What better way to begin someone’s biography than for its author to prattle on about himself. I mean it’s important to break some literary rules, but to do it so shoddily seems rather unseemly and I don’t want to seem unseemly. I’d prefer to seem seemly. I’m stalling because I can’t possibly capture the multi-dimensionality of my dear friend Chris Gage’s human experience, so rather than attempting to paint a rich portrait of a man in full, I’m going to paint a diluted snapshot of a man in 1/16th. I believe by setting the bar this low (capturing 6.25% of Chris) I set a metric (we don’t set goals anymore – we meet metrics) suitable to my talents. Besides, if this mini-bio flies off the shelves or, more likely, is digitally uploaded into people’s Kindles, I can follow it up with 15 more volumes at 6.25% each. With great swagger I might pause here and state, “You do the math,” but as you can see, I’ve already done it. Why do I undermine myself and then advertise it? Well at least you know what you’re dealing with here.
In the Beginning: Gagenesis I
Christopher Michael Gage landed on his feet even though he entered this world head first. Those lucky enough to know Chris consider him one of the top 6 or 7 billion people living on Earth today. His mother Dorothy Gage (née Darya Davidovich) and father Fenton Gage (born Rex Tutwiller) were pleased that most of their son’s organs were mounted on the inside – especially the messy filtering organs that tend to be all drippy. And perhaps it was because of the happy arrangement of his internal organs that Chris grew quickly. At the age of 7 he was already walking into rooms and forgetting why he went in there. Other times he’d search everywhere for his glasses only to discover they were parked right there on his nose. This wasn’t simple absent-mindedness. No, this was a high level of geriatric incompetence rarely seen in a 7 year old. At an age when most boys were reading Bazooka Joe comics, Chris was already forgetting things only a 90 year old could hope to forget. This kind of geriatric precocity was a hamburger of things to come. Sorry, I meant to say “a harbinger of things to come.”
Chris was anticipatory in other ways too (Not really. I just like to use the word anticipatory.) It was not easy for this honest boy of vanilla extraction to be mean. Friends said being in his company was like hanging out with Mother Theresa’s father. In fact he treated everyone so fairly his friends complained he was one-faced. One-faced Gage, they called him. They’d scoff at him, “You god damned paragon of virtue. Stop leading by example my stalwart friend. Hey daddy-o, this level of honesty went out with the Eisenhower Administration. It’s the New Frontier now. You dig Jackie-O.” He took it all in stride – usually because he was jogging when they criticized him.
However sweetly hostile their imprecations were, he wore them as a badge of honor – a merit badge of honor. A peculiar, but healthy curiosity in neckerchiefs led to a lifelong interest in scouting. As an Eagle Scout, Chris persevered and after what seemed like forever, he finally earned a merit badge in Forbearance. Never one to rest on his laurels, he went on to earn an advanced badge in Fivebearance. When for a talent competition he performed a maniacal version of “Cabaret” his Scoutmaster noted, “Like most scouts he’s very campy.” Of course this is the same Scoutmaster who while ordering lunch at a restaurant remarked “I’ll have the alligator soup – and make it snappy.”
A Family Tree that Forks
The first issue of his parents was Chris’s older brother Theodore (Ted) Gage. The second issue was how they were going to feed him. Ted always had an unaccountable attraction to older women. Even as a new born, fresh out of the womb, he crawled into the incubators of 2-day olds while shunning the immature 1-day olds. Ted also grew quickly despite the fact his parents raised him in an attic and fed him Cream of Spelt. All 3 Gage children were raised in this glorified garret. It was once a palatial 2nd floor living quarters, but to instill immigrant moxie into their children, Mr. PhD (Fenton of Harvard) and the Czarina (Dee of Minsk) removed the creature comforts in the living space and reduced it to a utilitarian barrack suitable for Anne Frank or some other at-risk refugee, as in this case, their beloved children. Fenton would proudly harrumph, “My children shall not be born with a silver spoon in their mouths. It shall be located elsewhere.”
