Thursday, April 3, 2014

Funny Looking Boys, Wanting Adventure

You began reading in the first place because you wanted role models.  By this you mean you wanted role models who knew enough about story to want such things as adventure, or if not that, then answers to questions, which is to say they were curious enough about things to take steps to get answers.

Because you came from a family of readers, adults and an older sibling who seemed at all times to have a book or magazine or periodical at the ready.  Your father, nobly half in jest, showed you a particular publication of which he was a fan, telling you that such a publication was a trove of information.  

Years from now, he'd say, waving the periodical about, the facts within this periodical would be of some value.  Some day, when you could read, this periodical would do everything a periodical should do, which, according to your father, meant it should provide a cornucopia of facts.

The publication your father referred to was The Daily Racing Form.  By applying one's self to this august publication, one could in a short time become a fund of information about thoroughbred racing horses.  You could tell, for instance, if a particular horse liked to run in the mud.

As if this were not enough incentive, your sister would show you books with some illustrations, explaining how various individuals from various groups often had contests to see which could get the better of others.  She linked such contests to the board game of Monopoly, urging you to hurry up and learn how to read because you could then read about more serious versions of Monopoly, in which two countries, often England and France, would hold the equivalent of the red properties and have hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place.

You suffered Dick and Jane and a perfectly dreadful dog named Spot, all in the service of learning to read, at one point telling a teacher you no longer wished to have Dick and Jane and Spot as role models because they never did anything worthwhile.

"Look.  Look. Look.   See. See. See,"  Dick said.  "See Spot run and jump."

You put up with this because you knew there was more--and better--to come.  You knew because you heard your mother and sister talking about adventures you were impatient to join.  You knew because your father showed you yet another publication, Sporting News, which had facts of undisputed accuracy relative to baseball players.  You knew because, when he took you to The City Club, which was on the top floor above the Vic Tanny Gym in Santa Monica, there were large boards with names you were beginning to recognize, and vertical rows, which your father explained as the relative balances of probability between two different outcomes.

He promised you that by learning to read, then to listen, you could understand the probability of outcomes, by which you came to understand that this was why, when one particular horse won a particular race, persons with proof of a bet on that particular horse would be paid more money that a bet on another horser was likely to return on the bettor's investment.

Quite soon in the game, your mother's take on the reason for reading became your reason:  ""People read,"  she told you, "to get way from nearby things and to get closer to far away things."  You wanted to get away from Dick and Jane and Spot.

Boys your age, through no particular fault of their own, tend to look funny.  You were no exception,  By the time you were along in the eighth grade, you compounded the matter of looking funny by sounding funny, your voice beginning to squeak and quit on you much in the manner of an automobile, an old Willys-Knight, someone had given your father in payment of a debt, quit on Saturday or Sundy family outings.

Funny looking boys who squeak want decisive role models, doing things aboard ship, in commodious offices, and in places where persons wager in one way or another on the outcome of such events as the Stock Market, the NCAA basketball and football finals, and prize fights.  

Funny looking boys want transportation to exotic places, places more exotic than Grauman's Chinese Theater, or the stunning architecture of downtown Pasadena, or opening nights of movies such as "The Wizard of Oz," "Gone with the Wind," and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (you used to pronounce it dwah orves), where huge spot lights swept the sky, telling persons in effect that if they followed the source of the lights, they;d come to a theater where a major American motion picture was being previewed.

Funny looking boys wanted adventures in which they could, for long moments, forget how short, how young, how limited and powerless they were.

You sometimes forget about the adventures funny looking boys wanted, turning instead to the adventures funny looking older men wish.  But soon, as the words begin to appear on the pages of your notebook, or on one of the screens of one of your computers, you begin to see close parallels, and you find yourself rushing, sometimes to the point of mistakes that send your spell checker off, shaking its corporate head, rushing to see once again where you have taken yourself this time, how far beyond the limitations of Orange Street or Cochran Avenue placed on you by parents, that you have gone, and what adventures will occur.

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