MAD DOG: Working (and Dying) for Peanuts

Charles Schultz died the night before his last cartoon strip ran. In the words of Canada's foremost philosopher, Alanis Morissette, "Isn't it ironic?"Some would say it makes poetic sense because his life was so closely tied to his cartoon strip that once Peanuts signed off he had nothing left to live for. Others would say he led a rich, full life and it was just his time. Still others are sitting around wondering why today's strip feels like deja vu and Charlie Brown hasn't grown up one bit in the past fifty years, better yet replaced Lucy with a kicking tee so he could boot the damned football already. Good grief!A lot of people have been talking about what a strange coincidence this is, as if odd things don't happen all the time. Well of course they do. How else to explain the grocery store checker running out of register tape every time you get to the front of the line? Or the good fortune of my not having been born in France since I speak English? Or that the very same weekend Schultz went to that great security blanket in the sky Jim Varney, the star of "Ernest Goes to Camp" and "Ernest Goes to School", was cast in his final role: "Ernest Goes to Meet His Maker"?It's hard to pinpoint what force is actually at work because there's a fine line between fate, luck, coincidence, and probability. The main difference between them is that most people believe in luck. A Harris Poll found that 38 percent of adults think finding and picking up a penny is good luck, 24 percent believe seven is a lucky number, and 16 percent say they knock on wood for luck. Is it any wonder seven-foot-tall prostitutes with wooden legs named Penny are in such demand? On the other hand, this could be the handiwork of karma, which isn't, as most people think, a character on a sitcom who's married to a guy named Greg. That's Moesha. Karma is the Buddhist philosophy that says our deeds come back to us, which is pretty much the same philosophy behind the criminal justice system, flatulence, and your childhood taunts bouncing off me and sticking to you like glue. Here's a little tip to help you tell the difference: Think of karma as the reason Linda Tripp gets so much flack from late night talk show hosts, luck being the reason you drove 70 mph in a 35 zone without getting a ticket or killing that old lady who tried to cross the street, probability being the odds of Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Academy Awards, and coincidence explaining how so many couples die within months of each other like West Palm Beach retirement lemmings after having been married for umpteen years.You need another example? Take twins. (I know guys, you fantasize about taking twins all the time.) We've all heard stories about one twin feeling pain when the other suffers an accident even though they're thousands of miles apart. Or one going on a chocolate eating binge when the other breaks up with her boyfriend. That's nothing. A couple of years ago these twin brothers from Australia won the prize when, having lived together for all of their 61 years, they died within minutes of each other while watching a body-building championship. And it wasn't even a female twin body-building contest.It's easy to write this off by saying they were twins and twins are extremely close. This is true, but it's not like they were Siamese twins or to be politically correct for the 21st century, Paired Thai. Since Siamese twins share the same body or part of it, anyway they have their own set of problems. A while back Dasha and Masha, Russian Siamese twins, had to give up drinking and smoking because when Dasha drank, Masha got a hangover and when Masha smoked, Dasha coughed, proving that togetherness isn't always a good thing.While this sounds like a bad drawing room farce, it isn't. Hell, even Neil Simon couldn't make this one up, though if he did they'd live in Brighton Beach, not Russia. Luckily Dasha and Masha cleaned up their conjoined act and straightened themselves out. Or straightened herself out. I'm not sure which it is because Strunk and White forgot to cover this little grammar problem. Either way, it's a good thing they did since not only do they feel better for it, but so do the bartenders at the Pilsner and Piroshki. It can't be good for business to have your customers see two people sitting at the bar who, when they stand up, turn out to be joined at the trunk with two legs, two heads, and four arms. Well, not before the fourth shot of vodka anyway.While we look at these things as coincidence or one of the other options if you prefer those involved probably don't see it that way. There's been no word on what Charles Schultz's last words were but I doubt he said, "What wonderful timing! Tomorrow's the day the last new Peanuts strip will run!" Instead I suspect he looked up, shook his head slowly, and quoted one of his creations saying, "Rats!" And who could blame him?

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