“Relax, weisenheimer!” she insisted. “We’ll find a hotel soon enough!”
Sheldn fell asleep. Myrna, anxious to prove a point, kept going. Eventually they ended up on Route 40 by the West Virginia borderline.
“Um, honey,” she started to explain.
“Now what’s going on?” he asked.
As soon as he noticed the folksy rural setting he knew they were in trouble.
“Oh well,” he uttered. “At least I have my banjo and vittles.”
Early last Saturday afternoon I was sitting at a table at one of the local cafes on Park Avenue, leisurely sipping my caramel cappuccino, when I was approached by a tall stranger in a dark grey pin striped suit. He asked me my name. I introduced myself politely, not understanding entirely why I bothered. The fellow, who insisted on remaining anonymous, nodded and replied,
“I’ve been looking for you.”
He went on to explain that a group of gentlemen, whom he would only refer to as Messrs. Waverly, Solo and Kuryakin, were interested in getting in touch with me about quite an exceptionally urgent problem. According to him, they believed that I was the only man in the Western Hemisphere who was capable of handling such a grave responsibility.
“Aah!” I exclaimed. “So my reputation appears to be all that people have told me it is.”
He then asked me to get into his unmarked limousine so we could take a brief ride to the nearby train station. We got onto the Long Island Railroad train and rode for about an hour to Penn Station in Manhattan. We then walked over to one of the restaurants in the station and he proceeded to introduce me to the three gentlemen. They explained all they wanted me to do. Another fellow gave me my passport and a large sum of money in order to facilitate my adventures. Of course I’m not at liberty to divulge any information. Naturally I was a little taken aback at first, not having been positive that I could be expected to handle such a responsibility. After a while, though, I started getting quite a kick out of it all. I knew I’d be expected to wear expensive clothes and hairstyles, to drive a seriously fancy car, to consort with exceptionally lovely women, and to drink my martinis shaken, not stirred. Inevitably I shall soon be given a collection of guns, and all the other hep gadgets that go with such a groovy lifestyle. I shall also have to learn about all the requisite protocol that inevitably is incumbent upon a gentleman who has taken such a profound responsibility upon himself. It will take me a while to become acclimated to my new surroundings and circumstances but I’m really looking forward to it.
Although I haven’t traveled very far, and haven’t even seen any foreign country except Canada, I can think of quite a lot of interesting things I’ve seen in different places. Having been to places ranging from Florida and Illinois to Washington D.C. and Michigan, I’ve tasted a wide variety of good food, seen many landmarks and a lot of fine scenery so it may be quite impossible to choose any one thing that I should want to clone in order to have it permanently with me.
If I were ever really forced, though, to pick one thing, I should like to have Jitty Joe’s, the famous ice cream parlor on Birney Avenue in Moosic, in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. They have, without question, absolutely the very best ice cream I know of. Everyone who goes there is quite crazy about it. Having spent a significant amount of time in northeastern Pennsylvania, I’ve often gone there to check out their wide variety of flavors. They sell cones, sundaes, sodas, shakes and any other kind of things that can possibly be made with either ice or ice cream.
Unfortunately since there’s not so much demand for ice cream during the cold months they’re only opened for a fairly short time each year. During that period, though, it’s most certainly quite a fantasy land. If I could have it here with me, within walking distance, I could go there much more frequently during the warm months. Within only a very short time frame, I could have an opportunity to try each of their seemingly infinite variety of flavors of ice cream, sodas, and toppings, ranging from bubble gum and teaberry to rocky road, peanut butter, and chocolate chip. I’ve always had quite an insatiable sweet tooth so if I were close to someplace like this I could count on being able to have quite a regular feast. There are a lot of benches outside to enjoy the warm weather and scenery. It’s such an exceptionally interesting environment.
I just got a telegram this morning announcing the recent death of Uncle Chester’s wife Aunt Mabel. The bad news is that I honestly had no idea I even had an Aunt Mabel or Uncle Chester. The good news is that according to the terms of her will she’s left me a million dollar inheritance. There’s quite a lot I shall be able to do from now on with that kind of money. Before anything else, of course, I shall have to do the responsible thing and invest a significant enough amount of it in order to ensure that all my bills will be paid in full from now on without any trouble. After that’s allbeen taken care of I shall then be able to concentrate on all the really interesting things I’ve always really wanted to do. I could start out by traveling all throughout Europe. So far the only foreign country I’ve ever seen is Canada. That’s only because it’s so close to the western New York borderline. I shall have to make sure I get a passport. There are a few dozen countries in Europe so it will take me quite a while to see all of them. The only foreign languages I ever took in school, unfortunately, were three years of Spanish in high school and two years of Italian in college. That will present quite a significant problem but I shall be quite happy to attempt to figure something out. I shall have to take my camera with me in order to be able to take a lot of pictures.
