As a substitute for one of those big family Thanksgiving feasts, we watched “Hannah and Her Sisters” last night. Thanksgiving always makes me think of New York – from my first Macy’s parade (I froze and got groped by a stranger) to seeing Patti Smith at the Bottom Line, to trying to cook a turkey in a toaster oven and blowing the fuse for the whole building. Grease fires,turkeys that never thawed, dinners eaten at midnight or in Indian restaurants. Call it homesickness. I guess that’s what made me reach for Woody Allen.
Not that Woody’s world was ever mine. The holiday meals in “Hannah”, one at the beginning and one at the end of the film, are cooked to perfection and served by a maid, while everyone perches on cream colored sofas.But one of the pleasures of watching “Annie Hall” or “Manhattan” or so many of his movies was that I could project myself into a fantasy of what life in the city could be, if only I wasn’t an art student, or a punk rocker, or a struggling musician or an impoverished parent exiled to Brooklyn of all places. If I was, instead, an earthtone-wearing success who lived in some generic uptown. I think the closest I ever got to that other world was when my friend Adolfo talked me into charging an absurdly expensive pair of Ralph Lauren shoes on my mother’s Saks card. “You deserve them!” he said. Funny, my parents didn’t see it that way when they got the bill.
In my mind there’s still the possibility I’ll eventually wind up a cross between the saintly beige-attired Hannah, the wayward sexy sister Lee and the flaky, artsy Dianne Wiest one in her vintage clothes. I’ll stride around some part of Manhattan that doesn’t exist any more, on my way to a rehearsal of my latest play or a party in someone’s two story apartment. Has anyone ever actually seen a two story NY apartment, except in a Woody Allen movie?
But it’s not entirely correct to say that Woody’s world was never mine. Because I just remembered how last year we watched “Broadway Danny Rose”. It has that final scene, warm and sad, where Danny and his oddball clients, who are the closest he gets to family and friends, sit around the apartment eating TV dinners for Thanksgiving. And here we were, a couple of dishevelled show people, eating duck legs off of TV trays, watching the holiday on a screen.