As Russia is just about to invade Ukraine, and the U.S. and its European allies are just about to retaliate by crippling Russia economically, and the combined fallout from those actions are just about to start the 21st century version of World War III, I spent my Friday night with my good friend Midge Maisel.
Not only that, I plan to spend Sunday night with my new friend Sam, as played by the magnificently freaky Bridget Everett, and might even this week, if I have time and have to escape that badly, finally check in with my four-decade old frenemy Tammy Faye Baker via the unique metamorphosis of Jessica Chastain.
Though I considered loving Lucy (and Desi) a second time if Nicole (and Javier) will have me (Note: As if THEY (or anyone else) have a say these days about ANYTHING I do).
I’m talking about the fourth season of The (indeed) MARVELOUS Mrs. Maisel, the new episodes of the first season of my fellow freaks on HBO’s Somebody Somewhere and the reverse of nostalgia (Note: Rage?) provided by the 2021 feature film I’ve thus far resisted, The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Not to mention my favorite film (or is it streaming platformed movie) of 2021, Being The Ricardos, which didn’t get a best picture Oscar nomination but should have.
And no, I don’t care that you didn’t like it. I was thoroughly and totally entertained.
As for Russia, F them and the Trump they rode in on.
I write all this to remind myself, and anyone within earshot (or brain-shot), that TV and movies, especially these days, are important.
These people are our friends and family because too often our real family and friends are not to be had or enjoyed at the snap of our fingers.
Even if they are, who knows if they’re our 2022 definition of safe to be around without wearing a f’n mask?
The good ones probably are but when this week we hear that the U.S. Surgeon General’s 4-year-old kid gave him and his wife and their other kid symptomatic COVID all bets are off about what’s safe.
Screw Bill Maher and the rest of his acolytes who are over masks. Safe is safe and sometimes only a pre-selected and pre-screened handful of a virtual few can provide true comfort and joy in an age of duress.
Duress meaning not so much threats or pressure but looming and persistent international insanity.
It might seem strange that a gay male adult of advancing years such as myself could find pleasure in spending time in 1960. But the brittle, sarcastic wit and survival skills of Midge Maisel reminds me of just how much I have survived and just how much I’ve used my humor, brittleness and sarcasm to get me through in the past.
Plus, um, the clothes. I couldn’t fit into them but there is something inspiring when you take the time to match your hat and shirt with the color of your wallpaper. That kind of attention, that effort, well, it does make you believe that anything is possible if you can get yourself motivated enough.
As for Somebody Somewhere, it’s not like I’ve ever lived in, or even been to, small town Kansas. I’m a New York City boy whose idea of exploring the heartland was the two years I spent in grad school and working in Chicago.
However, what Sam and her non-traditional cohort of friends point out to me in each edgy half-hour segment is just how small town everyone’s life truly is when you strip away the big buildings and your own ego.
No amount of sophistication can diffuse the internal rage you inflict on yourself because of the actions of some friend, family member or acquaintance the kid version of yourself endured in the past.
Not to mention, it’s nice to remember that big can be just as small and equally as lethal if you don’t figure out a way to get over yourself and be honest and bold from this moment going forward.
But what the first season of this show helps remind me most is that no one, not any one person, can do this alone. We like to think we’re one-man bands in survival and endurance, especially those of us who see ourselves as survivors.
Yet watching Ms. Everett and company I’m reminded that often it’s only when you stop pretending and admit that you’re at your absolutely crappiest in the presence of someone you’d normally never tell anything to, and certainly never deign to hang out with, that you learn anything valuable about yourself.
Meaning insanity IS doing the same thing (or person) over and over again but expecting different results. (Note: Thanks Einstein and sorry for the parens).
I can’t explain why I am once again tempted to be in the presence of Tammy Faye since she and her then evangelical hubby remind me of many of the hypocritical bigoted, destructive and hateful forces that truly changed American society for the worst.
Not only do we still feel their effects today but understanding the personal foibles that caused them to create a movement that is still with us in an even more poisonous form somehow makes it all worse.
Many of us got her, and them, then. I mean, is it really that difficult to understand those were the actions of several deluded and damaged people?
But perhaps that’s exactly the reason to spend a few hours with her now. To remind ourselves (Note: Okay, myself) that it’s nice to understand but it’s even better to use that knowledge to move around, over and right damn, gub through them.
In order to diffuse the bomb you need to know what makes it tick, if you want to use World War lingo.
Which leaves us with Lucy (and Desi), who so many of us still love.
I can count on one finger the number of TV characters from the fifties who have survived to this day. And still make us laugh uproariously. And are still loveable.
This provides me, and you, with perhaps the greatest gift of all.
To know that survival is, indeed, possible. Especially if you are able to laugh at yourself and the world as it quickly unfolds, and sometimes upends, all around you.