Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 27.1 (Benjamin Friedlander)

Friedlander, Benjamin
A Knot is Not A Tangle

Not (knot) sure where I bought this. I think it was at Talking Leaves. I remember there being a lag of a few years between the time it was released (2000) and the time I purchased it. I own a copy of the original chapbook of the same title, which is a shorter version of the same collection. I think the chapbook was the first work of Ben's I ever read.

I remember I knew the name Ben Friedlander from talking to various people about the Poetics Program when I was considering moving there to study. I later saw him read once in New York at a poetry conference at NYU. I think it was Ben who announced to everyone attending that Allen Ginsberg had died that morning. It may have been someone else who announced it, but I remember Ben reading something from Ginsberg before his own reading that day.

(I am having an awful time typing correctly -- as ever, I suppose -- I keep typing "been" for "Ben" and vice versa).

We made friends fairly quickly when I first arrived. We used to go to movies together a lot. Ben had fairly specific tastes and very strong opinions to go along with those tastes. He did not like art house and independent films as a general rule, and preferred to see a typical Hollywood film to seeing the latest by Jim Jarmusch.

He and Carla really liked children's movies. I remember him saying that children's movies had not given up on telling coherent stories or developing characters in the same way adult movies had.

Ben introduced me to the dollar theater, where they play all the movies 3-6 months after they hit the multiplexes and charge a dollar for admission, a dollar for popcorn and a dollar for coke. I think there may have been one of those in NYC, but that was about it (and it was more like a five dollar theater). You almost always pay full, inflated prices for films in New York, and there are no matinees, so the dollar theater seemed like quite a treat.

When Ben still lived here, there were two dollar theaters: one in the Home Depot parking lot on Elmwood Avenue, and another at a defunct shopping mall in Cheektowaga. Both are now closed, but another has since replaced them, also in Cheektowaga, also in the parking lot of Home Depot. They must be in cahoots or something.

I loved talking to Ben after a movie because he had an amazing ability to make the least interesting movies seem interesting, or if not interesting, at least interesting to talk about. Some of my most memorable conversations about movies occurred after having gone with Ben to see the likes of "Scream 2," "American Pie," and "Two Girls and A Guy."

I remember also his strong opinions and sometimes startling pronunciations about the opinions of others, including my own. Once, after I had seen this little film called "Smoke Signals," I mentioned to Ben that I had enjoyed it becuae I had found some of the little details of life on a reservation endearing and very funny. Ben replied something to the effect of, "If that's how you feel about that film, I don't think I can respect anything you say about film ever again."

Out of anyone else's mouth, those words would have ended the friendship, but out of Ben's they just felt passionate and engaged and, at least in the moment of his saying them, honest. But they certainly weren't wounding and never felt permanent. We still went to the movies together after that.

This Is Just To Say

no harm
was meant

I am (and was)
just out of my mind,
nervous and restless

and so much more,
and yes
I did not like

the poetry reading
(or better: I did not

the poetry
or the reading)
and needed

to disappear.

1 comment:

mongibeddu said...

Ha! I am such an ass sometimes. Good memories though.