Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt

My roommate Todd and I were hanging out at our friend Keith's apartment one night around '95 or so. We were all supposed to head down to the Hardback for some show that, from what I can remember, none of us were really that psyched about, but there was always the possibility of adventure, and we were getting in free so what the hell? Plus, after working at my friend's store earlier that day I had an extra 20 bucks that was ready to be converted into fun.

We drug our heels leaving Keith's apartment, reluctant to leave whatever kung fu or weird video he was playing for us at the time, but it was close to midnight, so we started our walk.

We usually walked down 2nd avenue. At least I think it was 2nd avenue. Whatever street the Covered Dish was on. We had all walked down 2nd to the Hardback a million times, in groups, alone, whatever. Yeah, it probably wasn't the safest thing to do, but nobody ever had a problem, so we didn't think anything of it. Even those of us with cars rarely thought of driving down there. In fact, I loved walking home from the Hardback on a nice night, my drunken footsteps clomping down the street like Frankenstein while I sang to the sleepy city (I distinctly remember "Kids Don't Follow" by the Replacements) on the way home to eat half a pizza, play some records too loud and pass out. Many was the time I would sneak out early to walk home like this, enjoying being young and drunk, my ears still ringing from Spoke or Radon or Don's Ex Girlfriend or whoever I saw that night, happy and content from the night's fun.

This night we were walking one street over. It was dark.
Periodically, one of us would mention that we should probably get on 2nd, which had traffic and streetlights and stuff. The other two would agree, but for whatever reason, we kept walking.

I was telling this amusing story about this panhandler trying to get on my good side by asking about Barney Fife when two guys jumped out of a side street. The guy in front pointed a gun at us.

"Get on the ground, motherfuckers."

I suppose this is one of those moments where your life passes before your eyes, but I felt strangely detached, like I was watching the whole thing on a movie screen or something. I was obviously terrified, but still felt strangely calm about the whole armed robbery thing.

"Throw your wallets on the sidewalk."

We emptied our pockets and threw them on the sidewalk in front of us. Somehow in the confusion I was able to keep my wallet, but did throw my 20 dollar bill on the sidewalk. This would end up being a major chunk of our muggers' bank, since Todd and Keith had like 2 or 3 bucks apiece and some maxed out credit cards between them.

"Count to 10. You get up before 10 and you're dead."

I'm not sure if we counted all the way up to 10 or not. I do remember Todd and I were so broke, even pre-robbery, that we scrambled for the change we left on the sidewalk.
When we got to the Hardback, everyone was buying us beer and pretty girls were telling us how glad they were we weren't dead and hugging us.

I could tell Todd and I were both thinking of a way to keep these good feelings going. How suspicious would it be if we said we got robbed next weekend?
The next morning, as I put on my shoes for the Walk of Shame back home, my hands started shaking.

"Holy shit. I could have been shot last night. Or I could have seen one of my friends shot." I wouldn't really say it was a panic attack or anything, but I remember being almost paralyzed with...fright? Delayed reaction? Who knows. These feelings would fade later that afternoon and be replaced by all the Jackie Chan moves I should have inflicted on our muggers.

"You wanna mug us,? You're not so tough now that I kicked that gun out of your hand, huh? Now hand over your wallets."

We had filled out a police report and everything, so we went down to the police station later that week and got to look through folders of mug shots. It was obvious we wouldn't recognize the guys, and we ended up laughing at the mug shots after like the third folder. Our favorites were the people that were smiling proudly like it was a school photo or something.

So remember, stay on well-lit streets, and if you really don't want to go somewhere, sometimes its better not to go.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Dirty Thirties

My birthday is next week. I'm gonna be 38, which is way too old to be as immature as I am. It seems like just yesterday 30 was the default 'old' age. Not ancient or anything, just more "Hey, what's that dude doing hanging out over by the keg?" "I dunno, he's like 30 or something." "Yeah, well he's freaking out all the girls, somebody needs to tell him to get home to his History Channel."

