One of the major themes of dinner conversation tonight was "horribly embarrassing things Ben did and said as a child." I could hardly believe the detail with which my parents and aunts and uncles described even the most trivial moments of my childhood. These are people that live their lives by written lists, can watch a movie over and over, each time as if it was the first, and attribute every slip of the mind to early onset of Altzheimer's. They can't remember why they entered a given room, but the moment any one of them mentions the purple underwear I wore when I was three, they all have something insightful to say.
It's always peculiar hearing embarrassing stories about my childhood. First of all, for some reason, every story anyone remembers seems to be embarrassing. And listening to them, I'm amazed at what a neurotic child I was. I was afraid of literally everything. Spiders. Appendicitis. The dark. The "Wild Things" from "Where the Wild Things Are," and also the boy, because he had sharp teeth. Monsters. The garbage disposal. The neighbor's dog. Blood--and accordingly, getting my period--a fear which my father, the doctor, really should have talked me out of. Electrocution. Electrical sockets. Being stranded at the supermarket. When I went to the barber, I designated which tools he was allowed to use--a list which included little more than scissors, and nothing involving a cord or batteries. Raccoons. Wolves. Ghosts. I was afraid of every ride at Disneyland except for "It's a Small World." I was even afraid of the man who played Goofy, because his whiskers were giant spikes, and I imagined they would impale me. He seemed to be lurking around every bend, and I would show him how loudly I could scream.
Childhood neuroses aside, I'm never sure how to react to tellings of these stories. Everyone at the table looks at me as if I should be embarrassed, and I act accordingly, though, like I said, it's a peculiar sensation. I don't remember doing these things, I hardly feel responsible, yet I feel like everyone is looking at me as if I did them this morning. I'm not sure I have anything in common with who I was when I was three, and the relationship seems fairly arbitrary--hardly worthy of embarrassment. It would be the same if I was assigned responsibility for the actions of a different three-year-old, and every time he did something completely ridiculous, I was in some way responsible for the decisions he made. Because yes, in some form, it was me that swallowed the safety pins. Yes, my tiny hands ripped through the side of someone's uncut wedding cake. I was the one who threw the kitten in the pool, and goddammit, I refused to wear anything but purple underwear. But I didn't do those things this morning.
12.24.2002 Ben's International Tour! Catch him at any one of these exciting locations!
December 21-28: Sunny California! December 29-January 1: New York City! Possible home of the 2012 Olympics! January 3-10: Tourist heart of Holland: Amsterdam! Amster-damn! January 11-25: Connecticut. Connnecticut sucks.
I keep having these from-across-the-room, that's-the-girl-I'm going-to-marry moments. I've always had them, it's the influence of the movie industry. Movies have taught me that a certain look, always from across the room, generally when each of the two parties involved is immersed in some group of people, is indicative of future marriage. In movies, it's often in a flashback, which is peculiar, because naturally, my experiences take place in the present. But, again, I have always done this.
My first year at Bard, there were three immediate candidates for the that's-the-girl-I'm-going-to-marry position, none of which I still talk to. One of them I still have yet to meet, and the other two proved less than enchanting in the world of reality. Which always happens. People are never quite what I expect them to be, because, again, movies have taught me that that enchanted exchange of eye-contact signifies perfect compatibility in every conceivable respect. This happens in the cafeteria, this happens on buses, pretty much everywhere I go. I imagine it happens to most people. I imagine that most things I experience happen to most people, I feel more comfortable that way.
12.16.2002 So we put on a big comedy show. I'll probably write something more substantial about the show, if only so I can remember the details, but I think it went well.
There are a few poorly-written newspapers at Bard, the most established of which is the Observer. The night before our show, one of the writers for the Observer asked if he could interview us at some point. Dave and I agreed, but only on the terms that the journalist come up with eight questions, we come up with eight answers, and the two sets of dialogue be shuffled together without any editing. We would never see his questions, he would never see our answers--at least not until publication--and the end result would be a nonsensical article that could potentially be funny, or at the very least, offensive. Offending Bard students is more fun than bowling.
But apparently, according to the journalist, we may have missed the Observer's deadline for submission of articles, so it may not be printed. So, for fear that it may not be printed elsewhere, and because we took the time to write it, here are our eight answers:
(B:Me, D:Dave, and I apologize for posting something with so many Bard-specific jokes. Hopefully it will hold up in at least some respects.)
B: So I was walking around Amsterdam, tripping on mushrooms, and I thought, "You know what Bard needs? A better campus center. And also, a comedy troupe." Anyway, so I spent the first part of the semester attempting to build a new campus center, out in the woods by the soccer fields. But then I found out that that was the intended location for the new Old Gym, and I was like, "My work is done." So then all I had left to do was start the comedy group. D: So I'm walking around the soccer field and I see this kid from my Neuroscience class with two screwdrivers and a cinderblock. I say, "Yo, what are you doing?" he says the following: "I'm building a new CC!" I told him about the New Old Gym and he looked pretty contented. And then I just followed him for like twelve weeks, which brings us to now. And also, Joel was there.
