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Friday, September 24, 2010

Come on In

When you're a kid, having weird obsessions is usually charming. When you're an adult, it sometimes lands you in a psych hospital.

My childhood obsessions were as follows:

* Airplane crashes
* News anchors
* Classical music
* Cars from the 1970s
* Multi-line rotary office telephones
* Hypochondria
* Three-piece suits
* CB radios
* Doorknobs

(If you ever get bored and want to write to my parents to ask them why I was not engaged in intensive psychotherapy beginning at age 7, PM me for their mailing address. I think they'd like to hear from you.)

If you're not quite sure how a young boy gets obsessed with doorknobs, well, ladies (and gents?), you've once again come to the right blog. Go, you.

When I was a child, I grew up watching "Fawlty Towers," a brilliant BBC comedy series written by John Cleese and his then-soon-to-be-ex-wife Connie Booth. The show was written and produced in the mid-1970s, and only twelve episodes exist-- almost each and every one is comedic gold. The show takes place in a hotel in Torquay in a hotel that bears the same name as the show. As a child of maybe ten, I knew each line of episode by heart, and my eldest sister used to take great joy in lying in bed while I would recite entire sections of dialogue from "The Germans" or "Basil the Rat" episodes from memory, altering my voice to seamlessly change from one character to the next, and back again.

If you think kids don't notice details, you're crazy. The set of Fawlty Towers was very meticulously designed, and, even though it's supposed to be a not-so-hot hotel, (the front sign with movable letters frequently changed from anything to "Watery Farts" to "Fawlty Twats"), it was still formal, and uptight, and decidedly English. And what's more English than an S-shaped, serpentine door handle.

One day, I announced to my father that we needed to go to the hardware store. Back then, it was called "Channel."


"Because my door needs a new handle," I said confidently. Funny, they say teenagers think they're invincible-- but I was always afraid of approaching my father with some bizarre request as a teenager. However, when I was ten, I thought nothing of it whatsoever.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" he asked, his brow furrowed.

"Just take me to Channel," I said, "and I'll show you."

So my father and I went to Channel, and I pointed to a gold-colored s-shaped door handle, elegant and sweeping to a small curlie-q at the end. It was $27.00.

"Mummy, I love you, but you've got to be fuckin' kidding me. $27.00 for a fucking door handle? No. Don't you want to go to college some day?"

"No," I answered. Little did I realize then that I would be able to publish a book, produce my own plays, and get laid in this magical place. I pouted as my eyes searched hungrily for an acceptable compromise.

"What about this one?" I asked, prepping the puppy eyes. "It's only $13.00."

"Jesus Christ," my father muttered, grabbing the plastic casing encapsulating my new door handle, "let's get the fuck out of here already."

Not too long ago, my wife and my eldest sister and I were sitting together upstairs in my parents' house. This house has been home to generations of my family, beginning with my grandparents, my great-aunt, my mother and her brothers when they were little children, my father, me and my sisters, and now, most of the time, my nephew. The day-to-day residents of the house are my parents and my eldest sister, though she says she's moving out again. Some day. Affectionately disordered folks with my blood have played musical rooms in that house since 1957.

"Did you ever live in this room?" my wife asked me that night when we were all talking in the room now inhabited by my eldest sister.

"Of course he did," my sister said, "look at that fucking door handle."

And there, barely still attached to a chewed-up, run-down, beat up, bare-assed, hollow-core wooden door is a gold-colored swirly, elegant, shining door handle, the clear enigmatic emblem of a house that has had its details ignored, its moldings carelessly painted over, its chimney practically collapsing onto itself, and the same floor in the dining room and kitchen since 1957.

"That handle looks really funny on that door," my wife commented, gazing at it in a haze of humor and disbelief.

"Looks good to me," I said.


  1. Gorgeous -- gorgeous -- description in the last non-dialogue paragraph.

  2. Reading too much into this for my own purposes, seems this is about love. And how when you love something, it always feels right even when everyone else finds it hideous and out of place.
    Moving on.


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