An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
7 November, 2022

I was very busy week before last, working on my bookshelf.  To the point where it kinda supersumed all other projects and tasks.  But let me be clear, I was so happy to be doing it.  Lotta fun, honestly.  Like, working on it was a thing I looked forward to every day after work (and even on my breaks), even though I knew it was coming at the expense of other shit that needed to get done. 

Now it’s done.  Hung it Friday before last.  And can I just say, I’m really fucking pleased with it.  Pleased with it and proud of my handiwork.  All the more so because I don’t have a proper shop here.  The only power tool I had was a drill, and even that only came into play when it came time to hang the damn thing.  Everything I did, I did with hand tools.

I made a cornice piece.  Is that the right word?  In my last post, I described the bookshelf as basically a square-ish wooden frame.  What I’m calling the ‘cornice piece’ is an extra slab of wood on top of the frame which slightly overhangs the front and sides.  And I added a beveled edge to this piece.  That is to say, the edges are angled.  And I fashioned this bevel not with a router or some other power tool (which, honestly, would be the fastest and most efficient way to do it), but with a hammer and chisel and lots of sandpaper. 

Is it perfect?  No.  The casual observer might not notice anything amiss, but I know the mistakes I made.  I went a touch too deep with the chisel at one point, such that there’s ever so slightly a bit of a divot in the front facing.  A couple of other spots where my hand slipped a bit with the chisel.  These I puttied over.  Barely noticeable, except that the putty doesn’t quite take the stain exactly the same as the wood itself.  These are things I notice, but which the causal observer likely wouldn’t.

Then came the question of how to finish it.  My first thought was a varnish.  So I tested it out on a piece of scrap would and decided I didn’t love it.  So it was back to the Baumarkt to pick up some stain.  Only with stain, it’s not just stain.  It’s actually a three-step process.  First you stain.  Then you hit it with…shit, I don’t know.  See, I’m learning to do this in German, so for some of this shit, I only know the German names.  You hit it with Schnellschleifgrund.  I guess I’d translate that as ‘quick-sanding-foundation.’  It’s meant to either open or close the pores of the wood (I should probably know which, right?).  After that, you apply a layer of lacquer; in this case a matte lacquer.

This has been so interesting, btw, just having to learn all the German names for shit.  Varnish is Lasur.  Stain is Beize.  Lacquer is Lack.  I was talking to Joschka about power tools and said I might want a chopsaw.  He had no idea what that was.  Apparently it’s a Kaapsäge.  And there’s a verb with that.  It seems that when I had the guy at the store cut my wood for me, this is kappen.  Wall anchors – toggles – are Dübbeln.  I’ve already forgot what my clamps and chisels are called in German.  But it’s been a ride, just learning all this new vocab.  A fun ride, to be clear. 

Anyway, I tested the stain on a piece of scrap wood.  I didn’t love that either.  It was way too dark.  Maybe it was just the wrong color, but I it didn’t seem right.  So I sent some pictures to my parents, just to see if they liked one more than the other, the varnish or the stain. 

And my dad was like, “Well how heavy did you go on the stain?  Did you wipe it off as you went?”  Excuse me, what?  How heavy?  I applied it the same way I would apply paint.  And no, obviously I didn’t wipe off the shit I’d literally just applied.

And he was like, “Yeah, but here’s the thing.  Stain is not paint.  The point is not to cover the wood, but rather to bring out the natural grain.  So you need a light touch.  And as the name implies, it’s going to stain the wood, it’s going to seep into it.  So you’ve got to wipe it off as you go, otherwise it’ll be too much.”  Wait, seriously?  I had no idea.

So I went back and did another test strip, this time following his advice.  And lo and behold, it looked great!  Well, not, like, amazing.  I mean, I’m working with pine here.  Not oak or maple or anything nice.  There’s only so much lipstick you can put on a pig, right?  But the difference was night and day.  And when I saw it, I was like, “Oh, shit yeah!  Stain, baby!”

And not for nothing, btw, my dad’s been a huge help with this, every step of the way.  I mean, I was constantly sending him pictures, updates, questions.  But the feedback has been invaluable.  Sure, sometimes it’s just supportive.  “Looks great!”  But other times, it’s shit I need to know.  “OK, so far so good, but you’re gonna need to do x and y.” 

