An Attack on All Luxuries

For Spring Break we’re staying in a ski-in, ski-out condo in a line of similar condos with hot tubs. That was one of my stipulations. If I was to come, I demanded a hot tub, as well as tractor trailer that cut fresh flowers. I’m not sure why I asked for the later – I had heard about it on movies. The owners of the condo didn’t comply.

Next door to us there are maybe two or three families with children ages seven to eleven. They are like small monsters. Every time we ski home these kids hide in the woods and throw snowballs like barbarians. Did you know that the Greeks created the word barbarian because they assumed all non-Greeks could say was “Bar bar bar bar”? That’s all these kids say. Yesterday in the hot tub I got hit with a piece of ice, and I said, “Kids, that was ice and I’m now bleeding!” and in unison they said, “Bar bar bar bar!” It was like those sea gulls from Finding Nemo. Terrifying.

Coming home today we were pelted with snowballs; as I tried to get into the house, one kid came too close and almost got inside the house. In the resulting scuffle, his goggles fell off. I locked the door after I pushed him out, then went on the deck and said, “I have your goggles. You will obey me!”

Ten minutes later, I saw some small mop heads floating near the stairwell. I dropped from the coach, to my knees and began to crawl to a blind spot where the kids couldn’t see me. They began counting down, as if to run out in a surprise attack, but before they got to three, I began to scream – nothing specific, no words, but like a tiger – and I pulled one of the kids off the stairs above the bannister, so to the others it looked like he had been taken by the Smoke Monster. I drug him screaming into the bathroom and held him above the toilet while fumbling with the flush handle.

The whole scene devolved from there. None of my fraternity brothers helped – eventually there were five boys and me in the bathroom. They put my foot in the toilet and flushed it. I got one of their arms in the sink with the water running. I really lost my handle on things when David Lee told them I was ticklish.

After a few minutes, they retreated – only to come again. And again. Like barbarians, all they could say was “Bar bar bar bar” and “Let me go home!” I never listened.

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Detailed Study of My Crash

A dozen of my fraternity brothers and I drove 29 hours to the northwest corner of Montana to ski for Spring Break. My car was named “Starscream.” We watched the entire first season of Greek driving across South Dakota. It’s like the land that Cain was banished to – nothing grows there.

I’m terrible with peer pressure. I’m peer pressure resistant up to about twenty feet – if anything is lower than than, I’ll probably jump off it. I want to run you through my thought process on what happened today on the slopes of Whitefish.

I’m in the blue. It looks simple, doesn’t it?

Taking off. Gymnasts call my arm position “The Iron Cross.” Skiiers don’t have a name for it.

I’m enlarging the size here for better perception. Still holding the Iron Cross, which is extremely difficult for gymnasts. I’m also crossing my skis to try to communicate the message of Xtreme.

This is where it started to go wrong, if you define good days by avoiding injury. I think truth is relevant. I say this is where it started to go right. I define my days by the number of ninja kicks I pull off.

If I’m thinking at all, I’m thinking, how can I land on my feet. That’s just conjecture. In all probability, I’m not thinking. In fact, I’ve probably erased this moment from my memory. Years from now my therapist will be searching for the basic event that triggered my schizophrenia, and even under hypnosis I won’t be able to tell, because I’ve thrown this memory away.

Right here I’ve given up on trying to land correctly. I know I have no chance of keeping my skis on. I’m just trying to avoid my face.

Failure. Here’s a quick summary of the next two seconds.

It went on like this for twenty feet. No one laughed until I raised a hand up and said, “I’m okay.” Then they laughed at me. It was like third grade all over again, except with snow instead of the rocks underneath the playground jungle gym and fraternity brothers instead of Lewis Chase. I can’t believe Stephanie Broderick picked him over me after the second grade graduation ceremony.

It finally ended like this.

That’s brotherhood.

This is What Greek Tragedy Looks Like

My Greek Tragedy class is filled with introverts. The whole Classics Department is. Why else would someone pick a dead language to fill the bilingual graduation requirement? Well, I did it because of the confusion that accompanies time travel, but few others have access to the technology I keep in the backseat of my car. Socrates told me he’d never meet anyone else from Arkansas, but he was drunk at the time.

