First Job I’ve Ever Had

Last week I sent in a contract to work for my fraternity’s national organization. I signed a two year contract with BYX Nationals as an MA, or Ministry Associate, which is what we call our national advisers. I’ll travel from chapter to chapter and give make overs. Top two tips: tank tops and Audio Push.

I’m kind of serious about that. My chapter, the Xi chapter, is a little different from the rest of the chapters. The fraternity was started in Texas and had most of it’s early growth in the mid-west. Fraternities in the SEC are a little different. We’re a little more fratty. The chapters in the mid-west run great – they have their own style, and we have ours. What I’ll be doing (I think – I signed the contract without reading it. They made me do it in blood, too. The notary present had horns and a tail) is bringing a little more SEC to national pledgeship and rush. And it all starts with tank tops and Audio Push.

I’m running into a problem here that I’ve experienced before. As a counselor at War Eagle, I was always the one to push the envelope. In fact, I was told that was my job. Once, in a skit in front of all 400 kids, I accidentally made a racial slur. My good friend Ricky Shade and I were acting out a scenario where we were at heaven’s gates trying to get in, and I said something I shouldn’t have. With skits usually I just make things up on the spot, and so here I felt a joke and went with it, but I ended up saying that all of Ricky’s ancestors (Native Americans) were in Hell. Afterward, I apologized directly to the camp supervisor, and he said to me that it was alright; I was the counselor who pushed the envelope, and I was allowed a few mess ups in exchange for energy and creativity I brought to the table. Then he said this exact quote: “Now, if you had said something about Muslims, we would’ve had a problem.” Apparently those people are worth more than Indians.

Now I’m on Top Staff at War Eagle; I got a phone call a few months ago from the supervisor strictly about the things that I did as a counselor that I’m not allowed to do now that I’m in charge. I will push the envelope no more.

I’ve been the envelope pusher for BYX for some time now. I do questionable things in the name of energy and creativity. Sometimes they work out great, and sometimes the officer core sits down with me and disbands the secret society I made up because of complaints from out of state chapters we pranked. And now I can’t do these things before. I’ve been making suggestions to the Xi chapter on pledgeship activities (human television remote, campus rickshaw service, sorority lawn mowing with safety scissors) that I would never make as an MA. Those have hazing written all over them. So now I’m having to think inside the box, which I really hate. I spent my whole seventh grade year inside a box after I was kidnapped by gypsies, and I have some bad memories from it. I have some good memories from it, too, but overall, bad.

I’m moving to Ft. Worth, TX, on May 12th to start. I’ll have five chapters in the fall, and then nine from January onwards. The first five are:

Vanderbilt
LSU
Flordia
Texas
Texas Tech

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Cribs: Little Kid Edition

I lead a bible study of sixteen year olds. They’re getting ready to graduate 10th grade. For the end of the year celebration, the church has asked each group (divided by age, gender, and city) to make a funny video. It’s a competition. I was sure we wouldn’t even place.

Two days before the video was due, my guys called me. They wanted me to make the video for them. I said I would help them.  They wanted to make a music video based off a song from High School Musical 2. I hung up, and when they called back, I said they had to do whatever I wanted. That’s where most of my friendships end.

We made a Cribs video at one of their houses. We shot it in an hour and a half; basically, we’d get to a room, they’d ask me what to say, and without thinking I would say whatever first came to mind. This is the result.

[LINK DELETED]

The part I was most worried about was when I say that my car (the Rocketship, which I bought used from NASA) had a dungeon that I keep kids in. I thought this would get the video banned. As it turns out, this was the youth minister’s favorite line. I was told he showed the video this morning as an illustration of something in his talk (I have no idea what he could’ve been talking about). Apparently he even repeated the line, “Where I keep children.”

(The original line was, “I call it the Rocketship because I took it to Mars one day when I was tripping balls on acid.” The director called cut, and we talked and decided that was a little too inappropriate.)

My favorite line gets lost; in the bedroom with the trophies, Tyler Ho (the Asian – not Poomrata, who is the foreign exchange student living with the family of the house) picks up a trophy of an angel and says, “This is from my win at the X-Men Olympics when I used to have wings.”

