There’s a small office in my house where I do the stuff that writers do such as stare for mammoth periods of time at a blank computer screen while waiting for an inspiration to arrive. Inspirations don’t come often and they never knock but when they do, they usually happen suddenly and without warning.
I know when an inspiration is about to happen because all at once two of my fingers (one on each hand) race to the keyboard and fly around in a desperate attempt to get the words on the screen before they desert me – which can also happen suddenly and without warning.
My desk has room for my computer, a copier and all those books, notes, stacks of papers and other indispensible and indescribable stuff that I plan to organize – tomorrow. And, oh yeah, there’s a little space left over to bang my head on when the aforementioned inspirations just don’t come fast enough.
There’s a bunch of miscellaneous memorabilia on the walls of my office, including a variety of certificates, diplomas and other things that no one ever looks at. I’m pretty sure some have expired – I don’t know – I never look at them. “Dopey” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs does get a lot of attention from visitors though, he’s an original Disney animation cell autographed to me personally by Walt himself. I’m very proud of that one.
Along with an assortment of treasured family photos there’s a shot of the USS Purdy (DD 734), better known as the “Dirty Purdy” by those of us who knew her. We took her – or more accurately she took us – to Guantanamo Bay when Fidel was nosing around down there during the Cuban Revolution. We like to think that she had something to do with Fidel’s loss of interest in our base there.
There’s a picture of my 1964 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the best darned ride I ever had and another of my friend Jim and I standing in a Vegas casino next to “a-million-dollars-in-actual-cash.” Alongside that one is another shot of the same two guys, same casino, and same million dollars but this one’s just a little different – it was taken forty years later. We hadn’t changed a bit.
Anyway, to get to the point, just above my copy machine is something else. Something that has had a place on the wall of just about every office I’ve occupied since the late seventies. It’s a framed copy of a Jim Berry cartoon I came across in the New Yorker a long time ago.
There’s this guy standing in his living room ready to exit the front door. He’s dressed “sixties business style” in suit and tie, top coat and fedora – with suitcase in one hand, briefcase in the other. He’s turned toward his wife who’s relaxing in a wingback chair nearby. She looks up and he speaks. “Goodbye, my dear,” he says, “I am returning to the fifties.”
There have been many talented cartoonists in our time but, if forced to choose favorites, mine would have to be Jim Berry of Berry’s World fame and Virgil Partch, better known as VIP, who may be best remembered for his angry little man in a box with the caption, “People are no damn good.” Both artists enjoyed long and distinguished careers.
When I’m stuck on the best way to phrase something or other, or just waiting for that illusive inspiration to knock, I kick back and most often my gaze wanders to that Jim Berry work with which I identify so thoroughly. “Goodbye, my dear, I am returning to the fifties.”
“How profound can you get?” I thought at the time, as I clipped that cartoon from New Yorker and prepared it for framing. But, who among us could possibly have imagined how much more meaning those words would have now, with the passage of all this time? Remarkable.