Westerns

westerns


I was born into a shit-kickin’ family. My father’s parents were Eastern Washington farmers, and my sister Susan married into a local dairy family, and – well, what more do you need?

Evidently it’s in our DNA. My brother Leonard worked in grocery stores his whole life, and yet he talks like Walter Brennan. He was, for a fact, born on my parents’ farm, during a brief period in their early married life during which they were farming, but still!
Anyway, everyone in my family loves Westerns, and the whole Old West folklore thing. (When Leonard found out I was doing our family history, he drawled: “Are we descended from any horse thieves?” Evidently that would have been perfectly delicious. The reality – some Polish peasants, some Italian peasants, some English hooligans and riffraff – just isn’t colorful enough, in a six-guns-and-Randolph-Scott way.)

Every once in a while I try to reassociate myself with my Boot Hill roots and watch a few Westerns on TMC. Sometimes they’re harmless enough that they sort of wash over me. But – you know? – a lot of them – most of them – just aren’t very good.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that there are some classics, like “Cimarron” and “Stagecoach” and “Red River.” I have seen at least ten minutes of each of these – more of “Cimarron,” because it has Irene Dunne in it – and they are all lovely. I stick by my original point, however. Read on:)

  • Westerns are all depressingly similar. I will spare you a recitation of plot points, cliches, situations, etc. I will only say that I recently fell asleep during a Jimmy Stewart western, woke up about ninety minutes later during another Jimmy Stewart Western, and was uncertain for a few minutes if it was the same movie.
  • They certainly save money on costumes and sets. I’m sure there was a kind of Studio Western Kit, containing things like 1) one chuck wagon 2) three dance hall girl dresses 3) two fancy saddles 4) one fancy lamp with a fringed shade, for indoor / city-slicker  / bawdy house scenes.
  • Scenery. Magnificent, right? HDTV has killed that illusion. In Movie #2 the other day, J. Stewart and company were riding along a dangerous mountain ridge with all kinds of mountains and forests and valleys in the distance, except that, um, no they weren’t. The foreground was perfectly clear and in focus; the scenic background looked like Jackson Pollock’s hick cousin Vernton Pollock had blooped and blopped together some green and blue and white paint to produce Western Background #14.

And so forth.

I am sure, as we say, that for people who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing that they like. I like all kinds of silly / stupid / sub-par things, especially in the movie category. (Next time you hear me warbling on about how wonderful “Shack Out On 101” is, give me a real hard whack on the back of my head.) But, bafflingly, I was born without the mental toolkit required to make sense of these verkakte Westerns, even though genetically I should be right in there with my relatives.

Sigh.

Okay. Now: anybody want to see “Shack Out On 101” one more time?


I am not George Bailey

i am not george bailey


A kind co-worker checked in on me recently, knowing about my recent diagnosis of cancer, and I told her that I was really overwhelmed by how kind people were being to me. “Well,” she said, “remember George Bailey.”

 

 

Hmph! I am not George Bailey.

 

 

I am not a nice person. I am sometimes kind, but wise also, like the offspring of a bunny rabbit and a cobra.

 

 

I want to be good to people, but not necessarily to everyone, and not necessarily all the time. And I have a vicious tendency to be nasty to people who are nasty to me.

 

 

George Bailey (aka Jimmy Stewart, the big sap in “It’s a Wonderful Life”) went through his life unaware that he was just acting perfectly toward people – kind, generous, etc., etc.

 

 

I have no such illusions.

 

 

I am often unkind. I am sometimes mean. I have done unforgivable things (meaning that I have done things to people who are dead and who can’t possibly forgive me for them). I’ve been unpleasant and angry. I’ve been rude (probably on a weekly basis).

 

 

Repeat: I am not George Bailey.

 

 

If I live through this thing, I think it means that Frank Capra didn’t know everything after all.

 

 

(And, in case you can’t tell, I can’t stand that stupid movie. Life is just more complicated than that.)


 

%d bloggers like this: