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Crossroads

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In the 1950 film Harvey, James Stewart plays an amiable drunk named Elwood P. Dowd, a barfly who has an invisible friend – a 6’ 3.5” tall rabbit named Harvey.

It’s a classic film and in a scene where he is talking to a psychiatrist and a nurse in the alley behind his favorite bar, Elwood explains to them how he came to know and befriend this pooka. Whether Elwood is suffering from mental illness, alcohol-infused delusions or is actually seeing Harvey the rabbit (think of “Frank” the six-foot tall bunny in Donnie Darko), is, well, left up to the audience.

“Well, I turned around and here was this big, 6-foot rabbit leaning up against the lamppost,” Elwood explains. He then asks the rabbit his name. When the rabbit tells him to choose any name he likes, Elwood suggests “Harvey,” his favorite name.

The six-foot tall invisible rabbit replies: “What a coincidence, my name happens to be Harvey.”

Coincidence. Serendipity. Synchronicity.

Elwood’s eccentricities lead to attempts to have him committed. But towards the end, the doctor at the sanatorium, Dr. Chumley, believes in Harvey.

Harvey. Here on this chilly Halloween day I was thinking about that name, particularly after staying up late last night while reading one of the best and most synchromystic books I’ve ever come across – The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs.

In a chapter called “Sirius and Synchronicity,” he addresses the Celtic trickster rabbit – pooka – and the fact that future KLF band member Bill Drummond was obsessed with “Echo,” the large, menacing rabbit that seemed to follow his mates in 80’s Liverpool alt-rock act Echo & The Bunnymen.

And as Higgs notes, “What then – if anything – should we make of the fact that the film (Donnie Darko) opens to a montage set to ‘The Killing Moon’ by Echo & The Bunnymen?” (The line "Fate, up against your will" came to singer Ian McCulloch in a dream - like my dream with "dopey little tykes, the stalks.")

Indeed. I’ve written multiple times about this song and its appearance in the film – in the original at the beginning and in the Director’s Cut during the Halloween party scene at the end, as initially intended by director Richard Kelly.

But, as Higgs notes, the INXS song “Never Tear Us Apart” is used in the Director’s Cut at the beginning. But Echo – the bunny rabbit Bill Drummond claimed he saw on Echo & The Bunnymen album sleeves (even attempting to conjure up something on a Carl Jung-dream-linked manhole cover on Mathew Street in Liverpool while Echo & The Bunnymen played a gig in Iceland – yeah, wow!) - was all too real. But Drummond was being unfair to the band. He had to take his magical thinking elsewhere. Later, creatively burning 1 million pounds after becoming hugely successful with The KLF - one of the strangest and synchromystical groups that ever existed - "in the white room, with black curtains ..."

So, as I read about the Halloween party scene where “The Killing Moon” is playing in the Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko, I realize it’s 10 p.m. on October 30, 2014 – exactly 26 years – to the hour, likely – that the actual party scene was taking place in the movie – October 30, 1988.

And 13 years ago, October 30, 2001, Donnie Darko was beginning to play in theatres in a very, scared America. Arabic font used in the opening titles were toned down. And a scene where a jet engine is removed from a house roof is also very eerie. Lots of unsettling airplane imagery persists. Terror. 

But Higgs offers us an out after all this … “What should we make of this? We shouldn’t make anything of it. We should forget it and move on.”

But can we move on after accepting the existence of mystical, trickster rabbits who seek out certain people?

For instance, the 90’s alt-rock band Harvey Danger allegedly settled on their band name after seeing the curious name graffitied on the wall of the University of Washington student newspaper office.

That band’s best –known song came at the tail-end of the grunge and alt-rock heyday, 1998, and it was called “Flagpole Sitta.” This was released, as Higgs notes, in the new era. The old era had ended in 1991. The new era was approximately late 1994 or early 1995. It starts to make incredible sense. Those missing years – 1992 and 1993 - were incredibly significant to me for a multitude of reasons, particularly as I turned 21. Something shifted at that time, as if going to Glastonbury Grove.

Like Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey, Harvey Danger singer Sean Nelson sings on the frenzied “Flagpole Sitta”: “Put me in the hospital for nerves / And then they had to commit me / You told them all I was crazy / They cut off my legs, now I’m an amputee, God damn you.”

Nelson goes on to mention “paranoia,” “voices in my head,” “visions” and “running underground.” This was at a time when those issues, particularly “paranoia,” was ramping up in the larger culture.

Was Harvey an influence on Harvey Danger? What is it about that name. It means “warrior” or “ready for battle.” It was the first street I traveled on today and runs near a house with a ghost in the pines … in the pines. The ghostwood denizens of autumn. The veil is torn.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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