Thank You for Coming to My Fred Talk

Question: if you could achieve fame for being, say, a really good Monopoly player or for being really good at lawn mowing, which would you choose? Think about it. And trust me, the answer matters in ways nobody, not even me, understands. The point of the question? Be patient and hear me out. I promise it will be worth it. And I promise you I’m not the type to make empty promises. Ask any of my ex-wives.


Okay, think about this: of all the people who ever walked the face of the earth, only you walked it with your peculiar, non-descript gait, with your baffled-looking face, with something weird and possibly illegal in your pocket. Am I right or am I right? Or consider this: on some days, there’s a one hundred percent chance of rain… and yet… it doesn’t rain! I’ll pause and give you a second to chew that one over.


Not that that’s the point of this talk. It is not. I’m getting to the point. The fact is, my point is complex and will take time to make. And I understand that you, my audience, may not be, shall we say, the pointiest of pointy heads. But look, despite all facts, you get up every morning, you put your pants on (if they aren’t already on, as mine often are), and you step over whatever mess is on the floor, and you try to ignore the screams, or the snoring, or the sleepwalking guy with the patchy beard, or whatever, and you go out that door. Front, side, back—doesn’t matter. You do it! Some days, you go out that door even though you don’t have to, even though there’s nowhere to go because you’re unemployed and have no friends, even though there’s a big, grayish, rabid, starving coyote on the porch with yellow pus in its eyes. Some days, you go out that door even though your pants are nowhere to be found.


My point, you ask? Let me elaborate through a very brief story. A woman I know loves to wear glasses. Mind you, she has 20-20 vision without them. But she’s the kind of person who doesn’t settle for good enough. She wants better. She wants not only to see, but to see, see? She wants nothing less than zero-zero vision. I once overheard someone ask her why she wore such hideous glasses. Do you know what she said? Without skipping a beat, she said, “F*#k off, buddy.” Now who doesn’t admire a person who, without any advanced warning whatsoever, without any time to prepare a response, comes up with a line like that? I tell you, the human mind! The human capacity for brilliance! Human potential in action!


Folks, in so many ways life is like an orangutan who has literally just stepped on a squid.


You know, my second ex-wife’s former father-in-law had this saying, which I’ve cherished ever since he first said it to me at some bar we used to haunt in Jersey, though I apologize, I forget what exit. He’d just finished another gin and tonic, cleared away all the empty glasses in front of him on the bar, looked me straight in the eyebrow, and said to me, in a commanding, forceful slur, “Sidney, (why he called me that I have no clue), “Sid,” he said, “for every good thing that goes down the tubes in life, three better things go up in smoke.” I won’t insult you by explaining the obvious, but I will say this: sometimes the greatest surprise in life is finding out that the thing you didn’t know, well, you didn’t know it not because you didn’t know it, but because, due to brain cell deterioration, you forgot it. Hence the oft misunderstood saying, “Forget about it.”


Which brings me to the crux of this talk, although, trust me, I could go on. When the good people at FREDx contacted my girlfriend Sylvie—I personally didn’t have an address or phone just then—and asked her if she’d ask me if I’d give a FREDx talk (I wasn’t at the apartment when they called; let’s just say I was taking care of a little “issue” with a dude who shall remain nameless until they give him another alias), she said, without hesitating for a second, “I guess so.” I asked Sylvie what the topic of the talk was supposed to be. Because I can talk just like this on a lot of different topics. Anyway, it was after five, and she’d had a few by then, and she looked at me with those watery, sometimes icy eyes of hers and said, “Uh, pretty sure it’s whatever.”


And isn’t that the perfect metaphor for what we’re doing here in this talk today?


Folks, if the point of my talk isn’t crystal clear by now, maybe you need to learn to listen a little harder or a little deeper. Like Sylvie says a hundred times a day—and she’s 100 percent right: “It is what it is.”


So, in concluding, and to hopefully drive home my point one more time, I want to say this: one of the very best moments in life, bar none—and this applies to any human being, even human beings with little feet and beady eyes—is that amazing moment when you stop doing whatever you’re doing, take off your helmet or your wig or your kilt, put down the knife or the fly squatter or the jackhammer or even the big old bottle you spent more on than you should have and it’s already empty and useless anyway, and you smile a little smile, and you slowly, slowly, slowly take your fingers to that damn itch on your scalp that’s been getting worse and worse by the minute, and, the hell with everything, you scratch. Damn it all, you scratch.


I can’t be any clearer than that, can I?


Thank you for coming folks. Both of you. Now go back to the motel and wash up and try to get some sleep.

Marisela's Underwear

“You jealous people don't know me well!” Marisela said, clapping her hands. The adults asked what was wrong. Marisela shook her head. “You wicked people have stolen my underwear!”