- the rules of squash
- the rules of racquetball
- when or where exactly Daniel Webster lived
- anything about the Gross National Product
- how to operate a yacht
- how to operate a bow tie
- anything about lacrosse
- how to make eggs benedict
- where to buy a salt lick
- reasonable prices for ascots
- the names of any famous Yale athletes
Let’s all get wasted and throw up next to the taco truck, WOOO HOO.
Names (when used) have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the eternally downtrodden.
Sleepover At The House Of The Kid Whose Parents Didn’t Let Him Play Video Games: We all had that one friend growing up whose parents tried to set him/her “on the right path” by banning from their household Atari, Nintendo, and the like; this particular friend of mine was also only permitted to watch PBS. Based on my observation, the plan worked in the sense that this kid was skipped a couple grades ahead of us in math and could name all the presidents in order before he hit double digits. On the other hand, homeboy also tore his thumb open on a chain link fence during his first week of college whilst attempting to steal a case of soda (something else he was never really allowed to have at home) from the cafeteria. So nature, nurture, whatever.
Anywho, the lack of cable tv and Super Mario forced us fifth graders to play board games and have conversations at this party, which turned out to be plenty of fun (especially when we all started talking about the concept of “God” and what he/she/it might actually be; to this day I don’t think I’ve ever had a more adult conversation). There’s a pretty epic photo of me from the morning after this all night Shoots n’ Ladders rager—I’m asleep in a sitting position, clutching a tiny stuffed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and this enormous maroon hoodie that I’m sure was B.U.M. Equipment brand is practically swallowing me. I’m also wearing my glorious Air Jordan rip-off sneakers, the Sir Jams.
Most kids probably would have felt self-conscious about such bootleg kicks, but I never really gave a flying fuck about basketball or shoe culture. I just wanted my feet to be comfortable.
Sleepover At Shouty P’s House: Shouty P was this shrimpy kid we all knew and adored who, as his name implied, had only one volume to his voice. That was okay, though, because ninety percent of the time he was hilarious and as far as I know he never tried to wrong me or any of my friends in that way middle schoolers like to wrong each other sometimes. He runs a golf course now, in case you were wondering. Ironic, as I think shouting at golf courses is generally frowned upon.
My overriding memory from this particular get-together is the fight that broke out very early in the evening on Shouty P’s front lawn between The Kid Whose Growth Spurt Put Him Three Heads Above Everybody Else and The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman. I don’t remember what the fight was about but it was maybe the only time in my life I’ve seen an altercation that played out like a Popeye cartoon, by which I mean these two individuals turned into a ball of dust, fists, and fake curse words as soon as it was “on.”
Eventually peace was brokered and we settled in for the evening, all taking turns playing T&C Surf Designs on regular Nintendo. I’d never seen that game before and it instantly became a dangerous obsession. Hold the phone, we got a skateboarding gorilla in Jam shorts? Nintendo, have you been renting space in my head?
The Sleepover Where I Saw A Dirty Movie For The First Time: The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman invited me over one Friday night in seventh or eight grade for some midnight Mortal Kombat action. On the walk to his house after school he was like, “Check this out…” Batman Kid turned his bookbag around and pulled out a VHS labeled Naughty Girls Need Love Too.
I really wish I could tell you what my exact emotions were in response to this revelation, that my friend had somehow acquired a porno and we would be viewing it that evening, but all I remember for sure is watching it at one in the morning and cracking up at the theme song (in which some “groovy dude” repeatedly sang the title of the movie) and being really grossed out that one scene was two people doing it on a pile of tires. On the ladder of erotic experiences of my life Naughty Girls ranks pretty low (it’s several rungs below Courtney Thorne-Smith in Revenge of the Nerds II, which is really ground zero for eroticism as far as I’m concerned).
