Of Love and Lawlessness

I’m a Godfather addict. I love all three volumes of that brilliant cinematic series.

I was a mafia-mad kid from a young, young age, and I loved the romance of storied criminals from the early 20th century. I was so obsessed I even dressed up as John Dillinger and later Al Capone for Halloween in my teen years. (I broke the years up by being Charlie Chaplin one year.)

I was “unique” then. Few of the kids at school knew who Dillinger or Chaplin were, so standing up to announce to the class who my costume represented turned into a five-minute affair each year with a Wiki-style truncated historical account of each character. I wasn’t just into the flash, I knew the substance of those baddies.

I obsessed then over the golden age of La Cosa Nostra in New York and Chicago. Still do! Hell, we even have the mob here in Vancouver. A friend told me a few years ago of entering “the wrong door” in a café on Commercial Drive’s Little Italy, and instead of going into a washroom, emerged into an illegal backroom gambling operation. Guns sat on the table next to chips and cards, and surly Italian men in suits glared angrily at her mistaken entrance. She flustered her way out of the room and never again walked through an unmarked door on the Drive. Oh, the writer in me would’ve been in her glory!

My mobbed-up love affair continues, and watching The Godfather I, II or III sends me reeling towards that girl of my youth, the one who didn’t grasp the immensity of murder and the magnitude of their corruption. There’s something oddly honourable in the love of tradition and hierarchy held by the old-school Mafioso that today’s Tony Soprano weeps for the loss of.

The Godfather series is highly romantic, bloody heads of horses under bedcovers aside and all. Don Michael Corleone is a tragic figure torn between his love of aesthete, art, and intellect, and his pained duty to his family and his heritage. He chooses wrongly, deciding to err on the side of familial/historical love and loyalty, and ironically loses all he values as the price for his choice.

I’m minutes from the conclusion of the under-appreciated Oscar-winning third installment of the series, in which Michael and Kay revi sit the demise of their relationship. I know the ending is overwrought and somewhat cheapened with a quickie fast-forward of 30 years, but in that moment of reckoning the past with the present, there’s a lot of earnest pain* over love lost and prices paid. Michael the Former is juxtaposed against Michael the Present, a man riddled with remorse for the life he chose and the cost thereof, but given the chance to do it all again, you know without question he’d make the same decisions… Yet his love for her continues through it all. Decades later he’s still felled by the same passions he felt long before, and the pain of permanence in love is told all too easily by that look in his eyes. A man undone by love and honour is who Michael Corleone is.

But it left me pondering just how long our loves can linger. Through all the turmoil of our lives, memories of loves can last the longest of any we might have. God knows how plentiful are the ones that haunt me still.

I’ve chosen poorly in love. I’ve often chosen the wrong man for the wrong reason. I’m smart, and seek men who are smarter than I, but in so doing I get caught in this web of men who are unable to detach from logic long enough to let the heart rule the mind, and in so doing, are far too easily equipped to hurt.

I can’t help it, though. It’s who I am. I’m readily felled by intellectual bad boys. Always have been, probably always will be. I’m too given to logic to be able to be acquiesced by artsy boys, as much as I love arts. I despise the wishy-washy fluttery ways of artists, and given the choice between them and the more stoic smart guys, I know I’ll always choose the latter, and I presume they’ll continue to be undone by my ability to straddle both worlds without much effort at all, ‘cause lord knows the hurts go both ways.

But love knows no reason, try as it might. All of us are forced to choose between the worlds we wished we were in and the worlds that hold us captive. Just ask Michael Corleone. In love, despite all urges to go to the otherwise, we far too often go to the mattresses.

*It certainly helped in the acting that Pacino and Keaton had a true life on-again off-again relationship that spanned decades and ended badly, if one’s to believe all they read.