Where Did I Go Wrong? – 8. The Night I Went Blind

This title isn’t meant to be a figure of speech, or even an exaggeration. This title 100% accurately depicts the events I’m about to share with you. There is only one new character for this story, Gertrude. I’d like to take a moment to point out that I’ve replaced the names of all my ex’s in this book with old lady names, because it amuses me. Gertrude and I dated for a couple years, and for a while we were in Rocky together. We’d actually met at Rocky, which may tell you more than you’d like to guess about the type of person she is. In her defense though, I never had a complaint about her as a girlfriend. Even my friends who didn’t like her didn’t have anything negative to say about our relationship.

The setting? The drive home from Rocky. I have previously addressed how exhausted you are after Rocky, and that 45 minute drive home feels like it takes years. It’s actually thanks to three years of driving home from Rocky well beyond the point of exhaustion that I can now confidently drive however long I want under any conditions without fear of falling asleep at the wheel. I’ve probably clocked more miles half asleep than I ever have awake.

Now, Gertrude and I had a very fair and simple division of labour to make that drive as pleasant as possible. Every week I would drive, and she would sleep in the passenger seat. It was a good arrangement, because…ummm…yeah that just sucked.

This particular night it was raining, and raining HARD. Luckily we were about the only car on the road. This is lucky because it was raining hard enough that I could barely see the road. I began driving by Braille. This is when you put your tires on top of the dividing line so you can feel it bump on the little safety thingies. I’m assuming that’s what they are there for.

Now, I drive remarkably well in rain for a Texan. Most Texans see rain and just decide to live in their car on the side of the road for a couple weeks until they get over the whole mysterious “water from the sky” thing. And we’re not even going to begin addressing the issue of Texans driving on ice or snow, the state just shuts completely down.

This is where our story takes a turn for the worse. I glanced off to the left, I don’t know why, I’ll never know why, the reason for this decision will always remain a mystery to me, but the consequences are something I’ll never be able to forget. Just as I look over there I see a lightning bolt hit a giant transformer. After that all I see is blue. Baby blue. Undifferentiated, no shades or hues, it’s solid blue. I’m going down the road at 60 miles an hour in treacherous weather, and I’m blind.

One of my greatest attributes is being calm in a crisis. I knew I couldn’t start freaking out, because it’d wake up Gertrude and she’d start freaking out, and we’d crash, and we’d die. So I very gently reach over and wake her up. I explain to her very calmly that I need her to take the wheel of the vehicle and slowly move us onto the shoulder. I tell her I’m going to start gradually decelerating, and that everything will be fine. I honestly feel I should get some bonus points for thinking that quickly on my feet. Stuck blind by lightning, I don’t swerve or slam on the brakes, I arrange for the passenger to slowly go for the shoulder while I gradually decelerate. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I’d like a trophy or a plaque for that kind of intelligence under fire.

And here’s where you get to learn a little bit of Gertrude’s back-story. Not long before we began dating, she’d been in a very bad car wreck. She had metal in her leg, and some serious post-traumatic stress issues. It was not uncommon for her to start wigging out and crying if I turned a corner too fast, or bumped a curb. Once, with a car full of people, I actually had to pull over to the side of the road and calm her down after a car cut me off in traffic. She had issues with cars. So you can imagine her reaction to being woken up in the middle of a car ride home, when it’s raining too hard to see more than a few feet in front of us, we’re going sixty miles an hour, and the driver is blind. To say she begins freaking out is an understatement.

I can’t recall her exact words, I was a little focused on my own personal crisis, but there was a lot of sobbing, high-pitched screeching, and the phrase “Oh my God” over and over again. Normally when she yelled something like this, it was under much more pleasant circumstances. These were not pleasant circumstances.

Now, I’m blind. And I can’t help but having a thought flash through my head really quick.

I’d heard about a film called Blue, which is a documentary about a man dying of AIDS, and about two thirds of the way through the film the man goes blind, and all he can see is blue. The film itself represents this by having the last third of the film be a nice light blue, and all you can do is listen. This had me thinking that maybe all blind people see blue. It’s not like they’d know it was blue, so they couldn’t tell us. We assume they see black, but that’s a pretty big assumption.