I’m sure my first porno viewing was somehow skewed by the fact I watched it with a kid who was simultaneously working on his homemade Batman costume. This may have also been the night I discovered The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman was also obsessed with the theme song from Wayne’s World, so much so that he had dubbed it as many times as he could on a ninety minute blank cassette. A full ninety minute cassette with nothing on it but the Wayne’s World theme twenty or thirty times. Yeah, that’s no cause for alarm.
Sleepover At The House Of The Kid Who Owned Every Nintendo Game Ever: Barry was a young fella I only knew because our dads were pals from way back; in fact, I only hung out with the kid three times tops because he lived sorta far away and went to completely different schools. However, Barry and I always had a blast together—he was a super nice kid who didn’t seem to have any hang-ups and could have a grand ol’ time even when we weren’t glued to the Nintendo (has this post made it clear yet that home video game systems were the center of the universe in the early ’90s, a cultural force more vital to our stupid existence than the Bill & Ted movies and Bo Jackson combined?).
Of course, it was hard not to be glued to the Nintendo at Barry’s house because somehow he had gained possession of every regular NES game ever. I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone in my life with a comparable NES collection. I guess his parents were rich, or maybe another twelve year old he knew died and willed him all his games. All I know is any game I could think of Barry had, which explains why the first time we ever hung out at my house he took me to school on all twelve or thirteen games I owned.
Barry and his family were nice enough to let me sleepover one weekend; yeah, we cycled through all those Nintendo shits, but we also watched Silver Streak (recommended by Barry’s dad; we weren’t really into it) and ceremoniously cut open Barry’s brother’s Stretch Armstrong to see what was inside. I’ll never forget standing in that bathroom watching Barry trying to tear Stretch open with a pair of scissors when a sudden noxious cloud of something that looked like baby powder shot out of the doll’s incision. We both laughed hysterically.
The Plastic Pillow Pillow Fight Sleepover: In the sixth grade or so my pals and I all spent the night at Louis’s house, where for once in our dumb lives we got to have a massive uninterrupted pillow fight in the basement rec room. Unfortunately, this kid Louis had a plastic pillow. That is to say, he had a regular pillow inside a plastic pillow case. I’m not sure why—if he was a bed wetter, he would have needed plastic sheets, not a plastic pillow, unless he slept backwards on his bed? I don’t know and honestly did not care about Louis whizzing in his bed. I don’t think any of us did.
What we did care about was this kid whomping us in the face with his plastic pillow. It stung like a fucking bastard (especially if one of the corners caught you). Louis whacked our buddy Thom one too many times; Thom shot me this look that said, “Mah’fucker’s goin’ down.” Then he tackled Louis, snatched the plastic pillow, and went apeshit on Louis. It was like Raging Bull. Louis absolutely started crying, but none of us cared because we all had red marks from that stupid fucking pillow. Eventually a parent came down to admonish us all. Boo.
Louis later joined the Air Force and got totally jacked. Sometimes I worry he’s gonna show up on my doorstep with another pillow. Louis, please, I’m sorry. Let’s do lunch. Unrelated: Louis had an “ALF For President” poster up in this rec room, an item I definitely coveted for many years.
My Thirteenth Birthday Sleepover Party: The final sleepover before being a teenager made everything kinda weird. My friend John brought me a jar of gefilte fish as a joke; my mom put it in the refrigerator and over the course of the next year or two we watched it turn all sorts of neat colors.
This sleepover is probably best remembered for a racially insensitive remark one of my friends shouted out during a heated game of Super Dosgeball on the NES; the teams in the game were U.S.A. and Nigeria, and an angry comment was made about the latter team immediately returning to its continent of origin, which my father overheard, which naturally made him go ballistic. The offending friend—who shall remain anonymous even from silly nickname since this was twenty some-odd years ago and he was twelve or whatever—was almost bounced from the party until some profuse apologizing surfaced (I also think since it was January in rural Connecticut my dad didn’t really fancy carting this kid home on allegedly icy roads).
