Many years ago, I got an extra special Christmas gift from my father. He was so excited about it that he began calling me in early November to gloat. The man has an enviable knack for superlatives.
“I really did it this year,” he told me. “I got you what might be the greatest present of all time. I just don’t know how I’m gonna top this one.”
It continued like this for days, and then weeks. “I mean, Al, I’ve outdone myself. I almost don’t want to give it to you, because that’ll be it. It’ll be the year I gave you this, and nothing else will measure up.”
He also said that shipping said wünderprez would be a major undertaking, the likes of which I’d never seen. What can it be? I wondered. Can you actually FedEx a horse? And then a large brown box, the heaviest one I’ve ever encountered, arrived on my doorstep. I thought maybe it was a compact barbell system for the basement, or a Thomas-Jefferson-era fruitcake. Or maybe a compact horse.
Finally, Christmas rolled around and I opened it. And he was right. It was the most marvelous gift a person like me could ever hope to receive.
Let me explain. Growing up, I was obsessed with The Far Side. “Obsessed” isn’t a strong enough word to describe my commitment to the brand. Let’s just say I wrote a college entrance essay about it in 1993. One of the topics was “If you could meet anyone, living or deceased, who would it be?” Abraham Lincoln? Bo-ring. Mother Theresa? Yawn1. I wanted to meet Gary Larson for breakfast, and I feverishly scribbled to my first-choice school about it2. You see, every Christmas throughout my childhood, my dad gave me a flip-a-day Far Side calendar. This way, I could greet each dawn with a snort and a chortle. Unbeknownst to me, The Complete Far Side was created in 2003. It’s a double-volume, 1,272-page compendium of every Far Side cartoon from 1980 to 1994. It weighs 18 pounds.
These annals of dark humor live in my kitchen, lest I need a zap of hilarity at a moment’s notice. Thanks, Dad. And Mr. Larson: that waffle invitation was an open one.
1 No offense, MT. We good?
2 They let me in. High five to my fellow sordid homey in the Admissions office.