Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Going With The Grain


I am standing in a palette of primary colors, rectangles of crayons, a garden of barcodes. Thirty yards of yellows, oranges and greens screaming at me in garish tones. Pick me up. Buy me! The cereal section grows like weedy dandelions or wild orchids with their seductive tongues hanging out.

It wasn’t always like this. There were Corn Flakes, All-Bran and Shredded Wheat, simple and stately in their boxy mansions. There was Rice Krispies, snap, crackle and popping noiselessly on the shelf. There was Wheaties, Breakfast of Champions, my first newspaper suggesting who I would be if I ever grew up. And Grape Nuts emblemtic in that it is derived from neither grapes nor nuts; a deceit which runs through Kellogg, Post and General Mills, with doubtful claims on all their gaudy boxes. These were the first, going back ninety years or more. And they’ve been sitting on the shelf under the watchful eye of a Ben Franklin look-alike in his Quaker hat on the oatmeal cylinder.

It took pasteurized milk and wax paper to make them a morning habit. The Kellogg brothers showed how far 6th grade drop-outs could go. Battle Creek, Michigan, became their center of operation and many a box top was sent to that address for decoder pins, badges and buttons for beanie hats.

The grocer reached for one or the other with his elongated pincer. This was before self service markets. A counter separated the server and the served. He tallied the items with his #3 pencil, kept behind his ear, onto the paper bag. You shopped 4 or 5 times a week. Ice boxes were small and food spoiled….but not cereal.

Cheerios was born in the early ‘40s, the first oat cereal and hopelessly dull which is why it required a cheery name. After the war, mills boomed with the boomers and colonized the aisle. Can it be my daughters were raised on Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops? Cavities got bigger. Dentists got rich. Blood sugar zoomed north. Is it any wonder about ten percent of Americans have type-2 diabetes? Then wheat germ (remember that?), bran and fiber became by-words for lean and longevity. Special K, Smart Start. Fiber-Smart, and granola but they have even more carbohydrates. Muesli is a mix of rolled oats or cornflakes with fruit, nuts and seeds, tasteless enough to make it seem healthy but loaded with carbohydrates.

I love my cereal. I could eat it all day and nothing else, providing I drizzle it with blueberries. Got to kill those free radicals. As we all know the only good radical is an oxidized one.

A walk in the cereal section is a sensory experience; less a Mozart concerto than an atonal cacophony, opera-loud, Dixieland-close. Visually, it is a canvas splashed by intoxicated Fauvists. And it seems never to end, like half a football field, five first-downs. I have wasted quality time looking for Raisin Bran Crunch, Honey Bunches of Oats or Golden Grahams. Curious how many brands are out there, I went to a website which lists them all. I counted 140 before finishing the letter C. It’s America, it’s excess and according to William Blake, The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Walkin and Talkin

A few movie lines from about forty years ago say it all and they were both improvised ...

I’m walkin here, I’m walkin.

You talkin to me?

Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy asserts his right of way across Times Square. Dustin Hoffman is little man, the sleaze and scum of humanity but he is a man taking his place against the machine, stopping life’s traffic. He is the Chinese dissident who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananman Square. He might be a tree-hugger or an occupier holding his ground against Wall St.

Travis Bickle, the Vietnam vet is damaged goods in Taxi Driver. He practices in front of a mirror rehearsing for a confrontation with his hands and his mouth. It wasn’t in the script. De Niro had heard it somewhere. We’ve all heard and maybe said it but not the way he did. Since then those words have found there way into dozens of movies and are immediately recognizable.

Powerlessness and defiance are universals. Another way of saying, fuck you. Peter Finch shouted out the window in Network, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. As I recall in the movie he was mad as hell about the TV rating system which ranked his show down on the list. Paddy Chayefsky voiced his outrage that News programs became entertainment, to juice up their Neilson numbers. However the slogan spread to Everyman, mad as hell about their crushed dreams, about conformity or some inchoate spark gone out.

The other iconic phrase which struck a chord in our collective psyche was said by Marlon Brando in the Godfather. I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse. What better sums up concealed muscle, implicit power, the way Congressman are made an offer from corporate lobbyists…….. vote as you are told or you’ll be back collecting shopping carts in the parking lot.

