— A little Raymond Chandler fog in the atmosphere this morning, or at least that’s what came to mind as I looked out the bedroom window at first light. I started pondering mysteries of the weather, cancer, spinners and Western movies, in no particular order.
— We only get fog a few times a year. Coop, always looking for sheep threats in the hills, looks confused. I know I am. Chemotherapy initially leaves me wired and sleepless. The crash comes Friday. One more chemo added after yesterday’s treatment. That and radiation end March 25. After that, the CT scans to see how well it worked. Sure saw a lot of really hard-times looking cancer patients at the hospital yesterday. My deal so far seems benign by comparison.
— John Fleck and I have been having this off and on conversation about life away from daily newspaper work. He’s left to write and book and I’m on medical leave. We’ve both remarked about how great it is to be free of the spinners that cluttered our vision as reporters and, now, the freedom to see “real people” working hands on with the world’s daily issues. I have tended to condemn politics, after 40 years of covering it, but in calmer moments I remember it is the means to ends — the enabler of those “real people” working hands on. Somebody has got to do it — the politicking, the money-getting, the policy approval, the enabling legislation. I think it’s just that I’m ready to change teams, appreciate a new perspective. Not to speak for him, but it seems Fleck already has made that decision.
— I wrote something called “Good riddance, John Wayne” a couple of weeks ago. To explain. The burr under my saddle at the moment — and it’s been there for a long time — was the John Wayne character quote “Never apologize: It’s a sign of weakness,” which I remember from “The Searchers,” but which Wayne apparently also uttered in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” I most only remember the Ben Johnson riding — the best part of many John Wayne movies — in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”. The “never apologize” imperative was forced on my even as a boy at home, but it’s always made me bristle. I understand it’s value in a leadership sense but question it morally. Plus, John Wayne’s swaggering often just bugs me in general.
— And I could live without waterless, tree and grass-baren Monument Valley at as a Western movie set. It might have been the latest, and especially boring, “Lone Ranger” that pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t see it through. (You know, maybe The whole “Lone Ranger” thing was just a dumb idea to begin with). Scenery-wise, much prefer, say, the northern New Mexico shots around Santa Fe in the Jimmy Stewart movie “The Man from Laramie.” It was nice to see the Dallas Divide up near Ridgway, Colorado, in “True Grit,” but neither can I take any movie where they (script-wise) ride horses to death. I can’t even watch the non-lethal downhill stuff in “Man from Snowy River, although that’s a bunch of wild Aussies.
— I once worked with a wrangler, who, in angry moments, said horses they had “shit for brains” and threatened that the only way to enforce human instruction was a “two-by-four between the eyes.” Coincidentally, he was an old mustanger along the California-Nevada border.
— Which leads me in a fog-bound way, to say I appreciate “The Misfits” far more than “The Searchers” as a Western movie.” And if it’s cowboy-Indian strife, gut-shooting and the like that you wish, try “Ulzana’s Raid” with Burt Lancaster. And, as for courage against the odds, it’s worth comparing the lasting art of “High Noon” against the technicolor gore of “The Magnificent Seven.”