“There are three chairs here, ladies and gentlemen,” stated the philosopher king. “They provide a space for will, intellect and memory, as well as for text, context and subtext; melody, harmony and rhythm.”
My classmates and I were all quite smitten with our philosophy professor, Michael Soupios. Reality truly is, in so many ways, broken down into threes. This particular lecture of his also quite easily highlights the distinction between the symbol and the thing itself. It’s so nice to have a professor who’s willing to explain things in simple interesting language. Not everyone can understand the overly abstract.
If I were ever to be asked to devise a new zodiac sign for people who were born around my birthday, and to base it upon my character traits, it would have to incorporate my obnoxious sense of humor and imagination, along with all my intellectual interests and my perpetual tendency to be quite exceptionally suspicious and to feel uncomfortable with all things new, and with change. Those are perhaps the most significant properties I possess. People born around the tame time of year as I could be expected to have quite an insanely annoying tendency to bug the hell out of each other, and people in general, with all manner of silly antics. Our sense of the absurd would keep people truly on their toes by necessity. We all should have a tendency to think things through by way of a profoundly intense manner of considering things from the point of view of the conservative intellectual tradition, poring over the collected works of all the great minds who have contributed to western theology, philosophy, history and literature among other disciplines. Someone with a birthday during our time of year would also be known as perhaps a bit too much of a stick in the mud, entirely on unfriendly terms with change, and with a quite inordinate interest in the past. If someone under this sign simply inevitably must face up to change, he would only be capable of accepting it, grudgingly, if it happened quite slowly and incrementally. He’d be a bit on the oddly absent minded side, having a significantly easier time remembering things from decades in the past than from his every day life in the here and now. Assuming he could handle an intense dose of impatience and anxiety he’d be quite a jolly good character. The official symbol for this sign would be the beady-eyed square because we’re all such a bunch of beady-eyed squares, now aren’t we? Of course everyone knows that belief in horoscopes is just an ignorant backwoods superstition but if there were such a thing, that’s what mine would be like.
Sheldn Fatrack and Ralph Fensterblau, both long-time employees at the Acme Gadget Company, decided on day to have a bit of a party to introduce their wives, Mabel and Harriet, to each other. It struck them as quite a nice idea at the time. What they didn’t know, though, was that quite a strange surprise awaited them all. The party was at Sheldn’s and Mabel’s house in Lindenhurst. The Fensterblaus got into their car to make the five minute drive from Copiague, little suspecting that they were about to stumble upon a precise replica of their home. Their acquaintances’ house, like theirs, was a brown and white low ranch, with a 75′ by 100′ yard. The inside had exactly the same paint and decorations, the same television set, basement and attic. There was even the same novelty picture, in their basement, of an overweight naked redneck couple.
“Harriet, honey,” whispered Ralph, “Do you see what I see? Something’s awfully seriously wrong around here.”
All Harriet could say was a simple “Be quiet and pretend not to have noticed anything. Maybe we’ve just walked into another dimension again.”
Throughout the entire afternoon and evening they wandered about this exact duplicate of their own lives, checking out the same books on the same shelves, the same food in the same refrigerator. After a while they even started enjoying it in some offbeat way. They casually let the Fatracks give them a guided tour of the house, pretending never to have seen any of it before. They asked how many bathrooms and bedrooms there were, and all sorts of other typical questions, knowing perfectly well what the answers would be. All the while they made references to old television shows like “The Outer Limits”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Twilight Zone” without giving their hosts the satisfaction of an explanation. In the end they all had such a nice time. Of course they’ve never recuperated from the shock but at least they know that perhaps due to some clerical error in the functioning of the universe, they don’t have to say that there’s absolutely no place whatsoever like home.
It might be quite a shock to be forcibly subjected one day, from out of nowhere, to a world devoid of color. Then that stupid cliche about seeing things in black and white would be more than just a brain dead platitude. If I were ever to have to deal with a world like that, in which I should be allowed to have only one thing retain its original color, I should like to have a really nice pastel colored car. It wouldn’t even make any difference which color it would be. When I lived in Lindenhurst, every year, during the first weekend of October, there was a really big Oktoberfest on Wellwood Avenue. One of the most interesting exhibits for me was always the car show. There was always a group there, each year, that had an exceptionally impressive display of old cars, mostly from the 1950’s and early 1960’s when they had fins. All the cars were in such amazingly impressive pastel colors. I was just thinking, very recently, how sad it is that there are no longer any cars available in those colors. At least I most certainly don’t see any anway. Little kids in the very first years of school have such an exceptionally nice deal with colors too. They get always to be surrounded by such amazingly nice bright colors. Unfortunately older kids and adults don’t get to have those bright colors so frequently. I just got, a few weeks ago, a dress shirt in quite an overwhelmingly bright shade of blue for exactly that very reason. The world needs more bright shades and pastels.
