"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, February 09, 2004
Stumbling through Memories
This is this weeks Blogger Idol entry. The topic this week was "Ooops," which is deuced difficult to write about, and its my fault since I suggested the darn thing. Ooops.
faux pas Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural faux pas /-"p?(z), -'p?(z)/
Etymology: French, literally, false step
1 : BLUNDER; especially : a social blunder
2 : my most vivid memories
There is nothing that burns itself into your memory quite like a socially challenged instant. I'm trying to decide whether to write about my own blunders or other people's Charlie Chaplin moments.
OK, other people it is then. Twist my arm.
The time of our lives when we are most likely to really mess up on stage is when we are teenagers, and it is really important to us not to do that at the same exact time in our lives. I saw my share of social stumbles and public displays of destruction, believe me, particularly since I spent my time in a resort town and everyone thinks they become invisible when they go on vacation.
I remember one time when I was riding in my Spitfire through the campground where I lived. Spitfires were little two seater sports car convertibles, and I loved mine. I was taking this guy somewhere, let's call him Rick because I can't remember his name, nor do I care to. Anyways, we were coming up to a bridge and there were a couple of really pretty girls in bikinis walking down the right side of the street.
"Hey, pull by real slow and I'll pinch her on the (blankety blank)," he said.
It was such a stupid statement I immediately dismissed it.
On the left side I saw my best friend, he was fishing in the lake by the bridge. "Hey, catching anything?" I asked.
"Nah, just a couple of big mouth bass, I threw them back," he said.
Suddenly, all in an instant, Rick was pounding on me and shouting "Go, go!"
I turned and looked, and the girl he had just pinched was pretty much mauling him. Served him right. I was laughing so hard I couldn't drive off right away, and she just kept plowing into him.
At least he had the grace not to hit her back.
I remember another time when my uncle wanted to bring his new girlfriend over to our house and introduce her to us. We were in one of those houses on stilts at the beach, so you had to go up the stairs to get in. The house didn't really have a front door per se, just glass doors on each side. We had opened them to the screens to let in the fresh air and the ocean breeze.
They come tripping up the stairs, and are all smiling and waving when BLAM the girl walks right into and through the screen door, which came careening into the living room.
Not one of her more graceful moments, I expect. The relationship didn't last very long.
But I think the biggest set of social blunders, by far, was committed one night by my best friend John. As far as faux pas go, this was a symphony.
We were about 16. We had to be, no one any older would have done something so idiotic, and we could drive so it had to be 16.
John and another friend of mine named Jeff had somehow gotten a big bottle of cheap vodka. At least I think it was vodka, it might have been grain alcohol. We'll call it vodka, easier to type. Anyways, they wanted to drink this stuff and did not have any mixers.
But Jeff, ever the resourceful one, worked at a tropical juice bar. He brought home a jug of the cherry syrup that they used to make cherry snowcones with to serve as the mixer. This stuff was concentrated flavor, cherry on nitrous, and just a little thinner than pancake syrup.
Yeah, you can see this one coming, can't you? So did I, which is why I didn't even have a drop of the stuff. I watched as they downed ice tea glasses that were about half vodka, half cherry syrup.
Needless to say, they were lit like a Christmas tree and getting brighter by the minute. So, of course, they decided it was a good time to go down to the beach.
We went. It was before the season, so it was deserted. Good thing. Within five minutes, Jeff was face down on the beach trapped with his shirt tangled around his head saying he wanted to go streaking but unable to actually do something coordinated, like stand up and take his shirt off simultaneously, and John was crying in a corner telling me how good a friend I was and please don't leave him right now.
Which is actually what I planned to do. When you are sober, it is like drunks speak a different language.
"No, PLEEEEEAAAASSSSE!" cried John in a voice that reminded me of a person who had just lost their entire extended family in a tragic accident involving marshmallows, "Please don't leave us! You're my besht friend and my onlys friend. Eversh."
I thought about it.
Jeff giggled from the beach, rolling around in the sand, still trapped in his shirttail.
"OK, but you guys gotta get some food in ya."
