Hi, and welcome to Wit Love, Kath, my love letters about the funny side of life. Here I’ll look at the quirks and absurdities of family life, national and world news, entertainment, politics (oh, wait, I just mentioned entertainment), sports, and all those unexpected, bizarre moments that make life worthwhile with humor, with skepticism, with irony, and always wit love.
I grew up in a pink stucco house in Hollywood, Florida, surrounded, not by the radiance of celebrities as in that other Hollywood, but by the relentless sun (except for the daily deluge), which produces, like a science-fiction laser, grapefruit you can use as bowling balls, dachshund-sized avocados, and toads as round as dinner plates.
School field trips were spent at Parrot Jungle (once home to Pinky, the “high-wire, bicycle-riding cockatoo,” where we each had our picture taken with 5 macaws perched on our scrawny outstretched arms); Monkey Jungle (“where the humans are caged and monkeys run wild”), and Gatorland (“when the sun goes down, the swamp comes alive”). Try fitting education like this into the Common Core.
Spending your formative years in this over-the-top, larger-than-life (see, even the adjectives are abnormally big) weirdness-incubating local does something to you. One can only witness so many middle-aged and end-aged tourists in speedos before the mind is irreversibly warped. Same goes for the absolute cemetification of every square inch of available land. Even the strip malls have strip malls. The blistering sun bouncing off all that concrete really does fry your brain.
Don’t believe me? How else to explain this recent development: towns in southern Broward and Dade counties are using the optical illusion of decreasingly spaced lines to trick drivers into believing they are going faster than they are, thus causing them to “tap the break,” according to a local official. What’s next? M.C. Escher as stairwell architect?
And when your newspaper has a regular category called “Snakebites,” you know there’s something twisted going on. Here’s the latest headline from the Miami Herald, printed Sunday, October 13: “Man Bitten by Rattlesnake in Broward County while Helping Turtle Cross 1-75.” Couldn’t this unfortunate scout find any old ladies to help across the road? In South Florida?
With these kinds of daily, riveting reports, it’s no surprise that I became a news and comics page junkie at a young age. I read the Miami Herald before school and the Hollywood Sun-Tattler when I came home. I listened to Dan Rather before he had “courage” (I suspect he spent time in South Florida before this pronouncement, as I and my friends fully understood his counsel). Garry Trudeau taught me more about politics than any civics class, and Dave Barry and The Far Side’s Gary Larson gave me laugh-out-loud validation that I was not crazy.
In college I studied absurdist literature—the likes of Samuel Beckett and Nikoli Gogol. My adviser couldn’t understand what I saw in it, but I never blinked an eye. Two tramps eternally waiting? A human pack mule? Disembodied voices? Got it. A man who loses his nose? Check. In fact, I think it was found floating in a canal along Alligator Alley.
I now live in Connecticut, where the state flower is the rock, squirrels think they’re birds except when they’re playing kamikaze in front of a moving car, and on any given day deer, wild turkeys, chipmunks, squirrels, foxes, ground hogs, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, and/or fisher cats can parade through our yard and nom our garden. It may not be as exciting as Florida, but, hey, at least none of them are wearing speedos.