Pop culture insinuates itself in our vocabulary as a common tongue. It is both a huge megaphone and oversized ear. We are walkin here and we’re mad as hell. At the same time we are impotent, listening close how to gain power, how to make people an offer they can’t refuse. Translate all that to politics and you have the Tea Party, Mad Hatters but not quite sure what the hell they are mad about. Any abstraction will do… government, immigrants, people of color, people who don’t need a church to live a moral life.

The most telling scene in Network occurs when Ned Beatty, chief executive of the conglomerate that owns the station, calls Peter Finch into the boardroom and explains how the world really works. He is told that he’s meddled with the primal forces of Nature, that he has howled about democracy and America and there is no such thing as democracy or an America. There is only I.B.M. and AT &T and Exxon etc… only an international system of currency. At the end of the scene Finch is heard to say, I have seen the face of God. We may be doomed but we’re still walkin and talkin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pauline Kael- Lights Out

I have always had a fondness for the New Yorker magazine and that’s why I don’t dare subscribe. I’d be spending my retirement reading it cover to cover. As it is, I depend on doctor’s and dentist’s waiting rooms and the kindness of my strange friends.

I first check out the week’s lineup of writers, the pages of poetry and movie reviews. Up until 1991 the reviewer was Pauline Kael who held that post for 23 years. When she took over full-time it coincided with a creative burst in Hollywood as well as a general social upheaval.


She was a tough cookie who had a lover’s quarrel with movies. If I loved a film and she did too I felt ennobled. If she turned against a movie she dipped her pen in vitriol and damned it like a lover scorned.

She never watched it more than once. I admired that because it demonstrated her non-analytical approach. She responded intuitively and trusted her instincts on an emotional and sensory level. Kael’s take on a film was highly anticipated and often surprising. I often wondered from where it sprung.

She was drawn to trashy movies as a way in to the American psyche. It seemed as if she tried to align herself with the mass audience, articulate what they felt and often scold them for being gullible. She understood the appeal of certain Depression era gangster films for their identification as folk heroes and by extension embraced Bonnie & Clyde in 1967. The iconic last scene, done in slow-mo, was like an opera of violence. Yet Kael denounced the violence of Clockwork Orange and the Clint Eastwood movies for de-sensitizing the public. Consistency was not her strong suit.

The New Journalism of the sixties ushered in by Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese was a perfect fit for Pauline Kael. She was part of each review, what she brought to the theater with her and the immediacy of her experience. Her passion lent a certain authenticity to her writing whether or not one agreed or took issue. When she attacked a project she couldn’t fathom why the person under assault took offense because she didn’t intend it personally. She disowned her loose tongue, which became even looser with a few drinks.

When she railed against Terrence Malick’s first film, Badlands, she was called into her editor, William Shawn’s office. He told her that Malick was like a son to him. She replied, Tough shit, Bill. Another infamous blurt occurred when she was a guest along with Ginger Rogers on radio. When Rogers related how her agent had discouraged her from accepting her role in, Kitty Foyle, which won her an Oscar in 1940, Kael responded that her agent was right.

It would be difficult to imagine anyone agreeing with Pauline Kael across the board. She was far too idiosyncratic. However she had her acolytes who admired her commitment to filmmaking and the art form she helped create in her erudite reviews. She was more than a movie reviewer. She was, in part, a social commentator who found a vital sign in the popular art of cinema; a portal into contemporary consciousness. When The Godfather came out she saw it as a tragic reality of our times, the nightmare of American capitalism.


She wrote about the mistreatment of women as depicted in Sam Peckinpaugh's, Straw Dogs. She also detected a whiff of fascism in the trend which assumed a primal violence inherent in all of us. It seemed to me she tried, in vain, to reconcile the thrust of emergent filmmakers widening our imagination with the pernicious forces of exploitation movies and the drift toward vacuous values and lawlessness in American life. She raised the low art to an estimable place, as a window into our ways of seeing, how the new technologies had altered our perceptions and numbed our sensibilities.

Anyone interested in her life story will be fascinated by Brian Kellow's biography, Pauline Kael.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Oscar Night


My problem with the Academy Awards is there are too many losers, not only among the nominated but also the worthy ones which didn’t make the cut. Think of all the acceptances speeches we’ll never hear. Meryl Streep must have a file full of crumpled paper.