So with that racing through my mind, and the fact that I can’t make out ANY shapes or hues or variations, I’m honestly concerned that I might be blind for life. What am I going to do for the rest of my life? I can’t be blind filmmaker! I’d end up with practical jokers for Cinematographers who’d make sure the film was pointed at the floor the whole time, and assuring me it’s the greatest footage ever filmed. I could still write, sure, but I’d have to hire someone to actually type stuff for me. Imagine if I wrote an entire novel or screenplay with my fingers one key over from the home row. Almost everything I enjoy in life involves SIGHT, and now I may have lost it for good. This is so much worse than not having socks.

I don’t have time to deal with that fear though, because this entire situation with driving has completely flipped Gertrude out. So I’m trying to calm her down, which means staying calm myself. We sit in the car with her sobbing, and me trying desperately to make out ANY sign of my vision returning. Gertrude had many great qualities, but I’m still amazed how in this situation she didn’t even once seem to think about me or my fears. Still, keeping her calm kept me calm, so if we wanted to pretend we could claim that she was actually pretending to be freaked out because it was the only way to keep me calm. Truly she was just being self-centered.

After about 15 minutes my vision began to come back, and once I could see again, Gertrude calmed down and went back to sleep. Why shouldn’t she? She’d just been through a horrible traumatic event, it must have worn out her already exhausted body. Me? I’d just had a peachy keen time, so it was only natural that I should drive the rest of the way home.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, but it will remain one of the scariest moments of my life.

Where Did I Go Wrong? – 7. Lycanthropy and Nudity

Now I’ve been holding off on this story because I felt I needed to establish trust ahead of time. Now that I’ve told you about me dancing around in a sock, perhaps you’ll believe me when I say the following sentence. I had a friend who was a werewolf.

That’s really another one of those sentences that should be an entire story.

I know it’s a fantastic claim. I’m essentially saying that werewolves and possibly other mythological creatures actually exist in this world. Thanks to Twilight there are now legions of young girls desperately waiting to get accounts on emonsterharmony so they can date them.

It’s an incredible claim, and I can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was in fact a werewolf, but I will present to you the facts at my disposal, and allow you to draw your own conclusions. Mind you, if your conclusions differ from mine, they are the wrong conclusions. However, I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even when it’s the wrong one.

This goes way back to my first job as a teenager. I worked in a grocery store. It was there I met Daniel (who showed up in previous stories) and Kyle (who will show up in later stories).

In this store was an employee I now only think of as Werewolf. He had a proper name, I’m sure of it, but it’s lost to the mists of time. I can’t remember what caused me to think he was a lycanthrope, but something told me he had to be. I started calling him Werewolf long before the epic night I’m about to describe for you, and he never tried to correct me, so that is one strike against him to start.

Now, Daniel is a crucial part of the story. Daniel, Werewolf, and I all worked in different areas of the store, and had different schedules. This particular night Werewolf was going home before any of us. When he left, it was night time, and there was a full moon.

About an hour later Werewolf’s dad came into the store, and went to Daniel’s area (it was the customer service area, and the cash office). Werewolf Sr. tells Daniel that he is there to collect Werewolf’s clothes, which had been left in the parking lot. Daniel non-plussed hands over a stack of clothes and Werewolf Sr. leaves. I will testify to those facts in court, because I witnessed them first-hand.

Now, it’s not every day someone leaves ALL OF THEIR CLOTHES (that includes underwear) in a parking lot. So I asked Daniel if he knew any more about it. Apparently on a quick trip to his car for something, Daniel noticed all of Werewolves clothes in the parking lot, spread out in a line, underwear and all. Daniel picked them up, and was planning on giving them back to Werewolf the next day. However the sudden appearance of Werewolf Sr. made those plans obsolete.

