Monday, February 20, 2012

On yer bike: PMT, PCS & SOS

It's two-for-the-price-of-one time... two (or maybe more) different topics being squished into one post thanks to the general chaos & busyness that is life in Shakeytown. Well, my life anyway - I can't claim to speak on anyone else's behalf.

But no matter how much is going on, it's important that we remember to make time to stop and smell the roses. Even here in the land of the empty lot, there are events taking place that are worth making an effort to get to. One such gig was the recent Cycle Powered Cinema, another Gapfiller project making use of empty space to fill up our empty time.

Hubby & I went along on Friday night. Even with my current overloaded schedule, I'm determined to get out & do stuff. I will not make it out the other side in one piece if I don't take decent breaks away from my current projects to refresh my mental state. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
And this was definitely refreshing! The evening's movie fare started with a rather farcical item from the NZ film archives called Monkey Tale, involving a family of chimps and their cycle safety lessons. From the days when Tea Party Chimps were family favourites at the zoo, it was both amusing and bemusing to see this little slice of NZ past.
The other movie on that night was "Pee-wee's Big Adventure"... a movie neither my husband or I had seen before. It certainly wasn't to everyone's taste - many people left well before the end - but the experience of watching it outdoors, powered by goodwill and honest effort was totally worth it. Notable perhaps for being Tim Burton's first full-length directorial effort, it was definitely a bizarre film, which made it ideal for the project (and yeah, it was all about a shiny red bike).

And now onto the acronym soup mentioned in the title, beginning with PMT, which in this case stands for Pre-Memorial Tension. As I write, it's only 2 sleeps until the wall-to-wall memorial coverage begins on TV. 'One Year On' articles have already started appearing in local and national papers in increasing amounts over the last couple of weeks. It's been difficult reading the front section of The Press without feeling all emotional & weepy, as the roll call of notable survivors recall their experiences.

Worst are the ones when you realise they're talking about or with someone you know. All this does is give you a whole bunch of post-event maybes & what-ifs to deal with, a kind of post-traumatic guilt trip that you weren't worried at the time (never mind the fact you still have no idea what happened to most people that day). Recently I read a story about a survivor of the PGC building collapse, only to find she's married to an old theatre friend of mine. I can't imagine what he & others in a similar position went through that day.

I can still clearly remember the moment, on February 22nd last year, when I finally realised which central city high-rise the PGC building was. I was sitting in my car for a lot of that afternoon, listening to National Radio, and it was only when they mentioned the finance companies on the first floor that I finally worked it out, because I'd previously been to visit a friend who worked there. It was with much relief that I saw him posting online a few days later, and found out he'd already left that particular job.

Everyone has their near-miss stories, their friends/family members/neighbours who would have, on any other day, been doing something which would have likely seen them killed had they followed their normal routine. There are others whose regular routine lead them straight into harm's way, and those for whom a special trip into town, or out for lunch, turned into the last journey they ever made. These stories are all still so fresh, so recent, and so damn raw.

Even though her use of the phrase 'Old Bucky' (to refer to the earthquakes) annoys the shit out of me, there's something Jane Bowron says in today's Press column, about the upcoming memorial day, that resonates:
"This is big emotional stuff and comes upon us at a time when the wounds have not healed, as the aftershocks continue to knock the scabs off again and again, pushing the healing game back to square one and into the purgatory realm of Groundhog Day". (click here for the whole column)

There have been other things written recently too, that attempt to dispel the growing mythology of the resilient, strong and stoic people of C-city. A thoughtful piece from Lara Strongman in the Australian Design Review captured the mood well, and includes some useful advice for the media. And, just today, a piece from Toby Manhire in the UK Guardian about the mood of the city, one year on. These thoughts and observations are not new ones, nor will they come as any surprise to anyone who lives here. But they do come to the fore at anniversary times - here's a very similar article that appeared in a South African paper in September last year.

I've already decided that I won't be watching any television coverage that night. I'm not ready to watch the documentaries or listen to the politicians & commentators expressing their heartfelt sorrow for the brave battlers, the stoic survivors and the resilient residents. I'm engaging in a little SoS - Save our Sanity. In a weird kinda way, it's just like the end of the Pee-wee Herman movie... he didn't stay to watch the film of his adventure because he'd already lived it. Not only have I lived through the seismic rollercoaster, the ride isn't over yet.

Maybe in a few years time I'll get around to watching the documentaries and retrospectives.
Maybe in a few years time we'll be able to talk about these earthquakes in the past tense.

And talking about earthquakes brings in the final set of letters - PCS, or Pre-Conference Stress. In two weeks time I'll be heading off to a conference in Orlando, FL to talk about earthquakes... to present results from my survey research into media & communication methods after the quakes, and also to introduce/play my radio documentary. Then, a month after that I'm going to another conference, in Santa Barbara, CA, to present details about The Harbour Union album. In that typically understated, non-trumpet blowing, very Kiwi manner (avoiding the tall-poppy scythe?), I've buried it down the bottom of a very long post. If you've made it this far, you probably deserve a medal as well as the good news!

So, my PCS is adding to my PMT, because I'm currently making a photo montage to accompany my radio documentary. I've taken an awful lot of photos over the last 18 months - some of them for no good reason other than to document the random acts of earthquakes... broken fences, decorated containers, protest signs, local humour... while it's good to have a use for them, it also means that I'm constantly surrounded by images of damage and destruction. Even the most hopeful of images cannot totally dispel the reason for their existence.

In our family, we have two longstanding mottos: "Shit happens & you deal with it" and "This too shall pass". As we pause to remember everyone and everything that was lost on Feb 22, 2011, we need to remind ourselves that opportunities are still out there, even in the midst of crisis and calamity. And those opportunities come with rapidly approaching deadlines... which means that, even if I wanted to, I think I'll be too busy dealing with 'right now' to watch anything that wants to remind me of last year.

Onwards and upwards however, for this too shall pass.

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