The problem is, in Greek Tragedy the teacher, Dr. Levine, asks us every day to act out scenes from these plays. It’s painful to wait for volunteers. Each class he says, “Who wants to be Antigone?” or “Who wants to be Oedipus?” and no one raises their hands, despite those being no small parts (Oedipus is a bit of a pervert, though – I don’t volunteer because I don’t want to be typecast). There are maybe three of us who aren’t embarrassed to act out, but after three or four consecutive starring roles, it gets tiring. All three of us automatically volunteer for the chorus, so we won’t be expected to take on leading parts. The chorus sings everything in unision. There’s also a bit of dancing; I told the class I was professionally trained, which is almost a true statement.

Last week we performed Philoctetes; in it, the title character has a grevious foot wound, and spends most of the play crying aloud in pain. I didn’t volunteer because I didn’t want the girl I sit next to to think I was a wuss. I’m still trying to translate a love poem for her. After almost a full minute of silence, Dr. Levine said, “You know what? I’ll be Philoctetes. I think this part calls for my talent level.” Then he took off his dress shirt and his shoes, wrapped his belt around the wounded foot, and laid down on the floor.

In the play, Odysseus and Neoptolemus, Achilles’ son, have an argument over the whining Philoctetes. So while these two timid bookworms are whispering the lines to each other, faces between pages, Dr. Levine is screaming, I mean actually screaming, on the floor. And it’s in Greek. He’s screaming in Greek, which transliterated goes something like “aiaiaiaiaiaiaiai!” or “paipaipaipaipai!” They have to stop every few lines because Dr. Levine, still lying on the floor, has kicked a chair or lost his glasses with a new spasm. He even tried to get Neoptolemus to kiss his foot.

At the end of the scene, everyone clapped, because we had no idea what else to do. The chorus and I started to walk back to our seats, but he said, “We’re not finished!” What? “The stage directions say Philoctetes was carried off stage. You must carry me offstage!” When we hesitated, he stood up (in character, with a limp) and knocked all his papers off the long metal table he uses as a desk. I’m talking about loose leaf papers – individual reports and studies on the third stasimon of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis were drifting to the floor like snowflakes. He then laid on the table and yelled, “Carry me!”

Four of us picked up the table and began to carry it to the door. The students who weren’t paralyzed with fear of what Levine might act out next (sacrifice? appearance of a god?) cleared a path for us. Before we got to the door, he said, “Through the door!” and someone opened it for us. Then, when I was out of the classroom and the table was halfway through the doorframe, Levine sat up and calmly said, “That’s how many scholars believe the last moments of Philoctetes played out.” While he put on his shoes, I had to apologize to the people sitting in the hallway. They were studying for an American History test.

This was the same day I gave my thesis to Dr. Levine. I asked him to be on my committee. I need to be in a small room with that kind of insanity.

Is There Ever Too Much Laser Tag

Saturday was too good to be true. Sadly, it turned out to be a dream. I woke up and said, “But if it was possible to have a giant pet crab, I would totally ride him through the abandoned metro system of Moscow.” Then I got a call from a girl who invited me to play laser tag. LASER TAG! As it turned out she was looking for my roommate. I told her I’d pass the message along then I went in his place. Oh, sorry, Nathan couldn’t come tonight. But I’d love to play laser tag.

