Saturday, February 28, 2009

Of Bro Codes and Buttkickings; or "An Evening With PigPen and Peanut"

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from The Lovable PigPen asking if I could take off work a bit early on the following Friday afternoon to pick him up from the airport after his return from a business trip. To make it worth my while he offered to buy my lunch and pay for a day pass at his and Cap'n Peanut's gym so that I could work out with them and play some racquetball. Never one to pass up free food and an excuse to take off of work, I quickly agreed; of course, the fact that I don't get to hang out with PigPen too often anymore, and hadn't played racquetball with him since a couple of months before he broke my finger might have had a little bit to do with it.

I got to the airport about 10 minutes before his flight was scheduled to land, which turned out to be excellent timing, as his flight was about 10 minutes early. I was standing by the baggage claim that had been indicated online when I saw PigPen walking out, looking around; he looked right through me and turned to walk the opposite direction. I of course did the only logical thing; sped walk to catch up to him and invade his personal space so that he almost spun around and decked me. When he realized it was me and didn't give me crap for coming up on him like that, I knew something was distracting him. Turns out as soon as his plane landed and he turned on his work Blackberry, he had a ton of missed calls. You see, although he had been out of town on company business all week, he had also been primary on-call all week, and so didn't get a full night's sleep all night from dealing with calls. And, of course, while he was on the flight, some major technical issues sprang up, the end result of which was that his planned afternoon off went up in smoke; bummer for me, who had been looking forward to hanging out with him, and double-bummer for him who had been looking forward to being able to escape from work stuff for an afternoon.

We stopped to get a quick bite to eat at KFC, and then swung by his place so he could grab his car. Luckily, Cap'n Peanut was home, so I hung out with him while waiting for PigPen to get back from work. Well, except for the hour where Peanut had an appointment, during which time I sat around reading their copy of The Bro Code by Barney Stinson*; not surprisingly, I discovered that I am a frequent code violator, but was more than pleased to note that Peanut had a couple of infractions under his belt as well. Anyway, PigPen was finally able to escape from work, and by the time all was said and done, we made it to the gym probably close to 7pm.

It was at this point that Peanut and PigPen tried to kill me.**

Okay, so maybe, that's a bit of an exaggeration; really, they just tried to make my arms and legs fall off with a work-out far beyond my meager capabilities. I would periodically inform workout mastermind Peanut of my intense loathing of him, and how I would do him great bodily harm if I were actually still capable of moving any of my limbs. After they finished breaking my spirit with the workout from hell, we headed to the racquetball courts.

I managed to beat Peanut in my first game***, but had a brief fear of being shut-out by PigPen when he broke out into an impressive lead early on in our first game; I told them afterwards that if he had managed to shut me out after not playing for over a year and a half when I had been playing with Trouble for the last month or two, I would have just walked back to their apartment and then driven off into the night, vanishing along with my dignity. Luckily, this was not necessary, as I finally got my head in the game enough to stage a minor comeback. Not enough to beat him, of course, but enough to keep me from feeling like a total screwup. We kept playing until the gym shut down at 10, at which point we finally picked up some dinner and headed back to their place.

Before we had gone to the gym, Peanut had been giving PigPen a hard time about the previous weekend, when they had stayed up late reliving their college days by playing Tekken 3, during which time Peanut had managed to rack up quite a few more wins than PigPen. After all the trash talking, PigPen of course had no choice but to instigate a rematch. And while it apparently wasn't as one-sided as their previous all-nighter had been, Peanut was still turning out to be a bit more on his game than PigPen, a fact that frustrated the always competitive PigPen to no end. At one point, Peanut handed me his controller while he went to get something to drink, and so after getting my butt kicked by the workout and again in racquetball, I received my third butt-kicking of the evening as PigPen mercilessly took out his aggressions on my poor electronic avatars -- poor because they were being guided by someone who had never played any version of Tekken before and being attacked by someone who had devoted countless hours to learning all the nuances of the game. After several games in which I was barely able to lay a virtual hand on PigPen, I passed the controller back to Peanut with great relief.

