No Heavy Lifting-It's Time to Laugh
edited: Tuesday, June 05, 2007
By D L Johnson
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2007
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Originally published in the March 2007 issue of Art With Words.
No Heavy Lifting: It’s Time to Laugh!
Sometimes, when I’m preparing this column, I sit, think, wonder and press my fingers against my head desperately trying to think about the profound nonsense that will allow my fingers to put thought to paper, sort of.
I recently returned from a ten day visit to Vancouver, BC and the thought occurred to me that as writers, for many of us, we overlook the greatest resource of material available; our own lives and experiences.
One day, while in Vancouver I left my friend to fend for himself and I boarded a bus and took a trip all over town. While out and about I came across a bus driver that explained the political system in Canada, as he understood its workings. The trouble was that he only spoke French, sadly, a language I do not speak or read.
While touring the city I met a lady who had arrived in Vancouver eight years earlier from Los Angeles, and at each stop she told me that her apartment was just around the corner; as she pointed with her crooked arthritic finger. She was still on the bus when I got off. For all I know she may still be riding around town trying to decide where she lives.
This bus ride took me out to University of British Columbia, a large campus filled with all the trappings of college life. I was actually at the University to attend a seminar on the feminist movement in 21st century Canada. Hey! The seminar and coffee were free, so what’s to say that I shouldn’t learn something new?
As it turned out the seminar, in its own way was interesting, but the bus ride home was even more interesting. It seems Canadian students don’t appreciate the joy of Fridays. The week is over, it’s time to party, it’s time to let it all hang out, but sadly, there was nothing but bleak, expressionless faces on the students. The only thing I could think of was that they must have just finished quarterly exams because there were few smiles on the faces of those boarding the bus for the return trip to downtown Vancouver.
On the return trip to Seattle, I sat on the train with my laptop and decided that I would list the funniest things I could remember that I either caused to happen, or as my friend, the late great Russian Mike Kaiser said to me one day just before he fired me, for the first time. “Kid,” he said, “Sometimes, when bad things take place, and it ain’t no ones particular fault, you gotta chalk it up to ….happens” Then he fired me, but rehired me the next day.
I learned a lot about life from Mike, and one of the most important lessons I learned was that we can’t take ourselves too seriously. He would continue by saying that whenever things got so intense, no matter where, remember to pull one of the funniest memories you have about your life and relive it for just a little while
When things get tough and I can’t put myself in the place I need to be, I think about something funny that has happened; maybe to me, maybe to someone else
My introduction to checking myself into the school of laughter happened when I was about five or six years old, those early years seem more like a blur, so we won’t press for
an exact date.
At the time we lived in Southern California, circa 1951. At that time Los Angeles County was abound in citrus groves, dairy farms, and the air was clear and clean. We lived in a small neighborhood that consisted of about ten houses all on one side of the road. On the other side of the road was a dairy farm. It was wonderful; according to my dad to wake up in the morning to the fragrance of…how can I put this delicately, freshly made fertilizer.
Everyone on our street had a mini-farm in the backyard, our house was no exception.
Mom wanted a garden and Dad wanted chickens. Neither, by the way, had any experience with either endeavor. One of our neighbors told Dad that in order for the chickens to lay eggs and perpetuate the promise of future chicks, he needed to get a rooster. Dad got this rooster and everyday when it was time to gather the eggs, we had to fight the rooster in order to collect the fresh eggs.
One morning I was delegated as official egg collector and my only trepidation was being confronted by a silly rooster. I found out that this ‘silly’ rooster took his territory quite seriously, and if I wanted those eggs, I’d have to fight him for sole possession.
This is how the story goes.
I reached the hen house only to find the rooster squatting on the roof of his domain. As I recall, I was even polite up to this point by saying something silly like, “good morning.” Who says good morning to a rooster?
My hand was reaching inside to gather the eggs, being careful to place them gently in the basket, when from out of nowhere came this surprising but totally surprising, thunking sound. I was annoyed to all of a sudden feel an additional ten pounds placed on my head in the form of Mr. Rooster. I call him Mr., only because of my new found respect for a silly barnyard animal that outsmarted me.
I found myself frozen, not being able to move from where I stood. My Mom came to the back door to find out what was keeping me only to find Mr. Rooster perched on top of small blond haired, skinny and be speckled head.
At this point Mom did two things, neither of which would be to get this bird off the top of my head.
The first thing she did was call to my Dad. “Sherman!” she yelled, “Get back here right now and bring the camera.” The next thing she did, which was harder to deal with, was to start laughing. Mom was not a big laugher, with exception to moments like this, so it was a real surprise to hear her break out in outrageous laughing hysterics. This entire event only took a few minutes out of my whole life, but it seemed to last forever and ever.
With the laughter and noise going on it wasn’t long before everyone in the neighborhood knew what was happening and what was on my head as well.
There were cameras at every turn; people had found something to laugh about and for a few minutes, take their minds off the fragrance from across the road at the dairy farm. I suppose the people staring at me were more concerned about how long Mr. Rooster had been planted topside than they were in getting him to launch his body elsewhere. Finally, Mrs. Van DerMoost, our next door neighbor came to the backyard with her broom and with one sweep of her arm, she landed a blow on ‘the red headed stranger’ that sent him flying to the ground.
Several things resulted from this experience. The eggs were retrieved, without one being damaged and the neighbors and my family got a big laugh, at my expense. Oh yes, one more thing. For some reason Mr. Rooster stayed away from me after that, which I think was his way of saying “Hey kid, no hard feelings.”
Was this a funny incident? Yes! And in each time and place, for all of us, the answer is still yes, but the point is that when we’re trying to work our way out of a tough situation, remember what my old Russian friend, Mike, use to say…”when it gets too tough to handle, think of something funny.”
Writing is about our experiences in life. When it gets tough and the neutrons aren’t in sequence with pylons or rayon’s…don’t get caught doing the heavy lifting, just go back to the last funny incident in your life and write about it.
Please put a smile in your writing.