It’s every parrothead’s dream: to leave behind the rat race of the workaday world and start life all over again amidst the cool breezes, sun-drenched colors, and rum-laced drinks of a tropical paradise. It’s the story of Norman Paperman, a New York City press agent who, facing the onset of middle age, runs away to a Caribbean island to reinvent himself as a hotel keeper. (Hilarity and disaster — of a sort peculiar to the tropics — ensue.) It’s the novel in which the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such acclaimed and bestselling novels as The Caine Mutiny and War and Remembrance draws on his own experience (Wouk and his family lived for seven years on an island in the sun) to tell a story at once brilliantly comic and deeply moving.
Ignorance is bliss, they say. It’s also sexy and trendy. For years rappers have bragged about being illiterate while eating money on camera. Add to this boxers, Hollywood screen writers, NASCAR fans, and now politicians. Our game show host President has even broken precedent, according to those few not currently posting Flat Earth videos on Youboob. As Kanye once put it, “I’m a proud non-reader of books.” Examine that statement. One word sticks out: proud. Yes, there is pride, and not just bliss, here. Add to that money and fame. You too can be a god by burning any books you do come in contact with…go now to whatever reading materials you find, light a match, and bring them to 451 degrees of separation from you. You will be happier, and richer for it! Why waste time and money reading anything, anyway, when there is Spectrum and Directv and NetFlix? (By the way, Flix is a Catalonian town in Spain with a controversial chemical plant containing toxic waste.) Still reading? Stop it! That’s a direct order from Directv. By the way, did you know that not only doesn’t Trump read, but his neighbor in Palm Beach—James Patterson—can’t write. That’s right, folks. He doesn’t write, he “co-writes.” Translation: he employs dozens of little known writers to do the work while he serves High Tea to bookstore owners and the press. In fact, one of the few top writers who actually writes—Stephen King—was target for him in a co-authored title, “The Murder of Stephen King,” cancelled at the last moment due to fear of IT. (Whatever “it” is.) What’s the moral of this story? I don’t know. What’s “moral” mean? It has been expunged from the Pictionary. All we know for sure is that the apes are winning, along with the Chinese. Time to go see The Emoji Movie. No, wait. That’s next week. Okay, how about Deplorable Me III?
Step 1) Start by thinking in short sentences. (Turn corners sharply. Make entrances sudden. Exit quickly and quietly. Think scary thoughts. Laugh with sinister glee. Slurp your food.) Chapter 2) Develop a demented philosophy of life—if only to express to your alter ego—while staring into the mirror. Begin by repeating this: “Nature is cruel. I am cruel. I am fulfilling Nature’s purpose. Does Nature care about individuals, after all? We’re nothing to Nature or Putin, except as drones who trip in the dark and die. Do I want to be a school teacher, or to burp babies, or to have an affair with my boss? Doesn’t matter. Who cares. I know I don’t. Nor does the Universe, far as I can see. So just get off my back, okay? Go collect postage stamps, join a bowling league, drive around at 2 AM with your car stereo blasting. You will anyway.” Chapter 3) Stop eating oatmeal. Try prunes instead. Chapter 4) Avoid using big words like “mellifluous” or “dysphasic,” which might make critics happy, but won’t keep you on anyone’s recommended beach reading list. (Realize that actually having something to say is somewhat less important than churning out two or eighteen books a year.) Chapter 5) Stop blinking. Chapter 6) When all eyes are on you, wink. Chapter 7) Buy a large, shiny knife. Chapter 8) When you go to the post office, imagine actually going postal. Chapter 9) Develop a taste for organ meats. Chapter 10) Hire a successful agent and nine co-authors. Finally, realize that the brain is just another organ meat. Prior to cooking realize that, as an organ in the head, the brain is said to contain who we are, the mysterious “us” that we believe should oppose and compete with “them.” Also, it’s the least used organ, particularly by hockey or NASCAR fans. Meanwhile, the most used organ is often referred to as having “a mind of its own.” (Now, many say that sex is mostly in the brain, but of course the people saying this don’t really want to play with their brains. Actually, our brains are only three pound clumps of jelly, which you could probably hold in your hand for at least a few seconds before freaking out. A side benefit of grasping this is in also realizing that for much of your life you’ve been worried about what some other clump of jelly thinks about your own clump of jelly. Meanwhile, at various locations across the country there are three pound jellies who recognize the shell holding your clump, and your clump wonders how these jellies are “doing” or “feeling,” too, and if they are coming close to yours next year for what is termed a “holiday,” and if the alignment of electrical impulses inside your jelly mold can ever “forgive” or “love” or “respect” or “whatever” them again. Or even if you should. Feel better now? If so, you are now ready to become either a mystery writer or a serial killer. Flip a coin. (In either case, please seek help soon.)
