130 days into the Biden Administration, and where are we? Biden announces a sweeping, environmentally strong, infrastructure plan….Mitch McConnell and Joe Manchin say nope, not going to do that…. Democrats say, uh, ok, uh, what will you let us do? Is it okay if we do , maybe, a little bit? While they are doing nothing, which has become a virtual trademark, the Biden administration says sure, go ahead, to Donald Trump’s environmentally disastrous and insane sale of the Alaska to big oil. Biden and the Democrats say we need a bipartisan investigation of the January 6 insurrection….Mitch McConnell says nope, not going to do that…. Democrats say, oh, gee, shucky darn, we’re sorry, Mitch, please don’t hurt us. Biden says he’ll tax the rich…Mitch McConnell says nope, not going to happen…. Biden says, well, gee, maybe, if we could, just a teensy bit, please, Mitch? Can we? Huh? I mean,…OW that hurts, Mitch. Please stop hitting me. Trump and his crazies, which are at this point THE Republican party, continue to push the BIG LIE, which is actually a collection of big lies. A handful of Republicans object to this with their mouth, while continue to follow along meekly with their vote…. The Democrats? Crickets. Democrats take what I guess is the much advertised ‘high road,’ and don’t bother to aggressively engage. They take Nixon’s “If I close my eyes they can’t see me,” approach. As a matter of fact, the Democrats continue to take the Nixon approach to governing, The Democrats are Bert Lahr’s lion, the circus clown with a rubber mallet. They continue to play Coyote to Mitch McConnell’s roadrunner. They are Danny Kaye’s Walter Mitty, only with less courage and no happy ending in sight. They are the Marx brothers without a funny script. All Mitch McConnell needs is a leather suit and a whip. 130 days in. Somebody tell me, please, how much things have changed?
For those who like a good hard-boiled noir mystery but like their crime succinct.
Chapter 1: This was where it started. I knew the dame was trouble as soon as she walked in the door.
Chapter 2: The guy was dead alright. He was an ugly sight. Death can do that to you.
Chapter 3: I smoked some cigarettes, drank some beer, talked to some people.
Chapter 4: Two goons showed up at my office and told me to lay off. We talked wise for awhile. I was wiser.
Chapter 5: I called the dame. I told her we needed to talk. She told me to come on over. I did.
Chapter 6: I drove to her apartment. She was dead. I called the cops. They weren’t happy.
Chapter 7: Bad cop said I must’ve done it. Good cop said he knew me. We talked wise for awhile. My wise was still better.
Chapter 8: I jumped in my jalopy. I talked to the guy’s friends and enemies. I didn’t get much. I met dame number two. She was sultry.
Chapter 9: I drank some beer, smoked some cigarettes. Nobody wanted to talk to me.
Chapter 10: The goons came back. We talked wise again. One took a punch. My punch was faster.
Chapter 11: I rolled up more miles on the jalopy. I managed to trace the guy’s recent actions. They didn’t seem like much.
Chapter 12: The cops called me in to talk. Bad cop still thought I did it. I told him his wife dressed him lousy.
Chapter 13: Dame number two called me and wanted to talk. I hoped she’d stay alive long enough.
Chapter 14: She was alive, all right. We talked awhile. Then we didn’t talk at all. I was smoking when I left.
Chapter 15: I sat in my office overlooking the city while I thought. I smoked some more. I was out of beer. Being a private detective is hell sometimes.
Chapter 16: The FBI came calling. They told me to lay off. I talked wise. They talked FBI.
Chapter 17: I followed up on what dame number two had told me. I remembered to buy some beer.
Chapter 18: I found a clue. It was a big one and it made me mad. Took me eighteen damn chapters.
Chapter 19: I was smoking and drinking beer when the goons busted in with guns. Their mistake.
Chapter 20: The cops took the bodies away. Bad cop didn’t like it. We stared hard at each other.
Chapter 21: The FBI dropped in. They gave me another warning. The female agent watched me. I watched her back.
Chapter 22: I looked at something I’d already looked at. This time I looked at it from a different angle. Son of a gun. I stubbed out the cigarette and jumped in the jalopy.
