Don't Worry, Be Unhappy

If the widow of cartoonist Al Capp married actor Al Pacino, she'd be Mrs. Al Capp Pacino. Yes, everyone, it's an Italian coffee joke. I know you people just love 'em.

Speaking of coffee, it just so happens I'm not drinking any. I'm nervous enough already, thanks.

I'm nervous because things are going a little too damn well for my liking. With the recent addition of baby Taylor, my family is almost too cute for words. The new television show I'm writing for, The Arsenio Hall Show, is a big hit and possibly may lead to my second consecutive Emmy nomination. When I tally all this bliss in conjunction with last year's Pulitzer win and the fact that this column is now read by over ten million readers worldwide (a recent poll indicated that seventeen of those readers actually like it), it gives me the willies, the heebie-jeebies and, go figure, hammertoes.

I'm anticipating the worst because in the immortal words of bluesman Albert (no relation to B.B.) King, "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." Coupled with my belief that like Robert "King of the Delta Blues" (no relation to Magic) Johnson, "there's a hellhound on my trail," I see my recent success as just the Lord's (no relation to Jack Lord) way of toying with me before dropping a very large boulder on my noggin.

I have just developed a massive headache. Now that's more like it! This constant pounding may well be the beginning of the end. Doom is the one concept I understand clearly. So if my life seems somehow more exciting, more alluring, more glamorous than yours at this particular juncture, don't despair. Trust me, you wouldn't want to be in my shoes unless you're the human equivalent of Odor Eaters.

There's evil in the air and it's headed my way. I can smell it. I can taste it. No. Wait. That's a Pop Tart.

It has come to my attention that there is a school of thought that actually stresses savoring every moment as if it were your very last. Proponents of this admirable philosophy are the same people who bought Gremlins featuring ladybug floor mats. They're the same people who tell me to have a nice day and actually mean it. They don't talk behind people's backs. In fact, if they don't have something nice to say about someone, they don't say anything at all, which is just the way I like them--mute. The last thing in the world I need is one of these lobotomized zombies with perpetual smiles pasted on their vapid toad faces telling me how great life is. How would they know? They're undead.

I work with one of these happy-go-lucky giant dorks. This guy can't wait to roll out of bed in the morning. If he's not whistling, he's singing--usually show tunes. If he's not singing, he's humming. Every morning he tells me how happy he is to be alive. That makes one of us. If murder were legal, he'd be pushing up daisies right now. Must I spend my entire life surrounded by people like him who are one brick shy of a load? (Answer on page 79.)

I'm telling you, this happiness thang is not all it's cracked up to be. I'm as happy as a clam, but how happy is a clam? Certainly happier than a mussel, but I'm betting not nearly as jovial as an oyster. Yet time and time again one hears the expression "happy as a clam" but never "jovial as an oyster." I think I'm really onto something here. But even if I'm not, this whole raging clam-oyster controversy is certainly seafood for thought.

Where was I? Damn this Alzheimer's! Oh, I know. Happiness. It scares me. I've been chasing happiness all my life and now that I have it, I'm very unhappy about it.

I have no previous training in happiness. I've struggled for so long with so many setbacks on the road that I don't understand happiness. Unhappiness is what fueled me. Now what do I do? I can deal with rejection. I can deal with being out of a job. I can even deal with being broke. But what's the deal with happiness?

Should my luck hold, I may become even happier than I am now. That will lead to nothing except a complete nervous breakdown. I am not programmed for undiluted happiness. My system simply cannot withstand the stress that comes with total physical and mental well-being.

You know, I've just read this whole column to myself and it's a real good thing I'm not odd at all. I'm talkin' bats in my belfry, one foot off the curb, lights are on but nobody's home, elevator doesn't go to the top floor. Here's the church, here's the steeple, open it up and see all the people.

Wow, almost lost it there! I'm in deep trouble. Help me! Happiness is killing me!

Hey, I'm okay now. I was a little rocky there for a while, but just when I was so happy I was about to explode a miracle occurred. After many hours of hard labor on my word processor this column was virtually finished, but then God in His infinite wisdom created a power outage and all my work was completely and irretrievably destroyed! Boy, it's great to know somebody up there still hates me!

I had to start all over from scratch, and I couldn't remember a single thing I'd written! I screamed obscenities for a good half hour. You can't imagine my joy. I hadn't been so unhappy in months. I'm not one to count (or even pluck) my chickens, but I sense the beginning of a trend.

Doom is the one concept I understand clearly.


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