Dearest Rachel –
There were several things in our lives that we both had knowledge and enjoyment of, but never quite shared as we could have. One, of course, was the nation of Japan (and its attendant culture), which we both visited and fell in love with before we became a couple – you as a teenager with your parents, and me as part of a university class on Asian business – but never got a chance to go there as a couple or as a family. It was a place I had considered arranging for us to go to once the pandemic lifted, but well…
Another mutual experience we had that we didn’t exactly share, was an encounter with the comedian Gallagher. As part of the radio program I worked on my sophomore year with my sempais James and Dave, I made an effort to gather a fairly broad collection of comedy albums, and his was in amongst the mix. It was his delivery and which I encountered for the first time the ice cream koan: “if our knees bent the other way, what would a chair look like?” He gleefully asserted that most people in the audience never thought up the weird things he did because “you haven’t been smoking the things I’ve been smoking.” Yeah, clearly he hadn’t found the schtick he ultimately became associated with on this recording from 1983-4 (I know it was about then, because he was making jokes about preparing for the Los Angeles Olympics, where the athletes were training for the climate conditions by “running through a forest fire sucking on a muffler”) – which was all well and good, as you can’t really do prop comedy (especially the infamous melon smashing Sledge-O-Matic) on an audio recording.
Meanwhile, despite my constant teasing you about your hometown being in the middle of nowhere, you enjoyed certain advantages of living in a college town. One of these was that performers would come to town where they ordinarily wouldn’t bother with a municipality the size of yours. And naturally, given the topic of this letter, one of the visiting performers was Gallagher.
If I remember the story correctly as you told it to me – although who’s going to correct me if I get it wrong? – your parents were unavailable to take you at the time, but your aunt Betty (your dad’s older sister) was up from Alton, and she brought you to see him. You weren’t quite sure what to make of him, but I know from your repetition that you were impressed that he came up with something to make fun of the local area, specifically the pronunciation of our state: “‘Ill and annoyed.’ You folks are just sick and tired all the time, aren’t you?”
I also recall you telling me about how, during an intermission, you went to use the restroom, and upon walking out, nearly ran face to face into him. Naturally, you reacted with shock, as you had not in expected to get that up close and personal to him. And what struck you most about the encounter was the fact that he was apparently as amused by your shocked reaction as you were surprised to run into him, since he promptly pulled a face in imitation of your own.
So what does any of this have to do with today’s topic, you might ask? Well, another one of the stories that he told you as part of his monologue was something about his family never taking down the Christmas decorations. Whenever they were happy about something, they would turn the lights on and call it a ‘Happy House.’ According to him, it annoyed the neighbors, but who cared? They were happy, and that’s what mattered.
And that’s where things stand, as I’m looking at the picture window, and noticing the Daniel’s left the lights on that you strung up late November for the sake of celebrating the holidays. I think he just fell asleep in his chair, and didn’t bother to turn them off before he fell asleep (because he hadn’t planned to that quickly).
To be honest, I don’t know how to take them down. And since it was you that put them up, I’m not really sure I even want to.
Of course, it’s not so much that the house is happy any more than we are. But it adds a little bit of cheer to the place. Even our backyard neighbor, Ted, has commented that the lights remind him of you. And with that being said, I’m just as satisfied to leave them up. Not that I really need that many reminders of you – I just can’t get enough of them, is all.
Anyway, I need to get going. I’ve got a fair amount to do today (not that you’d be particularly interested, but it still needs doing). I’ll keep in touch.
Love you. Miss you.