Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Yes, that’s me. (chuckle) Most people know me simply as “Mr. Magoo” and I see no reason to change it. It’s given me a career, after all. I’m an actor. I do animated shorts and full-lengths, you know. I play myself, of course, as do all cartoon characters. You think Fred Flintstone could find work outside of Bedstone? Bedrock? Whatever! That caveman couldn’t even do a decent Ralph Cramden, by gum!
Mr. Magoo? I just need you to fill out these simple forms.
Forearms? You want to see my forearms? What sort of an eye doctor are you? Wanting to play with an old man’s arms! And in America!
No one wants to play with your arms, Mr. Magoo. I just need your consent in order to conduct the exam.
A stand-in? Not on your life, my good man! I play myself! Always have! Even between takes. It’s the quiet moment from which a high caliber performance is born, you know. Where do you think Jimmy Dean got his anger and fury? From those damnable cameras and cords, and those blinding lights and aluminum screens – that’s where he got it! And those infernal make-up girls in their flouncy sweaters and slippers – waiting on the periphery – always the pregnant bridesmaid, you know – wearing their contempt like cake frosting! Not to mention the director, with his meat-colored head peering out of that Italian suit, eyeing you like a cancer on his dream. Tarnation, my good man! I must say! Who ever? Really!
Just your full name, age, telephone number, and mailing address, Mr. Magoo. And an e-mail address – if you have one. Then we can start. We do need to hurry it along, I only have half an hour before my next patient.
Have I paid you yet? Whatever sort of a drugstore is this? I’ll pay you when I’ve had my medication and I’m sufficiently satisfied, sir, not a moment before – thank you kindly.
This isn’t a drugstore, Mr. Magoo. This is America’s Eyes. We’re in the new SuperMall, just outside Lansing.
Rinse again? Is it over already, young fella? Didn’t even hurt! Is that cup of blood mine? So red – like the licorice from my boyhood, you know. Goodness, we had great, juicy sticks of it, waiting in Mr. Cooper’s cistern. Packed it with ice he did, on long summer days. Dentures? Not for me, my good man, not for me.
I’m not a dentist, Mr. Magoo – I’m an optometrist. Besides, aren’t you supposed to be near-sighted? Do you need someone to see you to your car? Is there a guide animal somehow involved? One that’s gone astray, perhaps? I don’t recall you also being hard of hearing.
Earring? What sort of man wears an earring? Those bloody English singers, that’s who! Carrying on with their stripper girlfriends on at the Top of the Moptops and Dark Dick’s Handstand. Rubbish, sir – utter, irrevocable rubbish! Give me Nat King Cole and a Rueben sandwich – any day! And a sunny afternoon in Nantucket to soak my toes in a fishing pond. (chuckle) God smiles on the sleeping fisherman, you know.
Sir? Are you sure you’re the Quincy Magoo from the cartoons? You look different somehow – thinner maybe. Then again, they say television puts on five pounds. I suppose that counts for animation too? Old school, of course, not CGI.
In a jar? My good man, I was in the war, you know, and I’ve made many a sacrifice, but urinating into a jar is simply out of the question! This is an ear exam! You make it sound like one of those “fetish dates” I’ve read about in Reader’s Digest. The nerve! Pulling an old man’s leg. Really now! Some prudence and professionalism – please. I have a purple heart!
(And a lavender tongue)
On a ladder rung? Why, you’re an outrage to your profession, Mr. Americanize! I should report you to the nearest constable!
I suppose being nearsighted wouldn’t work the same way in literature, would it? It’s a trope of the slapstick genre – a filmmaker’s domain. I definitely don’t remember there ever being much call for a Mr. Magoo novel. Not even a graphic one.
Visit my hovel? How very impertinent, sir! And I’ll have you know I live in a lovely, Victorian mansion – with two turrets and a dumbwaiter. Chinese fella – funny around the eyes, but trustworthy – down to a fork.
Oh, that’s right. Your offensively-portrayed man-servant. What was his name? Charley?
