Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Place from Childhood

Sitting in this spot, a spot which is more cherished today than when I first encountered it, I can see incredible distances. Beyond the distance traversed in mere seconds, time itself is bent to my will. I may choose to visit Disneyland (1964) or Pensacola Beach (1961) complete with the go-kart and paddle boat races. The colors just as vivid, the people restored to youth and vibrancy. One of my personal favorites, the igloo built by piling snow into a huge mound, a hole burrowed for a door, and the inside expanded to create Nanook's nook.

Such is the American Magical Reality of the Bell & Howell slide projector. The first time I encountered my magical spot I was 5 or 6 yrs. old, the spot being the seat next to this wonderful contraption. The whir of the cooling fan laboring to keep the ultra bright bulb from self destruction. The aroma of the heat coming from that bulb, its light focused on the screen which emitted a kind of chemical odor. My father would turn the nob and work the sliding mechanism, projecting the next image onto the screen, providing instant transport to a distant moment in time.

We would gather together, immediate family, extended family, friends and neighbors to view the color images of these captured moments in time magically transported into our living room. We would tell the story of the man that was a dead ringer for Harry Truman, swimming in the same Pensacola waters we swam in. The collective "awww" of adults verifying the cuteness of Stevie and brother Peter, anglers of incredible courage and skill, warmed by the Florida sun and secure in the knowledge that dad was only a few feet away. There is the image of brother Bill, smiling large with vanquished squirrels hanging by their tails in each of his fists. His name sake, Uncle Bill, standing behind him with the knowing look. Always good for a laugh, that one.

I'm a member of a kind of club, I'll call it the Kodachrome Club, connecting me to others of my generation. The phenomena has been documented in song (thank you Paul Simon) and countless nostalgic musings. All the members of the club have their own magic spot where they sat before the conveniently sized stinky white screen, listening to the whir of the fan cooling a really hot bright bulb, enduring the rehashing of family vacations, Christmas mornings, Thanksgiving dinners, various parties and coming of age events. What makes this club so great is there are never any large gathering of its members. Instead we each operate individually, like a terrorist cell, subjecting our victims to the physical demands of time travel and birthday parties.

I was recently listening to "Talk of the Nation-Science Friday". A physicist was explaining that a time machine, if it could be built, wouldn't be able to transport itself (and occupant) back in time beyond the day it was constructed. He obviously isn't a member of the Kodachrome Club. Little does he know of time travel. Members of the "Club" have time machines, these machines make noises and smells and are made up of complex components, controlling these time machines sometimes requires operator technique. The complex components are individual to the operators, each of us having our own slides that transport us to or individual histories.

I worry about my magic place and the time machine that takes me there. Who can I leave it to? My daughter can't be transported to my magic place, she has to find her own magic place. That requires her own version of a time machine, which she carries in her hand and sometimes in her purse. But the day will come when she inherits my time machine. I envision her using the more complex components, the slides, and converting them into something she values. Maybe a lamp shade or a ridiculous dress to be worn on Halloween. The projector and stinky screen are destine to be dumpster fodder. But, if she captures their existence in her time machine, they will live on as she travels to her magic place reliving the events that make her who and what she is. Just as I do, when I am in my magic place.

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