I have always thought that if I were ever to choose a Halloween costume that would be the definitive representation of the real me, although I am only one guy, it would absolutely have to be one that represented the entire gang from the Charles M. Schulz comic strip “Peanuts”. Like Charlie Brown, the little round-headed kid, I always seem to be prone toward misfortune. Each of us seems to have quite a flair for finding life’s booby traps the hard way. A main difference between him and me is that although he is perpetually smitten with the little red-haired girl I have always been terrified of her. The Linus in me tends to be exceptionally introspective, always taking a significantly intellectually inclined approach to things. I always hang onto whatever security blanket is conveniently available too. Everyone knows about my affinity with Schroeder. The main distinction between him and me is that while his main obsession is classical music, mainly Ludwig van Beethoven, I have always been equally insatiably consumed with the lives and times of the Beatles, and all the music, and circumstances in general, of the 1960’s. My sloppy disheveled side is represented by Pig Pen. To my chagrin I tend to be quite disorganized in certain ways.
An entire decade is quite a long time, so I can’t remember precisely which specific day since 2004 may have struck me as the most hectic of all. I can most certainly think, though, of a few days since the end of last year that have been among the top contenders. During the course of last December I went one day with Steve to St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey, with the intention of spending the day there, and then going to Union Square in Manhattan to do some Christmas shopping. Because all the bathrooms in that entire section of New Jersey were out of order that day, though, everyone was sent home very early. We then went to Union Square. Somewhere around that part of the year Mary Anne, Steve and I, along with the usual collection of friends and cousins, went to Manhattan on Friday and Saturday nights one weekend. The first night was to see Madama Butterfly at Lincoln Center. The second night was to see a tribute to Woody Guthrie in Greenwich Village. Each night was quite an exceptionally nice time but I was quite frustrated, for the same reason I was so worn out when we went to New Jersey and Union Square. I’m not used to all that exercise. We spent a lot of time on trains and subways, walked constantly and each day lasted very long into the night. Everyone knows how weird and uncomfortable New York trains and subways are. I made the mistake of standing for a while on one of our subway rides. That was quite a nasty experience. In a very real sense neither the trip to New Jersey and Manhattan, nor the trip to only Manhattan, was all that big of a deal. What made each trip quite a hectic frustrating experience, though, were all the irritating problems that went with it.
Yesterday my niece Bridget and I went to a movie theater in Merrick to see “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day”, starring Steve Carrell, Jennifer Garner, Megan Mullally and Bella Thorne. I can really identify with that movie because my twelfth birthday was quite a living nightmare too. Lately I’ve been trying to watch at least one movie each day, usually on Hulu. Yesterday’s venture, because I hardly ever bother to go to theaters anymore, was quite a nice time for me. I usually try to see all kinds of classic movies, usually from the Criterion Collection, by directors like Louis Malle, Ingmar Bergman, and Federico Fellini, among others. Two days ago I saw Malle’s “Au Revoir Les Enfants” and today I saw Gabriel Axel’s “Babette’s Feast”. I’m really happy now being able to say that I’ve gotten to know all these famous classics. It’s quite a good way to widen my horizons. The next time I get involved in a conversation about movies I can really have quite a chance to make a significant contribution, because I shall have seen such a well rounded variety of films. I keep track of them too, on the Letterboxd website so I can always refer back to them whenever my memory needs help.
Assuming my imaginary friend is still alive today, he’s probably quite an even much wiser and imaginative fellow now than he was then. As a kid I lived in a neighborhood in Jackson Heights where a third of the families spoke only Italian and another third spoke only Spanish. My friend used to drive me crazy by rambling on at me constantly in Spanish and Italian. He was a good guy but he could be quite the wise ass. I’m sure he’s probably about the same now in many ways, a perfect gentleman with a colorful twist. I hope for his sake he didn’t fall in with the wrong imaginary crowd, drinking, partying and carousing until all hours of the night. Maybe he ended up shacking up with some imaginary floozy whom he met at an imaginary singles bar. Perhaps they formed an imaginary band and have spent the entire time since then cruising up and down Route 81 on an old broken down imaginary Greyhound bus, playing Grateful Dead and Dylan songs in exchange for chump change at imaginary saloons, greasy spoons and dives. I’ll bet they dress and behave quite stylishly. If I ever get a chance to meet him again in person, would he even be willing to talk to me or might I strike him as too much of a square?
Mitt and Mabel, along with their best friends Keef and Harriet, sauntered off one Saturday morning to their favorite park at Captree. They always went there whenever they needed a break from their hectic Lindenhurst schedules.
“Just think,” proclaimed Keef. “For the next twelve full hours, we don’t have to think about jobs or chores.”
Having grown up together, they had plenty to talk about. They rode their bicycles, danced a while and had a few laughs. Soon, though, it started to rain upon their idyllic moment. Even the rain was seen as an advantage, another shared memory.