I have a confession to make. I never saw Walter Hill’s cult gang classic “The Warriors”. Not when it came out, not since. I wanted to, badly. I was seventeen, I could have, but none of my friends drove and my parents certainly weren’t taking me. Not because it was ‘R’ rated, I have no idea what is was rated, but because to them it would have looked unimaginably stupid if they’d looked into it, and they didn’t. I didn’t ask them to. I kept my desire to see “The Warriors” to myself. I only knew about it because of adds for it on the back covers of the superhero comics I read. You see my shame. In the years since I have repeatedly referenced ‘The Warriors’. At opportune moments in conversation, I have cried out ‘Warriors, come out to play!’ in an eerie, high pitched falsetto. I read somewhere that happens in the movie. I hope to Christ it does, because when I do it I generally get a laugh, and I’d like to think it wasn’t the uncomfortable laughter you get when the person you’re talking to suddenly gets afraid the person they’re talking to is crazy, possibly violent.
My Grandfather on my Dad’s side took me to the Auotmat when I was a little kid. The original ones were in Berlin, but this one was in Manhattan. It was a Horn and Hardarts. So what you did was, you went up to this wall of vending machines, and you looked through little windows at sandwiches and slices of pie and apples and whatnot, and you picked what you wanted and stuffed nickels into the slot and then the little windows, which were actually doors, would unlock and you could get your food out. It was magnificent. I had a turkey on whitebread. I guess in the strictest sense they were vending machines, but really it was just a wall and behind it was a kitchen with people, just like any other cafeteria, and workers would put the food in the little cubbies instead of you saying what you wanted and having them put it up on the glass so you could put it on your tray. Decades later, that same Grandfather would take me to the Grand Canyon, which was also very impressive. We’d been to one of the rims a few days before, the one that was not very built up. Now we were at the other rim, and there was a parking lot and a hotel and a gift shop and a lot more people. I said I liked the first rim better, that to me it seemed more in keeping with the experience of seeing such awe inspiring natural stuff. My Grandfather replied ‘If I’da known you weren’t gonna like it… I’da slit my wrists.’ I wished I could have stuffed nickels into his slot, slid open the little door over his heart and taken out whatever the hell he’d meant by that, but he was even less of a for real vending machine than the Automat.
I get that this is a hard story to read. I don’t mean emotionally hard, I wish, I mean, I bet it’s pretty hard to know why you are reading it and to convince yourself you should keep reading. Well, it’s hard for me to write, just exactly the same way.
I used the Internet to find out who directed “The Warriors”, and that it was based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel of the same name, a fact I did not include until now. Do I know who Sol Yurick is? I do not. Do I know what other works Sol Yurick wrote and if any of them were made into movies? I do not. I could, though. The Internet could tell me and I could include it just as if I was the kind of person who had known those things. I still might when I rewrite this. If I rewrite this. Which probably I won’t. Not because I trust my writing, but because I am a lazy writer. I also used the Internet to find out that the first Automat was in Berlin, which I could have done a lot more with, my grandfather and I being Jews and all, and him having been of an age to fight in World War Two. As a Doctor he didn’t fight, per se, but he was all over Europe and one imagines he saw all sorts of appalling shit. He gave me a German helmet with a hole in it. He claimed to have brought it back with him from Germany and also to have put the hole in it by shooting the soldier wearing it in the head, but I don’t think any of that is true. It was a big, heavy helmet and It’s hard for me to imagine him making room for it in his luggage when he returned home. Also I don’t think his role in the war put him in circumstances that would offer the opportunity to shoot someone in the head, much less remove and clean their helmet afterwards. I don’t think I even believed the story when he gave me the helmet, but I was a little kid and it was a for real Nazi helmet with a hole in it maybe made by a bullet, which I thought was some pretty cool shit. In any event, it was lost in my parents divorce along with a lot of other cool shit.
The Warriors in “The Warriors” aren’t warriors in the same sense that the people my Grandfather attempted to put back together were Warriors, and not just because they were fictional characters in a movie. A lot because of that, but if they were real and we allowed for a universe where gangs in 1979 New York were theme based cowboys, Native Americans, baseball ‘furies’, they still wouldn’t be the kind of Warriors I’m talking about. They are more like a wall pretending to be a vending machine.
But what really is the difference between a wall you put nickels in and a vending machine? Is it just distance? I mean, someone loads a vending machine, right? Someone comes in a truck and opens it and puts chips or candy or soda or whatnot in it. It’s not a fucking robot. So why was it such a problem for me when at some point it dawned on me that the beloved Automat of my childhood was just a cafeteria with a wall between you and the staff? Why is it such a problem for me that I need the Internet to get the specific details that make my stuff sound the way I want you to think I sound? The ideas are mine, right? I didn’t get those from the Internet. Why did I hate the rim of the Grand Canyon with the gift shop, which by the way, Grampa, I didn’t hate, I just didn’t like as much as the rim without the gift shop, and not liking something as much as something else isn’t the same as hating it, otherwise we’d hate everything in life except the thing we love most. And I don’t. I don’t hate everything. Although maybe if I had a clue what I loved the most, I would. I don’t know. I wanted to see “The Warriors” but I didn’t ask anyone to take me. I was seventeen for Christ’s sake. Can you imagine? “Mom, I have a favor too ask. There’s this movie about gangs? In New York? And one of them is Baseball Furies”. Seriously. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been the thing I loved the most anyway. But maybe if I’d even seen ‘The Warriors’ I’d hate not only all other movies, but everything else in the world. If you’ve seen it, you tell me. Tell me what ‘The Warriors’ made you hate and maybe I’ll have some idea of why I need the Internet to make my writing erudite enough to present to you.