The Epic to End All Epics

Thirteen years ago, I went to some kind of cancer recovery workshop out in the country.  Like the other two women who participated in it, I had recently gone through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and I was a bit nuts.  Cancer tends to do that to you.

On the last day of the workshop — after meeting in encounter groups, doing tai-chi, getting a massage — I was plopped down in front of some kind of therapeutic sandbox with a bunch of toys I could stick into the sand.  I initially thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen, but I ended up loving it.  There was no way, it seemed to me, you could lie or protect yourself in that kind of silly, childlike setting.  Somehow, you ended up revealing yourself in spite of yourself.

As I explained to the therapist, what I’d done in my sandbox arrangement was to bring threatening figures closer to the figure that represented me.  The threats were things like illness and fear and death.  “You know the saying,” I said.  “I want to keep my friends close, but my enemies closer.”

Well, she may have heard the saying, but she never indicated she knew it came from one of my favorite movies, The Godfather, Part 2.  That’s what happens when you see a movie too often and take it too seriously: It begins to invade your life, even in sandy, therapeutic settings.

This week, we went with our friends John and Helen to see the first two Godfathers in a downtown movie theater.  (The Godfather, Part 3, with its unfortunate casting of Sofia Coppola in a starring role is a movie I’ve only seen once and prefer to pretend doesn’t exist.  Please don’t remind me.)  So what if we’d each seen the movies dozens of times?  On the big screen, they’re still a revelation.

This is the business we have chosen.

Tattaglia’s a pimp.

Leave the gun.  Take the cannoli.

We sat in one of the first rows, elbowing each other when our favorite parts came along.

I loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919.

Blood is a big expense.

For years, I’d adapted a quote from Kay as she talked to Michael:  This Sicilian thing has got to stop.  Since my husband’s not from Italy, I’d changed it to: This West Texas thing has got to stop.  You know, whatever works, whatever seems appropriate.

Unfortunately, after viewing the movie again, I realize the original line doesn’t exist.  All those years of quoting from Godfather, Part 2, of hearing those lines in my head that seemed to define male excess and craziness, and now I realize they were never spoken.  Damn!  What am I supposed to say to my husband now when he gets out of line?

Someday, and that day may never come, I’ve got to come up with a new quote.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • I think you’ve got to keep that line. You can just pretend it really exists.

    I loved the part about you poking each other during your favorite lines.

  • Just when you think you’re out, they drag you back in again. So why do we love talking like gangsters? Or assorted movie scumbags. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I’ve got a theory about it, of course.  I think we love gangsters and their talk because they’re so completely different from us.  Watching the Godfather, I’m uncomfortably aware that I’m more like Enzo the baker, my hands shaking too much to light a cigarette, or Fredo, fumbling with my gun, then weeping as my father is gunned down, than like the cold-blooded, cool-headed Michaels of the world.  Still, I’ve always wanted to have a best friend in the mob.  Just in case.

  • I also think women go through a gun-moll syndrome, when we foolishly think hoods and nogoodniks are cute and that they’d be a lot more fun to date than nerds.

  • First date with Tim was
    Godfather III — knew I loved
    him when he snickered.

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