“Your soul is bowed down to the dust. Your belly has adhered to the ground”, he, the master researcher was humming, while studying the white coffin, where the Cadillac S. De Ville is domiciled in a safe slumber. He was attracted to this sleeping old beauty. “A garden gnome, that is what you have become. An ornamentation is not what you have envisioned ever to be, but here you are. Forgotten, caught a cold, rusted, sick, wrecked. What a destiny!”
The master stole a look at the dim interior. Not a single movement inside met his curiosity. The camera failed to stir a lock or a gear, or even a wild snake embedded in the wet mossy compartment. The camera went insistently around the gorgeous sealed white body, examining and itching notes of its deep sleep and history since 1960.
“Oh dear C. S. De Ville, my information tells me that you are hiding layers and layers of warm dreams and richness, oh, if only I could be the one to break through your hibernation and crank your engine to burning life”.
The master went soothing while shooting, his whole body erected, thrilled by this rare white garden-find. The master lost track of time, to be suddenly startled by that inner ticking, he hurried, wiped, and stared inside the coldness of the dark coffin where a faint movement disturbed the morbid mossy stillness.
The old beauty wearily yawned: “What a persisting warm clicking, so alien to my death. Why would you care to wake me?! If one dies, shall he live again!?”
She exhaled a feeble breath, its warmth ran into her empty dry body, a foggy, shattered light crept inside: “What is this emptiness, the sun seemed not gleam by day, nor the moon by night. What is this deep sleep that fell upon me?”
His voice echoed in her loneliness “I help you to remember. The when and where you came from, the era, the mind and the dream mongers who had created you.”
She quivered and lifted her eyes unto the shattered horizon on the map created by cracks and rust, shadows of memories fall upon her foggy windshield, the silence was broken by his movement outside her closed frame. She eased up and looked around, NOTHING but glimpses of old faded past, which she tried to trace. She flipped into the sepia images, eaten by the sweat of human faces, nightclubs, dancing girls, champagne, and daydreams of the beauty queen wearing Liberty crown on the land of many chances, creations, inventions, and cars. An image of herself, the glorious white Cadillac De Ville Sedan, four doors, hard top 1960, the dream of all dreamers, the whole era was ready to spring to life.
Once upon a time a hero Cadillac on stage, to impress the world of performances. Applause raised from far away stage, double headlights flashed as the Cadillac descended through the clouds, long, sleek and intact, her toothy grille swimming in LED lights of the false dream, she sank in the vivid memory of that light, recalling lines of the play:
“But ’til they tell us we’re gone, I ‘m gonna buy you a girl. I don’t know why I went dead, it’s not fun anymore. I’m seventeen, and I’m new here today. The village I came from seems so far away. All of the girls know much more what to say. But I know, I have a heart like a sea. A million dreams are in me. The heat is on in Saigon. The girls are hotter ‘n’ hell. Is there a war going on? Don’t ask, I ain’t gonna tell.”
Is she recalling the roar of Jonathan Pryce’s Miss Saigon, or Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, all the same, in this tunnel of oblivious young victims of war, ambition, love and the flaw of the American foreign political policies, stories were resurrecting with the same old struggles, tragedies and longing for change, pursuing a vision of some empire of liberty, which evaporated into nothingness.
All started to revive here, a child’s cry clearly rang in her ear, and the tears of a Vietnamese mother rolled hot on her frozen checks, while leaving the child at a departure gate at Tan Son Nhut’s Air Base, to board a plane headed for the United States, where her father, an ex-GI, would be in a position to provide a much better life for the child!
The bread of sorrows! A dusty roar brought alive her own majestic rich history, the Cadillac herself is the ultimate symbol of that dream, the reward for those travelers towards luxurious existence. A humming tune cut through 2,448 miles on Route 66, to follow her here, in her seclusion, carrying the heavy kicks of the emigrants west:
“If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the highway that’s best. Get your kicks on route sixty- six. It winds from Chicago to LA, more than two thousand miles all the way. Now you go through Saint Looey, Joplin, Missouri, Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty. You’ll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, and Flagstaff Arizona. Don’t forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow, and San Bernardino. Won’t you, get hip to this timely tip: When you make that California trip. Get your kicks on route sixty- six.”
Was this song by Bobby Troup, Nat King Cole or the Rolling Stones, never mind!
Her memory faded, what left is the sad smile, which deepened the lines on her wrecked face. She sighed with despair: “I was the strive implied under the glittering, blinding those who came chasing a richer existence. I am the other face of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, with hopes and pains ready to spring to life”.