The 3rd child I referred to (2nd by birth) was Ellen. Ellen was a popular girl whose nickname was also Ellen, although she was sometimes referred to as Bambi or Carlotta. A precocious and modest child; she was born wearing a bra. Like all Gage children she grew quickly and by the age of 5 was already wary of Ricky Nelson’s matinee idol good looks; reasoning they could lead to the birth of even more Nelsons (a prophecy which came true).
The children all got along famously for 5 reasons:
- They all squeezed toothpaste from the bottom of the tube.
- They all spelled spelt
- Were simultaneously Alpha & Omega children and as such had no problem grooming each other.
- They knew better than to ask for, “Another helping of borscht mom?”
- They all got the “March 14th” being Pi Day joke.
As they matured and left the nest there’s every reason to believe they never urinated in a stairwell and that, oddly enough, one of their strengths was that they did stare well. They never lost a staring contest in the neighborhood. You can verify this with Mrs. DePaul whom Chris used to stare at quite a bit.
Chris’s parents were chastened products of the Great Depression and took outsized precautions in memory of their privations. For example, risk-averse Fenton deposited a portion of each paycheck into a troika of emergency funds designed to protect the family from hardship: there was a rainy day Iron Lung account (which rusted in the rain), a Bubonic Plague Prevention account (this one worked – no Gage has contracted the Plague…yet) and a Leprosy Slush Fund (which had pretty much fallen to pieces by the time they attempted to withdraw it).
While Fenton promoted a longer term approach to family well-being, Dee had more immediate concerns about feeding her family should disaster strike. She kept shovelfuls of what she told the children was “edible” diatomaceous clay in her root cellar in case the Cold War got hot. In a storage niche under the basement stairs was powdered water, 40 tins of Spam and the board game Don’t Spill the Beans (outfitted with real beans). There was also a highly advanced reverse osmosis mood enhancer; where you fed bad feelings into one end and joyous expressions were extruded from the other –very handy during a siege or a stand-off. Dee also stocked up on napkin rings reasoning they were of such little utility in this world (especially during a crisis) that perhaps (due to their low demand) they could go unnoticed and be transported into the afterworld in transcendent defiance of the old adage, “You can’t take it with you.” This was high level metaphysical thinking from a woman one generation removed from living a short, brutish life growing turnips on a vassal estate.
These Gages were prepared. And perhaps that’s another reason why Chris was drawn to Scouting’s motto: Be Prepared. It wasn’t so much that the sky was falling as it was showing signs of wear. With Fenton’s Ivy League circumspection and Dee’s Muscovite grit they survived not only the Nixon administration, but outlived Hee-Haw and the hula-hoop craze.
There was some talk of building a panic room in their serviceable middle-class home, but Fent & Dee figured they did enough panicking together in the bedroom and didn’t need to devote an entirely new room for something they usually did for free in the boudoir. In case you needed to be told, in the sensibly button down world of Mr. & Mrs. Gage there were never any after-hours parties; unless you count the time in 1964 when, with the porch light off, 4 straggling trick or treaters dressed as the Beatles rang the doorbell a few minutes after 9:00 pm. Fenton leapt to the palace gate brandishing an Eveready flashlight and shined its business end on those 4 little mop tops as Dee deposited the last of her homemade popcorn balls into their sacks. She scolded those youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves the Beatles by reminding them, “Criminy! Do you know what time it is? People need to get some sleep around here.” The next day the Gage’s invested in a brand new home security system – a chain lock purchased from Carl’s Drugs.
Night on Bald Mountain
Always the shrewd tactician, when at 13 Chris lost all his hair, he neatly deflected the loss by extravagantly growing his armpit hair and swirling its curly tendrils all over his naked head in a crafty maneuver he called Operation Comb Over. In his struggle for higher achievement he fast forwarded his life and bypassed many of the usual stages. For example, at 18 Chris experienced a full-blown ¼-life crisis in which his glass was half-empty 75% of the time. Owing to his previously mentioned geriatric precocity, Chris was granted Social Security at the tender age of 9.
He admired the noble profession of midwifery, but initially he mistakenly believed a midwife was the wife that came between the 1st and the 3rd wife. When it was explained to him their function in delivering babies; Chris formed a male counterpart to this traditionally female-dominated profession and the profession of mid-husbandry was born – born with the help of midwives of course.
