It’s Quiet Time in the City

The cotton in my head is still thick and I still feel like I’m underwater when people speak to me on the left. It’s going to take a few more days of rest and lots of tea to kick this cold. The quietness in my skull is matched by the silence of the city. It’s all very strange, everything so quiet, I feel as if I’m on some long head trip into a bad scifi movie.

Usually when I emerge from the BART station onto Montgomery street, the hustle and bustle of the Financial District reaches out to snap me up into its throng. There are cars honking, busses thundering, people rushing and it all combines into this low-level din punctuated by the sound of high heels striking pavement. Today, all of that is absent. Granted, I was quite late getting into the office so most of the morning rush had already passed by, but the city didn’t just feel quiet, it felt empty. The few people who were out and about in the cold, clear air, were strolling along Market Street as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Even my fellow commuters, (easily distinguished from the strollers by the briefcases and so on) weren’t moving at their usual rapid pace, they did walk with more purpose than the folks out to enjoy a post-Christmas stroll, but there wasn’t that sense of rushing that usually surrounds me.

I felt like I was suddenly moving in slow-motion, as if the world had stopped around me and was hibernating. This is how I imagine things would be if some huge tragedy gripped the nation, this quietness. I wonder if that’s what the city was like on the day of 9-11 – I don’t know because I didn’t go to work that day.

I got to the office and while there is a handful of people here, the quietness persists in here as well. Everyone is speaking in hushed tones and there’s a palpable sense of post-holiday laziness in the air. We’re all only here because we have to be, not necessarily because there’s anything pressing that needs to be done. In some ways, that’s a nice feeling. On the other hand, my ears are sort of throbbing and the quiet talking makes a hum that adds to the sense of vibration in my inner ear and that’s not entirely pleasant.

I’m getting some work done, but my mind is elsewhere. My mind’s eye is replaying The Return of the King for me on endless loop, zooming in on details here and there, stepping back to take a wider in other places, and generally trying to help me process the entirety of the Tolkien/Jackson epic of the last three to five years (including all of the build up and spoilers from the various web sites). It’s hard to believe it’s over. The last film is out, there’s nothing left to look forward to cinematically speaking except potential awards and rumours that The Hobbit may be in the works after Jackson finishes up with King Kong.

I’ll always have the books of course, I re-read them every year and soon Vic will be old enough to enjoy them as we read them out loud at bedtime. In fact, I pulled out my copy of Return of the King the other night to fact check a scene for Sebastien and wound up reading some little bits aloud to him, marveling again in the sheer poetry of Tolkien’s prose. I guess that’s a big part of why I love the books so much – my first exposure to them was when my father read them aloud to me. It makes a huge difference I think to hear the text, rather than just reading it, especially when you’re relatively new to reading.

I have new Tolkien melodies in my head and heart now – the movies have added a new sense of vivacity and excitement to my sense of the story from my own readings, but the bass line of my father’s voice, making the tales come to life over progressive nights is still there, winding its way through my memory.

On Christmas Day, I called my family and they were sitting around the coffee table playing the Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit game that I sent them for Christmas. While my mother spoke, I could hear my father and my brothers reading questions aloud and answering them in the background, laughing, having a good time. Mom passed the phone around to them and I was able to get in on the action as they read questions to me and I got a virtual “turn” in their game.

Tolkien’s works are a family hobby at this point, a love in common that helps bind us together. I’m glad I have something like that with my family, especially since it’s something that can still be shared across the miles.

This evening, since I have earned a spot of quiet time from Sabs who has taken Vic down to the Peninsula to visit friends, I think I may curl up with one of the soundtracks my brother sent me – I had all three on my Amazon wishlist – and crack the spine on The Fellowship of the Ring. I think I will start the journey with Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin all over again, and re-affirm the old sound of my father’s voice, telling the tale in quiet hours by the light of my reading lamp.