Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬
 Katrina & The Waves “Walking On Sunshine”
 Yello “The Race”
 Van Halen “Jump”
 Prefab Sprout “The King of Rock & Roll”
Is my glass half empty or half full? Is life a box of praline chocolates with liquor centres or a punnet of peanut-riddled turd truffles? Is life what we make it or what it turns us into? I know my answer to all three of the above posers as I’m firmly in the pro-optimism camp and thank my lucky stars for this interminably chipper outlook. Cynicism just seems so frightfully ho-hum to me and its benefits are far outweighed by risk when you consider the facts. Do you think that Usain Bolt returns home after a hard day on the track and loads up a crack pipe because “it’ll all be forgotten in ten years anyway”? How many times did you spot Rocky Balboa throwing in the towel when he was having his face pounded into man putty? Did you ever see Gandhi bitching because the strap on his flip-flops snapped? Precisely, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to discern the parallels as faith binds them all although the pessimistic would likely have something to say about that. For some, it’s just not worth all the legwork. Disappointment is far less probable once they relinquish those expectations. They think of this as a safety mechanism where really it excludes them from the game.
I’ve never been what you would call a gambler, at least, not in a monetary sense. But I will play life’s odds if there’s a smidgen of a chance that it will conclude with emotional windfall. Failure is inevitable and it would be foolhardy of me to suggest that I could tiptoe through the tulips without my big toe potentially sinking into every last cleverly concealed fresh-laid cowpat in the meadow en route. Indeed, if I tallied things up, I probably fail more than I succeed. Surely I could save myself the effort right and sit the rest of my own existence out? After all, that’s effectively what we’re doing when we refuse to spin the roulette wheel. Benny may have five kids to feed but, on the upside, his reptilian lefty would make an ideal scoop for the mashed potato. Screw you Benny for letting your children starve simply because you struggle to dish up the skinny fries. It’s the highway or no way for me and no amount of disillusion could ever take my eye off the ultimate prize. Besides, winning really isn’t the be-all and end-all. I learned that one at five-years-old and will never tire of reliving this glorious moment.
If memory serves, it was the annual sports day and I was gearing up for the all-important egg and spoon race. This was my first shot at becoming someone, winning the hearts of my fellow fledglings, and I was sick to my stomach with the very best kind of anticipation if that even makes a lick of sense. As I went under starter’s instructions, I considered what was being asked of me in order to snag myself the much coveted pole position. Clearly speed was to be tantamount here but there was another consideration to entertain also. Balance would play just as key a role in beating all-comers as the egg in question appeared to be suffering from wanderlust and desperate to vacate its stainless steel cradle. Glancing to both sides, I found myself surrounded by similarly focused individuals, and knew that I couldn’t expect my very best to be enough to secure victory. But I still wished to compete, if only to fathom my own place in the pecking order. The game was on and, for the next fifteen seconds or so, I would play it to the very best of my capabilities. Ready…set…GO!
Early signs were encouraging enough and, while all seven jockeys were pretty much neck and neck at this point, I knew I could bank on forward momentum to see me clear from the pack if I continued at my current rate of knots. The finish line was in sight and I channeled 80% of my energy into keeping it squarely within my crosshairs. Regrettably, the other 20% was far more concerned with the thoroughbred pony grazing in the field to my right. Now it wasn’t as though I hadn’t been introduced to horses prior to this contest, but it was hard to deny that it felt like they were holding something back and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that might be. That all changed in a heartbeat as this fine filly dropped anchor so to speak and I swiftly found myself all at sea. This bolshy buccaneer had replaced my fast lane with a decidedly long and slender plank, talk about mutiny on the bounty. I felt like Captain Ahab as his love/hate relationship with his nautical nemesis culminated in a less than warmhearted group hug. My vessel was going down and I could already hear the lowly algae making me up a sea bed. Bless ’em.
My short-term memory is more towards the woeful end of the spectrum but a colt’s colossal cock tends to linger on in one’s collection tray, even more so once hypnosis commences. As this depth charge plummeted before my disbelieving eyes, perilously close to the cud below I might add, it began its rhythmic swing and I couldn’t help but fixate. What I failed to recognize was that my speckled egg was struggling without my guidance and about to become tomorrow’s canteen omelette. Lo-and-behold, this was precisely what happened next and, while somebody has to come last in every dash, there’s little comfort to be gleaned from then being disqualified for failure to deliver the cargo intact. Needless to say I felt utterly shipwrecked momentarily but just as I prepared to pin my photo up in Davy Jones’s locker, something totally unprecedented occurred. Where previously stand-offish, the horse in question offered up a reassuring wink as if to say “chin up son”. Granted, there was no way of knowing for sure that it wasn’t simply trapped wind, at least not without a qualified whisperer on hand. But I aired on the side of optimism nonetheless and my loss no longer felt quite as crushing.
Revitalized, I continued to champion positive thinking wherever applicable, and found it rather a serviceable companion. Should a bully corner me in the school halls and proceed to reposition my underwear with a wink, then I would imagine this to translate to “chin up son” and thank him for his kindness. Astonishingly, this appeared to dissuade the ruffians from picking on me as I had a tendency to skip away whistling to myself as though I had just happened across a quarter. When you consider that their objective is to demoralize and publicly humiliate their prey, you can see why I became a far less attractive target. Had I been on a Debbie downer, then that would have played right into their hands. But I was determined not to lower my buoyant front; at least until I’d reached a safe enough distance to break down like a clapped out Citroën and sob for momma bear until I became cocooned in my own snot. Even then, once my mucus-sealed oyster clam flipped open and I took flight like phlegm in a wind tunnel, the metamorphosis was considered a rousing success and the future seemed like an altogether cozier cluster of coordinates.
