“Don’t rest on your laurels” people always say. Wait. What? It doesn’t matter if their only laurel is the ability to consistently tip under ten per cent, they always say it. I never put much store by that slogan anymore than I put store in the slogan “No Parking. Tow Away Zone.” I mean, what good is a Laurel if not for resting on it? Are we supposed to rest on comments of injurious and abusive intentions? Rest on the memory of that time your friends ditched you so they could go see Aliens 3 and wouldn’t have to share their weed with your broke ass? Seriously, I mean I could understand if people said “Don’t let your spurs lose their jangle” or “Four Loko don’t drink itself!” or something cool like that, but this whose laurel business seemed about as sketchy as a book reading contest in Niagara Falls, butthen something happened this summer which turned my head around on the subject.
I was at the downtown EsteemCo office, just after talking to someone from H-R and assuring them that my saying “air conditioning is for closers” was actually an Alec Baldwin impression and not a command that an intern pass out brochures on the hottest day of the year while I talked to his girlfriend about their “relationship”. Anyway, I was going to finish up my golf schedule when I started looking at all the trophies I had won in the past on my trophy shelf. I looked them over wistfully as they gleamed their accolades — Runner Up Chick-N-Coop Hot Wing Challenge – First Prize Homemade Shooter Night at Boner Joe’s Bar Ft. Lauderdale – Honorable Mention at the International Cannonball Competition’s Big Splash 1995 — and I sadly wondered if I too was resting on my laurels. Sure, I started my self-esteem workshops (which had nifty and practical minors in ShopVac repairs) and was famous all over the continent if only for my saying “What, you think you’re better than Urkel?” but was I challenging myself beyond the boundaries of my selfless industry? Was I indeed using my laurels as a form-fitting recliner to watch the National Geographic channel and call it a day?
I am not the kind of person who just sits around waiting for a break. In fact I know if a magic genie granted me three wishes that I would immediately screw that up by saying something like “Wait, is the Taco Trio plate at the TacoBoy in Glendale one wish or three wishes?”
I am the kind of person who puts on his red pleather pants one leg at a time, but it is true that once you have been around for awhile finding challenges is difficult, especially when mountain climbing is so stupid and I’ve already had and finished the local diner’s lumberjack breakfast stack.
I certainly wasn’t going to do something that required me to wear a hat of any kind, and definitely was going to avoid anything which required me to read somebody’s sad-assed unpublished fiction (“Oh, this is a story about your parents’ divorce as seen through the eyes of your childhood cat Scruffers? Oh my! I can hardly wait to see what that whiskered scamp makes of such heartwrenching pain!”). In the end it came down to two things: I would either eat a bag of Cheetos every night for a month or I would learn to write and publish a poem, and in the end I did the easier thing — I learned to write and publish poems.
You’ve undoubtedly read my recent collection of Irish travel log poems, Traipsing in the Dingle Gorse, and you might be surprised to find out that being one of the best poets in the world is something that came to me so late in life. If it wasn’t for Dr. Susan Meadowbrook, a family therapist in Toronto whose book of poems What We Dance About When We Dance About Love won all kinds of awards, I’d dare say I am the finest poet-slash-therapist in the Northeast.
Maybe my first poem “The Rainbow of Hurt” wasn’t as good as my tutor would have liked — he was all craft this, innovation that, subject-verb agreement, spelling blah blah, blah, – but I knew I was on my way. Then a really tough two weeks writing poem after poem (oh, wow, talk about feelings!) and then finding a client whose massive credit card debts could help me have an in with a publishing house and voila! Traipsing in the Dingle Gorse appeared with Hoarfrost Books and, I am proud to say, I have never been to Ireland. That would be ridiculous.
The best part? I mean besides getting to tell MFA students what terrible floor managers they are going to be? The best part is that I paid a very well known poet (actually mostly just a dude who’s an assistant professor at Syracuse who kinda looks like John Ashbery) to write a blurb that proudly says “Dr. McGimpsey is a man who does not rest on his laurels!” And when I put a copy of that book on my trophy shelf, beside the bronze medal I picked up in 1992 at the Face-Paint Olympics, I once again felt lucky to be there for you as you consider your hard life and to improve your self-esteem time and time again.