I watched Begin Again last night from atop an exercise bike (I don't have the time or patience for exercise or Netflix unless I combine them). I'd never heard of this movie before, but it had Mark Ruffalo in it and the premise sounded right up my alley (lost souls, chance meeting, music-making, New York).
The whole time I was watching it, I couldn't help but think of how it felt like a poppier, Americanized version of Once. This wasn't a bad thing; Once is one of my favorite movies, and whenever I watch it I think about how I either wish I lived in it or had written it or starred in it or something. My heart just wants to be part of that magic. There are very few movies that make me feel that way, but Begin Again struck the same inexplicable chord.
Well GUESS WHAT? John Carney wrote and directed both movies. Mystery solved, and dear John Carney, please turn my books into movies.
Anyway. On to the point:
There's a scene in Begin Again in which Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo's characters wander through New York City at night listening to the music of Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder through a headphone splitter. At one point, Ruffalo muses that when you put music to real life, it turns what's banal into pearls. The music is still playing in their ears only as they watch pedestrians pass, skateboarding kids, a man being arrested—and you see how he's right, how the soundtrack gives the scattered things coherence and a sense of meaning and beauty.
As I was watching this scene unfold, I was struck by the memory of something I'd forgotten: a few years ago (three? four?), Barclay, Sully, and I went to Montreal together for a week. I'd just finished writing Valencia and Valentine and life felt very exciting and full of potential. I'd just sent out my first query letters and didn't yet know or understand how hard it was to land an agent. So I was naive, is what I'm saying, and naive excitement is so lovely; it gets into your head, like you're taking big breaths of helium, like you're newly in love. I was floating.
We were downtown, and it was rush hour. We were standing on some street corner trying to decide what to do next, and I pulled out my headphones, plugged them in, and put on Rachmaninoff's Etude-Tableau in G-minor—my favorite piano song of all time and one I wrote into my book with maybe a little too much fervor. I gave one of the ear buds to Barclay and put one in my own ear and we just started walking, Sully asleep on my back in the carrier. Just like in the movie, we wandered Montreal, holding hands, watching the people crossing the streets and the traffic lights changing colors and the music made it all just a little surreal, like it had been orchestrated for us.
And I thought of the post I wrote yesterday about how you don't get to choose which memories you get to keep and which ones disappear without your permission. And then I thought, well, maybe this is better. Sure, you don't get to choose which memories disappear, but then sometimes they're given back to you when you least expect them. Like a present.