Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A boy that men make drive

Every year, our administrators evaluate us.

It's not too bad when it's done by supervisors who barely know you and who don't really care.

But when it's a supervisor who has actually decided to pay attention to you, it's not good.

I am not even exaggerating; after saying that, this supervisor sputtered out the word 'motherfucker' like three more times, disconnected from anything else he was saying.

I think he figured I was a 'jive turkey' and he had to 'bring it down' to 'rap' with me in a way I could 'grok.'

Some men meet me and just think I have a chip on my shoulder; that I am all manitude and need to have a plank removed from the Jenga tower of my ego.

No, you men!

The squint is from staring at the sun too much when I was little and nearly blinding myself.

The granite physique, the posture that seems to be all attitude, just needs to be seen from the side for the truth to be revealed.

Why is it that men who like to sound the depths of other men never take the time to look at them from the side???

Sometimes I write sentences and think, 'what the hell am I even talking about?' Tee-hee.

Which brings me to Driver's Ed.

My driver's ed teacher was a Crimean war vet who was part metal because the Saxons had rained too many flaming balls of pitch down upon him from the safety of their comfy, comfy castle.

Mr. Jubbs took one look at me and thought, this young punk likes to believe he's too cool for school. Wait till he gets in MY car....I'll turn that Eddie Haskell into a Lumpy Rutherford.

We began in the parking lot.

"Start the car!" he barked.

I began to turn the key, but it was not fast enough.

"Start it! Start the car! Start it right now! Turn the key! Turn it!"


I was not prepared for this.

There were four people in the car:

Me, now sweating profusely in my favorite sky blue tank top; Mr. Jubbs, his orthopedic robot shoe already planted on the "helper brake"; Inga from Germany, one of several exchange students who ended up in our little town and thought, "Mein gott, how did we lose the war??"

And then Chip.

The measure of hatred that Mr. Jubbs held for me was only outweighed by the absolute love he bore for Chip.

You could see it the moment he looked into the backseat and saw Chip there, a glowing little elfin farm boy.

 "Aw Chip...aw my god Chip....you? In my car?" Mr. Jubbs began to cry. "All this time...I thought...I figured...you know since the missus passed....I just thought....I gave up, you know? I gave up and thought the sun would never shine on me again. That all the light was gone.....

He broke down.

Chip just smiled the guileless smile of a Somali refugee child.

Mr. Jubbs wiped his eyes and turned his attention back to me.

A long shadow fell across his face.

"Oh," he muttered, "you."

He squinted up at the afternoon sun.

"Well, get on with it then, let's watch this train wreck happen."

For the first few hours, we went over the basics.

Every mistake I made would provoke Mr. Jubbs into fits of rage. 

My third attempt at parallel parking was especially inspiring to him: "You see?? Do you see!?!? This is taking you down a notch, isn't it? Making your pride sting....making it hurt."

He rocked and sputtered in a fit of angry glee.

When my torture session was over, I crawled into the backseat, utterly spent.

Inga got behind the wheel, and it took Mr.Jubbs three minutes to make her cry.

He took no satisfaction in it though; I guess breaking little German girls who are sensitive, artistic, and far from home is like throwing a water balloon at a fat person.

You really can't miss.

When Inga finished and climbed into the back seat with me, we hugged each other tightly.

Chip began to drive.

"Oh, yes, yeah Chip," Mr.Jubbs said. "You're an old pro at this, ain't ya?" 

"How's your mom, Chip?"

"Yeah? She still make those lemon bars to pass out around the Buck Pole?"

Mr.Jubbs stared wistfully out the window.

Chip pulled into a gas station.

Mr.Jubbs turned around to fix me with his iron gaze.

"Now Chip and I are going to hit the soda fountain, and I want you to fill up the tank. Can you handle that, Fatty Arbuckle?"

I nodded.

And here for your perusal is one of my secret shames: I had never pumped gas.

I understood the principle at work, sure, a tube goes in a hole and your car can drive again. I wasn't a total idiot.

But how do you make the tube talk to the car, what are all those whirling numbers, what's this trigger, what are those sounds??

I looked at Inga for help, but she had retreated to the far corner of the backseat with her hands over her ears, endlessly muttering 'O Tannenbaum'.

Time was running out, and I was alone.

Jubbs and the Chipster would soon be back, and oh how they would have a good laugh at the manboy; his monkey brain so befuddled by the rocket science known colloquially as "pumping gas."

Forget pride; it would be my very sense of self that would be shattered and flung about the street.