After he watched the video, my co-leader told me that I was just imitating Tracy Morgan. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he is completely correct.

The Past Three Months Have Been a Lie

The University of Central Arkansas just founded a BYX chapter in late January. To survive the first couple of years, a new chapter needs a strong group founding fathers. These guys need to be consistent for maybe three years while inconsistency in recruiting get worked out. It’s not really until the third or fourth pledge class that real growth and commitment can be seen from the group as a whole. Anyway, what I’m saying is UCA has what it takes to make it. They have this strong group of committed founding fathers. Some of them have changed their life schedules – will now attend graduate school at UCA – in order to facilitate and grow the Alpha Gamma chapter.

Last night the UCA BYX chapter had it’s first big campus event, Starbyx. It was an outdoor concert, with couches and acoustic music and girls – GIRLS! I had seen pictures, but in real life they’re more beautiful than I’d imagined.

Three of us from Arkansas went down. Difani, Burton and I had all served on the last executive officer core together; Burton had been tapped by the Alpha Gamma chapter to play in a line up of three bands.

Burton is the one holding the chips. That’s what he was paid in. You can find his music here. If you do visit his MySpace and see his album cover, I’ll tell you a secret. The t-shirt he’s wearing – he bought it off a homeless person. It looks like it was drawn on with a Sharpie marker, which is most likely true. He paid twenty dollars for it.

This is a continuing relationship between our chapter and UCA. In late January, we took six guys down to UCA to help lead the initiation ceremony for the founding fathers. It’s secret ceremony, so I can’t talk about it, but I created an ambigram that reveals the truth. You have to find it first (buried in the basement of Old Main).

The night before initiation that January, Difani and I drove down alone. He wanted to hang out with the fathers, some of whom he knew from high school, and I had a blind date, set up by my sister. This girl played volleyball for UCA – that was what sealed the deal. My dad said, “Think of my grandchildren!” He wants athletes.

I took this girl to Stoby’s, a sandwich/burger shop with great cheese dip and pie. We went there specifically for the appertisers and desserts – I’m not even sure we ate an entree. We had good conversation, and there was never any lulls or awkward moments, but the best part – the part that made the whole date worth it – came at the end of the meal. Our waitress brought us a piece of pie and said, “We all voted you cutest couple of the night, so you get a free piece of pie.” At this point I wasn’t head over heels for the girl, but the Cutest Couple award was the best thing to happen to me so far into 2010. The next day, of course, I told that story to any of the UCA initiates who would listen. Difani and his friends just said, “That’s awesome, man.”

Driving back from Conway last night, Difani brought that up. He asked me if I remembered my date, then made me retell the story to Burton. Of course I got excited again thinking about my reward, and played the story up, ending with the punchline, “Cutest Couple of the Night!” At this point Difani started laughing uncontrollably. He said he had something to confess. I thought he had seen her, or someone I knew was dating her. Those things mattered not to me.

He said that that night, I had been facing away from the door, and he and four or five of the UCA founding fathers had walked into Stoby’s. They sat directly behind me and watched the whole date. I never turned around. Near the end, they grabbed their waitress and told her to serve us a piece of pie on them, to say whatever she wanted but to give us the pie for free.

He said they were going to tell me the next day, but I was so estatic about the free piece of pie that they couldn’t burst my bubble. They had a meeting later, all of them, and decided to never tell anyone.

I sat in silence. Difani asked me to say something, and I said I was furious. He asked if it was because I was the joke, and I said no – I honestly believed I had won Cutest Couple of the night. The fact that it was a fake award – that I really wasn’t a part of the cutest couple – devestated me. Even now I cannot get over it; I realize Stoby’s doesn’t give out a weekly Cutest Couple Award, but I really thought that our waitress thought my date and I looked good together. I mean, I tipped her really well.

However, Difani suggested I use this story to reopen communications with the blind date. I think she has a right to know.

How I Know It’s Time To Leave

I’m graduating in three weeks. Today I got a tassle from the Fulbright college. As the secretary combed through it with her fingers, she explained how to detach the tassle that came with my cap and attach this new one. She referenced a hook on the peak of the cap, and said, “You know what that is, right.” I said of course. When I was leaving, I turned around in the doorway and said, “Oh, I almost forgot. One of my really good friends hasn’t picked up his cap and gown yet. Do you know if the bookstore will be selling those again before graduation?”

