Wednesday, December 15, 1999
The Day After
My head hurts, my mind aches, my eyes can hardly focus. This is what
I get for staying up until 6:17 a.m., watching my new bubbling night light
without taking so much as a five-second break.
Maybe if I hadn't propped by eyelids open with toothpicks so as not to
miss a single bubble. Maybe if I hadn't run the image through my
stereo amplifier and cranked up the scene until the neighbors called and
demanded that I turn down the orange glow blaring through my walls and
into their dreams. Maybe if I hadn't been born with a genetic susceptibility
I swear I'll never, ever do this again. And I've taken concrete steps
to see that I never will. That demon night light is now plugged into
a timer set to go off at 6 a.m. sharp.
If only I had had the sense to shoplift that timer before last night....
And as if the physical discomfort I'm experiencing now isn't enough to
teach me a lesson, it seems that the U.S. government has gone and given
the Panama Canal to the Panamanians while I was distracted. Haven't
I been telling everyone I've met for years that I wanted that canal,
just to see if it's true that a ship using it to go from the Atlantic to
the Pacific actually moves west to east? Pretty rude of my own elected
officials to give it to people who probably already know the answer to
this question, being down there on the scene and all.
I'm trying to look on the bright side - I'm trying to remind myself that
at least now I'm not the one who has to dispose of 51 miles of gift wrap
and ribbon - but it's hard to do with eyes as sore and sensitive as mine
are right now....
And then I have the gall to hear Charles Schulz decided to end "Peanuts"
while I was preoccupied.
Can't I ever indulge myself for a single day without the
world going entirely to hell?!
I mean, come on. A "Peanuts" strip has appeared every day of my entire
life. The day I was born. The day Lyndon Johnson went on national
TV to teach Americans how to pick beagles up by their ears. Yesterday,
I think. One even appeared the day I was conceived back in 1958.
Ok, it probably wasn't a very good one that day, otherwise my parents would
have been too tired from laughing to do anything else, but that misses
the point. How do I know that I can exist without a "Peanuts"
strip appearing? That's the real issue here. If I haven't managed
that feat in over 40 years, why should I believe I'll suddenly be able
to manage it come January??
It's enough to make a man wanna go get lost in his night light for the
rest of whatever time he has left....
Ok, Dan - get a grip. Let's look at things logically, shall we?
First of all, let's remember that "Peanuts" most days is really nothing
more than black ink on a white background - much as this journal is.
It just happens to get over 325 million hits a day while this journal gets...
umm... nine. It makes Schulz some $100 million a year while this
journal earns you... errr... nothing. I guess what I'm trying to
say here is that your life and work have absolutely nothing in common
with Schulz and "Peanuts" so - even though you may now wish it were otherwise
- there is no necessary connection between the demise of "Peanuts" and
Second, let's not forget that "Peanuts" is basically "The Raven" and that
"The Raven" will endure for as long as poetry is read. Yes, yes,
I realize that in recent years some smart aleck post-modern theorists have
attempted to prove with straight faces that "Peanuts" and Poe's classic
work are completely separate creations, but consider: Both star a confused
male human, both prominently feature a non-human character, both
rely heavily on the English language to convey their meaning. "Good
grief!" and "Nevermore!" are similarly repeated phrases which end in exclamation
points. Poe was famous for his "single effect" theory of composition
and Schulz has been known to collapse the standard 4-panel comic strip
form down into a single long panel on occasion. Eerie? Not
when you stop, get some blood to your brain, and remember that both Poe
and Schulz wrote as white American males whose first names both contain
an odd number of letters. That Schulz actually felt it necessary
to tip us off to the nature of his source material by including the raven-like
Woodstock, a round-headed kid (Poe once traveled through Roundhead, Virginia),
and Schroeder's love of Beethoven (the very same Beethoven who died in
1827 - the year Poe's poetry first appeared in print) is a terrible indictment
of the state of public education in this here country these here days.
At least we can be thankful that the man didn't feel compelled to make
things crystal clear for even the least intelligent among us by entitling
his work "The Peanuts."
Third, even though ABC painted a very bleak picture of what life would
be like if "Peanuts" ever ended in that admittedly frightening movie a
few years back called "The Day After," it's important that we separate
fact from fantasy and that we keep them separated (with cattle prods, if
necessary). Yes, Jason Robards probably will be wandering around
dazed and confused, but he's very old now - he probably would be doing
so even if "Peanuts" had continued. Yes, people will probably be
grabbing their torches and hunting each other down for a bit of food come
January, but that will be because of the Y2K problem - only the most reprehensible
defense lawyers will try to blame the disappearance of "Peanuts" for the
antics of their clients. The simple truth is, it would have
disappeared anyway, since nearly all the major newspapers now rely on reliable
supplies of electricity to get their publications out. Yes, loads
and loads of tears will be shed in the months ahead - even conservative
scientists now believe a 16 foot rise in world ocean levels is quite
possible - but remember: Next year is an election year. Tears would
have caused ocean levels to rise a good 11 feet regardless.
My point is -
DAMN IT, DAN - STOP LOOKING AT THAT NIGHT LIGHT AND PAY ATTENTION!!
Great. I was just getting warmed up and now it looks like I have
to take time out to call 911 to revive my audience.
Ain't that the way it always seems to go....
Back To The Past That Loves You
Embrace The Future While The Past Is Out Of Town
(All Material ©1999 by Dan Birtcher
using his eyes alternately)