Sometimes, you experience an event that buffets your confidence so badly, you just have to hold on tight and ride it out. Otherwise, there is no telling what you might do.
This is one of those times.
I no longer recall the context, but at some point, I had written about Law & Order, I imagine, in the context of how addicted I am to the reruns, and perhaps, parenthetically, about how I find one of its spin-offs, Law & Order – Special Victims Unit to be borderline pornographic. Though still watchable.
Anyway, in the course of that post, I alluded to the famously identifiable Law & Order (and its spin-offs) auditory punctuator, which is injected during the breaks between the scenes, though not between all the scenes, between some of the scenes, an arrangement whose code, despite my two decades plus as a regular viewer, I have been unable to crack.
At that writing, in an effort to translate Law & Order’s signature sound into words, I described it as,
I believed I had nailed it.
It turns out I was wrong.
How sweet it is to be blissfully insulated from one’s shortcomings. And how jarring to be roused from your self-inflating illusions, forced to come face-to-face with indisputable reality.
I can tell you this. It is a bitter pill to swallow.
I claim expertise in nothing. That’s why nobody listens to me. They say,
“Who are you, an expert?”
And finding me stationed light years from that distinguishing demarcation, the world immediately dismisses what I have to say.
The single area in which I approach within shouting distance of “expertise” is in the arguably important, though less so perhaps than I’d like it to be, arena of words.
I know words. I’ve been using them since I could talk. Words are the first things that came out of my mouth, after crying sounds, and spit-up.
In my chosen profession of writer, I have honed my word choices meticulously, committed to selecting the most evocative descriptives for what I’m writing about that I can muster.
I believed it was perfect.
Then yesterday, Anna dropped by, and in the course of her visit, she grabbed her mother’s IPad, key-stroked to YouTube, to a clip she was certain I’d enjoy.
It was a Sesame Street parody. A cleverly conceived mock spin-off of the Law & Order franchise, meant for educational purposes, entitled,
Law & Order – Special Letters Unit.
The clip tickled me immensely. They had caught the show’s spirit down to the hairstyle-mimicking wigs atop the Muppet performers portraying a special police unit dedicated to finding lost letters from the alphabet, in this case the letter “M.”
And then, I heard it. The Muppets version of that signature Law & Order sound cue.
It was not “Clank-clank.”
It was “Chung-chung.”
Which is significantly
The Muppets’ transliterated upgrade immediately ate me up. I had not “nailed it” after all. Indisputably, “Chung-chung” is superior to “Clank-clank.” “Clank-clank” isn’t terrible. It evokes the lonely desperation of closing jail cell doors. But it misses the ringing finality of “Chung-chung.”
I reviewed my process. How had I, a word expert, been so egregiously off the mark? I wondered, had I had a second crack at it, would I have discovered the unmistakability of “Chung-chung?” I am almost certain I would not. A revisiting “re-do” may, at best, have brought me to an inner tussle between “Clank-clank” and “Clunk-clunk.” But I have to admit it. I am incapable of the perfection that is “Chung-chung.”
Always the “c-l.” Never the “c-h.” And what was I thinking with that “k!"
Two thoughts rushed immediately to my mind. I recall being nominated for an Emmy Award for a Lily Tomlin special, and losing,
To the Muppets.
For the first time, I had to truthfully acknowledge,
They deserved it.
Secondly, back in the seventies, I was invited to go to London for six months to write for The Muppets Show. Though not without misgivings, I said “No” to the offer, as I was working happily and successfully, writing scripts for the Mary Tyler Moore Company stable of series. Plus, I had just begun a relationship with a woman who would ultimately become my wife. I chose not to risk either of those fortuities to relocate to London for half a year.
Despite the sagacity of that decision, I nevertheless harbored secret second thoughts of an “Opportunity missed.”
My eyes have now, belatedly, been opened.
It was good I didn’t work on The Muppets Show. I would not have measured up. Exposed, inevitably, as
A “Clank-clank” writer. In a “Chung-chung” world.
There is nothing I can do about it, I suppose.
Except sit back, take a stabilizing breath,
And tip your hat.
An Observation: In the recent Republican debate, Rick Perry could not remember the third governmental agency he would definitely abolish were he to become president. Saturday Night Live tried to satirize the moment, and failed. Why? Because Rick Perry's humiliation could not be satirized. Satire requires exaggeration. And in this case, there was no place further they could go.