Write me:
skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com

Monday, 26 February
Sneasons In The Snow

This weekend, as mentioned before, found the wife and I taking a drive up to Cle Elum to spend some quality time with five other friends in the mountains, playing in the snow.

It was completely awesome, of course.

The wife and I were the first to arrive at the TWO-STORY LOG CABIN, which was all-caps rad, as you see. Fireplace! Foosball table! Hot tub! Dart board! Live-in pixie prostitutes! I assume, anyway. Those fucking pixies can hide anywhere, but I know they were there, because that's how great it was.

We had a couple hours before the others arrived, so we set about making the place homey. The wife built a fire and I hauled in sacks of booze, and began dumping cider in the crock pot to heat. I chopped lemons to go in it and threw in a handful of cinnamon sticks; later it would be married with Tuaca and Metaxa, and would cause us all to moan and flop around happily. We also, of course, scouted out the best bedroom to claim. We were first!

When everyone else arrived, we helped them unpack an unholy amount of food, gear, and of course, even more revoltingly improbable amounts of booze: nine bottles of red wine, a couple of bottles of white, vodka, gin (relabeled impishly as "Liquid Valium"), whiskey, beer . . . I'm surprised nobody ended up brandishing a bottle of imported absinthe. "This stuff killed my great uncle!" "Really? Can I have some?"

After warming ourselves with a drink or two, and with the stove, and with several dozen hugs--actors hug like other people hike up their pants--we prepared the night's dinner, which was a bunch of Boboli build-yer-own pizzas. Now, I readily admit that I am a picky eater: I opted for only tomato sauce, meat and cheese. The others . . . did not. In fact, they went fucking nuts: they chopped peppers and mushrooms and tomatoes and artichokes and pancakes and spark plugs and marmot scent glands and hair and toothpaste and a priori concepts and Bosnian military forces and more cheese and dumped all that shit on their pizzas while I stared in horror. It's not healthy to eat that much cheese, people, but they wouldn't listen, and hit me in the face with hot spatulas while they cooked these horrors. WHATEVER.

We played some games that night, but I didn't win any of them, because everyone else fucking CHEATED, so there's no point in talking about that in any detail.

The next day, after rousing ourselves out of bed--can you guess who was last to get up?--and making fun of each others' bedheads, we gradually started to form a plan. We wanted to go do some sledding, dammit. None of us had been sledding in like fifteen years! Say, I'm sure our bodies are going to be down with that! Happily, the Magic Cabin of Snowy Awesomeness came through again: I found four or so little dinky sleddin' things by the side of the house. Clearly made for children and not rampaging adults, we cheerfully picked them up anyway with the certain knowledge that we were going to destroy them.

We also abandoned the idea of going to some fee-based sledding hill or whatever. For one thing, we didn't want to drive--we all drove laughably mountain-unfriendly cars--and for another thing, we didn't want to pay money to anybody for a fucking hill. Pay for a common geographic feature? Fuck that. That'd be like paying for a rainbow or a river or a freeway. We found our own damn hill.

The plastic flimsy sleds proved to be real quitters, and practically exploded under the stress of demented thirtysomethings slamming their girth down onto them. They were like riding potato chips, and we glumly unsped down the hill, shedding shrapnel the entire way. Then we threw those aside and urinated on them contemptuously. Much better were the sled thingies made of that stuff that they use to make beer can cooling sleeves. Not only were they virtually indestructible--except for the one that we broke a slab off of--but we discovered that tandem riding allowed two people to careen down the hill at satisfyingly terrifying speeds that guaranteed a broken bone in the inevitable event of any kind of crash, or so you think, until you remember the one great thing about wiping out in the snow: it's actually really hard to hurt yourself, provided you don't hit something terribly unsnowlike, such as a tree or a fencepost or a wolverine.

If there is something better than sledding, apart from the usual suspects, I don't want to know about it. The snow was cold enough not to melt on us, no matter how much friction our spectacular wipeouts applied--we used to call these sort of falldowns "snow sales" when I was a kid, owing to the astounding amount of gear that ends up lying on the landscape in the aftermath of such crashes. Then we would lie there in the snow laughing our asses off. People managed to take some really excellent action shots of their good friends plowing horrifically into the snow, or simply just screaming by the camera while, well, screaming.

