Seventies Stories

We tell a lot of stories and we tell ourselves A LOT of stories.  Some of them are true but most of them are not entirely true.

Scratch that. 

None of them are entirely true because there is no absolute truth other than we will all die one day.

HAPPY JANUARY!

Resolutions be damned!

It’s better not to obsess about absolute truth or death because, really, what will that get us?  Instead, I’ve found over the years the better strategy is to accept that there are simply basic truths.

Like when you watch a group of many, many hundreds of weaponized people violently storm the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  on, say, January 6, 2021, shouting they want to hang a US Vice President before he can, in an hour or two, ratify the results of a presidential election they didn’t like, this is, by definition, an insurrection.

That is because insurrection is defined as a violent uprising against an authority or government. 

You tell em, Lizzy!

It is also true because they built a gallows for the hanging, seriously injured and/or caused the death of many police officers AND destroyed many tens of thousands of dollars worth of government property in doing so.

On the other hand, there is no way to categorically proclaim Power of the Dog, a film I found beautiful to look at but vague and strangely homophobic in its vagueness, is the best movie of the year.

Now you might truthfully state it is the best REVIEWED film of the year and, by extension, a front-runner in the Oscar race for best picture and director.  But you can’t prove it is overall THE best by any rational standard.

Unless there is an Oscar for highest cheekbones, nothing is a sure bet!

No opinion of greatness is an absolute truth.  Just as no memory or memory piece is an absolute evocation of what literally happened.

The best we storytellers, which includes all of us (non-writers especially included), can do is capture a basic spirit of what happened and through character, plot and actions, show it to you.

This came to mind this week as I found myself debating the merits and debits of two films set in the decade I basically grew up in – the 1970s.  These would be Licorice Pizza and The Tender Bar.

Let me state at the outset that as a bit of an expert on the seventies, since I was at my most impressionable, observant and un-jaded at the time, both of these movies told the basic truth.

Double serving of 70s realness

This doesn’t mean they were brilliant or Oscar worthy or that YOU should love or like them.  Rather it’s that they were amazingly accurate on the essentials when so many stories about a particular place and time are not but pretend to be.

Most of the 1970s, particularly the first half, were really the tail end of what we now consider the cultural revolution of the 1960s. 

This was a time when everything felt adrift.  If you were coming-of-age at that moment your journey strangely coincided with the country’s journey.  No one knew what the new rules were in sex or sex roles; in politics and social settings; and to quote a 60s/70s expression, in love or war or the whole damned thing.

See: Peggy from Mad Men, Season 7

This made it a quite interesting but confusing time to grow up in.  To tell stories about it is like trying to hold a hyperactive puppy in your hands.  Just when you think you’ve tamed the impossible it wriggles out of your grasp and runs (or circles) in an entirely different direction.

I think this accounts for some of the disparate reaction to both films. 

The very reason I appreciate and enjoyed Licorice Pizza were the very reason four of the other five people watching the movie with me (Note:  Okay, yes, it was a screener and we watched it on Christmas Day at home!) lost interest.

The story of a weird, pseudo romantic relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old girl that unfolded in disjointed episodes where they sold waterbeds, met drug-fueled celebrities like producer Jon Peters and each grappled with their even stranger, ill-defined family lives, just wasn’t really compelling.

Even an unhinged Bradley Cooper cameo couldn’t do it for them

Yet for me, it was surrealistically accurate because that was what I saw as the story of the seventies.  Everything felt disjointed, and not merely because I was an adolescent.  It was a disjoined time and, in retrospect, a rather lovely one when you consider that the decade that would follow it were the Gordon Gekko-like greed is good eighties.

Sure, the seventies was also the era of Watergate but the eighties brought us Ronald Reagan. 

And let’s just let that sit there for a little while.

A chill just went down my spine

Okay, enough. 

The Tender Bar spends most of its time in the later 1970s and, as a memoir of a young boys’ coming-of-age, has a naturally gauzy quality to it.  But to its credit, it also doesn’t spare us the social reckoning that Licorice Pizza cleverly avoids. 

At this point, there was direct retribution and consequences for underage drinking, hitting women (note: particularly one’s wife) and the snobbism of economic class.  If it feels a little pat, well, at that time, on Long Island, if you were a teenager, it was a little pat.

I only know this because I grew up in Queens (Note: Not quite Long Island, but still….) and saw it play out in real time.  The years prior made it okay for kids to now call out adults in no uncertain terms.  In fact, it even got you support from that group of adults that had made the choice to evolve rather than stand their ground in insurrection to society’s changing norms.

AHEM

I loved The Tender Bar not because it was THE best of any film story but because it so entertainingly and boldly and emotionally told ITS story.  No one thought about being too sentimental because, let’s face it, it was something of an emotional time.

This was my truth of that moment and it happily coincided with what these filmmakers chose to show us.  Which is about the best you can hope to do as a storyteller of any kind.

Well done, Georgie.

Where we all get in trouble, especially society, is when we try to twist the basic truth into something patently and grotesquely untrue.

That’s not only unacceptable but it’s strangely un-American.  To this very American art form, that is.

