I loved filming at this place on Sunday. It’s a vintage clothing shop here in Memphis called Garbo’s, and it has the smell my grandmother’s house used to, a smell I think of as basically the past and the people who lived in it. Everywhere you looked at Garbo’s you felt like some story was there, right outside your reach. How many different houses did all this stuff come from? How many different women wore these dresses? None of these people knew each other, or maybe they knew each other, or knew of each other, and here their clothes were sitting under the same roof, keeping the secrets. We were filming a story for Woman’s Picture about Mackie, a recurring character from the series, and his sister Meredith. Basically we were playing dress up, impersonating siblings who were also playing dress up. Mackie’s making a silent film, and visits Meredith and takes her to this shop to pick out wardrobe for the project. Every room we walked into was perfectly decorated. We didn’t have to do a thing. It’s the best set I’ve ever filmed on because it felt totally organic and really perfect in every conceivable way. When the camera was rolling we argued as brother and sister, bickering about the past. The rest of the time we roamed around trying things on, soaking up the discrepancies between now and then.
I have this big thing about attics, maybe because as a kid I spent so much time in them at my grandmothers’ houses. Their attics were just like Garbo’s. On the one hand, they were totally free environments and my imagination went nuts. On the other hand, they were kind of solemn. Attics are the place things go when people need to forget about them in order to make moving forward a little more convincing. They’re a purgatory for the parts of a family’s experience that don’t really fit in with the master narrative the family wants to tell about itself. You aren’t that person anymore – the one that fit in those clothes, the one in those pictures. Somebody else is in the pictures and you might want to forget him, or forget you ever felt the way you did about him. In the summer the attic was always hotter than the rest of the house; always colder in the winter. It was like some kind of no man’s land, and whatever I saw up there in that parallel universe I knew not to talk about when I came back downstairs.
Garbo’s was fantastic, not just because it was an ideal setting but because the owner of the place gave us free roam. She left me the key the night before, and stayed away all day while we shot. The store is in an old house that dates back I guess to maybe the late 1800s, maybe early 1900s. I don’t know. It’s old. To me, it felt like an entire house had been made into an attic, because the stuff you’d usually find in someone’s storage, stuffed away up there, had been essentially spilled out into the rest of the building, like all those memories hemorrhaged through the ceiling or something. And for once I didn’t have to feel weird about being where I shouldn’t be, in the one place I wanted to be most. I got to root around freely in people’s memories, without having to deal with their baggage too. The best part was, we were making a movie, which is its own special kind of fantasy world. I love these photos taken by Betsy Taylor, who was there with us, because they remind me of that subjective experience I remember whenever I was in the attic, where your attention gets driven to little details and weird juxtapositions, random pieces of loaded information that sit alongside each other telling an entirely different story than any of the items would by themselves.