My question was this: how does one leave all of their clothes in a line in the parking lot. And how does that kid’s father come in to pick them up without any degree of shock or embarrassment on behalf of his child? Seriously, if this had somehow happened to my child, I’d be a little sheepish in asking for the clothes back from a complete stranger. I may also insinuate that my child was raised in a barn, or perhaps claim he was adopted (I’m adopted; I get to make those kinds of jokes).

Werewolf’s story the next day when I asked was simple. He got off work, changed out of his work clothes in the parking lot, put them on top of his car to get in, forgot they were there and drove off. This is why when they were found they were strung out in a line in the parking lot. They simply flew off his car as he was traveling along.

At first glance it’s a perfectly plausible story, sure, but I’m famous for always having more questions. The issue with this story is it requires him to be completely naked in the parking lot of an open and active grocery store. Something which I’m sure wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. Surely if someone stripped down naked in the parking lot of a busy grocery store, the cops would have been called.

In the name of fairness (and potentially undoing my entire story) I should point out that later the next week I myself stripped completely naked in that parking lot to change clothes, but I was going to Rocky, and somehow forgot that I wasn’t already there. At Rocky, such behaviour is perfectly acceptable; Werewolf did not have this excuse. Also when I changed, it was around 11pm, when Werewolf changed it was around 8, more traffic.

Now, Daniel is the only person who knew Werewolf’s real name, and I can’t ask him anymore, so I can’t track down Werewolf to press for more details. As I see it, there is only one logical conclusion that can be drawn from the facts at hand.

Werewolf, being young, was unprepared for the full moon. Maybe he worked later than he was planning, or maybe he just forgot it was that time of the month. He stepped outside, saw the moon, and began to wolf out. Quickly stripping out of his clothes as he ran to a more secluded location he transformed completely. His father, either being a lycanthrope himself, or at least aware of his son’s condition, of course wouldn’t be horribly shocked by having to go and get his son’s clothes from the store.

Now, why do I believe people would have seen him strip down naked, but nobody called the police to claim they saw a werewolf in the grocery store parking lot?

Ok smarty pants, answer me this. You’re walking into a grocery store and see a young man turn into a werewolf. Do you honestly tell anyone? You’d get locked up in a loony bin. And this was all before cameras had phones and videos on them. You’d keep that to yourself, or get therapy.

So somewhere out there is a werewolf, and I just hope he has fond memories of me. I also hope that publishing this story doesn’t put me on some kind of werewolf black list. I don’t want to have to start carrying silver with me during the full moon.

Where Did I Go Wrong? 6 – Ebony, Ivory, and the KKK

For the next story we expand our cast of characters by two. First, Princess, who was briefly mentioned earlier, and secondly, Maurice. Princess is an itty-bitty, very pale redheaded girl. She’s remarkably intelligent and driven. Currently top of her class at law school. She also has a tendency to very clearly speak her mind, without sugar coating. Often she speaks it without taking into account the audience she’s speaking to either.

Maurice is a friendly giant. The man is about seven feet tall, admittedly on the heavy side, and black. Now normally I wouldn’t bring up his race, because in all honesty I don’t give a crap about race or any of the other bullshit we use to separate ourselves into little groups that can hate the other groups. I find all of that incredibly tedious and a waste of time. I dislike people based on their individual character, not on factors such as race, sexual orientation, religion, or favourite cheese.

Point of fact, an old acquaintance recently contacted me (I used to lift her above my head at Rocky ten years previously, funny how these things are all connected) and asked if I knew any black guys she could use in a television show she was casting. It actually took me ten minutes to remember that Maurice was black, I’m really just not used to thinking in those terms. The only reason I brought up his race is because his race has a vital impact on this story.

This story is notable because I am positive that nothing like it has ever happened anywhere else in the history of the world. I had a large number of friends over that evening (no, I won’t bother naming or describing them all). At the end of the evening I convinced Maurice to tell his KKK story, because it’s my favourite story of his. I’ve made him tell it multiple times but it never gets old. What follows is my poor attempt to paraphrase his magnum opus.

