Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bob Bob Bobbing Along

Chapter I: Oh, I'm a riot!

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those I care about and those I don’t. O.K. … maybe three kinds. Those I have an emotional stake in – relatives, for example – those I care about and those I don’t. Maybe even four kinds. Those I have an emotional stake in, those I care about, those I don’t, and those I loathe or mildly dislike.

There are four kinds of people in this world. I don’t remember where I was going with that, but it’s true.

In my own circle of friends, some of whom I’ve known for 30 years, I’ve been “The Funny One.” I’m cynical, acerbic, yet passive-aggressive in my assessment of my peers. I’m the one who sits in the back with equally cynical friends and makes sarcastic comments about people I don’t care about. I’m the one they trot out at the parties to yuk it up. Like a monkey on a leash.

I remember one time I went down to Florida with a girlfriend to “meet the family.” And her friends. Oh! Her friends!

I guess the friends had already heard of me from somebody we knew in common. So, we’re chillin’ in their place and the lady says, “I hear you’re funny. Say something funny.”

Now, that will bring you up short right there. But the way she was sitting caused her hippie, New-Age caftan to ride up and I’m looking right at her cooter, pardon the expression. Sure, I could say something funny. But she wouldn’t like it.

In retrospect, I probably didn’t pass muster with the Florida friends.

Chapter II: I’m Cool

Oh, yes I am!

Thank God my family was tolerant! The grownups had no frame of reference for my peculiarities, but they jumped right in there and played along. Once he became a single parent, my father – the guy with the math degree – sewed the Star Trek emblems on my shirts, bless his heart. Try wearing a Star Trek outfit to school every day in the sixth grade and see how many people think you’re “cool.” It’s a number somewhere close to zero, I can tell you that.

He painted one of the walls in my room black so it would look like I had a window to space. It didn’t. It made the room look terribly dark and small. If I lived in it today, I’d have to up my medication. When I got old and moved out, it took four coats of paint to cover it up. He said he’d never do that again.

He didn’t say anything when I dressed in my Honor Band uniform and walked around the neighborhood with my baritone pretending I was musical and important. He never told me I didn’t look like John Phillip Sousa, but more like an organ grinder’s monkey. Which I did.

My mother – ever busy expanding her consciousness – encouraged my individuality. Never paid attention to it, but encouraged it, nonetheless. My father patiently endured my robust individuality.

We were a “differently functional” family.

By high school, my mother got me into a school where everyone was unique in their own special way. (You like that one?) For the first time, I wasn’t that one weird guy anymore. Even those who would be considered “jocks” were kind to me and demonstrated a solidarity with those of my ilk that you would never have seen in our public school system.

We didn’t have “Goths” back then, but we did have “Punks.” And “Geeks” and “Dweebs.” Some of them were the nicest people I’ve ever met. We all got along like the lion and the gazelle at the watering hole. Or snakes and mongooses … mongeeses … at the watering hole. Or cats and dogs, Abbott and Costello, salt and pepper or the chicken and the egg at the watering hole.

I miss that watering hole.

Oh! My music! It took me years before I “came out,” musically speaking. So, I’ll lay it on the line.

Yeah. I like Paul Whiteman’s orchestra. I like Billy Murray. I like music from the ’20s. I wish I could Charleston or Jitterbug. I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. No one could punish me more than I’ve punished myself.

Unlike my contemporaries, I didn’t like “Kiss.” The first time I saw the name “Led Zepplin,” carved into a desk at school, I thought, “That could never fly!” Ask me sometime about the day John Lennon died.

Once, in an effort to “fit in” I asked my sister what I should say when people asked me, “What’s your favorite band.” She told me to say, “Hall and Oates.” I still don’t know if she was having fun at my expense. She also liked that Cassidy kid from “Hardy Boys,” so maybe she was genuine.

Yep. I guess the bottom line is: I’m a real hep cat.

Chapter III: I’m Getting Old

When I was in my 20s, I was in shape. I had a six-pack. Or a four-pack, but you could see where the next two were going to go. Then, around age 28 or so, it looked like I was going to top 130 pounds. I didn’t step on a scale again for five years.

