“I really like the way my rose is now,” Brenda told Cheryl.
“I call that a Molly Dodd moment.”
“Huh?!” her friend gasped.
“I grew up,” Brenda explained, “watching shows like ‘My Mother the Car,’ ‘Mr. Ed,’ and ‘Seinfeld.’
“Molly, for me, is the epitome of normal. In the typical episode, Molly reads her mail, says hello to a neighbor, blows her nose. You know, plain stuff.”
“I can understand that,” Cheryl opined. At the same time though, each of us often needs Gunther Toody and Ed Norton in his life too. Contrast and balance are the answer to everything.”
Moocho thank you to Rochelle Wisoff~Fields for being our Fearless Leader in Friday Fictioneers, a weekly attempt at a hundred~page story based upon a photo prompt. This week’s prompt was supplied by Marie Gail Stratford.
I should like to think that a train station, airport terminal, subway stop, or anyplace else where passengers gather, is somehow an eclectic combination of both a soulless space occupied by distracted, stressed zombies and a magical set for fleeting, interlocking stories within the population of mankind. Since most of the people who pass through these kinds of places are always going to remain absolute strangers to each other, and since they won’t ever end up having any significant contact with one another, in that sense they will always, unfortunately, appear as if they’re a randomly thrown together combination of nameless, lifeless non entities, who are only in the same location for an extremely short time frame, on their way to a common destination. They have the kind of connection to each other that’s somewhat similar to that of people who are connected only on Facebook, Myspace or Twitter. They all merely fit into the same category to serve a fleeting purpose. At the same time, however, there can be potentially quite a lot of drama available in such a setting. Very many people with common interests may find themselves in each other’s company. If, occasionally, someone would presume to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger in such a setting, they might even end up igniting quite a significant romance, reminiscent of the kinds that happened on shows like “Hotel” and “The Love Boat” (I’m very sorry but I don’t watch very many recent shows). People are the same all over the world. Up to a certain point it’s not such a very smart idea for anyone to trust someone he’s just met in that kind of environment. Although good people can be found everywhere places like that can be populated by all kinds of nasty characters. Denizens of subway stations are well known for being rather lazy and careless about sanitary habits and social skills in general. Once one gets past all the morons, troublemakers and otherwise lost souls, though, it’s a truly hep place. If someone were merely to hang around and to listen to the conversations people have in these kinds of places, he would be able to amass, after a short while, quite a significant collection of interesting anecdotes. Exactly because so many people from so many different environments can be found there, it must be quite a veritable bottomless pit of story telling. All those otherwise soulless non entities then become store houses of folklore and adventure. Whether by way of simple observation as a disinterested third party, or even by getting actively engaged with the occasional character in a lobby, restaurant or gift shop, anyone at any given time can at least turn an otherwise unbearably boring stressful situation into a reasonably interesting experience. Besides everything else one never knows whom he may meet in this kind of environment. Once, in the early 1980’s, I even flew to Buffalo on the same plane as jazz musician Cab Calloway.
Throughout my adult lifetime, I’ve always been, to varying degrees, inordinately anxious, especially under stressful circumstances. The very best thing I can possibly do on the eve of a big moment of truth-a significant trip, a job interview, or some other milestone-is simply to relax and to go to bed even earlier than my accustomed bedtime. Besides that I enjoy reading, playing my guitar or any other simple relaxing activity. I also occasionally watch television, but that’s not a habit of mine anymore. I’ve always quite bitterly despised the telephone so it helps if I can scrupulously avoid that particular thing. I absolutely never even think of taking any risks whatsoever with food. If I know I am going to be subjected to pressure, my diet the day before is inevitably simple with absolutely no spices whatsoever. Any risk of stomach trouble would be terrifying. I always put whatever materials I may be obligated to have in my possession-a number two pencil, identification, money or anything else of any importance-in a very safe, easily accessible place the night before I need them. For the past quite a long time my anxiety hasn’t been overwhelming, but it’s still sufficiently significant that I can’t play games with it.
