When I think back on the role-models that defined masculinity for me growing up, the list is pretty basic: Fonzie, Han Solo, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and Paul Newman’s Ari Ben-Canaan in Exodus. To this day, when the HVAC unit in my office starts to rattle I like to kick it, which usually quiets it down — a manuever I refer to as the “Arthur Fonzarelli Repair Procedure #1.”
I have been watching the original Star Wars trilogy with The Wolvog and the Chickienob. We’ve seen A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The Wolvog is more engaged by it than the Chickienob who pretty-much checks-out whenever Princess Leia isn’t onscreen. The Wolvog is heavy into them though, and has already announced that he wants to see Phantom Menace as soon as we’re done with Return of the Jedi. I have to admit that I skipped Episodes 1-3 when they came out in the theaters. So I feel like I’m about to go out of my depth. But I could watch Han Solo dispense bon mots and laser blasts all day — all my life I’ve wanted some woman who was in deep denial of her profound love for me to say, “I’d sooner kiss a wookie!” just so I could respond, “I can arrange that!” The one time a woman ever slapped me was in college. I don’t remember what I said to deserve it and although it was at the hand of a complete psychotic suicide poetry-writing redhead who made me miserable, for a quick moment I was proud of myself for provoking such a Han Solo-ish reaction.
The last two on the list: McQueen and Newman, are classic war heroes. McQueen constantly getting thrown in the cooler for trying to escape from the Nazis and Ari Ben-Canaan singlehandedly creating the State of Israel.
Who wouldn’t want to be like those guys? — men of action, always ready with a sharp remark or a right-hook.
I’ve been thinking about these guys not just because I’ve been watching the Star Wars films with the kids, but because I am feeling not entirely in-control of my universe. Part of it are events completely external, tangential and inconsequential to my life: Conan O’Brien getting shaft because Leno’s show bombed; the Jets actually playing in the AFC Championship Game, the possibility that Massachusetts might elect a Republican Senator with Ted Kennedy’s body still warm in the grave. None of these qualifies as tragedy, but for some reason they all just feel wrong. Then there are the weightier issues: the fact that I haven’t collected my full salary at work for over a year because of needed furlough-days; the gut wrenching suffering we’re witnessing in Haiti; the constant stream of bad news from places like Afghanistan and Yemen; the never-ending cycle of hope and despair in Israel and Palestine and the coarsening of the dialogue within the Jewish community about that very reality. All these worries leave me feeling very un-like an Ari Ben-Canaan or Captain Hilts “The Cooler King.”
Of course, we’re only a year away from a President who liked to think he was a character in one of those movies and look where that got us.
Still, I am feeling too much like the object of events than the subject.
I am trying to just bully my way through it, and in no small way, restarting this blog is a mechanism for that as well. Writing this stuff down helps to tame it to a certain extent, or at least provide a space where I can constrain its influence. Finding a name for the “it” is more challenging though. Not depression. But an anxiety tinged with a little sadness. A readiness for action without the certainty that it’s needed…yet.
What I’d really like to do is have some cosmic Fonzie smack the universe and get it in working order again. Bam! Just like that the jukebox would come on. Homes would uncollapse in Port Au Prince, the Polar icecaps would re-freeze, everyone would be able to afford their mortgages and Bernie Madoff would have conservatively and wisely invested peoples’ money. And we’d dance.