Tuesday 24 April
Fear of Flying
Today I watched the Woody Allen movie “Hannah and Her Sisters”. I saw it once before, about the time of its release and it didn’t make that much of an impression, to be honest. Today was a different story. It really was like watching a different story. I laughed, I cried, I marvelled at how it wears its brilliance so lightly. I understood it as my twenty-something self never could have.
I won’t bore you with the details of the plot, you can easily find them elsewhere if you want, but all the characters are scared. Scared of being alone, scared of falling in love, or out of love, of dying, of losing their youth and good looks, scared of failure, of being overlooked, never truly understood.
It is also wonderfully funny, Woody himself deliciously so, at one point reminiscing about a disastrous date; “We did everything but exchange gun shots.”
In true Allen style they agonise, obsess and make all the wrong choices, their personal dramas played out over the faint echo of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewilidered" and framed by the beauty of New York itself.
Gothic apartment buildings, art deco restaurants, graffiti laden former factories in the Bowery, before it went upscale. Bowling along in yellow taxis, neon signs and unexpected pockets of Georgian elegance dwarfed by Edwardian grandeur. It is the New York of fairy tales, the New York of my dreams.
I’ve never been to New York, for lots of reasons, but not least that I have a terrible fear of flying. I haven’t been on a plane for twenty years. It’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about. I visit the continent regularly. I don’t have to fly for work. I have no great desire to visit exotic far-flung locations.
But I, literally, dream of New York. If one thing will persuade me to get in that crazy glorified tin can in the sky it is New York. Some days it feels like it would be easy, others an impossibility.
Perhaps I like the dream too much? If I went, if I called in at the Pageant Book Shop of, I think, East 9th street would it be the shop of my dreams? Would it be like the shop in the movie, where Barbara Hershey asks Michael Caine, “Do you like Caravaggio?” and he replies; “Of course. Who doesn’t?” Where he buys her the book of e.e. cummings poetry and asks her to read “somewhere i have never travelled”:
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.)
Do I prefer not to know? To stay closed against the rain? Some days I do. Other days I feel like Woody’s character who, at his lowest ebb, one day steps into a movie theatre to find a Marx Brothers movie playing;
" I mean look at the people up there on the screen. They’re real funny and what if the worst is true? What if there is no God and you only go round once and that’s it. Well, y’know, don’t you wanna be part of the experience? …
"After all, who knows, I mean y’know maybe there is something. Nobody really knows. I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that’s the best we have.”