Living la Vida Absurda

There we were, processing around the church parking lot with a statue of the Virgin Mary in celebration of the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, when I noticed a van with “Miracle Plumbing” printed on the side. So, not only did the procession remind me of Assumption School on Staten Island, which I attended as a boy, and the blue, clip-on tie I wore with “AS” on it, but now I couldn’t help thinking of baptism, Jesus turning water into wine, and Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea to escape from pharaoh. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the plumber were named Jesus. It was an Hispanic neighborhood, after all.

That’s just me. I don’t know if it’s the result of genetics or culture, but my mind tends to the absurd in nearly every situation. Interestingly, my brother sent me a black and white photo of our father the day before. Our father was posing with a group of other men who had just completed their initial training as New York City firemen. The photo was taken at about the same time I was at “AS.” You see how things are connected.

Author’s father, top row, third from left.

At AS, I got into hot water for a number of things, among which was pinching a red-headed girl named Paula in the butt. It was a game we used to play, pinching each other while waiting in line for the bathroom. Girls were on one side of the hall, boys on the other. We got caught one day, which led to a visit from the monsignor and a slap in the face. The memory had me thinking of a recent news report about a sexual harassment case in which the reporter used phrases like “body of hard evidence,” “tip of the spear,” and the “rise” of incidents. He also may have referred to somebody being the “butt” of off-color remarks. My mind went immediately to the absurd (and the curb).

I will mention one other instance of the absurd that a friend brought to my attention this week because of its utter quirkiness; namely, people identifying as animals. I understand this is now a thing. To wit, the Japanese guy who spent $14,000 to go around in a collie costume, presumably sniffing crotches and peeing on trees. And to think when I first moved to California in 1980 I turned down a job delivering singing telegrams in a gorilla costume.

Over the years, I have contributed to the absurd as well, having come up with business schemes for things like self repairing car paint and posts like “Boarders Without Borders,” which I envision as a humanitarian nonprofit for drifters in boarding houses to help those suffering in places like Haiti and Ukraine. And just yesterday I came up with “Hunk Junk” as a gay moving service for people committed to pride.

You may be thinking that none of this is funny, let alone absurd, but understand that living la vida absurda has tremendous societal benefit. The absurd, as a form of humor, serves as a way to counter all those sourpusses and ideological malcontents who not only can’t figure out who and what they are (e.g., the collie guy), but who belittle you for having the audacity to believe that you know. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you an example from some years ago, when the mass psychosis had not yet spread as much as it has today, which is to say virus-like.

A new attorney where I worked was giving mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. You may have run across this sort of thing in your workplace. They ask you to rate various scenarios by assigning them a red light, green light, or yellow light. To get the most out of the exercise, you have to not mind being treated like a two-year old. As part of the training, the attorney recounted the time she shared an elevator with one of her firm’s partners, a cigar-chomping “sexist.” When a paralegal got on wearing a tight, red sweater, the partner exclaimed, “What red tits!”

No one reacted to the story except me. I laughed. When the attorney wanted to know how anyone could think the story was funny, I told her it was absurd and that if you didn’t get that, you missed the point. “And what was the point?” she asked. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “But the guy obviously liked red.”

Paula would have gotten it. I just know it.

Image credits: feature by Jacob Bentzinger; red sweater by Tamara Bellis. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.” 

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