I put up a valiant fight between 30 and 35. Then I surrendered. And here’s what I found:

After 35 or so, your body works like an oil lamp. Like wicks, your legs draw all the fat up into your stomach. Where it stays. Your legs are now little sticks and your middle bulges here and there. And then here again. And then there again.

All the muscle from your arms is likewise depleted and, apparently, deposited, once again, in your stomach. Or that part of your stomach that breaks right and left, making and end run around your spine and meeting once again in the back.

Your weight increases by about 40 pounds. Since you have no muscle tone in your extremities, you resemble a sock puppet stuffed with a bowling ball.

Then you hit 40. And, you know what? You don’t care anymore.

Yeah, I went to a gym a couple of times. Back when I was a virile 22-year old. Except for the virile part.

I paid for a year’s membership, but the first time I went, my trainer, Staff (that’s what it said on the back of his shirt), installed me into one of those machines that wadded me up into a knot and then stretched me back out again. To me, that’s not exercise … that’s a taffy pull!

Then he spent the next 45 minutes looking at himself in the mirror while I strained for all I was worth.

Now, back in those days, I was about 120 pounds and had the figure of a rope. Staff, the jackass, had me in that machine making me do un-natural things and would look up every few minutes and say, “Oh ... let’s take some weight of.” Yeah. Let’s take some weight off. Jerk!

O.K., so my muscles are like steamed clams. Nothing I can do about that. And, to top it off, I probably had a mullet at the time, too. Doesn’t get more pathetic than that.

Does it?

Chapter IV: I Had my Dream Job

I am not now, nor have I ever been a stripper. In fact, I could probably make a living wage by have people pay me *not* to take my clothes off. Once I suit up in the morning, the meter is running.

But, all of my jobs have been dream jobs. I dream about them all of the time. I often wake up screaming. Why, in my dream just last night someone was quizzing me on how to typeset, use a stat camera (and what does PMT stand for?), do layout, paste-up, burn a plate and print whatever it was on an old AB Dick. 1980s technology. I always said I could do that job in my sleep, and I think last night I proved it.

But, after all my printing and engraving experience, I finally landed a job as an editor in my early 20s. Yessiree! I edited TV listings. Not the most glamorous job, I’ll admit. In fact, for the first few years, the most creative thing I got to write was something along the lines of, “Featured: Swimwear for the overweight.”

Then, in the third year, I got to participate in a gargantuan effort to rewrite the entire movie database – more than 30,000 movies – for our company. That was something like 10,000 movie descriptions just for me. Perhaps you’ve seen my work. Now, that was as close to Nirvana as I had ever come in the workplace up to that point in my life.

Quick break for Deathwatch ‘94 when I moved back to Tennessee to wait for my grandfather to die.

Then I came back and hit corporate Atlanta like a fragile swallow slamming full speed into a towering building of glass and steel. Except I made it through! Without bashing my brain and falling to the sidewalk and being swept up by the maintenance guy who walks around the building sweeping up dead birds so clients won’t see them and be put off – sorry … corporate … “off put” – by the disturbing symbolism. I’d never even done that well in “Red Rover.”

I’d made it! I was moving on up. I finally had a piece of the pie. “Weezy” was my watchword. I had the word “Creative” right in my title. The Company even spent 80 bucks to put it on my business cards. The Company charged clients 12 times as much for my time than I ever made typesetting, statting, layouting, paste-upping, burning or printing. There was no turning back now.

Brainstorming sessions … production meetings … meeting really important corporate client people … my own office … wearing a tie. Then they closed the Atlanta office and I finally fell like that sparrow to be swept up by that guy. Our “emerging market” never emerged.

Then freelancing.

Oy! I’m sure I could make more money on Peachtree dropping my drawers. (More like Cheshire Bridge, but more people have heard about Peachtree, so I’m sticking to it.)

I lived the American dream and then it kicked the crap out of me. But, I’m sure that on those sultry summer nights when I’m living under the bridge, I’ll raise my broken bottle of Mad Dog and toast the life that could have been. And then I’ll laugh and laugh. Not in a funny way, but in a way to get me medicine.

