What if, in 1953 in Air Force intelligence school, I had been sent to headquarters in Paris with my friend Cpl. Freddie Blackman, or to Rome with Sgt. Nick Lorre and Lt. “Scoop” Larkin, instead of drawing the wrong red envelope and winding up in Korea and Japan?

Asia affected my life deeply in so many ways, but Paris, a writer’s dreamscape?

What if?

I would probably still be living in Paris now, writing my sixth best-selling novel and married to a beautiful French girl.

What if I had gone to Rome? Instead of pushing my wheelchair down the Via Flaminia in my early 80s, what if I had come home to St. Louis, retired from running a corner pizza shop after being divorced from Rosemary DeBranco, she of the thousand-and-one pastel angora sweaters and simple strand of pearls, whose father did own a chain of pizza parlors? What if?

In Hollywood, I had three clear shots at a major career advancement; I passed on each because they involved typical Hollywood moral choices — long story.

What if I had said, “what the hell”?

I would now be a fat, old, retired drunken Emmy/Oscar winner living in the Actor’s Home without She, who would have opted out.

But I did what I did and feel good about it, and married a beautiful French girl, and here I am suffering from a bad knee and writing humor at bargain prices to make you laugh in this winter of discontent.

We all succumb to the “what ifs” once in a while.

What if the fickle finger of fate, that mythical card sharp in that deep forest of fantasies where we keep that “I won the lottery” glow, had grabbed the political red envelope and given it to Hillary and company?

We would all be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” and tap dancing on top of the cars at the car wash.

Our LGBT brothers and sisters and children would be tasting freedom and shedding fear. Our Hispanic brothers and sisters would come out into the sunlight without looking over their shoulders. Hawkers on the streets of Manhattan would be selling rainbow hijabs you could wear if you wanted to, or not.

Many of you are lining the bird cage with my column now. Guess what? I love you anyway and remember, this is my column, not yours. Go get one.

Today, let’s look at a series of “what ifs” as exemplified by the 2016 movies:

For example: What if God, the great celestial card dealer of all, had intervened and kept anyone from being wise to the envelope handed to poor Warren Beatty? “La La Land” would have emerged from that debacle as the Best Picture, and I, and millions of others, would be happier this morning.

Even in the current Russian winter of Washington politics, we would at least have something to hum about, something to makes us want to break into a tap dance on the darkest of our days. Maybe not you, but certainly those of us who needed to sing and dance our way out of the Great Terror Tsunami of the last election.

I know; you’re one of the winner’s circle and “giving Trump a chance” crowd. But again, this is my column; go get your own.

“La La” was a happy dance in a happy place. It made us remember Fred and Ginger, Gene and Debbie. It was full of primary colors. You remember primary colors from kindergarten? Nobody wanted the dull colors; we wanted red, green and blue, and then yellow thrown in.

Well, some of us are emotionally still in kindergarten. We want a carton of milk and an orange at recess, penny candy after school; we want a box of crayons to brighten our days with. “La La Land” was that box of crayons.

Opinion alert: “Manchester By the Sea,” beautifully acted, was a gray day full of gray people. “Moonlight,” even with its touching last stage love, had no moonlight to give a romantic glow to its victims. Somber.

Final, a what if to those of you, even my friends, who say, “I don’t get the paper anymore, it’s too full of bad news.” What if this newspaper, with its “bad news,” was not in your box or on your doorstep this morning or ever again?

All of you, my neighbors and friends, from Augusta to Sidney, Hallowell to Skowhegan, my faithful and random readers, have your own “what if” lists. Come tell me about them; write them in. It’s OK. It’s safe. This is still America, and this newspaper, full of good and bad news, will still be on your doorstep tomorrow morning. Wanna dance?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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