the new Old West
(originally posted 9/15/2020)
When I was a kid I loved to watch Spaghetti Westerns. The worlds created by Sergio Leone and his ilk made me long to saddle up and ride those dusty trails.
Movies about the Old West these days… not so much.
They are too realistic. The Old West thus imagined does not seem a place like a man like me would thrive. These films portray men as either being gunslingers or sniveling bitches. The good guys are grizzled in a way I could never be and the bad guys are complex, mean and ill-tempered.
I’d always seen myself as a lawman. Proudly wearing the tin star and dishing out justice in my own inimitable style. Through a lens now far more in focus, I can’t help but feel that I would spend my days huddled under a sheriff’s desk, hoping that the cattle rustlers would leave my small town alone.
The damn villains seem so much more crafty then they did back in the simpler days of the Dollars Trilogy—A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Back then you never heard of a barefoot wanted man cutting off the ends of each foot and then sewing them back on the other foot. It would be nearly impossible to track a man like that.
“He went that way. No wait… he went that way. No… he’s headed West. No wait… East.”
And just when the veteran Indian trackers finally figure out this trick the bank robbers would no doubt just cut off their feet at the ankles and sew them back on facing the other way. Their horse’s hooves too. Every damn posse would end up back at the bank they started.
That’s the new Old West that our current filmmakers are portraying and I don’t like it one bit.
I just want to play cards in a saloon while a cheery and very-affordable prostitute hangs on my shoulder. Now these saloons are grimy and prone to random outbreaks of violence. There’s just something about me that screams ‘first one to be thrown through the front window.’
That’s a terrible thing to know about yourself.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t enjoy whiskey. I can imagine a scenario where I spend the better part of the evening going from one tavern to the next asking for a Coke with extra ice and making the local businessman who sells glass a very wealthy man as I keep getting hurled through the various front windows after complaining “What do you mean there’s no ice? You don’t have to invent ice. Just freeze water!”
Truth be told, I’ve never fired a pistol and I’ve never actually punched another man in the face. I would be lost without my cell phone and the idea of galloping on a horse terrifies me. All that up and down on a hard saddle. At some point you just have to admit that your balls hang a little low for this new Old West.
I long for the old Old West. As a child I practiced my sneer in a mirror for hours. I bought a cowboy hat and spent countless happy hours slaughtering Indians in my backyard. These days the cowboys aren’t even the good guys.
“Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
-Lee Van Cleef
Reality is complicated and boring and has no place in the past. I can barely deal with it in the present.
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