Apparently Maurice and some friends were traveling the back roads of some hick southern state. (Hey, I’m an 11th generation Texan, I get to point out that there are some hicks in the South.) On this trip they notice a large gathering in the woods, and it looks like a rocking good party, so they go to investigate. It’s worth noting that all of Maurice’s friends in this instance are white. When they get to the party it slowly dawns on Maurice that he is the only black person there. It takes a few minutes, but after a few stares and angry mutters he further realizes that this is a Ku Klux Klan gathering. So they killed him.

Ok, obviously not, because he was alive to tell the story. They were probably too scared to attack him directly. He was most likely the largest black man they’d ever seen. It was probably like seeing Godzilla walking into an animal control convention. In fact I promise at least one of those backwards hicks thought “we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Maurice, being the charming talker that he is, strikes up a conversation with the racists, in an attempt to calm them down so he can make good his escape. What follows are, to the best of my memory, his exact words.

“Ok look, you guys want all us black people to go back to Africa right? Well, the problem with that is that we’ve been here so long that most of us have never even seen Africa. I was born in Chicago, my mother was born in Chicago. There’s just way too many of us here now for you to ship us all back. But I have a solution for you.

You’ve got 4 time zones right? Just give us one of those. The next time we have one of our regular meetings I’ll tell all the other black people that we’re all moving into one time zone, and staying there.”

To which the Klansmen were reported to have said “Hey, this feller (not the real word they used, the one they used had a lot more g’s in it) has a point. He’s pretty smart, for a feller (again, my word, not theirs).”

Maurice continued. “But you need to think about this first. If you give us the Eastern time zone, you lose New York, and that’s where a lot of your television comes from. Every channel will basically become BET, plus we’ll have Florida. You’d have to tell all your grandparents to pack up and retire somewhere else.

Now, you could give us the Central time zone, but that’ll give us control over most of your farmland. You’d be putting us directly in control of feeding all of you guys. I mean, we wouldn’t mind, but you’d need to be sure you were ok with eating the food we picked. We’d probably have to touch it and everything.

Now, you aren’t giving us the Mountain time zone, it’s just too cold. I can’t take that to all the other black people and get them to agree to it. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a black person skiing? It’s just not going to happen.

That just leaves you with the Pacific time zone. That gives us California. More importantly L.A. and Hollywood. This basically means that you can get used to Tyler Perry and the Wayans Brothers, because they’re going to be the stars of every movie for the rest of time.

You guys just pick which one of those you can live without, and let me know.”

Thereafter Maurice was accepted, and even drank a few beers with the Klan. He even claims to have run into a couple of Klansmen years later, and asked them if they’d picked a time zone yet. The Klansmen had no clue what he was talking about, and Maurice was very upset. It’s really a crying shame to learn that the Klan doesn’t have the same organization skills as the entire black race. So much for claiming to be superior.

Now, here comes the historical part. After Maurice tells this story to my friends, Princess chimes up “Let me tell you something good about the Klan though!”

I defy you to find another place in history where a large black man tells a story about the KKK and how he was in danger of getting lynched (of course, to lynch Maurice they’d have needed a heavy duty tow cable and a skyscraper), and an upper middle class, tiny pale redheaded chick’s very next words are defending the Klan. I DEFY YOU. Now, to be completely fair to Princess (and because I promised never to tell this story without fairly representing her side of it), here is her brief story that followed.

Apparently her grandfather was in the Klan. Not that being in the Klan isn’t bad enough, but apparently he was a complete bastard as well, and nobody liked him much. As a testament to his bastardosity he would regularly beat his wife and kids (it could have just been one or the other, I misremember). That’s right, he was a racist who had enough hate in his heart to also beat white people. When the Klan found out about this, they beat the living daylights out of him and he never raised a hand to them again.

So in Princess’ defense, she had a perfectly decent point, but nobody else on the planet would have phrased it the way she did, at the time she did, in front of the people she did. But in her mind, there was nothing questionable about it. She had a point, she was going to make it, end of story.

That’s why Princess is one of my favourite people ever.

Where Did I Go Wrong? – 5. Freezer Burn

I would like to start out being on record as stating that it is not my fault we had a dead rat in our freezer for over a year.