People ask me all the time if I’m sad to leave. I always say not yet. It hasn’t really hit yet. I’m still going to class and skimming the books I’m supposed to read. I’m still spending time with my fraternity brothers. When I can’t do those things anymore, then I’ll be sad. But at the same time, I feel like its time to leave. My coolness is peaking – if I was here next fall I’d be like a Beanie Baby or Lindsy Lohan. Or the second, third, and fourth seasons of Heroes. I could go on.

Anyway, I was in the library today waiting for a computer. There’s an established system here at Mullins Library – there are two waiting areas, on opposite sides of the bank of computers. People gather in lines there, and each side takes turns when computers open up. It’s unwritten, but it’s also eternal. In four years at the University the system has never failed. I have never yet had a computer dispute.

After two or three minutes of standing alone in line at my favorite spot by the atlases (because you can rest your backpack on them), one of the new desktop Macs opened up. This are highly coveted because the screens are gigantic. All the windows computers use flatscreen shoeboxes. You have to kiss the screen to see any words. But, like I said, a computer opened up. I started towards it when a tall young man sat in the open chair. It was like he apparated right into it. It was like he was an evil wizard.

I hesitated. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal. It was a computer, and I could find another. Maybe he had to email his dying grandmother, or he was committing internet fraud. But I decided to say something. “Hey man,” I said, “I was kind of in line for the next computer.”

He swiveled around and looked at me before responding. “There is no line,” he said with a scoff, and turned back around to login. I stood shocked, but also very embarrassed. I said okay, and walked away. This was the first time in four years the computer waiting system has failed. I’m almost afraid to go back in the library. I’m glad I’m leaving in three weeks.

(The worst or best part – I’m pretty sure I knew him. When he typed in his login, I recognized it, and wanted to ask, Are you X? Do you know Y? I felt like I had made a poor first impression, though, and kept the secret to myself. I’ll take it to my grave, then get out of there quickly, because if the cops catch me at my own grave that could stir something up amongst the people who thought I was dead.)

PIPIP Hooray!

Every BYX chapter puts on Island Party in the spring semester. It was the first BYX event at the University of Texas in 1985; it’s supposed to be an open party for PR. Everyone does it differently. Many chapters do an all day concert, with a long line up of bands. That’s what it is traditionally, but there are other ways. OSU builds a giant Easter basket and cooks burgers inside it. They give out all the food for free to passing students. My freshman year I went to SMU’s Island Party – it was a beach volleyball tournament. Very fratty. The Arkansas chapter of BYX runs a carnival for kids in South Fayetteville.

Last year I had to work the dunk tank. I wore this felt hat that looked a lobster, and every time I’d go under it would disentegrate a little more. Eventually I wasn’t wearing a hat but a red wig. I had to pick felt out of my chesthair. This year I graduated to Baggo, where we held a tournament with official rules. The kids voted on their favorite game at the end of Island Party. I got third place, right behind Plinko (I don’t understand that one) and the winner, T-Rex Karate Attack (I totally understand that).

Since my college run is ending in two weeks, I wanted to go out with a bang. I wanted to leave a legacy that was more than, “That stain was created when Cass dropped his shrimp gumbo during American Idol night.” Also, I had been watching a lot of the television show Greek, and I wanted to throw a party like the fictional Kappa Tau’s.

Earlier this semester I took over a committee called Brotherhood. Seniors don’t hold positions their spring year, because they can’t take them up again in the fall, but because I am power hungry and conniving (like Franny on Greek – she was evil!), I stepped in and used their budget to pay for whatever I wanted to do, like Lasertag and lottery tickets. This was no different. I checked what we had left in our budget, and then I spent it all.

We hired a band, bought drinks, and rented not only sound equipment and staging but also spotlights and the Arkansas and American flags, complete with stands (it was only two dollars a flag – why not?). Then we convinced UCA to send their pledges to us for a “bonding activity.” Yeah right. More like “parking attendants.” Or “human furniture.” Best love seat I’ve ever sat on.

