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Not all who wander are lost (What's up, doc?)

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
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NOTE: In the middle of this “Schmidt” sync, the former owners of my house – whose surname is Schmidt – left a note on my door letting me know they had accidentally had some parcels mailed to their old address – my house.

OKLAHOMA CITY – In the 2002 “black comedy” About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson as retired Omaha insurance man and widower Warren Schmidt, and directed by Omaha native Alexander Payne (who co-wrote the screenplay with writing partner Jim Taylor), a scene was reportedly shot for the film that echoed Nicholson’s famous diner scene in 1970’s Five Easy Pieces.

And while the preview audience loved the scene, Payne edited it out of the film because he felt that “the scene was too much of a pointed reference to Nicholson’s iconography, and that something so referential took the audience out of the film.” (noted in a trivia section on About Schmidt at IMDB.com).

Perhaps that scene will appear someday in the “extras” section of some future Blu-ray release. Perhaps it already has.

Knowing that is interesting to me, in that in About Schmidt, as Warren is traversing the Nebraska countryside in his new Winnebago, he passes by a small-town movie theater and the marquee highlights a film that is showing at the theater: Sideways.

It had been quite a while since I had last viewed About Schmidt, a film that – I believe – synchromystically links the actor Jack Nicholson to Stephen King’s novel The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version of the same story.

No one had heard of Sideways in 2002, when About Schmidt was released. But clearly Payne felt good enough about Rex Pickett’s as-yet-unpublished novel Sideways, which Payne had optioned about 20 years ago this winter, to put the name on a marquee. The film Sideways would finally come out in 2004 and be critically acclaimed.

Sideways would go on to win a number of Oscars, including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. A film dealing with the consumption of excessive amounts of wine (alcohol). One suspects it is possible Sideways even played on a screen in that small Nebraska town that Warren Schmidt drives past on his post-retirement odyssey across the Great Plains. He is tired and retired. And he is not sure where he is going or what he is doing. But as the bumper sticker says, "Not All Who Wander Are Lost."

But this is more about About Schmidt syncing with The Shining, which I have addressed in my previous Dust Devil Dreams post “Schmidt shining.”

There is more in both films worth mentioning. And Stephen King’s The Shining novel, as well. And Doctor Sleep, for that matter. Note the film on the marquee above. I Kill To Live. The evil cult in Doctor Sleep do just that ... they kill to live!

Despite the horrific and troubling themes in The Shining regarding the past and the way a place absorbs energy - good and bad, there is a certain level of humanity, particularly in King’s novel. The same can be said of About Schmidt, although we are focusing on Payne’s film, not the 1996 Louis Begley novel it is loosely based on. This is like Kubrick’s The Shining, which is loosely based on King’s novel, much to his chagrin, although the sequel novel, Doctor Sleep, and the new film – out this month – seeks to balance the King’s Doctor Sleep novel while paying homage to Kubrick’s cinematic interpretation.

TRUE? NOT …

(SPOILERS AHEAD) I finally finished reading Doctor Sleep and it was a wild ride of a read. I am getting a better understanding of his broad appeal, as much as I resisted it over the years. Danny Torrance is now in his mid-40's in the years 2011-13 and a recovering alcoholic living and working in New Hampshire. His experiences as 5 year old, way back in 1977, when his family lived at the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies, still haunts him. Literally, the ghosts of that structure followed him and due to his "shining" talents, he is able to lock them away in his mind.

Trouble comes, later, when an adolescent girl named Abra Stone reaches out to Dan, not knowing they are actually related via the late Jack Torrance, who apparently had a daughter (Lucy), who later had Abra, a baby who was moved by the Beatles' "Not a Second Time" (from With The Beatles - released 11/22/63 - which is also the name of a Stephen King novel) and who cried in the hours leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2001, only stopping her crying when the planes struck the World Trade Center.

The True Knot is a clutch of energy vampires who stay alive by inhaling "steam," the essence of children who have "shining" abilties. When a boy near Adair, Iowa - between Des Moines and Omaha, Nebraska and on the haunted 94th meridian, of course! - named Bradley Trevor is walking through the cornstalks from a baseball game and back to his farmhouse, he is kidnapped, tortured and killed by the True Knot. Abra - hundreds of miles away in New Hampshire - shines this horrific event and is able to learn about this evil group of people, some of whom have lived hundreds of years, inhaling steam from innocent kids. It's the most nightmarish and disturbing part of Doctor Sleep and not a section of the book I would want to read again.

But you learn why young Abra, along with Dan and others close to them, have to track down the True Knot and eliminate them - on the site of the long-burned-down Overlook Hotel near Sidewinder, Colorado. 

In fact, there is a scene where RV-driving Warren Schmidt is somewhere outside Grand Island, Nebraska (near Interstate 80), heading west to see his daughter in Denver, and you notice that he is calling from a gas station pay phone, right by a fallow cornfield. (As a side note ... one of the coldest experiences I've ever had was in March 1993 when I was working in Grand Island, Nebraska - outdoors - on houses being built in that Nebraska city.)

Now, what really got me was that the film About Schmidt had largely been filmed and was in post-production by the time 9/11 rolled around, the film released to critical acclaim in 2002, just like The Mothman Prophecies, filmed just prior to 9/11 and released shortly thereafter. Opening shots of About Schmidt highlight the Omaha skyscraper for the Woodmen of the World insurance company, eerily future-echoing the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers between the time About Schmidt was filmed and before it was released in theaters. 