The very idea of artists competing for a prize makes no sense to me. Why bestow the honor to one and relegate the others to an inferior position? Artistry can not be quantified. Each script asks for its own stretch and exploration of character, some histrionic, some more inner, relying on facial expression, pauses in delivery and gesture. It’s almost like comparing a cleanup hitter to a power forward, or a poet to a novelist to an essayist. Furthermore, acting is part of an ensemble. The players bounce off each other just as quarterbacks require good linemen and execution by receivers.

How many votes does hype buy? Or is there a Romney effect in which an excess creates a negative vibe? Winners and losers are the result of a balanced campaign with measured amounts of humility and ego, not unlike our presidential election. Except November’s outcome will have real consequences far beyond added revenue for studios.

Based upon the amount of good ink he is receiving it appears that George Clooney and his picture will be the designated winners this year. Clooney is one of my favorite people. I like his politics and the way he puts his money and celebrity where his passions lie. And I like his temperament, how he is contained within himself. However as an actor I think he has a rather limited range; as Dorothy Parker said of Kathryn Hepburn, from A to B. I can imagine that even he knows he does not deserve to win the Oscar this year, nor does his picture, Descendants, but he should get recognition as the Mensch of Hollywood.

Without a doubt, one of the most layered and provocative foreign films of 2011, was the Czech movie, Kawasaki’s Rose. Yet it is not in contention. One wonders what pressures the chosen are under to make their choices. How much weight is assigned to marketplace and how much to the art of cinema? Here is a story of moral ambiguity dealing with the erasure and restoration of collective memory. It warrants a wide distribution. Shame on the Academy for overlooking it.

The expanded list of best picture category is welcomed. In my mind every one should be honored and left at that. We’d at least get to hear all those acceptance speeches. Of course this would ensure a few million fewer viewers and ruin the occasion for Las Vegas which salivates over the betting revenue.

Americans love winners and losers, as befits a nation with the world’s largest economy and military. Might this be a function of our self-declared exceptionalism and arbiter of good taste? Certain countries have called it, cultural imperialism. For almost a century Hollywood has been exporting our values from the dream factory, a beacon to some people and a threat to others.

In ten days I’ll be among the billion viewers, world-wide, enjoying Billy Crystal’s wit, the occasional meaningful reference, amid all the fuss and glam, trying to recall who and what won last year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Three Point Seven

3.7 Seconds

It doesn’t sound like much time if you are that close to the end of a life unless we’re talking basketball. The clock is winding down.

Lakers up by one point, foul on Toronto, two shots, but wait the Raptors call time out to freeze the shooter. Cut to commercials. Chevy trucks, lite beer, mattresses, plugs for evening shows, back to analysis of game. Announcers set the scene. Kobe is from another planet, he’s cool, doesn’t freeze, sinks a foul shot, then misses one to prove he's human; a veteran at 33.

The clock doesn’t move. Now the Lakers call time out; still 3.7. More commercials, Korean car, e-trading, beer again, car insurance, strategy planned. 3.7 is plenty of time. Close-up of huddle, x’s and o’s. Set a screen. No fouls to give.

Ten minutes have passed. Zoom in on Kobe’s sweat, Fischer’s frown. The crowd is on their feet. Inbound pass goes awry. The clock is running. No more time-outs. Someone throws up a prayer. It doesn’t draw iron, horn goes off. Two-point win for the Lakers; they should have won by 15.

You, at the end of the bench, suited-up but get no minutes. You are there in case 5 guys get injured or are thrown out of the game or the team is down by 37 points with a minute left. At the end of your days; old at 37. You’ve lost a step. Too many back-to-back games. Eyes and limbs un-orchestrated, out of synch. Lungs gasp. Edge gone. 37 and your knees are 73.


Does everything in your dreams bounce and roll; ice cream scoops, balloons, apples, how low the moon to dribble? Do you twist and leap in your sleep, set screens, pick and roll then slamdunk the planet into a black hole? Can you ever stop going one on one? Does competitive blood clot or does it never stop flowing, by the pint, in every vein? Will you be the last to know when to hang it up?

3.7 seconds, minutes, years….the average span of a career. Three point seven years to make ten, twenty million. Then try living like the rest of us, without adoration. Nobody notices you anymore. You didn’t like it before (you said) … but you did. No interviews; who cares what you think? The ovation in your head gets distant and dim.