After a while of this, we returned back to the cabin to rest our shrieking joints in the hot tub and consume hot chocolate with brandy, and our friend L. created a masterful baked pasta dish with ziti, hearts of palm, palms of heart, Gary Hart, Hartz Mountain tick medicine, the Hartford Whalers, and discount heart meat. I mean, I assume it was masterful, but I wasn't going to eat that nightmare, so I had hot dogs that I sandwiched with bagel slices. I'm not crazy.

Then we all got loaded (read: I got loaded) and played more games, which I lost, because everyone else fucking cheated again. Also, during a game of Balderdash, nobody voted for my definition of the acronym NAPA as "Next, Another Pussy? Awesome!" Because all of my friends are cheating scum.

Let's do it again, cheating scum, let's do it sooner rather than later. Next time we'll find those sex pixies.

Wednesday, 21 February
Go Drink It On The Mountain

On my way to the bank after work today, I was waiting on the corner of Broadway for the light to change. A crusty-looking guy approached me. Uh oh.

"You got a lighter?" he asked. Oh.

"Sure," I said, and pulled out my Zippo, but he didn't seem to be reaching for a cigarette or even looking at the lighter.

"You know, that's my iPod," he said, pointing at my other hand. What the--?

"I don't think so, buddy," I replied cheerfully. I was still holding my Zippo in the other hand, waving it distractedly. If things got bad, I could always light myself on fire.

"Anyone ever tell you you're a sexy man?" he asked. Fuuuuuuuuck.

"Just my wife," I lied. Nobody calls me sexy. "Ham-face," sometimes.

"I'm not gay," he said, a picture of solemnity. The light finally changed.

"I gotta go," I said, and started crossing the street.

"Hey, come back! Don't go! I . . . aw, God dammit!" he cried.

So that happened. It occurred to me that I needed a break from the city. Happily, I'm getting one!

This weekend, the wife and I are driving up to Cle Elum, a dinkish little town near the pass for a couple days of snowy recreation! I'd love to say this was all my idea, but it was totally the wife. She set it up, and a bunch of other friends are coming up there with us to stay in our three-room room-thing complete with a hot tub! And ping-pong table! And we're gonna go sleddin'! And inner-tubin'! And hypothermia-gettin' and pelvis-crunchin'! And of course, drinkin'!

There's something very rejuvenating, I hope, anyway, about spending a couple days with good friends behaving as if we were twenty years younger than we are. There might actually be genuine youngsters there to give us the scornful laughs that we surely will deserve as we drunkenly careen into trees, or snow plows, or bears. Or, even worse, they might laugh at the bunch of nervous drunks who are worriedly scanning the landscape for potential disasters.

"This looks pretty steep . . . there's a jump over there that I don't like the look of . . . is this inner tube rated for two people? Maybe you should go ahead . . . why are those kids over there laughing at us? . . . if you want, we can go play some more beer pong . . . "

Whatever. However things turn out--DANGER DRUNKS? OR COWARDLY SOTS?--it promises to be a good time. After all, there will be cider! And pie! And that sort of uncomfortable good cheer that comes with sitting too close to your nearly naked friends in a hot tub!

So I don't care if those kids laugh. I really don't. Even if the whole weekend turns out to be a bust, and we get shivved by the villainous teenagers after calling them "a pack of debased, trout-sucking rotters," I'll still be happy, lying there bleeding on that hospital gurney. A smile will play over my blued lips.

Not only for the memories of a weekend well spent with friends. Also for the secret knowledge, stored deep in my heart, that somewhere is a crazy street person who thinks that I am a sexy man.

Monday, 19 February
Now Is The Time For All Good Men To Cram


I know that you've been spending time this weekend honoring our presidents, but if you have a minute, check me out at CRAM Magazine! They're a web magazine! And they are totally into . . . cramming! I guess.

Anyway, they asked permission to publish a couple of things I've written, and, astonished by the fact that they actually asked, I told them, YES! Please! I wish to cram and/or be crammed!

