When I was young, probably around 10 or 12 years old, a funny man by the name of Roger Kaputnik would come to visit. Once a month, he came into my home and told me funny stories. That went on for a number of years until I eventually outgrew him. It was probably when my interest in young boy’s fantasies waned and I moved on to more mundane things, like girls. I can tell you with complete honesty that there’s no doubt Roger helped make me who I am today. Sometimes, he really made me think. Oh, he was quite a character, alright, and he taught me a lot about the lighter side of… well, you name it. It was something new each month. He died of cancer in 2002 at 81 years of age, but he left me with a lot of fond memories. Unfortunately, when I drifted away from my childhood, I never saw him again. I don’t know when that day came.
I remember when he told me tales about the police. He was a very vivid storyteller and could do it in minutes flat. There was the time a lady in a fancy car got pulled over for some reason and the officer asked to see her license. Of course, this was before there were picture IDs and holograms. She rummaged around in her purse, pulled it out, and nervously passed it over to him as he stood by her door.
While carefully examining the license, he said, “Ma’am, it says right here that you are supposed to be wearing glasses.”
“But I am, Officer.”
“I don’t see them.”
“You don’t understand, Officer, I have contacts.”
“What do you mean you have contacts?”
“Yes, I have new contacts.”
“I DON’T CARE WHO YOU KNOW!”
And so went the humor of Roger Kaputnik. Of course, when he told that story, contact lenses were relatively new and, back then, it was pretty much only the rich who could afford them.
There was another time he told me stories about neighbors. Maybe it was families or just ordinary people and their peculiarities, but he always got me laughing and some of his tales still ring true to this day. In suburbs, especially in small cities, blocks of houses were built close together, with narrow alleys that separated them. A lot of those houses had side doors. I remember when I was young, we lived in such a neighborhood for a couple of years and I can still envision that scene and the story he told…
Two children were playing with their toys in the alley, right near the side doors that accessed raised porches with steps that faced the front of the house. It was a safe place for children to play because mothers could keep a watchful eye on them from the kitchen window. Now, remember, this was a time when most married women were stay-at-home moms. Anyway, the kids were outside playing. Suddenly, an argument broke out over whose toys were whose.
“Hey! That’s my truck!”
“No. it’s not, it’s mine!”
“Give it to me!”
As most caring and loving mothers would do in a situation like this, they raced to the side porch in their finest kitchen attire and sped out those doors to make sure their babies were not under attack.
“Hey, what’s going on?” They asked in unison.
“Mom, Jimmy stole my truck!”
“Mom, Tommy stole my truck!”
And before you could count to two, each mother firmly stated that they bought the truck for their son and, from there, it went downhill rather quickly.
“Yeah, well my husband says your house is a pig sty…”
“Yeah? My husband says you don’t know how to cook…”
“I can cook a lot better than you!”
“And, you’re a real slob.”
“You can just tell your bald-headed moron of a husband to forget about that brunch on Sunday.”
“I wouldn’t want to eat your garbage, anyway!”
“Tommy, pick up all your toys and come inside the house this minute!!!”
“Jimmy! Collect all your toys and get inside right now!”
Meanwhile, throughout this adult commotion, with both mothers throwing every insult imaginable at each other, Tommy and Jimmy calmed down, made peace, and continued to quietly play as if nothing happened. Unfortunately, their world fell apart in a New York second as they were ordered inside.
How sad. Those innocent children went back to being good friends, something their parents will probably never be again. And because of it, Jimmy and Tommy will not be allowed to play together for a long, long time. Sometimes, I think adults can learn from their children. Certainly, it would be my fervent wish that things get patched up because, in real life, it’s never too late.
Oh yes, back to good old Roger Kaputnik. Just like a lot of people who comment on blogs, forums, and social media, that’s not his real name. It was his alter-ego in the world of comics. His real name was Dave Berg. Dave Berg was a mainstay at Mad Magazine and I looked forward to reading his quirky stories about life every single month in his column titled, The Lighter Side of… He taught me a lot about human nature over the years. Here it is 50 years later and it’s still the same. Why don’t we put away our war of words and learn to act like kids again.