Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fun

Throughout the years of your keeping track of your self and your growth, the two aspects of you have often differed.  So, too, has your take on the concept of fun.

At one point in your life, fun was the Saturday movie double feature, often at the Ritz Theater on Wilshire near La Brea in midtown Los Angeles.  There were two opportunities to engage with and identify with  two different films, one a first-run sort with some attempt at special effects and props, the other a so-called B-movie or second feature, often more imaginative in its use of evocative effects than its story.  Then, too, there was a new episode of a serial, some adventure of a hero such as The Green Hornet, or G-Men.  Then a cartoon, perhaps with your favorites, Donald Duck or Wile E. Coyote.  And for good measure, the then equivalent of news, called, in fact, a newsreel, where you got visions of elderly survivors of the Civil War, or photos of Admiral Byrd, preparing for another run to The South Pole.

Fun at the time was also comic books, your introduction to pulp stories in the format of Big Little Books, and such adventures and intrigues as you could find in the public library on Mullen Street, across Pico Boulevard from Los Angeles High School.

Fun was adventure and intrigue, which could also involve pouring over large-sized World Atlases, in which you could transport yourself to a different map for the purpose of arranging a journey or expedition to a country whose name you liked.  You already knew what you would say to Dr. Livingston.  Not, by any means what Stanley said to him. 

When your tastes in reading began to extend to historical adventures such as those written by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling, and, of course, Mark Twain, the concept of fun seemed to take on another layer of potential.  You were in effect taking sides, favoring at whim one particular side, say the Scots against the English, or the heathen hordes against the English, or the Saxons against the Normans.  

You were, without realizing it, becoming politicized, having fun in the sense of being able to take off on diatribes against, say the Bengal Lancers, in Social Studies classes, not sure which was the most fun among the choices of your own tastes, your classmates' bewilderment, and the consternation of a number of your teachers.

At last out of high school, you came to what in effect was a major crisis.  College was supposed to be serious business.  Either that or fraternity pranks.  There was no in-between.  you tried both, finding no fun in either.  Seriousness did not sit well with you.  Pranks began to wear thin.  The landscape was grim.  College was supposed to prepare you for the future, for a career, for maturity, for encountering problems and concerns relevant to forthcoming maturity.  Yet here you were, writing, reading, and thinking fun related things, hearing a litany of the most well-intended advice from friends and instructors.

One friend sent you his copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, with a note advising you to read it from cover to cover before leaving the house.  Another friend advised you to switch your area of inquiry to philosophy, another said you'd be better off in the Theater Arts Department, and an instructor arranged for you to get a job at the night office of the Associated Press, located in the Los Angeles Times building, wherein you would learn discipline, focus, and useful writing skills.

To add to the crisis, you began writing your essay-type answers to examinations, in particular the mid-terms and finals, as though they were stories for the Associated Press.  

Your grades began to spiral upward and because you were required to wear a neck tie to work at the Associated Press, one of your political science instructors mistook the gesture for thinking you were showing seriousness of intent.  You wrote your examinations for his class as though they were news stories, citing at least two sources.  Before you knew it, you were first in the list of class standings.

You were more serious than you'd ever been before, but something was wrong.  There was something missing from the serious you, to the point where, when friends began to congratulate you for your new found seriousness, you began to experience waves of anger.

Seriousness and anger are but two colors in the writer's paint box.  You were able to add fear, because for a time you were fearful that this current wave of activity was how things were going to be, from here on.

From here on was a condition to be coped with,endured, until you were ready to make the necessary steps to allow you to return to fun.  By now, fun meant looking at yourself as you attempted to take on a seriousness you did not feel with any real conviction.  But now, thanks to rereading things you thought were serious, and rewriting things you intended as serious, you were able to embark on the long, multifarious trip necessary to get you through the dregs of seriousness, back to where you'd hoped to be.

There are times when you identify with a long-haired dog, coming out of a bath, shaking off the moisture in paroxysms of pure joy.  Or perhaps fun.

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