My Secret Life

When I was a kid, maybe six or seven, I remember there was a short-lived cartoon called The Secret Life of Waldo Kitty. I probably didn’t see it many times, because in those days we had two channels on television and neither one came in worth a damn, but I have at least a couple distinct memories of descending the stairs from my room early on Saturday to try and tune in. My memories are hazy; I suppose I could google it for details but at this point I really don’t want to. I’d rather remember what I remember. Waldo was a cat of lazy disposition, and I recall there was another cat in the neighborhood that served as his love interest, and a rival bulldog for a nemesis. Waldo would sit in the window and daydream these adventures — Waldo as Catzan (Tarzan), Waldo as The Lone Kitty (The Lone Ranger), etc. — where he would foil the dog and rescue his love.

I loved these stories, because I was a dreamy kid prone to imagining such adventures of my own. Which probably explains the interests I grew into. At that point I was already into Indians and Cowboys, playing army, Captain America and Batman, etc. As I got a little older I discovered Conan, the “real” Tarzan, things like that. Oh, and KISS of course, a rock band that was so much more larger than life than anything else in music.

At some point, maybe junior high, we read “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber in English class. Imagine my surprise to discover the source, or that there even was a source, of that favorite cartoon! I don’t believe I’ve ever read it since, but I think I should. Then last week this trailer came across my radar.

I saw a slightly longer version of the one I just linked at the movies this past weekend, and I was nearly verklempt. I know a version of this movie was made years and years ago, but I’ve never seen it, but I am certainly on board for this one. I hope they didn’t screw it up.

Over the last week I’ve given this movie and the story behind it quite a bit of thought. I think many of us live this kind of secret life, where we imagine ourselves as something bigger and greater than we are. For some, that probably isn’t a good thing, particularly for those lacking the initiative to do anything about it. It can be inspiring if it drives us to live the life we imagine, though. I know many of the images and lifestyles I find so thrilling aren’t necessarily things I’d ever want to do, or could do. Rock climbing, for example, where folks live at Camp Four in Yosemite for weeks and weeks while scaling the faces of the likes of El Capitan. While the dirtbag lifestyle of living in the camp is something I would do, not to mention covering as many miles in that magnificent park as I can on foot, clinging to a rock face hundreds of feet up isn’t my thing. Surfing? Yeah, I’d to it; intend to do it. After watching Kon-Tiki I’m convinced I don’t want to spend any time at sea of a raft, but I’d love to be on board a boat making its way among the islands and straits of the Great Bear Wilderness in British Columbia. And as much as I would love to drive a Land Rover from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Patagonia, I realize it probably won’t happen. I could certainly see visiting both of those locations in the next 30-40 years of active life I have ahead of me, though, provided I stay healthy.

My good friend Charles Gramlich posted recently a reflection along the lines of regret. I don’t like to kick myself over the choices I’ve made, but I do feel I’ve wasted a lot of my time over the years. Most of the interests that drive me hardest now — writing, the outdoor life, adventure — I’ve had for decades, I just didn’t pursue them with the necessary passion. Much of that energy was directed, and wasted for the most part, on music. I do regret that, though I have had some fun here and there rocking out. I never cared to be a “musician” and I still don’t. I just wanted to rock in a way that was altogether Bigger Than Life. It didn’t happen and it isn’t going to, and I’ve made peace with it. But it does leave me feeling like I am making up for lost time, with more sand at the bottom half of the hourglass than that remaining on the top.

This is only the briefest pause to wallow in melancholy, though. I may be as dreamy as Mr. Mitty, but I fully intend to catch up on life. Otherwise, why bother to get out of bed in the morning, right? Let’s do the best we can with the time we have left, gang, and assume there’s still a lot of time remaining. . . .


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

5 thoughts on “My Secret Life”

  1. Even the most active and adventurous people surely feel that they missed something along the way. There is always the road not traveled, and maybe no matter what road we take through life, it’s actually (for us at least) the untraveled one.

  2. I’d love to join you on that road trip across the Americas! I have done some pretty amazing things, but still daydream of more. As for Walter Mitty, I’ve not seen the movie but must have read the short story and need to go pull out my collection of Thurber. On another note, there used to be–at least in the early 80s–a jazz nightclub by the name of Walter Mitty’s in the Atlanta Underground.

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