Thursday, January 30, 2014

Go Gators!

The University of Florida's mascot is the noble and terrifying gator, which was picked because of the reptile's scariness and ferocity. As with most college towns, the mascot is everywhere - painted on the sides of stores, formed into mailboxes - if you can picture something, there's a gator on it, or in it, or holding it.

Which was fine by me, since alligators are cool and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, I had one staring at me every time I looked out my second floor window for a few months while living in Gainesville.

Years ago I was hanging out on the front porch with some friends and roommates. It was Gator Stompin' night. Gator Stompin' was a Gainesville pub crawl where you won a T-shirt and alcohol poisoning if you finished all the stops.

Our house was a block from University Avenue, so we'd get stragglers staggering by screaming out the official call of the drunk: "Whooooooo!" Naturally, we'd have to "Whooooooo!" back. You have to answer back. It's just good manners.

We passed some time on the porch, hanging out, watching drunks, and trying to figure out what we were going to do with the rest of our night. Then we hear a "Whooooooo!" louder than any "Whooooooo!" we had previously heard.

We saw a sprinting guy grasping a five foot fiberglass gator statue in his arms, Whoooooooing all through the night, running and clutching the gator like his life depended on it.

We had seen that alligator before. He stood at the entrance of a liquor store on University. We were happy that he got the chance to finally see the outside world, so we put a little more oomph in our return "Whooooooo!"

About a minute after that we saw two cops chasing the guy and his alligator. The night was getting a little more exciting.

The guy dropped his alligator during the chase. The cops yelled not to touch it. Fine by us.

Of course, as soon as the cops were gone, someone re-stole the gator and hid it.

About 15 minutes later, we see the guy running in the other direction, Whoooooooing through the night, a free man again. I seem to remember he had a pair of those twist tie handcuffs on, but that could just be dramatic license.

Brushing my teeth the next morning I looked out my second-floor window and saw the gator in his new home, nestled in a tree so he could look in on me and my roommate Scott, making sure we had adequate amounts of school spirit.

He stayed up in the tree for a few months. The landlord always thought we did it, but this was one of the few hijinx we were actually innocent of. One day he was gone, which was sort of sad. I had really gotten used to his reassuring grin.

Over the years, I would see that same statue in a variety of different stores in Gainesville, with a variety of different paintjobs. But I could tell it was him.

Oh, and the guy who stole the alligator in the first place? Well, the cops swore us to secrecy, but I can now reveal that he grew up to become one of our nation's finest vice presidents.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Rival

While visiting the family for Christmas, I amused myself by rummaging through a drawer full of old photographs. There was stuff jammed in there from before I was born all the way up into the 2000s. I found lots of pictures of pets (Henry the Cat was a favorite, and might have had more photos taken than any other family member, R.I.P.), family vacations, and tons of photos of me and my sister holding fish.

I also found many pictures of me wearing clothes that hipsters would kill for nowadays.

Exhibit A.

I was looking for Halloween pictures, since my sister and I can't remember any of our costumes, even though we remember going trick or treating and wouldn't have gone in street clothes. That's just not done.

I didn't find any of those, but I did come across some photos taken at our big performance at this drama day camp we went to. And yes, I went to drama day camp. It helped me become the man I am today.

That's when I saw him. My middle and high school rival.

Actually, I never really knew the guy, so I don't know if you can technically call him my rival. No, you know what? Screw that guy. Yeah, he was my rival.

Let's call the guy Chet Goodwin. It's close enough, and have you ever known a good Chet?

He was my age, and took a lot of classes at the place my sister took ballet. This was enough to get me to dislike him, since I had to hang around the boring studio with nothing to do waiting for her after school. Chet was the star of the end of the year performances, at least according to my mom. And I guess he was, since there was a photo of him in among the rest of the pictures of my sister dancing.

"That little Chet Goodwin is a great dancer," she'd say. I didn't care, since at that age and in those homophobic times, dancing was strictly for dillweeds and gaywads,* but it might have bothered my sister.

He was also in the gifted program, like me (my mom was actually the county's gifted teacher, so there might have been some nepotism involved). I got to hear about how smart he was all through middle school.

