||Ahem. That Toronto Post piece that took a swipe at your humble narrator? Sigh. Well deal with that tomorrow. Sunday was a column night, and it capped a gloriously busy weekend, and right now its 33 minutes til midnight. I can waste time on that piece or I can post what I wrote last night before I settled down to watch Barton Fink for the first time in widescreen. I opt for what I wrote last night, because it means I can post & have 30 precious minutes communing with the TV before the hammerschlag of sleep. Lets begin:
Saturday night BBQ at a neighbors house. Gnat plays with their kid all the time. Small backyard, fenced, so we let the kids out of our sight. (Parents everywhere just got a tight spot in the guts, because you know whats coming.) My radar was still pinging away, though, because I am convinced that the moment I slacken, a pterodactyl will swoop from the sky and carry my child off. And then Ill have to deal with the cops, and Ill be standing there screaming at the poor officer: PTERODACTYL! IT SOUNDS LIKE IT STARTS WITH A T BUT IT STARTS WITH A P! YOU SPELLED IT WRONG ON YOUR PAD, I CAN SEE IT? HOW CAN YOU FIND MY CHILD IF YOU CANT EVEN SPELL PTERODACTYL? So I watched the kids form their own little tribe and explore their territory: house, porch, yard, porch, house, porch, yard, swarming and dispersing and reforming. You cant keep track of them. You can only set out a plate of cookies and hope the idea of additional cookies keeps them in the tri-state area.
But still. Im always scanning the dial for her frequency. Just a flash of the color of her shirt is enough. When I saw the kids run into the house for the 239th time I disengaged and returned to the conversation I was having with a liquor distributor. Fascinating chat; I love talking about marketing, especially the marketing of socially sanctioned intoxicants. Eventually I excused myself to grill the burgers. Saw my wife, asked if shed seen Gnat; shes in the house, she said. Check. So Im throwing the meat on the grill, adding spices
And the tribe of kids reenters the yard by the grills, through a hole in the fence. Huh? Wha? When did they slip away? Wheres Natalie? I ask the ringleader. Blank stares. WHERES NATALIE?
I shoot through the hole; Im in someones backyard. Around the house to the street. Nothing and no one. Call her name; no reply. Another dad comes out to help, goes back to check. I go up the street, down, imagining the car slowing, the door opening, the grab, the quick cry of protest, the dull stunned shock, the 911 call, the interview, the TV appeals, the fliers, the obligatory website findGnat.com the hermetically preserved shrine room, the false hopes and brave faces: if this is true then life is done
The dad reappears and waves me back. Turns out she was in the house.
Fluttery kneecaps for a few minutes. Man, I hate that. Just hate it. You know everythings probably okay, but what if? What if? The sensation of losing your child is so all-consuming that you would simply trade anything to find her NOW. Anything. Which is why I dont carry around the deed to my house in my pocket, for example.
Later that night I was walking Jasper around on our usual route, and I realized that the street Id been searching was part of our nightly walk. In fact its a block and a half away from Jasperwood. Given the curving topography of this neighborhood, leaping from one backyard to another had transported me to a familiar location, but Id approached it from an unfamiliar angle in a state of near-panic, and I did not recognize it at all.
This is also why I dont drink at parties. You lose your focus. Plus, when you try to hit the pterodactyls your aim just sucks. This is why Hunter S. Thompson is childless and lives in the country.
Watched Gangster No. 1, because I have a peculiar affinity for 1960s British gangster movies. Tawdry men in good suits plotting small crimes in cramped flats. The cursing is somehow fresher, because its done with a different accent than your tiresome standard Jersey voice. Instead of fuggin its FACKIN, which just sounds crisper. Fack me! Basic plot: something quite novel for the gangster genre, really. A young up-and-coming thug tries to move up the food chain and take his boss place. Because hes lean and hungry, you see! Also 78% more psychotic. But heres the peculiar - dare I say British twist. He has a mad crush on the boss. Hes almost swoony over the guy.
