if you’ve never seen West Side Story, I highly suggest you add it to your Netflix queue and start watching — it’s more relevant for our times in 2018 than arguably when it was released in the 1960s.
I decided to start watching the classic as it was one of my grandfather’s favourite films. Since he recently passed a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been doing what I can to remember everything about him, to cement him in my mind since I can’t pick up the phone and call him anymore. He’s my wallpaper on my phone, vintage photos of him hand on my wall in my Paris apartment, I saved old voicemails to remember his voice.
But as I lain in my bed and watched West Side Story, I began to think about again how everyone is wildly nuanced. Honestly, the moment came to me as Maria was so blinded by her love for Tony that she would literally run away with brother’s murderer. Like damn. And here’s how my mind went: Maria’s a blind fool, we’re all blind fools, we’re all nuanced fools, my grandfather was nuanced, damn he said some bad shit in his life, I still love him and miss him more than I care to admit, while he might be gone it’s still okay to recognise his flaws.
So long story short, here’s the story that we’re talking about today: nuance! flaws! getting personal!!
Some things to know about my grandfather: he immigrated to Boston from Martone, Reggio di Calabria, Italy, worked his ass off from nothing, got married, moved to Connecticut, kept working hard, kept building his family. He was a peacetime war veteran, ran multiple successful beauty parlour and was the epitome of a jack-of-all-trades. He was an electrician and plumber and a mechanic (or so he thought), he built his house with his bare hands. He made a mean chicken marsala. And, above all, loved his family and would do anything for us.
But back to the point, he wasn’t perfect. He loved Trump, he was a bit racist, he didn’t know how to say “no” — and not in the good way. To not speak ill of the dead, we all found some things in his house he probably wouldn’t want published on the internet for all eternity. Your imaginations can wander. And honestly, some of my greatest memories with him were our debates after the election.
And to bring this jumbled post to an even deeper level, let me leave you with this: we need more conversations, we need more recognition of complexity of the human mind, we need to be kinder to people, we need to listen to everyone and keep an open mind.
While I obviously have a bit of bias for my grandfather to be blind to his flaws, I think it teaches a valuable lesson. If we can just be open and honest and allow for conversations to happen, we might actually start to see some positive change happen in this dumpster fire of a world we live in. I say world, because now that I live in Paris, I realise truly that while the US might be the biggest dumpster fire, everywhere is dealing with their own fire to put out.
So, if you made it this far, thanks. It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to actually sit down and write (grad school + learning French + grieving = I’m a mess), props to me if you actually understood anything I wrote. I hope you all are now inspired to watch West Side Story, call your grandparents, and have a conversation with someone across party lines.
Now enjoy some great photos of my nonno in his prime. You’ll see where I get my looks from.