Well, hi, everyone! It’s me, C. Bear! Let me tell you, after what we’ve been through, it’s a relief just to sit here in Phoenix and look out the window at the Bougainvillea. We’re finally all together down here in Phoenix. Is this the year of The Trips, or what? First, Bob went off to Louisville and left me and T.Bear and the gang in San Mateo to look after Alex. When Bob called, he said he bought a new Bear named L.Bear. `L’ for Louisville, of course! Then, he was going back, to here I mean, not there, and they lost L.Bear in the luggage someplace called San Antonio, and nobody was even going to San Antonio! Stupid airplane people. When Bob called and broke the news, we were all just crushed.
So how would you feel, they tell you they’re bringing home a new brother, and then they say they lost him in someplace nobody even went to? Even A. Bear couldn’t think of anything good to say. We all just kind of sat around. Pooh.
Then Alex said we were going to Phoenix but only room for one of us to go, and we would have to choose. So I told the other Bears that one of us would have to brave the dangers of air travel in that stupid cramped Bear Bag with all those underwear and socks and stuff, and the chosen Bear could only hope all of those were pretty clean. Well, Trevor allowed that he didn’t think he would like that very much, and finally the others said they thought I should go, since I knew all about it already. So when Alex started packing the bag, I just got in it and all the other Bears waved and wished me a good trip. And I waved good-bye, too.
Secretly, I wanted to go anyway. I always get to go, because I just do, that’s why. But it sure gets stuffy in that bag, and I got a runny nose from my nose stitching unraveling and my arm’s too short to rub it on account of my stuffing migration. And the bag was right up against my nose, and I didn’t like it.
So we finally get to take off and the plane’s all bumpy and these overhead luggage compartments give me the creeps anyway. Alex says I shouldn’t mind ’cause the regular passengers hardly get treated any better, but that don’t make no sense because they pay for it, and I get to ride for free, if you call this free. A.Bear says everything has its costs. I wish I was smart like A.Bear, but I’m just clever. That’s why I always get my way.
I don’t like to complain, but it was a crummy ride. This lady’s coat shifted in the compartment and practically smothered me up there. I yelled, “Hey! Easy on the material!” , but nobody listened. They can call me “Complainer Bear” all they want, but I just call it the way I see it.
So to kill time I turned on the old Bear telepathy (we get it as standard equipment at the Bear factory) and sent the other Bears a message: “Get me outta here!” T.Bear answered and said how it was going, like I needed to say more or something. I told him I thought we were almost at our Phoenix cousin’s, and I could hear them all giggling with delight back there. I told them, some fun, like ducks, which means not really. A. Bear said to call ahead to Phoenix Bear and Sandy Bear and see what was up. But the pilot was jabbering on my channel and I couldn’t get through. I told A.Bear we were already on the glideslope for final, which is what the pilot just said, and could he and the others pool their powers and see if they could get through. And then I could hear Pope and all the stuffies in the other story waving “Hi!” and A.Bear saying “wilco” or something, and then they all faded out.
If you try hard enough you can hear anything you want to this way, but it’s really hard to do, even for a Bear. Once you get the frequency, you still have to tune all the other stuff out just to hear anything at all, and I don’t like poking in other people’s business uninvited. Some people don’t like Bears.
I know lots of stuff, really. Most times, I don’t even let on off I can count past “two”. The People act like we’re dumb and sweet but you never know about us Bears. I might just tell you a thing or two. But, best of all, I just like to sit with my friends.
So we got into Phoenix right after I said so, and there was Bob to greet us and we drove home in the great big old long white car and here I am still cooped up in the Bear Bag when they take me out and I get to see. Phoenix at night is just a bunch of blurry white headlights coming at you, same as anyplace. I saw an airplane. They got cows we could see going to the Russian River, but no cows here. I can’t see too good as it is. Maybe they need to trim the hair around my eyes like they do poodles. Pooh. Bears can’t get cataracts, can they? I never stick my head out car windows like some of those TV dogs you see, but I stuck my head over the ferry railing crossing the James River once. I didn’t let on, but I was ascared!
So we get in the house and what do I see? There’s Phoenix Bear and Sandy Bear and Wooly Bear and them, and a big old sign that says “Welcome C.Bear!” It was propped on their laps and there was a new Bear there, too. He had “San Antonio” written all over him. I could see A.Bear still knows how to look after Bear business! He never tells us how he does it, but I knew A.Bear had something to do with it. We found L.Bear! Boy, was I glad!
