Life-Mission: Possible

          My parent's living room on Tanglewood Drive had two regular-size bedroom windows instead of a picture window.  When Mom closed the big curtain over the wall, I could pretend it covered a picture window (like every living room was supposed to have).  In the corner was a gray plastic Zenith black-and-white television with a gray plastic briefcase-handle on top.  It sat on a little, flimsy, aluminum, TV-cart.  The antenna, mounted on a forty-foot metal mast in our back yard, looked like an old-timey outdoor clothes line.

          When my sister and I played safe-cracker, I'd turn the volume knob down to where if turned any more it would shut off; then I'd set the top dial to "U" (between the 13 and the 2) and ratchet the bottom dial, cranking it around and through its hundreds of channels with my ear pressed to the “safe.” Whenever my peripheral-view caught some hint of reception breaking into the static, I'd whisper the next digit of the “combination” for her to write down.

          One day, Mom interrupted before I could get to the jewels.  She shouted from the kitchen, “What are you two doing?  Stop that, you’ll break it!  Go to your room until you can learn to take care of other people’s property as if it was your own.  Some day, after you decide what you are going to be when you grow up, you’ll have to buy a television with your own money and THEN you’ll appreciate it!”

          Sitting on my twin bed, watching my hamster—Spooky II—running on his little wire-metal wheel in his little wire-metal cage, I contemplated my punishment as she demanded: In the couple-hundred times I’d been in a room with a TV and a grown-up, channel U was never used and the bottom dial was never turned.  If I broke the dial pretending to be IMF Agent Jim Phelps from Mission: Impossible would anyone ever know?

          Sitting on my single bed, watching my hamster—Spooky V—jogging in his little plastic wheel-room attached to his extensive yellow plastic warren of tubes and compartments, I contemplated my young-adult life to date.  Three years and three drastically different college majors, from Pre-Veterinary Medicine (too stupid in science) to Landscape Architecture (stupid waste of tuition) to Architecture (too stupid in math).  I needed to re-aim my sights for a fourth time...what was I not too stupid for and was not a waste of my money?  What did I enjoy (besides watching Captain William “Buck” Rodgers of the 25th Century and his robot Twiki)?

          Sitting on my mattress, watching my first cat, Popcorn, trail around behind my new hamster, Spooky VI, as he rolled around on the floor of my studio apartment in his plastic ball, I contemplated my so-called preparation for life.  Two years of Fine Art school, on top of the three years that I was “measuring my stupid” and I was no more ready to earn a living than when I was watching Spooky in his wire cage!  The artistic kids on Fame were happy and scrappy in their leg-warmers and spiky hair. They didn’t need money, why did I?

          Sitting on my queen-bed, watching my first son, Bram, play with Popcorn on an area rug, I contemplated the life I found myself inhabiting.  A Private in the Army earned just enough to afford a microwave oven.  Mine had a dial which you turned to the number of minutes.  It “dinged” when it was done (just like the counter-bell at the dry cleaners where I had my uniforms extra starched).  Am I Wembley, on Fraggle Rock?  Shouldn’t I be more like Drillbit Dozer?

          Sitting on my bunk, watching a Betamax video of my two sons, Ian and Bram, play with my ex-wife/their mother in an unfamiliar backyard, I contemplated the selfish existence I was dragging around behind me like a rotting-shadow.  An Army Spec-Four earned enough to replace the microwave oven he lost in the divorce.  Now, mine had two dials: one for time, one for power.  But as far as I knew, if I broke the power dial (which never got turned from its 100% setting) while pretending to be the still safe-cracking but older Agent Jim Phelps on The New Mission: Impossible my roommate would never know.

          Sitting on my futon, looking out the open window at my cats, Budroe P. Wilson and Louie, playing on my next-door neighbor’s tile roof, I contemplated the resilient person I’d chosen to become: A Sergeant earned enough to replace the microwave oven that had been damaged in the move to Korea.  My new one had buttons and a LED information display window.  Occasionally, if my Korean wife used it (she thought they were dangerous) she’d exit the kitchen until it beeped.  It was rare.  That she left the kitchen, that is.  Johnny Carson—a familiar-constant in all my previous decades—is retiring.  His last show is tonight!  But that doesn’t mean much to you, does it?

          Sitting on my thrift-store-mattress, watching my new kittens—the brothers Spencer and Lloyd—grooming in the patch of sun at the foot of the bed, I contemplated 'resiliency' being just another word for wishy-washy.  A Staff Sergeant earned enough to buy a new microwave after giving the last one to his last-ex (who'd learned all about convenience).  My new ones had turntables and Probes—the microwave’s was a revolving tray and a heat-sensor; the wife’s was a Zenith record player and a Ford.  Hey, Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise is on HBO tonight.  Wanna watch it together?

          Sitting on my sleigh-bed, watching my dog, Cody, and new cats—Lloyd, Missy, and Moe—all trying to draw some warmth from the electric blanket, I contemplated the dichotomy of my perceptions with my past performances.  A Warrant Officer earned enough to buy a new microwave if the old one was gifted to his step-daughter when she moved out.  My new space-efficient microwave attached under the counter.  Wait a don’t want to see Mission: Impossible II in the theater, because it means two hours without a cigarette?  When did this happen?

          Sitting on my air mattress, watching my Siamese cat, Gus, stalking a fly through my 5th wheel trailer, I contemplated the end of my career and third marriage, as well as the beginning of an old-new me.  A retired Chief Warrant Officer still could afford a new microwave to replace the broken one.  My new one was a combination convection-microwave with racks and scrolling data.  The built-in remote-controlled Zenith over my bed (the size of my first Spooky's metal cage) was playing an old Mission: Impossible on Cinemax 3 or Showtime Extreme.  I didn’t care.  Why didn’t I care?  Should I pretend to care?

          Sitting on my king-mattress, watching older and maybe not wiser Gus stalking our new cat, Aggie, I contemplated happiness.  This artist still received enough pension to buy another microwave when the one that came with our new apartment needed to be trashed because it smelled like ten years of grease and curry.  The new one was just as good as the one in my 5th wheel. Sure I’ll go see Mission: Impossible III with you tonight...even though we’re both positive it will suck balls, we don’t care.  We.  Don’t.  Care!

          Sitting on my Temperpedic, watching my new kitten, Cecil O. Zonky, and Aggie frolicking with each other up, over, under, and around the bed, I contemplated aging.  My girlfriend and I each have enough to be comfortable (love, money, time, common sense, history, patience).  The house we moved into didn’t have a microwave; so I got a cheap one (for less than a night at the movie theater) and installed it myself.  Hey, I hear they're going to make a Mission: Impossible IV in a few years.  You’ll go with me? Great, it’s a date.  Even though J.J. Abrams is doing you think it’ll still suck balls?  Yea, me too.

          Did the day come?  Was it the day I was able to afford my first one...maybe it was the day that I appreciated the expense of replacing that-which shouldn't have needed replacement so many times...maybe it will be the day I decide what I'm going to be when I grow up.  May.  Be.  Never.
I've got a peculiar weakness for criminals and artists—neither takes life as it is.  Any tragic story has to be in conflict with things as they are. — Stanley Kubrick

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