Chapter 23: I retraced the guy’s tracks again and found it. It was the evidence that broke the case. I drove back to dame number two’s place. It was empty.
Chapter 24: The phone rang. A nasty voice said they had dame number two. They said they’d trade the dame for the evidence. I asked to hear her voice. They made her scream.
Chapter 25: I phoned my buddy the good cop. I laid out the details for the meet. He said they’d be there. I made another call.
Chapter 26: I knew it would be a trap, so I got to the meet early. Hours early. I hid and waited. It was cold and damp before it got warm and dry.
Chapter 27: I watched them set the trap. Then I walked right into it. The cops didn’t show. The good cop was part of the whole thing.
Chapter 28: My friend the crooked cop was surprised that I knew, but said it wouldn’t really matter. They had me dead to rights. Soon I’d just be dead.
Chapter 29: They took my gun. It looked bad, but that was before the FBI sprang the trap on the trap.
Chapter 30: But the baddies hadn’t brought dame number two. Now I was short on time to find her before she joined dame number one. I was in a sweat.
Chapter 31: I was pretty sure where she’d be. I raced through the city’s maze of streets. The FBI was right behind me.
Chapter 32: It was morning rush hour. Traffic was hell. Time was running out. I was pounding the steering wheel and cursing.
Chapter 33: I found the right street. I made a screeching left turn against a red light and got t-boned. I jumped out and ran. There was a lot of cursing behind me.
Chapter 34: The police Captain was locking his front door. He didn’t know I was coming until I rammed him into it from behind. He went down with my hands on his throat.
Chapter 35: He reached for his gun but mine was out first. The Feebs arrived before I pulled the trigger. I ran into the house.
Chapter 36: The house was empty. I got the crooked Captain’s keys and opened the trunk of his car. Dame number two was there. She was alive.
Chapter 37: It took a couple of hours and a full chapter for me to explain all the details to the FBI.
Chapter 38: It was raining the day after. The doorbell rang. It was the female FBI agent. She was alone. She was carrying a saucy smile and asix pack. I already had cigarettes.
It’s true. We are. Deep in our hearts, all men are James Thurber’s creation. Well, not all. There those few who actually do incredibly brave and dangerous things. They are the police officers, soldiers, mountain climbers, firefighters, deep sea divers, and others like them, all of whom possess extraordinarily stout hearts and levels of courage. And let us not forget men with multiple mothers-in-law, and veterinarians who endeavor to clean a cat’s teeth without putting them to sleep first.
Most of we male specimens, though, regardless of how brave we talk and how hard we squint, are Mitty rather than intrepid gun toting, whip wielding, two fisted, and by the way brilliant archaeologists. We’re quite satisfied, we day to day average Joes, to derive our excitement vicariously, from our literary and especially, movie heroes. It’s sufficient that we can cheer those bigger than life fictional conquerors of evil, those champions of virtue who are chased by hordes of delirious beautiful women clearly unattainable by . . . well, us. The women who chase us, are usually throwing rocks. But in that darkened palace of celluloid dreams, we only have to manage our popcorn and soda, and let our screen counterparts do the hard part. They are us. We are them. Cue the deep throated growl.
Of course, we closeted saviors of the weak and helpless have to mask our fearless, unflinching, unshrinking, undaunted, bold, adventurous, indomitable, and don’t forget gallant, heroism most of the time. I mean, those guys in the movies don’t have to worry about buying groceries, getting the oil changed, putting up with stupid bosses, or taking the kids to soccer and dance lessons. Still, in our minds and hearts, we know who we really are. Take me, for instance. I can go into my Mitty trance at any time, under the most innocent of circumstances.
For instance, I can be taking a casual walk on a lovely day. I reach the path where I’m going to turn the corner and suddenly I’m no longer me. I’m Kevin Kline, strolling easily, my left arm hanging casually, my right hand barely brushing the butt of my Colt revolver as I lean gently into the turn. On the far side of street, Linda Hunt, her name is Stella, cringes anxiously beside a lamp post. Out of the corner of my left eye, further down the street, Brian Dennehy sits in a chair in front of the sheriff’s office, waiting. He sees me, gets up, and walks to the middle of the street.. My pace is steady, my pulse a calm sixty-eight. I don’t blink.