It’s funny.  When I look at the shelf now, hanging on my wall, I’ve got this great sense of pride.  Like, “Damn, I made that!”  But at the same time, in a very real way, I feel like we did this project together.  The actual construction, the assembly, the craftsmanship of the wood: yeah, that was me.  Even as it was based, in part, in the experience I gained building the bookshelf with him last time I was home.  But the staining and the mounting?  I’d have for sure fucked those up without his help. 

So that’s another thing I’ve really enjoyed about this project.  Somehow being able to do a long-distance woodworking project with the old man. 

Anyway, I built.  I stained.  I schnellshcleifgrund’ed.  I lacquered.  And I mounted.  As to the mounting, the Baumarkt sells these prefab cast-iron pipe fittings.  They’re meant to support shelving or to serve as coat racks or whatever.  Anyway, I ‘designed’ a base for the shelf out of them.  Imagine a rectangle made of cast-iron piping.  Now cut in half the long way.  At the ends, there are flanges (circular iron disks fitted to the pipes); these are what you screw into the wall.  And on the long side of the rectangle, there’s another flange, facing upwards this time, such that it serves as a base upon which the shelf can rest.  That’s the mount.  Brackets in the top corners of the shelf-frame which are also screwed into the wall, to keep the thing from tipping forward or shifting side-to-side.  “It feels rock-fucking-solid,” he says, waiting for the day it all comes crashing down. 

Oh, and also I leveled it.  Or nearly so.  Before I screwed everything into place, it was dead-on-balls level.  After I screwed it into place, it was ‘just level.’  What I mean is, the bubble was between the two lines; so yes, level.  Just not ‘dead-on-balls’ level.  Well, it’s my first project. 

Oh and screwing shit into walls.  Different animal over here.  In The States, I was so used to everything being sheetrock, right?  So either you just find the stud, in which case you’re golden.  Or, if it’s going into nothing but rock, you get some molly toggles and you’re good to go.  But here?  Haha, fuck you.  No, everything is plaster.  And there’s a good chance (but no guarantee) that behind said plaster is either straight up brick or else some kind of cinder block. 

This is where I’m glad I bought that drill.  Because you better believe I was drilling into brick/cinder block to get this shit up.  And that was a bitch.  Except when it wasn’t?  Because in a couple of places, I just basted through the plaster and into…the void?  That was weird.  But I’ve got at least two toggles on either side going into brick/cinder block.  And each toggle is rated at…well, way more than the self weighs, even laden with books.  Plus ,the toggles for the brackets in the frame itself.  Pretty sure this thing ain’t goin’ nowhere, is the point.  But yeah, mounting it here was such a different experience than working with sheetrock back in The States.

Anyway, I got it mounted Friday before last.  It’s done.  And honestly, I think it looks great.  I’m super pleased with it.  And being thus pleased with it, I want to do more.  I want to build more shit.  But that’s for another day.  After I got it mounted, I filled it with the books I’d intended for it.  Two Homeric dictionaries, a text on lyric Greek meters, a French book on Ancient Greek morphology, a Hebrew/Aramaic lexicon, two Yiddish dictionaries, reference grammars for Greek, Latin, German and French.  The Ajax I’m reading with George.  And the memorial book I’m reading with Bartek.  And I’m looking at it, and I’m thinking, “Damn, that looks good!”  But more than that, it’s me, on a shelf.  The shelf, and its contents, represent me. 

You want to know who Dave is?  Look at my studio.  Look at my kitchen.  Look at the bookshelf I built for myself and the books that are on it, the bookshelf that’s in arm’s reach of my desk, where I write and and read Greek with George and read Yiddish with Bartek and learn Torah.  I don’t just live in this apartment.  I’m, ever so slowly, making it my own, making it an extension of myself.  I feel good when I look at it all.  The studio I’ve created.  The kitchen I’ve organized.  This bookshelf I’ve built.  It’s not just that some guy lives here.  Dave lives here.