In truth, they put out a really nice-looking mag, and there are some very cool things in there, many of which don't feature lots of profanity or cryptic, unsettling references to "spuzz." It's a swell publication, from what I can tell, which means that they are most likely doomed.

Plus, they're liars. I quote from their site: "CRAM is devoted to the author who writes intelligent, engaging articles and just wants a place to publish." Which is nonsense, given that they hit me up, but whatever. Give them a shot anyway. Do it for the presidents. Thomas Jefferson would have wanted you to CRAM it. It's in the constitution.

Thursday, 15 February
Thank You, Friend

Listen, do you have a minute? I . . . I think I need to talk. I've just gotta get this off my chest. You're the only one I can talk to. It's just you and me here, okay?

It's been eating me up lately . . . I've been having trouble sleeping. And I know I can trust you. Just--just keep it between us, okay?

I mean, it's nothing really bad. Not that bad. It's nothing to do with you, and if you were me, you'd, you'd have done the same thing, I think. I mean, you know Ra--you know what? No names. No fucking names. It's just--you know that guy, that guy everyone knows, who just--you're oil and water, right? Everyone knows that guy. Maybe he's a nice guy, you don't know, I don't know, maybe, but . . . it's always something, right? It's always something with that guy. It's that guy.

You'd laugh, really, how this all got started. We were at a friend's place, at a party, and you know, people are drinking and all, and then, well, all of a sudden I make this joke, and this guy is all up in my grill about it, and how it's disrespectful to women and all this, and I'm like, "It's what? You're nuts, and people laughed," but he's not having any of it and it turns into this big thing and the whole party grinds to a halt because now we're just screaming at each other, horrible crap and stuff, and the whole time there's still this part of my brain that's going, "But the whole joke was about fish." It was so stupid, but it got out of hand, and finally I just left. I told him, "Have some more Malibu, douche," and he turned red and opened his mouth, but I slammed the door before he could say anything.

It's so stupid. Shit like this. I mean . . . seriously? It's embarrassing to even tell you this. But it's been fucking bugging me all the time, after. After the . . . just after. How can you even talk about something this stupid? But it's been affecting me. I mean, I barely have seen the guy since then, just a . . . I guess a couple times or once or whatever.

I can't sleep. It's fucking me up. I wake up and I take these walks out into the woods . . . for hours, like, just walking around, 'cause I can't sleep. And you know me! I sleep like Coma Baby. But these days . . .

I don't know. It's dumb to even tell you all this. It's a big nothing. What, I had a fight with this asshole, and then later on--a stupid fight over a stupid joke?--and then later on, we have words about it again, the asshole shows up at my place to bitch and moan about this fucking thing again? What's that about?

It's actually kind of funny. He shows up at my place again, and rags on me some more about this woman joke--it was a fish joke, but he still isn't getting it--isn't that just funny? I mean, it wasn't funny at the time; I was pretty hot, but looking back, it's kind of funny. Funny-stupid. Heh. Mostly stupid. We were both sort of out of control after a while.

I don't know why this is still bugging the shit out of me, but it is. Listen, I know I'm talking your ear off--I'm sorry, but Jesus--it's bugging the hell out of me. I don't even know why I'm boring you with this.

You want to know a weird thing? I can't shower any more. I mean, yeah, I can shower, it's not like I'm physically incapable of showering, but I don't shower any more. I don't. I take these baths. I hate baths! Lying there in this you-soup. I always think about how many skin cells I'm sloughing off into the water. How is that clean? Then I think, "I'm sitting here in all this water that my balls and asshole are soaking in. In a shower, the water all runs off you, but here in a bath, I'm just brining away in asshole and ball water." It's disgusting.

But I keep taking baths! And--dude--it's not just that. They--it's kind of fucked up. They're cold baths. I run cold water and take a bath in that shit. Ice cold baths. What the hell, yeah, I know, way to be, loony bee, but I take these fucked up cold baths.

This is so stupid.

I like to dip under the water. I mean, I don't like it, so much, but I do it, for some reason. I slip under that cold water and try not to move. I know. I slip under and I lie there, and I let my mind just kind of go free and not move--not shiver or anything. Just lie there, under.