There were maybe eight of us at Fastlanes in Rogers, which is like a really big Chuck E. Cheese that sells beer. Scratch that. It’s like a really big Chuck E. Cheese. Apparently thirsty dads provide a steady flow of income. The laser tag arena there is shaped like a pirate ship. They play music from the Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Laser pirates? This place is like every scifi novel cover that I’ve ever ripped off the spine and mailed to Emma Watson as a part of our “correspondence.” She sends her replies via her lawyer.
For some reason, Fastlanes divides all players up into three teams – Blue, Red, and Green. The vests actually light up with the team color, so it’s easy to tell who you’re betraying when you shoot them in the back. The eight of us were supposed to be Red; then my date and I switched sides. There was a single dad and his two boys – Isaiah, 7, and Michael, 9. They were Green. We wanted to be Green, too.
(The dad had a shaven head and the word “STYX” tattooed onto the back of his skull in Old English letters. I asked him if he was willing to die for the Green team. Immediately afterwards I regretted asking him that.)
Inside the pirate ship, we tried to stick together; after every small victory I would yell, “Green Team!” and the two little boys would echo me. Soon my date and I were separated from the family. We did a little bit of sniping, a little bit of close quarters combat, and a little bit of trickery (I would send her into an ambush to take the brunt of the fire, then I would mop up unsuspecting enemies. I told her later that teamwork was the key to any relationship. She said she never wanted a relationship with me. I said that was because she wasn’t a team player.)
Every so often we would see sorority girls fleeing some monster, then Isaiah or Michael would pop out after them firing wildly and yelling, “Green Team!”
We were great at this. Eventually, the little boys and I set up a kill zone near the cannons. We slaughtered an entire team of Asians (Blue Team).
After the match ended, we exited proud only to find a scoring error. According to Fastlanes, Blue won with 1225 points, Red was second with 500, and Green was last with 0 points. I asked the attendant why it was so, and he said we were disqualified because I had been using my date as a human shield. I told him that’s what girlfriends were – human shields. She told him that she wasn’t, nor ever would be my girlfriend.

And That’s Why I Walk With a Limp

Sometimes after dinner at the Kappa house, we play the game Two Truths and a Lie, where one person gives three personal facts and the others have to guess which isn’t true. I always tell three lies. Yesterday it went like this: my great-grandfather was one of the first combantants ever to win the Medal of Honor for stopping a German advance in the trenches of Marione in WWI, my mother carried the Olympic torch for the 1996 Olympics, running a little over a mile just outside of Spokane, and the first time I met my ex-girlfriend’s parents while eating at Bordino’s I accidentally lit her father on fire. They picked the pyrotechnic story. I said no, the story about my mom was the lie. Then I had to describe how I set the father on fire.

Most lies I make up on the go. People ask me questions I don’t have the answer to and I start talking. Usually after the second or third sentence I know where I’m going, but sometimes those first two sentences are enough to sink the lie. I had a blind date to my fraternity’s formal my freshman year. One of the upperclassmen asked me how long my date and I had been together. I said six months before she had a chance to respond. I spent the weekend creating fictions about our relationship, including setting her dad on fire and getting in a clown car wreck. I finished the story about the clown car by saying, “And that’s why I walk with a limp.” He told me he always wanted to ask about my walk, but didn’t know if it’d embarrass me.

I tell lies all the time. Here, especially. I combine events and change characters and I never get dialogue right. You can’t, because real life is boring, and often it doesn’t make the point you want it to make. At our last chapter meeting, I was asked to tell a story about formal to get everyone excited. I talked about how last year, Aaron, one of my brothers, and I took two girls from a different school that we had only met once. It was a weekend long double date, and a lot of fun. Look at me. Look how much cooler I was two years later. That could be you someday.

In the end, we waved goodbye to the girls as they got in their car, then we high fived, and never spoke to the girls again. I told this story to emphasize how formal was really all about your brothers.

But it was a lie. Half truth, really. I haven’t spoken to my date again; we had a great time, but I’m trying to focus on my career right now. However, last summer when I was in Ireland I met up with Aaron’s date. I was studying and she was on a tour. We went to the King’s Head pub in Galway to talk. This was the same night that I was pulled aside by a stag party (Irish bachelor party) and harrassed. We made friends quickly, and after talking about American television shows they asked me to come back to their rented penthouse and snort cocaine. At the time I was an office in my fratnerity, and we have by-laws against that sort of thing, so I had to turn it down.

That story is actually the truth.

