1902, from French garage “shelter for a vehicle,” originally “a place for storing something,” from verb garer “to shelter,” from Middle French garer “to shelter, dock ships,” from Frankish *waron “to guard” or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German waron “take care”), from Proto-Germanic *war-, from PIE root *wer- (5) “to cover” (see warrant (n.)).
There are few aspects of life in our time so ubiquitous as those related to Car. Roads, highways, freeways, bridges, tunnels, and an insatiable hunger for fossil fuel reflect its significance. Emotionally, Car is the diploma of adulthood for youth, and the emblem of power, freedom, and success for the adult. A very poor person may find transformative significance in the acquisition in an expensive and beautiful Car. We despair when denied the right to Car by a judicial decision, injury, illness, or old age. We worship the deity, Car.
Nonbelievers–who have no devotion to Car at all–, are rare. Even they cannot live entirely without Car, for that is to exist outside society; they worship Car tacitly. In general, while usually outraged by unapproved death from war, neglect, abuse, or murder, we obediently sacrifice several tens of thousands of friends, children, and neighbors to Molloch-like Car each year.
One’s economic and civic status is best measured by the housing and care of Car: The garage. A multi-car garage, or elegant car barn is at one end of the spectrum and street-side storage or pubic transportation at the other. But in either case, those are extremes. The majority of us live in that ample and average middle ground of small homes with one or two car Garages. Even so, we spend religiously on Car. For the average person, the relative value of Car is about 4:1 compared to anything else:
1) The average small home contains about 1600-2000 square feet while the average 22 x 24 (528 square ft.) garage is more than 4 times the space devoted to a one or two child bedroom–10 x 11 (110 square ft.).
2) The average cost of raising a child to age 18, not considering college, is at least $50,000, while the average cost of a Car over the same period is, at a minimum, $148,500, at 15,000 miles per year.
Whether grand or humble, the Garage is a Temple, dedicated to Car, and consecrated by space and expense. Yet to judge from my own garage, I am a sinner or hypocrite. I profess my religion publicly and act differently in private, hoping for ultimate forgiveness. And I am not alone. Consider my friend John Ciervo, returning home on an average winter evening after a long work-day.
Mr. Ciervo parks his brand new Volvo in the driveway, knowing there is no room inside the garage. An electronic genie obeys an Aladdin that silently speaks. The cavernous door opens, over the cries of an irritable worm drive. Ciervo is blinded at first by the door opener lights, and begins to shuffle forward cautiously. There is no altar, no incense, no beeswax candles. His garage has been profaned, in large part by through his own sins of omission and commission.
Ciervo stumbles over a broken lawn mower, almost landing on some scattered bicycles in assorted states of disrepair. He sidesteps a table on furniture-death-row. He skirts the leaking water from a frosted over deep-freeze, and turns off a washing machine that is spinning off balance. He picks up a soiled Godmother Pizza box that has fallen from the overflowing recycle bin.
There is a newspaper on the stained cement floor where the front page article catches his eye. It is about garage hopping, the teen-age fad of stealing beer or electronics from neighborhood garages. The report focuses on a hopper and killed. Startled, Ciervo looks outside and quickly actuates the garage door closer. The article raises questions:
Is it murder, or justified force, to repel a garage –home invasion? Should teen-hoppers be judged as children or adults?An online quote comes to Ciervo’s mind, one he saw at work that morning in a comment string about that very question, including this entry from a wise and wily contributor:
for one I see chicago has gotten stricked well it all depends if you get a good cop and you are polite you will get off with a slap on the rist but in your case i will look fast for a law pointed attorny and ask as many questions as posible the law in your eyes are not played like in t.v so good luck kid and trust me i know keeeep out of roofs. edmit you were doing it and let them know you ment no harm all you were trying to do was go from one roof to the other i see your play time is way over hmm
Ciervo blinks in the bright light, and reflects.“ That kid is clearly intelligent, and cyber-connected; but he -or she- subsists in a disconnected subculture that doesn’t live, or dream, the American Dream. Why?” He throws down the newspaper. “Are kids like this the reason our country is falling behind by most measures of well being? Or am I the problem?” He laughs aloud and remarks to the sullen garage: “ I am. I Owe Therefore I Am.”
A 130 decibel base beat from an unseen muscle car slowly swaggers by, rattling a dirty windowpane. A startled daddy long legs begins shaking her web hopefully. A distant siren sounds; then two, then three.
Ciervo goes inside. No one is awake. He plops down on the MadeinChina duck feather stuffed pig leather couch and wands up the new 42-inch Vietnam made LED TV. The talking head weatherperson jokes and drones on interminably about the weather outside, as if it were invisible. He channel flips to other news, but all the heads regurgitate the same thing in the same words.
In the midst of a loan consolidation ad he breaks out in a broad grin and addresses the TV :“Drop dead up youdickhead drone! Neither this street, nor this house, nor this garage nor that car are mine. All of it belongs to The Washington DC Bank of Wells America. I’m sheltered, merde! ” And reaching for the remote, C. Camus Ciervo adds wryly:
SCREENPLAY- LOOK AWAY
Open INT on Boy Scout patrol, troop 19, Minneapolis, reciting the Scout Law and oath*. include MICHAEL age 11,GEORGE age 12 and scoutmaster WILL. They continue recitation in background as scene moves to EXT San Francisco about 1964; then to outline map of San Francisco 1981, and two subsequent maps, revealing numbers and locations of AIDS cases. 1981: 127 cases; 1984 1027 cases; 1996 20,756 cases.