You can see why I've been kind of freaking out. I mean, all of this big nothing happened, and all of a sudden I'm behaving like . . . I don't even know who. Who does this? I don't. Or I didn't used to. But now here I am, not sleeping, taking these fucking walks out into nowhere, getting all riled up over this idiot, taking these creepy-ass baths in cold water where I'm just lying there, under the water, thinking about the calm about the under, thinking how this is cold, this is under, this is . . .

It reminds me of my walks out into the woods, too, the cold. The under. And I can't tell you how it feels when I finally run out of breath, and I break the surface of the water, gasping, up from the cold depths. It just feels . . . I don't know. It's hard to explain. Lots of times after the baths, I warm up by the fire, and then I take one of my brand-new fucked up strolls into the woods. I don't know why I feel better after all this crap. But I do.

You know what, though? Even the nighttime strolls in the forest are all the same. Two miles out, two miles back, every time, to the same spot, every time. It's cold at night, and kind of creepy and shit, but it relaxes me, two miles out, two miles back, packing down that cold humus and loam. I guess it's another ritual. I don't fucking need it, frankly, but there it is. And after all that's done, I can finally sleep for a couple hours. Better than nothing, I guess.

Man, I really went on there, didn't I? Thanks for listening, seriously. I really appreciate it. I don't think there's anyone else I could have talked to like this. So, thanks again. Christ, you know what? I feel a lot better telling you all this crap. I think I'm actually getting tired for the first time in weeks. I can't believe I let this dumb situation get so out of hand. It's really been great getting this all off my chest.

All right, I'll see you later, man. Thanks again. I think it's really helped me out. I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep. And I know I don't have to say this to you, but I'd really appreciate it, you know, if you kept this just between you and me.

Monday, 12 February
It's The Only Thing

Every Sunday night, the wife and I have our friend R. over for game night, and we play all kinds of games: Settlers of Catan, Wyatt Earp, Ticket to Ride, etc. We used to play mumbly-peg for a while until R. lost his thumb and stained the shit out of our carpet to boot. Anyway, we usually have a good time, because I always win.

It's not a mystery why I win all the time. For one thing, I'm fucking brilliant. When it comes to strategizing about, say, resource distribution, or planned routing of train tracks, well, I'm basically this century's von Clausewitz. For another thing, I've got heart. My heart? It's fucking huge. I've got a massive heart; it's the size of Secretariat's. You can hear my goddamn heart across the room, and it sounds like someone is playing "Tainted Love" in my fucking chest. That's why I win.

But something curious happened this last Sunday. Something downright perplexing. I lost. I lost at Ticket to Ride, for Christ's sake, and I lost to that ass banana R. I couldn't believe it, but there it was. Impossible but true.

But I figured out why R. won. He cheated.

It's the only possible explanation. R. cheated. I don't know how, but he did. Did he cheat with his brain? I wondered. He must have. He used his stupid cheating brain to beat me, and it really pissed me off.

You ever hear your mom or grandma spout off that ridiculous old saw, "Cheaters never prosper"? Thanks, grandma, you confused goddamn bat. Go back to your half-finished TV Guide crossword puzzle. What a bunch of fucking crap. And I had proof right in front of me, in the form of R., grinning like a macaque, prospering his ass off right in my fucking living room. "Cheaters never prosper"? Right. If you believe that, you probably also believed your grandma when she came up with other winners like "Suck a dick every day!" and "A slice of cheese between your knees will foil the fleas." Thanks, grandma: now my palate has the salinity of the Dead Sea and my body looks like a relief map of Mars thanks to the relentless flea infestations.

My grandmother ruined my life, frankly, until I learned that the world didn't play by her rules. I hate you, grandma, and I'm glad you're dead.

Where were we?

Oh! Right, cheating. That stupid fuck. He had the audacity to cheat me right in my own damn house. I couldn't tell if he was pulling cards off the bottom of the deck, or sneaking game pieces on to the board, or using his brain to play better than me, but he clearly was pulling some monkeyshines.

