Please Find Me, Samantha Spade§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: May 23, 2011; revised: August 31, 2017; readers in past month: 2248

Actress Poppy Montgomery
as Samantha Spade

For the past few months, I’ve had to adapt to being alone again. I certainly have friends of varying degrees and types, friends here in Milan and elsewhere. This helps. For the first three months I was very active in a few apertivo groups that meet each week — these are groups that meet to socialize after work in the evenings for a drink, like an informal party. Some weeks I’ve been out at these parties of sorts three or more times. Some of my friends began visiting and even hanging out at my apartment. It’s all been a comfort to me. Nevertheless, I need quiet time to be able to get on with my life properly, before I can find a new girlfriend. So, now I’ve stopped going to the aperitivi and I’ve withdrawn in many other ways.

In the throes of my separation and eventual divorce from the ex-wife, my daughter, Marie would at times cry uncontrolably and without much warning — seemingly for no reason. Often, when she’d encounter something sad, it would trigger these scenes. For example, one time she and I went to a children’s play at Le Petite Theatre in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a rendition of The Ugly Duckling story called, Honk. At a sad point in the story, the moment when the ugly duckling is rejected by his siblings and friends and is separated from his mother, Marie started crying. She hugged me tightly and cried out, “I miss Vinnie”. Vinnie was the name of the horse that she would ride at City Park in New Orleans when she took riding lessons there. Since I had lost my job two weeks after separating from my then wife, during this period I didn’t have the money to pay for her riding lessons and her mother didn’t want to pay either. It had been a few months since she had seen Vinnie when she cried for him at the theatre. She genuinely missed Vinnie and riding horses. However, this wasn’t what about which she was crying.

Horse named Vinnie

Marie’s outbursts were her way of expressing her pain about her parents separating. She just didn’t know how to articulate her feelings. She had one clear feeling: she missed Vinnie. When she was upset about the separation, she would cry that she missed the horse. When something else upset her even a little, it would trigger her pain about the separation. However, she couldn’t string the emotions together in her mind to say, “This makes me sad in general, but it particularly upsets me since I’m so miserable continuously these days because my parents are separated and heading for divorce. Their separation disturbs me because it’s something I cannot solve, that’s out of my control; it frustrates me. It’s similar to how I miss horseback riding and that favorite horse of mine, Vinnie.” Such a self analysis of emotional associations was not in her abilities. Instead, she would cry out her mantra of pain: “I miss Vinnie!”

Much like my daughter, I have a mantra of discontent. Mine is one about which I have written and mused. I mutter to myself, “I want to go home.” This has been a reoccuring muttering of mine over the past several years, since the hurricane, at least. In recent weeks, though, it has become more frequently uttered by me. My sense of home is not just a place. It includes people. If there’s a woman in my life, a girlfriend, she will generally be the supporting center I-beam. When that beam is removed, my ceiling starts cracking and the roof collapsing. Friends and activities can help me to hold the roof up temporarily until I can find another girlfriend, or until I can restructure my life, my identity, my sense of home not to be so dependent on a center I-beam. The transition is difficult, but it’s possible.

It has been speculated that many people like to read or watch detective stories for a common psychological reason. Despite what one might think or what they say, they don’t identify generally with the detective — although they might fantisize about being the detective. Instead, they identify with the client of the detective. The client is usually harrassed by the world, by gansters, corrupt politicians, or crooked police. The detective is usually a rogue policeman who was kicked off the police force for not complying with the system, or a former thug who broke from the gangsters because he had a good heart underneath his rough exterior. Faced with so many bad guys, the client employs a freelance bad guy, albeit a former bad guy to protect her — female clients are the best. Incidentally, mysteries (e.g., Miss Marple) and police dramas (e.g., Law & Order) are different from the sub-genere of detective stories. The reader of detective novels often feels that the world is against him and feels helpless. The reader enjoys the fantasy of being able to hire someone, even when he can’t afford to pay (a reoccuring situation in these stories), to chase away the bad guys and other woes in life. This seems to be the reason why I read detective novels and watch detective shows.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching episodes of the television series, Without a Trace. It stars Anthony LaPaglia who played a reoccuring character (Simon, Daphne’s brother) on the television series, Frazier, and a few other main characters who are F.B.I. agents specializing in finding missing persons. Each episode starts with someone going missing without an apparent trace. The F.B.I. agent uses their detective skills to find the missing person. One of their methods of doing this is to interview family and friends to see if the missing person was experiencing any problems that might have caused them simply to run away or caused them to make rash decisions that led to them being hurt or abducted. When family members complain about being questioned and the implications of the questions, LaPaglia’s character, Jack Malone and the other agents respond by saying that from their experiences, when someone is missing, it’s usually because something went wrong at home, because the missing person was treated badly. This is a point I can certainly appreciate.

Each F.B.I. agent character is of a different type, has a different style in approaching family, friends, adversaries, and suspects. Malone confronts bluntly family members for pretending to be good people when they were in fact unfair to the missing person. Another character, Samantha Spade is a pretty woman who is a strong (I’ve mentioned before that I like strong women) and sensitive woman who can be compassionate for those who miss the missing person. She’s also an agent of truth to those who are lying and have been neglecting the missing person.

There are a few other characters in the series, but one other that I like is a Cuban American character called, Danny Taylor. I found him to be irritating at the start of the series, but I’ve grown to like his style. He teases the bad guys when they lie or when they sit smugly while being questioned, feeling justified in their abuse of the missing person. He belittles them, putting them in their place as bullies and lowlifes. They strut around making people like the missing person feel insignificant, when it’s them that are insignificant and the missing person that is the important one. Taylor exposes them as frauds.

It may seem a psychological stretch for me to identify with the missing persons in the episodes of Without a Trace, but these are the kind of things our brains do. I feel like a missing person and I long for a team of F.B.I. agents to find and rescue me. I so would like Danny Taylor to cut through the false facade of relatives, and make fun of their absurd logic that doesn’t see me and how I feel. I’d like Jack Malone to brace those who have condemned me. I very much wish Samantha Spade would point out the truth to relatives and people of my past which led me here, make them accountable for their treatment of me. And I’d like her to find me and guide me home, wherever that is. I want to go home.