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Thursday, 19 April
I Shared Dorms With . . .

Gavin

Gavin, you affable, pasty man! You were a pretty nice guy, but I think you had issues. For one, you would sit in the dark in your dorm across from mine and pray to Buddha. Then you would soulfully play your saxophone. You and Jason and I enjoyed talking about music, sort of, unless the topic was Prince, which was a strange hobbyhorse of yours. "Prince is a genius," I would declare. "Prince is not a genius," you would serenely reply. When Jason and I challenged you for a backup argument on this statement, you would say, maddeningly, "I can't explain it to you. You're not musicians."

Other than this irritating thing, you were a nice guy, and doubly so for letting me have sex with Bonnie in your bed. If I have one regret about that very strange evening, it would be that, when trying to fumble with your boombox in the dark to give us some music to fuck by, I inadvertently hit the "Record" button. Thanks, really, a ton for playing that tape for me the next day. That was awesomely horrible. But you at least didn't do what I would have been sorely tempted to do, which would be to play it at high volume in the quad.

I'm sorry that after one semester you got wiped out by mononucleosis and we never saw you again.

Dale

Dale, you well-combed dapper motherfucker! I really liked your affectations, particularly your smoking jacket and pipe. Was there every any doubt that you'd join the frat that had a reputation for being a pack of baying pussyhounds? Even as a freshman, you were smooth. I particularly liked your evening sojourns over to the girls' end of the dorm, where you would offer to read the girls bedtime stories--the accompanying milk and cookies were a nice touch. With you bejacketed and empiped as you were, you must have cut a surreal figure, like J.R. "Bob" Dobbs come to gently and lasciviously coo the lasses to sweet sleep with your lullabies of Slack.

Man, you sure could comb your fucking hair, dude. If we really had superheroes, you would have been Comb-Man, or maybe just Comb, or even The Living Coif. On the other hand, if you were a baseball player, you could be Jerry Hairston.

Kelly

One day when I was loudly playing "I Melt With You," you appeared spectrally in my doorway and regarded me with a look of strange transport. "This is the best fucking love song ever made," you asserted, and then retreated across the hall to your room with mysterious pamphlets about the miracle drug MDMA. A couple weeks later, when I was blaring "Orinoco Flow," you appeared again in my doorway and stared wordlessly at me, your every feature displaying feelings of deep betrayal. Then you stalked across the hall from me and I don't think you spoke to me again for a month.

For what it's worth, Kelly, you were right. I'm sorry. I'm also sorry for my roommate's penchant for playing Terrapin Station and the pain it so clearly caused you as well. But you could have shared some of that MDMA.

Hung

You drove a Volkswagen Scirocco with gold hubcaps. Thanks for that, as it was fucking hilarious. Also hilarious was that prank you pulled on me where you put shaving cream on my phone headset and then called me, resulting in me getting shaving cream in my ears.

Sorry when I pennied your door shut and I couldn't get you out until I found a screwdriver. Also, sorry for figuring out how to redirect the admissions office phone line to ring to your phone.

Then again, I'm slightly less sorry when I remember that you insisted on constantly playing the George Harrison album Cloud Nine. Thank God Kelly wasn't around for that.

David

Word is that you had to move out after one horrible drunken night when your roommate Chris woke up to find you naked and poised above his supine head, saying "Put my dick in your mouth!" Unhappily, this is all I remember about you.

Noel

There have been times since I've been away from school when I could have used you, my 6' 5" 275-lb. rugby-playing friend. In addition to being genuinely awesome, you were also quite handy to have around to occasionally say things like "Is there a problem here, gentlemen?" whenever I happened to say something stupid to people who had a sudden interest in beating my face in. Funny how the air always cleared!

Remember the great idea I had when I challenged you to a beer-drinking contest? Why am I alive?

But it is your divinely retrograde female-remembering mnemonic system that I particularly remember, for some reason.

"Hey, Noel, do you know Gretchen?"

(Thoughtful pause on your part.)

"B-cup, right?"