INT BEDROOM EVENING. 1986 San Francisco Castro district.
noises of oxygen generator motor and O2 moisturizer
bubbling. Furniture sparse. A bookshelf. chair and table
with four battered brown spiral notebooks on top. IV stand,
2 bags of infusion, piggybacked. Hospital type wheeled
over-bed table. toilet commode. Bedside table with two pill
bottles on top, and bedpan, urine collector below. empty
wheelchair. Walker. TV on but with only a blank grainy screen
and static no signal.
GEORGE OLSEN of age mid 50’s with obvious severe
wasting illness sitting in recliner. Oxygen by nasal prong. IV. Breathes with effort. wet productive cough, spits into
Kleenex and pokes it at a paper bag. Is looking at blank TV
when MICHAEL MORSE same age medium
build, balding. enters carrying a tray with soda
crackers, a pitcher of water, glass, and soup.
Here. You look like you need this.
(waves him off, looks away and
speaks at the window shade.)
I can’t talk much let alone eat.
I’ve never heard of pneumo-whatzit.
Pneumocystis. Pneumonia but they
can fix it. A week maybe. Or three. Who knows. I won’t
live long either way.
Why? What is it, why didn’t you
Didn’t want to talk about it. Now I
do; In need to. I’m too sick not to. Or you can read it.
(waves at table, notebooks.)
In those notebooks. They go back a
I don’t read. It’s against my religion. Why can’t you just tell me?
What religion! You’re religious sausage. But I’ll try to tell you. The notebooks there, and my death, can speak for themselves. Res ipsa loquitor.
Shit.You always were a nerdy bastard! Your Death! I was shocked to hear from you after so many years, and were so sick. All I knew is you were a stock broker in San Francisco. Merrill Lynch? But OK I’ll read it. But for now eat something. What’d you write about? I didn’t know you liked to write.
(Picks up the notebooks and opens one.)
I don’t. Wrote what we all know but never speak of.
All know? Who all?
Don’t act dumb. It’s me, George! I know you know. You know I know. I know you know I know you know. Or something like that!
MICHAEL ( Looks away, slightly uncomfortable, and shifts focus of the conversation.) OK never mind for now. Eat. Let me read.
The silent ‘b’ in ‘doubt’ speaks of more than its Latin root; because there is more than meets the eye there. The silent b is sacred in the best sense of the word. In doubting there is recognition of, and reconciliation with the unknowable, the numinous, as Joseph Campbell would put it. There is more than meets the eye in cinema as well.
During my focused, timeless young years I ignored movies. They were frivolous, a waste; fans of movies were somehow pitiful, like people with diabetes. Now, in my reflective years, I doubt either conclusion. More, I reject them. After retirement, unaware of the beauty and power of idleness, or of ‘record, pause, and rewind’ I began to watch some movies. In no order of significance there were: Tango Lesson and Yes, La Meglia Juventud, The Legend of 1900, Monsoon Wedding, The Golden Door, The Lives of Others, The Visitor, to name only a few. That is not to minimize other genres of film, but to reveal my own proclivities; the list reveals my own limitations of course; I tend to be overly reflective. Yet it seemed to me that one day people will look back at this time as the golden age of cinema, with the reverence we have for Shakespeare’s works. A great film is as complex a matter as a moon landing, involving so many disciplines I don’t have the energy or wisdom to name them all. I concluded that cinematic art, like all art, is the product of a time and a set of circumstances that are never duplicated. I gradually became so captivated that I took a screenwriting course, and wrote a script.
But when I watched the film, Doubt, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, I recognized my own screenplay, set in another environment, with only a little different focus. The universal details are so true to my own experience, that I am certain they are distilled from life. Family and friends of writers will often find themselves ‘written in’ somewhere; and this film is surely evidence of that fact.
To be specific, the details I find so telling include:
1) The Priest, even if he were proven a flaming pedophile, is not an evil person. There are no unmitigated villains.
2) The Principal, the head nun, severe, judgmental, and unbending, knowing she must act though in doubt, and will ultimately be over ruled by the ‘system’, heroically defends what she feels are the best interests of her school and its students.
3) If one must find a villain, it is life itself, which forces each of us to live in a separate realty. Much misunderstanding, isolation, and conflict results.
4) The boy’s mother, living her own separate reality, knows that the possible or likely sexual abuse is inconsequential in view of the obvious benefit to her son.
5) The young nun, who is drawn into the conflict, has not yet been sufficiently humbled by her own life to define her own values; she is limited to those she has been taught. Life assaults us all; we survive and grow if we are able to do so. But we don’t know who or what we are until that process takes place. We are like Augusto, principal character in Miguel de Unamuno’s Niebla, who realizes he only lives when he suffers.
As for me, I shall never write a great script. But I will always be grateful for those , like John Patrick Shanley , who can, and who do. As I read about this author director, I realize his life has not been easy. But he has made much of it. More, to make films like this requires the devotion of many. I am grateful to you All.