Joseph Campbell was the delightful mythicist who spent a lifetime studying religions, tribes and cultures. A rarity, he was a non-pompous intellectual. He wrote the ground-breaking book, “Hero With a Thousand Faces,” and died young at 83. Joe noted that as you approach your end of days in this annoying parenthesis, you look back. All the strange happenstances in your life begin to make sense.
You make a phone call as a young man. The girl you’re iffily dating isn’t home and you call someone else to join you for dinner. In a blink, you’re walking down the aisle, hyperventilating, hysterically sobbing, thoughts wandering to: “Now why exactly do I — have to — get rid of my prized elk’s head that rested so regally behind my office chair?”
I don’t miss the wife so much. I do miss the elk’s head.
Eons ago, I was offered a job as managing editor of Hustler Magazine. There’s girlie magazines like Playboy, where guys sift through the pages (for the articles) and to admire the posture of those softer than we. Then, there was Hustler, a magazine so vile so greasy so completely skanky Satan himself would chide: “What the Holy My Home is wrong with you?! Don’t ever let me see that vulgar depravity down here ever again, little mister…”
I was sports editor of The Mighty Signal then. Out of the blue, Larry Flynt called to invite me to lunch. I had absolutely no intention of taking the job. But, I was 24, made less than a Bombay beggar, going nowhere and wilder than a motorcycle gang movie marathon. Why did I take the meeting when I knew I’d never take the job? Free lunch in Beverly Hills where people actually wanted you to work for them was a novelty.
My bicep still hurts from being punched by my best pal, that Lousy Phil Lanier (as my mom called him). Phil felt that had I accepted the position with Hustler, there’d be a bountiful flowing river of psychologically complicated buxom naughty ladies cascading directly into his master bedroom.
Phil, like many of us then, were oft distracted by skirts.
Or the lack thereof.
Once we went to this horrendously awful dystopian SciFi flick in Hollywood. I would have walked but Phil had driven. There was this disgusting scene where desert marauders captured a wayward and busty damsel. They tore off her bodice and her bosoms frolicked in the desert air like, as Phil liked to describe, “playful whales.” The villains took advantage of the actress in the worst way, which included removing her eyeballs.
“Can we please go?” I asked. “I’m going to puke.”
“I want to see where the story goes,” answered Lanier wide-eyed, shoveling popcorn.
Phil was a film major.
Afterward, we’re walking toward the car and I’m voicing my objections to this low-class space porn he had dragged me to.
“A futuristic motorcycle gang forces their attention on the naked 52-D-cup blonde and plucks her eyes out,” I said. “Geez, Phil. Cripes and yick.”
Phil stopped. I’ll never forget that faux incredulous response: “They plucked her eyes out…?”
To this day, I wonder if the guy even noticed.
I was offered a job, again, out of the blue, to be editor of Writer’s Digest. One bothersome detail was I would have to move to Ohio. No one moves to Ohio, certainly on purpose. But, I wonder. Would the change of scenery at the prestigious periodical have helped my career as a novelist? Would I have married, had Buckeye kids? Spent a lifetime staring west, toward an ocean I missed so?
I was wined and dined by The Los Angeles Times in the strangest courting ritual. Years ago, they were making their transition from a humorless daily to the solemn leftist cult rag it is today. I was sitting in an expensive Downtown L.A. restaurant with bow-tied suits. They wanted me to write three humor columns a week, minus the humor. This was when they came up with their anti-dictionary — a lengthy list of words no longer acceptable in their portion of the English language and dour publications like the New York Times and Newsweek were making fun of them. They were all good Joes and Janes. But when I asked how many columns of mine would actually see the light of day, it was like they had never even considered that angle.
Had I taken it, I always wonder. Would I today be sitting on my 79th book deal, “The Unbearable Brightness of Joe Biden?”
Got offered a job years ago as editor/publisher of the weekly newspaper in Idyllwild, so high in the mountains you can touch Pluto. Beautiful place. Position came with a big white Ford Bronco, too. The owner let it slip that the Bronco was equipped with a detachable snow plow because “…sometimes, like in the winter, circulation doesn’t feel like getting out of bed” and I might sorta/kinda have to deliver the paper to addresses you couldn’t reach with a dog sled. Oh. I’d also have to sell ads. And run the print shop. He was rather proud that they did a healthy business printing menus. If I wanted, I could write a column. “Nothing funny though.” I remember sitting in that cozy office. The little bell on the front door jingled and someone was at the counter, wanting a Xerox. I did a little calculating. In the cold months (August to July) my heating bill would exceed my salary, unless, as the owner brightened the deal, I wanted to spend 20 hours a week cutting my own firewood.
The owner said the job could be a springboard to better things.
I had a wife say that once.
John Boston is a local writer who doesn’t live in Ohio.