One of the features of the Versus mode of Tekken 3 is that it keeps a running tally of how many wins each player has, making it easy to keep track of just how far ahead Peanut was. This lead to the following exchange:

PigPen: "Man, I can't believe Peanut is up on me 13 games."
Me: "Actually, if you subtract the wins you had against me, it's more like 17 games."
PigPen: "Shut up, Todd!"

This exchange was repeated several times over the next hour, with each iteration leading to a more forceful tone of voice from PigPen, as well as threats of physical violence. And so it was that my smart mouth lead to my 4th and final butt-kicking of the evening, as PigPen followed up on his threats and engaged me in our first sparring match since the night he moved out 6 months previously. And while the part of me that had missed our semi-regular grappling matches was pleased, the part of me that was so worn out from the workouts and racquetball that it couldn't move its arms and legs was less so.

By the time my hosts had decided they were ready to call it quits, it was around 4AM. I crashed on their couch, and managed probably three or four hours of sleep before I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, so I just laid there on the couch waiting for the others to get up. Eventually they both emerged from their respective rooms, and Peanut called out for pizza for lunch. After we ate, Peanut and PigPen headed to Era to pick up a table from Peanut's parents, and I headed back to my place. I was sore from the workout, but both of my tormentors, I mean, friends, assured me that it would be even worse the next day. However, after a brief chat with my mom when I got home, my sleep deprivation caught up with me, and I crashed for several hours, waking up 30 minutes before I was supposed to head to Cap'n Bubbles' birthday party with a massive headache and even more massive pain in my limbs; apparently, my body had taken my three hour nap as a signal to move into second-day-soreness mode. The upside, of course, was that although I wound up having to beg off the party, I got most all of the discomfort out of the way on Saturday, and felt pretty good on Sunday.

To recap: initial plans scrapped, received massive butt kickings at everything I attempted, and wound up feeling pretty miserable the following day. Factor in the fact that I got to experience all of the above while hanging out with two of my best buds who I don't get to see nearly often enough since they moved to Lewisville, and I'd have to say that on the whole it turned out to be one of the best weekends I've had in a while.

Even if the bastages did try to kill me.

*Pretty entertaining little book; I'm tempted to purchase the audiobook version which is read by NPH in character.
**While never explicitly spelled out, I can't help but feel like attempted homicide flies in the face of the Bro Code
***A fact that I would be much more willing to brag about if it weren't for the fact that that night was Peanut's first time to play racquetball ever, and my win was not by a very impressive margin. Cursed athletic, coordinated people, making me look bad!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another 25 Random Things - The Wyandotte Edition

Well, since Flunky Lover complained that my last list of random things wasn't anything she didn't already know, I figured I'd try to come up with another list that might be more enlightening, focusing on my pre-collegiate years.

1. I never really skipped school because (a) I was a bit of a goody two-shoes -- okay, a MAJOR goody two-shoes -- and (b) I knew that if I had skipped, my mom would have found out about it very quickly, and that would have been that. About the closest I ever came to skipping was when a group of us were heading to Miami to compete in an Academic Bowl. We were just getting ready to get in the car when someone came running out to say that there had been a mistake, and we weren't really supposed to leave for another couple of hours. We all looked at each other, yelled back "tell them you missed us," hopped in the car, and headed to NEO, where we feigned ignorance and goofed off in the Student Union for a couple of hours.

2. I have not always bled Orange and Black; in my younger days, I was raised in a very Sooner-friendly household. It wasn't until I got to go to OSU to play at a half-time show for High School Band Day that I began to see the light. Getting to sit right next to the OSU band and get caught up in the energy and excitement of the game made a huge impact on my appreciation for the school; it makes me ashamed to know that the first thing I did upon putting together my saxophone earlier that day was play "Boomer Sooner" and laugh about it -- so, so ashamed.

3. When it comes to Christmas tree toppings, I have always preferred stars to angels. For ages, we had a very funky, art deco-ish star that graced the top of tree after tree, and despite it becoming worn down, beat up, and faded, I loved that ugly, ugly, ugs-in-the-ugly thing. So, when mom tried replacing it with an angel, I objected. And while I personally don't remember saying the following, my mom will never let me live down the fact that my objection apparently came by way of me complaining that I didn't want to see an angel with a tree up its butt.

