Charlie and the Ice Cream Factory


willy-wonka

I went to the bluebell ice cream factory once.

Well, I think I did, at least. It was back when I was living in Oklahoma. This was also back when I was six.

I get older and memories crack into snapshots, tiny little photos on a news feed that I have trouble figuring out how to scroll.

I think I went there. It’s not as clear as when I went to space camp or the ropes course in North Carolina.

We were at both those places for three days and I only remember certain things: we snuck into a haunted house in North Carolina. I was terrified, but there was this girl and…

I also remember that it rained one night in space camp. The roofs were made out of tin. Very unlike a spacecraft, I thought. It sounded like a drum line all night long. No one got any sleep.

I remember two things about bluebell:

  1. We got to eat ice cream at the end. I was disappointed that it tasted exactly the same as the bluebell ice cream you’d buy in a store, never making the connection that of course it would.
  2. It wasn’t even a little bit like Willy Wonka.

It was cold and polished steel. People walked around in what I thought were haz-mat suits and nothing was growing anywhere in sight.

People weren’t especially jolly.

There weren’t even indentured dwarves.

It was very un-magical.

Sometimes you don’t think about things until it’s too late. It’s why I like to meditate. I don’t just think about the day, but I try to let my mind wander wherever it wants to go. Sometimes it thinks about dogs. Sometimes it thinks about butts. Mostly it just thinks about mountains, but sometimes… sometimes it creates revelations.

The revelation created today was how much Gene Wilder affected my life even though I never met the man. He and John Cleese were always my heroes. Even without knowing it, they were who I tried to emulate when I preformed.

I’d always imagined myself being a Gene Wilder if I pursued acting: utterly bizzare and hilarious.

Being brilliant in everything I did.

I decided to write instead of act because at some point I became wary of most people, but I still wanted to be Gene Wilder. Wild this, Wild that, make it Wilder, man. Something funny and absurd but heartfelt. Something that will make people cry at the end of it all, as the rocket soars up over the city and you see the smile on a young boy’s face as he realizes it’s not just an ice cream factory.

It’s not.

It’s a world. It’s packaged goodness, coming out of a machine and being driven to places where people can buy it and eat it up and help their day out just a little.

That’s what I try to tell myself even on the worst days of Starbucks. You really are giving people sugary joy in a cup. Maybe a wink and a smile, make it Wilder, and you can brighten someone’s day.

Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.

And so I was disappointed no one turned into a grape or got shrunk and there weren’t any orange slaves or a river made of chocolate when I went to the cie cream factory, but I realize now that I shouldn’t have been.

No.

Because ice cream factories ship joy.

Little boxes of happiness. Little tubs of Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. A round welcoming face, curly hair and occasionally a weird mustache.

Ah, there are so many things I wrote for you.

A tourist mistaken for an Area 51 general. A middle school music teacher who accidentally summons the court of Oberon and Titania. A down on his luck actor who talks like he’s from the Canterbury tales. A fake General Lee who just wants to win the re-enactment of the battle of Gettysburg for once.

Just one time.

So what about ice cream, anyway?

It’s magic. Just like Gene Wilder was magic just like everyone you ever admire was magic, and one day you’re going to wake up and find out they’re dead. They’ve been all used up, like the gross, sweet soup that’s always left in the bottom of an ice cream bowl.

And so you rinse it and the liquid spins down the drain. It goes down a pipe and into another pipe and into a bigger pipe and out to see.

Where maybe some fish enjoy it.

And it’s magic.

There’s a lot of things that are magic.

Almost everyone is magic.

But one day they’ll run out.

So do this.

Just tell them.

Walk right up to them and say it.

“You’re magic.”

Just tell them.

“You’re magic.”

Because you don’t want to do it too late.

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All The Windows


fear

I scroll through my Facebook feed and I look at all the windows. My monitor is a thousand-story house, and I am a giant, peeking my hideously large eye into people’s lives.

This is the first election cycle I’ve been an adult about. I didn’t really care about the other ones because I was still in day care. The day care was called high school, college and graduate school, but it was day care all the same. The issues didn’t bother me because I didn’t have any issues. Student loans gave me more money than I knew what to do with, and my parents could always loan me the rest.

Life was good.

Then I moved out and moved to Los Angeles and life was hard.

It wasn’t the bills or the poverty or or my broken teeth or my job that made it almost impossible.

I can shoulder just about any difficulty.

It was the hopelessness.

It was the feeling that nothing mattered because it’s all rigged, anyway. It was the knowledge that there are some people who think you exist just to be miserable and give them money.

It was the thought that no matter how hard I tried I would never make it. I would never write a good book, and I would never get close to a TV writing room, and that, in the end, I would exist as nothing more than a warning to others.

“Don’t chase your dreams,” they’d say, passing by Old Man Brock as he babbles insanely on the sidewalk, “be an accountant. Be something safe. Have a house. Have a family. You’ll do alright if you just don’t chase your dreams.”

A man cannot live without hope. Hope is rain, the water that fertilizes your will to live.

It doesn’t have to be a big hope. It doesn’t have to be a grand design. It just has to be a hope. A hope for a better future. A hope for your family and your children to have it better off than you did. A hope that your hard work, now pointless toil, will one day amount to something. That you will be recognized, perhaps even in your eulogy, when someone like me will stand before your coffin and say: “She worked hard. She battered and she toiled. This is admirable.”

So I try to deal in hope. I try to find the hope in hopelessness.

It’s hard. It’s much harder than dealing in despair.

Any idiot can point out how hard things are.

The universe will one day burn out and die. Everything will be dead forever. All will be nothing.

But nothing is something, isn’t it?

And how long is forever, anyway?

There are people who disagree with hope. These people deal in fear, and hatred, and malice. They are the true evil. They tell you that you were right. That tiny little goblin in the back of your mind knew what it was talking about. You’re works do amount to nothing. It is all going to hell. There are people out to get you.

Don’t go outside. They’ll shoot you.

Don’t stay inside. They’ll blow you up.

We’re all selling something. These people are no different. They’re selling fear, and fear is addictive. A girl cowers before a roller coaster. A boy walks away from the girl he loves because he can’t ask her out. A girl stays inside and plays World of Warcraft because she hasn’t left her house in months. A boy doesn’t go to a job interview because he’s scared, he’s scared and it’s been so long.

I am not a violent man, but me heroes are those of violence. They rejected fear. They are the general who said “nuts” to the Germans as they encircled Bastogne. They are the women arrested fighting to vote, or the African Americans beaten for doing the same. They are the man in the Nazi rally photo who refused to heil Hitler.

the-tragically-powerful-story-behind-the-lone-german-who-refused-to-give-hitler-the-nazi-salute

They are people who showed bravery in the face of thousands yelling at them that they should cower, they should fear, they should tremble at the sound of hopeless thunder.

But bravery does not need violence.

So I stand, and my legs are a thousand feet tall, and I peek through my windows.

And I see heroes.

I see people going to conventions. I see people dressing up any way they want. I see men loving men, women loving women. I see young couples being married. Having children. I see my parents buying a dog even though they know it will die. I see love in the face of hatred, bold, shining love that will not be turned away. I see the power of humanity, the power of your very being and I smile.

I peek through the windows, my giant eye filling the entire frame, and I see a world around me, bright a beautiful.

And I think.

I truly think.

The shadows have nothing against the light.

They stand behind their podiums and they scream. “Be afraid!” They shout. “Take my fear!”

Pay them no heed.

Look out your window.

The world isn’t burning.

And even if it is.

It won’t burn forever.

And how long is forever, anyway?

view_with_a_window_by_ahermin

 

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