11/29/2005

JFK-Park/Copley-JFK

I saw Tilda Swinton c. Orlando sitting with Klaus Kinskey c. Aguira, the Wrath of God this morning on the train! You know how Tilda's got those kinda buggy eyes, she kept bugging 'em out on me. I mean, I was transfixed. I'm afraid I was even staring. But who wouldn't be?

You know, as I was leaving Park there was one door open and two or three shut at the exit at the top of the stairs, and there was this great bottleneck because everyone had to go through the door that was open, but the other ones weren't locked. I don't know if it's a metaphor for the life we live, whether we will risk trying to open a closed door when the one next to it is open, or if it's merely biological. We may be hardwired to go for the open door. It's some algorithm that runs in a nanosecond through the brain, calculating the risk of embarrassment if the closed door does happen to be locked or jammed, or we don't know if it opens in or out, or what, or maybe it's a calculation of lost time pushing it open if it's heavy or something.

Speaking of heavy. I have just finished George Steiner's In Bluebeard's Castle: Towards a Redefinition of Culture, where he uses the story of Bluebeard's castle (another excellent, excellent book on the theme is Michel Tournier's Gilles et Jeanne) as a metaphor for a post-culture. The bare bones of the fairytale version has Bluebeard's young newlywed wife snooping around the castle when he's away, and itching with curiosity, going into the chamber he expressly forbade her to ever enter, where she finds the rotting corpses of his umpteen other wives who were all the curious sort, too, obviously.

Of course, it's human nature.

Or is it?

I mean, Steiner is using Bluebeard to talk about science. how we can't not open those doors. In the end, he writes, "We cannot turn back. We cannot choose the dreams of unknowing. We shall, I expect, open the last door in the castle even if it leads, perhaps because it leads, onto realities which are beyond the reach of human comprehension and control."

But when you look at the vast majority of the human race, at least the ones who ride the T, I don't think they'd bother. It's a tiny minority who push the envelope--or the door--open. We've all been places where a line has formed, and we just sort of joined it because we assumed, and then, half an hour later, when it hasn't moved an inch, we ask the person in front of us, is this the line for such and such? and they're like, "hell if I know. I'm here for the free panty-liners," or something.

I have been in situations where there were three doors, all operational, in perfect working order, and it just so happened I was exiting one where there was someone about to enter. They push their way in, and the boyfriend follows, and his two buddies, and their four friends, and then someone else shows up, and is like, "hot damn! A doorman! That's ritzy! I'm gonna use that door!" And then a line forms, and you're basically standing there for twenty minutes holding the door open for this crowd, and then someone's like, "is this the line for free panty-liners?"

So I think it's a kind of axiom of human behavior, that people will head for that open door, even if it's out of their way, if the other doors are closed--not locked, necessarily--just closed.

There was a guy at Park on my way home going up to everybody and asking, in a jarringly official way "excuse me sir/ma'am, do you have a token?" You could see people were confused, because although dressed like a bum, he sounded like a conductor, or something. It was like, should I have a token? Do I need one? Do I have to show you my passport? He went all up and down the platform, and no one had one. Then he got into the same car as me. We rode two or three stops without event. He was at the other end, and suddenly leans over and shouts, "do you have a token?" You should have seen people. They were totally disoriented for a minute. They were like, Oh my God, who's he talking to? Is he talking to me? Is he talking to you? And people were looking down in the same direction he was looking, frantically, like, "someone--whoever he's talking to, please identify yourself and answer him!" Like it mattered who the hell he was talking nonsense to. It was a hoot.

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