An Inside Look at Fraternity Emails

Every Sunday, one of the girls in Kappa Kappa Gamma sends out an email to all her sorority sisters reminding them of chapter on Monday. Invariably, she gets twenty plus emails back with snarky comments meant to frustrate and/or amuse her. Last night, instead of replying directly to the sender, one girl accidentally sent her fun filled and private response to the whole chapter. Someone let me read it. I’m paraphrasing here:

“YO YO YO YOU GURL I SEE YOU DROPING THAT THANG WEARING THEM BELLS WITH YOUR ECKO WHITES! WE BE GOING TO CHAPTA TOGETHER TONIGHT!”

It went on for several sentences. When she came into lunch, all the girls stood up and yelled, “YO YO YO.” She was embarrassed, not only because the chapter read it, but because somehow it got sent to the head of their National Advisor, an older woman who sits on the National Council. She had to explain what Ecko whites were. To me. I didn’t know.

I’m going to cheat with this post and copy some emails that I sent to the chapter in preparation for our Laser Quest. I realize 75% of my reader base is fraternity brothers, but this is for the four friends I have that aren’t in BYX. Pertinent information includes our fraternity’s Mom’s Day was Saturday, and also I can say whatever I want because I’m a senior.

Is your mom not coming till Saturday? Does your mom live in Fayetteville and you don’t necessarily want to hang out with her on a Friday night? Then put your face next to my shoe because I’m about to give you a kick in the teeth!

Tron here. I’ve reserved 10 spots at Laser Quest this Friday from 8 to 9; I need fellow soldiers. I’m talking about LASERS – the kind they use to create fractals and experiment on turltes with. It’s going to be BIBLICAL, but instead of trumpets, angels are blowing LASERS out of their mouths and making Venus implode! Imagine that – there are few who can.

It costs 14 dollars a man. For 14 dollars, we get two twenty minute games in a huge arena involving thirty puntable children, and we also get our own party room for downtime. Like a birthday! But instead of a cake, we’re eating LASERS and putting a kid’s head in a toilet! BYX RULES!

This is a BROTHERHOOD EVENT WITH LASERS! The last time this happened, we had to invade Iraq. Great job Saddam! If you want to go, email me directly at dctrumbo@uark.edu. I need to know by tomorrow night. If we don’t have 10 guys, we can’t do it. We’ll leave Fayetteville around 5, and we’ll be back by midnight.

Tron McKnight

This was followed three and a half hours later with another email.

OMG THIS JUST GOT REAL. I just got off the phone with J.C. who works the desk at Laser Quest. That’s right – Jesus Christ himself runs that light show. Talk about a sweet retirement gig. It turns out in the two hours between calling him, thirty beautiful girl scouts booked our 8 o’clock time. THIS PLACE IS THAT HOT. It’s like that time your cat accidentally crawled into the oven with the meatloaf. Or was it put there?

Nevertheless, our time is now six o’clock on Friday – and this is great news. We’ll meet at 3:30 at the IM parking lot because we have to be a Laser Quest in Tulsa at 5:30 for briefing! You can still come if you wear boxers, but prepare to pee in them. AND GUESS WHAT – we’re up to twenty people now. To give you some perspective, that’s how many skulls are in my basement. That’s a lot of laser tag participants!

We’re leaving from Baum at 3:00 because I want to be safe – that’s how I’ve been able to keep those skulls in my basement (if you put skeletons in your closet, someone is going to find them. Don’t be a moron). If you’re leaving before 3:00, text me so I don’t have to track you down, retrieve the seven dollars, then put your skull in my basement.

I’ve attached a pictoral representation for Jessie Green. If he sees it and wants to go, open an email and let him make his mark. He deserves equal treatment.

Jessie Green is our current treasurer. Before he got elected, I started a smear campaign that painted him as illiterate. Though he was still elected, I count the campaign a success because many new members honestly believe he has trouble reading. In the picture he is depicted as a yellow dinosaur.Tron

A-NU-BIS!

I played on a AAU basketball team called the Vipers in early high school. I hated that team. We were second tier – all the good players were on the Hawks – and I was still riding the bench. Also, all the starters were socially maimed and the man who started in front of me was mean. His name was Ryan Hoover and he used to throw elbows in practice. I think he may be in the military now.

