Where Did I Go Wrong? – 2. The Other Sock Story

I realize it’s particularly brave to start a collection of stories talking about socks. Writing about something so audacious, so edgy, this early on could easily alienate my audience. Millions of people could read that first story and realize that this collection of memories is far too rich for their blood, and go find something a little more laid back and easy. But I’m such a wild rebel that I’m going to follow that up with another story about socks, or in this case a sock.

First, the background. In the previous story I mentioned a Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadowcast. Henceforth we will just call it Rocky. If for any reason I need to bring up the Sylvester Stallone boxing movie, I promise to point out that we’re talking about a different Rocky.

For those of you who don’t know what a Shadowcast is, it’s when a group of people come together and act out a movie, in a movie theater, while the movie is playing on a large screen behind them. To some of you this probably sounds like an incredibly absurd idea. Congratulations, you’re sane. For those of us in Rocky though, sanity was a nuisance we rarely encountered.

I spent approximately three years involved with Rocky, first as a regular audience member every Saturday night, and then on cast (I played Eddie and Riff-Raff for those who might care).

Now, when you put on the same show every Saturday night for mostly the same audience for multiple years, you have to find ways to spice it up on occasion. One such way was to do theme shows. One such theme show was the Disney show, where everyone dressed up as Disney characters and acted out the films (completely raping your childhood in the process). The Halloween show was always fun, because all bets were off. I’ve seen Frank-N-Furter played as a Pregnant Nun (who gave birth in the dinner scene) while Brad and Janet were Jack Skellington and Sally.

The theme show that will be the focal point of our story is the lingerie show. Now, Rocky is at all times very sexually charged. It’s not just the movie on the screen, it’s all of us gathered together dancing around in corsets and high heels (even the guys on occasion). So the lingerie show is really just an excuse to maximize the titillation. With this in mind, I decided to be funny (or at least my best imitation of funny). While everyone else was going to Victoria’s Secret (or more often her slutty STD-riddled, jailbait sister Fredrick’s of Hollywood), I had devised an entirely different plan. I showed up that night dressed in a thick bathrobe, and some humorous boxer shorts. I explained to everyone that it was male lingerie. It’s the kind of thing your dad would wear when he wanted to feel sexy.

But that was only the start of my dastardly plan.

Near the end of the show my character was supposed to change into a skimpy spacesuit with fishnets. I will to this day proclaim that my calves look AMAZING in fishnets, and that’s not something a lot of straight guys get to claim. However fishnets weren’t on the menu this evening. I had decided for my finale to come out wearing nothing but a sock.

Mind you, it wasn’t on my foot, it was a strategically placed sock. I’ll try to avoid being too graphic, but there is some information you need to have at this point. When attempting to wear a sock strategically, there is only one way to do it. You place the most obvious part of your anatomy in the sock of course, but then you must also tuck in the two other pieces of anatomy. This prevents you from exposing your anatomy to the world, and helps keep the sock on. Also, it keeps your anatomy warm on those cold lonely nights.

This may be a good time to point out that the theater we were performing in was a very upscale facility. Glass chandelier, hard wood floors, film festivals coming through on a regular basis, and I’m running (very carefully) around the building wearing a sock.

Now, this seemed like a hilarious idea when I came up with it, but I know me pretty well (I’ve been around me most of my life after all), and I knew I was going to chicken out at the last second. So I took all of my clothes, and handed them to a rather large security guard who worked for the show. I told him to take all my clothes and throw them in the theater. Under NO circumstances was he to return them to me, no matter what I said.

With about a minute before I need to go out in front of over 200 people wearing nothing but a sock, I start freaking out. I began threatening a man at least thrice my size with physical violence if he didn’t go and fetch my clothes forthwith. He threatened to throw my sock into the theater as well. And then it was time for my entrance, and the professional actor that I am could not miss my cue. So out I went.

The audience thought it was kind of funny at first, but it wasn’t until I slowly walked in front of all of them that the full effect sunk in. As row by row of people got to see my butt wagging in the breeze, and realized I really was wearing nothing but a single sock, secured in place only by my anatomy, the laughter built rather rapidly.