Jason

Ah, Jace, I think of you still and I think of you often. You were my best friend; you did not laugh at me for not knowing what you were talking about when you said to me once, "Shine on, you crazy diamond." (Reminder: I grew up in Idaho.) You were my ally in the Gavin wars, when he made the puzzling and typically gnomic "Prince is not a genius" assertion, and you stayed as such even when I was weirdly haranguing you about your tentative foray into very college-y things like "self-actualization."

Also, you refused to sleep with girls that literally cornered you in hallways because "it wouldn't be right." What the fuck, man? I would have fucked some of those girls right there in the hallway if I ever had a shot, which I didn't. God knows if I did have the chance, I'd probably accidentally record it anyway.

Remember when we did some piddling bunch of coke and went and played video games? There was that strange fucking game where dwarves decapitated each other. Then we went with Dan to play frisbee, but Dan was so wrecked on mushrooms that he dropped like a stone on the lawn. Some time later, we got burned on some other coke exchange where we were sold what the dealer called "really good machine dust." Good idea! We took it anyway, because we were fearless and immortal and, I guess, fucking stupid.

You were my best man, once, and another of my (first) wedding party commented with an unmistakeable certitude, "That guy really is the best man." And you were. I didn't give you a tenth of what you gave me. I owe you, my friend. I called you brother once. I meant it, and I miss you.

I'm pushing forty. I have so much. But I miss so much.

I remember so clearly Jason playing me this song.

The earth is weeping, the sky is shaking
The stars split to their core
And every proton and unnamed neutron
Is fusing in my bones

And an unnamed mammal is darkly rising
As man burns from his tomb
And I look at this as a blissful moment
To fly into the sun

Monday, 31 July
Metanoia Will Destroia

At Willamette University, where I received my precious, useless liberal arts education, students were required to spend the first two years in the dorms. This policy was enforced ostensibly to foster the social nature of college life, which I totally believe to this day: nothing says "Let's hang out!" like the guy across the hall blasting Enya's "Orinoco Flow." What it emphatically was not was a cynical way for the university to extract precious room and board dollars from powerless underclassmen. I used to think that, I confess, but I really changed my mind when I went to lodge a complaint with the dean, and he was blasting "I Melt With You" from his office. I had a little cry and realized that I had read the administration all wrong.

Anyway. My sophomore year, I decided to move out of the dorm I had lived in for my freshman year, and, in one of my many horribly stupid choices that continue to dog my life, I thought I knew just where to go. There was a new dorm being set up across campus, thanks to the recent yanking of a fraternity's charter--multiple allegations of date rape can do that to an otherwise cheery organization. A bunch of campus hippie goons petitioned for the hastily vacated building, and were granted the go-ahead to set up a new dorm.

It was to be called Metanoia, which at the time I was told was a Greek term meaning "peace through change." Stickler for research and minutiae that I am, I took this as the truth. But! According to Wikipedia, which, like stoned college students, is never wrong, metanoia is:

Metanoia (from the Greek metanoien, to change one's mind) is a rhetorical device used to retract a statement just made, and then state it in a better way.

Huh! Well, that's much different! And so is this, also from Wikipedia:

In english the closest word to "Metanoia" is "repent." However, the word "repent" has many inaccuracies. The word repent implies a "turning away from sin" or a form of penance. This is an incorrect interpertation of biblical doctrine. One must first change their mind(metanoia), accept Jesus Christ as savior, then choose to change their life through the power of God. Considering Jesus Christ died for all sin, how could one think they could turn from sin without first accepting Jesus Christ?

I think it's fair to say that I had no idea what I was getting into, and learning all this now, I still don't. Wikipedia can't be wrong! I think I would have remembered the Jesus stuff, but then again, I was stoned a lot of the time too.

So was my new roommate, R. R. was a fellow theater student, a year ahead of me, and had I not been so grievously disoriented by pummeling Enya melodies, I might have realized that we did not make the best fit. R. was a fairly hardcore hippie type. He worshiped the Grateful Dead, and I quickly learned to absent myself on Sunday nights at 9:00, when the local radio station aired an hour-long block of the Dead. R. also eschewed underwear, which I learned extremely quickly and in the most predictably devastating way possible.