Trolley? You’ve not even taken my temperature and already you want to toss me back onto the trolley? I want to see the manager of this infirmary! At once! I have a medal of honor! And a hickey from Marilyn Monroe! See? Just beneath the mole Rock Hudson gave me.
Mr. Magoo? Are you also perhaps suffering from a little bit of – well, perhaps a little bit of – dementia? I can recommend you to a good doctor over at the Healthy Brains kiosk. They take cards, if money’s a catch.
Batten the hatch you say? Are we taking on seawater? Why, I wondered if this thing was up to the journey when I backed onto the landing! Silly life preserver got all tangled in my axle, you know.
Life preserver? Mr. Magoo! Did you park on the handicap ramp at McFishie’s?
Do the dishes! You might have gotten away with that sort of thing in the depression, I’ll have you know – but a Magoo always has the money to pay for his lunch! Hrrmmph!
You ARE nearsighted then. It really is you! Good, I was starting to think this autograph would be worthless on Ebay. Why don’t we head into the examining room now? You can hang your hat and coat inside.
Cowhide? Where are we going? What’s that robot doing in the corner? Staring at me with that great big humungous eye! Oh, dear me, that’s just the servant asking for my hat and coat, isn’t it? Broad chap. Is he African? Don’t talk much English do they? I prefer the Chinese. Happy people. Not complainers.
The coat rack is behind the door. You’ve just dressed my optical instrument, Mr. Magoo.
Voodoo? I wouldn’t allow that – even in the kitchens! Pagan traits stick like vice, you know. Best ferret the strange ones before equipping the manor, my mother always said – bless her heart. I had myself an Irish butler once. Stole my potatoes!
On behalf of all my Irish-American ancestors, and the children who died on a diet of nothing but the poor man’s root, I thank you for that comment, Mr. Magoo. Can I please ask you to refrain from any more offensive stereotyping for the next twenty minutes? It’ll make my day that much more pleasant an experience.
Killer ants? In Pasadena?
We’re in the state of Michigan, Mr. Magoo.
A gun? Good lord, man – duck! The black man’s got a gun!
Mr. Magoo? I’m going to have to ask you to remain seated before the examining equipment – or I’m afraid I’ll need to ask you to leave. You won’t get an exam.
Leslie Nielsen? We won’t talk about the 1997 feature film, thank you. A flesh and blood creature? Playing a creation of the animation department? What madness! Why they didn’t make it in 1957 – with Rock Hudson in the starring role – I’ll never know. Nincompoops! I do miss little Jimmy Dean though. Worked with him, you know. Played his father in Rubble Without a Clause. Well, at least my voice did. Passed Jimmy on the road once, asleep at the wheel – blocking a car coming the other way! Good boy though. Big heart. Pretty eyes.
You know, I really need to put a sign out front. “We don’t serve cartoon characters”. You’re the second one this week! I had an one-eyed sailor in here on Monday. Blow me down this, blow me down that, stinking of canned spinach, that unlit pipe bouncing across his face. Then he recommends his friend, who ends up telling me he can’t pay me until Tuesday.
Moon steaks? They have chickens on the moon? Come now, next you’ll be telling me they have cows to lay their eggs. Preposterous, my good man! Everyone knows the ranches are on Mars.
Then there was that Daredevil character, trying to convince me I should sue the mall for putting me next to the Pepperidge Farm store. Said he knew a good lawyer. I’m really not trained to deal with patients from the funny books. I got my degree online, if you must know. I’m not proud. What else are you going to do with a C+ average?
Seasonal moorage? For my yacht? Is this standard? Do you treat all your patients so well? Or is it just my seasoned charm that’s won you over? (chuckle)
Do you want to know something? I never liked you. Not once did I ever think you were even a little bit funny. Only watchable thing you ever did was that Christmas Carol thing.
Carol Channing? Not my type, thank you. Looks a bit too much like a swordfish, if you ask me.