… I just noticed I screwed up my own metaphor. I said the bird was a swallow and later said the bird was a sparrow. At least you can see I never write anything on a lark.

Chapter V: I’m a Real Lady Killer (not in the literal sense)

Dating stories. Can’t be of much help there.

I can tell you what not to say.

On a first date, never explain how a woman has done you wrong but you really want kids, so, in an ideal world, you would get married, have a baby and the woman would die in childbirth. Chicks don’t think that’s funny. It’s more of a second-date line, maybe. (I hope no one is reading this. I’m such a jerk.)

When a chick says, “Do you still love me?” Never begin your response with, “I’m glad you asked me that …”

If, during an argument, your partner says, “Don’t patronize me,” don’t reply, “O-kaaay …”

If you’re trying to impress a girl, never say, “I’ve seen you walking in this neighborhood for a while. Seems like you’d be skinnier by now.”

“Does this make me look fat?” The no-win scenario. Even I have learned to keep my yapper shut on this one! But if I’m in a playful mood, I might say, “No … it brings out your eyes … like one of those stress heads you squeeze.” That’s just the way my Puckish sense of humor works.

I guess it’s playful comments like these that earn me such responses as, “I don’t want to know you. Not even as a friend,” and, “Good luck in the future.”

I’ve gotten back some of my own. I accompanied a girlfriend to the gynecologist once. I don’t know what she was doing back in that little room, but I was sitting in the waiting room about to wet my pants. I finally asked for the Men’s Room. Well, they didn’t have a “Men’s Room.” They showed me to a restroom and, in an act of manly defiance, I left the seat up when I was through. That’ll teach ’em.

Chapter VI: I See Old People

My Grandfather was hard to offend. I once made a trophy with a figure standing with his back in the front as if he were peeing and engraved a plate that read, “Emory Department of Urology: Best Specimen.” He took it to town, went through the courthouse, the county library and shops along Main Street showing people and saying, “LOOK WHAT THEY GIVE ME!”

On the other hand, he loved to try to embarrass me in public. For example, he took me to Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, when I was a kid. We took the tour with a bunch of other people and stopped outside Old Hickory’s bedroom, all peering in wonder across the velvet rope while the tour guide drew our attention to the ornate bed. Grandpa looked at me and said really loud because he couldn’t hear well, “HOW ‘BOUT THAT! HE’S GOT A CANOPY *OVER* HIS BED AND I’VE GOT A CAN O’ PEE *UNDER* MINE!”

Very embarrassing to a 10-year-old.

I stayed in Tennessee with Grandpa during the last year of his life after my grandmother died. My aunt was there during the day to see to his medicine and feed him, I was there to lift him and drive him. After supper, she left (“Did What’s-His-Name go home?”) and I stayed with him at night in case something happened (“Because someone has to tend to me all the time, sure enough!” and “Someone needs to be here in case I have a fit”).

This, I lovingly refer to as Deathwatch ’94.

Every time my butt hit the toilet seat that year, here he’d come. Rattle, rattle, rattle went the doorknob. And, every time, I’d hear him go to the kitchen and ask my aunt, “WHO’S IN THE BATH’OOM?” (He always talked loud because he couldn’t hear.)

Who’s in the bathroom? There are only three of us in the house and he’s talking to one of them!

Then, back he’d come. Rattle, rattle, rattle.






So, I’d cut my visit short and go to the kitchen and prance around with my knees together while my aunt laughed at me.

A few minutes later, he’d come out and say, “NO LUCK!” And my aunt would laugh even harder.

I swore he was doing it just to toy with me. Surely he couldn’t have to go for one of his unsuccessful bowel movements *every single time* I had to go in for one of my more successful ones.

Then, one day my father came to visit.

My father is in the bathroom with the door closed. I’m in a bedroom, my aunt is in the kitchen and my grandfather walks down the hall.

Rattle, rattle, rattle. “WHO’S IN THE BATH’OOM?”

My father comes out and my grandfather says, disappointedly, “OH. I THOUGHT IT WAS ROB-UT.”

I have never seen my aunt laugh so hard.

1 comment:

Krystal Pistol said...

She was probably serious about Hall & Oates. I had their album, and I'm pretty sure she liked it.