It Was Mother

It Was Ted

It Was Gossip
Wayras Olivier
MAY 2016

Gossip amongst teenage boys, sensationally graphic and acute, and rivalled only by the back-fence talk of teenage girls has a congenital censor that is aroused the instant co-ed gossip occurs. Most notably, if and when the subject of keys entering locks comes up, offside is dutifully observed and is not stretched, discarded or overruled in the name of describing entrances with grand exigent detail. Girls and boys, even the rascals, are sensible enough to recalibrate their speech—boys in particular—as the possibility of securing an invitation to an open house is on the line. This is, after all, an audition. Assumptions are being made, slight and small, recorded and judged—by girls in particular—on how, after the fact, the boy will recount to his friends the racy specifics of an RSVP. That's to say, a boy who is too casual when using remarkably explicit word-pictures in the presence of a girl can prematurely "out" himself as a pervert; a decency burglar; a mole who always breaks and registers his latest conquest story into the public domain without protecting his source. Creating headlines that in consummation blacklist his name and terminally list hers as a hot piece of property. Buyer beware, for both sexes, has its implications.

Another filament found in gossip, honey growled by the privileged teenage elite, places physical aberrations and deformities centre stage to obsesses over. Beauty is nature's way of keeping humans engaged with the world goes the proverb, and when she—mother nature—fails to keep her end of the bargain, by turning out unsightly critters for endowed teenagers to ostensibly mate with, a great murmur of protest begins to swell over her miscarriage of chemistry. Captivating teenagers forced to share a landscape with unmagnetic teenagers turns and churns the cream sour. Simply ignoring the genetic spoils is insufficient. The hard-featured must be punished by the centrefolds, on stage, with jeers and cabbage for what they really are: rotten eggs. But the gorgeous body politic can, however, still be, even the most sightly and shapely ones, afraid of one thing: an unexpected flip of a switch. Mother Nature seems to encode modesty into the DNA of even her most symmetrical and statuesque creations. A self-consciousness that can suddenly flower with awkward thorns when one is completely naked with the lights on. Co-ed gossiping—mentioned early—is also designed to test one's capacity for discretion if and when sober eyes behold what isn't readily visible when clothed; a patch of discoloured skin or perhaps "equipment" that may have a—let's say—blemish, bump, protrusion, strange angle, or quirky inoperable something or another that demands for vanity's sake to be kept on the hush-hush. Although, only twelve or thirteen years of age when I last read The Chrysalids, I can still recall the passage that scarred my mind with disfigured clarity: the moment the character David discovers Sophie has a sixth toe. Concurrent with my dis-ease for David's discovery was a longstanding twinge of disgust I felt towards cottage cheese that was cruelly amplified by the thought of Sophie's toes. This disgust eventually deepened to revulsion and I found myself consumed if not infatuated with wobbly, ailing incurable cows and how they were to blame for cottage cheesethe "sour lumps" in particular—whereas strident, virile and peppy cows were to be championed for breeding soft, undisturbed, hygienic-looking cream cheese. What I gleaned from the passage—my frivolous antipathy for cottage cheese aside—was the almost sacred task that fell upon David to keep Sophie's deformity a secret. I knew then, although I didn't articulate it as such—that uncovering what makes a person vulnerable can be used as leverage against them and creates quite the lump in their throat; doubly so if you withhold from them a certain muscle relaxant called trust.

One of Gossip's five children, Who, What, Where, When and Why, is averse to learning and accepting straight answers. Or perhaps I should say is forsaken from consensus reality and status quo thinking. This is not to romanticize the notion that children who don't synthesize information in a provincially linear and logical manner always spring into the inaccessible realm of genius only to say that they can endure solitude with greater ease, increasing the likelihood of perhaps being more socially awkward at times but much more relaxed when bartering with abstractions. But it's Why that gets hanged, drawn and quartered when its four friends—Who, What, Where and When—go out to royally yet carelessly prattle. Why contemplates far too seriously for gossip to weather, and let's face it, destroys the fun of its reign.