Gordon Lightfoot – “If You Could Read My Mind”

A Very Chairy Nightmare

This is what it’s been like for me:

Last night I dreamt that a guy named Hampton, or Harrington, with a portfolio in his hand and a hat cocked to the side of his head as if he was an old time reporter – think conservative writer Matt Drudge – came to my door trying to sell me something.

You know the type

I instantly backed away because he wasn’t wearing a mask.

But he kept talking and, when he saw I wasn’t responding to some right wing or religious claptrap he was peddling, he reached his arm out to jam the door and blurted out incredulously,

Wait, you haven’t heard of me????

I then gave him one of my famous eye rolls (Note: Okay, two) and slammed the door in his face.

My heart was beating fast and I was pissed!

This demented, unknown asshole —  how dare he infiltrate my safe space!

NOW!

Never mind this was my old apartment, located on the ground floor of a duplex from the sixties, that I haven’t lived in for 10 years.

Anyway, I turned from the door and went through the living room and then around the corner, past my bedroom, and through the hall to my home office, where I see Hampton, or Harrington, or whoever the f-k he claimed to be, actually crawling through my floor-to-ceiling door/window.

How he got it open, I have no idea, since as I recall there were bars on all those windows.  But these type of people, well, as we all know too well after the last four years, they have their ways, right?

If only Clooney was in this dream…

In any event, there I go running into the room where somehow this little sh-t has now somehow gotten his foot through the glass, ready to push him out and break the glass and sever his presumptuous soon to be dangling limb, if need be.

But before I can do anything I notice right next to him this cute little young woman, sitting at a large table she’s set up on the landing next to my doorway.  It’s got a large colorful tablecloth with a gorgeous set up of orange juice, muffins, teacakes, coffee, lemonade and the like, and she’s commandeered my entire area, ready to sell or perhaps even give it all away to a line of very clean-looking smiley people from, I’m guessing Indiana or some such Midwest state, certainly not West Hollywood, which is where my apartment was located.

A real Anna Camp type

I look at this woman, also mask-less and unsurprisingly sunny blonde, and think what the f-ck, but she just stares at me with this Up With People sort of smile and gestures to the o.j. and muffins.

Despite how good they look (Note:  Yeah, I have to admit that) I say to her almost tongue-tied:

What???  You can’t be here.  What are you doing here????

Hello? Hello?

Meanwhile, Hampton’s long leg has now almost touched the floor in my office, as I’m pressing the glass door closed against him and start yelling:

Get out!  Get out!   GET.   THE F-CK.   OUT!!!!!!!!

And then….

Well, I can’t tell you if I won or lost because then…

I WOKE.   THE F-CK.    UP.

But is it really?

Of course, missing from this dream was my husband of almost 32 years, who was living with me in that apartment.  God knows where those people stashed him.

Also gone was any semblance of anyone else to help me.  All that I saw was the phony sunshine being offered by these charlatans from a demented world that people were lining up to buy into in droves.

Does any of this sound, well, familiar?

Drink that Kool Aid

As I watched  Donald Trump this weekend immorally and probably illegally nominate someone who will arguably be the most conservative person ever to occupy a seat on the US Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, I couldn’t help but reconsider, in light of this dream, what I secretly thought about myself at several points in my childhood when I had feelings about things that, in a matter of time, would turn out to actually happen:

I have ESP!

Open 24 hours

Then I realized the ugly truth.  I’m not special and I’d bet all 65 million of us have at times in the last four years been having various versions of this very same…well, let’s just call it as it is…nightmare.

Amy Coney Barrett, as well as the young girl at the breakfast table, and even Hampton or Harrington, might seem perfectly sunny to hang out with.  In fact, this would be especially so as long as they bring those muffins and orange juice and we have all taken a cup of Instant Smile in order to avoid talking about anything meaningful aside from their glistening and hypnotizing, well, cleanliness.

Follow the light Carol Anne!

But if we dare to blink our eyes a few times or, god/gosh forbid, think, it quickly becomes clear that what we’re really feasting on is, in reality, the beginning of our own demise.  The homogenization of difference.  The demonization and illegalization of the essence of who most of the 65 million of us are, or certainly believe in.

Ms. Barrett and Mr. Trump smiled a great game from the Rose Garden Saturday afternoon.  Heck, so did even  Kellyanne Conway and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham from the audience, and when was the last time you could say that about the latter?

She looks better than I thought #shade

But make no mistake.  If you are female, if you are LGBTQ, if you are not guided by religion, if you are non-white, OR if you are at all an ally in any sort of way of any of the aforementioned above, you should be more than alarmed.

Not to mention, you can also now count yourself, as allies, among that infamous 65 million of 2016 whose beliefs and lives will truly be in peril. (Note: aka The Majority).

I won’t go through all the many ways we should be panicked at the nomination and likely immoral confirmation of this woman.  Read these links and simply let the facts do it for you:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

Blessed be the fruit

But what I will do is encourage you all to remember that though dreams and nightmares are personal works of fiction, they spring from the reality of your mind.

Now more than ever in the next five weeks heading up to this election it’s important that each and every one of us trust in our minds, in our own ways of thinking, and especially in our own instincts on impending danger, and take any actions available to save ourselves, our compatriots and, most of all, even our fellow citizens/enemies from the worst of themselves.

Or shall I say, all of ourselves???

Alice Cooper – “Welcome to My Nightmare”