After I’ve finished with all that I should really like to go back to school and to get an advanced degree. That’s always been quite a major concern of mine too. The only colleges I’ve ever attended have been S.U.N.Y. in Farmingdale, and Adelphi in Huntington, New York. Perhaps it would be entirely too much of a strain on my old professors there if I were ever again to try to sit through any of their classes. I think I should go someplace else where I don’t already have a reputation to have to live down.
Of course I shall most certainly have to make sure I get some especially nice clothes too. It’s very important for a man to make a truly natty appearance at all times if he intends to have that interesting a lifestyle. I shall most certainly have quite a lot of interesting stories to tell once I really get involved with all this activity.
If I were ever to wake up tomorrow morning to find that I could from then on have another room entirely at my disposal, on the condition that were I to add more than three things to it it would disappear irrevocably, I should have a very easy time finding things to have there.
The first thing I should want would be my invisible spray. As long as I have a sufficient supply of that, I could count on total privacy. All I should have to do whenever I don’t want anyone to know I’m around, would be to spray a couple of spritzes upon me. That way I could have lots of time to myself. Imagine all the annoying inconveniences I could avoid just by disappearing.
Another thing I should really like would be my anywhere door. It’s quite portable and fits very easily onto any door of any size. With an anywhere door I could travel anywhere in the world without all the annoying inconveniences of conventional travel. All I should have to do would be to set the dial for my desired destination and I could get there perfectly without any traffic, turbulence, bad weather or potholes. Never again should I have to be bothered with a G.P.S. or websites like Wunderground or Google Maps.
Last but not least, no room could possibly be complete without a time machine. Frequently life in the here and now can get annoying. A time machine is a lot like an anywhere door, except that it deals with the temporal rather than the spatial dimension. I could hang around in times like La Belle Epoque and the Jazz Age, or the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Since I’d be restricted to only three things, I might as well make sure they’re things I can really use to my very best possible advantage. With my imagination I can really get quite a kick out of those things.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, after having picked me to go on a mission to Mars, gave me all the training and education that was required for me to take the trip. Today was the big day. The only catch is that I can never go home. I shall always be lost in space. I’m on my way now, ever since six o’clock this morning. It’s occurred to me over the course of my long journey that there are many things about our third stone from the sun which I shall miss terribly. I have no idea what kind of things they might possibly have on Mars that could take the place of food, air and water. Things of that nature, that seem so droll when they’re always available, are greatly missed when they’e gone permanently. On my home planet, I could go to a restaurant or food store and get any of a wide variety of things to satisfy my hunger and thirst. That was also true of other interests. In space, even on Mars, it must be so annoyingly lonely and boring. In spite of what many people have always claimed, I don’t ever expect to find any intelligent life forms on my new planet. Even if some intelligent life could be found, how could I possibly be expected to communicate with such a creature.
Another thingthat will be lacking in my new environment is a familiar sense of temporal and spatial perception. Gravity is quite a problem too. Everyone knows that things like that operate quite differently in other parts of the universe. Throughout my lifetime I’ve always enjoyed and counted upon familiarity. Now that I’ve left Earth I shall have to start entirely over again in every possible way.
Besides all the practical things that are unavoidably necessary for mere physical survival and mobility, there will also be quite a social problem. Mankind has always been quite an intrinsically social animal. As I said before I shall not have anyone with whom I can communicate. No one could possibly be expected to maintain such a lonely lifestyle forever. It must be quite a very weird feeling without other people around. Mars has no history, culture, politics, philosophy, education or work force. It will be quite a very nasty experience having all those memories of things like that, and not being able to find any practical application whatsoever for them on my new planet. I’ve always liked extreme peace and quiet but this will be entirely too much of it. On Earth there’s such an exceptionally enchanting variety of places, things and experiences. Somehow I don’t expect such a lot of things on Mars that can possibly be expected to pique my interest in any significant way.
Life on Earth may not have been absolutely perfect but at least it had one advantage. I was always so good at it. I knew exactly what to expect. Everything from now on will be so entirely unprecedented and confusing. There’s a fairly seriously significantly good chance I may mess things up a bit.