It was called PIPIP, for Post Island Party Island Party. We held it outside a barn. The UCA pledges set up the sound system and the stage, then worked parking and the spotlights. They were going to have to work the drink bar as well, but that turned out to be a highly sought after position. D-Rock was in charge; he spent a hundred dollars not only on soft drinks, but on juices and flavorings. The drink bar was in the basement of the barn. While UCA pledges worked the snowcones and popcorn, D-Rock used mixing canisters to create anything that was asked for; he posted menus of his own creations on posterboard. Most requested: tie between Cotton Candy Dr. Pepper and the Ninja Turtle.

The irony: this marked the third event I’ve planned in order to get a specific girl to come, and she still hasn’t shown up. This time she said she had to wash her hair. I believe her. I had to do it last Thursday.

They Come Out Over There

My family owns two rent houses on Wedington, close to campus. These houses are maybe a block and a half from each other, and my sophomore year, when we first picked them up, we put ten fraternity members between both houses. 1627 Wedington prospered. I lived in 1915. It self destructed. Horror stories. They made a movie about it. It was called Avatar. They took some liberties with the plot.

I moved out of 1915 last spring and five younger members moved in. They prospered. I guess I’m the social disease. That’s what the newspapers call me, when I practice vigilante justice anonymously.

Four late twentysomething guys have been living in 1627; Eugene, the guy I pick up rent from, works as a chef in Springdale. Each time I pick up the rent we talk about comic books. He’s moving out in May, though. I don’t know if I can find a better renter.

I took some fraternity brothers to 1627 on Thursday so they could tour the house. Eugene wasn’t there, but he said his roommate Tripp would be. Tripp would give us the tour in Eugene’s stead. When we pulled into the driveway at 1627, there was a man on the porch, shirtless and smoking. He was skinny, but it was an ugly skinny, like the skin was sagging down. He had multiple color tattoos on his shoulders. He was high as a kite.

As we approached and I explained what was happening, Tripp panicked. He stood up quickly and began pacing the patio, looking into the window. After he didn’t respond to my question about touring, I said we could come back later. He asked us if we were cool, and when I said, yes, we are cool, he agreed to show us the house.

Because of his behavior, I was expecting the worst, but the house was actually much cleaner than it ever was when it was a BYX house. It’s fully carpeted – even the bathrooms and the kitchen – but the carpet was still white, and there was no clutter. There were only a few mysterious moments: once, when Tripp opened then slammed shut his closet and said we weren’t allowed to look in there, and then multiple times when we passed Andy’s room. Andy’s room had a sign that said, “DANGER: ANDY’S ROOM,” and whenever we passed it Tripp would say, “That’s Andy’s room. You’re not allowed in.” And he would be completely serious.

He said this probably three or four times, and I honestly don’t think he knew he was repeating himself. This happened a lot. We would walk into the bathroom for the third time, and he would give the same exact speil, which was really enthusiastic. Apparently, Tripp really loves the house, and it came out in his tour. He especially loved the bathroom, and the push button flush toilet, which he showed us probably four times. Each time it was like it was brand new.

I forgot to tell you this: he never put on a shirt. It never occurred to him.

After we finished the house and the backyard, Josh, one of my brothers on the tour, asked Tripp about the quirks of the house. He said that in his current house (1915), there are some funny spots, like warped floors or no garbage disposal. Without stopping to think, Tripp said loudly, “We have baggoos of ghosts!” We said nothing, flabbergasted. There was nothing I could think of to explain that comment. I think he could feel we didn’t understand, or at least didn’t believe him, because next he pointed behind him at an air conditioning vent and said, “They come out over there.”

This is What I Want to do With My Life

Over Spring Break ten fraternity brothers and I watched two seasons of the television show Greek. I got it from my little frat brother Tim Yopp. He’s like Rudy – five foot nothing and a hundred and nothing. The past two Thanksgivings he’s loaned me his copy of Final Fantasy. He has them all.

The seasons are divided into two chapters each, and Tim gave me three chapters. I thought I would just watch one; it would be a pain just to watch one. Instead, we watched all three then watched the last ten episodes online.

