Last year, or at least I think it was last year, I went to my 15-year college reunion. To put the whole thing in a nutshell, it sucked. I think lots of other folks had fun, but I was totally alienated. This was because I hardly gave two shits about any of the people I went to college with when we were actually there, and 15 years of separation had not exactly improved things. OK--in many cases, 15 years of separation was the improvement, a good thing ruined by seeing them at the reunion.
So why did I go? Not entirely sure, really. When I signed up, I was under the misapprehension that my old roomie would be on hand. I haven't seen him in many years, so it seemed worth it. Of course ol' fuckhead decided not to come, leaving me with my dick in the breeze. But I went anyway, figuring there were a couple of other housemates coming, and one woman whom I actually got to know much better when I moved to DC after college, and I figured that would be good enough. Not so.
I won't spend a lot of energy on details, but rather report that it was weird at best. I came to realize that the campus itself would always feel a little like home to me, but that college, with the exception of maybe three or four people whom I'll never forget, was more significant to me as a setting for a great deal of personal growth than as a bunch of great pals. I don't think I need to point out the utter uselessness of trying to revisit personal growth moments. Even if you could go back, you'd probably die of embarrassment waiting for yourself to cop a clue. Man, we were so stupid back then, but mercifully ignorant of even that fact--a saving grace engineered into the post-adolescent nervous system, no doubt.
So the whole college reunion thing was kind of a wash-out, and I haven't felt so relieved in years as I did making an early morning getaway on Sunday before most people had even gotten out of bed.
But here I am, writing what's probably my last post before heading off to what? Another reunion. I have greater hopes for this one, as it's my 20th high school one. Possibly because I was so immature and emotionally arrested, high school was definitely more about friends than personal growth, so I'm pretty chuffed about seeing some folks. I have definitely kept in regular touch with more of my HS friends than college friends. I also managed to get my hands on a list of who's coming this time, and the number of people I'm actually keen to see is pretty high, and only one name on the list elicited a "who the fuck is that?," so I felt pretty good. Definitely nicer to have the list.
In poring over the list with the online company of Smed*, one of my best HS pals, we had this exchange:**
Smed: Didn't you used to date C---- B----?
Me: I briefly and fumblingly dated C---- B----, yes. We went to prom together, even. That one turned out pretty weirdly, I have to say.*** She and S---- (there were a few weird days one summer during college, but only slobbering and pawing--no naked) are the only skeletons from my closet who are coming, I think, as long as you can discount the totally drunk thing with D---- after one of J---- P----s' parties (not sex, just a little make-out). In case you're wondering, she was dating S---- W---- (from Southmont, and a Kenyon classmate, it later turned out) at the time, not Toast****. Oh, and K----, briefly.
OK. I guess I've got probably at least my share of skeletons showing up after all. Should be interesting. At least I continued to be friends with D---- and K---- after our little things, so there won't be any weirdness there.
I'm excited to see people, but I do expect it to be a little alienating too. I'm totally picturing everyone as I last saw them. With you, Mac, TC, Toast and Z, that's not such a big thing, since it's been less than 10 years since I last saw you guys. But the women--oh, that could be traumatic.
Serendipitously, I also got an email from my disloyal, backstabbing, reunion-skipping-because-his-kid-was-having-surgery college roommate. Since he got a giant earful from me about how our college reunion sucked, I thought I'd share my opinions about this one:
On a related note, I’m going back to Indiana for my 20th high school reunion this weekend. I know, I was totally freaked out by the Kenyon one, but this time there are actually quite a few people I give a rat’s ass about who are attending. Toast will be there, for one. Hopefully we will NOT spend the whole time drunk like when he came to Kenyon. It should be a good deal more fun, though the actual school building is no longer in use so we can’t wander the halls and murder assassins with ballpoint pens. Man, I’m never gonna get to use that fucking Kung Fu I learned.
Ah, hoo-hoo ha-ha, I crack myself up. Anyway, I'm not consumed with doubt about this latest stab at reunion fun, in spite of prior performance. My real concern is what a crappy time Girlygirl will have. At least she knows and likes (or can tolerate) a couple of my old school pals, so it'll be more like going to a wedding***** than, say, prison.
See ya when I get back.
*Short for Smedley, not at all his name, but more of a semi-derogatory, semi-affectionate noting of his general nerdiness, which he picked up in his frat in college. Too bad really--he's a great guy, if you can deal with the shouting. He's kind of noisy.
**Yes, I'm resorting to the extremely cheap expedient of re-purposing my writing, but what the hell.
***No, the annotation was not in the original. Our breakup really wound up as sort of a footrace to see who'd break up with who first. I don't think either of us knew why we broke up, but it was most likely because neither of us knew why we should have started dating in the first place, or why we should have stayed together after the prom. By the way, no naked with C---- B---- either. Or any of the class of '84 exes either. Sigh.
