Even when I’m doing a good job of not dwelling on the past, it still rears its ugly head. If I had to guess, it is almost always in the form of association.
I came across the movie Johnny Dangerously on HBO MAX today. There really aren’t words to describe how much I love the movie. It’s just the slapstick, parody silly shit the doctor has always prescribed. I know every line. Of course I watched it.
So where does my mind go? Ernie.
Ernie is not his real name. I wouldn’t give up his real name. It’s a nickname and a funny one at that. His premature receding hairline and oddly shaped head gave him a striking resemblance to Ernie of Ernie and Bert fame. He was a good guy and, like everything else in his life, he rolled with the nickname. He never had it easy. Girls eluded him, he never got his shot at Stand-up Comedy, he lost his brother to a tragic suicide soon after High School, his relationship with his family was very complicated.
I was there for all of it. We were, after all, best of friends. After High School, we both attended the same College. I was a year ahead of him so I spent my Freshman year without my sidekick but once he arrived, goofy smile and Pork-Pie hat in hand, we were inseparable. When we weren’t in class, we were in the cafeteria, smoking, drinking coffee, and socializing. If we weren’t in school we were probably playing hooky and underage drinking in our favorite bar down the street.
I shared my difficult times with him also. When my relationship with my father took a bad turn, I stayed at his house many nights. I was very close to his family. They treated me as another son.
We leaned on each other and got through those times. Often with the aid of laughter. Never underestimate the power of a warped sense of humor. Comedy specials on HBO, cartoons and movies were our refuge. We shared a love for Bloom County. I think the lovable oaf Opus the penguin was a relatable character to us. We could quote both the cartoons and the movies line for line. And we did that a lot.
Johnny Dangerously was our favorite. Now, it brings back the sense of loss of how we drifted apart for so many years. Of not seeing him, along with the rest of the guys that I spent all of my time with in my late teens and twenties, since we all went the married with kids route.
And,of course, the shock and heartbreak of learning that he was recently arrested for sexually abusing his own son. My friend (can I still call him that?) is going to spend the rest of his life in jail.
Between the shock, disgust, anger and countless other confusing emotions, I still cling to the memories of a better time. Thanks to associations. Silly movies, in this case, stand for the good and the bad times alike.