R. was rivetingly hairy, and try as I might, I could not help noticing him as he took off all his clothes to sleep naked, just like nature, disgusting fucking nature, commands. He looked like a garden gnome as interpreted by Rick Baker. I had many nightmares.

R.'s presence also made it difficult for me to fuck my girlfriend at the time, a lissome dancer named B. In addition to his unwelcome existence at these times, there was also the ancillary issue that R. hated B.'s guts. "You're a bitch," he told her baldly at one point. That went over well. "Did you hear that?" she hissed at me. "Are you going to do something?" What was I going to do? He had no underwear to strangle him with. We resorted to trudging down to the commons room and pushing together couches. I'm all man.

Metanoia was big on meetings, and WHO DOESN'T LOVE MEETINGS? We'd sit (on the floor, of course--chairs are tools of the man!) and discuss potent issues: what's the status on our electrifying project to pick up trash around the local prison yards? (True.) Any progress on our food drive? (So many cans of garbanzo beans! Enjoy, poor people!) The only thing I could really feel decent about was a laudable program where a solitary girl could call a number and get an escort across campus so she'd get home safe (nasty memories here of how we got the building in the first place). I never did volunteer for it, however, as I noticed a certain salacity in some others who thought this was a capital way to meet single girls. Truly, we were an unstoppable force for . . . what? I put my shoulder into the cause, if by "the cause" you mean "my cause," which was to start scoring ecstasy from the guy across the hall.

R. really didn't give a shit at all either, though that might be because nobody ever backed his idea to blare "Terrapin Station" from the bell tower every day at noon. The only one who did give a shit, really, was Metanoia's lone Republican, an Asian-American kid who enjoyed our meetings if only to lightly mock the terrible, mostly neglected high-minded projects of the group. "Every underprivileged family enjoys cans of mashed pumpkin in March!" he would crow. During the febrile heights of the Gulf War, when I was mouthing terrible inanities like "Complacency is the enemy!", he would hold up a map in front of me. "Show me where Kuwait is," he commanded. I of course spent an embarrassing amount of time squinting. Later, I lay in bed, roiling with shame, staring helplessly as R. contemptuously pulled down his pants, readying for bed, pointing his awful Wookie ass at me.

It was a terrible year, and I try not to think about it too much. But a minor, dumb thing today made me remember. I was walking home, and a passing guy walked towards me. He looked me over--big deal, gay neighborhood, I thought--but then exclaimed something unintelligible to me. "Fuckin' good!" I thought he said. "What?" I asked. "Affection good!" he clarified. Huh? Why do I stop for this shit? "I don't know what you mean." I stood there like an idiot.

"Affection good!" he hollered. He gave me an exuberant double thumbs-up. "Violence bad." He frowned theatrically, and thumbed downward. I realized, finally, that my time was being wasted. "Agreed," I muttered, and walked away.

"Affection good!" he called after me. I knew just the place for that guy, but I couldn't be bothered to turn around.

Wednesday, 26 July
Thanks For Nothing

I was walking with the wife earlier today to the upscale Half-Priced Books after work. I picked up the newish Beatles biography, and noticed that it was priced to move at $12.98. HEY! I took it up with the manager. "This is not half price," I said indignantly. "This is much less." The book is a three pound brick of a thing. She looked at me warily and replied, "Right . . . it's like one third off." I just don't need this shit. "I come here for half price, and that's what I expect. Fix this. NOW." I clamped a steely gaze onto her face. She adopted a strange cow-eyed look in return, and whitely replied, "I could charge you five more dollars."

"I think you should. Thank you," I graciously said. There's no need to rub it in. You've got to stand up for yourself in our retail society.

Anyway. The wife and I were savoring my consumer victory, and my thoughts turned to the upcoming weekend. I asked my girl, "Do we have anything going on this weekend?" She thought a moment and said, "No." "That's awesome," I said.