I’m actually tempted to let that be the entire story. You have to admit, it’s a pretty awesome sentence. But, I suppose I can provide further illumination into the situation.

Early on in our first apartment Stacy (remember Stacy? She was the poor girl who was basically forced to dress as a hobo hooker for a while) decided that we needed pets. So she went out and got a rabbit, and a hairless rat. Trust me, we asked her why she decided to get a hairless rat. She claimed to have gotten the hairless rat because it was the ugliest pet in the pet store. If you knew Stacy, that was as logical an answer as you were ever going to get.

Neither Daniel nor I felt obligated to take care of these critters, they were Stacy’s pets. We weren’t really consulted in the purchase of them. This may be what caused them to die in relatively short order. Stacy, dissatisfied with life on our couch (which really is a much longer story that may be told one day) was spending more and more time at what I assume was her boyfriend’s apartment.

The rat died first, probably of terminal ugliness. Daniel and I called her and offered to bury it, because we didn’t want a dead rat to ruin the ambiance of our complete dump of an apartment. Stacy quickly told us NO. She voiced concern that I would bury it in some bizarre pagan ritual. In my defense, I’ve never been a part of any pagan ritual, bizarre or otherwise. Daniel, who had quite a thing for Stacy at that time (probably because of her unique and quirky wardrobe) promised that we would not bury it until Stacy got back later that week.

This left us with an obvious problem, of the decomposing kind. Luckily I have occasions where I am a GENIUS, and one of those moments struck me just then. I took a Pringles can, emptied out all the chips, and put the rat inside it. We then put the Pringles can in our freezer. Air tight and frozen, problem solved. Hell, we weren’t just your average college students dealing with a dead hairless rat, we were trailblazers in the field of cryogenics.

A few days later we were having a party, and Daniel and I both were concerned that someone at the party would open the freezer, see the Pringles can in there, and think to themselves “Oh my God! Frozen Pringles! My favourite!” and then they would open them, and disaster would ensue. We thought this would be pretty funny. Then we realized it could be a hot chick who did it, and then she wouldn’t want to have sex with either of us. Freeze-dried rats being a famous anti-aphrodisiac. In another flash of genius I grabbed a nearby crayon (why two college guys had an orange crayon randomly laying around in their apartment is simply one of those great mysteries of life) and wrote on the Pringles can “NOT FOOD”. Worried that this might not deter a particularly inebriated frozen Pringles connoisseur, I decided to further add “DO NOT EAT”.

Now, Stacy came and went several times from the apartment the next couple months, but never had time to address the dead rat issue. So it continued to freeze. The longer it was in the freezer, the less any of us cared about it. It’s actually interesting how quickly a person becomes used to something like a dead frozen hairless rat in the freezer. They should really do a study about that sort of thing.

The bunny also died. Being somewhat larger we had to put it in a shoe box in the freezer. Now, you might be surprised to learn this, but a shoe box isn’t air tight, and it’s gross to put an animal in your freezer if they aren’t in an airtight container. How do a couple of genius college guys solve a conundrum like this? Duct tape.

Quickly Daniel (choosing to be the sensible one of us) decided this was ridiculous. In Daniel’s mind, a frozen dead hairless rat in a Pringle can was perfectly acceptable, but a dead bunny in a duct-taped shoe box was crossing the line. So he took the shoe box to his parents’ house and hid it under a giant pile of leaves. Another problem sorted out. We would often speculate (but never dare ask) what happened when his step-father encountered the box in the process of his normal yard care duties. Truly it’s a mystery that will eat at me until the end of my days.

When Stacy finally moved out, the rat had officially become a resident of the freezer, and the thought of removing it no longer crossed any of our minds. Occasionally one of us would look at the other and say “We have a dead rat in the freezer”. We’d laugh for a while and go back to whatever we were doing. Every so often I’d try to think of a way to extort rent money from the rat.
The rat was not the only horror of our fridge. When we first moved in I bought a half gallon of milk. I drank about half of it, and then got distracted by something shiny and forgot it existed for a couple weeks. By then it was well past its expiration date, but I didn’t feel like throwing it out. Daniel certainly wasn’t going to throw out my mess (especially since he was rarely willing to clean up his own). That milk stayed in the fridge until we moved out over a year later, a true testament to male stubbornness. By that point we affectionately referred to it as The Cheese. I’ll spare you a description, but I’m pretty sure it was gaining sentience, and hair.