Did you hear? Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) stole the keys to Dorothy's (Isabella Rossellini's) apartment; while she was out performing at The Slow Club, entered her roost to sleuth around, and while micturating in her washroom groaned the name "Heineken" to himself. Was Jeffrey enthroning his favourite brand of beer out loud? Or is it a significant adumbration written by David Lynch that pays off the following night when Jeffrey's alone with Sandy? Detailing what happens next, I'm going to take the high road and simply say this: Young "Mr. Heineken" had to hide in Dorothy's closet after she unexpectedly returned home; Young "Mr. Heineken" watched how Dorothy, when distressed, chirps on the phone; Young "Mr. Heineken" observed a Buzzard crash into her nest; Young "Mr. Heineken" is well aware of the taxonomical differences between Bluebirds and Buzzards, Dorothy and Frank (Dennis Hooper), respectively, and Young "Mr. Heineken" marveled painfully over the Buzzard's insistence that birds of a feather flock together.

Primitive yet unquestionably sincere is gossip that the sleeping mind produces when it chases its own wagging tail. Rotating endlessly, not to mention glorifying Who, What, Where and When, is the histrionic art the dreamer mutes into existence upon awakening. And in the off chance the mind does recall the pantomime, Why again is excised from any field of inquiry. The dream was, after all, nothing but bombastic nonsense—precisely why (for your consideration) it stands as a legitimate candidate for discussion amongst bureaucratic power-hungry teenagers.

And, it's halfway through Blue Velvet when we catch Jeffrey and Sandy (Laura Dern) sitting inside a parked car, supposedly to gossip, that the film reveals its raison d'être. As a teenager, Jeffrey has a binding social contract with Sandy to transport with colossal, theatrical and compelling detail "the goods" (how Dorothy, in captivity, copulates with Frank). But he doesn't: instead, Jeffrey parcels the anecdote with cold and detached objectivity. Jeffrey most certainly feels the pressure to play up his masculine handle on things: it is, after all, a Saturday night and Sandy blew off Mike, her football player boyfriend, to be with Jeffrey, a situation that could conceivably cause a hand or two to fumble inside the car. But for Jeffrey recuperation is closer to the mark, not necking with Sandy and he cuts to the chase to curtain his otherwise tortured feelings of outrage when recounting what he surveyed from Dorothy's closet. Apparently his affection for Heineken, making him an automatic endorser of anything Dutch, including the red-light style district peep show he took in from the closet, is much too squiggly a line to draw. The beer's name is a nod to nineteenth-century German ornithologist Karl Heineken. A man that must have had, one can only assume, a tenacious sensitivity to his environment from studying strong boned, light-weighted aves. And when closing his summary of the scandal, Jeffrey's so-called male asset—stoic pragmatism—expires and a more artistic rather than scientific reproach to his audit looms. He tearfully turns to Sandy and goes on:

"Why are there people like Frank? Why is there so much trouble in this world?"

The clinging and insufferable pathos that accompanies a defeated boy is quite the treat for a teenage girl. But it's not in Sandy's constitution to take advantage of such a one-sided power imbalance. Could it be that Sandy's been here before? Perhaps she's forced to endure babble whenever Mike looses a game; a clockwork stammer that splits bananas over how his teammates always "cost" him the game whenever they drop the ball. But Sandy recognizes that Jeffrey's pule isn't snivelling nonsense, it's simply a boy's complexion that's gone—after seeing Frank—yellow. Yet she can't answer, nor can anyone for that matter, why some people observe and obey the golden rule while others like Frank don't. All Sandy can offer to Jeffrey in exchange for his vulnerable plea is encouragement. For a girlfriend of a football player, this would come naturally to Sandy, if not dutifully only she's in the mood for something more and she does something rather scandalous. Opening up and baring a dream is bonding of the highest order and an act of emotional promiscuity. Her dream in short—complete darkness, then robins and, at last, light. In its entirety, Sandy goes on:

"I had a dream. In fact it was the night I met you. In the dream, there was our world and the world was dark because there weren't any robins. And the robins represented love and for the longest time there was just this darkness and all of a sudden thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love. And it seemed like that love would be the only thing that would make any difference. And it did!"

