arts 09.8.08

Parallel Lines

How to deal with this coming Thursday has now become a perennial question without a reliable answer. Even for the New Yorkers who didn't lose a loved one in the tragedy, it is never going to feel like an ordinary day. Yet for many, to treat it as just another day is a way to sap its hold over us. For others, it's a time of quiet reflection.

Here is one simple suggestion for what to do on Thursday evening.

Rent from your video store (or Netflix or buy from iTunes) Nina Davenport's documentary Parallel Lines.

Davenport, whose superb film, Operation Filmmaker is playing in theaters now, is a New Yorker who was working in California on September 11th, 2001, and experienced the events at an aching disconnect from her home.

Apprehensive about confronting the new New York she would find (even the view out of her apartment window would be altered, since it faced south toward the Towers), she decided to take a road trip across the country, camera in hand, and talk to people along the way about their experiences of the tragedy.

The movie is a loose string of interviews with a motley assortment, including IHOP waiters, a wedding minister at a Las Vegas drive-thru, a rest area attendant and his wife, a Kiss fan, and a few memorable loons. A couple of good ol' boy types in Alabama conform to stereotype, but for the most part, the encounters reveal complex human beings with stories to tell. Those stories are mostly unrelated to September 11th, but seem intensified by it—beneath a smiling surface, the country seems to be living on the emotional edge. Even the landscapes seem crestfallen.

What may strike you most, though, is how eager these Americans are to make a connection. As a park ranger reflects, a panorama of the Grand Canyon behind him, "You have lots of fast friendships but the enduring kinds of relationships. the friendships that go on and help sustain us, seem harder to come by."

We New Yorkers can be suspicious of the heartland, but Parallel Lines gently reminds us of the ties that bind, a particularly welcome reminder this week.

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