category: There Will Come Soft Rains

Super Laze

If you ask any relative or family friend about my early childhood, they won’t mention a “security blanket” or a favorite stuffed animal that I carried everywhere. They’ll mention a cape.

When I was three or four I went to a day camp during the summer at a local elementary school. Miss Judy was my group’s leader. Though I don’t have many memories of her, I do specifically her taking me into the women’s bathroom to wash a cut or to get me stop crying. And I remember when she gave me “the cape.”

“The cape” was really nothing more than a red scarf made of a very thin fabric. But when it was connected my neck with a safety pin, it became Superman’s cape. I wore that cape everywhere

August 1979   August 1979
August 1979, Super Laze relaxing with dad and Dutchess in front of the TV.
 
August 1979, Could I have been more super? With the cape and sitting behind the Superman pillow, I was ready to leap tall buildings.

Everything I did, I had to be wearing that cape. And I’d even make my stuffed animals wear a cape: by putting a white handkerchief transforming Sylvester the Cat into Super Sylvester…

October 1979   October 1979
October 1979, Celebrating a birthday with my cape and a Spiderman cake.
 
October 1979, Surprise! I was Superman for Halloween. And Sylvester was ready to fly, too.

If that cape was in the wash, a dishtowel would do. And I was also fortunate enough to have several pairs of pajamas with capes that would work, in a pinch…

December 1979

Christmas 1979, Wearing my Superman pajamas mismatched with my Battlestar Galactica cape.

“Give my my presents or I’ll burn a hole through you with my laser vision!”

I must have worn that cape for another year or two, because I specifically remember playing with my sister (who was born just before the last picture above was taken) acting as Clark Kent (without the cape) and reappearing as Superman (with the cape) seconds later. Though I would occasionally pose as other superheroes (I would use a mesh-like blanket, yelling “wae-hee-hee, wae-hee-hee” to imitate the noise of Spiderman casting his web), but deep down inside, I knew I was really the Man of Steel.

Rest assured: I still have the cape. And it still fits. Up, up, and away!

Bowling: Still Innocent After All These Years

Growing up, I played a few sports for quite a while. I got pretty decent at both baseball and soccer due to my small size and relative quickness. I even ran track. But that doesn’t really count, since I quit after the second practice (almost as long as I worked at AAA).

I played baseball every year until I got into high school. One year they called me “the white Vince Coleman” after I stole nine bases in a single game (each one three times, including home). Another year, I was batting dead last in the lineup and came up to bat in the bottom of the last inning with two outs and we were down by two with the bases loaded. I cranked out an inside-the-park grand slam to win the game. The next game I was batting clean up. Surely, my finest moment.

My success in soccer was much less, though I wasn’t all that bad. I was generally a defender and even though I was tiny, wasn’t afraid to stand up to guys that were eight inches taller than me and outweighed me by 60 pounds.

Bowling team

Dig those hiked up sweatpants (far left, 1989)

But the sport I was best at was bowling. If you’re going to say, “But bowling’s not a sport!” just shut up for now and pretend it is.

I started by bowling in Saturday morning leagues at Medford Lanes. I bowled with Jason, my best friend from middle school, and we were paired up with two older guys, Ken and Todd. Since Ken and Todd were veterans, we let them decide on the name for our team. The first year, the plan was to be the “Erection Connection.” Scary thing is, we were allowed to keep the name (thanks to Janet, the very cool older woman who ran the league), but our name was never announced out loud. I believe we may have won the championship that year, even though Jason and I were still pretty green.

The next year we teamed up again, this time as “Sexual Chocolate.” We didn’t win the championship, but still managed to do quite well. I even took lessons from a pro during the week. If my memory serves me, this was the year that I bowled my high game and high series. If we were unable to make it on any particular Saturday, we were allowed to pre-bowl earlier in the week and our scores would be counted. One week, I pre-bowled and threw a 231, my high game. The other two games in the series were good enough to put me over 600 (meaning I averaged a bit over 200 per game). I was the only one that could celebrate my good luck, though, since I was bowling alone. In fact, that Saturday there was a big controversy because the opposing team thought I had cheated. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and they realized I wasn’t the type to cheat, but it wouldn’t be the last time that I’d be accused of such at that bowling alley.

