seen @ Sunshine Cinema, New York NY
The year was 1995, and I spent the summer as a counselor at a sleepaway camp in Massachusetts. I was having a good time, even if a certified city boy like me had to learn to overcome my trepidation of living in the woods for two months. I will never forget the pure shock I felt the first night of staff orientation when I realized that just because it's late June doesn't mean the nights are gonna be warm. It was quite the opposite, in fact, and I was kinda miserable for those first few nights before it did get warmer.
One day I signed up to be part of a group going on a hiking day trip to Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. There were at least 15 or so kids, plus me and a couple of other counselors. I wasn't any kind of hiker, but I was told that this was an extremely popular hiking destination, plus you could see all of New England from the peak. I figured it was worth the trip. It is a lovely place, which I do recommend, and despite what happened to me there, I would like to go back one day.
It started off fine. Our group was part of a number of others along the same trail up Monadnock. I kept a close eye on the kids, who ranged in age from 8 to 12. We made good time. I remember being surprised at the relative ease of hiking the trail. There were some rough spots, but it wasn't as difficult as I was expecting. Having so many other people around us was a comfort.
We were very close to the top when it happened. I was wearing a pair of high-topped Chuck Taylor All-Stars, like the kind my father wore when he was my age. In fact, it was because of him that I bought a pair. (His was red, mine were blue.) They looked cool, but they may not have been the best choice for a hike. I was walking through a rocky slope, and was about to alight onto a patch of dirt in between the rocks. I must've landed the wrong way, because before I knew it, I twisted my ankle and fell down hard onto the earth in a heap, and boy, was I in PAIN!
I don't mind admitting how scared I was. After all, I'd never been in a situation like this before - hundreds of miles from home, atop a mountain somewhere in New England, writhing on the ground, unable to move, much less stand and walk. Maybe I shouldn't have panicked so much - after all, I was surrounded by other people, who were able to, and did, call for help. And yeah, there was a measure of embarrassment at the fact that I was there to look out for the kids and I'm the one who ended up getting hurt instead. What can I say. I'm only human.
A couple of park rangers came up with a stretcher, even as the kids continued on without me. Several kind souls stayed with me until the rangers arrived, and assisted in carrying me down. I still remember what that was like - flat on my back, being hefted down an uneven terrain by a bunch of strangers, looking up into the clear blue sky, which slowly gave way to trees and other foliage. A bit of camaraderie developed among us. There was one girl whose birthday happened to be that day, and when we found out, we all sang "Happy Birthday" to her. All things considered, the experience wasn't so terrible, and it made me forget my pain.
The kids were waiting for me when we reached the bottom. The other counselors had ordered pizza while they were waiting, and once I was able to get inside the van, we drove back to camp. It was early twilight when we left Monadnock, and it got dark before long. The kids had fallen asleep as we wound our way through the twisting, turning road in the dark. I was lucky. I see that now. If we had gone somewhere more remote, help would've been more difficult in coming.
Which leads me to the movie 127 Hours. I swear I almost bailed out on it when the fateful rock landed on James Franco's arm. I had heard all the stories of people freaking out over this movie, and I told myself I could handle it, but when I saw the scene, all those memories of being stuck on Monadnock, helpless, came back to me and I felt my stomach turn. I seriously considered leaving the theater and the amputation scene wasn't for another hour at least! The last time I felt this way over a movie wasn't even that long ago: I got talked into seeing the Lars von Trier film Antichrist with my friend Jenny earlier this year, and she was ready to walk out on it too (and I would've been right behind her), but she and I managed to stick with it. This was different, because of what it reminded me of. Watching it felt too real, and of course, that's the whole point: this is a dramatization of something that actually happened.
Nobody fainted at my screening. Lots of gasps of shock were audible, though. The amputation scene is bloody and gory, but I don't think it's out of proportion to the moment. I mean, it's hard to show a crucial scene like this without a measure of blood and guts, so to speak, but I was able to tolerate it. I do think the ending dragged a bit, though.
A brief word about the Sunshine Cinema: It's definitely a great place for movies. They sell all manner of DVDs of independent films at their box office, which is cool. They do midnight movies, although most of the time they're fairly mainstream stuff. Nothing along the lines of, say, Roger Corman or Hammer horror films or John Waters or anything like that. And they have stadium seating, unlike the Angelika or the Forum, which is a huge plus.