“We’re only as sick as our secrets.”

I debated posting this, but it’s my story. Sharing frees me up and freeing up makes it easier to rest my head at night. I’m sleeping well these days.

As “baby boomers”, we were the first generation to never live without television. I still picture the early 50’s night Channel 4 directed us to turn to Channel 3 for “The Roy Rogers Show.” It was a Sunday, a major event, and even our father was home.

My first loves, always, were sitcoms. How I remember grade school lunches! Rowland’s bell rang at 11:30 and by 11:35 we were ‘cross the street, perched in our kitchen, watching “Love That Bob.” Someday, I thought, I’d wear an open-collared VNeck shirt and being as cool as Bob Cummings. (It never quite happened).

Adolescence brought new goals. “The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis,” the con games of Quinton McHale, the wise-cracking Buddy Sorrell—each brought larger-than-life characters for me to aspire to. Each was what I wanted to be; none…ever…was me. I never quite saw ME. Never quite had that “Aha” moment where I’d point at the TV and nod my head saying “You see that guy…that’s really me.”

Until recently.

It by accident that I met Adrian Monk. Looking for something to latch onto, having concluded an inexorable Netflix march through twenty seasons of “Law And Order”, it just sort of happened. Still, from the initial episode, I related. From the first time I saw his compulsive nonsense, his laughable fears…I “got it.” I saw myself and I cried. Watching this smart, successful cop avoiding cracks on a sidewalk, repeating ridiculous behaviors…

My nonsense started simply, through sports. CYO guys (in the ‘60’s), before hitting, carved crosses in the dirt; my bat drew a “J.” It was no different in the field. Never once (between innings), did I step on a foul line. Ever. (Clearly this got easier when moved to catcher. Thanks again, Brother Wieder).

It was for good luck, I thought, lying to myself. Bullshit! It was fear. Sugar-coated fear. Indeed, a few good seasons, a few trophies, and I feared NOT doing the things that found success. Three hits in a game: I didn’t wash the uniform. I did anything and everything to recreate—repeat the sequence that made things work. (It never quite occurred to me that maybe I could hit. There had to be more to it). Like…for more than a decade, having “salami and eggs pancake style, toasted bagel, cream cheese and coffee” for breakfast before each doubleheader.

Slowly, insipidly, I began to believe my expanding regimens were bringing results. There I was, a pretty smart kid, buying into my own idiocies. Knowing my thinking made no sense, I just couldn’t stop….”Just in case….”

Like fall of ’76. Checking into a St. Maarten hotel, we’d found roaches in our bed—on my pant leg. That night, to play it safe, I shook, then twirled my pants six times to assure their riddance. It was a regimen I would continue for thirty years….”just in case.”

Those were my salad days. Winning titles, making money…the mishigos not only continued, but expanded. Never once did I think it was fear-based. I was quirky, I thought…but it worked. The better things got on the outside, though, the worse I felt inside. As Monk would say, it was “…a blessing, and a curse.” Every good day made me prisoner to newer secret behaviors. Things I repeated….just in case.

And I told no one.

The worm, of course, finally turned. In one torrid decade my dad was gone, my marriage done, and my dysfunction blooming. Afraid of everything, I spent days looking over my shoulder and nights searching for the right combination of obsessive behaviors to turn things around. Alcohol only made it worse.

I saw all this on “Monk” that day. Cringing, I relived the years of fearing mailmen, telephones, bees, insects, romaine lettuce…and how I could never share it with anyone. Anyone. Watching “Monk” I recalled the time I’d returned to my car in the Bryden parking lot, found a squirrel in the front seat, and walked home. (In the morning a friend cleared it out).

I cried watching that show. Tears of relief. Seeing someone else with my issues, someone clearly intelligent…a protagonist…I felt OK and, dare I say….cleansed.

There were eight seasons of “Monk.” I watched them in order. All of them. One by one. The finale came Saturday, lump in my throat. It was half past four when, after 125 episodes, my friend faded to dark. Sitting there in silence, like one might after a good, long movie….it occurred to me. Watching it, watching me: it was a blessing (and a curse).

Saw Tom Gigliotti that night, (at a party). Not only a shrink, but a friend, he clearly “gets it.”

“What are you going to watch now?” he asked, knowing my penchant for serial viewing.
“Maybe ‘Mad Men’,” I offered.
“You know what Monk would do, don’t you Bogie?”
I was silent.
“He’d start all over again, Season One.”

We laughed together, and I can’t say I didn’t give it thought. It’s Tuesday, though, and I’m moving forward. Last night I met Don Draper. He’s an ad man from New York.

(We have nothing in common).

3 Responses to “SECRETS”

  1. Jackie says:

    And I thought it was only me.

  2. Caitlyn says:

    Blowing me away!!!

  3. bob says:

    I really have to tell you I never thought of you as Monk. George Castanza is much more like your mirror. You are a much nicer and more caring than he is and a harder worker.But, your reactions to life’s happenings are very much in tune with George. Didn’t you want to be an architect at one time?

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