Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Trying to go Straight

There comes a time early in everyone’s life where you face a crucial decision: Do you listen to your heart or do you listen to your vocational guidance counselor? I had a hard time taking my vocational guidance counselor seriously because I figured if he knew so much about building a successful career, why the hell did he become a vocational guidance counselor? Behind every vocational guidance counselor is a broken dream. When kids dress up and act like grown-ups, nobody pretends to be a vocational guidance counselor. There are no vocational guidance counselor action figures.

Following your heart doesn’t always lead to glamour and prosperity. Lord knows Smart Ass Cripple is solid, living proof of that. But when you follow you heart, whatever happens at least you know where you stand. If you decide to play it safe and sell shoes, you might become a highly-decorated shoe seller. But you’ll always wonder if you might have been a great cellist. But if you try to become a great cellist, win or lose, you won’t wonder if you might have been a great shoe seller.

My mother tried to get me to go straight. She wanted me to be an accountant. But I could think of hundreds of other activities that would be more enjoyable, such as hammering nails into my skull. When I was home for summer break my last year of college, I had a chance to meet the guy in charge of hiring cripples for Sears. My mother saw this as a golden opportunity for me. Sears had a great reputation for hiring cripples and if I impressed this guy, she thought, there might be a good job in it for me after I graduated, such as writing for the Sears catalogue. She selected just the right tie for me to wear to the interview, but I said there was no way I was wearing a tie. I said ties are the most blatant symbol of the superficiality of bourgeois commercial culture! If somebody judges me by appearances rather than by the substance of who I am, I don’t want to work for them! I refused to play a role in that grand farce!

So I put on a tie and I went to Sears Tower. I go to the office of the guy in charge of hiring cripples for Sears and guess what? The sonuvabitch was blind! I felt so cheated! I wore that goddam tie for nothing! I could’ve showed up for the interview naked!

But my mother tried to save me long before that. She really did. When I was about 10, she had me watch a movie about the Bible. But the only part that stuck with me was the story of John the Baptist. A hot woman did a belly dance for a king and she said as payment she wanted the severed head of John the Baptist. And in the next scene that poor slob John the Baptist was dragged to the guillotine. Well that Bible story jazzed me up and after that I asked my mom to put a banana in my lunchbox every day. I had a working man’s lunchbox, black and shaped like a barn. I peeled back the banana, opened the lunchbox and hung the end of the banana over the edge. Then I said to all the kids at my table, “Look everybody, it’s John the Baptist!” and I slammed down the lunchbox lid and chopped off the end of the banana.

This got back to my mom and she asked if it was true that I was going around entertaining kids by decapitating bananas. I admitted that it was. And she laughed. She tried not to laugh but she couldn’t help it. She told me not to do it anymore. Then she walked away, laughing.

I realize now that was a pivotal moment in my life. My mother could’ve sent me away to a religious boot camp where they waterboard all the smart ass out of you. But she didn’t. She just laughed. After that I was destined to never take a vocational guidance counselor seriously.