Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A story from the other Corner parking lot

Remember that 1998 Spike Lee movie with Denzel Washington, He Got Game? Among other things, it's about basketball as something that is just there in a person.

People "got story" as well; they're the ones who see story where the rest of us just see stuff going on. And when the people who've got story also have the creative chops to put those stories into words or songs or photographs or films -- the rest of us get lucky and get to substitute their inspired vision for our much more mundane view.

From what I hear about The Parking Lot Movie, filmmaker Meghan Eckman's a person who's got story. She looked at that paved field behind a bunch of shops on The Corner in Charlottesville; at the stinky, funky shack where the car wranglers lurk ready to give their all to maintain order and commercial justice in the chaotic world of Corner parking, and she saw story.

Three years later, what Meghan Eckman saw is available to the rest of us in movie form. According to the movie's website:
The Parking Lot Movie is a documentary about a singular parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia and the select group of Parking Lot Attendants that inhabit its microcosm. . . .For these denizens of Charlottesville, Virginia, the intersection between the status quo and the quest for freedom becomes the challenge. Something as simple as a parking lot becomes an emotional way station for The American Dream.
Okay, I believe in the Theater of the Parking Lot, and I want to see The Parking Lot Movie. But I'm also feeling protective of other parking lots, because every one of them has stories to offer us.

The Elliewood Avenue Parking Lot (Elliewood is the street that cuts between the Corner's Starbuck's and Mincer's), is probably my favorite parking lot, because I parked there for five years. Which meant that, for five years, I had a front row seat to watch its theater, to absorb its stories.

My  favorite story took place on a Thanksgiving Day in the mid-eighties. I was recently separated and had gone over to my Elliewood Avenue restaurant to bake some pecan pies to take to friends' houses. As it was an unseasonably warm day, once the pies were in the oven, I sat out on the front porch. Across the street, the Elliewood parking lot was empty except for my car and one other that had probably broken down. Nothing was open; no one else was around. The world looked as deserted as my life suddenly felt. Everyone else was somewhere else.

Then suddenly a young man strode onto the parking lot, like Hamlet taking stage to worry about whether or not to be. He didn't see me; indeed, he didn't see anything but the small universe of which he was the desperate center.

The young man stopped when he reached the center of the parking lot, raised his face to the heavens,  pounded his chest with both hands, and shouted, "I'll never find romance!" Then he turned and walked off in the other direction from whence he'd come and disappeared around the bank.

Amen, I thought. Maybe. Or maybe not. Should I, too, pound my chest and yell at the heavens?

At that point, I remember checking my watch.. It was time to check on those pies. You can't despair and bake at the same time. That day, I opted for baking.

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