Interdisciplinary studies |

Interdisciplinary studies

Core Samples

“I like to watch!” — Chauncey Gardner

Admittedly, there were a few contributing factors that kept me couch-bound in front of the tube with gizmo in hand this past Sunday. The usual suspects, sloth and melancholy, of course, played a role, but an occasion to check in with each side of the cultural divide also sang its siren’s call.

As an insatiably curious anti-fascist lefty who likes to think of himself as sharing at least a few diversionary traits with friends on both sides of the divide, a couple of intriguing opportunities to wile away the day staring transfixed at my antique cathode-ray-tube showed up on the day’s radar.

As always, especially during a winter such as this, I anoint most any blip on the screen, no matter how early it arrives, as a harbinger of spring. The groundhog be damned. For many years now, the Daytona 500 “stock car” race has ushered in the season. I even went so far as to crank the fireplace and don an ensemble of Aloha shirt, shorts and sandals.

When I was somewhat fresh out of high school and majoring in “grits and guard duty,” as we GIs stationed in the south referred to our collective foray into higher education back then, one of my elective courses involved the culture of “moonshine,” a roughshod and illegally distilled intoxicant of that space and time.

Evolving out of the Appalachian hills country and the necessity to move product from “still” to personal Mason jars in outlying communities, the romance of transporting the stuff in souped-up stock cars that could outrun the cops and “revenuers” became all the rage. The aura of Thunder Road is both what fueled the birth of NASCAR and, initially, brought me into the fold.

With my unit crisscrossing the south to engage in pre-draft Vietnam era “war games,” we would often spend Sundays sitting on “stoops” all over the map drinking beer and listening on an often static-filled radio to the race at whatever track was hosting that week’s competition.

So there I sat this past Sunday morning with visions of Junior Johnson and Fireball Roberts, my two favorite drivers of the time, dancing in my head. With the liquor cabinet holding nary a drop of “shine,” I had to make-do with memories, especially those with olfactory overtones.

Junior and Fireball soon were joined in those lobes most closely associated with reminiscing by another couple of cultural heroes from my past, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. At this point, I have to assume that they showed up unannounced due to the hoopla surrounding the impending Academy Awards telecast.

Now NASCAR fans and the rest of Trump Nation, for that matter, had been previously alerted via social media and otherwise to not watch the Oscars since all involved are nothing but a bunch of crybabies and, increasingly, and this really gets to the heart of the matter, anti-Trump.

So there I was this past Sunday musing with the likes of Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall. Strange bedfellows indeed, but then again, these times, if nothing else, flaunt a component of eccentricity.

Bogie and Bacall, especially in the films they made together, “To Have and Have Not,” “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage,” and “Key Largo,” truly insinuated themselves into my personal film-culture like few others.

With the aforementioned films also having firm authorial connections to the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler for the “based on” novels-in-question and William Faulkner for screenwriting credits, it’s easy to see why they have stuck to my cultural ribs over the years.

Give me classic film noir shot in black and white by a cinematographer the likes of James Wong Howe and I’m in my cinematic comfort zone. And it doesn’t even have to be Hemingway or Chandler. Dashiell Hammett or James M. Cain work in shadow land pretty well also. I’ve just got a longstanding crush on Bogie and Bacall and, as referred to previously, Junior Johnson and Fireball Roberts.

Not exactly birds of a feather but icons in the field of interdisciplinary studies nonetheless.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.

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