“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness,” is a line from twentieth century poet and radical Allen Ginsberg, a major figure in both the 1950’s Beat Generation and the 1960’s counterculture. Having read quite a significant amount of Ginsberg’s work I can honestly say that I’m not interested in doing things his way. Although I understand that it can be nice, and even constructive, for someone to tap into his somewhat less than perfectly well behaved side, I don’t trust my darker impulses. Having found out the hard way, over the course of my lifetime, just exactly what kinds of things I’m capable of, I don’t especially like to tamper with forces that are so easily capable of getting out of control. In my writing I often enjoy exploring dark themes. Television shows from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, such as “One Step Beyond”, “The Twilight Zone”, “The Outer Limits”, and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” have always interested me. A conveniently detached observation of all the inexplicably strange offbeat things that go on in life, that are beyond the normal, is as much as I can be expected to try to deal with. To get personally involved with it, though, would provoke irrevocable trouble.
I always seem to go against what the fans and critics say. Although I’ve never read either Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” or any of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, I’ve most certainly read and heard enough about them, from reputable source materials, to know that I couldn’t possibly be expected to be able to stand anything like them. The television show “Friends” is a good example of something I’ve seen and never especially liked. I never watched either “Friends” or “Seinfeld” until a significantly long time after they were cancelled. Cathleen, in California, gave me the idea to watch them. Although I’ve always especially liked “Seinfeld”-considering my eccentric sense of humor that’s most certainly no surprise-I’ve simply never been able to find “Friends” even the least bit appealing. For some reason it’s just not interesting in spite of the fact that everyone has always bowed down before its very shrine. It wasn’t the least bit bad. It simply left me entirely apathetic about it, without even so much as the satisfaction of my being able to complain. Perhaps there was something about it that I couldn’t catch onto. Was there some inside joke, or hep 1990’s style or charisma, going on there and I could never get the point? I found it all so plain, dull and ordinary. I’ve never been able to understand why everyone’s always been so crazy about the cast’s looks either. They’re all conventionally nice looking but in such an ordinary way. They would be nice neighbors and friends for married couples to have so that when a wife asks her husband : “Honey, do you think Rachel, Monica and Phoebe are pretty?” he could say yes without provoking any suspicion whatsoever. I just don’t get all the hype about what a legendary milestone that show supposedly was. I enjoy “Seinfeld” though. The people on that show are lopsided individuals who are even enjoyably lopsided looking.
If a mad scientist wanted to give me a chip that would allow me to read the minds of people I’m talking to, on the condition that I can’t ever turn it off, I don’t think it would be a good idea to accept it. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Has anyone ever noticed that on shows like “I Dream Of Jeannie” and “Bewitched”, where there are characters who are capable of magic, none of the good characters deliberately try to read people’s minds, or to give others that ability? Only nasty characters, such as Jeannie’s sister and Endora, ever want to do anything like that. The good genies and witches always read minds, or give that ability to others, only as an unintended result of accidents, allergies and other misfortunes. I have always thought that’s the way it should be. If someone could read others’ minds, he would absolutely invariably end up getting his feelings hurt sooner or later. Besides that he would also end up hearing things that are none of his business. There would be no such thing as a surprise party anymore. A few years ago there were a lot of commercials on television advertising for a product that allowed people to hear things others were saying from far away. They gave the impression that people always gave each other flattering compliments. That’s most certainly not true though. Much of the feedback each of us gets from others is quite entirely unwelcome. If someone could find out what others are thinking he would inevitably interpret it entirely out of context. Privacy would be a thing of the past. Liberals, and other totalitarian ideologues, are always pushing for such supposedly wonderful utopian ideas in order to affect some imagined Great Society. Often I’ve seen commercials for surveillance devices that permit people to eavesdrop on their houses while they’re away from home, leaving other family members or roommates absolutely without any privacy whatsoever. Nothing like that ever works out though. The ability to read minds would just be yet another poisonous Pandora’s box.