BRONZE MEDAL– The medal usually won by Olympians who go into bars and no one knows their name. The most bronze medals ever won is credited to Carl Jablonsky who won his 50th consecutive semi-annual Bronze in the Dallas Chili Cookoff, yet all he could do was cry in his beer at being defeating again (and again) for the Gold and Silver by numerous rivals who placed ahead of him previously. “I’m truly ashamed of myself,” he said. “I’ve lost my self worth, my dignity, my savings, my family, and my will to keep on cooking.” Bobby Flay never called him for a Throw Down, although he used humane grass-fed beef instead of the Gold winning Nazi-fed beef from the Texas Longhorn Extermination Camp. Today, bronze medal winners are required to rent from EconoCar, since they don’t merit Avis, whose new slogan is, “We buy silver!” CELIBACY is the restraint from sex for moral or personal reasons. Unknown in the NBA. Okay? C.E.O. stands for Chief Executive Officer. That’s someone who ruins a company before bailing out of the boardroom with a golden parachute and backpack full of bonus money. Honey. CEREBRUM– The front part of the brain, rarely engaged by WWF fans in favor of the primitive stem area (which also monitors bladder control.) CLIMATOLOGY– The study of wind, rain, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other weather related catastrophes (ie. inconveniences) known to delay games. COKE— An addictive substance known to endorse every politician, sport, emotion, ideology, color, creed, and war. Its market is everyman, its global conquest total, its commercials ubiquitous, and, like North Korea, it rigorously protects its territory and its secrets…albeit not with weapons, just propaganda. CRAZY BOY– A special deluxe Lazy Boy model featuring heated and refrigerated coasters, a voice activated mini bar, a retractable cheese fountain, and a defibrillator.
When I graduated from college, I was a very confused nut. They told me that since I was educated in the Humanities now, I had the broad picture of life. The theory was that, amid all those practical, near-sighted automatons who’d opted to attend technical school, I alone possessed sufficient vision to define the true parameters of man’s social, moral, and ecological condition. And I can still recall vividly the commencement ceremonies when the dean waxed eloquent on the great challenges which faced us as we went out into the world with our parchments and our purple cardboard hats. It was the same night they found Eddie Fishbein, a credit-laden senior, curled up in his dorm closet with one thumb in his mouth and a sweat drenched security blanket wrapped tightly around his neck. Understandably even more distressed by the prospect of the competitive unknown, I soon became sullen, morose, and saddened to learn that my Alma Mater had betrayed me by not telling us about the injustice which allowed someone who could recite Shakespeare, Byron, and Yeats to lose out to some YUTZ who happened to know his way around certain bathroom plumbing fixtures. Here was I, able to grasp the really significant essentials of postmodern film, the art of Phyllis Diller, and the reign of Genghis Khan, reduced to trudging the city in search of beer cans, while investing my hard-earned assets in a diversified portfolio of lottery tickets and bingo cards. Would I make it? I wondered anxiously. Would I be forced to take up residence in a dumpster and start eating re-refried beans? Would the student loan officers from my Alma Mater attend my funeral and hold a pocket mirror to my nose? In the throes of my disillusionment, it all seemed highly probable. Luckily, that was when I got lost while searching for a restroom at the US Tennis Open. Evoking some bizarre set of circumstances, then, I was immediately mistaken for a tennis player due to my resemblance to an NBA cross-dresser. Evidently the man hadn’t shown and was presumed withdrawn. The official I addressed in the hallway as “Bud–hey Bud!” responded before I could complete my question by laughing and wringing my hand. The upshot is that he ushered me into this room where the pros were sitting around sipping grape Koolaids and discussing the cons of their investments. Now, not only did I have a job, but a few friends as well. I wouldn’t say it was sheer LUCK which enabled me to reach the second round. Even though my opponent made more unforced errors than McDonalds has commercials, I WAS pretty high on adrenaline. For instance, we were already three games into the match before I realized the warmups were over. And then some of my service returns had this knack for hitting the tape and rolling over on his side like a prophetic yo-yo too. Toward the end there’d be sparks spurting up all over the forecourt as he tried to scoop the dead balls back. The topper, though, was when I miss-hit match point into a lob which caught the back of the baseline and placed my luckless opponent within slapping radius of our resigning chair umpire. Back in the locker room afterward, I was accosted by several autograph seekers of the racket manufacturing ilk. They wanted to know why I’d changed playing hands in mid-career, and if this meant I’d be changing rackets too. Muttering something under my breath about a new go-for-broke strategy, I managed to con several commentators into spouting one-liners about my revolutionary style eventually “doing to Laver what McEnroe’s serve-and-volley later did to Borg.” This was particularly satisfying in that before then I wouldn’t have been able to get a passing shot past a ball machine. Here was poetic justice at last, I reasoned. Too bad the outcome of my second round established the record as being the only love match in history when I was ousted by the 98th seed–a defrocked ex-priest who nonetheless kneeled in supplication before serving four consecutive aces. I think it was at the 6–0, 5–0 point that I also began to suspect that my opponent had the psychological edge, much like Freud had over Skinner. When the linesmen and ballgirls began heckling me, I was sure of it. Regretfully, there’d been little time for me to brush up on the paperback I’d found in my locker room, INTERMEDIATE TENNIS: RELIEF FOR THE FRUSTRATED BEGINNER. Now I’d either have to fill out an application as night shift relief at the nearest Di-Quickie Mart, or try entering the Papua New Guinea Open, hoping I’d get into the finals because no one else knew how to get there. Since I had no money for plane fare, I decided on the former. It wasn’t long before I began to realize that although being a jack-of-all-trades has its perks (one can always brag about being a ‘master-of-none’), I was somehow missing out on obtaining fulfilling employment and its subsequent burnout, and that if only I’d majored in Banking or Computers, I wouldn’t be sitting around evenings contemplating the BIG QUESTIONS with Pan Pizza on my breath, but I’d be talking private condos in Big Sur, and maybe going on monthly junkets to the Cayman Islands to launder my petty cash. To make this protracted story shorter, I eventually began attending spy school, and before long I was feeling much better about my future. That is, until several dishwashers told me about another course at the school titled Poetic Devices And Their Application In Government And Industry. The course instructor was Dr. Percy Snodgrass, former curriculum director at my Alma Mater.