B: That's an easy one. D: Ben and I were in the same...(Joel walks in) Hey what's up Joel? J: Nothing. Hey, what were you guys talking about? D: How me and Ben were in the same...(Tavit walks in) Hey Tavit! What's up? B: What's this? A fucking party? We're doing an interview here! J+T: This isn't a party? D: Oh wait, it is a party. Why are we doing an interview at a party? (Nicole walks in) B: Oh, hey Nicole, what's up? D: Ben, I'm talking to you. J: Dude, that's my girlfriend! B: Jesus Christ, Joel, we're just having a conversation. D: Nicole, HIGH FIVE!!! (high five)
B: The "Abortion" sketch. I'm glad you brought that up. There have been a lot of rumors going around about that lately, and I'd like to address them. Admittedly, we took things too far. But in our own defense, it's not like she won't be able to have kids again. We didn't put the video in the show because things were running long, but even if we had, I don't know whether it would have been funny. D: It would've been funny and you know it. B: Can we not do this right now? D: That's what she said! (both laugh) B: ZING!
D: Well, no, I wouldn't call them tech "problems." B: No, more like tech "champagne." D: What does that mean? B: What do you mean, "what does that mean?" D: That's a good point. What do you think, Evan? E: "Tech champagne," all the way.
D: Why the disclaimers? Well, as a rule, I try not to take responsibility for anything I do. B: Like the time you stole those Fritos from the cafe? D: I didn't do that. B: Come on, Dave, I saw you. And anyway, you should be proud to have pulled off such a heist--what with their extensive security measures and all. D: I didn't do that. B: Just like you didn't steal all those cups from Kline? D: I bought those cups. B: If by "bought," you mean "took from Kline by the hundreds," then yes, you bought those cups.
D: Back to the disclaimers thing, though, we were just worried that people might be offended by our sketch "Swastikats." B: But really, off the record, we were just afraid of having to appear in front of a judiciary board. D: I hear it's like Moderation, but like ten times harder. B: Really? Shit, man. D: Totally, man, shit. And it's not like the parking tickets Security gives you, you have to tell your parents.
D: Yeah, I've heard a couple people say that one of our posters was homophobic, and personally, I'm offended. First of all, the idea of a poster being scared of gay people is ridiculous--it's inanimate for G-d's sake! And secondly, what's so wrong with being afraid of gay people? B: This is neither the time nor the place for this. D: I'm just saying! Some people are afraid of spiders, some people are afraid of bears, I'm afraid of gay people. A gay person stole my wallet once! Do you have any idea how much of a hassle that is?
B: Well, I think we'd both definitely like to continue writing and producing comedy next semester. D: And I've been thinking about putting-on a funny version of Drag Race, where laughter and casual sex come hand in hand. B: And I'd like to visit Montreal. I've never been, and I hear it's delightful. D: At least once in my life, I'd like to say "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" B: The piano. Lately I've really been wishing I knew how to play the piano. D: And I'd like to write, or at least translate, the great American novel. B: And also, I'd really like to start dating Joel's girlfriend, Nicole. D: Ooh! Ooh! Me too!
12.2.2002 Halfway through a one-mile drive, I rolled down my window. "I'm sorry, Officer, was I speeding?" I hadn't been speeding. I hadn't run through any lights. At the speed I had been moving, I had hardly been driving at all. This wasn't about a traffic violation. This man either wanted directions or a handjob, neither of which I was keen on giving him. "No, you weren't speeding." "Well, then what seems to be the problem?" Maybe my tail light was out. Maybe he was doing me a favor. Maybe this wouldn't be like every other interaction I've ever had with a police officer. It was actually worse. "I'm writing you up for not wearing your seatbelt." I looked down at my chest. "But I'm wearing my seatbelt." "Well, sure, you are now." "But I've been wearing my seatbelt." "You weren't wearing it when you turned left at that light." "Yes, I was." Yes, I was. "I was behind you, and I don't think you were." "Do you think you saw me put it on?" "No..." "But I'm wearing it." "So? "Wouldn't you have seen me putting it on if you were behind me?" "Well obviously not, because you weren't wearing it." I wanted to get out of the car and start walking. This was ridiculous. All of his logic was circular, and there was nothing I could do to argue with him. On top of that, my arguing with him had made him angry, and the likelyhood of him giving me a ticket was growing with every exchange. He asked me where I was going, where I had come from, a few more questions that had nothing to do with seatbelts. He took my license and registration, bringing them back nine minutes later with a carbon-copy ticket and a date for me to appear in court.