That Saturday afternoon, I started the next (and final) element of the project.  I wanted to mount two homemade candelabras (candelabrae?) on either side of the shelf.  These also use the iron pipe fittings, this time as the basis of the structure.  Picture an L shape, coming out and then up from the wall, 10m out and ten up.  A flange to mount it to the wall and another flange on the other end as a base.  To this flange, I’ve fixed an 11x11cm square piece of wood, upon which sits a green glass gin bottle, serving as a candlestick holder.

Now, it would be enough just to have these wood squares to rest the gin bottles on.  But I decided I wanted to do some edge work on the three sides not facing the wall.  In this case, two beveled edges, sloping from both to and bottom, meeting in the middle, with sort of half-diamonds on the ends.  I’ll post pictures of all of this on the Insta when it’s done, btw.

Anyway, this time, I had a power tool to help me.  Why?  Because the Brothers Cutter – my friends in Maine from college – sent me a housewarming gift.  Namely, a Dremel.  And not just a Dremel, but a whole Dremel set, with all sorts of bits and attachments.  And also a really nice bottle of scotch, but that’s beside the point.  Point is, I was able to use the Dremel to do my edgework.  I’d never used one before, so it took some getting used to.  But by the second square, I was really getting the hang of it.

I have to decide now if I want to redo the first of the two squares.  I think it could be better.  But I won’t know for sure until I do some work sanding it down by hand.  I don’t want to settle, but I’m also excited to get these up.  In my heart, I know I should probably redo it.  In any case, I’m pleased with my design and more or less satisfied with the execution; at least on the second piece.

And look, they’re not examples of expert craftsmanship.  As I’ve said, I’m no master carpenter.  But on some level, I’m willing to accept less-than-perfect at this early stage of things.  And to the extent that things are less than perfect, a bit uneven – well, I’m prepared to simply say it’s “rustic” and just go with it.  I’m feeling good about this though.  Loving it, actually.  The product, sure.  But also the work, the process, the experience. 

As I was working in the courtyard – I didn’t want to use the Dremel inside, for all the sawdust it was gonna kick up – various people would come and go, most of them saying hello to me as I worked.  Which was nice.  Like, for no good reason, I was kinda worried some asshole might interrupt me and tell me to knock it off with the noise or tell me I shouldn’t be making a mess in our common space.  But they were universally friendly, these my neighbors whom I do not know.  And if it should happen that I’m kinda known as the dude who lives off the courtyard and sometimes does a bit of carpentry work outside, well, that’s not a bad thing. 

And of course I cleaned up after myself.  Got most of the sawdust with a dustbuster, and did a general sweep after that.  After which, I made sure to put all my tools away before doing anything else.  Like I said last time, cleaning up after yourself is part of the job.

[Update: After a bit of sanding work, I deemed the first piece to be acceptable.  Stained them to match the bookshelf and mounted everything.  I think it makes for a nice ensemble].

I was at Joschka’s that Saturday night, to (finally) watch the last installment of this Amazon Lord of the Rings jumpoff.  (Do people still say ‘jumpoff’?  I can’t imagine).  It was fun.  I mean, the show’s alright.  Good, but not great.  Yet, we have fun with it.  The real fun being a) criticizing it’s shortcomings in realtime and b) researching and debating Tolkien lore in the aftermath.  That’s where the real fun is. 

I also met Joschka that Friday afternoon for brunch.  After my dentist appointment; because my dentists is basically in his neighborhood.  We did this after my last dentist appointment as well, so I guess it’s becoming something of a tradition.  And it’s a nice one.  I would sometimes do brunch in NY, mostly for the bottomless mimosas.  But it’s been less of a thing here.  So it’s kind of a special treat for me when we can do that.  And while the mimosas aren’t bottomless, they’re cheap enough.  And one or two usually suffices.  The key is making sure an hour has passed since the appointment before I start putting anything in my mouth…

I walked all the way home from Joschka’s again that Saturday, taking a slightly different route this time.  It’s on the long side of 90m, but as always, I had podcasts and music and beer.  The first 45m or so was more Chumash with Rashi; subject: The Tower of Babel.  Music after that.  And two beers.  Not to mention some really nice scenery, which I’ll also post to the Insta. 

