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CLEAR EYES FULL HEARTS CAN’T LOSE

In my fantasies, I write a little piece on this site about every ten days. In my reality, I struggle to get word up here one time during each month. It’s like chin ups. So far, I have kept this schedule, once per month, for one year. Here’s to one year of consistency! However, if I fail to post something during February of 2011, it will be my first month of failure.

I have an okay reason for almost not writing. We just made a tour of the West Coast of the US, and it was a lot of work. Exciting, stretching, trying harder everyday work. In the times between set ups, performances and lectures, we didn’t have the energy to do anything else but turn off our brains and go to another planet. The planet that we found was a dvd box-set of the television show Friday Night Lights. It’s the NBC drama about a highschool football team in Texas. I had heard really good things about the show, but the fact that it was about football in Texas somehow made me disbelieve any positive statements about it. I hate football, and I fear Texas. The fact that the show was literally the only thing to watch in the house where we were staying is the only reason that we gave it a chance.

It turns out Friday Night Lights is pretty sublime. My previous prejudice against the show on the basis of its subject matter makes me a little embarrassed. Why should I assume that it’s not possible to tell a compelling story about a topic that I don’t immediately relate to? This is the triumph of the show. It makes you feel like you are there in the small town Texan football universe, and it gives you a window through which to feel affection and respect for people who aren’t like you. At least, they aren’t like me. I wonder, is the show popular among people who might be more likely to see themselves in the characters? Is the style of the narration broad enough that it appeals both as a translation to people like me, and a portrait, with which heartland viewers can identify? If I had any heartland buddies, I would ask them. Actually I’d like to ask my favorite characters from the show, but they don’t really exist, and the actors are certainly based in Hollywood. But I think the show really works. I came away from it actually feeling empathy for Texas football. When the daughter of the football coach tells her dad that she only eats free range eggs, Coach tells his daughter, “Eat your goddamn eggs.” I found myself echoing, “Yeah, Julie! Eat your damn eggs!” And I love free range eggs.

How much of the world resides over in the murky area where I used to keep football and Texas? Could someone make a show that helped me to see the perspectives of other people with very opposite world views from mine? I guess I have seen a couple of reality television projects which worked from this premise. On one show called, 30 Days, they put two people together for a month who have deep divisions in their ideologies, like a gun enthusiast and a woman whose brother was killed by an unregistered gun user. I would be pretty excited (and maybe disturbed) if someone made a very well crafted and compelling drama that could help me feel a sense of kinship about people with radically conservative political views. If someone could tap into the humanity in their story, and present it with a visual style that made me feel included in the narration (which is what I think is one of the successes of Friday Night Lights), maybe I could open up to understanding where those particular people are coming from a bit more, instead of just hating and fearing them. I guess that the secret of FNL is that they mostly avoid distracting political topics. The focus is instead on human stories about more basic subjects that anyone could relate to, like trust, and how people treat each other, and the consequences for ones behavior.

One of the things that certainly lies over in the quarantine zone of things that I really don’t understand is American automobiles. I have never been able to understand why would anyone ever buy a new one. European cars are so sexy, and Asian cars are so efficient. Classic American cars are a different subject, and I would pay a lot of money for a nicely maintained Gremlin with the sweet wood panel on the side. But all that modern cars from the US seem to have going for them is that they look like tanks, or that they were (maybe) made in the USA. For our recent west coast tour we decided to get a full size car, so that we could fit all our gear into the trunk, and of course nobody else in the world makes gigantic cars except the U.S.A. When they pulled the car around, I noticed that Melissa was acting surprisingly excited that they had given us a Dodge Charger. She grew up in Nebraska and seems to have some natural affinity for these kinds of things. My first judgement of the car was that the trunk was massssssive, and that the windows were really small, giving the impression that whoever drove it was trying to shield themself from the outside world as much as possible. I used to see cars like it and call them, “fear cars.”

There is a little secret about brand new giant American cars, though, that nobody ever told me. Driving one makes you feel like a CHAMPION. How did I get this far in my life without knowing the power of feeling like you could easily plow another car off the road with the lightest press of your foot? It made me feel powerful, and important, and successful. I drove so fast and hard up through the California mountain pass that the next morning I woke up with nightmares about driving off the side of the hill. I couldn’t hold back. It was amazing. I didn’t feel afraid at all. Is that maybe something to be afraid of?

February 28, 2011

  1. Nick

    It’s funny when people of so-called ‘alternative’ ideologies and cultures find God in things that define the greater culture they would likely consider themselves separate from. This has happened to me and there is always this moment of “Now I see,” but it never affects me in a major sense. It just makes me understand why the people I associate with this vice party the way that they do. Making something explode is great, for instance.

  2. Joe Maricich

    I’m sure glad that you didn’t drive off the edge of the road going over the pass.
    When I was in my 20’s, I owned a 1955 Olds 98 2-door hardtop which loved to go really fast down the highway. However, it also liked to get speeding tickets, so I bought a 1962 VW bug which couldn’t go faster than 75, except maybe going downhill in a tailwind, so that I wouldn’t get anymore tickets.

    BTW, I liked the FNL show whenever I found the time to watch it.

  3. Matt Hardigree

    Just happened to come across this post via your tumblr, since I’m a fan of The Blow going back a bit and also an FNL fan. Not sure if you’ll ever see it.

    I was a little jarred when you said you about “fearing Texas,” though I appreciate you being comfortable enough to admit and confront the bias.

    Every state has its rednecks, and Houston is the largest city in the country (the world?) with a gay mayor. A lesbian, at that. And no one seems to care. We also have a great art scene/community. As a native Texan I welcome you here to appreciate how non-scary it is.

    As someone who was on a Texas football team (as a trainer) and grew up loving the sport (as well as theatre and museums) I find I relate less to the individual football stories than I do to the human stories, as you do. I find that when I watch something like “King of the Hill” I’m more attracted to the familiar references.

    Also, American cars can be wonderful and sexy and efficient all at the same time. Did I mention I’m an automotive journalist who writes about cars?

    This post amuses me to no end considering how much I enjoy your music and how much of my world is threatening and unfamiliar to you.

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