Friday, March 16, 2007

Call Forwarding


The question would have been strange at any time of the day, but on 2 AM on a weeknight it was positively surreal.

"Is this forever?" The voice on the telephone said.

Well, no, of course not. Nothing is forever, dimwit, didn't anyone ever tell you that?

I wish had something said along those lines this morning to the freak that kept dialing my number in the dead of night, but all I could do was mumble, no, and then ask what number was he trying to call.

The line went dead in my hand, though, so I never did find out what the guy meant by "forever" and why he thought he could find it by calling me.

I went back to bed and tried in vain to get some sleep. I closed my eyes for what felt like a few seconds and when I opened them it was time to get up for work. It's been that kind of week.

It's early on St. Patrick's Day morning, and just like my father always said, the weather is godawful for the Irish. The city is buried under a layer of wet snow and freezing rain, a truly hideous combination that makes walking, driving, and living in general pretty unpleasant.

I trudged up to a local saloon tonight to meet up with a friend and catch a band, but I pulled the plug early. Walking was so difficult I just wanted to go the hell home.

Should I make my annual threat to move to California now? I usually do that about this time of the year, when I'm so fed up with winter and so envious of other climates that dare to be better than the one I'm in.

I've been thinking about the play Da, a play by the Irish playwright Hugh Leonard, which I saw last week in Brooklyn Heights. The main character is a succesful playwright who comes back home after his father's death and is haunted by his dad's ghost.

This probably wasn't the best choice for me, given my father's recent passing, but I wanted to do something for St. Patrick's Day and I've wanted to see this play for a long time.

The father character was really nothing like my dad--far too mild and nowhere near as furious or angry. For me, the most disturbing scenes did not occur between father and son, but between the 40-something hero and a younger version of himself.

"I have to tell you," the young punk says to the middle-aged man, "I'm a little disappointed. I thought I would have accomplished more by the time I got to be your age."

I was sitting in the audience and I felt that one land. I could only imagine what the 20-year-old rendition of me would say to his almost half-century self.

You mean you're still living at home?! You're not a famous filmmaker or novelist? You don't live in a fabulous mansion in Malibu or a palatial apartment on Park Avenue?

Christ on a Krispy Kreme, you fire-breathing loser, what the hell have you been doing for the last 30 years?

All I Have to Do is Scream

I'm not sure how I would answer, except shrug and say something deep like, uh, gosh, I don't know, the time kind of flew by I guess, but by then my doppelganger would have picked up the nearest blunt instrument and chased me over hill and dale screaming "Die, die, die!"

I was a pretty excitable kid, though I can hardly blame myself in this case.

In addition to late night wrong numbers, there's the dream I had during the week, where this woman who had dumped me when I was about 20--we'll call her Betty--had come back to tell me that she was getting married to a reporter I knew from the Pocono Record. We'll call him Fred.

In the dream I was terribly jealous, because I would be seeing them on a regular basis. I was so angry because I wouldn't be able to show my rage as it would hurt my friendship with Fred. I liked him in the dream and in real life.

Fred was a helluva nice guy, while Betty was another story. She had this insufferable fake sweetness about her even when she was ditching me and going off with another guy.

I've had nothing to do with either one of these people for years, especially Betty, who is somewhere in the three-decade range of MIA-dom--and that's just the way I want it with her.

This was one of the dreams where, upon waking, I literally thanked God it was only a dream and not real life. I didn't need some loser dialing a wrong number to get me out of this one. My subconscious mind apparently pulled the ripcord and got me back to the land of the (semi) living.

So clearly I've got a problem letting go of the past and forgiving myself for my mistakes--anger and jealousy are my Scylla and Charybdis, a phrase I've been itching to use for a while.

Yeah, I've should taken more risks when I was younger, done something more about my dreams than just dream about them. Hell, maybe I could pass the buck back to my younger self.

You were younger and stronger than I. Why didn't you do something more than just let the time pass? But buck-passing is never good and when you do it to yourself it's a little wacky.

I was very sorry to learn that the comedian Richard Jeni died. Like myself, he was set to turn 50 this year, although a little bit later.

I interviewed Richard while I was a reporter at Adweek, a job I truly hated. I was doing a story about Jeni's short theatrical ads that he was doing for Coca-Cola. He seemed like a very nice man and talked to me at length about the spots.

This happened around the time of the Lewinsky "scandal" and he made a joke about not being that desperate to go the Monica route--at least not yet, any way. His family said he had been diagnosed earlier this year with clinical depression and suffered bouts of psychotic paranoia. Poor bastard.

Obviously I didn't know the man, but it was painful to hear about this. He was funny guy, but that wasn't enough to say him. Maybe it was even part of the problem. He spent so much time making other people laugh, no one wanted to know about his pain.

I'm wondering now if that was my younger self on the phone this morning, calling to ask if I--we--would be around forever. No, Younger Me, we won't. We all have to go sometime and, Lord willing, we're not driven by dark forces to hasten the process.

So Happy St. Patrick's Day to me, to you, to all those reading these words and even those who aren't. Don't fight with the past, don't argue with your youthful ghost, just put on your plastic green derby and get out there and grab a glass of stout.

Have a great time and remember that nothing lasts forever.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rob:

I think Bloomberg forgot about the rest of the city and forgot to put the plows in Brooklyn. I think they were all working the parade route. I wiped out twice on Friday and have the bruised knees to prove it.

Don't move to California! The trade-offs are earthquakes (I've been in 2 of them; NOT FUN), smog, mudslides, and fires, not to mention the granola crunching, tree-huggers. New Yorkers keep it real! OK, that's my rant about California. I'm taking a deep, fresh breath now (fresher than LA I might add).

It's amazing how a play can bring up all those thoughts about the past. Just be sure you learn from your past experiences and move on, taking the lessons you've learned with you. It was nice to see you end your blog on a positive thought, and I hope you had a happy St. Pat's.

Rob K said...

thank you so much--I did have a nice St. Pat's and I hope you did, too. Thanks for stopping by, and letting me know what you of California--you scared the hell out of me.