Friday, January 13, 2006

Thoughts for an "unlucky" Friday? What is ORIGINAL?!

It’s FRIDAY the 13th, y’all!

I have lagged off a bit in my writing, and for that I apologize to the very tiny legion of readers that I have.

Let me start by briefly describing the things I do when I check the net first thing in the AM…

  1. First, I check my e-mail accounts, blog comments and stats..

  2. Then, the comics section…always a MUST (especially for 9 Chickweed Lane, For Better or for Worse, and Pearls Before Swine), the TV listings/entertainment section, and weird news.

  3. Finally, I check both my hometown newspapers for – yes, this is ghoulish – the obits. My mom never remembers to tell me who died, even though I call her every day and ask her what’s new. I find out about stuff before she does, really…it makes her mad too. Sometimes it pays to keep your ear to the ground, ya know? Makes for interesting conversation.

Anyway, while I was reading today’s obituaries in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, I found this line in an obituary that I had to share…

In his memory, grab a Pepsi, a newspaper and question authority.
He was a true original
and will be missed terribly by his family and friends.

After reading that, I kept drifting to the concept of what a “true original” is. I am a TV child of the ‘70’s, and of course, what thirty-something or forty-something doesn’t know this jingle?

I drink Dr Pepper and I'm Proud.
I'm Part of an Original Crowd
I'm a Pepper.
He's a pepper.
She's a pepper.

We're a pepper.
(Author’s note…BTW, is "We're a pepper" grammatically correct, or am I just easily annoyed?)
Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?

I mean, is it just me, or is it puzzling that people automatically link those two concepts...even though original is equated with first? In other words, “Be an original, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.”

I have always puzzled over the concept of originality in the first place. I mean, all your life, your parents, teachers, and friends say to you to be yourself…I like you just the way you are…be true to yourself…etc.

But what if you are true to yourself and they don’t like it? Then they try to change you, or else distance themselves from you. In other words, they can’t handle your originality. What's a trailblazer to do?

Let’s look at some original things that the public hasn't necessarily embraced, shall we?

  • Crystal Pepsi

The Yugo

  • The Edsel

This list shows original products – ideas that hadn’t been tried before – and they flopped miserably. I believe this just proves my point…sometimes, just because it’s original doesn’t mean the public will embrace it automatically.

In addition, when a person is original/unique/whatever you want to say, people don’t always understand what you're trying to do. This especially goes for performers. Example? LENNY BRUCE.

Lenny Bruce was deemed a “sick comic” in his day, and later he was persecuted by the courts for obscenity violations. (This is the legal reasoning, anyway.) Depending on which film you watch about Lenny’s life, he’s being hassled by the "Man" for profanity, offending the Catholic church, or exposing corruption in a major city’s law enforcement system, and the system in turn struck back all around the country. All Lenny was trying to do was BE ORIGINAL and express his views. It cost him a lot…even though his trials eventually paved the way for other comedians. When you listen to his old routines as I have (and I’m not a child of Lenny Bruce’s era), you wonder what the fuss was all about. He’s funny! Leave him alone! But that’s the hard part about being an “original”…people don’t realize how valuable you are until after you’re pushing up daisies. Sad, but true.

But we still quest for it, like Don Quixote knocking down life-threatening windmills. Why?

As another commercial tagline goes, “Why ask why?”

Maybe there’s a time and place for originality? Maybe originality isn’t something that should always be worn on one’s sleeve? Maybe it’s just all bull? Perhaps.

My personal opinion is this: we are who we are. We have the ability to change, to question, to accept, to live, to thrive. I question authority sometimes, and other times I accept it just because I’m too damned tired to do anything else. That’s not wrong. It just is. I’m glad that in his obituary, the gentleman I noted at the beginning of this essay was remembered as a true original. That’s an honor in my book.

Happy Friday the 13th, my fellow triskadekaphobes!