I stop twenty feet away from him. The brim of my hat shades my eyes, but not too much. Dennehy says, “Hello, Paden.” I say, “Hello Cobb.” He tells me what a waste it was, what a sweet deal we could’ve had. I say “Yeah, Bad luck.” A moment passes. Then I say, “Goodbye Cobb.” He says “Goodbye Paden.” He reaches for his gun. I reach for mine. My gun roars. He staggers. His gun drops from his hand. He drops to his knees, then to the dirt. Justice is served. I look at Linda Hunt. I still don’t blink. I never blink. Fadeout.
Of course, not all of my Mitty moments are long ones. They are often no more than a momentary diversion. My daughter sees a small spider and screeches. I rush over to find it. By now it’s in hiding, and Robert Shaw’s Quint almost says, “He’s under the boat! I think he’s gone under the boat! He’s under the boat.”
You may start to give something to me, and it falls out of our hands to the floor. You’re not even aware that you’ve instantly become Lee Marvin, and that my inner John Wayne is thinking, “You, Liberty. You pick it up.” Ask me how I want something done. You’ll find yourself facing my Harrison Ford, in the desert, bloody from killing a Nazi soldier, grumbling, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.” That’s an especially good one, by the way. When I’m Indy, I can swim. And I can lie back against the sofa imagining Karen Allen dabbing at my wounds, blurting out, “Dammit Indy, is there any place that doesn’t hurt?” I pause for two seconds, then point to a spot on my face, then one on the corner of my mouth.
I have to confess that my Mitty movie personas also don’t respect gender lines. Sometimes when every possible thing has gone wrong, I close my eyes and I’m Vivien Leigh, crying and crumpled on that glorious curving stairway wondering, “Where’ll I go? What’ll I do?” But then I straighten, wipe my eyes, and exclaim “After all, tomorrow IS another day!.”
They also have (of course they do) their superhero moments. Let something go horribly wrong, and that’s Superman screaming to the sky “NOOOOOOOOO!”
Being an actor, some of my Mitty moments take me into more villainous territory. Actors love to play bad guys. I can be in a dreary conversation with someone who just insists on droning on about two or three hundred trivial things that don’t interest me in the least. With my eyes politely remaining open, my mind begins to gauze over until I’m Hugo Weaving’s wonderfully sinister Agent Smith, sitting across the desk from Keanu Reeves’ Neo. He’s panicking as his lips start to blend into each other until they become a smooth surface. I take snide pleasure in saying, “Tell me, Mister Anderson. What good is a telephone, if you cannot speak?”
Oh, I could go on and on, and in far greater detail, about my Mitty moments. As I said, all men have them, the realization of which was part of James Thurber’s greatness, that insight into the smallest tics of human idiosyncrasies. I think this tendency is more attributable to men than to women. Of course women have their own myriad of dreams and fantasies, but this need to be a dashing, swashbuckling, hero sort seems to me to be particularly male. We are stuck with it.
Now, there is the definite possibility that some of you started thinking, about two pages ago, what in the world this silliness has to do with, well, much of anything. And there I go again, fading, fading, becoming Clint Eastwood in a dusty saloon with Gene Hickman lying at my feet, growling, and I growl, “Deserving’s got nothing’ to do with it.”
But it does have a lot to do with movies and books. Consider it a gentle homage to the world of adventure fantasy, to the marvelous, gifted authors and actors who give us heroes to emulate, characters who take us out of our everyday world and into worldwide adventures. They vanquish the bad guys and always get the girl. And they make us think, even if we don’t admit it, ahhh, to be that guy. Colorful, strong, stalwart and heroic, they make us want to reach for the same qualities within ourselves. And that’s not a bad thing.
I’ll let you return to the mundane real world no, after leaving you with one last little Mittyism. It’s one that I think of a bit more now, as I grow older. I like to envision, in those quieter moments, that when the final frame of the credits fades to black, and the projection light winks out, Brandon Dewilde will be standing at the corner of Crafton’s store, calling out, “Shane! Come back, Shane.” Err, I mean Barry.