Dreams, like all dreams, are inseparable from their creator, making Sandy—an ornithologist in her dreams notwithstanding—full of childish drama. This hardly qualifies as an insight, most teenage girls are, but when it comes to Sandy this isn't a question of degree. It's a question of kind. Her strain is heroic; her homespun imagery of the ecumenical forces of good and evil is, with combustible flair, articulated like a football game. Complete with despair and sorrow, ecstasy and elation and finally concluded in the last few seconds with a cheer of inspired revelation on how to persevere forward—the next time the "game" appears hopelessly unwinnable.

Notice how, one, Sandy had her dream the night Jeffrey was naively questioning her father about "the severed ear case"; second, Sandy went ahead and sanctioned her dream before sharing it with Jeffrey by saying "In fact it was the night I met you." A towering charge; intimate, a slight come-on and a veiled confession that preciously asserts—you, not Mike, set something off in me. The mind engages the dreamer with gossip when one doesn't know what the mind already knows. What does Sandy not want to know that her mind already knows? Her bedroom, it must be remembered is above her father's home office; he discusses cases over the phone as she rather innocently "picks" up bits of information ad hoc. Nothing substantial to prompt a pointed finger-wagging in his face, but young Sandy would be diligently working away, quilting the threads together in the understructure of her dreams into a thought pattern regarding her father's condition. One that does not comfort; one that needles her into acknowledging that he's sick, or professionally speaking, he's a crooked cop. Indirectly involved with the abject mess of the "severed ear" Sandy's father is on a tortuously steep slope towards Frank's network. Although this connection is never made by Sandy, let alone brought to her immediate awareness, her father is destined, no matter how gradual, to fall mentally ill because of his corruption. Sandy can only in the meantime respond to her father's forgery of virtue unconsciously with a "fowl" dream. In fact, the dream serves as a prophylaxis in the interim for her amiable nature to ensure it doesn't perish and go sour, as is so often the case for a family member in the pink who voluntarily or involuntarily is bound to one perniciously aphotic member.

Jeffrey's father collapsed in the film's opening; although his fall was not one of character; it showed, with no dialogue, Jeffrey's pierced reaction to his father being weak; it showed, if you look closely, this isn't the first time Jeffrey's been pierced—he has a golden hoop pinching his left ear; it showed, the earring—a potential touch point for emasculation and ridicule—was never an issue for his father; and it showed that a genuinely pierced reaction of sadness can't be forged by a teenager visiting their father in the hospital. A palpable reaction of despair can be feigned to conceal joy when a teenager, girl or boy, is face to face with a defenseless and flimsy father who spent his capable years as a bully.

Back to the car, Sandy concludes her dream cautiously if not terminally cool, perhaps for no other reason than getting swept up with birds that fly down from the sky to deliver benediction has, even if it's just the rind, an effluvious aroma of cheese. She wraps up:

"So I guess it means. There is trouble until the robins come."

A restored Jeffrey beams, "You're a neat girl." Without blinking, Sandy counters with a smile, "So are you." How rare it is to find two "girls" like Jeffrey and Sandy, placed together in a car, falling for such a rare timbre of gossip. Lumberton does have a peculiar design detail at its entrance. A pair of megaphones perched on its welcome sign, seemingly there to brand via the local radio station the town's primary export. The dramatic sound effect—a chainsaw and falling tree—is audible, even if, let's say, Jeffrey, on his way to the hospital to see his father, took a shortcut through a field. To an unsevered ear and mind, take Jeffrey, for instance, he would no doubt have to wonder: when men cut down so many trees—where will the robins go to build their nest? You heard it from me, inside Sandy's head, where it's warm, neat and free of useless pulp.