****A close friend who dated D---- almost all through high school. She broke up with him our senior year, and he took his time getting over it. Needless to say, our extremely brief dalliance (that would be me and D---, not me and Toast, you dirty thing)--most likely terminated by one or the other of us needing to puke from over-indulgence in drink--occurred long after Toast had recovered from the D---- years. I hope. I tried very hard to save that kind of disloyalty until after my formative years, when I practically moved in with a close friend's girlfriend only days after he took off for an extended vacation in Indonesia. Hey, at least it was her idea mostly. I only went along with it,which as we all know completely absolves me of blame. Yup, that's what that does. Yup.
*****Perhaps like the wedding in Kentucky of Girlygirl's step-cousin we had to attend a couple of weeks ago. Payback's hell, I guess. Anyway, there's lots of total strangers, many of whom know your spouse, but you don't really know at all. But at least there are a few people you've met before--it's amazing how fast somebody you got drunk with once many years ago becomes your best pal, just because you're pretty sure who they are without looking at their nametag.
I don't know how many of my faithful fans are also fans of Eightball, a comic book of pure genius written by Daniel Clowes. Given that Girlygirl is definitely a fan, I have to assume it's at least 50% of my faithful fans. It's also for sure that any Silver Springers who read this are going to have to spend some gas- or bus money to get a copy if they want to become fans, because while we have a pretty deluxe comic shop in the 'hood, they only sell superhero books.*
Girlygirl and I are big fans, and amazingly (and in stark contrast to most underground comics**) the appeal seems to remain steady in spite of the increasing years since we graduated college. I thought I'd think publicly here for a minute (and only a minute, since I'm running rapidly out of lunch hour) about what the appeal is.
For sure, the appeal is shared by a number of things, as noted in my last essay: Freaks and Geeks, Napoleon Dynamite, and Ghost World come to mind. The last is because he wrote it, of course. For me, anyway, these cultural offerings have a common thread--the reality, or at least the personal sense, of what it is to be a total lame-o, as defined by the beautiful or popular people. Revenge of the Nerds was an attempt to define the world of the geek in terms that beautiful people can understand. The nerds win. A true nerd knows that the nerds never win at what the beautiful people want to win at. As soon as nerds figure out how to be cool, the bullseye of cool is, and must be, shifted by the beautiful people. ROTN is not for the nerds. Not for us, if you will.
Eightball, (and it's kin) is for the geeks. Clowes understands that most people are ugly and maladjusted for at least part of their lives, and that the feeling of being that way lasts long after the outward signs are gone***. He understands that nerds never win--the very definition of nerd-hood precludes it. Nerds either stop being nerds, stop competing with the beautiful people, or most likely, keep on losing, even if it's only in their own minds. With that said though, I need to point out that Clowes (like me) doesn't think that's a bad thing. It's the way the world is, and what we need is perspective on our own geeky suffering, not some kind of cure for it. Eightball offers us that perspective. And of course, in the comic, the "winners" look like losers too.
Also, the world of Daniel Clowes is inhabited by the "realest" people you'll ever see in a comic book. Even his wildly exaggerated characters, such as "Needle-dick Bug-fucker," or Pogeybait the Samoan, are at their core utterly human. I think probably twice a week I'll notice an "Eightball person" on the street. They don't all look like an Eightball character--some people just act like one, some people you can just tell are thinking Eightball thoughts. As weird as the world of Clowes is, those people are out there. You're probably one, at least some of the time.
And of course there's just the fact that Clowes is a brilliant observer of the world writ small. Sure, I think he's got a good grasp of how things work on a macro, historical scale. I also think he's amazing at sorting out the bullshit that just spills from everybody's mouths all the time. Stuff that I might say that seems totally innocuous to me will come out of the mouth of a Clowes creation sounding like the most amazing like of self-serving crap. And I just paid a few bucks for a comic book to call bullshit on me. It's more fun than it sounds.
On top of all that, his stuff is really funny. Except when he's being serious. Then it's not funny--it's almost scary.
OK, lesson over. Was this a crappy posting? Probably--I was interrupted about 50 million times, and didn't have a great idea what I was going to write when I jumped in anyway. But I hope I've encouraged someone somewhere to give something from Daniel Clowes a chance, even if it's just renting Ghost World.
*Now, I'm all in favor of a comic shop that refuses to sell crap like Richie Rich or that goddamned-and-frequently-reviled-by-me Sad Sack, but I think they're really missing out (or maybe I'm missing out) because they don't carry other, more worthy non-superhero fare.
**"comix" in the vernacular of the insider. shudder
***And they almost always do go away. Even the biggest geeks I knew in school are now pretty cool, or at least outwardly normal. Even I appear normal to the casual observer--you'd never know I used to be a total geek loser. Until you talked to me, of course. Beauty's skin deep, but geeky goes to the bone.
