Ever wonder how many bugs you've eaten in your life? Sorry. Just, there's a certain number of them that are allowed in a vat of peanut butter, for example. Everything done in bulk gets kinda dodgy. It's no good to have so much of something you can't make sense of what's in it anymore.
I re-watched Good Will Hunting recently. William Goldman (my favorite writer) was accused of and denied writing it, so .. connect the dots. I think he script-doctored it, maybe only a few key scenes, but his impact was huge. A few actors improvised with mixed results, but all in all, a very good script. There's a scene when (legend) Robin Williams is reminiscing about his deceased wife's quirks. (theme of the scene: "She's not perfect, Will. Nobody is. But she might be perfect for you.") I waited for the story I remembered, which was her powdering her feet every night and then tracking it all over the carpet. But it didn't happen. Where was that? In another movie? A deleted scene? The internet was no help. There was a time when you could find anything on the internet. It was an amazing resource. BETTER THAN LIBRARIANS. (forgive me, Mom.) Now it's a junk heap. Impossible to find anything but untrustworthy lyrics and time sucking trash. All the real info's buried in an avalanche of ads and memes.
This, from The Harper's Index makes my point, & that even if you find what you need, it's going to fall out of your brain immediately:
Average number of times people switch between screens or tabs per day : 566
This is where our memories are, in tabs.
The real wife story in that scene was about how she farted at a million decibels in her sleep. (I do this. Where's my Prince Charming?) It's not the farting but the specificity that matters. You watch the scene and the story doesn't stick, but the lesson does. The important things in life are the unique details. But sometimes they're lost in time.
Another movie I gave a re-watch recently: Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! Kate Bosworth snags a famous guy, but his motives are in knots. Her small town real love BFF has given him the cheat code which is to tell her about her six types of smiles. It works, but later she wises up and says something like "you don't really love me. You love the idea of me. Really loving someone is about the little details of them."
There was such a resoundingly great response to "Soup" (6 views) that I thought, what the heck, I'll post another very very old story. Unlike Soup, I'm giving this one a few clarifying edits, like restoring a character name to what I believe it was when I first wrote it (on a typewriter in 1991 I think, first draft MIA), and removing some esoteric references that I don't recall the precise inspiration behind, but suspect had something to do with the twelve hours or so I spent in Acton, Mass. shortly before that with Matt Braman, a strange character that left such an impact on me, I carved graffiti into about fifty trays in his honor at the Macalester College dining hall when I was a freshman in 1991. They said "Matt Braman's honorary tray #1. Matt Braman's honorary tray #2. (much later, when I lost count) Matt Braman's honorary tray # π. Matt Braman's honorary tray # [quadratic formula].
I want to think somebody catalogued them, they inspired copycat Matt Braman trays, and became legend: the Toynbee tiles of cafeteria trays. But really I suspect zero of these trays remain, having been recycled into new trays like people who "go home" become Soylent, like paper money you draw skulls all over becomes pulp and then, new money. I wonder if I could time travel to fall 1991 and watch myself carving them if it would make any sense. I remember the feeling of it. I remember bending a fork tine and how it felt to carve with the fork. Muscle memory. I've never seen these trays, or any photos of them, since. They're just a memory blip.
What rocks though is this guy I met once had such an impact on me that I did all that, and wrote about him later and I'm thinking about him now. It was a point frozen in time that I knew then to be totally present for, and I was, and I absorbed it, and it stuck in my brain. But time has blurred it. If it happened today, we'd follow each other on instagram, we'd exchange numbers on our cell phones. We'd take a photo together. But then. Like sand in an hourglass, those were the days of our lives.
This was the night: I snuck my ex boyfriend Kevin out of reform school (really) and drove him to his home town. We prowled his parents' house like thieves. We met up with MB who was a friend of Kevin's, and drank coffee all night in a diner. Then we sat in my mom's car in a strip mall parking lot and did nothing for a couple hours. No cell phones then - people would just sit around and do nothing, tell dumb jokes. Drive. Draw. Drink coffee. Look at things. Stare at things. Be quiet together, then tell another joke. We were small town punks, broke. That's what small town punx did.
Kevin sat in front with me, I leaned my seat all the way back almost into Matt's lap, and Matt ran his hands through my mohawk, and affectionately scritched the scruff on the sides of my head, like you would pet a cat. Kept doing it all night. He was chronically sick with something and kept coughing up gunk and spitting it out the car door, coughing and coughing. I have no idea what happened to him. I went to college and carved all those trays, and someone at Mac knew him, and I never got in touch, and that was that.
Bits of tales he told that night ended up in this story, but I don't remember what they mean. So for you, I have left them out. They're for me. I've also deleted a few small embellishments I added in a rewrite that interrupt the flow of the story, which wrote itself in a hurry and didn't really want to be scrutinized. I've changed a few tiny things (added the "guyliner" line, for fun), made a few things clearer.