I love a weekend of nothing. It's a lost art, as far as I'm concerned. There's a Zen-ness of a weekend of nothing, unless you're really into Zen, in which case there's koans or some such nonsense, and koans sound like a lot of bother to me. The sound of one hand clapping? I don't know. Fuck that. That sounds dangerously close to "something." Fuck you, something.

There's something alchemical about doing nothing; it's turning a lot of little seeming somethings into a larger, more absorbant nothing. Nothing is like a giant paper towel that soaks up somethings. Nothing is an art.

For example, on a good nothing weekend, I might watch three or four baseball games. "But Skot!" you might say. "Watching four baseball games isn't much, but surely it's something!" Oh, you silly goose. You have obviously never watched a baseball game. Baseball is the very essence of nothing. It is inconsequential. It is tedious. And it is--much like my two previous examples--the embodiment of life itself. You watch a baseball game, a game where getting a hit one third of the time at bat is considered pretty good, where players may call time out at any time for no reason, and where "pitcher's duels"--that is, games where hardly anyone if anyone at all ever scores--are breathlessly described as "exciting"--then you start to see how the something of baseball is really a concrete nothing. Baseball, again, is life: a walk-off home run is so rare and so unexpected and so thrilling. Sort of like that one time you got that blow job in a coat closet from a half-drunk bridesmaid. It made you forget, even if only for a few minutes, that the rest of your life was more or less stuffed from front to back with moments of not receiving illicit blow jobs, and was in fact filled with tedium, mundanity and woe. "This is living!" you think. But it's not. Walk-off homers and unexpected blow jobs are those strange particles that, thanks to quantum physics, get to wink into existence for unimaginably brief moments before diving out of the universe again before anyone notices. They're not real. They're nothing, not on any human scale. Baseball games--and, I'm sorry, so were those evanescent blow jobs--they're nothing.

There are other somethings that still add up, paradoxically, to nothings. Bad movies, for example. Watching bad movies, some might argue, constitute a willful act, or "doing something." But this is not true. Let me cite another seemingly unrelated parallel, the mathematical concept of a "zero divide." In common everyday mathematics, one cannot divide a number by zero; the result is, as they say, "undefined." Dividing a real number by zero can easily yield any result at all, and so there is no answer: a zero divide is a great big nothing.

(It's important to realize that "zero" is not the same as "nothing." "Zero" is a mathematical concept; "nothing" is that blow job you're still not getting while watching baseball. Though I do allow for the depressing idea that, somewhere, there are men who are watching baseball who have never received a blow job, but they have never been found in the wild, and represent a suspected 58% of all suicides.)

Shockingly horrible horror movies are an acknowleged form of the zero divide, and therefore count as nothing. Watching Driving Miss Daisy? That is surely something, even if it makes you want to take a can opener to your hard palate. Watching Piledriving Bitch Crazy? That is totally nothing. Sure, you sat there and stared at the thing unspooling before you, but did you do anything quantifiable? Were you able to say, at the end, "The result of that experience was a definable X"? I submit that you did not. You did nothing in the sense of the zero divide: you could say, "I just saw my own death." You could also say, "I just saw how I'm going to kill all my friends." And you could say, "I just saw the face of God, and He looks like Bronson Pinchot." They are all valid statements, and as such, are all meaningless in terms of determining a concrete, definable experience. You may have felt that you did something, but you have actually done nothing. You have tried to divide Alien Vs. Predator by zero, and instead of cracking the universe open, you have actually just made it more pointless and unanswerable, just as if you'd stared at a wall or a hoe for two hours.

And, sort of, you have. Which you must agree is pretty much the definition of doing nothing.

It's an old question: Why is there something instead of nothing? It's totally backwards. More properly: Why is there all this fucking something getting in the way of my nothing? Answer me that. And while you're at it, ask yourself this as well. How many times have you had this phone conversation?

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing."

And how about this one?

"What are you doing?"

"Something."

