The most involved I ever got in politics was in 1985 when I wrote a letter in crayon to Ronald Reagan on green and white computer paper I took from my family’s Commodore 64 printer.
We had hundreds of pirated games for the Commodore 64 on floppy disks, including a game called Space Taxi, a game about a taxi flying through space picking up passengers from giant candy canes and enormous beach umbrellas.
If you touched a candy cane with your Space Taxi, you burst into flames and you and your passenger died a fiery death. If you ran into a passenger with your landing gear down, he yelled, “HEY!” and exploded. If you managed to get your passenger from the candy cane to the beach umbrella safely, you made $1.87. These are all details I included in my letter to President Reagan, in case he wanted to incorporate Space Taxis into his “Star Wars” missile defense program.
The reason I decided against mailing this letter to Ronald Reagan is because shortly after I wrote the letter, I saw an old woman die right in front of me. Like, not the moment I set down the crayon, but pretty soon afterwards. If I’d been a little quicker on the draw with getting my letters to the President in the mailbox, we might have enormous candy cane satellites circling our planet, and $1.87 is all you’d need to take a space taxi to the moon.
Pauline took knitting lessons from my mother every Saturday in the living room and I’d watch cartoons in my He-Man Underoos. The thing about He-Man Underoos is, you’re Inception-ing your own underwear by having a drawing of a man in his underwear on your underwear.
Some purists might say, “He-Man is not wearing underwear. He is wearing a furry loincloth.” To which I say, is not the loincloth the Neanderthal that evolved into the Homo-Sapien of Underoos, tighty-whiteys, and eventually, boxer briefs or boxers, depending on how tightly encased you’d like your Masters of the Universe to feel? We all have to show our bare legs and the undersides of our butt cheeks to the world at some point in our lives. What we don’t have to do is let the world decide for us what counts as underwear and what counts as bathing suits.
So it’s Saturday morning, I’m in my Underoos, and my mother is teaching Pauline how to knit in the living room. I’m not putting on pants, because an old woman learning how to knit is no reason to stand on ceremony. If she didn’t want to see my pale, skinny legs, she shouldn’t have waited until her golden years to finally getting around to learning how to knit. Come to think of it, seeing me without pants on might have been what gave her the heart attack. Any of my ex-girlfriends will tell you, the sight of me in my underwear is not for the faint of heart.
Midway through her knitting lesson, Pauline asks for a glass of water. She takes one sip and begins to choke and claw at the air like a Space Taxi passenger on a collision course with a skyscraper-sized beach umbrella. ‘Man,’ I think to myself, ‘she really doesn’t like the taste of our water.’ I mean, I know well water tastes different than city water, but there’s no need to get dramatic about it.
I realize something more serious is happening when my mother frantically dials 911.
Now, even in the middle of a big city, with its delicious water, getting the kind of immediate medical attention that a heart attack requires can be difficult. When you live on a winding dirt road deep in the middle of the woods on lakefront property, it’s nearly impossible. In fact, it was quicker for the hospital to send an ambulance by boat.
My mother grabs a big white bed sheet and says, “Go down to the dock and wave this sheet around so the ambulance boat can see you.” I say, “Let me put on pants first.” And she says, “GO. NOW.”
I’m standing on a dock in only my Underoos, waving a white sheet around. Our neighbors come out to their docks when they hear the sirens of the boat ambulance. Everybody in the whole neighborhood, it seems, has bought a ticket to my impromptu burlesque performance. I want to wrap the sheet around my waist, but the boat ambulance driver might mistake me for a topless Lady Justice statue, and if the ambulance driver is a young John Ashcroft, he might insist on having curtains installed on our dock so no one has to look at my just, righteous nipples.
I wave the sheet as hard as I can and yell, “HEY!” like a guy being impaled on a Space Taxi’s landing gear. I have changed my attitude about my underwear. My underwear is now a beacon. My underwear is a tight white lighthouse literally guiding a ship to shore. I am now He-Man, and my underwear is now a loincloth.
The paramedics arrive and pronounce Pauline dead at the scene. I put on a pair of pants. The lighthouse has gone dark.
I never mailed the letter to Ronald Reagan. I now lived in a world where a safe and boring activity like a knitting lesson held the potential for violent death and forced exhibitionism. Telling the President about my favorite video game dropped to the bottom of my priority list.
Ronald Reagan died of Pneumonia after years of Alzheimers on June 05, 2004. I think we should all take a moment to wave a bed sheet in our underwear on the docks of our hearts in his honor, and in honor of the nice old woman who died while my mom was giving her a knitting lesson, and the unsent letter that would have revolutionized the 1980’s “Star Wars” missile defense program.
And that is why I never got involved in politics, and why I never take my pants off near women who are learning how to knit.