But another thing I’m enjoying about these walks is that they’re allowing me to stich together a more complete picture of the city.  Or at least, the part of the city that lies between my home and Joschka’s .  But I passed through a number of places where I was like, “Oh, I know this place!” or “Oh, I’ve been here before.”  But places to which I’d universally arrived by means of mass transit.  In other words, they were to me heretofore isolated islands within the city.  Now though, I know better how they connect to the surrounding areas, to each other, and to where I live.  And that’s pretty cool. 

Walking.  It’s good for the body, obviously.  But it’s also a time for me to just think.  Sometimes, I just let my thoughts wander.  Other times, I can focus on a specific issue or question.  Other times still, walking will elicit a bout of creativity.  I remember, back when I was doing my CELTA (my teacher training), I got my best ideas during my hour-long walk home from the school to the apartment I was staying in; also in Neukölln, not for nothing.

And that’s another thing.  Just coming home to Neukölln.  In truth, I used to love coming home to Köpenick back in the day.  Not the trip itself, which from Joschka’s late at night invariably involved a night bus (Feh!).  But arriving there, seeing the sun come up over the water?  Brilliant.  Just, you know, not the city.  And Pankow?  Feh!  I never had any great love for that neighborhood.  But coming home to Neukölln?  It’s great.  I love it.  Even at 5am, the place is alive.  It’s just a nice feeling is all.

OK, I’ve been wanting to say a few words about my recent ride through The X-Files for some time now.  But before that, it’s worth mentioning what that show meant to be back in the day, when it originally aired.  I was late in coming to it and in fact, it was Justin who put me on to it.  But once he did, I was hooked.  And for the year or two before I went to college, that was appointment viewing for us.  Every Sunday (I think it aired Sundays?), we’d lay down on the floor in front of the TV and watch.

And it’s one of those shows with a slew of regularly returning guest stars.  So just watching the opening credits, we’d get excited.  “Guest starring: William B. Davis.”  CSM (Cigarette Smoking Man)!  “Nicholas Lea.”  Oh shit, Krycek!  “and Mitch Pileggi.”  “Skinner baby, hell yeah!”  When I went off to college, I immediately found other X-Files fans, and we’d gather every week until the show ended, oft bemoaning its decline during the final season.  The point is, it was a huge deal. 

It’s also worth noting the way the show was organized.  It was split, roughly 2:1 between standalone episodes (known as Monster of the Week, or MoW, episodes) and Conspiracy (or ‘mytharc’) episodes respectively.  The standalone eps are what the name implies.  One-offs which, if you’re looking for a comperandum, think Twilight Zone but often with more humor.  Whereas the conspiracy eps were the slow unfolding of a greater, series-stretching story-arc. 

I bring this up because my perspective and feeling on these two types of episodes has changed over the years.  Back in the day, it was the conspiracy eps that were most exciting, the ones that most drew you in.  Because you didn’t know how it would end.  Each new chapter was a furtherance of the story, a new piece of the puzzle.  It kept you on the edge of your seat and you couldn’t wait for the next one.

In the rewatching, though, all the mystery is removed.  Those elements of suspense and surprise and dying to know what comes next are no longer there.  And so sure, they’re still fantastic.  Well, they’re fantastic through the first 5.5 seasons; after which it all kinda goes to shit.  But they’re sorta bereft of that magic, if that makes any sense.

Adding to their diminishment is the realization that there was never any greater plan for this mytharc.  You begin to realize – and this is confirmed in interviews and whatnot – that the writers are just winging it.  And it suffers for that.  It’s less coherent than I’d remembered.  And it sorta ambles on without purpose.  Again, not so much during the first 5.5 seasons.  In those seasons, it’s bloody brilliant.  But the show (originally) ran for 9 seasons.  So you’ve got 3.5 seasons of constant “Wait, what the fuck now?”

And so, in the rewatching, what I’ve discovered is, that the real magic is in the standalones, in the MoW eps.  Because those have a way of staying fresh, being independent of a broader (apparently half-cocked) arc.  And those episodes are what really create the vibe of the show.  And oh man, what a vibe!

Or, better to say, vibes, plural.  Because the vibe of the show changes over time.  It’s much darker over the first four seasons or so.  And a lot of that’s to do with who’s doing the writing.  For most of the first four seasons, the creative team is primarily Chris Carter (the creator), Frank Spotnitz (producer, I think) and Glen Morgan and James Wong (writers).  And when that’s the team, it’s dark.  Wonderfully so.  Full of mystery, intrigue, the fantastic and inconceivable.  Sure, even then, elements of humor are present.  But they’re subtle, backgrounded.

