First, I want to thank everyone who contributed to "the George fund." I'll take down the ad when I've enough energy to re-work the template. I managed to pay back what I owe, though not as rapidly as promised. This leaves me in the doghouse, figuratively, though we still have a dog in
the house, literally. And for this I am truly grateful.
From time to time, I wrestle with the notion of closing down shop, and the call beckons now. Forgive me if I seem cryptic.
Last night, I got a blast from the past, a message from someone mad enough to head into the final stretch of his life still operating under the delusion of his own importance. I once had the same fantasy, but was forced to shrug it off years ago. He's a huge failure, but won't admit it. I'm an even greater one, and I have had no choice but to 'fess up.
You see, I grew up in a family of people who assured me that I was destined to be the next Michelangelo, and that if I didn't use this allegedly God-given talent to paint my own reply to the Sistine Chapel, I'd commit the only sin worthy of the label. And now here I am in my late fifties, with no Sistine Chapels on the resume. In fact, whatever small skill I once possessed seems to have evaporated. At this late date, I have retreated to the drawing primers of Andrew Loomis, wondering why the same lessons seemed so easy when I was eighteen and so terrifying now.
, my friends, is failure
My failures as a writer are even more impressive. If I had committed manslaughter in my twenties I'd have have been released from jail in my early 40s. But write a bad book or choose the wrong companions and the world offers no forgiveness. Nor should it.
Line from a movie: "You may be done with the past, but the past isn't done with you." Facing the past may rob one of one's future. So be it. The future was always a pipe dream anyway, right?
I stayed up all night watching The Iceman Cometh
, John Frankenheimer's superb 1973 film of the play, which I'd not seen since the year it came out. If you've never seen it, it's on YouTube, although someone lopped an hour from the online version. The abbreviated version plays well; you won't miss the truncated subplots. Unquestionably, this is the best-acted film ever: Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Frederic March offer performances that make everything else they ever did seem trite. So does a young Jeff Bridges.
I watched the film stone sober. Not recommended. Vodka surely helps.
Only the shallow consider this play a tale about alcoholism. There are many types of addictions. Paranoia, for example. In modern times, fear has become our trendiest, deadliest smack -- America's leading export. Our paranoia addiction made Trump possible; it fuels the very fascism we all claim to abhor.
Our other addiction is hubris. We have become a nation of small men pretending to be giants, of human wrecks posing as citadels. In secret, we spend each day trapped in a straightjacket of humiliation -- the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office. These humiliations make us hate the very idea of speaking humbly -- in other words, we hate the one virtue worthy of the label. Unable to confess either our failures or our insignificance, we lose ourselves in a daydream of hyper-competent manliness and unearned smugness, and we reject anyone who reminds us our ridiculousness.
This addiction to haughtiness is another factor that made Trump popular. He shouts his magnificence without shame, and he'd rather bite off his own nipples than admit to even the slightest failing. These character flaws are the secret of his popularity. Small men (and women) watch Trump perform his bogus billionaire act and they enter into a phantasmagoria of self-confidence and certainty.
So do the anti-Trumpers, in their own self-righteous way.
Fear and pride. Those are our addictions. Those are our pipe dreams.
is about the pipe dreams that torture us by keeping us alive.
I've never had more empathy for any character in fiction than I had for Robert Ryan at the end of the film: "By God, there’s no hope! I’ll never be a success in the grandstand, or anywhere else. Life is too much for me. I’ll be a weak fool looking with pity at the two sides of everything till the day I die."