First, the description:

[He] is 6-2 and 225, looks like 6-3 and 200 — more a matter of posture than anything else. He's a mass of contradictions, and can glibly explain every one of them away before you notice. He looks every one of his forty-two years, but shadows and light can fool a casual observer into guessing thirty-six — or fifty-one. The actual number doesn't matter, as far as he's concerned, and if you guess wrong, he'll probably tell you that you were right anyway.

A streak of fierce independence runs through him. He's registered as a Democrat, but he votes for as many Republicans as Democrats, lest his chosen party become complacent. His political positions are resolutely centrist, but only on average — generally, he's liberal on social issues, conservative on economic issues. But don't expect him to toe anyone's line on any issue, no matter where it may fall on the political spectrum.

You'll never confuse him with a religious person. In fact, his devotion to being irreligious is practically a religion to him. (Contradictions — remember?) He has unkind words for most organized religious groups, with the possible exception of the Baha'i. However, he is disinclined to attack someone personally, unless he finds that the someone is spouting off nonsense. If it seems that most of his vitriol is expended upon Christians, it's simply that it's his misfortune to have encountered them most often. And while he's read the Bible, and is conversant with it on a layman's level, he finds it no more sacred than, say, Dr. Seuss.

The conflict between free will and determinism is central to his being. On the one hand, the Scriptural concept of free will, tarnished with the putative omniscience of the Creator, makes him laugh. ("If He knows how you will choose, then the choice is essentially fraudulent.") Still, he's not convinced that there's anything to Horatio Alger or Zig Ziglar either — determination alone will not necessarily produce anyone's definition of success. And while he's succeeded by most measures, he is singularly unimpressed with the trappings of success — "If all it takes is buying the right things, MasterCard would rule the world."

Over the years, he has bought many of the right things, along with enough of the wrong things to foil anyone's decorating schemes. And while he has a deep appreciation for the arts, he's not about to give up his most cherished kitsch. Not everything is Picasso or Prokofiev, and he likes that just fine. So all the old rock-and-roll 45s remain, right next to the classical CDs. ("There are exactly two types of music — music I like and music I don't like.")

While he could afford a larger place, he's happy with his present quarters — the view from upstairs is fabulous, and it's not that far a drive to work. One advantage he finds is that while everyone knows the area, no one knows any of the streets that run through it, so the amount of information he chooses to give about his home can be easily tailored to how much he wishes to impress someone.

His relationship with Laura is curious. If you ask him, he'll tell you that it's purely physical, and will cite individual aspects of her body with relish. But that's a ruse, and without too much prompting, he'll admit that there is more to the lady than a wicked smile and fabulous legs. And if you dig a little deeper, he'll confess that he's never been able to understand how he and Laura got together in the first place — but he's not complaining.

How they met, of course, was simple: on queue at the Rialto for a screening of Otto Preminger's Laura. ("Good thing I wasn't going to see Willard," he quips.) For some reason, he began quoting some inane Woody Allen scene, and was thunderstruck when she responded in a dead-accurate Diane Keaton whine. They sat together in the theatre, and were holding hands before Waldo Lydecker ever got out of the bathtub.

Will they get married? He doubts it, frankly; although he's quite satisfied with the way the relationship has been going so far, he admits to a certain ambivalence about a second marriage, and he expects Laura, who has also been married before, feels similarly. Laura, for her part, simply smiles and says: "I'll let him know when he's ready."

In the meantime, he continues to do things his way, occasionally stumbling but never quite falling down. His book of short stories has gone into a second printing, and there are rumors that Touchstone is interested in "Fade to Blue", but no way will he give up his position at the Center, even if he could make a living writing full-time. "I appreciate Hollywood tinsel," he says, "but I need something more substantial to keep myself anchored." Of course, he doesn't know just how much money comes with that tinsel, so ask him again in a couple of years.

Hell of a guy, huh?

In 1988, I was thirty-five and had had enough; somewhere beyond the far reaches of despondency and just this side of suicidal, I did a six-week stint in what is euphemistically called a Community Mental Health Center. One of the tasks assigned me in therapy was "Write down what you'd like to be like in seven years."

And that's what I wrote, with only minor (and insufficient, really) grammatical revisions. Obviously my foresight wasn't 20/20: I've mellowed considerably on the religion business, I'm an inch and a half shorter (never mind what I weigh), I haven't made a red cent off anything I've written, and the lovely Laura has yet to show up. But even wallowing in the Slough of Despond, I did manage to capture a reasonable portrait of my 1995 self.

This Web site, you'll note, started in 1996. For such an uninteresting life — to me, anyway — it's certainly well-documented.

The Vent

#343
1 June 2003

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