Greek covers the social drama of two fraternities and a sorority. Many things that happen are impossible in real life, but we did get many ideas for new pledge activities. More importantly, we all agreed Rusty could have done better than Jen K. We loved Max and we were sad to watch him leave, and we really want Beaver and Betsy to get into a destructive, black hole type relationship.

I got these DVDs from Tim because one of the principal actors, Jacob Zachar, who plays Rusty, read a script I co-wrote. He liked it and wanted to make it. So I thought I’d do some research. Little did I know I would fall in love. Tale as old as television.

Because of his interest, we’re trying to kick up some fairy dust and advertise this project to investors. It’s called True Love Sucks; it’s basically a hipster Romeo and Juliet. It isn’t what I like to write, but that made it fun. And it turned out to sound a lot like myself. Example: I’ve been asked to run a blog of one of the characters from the script. It’s pretty much like this blog except instead of lying about somethings, I lie about everything. It’s ultimate freedom. You can read it at stevetbrenner.blogspot.com.

Final plug – we’re trying to raise money through a website called Kickstarter, which looks like a pyramid scheme but what the heck I’ve always wanted to be a part of a pyramid scheme. You can read about our project and, if you so chose, invest in the film. It can be found at here at Kickstarter.

An Open Letter to Mike Turner

Hey Mike –

How’s Costa Rica? I hear they don’t have an army. You need to watch your back. When Nicaragua invades you are SCREWED. I’m crossing my fingers that it doesn’t happen but my sources at the Pentagon are seldom wrong, except when they said they didn’t know who sent the assassin. But I figured that one out pretty quickly. You should’ve killed me when you had the chance, CIA.

We haven’t talked in a while and I wanted to reach out to you because this weekend was formal. I bet you’ve heard about it by now – we went to Memphis and had the dance on a river boat named The Queen Mary. David Lee ripped his pants, right down the outside of his thigh. Everyone saw it.

The boat provided a DJ. Two DJ’s, in fact. One was fifty with grey hair and glasses, and the other – the one who I think would have been your favorite – was in his forties and maybe a hundred pounds overweight, and wore a beret. He knew his music, though, but he kept asking us to shout if we were having a good time. This would have been fine, but he sounded like a Speak and Spell.

David Lee wore this  nice three piece blue suit; it all fit very well except the pants, which were beyond skin tight. They clung to his muscle tissue. After dinner he told me he was going to disappear for a half hour with his date and buy new pants. I said the number four rule of functions is never change pants. I’ll be honest, Mike: I made that up. On the spot. But I lie to him all the time so I don’t think he cares anymore.

They ripped down the outside seam of his right thigh. A big hole, maybe six inches long. It appeared like a magical snake while we were dancing inside this boat. Afterwards, when we went to IHOP in inner city Memphis, he kept his hand in the tear pretending it was a pocket. He got cat called by all the people standing in line outside the restaurant at 3 a.m. It was a huge line. There were no other BYX guys there, but there were several other dances in Memphis that night. I guess they all wore tall t’s to their proms.

(David Lee is the only one in a blue suit. He stands next to me. I made the picture large hoping you could see the rip, but I don’t think it’s there yet.)

Last year we had maybe 40 plus members go to Kansas City for formal. It wasn’t that important to the chapter. This year we had 240 people on that boat. We’re growing, Mike! It’s exciting. And the real reason I’m sending you this is because during the spring semester of my sophomore year, when I studied abroad like you, this past weekend was the most depressing weekend of those four months. I knew everyone was at formal while I was reading books in my bathroom (the bedroom light was out and I didn’t feel like changing it). I wanted you to know that while formal was fun, David Lee’s pants ripped, and so some people’s formal wasn’t as fun as you might imagine it. Think of how embarrassed David Lee is now that everyone saw his upper thigh. So don’t sweat it. There will be more formals. And change your lightbulbs. And don’t steal toilet paper from restaurants because you’ve run out.

