If I Had a Time Machine…
I have never been more hopeful that time travel will be achieved in my lifetime. There’s just too much money to be made plundering the past — swiping treasures from ancient Egypt, grabbing uncut prints of “The Magnificent Ambersons” from the hands of clueless studio executives, kidnapping Catherine the Great to put her head-to-head with Oprah — for the technology not to be invented and deployed to shopping malls across America, where it can take up space between the water-massage tables and the abandoned oxygen bar.
I am so confident that we’ll soon have time travel that I have readied a list of things I’d like to do to change history. Maybe by this time next year I’ll be able to visit to the “History Hut” at the Mall of America, pay my eighty bucks to hop into their TARDIS or hot tub or whatever, and set about the work of endangering the whole of human existence. Here’s how I’ll do it:
I will time-travel 160 million years into the past to get a Triceratops. I don’t believe that I’ve the ability to ride a Tyrannosaurus or one of those really bad-assed dinosaurs, because I’ve never been on a horse. I have ridden a pack mule, though, and the Triceratops seems close enough to one of those. I’ll name it “Lady Gaga” … because I like that name, and because they kinda have the same hairdo.
I will go back to 1907 Vienna, cross my fingers behind my back, and approach Hitler at one of his student gallery showings: “Hey, that’s a pretty good painting.” If that doesn’t prevent World War II, I’ll travel to Germany 1930 and join the three-hour-long queue of fellow time-travelers waiting patiently to kick the man, nice and hard, directly in his junk.
I will return to the years before the dot-com bubble and reserve a whole boatload of domain names. I’ll sell them all to their eventual owners at reasonable prices … yes, even Google. (But I’ll gouge Pets.com, as payback for that sock puppet.) Also, I’ll profit from the dot-com lifestyle by making fat investments in Nerf, Herman Miller and the makers of Hot Pockets.
I will venture to Hollywood 1992, find the bistro where “Waterworld” was pitched to Kevin Costner, and just … listen in. I want to know what in the hell was said to justify that.
I will journey back to several points in the 20th Century, sneak into the homes of John Wayne, Rod Serling, Humphrey Bogart, Walt Disney, Nat “King” Cole, Graham Chapman, Yul Brynner and — why the hell not? — R.J. Reynolds, and leave a year’s supply of nicotine patches lying on various bedside tables.
I will travel back to 1985, to the offices of Vice Principal (name redacted), hang outside her door and yell “YOU LIE!” every time she told some kid — me, usually — that something or other “will go on your permanent record.” Uh-huh. If it weren’t for the existence of Facebook, my high school graduating class wouldn’t even know how to find me. Also, I’ll write the VP an anonymous letter that explains, in the gentlest language possible, that the reason so many kids find her intimidating is because she uses the same Kleenex to blow her nose that she uses to wipe the lipstick off her teeth, usually with the same single, fluid motion. The kids of my high school feared her office not because of what she could do to their “permanent record,” but because of the very real threat of cooties.
I will turn back the clock six years and send myself an email: “Learn to make cupcakes, and sell them as ‘gourmet cupcakes.’ Every fool on this planet is gonna go crazy for gourmet cupcakes.”
I will trek to the late 1970s/early 1980s and buy back everything my parents sold in various garage sales, including the the Dutch Modern couches and end tables, the first-pressing 1950s rock and soul 45s, and this electronic board game, which now sells for $300 on eBay. I’ll drive it all to the closest storage facility and secure it away until the age of online sales, then pull it all out, dust it off and sell the lot. I’ll use the proceeds to pay for 20 years of storage… No, wait, this is a terrible idea. I’ll use the time machine to return to this idea when I’ve figured out how to do it without sucking so badly.
I will jaunt to Baltimore on September 26, 1849, and take Edgar Allan Poe on a five-day whiskey/ballot box-stuffing bender. I’ll sign the bar tabs with the name “Reynolds.”
Finally, I will advise my younger self to quit doing things by half. “If you’re gonna grow a mullet, kid,” I’ll say, “grow a freakin’ mullet.”