Saturday, February 02, 2008

No Matter Where You Go...

I've been working on that database project most of the night and I'm tired now, so I probably won't give this entry the depth that the subject deserves. In fact, I know I won't. My plan of the moment is to introduce the topic and leave you a question to ponder, if anyone is so inclined. Some time soon I'll probably come back and do my best to turn it into something profound, or at least amusing.

Fans of the film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension probably recognize the quote in the subject line. The end of the sentence, of course, is, "...there you are." It turns out that the quip and its many variations both predate and postdate BB by centuries. A FAQ that compiles this material anecdotally attributes it to the fifteenth century theologian Thomas à Kempis, to Buddhism, and to Confucius, and also notes, multiple times, its presence on the dedication plaque for the Starship U.S.S. Excelsior. (Another starship was apparently built by Yoyodyne.) Oh, and supposedly, that endless font of real and attributed quotes, Yogi Berra, once said, "No matter where you go, you end up somewhere!"

But I digress.

The first place I personally came across the basic sentiment was on a comedy LP by stand-up psychologist Dr. Murray Banks. No, really. My mom had two albums by this guy, How to Live With Yourself, or What to Do Until the Psychiatrist Comes; and Just in Case You Think You're Normal. And wonders of the age, someone has uploaded both of them on YouTube. That's what the links are. Now that I've found them, I'll probably listen to all five parts of each, but in the meantime there are certain bits that have been in my memory for forty years. This was one of them. In Just in Case You Think You're Normal (part one of the YouTube rip, btw) he quotes a woman as saying, "Where'er I go, I must take myself along. And that spoils everything." A third comedy LP by Second City founder Del Close, called The “Do It Yourself” Psychoanalysis Kit. At some point in that album, "Dr. Siegfried Gestalt," the shrink with the Viennese accent exclaims, "You try everything, sex, cars, women, Zen Buddhism. But wherever you go, you go too, and spoil everything!" And hooray! Another blogger has tracked that down for us, too!

Forty years I've been thinking about that line, at least from time to time. The last twenty years I've mostly been thinking about the B Banzai version, with Murray Banks (and maybe, occasionally Del Close) intoning in the background. What does it mean?

If it's just the B. Banzai version of the quote, it could mean a number of things. As a tv pioneer supposedly said and Yogi implied, you have to be careful where you're going, because you may get there. It may mean something about living with the consequences of your actions. But brought up as I was on Murray Banks and Del Close, I'm more inclined to the other interpretation. Wherever I go, I know Karen is there.

Does she spoil everything? I guess it depends. When I was in about ninth grade, give or take a year or two, my mom arranged for me to spend a day at Manlius Pebble Hill School. It was sort of a "try before you buy" thing. I've been to kindergarten at Pebble Hill, but at public school ever since. Being smart, fat, physically awkward and socially inept, and having that wonderful surname Funk to make fun of, I had some fairly miserable times at F-M. The worst of it was behind me when my mom offered me the chance to get a fresh start elsewhere. So I went over to the private school for the day. All day long, kids asked me why on earth I wanted to go to Manlius Pebble Hill. They all longed to go to the public school, and earnestly advised me to stay put, which of course I did. But I started to explain, once or twice, that I was at a school with peers who had known me since I played a skunk in the second grade play, and that I was interested in ditching the reputation I'd built up from every social gaffe I'd ever made and every time I'd ever been teased. I didn't put it quite like that, but that was the sense of it. And then I realized that in telling kids that at the new school, I was importing that same reputation. I was truly bringing the worst of myself along, and spoiling everything.

Over on the Doctor Who forum tonight, someone called "Mr Dark" mentioned that Stephen King can't ditch writing like Stephen King, even if he writes under another name. He also said that Paul McCartney once expressed interest in the Beatles doing concerts in disguise at small venues, and was disappointed when someone from the press pointed out they'd be recognized the moment their voices were heard. They too had to take themselves along.

My question to you, as I finally take myself off to bed, is whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. After all, who we are, what we've done and what we remember, informs any new experiences and gives them context. Does the fact that I'd heard a similar line decades earlier enhance that scene with Buckaroo or just muddy the water? If we could leave behind our prejudices, our guilt, our own particular filters, and see the world from a fresh perspective, would that be a good thing, or just an opportunity to make new mistakes? If we could take a vacation from ourselves, should we do it?

or maybe, for tonight,
Bonnie from Queens, NY

1 comment:

Becky said...

For me, it all depends on what kind of relationship you have with yourself. Some people think they are the bees knees and I'd be willing to bet they think any place would be enhanced if they showed up. Then there are folks like me who have a love/hate relationship with themselves. Sometimes I'm glad I'm with those wacky others - me, myself and I. And other times I wish I would just GO AWAY for a while. LOL