Walking Contradiction

A walking contradiction is used to describe a person who is inconsistent, one that does things that go against conventionality of what normal people do, or believe.  They are likely to say one thing and then do another.  They may take a leap of faith that ends up being a paradoxical contradiction because their hopes and dreams will get splattered all over the pavement.  They may simply change their mind often, so much so that this becomes their primary quality.  I watched Taxi Driver last night with Robert De Niro, no he wasn’t in the room with me, he was the actor who played the character Travis Bickle who was the taxi driver in the film directed by Martin Scorsese.  Travis seemed to be getting his life on track, until he makes a stupid mistake.  He takes this girl Betsy that he likes to a porno movie on their first real date, as they did go out for coffee and pie once before this, however this experience was deemed to be below Betsy’s standards, as she viewed this as being sleazy, not certifiably sensational as Travis intended it to be and it ended their relationship.

During her date with Travis, Betsy played by Cybill Shepherd quotes lyrics from a Kris Kristofferson song to describe Travis.  The song is ‘The Pilgrim: Chapter 33’ from his 1971 album The Silver Tongued Devil and I.  Betsy focuses on the chorus of this song which says, “He’s a poet, he’s a picker He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home”, in an effort for her to say that she does not really understand or appreciate Travis, because he is so different from anyone that she has ever met.

Before Scorsese filmed Taxi Driver, Kristofferson played a supporting role in Scorsese’s film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, so Scorsese was familiar with Kristofferson.  The song is not played in the movie and it was not a bit hit for Kristofferson, but this song contains some of the themes of isolation and loneliness that Travis endures in this film.   Taxi Driver is a cinematic portrait of loneliness and alienation that turns to violence.  I see this song as being about a man who is getting near to the end of his life, thinking about the things that he did and the mistakes that he made along the way.   The tortured, ex-Marine cab driver Travis Bickle, made movie history with his chilling performance as one of the most memorably intense and vividly realized characters ever committed to film.  After Betsy disappears from his life, and he fails in his assignation attempt of the presidential nominee, Travis plays guardian angel for a young prostitute Iris who was played by Jodie Foster.  Years later John Hinckley was reportedly seeking fame in order to impress actress Jodie Foster, on whom he had an obsessive fixation, so he tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan.

Travis is definitely a walking contradiction, driving his cab around in a city that he felt was filled with filth.  He is disgusted by sex and by prostitutes, yet he spends a lot of his time in porn theatres and takes prostitutes around in his cab.  He is infuriated with corruption and yet he starts collecting illegal guns, practicing at the range and inventing ways to draw faster.  He decides that he will take better care of his body, yet he pours schnapps on his breakfast.  He views the city as being filled with scum and filth, but the way he lives his own life just makes the city worse.

See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans,
Wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile
Once he had a future full of money, love, and dreams,
Which he spent like they was goin’ outta style
And he keeps right on a’changin’ for the better or the worse,
Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found
Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse,
Or if the goin’ up was worth the comin’ down

He’s a poet, he’s a picker
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars,
And he’s traded in tomorrow for today
Runnin’ from his devils, lord, and reachin’ for the stars,
And losin’ all he’s loved along the way
But if this world keeps right on turnin’ for the better or the worse,
And all he ever gets is older and around
>from the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse,
The goin’ up was worth the comin’ down

He’s a poet, he’s a picker
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.
There’s a lotta wrong directions on that lonely way back home.

Written for January Monthly prompts – Certifiably sensational.

2 thoughts on “Walking Contradiction

  1. Taxi Driver is one of my all-time favourite movies. It’s so intense and has such an atmosphere on the city streets. The soundtrack is great with the sax out in front. You’ve hit the characterisation of Travis Bickle on the head.

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  2. Thanks Glyn. I like the part where Robert De Niro is watching American Bandstand and the Jackson Browne song Late for the Sky comes on TV. The sax does give this movie a real bluesy feel.

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