When I was in college I had what I think of now as being a distorted view of what constituted acceptable behavior in a fraternity member. I think Animal House was still too prevalent in my own social consciousness.
Anyway, we were having a rush party one night, an excuse for a kegger ostensibly to attract potential new members. Some guy showed up and broke any number of social mores, one of which was making himself the center of attention by dancing really, really badly. He was such a spectacle there wasn't a chance in hell of any of us considering him for a spot in our exalted brotherhood but, of course, no one said anything. What was there to say?
And then he left, but not before the ghosts of Eric Stratton and Flounder and D-Day and the gang channeled themselves through my malleable body. Damn, I thought, my evil plan will not come to fruition.
But then he came back.
I grabbed two cohorts and rushed to the kitchen. We found a bucket in the cupboard beneath the sink and filled it with warm water (it was a cool night and I didn't want the poor schmo to be uncomfortable). We added a few ounces of dishwashing detergent for good measure and stole up to the second story balcony, the one overlooking the front porch.
Then he left again. I started to think this tomfoolery just was not meant to be. But not to worry: he spoke with someone in a car and hurriedly rushed back for more jerky body spasms. At this point my two confederates got cold feet and abandoned me. The shortsighted fools. Was I the only one who realized this type of social activity was entirely appropriate in the fraternal arena?
So the kid, whose name I never knew, began hurling and kicking and gyrating on the steps leading to the porch. This was directly beneath me. I waited for some separation between himself and the poor girl he was dancing at, then launched. I didn't hang over or watch the results of my work. The vision was for the drenching to be from out of the blue, a kind of divine act, and it apparently worked.
I was told by the dozens of people down below that it had been a perfect hit.
Again, I couldn't stop laughing. Hell, I'm still laughing. So I'm going to hell. I'm not saying that now, somewhere in my forties, that I can defend my behavior. I really can't. But I can laugh at it, and if I'm not careful, ream the nostrils with fluid otherwise destined for my belly.
I did see him as he left the party. Soaked thoroughly from the head to the knees. And he never came back, which really, no one was sorry about. The chapter president did tell me that it wasn't a cool thing to do, and he was right even though it was something he had to say. Truth to tell, I'm sorry, kind of, that I did it and if the gentleman were in front of me today I'd shake his hand (if he'd let me) and apologize. I just don't know if I could do it with a straight face, damn me.
A friend recently related to me how once, when he was a much younger punk in school, participated it in some petty violence against another kid. He was remorseful now, which is good, and thankful that his younger self didn't sabotage the future his current self is enjoying now.
It got me thinking, though, about bad things I've done to other people. I can think of three things that qualify, and someone else will have to tell me if they're as bad as roughing up another kid. Here's the first:
One time, at band camp, I was working as a traveling consultant (meaning I'd fly out of town every Monday morning and fly home on Thursday night). Every so often the big national boss would blow through town which meant the big local boss had to entertain him. Put another way, a number of us were coerced into carpooling to the area "gentleman's clubs."
I've never been a strip club guy. I don't drink, smoke cigars, or ogle women with questionable morals publicly. I don't think the idea of "stripping" is inherently bad, I think it's too bad that there are young ladies out there who choose to do it. Otherwise, consenting adults and all that.
So I'm sitting in a chair, trying to get rid of my house funny money as quickly and unobtrusively as possible, all the while feeling like I've got a huge dorky sign over my head that's flashing messages like "Virgin!" or "Lives with Mommy!" or "Really Wants To Be Comfortable but..."
Anyway, an idea hit me that was too funny to ignore. Essentially, I paid a dancer to give one of the newer, younger members of the crew a hard mack on the mouth. I was shrewd, too: she initially wanted the full price of a lap dance to do it but I said that was too much. So then she asked for half and the deal was done.
She sashayed up to this poor guy, worked in nice and close, bent her head in closer and closer, then MASH! Planted a juicy one full on the mouth.
I died. I may never see anything so funny ever again. He got up as calmly as he could under the circumstances, and against the volume of the music started yelling about getting "the Herp." When he returned from the rest room he told us not to bother looking for any mouthwash, he'd used it all.
Was this cool of me? Of course not. Does humor justify the means? You decide. The real lesson here is probably the evil that men do when it's caused by being bored out of your mind in a strip club. I should say, in the interests of completeness, that my friend never went on to develop "the Herp" and that as far as I know all lived happily ever after. I'd like to think he went back and married her but that would be stretching it. Damn, that was funny. Mean, perhaps, but godawful funny.
