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Topic #21
Let me show you my favorite… obsession

When we decided sometime late last night that this week's Topic of the Week should be "obsession," I found myself with a nearly-debilitating case of writer's block. The only images that kept popping into my head were those of either Calvin Klein or skinnier-than-thou Kate Moss. So, being desperate and all, I decided to search the web for "obsession," knowing full well that all I'd probably find would be X-rated sites. Two of the most notable links out of the first ten had something to do with someone's obsession with the movie Titanic and someone else's obsession with faeries (this one piqued my curiosity, but alas, the File was Not Found.&#41

So, I'm wracking my brain under these godforesaken fluorescent lights which no one will let me turn off or down, though every time I get into work early I only turn on the ones under and above the cabinets and leave the the hugely glaring overhead ones off, and inevitably someone will walk by and ask me why I'm sitting in the dark, even though it's not really dark per se, I mean, it's not like I'm sitting in a pitch-black room at midnight with a blanket over my head or anything, and then they make about ten weird faces at me as if I was the Strangest Person in the World for not wanting to have the life sucked out of me by sitting for ten hours a day under FAKE LIGHT; which makes me think of someone I used to work with during that awful customer service gig who used to take all of the fluorescent light bulbs out of the lights that were right above his cubicle, prompting the maintenance men to keep coming by to try and replace them, but we would all scream "No! They're SUPPOSED to be like that!" so I know I'm not the only one.

Anyway, Yahoo certainly didn't lend me very much inspiration, so I tried to think of things that would be considered obsessive aside from seeing Titanic 90-some-odd times, and then I thought, well, I've seen the musical "Rent" six times in three states and already have tickets to see it at least four more times when it comes to San Francisco in 1999. I've heard of people who live in New York that have seen it in the hundreds of times, between winning the lotto for the $20 tickets and second-acting. Aside from the fact that it's a great show, you just get to know the cast, who usually come out afterwards to talk and sign playbills. Even though I am enthusiastic about Rent, I wouldn't say I was obsessed. (Well…maybe just a little, when it comes to Neil Patrick Harris playing one of the major roles.&#41

During my brainstorming session I also thought about obsessive-compulsive disorder, which happens to run in my family and is something that I think runs in me, too, which would explain why I have to rinse out a drinking glass exactly 15 times – no more, no less – before I put it on the dish rack to dry; or, to a much lesser extent, obsessing about watching each and every episode of 90210 because "I've seen them all since the very first episode and can't stop now," in some sort of twisted sense I'm obsessing about Brandon obsessing about Kelly obsessing about herself.

I often obsess about my hair, too, usually late at night right before I go to bed, thinking that if I can get it to look the way I want it to before I go to bed, then there is definitely hope that I can make it look that way when I get up the next morning, which naturally raises the eternally unanswered question: why is it that women (in particular&#41 are so obsessed with body image? Though I see more than a few stick figures gliding around town, statistics show that Americans are heavier than ever before, and the fat are either getting fatter, or, in the case of the wealthy, having the fat sucked out of them with a pointy little fat-vacuuming device, a surgery which is grotesque to watch, as I recently found out while watching an HBO special on strippers.

The strippers were obsessed with perfection, as were all the men in the various clubs. Just as an aside, I've never had a clearly defined stance on the subject of strippers. I could never conclude whether it's really degrading to women or not, or if the women truly are the ones in control because they essentially turn most men into staring, drooling, yee-hawing, slack-jawed zombies by bouncing and writhing on the floor – because they want to, not because they're being forced to.

So, aside from acting like a stalker and appearing unexpectedly on your girlfriend's beach house porch time and time again, or travelling the highways and byways of all the first world countries in search of that elusive Beanie Baby, a little obsession is okay. After all, it does give you something to look forward to, doesn't it?

Obsession is a funny thing. In a pure world, obsession shows a dedication or love of a person, place or thing. People get obsessed over the person that they are dating, or their local sports teams. Some people become obsessed over fashion. Heck, almost everyone is obsessed with their job at some point or another.

I know what its like to be obsessed… but I don't obsess over the normal things like bands or sports teams… my obsessions tend to be a little more bizarre.

My first obsession was with a dark comedy [movie] called Harold and Maude. This movie was the perfect black comedy, with great acting and an amazing soundtrack supplied by none other than Cat Stevens. The story was about Harold, a teenager, who falls in love with a seventy-nine year old woman, Maude. It had love! It had romance! It had Harold figuring out how to fake his own death! I loved the movie so much, that my father bought a copy for his old Sony Betamax. I would stay up all night watching and re-watching the movie. It got to the point that I could recite the movie line by line. I even dubbed the movie onto audio tapes so I could listen to it on my walkman. I admit it, I was obsessed. I kicked the Harold and Maude habit around my 15th birthday. That's when I replaced my Harold and Maude obsession with the Rocky Horror obsession.

Oh, Rocky. I remember going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. I had no idea what was going to happen. I was picked up by Shanti Fader, a long time acquaintance and friend of the family, and Nancy Vinick, a friend from High School and forced to put on a sequined hat and vest. Little did I know that when I had to stand in front of the whole audience to renounce my Rocky Virginity, that I was dressed as Columbia… a woman character from the movie. Over the next two years, I would go to see Rocky Horror one or two times a weekend. Because I was there so often, I started helping out during the floorshow, assisting with props and playing the occasional character (usually Eddie or Dr. Scott&#41. By the time I moved away from Connecticut, I had seen the show over eighty times.

Moving to Pennsylvania removed my ability to see the show, and I haven't been to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror for over 6 years. On Halloween night, the bar we go to had the TV tuned in to Comedy Central which was playing Rocky Horror. Immediately, I started talking back to the TV… screaming my lines in between sips of beer.

As much as I obsessed over movies, it was certainly less expensive than my current obsession: musicals. I have a long history with musical theater. One of my strongest childhood memories is of going to see Peter Pan with Sandy Duncan playing Peter on Broadway. When I was 13, I was in middle school, I was in one of the leading roles in our school's production of Bye Bye Birdie. Let's just face it, Musicals are in my blood.

Janet and I decided to start going out during a band trip to see Les Miserables on Broadway. From then on, Les Miserables became a minor obsession. Even though we have only seen the show twice, we have the London, Broadway and Dutch cast recordings; the Complete Symphonic Recording, and the 10th Anniversary recording. Heck, when they showed the 10th anniversary video on PBS we saw it three or four times, patiently waiting through the pledge breaks and singing along through the entire show.

Currently, we are obsessed with the musical RENT. When we first saw the show last year, we fell in love with it. The songs, the story line, the staging.. it was one of the most amazing musicals that we had seen. It was after the first show in La Jolla, when the entire cast came out to shoot the breeze with the audience that we became obsessed with the production. We have now seen the show six times, and have tickets to see it another four times when it comes to San Francisco.

If you look at it, my obsession with musicals is really harmless… on the scale of obsession where 1 is a fondness and 7 is stalker city, I am at a 2 or 3. Yes, I occasionally chat online with one of the cast members who is now in the London production of the show. This is a far cry from the crazed teenager who sends voluminous emails to every member of the cast in an attempt to become best friends with someone in the cast.

It's sad that some people cannot just stay lightly obsessed… they have to cross the line and become harassing, or even worse: they become stalkers. I'm just happy to love my musicals and movies from afar. However, when the show is in San Francisco, it would be nice to say hi and grab a beer with some of the original cast members that I met back in La Jolla. But tell me, is that so wrong?

Posted in Topics of the Week (1990s).

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