So after the hugs and the intros to L.Bear, we all got to sit together on the table while L. Bear told us of his horrible trip to San Antonio on the way to Phoenix. I never been to San Antonio and I ain’t goin’, either. He’s a nice Bear, that L.Bear. I would of been scared to get lost in San Antonio, but he just figured everything would work out and went along for the ride. If we ever have to go to San Antonio, he can go in my place.
So, here I sit, just looking at the Bougainvillea outside. They sure are pretty. I already sent A.Bear all the news. Now I’m just going to sit here and rest a spell before I decide what to do next. Being a Bear isn’t easy, you know.
Well, I’ll tell you: People sure don’t know how to live right. Alex comes all the way down here to Phoenix, and what does he do? He goes right back to working on his computer, that’s what he does. Bob comes home from Louisville to relax after his big trip, and they call him from work about some big deal balancing problem. I thought people knew how to count. If they called me and asked me to go back to work, I’d just go back to being a Bear, that’s what I’d do. And here I sit, just in case.
When we sit here just being Bears, People like to ask, “What do you suppose they think about, anyway?” Just once I’d like to ask them, well, what do they think we think about? Sure not banks and computers, anyway!
Sometimes we like to just sit on the big bed at home and look up at the ceiling. We see stuff up there the others can’t. “Counting spots”, they call it, and they think it’s cute. They ask us, “How many spots did you Bears count today?”, and they smile and give each other those looks, like they think we can’t count. They should of been there the time A.Bear concentrated so hard on this big ol’ twinkling mica fleck on the ceiling, he fell through. All of us had to use our powers together to call him back from wherever he got lost, some galaxy or other, I think he called it the Nebula Ring. What do People know about Bear business, anyway?
Sure, we watch television a lot, but that don’t make us TV Bears. We find out a lot about other People. Not just from Wonder Woman and Murder She Wrote, but we do like the way Wonder Woman just sees what she should do, and goes and does it. Also, that nosy old lady on Murder She Wrote is kind of like that. She doesn’t go around asking a bunch of other people who they think done it. She just figures it out and gets them to blab it.
Bears don’t lie. We don’t have to. What you see is what you get, and if you get any more than that, well, you have to be pretty special. The trouble with a lot of people, if you believe their TV, is, well, kind of like this: it’s not so much that they don’t know what they should do. It’s like they don’t want to do something, so they go around asking a lot of other people what they think they should do, so they get an excuse not to do anything. They call that “consulting”. I hate to complain, but we Bears just don’t think much of that.
We like the Weather shows because if you’re our size it’s hard to get up on the window sill and see for ourselves what’s happening out there. Maybe those Weather People should try that too.
Yes, here I am down here with this Phoenix crowd, and a pretty nice lot of Bears they are, too. If you want to know, I sat around in a pile of stuffed animals back at home for eight years before the other Bears came along and somebody noticed me. And I didn’t learn much about those first animals, either, because they didn’t have a lot to say. Most of them were pretty dusty, but I suppose they had a past, just like you and me. Then this new crowd, T.Bear and A.Bear and them came along, and we got along great. But that was three years ago, which goes to show you how it can take a long time just to get to know a Bear. I think Phoenix Bear came from the same factory as me but I forget. I lost my tag a long time ago, but we got the same T-shirts as mine, which I wear in the summer. They got me a nice sweatshirt that says “Lover” for winter but it’s dirty and they need to wash it. I’m too old to have to put up with that dust and dirty shirt stuff any more. These Phoenix Bears must think I’m pretty crabby, too, but I already taught ’em how to pillow slide and play cards so we’ll get along OK. I like sitting with my friends.
You know, we look at some of those “Bear Stories” you write about us, when nobody’s lookin’, of course. And what they say about us is that we’re kind of cuddly and cute, and we do dumb cute things because we think that’s what People would do, if they were us. But they only think that because they’re not Bears, so they don’t know any better.
Yeah, we do some dumb things, like pillow sliding, but we only do those things when we feel like it. And, the rest of the time, we do other things just because we feel like it, too. Us Bears can do pretty much anything a Bear feels like doing, but of course we don’t want to do things that we don’t feel like doing, so we don’t do them. You can laugh all you want to about all we do is sit around acting cute, but we notice you People go around doing lots of things that you don’t want to do, so I bet you would pillow-slide too if you thought you could get away with it.
