Page Two: Fatty and Mabel

The muses of a bright, fresh morning

Page Two
In the midst of this summer's unending flood of sunlight, it was often too bright to breathe, much less see, as if one had woken in a crashing, ongoing river of sun rays sweeping away everything in front of its advance.

Fatty and Mabel Adrift.

The too-bright is rarely conducive to writing except that when you are writing, what is in front of you is not necessarily there. Rainy days are always good for writing, as are the hours before dawn, but, again, that doesn't matter – or maybe that does matter, just not as much when you are unconsciously twisting through your head settings, as thoughtlessly as you flip through cable channels. Fatty and Mabel's Simple Life.

It's a world loaded to the brim with things to comment on, but there are those nonthinking writers armed with automatic computer boards, typing out mindless gibberish and cheap sloganeering, as though if they put enough words into the air, it means they are saying something.

I do tend to focus on and obsess about those anti-intellectual hobos who feel that pretending to a certain level of ignorance, which they actually believe is common sense, makes them in reality smarter than everyone else.

There are also any number of Internet posters who diligently try to make sense of the world, reconciling their beliefs with the greater realties. Mabel and Fatty's Wash Day.

"Mabel" is Mabel Normand. She started in films when she was maybe 15 or 16 and had been an artists' model for a couple of years already. Her deeply powerful good looks and limitless comedic talent soon found her a star in the world of two-reel silent comedies, featured in hundreds of films between 1910 and 1927. Mack Sennett, the driving force behind Keystone comedies, was the great love of her life, as she was of his, but though they had a lengthy relationship, they never married.

"Fatty" is Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, one of the greatest of this country's comedic actors. Although he weighed more than 300 pounds, he was graceful and athletic. A star by 1913, he made hundreds of short films until about 1920, when he began to concentrate on features. Arbuckle co-starred with Charlie Chaplin, and he gave Buster Keaton his break when they co-starred in a series of shoots beginning in 1917. Partying in a hotel suite while visiting San Francisco during a weekend late in 1921, he was accused of raping and killing one of his guests. There were three trials. During the last one, the jury deliberated for five minutes before declaring him innocent of all charges. It didn't matter; his career was over. Interestingly, this was not because of the courts or the media or the public. It was because the powers that be in the film industry of the time decided they couldn't take a chance on him.

It is a privilege to get to do this, to regularly write for you, to know some of you read it. The air often offers little storms of wires forgotten, grammar misused, or the short ends of spent emotional charges. I live deep in a hole in the center of my house. It is similar to my working place at the office, though the office is not nearly as dense. There are no limits to either of these spaces, no constrictions. Both provide me the ability to go wherever; the sometimes tsunami of books, CDs, DVDs, posters, magazines, etc., are not an ugly, jammed, unruly mess but rather a collection of doors. Doors to everywhere.

Why Mabel Normand and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle? I write this in the late, fresh morning. As I sat to write, I felt them so strongly with me that I knew I couldn't shut them out.

Mabel, Fatty and the Law.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Mabel Normand, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Louis Black

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