This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 01, 1998.
Well. I admit it. I saw Titanic. I’m not proud of this, but since they kept showing all the key scenes on television anyway, I thought what the hey, it’s four months old, nobody will call me trendy. Plus, now that it has earned, world-wide, a billion dollars and won all the academy awards within reason, I elevated hey to hell. So I went.
It was the afternoon show reserved for dysfunctional families with loud two year olds, who were allowed to run up and down the aisles and play peek-a-boo with you whether you choose to or not, so I was glad it only cost $4.50, which – incidentally – was the cost of my iced coke syrup and steaming bag of burnt corn grains soaked in hot 10W-40. Mm. Mm.
It was also the show where rest homes wheel out the old ladies who talk through anything they can’t understand, which constituted – at this point – life. These were strategically placed around me so that I could smell nothing but industrial hairnet. Several of the charmers – who all hated children – were clearly old enough to have been carded when the Titanic went down. The one nearest me had a head wedged much too far forward on her neck, which looked especially weird when she turned at me to scream “THOSE YOUR KIDS?” I couldn’t place the resemblance till the trailer for “Species II” came on.
I mention all this simply to demonstrate my frame of mind while I watched the film. That may be crucial, because what occurred to me, as I weathered the entire movie, was that this was a Black Widow fantasy. Use the man, drain him of whatever he has to teach, let him save your butt, wake up after a difficult episode, pry his fingers off to let his corpse drop to the sea bed, then spring into action to save your own hide. Live a hedonistic life of 103 years, marry twice, then either die or dream a reunion with your lover at your time of perfection.
Is that too cynical? Is it? What happened to the other two guys?
Well, maybe. I have to say that I will carry some of the movie’s images with me forever. A ship called “The Titanic,” lit and lovely, plying an endless ocean as the camera pulls back till it looks like the reflection of a star. Captain Edward Smith, who was on his last job, realizing his incompetence had killed them all. Twenty-four knots into a hundred ice warnings with a ship not maneuverable enough to avoid a burg. A fact not known because sea trials could politely be called sketchy. Again, Smith’s fault. That was his job.
I never understood why, of all the movies made about the Titanic, the emphasis has always been on a usually pedestrian love story between fictional characters. Surely the crew alone provided enough material – surely the stories told under oath are epic quality. But having encased the ship in metaphor, it must remain there and be made to service different times. In the 1950’s, Barbara Stanwyck doing what she was told. Forty years later, Tipper Gore metamorphs into Sharon Stone, takes command of her life, palms the diamond, and becomes queen of the self-help Internationale. Too cynical? Maybe.
It wasn’t the kids playing peek-a-boo and showing me their owies, or the old ladies who have oddly not been given Kevorkian’s number and a quarter, the two teenagers down the way making out. The nerve.
So, I went home, put Barber’s Adagio on repeat, looked at photographs of a lovely wife I divorced for reasons I cannot recall, and re-read some letters from people in a time long gone. Anything to forget a stupid love story with children I never had playing peek-a-boo and versions of what I could become complaining loudly about the noises toddlers make.