Best Worst Year: Episode 3 (or How I Stopped Worrying about Mr. Perfect and Learned to Love The Birdman)

Dear Koko B. Ware,Not to start with a pun here, but where are you? It’s late December, and while some of us have waited for the Mayan Apocalypse or Santa or Krampus or the Chinese delivery guy, I wait for you to come back, not only to professional wrestling, but to popular culture. Your return would signify much more than a past his prime, one more go around (a la The Wrestler), it would mean part of my childhood would return to me–like a boomerang or Captain America’s shield… and isn’t that what America needs right now? Some innocence? I don’t know, and actually I don’t care (unless it means a return-to-values-sitcom-representing-values-we-didn’t-all-have like Happy Days or Cops) I’m in my mid-thirties and as I write this letter to you, Mr. B.Ware, I am sitting next to a gift bag full of shampoo and flashlights. I remember a time when a bag of shampoo and flashlights were the raw materials for an amazing prank of MacGyver-like proportions, but now my first thought is “This shampoo will last me all year! And it’s made with Shea butter!” Who has this kind of reaction? The pragmatic and the damned.(Notable and not all litigious disclaimer: Just to get this out of the way, folks, I am not poo pooing these items as Christmas presents. Nor am I, SunDog Lit, my own parent company Whoismisterjim Unlimited, my fictional chairity Huskytown: A home for dumpy children, or my Tumblr page http://whoismisterjim.tumblr.com in any way making light of the importance of shea butter to the world of hygiene. I place the direct blame of my reaction to this holiday present upon my shoulders, dear readers (and Mr. B. Ware) as the product of lowered expectations in a year best summed up by the aforementioned Best Worst Year. This column isn’t called My So-Called Worst Year or Holy Fucking Shit! Shit is Holy Fucking Awesome Right Fucking Now! or Hardball with Chris Matthews for a reason.)

Koko, if I can be so bold, you strike me as someone who is neither pragmatic nor damned. Sure, your win/loss record in the World Wrestling Federation would be considered average at best, but yet you and your life coach/partner/pet Frankie would never let the all knowing critical eye of the television catch you crying. Even when they took your original entrance music away, (the Morris Day and the Time classic “The Bird” and made you sing your own theme song–I mean “Piledriver” really? That wasn’t even your goddamn finisher–hello Brainbuster anyone?) you were upbeat, almost defiant (possibly to the point concussed delusion); striding to the ring for the inevitable beating. The Big Bossman, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude–a litany of wrestlers turned you into feather-bedecked doormat, giving you ample opportunities to count the lights of arenas across this great nation. Yet, here you are, still alive (according to Wikipedia) and kicking while a roll call of dead wrestlers continue to accumulate like snow in a Vermont ski lodge winter. When do we reward this type of persistence? Who can we turn to if not survivors?

I know that the initial tone of my letter to you dear Koko was one of attempting to regain my childhood. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to crawl out of bed (not hungover) on Christmas morning and be swept away with the rush of awe and wonder only an Official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle or a Phil Spector Back to Mono Box Set (featuring the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You…) can bring? The idea that your wishes are at the behest of someone other than you and not at the mercy of a poor credit rating is enough for any of us to feel twelve again. Conversely, when you wake up to an empty house and you know that this Christmas will be spent in the wake of a heart swept tide with nothing more than a handful of memories slowly slipping through your fingers, you are suddenly less motivated to find the world full of miracles and faith. I’m chasing that unprecedented joy because it’s Christmas and I now have more holidays under my belt as a legal, draftable, capable of renting a mid-sized sedan at Enterprise adult than I do as a tow-headed, fresh faced, little leaguer with bad teeth; however, the longer I sit in front of my laptop to send you this fiery missive, the more I realize there is something else going on between you and I.

Koko, you just might be my Morgan Freeman.

In the MFA disco chalet which was Wilkes University, novelist Marlon James and I would talk about the magical minority in art–usually there to help a white man to become a better person. Double M’s are typically flat characters with no real development or story arc. In many ways, Double M’s are sexless, have a deep spiritual wisdom, and seek no personal glory or advancement. Bagger Vance, Mister Miyagi, Tonto, Kayto, Scatman Crothers entire IMDB entry…all magic minorities. Probably no one (outside of Scatman) has been more Double M’s than Morgan Freeman.

I know that if we were in a buddy film, Koko–after my eventual escape from Shawshank–I would send you a postcard so you could join me in Zihuatanejo. (Granted the escape and post card would take twice as long to happen as I am only half-white–just call me Pinoy Andy Dufresne.) I guess what I’m saying is that in a holiday season where I’ve been alone for the first time in a long time, you are a light at the end of a December shaped tunnel. Our capacity to get off the mat is a day to day struggle–some days it’s made easier by the promise of a new episode of Sklarbro County on Earwolf.com–but a struggle nonetheless. Sure, this entire letter could have been a recounting of the loneliness of a small town; how some years a Christmas can come and go without fanfare or want of nothing else but to see the sun rise on tomorrow. Yes, at some point, we are all involved in our own singular late night drives through dead hometowns in hopes of exorcising that pale skinned regret of time’s misspent allowances with a Tom Waits soundtrack. If we’re lucky, we’ll find a 24 hour diner, and balance of our year’s measure against the unsung poetry of contemplation and bottomless cups of coffee. In the margin of this Christmas ledger, I am willing to dip my pen in the snow and let the weather quietly collect on this season as a closed book.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel tomorrow but I do know for this Christmas night pouring itself into Boxing Day, I can go to sleep in an empty bed and feel okay. I don’t need my childhood back and I don’t need you to return. I hope that your holiday season is filled with enough birdseed for Frankie and perhaps an overdue victory over The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase in some VFW armory in upstate South Carolina. I am going to fall asleep to my copy of Blue Valentine.

Your fan,

Jim Warner

PS: Jim Warner is the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared in The North American Review, PANK Magazine, Word Riot, and other journals. Jim received his MFA at Wilkes University and his finishing maneuver is the sleeper hold. Be his Twitter tag team partner: @whoismisterjim .

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One Response to Best Worst Year: Episode 3 (or How I Stopped Worrying about Mr. Perfect and Learned to Love The Birdman)

  1. Daniel Romo says:

    Epic.

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