Somehow my parents kept up with him, even though I think he went to a different high school than I did. I still got to hear about how smart, talented, and well-dressed he was. That last one didn't really bother me. I mean, check out that photo again. I was styling.

I swear my parents got some sort of Chet Goodwin newsletter or something, keeping them abreast of every fascinating thing that stupid kid did. Naturally, I hated him, even though we had never met. For years this guy was held over our heads as the ultimate teenager. I can even vaguely remember yelling out at the dinner table, "Well, why don't you adopt Chet Goodwin," although that could be one of my faulty memories.

As I drove home Christmas afternoon, Chet Goodwin was on my mind again. I hadn't thought of the guy in over 20 years, but now I hated him again as much as I did when I was a teenager.

"I'll bet Chet Goodwin gave his parents a Lexus for Christmas," I fumed. "And is probably with his photogenic and loving family right now cleaning the oil of sick pelicans with their spare hundred dollar bills."

I looked him up on Facebook as soon as I got home. I hoped he was homeless. I was so looking forward to calling my parents.

"Hey, we know some of the same people," I thought. "No relationship status, but kids. Shit, wonder if he got divorced or had a wife who died young? Aw, that sucks."

Maybe it was the lingering Christmas spirit or my concern over his poor dead wife, but I couldn't hate the guy any more. I mean, hadn't he been through enough? Plus, I have more hair, and am probably a better dancer nowadays.

Jealousy is a pretty stupid habit. Even worse is comparing second-hand stories and Facebook profiles to your own life. Everybody has their secret trials and tribulations, and people who you think have it all figured out are frequently as clueless as you are. I mean, poor Chet Goodwin had an imaginary dead wife. I didn't friend the guy or anything, but I did feel a little better putting our one-sided, long-dormant, and forgotten beef to rest.

I still told my parents that he was a homeless crack addict, though.

*These were actual insults at the time. None of the kids who slung them around had any idea what they meant. I still don't. I mean, dillweed?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I forget a lot of stuff. I'm constantly leaving phones, belts, wallets, and lunches at home. Although the lunch thing might be my subconscious mind telling me I make boring lunches and would much rather have a Cuban sandwich.

I've sort of accepted it, telling myself it's the price I pay for constantly have so much on my mind. I mean, you wouldn't yell at Albert Einstein to comb his hair, right? Or tell Isaac Newton to ....patch up his pantaloons or whatever they wore back then.

Like my fellow scientists (hey, library science is a science), the mundane world takes a backseat to my churning mind, which is busy postulating theorems and formulating equations. OK, I'm actually trying to remember the lyrics to Squirrel Bait's "Kid Dynamite" or trying to figure out the best time for a nap, but there's still a lot going on up there.

As stated before, at one point or another I've left just about everything I need at work at home, but I've been able to manage, even if I do have a long day of pulling my pants up because I forgot a belt or have to sacrifice my boring, healthy lunch for a Cuban sandwich.

But I never forgot my pants until this morning.

I was riding my bike for the first time since the Great Jacksonville Blizzard of 2014, and it felt good. Great, actually. I got to ride down a beautiful morning Riverwalk, and didn't even have too many problems with traffic. People were even using their signals!

I got to work early. Things were good.

Until I realized I didn't bring any pants.

Usually I have a whole spare outfit at work for just such an occasion. Just like the Mad Men on the TV. But I had taken everything home for cleaning, which I will never do again.

Crap, I couldn't ride all the way home just to come back to work. That's a whole hour. And I couldn't do that anyway, since I had to be at a senior center in 30 minutes. I was thinking that I might be able to pull it off, since I was wearing my bad weather biking pants, which are sort of like the parachute pants many of you remember from the '80s. If anyone noticed anything, I could just start breakdancing, hopefully leading to a little old lady rapping, which, of course, is comedy gold according to the movies.

I got the city car early and was able to rush home. Strangely, nobody at work noticed I was wearing parachute pants. My pants were exactly where I left them the night before, in a spot right under my messenger bag so I wouldn't forget them.

I didn't get to wow the old people with my breakdancing skills, but I learned an important lesson that morning, a lesson in organization and mindfulness - a reminder to always double check everything before leaving. Of course, I forgot that lesson 8 hours later as I left my phone at work, but I'm sure that I'll be more organized from now on.