Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hidden World

Jean Stevens, a 91-year-old Pennsylvania widow, dug up her dead husband, propped him on a couch in her garage, and spent idle hours chatting away with his corpse. Stevens did the same with her late sister, applying make-up and perfume to her decaying body.

"Death is very hard for me to take," confessed Stevens, after a relative mysteriously ratted her out.

Lynch. Buñuel. Hitchcock. Jerry Lewis. Pick your director. You can't go wrong, regardless of script. There's a political analogy here as well: a delusional need to insist that something dead is alive and interested in your thoughts. Obama liberals and Teabaggers unite. Dunno who would helm that film, but I'd tap M. Night Shyamalan. Not only are his visions congruent with present political conditions, the guy doesn't get enough chances to realize his potential.

The smell of death around the house. Reminds me of deep summer days in rural Indiana. I made seasonal friends as a kid, invited into old farm houses and trailers by those I met biking or playing hoops. There was no air conditioning, just small electric fans stirring humid air, windows open, musty curtains billowing to the sound of TV game shows. Elderly people sat quietly, fully dressed despite the heat, giving off a faint rotting scent mixed with mildew and warped wooden floors. There's a reason why kids of my generation played outside.

I always found scenes like this haunting, appealing. A weird level of reality I could taste but never fully know. I'm sure this reality still exists in forgotten, ignored areas of vast American life.

Whenever I drive through Indiana in summer, I see those rural houses, those trailers sitting on un-mowed plots of land, possessions littering the yards, dogs lying in the shade. Yet I rarely if ever see the people themselves. Satellite dishes provide a wider range of daytime TV, to which many are no doubt glued. But most everything else seems stuck in time. Only the inhabitants know where the bodies are buried, or sitting, depending on personal need. The hot summer breeze blows regardless.