Man, I don't know what the story is. For some reason, I just can't come up with themes for my little essays here. I never wanted this site to be a diary, so I'm not going to report on my breakfast or how my foot feels better (it does, thanks for asking). But I'm finding that I'm not all that concerned about anything else. I'm burned out on politics*, and don't have much going on even at work**.
Maybe this is good. Perhaps it's a sign of contentment or something. I guess I really shouldn't complain about having nothing to bitch about, especially since this site has really been a complete whine-fest for the last couple of months.
I could review a movie or two. How would that be? OK, good.
Spider-Man 2 Hah! I bet you never imagined that I'd go see that one! Girlygirl and I actually took time out from an over-long wedding weekend in glorious Kentucky*** to go see it. There was golf planned for the day, but she doesn't golf, I wasn't in any shape to walk the course, and there was a fair-sized group of under-16 niece-and-nephew-like-people with nothing to do. So we went and took a mob of kids with us****. It was nice to have a superhero-positive audience along, let me tell you, movie analysis isn't their strong point at their ages. They all seemed to have the idea that they should have critical opinions, but their grasp of the meaning of the term varied widely and diverged pretty dramatically from the adult interpretation. So it was mostly a weird trip into the mind of the adolescent and pre-adolescent.
Anyway, we loved it. I hesitate to say that I liked it better than the first one, but I think it was probably a better movie. Once again, it wasn't insulting and aimed at children, but it didn't take itself so seriously that you wanted to pick it apart. The crash-em-up action plot is, amazingly, a subplot. The main themes are the true themes of the comic books, even in the early 70s when I was an avid reader: How alienating it would be to have an alter-ego who fights crime, how dangerous it is for your loved ones if you happen to have enemies, especially super-powered ones, how hard on your sanity it would be to feel responsible for the safety of everyone, or at least the safety of everyone you're conscious of at the moment. How much would it suck to feel you had to investigate every burglar alarm or police siren you hear? What if half the people you helped thought you were a criminal or threat to public safety? Is there any upside to being a superhero? Check out the film and see.
In addition to the improvements thematically, we still had Sam Raimi's deft touch directing this kind of material, acting as good as the material, and outstanding special effects. Even the places that were pure computer graphics were much improved. We loved it.
Napoleon Dynamite This one is probably not as hilarious as folks may tell you. There are some great laugh-out-loud moments, but I found it just as often painful as really funny. But in a good way. It brought back all the amazingly stupid stuff I believed about myself and others when I was about 15 or 16, in a very realistic way. Our hero is as maladjusted as any kid at that age could be and still be normal, but you get the sense that he may one day get over it, just like you did. The cast was outstanding, and once you get over the outlandish mannerisms of the lead character--Napoleon (yes, you're meant to understand that his actual name is Napoleon Dynamite) delivers fully half his lines with his eyes closed or mostly so, and his exasperated sighs and impotent tantrums are truly not to be missed--the characters are quite winning. If you ever felt like an outcast, searching for your way to belong, to be cool, to have the skills girls want in a guy, this movie is for you.
And it really is quite funny, if your idea of funny runs more toward Eight-ball comics or Freaks and Geeks than Will fucking Farrell or Possibly-retarded Adam Sandler or One-trick pony Ben Stiller. I fucking hate those guys, and Napoleon Dynamite is the antidote to the unclever mugging and pratfalling of those third-rate idiots.
OK, so this posting still sucked, but hopefully it'll put me back on the essay track and I can churn out something less shitty next time around. Maybe I'll post about Le Tour de France. I was serious the other day--start watching. It's really cool.
*I can get worked up about stuff (witness the last posting), but mostly it just upsets me to contemplate the latest actions of the dangerous maniacs currently in office or the career-oriented vote-sops who are running against them. I'm not wild about choosing between Neo-Hitler and Kerry, who is plainly exclusively motivated by getting votes so he can continue to suckle at the Great Government Teat.
**There's stuff going on, tough decisions, intimations of impending promotion, a raise, etc. All good stuff, but hardly stuff I want to spend my own intellectual time on, much less yours.
***I did my childhood in a small town in Kentucky, so it was kind of fun to get back. Well, on an intellectual level, anyway. There are some things that are common to small-town KY that don't exist in small-town Indiana, Maryland or Virginia. I don't think an auslander could get a sense of this, but if you've put in your KY years, the Ashland Oil distributor out on the bypass, the bypass itself even, and the Long John Silver's out in the sun-baked stripmall parking lot of the Winn Dixie have a feel all their own. After 20-plus years away, I could really feel how much Kentucky there wasn't in any of the other places I've been living. For good or ill, I'd be hard-pressed to say, but I'm not going to move back to the ol' Bluegrass State any time soon, so make your own conclusions.
