Agnes Moorehead, in her role of Endora, used to invade my dreams and nightmares. When I was ages 7 and 8, I was very impressionable, very serious, and very literal, which made Endora the most powerful and frightening character of all media, real and fictional. In the dreams she was not evil or malicious—she never turned me into a goat or a werewolf, or made me speak Italian, as she did to poor Darrin on the television show. Instead she kinda hung out, silently demanding to be acknowledged, which I did with great deference and respect, which she appreciated. Once she set some art work of mine on fire. But it was a controlled burn.
My behavior was in stark contrast to Darrin’s, who was snide and borderline rude to the old crone, often raising his voice and picking fights. His demeanor always struck me as extremely reckless and stupid, given her antagonism and extraordinary magical abilities. Endora would wave her arms and utter silly poetry over a harp glissando, and suddenly Darrin would have big ears or a tail, or his lips would be zippered shut, or his testicles would turn to lime jello (which never happened, but still.) In response, Darrin—or Derwin, or Dustbin, or Dingwad, or these other names that Endora derisively called him—refused to apologize or beg forgiveness or otherwise kow-tow. Instead he would stamp his foot as if talking to a recalcitrant child. “You turn me back to normal this instant!” The laugh track would find this hysterical. I was petrified.
Thank God his wife, Samantha, who was the star of the show, was always on hand to set things right. She showed up in my dreams, too, generally as a maternal figure.
The show, Bewitched, is really about the power of women, which was an issue to reckon with back in the 1960s and early 70s.
In contrast, I Dream of Jeannie was pure fluff, kind of like the smoke that Jeannie turned into. You can find clips online of Barbara Eden discussing her role and the production, ad nauseum. Her view is that she and Major Nelson were equals in their relationship, despite her harem-girl outfit and all the rest. I think that’s debatable, but I also think that other issues are worthier of debate.
I never dreamed of Jeannie.
My younger son Nathen, now age 19 months, shows no interest in fantasy. I pick out the stuffed animals from the toy bins—the fat-legged koala, the mole, the Hanukkah bear—and I pretend to speak for them in a silly bounding voice. “Hellooooooo, Nathennnnn! I am the Koala Bearrrrr! It’s nice to see you toooodaay.” The voice is inspired by a Seinfeld episode that you can look up if you like. Nathen looks at me with a characteristic befuddled expression.
One of the current favorite toys is a fit-the-shapes-in-the-slots gizmo, with which he struggles but gains some satisfaction when he figures it out. A few weeks ago, Nathen was going all Kobayashi Maru by ripping off the slotted lid and dropping the shapes directly into the bucket. Now, though, he insists on fitting the shapes into the slots. Progress!
Tonight, instead of watching the Super Bowl, I drove from suburban Boston to a hotel just off the Garden State Parkway. Of the 71 routes for this particular journey, most pass through dangerous territory. I am not referring to the south Bronx or Yonkers, but rather the entire state of Connecticut. From border to border, the Nutmeg State is riddled with temptations, such as (in the order I faced them this evening) the beaches of Old Saybrook, some Mexican restaurants, Sherwood Island, Rinaldi’s Deli, and the CVS Pharmacy off Exit 5. I passed them all, successfully, with the exception of one innocent stop for coffee at a Starbucks. In fact Starbucks may not be so innocent because of politically questionable corporate leadership, but let’s save that for another essay. I felt queasy and out of sorts throughout my whole passage through the state, and didn’t really feel at ease until passing the welcome sign for New Jersey, which noted its governor, Phil Murphy, and the lieutenant governor, Sheila Oliver.
You might ask what I’m doing here in New Jersey, and the answer is just not worth going into. Tomorrow I have meetings in Manhattan, and let’s leave things at that.
Here is today’s trivia question:
Who owns the first patent for an artificial heart?
A. Dr. Robert Jarvik, famous heart surgeon
B. Dr. Henry Heimlich, famous for a maneuver to save choking victims
C. Thomas Edison, famous inventor of electrical devices
D. Clara Barton, famous for founding the American Red Cross
E. Paul Winchell, famous ventriloquist and the voice of Gargamel in Smurf cartoons
And the correct answer is….
E, of course.
I am not sure what this means. It might mean that all of us have the potential to do great things in our lives. Which does not explain why I am scribbling nonsense in my hotel room at this late hour, but maybe that’s acceptable as well.
Have a good February, everyone. And if you’re on the road, as I am—safe travels.