In high school he began forgetting his Slide Rule, and since he was rejected as a member of the AV Club, he joined the Slide Rule Club. He flirted with practicing the first rule of Slide Rule Club which is: You don’t talk about Slide Rule Club. About this time his logarithms lost all rhythm and his answers were wildly spastic. It was then he came upon a grisly discovery. He’d been living his life in Base 8 while the rest of us were in the normal Base 10 mode. The poor boy was practically in another dimension where aluminum poles bore edible low-hanging ingots, where social-media savvy mannequins posted human-challenge videos, where people sat backwards in their cars and drove around in reverse, and finally a place where cereal refused to get soggy – even in the digestive tract. It was because of this interdimensional interference and an ultimatum from his probation officer (is ogling really a crime – especially when you’re doing it from afar with a telescope?) he found religion. He may have even found his Slide Rule, but we’ll never know because he finally began practicing the 1st rule of Slide Rule Club: You don’t talk about Slide Rule Club.
Far Out Man. Or is that Far In? Two Views: View 1
His options to lead an exemplary life exhausted, Chris turned his attentions inward and began communing with God through detached contemplation and a few Playboy magazines he had hidden. And although Miss January spoke to him in deep and meaningful ways, he rejected hedonism as a Luciferian detour. He saw that the road to hell was paved with seductive centerfolds. He vowed to be in the world, but not of it. Kinda like the Easter Bunny and Ben Carson are.
Far Out Man. Or is that Far In? Two Views: View 2
Chris began flirting with drugs in his late teens and when they finally succumbed to his flirtatious blandishments and agreed to go bowling with him, he knew he was onto something extraordinary. Hallucinogens afforded him a window on dimensions he’d only dreamt about. However seductive these dimensions were he also realized there was a cost in taking a one way pleasure trip to unfamiliar destinations on the outskirts of Nirvana – namely, his sanity. Clearly this wasn’t the way. With great maturity and force of character he moved on from psychoactive substances and began a regimen of meditation, contemplation and quieting his restive mind so that a higher vibratory wave could be educed and experienced. At least that’s the theory and its practice is (at times) beyond description and beyond the scope of this semi-authorized biographical sketch.
Worldly Inconsistencies: Yes we have no bananas
Chris firmly believed Daylight Savings Time was enfeebled by its piddling 1 hour time shift limitation. He felt DST should temporally displace people with greater range. For example in the Spring he thought we should “spring” forward 10 years. But in the Fall we should “fall” back to the Jurassic Period. “It doesn’t have to be the Jurassic Period per se,” he noted with geologic insouciance, “But something in the Mesozoic Era would be nice.”
So what if he campaigned against Coal Industry safeguards because he thought Black Lung was an anatomical term describing the respiratory organs of Negroes (Negroes then being the acceptable nomenclature for African-Americans). You might think this scattershot essay is just a convenient scaffold for stringing together jokes and has little to do with the actual annals of Christopher Gage. That’s on you. I can only write what I know to be true. And bear in mind that similarly to Chris, I too entered this world head first. But unlike Chris, I landed on my head – so make allowances.
As an adult (in years not in behavior) Chris drew unjustifiable satisfaction from surrendering his prodigiously generated airplane trash to flight attendants patrolling the aisles with plastic garbage bags. His banana peel, newspaper and soiled neckerchief were all somebody else’s problem and tossed off into the gaping maw of a 5-gallon cinch-sack without so much as a “Thank you Mr. Landfill.” He was free to move on with his life liberated from the impedimenta of compostable materials in his midst, but the rest of us would have to suffer his environmental carelessness for decades. That he could so easily compartmentalize things should’ve been apparent from the way he would so casually blow his nose on cold days by pressing one finger against a nostril and jettisoning a mucoid globule through the other while it landed onto the frozen tundra of Syracuse where it remained part of a still-life wintry hardscape – a monument to its selfish expectorator – until the Spring thaw.
