Thursday, February 28, 2019

Submerged and Spiritual

According to Facebook, Mac and I have been friends for three years now.

I only know that because Mac was notified, along with photos, although only one of them was of us together and that was the shot taken on election day with Tim Kaine between us. Then there were our individual profile pictures, along with the snap Mac took of me standing by the murals on the Jamaican joint in J-Ward.

Not a very good representation of our friendship, if you ask me.

And really, you could say we celebrate Mac and Karen day every time we walk together, which is generally a few times a week. Like yesterday, when we did our usual walk down to the river to watch it raging. People were saying that at 16.2 feet, the James was higher than it had been in a decade and we wanted to see for ourselves.

Sure enough, besides sounding like a freight train, it was incredibly high, muddy and speeding by with whitecaps everywhere. We looked over the edge of Brown's Island only to see that the water had covered the path we usually take down to access the pipeline.

Now, mind you, we haven't been able to get on the pipeline from the west end of it since, what, October, but seeing the James raging was enough to make us curious about the state of the pipeline walkway. So we walked to the east end, ogling all the way the partially-submerged pipeline.

The place where Mac's keys had fallen 8 feet down into the river year before last? Water over the walkway. The bottom rungs of the ladder we use to climb up when walking east? Underwater. It was unlike anything we've seen down there and we've been regular pipeline walkers for years.

But at least we'd witnessed this aberration together.

Tonight we celebrated Mac and Karen day by walking over to the ICA in a light rain to see "Black Mother," an immersive film about Jamaica and its people, described as a "baptism by fire."

If you knew the kind of things Mac and I do together, you'd know that this was right up our alley.

"Thank you for coming out tonight and braving the Richmond drizzle," film curator Enjoli Moon said, tongue firmly in cheek, as she was preparing us for what was next. "This film is raw and real and if you have problems with that, you may want to exit stage left." I'm not sure if it was the weather or the timing - their film screenings are usually the second Wednesday of the month, so this was a bonus screening - but it was a smaller crowd than usual.

That said, I wasn't in my seat for two minutes when a DJ I know waved hi from across the auditorium.

More of a visual poem than a straightforward story, Khalik Allah's film was an ode to the island of his heritage (he's half Jamaican and half Iranian with a New York accent you couldn't cut with a knife) and its people. Introducing it, he explained that there were some parts that might make us want to close our eyes or let our mind drift and he approved of both responses since he'd made the film as a contemplation on a higher power.

Using multiple kinds of cameras and various voices talking, he used images of people staring back at him, talking and interacting with others and nature to demonstrate the range of Jamaica. As a photographer-turned-filmmaker, there was a definite sense that it was a photographer's documentary, each vignette a portrait.

What kinds of portraits? Scenes of a man eviscerating a fish he's just caught, of a pregnant woman getting a sonogram, of his grandfather's funeral and burial, of a baby being born and a woman dancing in the streets alternated with Jamaicans staring mutely at his lens. He said he saw his film as part island story, part colonization story, part tourism warning and part spiritual.

On a side note, as many times as I'd seen those murals on Marshall Street, only tonight did I learn that the one in the uniform was Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey.

After the dense film ended, he and Enjoli took the stage to talk about it. That's when we learned that he'd used friends in the movie as well as strangers, that his Mom had thought it was about her and on that dark day when 45 had been elected, he'd obtained his Jamaican citizenship "just to have an exit plan."

For Mac and me, our only exit plan was to walk back to my apartment knowing that we'd meet up again in the morning to walk and talk, the building blocks of our friendship. Now I'm thinking we're going to take a photo of us together so that next time Facebook declares a Mac and Karen Day, there's at least some photographic proof.

Chances are, any one of the strangers who say hello to us every morning would be happy to make us Facebook official by snapping a pic.

We love you, Tim, but you're kind of a fifth wheel when it comes to what matters most on this important day: Mac and me.

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