ONLY A YARDSTICK AWAY

Only a Yardstick Away

To say that I may have overcomplicated my life is a marvel of understatement. I overthink everything from how many minutes to steep my tea in the morning to whether we should withdraw from the Mideast yesterday and what it would look like now if we had.

I do not make this assertion for your pity or your admiration. It is just who I am, having survived a most peculiar upbringing by assuming that anything that looked good could and would be snatched away from me if I were not vigilant.

Hyper Vigilant.

I have learned that what I perceive as reality is not reality at all but my version of it. Yours is yours and his is his and so on until we reach the last human or sentient being on the planet. My thoughts about reality as it may or may not exist are on automatic pilot unless or until I become mindful—a condition which comes and goes with less regularity than the tides, full moons, and the tantrums of a two year old.

Thus it is that every once in awhile something happens in a flash of time and I am metaphorically transported to that moment in time when I was allowed to perceive life as it really was (at the moment of birth) before it began to become altered by circumstance.

For one rather large instance, my mother was white but my daily caregivers and feeders and diaper-changers were black. Life starts to get complicated, especially in 1940’s Louisiana on the eve of global conflagration, genocide and atomic fission. It would be a safe guess to opine that my mother was horrifically concerned with the fate of my father who was commanding a destroyer escort in the North Atlantic during part of that early period.

I have no doubt but that your lives were equally confusing early on—being loved and harshly disciplined ought to be enough to mess up any child with zero life experience. Being born totally self-involved can bring about all forms of conflict when one’s early needs are not met on time and in the right measure, whatever the hell that is.

And so that is the long way to the point, which is very simple—simplicity itself. I have begun to pay attention to the weaker signals from inner space….the little bings which barely rise above audible.

This morning’s siren call of the absurdly simple occurred when I needed to measure something in our bedroom—the diagonal of our TV set which had developed a black line 1”x 8” that came and went whenever there was something interesting to see on that part of the screen. In order to replace this piece of highly complex equipment, I needed nothing more complicated than a yardstick.

Instinctively I headed for the door to the garage, knowing from over 40 years of experience that my wife had always hung a yardstick just inside the door to a garage or a cellar depending what our domiciles looked like. The yardstick was and is the same one for at least that long.

As soon as I laid hands on it, I stopped and smiled.

What a gift. How insanely stupidly awesomely simple that my wife had always done this, making our lives better in the most insignificantly significant ways. It doesn’t cure cancer or settle our arguments about which broadcaster’s grammar is worse than another’s.

It is simply the placeholder for all those miracles in our daily lives which rarely get thanks. (Something we used to call “Taking for Granite” when we spoke in baby talk from 1961 to 1965 inclusive.) A car that always starts when you have to go someplace. Hot water when you need it. Enough peanut butter to cover the last Saltine in the cupboard. A washing machine you don’t have to sit on to keep it from walking out of the closet.

The list is endless, but in my daily life rarely do I do what I did: I felt incredibly grateful that we had a yardstick and we always knew where it was.

Who’s got it better than us?

BEDBUGS, Feh!

BEDBUGS, Feh!

My mother, to put it mildly, idolized her father, my late grandfather, Victor Leovy, Esq., a renowned New Orleans attorney, specializing in maritime law, among other things. Whenever Barbara Leovy Miller was feeling wistful, she would tell us a story about our grandfather, lawyer Leovy, being wise, wonderful and, most of all, funny.

At one point in his career at the turn of the 20th Century, Lawyer Leovy was travelling on (I believe) The Southern Railway from Washington D.C. to New Orleans, having pleaded a case before the Supreme Court which, we were always to assume, he won.

My mother would show us his engraved railroad passes which looked like invitations to the Daughters of The Confederacy Debutante Ball. Gilt-edged and all filled with scrolls, entitling our grandfather to ride for free because he had represented the railroad in the past or was on retainer.

On the occasion in question he rode in the Pullman car and was treated rudely by some bedbugs which had invaded his plush quarters.

When he returned to his offices in New Orleans, he is reputed to have dictated a most elegant missive to the management of The Southern to enlighten them as to their manifest failing vis-à-vis sharing his lower berth with critters that bit without regard to gender, race, education or station in life.

Within the week, Lawyer Leovy received a most impressive and beautifully written apology which could only be adjudged ABJECT, well-nigh prostrate in their shock, surprise and corporate shame at the possibility that some drummer or person of low esteem had carried aboard their spotless Pullman (a once-in-a-lifetime-occasion) not one but possibly two bedbugs which audaciously fed on the blood of an esteemed attorney.

In short the letter was the best written apology anyone had ever seen in his/her life. It would have been a total success if the Customer Relations Director’s secretary had not forgotten to remove the paper clipped note at the top (in the Director’s handwriting):

“Send This Guy the Bedbug Letter”

If you like this one I will tell you about the time Victor Leovy taught Aunt Charlotte how to eat an artichoke.

IS THIS THE JONATHAN SWIFT CHANNEL?

It was with great delight and not a little titillation that I viewed the trailer for a brand new reality program from, I believe, the eponymously named Lifetime Channel. I would have remembered the title of this bold new venture had I not been treated to a veritable overabundance of overabundant visuals.

The screen fairly throbbed to a parade of women who were labeled Super-sized Divas, meaning, I gathered from my quick inspection, they had upper bodies which could only be labeled in the French as “gigantesque”. A simple Double D was of no interest to these purveyors of brilliant TV for the entire family.

Evidently, the plot lines of each episode weave charmingly outrageous tales of super-sized mammoth ladies as they try pathetically to deal with an abundance only Darwin could have truly appreciated. The stars of the show appear to be some very talented ladies who are expert in the engineering principles of materials and structure and tensile strength, civil and less than civil.

