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I am, I guess you could say, a bit of a cutup. It’s true. I’m known for my wry sense of humor in certain circles, and more than once, believe me, I have left fans or admirers at, say, awards dinners for me, just stricken, helpless with mirth. They often beg me to stop — oh, if I had a dollar for every time that happened! But the darn thing is, lately everything seems all Donny-down-in-the-dumps, if you know what I mean. I’m the last guy to be a Gloomy Gus (as you know if you’ve read “TGIIIIIIIIIIIF!!!” a few times, and who hasn’t?); but I’ve gotta say, people seem to keep dying and getting strokes and things left and right just when the economy is getting rescued, we’re beating the Arabs and whoever, and the air is fresher and cooler than ever, thanks to people thinking green and whatnot.

I’m sorry to say, but yeah, it’s true: two old friends up and died on me recently, and another good friend for a few years, just as he got a bit of his book published with my humble and magnanimous help, had a stroke right in the middle of Ralphs! I kid you not. He went completely blind, like he was sightless or something, and his kidneys shut down, and he was overcome with a kind of ’itis or infection known, apparently, as endocard—. Does that prefix speak volumes?

Well, there you go. It’s as if things are coming up roses and then they’re not. Don’t write that down, though, because as we all know, the greasy wheel and the silk lining save more than just stitches and teary whining. That you can write down! My mom says you’re welcome to it, all you sons of bitches and rat bastards! Whoops, she’s leaking again. Talk about incorrigible.

It’s times like this that I think about Mom, I guess. The way she passed that February day in the assisted-living facility on Clark Street in Chicago, face down on the floor, some 300 pounds mushed against that Key-lime carpet and just inches away from the phone and that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” device that, in the end, recorded only her last two words as she addressed the ages to come, “Rotten fuckers.”

Getting back to this dying and illness thing that’s going around, this strikes me as defeatist stuff in the worst possible way — or worse, even. I take note of these things for the book I’ve been compiling since my 20s, called Why Dwell on It? But, in keeping with my own advice, I am proud to say I have as yet recorded nothing.

Can I ask, really? Why all the negativity? Isn’t athlete’s foot, psoriasis, herpes (or it could be just a flare-up of testicular pimples again) enough? Are we gluttons for punishment? I don’t think so, and I don’t think you do either. We’re going to have a woman president pretty soon, and as we all know, women are far more like human beings than other people, and she seems really nice. Come on, doesn’t she?

Now maybe this sounds Pollyanna-ish. Fine. I’d rather be considered a glass-half-full-to-the-brim type of guy than die a smartass. So sue me. At least I’m not like that guy who recently wrote in about my stricken friend’s book calling me an idiot because we got the First World War dates wrong when, with a little thought, it is clear that we — I’m sorry — had almost nothing to do with when they started or finished that stuff.

Can we buck up, for cripe’s sake? I mean, really, when it’s the ninth down and 100 yards to go at the top of the third and the down is on the flag with no men on and the team is counting on you to bring them home. (Yes, that’s right, just like the hostages — and what day is this of the crisis and/or do you hear me mewling about it? I think not. Thank you.) Can we not infer then a greater good if for only one child, and I think you know who I mean…hmm? And, if a man turns to cough medicine in these times and you prick him, does he not bleed and yet say nothing of possibly, say, hemorhoidal discomfort? I’ll say.

Which reminds me. I seem to have a lot of friends in 12-step recovery groups for mostly alcohol and drugs who have remained abstinent for years yet cannot shake the same damned cold that seems to have been going around the rooms for decades and for which only Nyquil seems effective in constant doses.

Can we not also find suitable alternatives for dependency on foreign substances? Not to be political, but may we not take a page from Senator McCain’s book when he suggests, “Stay the course” or “This will not stand,” and so much like my own mother, I find it uncanny, pointing not the finger at either rotten bastards or sons of bitches but at “evildoers,” can we ask, as we burst into the light of a new day, what our country cannot do for one but WE? I think that is little enough in my unimportant but gracious opinion.

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cosmo Oct. 17, 2008 @ 12:51 a.m.

G: OK, you figured us out. John and Cosmo are two personalities united in a dissociative identity disorder. :-) Just kidding. I will pass your message on to John just as soon as I can. Thanks for writing!


cosmo Oct. 19, 2008 @ 1 p.m.

G: Thank you for sending your question back-channel. If you don't mind, and for reasons I will explain later, I will reply to you via this column. I will pass your message on to John. As for understanding his column, please approach it like any work of drama. Identify the hero. Identify the villian. Identify the emotional tone that it creates inside you. Also, John has a good vocabulary, so keep handy a dictionary. Smiles.


MsGrant Oct. 22, 2008 @ 11:46 a.m.

My apologies to all the friends of Bill, but I had to post this because of your reference to Nyquil. It was part of a story I started called "Touchy Subjects". I know lots of people that wear the sobriety honor badge and still imbibe in other mood-altering substances. CHEATERS!!

Friends who stop drinking. Ugh. The worst. So, as an act of solidarity, you say something along the lines of "maybe I'll cut back a bit, too. I may be getting a bit too old to drink the Olsen twins under the table." Cut to your next party. Your friend is counting your drinks and pulling you aside to tell you that "you should slow down, you've probably had enough". WTF?!?! This was the same chick who six months ago was taking her cloths off in your hot tub and singing Interpol at the top of her lungs, and because you dribbled a bit of hummus on the carpet she is telling you to slow down?!? Don't get me wrong. I understand the need to sober up if you are wrecking cars and having regular encounters with law enforcement. But if you are quitting because you embarrassed yourself one too many times, and now take prescription Xanax, then please don't insist that all your friends who enjoy their cocktails are alcoholics. We've fallen and can still get up.


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