Syncing with The Shining, when Warren visits his alma mater - the University of Kansas in Lawrence - he tells some fraternity brothers at his old frat that he works for Woodmen, telling the bored frat brothers: "Hence the company motto -'as a woodman clears the way.'" This brings to mind the "ax" used as a weapon in The Shining film. In Room 237, the "ax" - westward expansion by white settlers - is highlighted in reference to Jack Torrance's violent behavior toward his family, and the hotel, which was built on "an indian burial ground," something not noted in the novel.

And later, he visits a historic museum in Broken Bow, Nebraska featuring Native arrowheads and such. He then meets a Native American, narrating: "I happened to meet a real Indian," he tells his sponsor child Ndugu, a six-year old in Tanzania, "Or 'Native American' as they like to be called nowadays. We had a nice chat about the history of the area and he really opened my eyes. These people really got a raw deal. Just a raw deal."

Indeed. And that is something Room 237's Bill Blakemore tries to highlight; that the Native Americans got an extraordinarily "raw deal" and that Stanley Kubrick wanted to emphasize that fact in his interpretation of Stephen King's The Shining.

RE/TIRED

As Warren takes a trip to visit places in his past, he goes to Holdrege, Nebraska, where he grew up. Looking for his old home, he comes to 12 Locust Avenue and where his home was, is now a Tires Plus tire store. Smiling and in a reflective state of mind, Warren walks in the store and Bob Welch’s “Sentimental Lady” is playing. A tire store employee asks Warren if he needs help. No, he replies, just remembering my childhood home was at this spot.

As he reminisces, he looks out of the tire store window. The About Schmidt viewer hears the voices of the past, his mother calling for him. Big band music playing on a distant radio. Memories of a Shining sort, if you ask me.

“You’re not gonna believe this. We used to have a tire swing right front here.”

In The Shining novel, Jack Torrance recalls a tire swing at his childhood home in Berlin, New Hampshire. Later, in The Shining novel, we learn that the event that led up to Jack being fired from Stovington Prep - the Vermont private school he taught at before heading West - like the pioneers before him - was that a popular student, George Hatfield, resented the way he felt Jack treated him and he went to Jack's VW Bug and slashed the tires. Jack, deep into alcoholism at that point, sees red and beats George up. (The name "Hatfield," I should note, is of synchromystic value for me, as in October 2013's "A ticket to Hatfield" Dust Devil Dreams post.

Curiously, singer/songwriter Juliana Hatfield, who has appeared in Dust Devil Dreams a number of times, has just released an album of cover songs by The Police, utilizing the red, yellow and blue colors used on their 1983 Synchronicity album - colors used on synchronicity "founder" Carl G. Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Jung's The Red Book - only released to the public in 2009 - makes an appearance on Stuart Ullman's desk in The Shining, shockingly enough).

When Warren finally makes his way to Denver to see his daughter Jeannie get married, his RV passes by a 7-Eleven convenience store, a chain noted multiple times in The Shining novel. When he arrives to Jeannie's fiance's house, actor Kathy Bates greets him. Of course she is well-regarded for her roles in cinematic interpretations of Stephen King's stories Misery and Dolores Claiborne. She offers Warren a "Manhattan" alcoholic drink, which Warren initially declines. Of course at the beginning of About Schmidt, when Warren leaves his retirement party at the steakhouse (which recently closed, according to a source of mine in Omaha) he goes to the bar, alone, and orders a vodka gimlet, looking much like Jack Torrance ordering a bourbon from Lloyd the Bartender in The Shining film.

In Doctor Sleep, when the True Knot seeks out Bradley Trevor, they turn off of I-80 - in their convoy of RV's!!! - and head north, eventually locating poor Bradley emerging from a cornfield. 

Now, what hit me was that that scene concluded the August 14, 2014 Dust Devil Dreams post - on my 42nd birthday, no less! - I have mentioned, titled "Dopey little tykes." The phrase "dopey little tykes, the stalks," was spoken allowed to me as I came out of a dream state that August five years ago. It chilled me to the core. At the time I thought of Stephen King's Children of the Corn. But it took until this past week for me to put the pieces together.

Dopey, one of the Seven Dwarfs, appears on Danny's bedroom door in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. But it disappears in a subsequent scene when he is wearing a number 42 football shirt and talking to "Tony."

Danny knows things are not all well in the world, particulary his world. He's no longer a dope, as was noted in Room 237.

And "the stalks," part. I knew, as I noted in the piece at the time, this was a reference to "cornstalks." The only scene in Doctor Sleep involving cornstalks is in the scene where Bradley is kidnapped by the True Knot on the haunted 94th meridian in a cornfield. The "little tykes" bit appears in King's novel, The Shining

Now, this was in 2014, a year after Doctor Sleep was published. And yet I had not read it, even though in my piece I stated I needed to read it to get more out of it and figure the sync out. And here I am, in November 2019, finally figuring some of this out, syncing with The Shining once again, and about to see Mike Flanagan's Doctor Sleep (which is getting decent reviews so far), most likely in Boulder, Colorado, because I have to go there soon for personal reasons. Unreal!

What is also interesting is that with me nearly being done with the 94th meridian Stilwell Enigma book, I had toyed with the idea of exploring the 94th up into Iowa and Minnesota. Perhaps even into Manitoba, Canada. Something is telling me I need to do just that. 

PHOTOS: Warner Bros.; Andrew W. Griffin; New Line Cinema; Pantheon Books; IFC Films; St. Martin's Griffin; A&M Records

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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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