‘The human dream’, is by no means a ‘Requiem for a Dream’ like Hubert Selby Jr. calls it, which ‘You have to be asleep to believe it’ but rather a dream you have to be fully alert and creative in order to bring it to bloom.
The Master’s comment startled her, as she had forgotten his presence lost in her memory.
His challenging dedication reaching right to the skeleton of her memoirs. “Look, on your gradually revealed face, I can also trace the story of Ree Dolly, of Daniel Woodrell 2006 Winter’s Bones”
For the first time she stole a look at him, and something like a fuel ran in her pipes. She recognized the unexpected connection, she and the master researcher definitely share the same year of birth, yet he will survive with that resurrecting curiosity of an eternal photographer creator. She felt cold and rusty and didn’t bother asking who and why, surrendering to the clicks and shuffles, sure he was the one to bring her back to her past golden glory and give her eternity.
She addressed him with respect: “Winter’s Bones! Yes, you can call me Winter Bones, or White Trash, or Meth, or whatsoever. I lost it all; wealth and beauty are buried deep under this coating cold, what a heart could do with a falling body? What a heart is for when it dares not dream of a full force engine? A non-dreaming heart is nothing but a nest of cold”.
He continued: “Ree’s heart grow equally cold, chopping her father’s hand raised in the frozen wilderness, the hand which, once upon a time, wiped her tears and changed her diapers.” He carried on “the chopped hand was needed as a proof of the perishing father cooker of meth”.
The master went silent watching her reaction, then surprised her asking: “A cruelty ha?” She didn’t show any reaction, he continued: “No, no no, Meth or snow. The hand shot out of the cold death, to hail or, maybe, warn off those dreamers, who will follow on his heels to the same destructive shortcuts. Ree by doing so was liberating not only herself but the following generations of the debt, piled by those beginners on the road to the ultimate dream, the dream of quick richness. Jessup, who climbed his way by mean of Meth cooking, ended up mummified in such white freezing dream, just like you dear C.S de Ville!”
She felt the sting of his challenge, yet calmly said “Of ashes or trashes the Phoenix emerges never to die again, this is the rotten smell of my leather“.
The master nodded: “Exactly, and this same smell is still reflecting the death of Miller’s salesman, or Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, satirizing the materialism in the chase for the American Dream, enhancing optimism in its counterpart: spiritualism. I can, my dear, follow Steinbeck’s Men & Mice, Picking Grapes of Wrath, the generation emerging from the Great Depression or the 1929 collapse of all, when like in the dramatic mythology, severe natural forces interfered testing the believers in the land of opportunities. A land dried with some deep anger or thirst, without natural anchors to keep the soil in place, turning to dust millions of acres of farmland in Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas, Black Rollers of land and man blown away eastward and southward in large dark dust storms, driving dreams to be dumped right into the Atlantic Ocean.”
She closed her eyes and recited “The false god, Baal, is asleep. We need to awake out of our sleep and implore the true God”. I Kings 18:27.
The master continued: “All such human stories of that era tested the new consumer culture, tested the Empire or Liberty’s four dreams identified by Ownby (1999): the ‘Dream of Abundance’ offering a cornucopia of material goods to all Americans, making them proud to be the richest society on earth. Then the ‘Dream of a Democracy of Goods’ whereby everyone had access to the same products regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, thereby challenging the aristocratic norms of the rest of the world, whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury. And finally the ‘Dream of Freedom of Choice’ and the ‘Dream of Novelty’.
The master stopped talking, silence and darkness fell upon them, and he cut it at last: “Now I have to go practice my dream as a sniper of sleeping beauty and, you, no worry, one day soon, someone might come asking for the original, that’s you, and tow you out of this role as a garden gnome, back to the modern roads. I grant you a renovation, maybe” he smiled teasing, then added: “Meanwhile host what you like: moss, snakes or snow flacks, baby animals, or lovers! But keep your memoirs fresh and be certain: no beauty is allowed to die in forgetfulness”.
She implored him to stop for a moment in order to absorb what they shared in those hours, with confidant he stood to wipe his lens, and knew he had it all in there, in one encyclopaedic shot, he could clearly envisioned that shot, carefully red dotted and dated it: the product of the human imagination from 1929 the Black Thursday of the stock market crash to the 2011 Edition of the Plymouth Whitemarsh Marching Colonials’ show.
She hailed him goodbye. “This is my final line before I go to my sweet sleep: work and fight for what you believe in, show love to persons and the things you care about, that is the vital worthy dream of life.“