Tuesday, February 9, 2010

LAUGH 'TIL IT HURTS

I've written before that my favorite thing to do is laugh.

It really is. That statement is probably looked upon as bizarre by most people I know, who read my blog, and most certainly by the people I work with. All understandable, really, when you consider the consistent state of melancholy I am in the bulk of the time.

But people who know me, REALLY know me, dying breed that they are, find me to be a card. I'm a funny guy, a nice guy. So they say. I've been that since grade school, when people starting joking around with me and girls decided to start using my shoulders for kleenex and nothing else.

I have always liked making people laugh. "You should be a comedian!", they've said. Great idea, only problem with it being that I can't write material for spoken word performances. Oh, you get me in a group, and I can riff off conversation like it's no tomorrow. I can go all night.

If I get in "the zone", there's gonna be some sore stomachs in that group. And their laughter is a gift to me. Especially that infectious, bent-over, tear-down-the-cheek roaring. My sister, Dee, for example, has always been my favorite target. Not because of any favoritism, or anything so arbitrary as all that, just because of the sound of her laugh. A full-bodied crack-up that's an addiction for me. I just have to keep that thing going until I am no longer able.

Because I know what a wonderful feeling that is.

That "pants-crapping" variety of laughter is few and far between for me. I can only remember a handful of moments that brought about that out of control, loss of function laughter that renders one incapable of even breathing.

One was in the 3rd grade, when in parochial school. The story I like to call "Be Careful with that desk, Eugene" is a simple one. A husky kid, the titular Eugene, was sitting across the room from me. I just happened to look in his direction and saw him attempting to wheel his legs out from under his desk. The desk was one of those old school one piece units, where a balancing piece runs down to the floor from under the writing surface then to the underside of the seat.

Now, as Eugene was swinging his legs out, the feet became entangled in that crossbar. Unfortunately for Geno, his upper body did not stop with his Keds-encased tootsies. He started to fall out of his chair, but since his lower body was held up in a purgatory of metal and corduroy, the tipping of Eugene over the side was a long drawn out process that involved the "big E" battling in an eternal losing battle with gravity, the front of his desktop, and the back of his chair.

Two hours later, the huddled mass that was Eugene, lay with his back on the floor, feet coming to a complete stop on the chair that long ago held his buttocks. By now, he had everyone's full attention. Most were looking at him in shock, a few asked him if he was okay. Our uppity teacher, told him to dust himself off and get back into his seat.

I, on the other hand, was breathing into a paper bag that had at one point held my lunch, for I was hyperventilating with maniacal laughter and in danger of fainting. I also had to urinate so badly that I left the room without the teacher's permission for the first time in my life.

My father had died about a year earlier, and this was absolutely the longest I had smiled and hardest I had laughed since before Dad passed.

It felt so good, so freeing. By God, with a simple accidental pratfall, a page had turned in my life.

Going home that day, the sun seemed a little brighter, a bit warmer.

If I can give someone a fraction of that, waking up that morning was worth while, and a gift.

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