Hard as it is too accept, I lived my whole life in these two years and everything since there has been repeat information. Obviously except the now. It is only in hindsight that we see the patterns evolve.
My basement flat. Is under a house on the hill in Greenpoint. The kitchen and shower are recessed into the darkness of the old Victorian basement. The lounge bedroom are pivy to the only mean sunlight. I spend a lot of time on the lawn. There is a single bed. I am to start film school in a few weeks. The people who live in the house upstairs have a daughter, call her Kim, we talk often and one week night I buy cheap wine and we sit on a blanket in the fading light overlooking the bay, talking, holding hands and then kissing into the darkness. Spend many mornings after that at the front door above my window, seeing if she is home. Next time I see her is when she brings her boyfriend home, I feel a bit like a house pet. There was a singular joy of rushing headlong into a new life that evening on the lawn, now I realize it is the old life, in so many ways. Having spent my bus fare on wine and processed food, I now have to hitch to film school.
Which is a disappointment from the get go. Housed in a moldy building and with a library of dog eared books and bad vhs copies of movies already seen, the owner, head lecture of the school, John Hill, proves the maxim, those that cannot do, teach. His partner in the school Nadja, proves the opposite, but she teaches scriptwriting and I have many stories, so I don’t believe I need her.
I want to learn the technical aspects, so I can make my stories live, but I don’t see the obvious, in order to tell stories, you need to know all stories, all the ins and outs, the construction of, for the story is the form. I find myself sinking in anyway. I hitch to the film school on Sundays to use the vhs and Tv to watch films, John the owner is always suffering from last night, wearily lets me in and I watch.
One Sunday I get out in the road, it’s February, the roads are quiet. I cannot get a ride, I walk over the hill from Greenpoint, down to town, to walk through the parade to hitch on the lower freeway. As I reach the top of Strand street I hear a strange mass of noise, buzzing, mingling, people are walking into town from all over, mostly not white people, I reach the parade, even the streets in front of the city hall are choked with people. Thousands, maybe seeming hundreds of thousands, dressed in yellow, green and black, mostly black people, carrying banners, chanting, celebrating, swirling around, eddies of people jubilant, breaking into dance, all facing the city hall, not facing it, hugging each other, generally happy in the moment. I have never seen so many black people in one place. I am shocked there are even that many black people in the whole country. Not just black, but brown, sprinkled with white. I find some white people, ask to find out, what is going on.
Mandela is being released. Today. Mandela? The murderer? Because that’s all that I’ve been told about this name that crops up in graffiti and sometimes the news. Mandela the freedom fighter. Mandela the hero. Now there will be peace. Not on this day, I abandon the idea of watching a film that day, here is a film, in front of me, I allow myself to be drawn into the mass, hours pass, hours of a political education, I am being pulled into conversations, told the history I never knew, given statistics, somehow too young to feel the force of the moment, still nervous of the police helicopters the men in riot gear hovering on the edge of the mass, being told that there is nothing that they can do now, we are too many, the future is ours, all of ours not just theirs.
I am down front, near the steps, the balcony, it’s late afternoon and the news filters through that Mandela is out and making his way here. The crowd bristles, some young guys, my age really, smash through and start looting a bottle store, it’s everything and all the police need, they start firing rubber bullets into the crowd, which in that small part of the crowd, panics, ullates, pushes back, I am caught up, see guys running with whiskey, falling, screaming in pain, I climb somehow into a rubbish bin, the twack of a rubber bullet hitting it’s side and then suddenly, as quick as it began, the crowd surges back and the police stop firing, retreat, by the time I get out of the bin, it is like it never happened and I am shaken by the whole day, leaning nervously against under the balcony when the speeches begin, I feel trapped, trapped, the whole mass of the people pushing on me, eager to be in front pushing, the security police coming down, to help, pull me out, shaken, I go home, not aware of the importance of the moment, miss Mandela and his speech.