A few more notes on this performance. Rocky is a musical, and usually we sing along with our characters in the film (you don’t have to, but it’s considered better if you do). At this point in the film my character is singing some VERY high-pitched notes. For those of you who don’t know, when a man is singing VERY high-pitched notes, things tend to shift. The things I’m referencing are the very last things in the world that I wanted shifting at this moment, the things that were in fact, holding the sock on. I quickly realized that I needed to abandon singing along tonight, or abandon what little dignity I had left. Later there is a moment where my character takes a very large and exaggerated step to the right. As that moment arrived I had a moment of fear that was clearly shared by the audience. Such a largely exaggerated movement could liberate me of the one thing I valued above all else at this moment, my sock. In unison, as if someone had held up a cue card, the entire audience yelled “NO DON’T”. Once again professionalism kicked in, and I made the step. It was very nearly the last step I ever made.

Oddly none of my cast mates could look me in the face, and there were a lot of people having issues keeping from busting out laughing. Haven’t they ever heard of being professional? I mean really. You’d think that someone wearing nothing but a sock was somehow shocking or abnormal. After the show, comfortably ensconced in my bathrobe once more, a young lady from the audience approached me and asked if she could have the sock.

I was perplexed. I tried to explain that the sock had another sock that it went with, and that they were meant to be together. If I gave her this sock, then I would have a completely worthless sock sitting at home. She insisted upon her desire for the sock, and offered me $5 with which to go buy a new pair. I conceded, and even signed the sock upon her request. The next week I was rewarded with a picture of the sock hanging proudly on her wall.

Tragically we may never know the true fate of the sock that lost its partner that night. It lived for a time in my trunk, but I haven’t seen it in some time. I’m forced to assume that it escaped late one night, and even today it’s traveling across the country seeking its long lost partner.

My infamy was short-lived however, as a couple months later the actor playing the eponymous character of Rocky Horror performed his entire part naked.

All in all, another normal evening at Rocky.

It is worth noting, that many many years later I received a very curious email. Inside this email were several photographs of me dancing around in a sock that fateful night. High-quality photographs. Very high-quality digital photographs. At first I was disgusted, “oh man, what the hell was I thinking!?” Then I noticed how much thinner I was back then (still not thin enough to make me look the least bit appealing in these photos, but thinner than I am now). And then I promptly saved them all to my hard drive to threaten my friends with from time to time.

I am a little concerned with the fact that somewhere out there is a man with a hard drive full of these photos. I’m pretty sure this means I can’t run for President….then again, considering some of the Presidents we’ve had, maybe I should make them my campaign poster.

Vote Jeff, when you’re tired of candidates with shame and dignity!

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Where Did I Go Wrong? – 1. The Sock Story

This story takes place, as so many great stories often do, when I moved into my first apartment. If nothing else, I feel it will properly illuminate how horribly unprepared I was for real life. I had moved into this place with a coworker of mine and a girl who lived on our couch (the actual arrangement was a lot more complicated and murky than that, but that’s not the story you’re here for).

I moved into this apartment the first semester of college, and it was my very first taste of living on my own, with two other people. Ok, perhaps it’s better to say that it was my first time living with people who weren’t related to me. Daniel, my co-worker, will feature in many more stories. Stacy, the girl, probably will not. There are three facts necessary to fully understanding this story, two of which I shall reveal now, the third will be revealed as it was to me.

Fact One: my mother is a very loving woman, although possibly a little crazy. And as it was my very first trip out in to the scary and frightening real world (a whole 30 minutes from my parents house) she wanted to be as supportive as possible. Thus she did my laundry for me. This was helpful as I’d never really done my own laundry, and I pictured my first attempt quickly becoming a Three Stooges film with only one stooge (i.e. ME). Years later I did teach myself how to do laundry, with surprisingly few injuries, and my mother was proud.

Fact Two: in between moving out of her last place and moving into our new place Stacy had packed all of her worldly possessions, and most importantly all her worldly clothing into her car for a couple weeks. It was broken into. Stacy ran the local Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadowcast (which I promise we will address in future stories, don’t worry) and appealed to everyone to donate to her any clothes they could. What she received were the clothes that even Rocky Horror freaks refused to wear. To better help you picture what I’m talking about, know that a couple weeks later she was assumed to be a prostitute while walking down a street one day. This is not due to her demeanor, as she’s quite a lovely person really. This confusion was due entirely to her crazy hodgepodge crack-whore dumpster-diving style wardrobe that had been donated to her.

And now our story begins.

As the weeks go by, I begin to notice that I’m running out of socks. It’s an odd problem, and one I’d never encountered before. It was such a gradual process that it took quite some time for me to even be sure it was happening, but when I finally realized that I only had two pairs of socks I knew something was up. My first assumption was that Stacy was stealing my socks, and I didn’t begrudge her that, considering that her entire wardrobe was a malfunction. So I went out to Wal-Mart and purchased myself some more socks.

