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 to bubbleholism.
      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 your own. 
     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 - 
     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


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(All Material ©1999 by Dan Birtcher using his eyes alternately)