Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crazy Hearts

The only reason I agreed to see “Crazy Heart” was that Mack, the born again Christian Republican cowboy whom I still adore without reservation, told me the movie was all about him. 

“’cept fer the part about bein’ a star,” he added, lest I think he still suffered a drunk’s grandiosity and mistook himself for, say, Kris Kristofferson, who also got himself sober.

“You’re always a star to me,” I assured him.

I used to say things like that in hopes it would get him to marry me. Though I’ve since realized that marriage to anyone would cost me my hard-won and quivery sanity, I find I still say them, and I’m not certain why. Perhaps out of habit? Perhaps ‘cause they’re true? Either way, Dr. Mars thinks I should stop saying them and turn my affections in another direction, toward an available man who can fully return them. Which only proves that Dr. Mars might know what it is to be ancient, but is clueless about being ancient plus female. It also proves that he wasn’t in my dad’s hospital room when Mack bent down to shave his old face with more gentle care and genuine tenderness than I’ve ever seen or experienced. Ever.

Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, and Mrs. Pep and I had already decided to try to distract ourselves from the worst of our grief by getting lost in a movie. My sister is not only well-read, but universally recognized as being culturally astute. So her first choice, perversely enough, was “Last Station.”

“It’s about Tolstoy,” she pointed out. 

“It’s about the dying of an old Russian Jew,” I corrected her, since our father indeed used to be the same thing. “Plus Ed Head says it’s unwatchable.” Ed Head, my snobby best friend, is even more culturally astute than is Mrs. Pep, plus he too lost a parent last year, his beloved mom, the same week that we lost our dad. Finally I had a sterling idea: “Let’s see a movie that has nothing to do with anything, one we can’t relate to at all.”

That, of course, would be “Avatar”, in which neither of us held one shred of interest. And “Avatar” it was going to be, until Mack called me up and said he was starring in “Crazy Heart.”

Even drunk and unkempt, Jeff Bridges looks handsome, though not, to me, as handsome as Mack. Whenever I tell Mack how handsome he is, he remarks that I must be hallucinating. And, considering my record of psychological health, he could be right. Except that he’s not.

The movie we should have watched, I realized only later that night, was made forty years ago: 1970’s hit “The Out of Towners.” As hard as I’ve ever seen my dad laugh, the very hardest was when he was watching Jack Lemmon swear he would sue the whole of New York for setting out to ruin his life. The delicious ire! The sweet paranoia! The simpering and still young Sandy Dennis!

Why didn’t I think of that movie last year and bring it to his hospital room? It might have been the one thing that could still reach him, the hilarious sound of Lemmon raging, as every man must, at the total injustice of everything!

I’m going to pretend to myself that I did, that my dad heard every word and laughed so hard that Mack had to pause while snipping his nose hairs. Dr. Mars tries to help me face up to reality, but so far, I prefer my revisions.


  1. Mrs. Brainerd's mother died last year - almost at this time. Her daughters have placed her on the kitchen counter disguised as a Poinsietta -where she continues to thrive without producing a single bud. She would have loved the irony.

  2. Oh thank god. You've posted! I was turning purple with anxiety.

    This is the second time today I've
    been touched by a father's dying.
    Nicely writ, Ms G... thank you! (And Mack.)
    I hope you hear your Dad's laughter forever.

    Then there's the tearful first-person heart rending appeal for help by Mr.Beacon of Truth himself, Keith Olbermann. His father asking Keith to kill him is a scene from hell. Find a moment to read this, if you's very moving despite one's political sway. And damn scary!

    Oh, may none of us meet that end.
    Let's all agree to die in our sleep, shall we?

    Link to KO's Dad story:

  3. Opps. Blogspot couldn't handle the lengthy link.
    Try this Tiny URL to KO story instead. It's worth it. Fogman

  4. Thank you, M. Swann, and thanks, Man of Fog. Especially for the Olbermann link, which is all that you say it is, if not more.

  5. I think life goes better with revisions. This has to be 9/10ths of the job of a writer - rewrite the world into something comprehensible for once. Let's ignore Dr. Mars and rewrite Mack...

  6. Excellent suggestion, Tanita. I thank you!

  7. Love the name Ed Head and the image of Mack shaving your dad. Those docs just don't get it sometimes.

  8. Does Mack have a brother, perhaps, who didn't go the way of Republicanism and re-birth? Someone with the same handsomeness and down-to-earthness but without the resistence? (I like this re-writing bid'ness!)