Love, Fame, and Other Nonesense
First of all, screw the Mayans and their interpreters and gullible acolytes, insofar as this end-of-times stuff goes. No offense if you’re among them, but you’re an idiot. If you’re a true believer, you wouldn’t have any problem giving me some of your stuff then, would you? Of course not. Just give me a call and I’ll come by with my pickup truck at your convenience. I’m particularly interested in books and music and, for an important research project I’ve finally decided to tackle, quantities of ladies’ lower undergarments. You’ll be doing a notable final deed, giving a doomed skeptic a few moments of truly priceless joy, regardless of his lack of worthiness and his strict no-returns policy.
Of course, if it really is the end of the world, I’ll be pretty pissed off. But at least I’ll have had one final, major birthday shortly before.
I’ll be damned if I feel old at all or slower or disgruntled. I’ve been blessed thus far with no achy joints, no diminution of balance… I can still hop about like a seven-year-old. I’ve got the emotional maturity of a teenager and the intellectual yearnings of a schoolboy. My need to be entertained or distracted is identical to that of your ordinary spoiled brat and my practicality and reasonability seem to remain at the same stunted rate of growth I had achieved around 1967. Using an old slogan to sum it up, I’d say that’s no way to run an airline. But I’ve been flying for six decades now — a gift and a measure forever denied a great many people I’ve deeply loved — and gratitude is a chief component of my fuel.
I recently was able to meet two of my all-time heroes. Paul Krassner has, sadly, become physically frail; the years have continuously increased the severity of injuries he sustained in a police beating long ago. But the mind of this revolutionary/anarchist/comedian/cultural icon is still all there, sharp enough to continue to slice through monumental b.s. as adeptly as Lindsay Lohan does through the courts. His updated autobiography Confessions of an Unconfirmed Nut/Misadventures in the Counterculture is brilliant and powerful, warm and warmly hilarious.
And I was enthralled by the stories that publisher Earl Kemp related during a panel discussion on censorship. Kemp headed Greenleaf Classics Publications in the sixties and seventies and was responsible for (among so much more) the legendary The Illustrated Presidential Report of the Commission of Obscenity and Pornography of 1970. That tome, recognized as the “bible” of its type, could likely, under current law, land a person possessing it behind bars. I was thrilled to have Mr. Kemp autograph my own copy, which has been a cornerstone of my own library now for 40 years.
Worshipping celebrities is pathetic and wrong. Meeting them is fun as any of you who’ve met me will certainly understand. In fact, people worshipping me is a lot of fun when I find out about it, but that’s a subject for another time. A close friend once caught me worshipping at the altar of Britney Spears’ navel, but that didn’t cause any trouble ‘cause it was just a dream I had after watching a video of her infamous “meltdown.”
Celebrities are not somehow cosmically different from everybody else. In essence, they’re just a lot wealthier than you and me, and too many otherwise decent people spend far too much of their valuable lifespans emulating and obsessing over these attractive, narcissistic, capitalistic pigs.
I was in elementary school when I saw my first famous person in the flesh… or in the tan would be more precise. In the spring of 1963 JFK did a drive through downtown and up El Cajon Blvd. and while most people in the crowds lining the streets acted as if they were witnessing the Second Coming, I was just happy for my class’s field trip away from Longfellow Elementary School in Clairemont. It did, however, give me the opportunity to discharge a weighty burden of my youthful heart. As the limo was passing me, I started jumping up and down to catch the president’s attention. Which I did before looking him in the eye and screaming, “Sir, I’m in love with your wife!” at maximum volume. He laughed, responding, “You as well, I see!” a reaction of such good humor that it surely saved me from detention or worse, while confirming my suspicion that celebrities and I have similar tastes. Kennedy was probably on his pain medication that afternoon, since it was obvious he didn’t seem the least bit threatened by my gracious, informative, challenging confession.
Later that year I was able to take an early break from school about a week and a half before Thanksgiving in order to attend a massive family reunion — uncles, aunts, cousins, mostly from Mississippi and Alabama and Texas — in the city of Dallas. This perfect timing, it appeared, would allow me the opportunity to reconnect with JFK and perhaps introduce myself to the object of our shared affection, Jackie.
Our families took a recess from our own celebrations and joined the throng in the streets, waiting in the hot sun for the motorcade to pass on that fateful Friday, as I thought of the right way I might proclaim my love to my rival’s wife. But bored with the waiting , cousin Billy “Billygoat” suggested that he and I sneak off to find someplace where we could light off a couple of celebratory firecrackers he’d smuggled from the party without getting caught. We settled on an empty spot behind a short wall on a nearby grassy knoll. Ultimately we missed any view of the motorcade, tearing off in the opposite direction as soon as we’d lit the fuses and have lied about our location among the crowds that day ever since. My greatest sense of guilt is that Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis went to her grave oblivious to the fact that somebody besides her first husband loved her in earnest.
I can come clean about this now because it’s bound to come out anyway at the 49-years-later Family Reunion, which my darling sister has set up to take place (in Mission Beach, no less) in mid-December. This time 40 or 50 people will be flying in from several states — mostly southern — for a major banquet and many a first meeting among blood relations. My father, the longest-lived member of the clan, will be the beloved honoree, and I’ve begun to wonder why my sister chose this particular time for the event. Or why she decided to have it anyway. She doesn’t speak English so I can’t call her, but her interpreter at the reunion will help set me straight, I’ve no doubt. Come to think of it, the banquet’s taking place the very day before that Mayan doomsday b.s…. now that’s a coincidence….