And you know? This crap has been going on for all of my damn life. I remember playing kickball in elementary school--at which I was, quite honestly, preposterously talented--and my classmates cheated all the fucking time. They weren't even shy about it. "Kurruk's up!" they would cry as I got up to take my kick. "He's asthmatic, so move in!" Goddamn cheating creeps. Insider information passed around the schoolyard like a dazed hooker. I couldn't believe it. And as if that weren't enough, the little bastards would do things like get me out by catching the ball or pegging me on the base path, cheating blatantly with their superior genetics, their stronger muscles, their faster reflexes.

Four Square? Same fucking raw deal. There I was, honestly playing the game in its pure form while the little refugees from a Dickens novel were fucking around breaking the rules. One kid always was like "Bus stops!" and I was like "Hey, no bus stops!" and then the lousy little bastard would go, "SLAM! And you're out!" while smashing a bus-stopped ball into my square and then getting his buddies to hold me down while a dog licked my asshole and I screamed for a teacher, or God, or anybody for help, and they all laughed, they laughed at me, and when they all mysteriously died a few months later after a series of improbable heart attacks--the coroner was puzzled by a spate of eight-year-olds suffering such explosive cardiac events--I didn't even feel bad. They were cheaters, because I didn't win.

I'd like to point out for the record that they never found that dog and nobody can prove anything. The point is, I survived. Me and my horse-sized subwoofer of a heart survived just fine, and those cheating little shits croaked when their hearts turned into shuddering jelly.

I'm still here. And I'm a winner. Even when I lose, I'm a winner. Hell, everyone knows I'm a winner, even when I lose to a dirty cheater, because when I do lose, I make sure to throw a fucking fit about it. When R. won the other night, do you think I congratulated him? I don't think so. "You're a filthy cheating pile of shit," I informed him. He made some idiotic wounded noises, and had the inflamed cojones to accuse me of being a poor loser. What a dick. Like I'm a loser at all. He didn't win! He cheated! "Probably with your fucking brain," I sneered at him, which left him amusingly confused, as if he didn't know how to respond.

"What is your problem?" he asked, playing for time.

"My problem is, you cheated me, you fucking Gypsy cheating wandering hairy mongrel!"

"I'm from Bremerton, you fuckup!" he stammered, trying to maintain the ruse. "I'm Swedish."

I ignored him, and in a fury, wandered out to my deck and began pitching rocks at my neighbors' windows. "CHEATED BY A GYPSY! GYPSY'S USING HIS BRAIN DOWN HERE TO FUCK ME OVER! ATTICA! ATTICA!" The neighbors rained down a hail of garbage on me after a while, as a tribute to my righteous outrage. "Shut the fuck up!" cried one person who threw down a garbage sack full of coffee grounds, presumably intended for me to pour into R.'s cheating goddamn pants. "Thanks!" I cried. I needed the ammunition.

But R. had already fled. His kind always shows yella. Beat me at my own game, will you? I don't think I'm going to sit still for that, Jethro. You fucking hillbilly. Take a hike back to Gypsylanti. My wife stared at me, wide-eyed, in what I assume was naked admiration. I won't stand to be cheated any more. I just won't accept it.

Because I am a winner.

Thursday, 08 February
Widely Loathed? Or Widely Disregarded? A Quiz

Jimmy Kimmel
Pepto Bismol advertisements
Cake flour
Reno 911
Distilled water
Ira in HR
Blue balls
Slight hearing loss
Cory Doctorow
Mare Fecunditatis
Socks that fall down, AKA "Quitters"
The Ghost Whisperer
Tomato soup skin
Judy (Punch is all right with me)
The Mohs scale
Henchmen (includes acts of henching)
Iron Man
The Man in the Iron Mask
"Save the Leaf-Nosed Bats"
Compound interest
Laffit Pincay Jr.
Cottage cheese
The Batusi
Inadequate shelter
Adam Carolla

Monday, 05 February
This Is The End, My Only Friend

I knew that trouble was brewing when I turned on the TV early Sunday afternoon and saw Stevie Nicks performing for some luckless souls prior--hours prior--to the Super Bowl. I stared in stupefaction as the witchy one twirled before my bulging eyes; the wife emerged from the bedroom in wonderment as well. Feeling numb, I turned my back to the television and decided to unload the dishwasher.

