from the bottom
Have you ever started a conversation that you had no idea you were going to start and then expressed an opinion you had no idea you had?
I did exactly that recently and I was actually listening to the words coming out of my mouth and wondering where they came from. It was both fascinating and scary. It was like listening to my subconscious telling tales about me. Snitching.
I’ll give you a little background so you can see why the whole incident was so perplexing.
When I was a kid, my hero was John Belushi. I don’t know why. I was a kid. But I loved his films and I thought Saturday Night Live was the greatest show I’d ever seen. I was completely unaware of the drug abuse thing, all I knew was that my favorite band was The Blues Brothers and I would draw two little sets of Ray-Ban sunglasses and porkpie hats all over anything I could get a pen on. If I had been old enough I would no doubt be sporting a similar tattoo. I used to bounce on the bed and play harmonica to “Going Back to Miami” as loud as I could until my parents would fling the door open and threaten to murder me with their bare hands if I didn’t shut up.
Ok, probably a bit much on the Blues Brothers topic but that just goes to show what an absolute fan I was. When he died, I was crushed. It was like losing a first love.
For years afterwards I would read any book that came out about him or even mentioned him. I was always struck by what so many people thought about him; his immense talent was wasted by the Hollywood machine. All these talented, famous, in-the-know celebrities and power brokers were always offering up what a great actor he could have been if he was only given the right roles. But alas, it was not to be. He did a string of mediocre movies and then he died of an overdose.
Most people have a hero story like that I think. Be it an actor or musician or political figure. It’s a sad coming-of-age cliché. The whole “death of innocence” thing, right?
I was talking to a friend, not even really about anything close to this type of subject matter (I think we were talking about horses and whenever I think of horses I picture the scene in Dean Wormer’s office when Flounder shoots Trooper), when I blurt out that I saw Continental Divide the previous day and for the first time in my life I couldn’t escape the fact that it was a piece of crap.
Before that even got a chance to sink in I continued.
I was suddenly rambling about what horseshit it was that Belushi would have ended up a great actor if he had survived his drug habit.
I couldn’t believe the words tumbling out of my cakehole. John Belushi was sacred to me and here I was listening to me trash him. There was real venom in my voice.
I tried to slow down but it all came spewing out. How selfish it was for him to have died, how many people tried to save him, what a dick he was for being such a dick … my friend must have thought I snapped. One minute we’re having a calm discussion on some neutral equestrian subject and the next I’m having some sort of Belushi meltdown. I don’t think he would have been surprised if I burst into tears or started speaking in tongues.
I actually wondered to myself if this is how crazy people realize they’re crazy. Is this how it starts?
The point being, somewhere buried deep inside me I must have been thinking this stuff for years but I wouldn’t allow myself to actually say it. Even to myself. I remember watching Continental Divide and being disappointed but was apparently it was more than that.
My friend sat back slack jawed as I went on, bellowing how Neighbors and 1941 were steaming pieces of excrement and asking myself how I’d been able defend them in the past. As nervous as he appeared it was nowhere near as upset as I was making myself.
My fists were balled up now and I was in a full blown childish tantrum asking where did he get off dying like that and letting his family, friends and fans down. Letting one fan in particular down. I won’t repeat the colorful language but I’m sure you can guess.
Finally my friend looked up and said “My dad felt the same way about Jimi Hendrix.”
“No reason to get excited,” The thief, he kindly spoke “There are many here among us Who feel that life is but a joke But you and I, we’ve been through that And this is not our fate So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”
The song played in my head and I realized that I wasn’t crazy after all. I was a little disappointed. Crazy seemed easier. Easier than listening to myself trash my former idol. Much easier than sifting through the ashes of what it all meant.
I stopped talking. I let it go.
My friend, sensing an opportunity, darted out of the room and probably found a locked door to hide behind for awhile.
I sat down and stared off into space for a good hour before I finally got up again.
I looked for a pen so I could draw a pair of sunglasses and a hat.
“Some comedians love their characters. I don’t fall in love with mine. In fact, I get tired of them very fast. You have to be willing to throw it all away.”
– John Belushi