Saturday, February 15, 2020

Laughing

I love to hear a big, unrestricted, peeling laugh.  A laugh that gives fully to the moment.  Those laughs usually sound like rapid-fire jackhammer bursts.  There's nothing you can do to disguise your out-and-out happiness or you child-like appreciation of that moment that made you laugh.  These can be accompanied by various bent over movements, head thrown back, eyes widened.

When was the last time you had a belly laugh?  Have you ever laughed so hard you had to hit someone? Have you ever laughed so hard you actually fell down on the floor?  I did, once, in a movie theater, when I saw Putney Swope, years ago, laughing so unrestrainedly I tumbled onto the theater aisle.  God, what a wonderful moment.

Robin Williams had a laugh like that.  You didn't hear it that often, because he was so busy making other people laugh, but if you go on YouTube and find places where he was with Jonathan Winters, you can hear it.  It'll make you laugh, or at least smile. Jennifer Lawrence has a great laugh.


We learn a lot from the way a person laughs.  In fact, of all the signals we get from people we don't know that well, their laugh may be the most telling. It's amazing to me how many laughs are mirthless.  Those people who can't give themselves away, who laugh moderately, with restraint, without any theater, without any passion and release, are to be wary of, I think.

To let go with a big, uninhibited, raucous belly laugh takes not caring.  You are so obviously a delighted mess.  So obviously you.  Nothing you wear, nothing you've done, nobody you know--nothing can protect you from the Woody Woodpecker, crazy happy noise that comes out of your mouth.  I am a passenger on that ship of restraint from time to time, and I so regret it.  Because laughing feels so damn great.

Of course, if you want to tap the source of genuine soul-satisfying laughter, if you want to learn how to really laugh again, listen to children. Especially to babies.  Yes, babies.  Because when you make a baby laugh, the sound is 100% pure undiluted joy. It's better than vitamins.


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Terrible Ted

I went to Cranbrook School, a private boys school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, starting in 1958.

Cranbrook had an ice hockey team, but since I couldn't skate well, I never considered trying out for the team.  I didn't know much about the sport.

I had a good friend at the school who was on the team, though, and I used to go to the school's rink, which was outside, to watch him practice.  I would stand at one end and watch him sail around the rink on skates. He looked so graceful.  One time, I noticed a grown man skating with the players.  He wasn't the coach.  I asked my friend who he was.

"Ted Lindsay," he said.  "He helps out coaching from time to time."

Who was Ted Lindsay?

"He used to play for the Red Wings.  Want to meet him?"

He meant the Detroit Red Wings.  One of the sixat the timeNational Hockey League teams.  A little later my friend skated over with the man.  He introduced me to Ted Lindsay.  The man did not smile.  He didn't exactly have a scowl, but he looked deadly serious.  I learned later he had recently retired.

Then I noticed his face.  It was unlike any face I'd ever seen.  It was marked with countless jagged scars.  They covered the landscape of his face.  It was if his face were an abstract painting.  There didn't seem to be one portion of it that wasn't marked by scars moving in all directions.  I probably gasped.  He was fearsome-looking.  The fact that he didn't smile added to his fearsomeness. Later, I read that Lindsay had over 700 stitches on that face. 

Ted Lindsay had played left wing on a storied line that included the legendary Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretsky's idol.  He was called "Terrible Ted" by the press for his ferocity as a player.  "I had no friends on the ice," he once said.  He will be unknown to most Americans who do not know or love ice hockey.  But I'm sure most every Canadian knows who Ted Lindsay, a native son, was.

Ted Lindsay

I still remember that face.  The over-abundant scars, the result of run-ins with fists and hockey sticks and perhaps skate blades as well.  I'm sure Ted Lindsay had seen the astonished look I had on my face hundreds, maybe thousands of times. He probably counted on it as a player.

This was a face that a child might imagine the bogeyman having, who might spirit the child away from his home in the middle of the night.  Suddenly, "There's no such thing as the bogeyman" lost all its meaning.  There he was.