No One Does It Better

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What’s your secret guilty pleasure? Do you ever daydream about being famous? Inventing the new wheel? Discovering the secret to immortality? After more than six decades, my guilty pleasures remain intact and enormously satisfying and save me from long-term therapy.

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Besides, a therapist might try to tell me that I need to get with the program and face reality, which is: I am not famous, rich, daring, brave or superlative in any way to anyone else on the planet. I know this; I’m not about to pay a shrink a hundred bucks an hour to tell me I’m just mediocre. The point of fantasizing is that you can escape your mediocrity for short bursts of time. Why don’t I get paid for this great advice?

One of my favorite pastimes involves an utter and complete refutation of my musical abilities. I possess an undying desire that compels me to pretend I’m a rock star or other world-wide celebrity adored by all. This indulgence requires regular stints of cranking up my old rock albums and performing for my cats and my living room furniture. My amazing stage antics carried out in front of the sofa are replete with humble bows and shy smiles that are meant to convey just how humble and stunned I am by the thunderous applause radiating from the cats, the plants and the knickknacks. Yes, I am the embodiment of humility even though I am the best singer, dancer and actress the world has ever known. Plus, I can juggle.

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Sometimes I use the vacuum cleaner wand as a microphone to wail out an old Stone’s tune, or when I’m in a more mature kind of mood, a chopstick to wildly conduct the New York Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein pales in comparison to my wild contortions when I am conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (I once threw my shoulder out during the final crescendo.) If I am in need of approval, I play a live rock album and acknowledge the thundering applause of 500,000 people in New York’s Central Park, all there to hear my rock classics. With eyes closed, my living room becomes the musical venue of my choice: the Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Hollywood Bowl, Tanglewood, the Royal Albert Hall and occasionally, the Troubadour (when I am a fledgling Elton John just getting his start in front of a stupefied audience grateful to be a part of rock history.) I am truly a marvel to behold.

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If I can’t find a song I want to perform, I imagine I am the darling of the Academy Awards. I make a movie and win the Oscar for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress, and well, everything. I, for the first and only time in motion picture history, sweep all the categories, including Best Short Film even though it isn’t.

Another variation is that I sweep all the award categories in one year: I win the Grammy (song of the year), the Tony (best play and best actress), and the Oscar for best screenplay and best actress. I even win the Stevie for the best website and blog on the Internet.

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If I can’t be alone in the living room with my adoring masses, I daydream about my other unparalleled acts of accomplishment and heroism. All my feats are accomplished single-handedly: I save someone from a burning building; I karate kick the gun out of a bank robber’s hand; I foil a terrorist on my flight to Cincinnati. All of my astonishing, courageous exploits result in appearances on the Today Show, Letterman, Charlie Rose, and of course, the coveted, exclusive one hour interview on 60 minutes.

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When I get writer’s block, I imagine that I have just published the most phenomenal novel in modern history. Hailed as a cross between Dickens, Shakespeare, Grisham and Erma Bombeck, the New York Times Review of Books declares that my writing has the extraordinary capability of entrancing readers from all walks of life. My book is such a literary extravaganza that I’m sent on yet another round of TV guest appearances, where I am always modest, witty and charming; repeatedly shrugging off praise while I try to explain precisely why I am so brilliant.

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Let’s face it, I could sit around and imagine myself dirt poor, starving, ignorant, drug-addicted and tone-deaf. After an hour of that, I could remind myself of how lucky I am. Big deal. It’s ever so much more fun to slip into my white limo and sip Champagne on my way to the airport. I travel a lot because the United States government and all of the airlines granted me a life-time of free flights in gratitude of my single-handed heroism on board Flight 452 to Cincinnati, which by the way, saved the entire world from extinction. Aw shucks, it was nothing.

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Charles Dickens: The Ultimate Poster Boy for Nike

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So here’s the thing: not only can’t I write like Charles Dickens, I can’t even walk like Charles Dickens. He routinely walked for about 20 miles every day, and sometimes more. Has anyone ever tried to figure out how many pairs of shoes the man went through?

Think about your typical day. Maybe you work at home like I do, maybe you have a high pressure job and you’re in the office by seven. Then there’s family, children, chores, house maintenance, email, Facebook, reruns of your favorite shows and books to read.

Okay, factor all that in and now picture this: every day at 2 pm, you go outside and you walk. You walk until 7 pm. Every single day without fail. Walk for five hours. Oh, and while you’re at it, squeeze in 14,000 personal letters and 25 of the best books in English literature. You only have 58 years to do it; that’s how old he was when he succumbed to a stroke. So much for a healthy lifestyle. It would seem he walked himself to death.

I’d be willing to try walking 20 miles a day if I had any assurance at all that I could then churn out a masterpiece like Oliver Twist, or even a small masterpiece like A Christmas Story.
I suppose it helped that he was a man. I can’t see myself wandering around at all hours in my neighborhood. It’s amazing to me that he never got mugged. Although his routine usually involved late afternoon into early evening strolls, he was just as likely to start roaming the streets at 3 am. Victorian London was by no means the wild, wild, west, but surely it wasn’t safe to be out alone in the hours before dawn.
His nocturnal roaming through the dark thoroughfares of 19th century London, I like to think, must have triggered the associations necessary for him to write with such eloquence about desolation, melancholy and bleakness.

His essay, “Night Walks,” illustrates his captivating, sometimes brooding, writing style. “The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed,” he wrote, “and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.”

My version would have been, “It was a dark and scary night.” On the other hand, unlike Dickens, I’m not a spouse abuser and adulterer, so there’s something to be said for that.

For now, I’ll content myself with my normal short daily walk; which I do only because I have to restore the blood circulation to my limbs. That daily jaunt will have to suffice and I will have to be content with producing less than one million publishable words before I die.

His essay, “Night Walks,” illustrates his captivating, sometimes brooding, writing style. “The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed,” he wrote, “and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.”

My version would have been, “It was a dark and scary night.” On the other hand, unlike Dickens, I’m not a spouse abuser and adulterer, so there’s something to be said for that.

For now, I’ll content myself with my normal short daily walk; which I do only because I have to restore the blood circulation to my limbs. That daily jaunt will have to suffice and I will have to be content with producing less than one million publishable words before I die.