4. When it comes to social situations, I am almost always early, sometimes to the point of having to sit outside in my car and wait for it to get close enough to the prescribed arrival time for me to go in. There's a lot of factors involved (fear of getting lost, fear of missing out on stuff), but a lot of it comes from the fact that mom and dad were always very lackadaisical about such things. "Oh, don't worry the bus won't leave without you," mom once said to me as we were running late to drop me off for a TSA trip; she, however, was wrong, as the bus was pulling away from the school as we drove up. After that I became much more insistent about being early, which actually earned me the "Early Bird Award" at Speech Camp that following summer.

5. Speech Camp was not exactly the most thrilling time of my life, and outside of finding a new creepy prose piece to replace "The October Game" and discovering that Extemporaneous Speaking wasn't as bad as I'd thought and was a prime way of meeting Mrs. Sharbutt's "you must compete in 3 events at each tournament" rule without actually having to prepare more material, most of the time we spent there consisted of us finding other ways to entertain ourselves. The one that sticks out the most was our compilation of a list of movies with one word titles, a list I became somewhat obsessed with and fixated on as I'm wont to do, working on it at home as well, a fact that earned me strange looks and derision from others when I mentioned it; of course, they also didn't understand why I insisted on disqualifying films for having initial articles or a subtitle. Yes, I was that anal.

6. Going along with that whole "goody-two-shoes" thing, I rarely if ever cussed when I was younger, but by the time I had gotten to Jr. High I had settled into the mind-set that most curse words were really just frowned upon because of social mores and not for any inherent evil in the words themselves; I still avoided using them because I knew I'd get in trouble, but not out of any inner distaste at the language. So, when one of my classmates dared me to say a curse word and I did with little to no hesitation, she was both startled and entertained, and soon made a game out of it, randomly turning to me and saying "Hey, Todd . . . say [expletive deleted]." I would good-naturedly roll my eyes and comply. The only exception: taking the Lord's name in vain. Even during my moderately foul-mouthed college years, I might not hesitate to drop an f-bomb from time to time, but nary a g.d. would pass my lips.

7. The same classmate who delighted in getting me to cuss later on declared that she was going to marry me when we grew up because she knew I'd be successful, a promise that she made sure to include while signing my yearbook. However, I was not going to be her first husband; no, she also planned to marry Troy Aikman first, but would leave him for me at some point. Later on, she also added another one of my classmates to the list, bumping me back to husband number three; my mom informed her that she didn't know about letting her baby boy be third on the list, to which my erstwhile future spouse replied "Oh, don't worry Mrs. Enoch, I'll save myself for him; I'm practically president of the V Club!." Later, when she found out I was majoring in English, the promises of matrimony disappeared . . .

8. Up until some point in high school I was pretty sheltered and naive about quite a few things; I can't count how many times somebody would make a sexual innuendo and I wouldn't have the foggiest idea what they were talking about, often putting my foot in my mouth. The odd thing is, my parents did not consciously shelter me; if I came up to them and asked "What does so-and-so mean?" they would freely answer me. At least a couple of times, even they were surprised by how little I knew . . .

9. I have never really enjoyed being in a leadership position in any organization; honestly, most of the times I ran for an office it was because I felt like it was expected of me. If I wasn't the most lackluster Student Council president Wyandotte had ever seen, I was probably pretty high up the list. I guess most people just didn't realize that I was just a slacker at heart. Which is not to say that me getting beat out for an office was a relief; I hated losing regardless of whether I really wanted it or not.

10. The Student Council state convention was always interesting because you wound up staying at a host family's house. It got even more interesting my Senior year, when my host family was Asian, and another StuCo attendee and I got dragged along to the restaurant owned by the host family because it was the grandmother's birthday; however, being white devils, we were not allowed at the party itself, and so were stuck at a little table on the other side of the restaurant. On the up side, that's when I learned I liked shrimp tempura . . .

11. I did not get my drivers license until after I'd been away at college for a couple of years. To be honest, the biggest reason why I didn't try to learn to drive was because I'd convinced myself I was too uncoordinated and lacking of spatial sense to handle a motor vehicle and would probably kill myself if I ever tried. While this put a definite crimp in my social life, it worked to my advantage at the aforementioned StuCo state convention, when the kid whose family we were staying with tried to drag us to a drunken party and wanted me to be designated driver. If I had just tried to play the "I"m a goody-two-shoes, uncomfortable with going to a drunken party, and really don't want to navigate my way around the big city at night carting around a couple of inebriated underagers" card, the debate might have lasted for ages, but saying that I didn't have a license put it to bed pretty quickly. He wasn't all that friendly to me after that, for some reason.

