I conceive of one inter-continuous nexus in which and of which all seeming things are only different expressions, but in which all things are localizations of one attempt to break away and become real things, or to establish entity or positive difference […] or unmodified independence — or personality or soul.
They were hardly a herd at the time — if anything, a drunkard’s dozen — but in 1924 they were relocated from the plains of Arizona to Catalina, an island 22 miles south-southwest of California. Though initially employed as background to a cast of cowboys and Indians in a silent film adaptation of The Vanishing American — one of the 3 billion novels written by Zane Grey — the formidable fourteen stayed on.
Buffalo begat buffalo.
By the seventies, the 21-by-8-mile rocky strip of land was home to roughly 500 American bison. And the western novelist’s house, built on the island in ’26, was a hotel.
In 1971, following their Western-themed wedding on the mainland, my parents took a helicopter from Long Beach Harbor and honeymooned at the Zane Grey. Room number: Desert Gold. My father, then a draftsman, had designed — or at least conceptualized — the costumes. She wore a high-collared antique-lace dress with a cameo brooch, and did her blonde hair in curls; he was in pinstripes and had cultivated, for the part, sideburns and a mustache. He never lost the mustache.
In 1923, a year before the buffalo made their modest debut, Ernest Borgnine was a sea-sick child aboard the Dante Alighieri, en route from Carpi, Italy, to Connecticut. In his autobiography, Ernie, the actor says he wore “little Fauntleroy clothes with a little flowing tie and a knickers suit, all hand knitted,” and subsequently “got a taste of what hell was like”: “strange looks from the rough-and-tumble kids traveling third class.” The question of looks, costume, and social standing — and of braving the sea — would be at stake for Borgnine for the next seven or eight decades. He would join the navy at 18, and would later become widely recognized as Quinton McHale in the TV comedy, McHale’s Navy. And he would win Best Actor for his role in Marty, a quiet, dialogue-driven film about an unattractive butcher, or, in the words of Marty when his mother begs him to “put on the blue suit”: “Blue suit, gray suit — I’m just a fat little man! A fat, ugly man!”
When Borgnine accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award last year for his performance in an alarming number of great films — The Wild Bunch, Johnny Guitar, The Poseidon Adventure, The Magnificent Seven, and on and on — he stood on stage at the Screen Actors Guild wearing a black tux and a pair of thick, black-rimmed glasses, fogged with tears:
There are millions of those in this w...