Friday, July 2, 2010

I can carry a toon, all right

A little cast-iron anvil sits in front of my office computer. I’d bought the three-inch doodad at a gift shop, probably in Williamsburg, and initially thought of it as a metaphor of the work I do—as if my job of stringing thoughts together somehow compared to a blacksmith’s sweaty, grueling job of pounding and twisting red-hot metal.

But over time my true intentions have surfaced, like the slag in a vat of molten metal. (Allow me one bit of mileage out of that metaphor before I cast it aside.) The anvil is there to remind me of my upbringing. I’m actually not talking about my dear parents’ boundless love and devotion. I’m referring to what I learned from countless hours of watching cartoons as a kid. And how I’ve made it through the years despite how often advice from my parents and, say, Warner Brothers conflicted.

When my family visited the Empire State Building, both Mom and Dad warned us kids to stand back from the ledge, not that we could’ve scaled the high fencing. But in my heart, I knew that I could have run off the edge and make my way back safely, without falling, so long as I didn’t look down to see how far it was to the ground—at which point, of course, I’d have fallen. But even if I had, I’d have gotten up a few moments after I hit the ground, made a little dust cloud, and left a spread-eagle Ed impression in the concrete below.

Stay away from fireworks! I can still hear my mom, and I mostly listened. But I knew better: Any explosives that went off, even several sticks of dynamite inches from my face, would only cover my face with ashes and fray the edges of any hat I’m wearing. (It worked for Elmer Fudd, after all.) I’d have no wounds.

I dated my wife, Elena, for about six months before I realized she was the one. Had I consulted my parents, I know they’d have said it was enough time to feel sure. But from those old Krazy Kat cartoons, I know that the whole process could have taken six seconds…if only one of us had thrown a brick at the other’s head.

While I'm sure I got my share of parental advice about bullies, it's from cartoons that I truly know how to defend myself. (It frequently comes in handy at the office.) Whenever someone needs a good hit on the head, for instance, all I need to do is reach behind me to find a big mallet. Granted, there’s a bit of uncertainty here; instead of a mallet, I might produce an anvil. But then again, an anvil is just as likely to drop from the sky—directly onto someone who truly deserves an anvil to the head. The downside? The anvil’s recipient will only walk around a few moments as a head with feet, probably in circles, before straightening back up to normal size.

As a last resort, I can whip out a can of spinach; never mind that I might have no memory of packing one that particular day. I don’t even need a can opener; the generic version opens with a squeeze.

When we were teenagers, my best friend Jack Cotter and I walked around in Flushing Meadow Park every chance we got. Once near the edge of the park, we watched as a nearby bakery flashed messages on a rooftop LCD sign. The entire message:


Since there wasn’t room for all that, the sign displayed the first line, paused, and then displayed the second. But an instant after seeing “WE WISH YOU A SAFE,” Jack and I turned to each other and shouted in unison: “BOOM!” Everybody who grew up with cartoons, after all, knows that safes are just likely as anvils to fall from the heavens. More than 30 years later, it’s still a running joke we share.

Ah, but I'm afraid I've given a wrong impression: I'm really not so violent of nature. In fact, I'm so polite that I'd like to invite you to sit down to a nice cup of tea. Perhaps you'd like some sugar! I've got some here...yes, I just happen to have it behind me. One lump or two?


  1. One lump or two? LOL That would be BUGS BUNNY and PETE PUMA.

  2. And heah's a cigah for ya. Thanks, Ben!