THOUGHTS ON VERNON, FLORIDA….

The movie, yes, but also the town.

Vernon, Florida (1981)
D. Errol Morris

1) Morris was initially attracted to the tiny Panhandle town of Vernon by its reputation as Nub City, a place famous for amputees who shot off (or otherwise removed) various limbs to collect on large insurance payments. Not sure if this is any way related to the vigilance required to prove the identity of dead bodies missing their hands in Winter’s Bone but it wouldn’t surprise me.

2) I tracked it down because I’m planning a post on Florida movies. This looked like a possible winner and was available for a couple of bucks on Amazon. The rest of this list is dedicated to the reasons it probably won’t make the cut.

3) In Errol Morris’s Vernon, Florida, there are no black people. Not even in background shots. That must mean Tony Peters, the kid with the wicked slider who kept striking me out in Pony League in the spring of ’75–and who, a couple of years later, led mostly black teams, filled with his brothers and cousins, from Vernon High to state championships in baseball and basketball–was a figment of my imagination. I mention it because, absent him, my very good batting average (.426) would have been considerably higher. Even higher than the .550 I was hitting before a stupid bet in the one-county-over Graceville High School weight-lifting room threw out my back and left me swinging with one hand for the last half of the season. (I won the bet. Small comfort.) I’m sure the fear that southern black people might seem as incomprehensibly “eccentric” as southern white people had nothing to do with any of this.

4) The film presents half a dozen implied stories, each of them worth it’s own narrative, and follows exactly none of them to a satisfying conclusion. I’d of gone with the adventures of the young pastor myself. In life, he must have had to contend with the old coots who know what the Bible really means in a thousand interesting and delicate ways. In the film, he never even meets them. And there’s some pretty good rants from those coots here, but nothing close to the End Times testimonial sermon I heard an old-timer in overalls preach from the second row pew of one-county-over White Pond Baptist in 1979 while all ten of us in attendance (including my father in the pulpit, my mother at the piano, me and seven members of the old man’s family) listened rapt. Dad was interim pastor there for a year. That was the only time the old man showed up. After the service, his daughter-in-law explained it to us, half-apologetic, half matter-of-fact: “Grandpa does that sometimes.” Nothing like that here.

5) Wausau, which is a suburb of Vernon, is mentioned once. Any filmmaker who spent enough time in southern Washington County to make a documentary and didn’t work in a story about the baseball field in Wausau–where it was theoretically possible to hit a home run over the eight-foot high left field fence without the ball ever travelling more than a foot off the ground–just ain’t worth his salt.

6) I’d forgive all that if Morris had caught the special feel of the North Florida woods where he keeps stalking a turkey hunter. My father walked away from his stalled car in December of 2007 in the heart of those very same south Washington County woods. Hunters found him three days later, passed out on the ground (a day after I had discovered him missing from his apartment and convinced the local police to put out an APB on him). He was transported to the Washington County Hospital and, two days later, to the nursing home next door. He died there eight months later, never having walked again.  I’d give a lot to have the feel of the last place my father walked on this earth captured on film. The way Morris shot Vernon, Florida those woods could just as well be in Mississippi….or Pennsylvania.

Or the Tennessee Smokies where Dad grew up. And where he thought he was when he left his stalled care and tried to find his way home.

None of that here.

Disappointing really.

MY TWO CENTS…

On the G-20 summit.

First, ignore the AP reports (or CNN, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah).

A month from now, they’ll be as credible as last month’s “all 17 American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia hacked the election” stories.

Today’s official stories, too, will soon be “clarified.”

My sense is that, in the last two weeks, the Trump Fever broke. On the evening of the day he punked the G-20 summit that was the latest in a long line of Security State backstops which, assuming the key operatives (in this case various heads of state) could get the stars out of their eyes and quit staring at Ivanka’s ass or keep their knees from buckling when Melania flashed that fragile smile, were supposed to humiliate him beyond all hope of recovery, it became pretty clear that–barring some drastic, pyrrhic action like an assassination–he’ll now march from victory to victory.

You know, just like he’s been doing since June, 2015. Back when “the Republican Establishment” was going to put paid to him–by driving him not only from political life, but society itself…remember?–in the impossible event he became a problem.

Oh. there will be speed bumps along the way, and, just like the obstacles now fading in the rear view mirror (faster and faster, I might add), they’ll be celebrated as mortal wounds by whatever’s left of that creaky old Establishment (and breathlessly Re-Tweeted by those who are still certain–certain I say!–that this time, we’ve got him).

Those who put their faith in such folks, needn’t worry. There’s probably a month or two of real entertainment value left before your champions do what they were always going to do and kick you to the curb, the better to curry favor with the new boss.

My puny, unsolicited advice is to kick them out of the tent before they get the chance.

Why let them co-opt you one last time and destroy even your one-in-a-million hope of igniting a grass roots movement with real teeth in it? The fake ones you’ve been relying on aren’t getting it done. If you’re looking for a leader to emerge from the current crop, you’re trading in fool’s gold. (To wit, there’s real talk Bernie Sanders will carry the flag in 2020. God help us. But, believe me, Kamala Harris won’t be any less chumped and compromised by then, even if you buy the sketchy assumption that she is now.)

As we sit here tonight, Trump has a conservative majority entrenched on the Supreme Court, with more to come. His trial-balloon travel ban (sorry, did you think it was something else?), is now, with a few negotiating ploy caveats, in place. Contracts for the border wall are proceeding apace. The regulatory wall, built from used tissue by the Bi-partisan Consensus over the last thirty-five years for the express purpose of enriching themselves at everybody’s-but-their-own expense, is being torn to shreds. He’s tied the “Russian thing” tin can to Obama’s tail, and, by extension, Hillary Clinton’s. (Rhetorically, conspiratorially, theatrically, that is–i.e., the ways that matter in a land where concepts like the Rule of Law were reduced to laughless-punchlines by the very folks who now insist they are Never Trumpers long before Forever Donald Trump happened along.)

And, oh by the way, while you weren’t looking, the Alt-Right has seized the language and the messaging.

And oh by the way….

They view Trump as a loss leader.

Albeit in blind-squirrel fashion, Kathy Griffin–one of many useful-idiot celebrities whose brains apparently function as test patterns–had it right.

If Trump’s head isn’t on a platter by the end of the summer, there’s gonna be some deep and lasting changes around here–and perhaps more than a few.

Up to now, the main question since election night has been whether Trump understood that he was in a war with the Security State that would end in his utter defeat or theirs.

Tonight, for the first time, the question has changed.

Do they understand?

Bet they do…

Which means it must finally be time for Trump to ditch “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and keep what’s left of his opposition really confused, by switching up his theme song…

Or would be, if playing in a rock and roll band was still masquerading as something more than a chance to meet the kind of fabulous women Donald J. Trump and Michael Jagger are prone to marrying.

It’s not that Trump is a genius (he sort of is, but it’s not that). It’s that he’s opposed–up and down the line–by idiots.

Idiots who have had their masks ripped off….and their Consensus destroyed.

It took two years.

Or fifty.

So, as ever….Goodbye us.

But really, it was fun while it lasted.

C’mon Mick…Are you sure you don’t want to play the Ballroom in 2021?

[Note: Yes, I know. There were protests. To call them meaningless would be to debase the word. Somebody cue “American Woman” and dedicate it to Angela Merkel.]