12. For most of my life, my parents have been pretty hands off when it comes to my decisions about what avenues to pursue, not wanting to become those pushy parents who try to live vicariously through their children. So, there are only two times when I can remember my mom forcing me to join an organization: 4-H in 4th grade and TSA in 8th. They both turned out to be great moves for me, as 4-H helped me discover my knack for public speaking, and TSA expanded on that knack, gave me the opportunity to travel places I might never have otherwise, and also helped me break out of my shell. In retrospect, maybe they should have been pushy a little more often . . .

13. My first year in 4-H, our chapter did a circus themed skit for the local Share-the-Fun. My role was that of a hyper-active poodle whose trainer finally cries out in exasperation "get down!" . . . at which point, I would start to boogie-oogie-oogie on down off the stage. However, when it came time for us to come on stage, the Ringmaster's index cards stuck together, and he skipped right over our intro and we never got to go on stage. While I was pretty upset at the time, in retrospect I should probably thank Brandon for saving me from humiliating myself in public like that.

14. My Senior year I took two classes as independent study because the times of the actual classes conflicted with two other classes I really wanted to take. The two independent study classes where Chemistry, which I took at the same time as the Physics class, and Geometry, which I took at the same time as an Algebra I class. For Chemistry, I was pretty much a part of the actual Physics class, for which I will be eternally grateful, because watching my classmates do their best to drive Coach Crowley to distraction was endlessly entertaining. But for Geometry I was segregated to the computer room attached to the main math class room, for which I will be eternally grateful, because it meant that I was able to goof off endlessly when I was supposed to be hard at work, especially since the teacher didn't give me any assignments to hand in, trusting that I would work all the problems because I was a good little over-achiever. Again; people really didn't pick up on that whole "inner slacker' thing.

15. I still remember the first time I saw one of those 3-d hidden pictures; it was the afternoon of Senior Day at North Eastern Oklahoma A&M. After we got done, we weren't expected to go back to school, so some of us decided to head to Joplin to the mall. Somehow I wound up going with Regan and Craig, which was a little odd since none of us ever really hung out with each other; can't remember how that grouping got formed. Anyway, while we were roaming around the mall we came across a display of one of the pictures at Off the Wall, I believe. Later, when I watched Mallrats, I would greatly identify with Willam's dogged determination to see the picture. When it finally clicked, I was treated to a collection of dinosaurs. I don't remember if I saw it first, or if Regan did; I just remember that Craig was having a devil of a time getting the hang of it and we burned a lot of time because he refused to leave until he finally saw something.

16. In 12 years of attending school at Wyandotte, I never once ate cafeteria food for lunch. In the beginning, this was a product of my extreme pickiness as a child; as I grew older, it became a strange and twisted point of pride. The day after Freshman graduation when I could finally walk uptown to Butterfield's and get my own burger instead of having to rope some upperclassman into it was a grand, grand day.

17. Going back to the goody-two-shoes thing again-- that does seem to pop up a lot in my youth, doesn't it? -- I also made it through my entire scholastic career without getting swats. Which is not to say I never got in trouble; I did get detention and have to write sentences once in a while, but I never acted up enough to warrant swats -- much to the dismay of Mr. Phillips, my 7th and 8th grade history teacher, who sort of prided himself on being able to provoke students into acting out so he could give them swats; he once complained to my mom that I refused to rise to his bait. I'll never forget the day he told one of my classmates "Travis, you laugh like a little girl," and Travis replied "Yeah, well, you laugh like a pig." Boom, swat time.

18. Not too long before starting kindergarten, I misheard something someone said about the playground at the school and the slides and concrete; I thought that instead of "concrete" they had said "some creek," and so I was freaked out about going there, because all of the slides would be in the middle of the water, and you'd have to swim to them, and I couldn't swim.

