(l-r: Howard Zinn; JD Salinger)
In 5th grade they asked us “What would you like to be when you grow up?” One kid said a doctor, another said an astronaut. The kid next to me wanted to be “a CPA” if you can believe it.
I was next. “CPA” threw me. I had to say something interesting, doubly hard because I grew up idolizing the fire department. So instead I said I wanted to write obituaries. “Pardon?” asked Ms. Chismar. I repeated. “Young man,” she recoiled. “Do you even know what that means?“
I didn’t but, similar to my stated desire to become one, I pretended. Ms. Chismar, fearing the worst, informed my parents. They rejoiced: Writing obituaries? That’s steady work. I haven’t wanted to disappoint my parents since, which is why, even know, they think it my life’s passion. “Living the dream…” I imagine they say to each other when someone famous dies.
I told them I write an obit column for New York Newsday (I don’t). They don’t live in the area, and Newsday only has 35 online subscribers, so my secret is safe. Every once in a while I mail them fake obits, I write in my spare time, to keep up the charade. Ps, I’m no good at it:
Acclaimed novelist Howard Zen died today. The notorious recluse, and anti-war protester, died from injuries sustained in a fight involving switchblades. Customarily, in these fights one arm is tied behind the back, explaining why Mr. Zen’s left arm was found wrapped in a Mohegan Sun monogrammed washcloth. Mr. Zen wrote the book “Catch Her in the Wry” about communism and being a teenager.
Mr. Zen also wrote several long books, and a few short ones, and was an adamant protester of the Vietnam War Memorial, constructed in 1982. “I will not rest until we put a stop to this war memorial, and ALL war memorials,” he famously said, into a megaphone, outside a federal building with people watching.
Mr. Zen leaves behind a big, red axe and twin dalmatians. Asked to name one regret in life, Zen answered “It would have been cool stopping fires.”