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Bill and Me

Just another day in February

 

By Jim Moriarty

The film Groundhog Day was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 2006. Under the auspices of the Library of Congress, the Registry aims to ensure that America’s film heritage doesn’t disappear into the ether like so many of Hollywood’s earliest films did. Blazing Saddles, Fargo and Rocky were in the same graduating class.

Five years after his film was soaked in STP, or whatever it is they do to make sure it lasts longer than the pyramids, I ran into Bill Murray on the 18th green at Pebble Beach. It was just myself and about a hundred other people who surrounded him after he and some guy named D.A. Points won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which also happens in February.

Murray had been the tournament’s big celebrity for decades, bigger even than one of Pebble’s owners, Clint Eastwood. His on-course antics were panned early on by the golf-is-a-religion crowd, but most people came to enjoy the show. Between shots Murray routinely scanned the gallery, looking for just the right person to become his foil, for good or ill. One year along Pebble’s fourth hole I watched him approach a mom and dad and their adorably dressed daughter, who was in the 4-year-old range. Ignoring the parents, he wagged his finger impishly at the little girl and said, “You look very put together today.” The smile on her face ran all the way from the tee to the green.

Like my own Groundhog Day, I’d been after him for a sit-down interview for years. Finally, one February, he looked at me, exhaled deeply, and said, “You know, interviews are, like, my least favorite thing to do in the whole world.” Murray doesn’t do a lot of things on his least favorite list — unless he has a new movie coming out and you’re The New Yorker — and I was clearly one of them. But now I had him cornered between the Lodge and the Pacific Ocean. Just making the cut in Pebble’s pro-am is, as the current resident of the White House would say, YUGE. But winning it? That’s priceless. Hey, you get your name on a rock by the first tee.

So, there I was. Just Bill and me. And suddenly I realized, I had to think of something to ask him. So, I went deep. “What did you get a bigger kick out of,” says I, “having a film in the National Registry or winning this?”

He stopped for a moment, then looked at me kinda the way he looked at that poor schmuck who was taking the mental telepathy tests next to the pretty blonde coed at the beginning of Ghostbusters. “The National Registry is pretty cool. That’s going to last a long, long time. But,” and he paused to put his hand on the electric shock button, “I wanted this. And I don’t want very much.”

Because there’s a website for everything, there’s one dedicated to listing most of the things February’s days commemorate, including Groundhog Day. For a month with so few days, little February seems to pack a lot of distinction into them, some more serious than others. A couple of pretty good presidents have birthdays in February. And, of course, there’s Valentine’s Day which, appropriately, is also National Organ Donor Day. National Freedom Day is the 15th. That celebrates Lincoln’s signing of the joint resolution that would become the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. And Feb. 3 is The Day the Music Died Day, remembering the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

Other days are slightly less poignant. There’s Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk Day on the 11th and National Drink Wine Day on the 18th, which is followed, I presume not coincidentally, by National Handcuffs Day on the 20th. Animals, both domestic and wild, are not forgotten. International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day is the 23rd, and International Polar Bear Day is the 27th. The month ends with one of my personal favorites, Public Sleeping Day. In leap years it must surely be followed by Little Bit of Drool at the Corner of Your Mouth Day.

But, whatever day it is, in February my mind inevitably returns to Murray. As Phil Connors says, “It’s the same things your whole life: ‘Clean up your room. Stand up straight. Pick up your feet. Take it like a man. Be nice to your sister. Don’t mix beer and wine, ever.’ Oh, yeah. ‘Don’t drive on the railroad track.’”  PS

Jim Moriarty is senior editor of PineStraw and can be reached at jjmpinestraw@gmail.com.

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