June 9, 2005

The BIG NOVEL, Will it ever get done?

It all started with the mime. Its not that I had anything personal against the man, but why on earth anyone would want to be such an obnoxious character is completely beyond my imagination. Quite simply I hate mimes. I just don’t get it. I can see why some people become actors or singers or painters, and maybe even sculptors; whatever the muse of art directs. It has been said that art is the window to the soul. If that saying is true, then mimes must have sold their soul to Satan. They are prisoners of Hell on Earth. Maybe that is why they all pretend to be trapped in an imaginary box. In my opinion, a mime is just a cross between a clown and an acrobat, keeping the lesser talents required to do each.

It all started with the mime. Well, at least the weird part of this story. I was on my first trip to New York City. It was summer vacation. I planned to spend it following the footsteps of Jack Kerouac. I intended on traveling America, soaking up the sights and sounds of a nation. As Kerouac’s On the Road was the voice of the Beat Generation, I hoped secretly to become the voice of the post hippie, post Vietnam, post disco generation. In other words, my deepest desire was to be the voice of the eighties and the generation of the new millennium.

I was about to begin my senior year at Sugar Creek College. The trip was a result of a grant application to revisit Kerouac and compare his work against the backdrop of America today. This kind of claptrap appealed to the liberal faculty of the small private institution of Liberal Arts education in central Indiana. The ex-hippies in the English and History departments ate the idea up. They even helped me get the grants. The idea was approved as a senior project. I hoped the subsequent report and paper would be my key to graduate school and a chance to avoid getting a real job after graduation next May. My good buddy Eddie, from Upstate New York was to accompany me the first two weeks of the trip. I was going to splurge and stay at a nice hotel as I began my journey at the heart of America, The Big Apple.

I am from a small town in Indiana, and I have to admit my view of New York pretty much came from watching the classic Jack Lemmon flick “The Out of Towners.” I was sure I would have the same misfortunes that plagued the main character and his wife as he arrived in the City for a job interview. As school let out for the summer, I packed my bags and headed to New York. There, Kerouac and Dean Moriarty began their trip, and I would too. As I headed for New York, I was prepared for the BIG CITY. I was prepared for muggers and street people and prostitutes and the myriad hodgepodge of life that teems in a metropolitan city. I was prepared for the crime and the dirt and the giant buildings and the din and massive cacophony of sounds. I just was not prepared for the mime.

I arrived on Friday evening to get in a few days of sight seeing. l was to meet Eddie Saturday night and begin the first leg of the journey on Monday morning. The cab ride from LaGuardia Airport was uneventful. The cab driver probably cheated me since I did not know the best route to the hotel and because I did not understand a single word he said. I must have been tired, because the little fringe balls that decorated the interior of the cab started all swaying in different directions and I started feeling somewhat dizzy and catatonic. Maybe the weird sitar music played at full volume contributed to my trance. As near as I could understand, the driver was either some important government official or a brain surgeon in his native country. He was just driving a cab until he could get the same type of position in the good old US of A. When we arrived at the hotel I considered offering a much needed bar of soap as a tip, but decided it just was not worth it to all worked up at a smelly foreigner trying make a living.

I went to sleep early after a nondescript room service meal and a couple of beers in the hotel bar. Suddenly, at about two in the morning, the walls began to shake as the theme from the Rockford Files blasted through the wall from the adjacent room. I smacked my head on the corner of the nightstand as I searched the strange surroundings for the light switch. I did not know a TV could play that loud! The lamp on the wall above the nightstand was actually vibrating from the waves of sound. Clearly I was not going back to sleep soon. I decided not to call the front desk since I was already awake anyway. I tried to tune into the same station on my television, using the neighbors’ sound. This would have been a good idea, except the jerk started changing stations at random, hunting something better to watch. He was apparently entering numbers at random into the remote control, since I could not keep up by going through the channels in sequence. I thought I was finally safe as he paused on I Love Lucy for nearly 20 seconds before he moved to a preacher discussing salvation and sin.

After about ten minutes, there was a knock on the neighbors’ door. A loud argument ensued between the neighbor and the night manager of the hotel. Apparently, I was not the only guest irritated by the loud television. Of course, just about anyone on three floors could have heard the thing. When the real screaming and yelling began, I opened my door to see the action. The whole conversation became comical as the television began to blast the MTV theme. The hotel guy was at a clear disadvantage from the beginning. The television guy was an old man in – honest – a light blue nightshirt and red slippers. He was clearly very hard of hearing if not outright deaf.

“Mister”, shouted the manager, “You have got to turn down the television. You are disturbing the other guests.”

The old man replied, “Yes, I am a guest of this hotel.”

On the television, Boy George asked everyone in earshot if they wanted to hurt him.

“Turn it down and step inside please.” shouted the manger.

Boy George asked if we wanted to make him cry.

“What do you want? I am trying to sleep.” declared the man in the nightshirt.

The manager shoved past the old man, went into the room and turned down the TV. “You have to turn down the television, sir.” He announced with a great deal of authority. “You are disturbing the other guests”.

The old man turned the TV to a war movie. The volume hit a crescendo as the blast of sound accompanied the skirmish that erupted in the room. The clerk used the weapons of authority and quickness. The man defended by not using his hearing aid. “Get the Hell outta my room you asshole.” screamed the Old Man, “I am watching that. You are just like my fascist son-in-law, always screwing with my TV. I fought you fascist SOBs in the big one, and I will kick your ass right now if you do not get outta my room.”

The Duke led the charge through the sands of Iwo Jima. The manager pulled the plug on the TV. “You shut that thing off, or I’ll have you removed from the Hotel, Mr. Curtis,” ordered the night manager.

“Screw you; I don’t even want to watch your damn TV. The reception is no good, there is nothing on fit to watch, and the sound won’t work, your Hotel sucks, and you are a jerk Mr. Night Manager.” The old man completed his soliloquy with a resounding, triumphant “and I plan on complaining to the manager in morning about you abusive behavior.” He slammed the door with a thud. Only the cheers and applause of the guests in the surrounding rooms broke the silence. The manager’s face was red as he scurried away to the elevators.

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