pulling out my Longfellow
Sometimes when you start off a thought or conversation with the words “it’s funny” you don’t mean it at all but you don’t know how else to introduce the topic. You don’t want to say bittersweet or heartbreaking because who the hell would listen to anything said after those words and if you start with terrified you look like a coward.
“Whatever poet, orator, or sage may say of it, old age is still old age.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
If I look back Clint Eastwood has always made me feel like a bit of a coward. I loved his movies and I loved his characters but there was always a sense that I could never show the kind of toughness or bravery of a Dirty Harry or, ironically enough when I’m trying to reference his name, the Man With No Name. Although I connected with the plots I found that it left me wondering about my own masculinity. He occupied the role of hero, icon and father figure all rolled into one.
Now he is old as fuck.
Which is problematic for me because… it’s funny, I’m not sure how to say this.
I try and watch Gran Torino but I end up watching an old man pretend to be a different old man. This is not to say it’s not a great movie and all that but all I can see is how old Clint Eastwood is. I spend the whole movie looking at his withered arms and wrinkled face and I can imagine the nursing home smell he no doubt has now.
“It is autumn; not without
But within me is the cold.
Youth and spring are all about;
It is I that have grown old.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Autumn Within“
Surrounded by youth in the movie just makes it harder to pay attention to what is supposed to be going on in the film. It’s funny, all I can see is Clint as an old man. I know the characters are talking but in my head I’m hearing A Fist Full Of Dollars or Escape From Alcatraz. It’s not even that he is trying to recapture some swagger of youth on screen, at times he seems to be accepting being old and is trying to make the audience comfortable with it as well. I don’t want to be comfortable with Clint Eastwood looking old. Not that old anyway.
In Unforgiven he was older but not old. I could accept seeing him older. Moving a bit slower but still able to kick any ass that needed kicking. It’s funny, now when I’m saying “it’s funny” I’m trying not to mean it as tragic but when I’m watching that fucking Gran Torino movie, watching him shuffle around like he just escaped from some retirement community, I feel this deep ache inside. He is gunned down heroically at the end but everyone knows that isn’t how he is really going to go. The director will yell “cut” and he’ll stand up and everyone will tell him what a great take that was and he’ll walk off and he’ll still be old as fuck.
He looks too damn appropriate in the coffin when they show his eulogy. Seeing him in that box is like a punch in the gut.
Pretty soon that’s where he’ll be.
Age is opportunity no less,
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Morituri Salutamus
Is Henry trying to tell me to embrace getting older? Is Clint trying to show me it’s ok to grow old? Are they both trying to tell me that when I say “it’s funny” I should mean that it is funny and nothing more?
I can’t. It’s not funny and I’m not ok with it and once again Clint is making me feel like a pussy.
“We are like boxers, one never knows how much longer one has.”