– By William Cooper
I have what is referred to in my household as a Hero Complex. Oh, I don’t go about saving kittens from burning buildings or rescuing old ladies from the tops of trees with the irresistible lure of a saucer of milk. No, I work from the shadows, you know, like Batman.
Unlike Batman, I have no gadgets, no ability to fight crime, and no real money to speak of. Instead, I am what you might call The Dark Knight of the Mundane. For instance, I am the guy who discovers and then disposes of amazing archaeological finds in public restroom toilets, left behind by some ancient people who had not yet evolved the ability to press a button. I’m also the guy who picks up the paper towels left in the middle of the same restroom after their users were obviously struck dumb by the mesmerizing, disorienting whirr of the hand dryers and fled screaming out the door.
Beyond my bathroom domain, I am frequently called upon to clean up the consequences of grocery store Rapture, wherein everyday shoppers are lifted up and out of their lives in the middle of gathering their goods. I line up lonely shopping carts abandoned in the produce aisle, often just a few agonizing feet away from the bay of other shopping carts. I stack baskets left in mysterious formations of various, puzzling orientations by those that have moved on to a better existence. I even venture further afield to chase down escaping, rolling death machines that aim for car doors, block parking spaces, or try to escape entirely for a life on the run.
I toss trash into the can that somebody could not be bothered to retrieve. I salt the front steps and walkways of our apartment complex in winter, change the shared porch light, and bring lazily mis-delivered packages to the proper doorways.
Yes, the true saint of mundanity never sleeps.
But there is a dark side to all of this. I hear, surprisingly, that even Batman has a dark side. A few years ago, my wife and I went to a roller derby bout at a local skating rink. Afterwards the rink held a public skate, which my wife joined, decked out in full elbow and knee pads and with a flowery, pink helmet. I watched her glide away from me into the throng, and then a while later, witnessed her slowly inching her way back on one foot, grimacing painfully. In a bizarre set of circumstances, she had taken a fall and had somehow hurt herself so badly that she couldn’t walk.
So, I did what any hero would do. I picked her up and carried her out of the rink the long way round, then through an entire bowling alley and across half a parking lot before placing her into our car. Now I am no muscle-bound caveman, nor does my wife weigh ten pounds. About a fourth of the way into the journey, I knew I was in trouble and yet I kept pushing past my limit, propelled by my misplaced sense of duty.
We drove home. Ignoring my own pain, I carried her into the house, and then squirreled her away where we tended to her sprained ankle for several weeks until we discovered that it was a broken heel and probably should have been seen to earlier. I, in turn, nursed my thrown-out back and sore muscles, which didn’t do anybody any good whatsoever. I never asked for help, which eventually brought me into the arms of a cardiologist for anxiety-produced palpations. It was a winter to celebrate, that’s for certain. It put the Ass into Avengers ASSemble.
But that’s the flip side of this hero business. The rink was full of people, most of them with vast experience in injuries of this nature. There was a drugstore not too far away that sold crutches. There was probably some kind of medical person in the crowd as well. The point is, there were many options that night and yet I chose to see only one, the one where I sacrificed myself to do something I was convinced nobody else could do, or nobody could do better, or do the way I needed it to be done in the moment. I closed myself off from everything and with a narrow focus, ignored all but what I wanted to and needed to see.
When you are a hero, you spend your life trying to make the world a better place. But at the same time, it’s easy to make that world smaller and more constrained and yourself more isolated, trapped and more heavy with burden. There is giving, and there is sacrifice, and there is seizing control, and often it’s hard to figure out which way your cape blows.
I try now to be less superhero and more mild-mannered civilian, certainly no Bruce Wayne, but maybe an older, crankier Peter Parker. At the end of the day, there’s a big, old world out there full of choices and options, and none of us are alone in it. I don’t have to do everything. I’ll leave some of it for you. It’s a much better and more balanced life that way.
Take it from your Friendly Neighborhood Podcaster.
In this episode, we look for options in our closed systems. We begin with a phlegmy, loopy, tinkly opening that heralds the arrival of the inappropriately-titled Nut Brown Maiden. Scott gives props to the amazing Murdervan who saved the Horns from certain doom, but may have had a hand in causing it. William announces that our pinup career is off to a rousing, pinching, scuttling start, if being the poster boys of Happy, Introverted and Dorky is a thing. Naked and Afraid? Why not? Scott has the alphabetized ass for it. Then we both freak-out with a serious discussion of anxiety, depression, options, and regrets which leads to the story of William’s initial Seattle migration and closet-living hermitage and Scott’s recent scheduling struggles that again sees the return of the Murdervan, this time as a mobile work studio that may be more enabling than helpful. Finally, somebody is sending William very bossy notifications. Turns out it is past William, that jerk! Who will win this epic battle of Wills? Then it’s time for Music in Rearview, where the theme is one of musical crushes. Scott’s heart is like a Linda Rondstadt-shaped wheel and he shares both his early-onset empathy and his creative, clinical and very specific pornography solution in the pre-Internet age. For William it was all about Tori Amos who has the power to both move you and serve as an early-warning alarm. Scott wonders what’s up with that log in the woods. William shops for Jewels with his groin. Things get antsy quickly. Everyone take a breath. Everything is okay. Away, bounding boxes!
Nut Brown Maiden (Sheet Music ‘Performed’ in the show)
Nut Brown Maiden (A Completely Different Irish Folk Song)
Naked and Afraid
Linda Ronstadt Heart Like a Wheel on iTunes
The Parent Trap – with Haley Mills
Valerie Bertinelli on One Day at a Time
Kristy McNichol DESTROYS Melissa Gilbert
Tori Amos Little Earthquakes on iTunes