What Is the Word for Eye Doctor?

This morning I went to the orthinologist to have my contact prescription refilled. It is recommended that each time the supply of contacts runs out, an eye exam be administered. And I say administered, but I really mean inflicted.

Today, I was punched in the eye by air. My face was placed into the helmet from A Clockwork Orange and I was told to look into a pinhole light at the back of a dark cylinder. As I diligently stared, eager to please the fatherly orthopedic, I was punched – not tapped, or prodded, or dabbed, or drummed, or tagged, or even beckoned. The air didn’t say, look over here; I’m your friend. I’m air and you breathe me. You need me to live. The air didn’t give a high five, or a pound, or a back rub. The air didn’t offer words of encouragement. It didn’t even instigate an argument or provoke a fight. It punched me in the eye.

I fell out of my chair. You think I’m joking, but I initially sat in this swivel chair backwards, and when the punch came, I was so unprepared that I fell backwards. Then the doctor made me sit up and take one in the other eye.

What is more, the orthodonist put a laser into my eye to examine it, and then searched for something that obviously was not there, because it took him many moons. I think the worst part of a visit to the omnologist is that whatever agonizing procedure you experience, you have to experience it twice. Not only that, but the first time, being unprepared, you can handle the surprising pain, but the second time, you are well aware of what the air will not say before it hits you where the sun directly shines.


Who Was Bill Brasky?

Fayetteville High School held class officer elections last week. My cousin Gabe ran for senior class president. Gabe, I think, is not popular – but that’s not to say he isn’t cool. He tall and skinny and self depreciating (see photo). He overacts, and would make a perfect techie sidekick to any action hero. But he isn’t the action hero that wins the school election; there can only be one Highlander.

I was told by a guy I mentor that on the day of elections, Gabe and his small group of loyal friends dressed in suits, then stood outside the high school and shook the hands of every single student attending class that day. Then he lost. But I thought his campaign strategy was extremely classy, and I would have voted for him, if I had been allowed to.
I’m not allowed to vote in FHS elections anymore, one, because I’m not a student (probably the first issue that would come up if I tried to vote), but more interestingly, two, because I sabotaged those very same elections my senior year.
As a senior, I was far beyond running for class officer – I only wanted to screw up everyone else’s attempts to do so. I created a fake person, Bill Brasky, and got the required amount of signatures to insert him into the race for sophomore class president. Then, my friends and I began an aggressive viral marketing campaign, printing hundreds of flyers that only read, “WHO IS BILL BRASKY?” and wallpapering the school with them like ads for Italian political parties. Then I left school, so as to not be present when Bill was unmasked.
Bill won. To this day, I am not sure how. It is possible the sophomores did not care at all. For my part, I got into hot water with the student council president – then we got out, leaped into the pool, then jumped back into hot water, because that’s always a rush. But that was the extent of the trouble. The principal actually encouraged me to take the ACT as Bill. I only wish Gabe had put his effort into destroying the system, instead of cooperating with it.

The Internet Is a Terrible Thing

Did you know that you can wire Amazon.com directly into your bank account? I do, I have, and I’ve used it already today. Ordering books is now as simple as reading an author’s name in an interview then throwing up money in the bathroom. That sounds complicated, now that I read it, but if you swallow the money beforehand it wouldn’t be so hard.

I visit a science fiction blog, io9, every day. Once or twice a week they’ll publish a piece on a new novel or incredibly good comics. I trust them – we have one of those internet relationships where you know the other person’s real name. I’m considering giving them my bank account information directly, so I don’t have to be the middleman between them and the act of spending my money.
Speaking of Middleman, that was a show they told me to buy. They were right. You should watch it – it’s like birthday cake with marshmellow icing. At first you say, I’ve seen this before, and then you say, mmmamdkmfm, because you can’t open your mouth on account of the marshmellow.
Today, io9 ran a article on Richard K. Morgan; the article was actually about his book The Steel Remains, but I followed cookie crumb links around the website till I came to a review of Altered Carbon. Then I bought it. Then I bought a Chris Beckett book called Marchers, which Amazon recommended (Chris Beckett being an author I first discovered this summer when io9 took my money and bought his short story collection The Turing Test with it).
In case there’s any confusion, these are all hard science fiction novels. Someone told me that science fiction, along with fantasy and horror and other simliar genres, are now being called “speculative fiction.” That sounds more respectible, doesn’t it?

