October 8, 1966 [Seconds]

I first saw it a few weeks ago: I turn the corner, driving to work through a nice little town, right off Main Street, past the bakery and camera shop, the high school up ahead--but first, there on my right, written on an otherwise blank brick wall: "PAINT IT BLACK." Some kid loves the Rolling Stones--but "I have to turn my head until my darkness goes." The words follow me--the imperative mood always so damn compelling--but in pop songs often filled with promise and yearning, entreaties to "take my hand" and "turn around, look at me." The Rolling Stones, though, leave us empty-handed, the red door painted black, the line of black cars, the sun itself, until you can't "see the girls go by dressed in their summer clothes."

--and that song plays in my head every morning--and followed me into the movies, watching Rock Hudson in Seconds, some kind of science fiction parable about the with-it generation outsmarted by squaresville know-how: a space-age fountain of youth turning bored businessmen into smooth cats, with orgies and boss beach-front pads and cool chicks--and a nagging suspicion that it's all plastic--not just the surgery, the mind warped like the camera-lens, everything fish-eyed and curving, as though M.C. Escher had promised you a treat--then pushed you up a flight of stairs, your backwards plummet upside-down, old to young, then gone.

John Frankenheimer's pictures The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May like to consider a world re-molded by science and politics, lies so convincing they replace the truth--to everyone's relief, at least at first--and then of course this kind of thing is punished, in Seconds with agony, an almost literal meat-grinder, the machine in the back room waiting for anyone stupid enough to think he could be Rock Hudson, when all he is, is afraid--in a panic to blot it all out, to paint it black, the ride to work--for thirty seconds or so--a stomach-floating drop into those three words rough on the brick wall, dismembering the poor sap for wanting just a glass of wine and a walk on the beach.


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