6 years old.
I was Arthur Fonzarelli
, leaning back in my chair, staring out the window at a branch of veiny leaves upturned in anticipation of a storm. The Sunday School
teacher drones on about God
and the bright-eyed children all shoot angry glances at this audacious hipster
daydreaming in their midst. The class ends with the teacher announcing The Student of the Day
, and I hear my name called through my dreams. A boy in the back mutters, “The new kid always
gets it,” and I look at the teacher’s plastic smile, stick up my two thumbs, and say “Eaaayyyy.”
That was the first and last time I ever attended Sunday School
11 years old.
I was Raistlin Majere of the Red Robes, wunderkind apprentice to the Spiritualist medium holding my right hand. My mother held my left and someone else held hers and so on along an unbroken circle of believers. The room was very dim and we're all hopeful and confident in our spiritual privilege. The medium’s voice leads the way, mumbling something about the respectful dead. Then everything goes quiet and I hear a voice in my head. It calls me “young one” and I get the image-feeling of an insect. I tell the medium.
She smiles and says “I think you have a Chinaman with you, grasshopper.”
I consider this.
“What else do you see?” she asks.
I concentrate as hard as possible, imagining a channel of pure energy connecting me to the spirit world. “Well, there’s the Chinaman who keeps calling me 'young one,' but there’s also someone else.”
The circle listens with intent.
“Yea. But he doesn’t like him. The Chinaman. Because he carries a staff and the other guy uses a spear and they don’t like each other. Oh no! The Chinaman takes a glancing blow from the Spearguy! Luckily he’s nimble and has a good armor class. He’s parrying blows now. It isn’t good. I’m going to cast a spell to end the whole thing before they ruin our meeting. Let’s see now, Fireball, Fireball, I know I’ve got the ingredients around here somewhere. Fantastic spell. I just need some bat dung...”
This is when everyone stopped listening and gave up being hopeful and my mother brightened the lights.
13 years old.
I was a naked Nobody questioning existence before of a full-length mirror. I didn’t ask “why am I here?” or “what purpose does life serve?” More like “what is this shit?” and thinking, why is instead of is not? So I’m in my bedroom with the outer space wallpaper, and a cool breeze rolls through exposing my nakedness. The room grows brusque with wintermint confidence and I squat down, rocking back and forth trying to starve off the cold. I refuse to move. I must know why things are.
Eventually I slump to floor and fall asleep, feasting on the darkness like a worm in the rot of a dead man’s corpse. I have unspeakable dreams...
Later, I matter-of-factly ask my father “why is everything?”
He responds with the look of a man about to betray himself, parting his lips then closing them, trying again, then failing. In the end he hands me a Harvard Classics leather-bound edition of Plato’s Apology, and simply says “read.”
So I read.
And for the next two years I drive the man insane, arguing about any and all opinions, postulations, and comments he makes, no matter how self-obvious or trivial.
“The sky is blue.”
“Are you sure about that? Dogs only see in black and white you know.”
Once he became so frustrated he handed me a Bible.
I just laughed.
It was so much fun messing with him that I forgot all about ridiculous things like 'existence' and mirrors.
The poor man. He died when I was 19. And I’ve heard his voice in my head ever since. He never carries any weapons, but he sure enjoys messing with my mind.
20 years old.
I was Jack Kerouac tripping on mushrooms in my college dormitory. I ended up wandering around outside, got lost in a small forest behind my building, and met God. Strangely enough, he looked a lot like Charlton Heston, appearing as a hillside relief, majestic and mighty and haloed in a sheen of blue lunar light. He made me feel guilty about being a sinner. So I blinked my eyes, reminded myself that I was tripping, and looked again. This time the Buddha was there, who, strangely enough, resembled Ron Jeremy. He told me to let go of all my desires, something I found so utterly ironic that I fell in the mud laughing. When I finally looked up Lao-Tzu was there, looking a lot like Groucho Marx. He told me to find The Way.
“Which way?” I asked.
“Which way? I don’t know. This way, that way. So anyway...”
I shook my head and blinked my eyes and looked again.
This time it was Me.
I sat there all night smoking cigarettes, lapping up the happy-shroom magic and laughing at all the funny images that presented themselves: God, Satan, Coke, Confucius, Microsoft, Nike, Shaq, McDonalds, Marlboro, Chuang-tzu, The Fonz, Raistlin, James Brown, Lady Liberty, Larry, Curly, Moe, Keyshawn, Jesus, AOL, Bugs Bunny, the Pope, the Gap, the U S of A, and Me. Not a single one of them serious. All of them funny.
Ah, but are they?
“Shut up Dad.”