Like 95% of us, Chris is gay and simply choosing to be heterosexual. It’s a very popular choice and can lead to big things – especially female bellies. They say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their pets and it should be noted that all of Chris’s have been taxidermied and carefully placed in the stationary petting zoo he lovingly curates in his attic. It’s not 10 feet from the heavy petting zoo and barely 20 feet from his grandmother – a mute Russian bulwark against an intrusive world who rocks back and forth in complete silence.
Tangential and Inconsequential: A Metaphor for All Life Maybe
As I highlight the salient events, moods and motivations of Chris’s life, I choose to enumerate them with a dash of Sriracha sauce in order to make this piece less like milquetoast and more like a nourishing Rorschach essay that packs a little heat – an essay whereby you digest my identificatory descriptors and then see what you want to see in them. Now, truth be told, I wrote that entire previous sentence just to use the word identificatory. But you knew that. You were most anticipatory of my identificatory sentence.
You think your brain hurts; try writing this stuff. And to think I don’t drink, smoke (nicotine or 420) or do drugs. I do this. I hope you find it satisfactory. I know it gives me great satis, which, if I run out, I can always buy more at a satis factory. Perhaps this biography is a little vagant. Some may even find it extra-vagant (also pronounced: extravagant). If this essay featured too many homeless people, it would be extra-vagrant. If it overwhelmed the olfactory senses it might be called extra-fragrant. And remember, if your sense of smell abandons you, you can always buy more at the Ole Factory. To recap: Never begin reading a semi-authorized biography unless you’re prepared to discover another lobe of your brain.
The point is we are all either inhaling or exhaling. We can’t do both, although I’m told some Indian mystics can inhale through their left nostril and into their left lung while simultaneously exhaling through their right lung and out through their right nostril. These yogic shamans are from the Bronchajo tribe of Northern Arizona some of whom are both ambi-lungstrous and hetero-diaphragmatic. Truth be told, I wrote this entire paragraph just so I could use the word nostril. I know. It blows. But you knew that.
Chris’s Miracle Year (Annus Mirabilis) 1972
Einstein’s was 1905 (E = mc2 being the most notable and relatable of his 4 staggering discoveries). Gage’s was 1972 when he achieved a feat common to all mortals, but miraculous nonetheless. This was the year he finally had his Shawshank redeemed while getting his fancy tickled. To delicately put it; for the first time he experienced the zenith of human ecstasy while a person of the female persuasion was present – and her name wasn’t Miss January either. She was a 3-dimensional, non-inflatable, real girl who’d obviously done course work in biology. Her name wasn’t important – wasn’t important Thompson or “wiT” as he called her. Strange name, usual results. Repeating this volcanic process would become a constant pursuit for Chris, easily eclipsing his interest in neckerchiefs. To crudely put it; penis sneezing was a welcomed eruption, after which he would sheepishly utter to his lover, “God bless us both.”
Rules of Slide Rule Club: I Can’t Even Bring Myself to Talk about It
Chris nourished his stout serf body with fistfuls of Sunasu Vitamins and juice fasts – usually water, lemon and cayenne pepper, but sometimes straight bong juice. A hygienic man, he slathered jade-green Mennen Speed Stick on his now neatly trimmed armpit hair to prevent his pungent Bolshevik aroma from permeating the steppes of Syracuse as well as the stoops of nearby Solvay. More importantly he presciently purchased a pallet of Mennen glide-on solid-stick deodorant just before the Arab Solid-Stick Deodorant Embargo of 1974 created a national shortage of the sweat gland-plugging unguent. He never told anyone about his good fortune in having a pallet of the stuff secreted away in a crawl space because he fastidiously observed the 2nd rule of Slide Rule Club: You don’t talk about solid-stick deodorant windfalls. It was an obscure rule seemingly formulated for no useful purpose, but nonetheless it was one of the 6 rules and he adhered to it scrupulously. That is until I blew the protective cap off his solid-stick deodorant windfall – a windfall he was sensitive not to lord over his friends.