It may be nuts but I mainly went to Macalester because their football team sucked; my brother worked in admissions at Bennington College at the time, and his favorite applicant turned them down in favor of Mac; they had a postcard of a punk playing bagpipes.
There are no perfect decisions in life. But you gotta make them somehow.
I went to my cousin Rebecca's wedding years ago. She and her fiance had been together six years. The crux of the best man's speech was "(husband) takes forever to make decisions, but when he does, he makes the perfect decision." They got divorced.
My friend Will Grant has a daughter that goes to Macalester, and he was jazzed to find out I went there. (I dropped out, returned, dropped out again, then transferred to art school where I dropped out again)
After she got there, he excitedly told me their sports cheer: "drink blood, smoke crack, worship Satan, go Mac!" That's my school!
I should have asked about the trays. But Mac students are so damn weird. Nobody. Would. Remember.
When I was a freshman I heard all these crazed stories about a guy named Nick Hook. He had sex in the fishbowl (a brightly lit glass walled public skyway in the library). He acted so nuts he couldn't keep a roommate, and had a suite to himself. Things like that. Mid '90s when I lived in Austin TX I met up with a friend who was touring with a band, and Nick Hook was in his band. I asked Nick about it all, and .. shrug. The stories were embellished? they happened / they didn't happen? I don't remember what he said. Who cares?
Stories are stories.
So here it is.
129th Floor Window
No matter how many times I lick this spot I can't get that damn post-Windex streak to go away. You know what one I mean, the one spot of streaky dust shaped like that piece of hamburger in your mom's freezer, way in the back, with the peeling piece of masking tape on the tin foil covering it, the one that's got a day and a month on it but you can't exactly read the year.
I'm on the 287th floor, and I'm not exactly sure how the windows up here would get washed if there weren't a tree high enough to reach it. Luckily for my employment status, there is one, and I'm dangling from the top branch of it as we speak, trying in vain to get rid of the spot. All I've succeeded in doing thus far is making it look a little more like my grandmother's left calf, instead of that piece of chopped meat.
I do windows.
It never fails to amaze me how oblivious the people inside this apartment are to my presence; they don't notice the balding beer-gutted man in paint-splattered carpenter pants holding onto a branch of a tree with one hand, a bottle of Windex with the other, licking a vein-shaped streak in the middle of their living room window, yet they're considerate enough to offer bird seed to the pigeon that's trying to wind my hair into a nest.
No one offers me any coffee, so I just wipe the streaky spot one last time, reducing it to a squashed-fly-on-the-bottom-of-your-shoe shaped spot, muttering anti-287th-floor-residentisms under my breath, and in my haste to depart to a different floor, lose my footing. I'm free falling, just like the ride at 6 Flags.
It occurs to me briefly that this is perhaps going to be a fatal drop, so I do all the cliche things that people who are going to imminently die a sudden, violent death do, like watch my life flash before my eyes (cautiously, because, being epileptic, I worry that, like a strobe light, it could cause a seizure), and swear a lot.
In super slow-mo I see all these peaks and valleys in the bricks on the side of the building as I fall, ants crawling sideways, up and down, around in circles, spelling out words. They are very good spellers.
"NECROPHILIA," they are writing.
Everything is all of a sudden falling upward at an alarming rate.
I pass the 279th floor.
I peek in the 265th floor window out of sheer boredom once all my nails are done with this nice shade of burgundy that I found on a ledge a few floors up. I'm also now wearing guyliner. I see inside two blindfolded dental hygienists trying to make a circle on an Etch-a-Sketch.
I realize they are nothing but stolen images from a Steven Wright joke, but they look so happy that I don't want to bring them down by mentioning it, so I don't stop. I accidentally doze off a bit and am awakened with a start with a short, tuba-shaped woman with half a purple mustache and four lips opens her window into my face.
"What floor is this?" I scream. Several floors down a man pokes his cerebellum out the window, severely wounding me with it, and holds out a street sign that says "130th" in Braille.
"I can't read Braille!" I shout to him. Well, certainly not with a cerebellum-impact-cerebellum injury. He tells me in sign language which floor he's on and I don't understand sign language either, so I whip out my trusty English / Sign Language Phrase Book For the Inexperienced Traveler and look it up. I forget a small bit of what he said so from the remaining signs I have to decide between "Your mother is a lame excuse for a goat's spleen," "130th floor," and "cheese." I decide he meant 130th floor, but by then I've fallen down to the 129th, where I hear a gunshot and my kindergarten teacher tosses a bloody, dead brunette out the window.
I must admit I'm slightly embarrassed to see Mr. Griswald because, even though it's been a long time, I remember calling him into the bathroom stall to wipe my butt. He doesn't seem to recognize me though, so I decide since I'm en route to a death so gory the cops will probably have to draw four or five circles around me with chalk, I might as well turn the fucker in.
