In the late 70s, George Burns starred in Oh God and Oh God, Book II. The movies were in a constant loop on cable a summer later. My brother Jeremy and I watched them over and over (and over and over) until we could recite them from memory. One day, my mom had had enough.
It wasn't that we were spending our summer inside, planted on a scratchy wool cushions of the sofa and slurping back Pepsi Lights, but that George Burns was so much more than what we were seeing.
That evening she took us out for our favorite candy (chocolate covered raisins for me, something gummy-ike for Jer, I think) and then we crowded around the glow of the TV for the "Burns and Allen Show." During commerical breaks Mom told us about Gracie Allen and George Burns rose through the ranks of vaudeville, then radio, then television.
It was in black and white and it looked old even on our new TV, but I remember being so awed at the fact that something that was written so long ago could still make me laugh and Gracie Allen was probably the first truly funny woman I had ever seen.
Later that year, our 4th grade teacher at Ben Franklin School (Mrs. Keen?) taught us how to write formal letters. The assignment was to pick people you looked up to, and ask them for an autographed picture. She would take care of sending the letters off.
The year was 1982, and most kids chose to write the cast of Star Wars.
My mom told me that Gracie Allen died before I was born, so I chose to write to George Burns.
Over the next few months, letters would come back in care of Ben Franklin School. Autographed photos of Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. And then one day, an envelope came for me.
I forgot about the letter until yesterday, when a package arrived on my doorstep from SlackMom.
Thank you for the nice letter. I'm just sorry I couldn't get around to answering it sooner. I'm very honored that you chose me. I thought a letter would be nicer than a picture.
It's nice to know that today, kids still look up to someone. It's a nice feeling. I had my heroes when I was young. Abe Lincoln. Thomas Jefferson. I knew Jefferson personally. That's a joke.
I'm not really that old. I'm older. Anyway, sweetie, stay happy and healthy.
He sent it from Hollywood Center Studios Which is not far from where I spend my days writing comedy now.
Thank you, Mr. Burns. And goodnight, Gracie.*
*Lizzie McGuire won a Gracie Allen Award for comedy in 2003. How cool is that?
If you want to see photos of when I was 200 pounds, you don't need to skulk through cached versions of my blog. (Because those show up on my webstats, which means trying to hide your tracks is kind of silly.)
They're up on Flickr for all to see, but I've attached it below for your enjoyment. (You should check out some of my high school photos, too. It's pretty funny stuff.)
In spin class today, the instructor stepped out for literally 30 seconds. During this time, the guy sitting in front of me picked up his cell phone and SNAPPED A PHOTO IN THE MIRROR. He stashed the phone away as soon as the instructor came back inside.
I work out at the YMCA, which is not only a community center and a gym but also a family shelter. There are 329842349 different signs that read NO CELL PHONES. It's not a stretch by any means to think that people do not want to be photographed while they're working out.
As class wound down, the guy hopped off his bike and left before the stretch. I unclipped from my bike and ran after him.
Hey, did you take a photo in class? I asked.
Am I in it?
I'm pretty sure you're not, he said. He turned to go.
I stepped in front of him. Show me.
Not knowing what to do with the sweaty woman in the lime green tank top who was blocking his way, he fished out his Blackberry and opened the photo. Sure enough, I was there, as was the woman next to me and the (pregnant) woman next to him. Our faces were blurry, so you couldn't identitfy any of us.
See, you can't see you, he said, and turned to leave again.
It's not cool to snap pictures of people without their permission, I told him. If you want a picture riding the bike, I'm sure the instructor would be cool with you doing it after class.
I moved out of the way. Have a great day!
I tweet. I Facebook. I check in using Foursquare. I'm as connected as you get. But have some fucking manners, people. Jesus.