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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The New and Improved Me

We may be a bunch of stinkers but we make a great softball team!

I’m nothing like I used to be. Do you remember the way I was before? Wasn’t I just awful? I think we can all agree on that, at least everyone who survived my worst moments. The things I used to do! The way I treated people! I can’t believe how mean I was back then. Sorry about your cat. That was the old me, now I’m a completely changed person. The difference in me is like night and day, like Stalin and Gandhi (Stalin was the bad one, right?). I’m a much better in every way. I think everyone would agree and not just because they fear for their lives if they don’t. I should get some sort of award for most improved the human being. Nice kitty.

Not to obfuscate my problem in abstruse technical jargon but before I was what most medical professionals would call a “heel.” I was only looking out for number one and guess who that was? I was clearly número uno and according to the doctors looking out for number one—me—was not making me happy. Sure, I was making a ton of money. It goes without saying that my sex life was completely off the charts and completely illegal anywhere but in the Red Light district of Amsterdam. Even there they told me to “tone it down a few notches” which is hard to say when you are gagged. So what if I could snap my fingers and have my enemies brought to their knees. The doctors told me that I wasn’t happy. I didn’t believe the first few who told me this; I had them disappeared. My insurance company thought this was a novel approach in dealing with escalating medical expenses. They have been seeking my advice now for years.

But deep down inside I think that I always knew that something was missing. My excesses made the early years of rock and roll seem like a Jane Austen novel, one of the really boring ones when you can’t tell if she is alluding to sex or the heroine has some sort of stomach ailment. I should have known that I had gone too far when Michael Jackson brought charges against me, alleging that I groped him when I had him over for a sleep-over at my palace. When MJ says you are a degenerate menace you should probably sit up and take notice. Instead I paid him off and accelerated my decadent lifestyle. I tried to convince myself that at least I was boosting the economy with all the money I was shelling out in payoffs and for lawyers.

As I led my armies across the steppes of Asia, playing polo with the heads of my vanquished enemies, I tried to block out the lamentations of their widows and the cries of their orphaned children—my new 40 gig MP3 player made this a lot easier. Slowly I was becoming dissatisfied with my way of living and I didn’t exactly know why. I once derived so much pleasure from watching a village burn while a Kenny G song played through my headphones. Now I look at the flames rising above the rooftops and I think, “What is the point?” and, “What the hell happened to Kenny and what does the G stand for?” If I was responsible for his demise I’d like to apologize.

I tried to ignore the warning signs of my behavior: high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, lack of communication with loved ones, and war crimes tribunals. I started to take notice of my problems when I narrowly side-stepped a Mossad assassination attempt and later I was forced to flee to Brazil to avoid a firing squad in The Hague. Safe from extradition I carried on with my depraved conduct, but a sense of emptiness continued to gnaw at the heart of my being. I thought I could counter my existential dread by clear cutting a Pennsylvania-sized swath of the Amazon rain forest just for fun. It was fun but I still didn’t feel right. I had a problem, the kind of problem that you can’t fix with a new squadron of F-20 fighter aircraft.

My new doctors, who had witnessed the fate of the last group of my personal physicians, assured me that I was completely normal, so I had them imprisoned. We used “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a euphemism that makes me chuckle even today in my more enlightened state of being. When the doctors finally cracked they told me that my problem was that I was a selfish jerk. I thanked the doctors for their honesty and they said “you’re welcome” and that I could pay their receptionist by check or credit card. I knew they were right and besides, I didn’t want to be deposed like the Shah of Iran, or overthrown like Baby Doc Duvalier, or ignominiously toppled like Saddam Hussein. Nor did I want to keep on going forever at any cost like Saturday Night Live—I was a tyrant but I wasn’t completely heartless. It was time to change and let the healing begin.
I began by ordering an extra ration of gruel for my grandfather who I had thrown in prison some years before. I was told he had passed away but I still felt good about my gesture. I think that he would have been proud of me. Now I’m all about Toys for Tots, Make a Wish, Guardian Angels, and Meals on Wheels. I want to be part of the solution instead of being the entire problem. From now on I want to spend my days Big Brothering, Boy Scouting, Little Leaguing, Sunday schooling, paying it forward, Salvation Army-ing, and youth ministering. In fact, take any do-gooder cause and I’ll make a clumsy verb out of it.

I haven’t actually done anything even remotely compassionate so far. Let’s just say that I’m taking baby steps, making the transition a little at a time. So far I have been atrocity-free for almost two weeks! Genocide-less for one month! Some of my subjects have even been whispering timidly about holding free elections. Let’s not go overboard, people; I’m still getting used to this whole humanity deal. Do me a favor and give this “benevolent dictator” thing a try. You don’t have to worry about death squads, dungeons, complete disregard for human rights, or most of the other horrors of my former ways, but I’ve always been the type of person who likes to keep the options open.