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Saul Rubinek Blues

Well he should’a armed himself .. if he’s gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.” – Eastwood

I was sitting in my old Noe Valley apartment a long while back with a friend, watching ‘Unforgiven.’ If it isn’t my favorite all-time movie it’s top-three without voting. “I wonder who we would’ve been,” she mused, “if we’d lived in the old west.” She went on to suppose roles for us, fairly accurate I’d guess, based on who we were as modern-day, semi-adult city-dwellers. A lot of things you look back on and think “what bullshit that was“, but this isn’t one of them. The more road I take on the more I see the permanence of who I am and the futility of ever trying to change it. This subtracts nothing from the occasionally necessary change of scenery, either. What it does emphasize is the even greater futility of trying to change someone else. This idea lends itself to other interesting ones, free will among them. If the ego is an illusion, as so many fashionable sorts claim, this might explain the inflexibility of identity. It would be a tough illusion to sustain otherwise. It’s a little like the way a body fights instinctively to remain, despite all suffering and reason. People would go around dying everywhere were this not the case, easy as they drink bottled water.

I remember, as a young man, taking a tour of an East Bay film studio and meeting some guy who made film trailers. His job was to elicit as many positive responses from a two or three minute clip as possible, and they had wires they’d attach to people’s heads to tell them when they’d succeeded. Essentially, at that point in cinematic history anyway, it all came down to putting Bill Murray’s face up there. They could construct the most elegant tease in the history of film, but without Bill’s mug it was shit. I thought about this for a long while after. To me Bill Murray represents some sort of Zen Resignation. It’s like his face says “nothing is going to work out but I’m going to stick around to see how it plays, anyway.” And yeah, if I’d seen it appear in a film trailer I’d probably have made note to see that movie. The other face that registers that way with me is Clint Eastwood. Yet Clint’s face is far from indifferent; it kind of says “Now I’m gonna kill you and I’m lookin’ pissed off for you makin’ me do this.” It’s a joyously, handsomely, constipated and comically angry face. It’s the look he gives Gene Hackman in ‘Unforgiven’  just after Gene tells him “see you in hell” and Clint replies “yeah” and then fires a shotgun at his head, point blank.

Where am I going with all this? Not sure, but it’s the only place I could have gone anyway. We need division to have identity and we cling to identity despite its being arguably false. Here was my exact thinking for this year’s World Series: I didn’t care because the Giants were 55 games out by August and I only had subliminal recognition of divisional standings due to the scrolling crap they put at the bottom of the screen when I’m watching something else. I had other hard stuff going on and this was meaningless. But then the playoffs came around and I needed diversion for a few hours at night and they use an extra twelve or thirteen cameras and a bunch of other people care so I started to follow. I rooted against the Dodgers because they’re the Dodgers I suppose and because I have some kind of emotional investment in Madison Bumgarner’s post season legacy outliving Clayton Kershaw’s. Also because Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in the game and has enough other things going for him to not worry about him. I took this thinking all the way to Game Seven and seeing my adopted favorite Astros heading for victory, but was unable to fully enjoy their ultimate success due to feelings of empathy for Dodger starter Yu Darvish. If there’s a way to contain this in a character description, this is who I would have played in ‘Unforgiven.’

What I’m getting at here is that politics is a kind of uber-bullshit, burning and hurling through space at breakneck speed and consuming everyone and everything in its path. It’s sports for those who are too lame or disinterested to inappropriately filter their emotions in that direction. It’s “the world’s gonna end” every week and every day until the Cuban Missile Crisis rolls around the day after Richardson snags McCovey’s liner to end the ’62 Series. And now it’s been distilled to its purest form with hatred based solely upon who or what one aligns himself with or similar estimate of another. The real bitch of it is, you can’t escape this conundrum. It’s like trying to be blissfully unaware of playoff baseball with those lines still scrolling at the bottom of your screen. If you have no horse in the race you still have something against someone’s jockey or the colors the little shit chooses for his silks. And of course sometimes the race does matter; sometimes it’s war or somebody’s kid dying or the powerful taking advantage of the weak. But trying to distill this into political lines is never clean and a little like trying to hate Clayton Kershaw while still feeling sorry for Yu Darvish.

And so we end up with music. Or I do anyway and I defend it passionately while gloriously taking sides against all reason. I never cared for the Beatles.  And I spent a Sunday overnight in Stockton a few weekends back with two close friends in order to see Dwight Yoakam at the Bob Hope Theater, but neither Bob nor Dwight ever showed up. See? It just doesn’t make any sense, and that’s the point.

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