Generally, the Gospel Truth

My roommate Nathan is gifted; he can play the guitar from any position. Some times he will play it sitting down. Sometimes he will play it standing up. My favorite times are those when he plays will dancing, which I think would be very hard.

Several weeks ago Nathan formed a band named General Lee and the Gospel Truth in our living room. Basically what happens is on nights that I have to study, he will invite all his friends over to play music. Bingo plays the banjo, Laurie plays the fiddle, and Moffett plays a bass guitar he made out of a wash basin and a broom handle.
(Don’t you love those names? I feel like this could be a band of muppets, like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.)
Nathan plays some of his own songs, and some covers. The band will practice on our porch or in our living room, and Blanton, my other roommate, and I will sit and listen, because we cannot play instruments. I’ve always been frustrated by that – not that I can’t play an instrument, but more that I can’t join a band. I don’t care much about playing instruments; I have other skills, many of which I can’t tell you about. Yet I often wish I could be in a band, because that seems to be an easy conversation starter.
Two Saturdays ago, watching General Lee grow their bluegrass, I really felt the need for a steady, grating percussion instrument like a washboard. I said this, and as it turned out, I was sitting directly beneath a washboard that had been hung on the wall (I think it may have come from a dumpster – Nathan brings home a lot of knick knacks). Since it was my idea, I was given the position of washboard player.
Playing the washboard is a lot like running your fingernails across a chalkboard – in fact, if the chalkboard was preforated, that would be exactly what playing the washboard is. The only trick is making a scratching sound rhythmic. This is a trick I possess.
The pinnacle of the night (and my life) came at midnight – having mastered the oft celebrated washboard, I suggested we go to Dickson Street and peddle our wares. Thus we did, and in two hours we stole ten dollars from people who thought we were homeless. After that, I (literally) hung up my washboard, and retired from professional music.

It Was Never the Same, After the Accident

On Saturday, my fraternity took a float trip on a river which I think was the Illinois. It ran next to Tahlequah and was deceptively deep at the slow parts. Though initially I put on a life jacket for laughs (it was a bright orange block of foam with a toilet seat hole at the top for a head), I eventually wore it for actual safety. Treading water is exhausting.

Our float trips always end up as enormous pirate fights, so this year we decided to skip the calm before the storm and jump directly into Thunderstruck. At the very first bend, the occupants of a raft that had disappeared early on came running out of the woods, flipped a raft and its riders, and stole all the paddles. By the end of the trip, no one was using the original oar they started with. Two guys who were Lewis and Clarking it in their own raft, didn’t even finish with a raft – it was stolen about a mile away from our ending point. They had to hitchhike the river back to camp.

This whole ordeal reminded me of a very bad first date I had during the spring semester of my freshman year. Two couples who I was friends with skipped class to go canoeing; I was invited, and in turn invited a girl I didn’t know very well. It was an invitation I didn’t expect her to accept, but she did.

I’m not very good on the river. I sat in the back, and was in charge of steering. At one dangerously fast (for me) portion, I miscalculated and steered the canoe directly into a fallen tree. The canoe turned sideways, and water began flowing rapidly into it. Katelyn, this girl, screamed – more so because the water was cold than anything else – but I, in a state of confusion and embarrassment, shouted, “DON’T WORRY – I WILL SAVE YOU!” in all seriousness. As it turned out, the river was only two feet deep.

We beached the canoes and got into the car at sundown, wet and cold. Then, on the way home, we blew a tire in an area with no cell phone coverage. Then the car battery died. We sat in an old Jeep Cherokee with no light for five hours while we waited for someone to find us.’

Shortly thereafter, Katelyn joined the ROTC and got a colorful tattoo that spanned both her shoulderblades. We don’t see each other much anymore.

Who I Wish My Grandfather Was

Last night I went to a beautiful wedding with dark skies. The service was held outside, and though it rained the better park of the day, the rain stopped for the ceremony and the reception. It was small and wet and green and white; I envy them, how classy the whole set up was.