19. Because we can't hit the goody-two-shoes theme too many times: I was so incredibly worried about not breaking rules that I would occasionally drive me parents to distraction. When I was about 6 or 7 we were over at my Papaw's house and he had some cinnamon schnapps which he let dad try; dad only took a sip, but I freaked out, because he was the one who was going to drive me home and, y'know, he'd been drinking. Another time mom and dad had to change plans and drop me off at Papaw's instead of taking me to the movies with them because I had realized the movie they were going to take me to was rated R, and I knew I was far too young to see anything like that.

20. The day I realized I was going to have to get glasses was one of the worst days of my young life. I was in Jr. High, and trying desperately -- without much success, may I add -- to "reinvent" myself, break out of that "super-nerd" mold I'd been stuck in forever. The thought of suddenly becoming a Four Eyes tore me up, even though in all my years I had never heard anyone at my school actually being taunted for their eye-wear. Of course, my very first day at school with my glasses, one of my classmates who shall remain nameless saw me in the halls and loudly made a crack along the lines of how funny it was that "Mr. Perfect" -- his words, not mine, trust me -- had to wear glasses now; just the sort of positive reinforcement my young neurotic self needed, no?

21. I remember sitting on the band bus in the 9th grade on the way to an away football game and hearing all of the upperclassmen spouting such bizarre phrases as "A sphincter says what?" and "Schwing!" which made me very curious to check out this "Wayne's World" thing everyone was so into. And thus began my love affair with early 90s Saturday Night Live, which was pretty much my first ever "water cooler" show -- or water fountain, as the case may be. Although my tastes might not have always been in step with my schoolmates -- I couldn't understand why everyone was talking about that first Chicago Superfans skit the next day at school when it hadn't even made me chuckle at all -- my discovery of that iteration of SNL gave me more of a consistent conversational common ground with the people around me than pretty much anything else had ever. A shallow connection, perhaps, but socially backward teen Todd was thankful for any crutch he could grab on to.

22. When I was in 7th grade, our school had a policy of having an Exemption Day for semester tests for students with high enough grades and attendance; despite having the highest GPA in my class, and hardly ever missing school, paranoid, worst-case-scenario neurotic that I was I would never allow myself to believe that I was actually going to be exempt until the list was actually announced. I know on at least one occasion this earned me the enmity of most of my classmates when one teacher asked everyone who was going to be exempt to raise their hands, and I wouldn't do it. I'm not sure if my classmates thought I was showing false modesty, trying for attention, or just being incredibly stupid for a smart kid, but I can clearly remember the rancor in their voices as they cajoled me "come on, Todd, put your hand up, you now you're going to be exempt, just put your hand up, stop being stupid, just put your hand up already!" But in my mind, Murphy's Law was paramount, so I remained steadfast. And I wonder why I wasn't more popular . . .

23. During recess in elementary school,when my friends were playing basketball, I would avoid getting drawn into the actual game, and would instead pretend that I was a sports reporter, trying to interview them about the game in progress. Man, was I a colossal dork.

24. My sophomore year our class decided to do a walk-a-thon as a fund raiser for some reason; however, the day we were scheduled to do it happened to be incredibly rainy, so instead of walking around the track as originally planned, we instead walked around the Old Gym. To help pass the time, someone decided to play some music; however, they only had one tape available: Vanilla Ice's "To the Extreme." Not sure how many times I got to hear Mr. Van Winkle's magnum opus that day, but let's just say that there's a good reason why, even though I have never listened to that album all the way through anytime before or since then, I will still randomly get the chorus to "Stop That Train (I Want to Get Off)" stuck in my head.

25. My graduating class had quite a reputation; okay, so we had several. A reputation for running off math teachers; a reputation for steadily losing members so that our Senior graduating class was just a fraction of our Freshman graduating class; a reputation for intense slackerdom and internal strife. I can only remember the class as a whole pulling together one time, and that was our Junior year, when word came that the Seniors were convinced that we were going to throw them a horrible prom; the common joke was that we were going to have it at Farley Hill, and the banquet would just be a wiener roast. For some reason, this particular bit of derision galvanized my classmates, and we set out to throw the Seniors pretty much the same prom they had thrown the year before, raising enough money to hold it on the Cherokee Queen. In retrospect, maybe people should have ticked us off more often, who knows what we could have accomplished . . .


