Okay. Do you know where to start?
No, I'm not sure. I don't know where to exactly start. Let's get things lined up.
They already are lined up.
Okay. Let's start. Do you want to?
Now is the time, I think. There are things to say. But I better shut up until we start. Okay, are we ready to start? Yes. Okay, I'll start then. But let me turn into Charlie Chaplin's tramp, or whatever I am going to be...
Don Quixote, do you know of that old movie that I spoke about? When I wrote my first piece here, the Louis Malle one about the Tour de France, Vive le Tour, from the early sixties, yes, of course.
There were these men on bikes whizzing by, and they all had these beautiful long legs, thighs of frogs, and forelegs strewn with lean musculature like horses or herons with their rib cages expanding as their powerful chests breathed, and they had jerseys and little caps, and they were tanned and very comfortable on their old beautiful Raleighs and Peugeots, beautiful steel bikes with lugged frame... and it looked like they could serve tea to each other rolling along, holding their cups and saucers, spoons, so comfortable were they as they flew along a tree lined road.
CUT cut cut.
The thing is you remember that. And that's the only way I can really deal with an indoor training ride, I must admit, I have to put up a mirror, otherwise it's just too boring, and you can't count on TV or a great Saturday night coming to your door. You watch yourself ride in a mirror and you see your belly and over time the legs grow stronger and the belly gets smaller. And each pedal stroke, though it might not seem more significant than the smallest flap of wing or a sewing machine, but it adds up. There is a vanity in sport, no doubt, there must be, there has to be. I look good. And when you look good you are in shape, and when you are in shape, you both look good and you can go fast and surprise yourself and this makes you feel even better, and so there is a feedback loop.
Now I tell you...
Okay I am listening...
The point that historians miss, that journalists miss, because they are all too close to their own little mind and its vision, the point that takes a poet or a novelist, a broader eye to see, is that vanity is quite a necessary element to all great productions. Why was Lincoln successful? Well, because he established the fact that he was photogenic, that he was goddamn mighty looking, formidable, noble, elegant, powerful, poetic and in a folksy way. No way he could have been an actor, except obscurely for laughs with his buddies, but acting he absorbed. He was too much who he was to act someone else, and there was this sense of himself, and then the miracle of photography and Brady's studio and Gardner came to him, showed up at his doorstep. And being a three dimensional person with things he wanted to get across, like a botany professor trying to teach a lesson, well, there he was himself, a stand in for all human dignity, all the people he ever knew there within the great actor Lincoln who if called upon could have acted anyone, any creature, great or small.
Yes, so let us take Kennedy. I mean, which one?! But let's take poor sickly old skinny Jack, malarial guts, long Irish spine, a way with words, the pure chestnut hair, the eyes, all that health and humor beaming out of a sickly sort of a chap, fed the wrong things, limping up steps in Chelsea and Watertown to get votes one by one by himself... And what did he need? He needed a view of himself, newsreels, motion picture news of himself doing all this stuff, and his father, versed in Hollywood, knew just how to do that, to make him a guy... as well filmed as Gary Cooper, you know what I mean. "Who can do... Kennedy can... Kennedy Can!" Music set to it, and he, the subject, is the perfect character, and he must have watched it all, of course he did!
And in fact, that's what his friend says about him when up in the old compound, or was it down in the White House media theater room, the clip plays of Berlin, and who is clapping seeing his image but himself, old Jack, bravo, fucking bravo, Ich Bin Ein Berliner, man that's great. The mirror is very important, and we underestimate the fact that everyone does it. Jack for good, Jack realizing, aware, literary, full, admissive, supported and supporting.
And we picked up on it too. Damn, this guys good. I want to be like him, and maybe somewhere subconsciously understanding that the guy was largely his own media advisor, paying heed to a very great eye, himself, looking at himself, which is a great editing or casting, the secret of Fellini's Mastroianni. John F. Kennedy, the director of John F. Kennedy, thanks to his old man producer, Joseph P. Kennedy, who also understood image and the spotlight, and the former really, because he was so well read and a great guy and such a sweet genial friend to whoever needed one, really, this is true, because maybe being a sick kid made him shy and sensitive, the real thing, he knew what to do with himself. He'd make goddamn speeches like Robin Hood, but, he meant them, he knew what he was saying, and he expressed real values. He took on Big Steal price fixing, he took on the Cuban Missile Crisis, he preserved culture...
And there was always about him, as an adult, the mirror. The great picture by Jacques Lowe of him looking down into a little rowboat about to cross a river in wintertime out in the state of Washington. In an overcoat, hands in pocket, looking down. Frozen world around him, not particularly hopeful, but being who he is, which is what life takes; be honest, be yourself, be a damn poet if you like, be a an odd and magnificent politician out of the goddamn blue. And there are, or were, the sensitive literate real human being reporters back then who caught him saying real words, real stuff from him, from his guts and brain, to Mary McGrory, 'my days are in the yellow leaf.' Jesus Christ who says that?! Damn spooky almost.
Regretably, so used to watching him and getting the deeper stuff as if subliminally, all that stuff that was from himself watching and learning how he wanted to be, which then shown and reflected back on us, we the people, we could not take our eyes of him, no more than we could have taken them off of Lincoln. We watched, we watched, the, you know... Dealey Plaza, the slow turn, the agents backing off, that day in a Dallas sun we all can imagine in November, then the clear night sky dark early after the first stars. A leader, knowing how to die? Well, then we're getting ahead of ourselves. The mirror, the self feedback, the circumspection, that died until his brother picked it up, and he was his own director.
And Bobby, Robert F., was almost even better at it. A little strident, but he too, even though the old man was too feeble by a stroke to help, he got it, he said volumes through simple and very self-disciplined things, and he wasn't a hard guy or a total prick, but a family man with lots of friends, and he really really cared for so many so many people. And funny how this projected man, this self creation, this fulfilled prophecy, was such a real great hope of leadership or something that would have been good and ameliorating and calming for the country then.
Jesus, I was thinking about it now, and I had to think of the strange vanity of Richard Nixon. Nixon looked at himself in the mirror in a strange and different way. A way that acknowledged himself, but on the edges, saying that he had to 'screw' other people, enemies. The original negative campaigner in a long slew of them, all hacks really, just negative: 'the country can not take another four more years of so n so... We have to get back to good old solid Republican values otherwise the whole economy is going to collapse." Complete salesman bullshit. Agnew was stuffing money away from mob paper bags dropped off at a Baltimore motel. Oh, he didn't look guilty all the time, shifty eyed, preaching the finest of decorum? The perfect fucking guy to nominate over that always strange GOP crowd, strange, weirdly confident in its sell out of emotional truth in order to embrace selfish gain with a whole crowd of newfound selfish friends who really don't like so much the whole democratic game plan. Trickle down. Cut the tendons of partner programs helping anyone but themselves. Good old Republican political values, one after another, parading, not able to watch themselves in a mirror unless a total act, disgusting and self serving....
Bobby, despite all they might say, whatever, he was a good man, a literary type too, just like his brother The other brother, of course! He understood it all, of course!
But these men, you know... shit, I lost my point, thinking of my brother's friend, this really funny outgoing guy and his, the extrovert's, son. Sweet boy, shy and introspective as can be, the little guy, and in a way just like his old man, but in the quiet mode, the deep thoughtful mode. Like a little Jimi Hendrix for the time being... AH, forget it, kid, remember your grand papa, and go for it.