A few months go by, and I am again down to two pairs of socks. Only this time Stacy was no longer living at the apartment. Daniel swore he did not touch my socks, and my search for magical sock-stealing pixies had come up completely empty. Remembering a book from my childhood I even checked the local flora to see if any of them looked like sock-eaters. They did not.

At this point I began addressing my concerns with my mother. Let me repeat again that my mother is a very loving woman, but she doesn’t always trust that I know what I’m talking about. Her first suggestion was that all my socks were just tucked away in corners of my apartment and I wasn’t looking hard enough. I assured her that I had SCOURED the apartment looking for socks (I left out the hunt for pixies or socknivorous plants). Her follow-up solution was that I must be hiding them.

Hiding my socks….from myself…..in case I felt an overwhelming urge to wear them I suppose.

Twenty pairs of socks, hidden away in air vents and inside beloved stuffed animals. This is what my mother was picturing at my apartment. Or perhaps her deranged imagination roamed ever further than that, perhaps she thought I had some stashed in a safety deposit box, or that I’d opened a Swiss Sock Account overseas in order to protect my socks in an unstable economy. Whatever was occurring within her increasingly demented noggin, she was adamantly CONVINCED that my socks had NOT vanished, and I’d find them if I just looked harder, and ate more vegetables, and stood up straight. Those last two have ever been my mother’s sure-fire solution to any and every problem I’ve ever had. If you add to that list “get out in the sun more”, you’ve got my mother’s cure for cancer.

By this point I had become OBSESSED with socks. No matter how many packs I bought, I always ended up with just two pair after a couple months. My mother denied anything was happening in the laundry, and Stacy was in another city entirely. I started having dreams about sleeping on a bed made entirely of socks. I would sit in class and just look at a cute girl’s socks and think “Oh how lucky she is, she has SOCKS.” I was alone in the desert just looking for a drop of water. A few poorly stitched together swathes of cotton were all I needed to get through my day. I’d even considered calling up Stacy and asking if I could borrow some clothes, that way I could start turning tricks for just a single pair of these modern marvels.

Finally, in a moment that could only be described as a fit of insanity, I went to my local Wal-Mart again (where I was now known as the sock guy, because I told my tale of woe to all that would listen) and bought an OBSCENE amount of socks. I STORMED to my parent’s house and shoved them in my mother’s face all the while screaming “THESE ARE SOCKS! I OWN THEM! THEY ARE MINE! THEY EXIST! THEY ARE NOT HIDDEN!”

My mother took my fit in stride, as she does most of my insanity. She simply looked at my fresh new wonderful GLORIOUS socks and said “Those aren’t the kind of socks you wear. Those are the kind your father wears.”

I don’t think words can ever properly describe what went through my mind at that moment. Everything simply clicked. My anger evaporated, and I was very briefly left with a complete and total understanding of the universe. I believe I may even have seen the face of God. I understood everything. I hadn’t been crazy all this time. It all made sense. All I’d been lacking was one tiny, almost insignificant fact.

Fact Three: For the past several months my father’s sock drawer had become overflowing full. For no reason he could figure out, he now had to use TWO sock drawers just to contain all his socks, even though he wasn’t buying any. He mentioned this to my mother several times, but she had no explanation. In all likelihood, she accused him of not really knowing how many socks he had to begin with, and that he was being silly for thinking he was acquiring more of these tiny little treasures.

To reiterate, while I was spending months yelling at my mother about how my socks were disappearing, my father was complaining to her that he was accumulating an ungodly amount of socks for no reason. The only person in this entire story who KNEW both sides of this issue, the woman doing the laundry for all the relevant parties, the woman who was unshakably certain that this entire fiasco was somehow MY fault, was my mother.

This became my favourite story to tell for a very long time, especially when people would wonder about why I have a deep and abiding appreciation for good socks, or why I have so many pairs of socks. With every telling of this story, it grows in length. I think if I tell it just a couple more times I can make a feature-length film out of it.

My mother, of course, always hates me telling this story, because she feels like it casts her in a poor light. She has said many times that I never tell HER side of the story.

One day I sat down with her, and very calmly asked her for her side of the story. I asked for her side of how she spent months listening to me complain about my vanishing socks, and my father complain about how his socks were reproducing like tribbles, and never put the two of them together. I BEGGED her to explain her side to me. I pleaded for the illumination to finally understand what must have been going on in that well-meaning but incredibly mixed up brain of hers. In the name of fairness, I will now share with you what she told me.

She paused for 30 seconds, gathered her thoughts, looked me straight in the eye, and said “I’m sorry.”

