At this point you may wonder: “where do you get off?!”
Excellent question. Where indeed do I get off granting you this golden, life-changing wisdom and advice? How do I qualify to lead you through the thorny thickets of self doubt, past the damp forest of bed wetting and into the sun-filled glory of personal success and reward? Well, ladies and gentlemen, sit back for I will tell you a story. It is a simple story, an American story, my story, and it will make you cry so hard you’ll vomit.
I was born onto the dirty floor of The 134th and 122nd Avenue Home for Unwanted and Misshapen Children. I was not an orphan myself, but my parents were, and so we all lived together in that humble home for street urchins. Because they were particularly undesirable orphans, my folks continued to live at the orphanage well into adulthood. They were never granted decent names and so went by “Rags” and “Muttildo.” Quickly I learned there is no free lunch, not even for an orphan’s baby, and was put to work immediately. Every morning my parents would leave me on a street corner with a donation bucket and a crudely scrawled sign, “Crack Baby. Needs muney 4 medsine. Please do not give it crack. Baby is trying to kik habot.” My mother spent the first 16 hours of her day working in the asbestos and poison factory. After her shift was over she took up side work lancing boils on homeless people with a paperclip. My dad made his scratch letting passersby take out their workaday frustrations by kicking my father in the groin, a half dollar a shot.
No, we weren’t your average, white picket fence family, but we were a family, and that’s what mattered. One day, at the age of 18 months, I returned to the orphanage after a long day of begging to discover my parents had both been killed in a freak air ballooning accident. The Mother Superior promptly notified me there wasn’t room in an orphanage for an orphan of orphans. Plus, she said, my existence depressed the other orphans. With my belongs gathered in a bindle on a stick, I found myself on the front steps of the only home I’d ever known, about to make my way into the world.
As most babies trying to make it in that day and age, I found myself employment with the circus. I did any kind of odd job asked of me. Some days I was shot out of a canon. Others found me juggled along with running chainsaws, and if a kid in the crowd ever barfed, I was there lickety-spit with sawdust and a broom. Since the circus moved interminably from town to town, I never possessed an address and therefore never obtained a library card. Fortunately circus folk are regulars at the Free Clinic and I learned to read from the various venereal disease pamphlets they brought back for me.
One night, as I lie in my sleeping bag reading “Herpes: The Love that Keeps Burning,” I heard an enormous explosion, like the sound of the earth ripping open and releasing hell. I ran outside to discover the circus big top burst into flames. I only learned later a freak blimping accident caused the disaster. The smell of the Bearded Lady’s burning facial hair is one I’ll never forget. Every man, woman and performing animal in the circus perished that night. If you ever wonder whether clowns cry–yes, when on fire they do.
After news of the circus tragedy hit the news, my luck took an uncharacteristic upswing as a wealthy couple adopted me. My time with the Waylon’s probably marked the best years of my life. It was just me, my gentle, giving parents, cavernous Waylon Manor and our dutiful butler, Albert.
But if you’ve been paying attention, you know by now such halcyon days cannot last. One night, my parents and I attended the opera. Rent, I think it was. Amidst the strains of twenty-somethings whining about the cost of living and AIDS in song, I became so bored I peed my pants. My father, never one to admonish, suggested we go outside to the ominously dark alley behind the theater for some air. Then came the instant that changed my life. Right before my own eyes I watched my parents murdered in a freak hang glider accident.
I vowed then and there to avenge my parents’ death by bringing justice to the darkest corners of the city. I trained my mind and body to peak perfection. Used my massive inherited fortune to outfit myself with the most high tech of crime fighting gadgets. And to strike fear into any criminal bold enough to trespass in my city, I took the name of the one thing that never failed to choke my own heart with fear: spiders. As Spiderman, I would haunt the back alleys and warehouses where evil likes to congregate. It would have been perfect had I not been so less-than-clever in my accounting. Once a reporter found my name on a credit card receipt for “2,000 spider-shaped boomerangs” the jig was up. The cover blown, my crime fighting career abruptly ended.
I had known nothing but constant tragedy and struggle. From that moment I realized life wasn’t out to do me any favors. Nothing would be handed to me. If there was anything I wanted, I would have to just reach out and take it. I resolved to never be fortune’s fool again. Mankind, I reasoned, was trapped in an unforgiving vortex of chaos and the only way to tame that tornado was to master anything and everything I possibly could–to stave off the anarchy of fate and bedlam of human existence.
I would need to traverse the thoroughfares and trading floors of Wall Street, leaving a wake of bloodshed as I ascended to financial supremacy. Then disappear into the woods, returning only after years living alone, a full and musky three-foot beard telling the tale of how I came to tame the wild. I would climb the highest peaks of Tibet, study with the greatest spiritual masters of our time, kicking life’s ass all along the way. I would not be defined by the sadness and misfortune that was my youth. It’s like they say, when life gives you tragedy, make Traged-ade.
Perhaps you think this view of “life” antagonistic. It’s not like “life” is out to get us, right? Let’s see, have you ever been fired, dumped, had your body crushed beyond repair in a freak crop dusting accident? What did your friends say? “Well, that life.” And they were right, because Life is a real ass hat. Don’t accept it. I want you to walk up to life and say, “Hey Life, what’s up? Your sister ever learn how to walk straight again?” Then, while Life is dumfounded, crouch down with cat-like quickness and punch Life’s junk right in the face. That’s right, I said punch his wiener in the face. If you don’t know how to do that, put this book down and go pick up an US Magazine, because you’re not ready for this book. Man, do I have to teach you everything?!
Oh wait, I do.
So take my hand and let’s make a better you. By the time we’re done you’ll have transformed into the best possible version of yourself. When that day comes, just looking back at the person you were before the fateful moment you picked up this book will make you wretch.
And that is good; self-loathing is the first step toward self-improvement.