Thursday, September 14, 2006

Maynard G.Krebs, America's Premier Existentialist


Machiavelli is said to have coined the subtle curse "May you live in interesting times", surely an extra jab at the dimwits he'd might have been insulting who would be slow to realize that "interesting times", generally speaking, are the domain of periods of unflagging disaster. One would imagine a man in his living after the ceiling has fallen around him deciding finally that he needs to call the roofer for an estimate.

So we are in interesting times with respect to the Iraq war, as unmitigated a catastrophe as the U.S. government has gotten us into. And now Hurricane Katrina, water logging and virtually destroying New Orleans, with the response from the Federal government being sluggish, half witted, ill prepared. To coin a phrase, it was as though we had Gilligan running the show from the TV Land archives.I made that remark to a friend the other day, as doubtless millions had as well as we all witnessed the terror unfold from our TV screens. We were in a hand basket just a half mile from Hell's gates and buffoons and lesser thugs were in charge of those agencies that were supposed to help citizens in dire times, in grievous emergency.

Gilligan.

Irony seems the only way a quizzical God can speak to a society as fragmented, distracted and functionally insane as we often times again. Actor Bob Denver, who played the character on Gilligan's Island for three years in the Sixties, has died at age seventy. It was not a show I ever liked, not then, and not now, not even out of some gross romanticizing of the decade, but the surname did become synonymous with fucking up, falling apart,
goofing off, a display of genius for doing precisely the wrong thing at the most crucial instance of emergency.

I preferred Denver as Maynard G. Krebs from Dobie Gillis,
an earlier show where his character was a hipster par excellance,
a jazz-loving , intuitively-inclined White Negro, but without the
mind-expanding violence or star-moving orgasms. Krebs was a latter day Candide in tow with Dobie Gillis's reverse Panglossian
shroud; no matter how confounded Dobie found himself week to week, Maynard would appear and find something uniquely wonderful about the particulars and the world it existed in to remind his good friend. Not that anything he had to say was appropriate or useful as a curative for Dobie's gathering cluster of blue notes, but there was something sublime in the way Maynard
G.Krebs saw the world as a series of moments that were unique and which needed to be appreciated for the surprise each waking hour brings us. Maynard was hardly a theorist of anything, but he was a better man to have around in a moment of crisis. This is a better legacy for Bob Denver. You have to honor a man who's best actorly creation explained that the "G" in his name stood for
Walter!