The stories will end happily as these ladies are fitted and made to feel comfortable in Mother Nature’s misplaced generosity. Everyone loves a Happy Ending, yes?

Speaking of Happy Endings, I am sure that sponsors will be rushing to place their ads somewhere in the cleavage of each episode… purveyors of undergarments, plastic surgery, Plus-Plus Sizes, Specialized Dating Services, and men who were uncharitably separated from their mothers’ breasts at too tender an age.

Oddly enough, my purpose here is not to tout the sheer brilliance of yet another entertainment show which eschews the hiring of members of my union (The Writers Guild of America), thus cutting costs while actually writing a good deal of the “plots” behind closed doors. No, I am encouraged to develop right here in front of you my own concept for the next brassiere-busting reality (sic) show. It is called YOU GOT IT!

Settle Down, I know YOU GOT IT! is a natural winner right out of the gate. Each episode will show three unsuspecting folks at various Clinics across the country and world (for foreign rights, please contact my attorney) being told that they have a Sexually Transmitted Disease. Hidden cameras will gobble up the horrific and sidesplitting reactions of the “clients” as our “Doctor”, to be played by a highly credible actor who looks as much like Dr. SEXY as possible for the female dupes and a graduate of the Triple DDD show for the male dupes.

Inasmuch as the whole purpose of most reality shows is to get the audience to relish the feelings of “Thank God that isn’t me”, this will be the best ever.

When the unsuspecting “Pozzies” (as we’ll adorably call them) are told they have to contact everyone they have ever slept with (with real phone calls to real “victims” of our gag) and are actively contemplating suicide, Ta-da! We’ll reveal it was all a sham, they are on TV and they don’t have any diseases at all!

They will be so happy they’ll cry and give us amazing footage and outtakes for a Christmas reel (DVDs to be sold later) and we’ll reveal that they get a free Camry or something of equal value so they don’t feel like suing.

I hope you can see the brilliance of this idea and will line up to invest in our company, Prince of Dusk, Inc.

See you on the telly and at the bank.

BETTER……better…….BET….TER….omygod

Riding shotgun in my consciousness while my fear of OVER is at the wheel, we turn the spotlight upon BETTER, a word which can undo the most well-intentioned of us.

I am living proof of that. It nearly wrecked my entire life.

Better is a concept which is part of a gigantic consortium which includes Envy Unlimited, Insufficient Partners, Corp., and Asshat Losers of the Universe. The sole aim of this paranoid nightmare has been to keep me “…restless, irritable and discontent”.

In and of itself there is nothing wrong with the word itself. Better is a simple comparative which allows us to make informed decisions as to how we shall spend our time, energy and income. I can buy an automobile that better meets my needs by paying less or more than an automobile that does not. Simple process.

Not for my advanced thinking machine.

Up until way-too recently, everything in my personal universe was automatically catalogued as better or worse as to how it reflected upon my personal identity.

Everything.

No kidding.

I have no idea how I picked up this faulty brainchip in my otherwise functional cranium, nor was I aware of its toxic properties. I simply experienced the world and you by immediately making crucial, non negotiable asseverations about where me and mine stood in relation to you and yours and him and his and her and hers and them and theirs.

Exhausting work. Valuable chi/ki/energy/life force sequestered for the sole purpose of establishing a world view of BETTER or WORSE. In the early 70’s I had been told by a well-meaning and wise man, Dr. Victor Sobey, that “Victor, some people are better than you and some people are worse than you. Get used to it.” (Paraphrase by memory)

Nineteen years later I managed to begin incorporating that concept into my personal growth. Better late than never.

You want an example? It was said of me by a lovely woman that if I were married to Marilyn Monroe, I’d want Diana Dors whose superstructure was measurably more massive. Satisfaction escaped me at every turn.

I was not unique. For many it is known as The Human Condition. There is a Scandinavian play (which I vaguely remember) which shows a minor character who wanders onstage from time to time wishing for a perfect fishing net for his work. He describes it in excruciating detail. In the last act he reappears looking depressed. The interlocutor asks him what happened? The fisherman replies that he got the net he asked for. The friendly interlocutor inquires if it is exactly as ordered. Yes, the fisherman replies but somehow it isn’t as wonderful as I thought it would be.

You get the dream, but no sooner won than lost, replaced by the item for which you spent years dreaming, than it is somehow not enough. It has no flaws but that doesn’t matter because we are not speaking rationally here. We are speaking of The Human Condition.

As if that were not enough, many of us (myself well included) develop coping skills (sic, hahahahahhahahah) designed to lessen the “pain” of being or having less than someone else.

Example in point: I might be consumed with envy because another writer has landed a huge contract and written a blockbuster movie. From my closet of evil cures, I pull out an anti-comparator: “He may be more successful, but I have heard he is one fucked-up sonofabitch, so he couldn’t be as happy as I am.”

Cold comfort, but it was all I had until the wake up call.

“I’m tired of reading all this self-criticism, Victor. How were you able to overcome this baneful condition and become the near-perfect human you are?”

I am glad you asked that, gentle reader. For one thing I got older and I got really sick of a life system that worked not at all. Many people helped me get here and my here is in constant flux. I have moments when the old disease pops up and requires maintenance. The cure?

Accept one cardinal truth: reality is not up for debate.

Reality is not up for debate. My Higher Power is reality and I don’t mean the one I fabricated in my closet of evil cures. Reality is not in the least interested in whether or not we label its elements as better or worse. A storm is a storm and a sunny day is a sunny day. I might like one BETTER than the other, but reality doesn’t give a damn.

The most painful cures are oftentimes the simplest.

“Be the water not the rock.”