Bowling team

The Bitter Bowler (far right, 1992)

During my sophomore year of high school, I joined the school’s bowling team. I was only on the JV squad, but I still managed to do relatively well. If I had kept bowling, I probably would have made the Varsity team the following year… and I would have kept bowling if my coach wasn’t such a prick.

Two or three weeks into the season, it became almost depressingly funny how Mr. Bacon would always come up to me at a match and say, “Are you on the Shawnee squad?” despite the fact we only had nine guys on the whole team. I don’t think he and I ever had a single conversation the entire season, and I doubt he learned my name.

By the time the end of the season rolled around (har!), I was kind of on the fence as to whether or not I’d bowl during my junior year. We closed the season with a match against some other area high school, which didn’t count for a whole lot since we were both middle-of-the-road teams in the standings. The lanes at Medford were acting funny that day, though, where the foul light would go off when it clearly shouldn’t have, so both teams agreed to ignore the foul lights for the rest of the match and score normally. My turn came around and the foul light went off and I wrote my score with a wax pencil on the overhead scoresheet (no electronic scoring then, folks), ignoring the foul. Mr. Bacon came up to me with the coach from the other team and flat out accused me of cheating. He ignored me when I told him that both teams had agreed to ignore the foul lights since they weren’t functioning correctly (and the other team validated this). I couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t even hear my side of the story when he should have been defending me to the other coach. If he had any clue as to my personality, he would have known that I would never have cheated, especially on something as inconsequential as bowling. He pushed the fact enough that I decided then and there that I was done with school bowling for good. He was an asshole to me all year and it culminated on that last day.

These days I don’t bowl a whole lot, though I’ve picked up the frequency a bit in recent months. I still manage to average about 150 and could probably hold my own in a league, but I haven’t joined one. I think the fear of being accused of cheating still looms over my innocent head.

Thanks, Mr. Bacon.

My Journals

Journal

My first journal entry.

A few weeks ago I came across all of my old diaries/journals, dating back to when I was 5 years old (my very first entry from just over 20 years ago: “NO FRIENDS, TO PLAY WITH”). Though I haven’t kept a journal consistently, I have had a number of journals over the years that represent very distinct parts of my life:

  • 1981-1983 [ages 5-7]… These were in a blue notebook that was originally my mom’s high school notebook. My writing got significantly better from start to finish. Drawings of football players were interspersed with mispellings like “poboly” (probably).
  • 1983-1987 [ages 8-11]… I was an angry kid and it really shows in this journal, but I also kept track of standard everyday events and signficant life-events. The second entry talks about a trip to a friend’s house to play Smurfs on his Colecovision (mispelled as “Colocovishon”). Interestingly, this journal also mentions my first kiss (and has the girl’s name, Cindy, which I had forgotten until I rediscovered this journal). Some days my entries were simple: “7/8/1985: Shit.” And other days, I made very astute observations like, “1986 would not be anything without: Rap and girls.” Amen, brother, amen.
  • 1988 [age 12]… I kept this journal for our trip to California when I was in sixth grade. I was more concerned with writing down the names of the attendants on the train ride than any deep thoughts about my first trip to the left coast.
  • 1992-1994 [age 16-18]… During my high school years, I kept a journal on my Laser 128ex Apple II-compatible. I chronicled my (limited) dating experiences as well as my thoughts on the high school that I hated with every fiber of my being. I went five years without reading these entries, and when I went back to do so after hooking up my old computer, I was absolutely engrossed. I spent an hour a day for three straight days following the story of my life like I was an outsider. I could feel my stomach tensing up during certain points and had moments of lucidity about other events a full seven years after the fact.
  • 1997 [age 21]… This brief journal was from the first semester of my Junior year of college.
  • 1998 [age 22]… This journal was from my trip to Vietnam with Huyen and her mother.
  • 2000-current [age 24-current]… I now keep my journal on my computer, once again. The entries are sporadic, but now I see how valuable looking back at old journals can be, so I try to make each entry worthwhile.

I keep my current journal using DavidRM’s The Journal software, which is simply outstanding. I’ve transferred all my entries from high school to this new program and added an extra “Afterthoughts” tab that allows me to pontificate on the grander meaning of earlier entries. I have begun to type the entries from my Vietnam journal and plan on transcribing ALL of my old journal entries into this program, including scans (if necessary) of my early entries. I also plan to add a tab for my dream journal, which I’ve kept for over a year now.