A few reviewers noted that there seemed to be a repressed homoerotic subtext, and I thought: repressed? Okay, lets recap. The young gangster is introduced to the boss, and the voice-over describes him entirely in terms of his clothing, and ends with the words he was all man as we first see the bosss face. And the boss looks like someone youd see in an 80s band where everyone had white suits and carefully feathered hair. Its David Thewliss fine actor (I also saw him in Timeline where he also played an unsympathetic prig) but he gives off no mob-man menace whatsoever. At one point the up-and-coming gangster comments on the Bosss tie pin; the Boss gives it to him. It has his initials. Our hero treats the moment with such reverence youd think hed gotten the football captains class ring. Were going steady!
If theyd played up the angle a little more, it would have made the movie much more interesting. The Sopranos has a gay-gangster sub-sub plot going - not that Ill know how that turns out tonight, because Im editing this bilge I wrote Saturday. Theres a big gap in what I banged out, because I obviously lost my train of thought and googled Hunter Thompson Children to see if he did have kids. I got a column from 2003 from his ESPN gig. No link because I nuked the history and emptied the cache. But I have these quotes from Duke circa last summer, a prime example of what Neal Tennant calls "Miserabilism":
The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap War in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of Corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgiveable sin in America.
Beyond that, we have lost the respect of the world and lost two disastrous wars in three years. Afghanistan is lost, Iraq is a permanent war Zone, our national Economy is crashing all around us, the Pentagon's "war strategy" has failed miserably, nobody has any money to spend, and our once-mighty U.S. America is paralyzed by Mutinies in Iraq and even Fort Bragg.
The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world.
The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.
The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not. Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it.
Thats what what this addled has-been was writing last summer. I love much of his early stuff at his peak, he was the best fiction writer journalism had. But this is college-paper stuff. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor. And our aspirin bottles are hard to open and our dogs are stupid and our fries are too fattening and our parking lots are striped in such a way that todays wider vehicles fill out the spaces, making it difficult to avoid getting a door ding, and our TV newspeople smile too much and our royalty checks are getting smaller and smaller as the newer ESPN website readers read this stuff and think, whatever, gramps instead of buying the books. To repeat:
our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world.
How true! Somewhere in Tibet theres a man who admired our Social Security system until it was looted by the greed-crazed bastards who invented the Gaza Strip. Heres your meds, Mr. Thompson. The blue one you can chew; the yellow one just dissolves in your mouth. Dont eat the cup this time.
The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives. The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not. Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it.
Of course in Thompsons world the Big Darkness is always coming. Every day it doesnt come means itll just be bigger and darker when it finally arrives. Hes the anti-rooster, bitching about the dawn: sure, it worked today, but one of these days the sun wont come up, and then where will you be? Sitting on your nest popping out eggs like THEY want you to, completely unprepared for the Big Darkness! Which will be huge! And dark!
It would be funny if it was, well, funny, but its not even that. Its just rote spew from the other side of the latter sixties. You had your Hopeful Hippies, the face-painters and daisy-strewers, convinced that human nature and human history could be irrevocably changed if we all held hands, listened to Imagine and realized that the war is not the answer. Regardless of the question. But the other side was the sort of dank twitchy nihilism Thompson spouts. It has no lessons, no morals, no hope. Imagine, Winston, that the future consists of a boot pressing on a face. Heres the worst part, Winston inside the boot is NIXONS FOOT.
Thompson has less hope than the Islamists; at least they have an afterlife to look forward to. All we have is a country so rotten and exhausted its not worth defending. It never was, of course, but its even less defensible now than before.
He can say what he wants. Drink what he wants. Drive where he wants. Do what he wants. Hes done okay in America. And he hates this country. Hates it. This appeals to high school kids and collegiate-aged students getting that first hot eye-crossing hit from the Screw Dad pipe, but its rather pathetic in aged moneyed authors. And it would be irrelevant if this same spirit didn't infect on whom Hunter S. had an immense influence. He's the guy who made nihilism hip. He's the guy who taught a generation that the only thing you should believe is this: don't trust anyone who believes anything. He's the patron saint of journalism, whether journalists know it or not.
More on this tomorrow. Much more. See you then.