Oh yeah, and when we moved out, we did leave the dead rat in the freezer for the next people (my vote to place it in an air vent was firmly denied). We figured it was the least we could do. I seriously hope whoever moved in after us did not open that can. I imagine it would be like that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark…faces melting in horror.

Although, if they did open it, I hope they paid heed to my written warnings, “NOT FOOD, DO NOT EAT”, because I have absolutely no idea what a 2 year old dead frozen rat looks like. But somewhere out there is someone who might.

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Pretty much your typical college kitchen.

Where Did I Go Wrong? – 4. My Friend The Axe Wielding Maniac

Speaking of odd friends, remember Daniel? Daniel was my coworker turned first roommate, turned best friend, turned heterosexual life mate. By this point you also know a little bit about Rocky, which Daniel was also in with me.
One very important part of Rocky is the aftermath. See, the show starts at midnight on a Saturday, and there’s usually hanging out afterwards, plus it’s a fairly intense performance. You may well wonder how running around acting out a movie in front of that same movie could be intense. You have no idea.

The first performance I ever gave was as Eddie. For those that don’t know the film, Eddie’s a pretty sweet gig. You come out about halfway through the movie, have a four minute musical number, and then get killed. For that four minutes you are like unto God. You are the coolest kid in school, you play a pretend saxophone, you swing dance and lift a girl up over your head, you then pretend to make-out with that girl on the floor, and then run around until you get an over-the-top death scene.

The first time I played Eddie, I thought I was going to die, literally. After I got off stage my heart was pounding harder than it ever had before. I could hear it in my ears even as I gasped for breath. Part of it was the stage fright, part of it was the adrenaline rush, and part of it was just having lifted a girl up over my head and holding her there, plus singing at the top of my lungs the entire time.

I knew I just needed to get a drink of water from the fountain and calm down for a few minutes. The only issue was, my heart was pumping so hard that my pulse actually knocked the water out of my mouth before I could swallow it.

It’s at that moment I realized my first performance in Rocky was going to kill me. A quiet calm came over me as I realized that I was about to die. My heart was literally going to explode in my chest, and I would die at the age of 18 while dressed as a character from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I pictured my parents frantically trying to come up with a different story to tell the neighbors.

In all honesty, that calm that came over me is probably what saved my life. My heart slowed down, I drank some water, and did it all over again every Saturday after that for years. My heart never decided to act up quite like that again, apparently it liked being in show business.

If that’s what a 4 minute part can do to you, imagine being one of the main characters.

We also lived about 45 minutes away from where we performed Rocky. The short version is that coming home at 6am from Rocky, you are the most tired you’ve EVER been in your life. I’ve stayed up for days at a time for college, I’ve slept in my car for weeks at a time working crew on movie sets, and I even once had a 24 hour work day shooting a music video. None of that has ever compared to how exhausted I was every Sunday morning.

Another important piece of information is that our first apartment was pretty bad. Very possibly the worst part was the paper-thin walls, allowing every sound in the neighborhood for miles around to sound as if it were occurring INSIDE MY HEAD!
As a brief side story about that apartment by the way, one day they decided to increase safety by installing new lights outside the apartment building, right next to the windows in our bedrooms. These lights were about twice as bright as THE FREAKING SUN. It was impossible to tell when it was night time in our apartment. Daniel and I dealt with the problem as men do, we tacked up some blankets over the window. See, women would have gone and gotten window dressings, maybe blackout curtains. But men, we’re very simple creatures. A couple of pushpins and a nice yellow blanket, and problem solved. Of course the lights were VERY powerful, and all hanging up the blanket did was make my entire room yellow hued every night…but it was better than Daniel’s room. He used a red blanket. Every night his room looked like the setting for a horror film.

