Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bigger Fish

Once again conservatives are putting themselves on the wrong-side of an issue that should not even be an issue, Religious Freedom. I’m conservative on a lot of issues, but this is one where I have to side with the progressives. I understand the conservative position on this issue. I can see where a fundamentalist Christian caterer might not want to work a same-sex wedding. And the idea of sharing toilets with a transgender person is creepy for sure. But the truth is public toilets are creepy no matter who’s using them. If you really thought about the people who’ve been sitting on that toilet seat, you might just take a walk in the woods. And if you’re going to be consistent with your religious purity when it comes to weddings, best not work one where the bride and groom have been test driving the each other’s genitals before marriage. Once you open the “religion” door it’s tough to close. Where do you draw the line between belief and bias?

I also understand how a business owner needs to protect their business. Is it ok for a restaurant to have a dress-code? Should a search firm be required to recruit people for a company that’s known for being a terrible place to work? If I’m a hotel owner can I refuse to hire someone with Tourette’s Syndrome as my concierge. The hypothetical scenarios can go on and on. Some are legitimate questions and some become ridiculous. Franklin Graham wants to protect women and children from sexual predators using public restrooms. It’s more likely that a child will be molested in church by a priest or a youth minister than in a public restroom by a drag queen. So I don’t worry much about that, nor should the right Reverend Graham.

Recently there was a situation in one of our local restaurants. Three lesbians were refused service. I’m not sure how they were identified and I’ll refrain from the usual jokes about softball, Birkenstocks and K.D. Lang. The restaurant owner’s defense was that “these people” made the “regulars” uncomfortable. Screaming kids or old people who slurp their coffee out of a saucer make me uncomfortable. Let’s give them the boot, how about that?

It’s time that conservatives move on and get over it. We may not agree with a customer’s lifestyle choices, appearance or attitude; but within reason (whatever that is by today’s standards) serve them with a smile and take their money. There are more important things in life than worrying about who’s sleeping with who or who was the last person to sit on that toilet seat.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lonesome Dove Remembered

“Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back”
– Gus McCrae, from Lonesome Dove written by Larry McMurtry.

As you know if you’ve read my posts over the years, I’m a big Lonesome Dove fan. This week I had the opportunity to attend the Lonesome Dove Reunion event in Fort Worth (, “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay homage to the film’s lasting legacy and celebrate with the artists who helped create this award-winning Western.” It was the first time the cast and crew had been together in 27 years.

Five years ago I wrote a short piece about the significance that the book and the mini-series holds for me:

Lonesome Dove has been with me since 1985 when I read the book for the first time. As a native Texan whose roots go back to the frontier days, the story grabbed me and I literally inhaled Larry McMurtry’s novel over the course of a summer weekend (getting a wicked sunburn in the process). The fact that he borrowed so liberally from Texas history and real events and real characters did not bother me one iota. Most of Texas history and all the hoorah is part fiction anyway so why not use it.

Then I saw the mini-series and heard the music. They go together you know. God said so. By the time the mini-series came out, I was living outside of Texas for the first time in my life. And Lonesome Dove became my touchstone and my connection to home. A few years later I moved to Montana. Driving across the Montana state line from Wyoming and listening to the soundtrack from Lonesome Dove is as close to a heavenly experience as one can ever hope to have on this earth.

I just about wore out that soundtrack for the next few years as I spent weekends exploring the best places in the Last Best Place. And they are right, Montana truly is the Last Best Place, but it was not my place and with a few detours along the way I finally made it back to Texas. With a new Lonesome Dove soundtrack and the latest digitized version of the mini-series, I continue to enjoy and relive the story. It is the perfect tale about imperfect people in a world that is so beautiful and yet so cruel that it comes as close to the truth as one can get with fiction.

As John Graves wrote in his classic Good Bye to a River….”I am unabashedly and unapologetically a Texan”. Lonesome Dove makes me feel only more so and in a good way. I’ve had conversations with people from other places who say they love Lonesome Dove. I nod and smile and affirm its greatness and its accuracy in portraying what Texas and the Old West for that matter, once was (or at least claimed to be.) But, I also know that no one loves the Lonesome Dove story more than a Texan. And no other Texan could possibly love it more than I do.

The Reunion event in Fort Worth was special. To hear the actors, producers and the director speak about the film and what it meant to them professionally and personally was quite moving. One of the supporting actresses really got to me. I’d forgotten that Margo Martindale was in Lonesome Dove. She played a prostitute in Ogallala. Since then she has gone on to great success as an award-winning character actress. I did not know that she was a native Texan, from Jacksonville in East Texas. When she spoke about what Lonesome Dove meant to her and got to the part about being from Texas, she choked up and started to cry. Maybe she was just acting, but I don’t think so. There was not a dry eye in the room. All of us understood what she was trying to say and there are no words. You just have to be a Texan to understand.

So it was a great experience, but also bittersweet. As Robert Duvall noted, they had not been together as a group in 27 years and would not gather again. Some have already passed on and others are sure to do so in the next few years. Ricky Schroeder, is a 46 year old man, no longer “little Newt”. Danny Glover is an old man now, still with a great voice, but had trouble hearing and seemed a bit out of it. Tommy Lee Jones, wasn’t there, reportedly due to some medical condition or procedure. (Most of the group didn’t seem to mind. Clearly he was respected as an actor, but you got the sense that they all thought he was sort of an asshole otherwise.) For many of the cast and crew, Lonesome Dove was not just the highlight of their careers, it was the ONLY highlight of their careers. That one shining moment, brought back briefly for a few days in Fort Worth to the applause of hardcore fans who still remembered them.

For me the most memorable anecdote was when D.B. Sweeney (Dish) told about Robert Duvall ambling into the lunch tent one day, always in character as Gus McCrae, and announcing that this was going to be the “Goddamn Godfather of Westerns.” And I think he was right. It all came together. A great novel, written by a Texan. A great screen play (also written by a Texan, Bill Wittliff). An exceptional cast and crew from all over the world. And, an audience that hungered then and hungers now for a story that captures and then breaks their hearts.