Okay, remember the line about stinkin’ badges delivered by “Gold Hat” in the 1948 Humphrey Bogart Movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre? Well, if you don’t, please – for the happiness of your own heart – click this link and watch. It is, after all, #36 on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.
I was a baby when the movie came out, so the first time I saw it was on the CBS Late Movie, back in the days when I used to stay up past ten o’clock. But it was Bill Magee – now a Tibetan Buddhism scholar – who really brought “stinkin’ badges” to my attention. He used to stomp around the Elliewood Avenue restaurant I co-owned in Charlottesville, shouting such verbal fantasticals as, “Romaine! We don’t need no stinkin’ romaine!”
Enter Charlie, who brought “stinking badges” into the mainstream of our shared household’s vocabulary. So much so that when I order a burger (upon which I do not like any white, oily stuff), I hear myself saying to my college student server, “And, please, I don’t need no stinkin’ mayonnaise!” Most of these servers, accustomed to the vagaries of the elderly, smile politely. But a few get it. And they get an extra-large tip. Not as much for their service as for their cultural literacy.
Charlie and I have been together for a long, long time. While many things about our relationship give me great pleasure, somewhere close to the top is the private language we’ve crafted. There’s something profoundly intimate about shared nonsense.
English! We don’t need no stinkin’ English.
This summer, Charlie and I were in Socorro, New Mexico, visiting my daughter Liz Gipson – (yes, I have inserted a shamelessly proud maternal link) – and her husband, Kip Carrico, who teaches at New Mexico Tech. While there, we took a field trip Lincoln, New Mexico, where Billy the Kid escaped from jail to keep his rendezvous with Pat Garrett.
And while in Lincoln, we went into The Arrowsmith Store. Where, Charlie informed me later, he’d bought me a present that I wasn’t going to get. Yet. He was, he said, going to bide his time until the time was right.
As far as I can tell, Charlie carried my present around in his shirt pocket for the next four months. During which time I grew a good-sized lump in my throat that required scans and biopsies. These, however, were all negative. As I expected them to be.
Cancer! We don’t need no stinkin’ cancer.
Fist knock, please, Mr. Charlie!
That night, during our celebratory dinner, Charlie patted his pocket and brought up my mysterious present again. I am not a patient person. Three months of hearing about a present was enough. “Give it to me now! Please!” I said, holding my hand out.
And so he did.