At least throughout my entire adult life, I’ve never been able to sleep well. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with voluntary sleep procrastination. Especially when I absolutely have to be up for something important the next morning I shall do all I possibly can to get to bed as soon as possible. Often I cheat a little by reading a bit more or hanging around without officially going to bed. My problem with bedtime isn’t one last chore, hobby, conversation or anything like that. It’s a major shortage of sleep. Around here we often don’t eat until sometime after 8:00 p.m. but that’s not something I can control. I haven’t been in the habit, over the course of the past eight months, of watching a significant amount of television, especially at night, so that can’t possibly be a problem. I say my prayers within a reasonable length of time. As far as I can tell, not counting uncontrollable variables, there’s nothing that can keep me from going to sleep at a significantly early hour. My will power, at least when it comes to my reasonably strict bedtime rule, is quite exceptional. Of course, there’s always most certainly the occasional lapse. I may sometimes stay on my computer, my main weakness lately, for somewhat longer than I should. Lately I’ve even been reading on it. Fortunately, though, that only happens quite rarely. I simply can’t possibly emphasize this enough: if only I could possibly get enough sleep once I’ve already gone to bed I should be so deliriously happy. Sleep procrastination, however, most certainly isn’t any kind of a problem for me. Just give me a bed, and peace and quiet, and I don’t ever postpone my bedtime, especially since I know that staying up can lead to headaches and grogginess the next day.
If there’s one thing that can compete with cold weather for the distinction of being the thing I most bitterly despise, it’s when I’m forced to stay up late at night. Of course, I arrived, quite a while ago, at the conclusion that I have all sorts of major neurotic problems about control anyway but there’s something about staying up late that tends to drive me especially crazy. Besides that I always, whether I like it or not, and whether I’m obligated or not, end up waking up obscenely early each morning. I always tell people that I haven’t gotten an entire five minutes worth of sleep since the Kennedy-Nixon debates. That may be perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but throughout at least most of my adult lifetime I always have been incapable of sleeping well at night. What make things even much worse are the facts that I have a major problem with impatience and frustration and that I get unusually tired out anyway, combined with my inability to fall asleep. Many people claim to be able to fall asleep either by reading or by watching television. Things like that never do me any good. I just like to lie in bed and wait for sleep to happen. I got to the point, quite a while ago, where I finally decided to settle for as much rest, though not necessarily sleep, as possible. Often people have told me to go to bed later than I’m used to, based on the assumption that a later bedtime will help. Having taken them up on it, I found out the hard way that I wake up with a headache if I stay up too late. For quite a few years, my cousins and I were on a bowling league with St. Jane Frances de Chantal Knights of Columbus council 6526 in Wantagh. Although it was always quite an especially enjoyable experience for me, it drove me crazy whenever the night lingered on until very late. Whenever we ended up staying in the bowling alley’s bar for an even somewhat long time I got frustrated and restless. It was even worse at the end of each season at the annual party. Those nights lasted until at least midnight and always drove me nuts. Cousins Larry, Gary and Joe enjoyed being out all night long but I was the lone voice of dissent among us all. Another example of this problem was when Mary Anne, Steve and I, along with Mark, Laura and some friends of theirs, spent two consecutive days and nights in Manhattan a few months ago. It drove me entirely out of control. Besides the fact that both days were filled with non-stop activity, neither ended until insanely late at night. I simply couldn’t handle the strain. Those were examples of nights that are filled with activity, but I can’t even try to enjoy a late night of peace and quiet. After a while all I really want to do is to go to bed, no matter how especially nice and enjoyable my circumstances are, and to get it over with. I seem to be quite good only during the daytime. In the morning, no matter how much I may dread having specifically to get up out of bed, once I’m up and taking a shower, getting ready to start my day, I can count on having all the spunk and I’m going to have, as well as quite an exceptionally charming personality. I appear to be the veritable personification of the rule about early-to-bed-and-early-to-rise. If I do things any other way I’m simply incapable of functioning.
