We all know people who are fun, even outrageous. When we are in their presence, we are sure to forget our troubles and just enjoy ourselves. Lately, I’ve been thinking about a number of these people, trying to figure out what makes them so different from me. Here’s a little gallery of fun folks I’ve assembled.
Nico: Even as a child, he was tall for his age, and powerfully built. It was a good idea to stay on his good side because you never knew how he would strike out. I liked him because he was fearless and loved to laugh. One time, a group of us went to a lake for a concert. The place was packed, and no one wanted to give any ground. So Nico took the lead and pushed his way through the crowd, shoving people right and left, until we arrived close to the singers.
Another time, several of us were in a car driven by Nico. We were going along, minding our own business when a red Maserati cut us off, nearly sending us into a ditch. The Maserati sped off. A few kilometers later, we spotted it at a gas station. Nico pulled in and blocked the Maserati. Its driver started yelling at him to move the car. “Don’t you know who I am?” the other driver screamed. He said his name; he was an actor in an Italian soap opera. Nico got out of his car with a crowbar in hand. He towered over the actor. “Don’t you know who I am?” Nico asked menacingly. He slammed the crowbar into the hood of the Maserati. “I am God!” Calmly, Nico returned to his car and drove off.
Nico went on to a long career in law enforcement. He had a good marriage and fathered three children. He died a few months ago of cancer. I really miss him.
Janice: She was a co-worker of my wife’s at a weekly newspaper. Janice had a bubbly personality and was talkative and upbeat. She was well-liked by managers and staff and not just because she was successful at selling advertising.
Whenever the office threw a party, such as for Christmas, Janice would get the party going and be the first one on the dance floor. She also had a lovely voice and was easily persuaded to sing. Janice had a wilder side, too, such as when she went to a horse race and caught the attention of television cameras by running across the track in a bikini. She was happily married and had a nice home by a lake.
Guido: I am a few years younger than he but we have been life-long pals. When he was younger, Guido often pretended to be more than what he was. Once, he took me along to shop for ceramic tiles for his kitchen. Guido haggled with a store clerk over the price of the tiles and finally finagled a very favorable deal by claiming that he was an official in the finance department, which, among other things, handles taxation. Unfortunately, I was not present for this. While Guido was off selecting tiles, the clerk approached me and asked how long Guido had been with the finance department. “What finance department?” I said, “He works for the hospital, drawing blood.” I’ll never forget how quickly we were kicked out of that store.
Another time, Guido foolishly boasted to a group of guys about making love with a certain girl. Among the group was the husband of the girl’s cousin. He reported the conversation to his wife, and she promptly repeated it to Guido’s wife. I don’t know how Guido finessed that, but he is still married to the same woman. Through hard work and his little deceptions he has amassed a small fortune and a respectable portfolio of investment properties.
Marilyn: She was a friend of a friend of my wife’s. Marilyn lived in New York City and produced large paintings, although she made her living as a draftsperson for architectural firms. My wife describes Marilyn’s personality as “expansive,” friendly and outgoing, if a little superficial. Obstacles did not seem to exist for her. She was also gently, but effectively, persuasive.
One time, Marilyn invited my wife to an impromptu dinner party. “Oh, and can you bring over some plates?” she asked. Another person she invited was charged with providing extra chairs, and someone else supplied extra flatware. My wife enjoyed the Mediterranean food and the eclectic collection of people assembled by Marilyn. The dinner party was enlivened by the presence of three young Scotsmen who were zigzagging their way through the U.S. and Canada; Marilyn had met them that afternoon at a hardware store.
The last that my wife heard about Marilyn was that she had left NYC to live and paint on a Greek island for a while.
The one thing I’ve noticed that these folks have in common is that they were not shy to be themselves without pretense (well, except for Guido) and without apology. They seemed to view life as something to enjoy, boldly. And while we may not want to be like them, we admire them for their zest; somehow, seeing that zest in action gives me a shot of hope.