"Mr. Griswald," I scream at him, falling in sync with his wife, "I saw that! I know what floor you're on! Like Santa Claus, I know you've been bad, and I have it on video!" I pull a Sony Camcorder from my left rear pocket and replay it to him in proof. "And I bet I can win some money with it on America's Funniest Home Videos!" I yell, pointing and raising one eyebrow ominously. I strip-search the body as I fall and find on it bug spray, coupons, and a frozen bagel which I lick and then aim at the 118th floor window.
It breaks a window and lands in a vat of chocolate on the 111th floor. Yuck. Garlic and chocolate.
Hearing mention (telepathically) of garlic, my convertible pocket vampire emerges and, charred by the sunlight, leaps to his death. His aim is off though, and he instead hits a brick which causes his brain to explode and soon the entire 100th floor is covered with vampire pate. I catch some on a piece of bagel that has followed us down. It's pretty good, but I've gotta motor if I'm going to report that dead body on time.
"Anyone got a phone I can use???!" I scream from between the 92nd and 93rd floors. An alpaca on the 89th floor throws a phone booth out the window. We all fall together, the dead gal, a few bagel parts, the phone booth, a headless vampire, and me.
"Thanks!" I tell him, remembering even in times of tragedy to be courteous. Superman comes out of the phone booth, confused, and says spritely, "You're very welcome. I knew the patriotic citizens of the U.S. would vastly appreciate my success in making all American flags fire and bomb repellent."
"American flags are bomb repellent? I don't believe you!"
I construct a large pipe bomb and, realizing I don't have an American flag, poke my head into a window on the 71st floor and ask for one. I'm immediately handed the United Nations flag.
"No, the American flag!" I shout, becoming anxious, then blush upon realizing the American flag is on the back.
"Oh." I set the bomb and wait. The flag is unscathed. I construct another bomb and blast a hole through the United Nations flag on side A.
"Well, what do you know!"
Having bet Superman that he was wrong, I break into the 64th floor and steal a green lava lamp, grumble, and hand it to him bitterly. Superman, triumphant at having pulled yet another swindle, grabs the lamp, smirks "I told you so!" and flies away.
I don't have a dime. I pick the pockets of the dead vampire and murder victim falling beside me. Nada. I search the coin return and the floor of the phone booth to no avail.
"HELP!" I signal S.O.S. in Morse Code. God, hearing my call, peeks out of the 52nd floor window and hands me a dime.
It is Canadian.
I pop it into the phone anyway, prank my neighbor, realize I've lost the dime and call the police collect.
"There's been a murder on the 129th floor!" I tell them.
"Where are you?" they ask.
"50th floor," I tell them.
They tell me to come to the station to make a statement but I explain that I'm too busy falling to my death.
"Oh, you're the one that tried to blow up the American flag, aren't you?????" they ask, accusingly. I wince. Superman must've told them, the snitch.
"That's me. I can tell you all the details of the murder and which kindergarten teacher named Griswald on the 129th floor did it, if I don't die first, if only you won't prosecute."
The police wave to me from the 37th floor.
"You realize, of course, we will have to confiscate your camcorder which we've been told has film footage of your attempt to explode the flag and Superman's superhuman powers enabling him to stop you."
As I fly by the 31st floor a helicopter hovers and Superman leaps out, rescuing the dead body on a stretcher, taking the phone booth in the middle of my conversation, the rude bastard, and as an afterthought, grabbing the headless vampire, folding it and putting it neatly into his wallet. The helicopter lifts, leaving me to fall past the 25th floor to my death.
25 floors left??? Talk about time flying when you're having fun. I do, talk about it, that is, and a Mickey Mouse alarm clock glides past me, into the window of the 19th floor. Becoming more bored by the minute, I hope into the window on the 17th floor and ask if anyone wants to play Battleship. Nope. I pull out a deck of blue bicycle cards and play solitaire. I lose. On the 14th floor I stop to go to the bathroom, correct the grammar in the graffiti on the wall, and continue.
As I approach the twelfth floor I scream loud enough to dislodge my left lung and sent it flying around the world seven times, at which point it lands in my mouth and I swallow it whole. It slides back into place and I continue to hyperventilate, greatly disheartened and angered that THERE IS NO THIRTEENTH FLOOR. The shock of this realization motivates me to build one and insert it between the 12th and 14th so that I won't have to edit the floor numbers in the story to ensure that they are all architecturally accurate.
Completing a somersault, then a double axle, touchdown, homerun, and check mate in front of the 8th floor window, I spot a dumpster on the ground below and aim for it. I grab a parachute from a nail on the 5th floor and tie it to myself to break my fall. At the third floor I stop to shave all my body hair so I will be streamlined.
I glide gracefully down to the dumpster where I land on my feet on its edge, facing west, and swan dive into the two foot depth of stale twinkies it contains. Hungered after my exhausting fall, I eat one, step out into the street and get hit by a truck.
God, having made my acquaintance earlier, allows me to come back to life to write it all down, under the condition that he owns the copyright, he (rather than Robert Urich) gets to play me when it's turned into a TV miniseries, and I promise not to put my feet up on his coffee table anymore when I come over to watch Monday Night Football.
What a swell guy.