John was delerious with joy, and Jeff was, well, giggling but when we got him untangled he was fine with it. So we took Jeff's car andI drove.
"Wait, we gotta pick up Michelle too!" they begged. Michelle was a friend of ours, and was usually up for anything like this. Even though it was almost eleven, we stopped and Jeff talked her into going.
The only place in town open twenty four hours back then was a little local restaurant that I think was named the Golden Skillet or something. It wasn't a chain. It served everything from pancakes to seafood, and you could get any of it any time. The place was decorated in 1960's IHOP chic with the obligatory overweight waitresses carrying huge plastic golden pots of coffee all over the dining area all the time.
We walked in and sat down. Jeff and Michelle on one side, John and I on the other. The waitress came and brought our menus; Jeff, Michelle and I had coffee, John only wanted water.
John was not looking so good. I figured we better just leave him alone. He sat there real quiet with his water glass.
Jeff ordered fried shrimp. Michelle ordered pancakes, since she had been asleep it was morning for her, sort of. I forget what I had.
John ordered, well, nothing. He just sat there being real quiet with his water glass and occasionally mumbling something or other to it.
Other people came and went, including a table full of really large muscular African American football players/wrestlers/weightlifters/mafia hit men who sat down just behind us. These guys were the type that make chairs creak by just walking into a room, before they ever actually sit down.
Finally, here were the meals. The waitress dealt them out like cards with a practiced hand. Shrimp, cocktail sauce, side of fries, pancakes, maple syrup, whatever. We all dug in.
Except for John, he just sat there real quiet with his water glass. Apparently they had come to some sort of deep understanding.
The conversation got more and more boisterous, which happens when you have a drunk at the table like Jeff. The jokes grew more and more outrageous. All the while we are munching away at our meals, except for John, who is just sitting there being real quiet with his water glass and trying not to look at anyone, or move his head at all for that matter.
Finally, the situation crossed some kind of imaginary line, and Jeff thought we needed something even more outrageous at this point. He picks up a shrimp and studies it like a scientist looking at a new animal. "I wonder," he says, "What this would taste like," he pauses here for dramatic effect, "With pancake syrup on it?"
Another dramatic pause.
Then he dips it in Michelle's syrup and pops it into his mouth.
John, against his better judgment, has been following this. He watches the greasy fried shrimp dive as if in slow motion towards the syrup, sliiide across the plate, rise glistening and dripping with maple flavor and pancake bits, and vanish juicily into Jeff's mouth.
John dumps his water onto the floor.
Then he throws up, into the water glass, volume and capacity not being his strong points when drunk, apparently.
And it is bright cherry red. Everywhere.
John sits there stunned. The waitress runs over, and she also stands there stunned. It looks like John has exploded.
I jump up. "Please don't make a big deal about this, he has leukemia and he's real sensitive about it." Well, hey, I wasn't all that good at the excuse thing. But she seemed to believe it and ran off looking for a mop and a cloth.
"Maybe you better sit outside until we are done," I said to John.
"Umharrumph," he says, nodding his head and making unpleasant gurgly throat clearing noises. He stands up.
And tumbles backwards right onto all of the big huge African American guys behind us, who were trying their darndest to ignore us and enjoy their dinners, knocking them and their plates every which way.
"OOOOOHHH, MAAAN!" John exclaimed in a drunken slur, with a volume level that only a drunk can reach. "I'm sorrrry! I usually don't f*** with nig***s." (You can fill in the blanks, I'm sure.)
They all stood up like one person, with the intent of slowly killing John and then feeding him to the seagulls.
"No, wait, please!" I shouted. I grabbed John. "He's drunk, he didn't mean anything by it!"
I rushed him out to the parking lot and dared him to move from the car hood. He didn't.
On the way home, Jeff insisted on driving. He looked OK, so I said fine. (I would never do that now, btw.) We dropped Michelle off.
"Uh, Jeff," said John from the back seat. "I don't feel so good."
"Better pull over," I said. We did. I pulled the seat open for John.
He leaned forward and threw up on the floor of Jeff's car.
I walked home from there.
Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.
Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)