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Gil C. Schmidt was born. Lucky for him and some 416 people, many of who don't seem to know it. Lives in Puerto Rico, which is convenient because he also works from there. Gil writes about dozens of real things (with relish) and dozens of imaginary things (like phantasmagoric pickles), in separate forums. Author of several books and a son, Gil gets in trouble when he's bored. Please head to the egress now.


Friday, June 10, 2005

M*A*S*H*

It lasted almost 11 years, revolving around a time that lasted barely five. A satire of military half-thoughts and a herd-like society, the show also lauded dedication, compassion, tolerance, loyalty and humor. It blended comedy and drama in ways that are common now, but were strikingly new and powerful then and remain even so now. It’s name was a four-letter word that became an icon: M*A*S*H*

No show was better-suited for black-and-white TV, surrounded as it was by green and khaki. But no show was better-suited to the mind’s theater, that rich stage where words, images and their emotions come together to make you feel as if it were all real.

M*A*S*H* pulled you in, whether you were a hawk or a dove. It was grounded in the reality of war and the equal reality of its idiocy. M*A*S*H* thumbed its nose at high command and authority, disconnected from the truth, while elevating the common man and woman doing the extraordinary routinely to their rightful role as heroes. Facing pain with laughter, melding tears with smiles, M*A*S*H* also told us of the power of friendship to keep us hale when walking through portions of hell.

The final episode was a true happening, the first of what would become “must see TV” moments. For weeks before the two-hour movie that would close the longest war we never fought, the media kept the public posted on the final moments, the cast’s feelings and what TV critics were saying would be either a glorious finale or a fabulous flop.

Around the nation, M*A*S*H* parties were scheduled, with many attendees coming dressed in scrubs and mock-military duds; some men dressed as women to honor Corporal Klinger’s quest for a Section 8, though he was now a responsible sergeant. Bill invited me to such a party at the Student Union, but I declined. I would watch the last show, in my apartment, with Carol.

Storylines of the final half-hour episodes led into the movie and as scene after scene developed, I sensed, then knew I was watching something unique, a powerful collage of heart and emotion. I carefully kept my eyes on the screen and avoided looking at Carol, afraid my tears would give me away. And as the final scene unfolded, Hawkeye flying above a rock-dotted “Goodbye,” I struggled hard not to sob.

I could deny that I was caught in the emotion of a mere comedy show, but it was more than that: it was the acknowledgement--unknown to me--that “goodbye” was a word worth expressing. It accepts reality. It looks beyond and back at the same time. It frames and savors the bittersweet moment.

I learned that lesson then and then forgot it for years. In the silence that followed the show’s closing, I noticed Carol too had been touched by what we’d seen. It was several minutes before we spoke, but they were important to me because I had shared as much as I could without being hurt, a treasure to a barren soul.

The movie has been shown several times, but I haven't watched it again. Maybe someday I will. For now, I rely on my memories to bring the emotions back, and forward, to my time. I do watch the episodes every chance I get, though my TV time is now minutes a day rather than hours. Through M*A*S*H* I see friendship and remember my friends. That will never change.

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