Monday, May 12, 2014

Midnight Cowboy, and some guy getting strangled with a phone, possibly by Jon Voight, but not in Midnight Cowboy

I was a child insomniac.

I was also a teen insomniac, and an adult one, and now I just sort of think of the first two-three hours of every night as ‘bored daydreaming time,’ but that's beside the point. When I was a kid, it took me forever to fall asleep, and that meant that if there was anything, anything at all, going on in the rest of the house, I was there.

This is how I ended up watching Midnight Cowboy. 

I want you to understand that my parents did not set out to watch movies about gigolos with a five-year-old; it was just really hard to keep said five-year-old in her room if you had a movie on. Far better to let her sit there on the carpet and fall asleep in front of the TV.

Only sometimes she didn't. Fall asleep I mean. Because a man in a cowboy hat who wanders around a city doing strange things in the company of a short man who coughs is perplexing, and perplexing things require attention. 

My parents watched a number of movies which were perplexing, mostly because of Trevor the film snob. Trevor the film snob would come to visit from Burlington or Hillsborough or Mebane or wherever he was from; there would be some kind of special dinner with actual meat in it; I would go to bed; and Trevor and my parents would watch perplexing movies. Which is when the whole 'go to bed' thing went all to hell.

They weren't all that much fun, these movies. People had boring conversations, hit each other, got angry for no particular reason, walked around all wobbly for no particular reason (I was as yet unfamiliar with the concept of drunkenness), and traveled places on buses or in taxis or on trains, all things that we did not do in Saxapahaw. But the one that really stuck with me, enough that I tried to remember the name so I could someday find out what was going on, was Midnight Cowboy. 

At first it seemed to be a Western. With chewing gum, which I didn't think Westerns generally had. Then it wasn't Western anymore, and there were a lot of streets crowded with people who yelled. Then the short guy went to sleep on a bus and didn't wake up.

I didn't learn the actual plot of the movie until I was well into my twenties. You know the basic story, either because you are terribly sophisticated and watched it or because you read the synopsis on Wikipedia—young guy leaves the rural west with a strange idea that he can survive in New York by sleeping with older rich women, fails to find said rich women, and ends up first being cheated and later mentored by a sickly Dustin Hoffman.

So I finally discovered what this strange collection of random images was actually about, which then led to another perplexing thing: I swear I remember a scene in this movie where Jon Voight strangled an old man with a phone. Apparently there isn't one.

A number of impoverished psychiatrists are probably clicking over to the About section right now to find my contact info; honestly though, I'm fine. I found whole phone-strangulation incident disturbing, but not as horrifying as you might think. I wasn't one hundred percent certain what I'd seen, and I think it was a couple of years before I realized there was any death involved. At the time, I'm not sure I knew strangulation was a way you could die.

My father doesn't remember ever watching a movie where someone was strangled with a phone. He further insists that he would not have allowed me to watch a movie where someone was strangled with a phone. 

On that point I'm inclined to agree with him. I wasn't even allowed to watch most cartoons. 

This suggests I may have watched this particular movie in secret, from the dark of the hallway, or maybe it was at someone else's house? I really can't see my friends' parents showing snuff films to children either, but I know I saw it somewhere.

All this is also beside the point. The point is, what movie was this perplexing strangulation in? I know it wasn't Midnight Cowboy. But I know I saw it. What movie? What was it? This just keeps bothering me.

I've asked around, as much as one can without getting strange looks. I've tried Googling 'phone strangulation movie scene.'

I don't recommend that last. 

Do you, dear nonexistent reader, do you have any idea what this movie was? Lonely old man invites drifter up to his apartment, drifter demands money, old man dithers, drifter strangles him with telephone receiver?

That's the receiver, mind, not the cord. The internet psychos are all about phone-cord strangulation. Such a cliche. Trevor the film snob would not approve.

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