I must make gas go into this car.

I must.

I turned to see a classmate from my high school, one of those trade school kids who disappeared on a bus everyday and returned hours later with secret knowledge of things like "welding" and "print making."

I remember watching him lift one butt cheek off of a chair to make farts in chemistry class. He called it "kickin' bass." It was the first time I had ever seen someone do that.

"I...I've never pumped gas before."

He looked me up and down, and then nodded, knowingly.

"I won't laugh at you," he said, "least not now anyways. You look like you been beat down enough for one day. I'll do it."

I wanted to hold him to myself and not let go; to sob all my tension, all my grief into the the shoulder of his ZZ Top t-shirt.

If he had hinted at any kind of an opening, I would have been in there, hugging like a bro.

But he just took the pump from my hand and got to work.

I marveled at how his hands flew across the buttons;
so many choices made without any hesitation.

Here was a man, I thought to myself.

The pump made a 'click' sound.

"Its broken!" I bleated.

He patted me like he was soothing a rabbit who just now had caught its leg in a snare.

"No, no, that just means it's full."

Mr. Jubbs was emerging from the gas station.

"You better go," I told my savior.

"I ain't scared of him," he said.

"I know. I know you're not. But still....there'll be trouble."

"All right then." He pulled the brim of his hat low over his face, lit a cigarette, and strode off down the street.

Little farts eked out of his black jeans.

"Who was that?" Mr. Jubbs demanded to know.

"N-n-nobody!" I stammered. And then, sighing heavily, I turned back to the car, back to Chip, back to an undeserved flailing of my imaginary pride.

"It was no one," I whispered. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Practice

Inservice day coming up.

I love to sit at the feet of experts.

Authority delivered through jargon is the balm in Gilead.

Afterwards, the spectral form of the expert floats around me, reminding me of how most effectually to disperse curriculum.

I know, I know, I just posted yesterday.

But I forgot that I was supposed to do this thing, so I needed to plug it onto the end of some kind of post.

The thing I needed to do is show you this picture:

That's me in my pajamas.

But it is also the lovely Asplenia, who blogs at asplenia.blogspot.com, and who very nicely made me sell her a shirt that says "I'm stupid and I am with me."

It was my only Zazzle sale. So far.

So yep, I have started a Zazzle store.

There is really nothing there yet though.

Here's where you come in.

Asplenia made me do it, and if there is something you want, you'll have to make me do it too, because I have the design sensibilities of a donut.

Tell me what Gweenbrick crap you might possibly buy, and I'll make it for you.

Beware though, Zazzle price gouges like you wouldn't believe.

Drop me a line at gweenbrick@hotmail.com

Oh the store, right. Here it is: http://www.zazzle.com/gweenbrick

Thank you all so much for reading gweenbrick and commenting so much!

And thank YOU, Asplenia, for being my human guinea pig!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kind of like the Odd Couple, but with less gay subtext

I didn't even want to go to college.

My old girlfriend Blora nagged me to apply somewhere, anywhere, and I managed to send out one application.

They accepted me because I am incredible.

Let me tell you something about rooming blind.

It is a fantastic game of Russian roulette.

The summer before my first semester, I got an ominous, late-afternoon call from my future roommate, and when I hung up, I thought for sure I had drawn the bullet.

(sorry, i steal my jokes from brilliant cinema like scary movie 3)

The voice on the line was impossibly deep, like the bowel of the earth had carved its way to a landline and rung me up to ask if I was bringing a TV.

"I don't have a T.V.", I told the Creature from the Earth's Core.

"That's all right, I have one. I need it to sleep."

"Ok." I was a little scared, so I did that cool move where you squeeze your legs together and keep peepee from coming out.

"Do you like music?" it asked.

"Sure. Do you like the Pixies-"

"I like Danzig. A lot."

He hung up.

How do you measure trepidation?

I measure it by the shallowness of breath I feel as my family drives me the five hours of desolate turnpike to my new school; by how close to ash the rest stop fried chicken tastes in my mouth.

Popeye's Chicken!! The official taste of dread!

The campus was set on a little hill at the edge of a dying steel town.

There was so much scum in the air that the night was never black, only purple. It all smelled like sweaty factories and sewage.

"It's no big deal, but plan on having some major zits the first few times you shower," someone warned me, "the water is kind of greasy or something."

I arrived at my dorm room.

My roommate, Gary, had already moved in his things, but he was no where around.

What kind of person could I put to that deep of a voice?

