"On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points." --Virginia Woolf
Sunday, June 07, 2009
John Wayne Second installment of fiction, well--this one is semi-fiction. I did in fact once have a collection of John Wayne portraits on my wall as a teenager.
Not many people know this, but I was once enamored with the Duke. John Wayne. That hard-bit all-American hero with the sour look of a cowboy that can smoke a half dozen cigarettes in his mouth at one time; in the blazing desert sun while lassoing a buffalo the size of Oklahoma to the ground at breakneck speeds. I know not of his many films, his real-life amours, nor the temperament and tenacity that, I am sure, made him a force to be reckoned with on the set. I do know one thing however: I did not follow the Duke. The Duke followed me.
In pawnshops, thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets is where he found me. On deep velvet, hazy canvas, in dark oily strokes, and sometimes even gentle breezes of delicate pastel. His eyes looked steely/his eyes looked faded/his eyes looked upon me through artist renderings that could shake a young girl to the core. Why did I find ways to take him home with me every time our eyes locked? How could I not?
How did he know to be here as I casually perused fine vinyl selections, weather-beaten tennis rackets, Chia Pets, and scintillating 1950s Playboys?
I don’t believe in miracles, but I do believe in the Duke. Ours was a connection that no generational gap could tarnish. At one point I dedicated an entire wall of my bedroom to this man of majesty. With intricate, brassy gold frames clustered like patchwork between lesser ones of faded black and imposter wood, Mr. Wayne’s many faces nestled snuggly.
In smoky gatherings of marijuana-infused revelry rested the Duke, persevering and staring blankly onwards. Crowds evaporated, atmospheric college rock died and morphed into Nina Simone soul and Sam Cooke molasses. The air thinning and the moon glow cooing through the blinds, and a boy on my arm that I wish were as great as my one-dimensional cowboy.
I am uncommonly mobile; I have circumnavigated the globe eight times, walking amazing distances. Through the South Island of New Zealand to the Southern Alps. From Chile to the Andes in Argentina. Across the Serengeti in Africa. I made 300 ascents of mountains 10,000 ft. tall or more, including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Kilimanjaro. I traveled alone, aided only by my porters, sketching volcanos and collecting wildflowers along the way.