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Archive for August 2nd, 2010

I was flipping channels last night, and stopped on one of the cable channels that was showing ‘Chariots of Fire”.  Even after the passage or more years than I care to recall, that movie can still take me back.

Cut Scene One:  A tall, lanky, tow-headed ten-year old is spending a summer week staying with his grandparents in Waterford, Michigan.  He is delighted when, on a particularly hot summer afternoon, his Grandpa, the single greatest influence on his life, and the only man he ever feared disappointing, says “[his name for young Blackiswhite], let’s go to the movies!”

Young Blackiswhite is thrilled.  He climbs in the car, and together they drive over to the little theatre in Clarkston, right off of Dixie Highway, and Grandpa purchases two tickets for Chariots of Fire, a bucket of popcorn, and two drinks.  Young Blackiswhite is disappointed that they will not see the latest special effects extravaganza, but follows Grandpa into the darkened theatre and sits down.  Finally, the previews and PSAs are over, and young Blackiswhite watches the following unfold:

I admit it.  I was mesmerized.  The men on the screen were in a rare state of grace.  They were in that place that I think only runners can truly know, that feeling when you can be in a crowd, and yet feel completely alone, a kind of “in the world but not of it” state that once achieved, can never be adequately described.

It is a perfect summer memory.

Cut Scene Two:  Flash forward five years.  Blackiswhite has been running distance for about a year now.  He will never be the fastest.  He will never be the strongest.  And he will never have the best form.  Yet somehow, in the sticky cloying Michigan summer heat, and the crunching of the gravel beneath his feet on the miles of shoulder of road traversed, he has known joy.  He has had that perfect feeling of no cramps, no pain, just a feeling as if he could just run forever.  It is this feeling that will push him to do it when it is cold, when it is wet, when he knows he will cramp, and when he just doesn’t feel like running twelve miles.

He goes to a friend’s house to watch a movie, and that movie is “Chariots of Fire”.  And when it gets to the following scene, he looks to his friends who are not runners, and he sees no spark.  He knows that the scene does not resonate.

I can think of no other scene that conveys that “place” as well as this one.  I can think of few other moments in cinema that I have felt as much as I have seen.

Apropos of nothing.  I just wanted a break from politics.

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