Monday, April 15, 2013

It Ain't Me, Babe

Is this me?

I passed myself on the stairs this morning. I was coming up as I was going dowm. As I went by, I didn't acknowledge my presence. But after a few steps, I turned to watch myself go.

I wrote those lines immediately after the incident occurred in the stairwell of a medical office building. The one heading south was me, the other guy on the ascension, a definite look-alike. Well, it would have been a little more accurate had he not been ten, dare I say, fifteen years my junior. He was certainly a couple of inches taller and most assuredly slimmer and trimmer than the earlier model typing these words. I looked pretty good, if I do say so myself even though my other self in the doctor's smock may not return the compliment. He was a version of me that perhaps could and maybe even should have been. A young professional. Well, young-er. I tried not to let it bother me since this is the version I'm stuck with and I'd better just make peace with it. Since I had a few years on him, at least I can claim to be original and not extra crispy.

Or is this?
What I find significant is that scenes like this are occurring with increasing frequency. My doppelgangers, clones and lookalikes are popping up all over the place and it's getting rather unnerving.

My whole life, I've heard that I resemble somebody else. I look familiar. I remind them of someone they know, often in a roundabout fashion.

"You kinda sorta look just like my neighbor's cousin's boyfriend's brother."

I've always wondered if the opposite is true. Does someone ever look like me? Ask a rhetorical question, sometimes you get a rhetorical answer.

Over time, I've gotten the celebrity comparisons, usually those that do not flatter me in the least. Right about the time I graduated high school, I became the receiving end of Bob Denver comparisons. Not Maynard G. Krebs. Not Gilligan. Not even one of the FAR-OUT SPACE NUTS. My number landed on Dusty from the thankfully long-forgotten syndicated western sit-com DUSTY'S TRAIL. This was back at a time when I was a thin as a hitching post cowboy at Pollardville Ghost Town with the hair roughly the same length as Dusty's, not to mention I was overacting to the nth degree in various gunfighter skits on Main Street. I confess that I had been bitten by the broad comedy bug, so my acting skills would have been right at home on the TRAIL. I didn't like the analogy, but at least I understood it.

Fast forward to Oregon in the year 2000. after a particularly grueling and soul-kicking day at work, I stopped by my local Blockbuster Video for some cinematic sedatives. At the check-out, the dweeb in blue and yellow shirt just had to push my buttons.

"Anybody ever tell you that you look like Mr. Roper?"

I should smacked him. I should have left. I should have smacked him, then left. Instead, I answered in the negative and sulked home. No wonder Blockbuster is going out of business. I've never been insulted by a Redbox.

This same scenario replayed a year later at another check-out line, this time at Trader Joe's from some limp wahini in a Hawaiian shirt. And as recent as two weeks ago, I was tagged in a picture by some dork on Facebook. If I'm not mistaken, I think this guy might have worked a register at one time too. Does a cashier's job description include assholiness?

So three votes for Mr. Roper, supporting character on the abyssmal 1970s sitcom THREE'S COMPANY portrayed by the inimitable Norman Fell. I don't mean to besmirch the memory of Mr. Fell, a rock-solid character actor with ten times the talent of Maynard Gilligan Denver. Norm appeared in hundreds of TV shows better than THREE'S COMPANY with memorable turns in THE GRADUATE, CATCH-22, BULLITT and THE END. I would have been blessed to have such a career. Being accused of looking like the man or the impotent, homophobic lech he portrayed is another story altogether.

Some comparisons were not as insulting, like the Russian soldier in the original John Milius version of RED DAWN. When a friend pointed out a member of a Soviet tank crew harassing Lea Thompson, I responded like Hans Landa. "That's a bingo!" We had a match, except that he appeared to be at least six inches taller than me.

In the more recent past, the incidents have increased at an alarming rate, especially since I'm starting to see me in other places than a mirror. It began with that encounter on the stairwell.

Not a week later, a cafeteria worker at a Newberg hospital that I frequent on a daily basis for work asked if I had a second job with UPS. Apparently, there's another me delivering packages in Yamhill County.

The very next night, I caught an oddball indie film on Showtime written and directed by Quentin Duieux called RUBBER, all about a killer car tire with telekinetic powers. It's less wacky than it sounds, more along the lines of a failed Adult Swim pilot. After an excruciating twenty minutes, my finger poised on the remote, lo and behold, there I was again. This isn't just any old me either, but this version of old me in a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses driving a pick-up. It is the closest representation of me I've ever seen, so damn exact that I had to check the credits to see if it was indeed me. I don't know. Maybe I recovered from a recent head trauma and didn't realize that I had made this film. That's possible since, in this particular scene, the tire blows my head off, SCANNERS style. Save yourself 90 minutes and check out the clip below if you have any desire to see my melon explode into a ooey-gooey mess.

What the hell is this straight to video sequel to BEING JOHN MALKOVICH existence I find myself in at this point in time? The more this occurs, the more difficult it is to rationalize this as pure coincidence. To make matters even hinkier, I've had the overwhelming feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin as of late. This could my body changing (or decaying) in the cruel onslaught of time, then taking an off-ramp to fuck with my brain along the way. Am I that close to my SELL BY date? It could be I'm expiring soon and all I've got to hope for is a DOCTOR WHO like regeneration. Then again, if that happens, I wouldn't look like myself any longer and that would take care of two problems with one shot. This seems pretty remote, but a girl can wish, can't she?

Of course, because I am the Ironic Chef, there is a suitable punchline for me and perhaps only me. Ever since I can remember, I've been trying to find myself. Now that I have, it turns out to be some one else.

Be careful what you wish for...or at least how you phrase it.

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