Gentlemen, I’m Only Passing Through


When I was young, maybe six or seven-ish,
Mom loaded me into her blue Toyota

hatchback … or was it her red Cordoba? Meh.
One of those is right … doesn’t matter which one.

She drove us to the Danberry Cinema,
out by the Towne Mall, past the gazebo and

the constant stream of musicians playing there
and told me, “We’re going to see Top Gun, so

I need you on your best behavior.” “Aw shucks,”
I whined, snapping my fingers and swinging my

arm like a 1920s gangster who drove
a navy blue Packard motor carriage.

“Guns, mother dear? I don’t want to watch those. They’re
so uncivilized. By the way, where is Dad’s

lightsaber? He wanted me to have it, right?”
Mom just sighed and took a drag from her Salem

100 cigarette, thin and long like the
blue blade of my imaginary weapon.

“They make longer death sticks for women because
they tend to conversate,” Dad told me one day.

Earlier that morning he’d asked me if Mom
had an extramarital affair with Pete

Rose. “No way, Pop,” I said, spitting my bubble
gum into a brass spittoon near his front door.

“Mom’s true blue. No way she ever walked around
on you. She ain’t Nancy Sinatra, you know?”

“She is to me,” was his reply. “She’s lovely.”
A few years later he was dead and I was

on the way to see a movie about guns
when we had a perfectly good copy of

Star Wars, Episode Four: A New Hope in our
dual-head V.H.S. cassette player. “Hey Mom,”

I said, watching Dixie Highway pass by the
passenger window at 55 miles

per hour. “What say we turn this wreck around,
go back down to Main Street and get some ice cream,

then head back to the house on Locust to watch
Luke blow up the Death Star in his X-Wing. It’s

really cool how their wings move, isn’t it, Ma?”
She nodded and sighed, “Top Gun is about planes.”

She lied. Top Gun is about boys. Ask Kenny
Loggins. He wrote a song about it and I

don’t mean Danger Zone, Footloose or I’m All Right.
I’m talking about song three on the soundtrack

for the movie starring Tom Cruise as Mav-rick.
Two syllables, right Iceman? Question: Why did

Val Kilmer decide his character should bite
his teeth at Mav. when they were in the … uh … where

were they? The shower? Hmm. Maverick (that’s three
syllables, for the record) had just said, “That’s

right! Ice … man … I am dangerous.” How queer. Val?
Care to chime in on this one, you weird bastard?

Didn’t you say Bob Dylan can’t play guitar
when you talked to that journalist from Fargo

Rock City? Detroit? No sir. I don’t know where
Motown went either. All I hear is noise, noise

noise noise, except for one little Who who won’t
speak to the Grinch unless she’s on camera.

Back to Top Gun. The plane scenes are so awesome.
There’s music playing and things happening. You

almost forget it’s basically brainwashing.
How many people wanted to get in the

cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and say,
“Talk to me, Goose.”? Come on … raise your hands. You know

you loved watching the dogfighting scenes. They’re fun.
They keep you entertained, like when Maximus

had to fight in that North African shithole
for Proximo before traveling to the

Coliseum. Remember when he threw his
sword into the grand stands and yelled, “Are you not

entertained!? Are … you … not … entertained?!” Well? Are
you not entertained? Have you gotten this far down

the lazy river to see it all come back
around and around and around? Like Ratt sang,

“We’ll put you on your shelf.” Right. Of course you will.
If glass shatters and no one is around, does

it make a sound? What about one hand clapping?
Who said, “Self improvement is masturbation”?

I always liked that line. I also liked when
Brad Pitt said, “Sticking feathers up your butt

does not make you a chicken.” Go look out your
window. That grass ain’t green. In fact, it’s kind of

yellow. See what I mean? Let’s get back to Top
Gun one more time, because I have a question.

Why was Hollywood allowed to fly a plane?
Go back to the part where Ice Man bites at Mav.

When we’re dropped in the scene, Wolfman (Hollywood’s
Radar Intercept Officer – AKA

RIO, ie: the Goose to his Maverick)
tells everyone how poorly his pilot flew.

“30 seconds!” he shouts, moving his hands like
two fighter planes passing. “He went like this … we

went like that. I said to Hollywood, ‘Where’d he
go?’ Hollywood said, ‘Where’d WHO go?!’” On that day

Maverick and Goose beat Jester. Hard deck my
ass, they nailed that son of a bitch. Hollywood

lost that day in 30 seconds. That’s foul up
number one. Later on, he and Mav. are on

a mission together against Viper and
Michael Ironside. “Break now, Jester!” says Tom

Skerritt as the F-4 Phantoms split away.
Now … Hollywood has Jester dead to rights. He

shouldn’t need Maverick to cover his wing
at that point. He’s already won, right? No sir.

He can’t get the job done. That’s foul up
number two. The worst one, though, comes in the Med.

that’s Mediterranean Sea … or was it
the Indian Ocean? Whatever. Doesn’t

matter. Maverick’s squadron C.O (the bald
principal from Back to the Future) says, I

want Iceman, Slider, Hollywood and Wolfman up
there. “Maverick, you back ‘em up with Merlin

on Ready Five.” … My God, why? Hollywood sucks!
He can barely fly his fucking plane! Nice guy,

sure, but holy God in Heaven take the
man’s wings and keep him out of the sky. You just

know he’s going to get shot down right away. Yep!
Sure enough, 30 seconds in and Iceman’s

on the horn, yelling, “Wood’s been hit! Wood’s been hit!”
Sigh. … Ok. Launch Maverick and pray that fool

doesn’t shoot down every plane in the sky,
then buzz the tower and make the air boss

spill his coffee again. “Goddamn that guy,” he
said through clenched teeth, but to hell with that asshole.

He’s not the one out there putting his life on
the line. He’s sitting back drinking coffee and

smoking big cigars. Kissing rings and all that
jazz. Jazz … who was the singer playing in the

back room of Charlotte’s seaside rental? Otis?
Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. Remind you

of an old friend? “No,” Mav. laments … kind of. I
mean, it’s Tom Cruise, so he’s not acting. He’s just

being Tom Cruise and you can tell Tom Cruise likes
Otis Redding. Yeah? Who the fuck doesn’t? Name

me one song other than that one. Tears of a
Clown? No, that’s Smokey Robinson. Ask B.J.

Novack, he’ll tell you. I probably spelled both
their names wrong. My bad. Don’t sue me for mistakes.

Just do what Bob Dylan asks of you in “Things
Have Changed…”  Whatever you do, please … “Don’t get up…


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