We have been watching the new HBO TV series, Perry Mason that airs on Sunday nights. This show is not your father’s Perry Mason. Except for a few character’s names and its Los Angeles setting there is little to equate it with the long running TV crime series starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Billed as an origin story and more closely aligned to the underlying novels of Erle Stanley Gardner, what is served is a noir detective story. It echoes more of Dashiell Hammett and Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade than the courtroom drama that made the name more famous.
I grew up watching the Burr courtroom drama. It was a show that the whole family watched together. We all took delight as the minute hand climbed to the top of the hour, as each episode drew to a close and all tried to guess who was the real guilty party. Knowing full well that that person wasn’t sitting at the defense table. I must say that my conviction rate fell far short of Mr. Mason’s.
Unlike in that series where every week brought a new case in this reboot the entire season is all one big case. In this series Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) is not even a lawyer, but a down on his luck private investigator, who in 1931, at the height of the Depression cannot catch a break, until he is hired by another defense attorney, played by John Lithgow. Involving a baby, Mason is thrown into a grisly kidnapping case that has gone horribly sideways. In addition to Mason, two other familiar character names from the old TV series appear, Della Street and Paul Drake, but also in guises other than remembered or imagined.
This show has a very dark reimagining of Perry Mason and his world, but also a splendidly drawn one. His attire is always disheveled, no tailored suits for him. More than just a gumshoe, he looks like he rolled around in it too. LA itself is just as seedy. The LA cops are not just corrupt, but viciously so, but throughout this noir story nothing is as dark as Mason’s brooding soul. This quote is typical of his world view, “Everybody’s up to something. Everybody’s got an angle, hiding something. And everybody is guilty.” The show’s cast of characters are so richly developed that it will be a shame to pick only one of them as the guilty party, as it will also be impossible to pick the right one. We’ve watched the first three episodes of this eight part series. The fourth one drops tonight.
As the few remaining days tick by, preparations for our imminent departure are well underway. We’ll be traveling for only a few weeks, which by past year standards in not all that much, but this year is not one of those years. This will be our first trip since everything changed and as such, I would like to do it as safely as possible. We will be driving to Anne’s family cabin on the shores of Lake Superior. We’ll drive up there all in one day, which is a very long day, but one that we have done before. We have the new car, which has satellite radio to keep us going. We’ll make only minimal stops. Stopping only for gas and to use the bathroom. Once there, we’ll pretty much stick to our cabin in the woods and not venture out much, at least like we have done in the past.
My biggest concern is food and have been planning our menu for weeks now. With luck, we will bring the right amount, not too much or too little. I’ve started packing clothes too, but Anne is still consumed with her latest project. It started out as a memory quilt for her mother, but with her passing, it has morphed into a remembrance quilt. One side of the quilt is the family’s tartan, while the other side is composed of about a hundred photographs of family members, both past and present. As these things go, it has been quite the undertaking, but it looks like she will finish it in plenty of time. Not that that matters much, because she is planning on bringing it with her, along with her sewing machine.
It will be nice to get out of Sweat Louis for a while. We had one day this week when the weather wasn’t so awful darn hot. A cold front had come through, lowering both the heat and the humidity. When we walked that morning it was so pleasant. Most mornings our four mile hike eventually turns into a Bataan death march by the end. Even a Camelbak full of ice water can only partially ward off the hot weather. Each day, I am reminded why since I retired, we spend as little time in town during the summer as possible, but not this summer.
One thing that I am looking forward to seeing this summer is the new comet Neowise. Up until now, the comet has only been visible in the morning sky. Meaning getting out before dawn, which I have tried, but without much effort and with even less success. This coming week though, since Neowise has already swung around the sun and is now heading back out to the Oort cloud, from which it came. About the time that we will be arriving in Michigan, the comet will switch from being a morning star and become an evening star, where all the hundreds of sunset pictures that I’ve taken over the years come from. I hope to get a photograph of it while I’m there.