Accidental Journey

A memoir by Tim, Fred, Wiley, Izzy, whatever. It really doesn’t matter because …

You Won’t Remember My Name

Prelude to Amuse-meant

The Hero’s Journey, an archetypal human story, finds an ordinary person, gives (in this case him) a task he is not equal to and forces him to undertake it. In the course of his journey, the task becomes more difficult and the man loses every advantage and guide he started with. He must learn to rely on himself and, to accept the aid of those he encounters. The essential task does not change but, his means for accomplishing it are so different from when he began that it is only his loyalty to its completion that sustains him. The man able to meet the challenge is thereby transformed into a Hero. But for every hero, there are countless people who fail.

I keep an index of these failed heroes in a Fools Row Lineup I’d like to share with you. Most of the usual suspects are there.

Character List (Fools Row Lineup – partial list)

 And so, we supplicate to the Muse of our story with a benediction and prayer.

Accidental Journey

Accidental Writing

I started writing these ‘Walter Mitty’ daydreams and flights of fancy when I first met the Hulk: Halloween night, 1977. Jay, the body-building manager of Main Street’s Wildflour Pizza Parlour, announces to us, pizza-slinging doughboys, that his friend from the gym will be stopping by later this evening. It seems that this guy from Joe Gold’s World Gym, named Lou, is looking to get out with the spooks and the crazies.

To thicken the plot, Jay’s tip is overheard by the drag queen manager of a neighborhood cabaret, a fellow decked out in a wig, brassiere and fishnet stockings, just stopped by the Wildflour to make change from our cash drawer. On the lookout for excitement, this fairy tale barfly exhorts Jay to bring Lou by the club. So, as time slides into the late goblin hours, this guy, Lou, appears in his extra-gantageous self and asks for dinner in ‘the usual way’ (antipasto salad, no olives). He turns one ear to the dining room crowd and chats to Jay and us cooks.

“What’s up?” he asks. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” I say. “Just fine, Lou.”

While Jay and Lou discuss the night’s misadventures with the bizarre ambience of the gay crowd across the street, I hang up my apron, wash and get ready to leave.

“Hey guy,” the big boys call. “Are you looking for a wild time. Want to join as for this Halloween party?”

“Not tonight, thanks,” I say. “Maybe I’ll see you later.”

Maybe I see you later, Lou – in the car I drive, the fan mags I collect, or event in person, Lou. Maybe I’ll see you later.


A few years later, I encounter the Hulk again (second time) at Close Encounters of the Safeway
Kind. Right here, in Boulder, CO. Well, if that don’t beat all! There you are, Lou, in the Sunday newspaper, looking good as ever and making a local appearance right here in town – “Come out and meet Lou (The Hulk) Ferrigno and sample his new nutritional snack bars – next Tuesday at the Boulder Safeway.”

After work, on the day of this promotional event, my buddy, davidmack and I hop into my Dodge Dart Swinger (named Lou) and head over to the Safeway to meet the spirit of my car in person. Hey, big guy – I see you in the crowd signing autographs and looking massive as ever. Your bicep bursting body sits poised at the display table, surrounded by candy bars, body-building books and a couple of two-bit, polyester types hovering suspiciously behind, monitoring for crowd control, I think. Who are deez guys – Superfly hustlers trying to pay the rent with your name? Lou don’t need no bodyguards!

In my car, in my mind and in my words, Lou is bigger than life. That’s why I’m here today with the admiring public and children chasing autographs. Your persona, Lou, rides with me on the highways, like a modern Saint Christopher, protecting this wayward driver from another fender bender. Your presence inspires the quiet strength of imagination, which guards me daily, ever since that thread of conversation in a pizza parlour, on Halloween a few years ago. Whether he knows it or not, Lou occupies that place in me where the strength of imagination, the power of the creative will, tempers all that revolves around this crazy world in the chaos of my own mundane existence. And here you are now, in the supermarket, selling health food bars. Wow! In a flash, I intrude this promotional stunt to say, “Excuse me, Mr. Ferrigno, remember me? I used to make pizzas at the Wildflour.”

Nervously, I pause, fearful he may have forgotten our meaningful encounter. The Polyester
Man casts a baleful look in my direction, about to disassemble my frame in a moment’s notice.
Lou gazes up from his work, blinks an eye and says, “You mean Jay, Steve and his wife, uh …”

“Wendy,” I say, prompting his memory at last.

“Yeah, I remember you. What are you doing here?” he asks as if he does not perceive the chrono-synclastic nature of this reunion.

“I live here, Lou. I’m married and live outside of town.”

And now, in a flash, he understands.

Lou Ferrigno with author Tim Weil

Hey, you’re the guy that used to make the antipasto, right?

He stands up, putting aside this supermarket scene for the energy bar firm and turns to the passers-by, to announce, once again, “Hey everybody – this is the guy who used to make me antipasto!