I always felt like I never wrote enough in terms of journal entries, but looking back at the various journals representing most of the major portions of my life, I realized I actually wrote quite a bit. Combine them with my blogs and these “Soft Rain” entries and I think I should have some pretty good material for my biography when I’m 50.

(See also: Daily Ping)

The Best Blog There Never Was

Screw what anyone says about blogs becoming old news. In my opinion they’re at their very best right now, thanks to sites that follow Paul’s theory. But there’s one major problem with even the best blogs.

They’re all written by young people.

By young people, I mean those between 15 and 30. Maybe one of the reasons that I love reading these blogs is because I can relate to them. But the best blog is one that I don’t believe currently exists: a blog written by a senior citizen.

Grandpa at the computer

Let’s get him on Blogger.

I was always enthralled by my grandfather’s stories of how he ran away from home during the Great Depression and rode the rails as a hobo. How one time he had strapped himself onto the side of a train’s ladder with his belt, holding a loaf of bread and waking up to find the belt hanging from a thread and the bread in his hand gone as the train sped down the tracks. How he was an extra as a Native American (despite the fact he was Polish and nowhere near Native American) in the Cary Grant/Claude Rains film The Last Outpost. I would love to read a daily blog written by someone in their mid-80s. Not one talking about how they played Bridge that day, but recounting stories of their past, preserving their family history on the Web.

By the time one reaches 80, there are enough experiences to blog every day for years, discussing how major events like wars or political movements affected them and their families or how perceptions of people of different races or religions have changed over the years. There’s so much interesting content out there that’s not being passed on.

What about those eldery people that have no families, or that are sitting in a rest home and don’t have people to listen to their stories? A new family could be waiting for them online, eager to hear their tales and perspectives. Life in a nursing home has got to be so tedious—what better way to remind the elderly that they are important to us and that they do have something important to say than to let them tell the whole world? There’s so much potential.

As I was listening to Mena’s excellent audio blog entry and reflecting on this particular entry of my own, I was reminded of a project I did with my grandfather when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was a biography of my grandfather that I wrote called My Grandfather the Hobo. For it, I interviewed him on tape and just having him tell stories that I could use in my project. I know that that tape still exists somewhere (being a packrat helps sometimes). I’d love to get some of my grandfather’s stories posted to help his memory live on.

So the next time you talk to your grandmother or great uncle, ask them about a story you remember being told as a kid. Ask them about your parents. And then ask them what they’d think about sharing their stories with the world.

Rhyming at the Prom

I wasn’t exactly the most popular kid in high school, and I’m pretty sure that Matt Wilson would have shunned me, but I did OK for myself. I didn’t really have any enemies, I was pretty quiet, and I got along with most people. In fact, I went to three proms during my tenure at SHS.

Unfortunately, all three were pretty weak.

For my Junior Prom, I went with the girl I was dating at the time. We weren’t exactly the happiest couple in the world, and we ended up having a pretty miserable time. A month later was her Senior Prom. We spent most of the time hanging out with other people and broke up three days later.

So, my Senior Prom came around and I was determined that it was going to be a good time. The original plan was to go with my ex (we had become friends again), but she backed out about a month before the prom (another long story). A friend of mine heard about this and offered to go with me. Her long-term boyfriend (yup) said it was OK with him, so we were set… until she realized that her SATs were the day after the prom (she was a junior). Time was ticking and I was starting to sweat a bit. However, another friend was going through a similar ordeal, so we decided to go together “as friends,” so neither of us would look lame (little did I know that another girl, one that I had a semi-crush on, was going to the prom alone).

Prom day came and we were set. One of the traditions for the proms was that Mr. Steinmetz (a teacher at the school who also did a “morning show” over the loudspeakers each morning) would DJ the prom and also videotape it. Looking back, I have respect for him because he did a pretty damn good job at doing both things. But at the time, I was holding a grudge.

Earlier in the year I had given Mr. Steinmetz a tape of mine to play on his morning show. He played it and proceeded to say how it “sounded awful” and was “a total mess.” Sure, it may have been true, but it angered me, nonetheless.

I didn’t give up. During our senior trip to Disneyworld a few months before the prom, I got his home number from his daughter, who was in my grade. Another tradition of his was to give out his number to a select few people each year during the senior trip and have them call in and leave messages on his answering machine, which he would then play the next morning for the whole school on his morning show. I called up late one night with a freshly-written rap about the trip. When I returned, word around school was that he absolutely loved the fact someone left a rap on his answering machine and that he proceeded to play it six or seven times the next morning.

