Darrell Vickers: Goodbye Yellow Bricked Road (I Hope)
Setting the Sagacious Stage:
It is said that we will live out our entire lives chronologically ensconced inside “The Information Age.” I fear that this present period of heightened titillating trivia, tawdry tidbits, celebrity gossip, fatuous factoids, nonsense nuggets, meaty memes and unbridled electronic congress via the internet is not so much an “Age” as a blitzkrieg. And that’s not counting commercials, movies, television, billboards, Instagrams, radio…blah-de-fucking-blah.
People have tattooed declarations on their torsos now that take 20 minutes to read. What’s wrong with a big fucking picture of a heart or some other brightly-colored subdermal inky monstrosity that you’ll be mortally ashamed of the second you hit 50? Admiral Yamamoto could have only dreamed of the kind of firepower that tears through our poor beleaguered brain-matter at hellacious speeds and never pauses to reload.
How much good this is this digital deluge really doing us? How much more, as a percentage of the information we’re riddled with, do we retain compared to our 18th century counterparts?
Imagine you’re naked and covered in honey in a wind tunnel (hey, we all go through that phase).
In front of the fan at the other end of the tunnel is 8 billion dollars in singles (Canadians will have to imagine it with fives due to their coinier currency). The fan is switched on and the entirety of that leviathan lump of lovely lucre flies at you in a big stinking cloud of filthy richness.
You stretch yourself out as wide as you can. You turn around to affix additional gusting greenbacks to your sticky shoulder blades and sweet honey-dripping ass cheeks. You really, really want to acquire as much of that precious paper as you possibly can but even after stuffing wads of ones in your mouth (and other less hygienic places of storage) there is only so much you can hang on to. The vast majority of that coveted cash flies by in a fugacious flurry, never to be seen again. Gone forever.
Mind Bending Segue:
That being said, a score or more years ago, I chanced upon an astute aphorism that has stuck with me from that day to this.
“Anytime you get a mouthful of boiling hot soup, the next thing you do will be wrong.”
So true. So apt. How dispiritingly common it is, as one staggers through life, that one is confronted with a scenario in which every possible course of action available will bring you nothing but a big steaming bucket of woe.
Andrew and I once contributed to a very classy book entitled “101 Uses for Maggie T.” (Maggie Trudeau, for those too young to remember the former first lady who blew Geraldo Rivera in a boat.) Graham Haley (of Haley’s Handy Hints and the brains behind said book) phoned us one day and said that he’d been confabbing with a lawyer and there was a 50% chance that Ms. T. was going to be raised to exceedingly high dudgeon by this satiric little venture and sue the daylights out of everyone involved. Gadzooks! Did we wish to risk exposing ourselves to possibly expensive litigation as the price for dubious fame? Long and serious deliberations followed concerning the possibly libelous lampooning of our limber-legged leader’s love-nugget. We were but tender youths with nary a coin in our purses. But surely, we reasoned, those not bold enough to risk all on some disputed barricade would be forever doomed to dwell in the sallow shadows of unfulfilled destiny. What worth are mere dollars, when tallied against the cost of your soul? Of course, we chose soulless, sallow-shadows-dwelling frugal anonymity and Maggie didn’t sue. Boing! Wrong decision.
It All Comes Into Focus:
Alas, this snake-eyes-rolling at the career craps table was but a microscopic blip in a planet-sized amalgam of poorly considered life-choices. Over the years (along with a few sizeable victories), I’ve picked more losers than a Maple Leafs’ talent scout. But as I write this, I stand at a crossroads (I know I used the “crossroads” reference in my last piece, but old people are allowed to repeat themselves.). I have a few outstanding projects to complete with my writing partner of 45 years, Andrew Nicholls, and then I shall retire. Oh, I could be lured back to put ink to paper if a wonderful project or oodles and oodles of ooftish were proffered, but except for a Broadway musical we are labouring on at the moment, I am done with churning out bon mots for an industry in its death throes. If the Real Estate gods smile down upon me, as I hope they might, I shall spend the rest my days eschewing the rat-race and blissfully tip-tapping away on my trusty keyboard for the literary approbation of no one but myself. Possibly, in my underwear while completely inebriated. But where?
And this is the part that perplexes me mightily. Do I have a metaphorical mouthful of boiling hot soup? I will theoretically be able to afford to lollygag around in writerly repose almost anywhere on Earth (except, perhaps a three story Brownstone in downtown New York or a 1 plus Den apartment at Yonge and Eglington) but again, where? Will the next thing I do be wrong?
Magazines devoted entirely to the task of suggesting picturesque but thrifty locales to their mature and recently indolent readers argue the advantages of all sorts of Methuselah Meccas. They enthusiastically espouse the vacationary virtues of former tropical dictatorships, only recently swept clean of death squads and Kalashnikov-packin’ juntas. These expat paradises offer all modern amenities at pennies on the dollar for those who wish to obtain wrinkly rapture under a baking hot sun with disease-carrying mosquitoes the size of a Noorduyn Norseman. As much as I’d like to save a few bucks, being beheaded in the jungle alongside weeping nuns is a little more excitement than I’m really seeking in my golden years.
I’ve also investigated potential homesteads in Canada and Vermont – but after 30 plus years of survivable winters, am I still equipped to handle snowstorms and ice storms and gale force winds that could rip the skin of your banana? Here in California, we view winter as the season when the fires stop. A cold spell just means we can dial our sunblock down below 30 SPF. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled too long by the sub-tropical life but the vague memory of hacking at my windshield with a piece of plastic in an attempt to chip away at 2 ½ inches of ice that has glued itself to the glass overnight is not one that elicits bucketloads nostalgic tears. I fear somewhere a little more temperate might be required. Somewhere that doesn’t have a word ending in “izzard” featured in most of its weather reports.
Ireland is very near the top of my list of foreign destinations. After a lifetime in show business, living in a country with no snakes sounds especially wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to float into one’s boggy grave on a veritable lake (loch, if you’re Celtically inclined) of Guinness spume?
When you dance, you don’t even have to move your arms. That’s a substantial energy savings for an old guy. But perhaps it will be too damp and cold for my increasingly creaky joints. And I wouldn’t really have much to cheer for during the Olympic Winter Games.
So, I spend my days staring at the scribblings of cartographers and trolling real estate sites in the hopes that inspiration will flutter down from the heavens…or perhaps even a semi-honest Century 21 agent. Possibly, the hardest questions we ever ask ourselves is, “What do I really want?” Unlike a cheeseburger, which you regret the instant you’ve consumed it but quickly cast aside your abject lamentation once the next beer arrives; retiring incorrectly can quickly devour all the fruits of a lifetime of arduous toil and leave you swirling around in a septic death spiral of irreversible misery.
And here I stand, dice clutched in sweaty palm, poised to scatter the infamous cubes of caprice upon the felt-covered table of chance.
Of course if my house doesn’t sell, I’d be more than happy churn out some bon mots to an industry in its death throes. Please give me a call. No offer too small!
Darrell Vickers appears here every 4th Monday
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Darrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg. CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay. From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S. He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.) Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music. Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com .