Fly Like a Weasel (a.k.a. “The Superheroes Column”)


I know we should try to be happy with ourselves and not try to be something we’re not, but I spend most of my time wishing I were a superhero.

This is mostly because I covet the ability to fly, because if I could fly, I could avoid nearly every unpleasant part of my life, simply by taking to the air. Whatever the unpleasant thing was, it would soon be but a speck on the ground as I soared up to the highest heights, floating on the breezes without a care in the world — unless the unpleasant thing was inside a building, in which case I would just have to hover near the ceiling until the unpleasant thing went away. Which it probably wouldn’t.

This column is actually about superheroes, but let me mention one time I wished I could fly. It was last week, and I was looking for a classroom in the Harris Fine Arts Center. Anytime I look for a classroom in the HFAC, my efforts are thwarted by the fact that the HFAC was designed by crazy people. In the HFAC, rooms are not arranged in an orderly, numerical pattern, such as those found in even your most rudimentary hospitals and prisons. No sir or madam, rooms in the HFAC are arranged in a completely random manner, so that a person can never find the same room twice.

In a normal building, you would expect rooms B-257 and B-258 to be right next next to each other, but in the HFAC, they may be in different wings, on different floors, and perhaps even in different buildings at different universities. Some rooms, I’m convinced, aren’t even THERE some of the time, much like the mythical city of Brigadoon. This is why people who have classes in the HFAC tend to have ALL their classes there: They know if they ever leave, they may return to find that the whole BUILDING is gone. It’s also why HFAC people wander around singing out loud all the time. (Actually, I guess that has nothing to do with it. I just wanted to see if you had noticed it, too.)

Anyway, I was wandering through the HFAC when I ran into a guy we’ll call Willis. Willis was, at one time, my good friend and roommate, until he got really serious with his girlfriend and turned into someone else. Mr. I Don’t Care About Anyone Except My Girlfriend was his new name, and he certainly lived up to it. He would come home late at night and tell me all about his girlfriend, whom we’ll call Tootie. He would go on about how he had the biggest problems in the whole world, and how he had been so insensitive as to accidentally forget their seven-week anniversary, and how Tootie was just so swell. Whatever problems I had were irrelevant.

WILLIS: And right now she’s got this huge bunion on her foot, and she has to wear special padding in her shoe just so she can walk comfortably.
ME: I read in the paper today that my entire family was killed in a boat explosion.
WILLIS: I’m going to get together a collection to help Tootie have her bunion removed.
ME: Also, I will be dead in a matter of seconds, due mainly to the wolverine that has attached itself to my neck.
WILLIS: I’m considering having my own foot amputated and surgically re-attached to her leg to replace the bad one.
ME: (falls over, dead, as the wolverine scurries off)

(The preceeding dramatization was based on fact and in no way exaggerated.)

Anyway, I had been avoiding Willis ever since he married Tootie last December, because I couldn’t think of anything to say to him. Now, though, we were walking toward each other in the HFAC hallway, with no one else around, and I couldn’t think of any plausible way of not seeing him. But if I had been a superhero with the ability to fly, I could have been out of there in a flash.

At this point in the column, I had two long paragraphs philosophizing about why superheroes are important to our society. It had to do with escapism and the pressures of trying to live out “The American Dream.” Frankly, I’m embarrassed I even wrote it, although it did contain an amusing reference to other countries’ “Dreams,” like “The Iraqi Dream” and “The Norwegian Dream” (“Not freezing to death”). But I won’t subject you to it. That’s not the issue anyway. The issue is that superheroes are cool.

My favorite show as a kid was “The Superfriends,” because it had a whole Pantheon of superheroes, all working together, despite the fact that Superman could easily have done all the work himself, and could, for that matter, have killed all the other Superfriends with his bare hands. (Do you suppose this was ever a point of contention? Bring up that topic when you discuss this column with your friends later.)

My favorite Superfriends were the Wonder Twins: Zan and Jaina and their space monkey, Gleek. But they were always transforming into something that was only indirectly related to what they were trying to do. Like instead of just turning into two 50-foot dinosaurs and stomping on the bad guys, they would turn into a flying walrus and a bucket of ice.

I think if they’re going to be abstract, they should be really abstract. Instead of turning into animals and various physical states of water, they should turn into concepts. “Shape of… existentialism!” “Form of… the broken dreams of the lower middle class!” “Shape of… Thursday!” And so on.

As you know, their Wonder Twin powers were activated by touching their fists together. I recall one episode where they were tied up several feet apart and couldn’t quite get their fists to touch, so Gleek got right up between them and put his nose between their fists, and it fit the gap just perfectly. But this raises a number of scientific questions, none of which were addressed in the show. For one thing, do ALL twins have these special powers? Also, can a monkey’s nose conduct Wonder Twin powers? I will grant you that it was a space monkey, but I am still skeptical as to the conductive powers of a nose.

But this is all beside the point. Actually, it’s nowhere near the point. The point is that I wish I could fly, because that would be really cool. And I’d never have to talk to Willis again.

This was the first of my Monday Daily Universe columns to go under the title "Snide Remarks." I was worried the column wouldn't go over very well, consisting as it does of parts of three columns sort of slapped together in a hasty fashion. But folks seemed to like it, and I realized yet again that I can slack off and still amuse at least a few people. This is important to know in my line of work (i.e., slacker).

Willis and Tootie are the same couple referred to in the first verse of "Since My Best Friend Got Engaged" (although the second verse certainly applied to them too). They were also the subject of the Garrens sketch "Some Friend You Are"; notice that some dialogue in this column is similar to the dialogue in that sketch.

This column was also among the first to show the pathos that underlies so much of comedy. If you strip away all the goofiness of the article, what's left? You have a guy whose friendship failed and who now wants to avoid all his problems, but who can think of no practical way of doing this, so he resorts to fantasies about flying. It's sad, really, just like a lot of comedy. Sorry to depress you.