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?