Then, somewhere around season five or so (I could look this up, but can’t be bothered), a new writer joins the team.  Maybe you’ve heard of him.  Fella by the name of Vince Gilligan.  Yes, that Vince Gilligan.  The Breaking Bad dude.  Turns out, he was a huge part of this huge show well before BB was ever a thing. 

Side note: Having watched X-Files as I did in real time, when I finally got around to Breaking Bad (I was late to that party too), and I saw the opening credits, I was like, “Wait, Vince Gilligan did this?  The dude from The X-Files?”  And now, דער יינגער דור, the young folk, are like, “Wait, the Breaking Bad dude worked on The X-Files?”  I feel old.

Anyway, you could see the tone of the show changing as his involvement grew.  The comedy stuff became more front and center.  Which, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing.  He’s behind some truly wonderful – and not for nothing, classic – episodes.  But it’s sort of a different show.  Less dark.  More ironic.  Shocking, I know. 

It’s weird though.  Before this binge, were I to list off some of my favorite MoW eps, a great many of them are Gilligan eps.  And yet, when you watch the series in order, it’s almost too much.  Like, at first, it’s “Omg, another classic!  And shit, it’s Gilligan again.”  But then, as they start to string together, it’s like, “But wait, where are those classic dark episodes from the early years?”  Take any one funny episode alone, and it’s brilliant.  Five in a row, though, and you start to wonder what show it is you’re watching exactly.  The show changed is all, from one kind of brilliant to another.  And people will have their preferences. 

Whatever my preferences, though, I stan this show.  I loved it when it was new, and adored it this time around as well.  It takes you on a journey.  But it also takes you places.  It creates a vibe and an atmosphere.  It creates a world that you want to be a part of.  Even the theme music/intro.  On all the streaming services now, they give you a ‘skip intro’ option.  It’s an option I take advantage of.  I might watch the the intro of the first episode of each season, but after that, ‘skip!’  But with The X-Files?  I never skipped the intro, not once.  It does so much to create the mood.  The music, the imagery.  It’s all too perfect.  It is not to be skipped.  It’s a part of the show in a way that no other intro I can think of is. 

As is the music in general.  Mark Snow is the dude who did all the music.  And he just nails it, hits it out of the park.  And he gets all the moods.  Dark, moody, sad, joyful, humorous, all of it.  And it’s very synth heavy, which gives it a unique quality.  Like, it sounds like The X-Files, which is the best compliment I can think of.

Of course we need to talk about the characters, and the actors that play them.  Mulder and Scully, first of all.  It’s their show.  Played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  Back in the day, all the guys wanted to be Mulder and all the girls wanted to date him.  Vice versa for Scully.  And it’s no less true in the rewatching.  Mulder/Duchovny is brilliant.  Super smart, good looking, with a wicked deadpan sense of humor.  How can you not love him?  (Well, Jared found him ‘smug and squinty-eyed,’ I believe is how he put it; but what does he know?  Bupkis, apparently). 

But here’s a funny thing.  The X-Files – and now I’m talking about the actual files of unexplained phenomena, not the show – are Mulder’s beat.  He’s the one who Want[s] to Believe.  Scully is there to play the skeptic, to keep him honest, made his partner by the higher-ups to ‘debunk’ his work.  So Mulder is the guy who wants to take you on this wild ride while Scully is the one who is constantly popping your balloon.  You love her, don’t get me wrong.  But you almost want to grab her by the collar and ask, along with Mulder, “Scully, after all that you’ve seen, how can you not believe!?”  At least, that’s how it was for me the first time around.

