y dad passed away a number of years ago. Our relationship was okay; not the continuing nurturing warmth of the modern suburban buddy-dad, but the classic father/son bond. He wasn’t my everyday friend but we did have a number of special things we shared in our lives. And one of them occurred when I was a lad of twelve – we were stationed in the Philippines as the Vietnam war was winding down, with the body counts and all that stuff. And one day, he said he was going to watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on Armed Forces TV. And it was late show, starting at 10pm or so, and it’s a three hour movie.
As we settled in, he told me he’d teach me a lesson on life and told me to get paper and pencil. As the movie started with a seeming two-on-one showdown, he explained how body counts worked – when they watched this flick on the fantail of his carrier off the Vietnamese coast a few years before, they’d make three midshipmen do just what I was doing, keeping a tally of the slaughter. But I had to have a reasonable proof that someone had actually died. So when those gunslingers turned, rushed into a saloon and were crossfired by Tuco, at first I couldn’t count them, not until the camera panned in and showed their bodies (and if you know the movie, you know how incorrect even a visual overview can be).
But that was it. We watched the movie and had a great time, with me checkmarking each kill, just enjoying each other’s presence. And a few years back after he passed away, I told myself I’d honor his memory by watching G,B,&U the Saturday before Father’s Day, roll film 11pm. And I have.
It’s funny, but even through I’ve seen it over and over now, I always settle in and find my boredom with the same scenes and dialog being swept away by my enjoyment of a story well told. And there is also the fact that I can feel his presence once more, the gruff old man who taught me a lot of what I know and gave me an appreciation for esoteric knowledge. And so I watch, alone in my dark, and so I feel him watching with me.
It’s a great evening, and a testimony to the power of storytelling.
Miss you, Pop.
p.s. and the life lesson I learned is that Good kills way more people that Bad and Ugly combined. In fact, Bad only get’s two (if I remember right). Draw your own conclusions.