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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fort Apache, the Fast Food Restaurant

Saturday was a big day. We went to the Rocky Boots outlet store in Nelsonville. The Rocky Boots Outlet store is in the old factory where they used to make the boots. It is a three story, brick building that seems unusually small inside considering how large it looks outside. Probably because it is crammed full of boots, clothing, hats, gun cases, a small restaurant, assorted barbecue equipment, camping gear and dog beds.

There is a lot of stuff and it makes the space seem small, a little cramped and sometimes noisy and crowded. But, it is fun, and I enjoy the chaos. There is comfort in hearing people talk about the wonderful prices, the amazing variety, dashing from one shelf filled with boots to the next. It really makes you feel as if you are getting a bargain. They might be employees playing a part, acting as though a person would be a fool to walk out of there without something, anything. And it worked, I have a new pair of boots.

After buying my boots we took the short trip to Athens Ohio to eat at Taco John's. Taco John's, my wife and I have a long, happy relationship. Taco John's was everywhere in the area we are from. In the small, cramped, normally aluminum buildings you could find food to soothe the worst hangover, placate monstrous attacks of "munchies." If you were willing to get extra green sauce it could even cure a cold, burn it right out of your sinuses, make it beg for mercy. Taco John's was a staple. And as far as I know the franchise in Athens is the only one east of Iowa. An outpost standing in the middle of the insidious creep of huge, amorphous food chains.

And every time we eat there I am reminded of Fort Apache, starring Henry Fonda as a glory hungry Lieutenant Colonel who was shuffled off to a small, meaningless, almost forgotten command in Arizona. John Wayne plays an experienced captain, an old hand who had been through everything, seen everything, knew how to keep his men alive.

Henry Fonda says something dismissive about Apaches, at least the few he had seen riding up to the fort. And John Wayne assures him, "If you saw them, Sir, they weren't Apaches." Henry Fonda doesn't care about any of that, he wants glory, and starts a war.

In many ways the movie was more about the foolishness of man, the constant pursuit of admiration and accolades than it was about the army or war. Of course, I can never think about Fort Apache without remembering Fort Apache The Bronx. Particularly the scene where Steve McQueen bounces a lit cigarette off of Danny Aeillo's head. Sparks fly everywhere, the cigarette bounces off his head as if it were made of rubber. It was so cool. How many times did they practice that scene, how many burns, how many cigarettes? Did they use a stunt double?

I don't know why but that scene has always impressed me. I always wanted to bounce a lit cigarette off of somebody's head. I just never had the opportunity. For one thing you would need to be pretty angry to risk lighting their hair on fire, or damaging an eye.

"Hey, Bil, you were five minutes late this morning, meet me in the smoker's lounge." It seems like overkill. Danny Aeillo threw somebody off of a building, which is a terrible thing. A lit cigarette off the old noodle is probably not punishment enough. In a lot of ways the movie was more about conflict, values and changing expectations than it was about policemen or the Bronx.and it had nothing to do with Apaches.

But, I quit smoking and will never get the chance to live my dream, and the foreheads, hair and vision of all my friends, coworkers and family are safe. Damn, I should have nailed Bil when I had the chance.  Life is too short to live with regret, so I forgive all the tardiness and absenteeism, unless I start smoking again. There's a message in there, somewhere.