Carol Channing looked like a swordfish? You’re crazy. She looked like a beagle! Speaking of beagles. Did you see that big-headed kid in the parking lot, the one with the dog wearing aviator goggles? What a hoot. The kid quoted Socrates to me the other morning, out of thin air, just like that. Makes you wonder where his parents are, letting him pontificate so morosely all morning, hunched over that curb like he’d been benched by God.
Johnny Bench? These new players, they’ll never compete with the old gang! The only balls he hits when he swings are his own – together! Hah! I’m funny! (chuckle) Never underestimate a blind man! Well, nearsighted actually. At least that’s what it says on my Wikkipedia page.
Nope. Guess what? Turns out you’re not even nearsighted, Mr. Magoo. The exam’s over. You passed! Isn’t that great? You’re cured! Just like that! Hooray for the advances of the modern in-mall franchise!
I’m an actor, sir – I don’t bale hay. I’m sure you can find some European or such to do that work. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way. I think you should know that this has been perhaps the least enjoyable production meeting I’ve ever had to sit through. I’d wear antlers, like that Ballwinkle fella, if I could have the old studio days again! Smoke in the editing bay, medicine cabinets in the green room, Can Can girls in the hall – lipstick on the collar (chuckle). Those were the days, sir – those were the days. Inked me on one side, painted me on the other, you know. I had model sheets as long as the Titanic!
I be your chit-chat went down as well as the Titanic too.
A ringing in my ears? I’m perfectly good of hearing, thank you.
Well then, hear this. You owe me sixty-five dollars, Mr. Magoo. Cash. We stopped taking cards after the feds investigated the company during that orphan incident. You recall? Who knew the eye drop solution was toxic to redheads! Wiped the kid’s pupils clean. Her sugar daddy almost ruined us. Only thing that saved us was him having had gotten his monocle at one of our franchises. Paid for it on the syndicate dime – along with the hooker our security camera caught rinsing his Johnson in the exam room.
A baboon? In President Johnson’s cabinet?
Good day, Mr. Magoo. Don’t hit yourself on the way out.
The wayfarer’s gout?
Thank you for trusting America’s Eyes.
Better than trusting my own! (chuckle)
Hey! Wait! You can hear just fine!
I am equipped with exemplary hearing, good sir – exemplary.
And you’re not crazy either, are you? What was it all about then? I mean, you must make a good living on being a near-sighted celluloid archetype – you weren’t about to come in here for glasses, were you? I should have thought of that in the first place.
Of course not, sir. I’m just an old and lonely man. I make the rounds at the mall quite regularly. A novelty photo – an ear piercing – my name burned into wood – a caricature – how else might a widower like me spend his time?
Went for a colonoscopy at Liberty Health last week. Had me in there for nearly an hour before they realized I was two-dimensional. Charming staff. One of the girls had a tattoo of me on her ankle.
Mr. Magoo? You’re talking to the reading glass display.
A magic ashtray? Here? In the mall? (chuckle)
Out, Magoo! Out!
Monday, February 9, 2009
It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of madness when you’ve got a name like Brown.
That goes with the territory, of course, the land of the toy piano and the empty mailbox, the sketchy gauntlet of sinister trees and greedy sidewalks, sequestering their stolen treasures, their kite and ice cream cone holdings, a booty for the next shrink who writes me in his datebook.
I’m cursed. Have been since I was a boy. I’m not blind to the fact.
But self-awareness is the gift that burdens. No one can alter the course of things, not even a Van Pelt.
I’ve watched my life take its path of obviousness, the ache of childhood twisted into the gut-punch of adolescence, beaten down by the numbing drone of adulthood, scared shitless by the dawning realization of middle age and what horror lies beyond. I sit on the curb when the sink is full of empty bottles and I imagine what loss and tribulation breathes just over the grassy knoll, the steam of inevitable despair issuing from a maw wet with saliva, its teeth like arrowheads, assembled across bleeding gums, ripe with Halloween poison.
What good is a name when you have no one to share it? How long before the lonely heart eats itself, straining its neck to gnash at what ails it?