I thought so. Have a good weekend.

Monday, 10 April
Games Without Frontiers

Late last week, I found myself in a conversation with friends about the games we used to play when at school, whether in class--like, say, Seven Up, the game designed to make kids rest their heads on their desk--or out on the playground, such as another chestnut like Kick the Can, the game that welds together the innocent joys of Hide and Seek with the Depression Era angst of angrily booting the hell out of empty pork 'n beans containers.

There was a lot of intersecting areas in our gameplaying Venn diagrams, I found. Despite a varied age group in the discussion, we found a lot of commonality. Most of us had played the various "Let's Hurt People" games, such as Crack the Whip, a game which now appears to me to be the physical representation of trickle-down economics: if you were at the head of the line, you were not only safe, you were basically engineering the ruination of those at the end. And then there was the even more ruthlessly atavistic Smear the Queer, where the Queer (and I appreciate that Wikipedia tries to tell me that NO, NO, WE DIDN'T REALLY MEAN IT, but please) desperately tried to avoid being slaughtered by fellow players, usually to no avail.

What was it, really, about these awful games? I remembered as well the famous Camel Fights, which were--what? Weird, back-humping exercises where you kicked and clawed at other backhumpers? O--kay. And then of course the recently resurgent (thanks again for fucking nothing, Ben Stiller, you tool) Dodge Ball. This I really love, especially in the context of middle schoolers or whatnot. Here you spend your entire existence basically being scolded by adults: "Don't hit other kids! It's NOT COOL!" Then, during gym class or a rainy recess, what do you get? Adults handing you big red balls, saying, "All right, see those kids? Your job is to hit them really hard." Larkin didn't have the whole picture. It wasn't your just your mum and dad fucking you up.

Okay, not all the games were of the weird, disassociatively violent sort. There were things like Four Square, which is--let's face it--possibly the dumbest game ever invented. Four Square is basically Intro to Parliamentary Procedure. "Hey, no Bus Stops!" "That wasn't a Bus Stop! That was a Hang Glider!" "My eye. You bounced up and over." "It went out anyway, you guys." "It did not!" "Did too!" "TEACHER!" If we ever got through fifteen minutes of this game without some sort of deathless debate, it's a miracle. Four Square basically just prepares young minds for the relentless tedium of things like Model UN, or, worse, Actual UN.

Or Kickball, which was baseball with those fucking red rubber balls again. And, of course, once again also with the "HIT THAT KID!" aspect, where you were encouraged to peg baserunners. Nothing like nailing a kid running top speed in the kneecaps on asphalt. I wondered on occasion if the janitor's duties included walking out nightly to the playground to hose off the kidflesh. I also wondered why they would pave the playground. After a few years of this mayhem, I started to imagine schoolkids picking up lost teeth from the playground and fashioning them into necklaces. The next step was clearly Death Cards, which, though I grew up before its ascendance to popularity, I assume is how Magic: The Gathering started. "Dude! You totally smoked Tommy!" "I know. Check it out. I tucked an Icy Manipulator into his pocket."

Wait, didn't I start out by citing this game as NON-violent? Uh . . . well, moving on.

When I was in middle school, I did all of these things, of course. But there was also some very weird other stuff going on. At the time, there was a large-ish kind of LARP-ey thing happening amongst the cool kids, where they would sort of run around pretending to be characters from Battlestar: Galactica. And it wasn't just this half-assed thing; Starbuck was always Starbuck, and Cylons were Cylons, etc., and it was this sort of huge baffling thing, but rather regimented, so everyone always had to listen to Lorne Greene, or whatever. I couldn't ever quite figure it out, and anyway, I was far too uncool to get to participate anyway. The Battlestar kids ran around with great joy, firing "lasers" at each other and more or less having the time of their rarefied lives.