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fragmented Friday - Ulterior Smile

Was getting ready to type up a Fragmented Friday post when I noticed that there was one saved in my drafts which I had started last November, before NaNoWriMo derailed my blogging but good. So, first, some old stories from before Cap'n Shack-Fu set off to Quantico.

  • One weekend Shack-Fu, Li'l Random and I got together for dinner and a movie. At one point during our meal -- which was shockingly not at Texas Roadhouse -- Shack left himself wide open for a crack at his expense, and I took full advantage of it. As Shack gave me the menacing death glare, Li'l Random began to laugh; Shack quickly turned the glare in Li'l Brother's direction and asked "What are you laughing at?" Random replied "Oh, I just took a bite of my sandwich, and the lettuce tickled." He then quickly took another bite, let out a little tee-hee and said "Look, there it goes again."

  • A little while later during the same meal, Li'l Brother got a funny little grin on his face as Shack-Fu and I were having some more back-and-forth, prompting Shack to ask what he was smiling about. Li'l Brother asked "What, I can't smile now?" My response was that it was obviously an ulterior smile.

  • Another time a week or so later, the three of us were eating at Texas Roadhouse -- I know, how unlike us, right? We wound up with a waitress who had not had the pleasure of serving us before, nor had her co-workers warned her about the joys of dealing with a trio of HyperForce 3000ers. Li'l Random almost blew her brain with his randomness, but she got her revenge - albeit inadvertent - a bit later. First she asked Shack-Fu if he was a preacher -- "You just give off that kind of vibe," quoth she -- and when he told her that actually he and Li'l Brother worked together, she expressed disbelief, stating that she had been sure Li'l Babyface was only 16.
And now for a few more recent things

  • Let's start with a more up-to-date Shack-Fu tidbit; my best bud has received his orders for his first assignment after the academy. For his first two years as an agent, Shack will be working out of Tulsa, OK. While he had been hoping for an OKC assignment, due to it being closer to friends and family, Tulsa really isn't that much farther away. Sure, the extra two hours distance will mean the day trips to visit aren't quite as feasible, but at least he'll be close enough that we won't need air fare to make a quick visit possible.

  • For the first time in my life, I completed my tax return before April. Part of this whole "trying to be organized" thing I'm trying out. We'll see how long that lasts

  • Hand in hand with my move towards organization is my New Years resolution to start eating better and exercising regularly in an effort to lose some weight. Okay, not just some weight; a lot of weight. So far, it's going well. I'm working out at least 5 times a week, even without Cap'n Shack-Fu around to drag me off my butt; I've been fixing my own meals at home rather than succumbing to my fast food cravings; and, most impressively to some, I have cut down my Coca-cola intake to one day a week. I'm finding it much easier to stick to the diet now that I'm living alone and don't have to worry about tempting food brought in by my roomies. I'm also being much more open about my attempt than I have in the past; I used to tell very few people, because I was afraid of failing, but now I figure that the more people who know, the more accountability there is. My initial goal is to lose 40 lbs; I'm already a little over 1/3 of the way there.

  • A few days ago I posted a few pictures from high school on Facebook; being from the early 90s, there were many examples of female hairdos that defied the laws of physics. For some reason, some of these females weren't exactly happy to have their early stylistic choices put on view for all Facebook to see. And thus began a wave of photos being posted online in what I like to call The Nostalgia Wars; at this moment, Redneck Diva seems to be the clear winner, armed as she is with a range of Student Council, Band, and Competitive Speech photos, but it's early days yet in the war; early days*.

  • Zinger posited the other day that the reason for the lack of blogging was because my life is so much more boring now that I'm living alone. I do think that's part of it; life without day-to-day interaction with The Lovable PigPen is definitely not as interesting, although it might be slightly healthier for my ego. And with Cap'n Shack-Fu at Quantico, and Li'l Brother travelling with work, most of the sources for good blog fodder just aren't as handy as they once were. But the recent Wyandottian explosion on Facebook is stirring up the high school memories like crazy, so there may be some more nostalgia-laden posts from that as well.
*Sadly, I don't have much more ammo in my arsenal, having lost a ton of pictures when our house burned down years ago