Back to the prom.

Steinmetz would interview each couple as they walked into the prom. He’d ask their name, who was the senior, where they were going to school, etc. So when my time came, I decided to slightly annoy Steinmetz (and, not purposely, embarass my date). “What’s your name?” he asked. I grabbed the mic, pulled it close to my face and said “Ryan MacMichael. Laze.” [ View the 56k Real Video ]

When we got into the prom itself, I got this weird idea that I wanted to perform. Sure, I had never performed in front of more than a few people (though I was prepared for a battle of the bands that was cancelled), but that didn’t matter. While other students were up at the DJ table making requests for various stupid pop songs, I asked him to let me rap. “I don’t have any music for that…” He was trying to blow me off. I said, “I’m the guy who left the rap on your answering machine from Florida.” He perked up. “Oh! That’s you? That was great!” and he agreed to let me rap later in the night.

Time went on and I bugged him a few times to give me my chance. He kept putting it off. So I decided to pull out the heavy ammo. I asked Mr. LaBrot to bug Steinmetz into letting me perform.

Laze, Rhyming at the Prom

I tore it up at my senior prom.

Mr. LaBrot was a first-year teacher that I had for history. We got along great because he was fresh out of school and into hip-hop. Mr. LaBrot can be seen in the background of this shot. Apparently, this was a good move, because just after midnight I was allowed to go on.

There I was, in my tux (sans jacket) in front of 500 people. Kids I had gone to elementary school with, crushes of years past (and present, at the time), and teachers looking on. I only had a short time, so I asked the crowd to give me a beat by clapping their hands. Unfortunately, they started off way too fast and I said, “Come on, now, this isn’t techno!” and they slowed down. I recited a slightly modified verse of one of my songs called “Styles Upon Styles.” The video footage started mid-verse:

… a universal message with a style that’s all my own,
I told you last record, I’m the lyrical Al Capone,
Mi say, “You stupid punk *” like mi name was Scarface,
But mi not Al Pacino so mi take Carlito’s Way,
I snatch the mic and it’s like a metamorphasis,
People say, “Of course it is!” ’cause the mic is what is forcin’ this
Crazy state that I’ve been put in,
My eyes glaze over and saliva turns to pudding,
Start foaming at the mouth ’cause I’m so excited,
Ready to rock the mic with the band that I invited,
The microphone lord I am, long like an accordian,
Speakin’ of the mic cord, I am, it’s like Freudian,
No lyrical loitering, ’cause I be like enforcing rules,
Ten years gives me tenure in the new school…

* which I edited from “fuck”

Yes, I actually said that I was “long like an accordian” in front of 500 of my peers, while dressed in a tux.

I finished up and encouraged some crowd participation by asking people to “represent” by “[making] some noise” when I yelled out their town.

I think I surprised a lot of people because I was “that shy, quiet kid” up there rhyming like a maniac. When I had rhymed in front of the 8th grade four years earlier, I got similar reactions: “I had no idea that you did that…” Back then, everyone and their brother wasn’t an emcee.

The response was awesome. Being able to watch the video pan across the crowd and see the smiling faces is something I cherish to this day. The fact that these were friends of mine digging what I was doing made it a special, memorable moment for me.

Of course one person had to ruin the otherwise perfect moment. She was a classmate and had helped organize the prom. I heard after the fact that she felt my performance was “inappropriate” for the prom. That’s OK. She was a stuck up, snobby, rich bitch anyway.

My senior prom was pretty uneventful since my date and I only went as friends and spent most of the night with other people, but the minute or two I had to perform will standout as the best memory from the three proms I attended. Too bad I had to spend $150 on each prom to get that two minute memory.

Now… I know you’re dying to see and hear the video, right?

Have at it (low quality 56k streaming).

(If you want a higher quality version, download this high quality version, about 850k.

Faux Activism

Through a link on Poofle, I was checking out WeCanDoThis.com, a “central headquarters for unique activist projects aimed at making the world a better place.” It’s a moderately interesting idea, but check out the very first sentence describing one of their first projects:

To protest the outrageously high price of movie tickets and concession snacks, DON’T see a movie this Friday July 13th. Just wait until Saturday.

So, let me get this straight. The message they want to send is, “We don’t like expensive movie prices but our convictions are only strong enough to protest for one night. And then we’ll come the next day and give you the money we would have given you anyway.” Activist, my ass.