Filing into the rows of white wooden chairs on the lawn of a dollhouse bed and breakfast, I saw a man wearing a white linen suit and a straw hat. He had a full beard of clipped white hairs and big, sturdy rimmed glasses. He looked like he came with the place. In fact, the people I had come with all noticed him too, and he quickly drew comparisons to John Hammond, Colonel Sanders, and a plantation owner employing sharecroppers.
The man who conducted the wedding spoke quite softly, so I didn’t as much listen to him as I stared at this elegant man in the white linen suit. He did not look like either the bride or the groom. He had to be crashing the wedding – and yet, when someone who looks like him crashes your wedding, you invite him inside and give him many bronze tripods (that’s what the Greeks did, anyway).
During the reception (the wedding was a success, by the way), he was the first one on the dance floor, and the only one for a few songs. He would pull a random woman from her circle of friends and spin her around, like he was teaching her how to swing without using words. Each song he would pull another girl out, and it thus it occurred to me that he was a professional party starter. He was hired to attend, simply because he looked awesome and he could show the young people a thing or two about fun.
At the end of the reception, the bride’s family all produced instruments and got on stage to play a special song for her and the groom to dance to. The linen man took the stage with a steel guitar. He laid the guitar down horizontally, and picked it slowly with individual, deliberate fingers. He was the epitome of cool.
Afterwards, they introduced each band member, and he was introduced – and I am not lying – as Jim Crow. If you recall correctly, Jim Crow was the name applied to the laws restricting the rights of African Americans, the legislation that delivered the term, “separate but equal.” And here was Jim Crow in the flesh, who was probably wearing one of fifteen of his white linen suits, the others he wears while he sits on his screened in porch on the family farm in Louisiana, while being served mimosas by his house servants.

Operation A Capella Complete

Two weeks ago, I, acting as my fraternity’s Pledge Commander, initiated the Nakatomi Protocol and began Operation A CAPELLA (Alpha Call All Potentials Every Last Lonely Aardvark). Last night, it was completed as a success.

This is the realization of a dream, a dream that started six months ago and was briefly suspended back in May when I woke up to go to the bathroom. However, the dream came true last night as our fraternity gave bids to 84 pledges.

84! What the frak, how are we going to handle 84 pledges?

I was elected Pledge Trainer last November, but I quickly changed the title to Pledge Commander and instigated a paramilitary coup, and by paramilitary I mean inside myself, as I overthrew the civic Pledge Trainer and replaced him with a crueler, more dashing, and more militarized Pledge Commander. I also promoted my assistants to Pledge Lieutenants. Pledges are now known as PFCs (Pledge First Class).

Today we begin a four month pledgeship. I call it Operation MARZIPAN (Mostly All Robot Zebras Iota Pledge Action Now!). I would be still working on the acronym, but I got tired.

T.S. Eliot’s Legacy

My first class on Fridays is Modern English Literature with Dr. Marren. It’s a regualar classroom, with a chalkboard and a lectern and perhaps thirty desks. On the first day of classes, Dr. Marren asked us to move our desks out of the traditional box pattern we were in, and into a circle, so that each one of us would have to stare awkwardly at another random and unfamiliar student. When we first did this, there were so many bodies that chairs had to be brought in from another classroom.

The problem with this system is that we have to move the chairs from the original set up to a circle everyday. This is not difficult; the difficult part is spending the next hour counting the number of unmoved desks, and realizing that today, fifteen fellow students skipped class.

It has to be disheartening for Dr. Marren, to have a visual confirmation of how many students don’t want to spend their time with her. I imagine every time she looks up to see our neatly arranged faces all she can see are the ghosts sitting in the unmoved desks in the middle of the circle, like children who are forced to sit in the muck pot after being caught during Duck-Duck-Goose. I may not pay attention – I use Modern British Literature to transcribe previous nights’ dreams into a notebook and to brainstorm titles to short stories I’ve outlined – but at least I come to class.
I cannot blame those who skip. Let’s all be honest together – T.S. Eliot makes no sense. What I think happened is this: Eliot gathered his extensive library of original language classics and put all those millions of pages into an commercial grade blender, and then arranged individual scrap sentences like magnetic letters on a refrigerator. Then everyone clapped for him.
I will say that Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a must have for every collection. I’m just waiting for one of my fraternity brothers to get sick, so I can read him Gus: the Theatre Cat, and he can tell me I make him uncomfortable. But its a good poem, so I think he’d appreciate it either way.
Quick story: during my first year to work at camp, on a day off, I suggested to some other counselors that we all see the musical Cats, based off of T.S. Eliot’s poetry, which was passing through the Walton Arts Center that weekend. They all laughed and told me I was funny. I laughed with them. Later that night I went to see Cats alone and told no one. Except you.

