CARRIED AWAY IN CORFU
An American Writer Living Abroad
Attends Premiere of "Sex and the City 2"
Annette said she didn’t believe me.
A discussion followed about whether or not Sylvie should carry with her a colorful, striped bag. Sylvie thought it looked too loud, but Annette and I said it helped accentuate her outfit. It wasn't Prada, and it wasn't Hermes. The mention of the label never entered the conversation.
Annette checked her makeup in the bathroom mirror. I made a face at my aching feet in the flip-flop sandals. Sylvie put the bag down on the dining room table, picked it up again, looked at it, and flung it over her shoulder.
Kat -- tall, straight-backed, always on time -- stood waiting for us at the entrance to the Orpheus Theater. When she saw us, she waved and told us to hurry. There was no time for chit-chat, or popcorn, or dawdling. The previews and advertisements had already started.
In single file, we approached the ticket counter. The price of admission was €7.50. The last in line, I watched each of my friends shell out money to the ticket seller -- a fat, blank-faced man sitting inside a glass-enclosed cubicle. Without realizing it, I must have stopped walking. Suddenly, someone behind me pushed me forward toward the man who reminded me of an overfed goldfish inside a fishbowl.
In less than ten seconds, the exchange was made: I gave the ticket seller my money, and in return he gave me a ticket, although it felt more like a card from a Las Vegas dealer’s shoe. A half-turn and five steps later, I gave the ticket back to another man, this time the ticket collector. Tall and skinny, he looked to be the exact opposite of the ticket seller, yet just like the seller, he remained blank-faced and quick-fingered. He didn't look at me, just like the ticket seller hadn’t looked at me, as I handed him my ticket.
As I tripped down the stairs, along with my friends, toward the open doors to the movie theater, I thought briefly of my spent money. Where would it go, my €7.50? Would it stay in Greece? Would some of it go back to Manhattan? Or Hollywood? Perhaps Sarah Jessica Parker would receive a percentage from my ticket? And if she did, then what did that mean? Anything? Nothing?
Inside the theater, the all-female audience buzzed with excitement. As soon as the four of us -- Annette, Kat, Sylvie and I -- found seats, the lights went down, the film began to roll, the music started, and the first image -- that of a gleaming, metallic Manhattan -- flashed across the screen.
The audience clapped and roared with approval. Unlike movie etiquette in America, the audience in a Greek theatre is allowed to make as much noise as they want. In fact, it's perfectly acceptable. On the screen, the skyline of Manhattan zoomed and tilted and somersaulted at breakneck speed, and all the while Alicia Keys belted out the words, over and over again, "New York, New York, New York..." followed with "concrete jungle where dreams are..."
It was the first time I had heard the song. I strained forward to catch the end of the line, but the audience was too loud. Besides, just then Carrie's voice triumphed over the top of everything else, and then, one by one, the girls appeared on screen -- first Carrie, then Charlotte, Miranda, and finally Samantha. I don’t know why, but I found it somewhat amazing when the audience bestowed upon each two-dimensional, celluloid character a round of extremely brief applause – like rounds of rapid gunfire, I thought to myself.
I slumped in my seat. Sitting next to me and clutching her colorful, striped, label-less bag, Sylvie leaned toward me. She said in a loud voice: "It is all very beautiful, but it is not real, is it? Who lives like this in America? Anyone?"
She looked right at me, more concerned with my answer than with what happened on the screen. As it happened, just then Mr. Big made his entrance. For about five seconds, the audience went wild with excitement.
“Does anyone really live like this in America?” Sylvie demanded.
"Not really," I told her.
Sylvie, the Greek, seemed relieved that I, the American, had confirmed her suspicions.
My eyes trailed from Sylvie back to the screen to see Carrie and crew at an over-the-top, black-and-white themed, super-rich gay wedding. Liza Minnelli started tap-dancing and singing something about putting a ring on it. I couldn’t help it; I thought about Liza in “Cabaret”. Now here she was, thirty years later, doing… this? Meanwhile the audience couldn’t stop talking to each other in everyday street voices. They were probably asking each other the same question Sylvie had just asked me.
“This is a disappointment. It is boring and superficial and stupid and full of advertisements,” Kat announced during intermission. The others agreed. Annette said she thought the first movie had been much better. By then Carrie and her friends were in Abu Dhabi, soaking up the sun, driving around in individual chauffeured cars, and, at least in Carrie's case, meeting up with an old boyfriend and contemplating for roughly two-and-a-half-seconds the existence of the man who had been assigned to be her personal servant. I swear, the audience seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when the lights went up for the five-minute intermission.
I didn’t say anything. I thought about all the times I had pretended to be Carrie Bradshaw, sitting in front of a laptop computer, writing something. Of course, I do not live in a brownstone in New York City. I do not have a closet full of designer clothes. Hell, I do not even have a pair of high heels, much less stilettos. (And now that I think about it, I do not even know the difference, if there is a difference, between high heels and stilettos.)
Carrie, the fictional writer in New York City, seems to have one hell of a nice existence -- so nice, in fact, that she’s ready to deconstruct, to make her existence less nice, because her life is so damn nice that it’s now become somewhat boring, and therefore no longer so nice – and yet here I am, a real writer, living on a Greek Island in part because it’s actually easier to be a writer here than it might be in America. In America, you either make it big or you do not make it at all. You are either Carrie Bradshaw, or you forget about writing and go work in the mall.
"Does everyone in America understand that no one lives like this in America?" Sylvie asked me just before the lights dimmed and we headed back to Abu Dhabi and the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of… there’s nothing you can’t do…”
And just like that, I thought about my lost €7.50. And the truth.
The movie "Sex and the City 2" premiered on Corfu Island’s one and only theater on May 27, and I was there for the 8:00 p.m. showing along with three of my girlfriends.
Annette picked me up from my apartment at six o'clock. She looked pretty, her skirt white and ruffled and similar to the skirt the character Carrie Bradshaw wears during the show's opening credits. I was dressed in a hand-me-down brown top, a two-year-old aqua-colored mini skirt, and a pair of flip-flops that are too small and leave ugly criss-cross marks on the tops of my feet.
We drove through the narrow streets of Corfu Town, along Garitsa Bay, and then toward Mon Repos Estate where our other friend, Sylvie, lives close by.
It was the first time I had been to Sylvie's apartment. Small, cozy and located on the third floor so it had that high-in-the-sky feeling, Sylvie's apartment overlooked an ocean of trees: cypress, olive, pine and palm, and on top of the trees were layers of ivy like a great green shawl. Immediately, my mind flashed to New York City's Central Park. After all, trees are trees -- except in New York City a view of them costs a lot of money; on this unassuming little island in the Med, not so much.
As an hors d'oeuvre, Sylvie had prepared a plate of black-eyed peas and cucumber salad. It was fresh and delicious and I couldn't help but point out that if we were eating the same light meal at a trendy Manhattan restaurant (a place, for example, which branded itself as part of the raw food movement), then it probably would have cost at least forty dollars, perhaps closer to fifty.