So it’s funny how things change.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen it all before.  Maybe it’s because I’m older now and I don’t see the world the same as I did when I was nineteen.  But this time around, I found this whole new appreciation for Scully.  Her honesty, her integrity, her unfailing loyalty.  Like, she might not believe the way Mulder does.  But damn if she won’t put her career – nay, her life – on the line to protect him.  Also, she does all the autopsies and is fazed by nothing.  #bossbitch

But it’s also a great ride just watching Gillian Anderson grow as an actor.  This was her first gig and she was in her early twenties when they started.  And look, she’s always good, right from the get.  But as the show goes on, you watch her blossom into this absolute beast of an actress.  To the point that, by season four or five, I found myself constantly saying, “Oh shit, Scully is the fucking GOAT!”   And she is.  I mean, I’m putting her forward – right here, right now – as the greatest female lead of any show ever.  Show me one better.  I defy you. 

And then there’s the Mulder-Scully relationship.  Platonic, or at least ambiguous, for many years, and most of the best part of the show.  It seems that, back in the day, the internet was a-flutter with fans posting on message boards about wanting them to get together.  Apparently, this gave rise to the term ‘shippers’ (i.e. ‘relationship-ers’), something I only learned about watching this time around. 

But here I’ve got to say, I’m no ‘shipper.’  I loved their relationship just as it was.  Friends, but more than friends.  More than friends, but less than lovers.  Their relationship was built on trust, loyalty and faith in one another.  Nothing more.  And to be honest, I found that to be one of the most beautiful relationships ever portrayed on the small screen.  For the reasons I’ve just mentioned, but also perhaps for its uniqueness.  I am unable to name the like of it.  And for me, it suffered when they did finally get together.  Because then, they were just like anybody else.  That made me a little sad, if I’m being honest. 

The show can be broken up into several periods.  The Vancouver period, where the show was shot for its first five (and unquestionably best) seasons.  The LA period, where it was shot for seasons 6-9.  The Mulder-less seasons, 8-9.  The reboot seasons, 10-11.  And two movies, the first of which was central to the mytharc and which was released during the show’s original run; and a standalone MoW film in the aughts. 

Pretty much all of what I’ve written to this point pertains to seasons 1-7.  For season 8, Duchovny (owing to a contract dispute) was replaced by Robert Patrick (best known as the T-1000 from Terminator 2; though he also had a role in the Sopranos).  Mulder would come back periodically, but it wasn’t the same.

Thing is though, I think season 8 is actually some of the show’s finest work.  I mean, you have to accept that it’s a different show now, and clearly not everybody did.  But I did, and I thought it was great.  And here’s why.

First of all, Robert Patrick was tremendous as an actor, and I loved his character (John Dogget), the prototypical ‘hard-boiled ex-NYPD copper turned Fed.  But his character ushered in this great role-reversal.  Because now he was the skeptic, partnered to Scully.  And Scully, for all her skepticism had to find ways to open his mind, to make him believe.  And it gave this whole new dimension to Scully the character to Anderson the actor.  And like, I thought she was the GOAT before.  But in season 8?  Wow.  It’s like, is there anything you can’t do?

And not for nothing, these two actors built a relationship between their characters that I could not just believe in but indeed get behind.  At first, they’re suspicious of one other, each thinks the other is trying to sabotage the other or has ulterior motives.  But as the season goes on, you watch them figure out, first, that they need to trust each other if they’re going to succeed, and then, finding that trust.  Which leads to this wonderful and unbending loyalty.  And they never quite see eye-to-eye.   She thinks he’s to stubborn to see the truth and he thinks she’s gone off on the Mulder crazy train.  But they would – and do – go through a wall for each other, risk everything to protect each other.  It’s a relationship that I truly enjoyed watching unfold and develop.  And you just want to root for them.

Then, in season 9 – the last season of the original run – Scully is reduced to a bit part and she is replaced as Dogget’s partner by Agent Monica Reyes (played by Annabeth Gish).  And friends, she’s fucking useless.  Now look, I don’t want to cast aspersions on a professional actress.  Maybe she’s a brilliant thespian and the fact that I viscerally couldn’t stand her character and was weekly hoping for her demise is a testament to her work.  All I know is, Agent Reyes was fucking useless and it’s best they killed the show rather than make me sit through another season of her bullshit. 

Still though, even season 9 had its moments.  Usually these centered around Dogget being a champ or Scully stepping in to remind you that, yes, she is in fact the GOAT.  But mostly, it was just kinda sad watching your friend of nine years waste away. 