At least since I’ve been an adult I’ve never been able to sleep the least bit well. I often tell people that I haven’t gotten five minutes of sleep since the presidential debates between Kennedy and Nixon. As far as I’m concerned I qualify as an insomniac. No matter what I do, I always end up lying around wide awake in the middle of the night, and frequently go back to sleep for only very short periods of time. I know that I get some sleep because I often end up perceiving circumstances that couldn’t possibly happen were I awake. Frequently I dream of the long ago past, and my dreams are populated by people who are long deceased, or whom I don’t even remember ever having met. At least once I dreamed that my cousins Vinnie and Noreen, who both live very far away, were in another room as I lay in bed in the very pajamas I was wearing that night. I heard both their voices as literally as if it were real. Over the course of the past few decades I’ve tried all kinds of gimmicks to help me sleep. I usually avoid coffee or anything with caffeine late in the day but that doesn’t help. People have told me that I go to bed too early. When I’ve tried to go to bed late at night I’ve woke up with bad headaches and in a bad mood. I’ve found, over the years, that it’s best for me to go to bed as early as possible, preferably before 9:00 p.m. , and to get up extremely early too. As anyone who’s ever been in my company late at night can tell you, I’m not an interesting character when I’ve stayed up too late. When I worked for the postal service in Bethpage, I often was forced to work overnight, from 8:45 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. One of the most horrible parts of that job was the fact that it was impossible for me to sleep during the day. Having been to high school reunions and several other overnight occasions, I’ve noticed that no matter what my circumstances are at night, I simply can’t possibly sleep for any significant length of time during the day. I can remember once, though, in the late 1980’s when I was working at Citicorp Retail Services in Farmingdale, when I fell asleep for a few hours late in the afternoon. When I woke up to a clock that said it was sometime after 7:00, I couldn’t figure out whether it was a.m. or p.m. I need as much dark, and as much peace and quiet as possible, to sleep well. Noise has always been an unwelcome part of my life. Over the course of the past few years I’ve always lived close enough to airports that I appear constantly to be subjected to the perpetual sound of jets flying by. It literally never seems to end and I’m quite hypersensitive to that. I’ve never been able to sleep in a moving vehicle either so travel presents yet another problem. Unlike many people I can’t watch television , read or listen to music to pass the time in the hope that it will put me to sleep. Those kinds of things only make me groggy and even more frustrated. They increase my risk of getting a headache. By now I’ve learned quite well how to handle all this annoyance. My inability to sleep well has even become quite a part of my image. Instead of bothering to complain I simply deal with it from an early to bed and early to rise standpoint.
On an old episode of “The Odd Couple”, Oscar Madison points out to Felix Unger, “Felix, Dorothy Parker said it best for all writers. She said she hated writing but loved having written”. That’s always been my entire approach to life in general, including travel specifically. Unfortunately I haven’t done a significant amount of traveling. The farthest trips I’ve ever been on were one to Titusville, Florida, to visit my cousin the Ronald and his family in 1981, and one to Chicago, Illinois, about ten years ago, when his daughter got married. The trip to Illinois marked the only time I’ve ever been outside my time zone. During the 1980’s I frequently visited my cousins in North Tonawanda, in western New York, for Thanksgiving. My biggest problem with travel, as with everything else over the course of my adult lifetime is that I tend to get anxious. It’s not as bad now as when I was young-it was especially bad when I reacted so violently to coffee- but I still feel significantly more uncomfortable than most other people would be under the same circumstances. Although my intellect knows quite well that nothing bad will happen, or at least that there’s no inordinate risk of anything bad, my emotions, who’ve always resented me quite bitterly, always seek to have the last laugh. I should really like to say that I’m the sort of jolly good fellow who can merely hop on a bus, Gus, or make a new plan, Stan, and go wherever I want. Unlike my imagined alter ego, hep Larry, real Larry has to deal with all sorts of frustration over waiting for the big day to come, getting up and ready on time when it finally gets here, and all sorts of other practical responsibilities. I’ve always had quite a Felix Unger-ish flair for obsessing over all sorts of things. I tend to go crazy when a trip seems to take an inordinately long time, there’s no available men’s room or I’m faced with some other problem. When I have to drive someplace, I always have to be able to say with absolute certitude that I know precisely where I’m going. Wandering out of my way, and losing track of where I am, can lead to lots of trouble. As anyone who’s studied even a little philosophy knows, time is divided into objective time and subjective duration. Objectively time is merely quantified by an entirely set standard. Subjectively, though, the way I react to its passage is often overwhelming. As I said earlier the manner in which I deal with travel is quite similar to the manner in which I deal with life in general. The future is no big deal because nothing’s happened yet anyway. The present is one big bunch of chores and risks. After it’s all over with, though, I can kick back and acknowledge the obvious fact that I knew it would inevitably work out anyway.