5.29.2006

A B C D Goldfish


Here's how the whole thing goes:

A B C D goldfish
L M N O goldfish
O S A R


Or, translated (oh, just play along for shits and giggles):

Abby (or Abe-y, depending on which gender you want to assign your character), see the goldfish.
Hell, them ain't no goldfish.
Oh, yes, they are.

A word game my father taught me as a kid. I always thought he’d made it up, only to find years later, a book entirely filled with this seemingly insignificant play on the alphabet, complete with illustrations, on a table at one of those sell-your-old-books-for-a-quarter sidewalk sales you often trip across (literally) when roaming the neighborhood streets of Brooklyn, where I lived for many years prior to making my way to L A ...or translated? Any takers? First word, ‘Hell’… See how much fun we can have with just a few simple letters?

It bears noting that familiarity with a certain Southern colloquialism is requisite to really make the goldfish thing work. Of course, it’s better heard, than written. So, use your imagination, or, if you’re game (or, translated: bored out of your skull and willing to do anything to entertain yourself just short of picking your toe cheese)… picture yourself sitting on a worn wooden porch somewhere in the deep South, in a rocking chair, paint peeling, throw in an old hound dog laid out at your feet in the late summer heat, nothing to do but watch the flies buzzing in the yard (if you are really attached to picking your toe cheese, here’s where you could interject that activity into our little imaginary scenario). Now, affect your best Southern illiterate drawl and try it out aloud a few times: A B, C D goldfish… That’s it, nice and slow…
Before going through with this little exercise, you might want to make sure no one is in the near vicinity who might take offense at the potentially insulting cultural slur. In other words, could be interpreted as not so P C.

The fact that this childhood ditty unexpectedly reintroduced itself to me decades later in adulthood lead me to reconsider the actual narrative of the thing, and the possibility of a deeper interpretation. I would take a giant leap, and ask you to suspend your disbelief (here, I repeat: just play along for shits and giggles), and suggest, maybe this ostensibly simple little word play has a larger existential meaning. Let’s re-examine. One person is asking another to see something they see, and the other person is saying that that thing the first person sees does not exist, that it is not the thing they are saying it is. “See the goldfish”… “them ain’t no goldfish”. Abby (or Abe-y) blows off our anonymous character completely. And, we the reader (at least I do) identify with the dejected un-named character. I am asking Abby/Abe, pleading with her/him in fact, to see the fucking goldfish. “There they are, plain as day, goldfish, mother fucker. Those are goldfish! Can’t you see!? Please, for God’s sake, tell me you see the goldfish…I'm not crazy, I know I’m not crazy…” And, not only does she/he tell me they are not goldfish, but says it with belittling language that discredits my claim, undermines my intelligence, does not take me at all seriously, “Hell, them ain’t no goldfish dumbass. What the fuck you thinkin’ you numbskull? You are crazy. A total idiot. Any half-wit can see that there never was and never will be no goldfish. What you been smokin’?” But, alas, I persist, calmly calling on deep inner reserves, I locate a steady resolve, and I respond to Abby/Abe with an unflappable statement of fact, “Oh, yes they are.” A twinkle in my Third Eye, one eyebrow raised, insinuating, “I know something you can never know, and those, my pitiful limited unenlightened friend, are indeed, god damned goldfish.” And, like all good stories, the piece ends with hope and redemption. And you just know that whatever the thing is that this faceless protagonist we the reader have projected ourselves onto is claiming are goldfish will now and forever in their mind be goldfish without a trace of doubt, plain and simple. Abby/Abe be damned.

So, fearless reader, here is my mushy wrap up message: whatever you think you see, believe in it, I say. Those are unquestionably mother fucking goldfish no matter what anyone else tries to tell you. Learn from our anonymous protagonist, and repeat, like the self-affirming mantra it was intended to be: O S A R … O S A R !!