Ashes and Entertainment
Searching out the Dead with Crocodile Dundee
dir. Simon Wincer
Opens Fri April 20 at Oak Tree, others.
I am a travel ho... I will go anywhere for free. Offer to pay me a little, better yet feed me, put me up in a hotel and Rizzy is there. Queesha says that "a shy ho is a broke ho," so let it be well known that I have traveled to faraway hovels and taken fifth-rate cruises. It's not that I enjoy traveling--I tolerate traveling, but I love the destinations. I once spent a week in Jackson, Mississippi, on an evangelical bender with a Billy Graham Crusade, 'cause they offered to fly me there first-class. Did the same in Lubbock, Texas. Been to Yakima just for the thrill of it, been drunk in the Tri-Cities, got laid in Spokane, took a Greyhound to a SeaTac courtroom to testify for somebody I barely knew. The onliest place I don't like to visit is my young adulthood home of Chicago.
Chicago gives me the willies. I remember it as a mean city in my youth; a rude, vindictive place with harsh weather 75 percent of any year. It's the only place I've been spat at. I'll admit I've had some plenty good meals there, though, but the price it affords in civic discomfort hasn't been worth the trips I've taken there in the last 25 years. With the exception of my father and an uncle, my family members discovered their own personal hatred for the place long before I did. My uncle is packing his bags to leave as you read this. And my father... my father is dead.
He died two and a half years ago, and no, we weren't close. My father was an unabashed asshole, spending a lifetime leaving trails of cruelty practically everywhere he went. When he wasn't being stridently argumentative or violent, he was drinking. My father wasn't a drunk. A drunk could possibly sober himself, or failing that, pass out and offer some solace to his victims while sleeping. My father was a proud and unapologetic alcoholic. He was only sober to work a job and worked a job primarily so he could maintain a safe harbor to drink in. My father could only offer relief to his victims in his complete and total absence. In this lay his only heroism, when he was sure that you could bear him no longer, he would leave. I admired this in him; I dare say that I loved this about him. I believe he abandoned my mother and my siblings during our early ages and steadfastly avoided us thereafter not because he was a deadbeat dad, but to spare us from his rampant, uncontrollable assholiness.
Although I could not attend his funeral, his final absence caused me a profound grief that remains as tender today as it was the day he died. I feel the need to commemorate him in some way. When the opportunity arose a few weeks ago to have a paid trip to visit Chicago on a press-junket thingy (you get sent to a big shiny city, wined, dined, and shined in hopes you'll say something favorable about a film that you would not encounter under normal circumstances), I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to retrieve his ashes.
The film in question is Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, the third installment of a wildly successful film that debuted 15 years ago. And here, honestly, is something favorable.
The film is a likable old dog. It performs its tricks as dependably as it did the first time around 15 years ago, albeit it's a bit slower now. It will neither surprise nor excite you, but it won't irritate you either. The audience that I viewed this film with responded well enough to it. A man sitting behind me talked to the film throughout, cooing and purring at the screen like an old missed friend. Its story is really too slight to bother to recount further than the title suggests. Crocodile Dundee winds up in L.A., gets in a couple of pickles, gets out, and goes home. Nobody gets hurt, nobody dies. If you paid money to see it you won't feel cheated, because you will only pay to see this because you have the money to spend. Yes... TAKE THE WHOLE FAMILY (if you have one to take); THEY WILL LIKE... er... LOVE IT. This is as dependable as entertainment gets.
But Chicago was as cruel as I remember. The day I arrived, the temperature was in the mid-70s and the sky was almost cloudless. But the trees were as barren as they were in mid-January. In April, while it's budding and blooming everywhere else, Chicago is steadfastly, stubbornly winter. The great Lake Michigan was a pastel greenish gray. People were still clutching scarves, because as one taxi driver told, "Hell, this can turn on you, in seconds."
And my father's ashes. They're gone. Not misplaced or strewn or hoarded by some distant, half--wit half-cousin; just gone. Nobody remembers who had them last, or where they might have gotten to. In fact, until I showed up to inquire, no one thought to take responsibility for my father's final remains. I imagine that in death as in life, my father has disappeared either because he cannot effectively irritate me in any other way, or because, closure be danged, some things should simply never change. Right, Croc?