Monday, September 16, 2013

Spectacular Assets

When you were a younger person, you ached for adventures but had to settle for Saturday afternoon movies.  

Saturday ventures to the Ritz or El Ray, or the occasional extending of the afternoon by walking all the way over to the Del Mar on Pico Boulevard or the equally distant Regina on the upper reaches of Wilshire Boulevard were sensory overloads, a main feature, a B-movie of an awfulness you could not then appreciate, a cartoon, and a serial.  

With some imagination and the discovery of the bus transfer system, you could, with some ingenuity, get yourself to the Hitching Post Theater in Hollywood, where, from about ten in the morning until closing time, there was a constant stream of Westerns.  The stories were rarely memorable, but unlike the other theaters, the Hitching Post added a note of excitement to the experience by requiring you to check your cap pistols at the box office.

But these expeditions were not adventures.  They were things you did in hopes of adventures.  You had the rest of the week to choreograph those in your mind, attempts to blend the seeming lackluster of your life with the need for excitement urged upon you by your desire to engage tangible forces of good, evil, and injustice.  Good fortune for you was having reading to fall back on to supplement the dangers and potentials for adventure.  You did this by imagining yourself in the situations of movie and reading. True, you were your own Don Quixote, tilting at imagined windmills, but you were on the alert, ever ready to engage.

Thus, one morning, you were challenged by a neighbor.  "Didn't I see you and Dickie Salem, skulking about in rain coats and face masks on Cloverdale Street last night?"

At first, you were thrilled, because you had indeed been on Cloverdale Street last night, and you had been skulking.  The thrill of having been seen skulking was heady, almost beyond your expectations.  You and Dickie Salem had been in disguise, the rain coats and bandannas tied over the mouth and nose completing the picture.

The momentary thrill of having been seen skulking faded.  If you'd been recognized, the disguises had not been successful, had they?  Your interrogator informed you she'd been curious at first because there'd not been a trace of a cloud, much less a hint of rain.  And somehow, she said, your horn rimmed glasses were the give away.

Later that day, on your way home from school, you were 
confronted by the purpose of having been out in disguise the night before, a fellow named Sam, who had earned your enmity to the point where you and Dickie Salem had decided to take the action of a note shoved under his door, warning him he was being watched by The Green Hornet.  

The wording of the warning almost got you into a serious argument with Dickie Salem, who, it was agreed, should write the actual note because your handwriting was decipherable only by you.  You'd wanted the wording "your morbid propensity to acerbic social deportment."  Salem argued that Sam would not understand this, an argument you questioned at the time.  "What do you mean?  He is morbidly acerbic," you insisted.  In retrospect, after these years, Salem was right.

Salem was not around when Sam confronted you.  You had to bear his ridicule.  "So now you're The Green Hornet,"  Sam said.  "Can't spell, which is how I knew it was you."

As your memory has it, you last saw Sam when you were both of a junior high school age.  Your opinion of him had not changed, but the vocabulary to describe it and your ability to spell it had.

The point here is that your hoped for adventures were in fact all misadventures, a condition that has remained constant over the years. Misadventures are easier come by, have a greater fall-out effect, and in general seem more interesting if only because they are more spontaneous and less formulaic.

You've come from one learning curve--to use a way of describing experience--to another, from a seeking of formula or recipe to an invitation to serendipity, a place where risk, making do with the tools at hand, and improvisation combine to urge you on to accept a life lesson you showed more respect toward than you now feel you ought.  That lesson, in one word, caution.

You see before you a man who has become such as he is by embracing risk, with a special nod to its spectacular--lovely word, that--assets.

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