Anyway, back to the story at hand. Daniel and I arrive home one Sunday morning after Rocky. Daniel immediately passes out, while I struggle to fall asleep (no matter how exhausted I am, I sleep poorly, a topic for another time). Fifteen minutes after Daniel has passed out, a large group of children begin playing loudly outside our windows. Thanks to the lovely quality of the building, they might as well have been playing in our bedrooms, it was amazingly loud and crystal clear. That’s right, our apartment pioneered HD technology, bringing you the best possible audio quality in other people’s children playing whilst you yearn for sleep.

There are two versions of what happened next. Daniel’s version, and the actual version. Out of fairness to Daniel, I’ll start with his version.

Daniel, awoken by this ruckus, grabs the nearest menacing object he can find. Being a collector of medieval weapons, this meant he grabbed a Scottish axe. It’s worth noting that Daniel (and I for that matter) had a tendency to sleep only in his boxer shorts. The shorts in question on this particular morning had little hearts on them. So Daniel, garbed in his heart boxers and ought else but his Scottish axe, runs out of our apartment and to a balcony overlooking the kids. Raising the axe above his head in a threatening manner he yells “Hey you stupid kids! I’m trying to sleep in here! Shut the hell up or I’ll come down there!”
That is Daniel’s version, the wrong version. You see, Daniel was a great deal groggier than me, since he had actually been asleep (albeit very briefly) before this happened. I witnessed events with a (relatively) clear head, and what follows is nothing but the truth.

His actions and wardrobe, and even weapon of choice, were all exactly as previously stated. However, when it came time to yell at the children, what he actually yelled was “Hoogaboogaboogashumhumazamanannahuzunagalibaheze!” (That was harder to spell than you’d think).

The ending to both versions is the same. The children, confronted with a crazed white man wearing heart boxers and wielding an axe while incoherently yelling at them, reacted as I think any of us would. They ran away screaming.

Daniel went back to his room, a hero in my heart, and slept the sleep of the just and righteous.

Oddly enough, we never really had to deal with playing children on Sunday morning anymore. I like to pretend that the kids shared stories amongst themselves. Hushed and urgent tales of a crazed Viking (Daniel’s hair had a definite Viking flair to it) who would run out of the fog (or an apartment) if they had too much fun in the morning. He’d swoop down with his axe and yell at you in the Devil’s own language. If you didn’t heed his warning, he’d swallow your soul.

Or perhaps they chose to play at an apartment complex where the adults wore clothes, and didn’t have axes.

Could go either way really.

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Daniel and his axe (with his clothes on)

Where Did I Go Wrong? – 3. My Imaginary Friend Russ

All of the friends I’ve made over the years have been unique, quirky, or downright bizarre. Over the years I’ve simply begun explaining my friends as the Isle of Misfit People. I’ve got an affable giant, a neurotic perfectionist, a polyamorous musician, a terminally shy philosophy professor in training, a complete douchebag, an introvert furry graphic designer, a girl who hates me (yet claims I’m her only friend), and an imaginary friend, among countless others.

Yes, I have an imaginary friend named Russ. Now, some of you may think it odd that a 28-year-old man has an imaginary friend (and if you don’t think it odd, please seek help) but in my defense, he wasn’t always imaginary. He used to be a real flesh-and-blood live boy, with an amazing talent.

Russ and I met in my very first class in college. I was bored to tears by the lecture going on, so I opened up my laptop and played my favourite video game of all time, Earthbound. Russ, a complete stranger to me at that point, leaned over to see what I was playing. Upon seeing Earthbound in all its emulated glory, he squealed with delight (yes, Russ is a squealer) and told me it was his favourite game ever. And in that moment a life long bond was forged.

Now, Russ is a great guy, and everyone loves having him around. He is completely fabulous (in every meaning of the word). But he’s also, and I phrase this as nicely as I can, a tremendous flake. He has a habit of not returning calls, texts, or emails. Anytime he promises to be somewhere, it’s a 50-50 chance that he shows. If he doesn’t show, you won’t hear from him for WEEKS about why. Actually, you just won’t hear from him for weeks, you’ll never know why.