Guess I'll have to revise that figure up to 40.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

I had a couple out-of-town friends over about a year ago. After giving an awe-inspiring library program, we grilled up some food and stayed up late into the night discussing important matters.

At some point my wife snuck off and went to bed. Perhaps she didn't really want to know the learned panel's opinion on who was the better Black Flag singer, or hear about '80s skinhead battles or overhear discussions of that girl that in retrospect, I totally could have done it with had I played my cards right.

When we came inside, the TV was still playing TCM. Bob Hope must have been on, because I remember one of my friends exlclaiming, "Man, fuck Bob Hope."
I seem to remember the friend in question had tried to watch some of Hope's old movies, but the casual racism made him turn them off.

Or maybe that's just the kind of controversial comments my friends and I are likely to make.

I was thinking of that outburst a couple weeks ago when I finished up "Pictures at a Revolution," this book about the making of "Bonnie and Clyde," "In the Heat of the Night," "The Graduate" and some others I can't think of right now. At the end of the book, Martin Luther King, Jr. has just been assassinated, so the Oscars are moved back a couple weeks out of respect. Bob Hope was the host, and his opening remarks were pretty much, "I don't see what the big deal was, why would you move these important awards." Then he made a bunch of corny jokes and ranted about the crazy new movies of 1968.

That in turn reminded me of the story of Bob Hope playing Gator Growl. Gator Growl is UF's annual pep rally, and is supposed to be the biggest or longest-running in the world or something. They've had pretty big comedians there - Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Carrot Top, pretty much everyone has done it.

Sometime in the early '80s Robin Williams was the host. He made a lot of jokes about his penis which scandalized the alumni. I'm making a leap here, but I would assume that gay hairdresser, John Wayne and tough black guy made an appearance as well.
So after that, the committee decides to entertain old school style and bring the comedy stylings of Bob Hope, along with the lady that sang the "Fame" and "Flashdance" song.

So Bob Hope comes out first and makes it obvious he doesn't give a crap about being there. He's filming his appearance for a TV special, and isn't looking at the student audience and repeating his lines over and over.

So the students start booing Bob Hope. This pisses off the showbiz legend, who stops with the WWII-era wisecracks long enough to tell the assembled crowd to shut up, which only increases the booing.

Bob Hope leaves, pissed off, and the "Fame" lady takes the stage. After a couple seconds, it becomes obvious that she is lip syncing. Nowadays, that would be acceptable, but in the '80s, people still expected their live entertainment to be live. So they start booing "Fame" lady who rushes off.

What to do now? The kids have booed Bob Hope and the "Fame" lady, so the people behind Gator Growl have to do something to regain the crowd. So they launch off the fireworks. Which might have worked, had they not been aimed into the crowd.

That firework thing I'm pretty sure has been exaggerated throughout the years, but I know the Bob Hope stuff happened - when I worked in News and Public Affairs at UF we had huge clip files of every time UF had ever been mentioned. On a whim, I looked up Bob Hope's file and found a letter from the PR department that was really, really kissing his ass and begging him not to say anything bad about the school. I really should have copied it.

So where was I going with all that? Oh yeah, fuck Bob Hope. And Bing Crosby, too. Kid-beating bastard.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Here Comes Sickness

I've had a fever of about 100 degrees since Thursday. I even got sent home from work yesterday. Luckily the weather turned bad the last few days, because nothing is worse than being sick when the sun is shining and the world is laughing at you lying on the couch watching Godzilla movies.

So I guess I'm going to have to go to the doctor tomorrow. Going to the doctor is always a crapshoot; sometimes I get the good one, sometimes I end up with the guy who just tells me to, like, just drink some juice and get some rest instead of using the hundreds of years of developments in medical technology to give me some medicine rather than tell me to do stuff I sort of figured out myself, then take 30 bucks for it. Plus, I feel this doctor tries to "go downtown" more than is absolutely medically necessary.

On the plus side, I came up with at least one side-splittingly funny post last night. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember anything about it when I woke up and the Nyquil wore off. How about if you just drink some Nyquil and pretend that this rambling post is that hilarity?