"Stevie Nicks?" she cried. "I'M UNLOADING THE DISHWASHER," I screamed, trying to block out reality.

Fog began to enclose my city, as if drawing a protective cloak about itself, but nothing could stop the broadcast.

As with the past four years, a couple buddies came over to watch the show at my place. At least this year wouldn't be like the last, when we watched the Seahawks tank it against the Steelers. (I will reiterate my opinion that the Seahawks lost the game all by themselves, but that was some of the worst refereeing I've ever seen.)

This year, the boys and I regarded these two teams with something approaching a complete nullity of interest. On the one hand, there was the Colts, headed up by the supremely irritating Peyton Manning--you may have seen him in your dreams, hawking sleep aids, waking aids, Band-Aids and AIDS--and the Bears, who, apart from the terrifyingly schizophrenic Rex Grossman, weren't really that irritating, apart from the fact that they beat our team out this year. WHO TO ROOT FOR?

Obviously, the Colts. Yes, Peyton Manning is a charmless pout machine. On the other hand, the Bears beat us out. Clearly, we had to root for the Colts. Such is the pellucid mind of the everyday sports fan. The enemy of my enemy . . .

But before we could even get there, we had to suffer through the inevitable pre-game horrors. My friend C. showed up after the Stevie Nicks holocaust--"I saw that! I changed the channel," he said--but he did arrive in time to witness the mind-stopping antics of (allegedly) Cirque Du Soleil.

Just what nobody wanted. "First they ruined Vegas," moaned C., "now they're ruining football." And they sure did their level best. "One dream . . . one love . . . one passion," keened some anonymous woman looking like she got the Fruit Salad award from the Miami Chamber of Commerce, accompanied by the same tiresome fucking AOR-meets-World Beat garbage music that Cirque is so infamous for and sounds like what I imagine Peter Gabriel's toothpaste tastes like.

But there was no actual Cirque-ery in evidence. No jugglers. No contortionists. Not even a hateful sad clown out there waiting to be stoned to death by an angry audience, a la Chaplin vs. The Lottery. What did we get?

College cheerleaders tossing chicks up in the air while the cameramen scurried for beaver shots. The closest thing you got to vintage Cirque was that stupid goddamn swinging platform trapeze with Cirquers launching themselves into space, flipping around unaerodynamically, only to come down on the padded turf like so many incomplete passes. Little did we know that this was a harbinger of things to come.

There isn't much to say about the game itself (although a quick scan of would seem to refute this observation), except for the delightful comic performance of young Bears quarterback Rex Grossman. Grossman has taken a lot of heat for his startlingly inept performance in the Super Bowl, but I have another explanation. I think Grossman was genuinely moved by the luke- and heart-warm feel-good antics of Cirque. I think Grossman's performance . . . was a performance.

How else to explain the inexplicable moon-shot arcs of those long passes, which seemed to describe non-Euclidean parabolas, and were inevitably intercepted by disbelieving defensive backs? Or the Buster Keaton-inspired antics in the pocket, when, under very little pressure, Rex responded by hopping around like a duck on a hot plate? Or, my favorite, the busted snap where, when upon losing the ball immediately, Rex dropped back three steps anyway? None of it made any sense except in the context of a sophisticated comedy performance, which, I have to say, Grossman pulled off skillfully. We've been underestimating this lad.

If we are to be fair, though--which is hardly a robust suggestion, since this is, after all, sports--the game was a comedy through and through for both teams. There were--I think--six turnovers in the game, and four of those in the first half, including a really crappy interception thrown by Shovel-Face Manning that should have come with a "From Santa" message. Both teams fumbled more or less constantly, particularly in the first half, with these really bizarre non-recoveries, as if indigents had ejaculated on the ball prior to the play in question. "Uh, God, you can have it."

But in the end, the Colts took it, partially because of Grossman's pitch-perfect comedy stylings, the fact that the Bears defense succumbed to Tony Dungy's tachyon technology that kept them on the field for hours at a time, and the confusing lack of Bears tackling that I assume had to due with the prior hobo-sperm issue.

"Don't tackle me! I'm slathered in hobo come."