He had placed a small television on top of a mini-fridge, and the rest of his decor seemed to spiral out from it like it was the epicenter of a chambered nautilus.

On the walls, he had hung two framed pictures: one of Michael Jordan; the other, a black velvet painting of Mickey Mouse.

"Well, we'll see ya."

My parents hugged me goodbye.

I stood in the room for awhile, my head down.

Something profound was happening to me right then, some threshold had been irrevocably crossed over, but I couldn't name it. 

I wanted to put on my jammies and eat sugar cereal and watch Captain Caveman on a Saturday morning.

I wanted to see the swirly tiles in the bathroom of my home, especially the one that looked like a raygun.

A shadow fell upon me.

"Hello." Gasp. It was Gary.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

"H-h-h-hi, Gary." He had to be six foot five if he was a yard....or however it is that sailors in movies state the bigness of fish.

In one stride, he came in from the hall and flicked on the TV.

Gary talked a little about himself, but I wasn't really listening; I was thinking about all the different stuff he could probably palm with his hands.

Basketballs, sure, but what else?

His little TV.

My back. Do you think you could lift me by palming my back, Gary?

Do you ask new roommates those kinds of questions?

"You smoke?" he asked.

Yes, but holy lord, not like him.

Gary bought Marlboro Reds by the pallet, and smoked them one after the other.

The skin of his log-sized smoking fingers was orangey brown.

I learned many things about Gary in those first few days.

He had a bad temper.

When Sonic the Hedgehog lost all his rings, Gary threw things.

One day Sonic failed on one of his attempts to topple Dr.Robotnik, and Gary stomped on the cartridge while it was still inserted into the Sega.

There were no more video games for awhile.

Gary's mom called all the time, and their conversations were like rides on bi-polar ferris wheels.

Are we going clockwise or counterclockwise? Which way are we going to spin!?! Make up your mind, you stupid carny and quit playing with the controls. Kids are puking up there.

"Hi Mom."
"Yeah I got the money."
"Yeah I know."
"Oh yeah its going really good. He's great, he-"
"Oh, that's cool. Yep."
"No, I read that in the book of John."

Then he would stretch himself out flat on the floor, effectively taking up the whole room, and proceed to talk in his alternative voice, a high, nasal whine he used for the emotion of wistful sadness.

"I love you too Mom. I know you're worried. Yep. I know. I miss everyone there." He even teared up a bit.

One night, I tried to get Gary to be introspective, to go inside himself and emerge with sentiments approaching the poetic.

We were laying on our bunk beds, in the dark.

"Just try to make up a poem, Gary," I encouraged him, "just about anything."

"I feel stupid."

"Just try," I was really only motivated by an inability to sleep and a great curiosity to see if he would really do it. 

Can a man who is only Id, only need and gratification, slow down enough to reflect upon his thoughts, to give them structure and form?

"Fine, shut up and let me think."

There was a great sigh above me.

"'My pillow is my friend. It helps me sleep. I love my pillow.'"

We rode to friendship on the wave of that breakthrough.

Gary would let me hog the only mirror in the room to comb my luxurious hair, and I would pretend nothing was happening when I walked in on him in his underwear, holding a can of deodorant like a microphone, and screaming "MOTHER! TELL YOUR CHILDREN NOT TO WALK MY WAY. WHAT THEY DO, WHAT THEY SAY, OH MOTHER-"

Though we did not live together after that first year, Gary and I continued to be friends.

I watched him sprint up the stairs of his rental home in a panic of bathroom need, while little droplets of poop rained down his pant legs and splatted on the carpeting of each step.

I only cringed an understandable amount when a cold settled randomly in his cheek and swelled one side of his face to cartoonish dimensions.

When, after five years of college, we at last parted ways, I shook his Hulk hand for the last time and promised our BFF status would endure forever.

It didn't.

I would say it endured about the length of time it took me to drive back to my home state.

But this was nothing against Gary or my fondness for him; this was merely the first stirrings of the intense social anxiety and dread that would come to rule my life and be my constant companion, my only fwend. 

I have to wonder, what process, what strange tickle in Gary's ear woke him in the middle of the night, nine years after speaking his last words to me, and convinced him that he needed me to be the best man in his wedding.

His wedding in two weeks. 

I couldn't do it.

I listened to the answering machine message, and my finger some how found itself hovering over the delete button.

Oh Gary, what we had was a lifetime ago.

I...I've changed....I've moved on.

"What are you doing in there?" my wife bellowed.

"Nothing, dear." I hastily erased the message and walked away.