I wonder if, when Jiminy Cricket sang “When you wish upon a star/Makes no diff'rence who you are”, he knew how many stars there were in the galaxy, and how many impressionable children would take the message of that song to heart. There's a lot of stars, four-leaf clovers, and lucky pennies out there. And mine is a generation of wishers and dreamers, which is lovely, unless you consider the idea that the more wishes you put out there, the less likely any of them are to come true.
For instance, say I were to wish for a good cream-based soup, a clam-chowder, we'll say, or a lobster bisque. And every time I blew out my birthday candles, found a stray eyelash, or spilled some salt, I dreamt of that soup, and told all of my friends and family, “Someday I'm gonna get me a soup!”, I would probably get the damn soup.
But I've way too many lifelong dreams for them all to come true just by wishing hard enough. And as I look back on this catalogue of dreams (also what I call my underpants drawer, by the way, the catalogue of dreams), I notice a common thread of infeasibility. For instance, how likely am I to be beloved by everyone on Earth, have psychic abilities, host a dinner party, or appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show? That last one, talk about infeasible! That was my second ever Dream. It turns out Oprah's eponymous talk show was abruptly cancelled last spring, making it extremely unlikely that I'll appear. But I've learned a lot in the intervening period between that second Dream and this, my seventy-fifth. I'm older now, and wiser, and know that you can't always get what you want if your expectations exceed all likelihood.
Dream: Appear on The Maury Povich Show.
Goal: Achievable. Like crazy achievable. Maury will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his show this month, and he averages seven guests per show. One show per weekday times seven guests for twenty years means Maury has interviewed 36 400 people, or about half the population of the Earth. It's just a matter of time.
Plan: Adopt one or more of the following traits, characteristics, phobias or behaviours in order to be an ideal Maury guest. For instance, I could:
Sleep with a woman of ill-repute who becomes pregnant but is unsure of baby's paternity. This gives Maury a sky blue Mercedes every spring. Paternity test shows are the vanguard of The Maury Povich Show. The staple. The bedrock. People say to me, “But James! Won't it be hard for you to sleep with a woman for the sake of this broadcast?” To those dummies, I pose the following hypothetical.
A) A woman who can't figure out who impregnated her and is so stymied she must reach out to a daytime program for help, has had a great deal of sexual partners within a short time.
B) A woman who has a great deal of sexual partners within a short time is trampy.
C) A trampy woman will sleep with just about anyone.
D) I am anyone.
If all of the above statements are true (and they are), I'll be on Maury within days. The saddest and most painful irony in these episodes is that determining the rightful biological father of the child does nothing to improve the child's life whatsoever. The adorable child is kept backstage with a camera on them constantly. Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding their birth, they are given complicated and regal names. I saw an African American baby called Demarius after an equally compelling story about a white baby called (I'm not kidding) Contavious. Contagious with a V. Anyway, all the men insist they are not the father of these cute kids and have really impressive dances when Maury proves them right. You get the sense that Maury staffs a fey, but dedicated choreographer who consults with guests beforehand, “So he'll say 'You are NOT the father' and take the NOT as your 5 in 5,6,7,8 then shuffle ball change, electric slide, and then just pop and lock until it feels played out. You'll know.” And when Maury busts in with a “You ARE the father!” the showboating is somehow worse. The guy will put his head in his hands while the mother berates him with “I tolllld you so!” and “It's onnn now!” and they cut to Cialisty sucking her thumb, oblivious to the fact that two grown adults are arguing in front of a studio and television audience about who gets to love her the least.
Become an out of control teen. While less prevalent than paternity test shows, out of control teens work hard to raise Maury's impressively immovable brow. I know I'm not a teen, but maybe I could pass for a really hard-livin' one. “Lance here might look old, but he's actually 13 and smokes four packs a day! Look at those crows feet and bags under his eyes. All the drugs!” And I would say, “Fuck you, Maury! I'ma do what I want!”
Develop an irrational fear. The Google search terms “Maury” and “phobias” yield the most bizarre YouTube clips I think I've ever seen. In an attempt to garner ratings (but masquerade as psychologically daring), Maury has these people confront their phobias onstage to raucous applause and yelling. Based on that practice, I think I'd say I was deathly afraid of male models, or of briefcases filled with money.
Be a homeless person in Connecticut. Apparently, it's a long-standing tradition in talk shows to ask homeless people to fill seats in the audience. Not enough people want tickets to a sideshow of human misery, I suppose. And the show tapes in Connecticut which just strikes me funny. I picture country clubs, yachting, and dangerously fat babies now when I think of that state. And the audience is often on camera because they don't shut up. They talk directly back to the guests, loudly and swear-filled (the censor “beeps” so often it's like the program is in Morse code) and Maury just sits there, content to let the audience do his job for him.
That's the other thing. While Oprah has a magazine and television network devoted to every faux-spiritual nugget she plops out, we know very little about what Maury thinks or feels about life. People forget he was a newsman. He was an accomplished reporter and anchor for several outlets before landing his own talk show. And he's married to Connie Chung, an impressive anchor in her own right, once considered a peer to Dan Rather and Barbara Walters when she landed several important interviews with newsmakers and heads of state. So it stands to reason that Maury spends his free time discussing politics and world affairs with his brilliant wife saying things like, “One wonders how wise it is to go headfirst into Libya without considering the crumbling infrastructure in Yemen” and then heads to work and says, “Purlene, if Dewayne isn't the father of Diabetsy, then who is?”
It's that dichotomy that makes me think Maury could start a tv network far more successfully than Oprah. He knows that by ignoring his intelligent impulses and pandering to the least of us, he garners the most attention. That's why Jack Layton gets the tributes but Harper somehow, some way, gets the votes. Why we're more likely to watch a movie where two people kill each other instead of watching a movie where two people fall in love. That's why we live too comfortably in the realm of low expectations. Shoot for the moon and you're bound to be disappointed, but aim low enough and you'll realize your Dream every time. Makes no diff'rence who you are.