AMBIENT THOUGHT – EPISODE One Hundred Sixty Five: The Magic Question, What If…

The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.


what if

I loved the idea that Marvel comics had/has a set called What If… They started in 1977 and have been published off and on since. And these were mostly ‘one-off’ stories about all different things. One was What If… Gwinn Stacy Had Lived and What If… Spider-Man Had Kept His Six Arms. You get the idea. They were all these little stories from larger arcs that could have happened that made you think.

I didn’t buy many of them because some of the stories were from arcs I wasn’t reading. But the idea stuck with me my whole life.

That little question, What If…?

Through the years I have thought of that question. When those two magic words hit me, it caused my imagination to fly. I’m talking flying at the speed of light through a universe that I could create. Those two powerful magic words gave me god-like powers with my imagination. It didn’t matter if it was when I was a kid and playing in the front yard by myself and having gunfights in some imaginary jungle or inside playing with my GI Joes and having battles, large or small. Or when I figured out that my creative world could become a whole universe just by making up stories and putting them down on paper.

The question, What If, regardless if I thought about it at the moment or not, has helped guide me in life.

What if… I took this turn instead of that turn?
What if… I skipped the last class of the day and go home early?
What if… I asked out that pretty girl that I like so much?

And many more.

I thought about all of these with those two words in mind.
Some turned out alright.
Some were complete failures.

But no regrets.
Or, at least, very few.

The What If question can be a good guide, if you think about it long enough and carefully. If you are honest, it can be a great guide in life. It can help you weight the good from the bad, the possible from the improbable, the ‘I should’ from the ‘I shouldn’t’. What If can be a great tool, but like I said, you have to be honest with yourself. Some questions like ‘What If… I stuck this copper wire that’s attached to a nail into an electrical outlet some it can become magnetized‘ or ‘What If… I drove my Camero filled with my friends in front of a train as it’s about to pass to the other side‘. These are the type of questions you can ask yourself all day but shouldn’t do.
(By the way, I did both of those things. One shocked the hell out of me and the other shocked the hell out of my friends. I and we lived through both. And both completely stupid.)

But What If has served my imagination and my writing the best. In real life, the What If question could get you into a lot of trouble if you choose the wrong choice. Even if you don’t get caught, you could get maimed or DEAD. On paper or whatever creative project I have going, it’s all wonderful. Even if you make the wrong choice, you are allowed to learn from it and start over, if you choose to. And you’ll know better. And can make all new mistakes and learn from them.
Or you might succeed proving the What If.

As a kid, I remember going out on cloudless nights during the summer and laying down on our front lawn. I’d look, shielding my eyes from the buzzing street lights, at the stars. And those two magic words would come to me. I’ve talked about how much seeing Star Wars impacted me and I could while away the time thinking and wondering what was out there among the cosmos. The rabbit holes I created by laying there took me far and away until I forgot where I was. My imagination and the What If let me travel to places deep inside that I would use later on when I couldn’t sleep in the bed or at school when I was bored and pretended to listen to the teacher. It gave me a safe space when I was nervous or scared and when horrible things were happening.
The What If was the seed of all that.

And even today, as I write this, a 47-year-old man, that needs reading glasses to see up close, that takes blood pressure pills, that feels the aches and pains of mid-life, I use the What If to escape. It’s a hatch that I drop down into and leave reality behind for a while.

The What If has saved me on more than one occasion.

Now that writing has become a daily thing for me (it should have been long ago), the What If has become more than a thought. It’s a mantra. It’s in my head all of the time now. Even if it doesn’t spur a story to write, it helps me think deeper. It helps me be more with the world that surrounds me.

What If is my world and my escape pod from it when I need to fly away for a while.


Postscript –

I took some time to think about it and decided that if I was going to live by the What If rule, I wanted to see it every day. I made an appointment and headed down to my friendly neighborhood tattoo shop and got it on my left inner forearm.
And it has been there, staring me in the face, keeping me inspired.


Did I need it to remind me?


But, honestly, it helps.

So… What if…


-Loyd Elmore Jr
January 10th, 2020


I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.

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