I eventually found my way into the outcast version of this peculiar phenomenon, anyway, and fell in with a few other complete dweebs, who had started their own sort of TV-inspired roleplay. My group instead pretended to be characters from . . . The Dukes of Hazzard. Needless to say, I was one of the last people to join up with this wanky bunch of chittering freaks, and so I did not get one of the "plum" roles like, say, Bo or Uncle Jesse or even Boss Hogg. (Can you believe this shit?) No, I was recruited to be Cooter, with the unconvincing argument that Cooter was the "only guy who can touch the General Lee!" It would be years, I hardly need to clarify, that I would actually touch a girl, much less a car.

And so I was Cooter. I wondered on occasion if things could be worse, and I realized that, I guess they could have been. They could have demanded I play Daisy, for example. Certainly no girls were clamoring to join our joyless little enclave--the Galactica kids had a few girl Cylons, the fuckers!--but nobody was wondering if I could steal my mom's L'Eggs, anyway. And I was a part of something, anyway, even if that something was anemic and dumb and just a little sad.

And of course we viewed the Battlestar kids with more than a little envy. Here we were, imaginary renegade rednecks, but these guys were starfighters! Fuck those, uh, popular kids! So occasionally we would stage incursions. "Let's go run us over some Cylons," someone would say. And, thrillingly, someone else--Chris, I think--would say, "Cooter! Fire up the General Lee!" Then I'd do some awful under-the-hood-type miming and give Bo and Luke the thumbs-up and watch my compatriots zoom over into the midst of battlin' Cylons. I'd pretend to wipe my not-oily hands on a garage rag that wasn't there as my friends broke up some space battle with purely idiotic "Southern" rebel yells, nothing else for me to do but watch. The Cylons screeched with indignation as the General Lee ran them all over ignominiously, swearing all the while that their lasers had utterly destroyed the insurgents, and besides, "Cars don't work in space!" Terrible arguments ensued, at least until the inevitable bell.

I wasn't long for the Dukes of Hazzard crew. I told myself that it was stupid and that I was being basically shortchanged. Which might have been true. What was truer was, I just missed Four Square.

Friday, 07 October
I Believe The Chickens Are Our Future

A big issue this week seems to be the avian flu, which, depending on who you listen to, is either an impending world health crisis that could possibly kill millions and millions of people, or is simply this month's particular flavor of gleeful fearmongering. The former view seems to be espoused most prominently by those hilarious jokesters at the World Health Organization, a group of malicious sprites who just last week threw fart bombs into my office and ran away giggling. I later found that they had etched "WASH ME" into the dust of my rear windshield. Scamps! And the latter view is mostly espoused by those who take the sensible point of view that the world, right now, simply could not even remotely be more fucking terrifying than it already is.

Look, I want everyone to relax. Because I have the solution. In fact, it's better than a solution. It is . . . how do I put this? I can only say that it is my gift to all of humankind, even the ugly people.

We must irradiate our birds. All of them.

If comic books have taught us anything--and Hollywood has shown us they have--it is that our genetic well-being and general fucking awesomeness has been enhanced by irradiated animals. Look at Spider-Man, arguably one of the coolest superheroes ever. Radioactive spider, dude.

We have an opportunity here. I embrace the avian flu. Irradiated avian flu.

I envision myself--after a long, debilitating illness--as imbued with the proportionate strength of a chicken. Carried aloft over the city skies by confused hawks who are unable to penetrate my thick hide, I watch for wrongdoers. I see others, such as my wife, sleek and feathered, in a domino mask, ready to fail to fly into the sky to do battle with evil, but flapping like a motherfucker anyway. She's a trouper, and will be known, confusingly, as "Matthew Modine." "See, he was in that movie, Birdy!" she'll try to explain, but evil never listens.

Your best friend will be the Eggman, and with his terrifying, puzzling cries of "Goo Goo Goo Joob!" he will lay mighty Justice-Eggs filled with clever crime-fighting devices relevant to the situation at hand. His little brother will be his ward and sidekick, and will strike fear into the criminal element, and will be known as "Peepsy." The Eggman will always awkwardly deflect questions as to why a rooster is laying all those goddamn creepy eggs, and "doesn't that just hurt your ass like hell?"