Teammates have moved to the obit page. You are back on the bench…. guarding pigeons. Times hangs heavy. Like before, three point seven takes forever, til that last flagrant foul and you have run out of time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One Man's Garbage...


A trip to the trash bin got me in conversation with our landlord. He lords over the land, in the best sense, taking on a stewardship of the grounds. His name is Leigh (pronounced Lee) as in the 18th century poet, Leigh Hunt or as in Vivian Leigh. Leigh is one of those gender-neutral names. Even though most of the letters are silent, our Leigh has a booming voice that can rattle the dishes and probably registers on the Richter scale. The old English meaning of Leigh is meadow which is entirely appropriate.

His thumb is exceptionally green. He is happy planting and pruning in the garden which borders the building on three sides. We chatted alongside a flowering tree he identified as apricot. He said that a tenant, George D., back in the mid 80s, had a habit of throwing his pits and seeds in the earth, and this fruit tree is the result. Old George is now memorialized with white flowers in February, darling buds in May and orangey fruit in July. The branches angle sharply for the sun, obeying their own logic; the kind of tree-ness I most admire.

The garbage I was disposing was a bag of shreddings, rind, celery leafs, egg shells, fruit pits and melon seeds. An all-organic mulch if I had buried it, decomposing to nitrogen, sulfur and other plant nutrients. An entire Farmer’s Market could push its way through the earth. Maybe a rice paddie or sugar plantation will sprout by next year.

The truth is I’ve not planted much in my lifetime except three blossoming daughters and a bushel of words. But I can picture George furtively scattering his refuse in the flower bed 25 years ago ensuring his immortality.

George was a retired male carrier back then. I wonder if he scattered junk mail in the same way. No, not George. I remember him as my go-to guy when I needed some fix-it work. I’m glad to have him back still bearing fruit.

Since George’s apricot pit now graces us I would think that groves of bucolic greenery must be rising out of landfills. Yet my image of such dumps is of vultures wheeling overhead and impoverished families scavenging. On the other hand who knows what ancient garbage lies beneath the great farms and parks of our planet?

Leigh is still out there tending his garden to the ovation of hummingbirds who regularly sip at his buffet of assorted nectar from azaleas to zinnias. Red lanterns will soon emerge on the coral tree and I can almost hear daffodils bursting their bulbs to trumpet the Spring. I leave the rest to George.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Poetry, A Serious Joke


There is something about a joke well-told that feels like poetry to me. And a poem, lean, with every word weighed and a zinger to punch you in the gut, that reminds me of a joke.

Maybe not a giggle or belly laugh but even a grimace lights a dim bulb with illumination that could be a serious delight. Both the poet and comedian use juxtaposition to great advantage transporting the reader to unimaginable places.

An extra word can kill it, a giveaway makes it stumble. The way a poem breathes, the pregnant pause, inflection, a gesture all arrest attention. If the teller/author doesn’t believe it, it shows.

Jerry Seinfeld spoke about a joke he had told hundreds of times which always got a laugh. One night doing his stand-up monologue he started to doubt it in the middle of the story. He thought to himself that it really wasn’t very funny but he knew the words so well he would tell it anyway because it led into his next joke. When he got to the punch-line nobody laughed. His doubt crept in between the words. The teller cultivates his own voice and cannot falter…. just as in poetry.

The poem also lives between the words in inexplicable ways. The line breaks, enjambments and how it is laid out on the page can all be crucial elements, even by omission.

Great poets, like Emily Dickinson, celebrated life from her remote perch. It took society decades to catch up with her unpunctuated exuberance.

Poets approach their material obliquely, with a certain frisson, often with irony, using language in unexpected ways. Transformation can be an elongated, demanding stretch or leap, landing in the realm of the absurd. The serious joke re-states and affirms the conundrum, I can’t go on. I’ll go on; funny the way Beckett is funny.

Many contemporary poems are simple anecdotes with a jagged right-hand margin. Even if the subject is contemplative or grim there is a tension built up in the telling and a final release…just like a short tale told with wit. Neither a poem or a joke can be explained; it loses everything in translation. As T.S. Eliot said, the genius of poetry is that it can communicate before it is understood...just like a well-told joke.

The Political Divide

The Scalias party with the Ginsbergs every New Years Eve. Think all the things they must not talk about.

