do in Willet’s Point.
In Willet’s Point,
You can take a car radio,
And tune it to “I Wanna Be Sedated,”
And let the rims
And the tires
And the pleather
And the applefire red toolboxes
Do the rest.

A plane,
JFK or LaGuardia-bound,
Ripples through a puddle
That tells the brief story
Of a car
And a splash
And a street light
And the commerce that secures it
And the puny gasps
Of a coral road below,
The sound cutting through with a/

Iphigenia reminds herself that she hates to fly
Ever since she flew Athena Air,
And was never offered any peanuts.

White marker –
Not chalk –
Counts off tires.
The numbers seem to carry great meaning,
Though they themselves seem meaningless.

E.L. Tires,
Who does not speak English,
 stands in a row of doors.
One comes from an Intrepid.
One comes from a Camry.
One comes from a Maxima.
One comes
From a Taurus.
They seem to make a full car.
But the doors,
By themselves,

A forklift
Aborts a gas tank
From the trunk of a sedan.

Straightens her hair
In the rear-view mirror
That she saved
After her first car
Which was a Fisher Price
Power Wheels
Barbie Jammin’
Jeep Wrangler.
A woman in Foreign Parts
Does likewise
In something similar,
Except it’s a more adult car.

The woman wants to look good
For her husband
Who just got out of prison –
He would have been back sooner,
But he argued with the guard,
Making the guard detain him
Until 2, instead of noon.
Iphigenia sympathizes with this,
As she hopes that,
If she were ever rescued,
Her hair might also be straight,
And not yet white.

In the mean time,
Iphigenia waits
In the shadow of
Bob’s Furniture
And the Home of the Mets,
Until she can distinguish between her letters
And the white space between them.

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