Exploding Sperm Whales, Pre-Mid-Life Crisis, and the Unethical Worship of George Takei

(Originally ran on February 2nd, 2004 as "Salsa fantasy eclipsed by harsh reality")

This morning I thought I'd write my column about the sperm whale that exploded on a street in Taiwan last week. I could've connected it to some other current issue, like Groundhog Day,* but that would be too easy.

Besides, why recycle the same international news you can find on any website, why not share something more personal, more unique, like some of my recent disturbing dreams?

I usually have a tough time recalling dreams, much in the same way I have difficulty remembering cannibal jokes. As someone who is paid to be funny, you'd think I'd have a reservoir of one-liners on call, but for some reason the only joke I can ever remember is the one where God tells Adam that his ideal companion would cost him an arm and a leg, and Adam asks what he can get for a rib instead. Unless they are written down, my dreams usually descend down the corroded copper plumbing of my memory banks.

But last week I had this dream that I had a son, and my mortality has been weighing heavily on my mind ever since. Even more than my concern over the dwindling presidential campaign of Joe Lieberman, who appears to only be getting votes from the powerful "People For the Unethical Worship of George Takei" lobby. The notion of having spawned an heir is a serious issue to a guy that customarily eats his dinner at 10:30 at night while watching re-runs of "Seinfeld." I also keep having dreams about driving cars with no brakes.

I'd much prefer to have the dream I had about a year ago. In that dream I was Clint Eastwood, and I was working in the Southwest on a highly-trained team that was paid to search for rocks that would be good to grind tortillas with. I can't vouch for the real-world accuracy of the dream; I haven't the slightest idea how tortillas are made, or a clue what kind of a rock would be optimal for the task. But it seemed that the tortilla job was just a contextual setting that would lead to a more exciting and substantial adventure, like leading a revolt against the makers of Pace Picante Sauce. Unfortunately I woke up before the dream could be completed.

Last semester I dreamed the guys from Pink Floyd were hanging out on my couch. I don't know why they were there, but I do remember that they arrived in their present-day "middle-aged classic rocker" edition, cause their bassist (Roger Waters) wasn't with them. He'd left the band amid legal issues in the early 1980's.

It could be that all of these dreams are just a manifestation of subconscious guilt that stems from my irresponsible bachelor lifestyle. Maybe it's just that I'm listening to Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" while writing this.

But the most likely culprit would have to be what I've identified as the "pre-mid-life crisis" that all men go through sometime in their 20's. It's that glorious moment where you wake up for the first time after a night of playing basketball with a soreness so acute you swear you'd spent the night being fought over by a pair of temperamental sumo wrestlers. For years you'd engaged in all sorts of sporting activity with no noticeable impact on your body. Your invincibility and endurance was unmatched; you played despite sprains, bruises, and protruding bones.

Then one day your body decides to make you work to keep it up, and the Big Macs you've lived on for ten years suddenly turn on you. It's not quite like a "mid-life crisis," where middle-aged accountants are seized by the compulsion to buy red BMW convertibles and make unsolicited phone calls to Janet Jackson. For one thing, the pre-mid's don't have enough money to make their payments on their 88' Honda Preludes, let alone a $45,000 Z-4. It's more the epiphany that occurs when you realize, "hey, wasn't I supposed to have a couple of Super Bowl rings by now?" or when it dawns on you that somewhere between the ages of 22 and 24 you became a really lousy basketball player. It's…


Now I'm really depressed. I knew I should have written about that stupid whale.

*If you wheel a sperm whale down a street in Taiwan and it explodes, you have two more months of winter; but if it gets up off of the flatbed and wanders back into the ocean, you'll see an early spring.