Meanwhile, there was a spinoff, called The Lone Gunmen, based on characters of the same name.  Friends of Mulder, they published a conspiracy-minded newspaper.  Great recurring characters on the original show, they got their own (very short-lived series).  Was it great?  Probably not.  But it was good, at least.  And more than that, it was a lot of fun.  And your boy Gilligan was central to it, so you know the comedy was on point.   It was fun to wrap that into the whole rewatch experience.

Oh, and a footnote about Mr. Gilligan.  He wrote an X-Files episode which was basically the show’s version of the movie Speed.  You know, where if you slow down you’ll die.  Anyway, cast as the main character was some guest actor by the name of Bryan Cranston.  Yeah, that’s how Vince Gilligan found his Walter White.  And from what I’ve read, when he pitched Breaking Bad, he pitched it with Cranston as the lead.  And the studio was like, “Yeah, but no thanks.”  Until he showed them that X-Files episode.  Apparently, that’s what convinced the studio to give Cranston the role.  I mean, ain’t that some shit?

Anyway, the show got a reboot sometime around 2017-18, two seasons.  This was my first time watching the new seasons all the way through.  And they were a mixed bag.  In the same way that the original series was a mixed bag.  The MoW eps were great.  Not good, I tell you, but great.  To the point where I was like, “Wow, they’ve still got it!  This is as good as anything from the original series!  Give me more!”  Whereas the mytharc episodes were atrocious.  Like, unwatchabley bad.  So that elicited…feelings. 

But part of the reason it was good, when it was good, was because they brought back the original writing team of Morgan and Wong.  To be sure, there were eps written by other writers as well which were fantastic.  But these guys brought the mood, the vibe back.  And no Gilligan this time around.  So while there were comedic elements, it wasn’t übertrieben (I can’t think of the English word).

And here, I have to mention one other writer.  Glen Morgan has a brother, Darin.  And this guy Darin wrote maybe five eps during the original run of nine seasons, plus one a piece for each season of the reboot.  And omg are they funny.  Not hipster-ironic funny in the Vince Gilligan vain, but properly out-and-out funny.  And smart.  Damn are they ever smart. 

The reason I mention these, and him, is because it’s somehow personal.  See, I love lots of different writers, from a variety of genres.  Lots of people where I’ll read or watch their stuff, and just think, “Hey, that was excellent and ‘I enjoyed myself immensely’ (as my old boss Mark Z would say).”  But Darin Morgan, his type of comedy, his wit, his intelligence, he’s one of the few writers where I’ll watch or read his stuff and just think, “Wow, I wish I could write like that!”  Just truly wonderful stuff. 

Anyway, it took me about six months – April through September – to binge eleven seasons and two movies of The X-Files.  It was a great ride, a great journey.  And even though I watched it alone, it didn’t feel like I watched it alone.  Because with each episode, I’d read that installment’s Wikipedia page.  The production notes were always interesting, sure.  But I enjoyed reading snippets of reviews from websites that had critiqued the show in real time.  Such that, after a time, I found myself looking forward to reading what my boy at AV Club or my girl at Cinefantastique had to say about it, anticipating their reactions, having fun agreeing or arguing with their interpretations.  Stupid maybe, shallow almost certainly; and yet it added depth and dimension to the experience.

And it was an experience.  A great one.  Look, it’s one thing to be able to go back and rewatch random episodes of your favorite series ad infinitum.  I mean, I do it with Star Trek (TOS and TNG) all the time.  Ditto Rick and Morty plus a dozen others.  But there are few shows where I find it worth it to go back and rewatch the entire damn series, in order, start to finish.  I said ‘few,’ but really I mean two.  One is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; which, let’s be honest, warrants it’s own post.  Seven seasons, I’ve done it three times and each time has been a source of wonder, excitement and joy.  The X-Files is the only other show I can do that with.  It’s terribly special in that way. 

The thing is, I need about five years between watchings.  That’s what I’ve found so far.  So DS9 is due up in another 2-3 years.  The clock resets now with The X-Files.  Five years should be enough time, long enough so that it will be fresh again. 

Man, TV is so stupid most of the time.  But when it’s done well – and I mean really well – it can take you places.  The X-Files is one of those special shows.  Five years, and I’m already looking forward to it…

זײַ געזונד

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *