There’s a scene early in the movie “Tombstone” where Doc Holliday – brilliantly played by Val Kilmer – is rolling a coin across his knuckles.
He’s doing this while destroying some poor sap at poker. To me, it’s the epitome of cool.
I recently learned this trick thanks to my friend Grant. But instead of a coin, he uses these “slugs” he collects from his job. They’re slightly larger than a quarter, and heavier.
Best I can tell, they’re machinery detritus, but they found purpose in Grant’s hands, and now in mine.
I’ve gotten pretty good at it, although I’m not sure how cool it makes me look. Hasn’t made any ladies swoon yet, so I guess I need to keep working at it.
“Tombstone” is filled with characters who display their own brand of cool, which is one reason I like it so much.
There are the actors, played by Dana Delaney and Billy Zane. She’s a thrill-seeker who bucks convention, and he’s a man who’s almost unnervingly comfortable (for the time period) in his flamboyance.
There’s Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe), the sneering leader of the Cowboys. He’s a good villain, but he’s outshined by Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), a brooding sociopath with a lightning-fast draw.
If I had to be a villain, I’d want to be Johnny Ringo, because there’s always something going on behind his eyes.
And then, of course, there are the Earp brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan.
Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp exudes a quiet authority, like when he tells Johnny Tyler, “You’re sitting in my chair.”
Sam Elliott’s Virgil serves as the movie’s conscience, and he’s scared of no one – not even the Cowboys.
Bill Paxton’s Morgan is a thinly drawn character, so we’ll leave him out of this discussion.
Sorry if this is starting to sound like a movie review, but I’ve described these characters because they all have traits I envy – even the villains.
I wish I could carry myself with the reckless confidence of the actors.
I wish I could command attention and respect like Curly Bill.
I wish I could be as skilled with anything the way Johnny Ringo is skilled with a pistol.
I wish I could walk toward the bullets – metaphorically speaking – like Wyatt Earp during the gun battle at Iron Springs.
I wish I could control a volatile situation like Virgil Earp.
And I wish I could be as eloquent and debonair as Doc Holliday.
Wishing for such things is fruitless, I know. It’s a product of the long-held belief that I’d be better off as someone else.
I am who I am. There is certainly a better version of myself I could attain, but my essence cannot be transmogrified.
The trouble I have is accepting that essence – the good and the bad. For instance, when a friend tells me I’m “a good man,” all I can think is that they don’t know about all the awful things I’ve done.
On the other hand, I do consider myself a decent human, someone who tries to treat others with kindness. It’s hard to reconcile that belief with the darkness that lurks within, so I tell myself that the darkness was placed there in the distant past – not of my doing – and that I’m no more flawed than the next guy.
Either way, it’s like Doc would say: I’m no daisy.