Tag Archives: Comedy

The Battle of the Gull

The Saga of Spring Break: Part 2

As you may recall, last week found our heroes trapped by their own desires in a mansion of phallic proportions. They may have set out for nothing more than unabashed revelry, but in its place, they encountered a most difficult challenge. This week, in the exciting conclusion to our two-part saga, the unsuspecting crew of the cliff-side palace will face a trial the likes of which they have never before seen. Instead of coming to terms with a giant pecker, they’ll have to survive an onslaught of little ones.

Friday.

We’re sitting in six deck chairs, wedged expertly between the pool and the glass guard rail, enjoying both the beautiful ocean view and some delicious hangover burritos, when suddenly it sounds like something fun is happening inside. Maybe the girls are having that pillow fight I’d been daydreaming about. Or maybe it’s just Drive By playing on loop again or people throwing up everywhere—who knows?

The decision to go investigate was not an easy one. After all, these are San Diego burritos we’re talking about. Whether it’s juicy, lardy carnitas smothered in fresh guacamole, or greasy, melted cheese dripping over carne asada and french fries, you know that while your heart and stomach may hate you, your tongue will be enraptured.  Every time I journey home, I eat an average of two burritos per day, and no matter how sick from them I get, I never get sick of them. Still, the potential for fun eventually outweighs our hunger, and we set down our food to go join in.

A foolish mistake!

Nanoseconds after the food is abandoned, the seagulls that had been hovering above our palace seize their opportunity and swoop in with calculated Machiavellianism! I could hardly blame them—San Diego burritos—but neither could I allow the slight to go unpunished. As the first person to notice the impending horror of total burrito loss, I sprint outside, flapping my arms wildly and yelling in the manner I instinctively sense will be most intimidating to seagulls.

Apparently my instincts are too good, because the birds scatter like feathers in a sorority-girl pillow fight. That is, all save one, an adolescent male (I like to imagine) who has found himself pinned between a semi-circle of chairs and every birds’ ultimate bane: a panel of glass. The see-through fence that had kept us from plummeting to our deaths all week is now preventing this poor creature from reverse plummeting to freedom. And yet, sure that nothing more than empty air lies in front of him, the seagull takes off, ramming his head full-force into the glass wall. He is knocked backward with a resounding DONG, but that deters him not at all. Again, he rams it. And again! Again! Again!

Whereas once I had been enraged by the seagull’s insolence, I now find myself pitying the dimwitted creature. There it was, entrapped by a cage it could neither see nor damage. I could almost sense its thoughts: if I can just ram it hard enough, the magic maintaining this accursed force field will be broken! Or more likely: Caw. Caw! Caw caw! Its wings flap wildly, and with every smack, it becomes visibly more shaken and disoriented.

I know I have to help this bird. After all, I am a nature god. But how?!

At this point, my cousin Evan joins me outside and is witness to the self-inflicted destruction of this bird’s skull. The two of us start frantically pulling chairs out of the way to give the gull room to take off, but the pool is right behind us and without tossing the chairs into it, our minor adjustments prove ineffective. Plus, no matter how much room we give the thing, it remains utterly certain that with just one more try, it will be able to defeat the accumulated human knowledge of polymer construction. Sure, the magic barrier has stopped it the last 27 times it tried to take off, but no force is more powerful than that of obstinance, and no substance is thicker than a seagull’s skull.

I realize that there’s only one way this bird is escaping: if I can hoist it over the fence. Eschewing any real forethought, I reach in to grab the thing, but that just scares the shit out of it.

Literally. As soon as I touch its wing, it sprays poop all over the place, the splash damage just barely missing my foot. Now freed from the burden of its bowels, it proceeds to expertly smack its head into a fence some more.

I take a step back and perform a few monkey-level calculations. A tool! That’s what I need! And then I see it: the pool scooper. Just because it’s meant to scoop pools doesn’t mean it can’t also scoop gulls. I’m going to have to wield it with expert jabsmenship to pull off this delicate operation, but unfortunately, my tool, while not lacking in the long steel rod department, has a slightly-smaller-than-gull sized net. Also, I don’t have a lot of practice at scooping demented birds.

I brandish my new implement of animal-targeted kindness, waiting for the gull to perform another leap-smack (every time it tries to take off, it clears the ground by about two inches, so I simply have to slide the scooper underneath its feet during that brief window. Easy.) Leap, smack! Damn, I miss it. Another smack!

