April 22nd, 2013 | What We Need is the Impossible! | Monmouth, NJ
Monmouth is located on the coast of New Jersey about an hour south of New York. I’d never been to this part of New Jersey shore, so it was a real pleasure to look around. After the screening, I went out with the filmmaker Pete Sillen and his wife Beth to get a drink in Asbury Park. They live in the area and Pete grew up nearby, so I learned a lot about all the little shore towns and their history.
Driving back to my B&B, Pete mentioned that President Garfield had died in Long Branch right near the beach in 1881. He had been shot several times by a crazy guy in Washington DC and the thinking was that the fresh air at the Jersey Shore might be good for his recovery. Obviously, that plan didn’t work out. After a few weeks in Long Branch, he died on September 19, 1881 and was buried in Cleveland.
This is the kind of historical detail that really doesn’t mean much to anybody, but I love the fact that we mark this kind of thing. Pete and Beth showed me the marker which is in front of what now is just some random vacation home on a little side street off the beach. The actual house that Garfield died in is long gone.
There’s something about the effort to mark events – to forever fix a time and place in the landscape – that appeals to me. I have a soft spot for the very human to urge to defy time and the inevitable processes that wash away the traces of our lives here. It is all of our fate to eventually be forgotten; the places we go, the things we do, the people we know and love will one day all be gone – like the house where James Garfield died. So markers appeal to me because they can be seen as a noble attempt to forestall the inexorable.
One of my favorite markers is the plaque commemorating the place where the great inventor Nikola Tesla died in 1943. It’s on the outside of the New Yorker hotel in Manhattan near Penn Station.
I especially like this plaque for two reasons: a) inexplicably, it’s about ten feet off the ground, so absolutely no one notices it. I have sat and watched people walk by and it’s a sad reality with this plaque – it gets no love. And b) the fact that the plaque was put up by the Yugoslav-American Bicentennial Committee is also such a poignant reminder of the fact that time moves relentlessly forward and change is the only constant; Yugoslavia is not even a country anymore!
On that note, I have to get in my rental car and head to Richmond for my next screening. Thanks to Andrew Demirjian, who teaches at Monmouth University and put on the screening there.
Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Sam Green