Thomas Wictor

Misfortune separates

Misfortune separates

When everything goes south for you, that’s when you find out who your real friends are. I watched virtually all of Mom’s lifelong buddies desert her as she died. Hardly any even called. Dad didn’t have any friends, but that was how he liked it.

After my parents committed suicide, Mike Albee and Lura Dold defrauded me of $40,000 and killed my writing career. I can count on the fingers of one hand the friends and acquaintances who’ve expressed any interest. Though I was useful when I entertained and inspired, now I’m kind of a downer, so cheerio, Tom! Good luck!

We’ve become a culture that wants to hear only good news. Sharing bad news is like telling racist jokes. Well, guess what? You’re going to have a crisis someday. It’s inevitable. Your health will fail, people will die, love will curdle, your career will take a nosedive. Since I’ve been solitary for years now, and I’m used to catastrophe, I’m rolling with the punches. You, however, won’t be able to handle it as well as I have. In fact, I predict that most of you will go to pieces.

Misfortune separates the wheat from the chaff. Rather considerately, the chaff voluntarily removes itself from your life. I don’t miss it.

It’s so weird: I was raised in a family that never, under any circumstances, discussed anything personal. Yet I was able to see two old people through their appalling deaths, and I was able to visit Tim in the hospital after his morbidly obese doctor punctured his bowel, and I thought Tim would die. In Tim’s case, others just found it too stressful to deal with him, so they didn’t. Tim told me that seeing him twice a day saved his life.

The secret about coping with Mom and Dad’s deaths and Tim’s illness was that I knew these calamities weren’t about me. I put my own emotions in the background and did what the situations required. It wasn’t a hard choice to make. Experiencing crises isn’t fun. But they don’t make me run screaming from the room. I held off on having a breakdown until Mom and Dad were both gone. Then I recovered from it.

Peoples’ lives are apparently too fragile for anything except optimum conditions. The other night I watched for the first and last time a show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, about the most disgusting family I’ve ever seen in my life. They aren’t disgusting because they’re swine; they’re disgusting because they’re pretend-swine. They choose to be that way. Nobody in the Thompson family is stupid; people on the coasts like to pretend they are, but the coasties have their own insufferable shtick and are just as moronic.

Jay Leno found upper-class Californians who think humans have four lungs and that Afghanistan borders the US to the north. Howard Stern talked to well-dressed New Yorkers who couldn’t name the president. While everyone likes to laugh at the rednecks, the cosmopolitans on the edges of the country aren’t any more informed. Californians voted to let the legislature pass new taxes with a simple majority, then voted in a supermajority that loves to raise taxes, and now complain bitterly that taxes are going up. You can’t get any stupider than that.

Mama June, Sugar Bear, Chickadee, Chubbs, Pumpkin, and Honey Boo Boo are different from the sneering coast-dwellers only in that the formers’ lives are centered around the functions of their digestive tracks. That’s all they care about. Poopin’ and fartin’ and peein’. They have microwaved hot dogs instead of upside-down venti caramel macchiatos, but it’s all part of the same strategy.

The Website copy for Here comes Honey Boo Boo calls the Thompsons a “self-proclaimed crazy family.” They’re not crazy at all. Just the opposite. They’re completely ordinary. Tens of millions are just like them, filling their days with catchphrases, play-acting, slogans, costumes, stuff they picked up from TV—anything to keep from having to address sorrow and tragedy.

When I was a music journalist, I met hundreds of Mama Junes and Sugar Bears. They weren’t massively overweight, they didn’t need subtitles when they spoke, and their favorite topic of conversation wasn’t defecation. Instead, they talked about their $100,000 cars, prosciutto, and hydration. Back in that era, everyone carried around bottles of water and sipped constantly. They were as fictional as the Thompsons and for the same reason: avoidance.

The problem is that once you assume a character, it takes over. I’ve had the great misfortune of seeing ten people I’ve known intimately transform themselves from human beings into bizarre concoctions that can’t even approximate normal reactions. Falsehood metastasizes. Always. The ten fraudulent former people I know are getting worse all the time. The intention was to avoid pain, but now they can’t feel anything, even happiness, pleasure, love, or—the most important emotion of all—gratitude.

Conversely, when you ditch the reality-avoiding stratagems and embrace what it means to be a person, you continue to grow. Past a certain point, it becomes automatic. You no longer have to devote conscious thought to it. And what ends up happening is that you become more and more powerful, able to weather storms that would utterly crush those who only pose as humans.

Though I don’t feel resentment toward the cobbled-together, nonplussed entities who have no clue what to say to me about my misfortune, I’ve lost all patience for them. You can’t get any more basic than expressing sympathy for something terrible that happened to someone else. If you don’t know what to say to me, then go away.


Just…scoot. Scram. I’m not interested in you anymore. We’re on different planets.

You’ve already scrammed, but I’m saying don’t come back. If I somehow manage to turn around this latest setback, don’t start writing me again, telling me how funny, brave, and strong I am.

Years ago I saw a Dave Berg cartoon in Mad Magazine. It showed a man working on his motorboat to go fishing.

“Who will help me get my boat ready for the fishing season, asked the Little Red Hen,” says the man. In the background are three of his buddies, lounging.

“Not I, said Spot the Dog,” answers one.

“Not I, said Jack the Horse,” answers the second.

“Not I, said Sam the Katz,” answers the third.

“Who will help me launch my boat, asked the Little Red Hen,” says the man as he prepares to go down to the dock.

“Not I, said Spot the Dog.”

“Not I, said Jack the Horse.”

“Not I, said Sam the Katz.”

“Who will go fishing with me, asked the Little Red Hen,” says the man, sitting in his boat in the water with a big, inviting smile.

The three friends come running with their poles and tackle boxes.

“I will, said Spot the Dog!”

“I will, said Jack the Horse!”

“I will, said Sam the Katz!”

In the last panel, the man motors away alone, snarling, “DROP DEAD, said the Little Red Hen.”

The three friends he leaves behind look so hurt.

My intention isn’t to hurt anyone. It’s just that enough is enough. Not only did my parents commit suicide, but two merciless predators used that to steal $40,000 from me. My literary career is over. And yet I retain the ability to commiserate with others. I’m not speechless when confronted with anything that isn’t rainbows, hot dogs, poopin’, and upside-down venti caramel macchiatos.

This is called “being real.” I highly recommend it.