F Hollywood

She has the right idea. Take note, Hollywood.

Activism isn’t passive. Activism isn’t a temporary shift in thought. One day of lost profits won’t make a bit of difference, especially when the profits won’t really be lost at all, just delayed until the next day. It’s a weak attempt to send a message… a way for people who like to complain, but don’t have any real drive to make change, to feel like they’ve done something good. Remember the National Gas Out?

Real activism would be “They don’t deserve your money today. And they don’t deserve it tomorrow or the next day, either.” My advice: screw Hollywood and their consistantly awful movies. Screw Stephen Spielberg and his self-serving attempts to make social statements. And screw each and every person that succumbs to the mentality of “summer blockbusters.” Go to a theatre that shows true independent films. Buy or rent an international film on DVD. And if you simply must see Gone in 60 Seconds II—oops, I mean The Fast and the Furious—or the new Julia Roberts movie, go to a matinee and don’t buy a thing at the snack counter.

I do give these guys credit for trying (and for presenting opposing viewpoints on their web site), but I feel they’re going about “activism” the wrong way. These limited boycotts aren’t going to send a message, no matter how big. The only way to get changes made is to cause a fundamental shift in the thinking of the American public. It won’t matter if Johnny Q. Public avoids a movie on Friday only to pay to see it on Saturday. It will matter if Johnny decides to take his money elsewhere because the movie, the food, and the atmosphere is awful, and instead supports local business ventures that more directly support the artists. And no, I don’t consider Julia Roberts an artist.

Go, see a movie. But ask yourself this: Am I supporting an industry that consistently churns out cookie cutter “entertainment” or am I supporting actual art, actual talent, and actual people rather than giant Hollywood corporations?

Names, Fire, Basketball, and Gerber

On the small cul-de-sac that I grew up on, there were only nine houses. However, in those houses there were two Brians, myself, and a girl named Ryann.

That introduction doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the story. I just always thought it was kind of cool.

One summer day I was over Brian #1’s house shooting some hoops in his driveway. Brian #2 was also there. For some odd reason, both Brians thought it might be fun to light a small fire in the leaves in front of Brian #1’s house. I continued shooting baskets, not really having the same kind of pyromaniacal obsession that the Brians did (especially #2).

The fire started to spread into a large circle. Quickly. Brian #2 started to panic, attempting to stomp out the fire himself. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he was going to need some water to put this fire out, so he asked Brian #1 for some. But for some reason that, to this day, I can’t figure out, Brian #1 said, “Not from my house!” He was refusing to provide the water to put out the fire that was starting to spread towards his own house.

After a few more seconds of yelling back and forth, Brian #1 agreed to provide Brian #2 with water. But only “a little bit.” I kid you not, he handed Brian #2 a bucket with a half-inch of water in the bottom. Needless to say, that little bit of water did very little to aid in putting out the fire.

I was still shooting baskets, refusing to get at all involved with something I knew was going to get these guys in trouble.

Basketball and Fire

I didn’t do anything. I was just shooting baskets.

The panicked yelling back-and-forth continued until Brian #1’s mom came out of the house. When she saw the fire, she flipped, running back inside to call 911. Within a few minutes, we had two firetrucks and several police officers on the scene. And by this time, Brian #1’s mom had hooked up the garden hose. I guess she didn’t mind using her own water to put out the fire.

The fire never got fully out of control, though it certainly would have if it had burned for much longer. The fireman gave us all a lecture about the dangers of fire. Oddly, one of the fireman was Gerber’s grandson.

(Begin sidetrack moment…) Gerber was one of the legendary men that everyone knew about but nobody had ever seen. Among kids, the common question was “Wanna go to Gerber’s land?” He lived deep back in the woods behind our development and had NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere. It was a rite of passage to be able to say that you had been on Gerber’s land. His land was especially popular during the winter because, supposedly, it had good hills. Even my dad told me a story one time about when he jogged on the trails in the woods and accidentally wound up on Gerber’s property. He was chased off the land by Gerber’s infamous dogs. Gerber’s grandson appended to his speech to us, “And by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever been back there, but don’t trespass on my grandfather’s property.” (End sidetrack moment…)

Brian #1’s mom was pissed with Brian #2, but I think she almost expected something like that from him…

