I worked as hard as ever this week and I will work harder next week. Today I am doing my version of laying low. What does laying low mean for me? It can mean not a lot, or not what it would seem to mean. My mind never stops creating, so a laying low day can be a highly productive day, but perhaps without the physically-at-the-desk component. A laying low day can be as productive as any day. I can't not be creating. But I should also scale other things back for a few hours.
I had a galling migraine last night. I went out to the Brattle to see The Misfits (1961) with my friend Ben, who was in town from San Francisco where he moved about a year ago. We met some years back when he was working publicity for Handel and Haydn and I was doing a feature on Messiah. He's a composer and a good writer and I helped him get some work at a classical music magazine I used to write for. We have gone to the Brattle many times together and then we go out after to somewhere like Grendel's. Ben is smart and a good person and I like him a lot.
Ben picked the film. He had not seen The Misfits and I hadn't seen it on the big screen and was likely going to the movie anyway before I heard from him so it worked out well. John Huston directed. The film was the last for Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable and has lots of loose ends that are left dangling. For instance, Thelma Ritter's character just kind of leaves the movie and we don't hear from her again. Then there is Kevin McCarthy, the star of 1956's The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, who gets a credit and is in the film for seconds. There he is on the steps of the courthouse, and then that's it for him. What it reminds me of somewhat is Orson Welles's The Other Side of the Wind. You get a lot of philosophy that isn't quite mumbo-jumbo, but it's one of those metaphysical movies, not unlike those 1950s/1960s adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays that seemed really long. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (which included Burl Ives, later to be Sam the Snowman in Rudolph) and The Night of the Iguana (itself directed by Huston). The Misfits is long. (You can also see its influence on Jaws in the horse-man "action" sequences at the end.) Montgomery Clift excels in it, but all of the acting is good, if just south of overwrought sometimes. The Tennessee Williams approach is crossed with the modern Western. I like the idea of the modern Western--it's a Western but people drive around in cars. Often modern Westerns feature rodeos--that's an effective way to blend the worlds of the past--the Gunsmoke-type of Western--and the modern machine era. I cited Nicholas Ray's The Lusty Men (1952) to Ben as one of the better examples after. That may be Ray's finest picture, and it's one of Robert Mitchum's best, too.
My head was killing me the whole time, though. I'm thinking maybe I should have a little Ziploc bag of Advil tucked away in a pocket of my coats just in case, though you're never too far from a CVS. I was also likely dehydrated because all I've been doing is writing, running stairs, and drinking coffee. I asked Ben a lot of questions about his new life, San Francisco, the orchestra he works for, his writing, the editing he does. A lot of times people ask questions because they don't know what else to say. When two people meet, that's how it usually goes. It's questions for questions sake. I have a deep desire to know. I want to understand. I want to know what someone thinks. If they say, "He's kind of a pompous guy," I want to know what it was that made them think that about that person.
I also find that people don't really know how to engage me about what I am creating, what I am facing, the situation I am in. All of it is so complicated and so unlike the stuff of anyone else's life. It's remarkable in a way how little of it comes up, though the other person can know much about it. They don't know how to talk about any of it, though, or bring it up. Books don't even come up. The situation is what the situation is right now. This record speaks to it, and will have to speak to it for the time being. I try and trust that people know, they just don't know what to say, and that at some point there will be a new situation, and that new situation will be glorious, and the tale will be told in conversations between many, many, many people. Then it will be on lips.
I also do have a friend I can talk to about every single aspect of this, my oldest and best friend. To talk about it with any usefulness means one has to have so much knowledge about how these people are, this system, all of the names and venues. You almost have to be an expert on the subject. That only occurs with time and having a sharp mind. A lot of conversations. Reading all of these entries. Knowing my experiences. A good memory. So when I was coming home, I texted that person and thanked them for being my friend and told them I loved them.
I was fortunate to time the T well, both at Harvard and then at Park Street. Normally I'd walk from Park Street, but I was hurting, and I got upstairs just as the Green Line train that would take me to Haymarket was arriving. It was cold out, which helped, because I could pull back my hat and feel the air on my forehead. Cold--whether it's cold air or cold water--tends to help me with these especially bad headaches. But I just made home all the same, and swallowed three Advil and started drinking lots of water. I watched some of the Patriots game on my phone. I didn't need to see that. The Bills didn't even play that well and the Patriots weren't close to competitive. What are they doing? That botched management of the clock at the end of the second half all but officially ended the game. That was high school football stuff--but a loose high school football program.
They won't change anything either with that offense. It's Mac Jones. It's Matt Patricia. It's the quarterback and the play calling. The haplessness. They're hapless. I think that's the best word for it. I don't believe it's possible for the Patriots to succeed with one guy or the other, but trying to do it with both--well, you see what that looks like. As I said, it was cold last night, and Jones's BB gun arm was on full display. I get that he was statistically better in Minnesota, but that was inside, and it's telling--but hardly surprising--that no one mentions that. He can't play at the level you need a quarterback to play in today's NFL. Patricia can't coach at that level either. Belichick is cruising. He's not going for it anymore. I don't mean on fourth down. I mean he's not rapacious to succeed. He's fine with coasting. The fire is not out, but it's this wan hearth fire with lightly glowing embers, not the mighty blaze one needs to be great at anything.
The offensive line is as bad if not worse than Jones. There are some plays when he takes the snap and immediately he's in flight. He has no choice. A lot of it isn't his fault, but when he does get the time, he can't make the throws, the decisions. For them to have a chance to do anything, however marginal, they'd have to can Patricia--or make him something else--and go with Zappe. Try to simultaneously bottle a little lightning and profit by a shake-up. I expect them to keep banging the head into the wall, though, to keep with the headache motif. You know what is annoying, or would be if I wasn't in hell and things like this could matter at all to me? (NB: That is a sign that things are going okay, I'd say.) The Celtics and the Bruins are awesome. Dynamite teams. Or at least highly exciting teams off to fantastic starts which are starting to become more than fantastic starts. And if you hear any sports talk in Boston on TV or the radio, it's almost all Patriots. And Belichick. And Brady. With this bland, barely mediocre--if that--team, a guy who left and has his own problems, and a product that is as flat as soda left out for a day. Who cares? Football is a lowest common denominator sport, though, and the lowest common denominator is what society, culture, and the world is presently most about, most infused with, most oriented around. In some ways, this is a great time for Boston sports, but you have to focus on the right two teams, not the two bad ones, or the blah-average one and the sputtering Red Sox, both of whom are last place teams, which is what I expect the Red Sox to be next year as well.