Saturday, August 16, 2008

Your Feet's Too Big

I just watched a rather sweet and I suspect little known movie "Be Kind, Rewind". Not a super fan of Jack Black but DrummerBoy hired it and it was sitting on the bench so after squeaky clean Saturday chores, I plugged her in. The basic premise . . . A man whose brain becomes magnetised unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend's video store. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, an aging woman with signs of dementia, the two men set out to remake the lost films. So enterprising young shopkeepers replicate, badly, movies of the popular hire outs: Ghost Busters, Driving Miss Daisy, Rush Hour two the list goes on . . . .I don't want to give too much away because this is a really great little find. And perfectly suitable for ankle biters. It sounds like a silly premise but by the end you feel part of this little NY community's fold, it was filmed in Passaic, New Jersey. Oddly, directed by a Frenchman, some of the most endearing parts of the movie were the special features where local residents talked about how the movie 'lifted' their once vibrant, now typical New Jersey landscape. Is that all it takes, a movie coming to town.

I live on the suburban outskirts of Sydney and 'community ' has a new definition, it's selective. There are the Church goers who swear they're part of the 'community' yet exclude the non Christian members, there are the Rotary Clubs who are also part of the 'community' yet there agenda is formal and open only to invitees, there are the sporting clubs but the only members of 'their' community are the sports players and parents, so what defines a community. Some might say I'm a little too big for my boots but basically the shoe doesn't fit. I don't fit, I don't feel any sense of community.

I remember in earlier days, much earlier, as a child in Handforth England, . .you walked down the street and knew your local MP, the Vicar, the shopkeeper, the teacher . . . you're kid got a ride home from Shenton's farm on a Donkey because she would sell her soul for a ride on a pony. The milkman was known as Doug and the Rag and Bone man knew to linger a little longer outside your house so you could pat the Shire . . .things seemed much tighter, you'd get a lift from the guy down the road on a wet afternoon, people had time to talk. Neighbours chatted over the fence . . gossip maybe - but old people didn't die at home and remain undiscovered for weeks. Because the town or village was small and tight, there really was a sense of 'community'. Jesus, I was only 7 at the time and could feel it!

In the burbs, I can't find it . . . sure I run into people I know, wave at walkers in the morning, there is 'familiarity' but not community. I know and am aware of, the Orange Blossom Festival or Castle Hill Show but I don't feel part of it. Even my local village shops, I'm recognised only by the guy that owns the Liquor store! The Welcome Mart has very nice and well meaning Seihk owners running it now, but try as they might, they can't emulate the local knowledge of it's previous owner (who I might add was a cantakerous little Yorkshireman but knew his local area).

Nick the Greek no longer owns the chippy . .it's been bought by Koreans who have none of the Greek charm (I'm sounding racist but seriously, it's business, they're not interested in their customers) . . the fish and chips are the same but they're not as friendly or fearsome. He retired after 45 years in the Hills and I miss him much. He was deliberately cantankerous, used to make the kids count out their change!

I miss our Chemist, a gentle man who you didn't mind whispering words like "thrush" or "maybe pregnant". He sadly died of cancer and sold the business on to one of the big chains with "Can I help you?" don't really care, teens giving advice on things they cannot possibly have experienced such as recommending natural therapies for the waves of warmth. God forbid if you're a 20 something looking for a large flavoured condom! Now there's no direct link to the pharmacist. Chicky babe comes and asks you what you're looking for . . runs to white coated pharmacist and your prescription is delivered in a little basket by a girl wearing too much lipstick. Now two people know that you're looking for a cure for tinea!

What really struck me about this gentle little movie was that 90% of the cast were members of the community. It drew them together, this one little event brought the break dancers, school children, street sweepers, shopkeepers and the police together. It was sort of like the Olympics in 2000. Everyone seemed happy, helpful, friendly. I had a family of Americans living in my house for three weeks. Besides being lucrative pour moi (they payed for the privilege), they were lovely and we barbecued (or 'grilled'), socialised, I drove them to the bus stops, took them to the shopping centre (or Mall as I believed it's called) and picked them up and earned a tidy sum for surrendering my little cottage to the Perkins family from Washington State. They had a great time, I had a sense of being involved in community.

My point? Suburban sprawl reduces community to street level. If you live in a decent street, get on with your neighbours, life is good but this is rare. We're all so fast paced and insular . . community now means 'doing something for' not 'participating in'. I tried, honestly, I was the Playgroup Secretary, got involved in the Heart Foundation's door knock appeal, local coordinator of CleanUp Autralia day. Was totally put off by the Gilroy College Art Show although they hounded me to take part and then determined that Clare and I, despite giving up our valuable time, were not capable of pinning a painting on a partitian. It seems being part of a community also means being on a committee . . .not going there!

