Clint Eastwood movies have been my thumb-sucking comfort in a cruel world. You know where you stand with Clint; right's right, wrong's wrong, and a well-placed bullet will solve everything. It's just like fairytales and he's the good fairy - in a manner of speaking.
I have been loyal to the squint. I loved him in the poncho, when he was The Man With No Name. I loved him still, though less, as Dirty Harry, avenger of everyone ever been done wrong by a creep, and I loved Mystic River.
There are films like Paint Your Wagon and Every Which Way But Loose that I've never watched because I've suspected they'd shatter my fragile trust in his manliness. When the world seems to be a dismal and confusing place, what comfort there has been in Clint's dark power to realign the universe.
And then there was the Republican Convention.
Actors, as we all know, need someone to keep an eye on them and stop them making fools of themselves. If you've watched Breaking Bad you'll know the episode where the two main characters improvise the entire, excruciating time, like a pair of lunatics in a method-acting workshop. No doubt they were egged on by a devoted production crew keen to make art; no doubt they thought they were cute; but it was terrible. As was Clint, interviewing that chair.
What was he thinking?
I don't want to think about that because I've always relished the lack of profound thinking or subtlety that goes into his work: revenge is all the motivation and storyline you need. I've admired him for being so one-dimensional, so clear about everything, so Clint. So it's tough to have to face the fact that he's been thinking all along, and taken the whole deal seriously. Even in a poncho.
An idol has fallen. No, two idols have fallen for me in the past few days. The other is Oliver Sacks.
If Clint was the guy with a gun you could turn to in a bad neighbourhood, Sacks is the guy you always hoped would be looking down on you if a bad thing happened inside your brain.
He has been in my pantheon of good guys for years. Only 10 days ago I bought another of his books, looking for the dependable experience of reading an intelligent and compassionate man writing about something I only half understand (the science) but wholly applaud (the empathy). In a world where medical experiences can be grim, and void of empathy, it has been a thumb-sucking comfort to think of him. And yet.
There's no coming back, for me, from Sacks' just-made revelations about his years of recreational drug-taking, his "research" into the effects they have on the brain, back in the 60s. From now on his name will be linked, in my still-hanging-in-there mind, with that arch bore, the acid freak Timothy Leary, whose shadow fell over the 60s like some sort of Batman cape.
There are things we just don't need to know. Only our nearest and dearest can be expected to listen patiently to our dreams, and even they shouldn't have to listen to tales of druggie hallucinations and the amazing experience of being, like, out of it.
Sacks talked to a spider, he reveals, and the spider talked back. He cooked breakfast for guests who were never there. He had insights. And, as with all bores, there is an undercurrent of bragging.
He's so interesting that he had interesting hallucinations and he thinks they made him a better human being; he was so clever that drugs couldn't harm him.
I'd like to say the same for the people whose brains get fried by such adventures.
They don't wake up and become famous pop psychologists; they go somewhere strange in their heads and never get back.
It's that hint of boastfulness that annoys me and the gnawing suspicion that what looked like true compassion all this time was maybe just a fellow druggie's curiosity about someone else's trip.