I believe my exposé on Chris taciturnity, reference his solid-stick deodorant good fortune, is akin to reporting how someone accidentally received an extra Whopper in their Burger King Drive-thru bag and went back to return it. Both Chris’s probity and his reserve evince a chthonic veracity abundantly resident in him. As stated before, he’s so one-faced. Where others may have been pleased they got something for nothing (a Whopper), Chris views all situations as an opportunity to limit his karmic debt so he may navigate unimpeded in the afterlife. And he certainly wasn’t going to add to his karma by making others feel badly about lacking solid-stick deodorant. He wasn’t about to armpit shame or engage in what the Germans’ call unterarm schadenfreude at the expense of his friends or family. So far at least, it is believed he is the only human being to ever consciously not revel in someone’s bad fortune in relation to their lack of underarm fighting emoluments. But he didn’t do it out of altruism. He did it to limit his karmic debt and to me that still qualifies as chthonic veracity – an indigenous capacity to manifest truth. And that’s why people who’ve met Chris consider him to be one of the top 6 or 7 billion people living on Earth today
And not to put too fine a point on this absurdity wrapped in a non-sequitur inside a fake news story, but we’re not talking about roll-on or spray on deodorants here. And we are even excluding anti-perspirants. We‘re strictly discussing solid-stick deodorants. To this day Chris is believed to be the only person affected by esoteric Slide Rule Club rule #2: You don’t talk about solid-stick deodorant windfalls. Perhaps there are others affected by this rule, but they either took their secret with them to the grave or, like veterans who don’t talk about their ghastly wartime experiences, are still alive and have kept silent on the matter in strict observance of the rule. It doesn’t end there though. In researching 1974 palletized sales records of solid-stick deodorants from the Colgate-Palmolive Company (parent company of Mennen Speed Stick), I noticed all bulk sales (except for Chris’s pallet purchase which he surreptitiously transacted under the pseudonym Davidovich Industries) were to wholesale outlets whose usual practice was to break open their pallets and sell the product in individual units. So it appears likely he was the only individual who received a solid-stick deodorant windfall while being a practicing member of the Slide Rule Club and therefore (in accordance with rule #2: You don’t talk about solid-stick deodorant windfalls.) didn’t discuss his windfall with anyone.
That’s not to say some store manager didn’t hoard a solid-stick deodorant pallet for himself. Or that another manufacturer of solid-stick deodorants, such as Unilever or Gillette didn’t sell a pallet to a retail customer on the down low thereby providing them a deodorant windfall they may or may not have talked about. So there could’ve been someone out there who bragged about solid-stick deodorant windfalls (owning a pallet of solid-stick deodorant during a shortage of same being a qualifying condition for such braggadocio), however, at this stage of my investigation the records simply don’t support this. But even if somehow a major manufacturer or even a rogue manufacturer did retail a pallet to a single party who squirreled it away, that individual purchaser:
- May have deemed the entire event (hoarding solid-stick deodorant) unworthy of emphasizing and mentioned it to no one.
- May have been a practicing member of Slide Rule Club and rigorously observed rule #2: You don’t talk about solid-stick deodorant windfalls.
- Trumpeted their bonanza (abundance during times of scarcity) to any number of people who were so underwhelmed by the boasts of its owner (“I’ve got enough solid-stick underarm deodorant to keep me smelling like a pine forest for 65 years.”) that the flush party’s ballyhooing or gasconading of their windfall gained no traction with the disinterested listener and consequently died a quiet death.
My bases covered on this matter, suffice to say we may never know for sure if any individual advertised their deodorant windfall in 1974 or at any other time because if the possessor of the windfall was a practicing member of the Slide Rule Club they likely observed the 1st rule of Slide Rule Club which is: You don’t talk about Slide Rule Club. Even if they didn’t observe the first and openly flouted the 1st rule of Slide Rule Club, they may have adhered to rule #2: You don’t talk about solid-stick deodorant windfall. Any records (should they still exist 42 years after the event) would be sketchy at best and certainly beyond the scope of this biography at the present time. In any event to this day Chris is still gumming up his sweat glands with an translucent green solid-stick malodorous masking agent purchased 42 years ago. In fact his Mennen Speed Stick is so old it doesn’t even have an expiration date on it – kinda like Barbara Walters.
End of Installment One
Well my 6.25% is just about up. I do think it’s important to mention that in later years, although Chris was grateful Microsoft had created an “Undo” button for Word. He regretted, however, they hadn’t made one for Godfather III.