Never Go Swimming with a Bow Legged Woman (1)
By Nils Visser
I used to be addicted to reruns of The Prisoner, a British TV-series from the late sixties starring Patrick McGoohan. Although only seventeen episodes long, it had a plot complexity that reduces the full series of Lost to the same depth of intricacy as a Famous Five or Hardy Boys mystery. We used to take notes and compare these, this being the sort of thing that will make a geek squeak louder than a wee virgin piglet at a Razorback Hog swingers party.
Being intrinsically lazy, I never fully succeeded at geekness. I loved the sci-fi, the fantasy, the abstract obscurity of series and shows so devoid of any meaningful content, that it became cult simply because there had to be something there, and possibly “the meaning” could be reconstructed from curtain patterns or cornflake brands displayed on the breakfast table. I was good at that, I love conspiracy theories and worship the absurd. I still have a fascination with anything that announces it features flying killer piranhas or giant tomatoes with razorblades as teeth. I was genuinely surprised that Snakes on a Plane did not receive a well-deserved Oscar nomination. I was quite willing to commit to memory endless lists of facts. My brother and I used to be able to name every character that ever appeared in the first three Star Wars movies. Even if the character appeared only for a few seconds, we would know the name, alien race and planet of origin. We even knew this for characters cut out of the film but still making an appearance as toy action figures or in the comics. Watching Jabba the Hutts’ palace for the first time was like hitting a seam of gold. I failed several school subjects because I allocated priority to committing to memory the individual facial features and fur patterns of all the inhabitants of the Ewok village on Endor. Vital information that has stood me in good stead many a time, such as…erm….for example when….hum….well there was…..mmm.
Anyhow, what I couldn’t be bothered about was the numerical stuff, keeping track of the average amount of times someone took off his glasses and polished them in each episode, and seeing if this corresponded to the mean of the decibels produced by squealing tires during car chases in episodes designated with prime numbers. I’m not very good with numbers, and avoid them if and when I can. Similarly, I lacked the technical know-how or incentive to try to build my own teleporter systems, lightsabres or rockets. If I wanted to see a rocket fly, I would either attend the launch of one built by a proper geek, or I would fill up a model airplane with lighter fluid nicked from my dad, go to the roof, set fire to the model plane and throw it off the roof.
Whoosh. Thar she blows.
As a qualified expert in mayhem, my expertise was sometimes mobilized by youngsters who had received brand new bright yellow Tonka toys. “INDESTRUCTABLE” was the proud boast on the packaging, which is, of course, synonymous to the word “Challenge”. We quickly learned the lesson that companies and product packaging told lies, as none of these child-proof toys ever survived the first day of our carefully designed testing procedures (often involving rail tracks and freight trains).
The secret hope was, of course, that one day we’d encounter a toy truck that was so incredibly awesome that it would actually derail a freight train, but that never happened, though a succession of toys and other items were suitably demolished and smashed into thousands of smithereens on the rail tracks. We were sensible enough, of course, to not test our own mortality on those tracks. Instead we played Live Frogger on the motorway that linked Amsterdam to The Hague. Frogger being a computer game back in the simple days of Basic that involved the player leading a frog safely across a rush-hour freeway. It was a lot more exciting to make “ribbid” sounds ourselves and subsequently make mad dashes across the motorway, at night of course, since the darkness would conceal our activities somewhat. Somewhere, deep within, there was a vague and dim supposition that our game might not be received with general approval.