Saturday night has always been such an exceptionally nice quiet relaxed time for me. Unlike earlier decades there’s nothing especially good to watch on television. I’ve never been in the habit of going to parties. For some reason I don’t even think I’ve been missing out on anything anyway. Although I can quite thoroughly enjoy the occasional Saturday night party-there’s no rule against inviting me to a party-my typical Saturday night is just quietly sitting around without any specific plans, simply taking each thing as it comes my way. Sometimes I watch a DVD. Everyone knows how I’ve always so thoroughly enjoyed old television shows and movies. Lately I’ve really been getting exceptionally interested in my computer too. The internet is quite a weakness of mine. As anyone can see, after having gotten to know me, I’ve always had quite an obnoxious side. On Saturday nights, though, I can be quite quiet and inconspicuous. I can take advantage of the nice relaxed quite atmosphere and circumstances by playing the guitar, drinking tea, or perhaps reading a book or periodical. Now that I have to spend so much time with Mary Anne, Steve and Bridget, they may want to do something every once in a while. I occasionally get mixed up with them for certain kinds of things. One weekend, a few months ago, Mary Anne, Steve and I, along with Mark, Laura and a few other people, even spent both Friday and Saturday in Manhattan. I’m most certainly not entirely averse to something like that. As a change of pace it’s exceptionally interesting. It would drive me nuts, though, if it ever were to happen on a regular basis. I’ve been noticing over the years that I quite enjoy an occasional trip like that. Unlike many people, though, I have absolutely no patience whatsoever with the kind of lifestyle that would involve something like that on a regular basis. I realize that there are very many people who thrive on constant activity of that nature. I’ve most certainly done my share of trying to keep up with the party animals in my crowd. It’s quite a bit more trouble than it’s worth though. Just let me have a lot of time to hang around and relax, with only occasional spurts of activity for a change of pace. That, and finishing it up with an early bedtime, can make for a fine Saturday.
I like always both to adhere to a strict code of conduct and to keep an interesting sense of humor about things. Beware the false dichotomy. The more I see of today’s leftist ‘who-am-I-to-judge’ mentality, with its permissive approach to abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, reverse discrimination and all sorts of other horrors, the more I see that we simply can’t afford to allow it to go on. What they call diversity I call chaos. Genuine legitimate freedom is being begrudged us in favor of a need to demand that we feel a sense of supposed indebtedness to a bunch of self-pitying, self-aggrandizing special interest groups. Amazingly we are expected to trust the judgment of the likes of Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and television, movie and talk show personalities People are encouraged, now more than ever, to take advantage of each other for the sake of pleasure and profit. I like to mind my own business as much as possible but I’ve never been able to resist a good debate about these kinds of things. As everyone knows I’ve always been quite the staunch conservative. Liberalism, while claiming to reject censorship, presumes to censor each and every single move we make in order to affect a supposed Great Society. Lately there are movements afoot to ban the use of the words ‘retard’ and ‘bossy’. This is simply not permissible. Although I’ve always been determined to be as articulate as possible I have no intention of putting up with anyone else’s controlling my speech. Christianity (Catholicism) has always been so very important for me. Liberals, as well as other totalitarians, manipulators and control freaks, see fanaticism and hypocrisy in this claim because it begrudges them absolute control over people’s lives. They want a world devoid of formal or final causality because that would put them in charge. I like to be as strict an orthodox Catholic as possible. On an everyday basis I should really like to think that I do a reasonably good job of humoring people. I’ve always tried to be at least fairly good natured. Unfortunately I’ve always tended to be somewhat short tempered and I have a major problem with forgiveness. My ability to hold a grudge is quite legendary though I’m not very happy with it. At least I’ve learned over the years never deliberately to throw the first punch. Hep Larry understands that people are quite a mixed bag of nuts. Real Larry needs quite a few lessons in patience and understanding though. One lesson I have to keep track of is like the warning given by St. John of the Cross in his “The Living Flame of Love” about how each of us tends to see his own character traits, both good and bad, in other people. If I can have so hard a time dealing with a particular individual, I can just imagine how hysterical he must be over my character defects. As I said earlier keeping a very good sense of humor about life is exceptionally important. People can often be hard to take and I know they have the same problem with me too. Because each of us, in his life and worldview, has such a wide variety of distinct quirks and preferences, many of which deviate from those of other people, an inability to laugh at it all can be toxic. Because all the things I’ve been complaining about are forms of fanaticism, I really like to refrain from any sort of an extreme position about anything. In the end it’s all about text, context and subtext. Whenever someone pushes too hard he finds out in the end, the hard way, that things always backfire anyway.