Happily Ever After

In short there’s simply not a more congenial spot
For happy-ever-aftering than here in Camelot.

--“Camelot,” Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner

Long ago my brother-in-law had a job with a high-tech firm in California.  Every day was sunny and warm all year round.  But my brother-in-law had grown up in Massachusetts and just couldn’t get used to perfect weather.  Eventually he quit his job and moved back to New England, where the weather is perfectly miserable much of the year.  The way we look at things here in the Northeast, if you do get a nice day, you at least want to feel you deserve it.

California is one of those places where people go to live happily ever.  Living happily ever after is a peculiar state of being that exists mostly in fairy tales and Hollywood movies.  The religious equivalent is going to heaven when you die or achieving enlightenment and liberating yourself forever from the cycle of birth and death.  Nowhere in God’s creation do we see anything remotely comparable.  Where did this notion arise that everything should stay the same forever?  Mostly, I think, we can chalk it up to a failure of imagination or perhaps just to a simple desire to wrap up the story and get the kids off to bed.

In the Broadway musical Camelot, King Arthur sings of a magical place where it never gets too hot in the summer and the rain comes only after sundown.  Camelot, of course, was merely legend, and even then King Arthur’s queen ran off with one of the Knights of the Roundtable.  “Camelot” became a kind of epitaph for the Kennedy Administration after  Kennedy's widow told an interviewer that the title song from the musical had been one of her husband’s favorites.  The interview came barely a week after she flew back from Dallas with his blood still splattered on her clothes.

Living happily ever after is purest wish fulfillment, and as with everything else in life, we must be careful what we wish for.  In an old Twilight Zone episode, a petty thief named Rocky Valentine is shot while fleeing the scene of a crime.  When he regains consciousness, he finds himself lying at the feet of a dapper gent dressed entirely in white.  Has he died and gone to heaven?  His supposed guardian angel shows him to his luxurious new quarters, decks him out in a snappy new wardrobe and introduces him to seductive young women.  He has all the money he ever dreamed of.   He tries his luck at the roulette table and slot machines and discovers he can’t lose.  At first he is overjoyed but then eventually grows bored with his unending string of lucky breaks.  “I don’t belong in heaven, see,” he finally tells his guardian angel.  “I want to go to the other place.”  His companion reacts with mock surprise.  “Heaven?  What ever gave you the idea you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine?  This is the other place. “ 

"A Nice Place to Visit," by Charles Beaumont, Twilight Zone, 1960


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by Eric Rennie
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