"You may pass."

Finally, in what must be the final irony, Peyton Manning was crowned the MVP. That wasn't the ironic part, at least for those of us who could see that coming halfway through the third quarter. The ironic part was when Peyton handed down the championship trophy to his teammates and one of them dropped it. An alert Brian Urlacher, seeing the downed item, fiercely fell on it and then stood up holding it triumphantly. Manning's face fell as the refs conferred.

"The ruling on the field is a fumble," said the ref. "It's only fair. Chicago has recovered the trophy. Chicago is the winner of this Super Bowl." The play is unreviewable by rule. Manning's lip was seen to tremble as the press gathered around a jubilant Urlacher. When asked the inevitable "What are you going to do now that you've won the Super Bowl?", Urlacher responded, "I'm going to make more soup commercials!"

Grudging congratulations to the Chicago Bears for the 2007 Super Bowl. They earned it.

Thursday, 01 February
Vanishing Girl

The names in the following post have all been changed. Except for mine. I tried to write myself as "Kirby the Rad," but it didn't take.

Everyone remembers his or her freshman year of college, except for the really drunk parts. I remember mine chiefly for my massive and embarrassing efforts to utterly remake myself--to transform from an Idaho hick into a worldly sort of guy with lots of life experience. This illusion was immediately smashed when I met one of my dorm-mates, a very wealthy guy named Rick from southern California, who was Jewish, and another guy from the east coast named David, who was also Jewish, but not wealthy at all. Growing up in Idaho, I knew nothing about the Jews, and was puzzled by the exchange between them when Rick and David met. They shook hands, and then David exclaimed, "Nice Jew ring!" Rick stared thoughtfully at this big gold thing on his finger and said nothing. For my part, I was just confused.

They have rings? That's kind of cool, I guess.

I was an irritating little shit, of course, and was still trying to find my way, hyperactively describing anything within a sightline as "cheesy" and wearing aggressively horrible things like shark-emblazoned LA Gear shorts and bright red Ray-Bans. I also frankly had no idea what I wanted to study at school, apart from what I hoped were girls with impossibly lax standards. I was, naturally, a virgin. I did harbor vague ideas of entering pre-law programs, but that idea got dumped within a couple weeks, when no less than four people asked me, "Are you an actor?"

Sure! Why not? I signed up for a beginning acting class. Obviously, it took.

The professor was one of those guys who insisted that everyone call him by his first name, not "Professor Whatever." No, he was "Bob." Bob was a grinning little bearded thing, quick of tongue and obviously not quite grown up--and he regaled us endlessly about his acting exploits and his many near-misses on the big stage. He was charming in his rodentlike way, at the time . . . at the time.

Bob took an immediate shine to me in class, mainly because I was not untalented, and also because I was more than willing to take his smart-ass remarks and give them back to him; he was, in retrospect, dismissive and taunting towards the shyer, more tentative students. You see these kids in acting classes, stammer-mouthed and uncomfortable in their own skins, and wonder if taking an acting class is some sort of self-help regimen. But I wasn't tentative at all. We were all remaking ourselves, and I was gung-ho about the whole project. One of the requirements of the course was to audition for every show that was put on--you didn't have to accept a role, but you did have to audition. For my own part, I treated my very first audition as the most important thing in my life, and would have probably considered suicide if I did not get cast.

But I did, a couple very minor roles in As You Like It. Bob cast me after essentially deconstructing my initial disastrous audition read and telling me exactly what to do. Bob was on my side, and I felt that Bob was making me into the sort of person I imagined: someone who was nothing like the dipshit who didn't even know what the hell a "Jew ring" was. I was doing Shakespeare.

Bob drove a Grand Am, at least until he trashed it in some sort of accident. Then he bought himself a slick BMW motorcycle and leather riding gear. He had a blandly pretty wife at home, and midway through the year, they had a baby. Reportedly. We never saw a picture of the baby. His wife would occasionally show up at the theater building, but not often. Bob tended to his flock, and that was us. Me.

Bob was pretty fucking cool.

