The privilege of a lifetime is being who your are. Joseph Campbell
Being a superhero is a lot of fun! Chris Hemsworth
I was angry as I sat on the plane, frustrated and angry in Detroit two weeks ago. And my husband was getting the brunt of it. Text upon text, with displaced pissed-off-ness flowing through my fingertips, I provided him with updates. There we were buckled into our seats, ready for an on-time takeoff at eight pm and our pilot, the one person truly essential for this on-time takeoff, had decided to no-show. “This is inexcusable!” I sent off to my husband. “He’s probably at home watching the Golden Globes,” I added as an afterthought. And that’s exactly where I wanted to be on that Sunday night, at home watching the Golden Globes. I love the Golden Globes — the red carpet fashion, the chance to celebrate the finest in the previous year’s television and movie shows, the excitement of seeing who is going to end up on that stage with the Golden Globe in their hands. This year, however, I didn’t even care that much about the fashion or the majority of the evening’s presentation. I just wanted to be home in time to see Michael Keaton. You see, I have a crush on Michael Keaton. I do! And when a gal has a junior high-type- blushing-and-swooning-crush on Michael Keaton, she’s extra-fidgety when she’s stuck on a plane that is grounded in Detroit due to a pilot who is nowhere to be found.
It’s not the young Michael Keaton, the Batman from the early nineties with his superpowers intact and his sexy lips and his full head of hair that I’m swooning over these days, though I think there was a time back then when I did love this younger version of the actor and the Batman that he played. How could I not have fallen for both Michael Keaton-Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer-Cat Woman as they desperately tried to figure out man-woman-relationships in a game of cat and mouse power struggles? I’m sure I had crushes on them both as they dove into their depths and pulled out something fabulous and raw and over-the-edge. This is a different version of Michael Keaton, however, an older gray-haired balding version, that I’m finding myself giddily thinking about as I lean against the Junior High locker in my mind. It’s the Birdman version, the aging-actor-who-once-played-a-superhero-trying-to-make-a-comeback version that has caught the attention of my pitter-pattering heart.
I hadn’t thought about Michael Keaton in years, not until I saw a trailer for his recent movie Birdman last summer. And sure, there is the character he portrays, the aging actor who once played a superhero and is trying to make a comeback, that drew me in. But I don’t think it was the character I fell in love with as I watched this preview-scene unfold before me on the big screen in a theater in Boulder, Colorado, the scene where Michael’s character for some reason is walking in the midst of a mighty crowd in New York City’s Time’s Square in nothing more than his underpants, no, not walking, prancing, with his chest held high and a swing in his arms and a look of “What the heck, I’m going to go for it!”; I fell in love with Michael, the actor who could play that role in his underpants with an overload of quirky charisma and heart. To me, that is superpower material. Vulnerable brave superpower material. It’s not the Wonder Woman and Superman costumes, the incredible powers that seem to emanate from comic book heroes with unerring ease that turn me on. It’s the way that we embrace ourselves in our full humanity and find that place of authenticity, even when caught outside in nothing more than our underpants, that feels heroic to me. And there was Michael Keaton, with body and face not as young and super-hero handsome as used to be, up on the big screen practically naked giving a scene all that he had and creating a character who, in all his quirkiness, was striving to live full-out.
And isn’t living full-out what we all are striving for? As appealing as it might seem to be comic book-glossy-superhero-perfect, don’t we all want to march through Times Square in our realness, to reach inside of ourselves in those locked outside-in-our-underpants-moments and find an inner ounce or two of dignity and integrity and inspiration? That’s what I tell myself at least. And on that Sunday evening of the Golden Globes, I had the opportunity to test my mettle. By the time a new pilot arrived on the scene, I had made peace with my situation, pushing the send button on probably my twentieth text to my husband before taking off for Marquette. “New pilot just arrived. Be home at midnight.” And it was smooth sailing up there in the sky over Michigan and smooth touchdown in Marquette and smooth pick up as my bags were the first off the conveyer belt. Anger was no where in sight as I, under a sky of crystal clear stars in four-degree air, drove out of the parking lot and headed down the connector road to County Road 553. Anger was nowhere in sight as my car started pulling to the right, as it started pulling really hard to the right, as I stopped in a plowed pull-off at the junction of 553. So there I was a little before midnight, under the starry cold sky with a tire as flat as flat could be. There I was, calling a husband who was fast asleep by now and not hearing a thing; there I was with a cell phone that had just completely gone dead after an evening of all those texts. There I was, metaphorically-speaking caught in Time’s Square in my underpants, with no comic book superpowers within my very human grasp and no skill at all in changing a very flat tire.
But the stars were as bright and as close as could be and my two coats were toasty warm and the taxi filled with passengers, the very last car leaving the airport, was easy to flag down, and that taxi driver was kind enough to call another taxi and this new taxi driver loaned me his cell phone and my friends Amber and Raja who live nearby just happened to be awake and happy to help out, and there you have it. Things have a way of unfolding with perfectly-imperfect-perfection in our very human realm under that wide sky of stars when we listen to our soft and sometimes shaky inner superpower voices that say flag down that taxi when your tire is flat or hold your head high when you’re caught in Time’s Square in nothing more than your underpants. The next morning, I googled the Golden Globes and found a You-tube of Michael Keaton’s acceptance speech for Best Leading Actor in a Comedy Film. It is a beautiful speech, not comic book glossy at all. It is authentic and heartfelt and when he shares the traits of his best friend, who he reveals is his son, he cries. It is a vulnerable “underpants moment” as raw and beautiful as can be and I loved him even more for it.