Somewhere out in a lonely desert, a shy, awkward scientist will be violently pecked by an agressive, gamma ray-saturated Rhode Island Red. And so the legendary "Incredible Flaps Beakman" will be born, a freakishly strong, bright green beast with terrifying strength that increases exponentially the more scared he gets. His only weakness? Being held upside down by the legs.

(I am assuming that once we get used to this sort of thing, our superhero names will get less stupid.)

We must not shirk our genetic duty--nay, destiny. One way or another, we will succumb to this encroaching threat. How we choose to face it is entirely in our hands. I say we must irradiate the birds to save the man. Homo sapiens is nearing its end. We must become a different kind of homo.

Hear me now, or we will perish.

I teach you the Chicken-Man. Man is something to be surpassed.

Wednesday, 09 July
Great Moments In Not Learning, Pt. II

I had such a blast writing about these the other day, and I thought of other lovely misadventures, so what the hell.

. . .

Sixth Grade. Again, Mr. Bald's class. I've been a dedicated bookworm all my life, so then as now, I didn't go practically anywhere without a book in my hand. I had, over the past couple days, been stifling laughter over my book with limited success; it was really cracking my shit up, and it apparently caught the notice of J. (NOT the really popular J. from the previous entry, but shyly pretty J., who would later become MY FIRST GIRLFRIEND for about five days). J. came over and asked me what was so funny. I told her about my book, and about how dang funny it was, so she asked me if she could borrow it for a little while, as she was done with her homework. Why not? A girl would owe me a favor. Nothing to lose here.

She took it and sat down, and I shot her a few warm looks as she read, but she didn't look up; she was kind of engrossed. Cool! I went back to my own business. Then, about fifteen minutes later, I caught a glimpse of her: to my mounting horror, she was getting up, book in hand, and walking up to Mr. Bald. Showing him the book. Pointing to a page. Asking something. And then pointing at me when Mr. Bald had obviously asked where she'd gotten it. It was then that I thought I was really fucked.

The book, you see, was Catcher in the Rye, and the particular term that had baffled J. was "whore." Now, those of you who are doubting our level of naivete at the time, or my overblown fear of getting busted over it would do to remember that this was over twenty years ago in Deepest Idaho. This was, to a lot of people, just fucking smut, and we farm kids knew fuckall about sex (see next entry). So I was feeling pretty cooked when Mr. Bald confiscated the book and told me that I could see him after class. Some other kids shot me quizzical looks, like perhaps I had smuggled a copy of Juggs into school.

But I had misjudged Mr. Bald. After class, he returned my book and said, "I'm really very glad you're reading this, but I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't bring it to school, okay? It just might be . . . disruptive." I said okay, and he said, "Anything else?"

Well . . . I was marginally more sophisticated than J. I knew what a whore was. But . . . I held up the book. "Well, can you tell me what a 'scag' is?" Mr. Bald pursed his lips. "Ask your dad."

. . .

Seventh Grade. As most of you probably realize (at least the Americans), most seventh graders exist for one purpose only: to be picked on by eighth graders. This Is The Law. Anyway, in seventh grade, in classic boy fashion, I picked up some piece of garbage off the sidewalk, because it looked interesting. It wasn't, but that never stops little boys. What it was was a little clicker-counter device that incremented up one digit with every click; this one had the capacity to go all the way up to 99999 before rolling back over to 00000. Figuring I had nothing better to do for the rest of my life, I decided to carry it around, clicking it constantly in my free time, just so I could see the INCREDIBLY SPECTACULAR MOMENT when it rolled over. So I did.

In addition to being a nearly farcical irritant to those around me, it had another downside: it got noticed. This is never good news for seventh graders. Soon enough, some eighth grade guys noticed me doing this all the time. "Hey Kurruk!" they'd menace me, "What the hellya doing with that? Is that your jack-off counter? That how many times you jack off?" I muttered into my shoes and walked away. I had no idea what they were talking about.

