This one is hard to write about. It’s hard to write about Dads, right? We can’t really see them clear, can we? With one eye it’s Dad — the man who made us. With the other eye all the weaknesses and fears and infirmities. And as we get older we find — oh I am thirty years old now and when my Dad said that or did that he was just twenty-eight. Dad is younger than I am. With one eye. Not with the other. So if two eyes are seeing different things, it’s hard to get a look at somebody, don’t you think?
Or do you think, that’s the only way to get a look at somebody?
Well, I don’t know you, so I don’t really know what you think — I suppose Ic an only guess, or maybe say something to you that will somehow echo in your head enough that it may get mixed in with what you think. Is that knowing what you think? Close enough, friend, close enough!
Anyway, the story that I am telling you here tonight is my Dad’s story and it’s a story that he pitched me when I was first getting my feet under my legs as a t.v. writer and producer for “The Big Bang Theory.” My Dad’s story is called Mercurians, Venusians, and Martians. Dad was in no way a writer — he found it very difficult to express himself in any register other than the literal and factual, or corrosive irony. Those were the two registers. And sometimes he allowed himself to be entranced by the music of the pre-war acoustic blues, of which he was a premier pioneering collector and which he referred to as “mesmerizing”. So the idea that my Dad would pitch me a story for a television show was, if not mesmerizing, enough to grab my attention. Because I had never before this moment gotten any sign of approval from my Dad. Possibly because approval does not fit in either of the registers that he spoke in, the literal recounting of facts, or irony.
Anyway here was the story, in my Dad’s words. “The Mercurians are stuck on their planet. So they create a race of aliens to get them off the planet. They explore all different ways of getting off the planet so the Mercurians don’t have to try themselves. They are little tiny guys. These are the Venusians. And the Venusians or actually one genius amongst the Venusians, the Venusian Sigmund Freud and Einstein rolled into one he figures out what’s happening. He realizes that his whole race are nothing but tools for these other guys to figure out how to escape their planet. So they want to know what it is like to have power. So of course they –“
“They is the Venusians?”
“Right. They the Venusians create these ponds of algae that are like worlds.. And creating these simulations are what let them feel like what it would be like if they were gods. Not just gods! Able to CREATE gods! And the gods are guess who?”
“The Martians! The gods created by the Venusians in their ponds of algae are the Martians. And these Martians want to know what it is to have adventures! And the kind of adventures that the Martians want to experience is a great escape! A prison break!” My father is excited by the story he is pitching. Eighty-four years old, worked for sixty years as a storefront attorney, an abogado, on Loisaida in New York, and he’s excited now to be pitching a story. To his son, no less. “What is the prison, Eric?”
“I don’t know.”
“The prison is the planet Mercury!” My father smiled at me shyly. I had always wanted the old man’s approval but now, painfully, the situation had gone too far, and instead of benignly bestowing his beneficence from on high, he was sweatily asking me to approve this crazy story. Where to begin? Should I tell him that the Big Bang Theory was a sit com — it was about the adventures of humorously flawed characters in our universe? That it had no room in it for algae pools or gods, or Venusians, Martians and Mercurians?
He looked at me, his face eighty-four and eight at the same time. Old and young.
“Dad, if the Mercurians created the Venusians, and the Venusians created the Martians, how could the Martians create the Mercurians.”
He looked at me with a gigantic face-splitting smile, like the atom in the desert at Los Alamos; the twentieth century’s bouncing baby — the human-born sun. My Dad’s smile as he answered his son’s question was for the first time ever I saw — radiant.
“I wish I knew!”