The two camps, like tribes, are sure of their righteousness. This probably describes 85% of the electorate. The undecided, generally low-information, fickle or cynical voters will determine our fate….if they bother to vote at all. We are in the hands of swing voters in swing states.

What moves these folks? Elections call into play the same function as buying a car or computer; associative images. Is this the man or message with whom I can identify? Will he quench my thirst, get me the beautiful woman or the house on the tree-lined street? Is he the guy who I want to look at for another four years or do I want a new face?

Americans are highly trained consumers sniffing out the hoax, the pretender, the hot air. Or we think we are. Then how did we end up with George W. Bush? The sellers more often than we’d like to think, out-think us. They know how to manipulate mass audiences using key words, repetitively, freighted with positives or negatives. Suddenly Saul Alinsky pours out of Gingrich’s mouth in every speech associating him with Obama as if he is test-marketing a new product. His audience never heard of Alinsky but knows he stands for Jewish, Russian, Trotsky, trouble-maker, not one of us.

We wait for our buzz words and they listen for theirs. We require a more compelling narrative. Everyone likes a good story. Republicans use the Puritan ethic fable; hard work is rewarded by God; idle hands are the devil’s tools. By extension this means that the unemployed are lazy and the handicapped are slackers, all taking advantage of a bleeding heart Liberal government. Crap galore, as my pharmacology professor use to say.

Liberals also have a story to tell which, I contend, has a more universal appeal. Rather than invoking Benjamin Franklin’s, God helps those who help themselves, which most Americans wrongly attribute to the Bible, we might remind others of Jesus’ words, to care for the least among us.

Americans are a compassionate people. We are taught to love our neighbors, to turn our other cheek, to accommodate diversity. We are charitable and empathic. And we do not have a truly meritorious ladder to climb. We have long recognized the role of government. I would argue that Republicans lie when they rant against government. Is that the same institution that grants fat Pentagon contracts, that sends troops abroad, overtly and covertly, to violate the sovereignty of other nations, the same government that offers oil and farm subsidies, the one that created our railroads and highways sprouting the Gilded Age, oil multinationals and giant automakers?

The Republican myth-makers obscure their greed and drive for un-bridled privilege, along with a twisted version of history which engenders fear and misdirected animus.

Can the great chasm between camps be closed or bridges erected? By any rational measure the 1% should not garner 50% support. The 99% who have been short-changed and deceived need to wake up and align themselves with their own Judeo-Christian values, if you will. The American model is an experiment in participatory government, not bestowed by the wealthy but acclaimed at the ballot box by the non-propertied, by woman and minorities…all of them denied, at first, by Conservatives. In time, the electorate/consumer will see that the house on the hill is not theirs.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl

Even though Hallmark hasn't figured out how to cash in on it, the Super Bowl is our true national holiday, the Sunday set aside in which we pay homage to the two guiding principles of American life….aggression and consumerism, might and material goods. Hopefully the violence is benign and the advertising results in purchases sufficient to ratchet up the economy.

There is nothing to get the blood circulating so much as rooting for our favorite gladiators. And if winning isn’t enough there is the betting; the point spread, the total score etc… Ten billion dollars is expected to be exchanged on this game by 200 million people. Once again it will be, by far, the most watched TV program of the year.

Too bad wars couldn’t be settled this way; wolfing down beer and pizza and no loss of life. The best part is that on Monday morning nothing will have changed. Everybody cares and then nobody cares.……..unless you bet and lost your shirt. Are we reaching the point when the existential questions of life are settled, once removed and with no consequences?

On the other hand there is the coming together. The living room becomes a sort of public space with animated discourse; some between friends, some directed at the TV set. For a few hours the political divide is bridged, class and race are set aside. New alliances are forged. A new occupy movement is sprung.

Another American phenomenon….99% of those in attendance in Indianapolis will be White. 90% of the players are Black. Bigots will live in Black skin jeering White opponents. But they’ll soon get over it.

Next month is March Madness followed by the NBA finals where a few racists may experience a humanistic awakening but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Some people, I’m told, mute the game and turn up the volume just for the commercials. A new species has emerged; avid viewers of advertising. Everything has become commodified. Our fantasies are marketed, bought and sold. The manipulated enjoying the manipulators.