It was becoming abundantly clear that, while life was invariably going to comprise all manner of obstacles and pitfalls, I could traverse them far less awkwardly with a bouncy enough spring in my step. This was smack bang in the middle of the eighties and arcade machines were all the rage by that point; thus I peered to the perkiest pixels I could position my peepers over for inspiration. Pac-Man seemed happy-go-lucky enough, never more so than when gobbling down those game-changing power pills, but his trappings were far too claustrophobic for my liking and there was a great outdoors just waiting to be explored if I inserted my credit elsewhere. This left two available options and the first, Frogger, was certainly more adept at stretching those legs, leaping with faith and conviction every time that rush hour traffic started revving. If you asked me to name the most cheery word in the animal kingdom, then “ribbit” would take some beating. Is it just me or do “moo”, “baa”, and “eeyore” come across as dreadfully depressing? I liked this amphibian’s style and positioned my quarter in the slot excitedly.
However, something stopped me from slipping on the flippers, perhaps the fact that I’d dissected one of his kind minutes earlier and didn’t relish being the bad news bearer. Or maybe it was the sinister jingle to my far right that proved the deciding factor. You see, I was already deeply entrenched in a committed relationship with all things horror, and never more content than when clinking my pitcher with ghosts and goblins. Thus when I took those tentative steps towards the source of this ominous audio, I was thrilled that both were present and correct. Ghosts ‘n Goblins proposed a short jaunt through the cemetery and, while the stench of decaying flesh was admittedly pungent, it sure beat exhaust fumes and the funk of midday roadkill. In addition, eighteen wheelers tend to splat first and leave the asphalt to ask questions, whereas shuffling zombies are hardly the most turbo-charged of horseless carriages. This would surely prove a doddle and I liked that word even more than ribbit dagnibbit.
King Arthur certainly didn’t appear overawed by the stern challenge before him and, while his movement was decidedly limited, he leapt into the fray like a gay salmon and did so with a great deal of regal swagger. Moreover, should the unthinkable play out and his protective chain mail be stripped courtesy of an opportunist sneak attack (usually from beneath his very greaves), then he would willingly press on in his boxer shorts and do so with every bit the same favorable thrust. Every time and again that he fell on his sword, he’d turn his weary head and donate a wink to my cause to the tune of “chin up son” and I’d cast my mind back to the whole Horse-Gate incident with a wry smile. It was then that I appreciated irony for the very first time, as a knight and a stallion are something of a match made in heaven I hear and both had been willing me on to saddle up once more. Meanwhile, Frogger had made it to the other side of the freeway without incident and was gearing up for one final push to the lily pad. For the record, passing crocodiles have been known to wink too and this is historically less “chin up son” and more “grub’s up yum”. So it proved as Frogger repeatedly floundered, while King Arthur did precisely the same, but adopting a far more can-do attitude as he did.
Did I ever reach the elusive checkpoint beacon? That’s a negative, I sent more Arthurs to their premature graves than liver disease could ever hope to achieve. But I remained optimistic that, with Excalibur unsheathed, my run of misfortune would eventually come to an end. It didn’t in case you’re wondering. Konami even went as far as devising a return leg, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, to taunt me further and I sucked badger bunions at that also. All appeared lost until years later and videogames turned out to be the savior of my bacon once again ironically. PlayStation 2 was always the ugly sister of XBox to me and I didn’t care much for its wart-ridden schnoz if I’m being perfectly frank. However, Maximo came along and changed all that, providing King Arthur with a fresh summons, only this time taking his shenanigans to the third dimension. Was his plight any less fraught with peril? No I’m fairly assured that I croaked more times than Frogger in Max Headroom’s restroom. The difference now was that save beacons were plentiful and this provided ample opportunity to wash my soiled underwear in the nearby stream during load times.
Frogs are miserable bastards when you strip away those ribbits and no match for thoroughbred ponies or knights of the round table. The cynics we happen across on our daily travels may catch the occasional fly thanks to their ludicrously long lickers but they can never hope to emulate the success of such noble company. Take Kermit for example, he may consider himself something of a swinging dick in the Muppet world, but Miss Piggy is only using him until the chickies dry up and the Swedish chef is forced to start cooking with horse meat. A frog’s tiny penis couldn’t hope to satisfy such a demanding grunter, whereas a length of mesmerizing pony schlong was quids in to get her rind a crackling. It’s horses for courses of course but I will say this and do so without remorse. Frog’s legs may be a delicacy in certain culinary quarters but they’re ultimately little more than hors d’oeuvre in the greater scheme of things. I’d much rather skip the entrée and chow down on something more substantial and what could be more weighty a banquet than a nag’s head with accompanying horseradish? Even if a severed one were slipped between my bed sheets at the dead of night, I’d take that as a distinct positive provided it could still muster a twitched wink of “chin up son” in my direction.
Cynicism can suck my sugar cubes as I flat refuse to be governed by such wasteful emotion. My glass may well be half empty and so what if it is? Who hoots with care if the praline chocolate I’m delighting in has a questionable fondant centre? I’m still bloody-minded in the belief that life is primarily of our own construction. Does that make me a sucker? Perhaps but I’m a happy sucker and I’d rather that than morose mastication any day of the alloted 365. While frogs are left hanging out for those leap years, I’m dropping my love heart emblazoned boxer shorts to reveal my tremendous girth to any keen equestrians looking to clear some fences. And it only took a lifetime subscription to mental scarring in order to dip for the crucial photo finish. Whatcha got to say about that Frogger? Not so frivolous with the ribbits now are you? In a word, nay. Now hoppit before I get my old pal Maximo to punt you into the moat you fuck.