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Don’t be a putz like George Bailey.

This morning, my ongoing search for a good omelet at a good price brought me through the doors of the O’Farrell Cafe, where the hash browns were not recycled french fries. As I watched, the cook grated a genuine potato onto the grill, and it sizzled. I wasn’t being Morley Safer from 60 Minutes, though; the layout of the place lets everyone see into the kitchen. 

The coffee was excellent, and the omelet and my tongue liked each other. It was gooey cheesy yumminess. Unlike yesterday's breakfast at Tad’s, the hash browns were what they were supposed to be, and the toast was hot, with butter soft enough to spread. It was a dang tasty breakfast, with a slice of (homemade?) apple pie for dessert. With tax and a $2 tip, it rang me up for eight bucks total. If I’d skipped the pie (but why would I?) it would’ve been a $6 breakfast, and that’s borderline affordable. 

I told the cook she’d be feeding my fat face again, and that's true, so is this the end of my quest for the perfect breakfast in San Francisco? Is this nirvana — not the band, but a transcendent state with neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, free from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth?

Nah. It was just a good breakfast, but like a film noir husband, if another diner looks interesting I might be unfaithful to the O'Farrell Cafe.

♦ ♦ ♦

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is considered a Christmas classic, and I’ve seen it several times. Who hasn’t? Like any good movie, though, it’s better in a darkened cinema, so for five bucks plus BART fare, I saw it again at the Paramount in Oakland, with about a thousand teary-eyed nose-honking strangers.

Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey, a small-town man with big-city dreams. Instead of following those dreams, though, he’s made all sorts of sacrifices, for his uncle and his brother and his wife and a family business he hates. After trying so hard to be the entire town’s Mr Nice Guy all his life, it’s no surprise that he needs a prescription for Prozac, but it hasn’t been invented yet so he’s ready to throw himself off a bridge. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

“I don’t want to get married, ever,” he cries to his girlfriend. “I want to do what I want to do!” End of scene, and quick cut to their wedding.

The newlyweds have a fine whitebread marriage, and she starts squirting out babies, but not far under the surface George grows edgy, unsatisfied, as day after month after year he never gets to, as he said, “do what I want to do!” The only surprise is that it’s taken him so long to start contemplating suicide.

This being a Hollywood movie, a guardian angel comes down from Heaven to convince George his life is worth living — if it's ‘living’ to spend your entire life doing good deeds for others and nothing for yourself.

It’s Frankly too Capra for me. I’m not a heartless bastard, and I can’t deny that it’s an effective movie, but its answers are simply wrong. If your life is an endless series of sacrifices for others and nothing for you, that's not a wonderful life.

The fictional George Bailey and the real me came to the same crossroads. There were things we wanted to do, but people were nudging us not to do what we wanted. Do this instead, everyone said.

George decided to do what everyone wanted him to do, and if it wasn’t a movie, his life would've ended in the cold, swirling waters under that bridge. I did what I wanted to do — and I’m still alive, having a fairly good time, with no intention of visiting a bridge unless I'm crossing it.

It's a Wonderful Life is a wonderful movie, but c'mon, don’t be a putz like George Bailey. Have some fun for yourself sometimes. Live your life for you, dang it, because you’re all you’ve got.


From Pathetic Life #7
Sunday, December 4, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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