When is Life a Grand Slumber on a Down Mattress?

Who wouldn’t want a cushy life?  This is not a description of the life of the rich and famous, cushy as it may appear. That life is one you are born into, or, having the ability (as well as the grit and good fortune) to turn a bit of brilliance into the American dream.  No, this is not about that.

This is more about that other American dream.  The one where you work hard.  Not just at your job but the harder work of making a better life.  It starts early in life with good parental guidance.  Working hard at school to have a shot.  Working hard on becoming a better person.  Working hard, really hard, on life skills to give yourself the tiniest of openings.  

And let’s say you, with great tenacity and decent intellect, manage to squeeze through that crack.  Well that’s not the end, its just the beginning!  Even with a decent start, and an amazing spouse/life partner by your side, the slaps in the face and the gut punches just keep coming.  The tests of your character, intestinal fortitude, integrity, physical stamina and intelligence are one tsunami after another the rest of the way……..until your eyes close for the last time.

In this following excerpt of the script from the television series “Deadwood” Season 2 episode 19, one of these tsunami-like challenges has come the way of the owner of the camp’s newspaper The Pioneer. In raw, Americana Shakespearean prose the last paragraph crystalizes this notion most succinctly.

(Early morning at the camp, we see Al open a door…)

Al:       Did you know this fucking walkway connected us? 

Merrick:         (Sitting below, at his desk at the Pioneer) Several of your patrons, in different stages of undress, have illuminated me.

Al:       (Closes door) What happened there? (Walks downstairs)

Merrick:         Not only was my press disabled, but my office was ransacked and feces mounded in the corner.  A message of objection to my handling of Yankton’s notice on the claims.

Al:       Posting rather than publishing, huh?

Merrick:         The camp’s new school teacher, a lovely woman, was so traumatized by what happened that she left!

Al:       Cy Tolliver.

Merrick:         Who didn’t even trouble, when confronted, to deny it.

Al:       (Sits, lets out a sigh) Why ain’t you up and running again?

Merrick:         I’m in despair.  The physical damage is repairable, but the psychic wound may be permanent.

Al:       (Leans forward, concern on his face.) You ever been beaten, Merrick?

Merrick:         (Rolls his eyes) Once, when I thought I had the smallpox, Doc Cochran slapped me in the face. (Al slaps him quickly) Ah! (He stares at Al, touching his cheek – he leans forward) Stop it, Al.

Al:       Are you dead?

Merrick:         Well, (touches cheek) I’m in pain, but no, I’m obviously not dead.

Al:       And obviously you didn’t fucking die when the Doc slapped you.

Merrick:         No.

Al:       So including last night, that’s three fucking damage incidents that didn’t kill you.  Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair or fuckin’ beatin’s.  The world ends when you’re dead.  Until then, you got more punishment in store.  Stand it like a man—and give some back.1

Besides the brilliance of the writing, acting and production design of Deadwood, it brings a wide-eyed, lucid parable to the screen about truth.  Deadwood is both a wistful window and a harsh portrait that Shakespeare would find admirable. Its most prophetic message is about the truth.  The truth that “free” is more than a myth, it’s a dangerous lie of evil origin.  Only hard work, risk-taking (amid many imminent potentially “deadly” dangers), some good fortune, an ability to ride the many ups-and-downs, and an impenetrable resolve to succeed brings the mere possibility of survival and a good life.

Anyone……anyone…..politician, parent, professor, priest, rabbi, Imam, et al, who promises anything but a life mostly filled with struggle, especially in America (despite the delusional impression widely held outside this country, “easy street” it aint), is betraying whatever trust may exist with the person at hand.  Preparation for that struggle, physically, psychologically, educationally only affords you a shot at squeezing through that crack. Then its all uphill from there……

1Episode 19: “E.B. Was Left Out”

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