The other day, when I heard the news of Robert Ebert’s death, I had one of my ‘mortality moments’. I have mentioned ‘mortality moments’ before in this blog, most notably regarding the passing of John Glenn and George McGovern. Mortality moments are when someone, usually a celebrity, and usually someone that you have not given a whole lot of thought to in awhile, but whose name is a household word — that kind of person, leaves this world behind. All of a sudden you realize that humans are not meant to stay here indefinitely. You think that if ______________ is gone (fill in the blank), then it is not inconceivable that my day will be here before I know it and I should, therefore, make good use of the time I am allotted.
Roger Ebert, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1974 was not someone who I had thought a lot about recently, although I did hear that he had battled cancer for some years. Though I was not a huge Roger Ebert fan, if someone walked up to me on the street and asked me to name a movie critic, I would say Roger Ebert. If they asked me to name a second I would say Gene Siskel and if pressed for a third I probably couldn’t come up with another name. This is possibly because I am not a huge movie buff, but I am a huge fan of good criticism and when it is professionally delivered by someone of Mr. Ebert’s caliber, it can be quite entertaining and useful. This leads me to question the future of movie critics in general. With journalists abandoning the profession in droves, is it possible that ‘movie critic’ will one day be added to the ever growing list of obsolete professions, alongside Boomsquires, Lamplighters and Town Criers. I think it is possible.
Reviews abound today on everything from books, to movies, to computers, and toasters, just name it, everyone is becoming a reviewer. Before I purchase a book, I usually read the reviews on Amazon, reviews that were made by people who have simply read the book, and now thanks to the internet, have a platform upon which to cast their proverbial thumbs up, or thumbs down. A gentleman I know, who has published a number of novels, insists that a spate of negative reviews on his recently released book is due to his recent divorce, his ex-wife and her friends being the culprits in the negative comment flurry.
In any case, Mr. Ebert published a very moving essay, regarding his thoughts on his impending death. This essay has been all over the internet of late, but I will provide a link here for those who may not have read it. It is required reading for those who feel that they themselves will one day die. Although I do not subscribe to Mr. Ebert’s conviction that nothing exists beyond death, I can offer no evidence to the contrary.
My friend Tulip called the other night. Tulip used to live in Plantation, Florida, but she lives out in Los Angeles now and is applying to enter a Film Studies, PhD program. She asked if I still had a poem that I wrote some years ago, back in the late 90’s. The poem was written in the far hours of the morning, on the back of a cocktail napkin, just outside of the bowling alley at the now defunct and demolished Showboat Casino on the Boulder Strip in Las Vegas. I haven’t touched the poem since I wrote it, and I reprint it now in its original gin-stained condition — for Tulip:
The Atomic Bar
Past the Boulder Highway,
Over on Santa Fe,
Light years off the Strip,
Lydia stands on the Atomic Bar.
Yells: “don’t mess with Texas”,
She sings a cowboy song.
It’s a sad state for her native state.
It’s a sad state for her current state.
No harm is ever done in the desert.
No harm done to the present,
She’s bad news says Glenn,
The California Biker turned,
Full time Atomic Bomb.
Said he wanted to move to Saba,
But came here to do it right.
Sold his bike in Fresno.
When he gave into it.
No time like the present.
He lives in it, and drinks it in all day.
But he respects it always. Takes it for what it is.
He picks up a six pack of Coors silos,
Next door at the liquor store, then,
He walks off into the night.
He knows, long nights are often,
Just around forever. Bike’s gone.
Sugar’s gone. Atomic Bar is open,
All night long, every day.
New faces. Some come in painted.
Like figures on the wall,
Night refugees down from the Nugget.
Lydia says Greg Allman makes,
Her life worth living.
She’s sinking fast,
At the Atomic Bar.
Or at least that’s how I remember that night…