Sincerely,

Cass Trumbo

Thesis Successfully Defended

I defended my thesis novel yesterday. My advisors came in and sat down, and after a small chat about what my sister is naming her baby (Cosette, like the girl from the musical Les Mis. She’s going to call her Coco, to go along with the baby’s older sister Zuzu. It’s like having two monkeys) they asked me to explain where I got the idea for my novel. So I began: “Two summers ago I was on a day off from camp, watching AMC, when this movie called Time Cop came on…”

The night before I went to see the band Passion Pit in Kansas City. Three of my brothers – all Eta class members, my pledges – went with me.

They all look like they’re off The Big Bang Theory, don’t they?The concert was general admission, which meant standing with no personal space in a crowd of three hundred. We ended up with a good spot, surrounded by a group of drunk girls. The most sober one was kind of cute. She said she was from Lewis and Clark College in Portland. She said it was spring break.

The most drunk of the girls, Holly, came in at this time and asked me where I went to school; Arkansas, I said. “ARKANSAS! I’m going there next year!” Her friend tried to recover, and say Holly had taken a semester off, but then Holly yelled, “What are you talking about? We’re in high school!” I threw up in my mouth.
The worst part was, my brothers didn’t care. They were all just a grade older than these girls, so their drunk flirting was at the very least flattering. I spent the concert brushing Holly’s hands away from my chest hair.

We got back into Fayetteville at 3:30 a.m. I had to defend my thesis in eight hours, and I felt like I had danced my way through a 5K and clocked a pretty respectable time. I got to my defense room half an hour early and took a power nap.

My committee were in agreement about several things. There are too many characters. The narrator is intrusive and needs to be cut. Everyone dies for way too long. The characters’ mission and enemy needs to be defined earlier. I told them most of the problems arose because I had watched too much Lost.

I don’t know my thesis score. They don’t tell you until graduation. What I do know is this: while I sat in the hallway, letting them deliberate, the only full sentence I heard was, “We can’t give him that score; he referenced Jean Claude Van Damme.”

This House is For Lovebirds Only

My mom hates the house we live in. It was built by my grandfather; it’s where my dad and his four brothers all grew up. I’m pretty sure when they were teenagers my uncles grew pot in the room my parents now sleep in. We moved in eight years ago to stay with my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s. Now that she’s gone, there’s really no reason to stay, except we don’t really have the money to move out.

For maybe a decade now, it’s been my parent’s dream to move out to the lake. We own a piece of land – just the land, with nothing on it – and my parents have been vising and revising a house plan since before this millennium. But my dad has always told my mom it wasn’t time to build. The economy was bad, or there wasn’t enough money, or it was senseless since after 2012 there wouldn’t be a planet Earth.

(I was on the phone with an AT&T operator last week talking about my cell phone plan; it lasts until the end of 2011. She asked me if I wanted to extend it, and I told her I didn’t really see the point, since the world was ending the year after. She actually laughed. Then I told her Mr. Trumbo was my father, and to call me Cass – but then I had to explain that Mr. Trumbo was actually my father, and I wasn’t the primary account holder.)

Maybe two weeks ago my mom got a plumbing bill she didn’t recognize. She took it to my father, and when he told her not to worry, she became suspicious. She investigated – that’s where I get my mystery solving gene from. My mother. As it turned out, my dad had been building a house for two months without telling her. The plan was to have the entire framework up by her birthday in early May. When she asked why he didn’t tell her, he said, “Because you didn’t ask.”

For Easter we took a picnic lunch out to the lake. My brother Harlin and I set up a card table on the concrete slab that will eventually be the dining room, and my mom laid out dishes on a 2×4 she used as a buffet line. We ate lunch in a windy breakfast nook with a beautiful view of the lake, and then my mom made Harlin and I compete in an Easter egg hunt. He is a senior in high school, and I am about to graduate college. It was relatively harmless until my mom said, “There’s only one egg left.” While we were looking for it, Harlin stole an egg out of my basket, so I slapped the basket out of his hands and stomped on his eggs. I now have Reese’s cups all over the sole of my nice birthday shoes.

Before we left, my dad took us around to each room and explained what would be installed. At the end of the tour my brother and I looked at each other, and then I let him ask the question we were both considering. “Where’s our rooms?” he asked. “You don’t have any,” my dad said. “This house is for lovebirds only.”