Many hours later, while we were all watching L.A. Story and eating severely cold pizza, I felt a sense of contentment and happiness, like, These guys, they’ll be my friends forever. I’ll always be able to count on them. I was basically correct in that assumption. Only one of them really went off the deep end later in terms of friendship duties; surprisingly, it was not the kid who made that remark about Africa.
A: Growing up I never really understood the appeal of the adult beverage scene. Everything about beer seemed gross to me—the look, the smell, its long-standing association with sports bars, etc. And liquor? You mean I can pay three times the price of a soda for something that tastes like liver and onions doused in gasoline? Why? The faint hope it’ll make me feel better for an hour or two? Masturbation struck me as far cheaper and more to the point (not to mention safer; I never heard about anyone plowing their car into a daycare center after coming too many times).
Thinking back to high school, not drinking seemed like the most rebellious thing I could do. Everybody drank at my high school. Even the nerdiest kids carried flasks with them. I guess I was also struck by thoughts like, “Man, you’re seventeen and you can’t handle life? Things are so tough you gotta go get blasted as often as possible? What are you gonna do when you have kids and a mortgage?”
These attitudes continued through my burgeoning adulthood and stand as the party line at thirty-four. I just don’t really get drinking for pleasure or escape or social lubrication or whatever. Sure, I’ve broken down and had a couple dates with hooch here and there, but literally just a couple. I had a blue martini in 2005; it was pure poison. Couldn’t do more than a couple sips. In 2009 I found myself at a dinner party in the heart of Paris where I was served both white and red wines; once again, I could barely get any down.
That, I think, was the point of no return. If the wine in France wasn’t good enough to break down the barrier, what was left to convince me? I’ll take Coke for this eternity, thanks. And I had the motive to pick up a crippling booze habit then! I was barely employed, falling into massive debt, and my girlfriend at the time was adamant we get married, permanently settle in her native Europe, and start a family as soon as possible. Rummy Jim just wasn’t in the cards. Still isn’t.
And it’s not like I’m not into “acquired tastes” either. I’ll go to town on some black licorice or some coffee or even some frggin’ goat cheese. I eat goat cheese by the handful. Try and stop me from eating goat cheese, I dare you. You’ll lose a limb.
I do sort of have a doctor’s note on all this anyway: in 2003/04 during prep for my colonoscopy (hey, you gotta keep that prostate on track) a routine test noted my unusually high liver enzyme count. I haven’t cross referenced WebMD here but the people in charge told me such a proliferation of liver enzymes is usually only seen in diabetics (which I’m not), the morbidly obese (ahem), and problem drinkers.
“Do you drink a lot?” the doctor asked me.
“I don’t drink at all!”
“Good. Don’t start.”
So there you go. Please note that my non-drinking ways don’t mean you should exclude me from bar-related activities in the real life—I like hanging out in dim rooms with chatty people and jukeboxes. Just don’t expect me to join your beer pong team.
“It’s cheap as hell and tastes gooder than a mug.” I mean, they might as well just start printing that right on the package.
I mean waking up in a room where you only have Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D posters and not an original Jaws poster.
On my way to the pizza place to get a slice this afternoon I passed a young couple in the midst of a rather heated scene. I didn’t catch the whole thing, but I surmised from the girl’s facial expressions and the guy’s language that she had cheated on him. He was livid, and she looked utterly prepared to crawl under a rock and die. Unfortunately, she couldn’t, because she was on the clock for Liberty Tax Service. Yes, this poor girl was experiencing a relationship meltdown/breakup while swathed in one of those cheap-o Statue of Liberty costumes (teal snuggie w/ matching oversized styrofoam headband), morosely swinging a sign on a street corner to entice passing motorists into getting their refund on with Liberty. A couple times she tried to walk away from her perceived lover, but she was probably only allowed to go so far on the block (lest she run afoul of some other tax prep outfit).
I wanted to scoop this damaged Lady Liberty up in my arms and run away, whispering, “Let’s leave this all behind, sweetheart, and start anew in some coastal Connecticut village!” I wanted pizza more, though.