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Listening to the organist play feels like eavesdropping
inside the mind of a giant‚ a bipolar giant
whose emotions are so fragile I want to climb
up her arm to lay my hand on her shoulder.
The screen hasn’t captured the first gray glimpse of skyline
yet. Music has already enveloped the theater‚
enclosing the city in a throat filled with indifference‚
a city under a chiaroscuro of sunlight imagined
by those working in the depths of the metropolis—
a sort of giant‚ too‚ with some real issues to work out.
I remember watching‚ as a child in downtown Akron‚
Wild Oscar play the organ‚ ascending from beneath the stage
at the Lowes Theater‚ long before it was re-named
the Civic Theater‚ and‚ even longer before it needed restoring
to save its life. Wild Oscar would play before the feature
or during the silent Krazy Kat shorts preceding
the main event. Like tonight‚ going to the movies
seemed monumental: live music‚ opening acts‚ serpentine
lines around the block. When Oscar played‚
I wonder‚ now‚ if he was happy or was he
beneath the stage the whole time
like the workers in the film tonight‚ preserving the magic‚
a magic movie goers still believe in‚ the way voters
and lovers do not. Like many children‚ I believed
I would do something with my bulbs of brilliance
once I simply grew up. Like many adults‚ I
stayed a child; potential hanging around like a shadow.
And every now and then‚ like tonight‚ I catch up
with my shadowy self‚ and show up in a theater
to see a restored edition of an old film
about workers holed up in a factory for too many hours
and lovers separated‚ like most lovers‚ by their ideas.
One worker steps off line‚ reprieved by a brother worker‚
and suddenly the sky appears‚ and the whole
rectilinear contraption—and I mean their lives‚ not just the plant—
comes tumbling down‚ an arcade of beliefs
in ruins. I wonder if these events will mean
anything to this audience‚ whose laughter rings a bit
condescending in all the queued moments of melodrama.
It’s so easy to laugh at the banana peels laid before the lives of others.
It’s almost sad to see how some of the young act too old
to feel naïve‚ no suspension of disbelief. Not me.
The movies provide my last safe playground.
Tonight‚ for instance‚ when the organist descends to play‚
and the lights expire‚ and the projection whirrs to action‚
I’m as excited as I was as a boy. When I see the organ ascend‚
what am I but as dazed as the workers climbing from the depths
of the metropolis–a little disappointed‚ filled with questions‚ wondering
how will I go on with the work of my day in all this natural light?
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But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.