So I asked someone, namely my best friend B., who was no more worldly than I was, but B. had an impressive mullet, so I figured he'd be worth a shot. And he was!

"Hey, B., what's 'jacking off'?"

Look of incredulity. "You don't know what jacking off is?"

Shameful admission of spazosity: "No."

B. laughed at my horrifying ignorance. "It means fucking! Jacking off is fucking somebody!"

I found this information very interesting. And the next day, sure enough, it had become a routine catcall: "Hey, Kurruk, still jacking off, man? That your jack-off machine?" But this time, I knew what the game was! I raised my chin defiantly and brandished my clicker like a talisman.

"Yeah! This is my JACK-OFF machine! I've jacked off over FIVE THOUSAND TIMES!"

They stared silently at me for a moment, and I felt the flush of victory, briefly, before it was rapidly crushed as they all burst out into wild, hysterical laughter, pointing at me, laughing so hard they bent over double, and I realized that something had gone horribly wrong.

The jack-off jokes lasted a really, really long time, well after I learned the actual act it defined, which at least proved to be somewhat mollifying.

Monday, 07 July
Great Moments In Not Learning

A few recollected snippets from my grade school memories.

Math class with Mr. Porn Moustache. We had been given a big test the previous day. Enter J. J. is the prettiest girl in our grade, and of course quite popular, and, for reasons known only to herself, generally nice to me. Anyway, she's typically effervescent as she walks into class and as she wanders by Mr. Porn Moustache's desk, she tosses her hair and tinkles, "Hi, Mr. P.M.! Did you get our little testes taken care of?"

. . .

Sixth grade with Mr. Bald. I liked Mr. Bald, who let me joke about said baldness . . . once. But anyway, in his class, I was sitting next to my geek friend M., who was a frighteningly good artist and, incidentally, a diabetic. We were utter tools; at one point we decided to see if we could forge a "psychic link," and spent much time furiously thinking of funny shapes or objects and seeing if the other could scribble down a picture of it. Once he showed me a drawing of a beetle. "Is that close?" I stared at it; I had been thinking of the Millennium Falcon. "Yes," I said, "that's really close."

Mr. Bald was droning on about some fucking thing one day, and it must have been something interesting, because there were a lot of questions and digressions and discussion and so forth; kids were waving their hands around like semaphores. Not M. though; he sat quietly with his hand up, waiting patiently for about twenty minutes, which was odd in and of itself, because M. was, in true geek fashion, painfully shy. But he apparently was going to have his say. Finally, finally, Mr. Bald called on M.

"Yes, M.? You've been patient."

"I'm having a reaction, Mr. Bald."

Mr. Bald wigged out. "JESUS! Don't just sit there! Go get some juice or something!" He looked poleaxed. So did we; yelling "Jesus!" in a classroom in deepest Idaho is, ah, just not done.

It shames me now, but for a long time, I thought that M.'s diabetic reactions were really cool. It was, I think, an early hint of why people experiment with drugs: "I wonder what that's like?" On the other hand, it's possible that I'm just a fucking weirdo.

. . .

Geography time with Mrs. . . . Somebody. Let's call her Mrs. Shoes, because I'm pretty sure she wore some. We're looking at a map of Europe, and Mrs. Shoes is pointing at good old Italy. "Now, Italy here is pretty easy to recognize, because most people think it looks like something familiar. Can you see it? Anyone?"

A red-haired kid named D. raises his hand. D. was a nice kid, I remember, not terribly given to the behavior of his peers, which was pushing Skot down frequently, so I didn't mind him. Mrs. Shoes calls on him, and D. says, "It looks like a boot!"

Mrs. Shoes is pleased, and decides to see if she can get D. to get another hit off a slow pitch. "It does look like a boot, doesn't it?" Then she points to Sicily. "And what does it look like it's kicking here?" D. stares at the map for a few seconds.

"A typewriter?"

That might be my single favorite moment from grade school. I could not stop laughing. And you know what? The little fucker was right. Go look. To this day, whenever I see a map of Sicily, I secretly think, "Typewriter."










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