Bill Davidson Will Take Back His Land

At our Ozone clubs, we often play silly or gross games, conjuring images of time spent at summer camp. However, I often lean towards activities that require a measure or two of creativity. In my bias, that often means the creation involves words.

I love nothing more than to hang pictures drawn by our elementary students and ask our teenagers to write a six word story about it while listening to oddly loud instrumental music. That has led to such gems as I have hung on my office corkboard: “Slowly leave something that is loved” and “Gazing serpent gazes at what was.”

Both of those were written about a basilisk fighting a robot, pictured in crayon.

This week we played a variation of Balderdash, the game that gives an obscure title or phrase from which the player must puzzle out meaning (or bluff very well). As I explained the goal – to either correctly describe a movie plot or to make up a feasible plot that matches the title – the students were confident. Most assured me that whatever the movie was, they had seen it.

51NxKqb3IxL._SX500_“Ready?” I asked. “The movie is – The Hudsucker Proxy.

As they stared, glassy-eyed, at their blank papers, I tried to help them along. “Who is the main character? Is it the Hudsucker Proxy? Or is the main character trying to find the Proxy? Maybe destroy it? Fall in love with it? Protect it?

“Is the Hudsucker Proxy a place? A spaceship? An idea? Is it in Canada? Or in King Arthur’s Court? Or on a moon of Jupiter? Maybe it’s in each of us.”

Obviously, none had heard of it. And no one was even close to the actual plot – a mailroom worker is promoted to CEO because the company’s exec board thinks he’s a schmuck. One-half of all submissions had to do with either the Hudson River or a vampire that sucked the heads of his/her victims.

In both our middle school and high school club meetings, there were some winners. These were ones with believable plots that at least tangentially involved a Hudsucking Proxy.

“Mr. Hudsucker is a jail escape artist who’s escaped from jail 20 times. And in his worst nightmare, he’s being chased by the proxyman. Despite the proxyman’s cuddly appearance, he can rip the flesh of a human with his bare hands. Mr. Hudsucker must escape from him and find his real world (not the proxy world).”

Very Inception-esque. I’d watch it. And if the proxyman looks like Mr. Hudsucker (which the definition would suggest so, though the author didn’t know it), I’d say the title is right on the money.

“A robot has to guard a dragon-princess, but he doesn’t want to. So he says to a human, ‘Hey guard this princess,’ and the human says, ‘Okay.’ Will the human do it? Will the robot get fired? Find out at the Hudsucker Proxy.”

Okay, so not even tangentially involving the HP, but I’m amazed at the fantastic cast of characters written against a mind-numbingly mundane plot.

“A hunter is attacked by a beast called a Proxy. So he has to fight back. It takes place in  a dark forest where there is no sight of light! So in the end is he lost forever. But before then he kills the Proxy on mistake! But it was a good thing.”

The reversal that killing the Proxy was a mistake makes me think the hunter came to love the beast – or at least respect it. However, as in White Fang, it would never work. Also, the fact that he’s lost forever and now alone is quite disturbing.

“There are only two people left. There is no one else in the world. And they are on opposite sides of the world. The movie is about their journey to find each other. When they meet, they are brother and sister.”

Again, no HP, but the omission of how everyone on the planet died is captivating, as is the final twist that the two are brother and sister. Along with the writing, we held a movie poster competition. The poster for this plot won.

“During a normal shiny Tuesday morning, a flock of wasps takes over the world. They turn humans into other wasps and the world becomes ruled by wasps. Only one human survived the Hudsucker Proxy, and Bill Davidson will take back his land. He will have to survive these vicious wasps. He is willing to survive and he will. Watch to find out if this brave man will take back the Earth.”

For me, this is the clear winner. It includes the HP in a non-detrimental way (too many plots were horribly transfigured by jamming the HP in). It also sounds like a smashing movie trailer, with the expert introduction of Bill Davidson. And slowly enlarging his goal from “his land” to “the Earth” sets it up for a sequel.