How My Grandparents Met

One more pause on this past weekend, if you don’t mind, which I’m sure you won’t, because you don’t exist, person who I believe reads my blog. So I can pause without cause and still receive no applause. (EDITORS NOTE: that rhyme doesn’t make sense).

I spent this past weekend with a group of fifteen year olds at a fall camp retreat (NOTE THE PRESENCE OF THE DEEP V IN THE INSET). We were extremely bored. There are only so many games of Ultimate Frisbee a man can withstand before his index finger begins to bleed. Plus, whenever the sun goes down, there isn’t much to do except for sappy stuff.
In a related story that is too long to tell today, I once invented an alternate persona named Dragon Master. I promise to one day explain it, but all I can say is that with this persona came several stories of dragon fighting honor and valour. Originally, I told these stories to put seven year olds to bed. As it turns out, it works just as well, possibly better, with high schoolers.
I told my guys the story about my grandfather, a magnificent Dragon Master in his own right, behind enemy lines in World War II taking out a nest of dragons trained by the Third Reich. Dropped into Nazi occupied France, his team was completely obliterated mid-air by flak fire (this is why the story might work better with older kids: I was able to describe in detail entrails falling through the night sky, coming out of dead floating paratroopers). With only a British sniper, Sergeant Gladstone, and a mysterious Frenchman with perfect skin who they conscripted as a guide, my grandfather found the nest and destroyed it. In the end, Sergeant Gladstone had to sacrifice his life for the success of the mission, but the Dragon Master and the Frenchman survived (who turned out to be a woman, who later became my grandmother).
I told this story in installments, culminating in a late night finale, with half of the group sleeping. When it came time for the killing blow to the primary antagonist, a dragon named Ephialtes, I had my grandfather blow off the dragon’s leg by wedging a grenade between a knife and the skin of the dragon it was stuck in. After the leg was gone, the dragon was still alive, but it was laying on the explosive charges that were meant to seal the cave and trap the dragons. My grandfather raised the detonator, but when it came time to say his final words to the dragon, hopefully in pun form, I blanked. I said, “And he said,” and then there was a thirty second pause, and then I said the only thing that came to mind, “Way to go.” And then he blew up the dragon.

The Man Who Ruined My Day

Reading before class started, I was approached by a student I used to be in workshop with. I actually was in two different workshops with Lathe, and in workshop, you understand your peers very well. Lathe has long black hair which he ties into a tail, possibly a foot long. He’s very skinny and pale, and has a nose like a right triangle. His mind scares me.

When you read four or five unedited stories written by one particular person, you arrive at a state where you know their hearts. Lathe’s heart is dark. Please don’t mistake me – I don’t mean that he’s possessed. I mean that out of the four stories of his that I read, two were about zombies, one was about a rape, and the last I have curtained off in my memories, so that I can never again relive what he wrote.

He’s a nice fellow, though he dresses strange. Each time he handed back stories he had edited, along with his notes he would sketch scenes in the margins, either from the story or from a different story about skeletons and bloody daggers. Sometimes, he’d combine those two elements.

He saw me reading, and sought me out. We talked about our summers, and the classes we’re taking now. He asked about my science fiction writing, and I asked about his inner darkness. Then there was a silence and I waited for him to say goodbye, so I could return to reading, which was necessary to accomplish before the next class. But Lathe only stood and stared out the window at the rain. I flipped through the pages of my book, which I didn’t have time to read anymore, and tried to think of things to talk about. I couldn’t.

And now Lathe has ruined my day, because I cannot get over how excruitatingly painful those three minutes were, before I stood up to go to class. Walking away, I felt like I was being dragged back to my cell after an intesive waterboarding session.