Saturday, December 4, 2010

JH


When John Huston was a child, he was believed to be very ill, always on the brink of death. He was kept shut indoors, away from all stimuli, under the strictest protection of his mother. Yes, just like Colin in The Secret Garden.

At this time he was living in Phoenix. Phoenix has an extensive canal system, the earliest of which were built along the same canal route the Hohokam Indians dug out with sticks to water their crops a thousand years ago. I can't remember why he got the idea in his head, whether he wanted to swim or kill himself, but young John escaped his bedroom one night and plunged himself into a nearby canal. He swam and came to fall in the canal (Arizona Falls? Is there any other?) and swam over it, tumbling all around in the water. It was thrilling and exhilarating and a kind of fun he had never experienced. He started sneaking out every night to do this, which is when he realized that he was not going to die.

He then went on to cram an unbelievable amount of living into a normal human lifespan.

I love early Phoenix stories and I bet it was Arizona Falls. A huge concrete structure was built over the fall in 1913, just after the time that they lived here. It's gone now but I haven't been to see it.

I also love Ray Bradbury's anecdote about living in Ireland while writing a screenplay for Huston. Huston picked on him mercilessly and one night while getting drunk, he convinced Bradbury that there was a banshee outside, and scared the shit out of him. So Ray wrote a short story called Banshee in which Huston is killed by one. I'm a little scared of banshees, too. Not going to lie.

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