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I Master Carpentry, Become Sleepy

During a recent craft fair, Holly was perusing doll outfits and barnwood crossbows as I trailed behind her. Bored, I pointed to an old shutter that someone had converted into a note holder by way of clothespins. “I could make that,” I grumbled.

“Okay,” Holly said. “Then make it.”

“Uh…with Legos?” Holly was not amused. “So, wood then?”

One of Holly’s good friends ran a booth at the fair. She makes crosses and picture frames. She gave us a nice piece as a wedding present. Her husband was operating the cash register.

“It looks like you’ve had quite a lot of people today,” Holly said.

“Yeah,” her friend said. “But mostly they just say, Oh, I could make that.” She didn’t notice my sudden blush.

“For real,” her husband added. “I’m like, I’d like to see you try.

I stepped away to take a fake phone call.

Holly just got hired as a P.E. teacher at Old High Middle School. We are both officially adults, by one measure. To celebrate, I wanted to get her a table. We have little furniture and no end tables. Sanding and painting a thrift store find seemed within my grasp.

But those things cost money! Like thirty bucks! I could buy like sixty balloons for that. So instead, I tried to build one.

Holly has an extensive Pintrest account. I used it to find a few designs and then decide that those people were stupid. It can’t be that hard. Why so many steps? So instead I wrote this on a Wal-Mart receipt: STEP 1: Buy wood. STEP 2: Treat them like Legos. STEP 3: Impress Holly.

I was especially proud for spending eight dollars on two 1×4’s and two 2×2’s, though I had to employ my Maintenance training to sight boards for straightness. I’ll be honest – that was probably the best part. It was the first time I had been to Lowe’s and known what I was doing. Yet something was missing. There were cracks in the wood and one leg was shorter than the others. I knew only one man who could deal.

I took the table to my old boss, Rob, Lord of Maintenance at Camp War Eagle. “Well,” he said, “telling you what you did right would take less time. Have you heard of pilot holes.”

“Yes,” I said proudly. “I don’t like to do them. Too many steps.”

“That’s good, because I know you don’t want your table to look good.”

He proceeded to school me in the ways of woodworking. We laughed, I cried, and in the end I took away a few pieces of advice to incorporate – namely, an extra length of 2×2 for leg support.

Yesterday I sanded and painted the beast. Now it holds my books. I – HAVE MADE FURNITURE. I – AM FURNITURE!

 

Trumbellishment

Once both his sons graduated, my father had to recycle himself into the community. He adopted an elementary-age competitive basketball team to coach, giving he and my mother both a whole new batch of boys to watch grow up. He’s been coaching the Blue Bombers for two years now and I think that’s just enough time for the veteran parents to adjust.

He has a very particular style, my father. There are only three statistics in his game of basketball: rebounds, charges, and hustle points. He keeps track of them on the same wooden clipboard from my basketball years. I think these represent aspect of the game that no one could argue against, like bipartisan political support for little kids learning to read. However, my dad takes them to a new level.

If he had to define his system, it would be pre-basketball. He trains young men to obsess over defense, loose balls and playing with pain so that when they get to a more real level of basketball, those basics will be second nature. Though it sounds like a good idea, new parents are required to attend multiple “teaching practices” where they learn, along with their kids, why there are no trophies for points scored but a jersey embroidered with a skull-and-crossbones for the player who takes two or more charges in a single game.

He occasionally brings in speakers to talk about big picture stuff, like perseverance, work ethic and how the government is lying to us. It was my turn to speak last Sunday afternoon, at the end of practice.

My dad likes to embellish. We call it a Trumbellishment, which is also the name of my wife’s cat-centric twitter account. Thus, in my introduction, he told about five lies concerning me.