Sometimes I pushed my luck too far. Once, on a very early Sunday Morning, I set up all my toy soldiers and tanks on the attic floor, took apart a cheap Chinese one-thousand-bang firecracker package, and individually placed one thousand firecrackers beneath or beside the various war toys or the Styrofoam landscape I had built for them to fight on, laying new fuses which led to a master fuse. In devising this fun and exciting game I had never contemplated that a thousand firecrackers being set off in the attic of a small terraced house in quick succession might conceivably come to the notice of my slumbering family, and a few of the neighbours. The thought did cross my mind when the first hundred or so crackers had exploded, filling the attic with a lot of noise and even more smoke. The perception that there was panicked movement in the bedrooms downstairs (Jedi mind powers, what can I say) was shared with the realization that the explosive fun was yet to be increased nine fold. There wasn’t a whole lot to be done though, at that stage, so I resigned myself to whatever fate had in store for me, or rather whatever punishment my livid father -whose initial thoughts on that Sunday morning involved the Cold War and a Red invasion- would devise once my ploy to blame my little brother had inevitably failed. You probably want to know what? Hmm, I don’t recall the specific details, just the important stuff. You’ll have to be satisfied with my sincere assurance that he wasn’t very pleased. Oh, and that I was wholly deserving of his wrath. Mea culpa.
In short, I excelled at demolition and arson, not construction, and was alright with facts provided they were about oddities or aliens, and weren’t too factual or involved anything numerical. I.e. an Epic Fail as a Geek, a goal to which I had aspired for some time, so my abject failure left considerable mental scars, I assure you.
Try: Lord of the Wyrde Woods by Nils Visser
As usual, I digress. There’s a neat little trick by which I’ll try and hook all of this rubbish onto totally unrelated elements later on in this tale, when I actually get around to addressing the actual subject matter. We haven’t broached this as of yet for the simple reason that I have yet to figure out what it is, this is my version of Freestyle, I’m spouting from the dome in a haphazard manner now. That linkage will make me seem really clever. Or painfully pretentious. You decide, I don’t care either way. After a series of articles with clearly defined goals, objectives, word counts, deadlines and what have you not, this is play time.
If you happen to be here because you are a critical reader, well then, you’ve already spotted the fact that I’m breaking most rules of good writing: Adding excessive unnecessary words, throwing in too many adverbs, using overly complicated words, a dearth of commas, way too many clauses, cliché imagery, populisms, blah blah blah. The sad fact is that the bad way of writing is my favourite way, it’s what I am currently best at and quite frankly a lot of readers tend to enjoy it too, either because I can relate to them at their level, or else because it allows them to feel superior (enjoy, you’re welcome). Or perhaps -big grinning smiley avatar here, possibly with a wink- I’m just so bloody good I can afford to break all the rules, the Eddie van Halen of writers (you online now? indulge me, copy this link onto a new page, this is writing with a soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULEBSxP725w).
Like I said, this is my Happy Hour in which I shamelessly expose the total hodgepodge that passes for my cranial content. Do you have any idea what it is like to have to trudge through that quagmire and try and sort out a structured narrative? If you do, you’d forgive me for my present mental exhibitionism. If you're here because of the bow legged woman mentioned in the title, keep on reading, skimming or scanning. If you don’t have a clue, you’re probably wondering why I post my mental deficiencies on the internet for the delectation of total strangers. After all, chances for a plushy cooperate position in an office block or a soft and well-paid seat of public representation diminish with every word that adds to this confessional poppycock.
Well, the answer is quite simple, I passed the age of forty and soon thereafter found myself in a hospital bed on the cusp of expiration. Being intrinsically lazy, it took a while for me to figure out that I had been ill. I had noticed the rapidly diminishing eyesight, continuous thirst and subsequent need to urinate, dizziness et al, but had sincerely assumed that these were symptoms of passing the 40 mark. I blame all those daft t-shirts with jokes about it all going downhill after you turn 40, as I took all of this quite literally. I even managed to convince myself that the increasing short bouts of unconsciousness reflected a temporary desire for frequent napping. My partner didn’t fall for this one, measured my temperature, and drove me to the hospital. Admittedly, she did assume I still had some noddles in my noodle, for she allowed me to pack my own overnight kit. She had suggested I might be gone for a few days, and presumed that the shopping bag I brought to the car contained clean underwear, t-shirts, toothbrush and toothpaste and all that sort of thing. It wasn’t until we reached the hospital where I was unceremoniously dumped into a bed and poked, prodded and pinched by unsympathetic ghoulish hospital staff, that she looked into the bag and found eight paperback novels, my personal interpretation of a survival kit.
