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Rancid Popcorn » Please To Enjoy… #2

Please To Enjoy… #2

The Swimmer (Frank Perry)

Admonition about spoilers is heavily in effect.

At first, the Swimmer is invisible, gliding through the forest past deer and owl, bushes rustling as he passes. Eventually he takes form, like a ghost made corporeal. For people who believe in ghosts, or like to think about them, it is often said the ghosts don’t understand they are dead, they wander through their past as if looking for something or someone, or as if it were still the salad days of their youth.

He emerges from the woods directly into a backyard, a wealthy one, with a pool. He dives straight in and swims easily yet with strength. After a few laps, he is met – wherever he is, he is welcome.

They are friends of old, this is their pool. They’ve not seen him for two years, how is he? Fine just fine. Just passing through the neighborhood. The Swimmer is accustomed to this wealth, and he charming, and a man’s man. He is, as Tom Wolfe would have it, a Master of the Universe.

As he gazes over the neighborhood, and the large houses across it he knows so well, a realization hits him. The houses all have pools, all the way over the ridge and beyond.

“Pool by pool, they form a river all the way to our house”

“I could swim home,” he tells his friends. They speak pleasantly back at him, but as one might humor a disturbed person.

Undeterred, he begins (continues?) his Homeric odyssey, going from yard to yard, pool to pool. He encounters old girlfriends, the homes of childhood chums, pool parties, and Gorgons (one party guest is played by Joan Rivers). He exults in his strength, challenging a horse to a footrace. Master of the Universe.

At one home, the pool is manned by a group of lazing young people. One of them is the now-grown daughter of an old friend. He’s shocked to see her childhood gone. After a swim, she joins him – a companion on the voyage.

Sure of his own virility, his youth, his command, he plays with her, attempting to impress her with his speed and strength. But he’s not so young, and not so invulnerable, and not so appropriate. Playtime’s over, and she’s going back.

Even an empty pool is a good place for a swim, for those with imagination.

Another party, a big one, the kind The Swimmer is used to being invited to and being the life of. This time he’s crashing. The ghost is crashing.

Battling monsters. The highway in his path, the community pool. This is where the proletariat swim. Proletariat water. Highly chlorinated. Madness. The easy smile has faded. Fear has entered his countenance.

Maybe the world is not his to Master. Maybe it’s not such a beautiful day for a swim after all. Maybe it’s raining. Maybe some houses belong to the ghosts.

It wouldn’t take much to dismiss this adaptation of John Cheever’s story (or the original story for that matter) as just far too odd a central conceit, too much to take seriously. But try just a little, won’t you? If it’s difficult, mentally replace Burt Lancaster with GW Bush. Imagine it’s him drifting along as if he owns the place, as if Privilege was a first principal, as if there were no questions or difficulties in life. Then imagine it is he having the veil removed, and being forced to acknowledge that actions have consequence, and that birth and breeding are no protection against reality and responsibility.

There, isn’t that better?

2 Responses to “Please To Enjoy… #2”

  1. Sterling says:

    You are correct, grand funk master.

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