****Going to the movies in Kentucky is certainly nothing like seeing them in the DC Metro area. For one thing, the audience is quiet, even during the emotional or scary parts. In DC, or even Silly String, the young males all laugh and talk a lot during the tense or scary parts, assuring each other that they're definitely NOT scared or tense. And of course all the emotionally arrested, ie: teenaged, folks in the audience snicker over the kissing parts. In Kentucky, they just sat quietly and took it all in. Amazing. I guess folks out there still cling to some sense that you might want to respect the right of the moviegoers around you to both see AND hear the film. It's amazing that they appreciate them so, since they only cost $4 at matinee. Here things cost 50% more, and yet people take them at least 75% less seriously, and pay attention 25% as much. But apart from any of that, let me tell you, it's great to take 5 kids and two adults to the movies for under $30.
I swear, for the longest time, I thought George Bush had never read a book in his life. Now it's starting to look like he not only read 1984, he's memorized it. I do tend to disagree with his apparent conclusion about who the hero is, however.
Bush: US Probing Possible Iran-9/11 Link
I feel that soon we'll be at war with Iran and Iraq will be our friend. If you ask the White House, they'll tell you we've always been at war with Iran, and Iraq has always been a staunch ally. Until we go back to war with Iraq, of course.
Like George Orwell and I say: "...if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever."
My heel hurts. It fucking kills. For those who are still around from The Before-time,* I have not yet solved my apparent Achilles tendon problem. In fact, it's not even all that apparent anymore that it's my Achilles tendon.**
Anyway, I spent three weeks going to physical therapy for this supposed insertional tendinitis, and nothing happened. Well, not exactly. There was one day when they made me do "an exercise too far" and it actually got worse. But in any case, after enduring that electro-shock thing, pounds of ice, hours of stupid exercises that don't seem to do anything except give them a way to check off the "thera. exer." box on the bill and make people feel like they (or their insurance companies anyway) are getting their money's worth,**** nothing was fixed. I still couldn't walk the five minutes for work comfortably, I still do the Kokopelli boogie getting to the bathroom in the night, and I'm still miserable about it.
So I went back to the doctor yesterday to draw a line in the sand. We need to fix this, and PT ain't getting it. He suggested that I try a steriod shot into the affected area. DO NOT LET YOUR DOCTOR DO THIS TO YOU. It hurts like fuck. Then, after a few hours, it continues to hurt like fuck. Then, the next day, it hurts like--you guessed it. OK, so maybe it will help--this treatment has helped other people, most notably Girlygirl, though her problem was a wristy-thing brought on by kitchen remodeling--but I can safely say that the actual injection was the most painful thing I've ever felt, and I've had kidney stones. In many ways, the kidney stones were worse, but for absolute, soul-piercing, immediate and focused pain, nothing tops this. I don't even think the couple of times I've been poked in a dental nerve was as bad. It's hard to say, of course, that's the nature of pain, but I'm going with the long syringe into the heel for tops.
Anyway my foot still hurts, though now it just hurts like my heel is swollen from being pumped full of cortisone, which it was. If it feels all better, like totally sorted out, by the end of the week, we're done. If it feels better, like better than before the shot but not totally well, later this week, he'll want to do another shot. If it doesn't fix anything, I'm gonna be pissed, because I've really gone through a lot these last two days with this goddamn shot. Also, that'll be our cue to start examining surgical options. Joy.
I guess this wasn't really much of a posting--no real observations, no trenchant wit, just whining--but hey, at least it was longer than two lines for a change.
PS--The Tour de France rocks. You must watch. OLN--find it on your cable or satellite system and you can't miss it. I don't think they're showing anything else this month.
*Back when I used to post stuff here from time to time.
**Do you have to capitalize Achilles if you're just talking about the tendon? I'm going to go with "not" from here on--it's not like I'm talking about a particular tendon named Achilles, or even Achilles' tendon, a construction that calls for a whole other*** set of questions.
***Not, as it is so often stated, "a whole nother" set. The way I see it, you've either inserted "whole" into the midst of "another" which is plainly fucked up, or you've really got "a whole 'nother," which is all wrong too, because "'nother" is just a colloquial abbreviation for "another," so you don't need the "a" before "whole." As opposed to "a-" before "hole" which is totally necessary. Natch.
****You have to see these things to believe them. They most closely resembled the old-fashioned exercises Monty Burns favors on the Simpsons. My favorite was definitely one that I didn't have to do--god only knows what it was supposed to help--where this woman was to stand and work one leg like she was pushing a skateboard, or trying to wear out the sole of her shoe, or perhaps trying to count to 100 "like Trigger would." It was the stupidest looking thing. People all over the office were smirking at it--I can imagine the fun the staff must have making this shit up. Then one of them actually went over and corrected her form. Like there's more than one way to do it. Har.