Anyhow, I was given a second life. Having spent considerable part of the first one working my arse off for reasons that seem dim and distant to me now (Ambition? The desire to prove myself? An ingrained Calvinistic conviction that hard work would pay off? Beats me.), it was time for a rethink. When I was young and optimistic, somewhere in the last century, I used to listen to a lot of Pink Floyd, and I particularly loved the song Time (Play it, this is the mandatory soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSLqbl2Xshs).
Whenever I heard the lines “And then the one day you find, ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun” I swore oaths on all that was holy to me that this would never happen to me. Never. Never ever.
In a way, it didn’t. I didn’t miss the starting gun, and I ran, oh boy did I run. Problem was, I ran in the wrong direction. I assumed running at the sound of the gun was career related, and the career became my identity. Then one day I found ten years had got behind me. Shit. Problem is, you don’t get to do a retake. Now all you youngsters, listen carefully to Pink Floyd’s Time please. I know you will, because it’s music, and music is cool. Now please believe me when I say that every word of that song is true. I know you won’t, because it is your job not to listen to me. I will still tell you anyway, because that is my job. Cliché? Incredibly so, but ne’er one that contained more truth. I want to scream it from the rooftops, but you’d just turn your I-pods on louder wouldn’t you? I know I did, although my I-pod was called a Sony Walkman. You can find them in the Museum of Curious Objects from the Eighties, along with Betamax and Rubic’s Cube. OK, this is turning into a Grumpy Old Men, let’s change the channel.
So, there I was, in a hospital bed, contemplating mortality and circle of life clichés, and I had an epiphany. Basically it consisted of a rather belated realization, but that it so intrinsically lazy that I prefer “epiphany” as it gives the whole thing a spiritual flavour, a heroic quest rather than a fool’s fancy, and hey, I write my own screenplay just like you write yours my friend. Whatever we call it, it consisted of the realization that it really is best just to make the most of it, and enjoy every second of it before the time is gone and the song is over. Part of the secret of doing that is to ignore the opinion of the moral majority, to not care about appearance or reputation, in other words, shed all inhibitions in order to exhibit joy in life. If I had listened to my elders I would have known that a whole lot earlier, but who listens to their elders? Hence my willingness to divulge my innermost befuddled being with you, besides, it earns money. I already earned 37 US cents this month because of all the ads all over this page. Basically I just provide the window dressing for the ads, someone is hoping that reading this will inspire you to spontaneously seek the nearest emergency exit, which might well be the link provided to the anti-age moisturizing wage-war-on-wrinkles ad now appearing somewhere on your screen. That might just earn me another 2 US cents, so by all means, flee you yellow-bellied coward, run for your life. Want a souvenir? Take some of my former principles, I’ve become a cheap literary tart, those 2 US cents are far more interesting than occupying moral high ground.
A cynic might suggest that this veritable diarrhea of self-exposition actually reflects the realization that my chances of becoming a cooperate high-flyer or brilliant politician have waxed and waned, representing instead a wail of frustration and desperation that signal the onset of the fabled mid-life crisis that I’ve been promised. Oh ye disbeliever, I find your lack of faith disturbing. Or rather, no way Jose. I’ll admit to a chronic and severe Peter Pan Syndrome, but not to a midlife crisis, not yet anyway. Being intrinsically lazy, I’ll probably accept that when it nears its end (if ever) and I can buy the memento T-shirt: Been there, done that.
Note how very cleverly -or pretentiously- I’ve just managed to come full circle to at least part of this drivel? A lot of what is contained in that circle is fairly unrelated, overly obvious or blatantly unnecessary, but because we turned a circle, you get the impression it all makes sense. How I do love writing.
I’ve also managed to avoid introducing an actual subject, which seems quite an accomplishment, I might just see how long I can keep that up, possibly breaking a world record or two in the process. In actual fact, I’m going for the sequel now, so I can claim my prequel introduced nothing at all. So for those of you desperadoes looking for that bow legged woman, do come and visit again. Remember to vote! It’ll increase my popularity score, earnings and ego. Thanks.