The only upside to the tournaments the Vipers played was when we were in Tulsa and we went to Laser Quest between games. Laser Quest is a three story dark room filled with death traps and older men who have gotten really good at laser tag. Almost forty people can play in this laser tag free for all the Quest puts on. Sometimes I would tell Hoover we were a team, then I’d shoot him in the back and blame it on a kid. Then Hoover would hunt down the kid and I’d have to listen to his screams.

Last night I took twenty fraternity brothers on a trip back to Laser Quest. I had to make reservations earlier in the week because it’s so busy. Our group reserved two slots alongside a triple birthday full of twelve year olds.

Most of the guys who came were new members; they were my pledges last semester. Once during Rush Week we took potentials to Lokomotion, which houses the closest and lamest laser tag apparatus. Once the employee on duty locked us in, I took off my vest and shirt and began to wrestle the pledges as they screamed, “Why won’t you die!” Four days later, we christened 84 pledges. And the manager of Lokomotion said that wasn’t appropriate behavior. What does he know?

Before we went into the arena, I saw the twelve year olds pointing at me and giggling. This recalled terrible memories of third grade, and since my therapist has been encouraging to confront my fears, I asked one of them what his Laser Quest codename was. “Bigfoot,” he said, “What’s yours?” I asked him why he wanted to know. “So I can murder you.”

I don’t care how Hollywood portrays it – laser tag is chaos. It’s sweat and light and smoke that may be from a machine but also may be from that pink eyed teenager running the desk with a name tag that reads “Stitch.” A few of my brothers asked me if I wanted to team up. I told them no: “I work alone.” Then I ran through the three story arena yelling “BIGFOOT! SHOW YOURSELF!”

I went to D.C. last spring break with five other fraternity brothers. Two of them were seniors at the time, so it was a last goodbye of sorts. On our way back, we stopped in Lexington, KY, where we had to drop Ben Rector off at a wedding. There was a laser tag palace close to our hotel. Unlike Laser Quest, this place assigned you nicknames – you didn’t get to pick. Ben got the name Anubis. We were on teams, and I got paired with some easily scared eight year olds. I tried to rally their courage, but when Ben would come up the ramp stomping his feet and yelling, “A-NU-BIS!” they would scatter. I found one of them afterwards holding his head in a corner and whispering to himself, “He never stops, never stops.”

Bigfoot beat me both games. After the first game, I told him he may have won the battle, but it was a fake battle anyways and I was going to punch him in the back of his vest when he wasn’t looking. After the second game I just walked out in a cold fury. On the ride home, I was sitting next to Tyler Taggart, who pointed out the moon in the black sky. It was red. “Blood has been spilled this night,” he said.

The Reason I Still Go to Midsummer

On Saturday one of my kids from camp called me. He was working the lights at the Fayetteville High production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I told him two of my friends and I used to work the lights for choir productions, in exchange for a ticket to the choir trip to Silver Dollar City; we had inappropriate names we used to issue spotlight commands and color changes until a mom came on the radio and said that she, too, had a headset. I asked if he ever used a codename.

(We have assigned seating in Physics and Human Affairs, breaking everyone up into groups of four. I’m in a group with all girls. The first day I met them, I introduced myself, then asked if they wanted to use codenames. No one thought that was funny. One of them brought it up last Tuesday, and said it made her uncomfortable. Secrecy can do that, if you’re not strong enough. But my middle name used to be Secrecy, until I changed it for obvious reasons.)

The best part of all Midsummer productions is the death scene. The words of the play are fantastic, and though some characters are just doubles of each other, it doesn’t matter – they speak beautifully. But Act 5 is a play with a play; these really terrible actors who work during the day as weavers and joiners and all sorts of menial jobs put on a Romeo and Juliet type play called Pyramus and Thisbe. It’s the funniest thing in Shakespeare. At the end, when Pyramus commits suicide, it is always hilarious. It isn’t in the text – the stage direction just says, “He dies” – but every variant I’ve seen has a complicated and drawn out death throe, because Bottom, who plays Pyramus, is a diva.

