With Breaking Bad concluded, went looking for other “quality TV”. I had heard good things (aside from being canceled prematurely) about Deadwood, so it was added to the watchlist. Highly recommended, with some excellent writing and memorable characters.

One standout character in particular is Al Swearengen, the proprietor of the town’s more earthy saloon/whorehouse, played flawlessly by Ian McShane. It was said “when he ain’t lyin’, Al’s the most honorable man you’ll ever meet”. Although not to the same degree as Walter White, he’s something of a bad guy to be celebrated.

Al is, as the Doc says, “an object lesson in the healing powers of obstinacy and a hostile disposition”. Whether acting the role of Greek Chorus narrative when talking to a decapitated head, or strategizing with his more able-bodied cohorts, he had some acerbic lines that underscored a rather nihilistic philosophy of the hard life in the wild west. “Quiet! Al’s got words.”

[Editorial note: Al is a top-flight cusser. I’ve trimmed all the f**k**g to allow the wisdom of the words to soak in. Also of interest is that these individual quotes, when taken out of episodic sequence, almost make a coherent soliloquy in their entirety.]

In life you have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do. Many times, that’s what life is… one vile task after another.

From the moment we leave the forest, it’s all a givin’ up and adjustin’.

What can anyone of us ever really hope for, huh? Except for a moment here and there with a person who doesn’t want to rob, steal or murder us?

Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair, or beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man – and give some back.

Every beatin’ I’m grateful for. Every one of them. Get all the trust beat outta you. And you know what the world is.

Most of what happens is people being drunk and stupid and trying to find something else to blame for that that makes their lives totally [messed up].

You gotta behave like a grown man, huh? You gotta shut up. Don’t be sorry, don’t look back, because, believe me, no one [cares].

I did not shame myself. I keep an open mind in that area. Kid yourself about your behavior, you’ll never learn a thing.

Worse ways to spend a night, puttin’ shoulder to an idea.

Do not fault them for your own fears of tumblin’ to somethin’ new.

That’s the way with any new idea. Takes the hoopleheads time to adjust.

Change calls the tune we dance to.

Till the race is finished, never mark the wager paid.

Bidding is open always on everyone.

Can you say it straight out before I have a birthday?

Ever wonder if you expressed yourself more directly you might weigh less?

When given to utterances of that type, consider drinking.

An opinion solicited does not equal one freely voiced.

If I sought an echo, I’d now be addressing a mountain.

I need your truthful reply. Lie, I will know it… and death will be no respite.

What a type you must consort with that not fear beatin’ for such an insult.

To work for crumbs or to keep from the lash says maybe a slave’s what you are.

Quit a job before you fall asleep on it.

I wouldn’t trust a man who wouldn’t try to steal a little.

If I bleat when I speak it’s because I just got fleeced.

Sometimes I wish we could just hit ’em over the head, rob ’em, and throw their bodies in the creek.

Don’t I yearn for the days when a draw across the throat made resolution.

You can’t slit the throat of everyone whose character it would improve.

You might want to learn how to indicate interest in a girl other than murdering another person.

I’d rather try touching the moon than take on a whore’s thinking.

Who amongst us hasn’t wanted to shoot at women once or twice?

Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.

Some shit’s best walked through alone.