Barbarella
  • Barbarella

When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat? — Chuck Palahniuk

"This is just the kind of thing I was in the mood for," I said, gesturing at my plate of pasta.

“It’s a smart move, this change of direction,” said David. “You know, taking a higher-end, white-linen kind of restaurant and turning it into a rustic Italian place.” It’s impossible for my man to patronize an establishment without imagining the changes he might make as proprietor. His present focus was Cucina Urbana, which had replaced Laurel, a restaurant we frequented when money was flowing in, not gushing out of our bank accounts. “Warm lighting, a pizza oven, wine — it really taps into people’s need for comfort. Especially these days.”

“Mmm, yes, comfy cozy carbs,” I said. “What do you mean, ‘especially these days’?”

“I mean, people are afraid right now. Afraid they’re not going to have a job tomorrow, that they might not be able to pay their mortgage, afraid of terrorists, or that our country is going to disintegrate past the point of no return.” David paused, as he does while talking — long, formidable pauses I often misinterpret to mean he’s finished. This time I decided to wait it out, mostly because my mouth was full.

“I heard of a study on NPR.” There it is, I thought, congratulating myself for my restraint. I nodded silently at this long-awaited revelation, imagining myself graceful and composed, a person who enjoys the back-and-forth of intelligent discourse, one who doesn’t require constant possession of the conch. So focused was I on my exceptional listening skills that I missed a good chunk of what David said. As he now seemed to be waiting for a response of some kind, I mentally backtracked and retrieved a handful of words to repeat in a way that would encourage him to elaborate.

“So, basically, when things are unstable and chaotic, people prefer songs with a steady beat, and when times are good and stable, they like more variety in their music, like weird time signatures or shifting rhythms,” David explained.

“Huh. So is that why so much crap has been on the radio recently?”

“Probably…I wouldn’t know. I only listen to NPR,” David said with a wink.

“I guess it makes sense that people would seek comfort and stability right now,” I said. “First we’re attacked, then we’re at war, and then, just when you think things can’t get any worse, the entire economy implodes — unemployment rates skyrocket and incomes plummet, institutions crumple like yesterday’s grocery list, and ‘corporate reliability’ turns out to be a flimsy curtain for a handful of twisted and greedy little wizards. Nothing is right anymore. It’s like our blankie got snatched away.”

“Speaking of which, I still have my childhood teddy bear in storage,” said David. “If things continue this way I might just dig it out again.” I couldn’t tell if he was joking. When he continued, his tone was all business.

“I wonder if all people are drawn to soft objects when they’re stressed. I know you are.” I began to shake my head, but then David added, “Think about Cecil. And the hedgehog.”

Cecil was the name David had given to the giant, Japanese anime-styled stuffed hamster I bought at the Asian toy store adjacent to Tofu House. The hedgehog — a smaller, squishy plush toy — was acquired from Fry’s Electronics. Both were impulse buys, each on days I had been particularly stressed. David has witnessed me seeking solace in these inanimate creatures, sometimes walking in to find me hugging pillow-sized Cecil or stroking the silken back of the small hedgehog while contemplating one stressful situation or another.

“Did you have a stuffed animal when you were growing up?”

“What, like, am I regressing or something? I don’t think so. I think it’s human nature, or even nature-nature,” I answered. “Soft is maternal — all kinds of animals make soft nests for their young; a human baby rests on its mother’s soft breasts. Don’t mean to go all Freud on you, but think about it — isn’t everyone attracted to soft stuff?”

“Yeah, maybe, but not as much as you, especially when you’re wigging out over something,” David said.

“Foxy,” I declared. David’s brows performed a dance of inquiry. “That was her name. You asked if I had a stuffed animal as a kid, and I did — a big fox with a long tail, and I named her Foxy. Only, she wasn’t the first Foxy. See, there was an incident…”

David, exhibiting the silent encouragement of a good therapist, listened as I relayed the saga that led to the first panic attack I can remember. I’d only had my new stuffed animal for a few weeks — long enough for a five-year-old to personify an object and become attached. Foxy wasn’t just a toy, she was my confidant, my cohort, my friend. That is, until I let her down.

It wasn’t intentional, but then again, negligence rarely is, at least not consciously. One minute I was enjoying my Happy Meal with Foxy at my side, and the next I was in the backseat of the family van, presumably in a digestive stupor. We hadn’t made it far when the fast-food fog vanished as a sudden and acute fear of loss swept over me. Because I wouldn’t stop screaming, my mother drove back to McDonald’s so I could search the empty booth in which I’d sat moments before. Foxy had become such a stable and major part of my short life that it seemed impossible she could be gone.

When Mom finally managed to extricate me from the restaurant, she brought me to Foxy’s birthplace, where only one such creature remained on the shelves...that is, until my relieved mother purchased it, and, with the sigh of a woman who had been through a trying day, bequeathed to me the instrument of calm. “I never let her go again,” I said to David, who had listened to the entire tale without interruption.

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Comments

NotQuiteADiva Aug. 6, 2009 @ 8:23 p.m.

I had a plushy rabbit named “Lil’Li” that was taken away form me at some point in my youth. It’s all been a down hill slide from there…

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magicsfive Aug. 6, 2009 @ 8:55 p.m.

Aww...i know what you mean NQAD...i am 44 and STILL miss my "lil tiger"...literally if i could have just one item back from my childhood it would be him :(

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 6, 2009 @ 9:44 p.m.

I had a "Smokey Bear" that I loved when i was little.

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sdcharley Aug. 5, 2009 @ 4:34 p.m.

Great article! I had a small to medium size collection of "stuffed friends" (didn't like the term stuffed animals either, but that was the lingo back in the late 70's/early 80's). I say a small to medium collection because this is all relative to the person whose collection it is. I had a friend who had over a 100 friends and she called it medium. My stuffed friend count was about 10-12, but really there are only 2 that I connected with.

One was a "clown" like doll that my aunt (mother's sister) made for me when I born named "Pun-yok" (never knew how to spell it) but I was told it is the Czech work for "clown" He went everywhere with me, and yes, somewhere in a box in storage, I still have him, which is an amazing feat considering I had an apartment fire in November 2007 and lost some memory items...The second was a bear that my father received for free when he opened a checking account. (they did that a lot in the early 80's) I don't remember the name, but the bear was located at my dads house (parents split when I was 3) - What saddens me the most is that when my father was evicted when I was in my early teens, I lost a ton of my stuffed friends and other various toys and clothes because he choose to leave most everything behind and did not fight for any of it...

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Barbarella Fokos Aug. 7, 2009 @ 11:11 a.m.

I knew I wasn't the only one! I wonder what it is about children that we grow so attached to these fuzzy inanimate objects. Is it because we're to young to believe they don't contain within the personalities we've assigned to them?

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ebrphoto Aug. 11, 2009 @ 5:42 p.m.

After admittedly viewing just the video so far, all I can say is - FURVERT! Or, at least that video qualifies as furvert fodder for sure. ;)

OK, will go read your (doubtlessly!) wonderful article now...

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ebrphoto Aug. 11, 2009 @ 5:59 p.m.

Great Article! It's a very true thing in these times that we need comfort.

I confess I've saved much of my multitude of fuzzy friends to pass on to my children... and I still have my first teddy bear. :)

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