(Begin sidetrack moment…) Brian #2 was pretty notorious for getting in trouble. One time in fifth grade, we were standing in the hallway when our principal Mr. Learn walked by. Mr. Learn was a large redheaded man with a pretty high-pitched voice. He was always even tempered, except when he dealt with Brian #2, his archenemy. As Mr. Learn passed, Brian attempted to show us that he had big time balls and said, “Hey, Learn” just loud enough so that we could hear him but so that Mr. Learn couldn’t. Or so he thought. Mr. Learn stopped in his tracks. He turned around, his face beet red and steam coming out his ears. He stomped back towards Brian, who was standing right next to me looking terrified, and picked him up by his neck, off the floor, and slammed him against the wall. “Don’t you ever say that again!” he yelled like I had never heard before. He dropped Brian and walked away. Brian was in shock. I don’t know how that incident was ever resolved, but I know that his parents eventually did get involved. (End sidetrack moment…)

… but she was ultra-pissed with Brian #1 for being such a dumbass. The fire could have easily been contained with a quick spray from the garden hose, but Brian #1 was being stingy for a reason I still can’t comprehend. She was also annoyed with me for not having played mediator between the two Brians and just continuing to play basketball during the whole event.

The large black circle in the leaves in front of Brian #1’s house reminded all of us for a long time exactly how stupid three kids can be. We were Monkey See, Monkey Do, and Monkey Who Won’t Give Up His Water.

Sunburnt

The summer before my senior year in high school I went with my best friend to Ocean City, NJ, a typical New Jersey shore town. It was nowhere near as nice as Wildwood, where I spent many a summer at my grandparents’ house, but it was still a good, relaxing place.

During this particular trip, our first trip to the beach together, I ran into some problems as the day went on. I should state here that my best friend at the time was a female and was also an “ex” (a label I don’t much care for). Because of that fact, I was a tad distracted and not really thinking about things like my fair skin and sunscreen. I figured, “Hey, I need a tan. How much do I really need sunscreen?”

Do you see where this is going?

We spent plenty of time on the beach that day, more than I usually did at one time. Around dinner time, we left the beach and drove to a nearby co-worker’s beach house for a little get-together. As the party wore on, I felt my back starting to get a little sore and tender. When it was time to leave, about 9 at night, I was in absolute agony.

My back was burnt. Big time. So my friend put aloe all over my back and we made the drive home. I was grouchy and couldn’t even let my back touch the seat.

Sunburnt back

Click through to feel the pain.

Now imagine this: the next day I left with my family for a trip to New Hampshire. Anyone who’s ever had serious sunburn knows that it takes a few hours for the pain to start, but the real hurting doesn’t start until the next morning. The drive to New Hampshire (yes, the drive) almost drove me insane. By the time we got to our destination, my back was in such bad shape that I couldn’t even wear a t-shirt because any contact on my back sent seering pain through my nerves.

So, here I was, at my dad’s friend’s house in New Hampshire for the first time, walking around all weekend without a shirt on and a severely burnt back. But wait—it gets better.

While there, my back began to blister. And you know what happens to blisters eventually, right? They pop. And when they pop in mass all over your back, the pain is unbearable. Each night I had to lay on my stomach and someone would pour aloe on my back to help ease my suffering. It didn’t help, though. I was miserable for the whole trip. My dad decided it would be a good idea to take a picture (see right, be sure to click through) to remind me to never forget the sunscreen again.

So, now, I pass along to you this extremely gross picture to remind my fair-skinned friends out there on the web: don’t forget the sunscreen. Ever.

Muddy Monday the 13th

Mud

No, this isn’t me. But it’s some other guy who’s muddy.

It was May 13, 1985. I was in fourth grade.

That afternoon, I was playing on the playground after lunch, enjoying the smell in the air after the previous night’s rain. For whatever reason, I was running after my friend Adam when I saw him step in a mud puddle, slip, and slide into it, full-body.

About the time I saw him start to slip, I realized I had no chance in hell of stopping myself from following suit. I began my slip-and-slide into the large mud puddle as Adam was finishing his. As I came to a halt, my clothes covered in mud, Adam and I looked at each other, realizing the ridicule that would follow. A girl from our class started things off by yelling “Safe!” and motioning like an umpire.

But the most humiliating part was yet to come.

We were sent to the nurse’s office for a change of clothes. Mrs. Gilday pulled out this large cardboard box with scraps of clothing in it and told us to pick out some clothes to wear. As Adam I rummaged through it, a wave of panic swept over us: the Bradys would have been embarassed to wear these clothes.

