Monday, October 10, 2016

Hometown: an essay in gifs

I just found this video of Chatham in the early '60s, dreamlike, timewarped, and made gifs of the most interesting parts. I am always interested in technical awfulness because it is so revealing. Here, the cameraman puts his fingers over the lens, shoots directly into the light, and nearly drops the camera at several points. But in its orange-flash-y surrealism, with flames shooting out of the back of an invisible Studebaker, it holds magic for me.

For this IS Chatham: a place that no longer exists even remotely in this form. The cars all had ears then, sort of like Porky Pig. Everything was brick. I had no idea then that these would be the happiest times of my life. No, not happiest, but simplest. I had no idea what was ahead, or I would have run screaming.

This is rush hour in Chatham: car horns blaring, end-to-end, bumper-to-bumper traffic jams, road rage, and, uh, er. No. The cars just sort of crawled along, but nobody noticed because that was the normal pace. I have no idea why the lens was briefly covered. Did a nude man suddenly parade along King Street? Or is this some version of avant-garde cinema, in which the cameraman's hand is a character in the drama?

I have no idea what the Pyranon Record Hop is. I thought it must be Record SHOP, but it isn't. A hop is something you put in beer, isn't it? Or is it like a sock hop? There's a song about that. Let's go to the hop. Let's go to the hop. Let's go to the hop (oh baby), let's go to the hop.

This building, whatever it is or was, some industrial thing, surely not a school, or maybe a reformatory, was of such interest to the cameraperson that he or she filmed it twice, panning right to left, then left to right. I cannot imagine what went on in that place.