Indeed, this has become a much-anticipated art form. What new products will be unveiled in astonishing ways that knock our jerseys off our backs? Forget the game. The enduring memory will be Apple’s latest or some new technology, without which, we never knew our remaining days could not be lived.

While all this is going on, about a dozen of us will gather for our monthly Salon, watch a film on great Directors, munch some morsels and talk about the issues raised or anything else on our mind …as long as it doesn’t get around to the game. Not that we are above such things, only off to the side.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Robinson Still Running


My friend insists Jackie Robinson was out.
Yes and No, I say, he’s running still
In fields of MLK’s dream
since that ’55 Series, not only toward, but from.

He is running from the strange fruit
of the noose, from white sheets
and the back of the bus, a unanimous
Supreme Court decision in his cleats.

He carries generations on his back.
His route is underground,
an up-hill ninety feet, swung low
to carry him home…. plate points north.

And there is Yogi, the philosopher, Berra,
of all people, who never said half of what he said.
If there’s a fork in the road, take it, because
nobody goes that way since it’s too crowded.

Yogi understands the every which way of life.
He lives in the in-between in a run-down
between safe and out and when he speaks
you listen hard and scratch your head.

Yogi knew and Jackie knew they would collide,
ball and cleats, cloud of dust, ump leaning,
cameras flashing and another fifty thousand
umps in the stands with perfect eyes.

Jackie had done it eighteen times before.
Not the fastest man coming down the line
but he could slide falling away and hook,
even late, he owned an inch of plate.

Yogi tore off his mask then stomped and swore
as if it really mattered. In ’54 the high court,
all nine umps, ruled him safe to integrate.
Jackie got a jump, already heading home.

Baseball is a gentleman’s game, they say,
watched by poets, followed for its geometry
and stats, seen by hayseeds and men in straw hats
with white shirts and skin to match.

Jackie Robinson dared them all, brought color,
moved it from the pasture to the hood.
He stole hearts, snapped chains, swiped white
bases and turned fans to see themselves.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bank Job


The man behind me is wearing a ski mask and we aren’t skiing. He just locked the door. All I want is a roll of quarters. The wash is in the rinse cycle and I need three quarters for the drier. The voice from the ski mask tells everyone to get down on the floor and shut up. He doesn’t say, This is a stick-up. If he did I might start laughing. He’s waving a gun. No, I can’t describe it but I’ll take his word for it. I don’t know an Uzi from a water pistol. It’s a gun. I’ve never held one but I know one when I see it in movies. He tells the teller to hand over all her twenties and above. He doesn’t say denominations. I wonder if any bank robber ever used that word. She’s frozen….probably thinking whether she should reach for the panic button. I’m thinking, NO, that will bring the police and I’ll be a hostage, a human shield. I’ve never thought of myself as a human shield before. I’m not fond of near-death experiences. The ski mask is sweating. Give him the money, already, and get him out of here so I can dry my clothes. My pajamas will develop mildew. Maybe he has clothes in his Laudromat. The teller is behind bullet-proof glass, still hesitating, probably wondering if it is really bullet-proof. I’m wondering if I’m being recorded and how I look; I’m overdue for a haircut. He fires a shot at a surveillance camera. I’m impressed. Should I be planning my after-life or at least rehearsing some pithy and pungent last words? He is getting a crazy look in his eyes as if he is up on cough syrup and cappuccino. If I survive, the police will want to know the color behind the squint; sort of grey, sort of greenish blue. They might ask if his jeans were Levis or Wranglers. I don’t know. What about his sneakers? Nikes? Reeboks? I wonder if he has a getaway car. I’m trying to remember if Bonnie was Clyde’s driver or if they did their bank jobs together. I remember a lot of folks got killed. Imagine being an extra in that film, no lines, just a corpse. I wonder how many actors got their start as dead bodies working their way back to life in a long career. It must be hard holding your breath for the close-up or worse with a tag on your big toe laid out on a slab in the morgue. A teller at the merchant window slips a stack of twenties under the glass. I’m thinking, they must be specially marked bills with a GPS embedded in Andrew Jackson‘s mane. The manager next to me on the floor, yells, Now Go, as if that hadn’t occurred to the gunman. He grabs his pile of bills and heads for the door. He steps on my hand and excuses himself. Sorry man. His mother taught him manners. Maybe he just wants to pay off his student loan. I have his footprints in my palm. Exhibit A.