Striped tube socks

Why did these ever go out of fashion?

I ended up picking out some incredibly tiny shorts that were entirely too short for me and a pair of thin white tube socks with the stripes on them. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about (see left). The shirt was a remnant of the 70s even moreso than the rest of my styling outfit.

Adam was even worse off. He was bigger than I was (in both height and girth) and the clothes in the box were not only from the 1970s, they were fit only for small second graders.

We returned to our respective classrooms and took the expected ribbing from our peers. Even my teacher got in on the fun calling me “Mark Spitz.”

Moral of the story: Monday the 13th is worse than the Friday the 13th. Especially when it rains on Sunday the 12th.

Foley *is* Good

I got my copy of Mick Foley’s Foley is Good in the mail last Wednesday (via PA, thanks to UPS) and in five days, I finished the 450+ page hardback.

The thing is, I am “in the process of reading” five or six books at any given time. And when I sit down to read, it’s usually before bed (or in the “reading room”—you know, the one with the porcelain seat) and I just knock off a few pages (a chapter, at most) and then go to sleep (or flush). But in less than 24 hours, I tore through the first ten chapters of the book, much like I did with his first, Have a Nice Day.

Foley’s a damned good writer. He tells a story like that uncle everyone has: when he starts, you’re mesmerized until he’s done. And then you ask for more.

Mick and Funk

Mick Foley and Terry Funk

One theme running through the book is how real life is faker than wrestling. I’m still amazed when people say, “Oh, you watch wrestling? It’s so fake.” But at this point, it’s well documented just how hurt these guys can get. Sure, the endings are choreographed, but the way a match is put together can be a work of art. The fact is, that compared to many things in “real life,” wrestling so much more real.

Mick mentions a 20/20 interview he did a little over two years ago. I remember seeing it. It was a story about the phenomenon of backyard wrestling, where bored, untrained kids are beating the hell out of each other with light bulbs, cheese graters, barbed wire, just like Mick has done for years in Japan. In the “investigative report,” the interviewer shows Mick a video of these trailer park kids seriously risking their lives. Mick responds, “Looks like a bunch of friends having a lot of fun together.”

I was surprised that Mick would answer this way. He was normally very intelligent, and surely he wouldn’t condone untrained kids trying stunts like that.

Turns out, he didn’t condone it. 20/20 just made it look like he did.

What actually happened was that the interviewer showed Mick a video of backyard wrestling that mainly involved basic stuff like leg drops, flying elbows, and fake punches. To that video Mick responded, “Looks like a bunch of friends having a lot of fun together.” When Mick was shown the video with the cheese grater and other dangerous weapons, he said it was rediculous behavior and “even made a plea for the kids to stop.”

The moral is: investigative reporting is nothing more than creative editting to draw viewers in.

Mick also discusses his shock at finding out that nearly all sports “autobiographies” are ghostwritten. One such book about a baseball player was written after only a 30-minute interview with the subject.

Writers or lyricists that rely on ghostwriters are fakes. Period.

Mick also attacks our legal system as being particularly “fake” as well as many journalists (like one who repeatedly said that the Rock was a bald-headed racist who was anti-women, anti-black, etc.—not realizing that the Rock is black and has a full head of hair). One particularly poignant moment comes when Mick is talking with fellow wrestler Al Snow while they’re at a typical Hollywood party and Al declares that “And they call what we do ‘fake’?”

Though generally a collection of wrestling anecdotes and stories about Mick’s family, Foley is Good ends with a seething attack on so-called “watchdog” groups that like the PTC, who point to the WWF as the reason our society is going down the tubes. An interesting connection that Foley makes is that the current head of the PTC, L. Brent Bozell III is the son of a former speechwriter for Joseph McCarthy. Yes, that Joseph McCarthy—the staunchly anti-communist senator that made baseless claims in order to ruin other lives and advance his own popularity. Now people like Bozell are taking in six-figure incomes heading up a supposed non-profit organization that vows to get “filth” off your television. Can’t get much faker than that.

I enjoyed Foley’s second effort quite a bit. Though it wasn’t quite as engaging as his debut, it was extremely well-written with a good sense of humor. He has a knack for storytelling and the anti-PTC chapter showed that Mick can do some research as well (the cited sources/bibliography is significant). Foley is good… really good.