Suffice to say, I never groan when I get socks for Christmas, and neither should you. You never know how precious they are until they’re gone.

Where Did I Go Wrong? – Prologue

I’ve long felt that the greatest tragedy of my life is how unprepared I was for reality. All the books, games, and movies I enjoyed growing up promised me grand adventures. While life can often be an adventure, and this collection of stories proves that mine has had quite a few, I expected a more literal interpretation.

I spent my youth prepared to be magically whisked away to another land where I was a prophesied hero, and I had to lead an oppressed kingdom to victory over a tyrannical ruler (who was probably an evil wizard, or a dragon) and all I had to help me from my world was a yo-yo, which the natives of this magical land had never seen before. I’m actually still a little miffed this never happened. I could have overcome overwhelming odds, met new allies, made the epic speech about friendship that inspired our final victory, and finally turned down my place of honour in the kingdom to return home.

Actually, that last part always bothered me. Why does the hero always choose to return home? Seriously, you want to go from being a hero of the realm back to your job as a bag boy at the local grocery store while trying to make rent so you can finish putting yourself through college? Screw that, bring on the accolades and groupies!

I never did learn how to properly wield a sword, but I swing a mean baseball bat. And besides, these adventures never required the hero to be formally trained in a particular discipline. If you were good at video games, you got whisked away to a land where life WAS a video game. If you liked reading, then inevitably you were the only person capable of reading the notes left from an ancient civilization that unlocked the key to victory. All you had to do was be YOU, and victory was sure to follow.

I used to lay in bed at night and pretend to be a hero who could travel between realities, a hero who could go into any book I’d read, or game I’d play. Once there I could participate in the stories, slay the evil, get the girl, all the good stuff. Of course in that case, instead of staying or going home, I’d just head on to the next adventure. Somewhere out there, in the landscape of imagination, some version of me is spending all of eternity going from one grand adventure to another. I secretly hope someday I’ll get to meet him. Hell, maybe he’d even be willing to trade places with me for a while, the guy probably needs a vacation.

The problem with all of these stories, and the ideas they give a young man, is that reality is far from that exciting. In our reality, you get a job as a teenager, and you keep having a job until you retire as an old man. Most of the money you earn from that job will go to pay the bills that keep you alive. Things you have to have, like food, a place to live, and of course the internet. Seriously, if tomorrow they figured out a way to make money unimportant, so many people would never work again. It’s all a very far cry from saving a princess, slaying a dragon, or becoming a great sorcerer.

Now, as I grew older and wiser, I realized that real life was an adventure too, if we looked at it just the right way. Instead of finding some long lost artifact, we hunt for happiness and joy. We still make allies along the way, we call them friends. We slay beasts as we go, self-doubt, pity, loneliness, jealousy. In the end we can declare a victory, as we look back over our life and realize that we have lived a life we are proud of. We may not always like our job, but our job isn’t our whole life. And if we pick your friends well, we can totally make those over-the-top friendship speeches that always seem to ensure victory. How exciting or enjoyable our life is, is entirely up to us. Never let anyone take that from you.

Although I still think I’d make a rockin’ Legendary Hero of Prophecy, just in case there are any magical kingdoms out there looking to recruit new talent.

But even with all of that, there comes a time in a man’s life where he has to honestly stop and take a look at himself. This is rarely a good idea, and it never ends well. I, like many people, spend the majority of my life in a haze of shameless egotism to avoid exactly this kind of confrontation with reality.

Recently however, I slipped, and took a long look at myself in the mirror. I’m 28, overweight, I live with my parents, and despite occasionally working on film sets, I’m essentially unemployed. This can’t be the way my life was supposed to turn out. I understand that I’m never going to be called upon to slay dragons, or right great wrongs, but surely I’m capable of living a productive and relatively self-sustaining life.

What happened? We all start out with potential. When we’re kids we’re all told that we can grow up to be anything we want to be. At what point did I decide I wanted to be an unemployed fat bum mooching off my parents when I was almost 30? I swear I never saw that at career day. And let’s not forget my love life…actually, it’s probably better if we do.

Somewhere along the line, I messed up. Somehow my life jumped off the rails and crashed, leaving behind the remains of my self-respect and dignity. There has to be a way to fix this, it can’t be too late to turn myself around and start heading towards a reasonable life goal. I have to be able to rid myself of this feeling that time is marching ever onward, and I’m just spinning my wheels.

The only thing I can do is look back over the memorable events of my life, and try to determine where I jumped the rails, and I’m taking you with me.

Maybe between the two of us we can sort this out.