Lonely only gets more so. I’ve spent a lifetime with it, watching it grow, feeling it take on weight, its dull, lint-lined tongue filling my ear with unimpeachable certitude, the truth of the downward crawl into the damp trench, the eternal picture of a long face, deep in a leather mitt, staring through a rainy window.
I am Brown, as my parents, rest their souls, were Brown, as my sister was a Brown, before the scar tissue ran her arms, before the promise-maker who smelled like a turned field dragged her to the magistrate’s office and made her take his filthy name. Then, soon after, leaving her for the gulls, stuffed behind a rocky alcove, her socks balled into her torn mouth.
There has been a certain pageant running at the corner of my life, ever since I was a top-heavy scribble stuck in the crib. It is a festival I can never see, only hear, a muffled chorus of joy, teasing my wafer ears, while I sniff at the breeze, my thimble-nose tasting its hot-buttered appetite. I have dreamed of this wonderful place so often that it seems more real than the four walls that reflect the depressing glow of my television set on calendar holidays. I know that everyone else goes there, revels in everything it has to offer, sups of its nectar, dines on the flesh about its heart.
They avoid me with their eyes for this very reason. The people who people this place, this chain of hastily-delineated bungalows, bushes, and vanishing sidewalks. They never include me on their invitations. They whisper my name, voices trailing when I approach, leaving silent frames, arms still gesturing, like autumnal tress undressing in the wind.
Time has drawn me a reality, one corralled by its own dependency on sequence, each movement of the soul framed like a picture, isolated, yet connected, a blind narrative of repeating nights, difficult mornings, shakings in the bathroom, habits best left unsaid, dreams pinned between glass and screen like last summer’s flies. I am forever the glyph of sadness, the vessel of this traveling despair, fingering through the ruins of hope, dashed to splinters on the shores of my own wreckage, a balding pouch of desperate dignity and humbled masculinity.
I am the sorry soul at the bottom of entertainment’s well, the slouch-necked canvasser of the pavement crack, the trodden gum, the missed bus, the picnic in a storm. Upon the jagged rails of my disenchantment are hung the echoes of their glory, the shower of coin, the ruffle of counting bills, the rubbing of gilded beams.
I am good bank, I know, I pay well all those who line their passage with my sighs, the cries of my anguish, the dancing radiator of my twisted mouth. Upon my misery a foundation has been built, bread and butter sold, insurances made, grievances settled, beagles lionized.
I have seen the rosy blush of the nuclear age, the turbulence of new freedoms and ancient crimes, the interior of greed, the vice of patriotism, the bludgeoning beat of tradition, and the cold, cold hand of God.
I rose from the inky pits, first a graphite blur, chased across white plains by the creator’s hand, rubbed out in his despair, that which was the font of my own, father to son, son to father, syndicate to ground, designated victim of the pitching mound.
I am Brown, the color of mud, even on Sundays, when the press runs red, the paper yellow, the newsroom blue, my shirt gold, a sun setting behind every hill, as I pace away the days, returning to my empty home, the vacant dog house in the somber yard, its roof pocked red, before a scratched door the rusty dish of yesterday’s rain.
From many gourds have I fashioned the face of doom, the breath beyond the hill, the whispered carnival, the cool glass about the hockey rink, the reflection of a boy dumped to his shorts, bent on his knees, a miserable arch, a heavy heart beneath a blanket of hurtful laughter.
Offer me bacon, steal the pig, a trope I know well, the sporting mania of the raven-haired vulture who still feeds on my grief, whose brother curses my street with his drive-bys, offering no security, controlling the price of each fix when I am broken, my erratic pulse nearing a flattened line.
All of this I know is so. And yet, when I go, when my wallow is worn, my five-cent philosophy a bitter brand of lemonade, my limbs divided by the hounds of time, when I find that final panel of regret awaiting me, a plot thickened with tired blood, only then will they say I was a worthy man, a good soul, the sort who could bring a smile, dimple a cheek, soften an eye.
Only then will they meet my gaze, as I pass, on my way, heading towards the eating tree.