On the Stampede Trail near the Sushana River, about ten miles west of the Teklanika and Savage Rivers (and 22 miles from the closest road), sits an abandoned bus--Fairbanks City Transit System 142. Matthew Power (2007), at Men's Journal writes about this "green and white WWII-vintage International Harvester [which] looks surrealy out of place, like an artifact from a vanished civilization." (And, Chris (Emil Hirsch) just found it as I typed that; nice timing.) Power continues: "The bus doesn't at first seem a likely time capsule of American mythology, a shrine to which people from around the world make pilgrimages and leave tributes in memory of a young man whom they see as a fallen hero."
Objects, like films, can anchor memories, anchor stories. Looking at the graves in at Boot Hill a few weeks ago, for example--while my kids didn't get it, I thought on the story of the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" the men who died there. If I had a car handy, I might have gone to see the house from Life as a House last week; after the film, it was moved and is apparently part of a school now. And, of course, I made that trip to Woodstock, Illinois last year to visit the locations from Groundhog Day.
Location grounds us. I intend no pun there, but the coincidence is clear. When we are grounded, we are held to a place, protected, caged.
I opened up the DVD case for Into the Wild tonight and I knew where I was at 1:10pm, 15 August 2008. Blockbuster Video, 900 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale, California. See, the receipt for the DVD was, for whatever reason, still in the case. I imagine that I put it in there because I turned down the offer of a bag for my purchase and just tucked the DVD case into the pocket of my cargo shorts. Not sure why I didn't throw it away any of the times I've watched the movie since. But, I'm strangely glad that I didn't. The receipt remains as a sort of time machine, an artifact from the days when I got my movies from a video rental place, when I'd walk about 3/4 mile to get there. Would probably do so a couple times a week.
That was before I could get movies digitally, before I could watch them on my phone or my tablet. Before such conveniences and distractions.
I find myself just watching the movie. It's been a while since I've watched it.
And, I'm taken back to the movie theater, September 2007. Into the Wild came out the same day as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a week after Across the Universe, two weeks after 3:10 to Yuma. Into the Wild was #33 at the box office that weekend but it was only showing on four screens. Benefit of living in LA--the movie was available here. Pretty sure I saw it at Laemmle Playhouse in Pasadena. Same place I would have seen The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
For me, it's always movies. They tie me to old moments, different chapters in my life. Like the night I saw A Separation, early February 2012... February 1, actually. I had been staying at my sister Susan's house, sleeping on her couch. I felt like I'd overstayed my welcome there. That night, when I walked back to my car from the theater, it occurred to me that I had nowhere to stay.
That was a sad moment. Maybe when it really hit me--my own separation just four nights earlier. As Chris tells Jan and Rainey, "I'm going to paraphrase Thoreau here... rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... give me truth." I suppose I wanted love right then, as the truth of that moment was overwhelming...
(The kind of thing about which I don't want to write. I'm afraid it still hurts.)
As Chris' discovery of the river he cannot cross right now must have been for him.
I've got my copy of Siddhartha handy, and just as Chris asks Mr. Franz (Hal Holbrook) if he ever travels, I open to this:
"Certainly I travelled for my pleasure," laughed Siddhartha. "Why not? I have become acquainted with people and new districts. I have enjoyed friendship and confidence..." (Hesse, 1951, p. 55)
A fitting description for Chris' 2 years as Alexander Supertramp.
Hesse, H. (1951). Siddhartha. (H. Rosner, Trans.). New York, NY: New Directions.
Power, M. (2007, September). The cult of Chris McCandless. Men's Journal. Retrieved from http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/print-view/the-cult-of-chris-mccandless-20121015.