Play Misty for Me...RIGHT THIS @#%$! MINUTE!!!!

misty There is something about this time of year that, even if she really, really likes winter holidays and cooler weather, can bring an up dude down.

And that's where I am, down. Or down-ish. Not so far down as I was pre-Arnie, certainly, but hey...getting up from down is a process. (So is learning that "up" is not better than "down," but that is a post for the Half-Assed Buddhist to tackle, and thus far, he has refused to take up the blogging cause.)

To cope with it all, in the grand tradition of Mom's side of the family, I self-medicate. Unlike several of them who are no longer with us because of it, I try not to turn exclusively to my pal, Dr. Al Key Hall, for solutions. Instead, I mix it up: a little sugar, a little caffeine, a lot of long/hot showers, some escapist reading and, my all-time favorite, the cheesy movie. When the skies or my mood darkens too early or often, I watch movies, lots and lots of movies, most of them familiar to me already, and of a decidedly unchallenging nature, thematically.

My current go-to drug of choice is a great, old Clint Eastwood flick, Play Misty for Me. It has everything I love: the Central Coast of California (comfort location); a 1970s setting (comfort decade); an absorbing but not overly complex story structure (gently-engaged-but-not-overtaxed brain); enough dialogue to serve as company (comfort movies play in the background, usually); and a connection to my childhood (Dad loved Clint and worked with him later in life, so I feel like Clint is kind of the good, Hollywood version of my dad.)

I never really understood why people owned movies until I stopped watching television. Now, I get it: for the company. For the comfort. For the little respite, that brief trip in the Wayback Machine that takes you away from it all in a way Calgon can't. It's not just about watching Clint narrowly escape the clutches of the mad (but ultimately, sad) Evelyn Draper for the 20 or 30th time (Jessica Walter in a tentpole performance, the movie would sink without her); it's about going back to a time that felt safer, or at least less complicated. It's about having a Dad and not being the elder yourself. It's about a world that was less crowded, less noisy, less dangerous and at the same time more exotic, or at least, one that seemed that way from my 10-year-old vantage point.

That's really what it is, of course. It's about being 10 again, and everything being 10 meant: safety. Security. Years and years before I had to worry about what I was going to be and how I'd take care of myself when I was alone and it was dark.

Yes, at the risk of being completely morbid on the threshold of this happy holiday season, my love for this nutty old film is about being farther from death, so far as to have zero acquaintance with it. And what's even crazier than that is the whole reason I appreciate holidays and loved ones and the combination of the two is that I have a far keener appreciation for their being here at all. Once you've lost, you can't help but treasure what's left all the more.

I will, of course, listen to a few carols over these next several weeks. (How can you not? Isn't it mandatory at this point? Take off your shoes and overcoat, empty your pockets, and listen to goddam Christmas carols.) I'll even partake in some Parties and gifting and whatnot. In moderation, Christmastime can be quite pleasant.

But you'll excuse me if, at some point in the middle of the festivities, I slip off by myself to my home and, well, a neat single-malt and Clint in the DVD drive. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

And this girl needs a quick trip up the coast in an old Jaguar with a jazz radio deejay.

xxx c

UPDATE (11/29/08): For more on this suspense masterpiece, I direct you to the site of one Joe Valdez, who writes a film blog that is hands-down my new-favorite obsession/timesuck.