One thing we really do like about People is some of their People music. I’m too old to have to keep track of the names and stuff, but some of this music of theirs speaks plain and to the heart, without messing it up with a bunch of words and noises that don’t fit. Bears like most People music. Some music makes People just like Bears though they don’t know it, all happy and warm inside and feeling good about the world. Heck, Bears feel that way all the time. Except maybe in airplane Bear Bags; that’s too close to People business. I have my favorites of their music, but I’m not saying. You would know it, if it made you feel like you had been to a place before, and it was always worth it no matter what. This shows a good side of People.
The very best music to Bears is laughter, and we don’t get to hear enough of that, either. When two of you People look at each other and smile and laugh, we tell all the younger Bears to pay attention, for we think this is the right way to live. If People could laugh more, they could live forever like we do. Bear years and People years are different from your point of view, maybe, but the way we see it, it doesn’t matter how you count them. People like to think of Bear lives as being long periods of doing nothing until People come into our lives. We like to think of People lives as long periods of doing nothing until laughter and happiness comes into their lives. We’re not sure we’re getting credit for all we’re doing to bring happiness into the world, when People are always being too busy to pay attention.
Us Bears are good at figuring things out. We don’t think it should matter how long it takes, as long as you just do it. One week me and Trevor looked at some of your Books, just to see if they were any good. For instance, you had one guy who wrote a whole book about whether you could know anything at all, and people remembered him hundreds of years later just because he doubted it. A.Bear says some of your Books are a lot like the time he fell through the mica fleck into another universe and couldn’t get back, so he stopped reading that stuff.
One day we read “Maus” by your Art Spiegelman, some kind of cartoon history of some of the horrible things your People did to each other during one of your wars. Trevor wants to know, if it’s so easy for so many People to see what’s wrong with that, how come so many People find it so hard to choose a right thing to do?
All that kind of stuff is really what A.Bear likes to find out. He says knowing that stuff, that People believe I mean, helps “understand” some of the things People do. From what I see in People books and TV, most of your “famous People” spend way too much time talking about what they’re gonna do, and how wonderful they are ’cause they’re gonna do it, even though they haven’t done anything yet. If you want to know, I wish they would just shut up and do it, so we could have more time for nature shows and real stuff.
Well, I better stop complaining like this. It’s unbecoming, and even a Complainer Bear has limits, you know. We’re going to sleep for a little while, and then we’ll look out the window in the morning at the air or something for a little while, until we figure out something else.
You want to talk about “luck”, and happiness, and why People smile and laugh. Well, there are just some things a Bear has to figure out alone. We have plenty of time. We like to figure things out first, even if it does seem to take a long time. Can you imagine a Bear that always figured things out after he’d done them?
T.Bear says to remember to say that we love you, and that we really do pay attention to what you do, and we care about whether it makes you smile and laugh. Atlanta Bear may be able to bring you luck, but I dunno about that. I thought luck was something you made up as you went along, but A.Bear ain’t saying. Think of luck like other stuff that’s real. If it’s there, and you see it, you can call it luck. If it’s there, and you don’t see it, you missed it that time, that’s all. There’s just no use saying it wasn’t there at all. It’s around, but you never know where you’re going to find it. That’s why we Bears spend so much time just looking.
And we see stuff, too. Lucky stuff. A. Bear sees stuff ’cause he’s a smart Bear. I see stuff ’cause I’m clever, so I guess you could call us lucky Bears. We almost always get our way. When we don’t, you won’t see us blaming the mica specks and the Bougainvillea and the air and everything. But that doesn’t mean being a Bear isn’t tough some times. You have no idea how hard we Bears have to work just to stay lucky.
All I know is, it’s a beautiful morning to be a Bear. They got me propped up where I can see my Bougainvillea again. It’s real sunny, and the birds are out, and down here they got this big ol’ bird with a crackly voice I like to watch. It sure likes to hop around a lot, doesn’t it? I’ve said enough for now. My stuffing migration is feeling pretty good today, and I never get tired of looking. I’m gonna relax and just look for a while. You can never spend enough time just looking.
© Alex Forbes, La Parola April 10, 1995
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