No one seems to notice but, I stand in Lou’s shadow, too humble for words. My friend, davidmack snaps a fews photos. I thank Lou and we leave, taking with me an autograph, a box of health food bars and a taste of that indestructible presence of Mind Out of Time. That evening, I eat a half-dozen of the Go-rilla protein bars and in my dream, I am transported to some new power spot of the universe. I am wretched sick for the next few days and in my enfeebled state, arrive at the moral conclusion to this story (My Secret Life with Lou) –

Taste the power of imagination but
Don’t bite off more than Lou can chew.
It’s not easy being Green!

Accidental Leap Year

STARSHIP LOG – 1st entry

PLANET EARTH (Blue Marble, 3rd Rock from the Sun)
Century-Year – 21st, 2020
Everybody (I mean everybody) is BUMMED OUT
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red

Do you copy? I repeat – do you copy?

Mayday, Mayday. We are having a Leap Year this year.

There’s an extra day on the calendar (February 29th) throwing our world off its 22-degree axis. Babies born this day will only celebrate birthdays every four years. They shall age so much slower than all of us. Slower, but wiser. For God’s sake, it’s an Election Year. Planetary, pandemic pandemonium prevails in populations around the world. We are seized with CoronaVirus Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). This a Leap Year alert (can’t we skip this one and go to the next?). Unfortunately, that will take an act of God or Congress, neither of whom have the will to act. Profound indifference casts a pall over Life as we know it.

Knock, knock.

Hello.

A voice calls to me through Time and the decades of my life. I was born in a Leap Year (1952). Post-World War II prime vintage Baby Boomer stock. Bluesman John Lee Hooker wrote a song in the ’60s about my arrival here – blue-eyed, blond-haired, cute as a button second baby boy to Bob the Father (BtF) and Carol the Mother (CtM):


BOOM BOOM by John Lee Hooker
(performed by Eric Burden and the Animals)
Boom boom boom boom
Gonna shoot you right down
Take you in my arms
I’m in love with you
Love that is true

Boom boom boom boom
I like the way you walk
I like the way you talk
When you walk that walk
And you talk that talk
You knock me out

BOOM (there was this war – WWII)

BOOM BOOM – My parents saw themselves in a mirror. And they fell in love with the mirror. A couple of innocents. Carol the Mother (CtM) was the beautiful blond-haired daughter of the Mayor of flipping Beverly Hills. A popular, sociable, ‘most likely to succeed’, ingenue of her day. Bob the Father (BtF) was an intellectual diamond, only son of his widowed mother, Esther who came West from New York in the early 1930s, to live with her extended family of Jewish brothers, aunts and cousins.

BtF sailed through coursework with the soaring wings of a legal eagle. Phi Beta Kappa (UCLA Journalism), Political Science Masters from Columbia, J.D. from USC. ‘The Producers’, as I affectionately call my parents, spent the post-war years in London, where BtF worked as an Associated Press correspondent, writing wire stories for the trade. They lived in trendy Sloan Square and at night, could listen to Noel Coward at the piano bar in the local pub, singing the wit and wisdom of the post-war songs to an appreciative crowd of BOOM BOOMers.

The producers came back to the States. A child was born (brother David – DtB). A job for BtF arrived with Grandfather David’s prestigious Beverly Hills law firm. A second son arrived. He was given the name Timothy (like the Apostle except, there are no Christians in our family tree). This was a Leap Year (1952) so, I jumped.

BOOM BOOM BOOM – In the recombinent Jewish subculture of Southern California, our families changed partners several times. I know; I have all the pictures. Dorothy, the stepmother (DtSM) had introduced CtM to BtF. She was a bridesmaid at their wedding where, it is said that actress Jeannette McDonald sang to the newlyweds and well-wishing Weil wedding attendees. How cool is that?

Matt the Stepfather (MtSF) preceded BtF as editor of the LA High School newspaper (1930s). MtSF was a scion of a famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) producer, who won the Academy Award for the first movie musical, Broadway Melodies (1929). MtSF was off to Dartmouth and the Navy. There is a photo of BtF and CtM, poolside with MtSF and his wife (3 sons) and their friends, Al and Arlene. I know, I have all the pictures.

When I was nine-months old, a housekeeper to BtF/CtM set me down on a kitchen counter. I jumped (fell) into the vacuum of attention that surrounded our domestic life. As BB King sings, “The Thrill is Gone. The Thrill is Gone for Good.”

When I went to the doctor, a cast was applied to my broken left leg. I was a bit of a carpet crawler longer than most babies. There’s a photo of my shiner, when I crawled into a door and got a black eye. In my love of myth, pal davidmack might say, “Gosh darn Tim. Some people Study the Way. Others Follow the Way. You just Get in the Way.”

Makes sense to me. I always fantasized that I was the male child of Amazonian women who were said to have broken the legs of toddlers, so they would become better lovers in Life.