Sadly, now you know what kind of person I really am. Go have a lap dance. It'll make you feel better.
Trista and Ryan belong together. So far. Every other couple featured in a cable reality show has bitten the dust, haven't they? Nick and Jessica, Carmen and Dave, that punk drummer and beauty pageant participant (winner? contestant?), every Bachelor "winner" (except for Trista and Ryan - sigh), and more.
Yesterday I saw a story that said that Hulk Hogan's wife had not only filed for divorce, she neglected to tell the Hulkster, said duty performed ably by a reporter asking for his response. Class all around.
I'm familiar with "irreconcilable differences" being grounds for divorce, but "low cable ratings"? 'Tis a new era.
I was hoping those mass market paperbacks with the extra inch in height and extra three dollars in price would have faded away by now. If what I see in the bookstores is accurate (and it may not be, given where we live), they're more prevalent than ever. Americans are reading less? They can't afford to read more with the "cheapies" going for ten bucks.
On the Rara Avis list, there was a discussion about pricing (join and read the archives if you'd like - it's a worthwhile list) but the consensus seemed to be that seven bucks as a paperback price point was reasonable. Yeah, maybe (I'd argue it, I think), but it's ten bucks now, you wankers. Where's the outrage? Or is it just me?
So far I've managed to not buy a one. Since I picked up a remaindered John Dunning, right now that makes John Sandford the big sufferer. His books are tough to buy used in hardcover because there are so many book club editions out there and so many Amazon Marketplace sellers that can't tell the difference. My real hope is that publishers are giving the holiday season for these macguffins to prove themselves but that may only be a notion in my own small mind. They seemed to pop up, then fade a bit, and now have come on strong.
No one listens to me, though. And to hedge, I've accounted for the extra height in the bookshelves I've been building. Not that that's an expectation of surrender, but you never know. The other thing I've been doing is yes, buying used books. The publishers have driven me to it and neither they nor the author will reap the direct benefit.
Boycott the new mass markets, I say. It's not a sign of less reading, it's one of being able to afford to read more.
I know posts have been rather sparse lately, and I hope to rectify that, but in the meantime here's a brief one to fuel a point I made earlier. Sometime in the not too distant past I've made some kind of case for popular fiction of days gone by being of a better level of quality than that of today's.
As another form of proof/argument, I offer this: Stark House will be releasing another two-in-one edition of the Peter Rabe books "Anatomy of a Killer" and "A Shroud for Jesso." Rabe is always good but these two books blew me away. "Anatomy" was wonderful but "Jesso" is art.
Rabe was a psychologist and that probably goes a long way to explaining the unique depths of character that he paints on a page. He writes about bad guys, usually bad guys getting caught up with other bad guys, and while you can empathize with his protagonists, it's difficult to actually sympathize with them.
I don't want to say too much about the books other than to say BUY THEM AND READ THEM. Stark House Press's edition will be out in April of 2008 and carries a list price of $14.95. And this is for two books, folks.
I feel like Robert Conrad in those old commercials daring viewers to knock the battery off his shoulder. "Go ahead," I say. "Buy these books and tell me they're not at a level above what's on the racks at Wal-Mart today. Go ahead. I dare you." If they were written and published today they'd be carrying cover blurbs like "Rabe is a new and original voice" and "Rabe is the best new voice in crime fiction in the past ten years." Crap like that. The point is, read this stuff and then argue with me. Please. Or I'll have to knock a battery off Bob Conrad's shoulder and I don't know how old he is but he'll still probably kick my ass.
I don't know if this is just a run of bad coincidence or what, and I am at a loss to explain it further, but I am distressed just the same, especially if this is actually more trend than some weird karmic funky.
Item: I submitted a story to a webzine several months ago. The editor responded with a brief but personal acknowledgment of receipt and said he'd read it over the weekend. Never heard from him again.
Item: Sent an article to the Appalachian Mountain Club's Outdoors magazine. The package included a properly formatted manuscript, cover letter, and a stamped self-addressed envelope (SASE). Never heard from them.
Item: Submitted the same package to the local newspaper. They publish a lot of hiking and outdoors material and provide submission information. The paper comes out each Wednesday and services the town which contains about six thousand people (according to the last census). Never heard from them.
Since when is it cool to reject an article by merely ignoring the author? Since when is returning an SASE too much work for a publication that actually solicits material from freelancers and other non-staffers?
Unless I really, really stink. That would make sense. I could be discouraged by going broke creating unanswered submission packages. I never thought I'd look forward to getting rejected but that would actually be a step up from where I'm at now.