When I was a fairy dancer in the University’s version of Midsummer (way too long of a story for this post – it will come later), my group went on right after Pyramus and Thisbe ended. We used to stand in the wings and laugh so hard that we had to do breathing exercises to get back into the fairy mindset. The last performance, Christopher, who played Bottom, died for two minutes. There was no stopping him. He kept inventing ways to rekill himself – he actually went offstage and came back with extra props to use in suicide.

This is a picture of our Pyramus; the left most fairy is Titania. They’re in Titania’s bower, after Bottom was transformed into a donkey. Looking at the costumes, you can already tell something is wrong – we look like freaks. Yes, I have a picture of myself, but I’m saving it. You have to keep coming back if you want to see.

Last performances are always lax. You do a lot of things you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to in case it would get you fired. My last high school play, I forgot many of my lines and had to reinvent new ones. We had to take a laugh break on stage. I think audiences find that more funny than anything else.

No one really messed up on Saturday. Disappointing. On my last Midsummer performance, I fell off the stage and had to get eight stitches. I still have this scar under my lip. When people ask me how it happened, I tell them I used to dance professionally.

Greek Sing Evokes Old Memories, Makes New Ones

This weekend was Greek Sing. It was also Mom’s Day for most sororities. I’m very good with moms; I tried to use this to get a free lunch on Sunday. After church, I said loudly, “I am HUNGRY AND POOR!” This got me no where.

One of my best friends, Ryan Siebenmorgen (Sieb), was in Greek Sing. His fraternity, Farmhouse, was paired up with Kappa Kappa Gamma. I stood in the back and watched him sing. He’s an excellent dancer, too. Their theme was “The Beatles,” and they used the music to tell a love story. He was the lead. The Kappas put their best vocalist opposite him; a few times I heard moms in the audience say, “Oh no – he’s going to drop her!” but no, he’ll pull her out of whatever dip she was in. He loves stuff like that. He’s brash in a way that highway men were two hundred years ago.
When Sieb and I were in high school, we entered the talent show our junior year. This was the same year one of our classmates, a very nice girl named Megan, was diagnosed with cancer. The proceeds of the talent show went to the surgery of a homeless dog who broke its leg. Student Council didn’t have a very wide scope.
At the time, Sieb and I played football. We were both offensive linemen, and we were good at it. That’s the way everyone knew us. So we dressed up in very tight, inappropriate clothes and did an interpretive dance to a Bonnie Tyler song in front of the student body. You might say, “This has been a common fraternity pledge mission since an older member dared that Chinese boy to stand in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square.”
The difference was we practiced for days. We danced well. We even brought a girl out of the crowd and performed a complicated lift. But we didn’t even place.
Our offensive line coach was Coach Yoakum. He still teaches American history there. I got a text message from one of my mentor kids a few weeks ago. He said that Coach Yoakum had told a story about how two of his gay linemen dressed like forest fairies and behaved obscenely in front of a school assembly. The kid asked if that was me. I said yes; Coach Yoakum always identified Sieb and I as “the gay brothers.” It was the best he could do, given three years.
(Even better – my cousin is a senior at FHS, where I went to school. He told me last week that in his photo journalism class, the teacher was giving a slide show of examples of good photographs, and one of was Sieb and I mid-air. He said the entire class knew who we were, though the teacher didn’t. She was new.)

At intermission Friday night, the Alpha Phi Alphas began stepping in the aisles. BYX didn’t compete in Greek Sing; since we’re not in IFC, we’re not allowed. Jealous from watching the shows, I grabbed a few fraternity brothers and started a step train headed directly for the A Phi A’s. When we passed them in the middle, I tried to give my most aggressive throw to show that we were competing. They were just confused. Not confusion – pity, maybe?

Sieb told me afterwards that he tried to join the A Phi A line. A large black woman pulled him out by his collar and slapped him, saying, “Never join a black person’s step line!” Sieb was paralyzed; he said he didn’t know. Hearing this, the woman softened and patted Sieb on the head, saying, “Oh honey, I just assumed you’d know better.”