Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Meet Clyde Langtry

Clyde has been my neighbor for four years. After all my conversations with him combined with my careful observations, I’ve distilled the evolution of Clyde’s insanity to the following theory: Mother nut met father nut. They had Clyde.

One day, he was explaining to me that his cats run away. That’s right, cats, plural, run away, on a regular basis, proving that animals have an intuitive intelligence that humans can’t begin to approach. Ergo, Clyde took to hiring a cat psychic to tell him where his cats ran to so Clyde could go find them. The psychic, Clyde told me, had divined the location of the latest runaway to a neighborhood about a mile southeast of our apartment building, and that he had to find a time soon to go look for it.

This was the very first conversation I ever had with Clyde. This is how he introduced himself to me back in 2001. He undid that first impression by spending the last four years reinforcing it.

Furthermore, Clyde likes to talk. If I make the egregious error of walking out to my car while Clyde is around, I’m bound to get stopped and lectured on auto mechanics or nutri-biotics or whatever else is shorting out his hard-wiring that day. Being a polite guy, I try to listen, giving him the benefit of the doubt every time that what he’s about to say is going to lead to something remotely relevant. Doubt has long been erased. Now I just listen for the material.

He’s a fan of old stereo parts, which he proudly buys on eBay, all for a grand home entertainment system he’s building. He likes chatting about his cats, how he “trains” them to fear street traffic, how his orange cat is the reincarnation of his previous cat of the same name. He proudly refers to the lemon tree in back as “his,” though he doesn’t water or prune it. He also used to skydive. No word on whether or not the chutes opened a little late sometimes, if you know what I mean.

And oh yeah, he’s a Scientologist. Texts from his boy, L. Ron, as Clyde refers to him, have taught him much about human nature. I know this because, on lucky occasion, Clyde delivers impromptu lectures on human nature. One particular sub-topic warm to his heart is how most people don’t come close to maximizing their potential. I’m tempted to explain to Clyde either that L. Ron is L. Wrong, or that Clyde is failing the church classes he’s taking—unless Clyde’s maximized potential equates to living in a one-bedroom apartment and driving a trashed Ford Taurus.

Clyde occasionally criticizes President Bush. Not about his politics or the Iraq war or anything like that. Clyde criticizes Bush’s mind and soul, prattling on about Bush’s eyes or aura or something. “I’m very good at reading people,” Clyde likes to say during such conversations. He can’t figure out why he has no friends, but he’s very good at reading people.

The creepy irony is that Clyde is nearly the spitting image of George W. Bush. If he combed his hair and put on a suit, they could almost be twins. But Bush talks like a rich Texan and swaggers. Clyde talks like he’s constipated and strides like he just graduated from debutante school. Plus, I doubt Clyde owns a suit.

Sometimes the details of my chats with Clyde are a bit sketchy. The man just talks so much that I don’t have the capacity to memorize every word. This is compounded by the phenomenon that sometimes when Clyde’s talking to me, I tune out and think about women or beer or how serene the world must be to deaf people.

This leads to the issue of trying to end a conversation with Clyde. I’ve tried oblique approaches but they don’t work. As soon as we reach something resembling a lull, I might invite him in to join me for six or seven tequila shooters, knowing he doesn’t drink. He responds by telling me again that he doesn’t drink, bragging about how few drinks he’s had in the last thirty-odd years—and drones on about the evils of dissipation. When I try to go for a wrap with something more off-putting, such as, “Well, I gotta hit the toilet. My diarrhea’s about to explode on me again,” Clyde lectures me about my diet.

Clyde’s fascinating to me because I can’t figure out how he got this way, abovementioned theory notwithstanding. Believe it or not, though, I have figured out why his cats run away.

Some time ago, Clyde and his wife, Priscilla, who is not outwardly nuts except for her choice in husbands, were going out of town for several days and asked our landlord, Ken, to feed the cats. All the food was in the refrigerator, in little dishes, each covered with plastic wrap, each labeled for each cat. All Ken had to do was uncover and set out each dish on each day. Slam-dunk, right?

Not if you object to animal cruelty. Turns out that Clyde feeds his cats vegetables. That’s what Ken found in the fridge. Little dishes of vegetables. Clyde neglected to tell Ken that he thinks cats shouldn’t eat meat, especially that processed stuff made by pet food companies. Ken, however, embraced his humanity by going to the store for cans of Fancy Feast and tossing the vegetables. By the time Clyde and Priscilla came home from their trip, all the veggie bowls were empty and all traces of the meat were gone.

A few days later, Clyde thanks Ken and says, “What did you do to the cats? I’ve never seen them so happy and energetic.” Ken didn’t tell him.

That’s enough about Clyde for now. And this on a day when I read in Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success that one should train oneself to reserve all judgments about other people. Clearly, Deepak Chopra has never lived in an apartment building in Los Angeles.


Jen Girling said...

Ok -- that's it, we all need to get together and write a sitcom about LA apartment living -- or maybe a horror story

cl buckley said...

Well, I chucked at the imagery of you sharing your fecal plans with Clyde. Congrats on the launch of your blog. I think I will lauch as well. This should be fun!

BEAR5_0 said...

Wonderful. Fantastic. Stupendous. Although, i'm now wondering if i'm "Clyde".


chipkeyes said...

Oh but this rings so true. I have known a few Clydes.