Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cool Hand Newman

Paul Newman

Why is it when we're young we can't wait to grow up yet when we're older we all wish we were younger?

It isn't exactly zen but it's something everyone comes to grips with at some point in their lives.

I loved hanging out with my classmates and my friends but at the same time, I enjoyed listening to my dad and my uncles talk about who was cool for them and who wasn't. I honestly couldn't relate to most of them save for Bruce Lee, the Beatles, and Paul Newman. I was in the midst of my own rebellion as I discovered rock n' roll, barkadas, and that time-honored ritual of hanging out.

I was so young but even then when John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman I remember feeling so profoundly affected. I even remember what I was doing at the exact time Lennon's death was announced on the radio. I was shocked because as much as I loved Paul McCartney's Wings, I hoped the Beatles would reunite and play on.

But if there was a definition of cool back then even an aging Paul Newman was definitely uber cool for someone as young as me. My dad raved about Cool Hand Luke yet it was only some two decades later that I purchased the DVD at Best Buy. The film along with another favorite of mine -- Bill Murray's Groundhog Day -- have been declared by The Library of Congress to be a culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant film. And both have a prominent place in my DVD collection.

However, you will have to credit the movie Slap Shot for indoctrinating me into the coolness of Paul Newman. Playing pro ice hockey player Reggie Dunlop of the fictional Charlestown Chiefs made me a fan of the sport even more. Maybe at some point I was like any one of the Hanson Brothers -- a hellraiser on ice skates -- but Newman with his drive for racing, penchant for charity, and propensity to play memorable anti-heroes like John Rooney in The Road To Perdition and Fast Eddie in The Color of Money, was like a celluloid god.

Newman is gone now after losing his long bout with lung cancer. But his gallery of rogueish characters live on with me today.

I cried, "Oh, No!" when Newman's Rooney betrayed Tom Hanks' Michael Sullivan in The Road to Perdition.

And that line from Cool Hand Luke, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." will live forever. Even Guns N' Roses used it in their songs "Civil War" from Use Your Illusion II and in "Madagascar" from their new album Chinese Democracy.

If I were in the snow-blitzed eastern seaboard right now, I'd lace up those ice skates and bang that stick on the sides of the box along with everyone else.

That's for you, Paul Newman.

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