BOOM BOOM BOOM (reverb) – An Accidental Leap Year began my Hero’s journey through Life. When I gaze back to my date of birth, I’m always seeing the launching of HMS Titanic – leaving Southampton on 10 April 1912 (leap year). Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, before heading west to New York. On 14 April, four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg, at 11:40pm ship’s time. I see myself standing on the dock, waving to the passengers. “Have a good trip,” I say.

I know. I had one (a good trip, that is). I didn’t sink the ship; I just had a front row seat to catastrophe.

Bonds of Brothers

In my office, I keep photos, lots of photos. Digital images, old 35mm slides, a few boxes of prints and albums of course, lots of photo albums. A favorite is this picture of Christmas, 1962 in Malibu, CA. Six brothers are here from three different sets of parents. My brother, David and I are in the first row. My stepbrothers are here in tennis sweaters and a front row lad with hand-covered eyes. My new baby half-brother shown with CtM beaming by the shimmering Christmas tree. CtM’s maiden name was Tannenbaum and she loved the Christmas season. We were a Jewish family (of sorts) but, holidays were interchangeable for us.

STARSHIP LOG – 2nd entry

PLANET EARTH (Blue Marble, 3rd Rock from the Sun)
Century-Year – 21st, 2020
Everybody (I mean everybody) is BUMMED OUT
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red

Let’s circle the family and ZOOM into each other’s predicament.
Let’s turn this thing around. Let’s get back on course.

In these archives of memory, word snippets and photo images, I have history books as well. Lots of history books. I’m particularly fond of Stephen Ambrose and his vast work of Americana, Undaunted Courage (Lewis and Clark), D-Day, Nothing Like it in the World (my-story), Wild Blue and yes, Band of Brothers. I mention these only because years back (a decade or so), my high-school sweetie and I were corresponding on the occasion of our Santa Monica High School reunion.

“Did I ever tell you that my Dad, Kenyon Webster, was chronicled in that book?” (Band of Brothers)

Private First-Class David Kenyon Webster was an American soldier, journalist and author. During World War II, he was a private with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division. His book, Parachute Infantry Man, inspired Ambrose’s Band of Brothers book. Kenyon died in the 1960s, studying sharks in Santa Monica Bay but, I do digress. Baby BOOMers, Bands of Brothers, bonds of brothers and boys behaving badly are part of my DNA.

ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM

Zoom Zoom Zoom

I spend this morning ZOOMing into the lives of my brothers who, frankly don’t know me from Adam. In fact, when I visit their California beach homes over the holidays, I am often greeted, at the door, with these cautionary remarks – “Nice to see you brother Tim (TtB). Come in, come in. Please leave your stories and jokes outside the door.”

Even so, it is testimony to the Bonds of Brothers that we are still in touch with a kinship beyond our early years. Those days, the posse time, are reflected in the great book, Lord of the Flies (William Golding), when unsupervised young men found many ways of hurting one another. I know; I felt all the lumps. No adult supervision. An interchangeable set of nuclear families that went BOOM.

BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM (Missing the Picture)

STARSHIP LOG – 3rd entry

PLANET EARTH (Blue Marble, 3rd Rock from the Sun)
Century-Year – 21st, 2020
Everybody (I mean everybody) is BUMMED OUT
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red

We are scanning for Black Holes in the Universe
We are scanning for Black Holes in our Lives
We are scanning for Black Holes in our Hearts

We have found evidence of life on Earth. It is a poem.

What is Being Forgotten?
by Eloise Klein Healy

Quickly. What is being forgotten? Shirts
On a line with stiff arms. Dampening bottles
with cork-rimmed lids. Rainwater heated
and sprinkled on white shirts. The wooden
legs of the ironing board and the iron heating
air like hot bread. Shirts flattening
under the iron. That every shirt needed
ironing is being forgotten.

In my collection of musings, Fools Gallery, spun yarns, word pictures, memories and photographs, I am still Missing the Picture. I’m missing the picture of my father’s soul (BtF) when he received the letter from CtM saying, “I’m leaving you and taking the boys with me.” – BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM

I can still feel the reverberations of Bob the Father’s pain, collapse and yes, his breakdown echoing in time. Ironically, that was his gift to me. The ‘hole in the heart’ was passed to me many years later, in my early 20s, when I found that ‘I didn’t have a leg to stand on’. Into this personal void came these words, where life and family collapse and, stories and characters spin out from our generation – BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM

I am a proud survivor of the BOOMers generation.

STARSHIP LOG – 4th entry

PLANET EARTH (Blue Marble, 3rd Rock from the Sun)
Century-Year – 21st, 2020
Everybody (I mean everybody) is BUMMED OUT
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red
COVID-19 Pandemic Alert. Code Red

We are all on an Accidental Journey, perhaps. In my case, I was lucky enough to right the course and find a safer landing.

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