“Our next speaker holds the Fayetteville High record for most consecutive starts (LIE). At the University of Arkansas, he triple majored in wildly different disciplines (LIE). Then the government gave him a grant to go anywhere in the world (LIE), and he chose Turkey. When he returned, he could’ve written his ticket – Hollywood (LIE), Wall Street (“What is he smoking?” I whispered to my mom). But he chose to stay here. He just finished his second book (Not a lie but also not something I ever talk to strangers about) and he has great knowledge for you.”

After I explained to the parents that I was Coach Trumbo’s son and didn’t really do all those things, the talk went smoothly. I spoke about the different ways of growing up, using Luke 2:52 – and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man – speaking mostly to the guys who wouldn’t be playing college or even high school ball. Afterwards, my dad asked for questions. The players looked terrified. However, one dad raised his hand.

“What’s your book about?”

*Facepalm*

I do acknowledge that my introduction was an act of immense love and exactly characteristic of my dad’s personality. In fact, later in the car I reveled in it because it’s a story I will often tell at family Thanksgivings. We like to make fun of him and he takes it very well – I think because he knows my kids will one day do this to me.

When everyone was packing their gym bags and I was shaking hands, a little boy in rec-specs tugged on my shirt. “I have a question,” he said. “Are you married?”

I stuttered, unsure of where the logic was headed, but I said yes.

The boy’s dad stood behind him and teased, “Why? Are you going to propose?”

Then the boy got very flustered and said, “No! I’m not like that, dad!”

I found that very funny.

Imagination Points for All!

As the self-defined Arts Czar of the Ozone office – I have a handmade sign that dentoes  me as the “CZARTS” – I am in charge of finding or establishing venues to expand our student’s cultural boundaries. The Walton Arts Center has a wonderful tickets-for-nonprofits program, and partnering with them I sent fifty kids and fourteen of our volunteers to see Shrek the Musical on Halloween. I myself could not go but I was in raptures about how clever my idea was.

The next day, the directors who chaperoned told me that one of the show-stopping numbers was titled, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly” and as we are guiding young students through the moral decisions of life, and thusly “Freak Flags” are not something we want to encourage, I am to refer all my further event planning to my immediate superiors for consideration.

I couldn’t see Shrek because I had been conscripted as the DJ for Ozone’s other Halloween party, Streetfest, which was a community block part for east Springdale. Area families were treated to various carnival games, free food and many giveaways. An all around good time. My speakers were not so powerful; though my music was well-heard, my announcements were muffled and my spontaneous competitions were under-attended. I repeatedly offered shirts to the first kid who could take a picture with Gandalf, the Subway Sandwich, Captain America, an alien, et cetera. The same two boys went home with like four shirts a piece.

That very much informed the way I spoke. I kept welcoming people to Streetfest 2035 and announcing for people to act normal because we were being watched. No one ever commented, for good or ill. In fact, the only time I got results was at a juncture where I wish I had none.

Several families camped by the DJ stand to eat. With nothing else to do, I danced by myself and was often joined by the small children that waited for their parents to finish dinner. I had so many (three) kids do this that I was inspired with a blessed idea.

“ATTENTION!” I yelled into the microphone. “We are having a toddler dance competition at the DJ stand. So you think your toddler can dance? Why don’t you prove it!”

I smiled at my own cleverness and picked the next song, nearly forgetting what I said, much like most of my announcements. However, halfway through the next song I noticed not one but eight little two-year-old girls holding their mothers hands and staring at me.

“I, uh -” I tried to improvise. “LET’S DO THIS!”

What I noticed during the song was not so much the confused hoola-hooping the toddlers were attempting to associate with dance, but the stares of the mothers, focused on me and filled with expectation. They seemed to be saying, “This could be the break we’ve been waiting for.”

In the end, I had to disappoint them. I didn’t have any shirts small enough to give to a winner, if there was one. I think I would’ve picked the purple princess because she seemed to be most aware of what she was doing. But having nothing to give out, I was grasping at ghost straws. Tentatively, I took the microphone. “That was so awesome. I want you all to hold out your hand.” The girls did. “Now receive an imagination point!”

Needless to say, the parents left having lost a lot of respect for me.