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WHEN IT RAINS ANVILS AND GRAND PIANOS

Sometimes stuff happens. Unpleasant things, traumatic episodes, embarrassing gaffes. In short: real bad shit. And so you deal with it as best you can and try to move on. You try not to take it personally, but that usually takes time and perspective. Sometimes lots of both. And some of the weird things that happen to you maybe you can even laugh about. Eventually, anyway. But when it’s raining anvils and grand pianos for an extended period of time, you just might want to ask yourself why you ever trusted The Three Stooges with the pulleys and ropes. Or why you didn’t just cross the street and avoid the possibility of getting plunked on the head with a grand piano. You can be a stubborn fool and blame bad luck, or a jackass and blame the world for conspiring against you. Or you can just blow it off with a shrug. None of which helps when Curly asks Larry to hold the rope for a second while you’re strolling down the sidewalk minding your own without a care in the world. Whistling, even.

Then, all of a sudden, Pow!, you’re sprawled on the sidewalk and Moe tells the other two guys we’d better beat it out of here pronto and you’re on your own, wondering what hit you and where did those wacky guys in the overalls disappear to. Maybe you chalk it up to dumb luck. Bad luck, to be sure, but just one of those random things that happen. You figure: Hell, somebody’s got to be struck by the lightning and today it was my turn. So you dust yourself off and limp away. Then one day you see another couple of guys hoisting a gigantic anvil up the side of a building, only this time it’s Laurel and Hardy manning the ropes and pulleys and you figure they’ve got to be steadier hands than The Three Stooges and you walk underneath it once again. Then it hits you that an anvil is sort of an odd thing to be hoisting up the side of an apartment building, but it’s a very brief thought.

The last thing you remember before you come to is Stan Laurel sneezing and asking Ollie for a handkerchief and of course Ollie lets go of the rope and starts fishing around in his pockets and you notice a shadow all around you growing larger and larger and then…. nothing. So once again you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go about your business as best you can with a giant bump on your head and two black eyes, absently wondering where Laurel and Hardy went so fast and how come they weren’t mashed by the giant anvil too? Oh well, you figure, that’s life, eh?

At this point maybe your friends and family are starting to worry that you’re a little too trusting, a little too absentminded. Reckless, too. They tell you to keep your eyes open and watch out for those falling anvils and grand pianos and for God’s sakes, cross the friggin’ street when you see a couple of fishy characters hoisting something heavy up the side of a building. You tell them not to worry, you’ll be just fine, these things happen, just freak accidents, really. Besides, what are the odds of anything like that ever happening again? And you go on your merry way, confident that your run of bad luck is over. And for a while, things go pretty well, so well that you hardly give a second thought to seeing Abbot and Costello in painters overalls, each carrying oversized buckets of white paint up a very rickety ladder. You even look up at them, smile and wave.

Then of course they wave back and two huge cans of paint land on your head, followed by the ladder itself and then Bud Abbot steps on your face as he and Lou make a beeline for elsewhere. This time you’re not so quick to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Hell, you’re covered in paint and have a sizable footprint on your face and are tangled up in a busted ladder! Not only that, but as you finally sit up, a few paintbrushes and a couple of lunch boxes that were on the ledge high above plunk you on the noggin and the little birdies and stars are spinning around your battered head. So it takes a while to bounce back this time, and you might just start thinking about your usual happy-go-lucky M.O., that maybe there is something to keeping the old eyes wide open.

So now you proceed with extra caution, looking both ways before crossing the street, losing interest in workmen hoisting stuff up the sides of buildings and being very wary of things teetering on high ledges. You’re proud of yourself, and feeling pretty wise to the ways of the world. As a matter of fact, these are the very thoughts that are spinning through your head when you step into an open manhole. You fall a heck of a long way down a narrow shaft and when you look up to the little circle of light high above you, who do see staring down at your broken and battered ass but The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Abbot and Costello, their eyes wide with comic guilt.

Then you hear their footsteps doing that funny drumbeat and fading away as they vamoose and you’re on your own once again, this time digging yourself out of a very deep hole instead of scraping yourself of a sidewalk. It takes a long time to get out of that hole and just as you make it to the top, Moe Howard comes back to replace the manhole cover and that plunks you on the head and goes rolling down the street like a giant nickel. Moe scrams again. Now you’re good and pissed off, crawling through traffic trying not to get hit by a bus for good measure. You just about make it to the sidewalk in time to avoid a runaway steamroller and crawl off thinking that this time you’re going to pay attention, this time you’re going to be nobody’s fool and look out for Number One from here on in! You’re going to change your ways, dammit!

And then, miracle of miracles! It turns out you were only sleeping. You wake up. It was all a dream! A really weird and disturbing dream, sure, but only a dream! Now you laugh at your own folly, and wonder how all those great old comedy teams popped into your head in the middle of the night, how absurd it all was, anvils and pianos and giant paint cans and lunch boxes falling on you, and that bottomless manhole and then getting bopped with a manhole cover by Moe! Wow! It’s a riot and you laugh and laugh at the crazy things inside your own mind. You make your coffee, read the paper, still chuckling occasionally as you shower and get dressed and go out to start your day. And then you go about doing all the same crazy things you’ve been doing over and over for your whole life that got you nowhere but wondering why your luck never changes. Not once do you stop and reflect on the lesson that three of the greatest comedy acts in history teamed up for one night to teach you. Maybe you’re whistling, wondering why the Marx Brothers never showed up in your silly dream.

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