Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's a Midlife Crisis, Charlie Brown!

As he did every year on the anniversary of Snoopy’s death, Charlie Brown went out to the backyard of his parent’s house to lie atop the doghouse. With the peeling red paint beneath him and the wide blue sky above, the troubling present faded away and thoughts of the past blew in gently on the wind. Charlie closed his eyes and listened. Almost immediately, he heard Snoopy’s familiar high-pitched giggle, which always made him smile. How often Snoopy had laughed at him over the years, lovingly mocking him for some latest bit of self-pitying bumbling.

And how Snoopy would laugh if he could see me now, Charlie mused. Another marriage down the drain, another book deal fallen through. Charlie had hit the bestseller list some years back when the book he had written mainly for the academic world, “Good Grief: The Therapeutic Value of Mourning Rituals”, had become an unexpected popular hit. Although it revived his professional life, it had come too late to save his train-wreck of a marriage to Peppermint Patty. But nothing could have saved that, which Charlie had to admit. As Snoopy had warned him when they started dating, she was the wrong girl for him (technically, Snoopy had closed his eyes, turned up his nose, and given a brief but forceful shake of his head, but Charlie knew exactly what he meant). Five years and five thousand arguments later, Patty walked out the door. “Jesus, Chuck,” she sneered, the contempt palpable in her eyes, “get yourself together.”

With the success of his book and the blessings of the reigning talk show royalty, Charlie became the go-to expert on mourning, loss, and general tragedy. He was on all the networks after a school shooting or plane crash, and a sound bite from Dr. Brown was the definitive last word on any story of emotional complexity. But Charlie didn’t achieve true critical acclaim until his televised talk with Snoopy’s grandson, Snoopy Jr, III, aka Snoop, about the young dog’s involvement in the tragic death of much beloved Woodstock. Snoop had broken down twenty minutes into the interview and opened up completely under Charlie’s gently insistent questioning. It was later hailed as a moment of national healing.

Heady with his professional success, Charlie went after the great unfinished task of his youth and romantically pursued the aloof and tempestuous Lucy Van Pelt, with the very private intention of “finally kicking that ball”. Lucy, who never re-married after Shroeder’s bizarre secret life was made public and the couple’s acrimonious divorce was front-page news for a month, returned Charlie’s advances eagerly. Almost as if she had been waiting for him.

For Charlie, their romance was like a wonderful gift from a world that had finally chosen to embrace him. Lucy was a world-class psychiatrist and though she was not a popular celebrity-author like Charlie, she was at the top of her profession and enjoyed the admiration of her peers. She and Charlie married three months later and Lucy insisted on accepting the numerous press requests for coverage of the ceremony. Charlie, blinded by his own happiness, never saw it coming. Two years after their wedding, Lucy divorced him, publicly ridiculed his professional credentials, and quickly published the book she had been working on throughout their marriage about the psychological damage done to the public by underqualified, fame-hungry therapists. Her former husband was the subject of the entire third chapter of “The Doctor Is Out: The Hidden Dangers of the Self-Help Media Industry.” Charlie’s celebrity status crumbled overnight, the offer on his second book was quietly withdrawn, and he was ushered off the stage of public life with little fanfare.

“Dammit,” Charlie muttered, watching Lucy laugh with Katie Couric, “why do I always let her do this to me?”

Charlie slid off the doghouse roof and brushed himself off. I should have been trying to kick her all those times instead of the ball, he thought, and immediately felt guilty. He laid his hand on the side of Snoopy’s old home. “See you next year, old buddy,” he whispered.

A few days later, he is in the coffeehouse two blocks from his newly rented studio apartment, staring out the window and wondering what to do with himself.

“Is this seat taken?” a sweet, clear voice asks behind him. Charlie turns to find a red-haired girl standing by his table, smiling like an angel.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


To one and all, detractors, defamers, sychophants, backstabbers, and weasels:

Ye are hereby put on notice that the erstwhile gent ye knew as Mister Moose is full sails and twelve guns to the horizon. What will become of him, only time and the Devil can tell. He whom the tyrannical Lord would punish, he first drives mad - which is a right fair description of our barking friend as ever was penned by a blackguard like me. And as the good Alce himself is fond of saying, "Many is the deep dark night that I have looked over my shoulder for the avenging Furies of fate - ye can only run so long". Aye, tis true.

All I know and ye need know: keep a weather eye open and a flintlock handy...

From the black pits of Hell,

My pirate name is:

Dirty Roger Flint

You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
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