He was so cool, in fact, that he blew my tiny little Idaho mind in rehearsals by saying things like "I think it's pretty clear that Audrey has been sport-fucking William." Naughty! Also: "Skot, you know that William is a total pencil dick, right?" I laughed. We all laughed.

I lived for rehearsals, and I lived for acting class with Bob. He was a Stanislavsky freak (sigh), and so we'd have long discussions about "circles of intention" and then have exercises where we would cross the room, with our "energies" focused into our left knees, our foreheads, our right wrists and left ankles. Bob paid attention to posture, to alignment, to our bodies. He would think nothing of striding over to someone and massaging her shoulders, her calves, her arms. He never felt the need to adjust my position or gait, though; I interpreted this as natural talent on my part--I didn't need adjustment. I was just fine! The girls, however, needed a lot of help.

Bob had a generous open-door office policy. If you were stressed, or had some questions, or needed guidance about something, you could always find him in his office. I didn't really feel the need. Anything I needed to know, I could just ask him in class. He seemed to encourage it, and I was the brilliant student, showing off to everyone: I know how to ask the smart stuff. I positively shone.

Some of the girls didn't have it so good. Kelly in particular seemed to be enjoying the course, but she was getting moodier. She was one of the shy ones, a pretty girl, but short and short on self-esteem. She spoke her lines in a tiny voice, and seemed embarrassed bout her height as well as her zaftig figure, which she insisted on hiding with an assortment of sweaters.

I was doing excellently in the class, and got near-daily praise from Bob. I never felt the urge to visit him in his office, and continued to rise in his estimation in class; I was frequently praised, and glowed as Bob informed my classmates that I was "the guy to watch." On the other hand, poor Kelly seemed to be withdrawing more and more, and consequently was seen entering Bob's office more and more for help. I thought it was pretty cool of the guy to spend so much time helping out a girl who was having a hard time of it in a beginning acting class.

I have a very clear memory of hanging out in the theater office with my fellow actors, most of whom were smoking--this was still no problem in 1987--and watching Kelly knock nervously on Bob's door. "Kelly!" he boomed. "Come on in!" Then the door would close.

A little less than a year later, I was meeting with the Dean, who professed an interest in linguistics. "Can you tell me what 'sport-fucking' is?" she inquired. "And 'pencil dick?'" Am I being filmed for a comedy program? I wondered. For my own part, I had managed to persuade a couple of doubtlessly unsatisfied women to have sex with me. I stammered out some bunch of horrible garble along the lines of "Um, I guess it means having a really thin penis, like, unsatisfying," while the Dean nodded at me. I couldn't stop my mind from imagining what had been going on in that terrible, sterile office, with posters of Bob glaring down from the walls.

Kelly had filed formal charges. Bob was almost certainly going to be canned, and there were other murky legal issues twitching in the shadows. But Bob was going to fight this all the way, or so we heard.

I was told that I would need to testify in front of the disciplinary board. I would have to tell them about stuff like "sport fucking" and "needle dick" and classroom massages. I had to tell them all of it, about Bob, the guy who liked me, who challenged me and cast me and practically beat me with a tire iron to make me abandon the hideous fake British accent that I lapsed into when reciting Shakespeare. And the guy who, oh, right, screwed the hell out of Kelly on his awful gray office carpet.

I didn't want to testify against Bob. He had championed me and made me believe I had promise and talent. He was funny (though maybe not so much to others). I couldn't bear to think of crucifying him right to his face. There was some part of me that still considered him a good guy, and I dreaded the look of betrayal that would surely appear on his face when I spoke. Then I would think of Kelly's tiny hand nervously knocking on his open door. And Kelly, vanishing in the half moon of the closing door's arc.

I would have testified, you know. I was all set. There were a few of us with tales to tell. I guess he knew it too.

The morning of the hearing, I got a phone call. Bob had split town. He drained his family's savings account (over 50 grand), and left his young wife and infant with nothing. My testimony would not be required. I hung up the phone with a strange mixture of anger and relief. I traded phone calls with some of the other people who were set to appear, and we all felt like Thank God. Yeah. Lucky us.

The last I heard, LA cops were quite interested in tracking down Bob, who had apparently migrated south.

I never heard anything about Kelly ever again.

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