I’ve been friends with Russ for about 10 years now, and about half that time he’s just been….gone. He vanishes for months, or even years, before springing back up. At first it was irritating, but over time I grew to accept it as a part of who he is. However, over the years I’ve made many friends who hear me talk about Russ, but never actually meet the man. Some of my newer friends are convinced he doesn’t really exist. Some of my older friends who have actually met him are even starting to doubt they ever met him. Pictures taken of the elusive Russ are beginning to be declared Photoshop jobs. Until one day I officially declared him to be my imaginary friend, and everyone took that in stride.

Now, the more astute of you out there are probably thinking the same thing my mother did. My mother is one of nature’s skeptics, and there are times I wonder if she’s ever believed anything anyone has told her. While a supportive woman, to be sure, she can also think the absolute worst of people from time to time. Her theory is that Russ doesn’t like me at all, but he’s just too shy to be up front about it.

If you believe like my mother, you are wrong sir (or madam)! Let me tell you why. After many years of this I began to suspect the same thing myself. And in a fit of anger told him that he no longer needed to worry about avoiding me, we could simply cease being friends and he need never hear from me again.

He apologized profusely, and BEGGED for another chance. I offered him a way out, and he refused to take it, instead pleading to stay. He was a very attentive and reliable friend after that, for about a month.

Typically when Russ vanishes, my solution is to randomly show up on his doorstep and wait for him to get home from work. Upon seeing me he proclaims how delighted he is to see me, and we hang out and play video games. Russ is my preferred Player 2 in almost any game.

Now we arrive at Russ’s remarkable ability. Russ is the greatest AND worst video game player ever. I realize some of you reading this may not be video gamers yourselves, so I’ll try to keep this simple.

The best example of this, and the most iconic, centered around a game called Wind Waker. Now Wind Waker was an older game at this point, but I was showing my friend Princess how to play it (yes, I have a friend named Princess, I also have a friend who’s a werewolf, just deal with it). Russ came over to watch Princess play this game that she’d never played before. Russ and I had both beaten this game many years before.

In the game is a fairly simple puzzle. You walk up to a giant ball, pick it up, carry it a short distance, and set it down. Easy, right? Now, you can HIT the ball instead of picking it up, and it’ll roll for a couple seconds before it shatters, and reappears in it’s original spot. Princess did as I believe every gamer did. She walked up to the ball, picked it up, and moved it. At this moment Russ cried out a phrase that has long since become a catchphrase amongst my friends, “YOU CAN PICK THAT UP!?”.

It turns out Russ spent DAYS hitting that ball around, trying to get it where it needed to be before it shattered and he had to start again. A method to solve the problem that I am positive the designers of the game never imagined anyone doing. Entire DAYS were spent whacking this ball around because Russ didn’t realize it could simply be lifted.

Allow me to share another quick example in the same game. There is a puzzle sequence where you have to swing and jump from rope to rope to rope, but it’s in a 3D environment, and sometimes the ropes aren’t where you need them to be. The obvious solution is to stop swinging on your rope, turn a little bit, start swinging again, and jump to the next rope. Russ never realized you could stop and turn. Once again DAYS were spent trying to figure out how to line up his jumps so that he could finish this remarkably simple part of the game.

So he possesses almost NO intuitive game playing abilities. He frequently fails to see how a simple puzzle is meant to be solved. So he’s the worst video game player ever. BUT, he never stops, he ALWAYS beats these games. He finds solutions a thousand times more complicated, solutions none of us mere mortals could EVER achieve. He’s like a freaking machine. Nothing will stop him from beating these games in the most ridiculously difficult manner possible. He’s the greatest video game player ever.
So the next time you or your friends are playing a game, and somebody misses a completely obvious game mechanic, or completely fails to understand what they are doing, and someone else points it out to them, it is your duty to proclaim “YOU CAN PICK THAT UP!?”, for Russ, my imaginary friend.

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Look, it’s almost like he’s a real person!