My iPad For A Typewriter!
Perhaps if I drank Dos Equis, I too would be more interesting. Or not. I feel compelled to admit I don’t kayak out of airplane cargo doors at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic nor am I able to speak French, in Russian. In stark contrast to ‘the most interesting man on the planet’ my life is not nearly as exciting.
You may not know but the President of Iran was almost cast in the lead role as ‘the most interesting man on the planet’ instead of the current actor in the now infamous Dos Equis commercials. You may have even noted their similarity in appearance as did I. At the last minute they weren’t able to resolve a contractual dispute when the Iranian President suddenly demanded weapons grade plutonium and his own personal parking place as one of the stipulations in his contract. The Department of Defense even threw in a free unmanned drone to sweeten the deal but his agent balked.
From the Rear-view Mirror
This was not to say that exciting things didn't happen to me. My aunt, for instance, had joined the Peace Corp after college and served in Indonesia. She even had a spider monkey for a pet. When my aunt came to visit our little town of Higbee Missouri, population 623; suddenly I was a celebrity. I was the only kid in town who had a monkey in his house. It was about then I realized just how boring I was since, at the age of seven, I had neither served in the Peace Corp, nor lived in a foreign country, nor did I have a monkey. I had a dog; my greatest scholastic achievement to date was to pass second grade, and I had once traveled to the other side of the town. And twice a year, we made the annual pilgrimage to Moberly around Christmas time, about thirteen miles away.
Far and away, the most exciting thing that happened was when the Bookmobile rolled into town. When that air-conditioned library on wheels pulled into town in the heat of the summer, we spent hours in air-conditioned bliss, browsing through rows and rows of books about everything imaginable. In case you failed to grasp the significance of this event, nothing could compare to the Bookmobile. Television was a drab little box with dreary little black & white screen you could barely make out. We got a total of three channels, one of which you could actually see. Cartoons came on one hour a day after school. And then there was nothing else on until after supper. But nothing could compare to the Bookmobile! Before computers and the Internet, before Wikipedia and Google; we had the sum repository of all knowledge in the universe,‘the Bookmobile’. Everything else from this point of my story is like an over-industrialized climate in distress; it’s simply ‘anticlimactic’.
My dad taught English and History at the local high school. Mom, who was categorically marginalized as ‘unemployed’, spent all her free time refereeing between me and my two brothers. That is, when she wasn’t playing paramedic every time we fell out of trees or got a fish hook stuck in our finger.
Growing up, I was surrounded by a covey of slightly older girls who for pity or some other reason looked out for me. There was Melinda, the cute girl who lived next door and allowed me to tag along even though I was a grade below her. I always looked up to her since she was taller than I. All that changed at the Eighth grade dance when against my better judgment she made me get out on the dance floor with her and allowed me in one ten minute spectacle to humiliate myself for the remainder of my high school career. Fortunately for me, You-Tube and digital cameras and the Internet would not be invented for another thirty years. Shortly thereafter I was forced to claim asylum in some country in Indonesia with a name that I couldn't pronounce. I should have called my grand mal dance impersonation of a seizure something catchy like, ‘the Spasm! Perhaps it would have caught on big time on American Bandstand and catapulted me into wealth. To this day, I still blame that one incident for never getting an invitation to Dancing With The Stars.
Then there was Hannah, the smartest girl in my class whom I strategically sat next to. She felt sorry for me since I was the dumb kid and often had to explain to me just what the teacher had said moments ago as I sat staring ahead with a bewildered look on my face. Hannah was the sole reason I was able to pass elementary school. The rest of the girls in my life existed solely to look gorgeous and make me feel awkward.
Mrs. Madrid was my High School Science teacher and the first teacher I had a major crush on. I naively assumed since we were both brilliant scientific minds, even though a few years separated us, our romantic involvement was inevitable. Unfortunately for her, we were never able to forge a relationship outside of class beyond test tubes and dissecting frogs.
Fate often has a way, it seems, to punctuate the things we say and do with the exclamation mark of irony. We often aren't aware of the irony we call life until things suddenly come to focus, in the rear view mirror of life. Reflecting has a way, it seems, to clarify our lives and sharpen our understanding.
Move Over Erma!
Sometime about the age of forty I began writing not for a class but just because I enjoy thinking and writing as a way to put my thoughts down on paper. The act of writing forces you to sit and compose, to write and to rewrite until, much like a blacksmith who with flame and pressure and effort forges something from the raw materials around him.
Rarely does something in nature exist in its pure state. It has to be extracted, separated, and refined. Precious metals exist all around us naturally but have to be dug out of the ground, and separated from the ore. It has to be refined and hammered into something beautiful and useful until you ‘work it out’. Writing is the act of hammering out what it is you want to express and often enough, you’re not really sure yourself, until you arrive at the finished product. As you labor, it begins to emerge into view.
It was one of those ironic ironies of life, I began to entertain the notion of wanting to write. The same reluctant student, who meticulously developed a loathsome aversion to any form of written assignment given in grade school, occasionally entertains the self–induced delusion of writing. My wife and dog both know I can’t write. I know this since both frequently tell me so. I suspect they even conspire to quell any aspirations I have to continue to write. This may ultimately spare unsuspecting readers of terrible infractions perpetrated against the literary world in general by my own amateurish attempts. Lewis Grizzard. Erma Bombeck. Dave Barry. James Thurber. These are real writers.
Looking back, I blame my first grade teacher who taught me to read. From there it was inevitable I would read books instead of using them to prop up a wobbly TV stand. This would inevitably lead to the urge to write and thereby forever mar the hallowed halls of literature with my muddy illiterate feet. That’s a metaphor,
Readers won't beat a path to your door simply because you jotted something down on paper. And so I quote a great thinker who once wrote; “Admitting you're a writer is like confessing that you wet the bed. Not many will be impressed, some will entertain sympathy, most will profess indifference, and the rest will recoil in disgust as if you were infested with the plague. And of course, nobody wants you anywhere near their mattress!”
The great thinker I quoted was actually myself.
Despite my best efforts to diligently improve my ability to write, typically done in the ten frantic minutes remaining before my 3rd grade assignments were due, I don’t seem to have improved much. And then the bell would ring which forced me to create new and original prevarications, like, “the dog ate my homework.”
Uh, oh! I think I hear the bell ringing again.
Miss Ann? The dog ate my homework…again!