I was first introduced to Alfie as a kid in Braddock, PA, and I was terrified by him. We were visiting there at the end of October, and my cousin Alan was going to be part of the annual Halloween parade. And as I recall, even though he was participating as a pumpkin, he was running around the house wearing a mask of Alfred E Neuman.
Yes…that Alfred E Neumann. The face that has graced countless covers of Mad magazine since the late 50s, and had quite a life on calendars and postcards before he became their official mascot. This lopsided, goofy-looking, face was the face that struck terror into the heart of a little five-year-old kid.
I was never really comfortable with that face; it caused many nightmares, but one day, at a friend’s house, I actually took a look inside of an issue, and was instantly hooked. That face still bothered me, but I formed an uneasy truce with it as I devoured every issue of Mad for the next ten or so years. It was an image that I could deal with during the light of day, but knew better than to look at when I was alone at night, because it could still cause nightmares.
And then one night, as an adult, I had a dream that changed everything. This wasn’t the usual nightmare where his goal was to frighten and tickle me. This dream was different. He seemed sad, and didn’t seem to want to taunt me at all. I cautiously approached him, and asked what was wrong.
He told me that his name, the name he preferred to go by, was “Alfie,” and that he was a really nice guy who just happened to have a goofy-looking face that everyone made fun of, and he didn’t mean to scare me. He asked if we could be friends.
How could you possibly turn down an appeal like that? I agreed, and when I woke up, I had a whole new relationship with that face…or the guy behind it. Alfie’s a friend of mine now.
Which brings me to the fairy. For the past 18 months I seem to have been visited by what a friend of mine calls the Shit Fairy much more often than I’d like to be, or that my friends would like to see. Those of you who know me well know all the gory details. This friend went so far as to say, “Looks like the Shit Fairy backed up her truck and delivered you a huge load.”
And so 2011 drew to a close, I posted a cartoon on my Facebook page that said I was looking forward to kicking the Shit Fairy out of my life during the coming year, and I got a lot of “likes” on it. And then a little later I thought about her…and Alfie.
Perhaps I misunderstood her, as I had misunderstood Alfie. Maybe she wasn’t being spiteful, and intentionally trying to screw up my life, so maybe I shouldn’t take such joy in trying to forcibly kick her out. Perhaps, rather than fighting her, I should take the time to befriend her…and then introduce her to a nice farmer or gardener…someone who normally has to pay for what she’s giving away for free. Maybe we can both win here.
Yes, I think I’ll do that. And maybe then, in 2012 I’ll be able to join Alfie in saying, “What, me worry?”