In the old movie, an editor calls downstairs to stop the press. In the next scene stacks of papers are thrown from the truck. Newsboys hawk the special edition on the corner, taking in the three cents faster than the execution switch at Sing-Sing. In real life, big black headlines seared themselves into my head: ROOSEVELT DEAD, D-Day, JAPAN SURRENDERS.
All that’s left now is the L.A. Times with their second section called, Extra, a few pages of regional and national stories. It seems always to be bad news on a small scale rather than the first section which is bad news on an international scale.
Last Saturday’s edition gave us a shooting spree at Sunset and Vine on the first page. A crazed gunman fired randomly at passing motorists. A witness said he wanted to die a loud death and he did as police finished him off in a surreal scene. Bystanders thought they were watching a movie being filmed.
Other stories on page one concerned a child molester, overcrowded jails and corruption revealed by an audit. I turned the page and read about the unclear motive of a campus shooter in Virginia after he killed a policeman and turned the gun on himself. Fear is said to have returned where a deranged undergraduate killed 32 students four years ago on the same campus.
Woe is us, sorry, woe is we. Life has become the shoot-em-up movie I do my best to avoid seeing.
More negativity on page three with an article about the millions of dollars lost to recent wind damage. I finally spot a happy story on the bottom of the page. A red-flanked bluetail was spotted on San Clemente Island. The bird is indigenous to Europe and Asia. It either had no sense of direction, disoriented perhaps by climate change or was seeking a new homeland. In any case no one accused it of being undocumented. It caused delirium among birders who welcome what they call a vagrant; and beautiful it is with its blue rump and tail, cinnamon wings and reddish flanks.
Turning the page to the obits I joined in celebrating the eighty years of Hubert Sumlin. When Howlin Wolf howled through Wang Dang Doodle who do you suppose was thumping his snarling guitar? None other than the great bluesman, Sumlin. He riffed hard one moment and sighed the next. Once he strapped on his instrument his sound was lacerating.
As John Garfield says in Golden Boy as he risks everything, What are they going to do, kill me? Everybody dies.
The best we can hope for is a life lived, loudly or not, on our own terms. Better the end doesn’t come on the mean streets as a random shooting. Howard Sumlin said his piece with his ferocious guitar. The red-flanked bluetail made it to the new world even if it was impaled a few days later by a loggerhead shrike, as I just learned.
Life is various; good news and bad, intertwined. On the last page of Extra, I see that it is 88 degrees in Rio and minus nine in Winnipeg.