Needless to say, I feel increasingly alienated from my community, despite having lived in the same area for 21 years. Unless I join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Probus, The Garden Gurus, a Church group, the Orange Blossom or Castle Hill Show organising committee or some other 'organised' community group, I don't feel 'part' of my community. Surely community is an inherent affection and sense of cooperation for those you live with and around and not necessarily having to join a club or cause?

No wonder I feel separated from it . . . actually that's a lie, one can't be separated from something that does not exist . . . we don't have a 'community' any more. Or if we doo, maybe me feets too big! Tenuous link but the movie was about Fats Wallah


Thriftcriminal said...

It's not helped by modern lifestyle or the propensity for "individual" entertainment. Why talk to people when you could listen to your favourite tunes on your MP3 player?

Ces said...

I think the sense of community starts from within. Due to cultural diversity, members of the US communities are becoming alienated from one another. The blind and misguided idea of maintaining cultural diveristy is causing more segregation because people are finding themselves alienated from every diverse group. However, having said that, my neighborhood is composed of Americans coming from different backgrounds. Within this single block that I call my street are people who came from Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, descendants of Irish, French, Norwegian, German, English immigrants, immigrants from El Salvador, Columbia, Portugal, Vietnam, China, India and Mexico. We have a community and watch out for one another. No strangers dare come to our street and cause anyone aggravation, especially a woman or a child. However, we have about four or three families who are detached, isolated, unfriendly and un-social. They are the Mexicans who do not speak English and feel that we are discriminating them because they are Mexicans and we are "white" and "gringos" when in fact the residents and immigrants from the above-mentioned countries and heritage are not all Caucasians. There is one difference from the alienated residents from us: we speak English or learned to speak English and while we are proud of our varying heritage, we all proudly consider ourselves Americans, no stinking (insert Country Of Origin here) - American; just plain unhyphenated Americans. However, having lived in a more liberal state, I think the sense of isolation is more prevalent in liberal and socialist-oriented communities.

Jay said...

Oh, I love Fats Waller!

I know what you mean about the sense of community. We live in a large village in the East Midlands and there's a lot going on, but precious little sense of community. Unless you join something (and I'm really not a 'joiner') you can live a quite separate life from the rest of the village. We know our neighbours and get along well with them - one family are true neighbours and friends - and I know a lot of dog-walkers to say hi to and share a few minutes. The lady in the Post Office, and our post lady are great ... but apart from that? Nothing.

I saw a review of Be Kind, Rewind when it came out and thought it looked a lot of fun. Thanks for reminding me of it - I'll pick it up from the rental store sometime. :)

Baino said...

I agree to a degree Thrifty, but to me, private time is sacrosanct but now that I find I have time on my hands i.e. no littlies to boss about, I would love to become involved in something on the weekend. I guess I'll have to submit and become part of some organisation or group.

Ces, you sound like a perfect example of the 'street level' community. Our street is similar although with the selling up that's going on the community is now reduced to half a dozen families. There will always be those who don't 'join in'. My Korean neighbours for instance, again because only their daughter in law speaks English. To be honest, I think they've sold and moved, the house looks very neglected, no cars and the grass is as high as an elephant's eye!

Having only ever lived in a liberal country I can't really comment on whether conservatism engenders community. I think it's more to do with the fast pace of life, long working hours and sprawling burbs. Country people have an amazing sense of community.

See what I mean Jay? I think it is largely a symptom of 21st century life. We don't 'need' each other as we once did. The corner shop is dying or has disappeared, medical centres have replaced your own MD, people don't walk as much, talk as much, spend time with their neighbours as often . . .enjoy the movie, it's cute and humorous.

Bimbimbie said...

The car has a lot to answer for! I grew up in a street where all the kids played outside in the street or the local parks, went to the same schools, youth club, sunday school everything was in walking distance or you caught a bus. Mums would chat to one another in the street or pop round for an afternoon cuppa and moan. Kids doing anything wrong knew it would get back to their mum before they even got home. Then along came cars, people move away, friendships are lost. I've lived in a small village where the Vicar was in and out of peoples homes trying to get them to be involved in whatever was happening at the time and go to his supers ... very Mrs Bucket, which we managed to avoid by running away to Australia in the middle of the night ;) Here we have lived in the city, outer suburb, currently semi rural and nowhere comes close to my childhood for a sense of community, like you I nod and wave at people and sometimes get a return wave, I don't know if it's a sense of nostalgia for yesteryears? If you speak to older people there childhoods were even better than ours ... probably because they didn't have cars either *!*

laughingwolf said...

damn! google ate my post grrrrrrr

Estevez said...

i loved be kind rewind! danny glover is the badger.

i have a suggestion...come and see the rockets play this weekend! its our second semi-final (we lost on sunday, very sad). it could very well be our last game, otherwise the final is the week after. i'll send you details when i find out!

Baino said...

OK let me know what time and which field. I'll be there.