Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Sundays With Charlie, the Funniest Man on the Planet
By Dr. Mel Waldman
Note: This is the first of a three-part series.
I met Charlie, a comic genius, back in the seventies, when I was single again and going to socials and special events of interest to me and the general public. I met him at a jazz event. With understated, low-key humor, he cracked a few jokes and I laughed uproariously. This short, rotund man caught my attention. We talked at length, exchanged numbers, and ultimately, became lifelong buddies.
Of course, when we met, I didn’t realize he was a comic genius, nor did I consider him the funniest man on the planet. Over the next four decades, I discovered his generous humanity and his creative, comic perceptions of reality. His hilarious world view fueled his humor. And consistently, he launched me into hysterical fits of laughter. We shared a cornucopia of joy that, I believe, few friends have experienced.
Charlie and I had a ball, a private party of two men laughing together through at least half a lifetime, transcending the bad days, even the tragedies. More than a good-time Charlie, my dear friend was a good guy for all times.
Yet twice in our friendship, we stopped all contact for a few years. We had a few disagreements about trivial matters we can’t recall. His wife Gladys of more than fifty years facilitated our first reunion. She called me and said Charlie missed me. I confessed to her that I missed him. After her call, I put my ego aside and called Charlie. My old friend welcomed me back into his world, just as I accepted him again, without reservation, into mine. We recreated our shared universe of joy and celebration.
During those years of separation, Charlie suffered from heart failure and had quadruple bypass surgery. I suffered from a potentially fatal disease during this period. I received a treatment that was ineffective for most patients. Miraculously, I was cured.
His devoted granddaughter Helen brought us together for our second reunion. I got her call a few months ago. Charlie was in the hospital on a respirator. He suffered from dementia and aspiration pneumonia. No one knew if he would survive. I prayed for my old buddy.
While Charlie was in the hospital and the first few months after his discharge, I suffered severe asthma attacks, shortness of breath, chest pains, and a flood of agonizing pain throughout my body from head to toe. We didn’t see each other during this period. But I faced my quotidian challenges and functioned optimally at work. I refused to use my medical problems as excuses for not working. Indeed, work was a blessing, for it became a beautiful distraction from my chronic pain and medical conditions.
Furthermore, I spoke with his courageous granddaughter. She kept me abreast of Charlie’s emotional and medical conditions. And I asked Helen to let my friend know that I was back in his life. As the weeks and months passed, we eventually talked on the phone. Hearing Charlie’s voice warmed my heart and touched my wounded soul. And apparently, my presence in his life motivated Charlie to take better care of himself and to work harder at rehabilitation.
But before I describe our reunion, let me digress for a moment. Charlie wrote an encyclopedia of humorous categories, zany lists, perceptions, puzzles, comments and commentaries, and indefinable creations. A prolific writer and creator, he produced thousands and possibly tens-of-thousands of unique comic creations.
We used to wander through the labyrinth of Manhattan, especially Greenwich Village, SOHO, the 14th Street Area, Mid-and-Upper Manhattan and Brooklyn too, particularly Brooklyn Heights. Charlie usually spoke into his tape recorder and recorded his reconstructions of reality, a joyous journey into a vast playground of comedy.
Traveling with Charlie seemed like a romp through an enchanting wormhole, a surreal trip through the dreamscape of Alice in Wonderland. Charlie, disguised as the White Rabbit, disappeared into a rabbit hole. I followed him and fell down the rabbit hole.
What followed was a soulful feast and smorgasbord of humor, with a magical serving of Woody Allen, Seinfeld, and Kurt Vonnegut plus the X Factor in a comic concoction producing the innovative humorist I have the honor of calling my best friend.
Read Part Two in this series!!!!!
Writer Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, writer, and artist. His stories have appeared in dozens of magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, and AUDIENCE. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. He is the author of 11 books. His most recent book, I AM A JEW, is a collection of essays, memoir, short stories, poems, and plays about his exploration of his Jewish identity. He has sold a series of short stories to the British publisher of POSTSCRIPTS, including literary mysteries, stories of suspense, and horror. These stories will tentatively be published in 2012 and 2013. He is currently working on a novel inspired by Freud’s case studies. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.