It was a sweet gift. A year ago, Steve gave me a leather-bound
journal. In it, he'd jotted down witty thoughts and glued old
photographs and New Yorker cartoons on random pages. Most of the pages,
though, were blank.
A handwritten note came with it explaining
that he'd put down some funny things in the book and was leaving it
with me "for a couple of weeks, a month," and then I was to send it
back to him with some more of the pages filled. We'd keep at this until
the blank pages disappeared, and then, "when the book is full, you get
to keep it," his note said. "Hopefully around your birthday or a
holiday, so I don't have to think about what else to get you."
gave me this caveat: "It's a gift, not an imposition. So if you decide
you don't have the time, inclination or memory, I won't be offended at
all. I would want it to be fun, not frustrating."
The truth is,
I really don't have much time, but I love the idea so much that
whenever I get a chance, I jot stuff down. I've only filled a handful
of pages in this past year – but it's pretty good stuff.
the guy who admitted that he was so freaked out after renting "The
Ring" that when his 8-year-old, long-haired daughter walked into his
bedroom asking for a glass of water in the middle of the night, he
"jumped up on the bed and screamed like a girl."
conversation I overheard between a pouty 3-year-old and her dad. I'm
not sure what the girl's demands were, but the dad was refusing them,
saying, "You can't because it's winter."
The girl, standing in a light dress in the warm sun, asked her dad, "What's winter?"
The dad, wearing shorts and holding an ice cream cone, suddenly looked very, very embarrassed.
"Winter," he said, slowly. "Um. Winter is now."
had intended to hand the Book of Funny off to Steve when he was here
this past weekend, but the stars didn't quite align. So I told him how
sorry I was that he was returning to New York without the book. His
response: "What book?"
"The Book of Funny."
"Oh, I figured that was dead."
"Why?! Oh, I don't know, maybe because you never, one, sent it back to me, or two, mentioned it. Ever. For a year."
"Oh," I said. "That."
of the hallmarks of a good friendship is that two people can go for a
long time without talking and then pick up right where they left off.
There is so much that never needs to be said.
But maybe it wouldn't have killed me to say something. Like "Thanks." Or "This is a great idea. I'm totally into it."
whole enterprise, Steve explained in that first note to me, was to give
me another stab at developing a hobby. I failed at knitting,
mosaic-tiling and exercising. I don't enjoy cooking, drawing or
painting. I can't sing.
Writing down funny stuff, he figured,
was a sure thing. I'm a humor columnist. But my silence left him with
the idea that the journal was going the way of the pottery wheel he'd
given me one year – a thing that I want to want to do.
fear, I'm going to be carting around this mostly blank Book of Funny
for the rest of my life. A scrapbook of memories that will never be
recalled because they'll never be collected.
I protested that I
will fill these pages more, and that I want him to do the same, but
it's clear Steve's moved on. I guess I'm going to have to, too. It was
a good idea, and if anyone reading this has more discipline than I do,
maybe you can start (and finish) a Book of Funny with a friend.
for my book, I think I'll clip out this column and paste it inside.
That way, in a hundred years, at least my progeny will know why I
bothered to keep this mostly blank book lying around.