Boom! I’ve got the scooper under the bird. It’s working! I’m lifting this frantic, gyrating mass of a creature into the air as effortlessly as everyone who wasn’t Arthur lifted that sword out of the stone. It’s writhing and struggling and leaping and cawing and flapping and generally making my task pretty much impossible. I take a moment to dwell on how ungrateful this adolescent avian is, but then I realize that I was probably the same way at that age and return to my task with renewed vigor. Still, I’m unsuccessful. You wouldn’t expect a four-pound bird to be able to throw me off balance, so you clearly don’t have a lot of practice scooping demented birds either.

All the flailing proves too much for even my expert gull-balancing skills, and the bird flops off. Now reduced to a wobbling feather-clump of sheer terror by his over-exciting ride on the demon stick, this bird takes a break from the head-ramming to puke out its guts, which mostly contained this one half-digested fish. It was really rather pretty, the way its scales shimmered in the sunlight and its body ended in a bloody, undigested cluster of muscle instead of a head.

But I wasn’t about to let a little regurgitated fish remnants faze me. I go back to scooper-thrust round two, but before I can pull it off, I notice a cacophonous chorus of cawing. There! In the sky! Dozens of circling gulls, enraged that we’ve captured their companion. Hopes that they were all swarming to devour the free half-fish on the deck are quickly quashed as they swoop narrowly above our heads in an effort to scare us away from our presumed prey. Don’t they understand that I just want to help?

They don’t.

And their primary offensive weapon is the tried-and-true method of consta-shitting.

That special bird mixture of urine and feces rains from the sky all around me; the seagull rams his head into the wall; Evan cries out in fear and delight; the heavens ring with the chatter of enraged beasts; the waves crash against the cliffs beneath me; it’s all aligning just like that fortune teller said, and I know that if I do not solve this seagull situation now, things may turn out very badly.

For a moment, I’m on the verge of giving up, but Evan delivers a rousing speech and the two of us sprint through the ever-falling barrage of bird poop and get back in position. With one final thrust, I manage to snake the scooper underneath the gull, and, sensing victory, I hoist him into the air as fast as I can. We’re going to make it!

But with a furious flop, the gull slides sideways. I try to maintain my hold, but alas, I cannot. The bird topples to his left, rolling among the chairs, shit splatters next to me, splashing the fish remnants—but wait, he’s somersaulted beyond the last chair!

There are no more obstacles! With a wobbly step, the gull rights himself, looks to the sky, and takes off!

I brandish my scooper at the remaining seagull strike force and shoo them away, every inch looking like a half-mad hippie lashing out against unseen sky demons when his true enemy is the quantity of hallucinogens in his bloodstream. Yes, it is another victory for the nature god.

And the whole thing was witnessed by our 85-year-old neighbor, this tiny old lady who was talking on the phone until her jaw dropped in wonder at the sight of our struggle. Once the seagull was safely away, she asked in the scratchy, pitchy, lilting voice of an old person, “How did you get them to do that?”

“We left food out here,” we responded stoically, as if that could explain the experience we had just had. But Evan and I knew better. We knew we had narrowly avoided the fortune teller’s curse, but it would be back.

It would be back.

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The Drunk Challenge

Spring break just happened. Seven days spent drinking seven years off my life. I may be in no state to write a blog post today thanks to my weeklong hangover, but by Jove…

I was going to end that sentence with an inspiring statement enumerating my reasons for slogging through the blogging, but I couldn’t think of any. Yet, like an energizer bunny with a keyboard instead of a drum and fingers instead of paws and no drumsticks to get in the way of typing, I continue, albeit with rapidly degrading metaphors.

 ••••

The downward spiral of my functionality began, like with so many, on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t have a very strong understanding of calendars and holidays, but I’m pretty sure there’s some powerful committee of politicians, scientists, watchmakers, and holiday mascots who all sit in a room and decide how they’re going to mess with people each year.

“Halloween shall fall on the least fun day of all, a Tuesday!” they cry. “And when it ought to land on a Saturday, we’ll ensure there’s a leap year, bumping it to Sunday and robbing college students everywhere of their scantily-clad celebration!”

“We shall schedule Yom Kippur for the day there’s that drunk driving presentation at high schools, and none of the Jewish kids will be forced to sit through the boring and ineffective scare tactics, thus infuriating children of all other religions!” they cackle. “And most importantly, this year, when Russ is about to have the craziest spring break ever, we will put St. Patrick’s Day on the Saturday that kicks it all off to ensure that he never gets any sleep ever again.”

I think it’s something like that. Now, on St. Patrick’s Day in San Luis Obispo, the tradition is to arrive at your first bar around 6 a.m. for a breakfast of Irish Car Bombs. I have a terrible time waking up in the morning, so obviously I had to pull an all-nighter to guarantee I made it. And then we drank all day, hopping from bar to bar forcing green-colored drinks down our throats, most of which contained Bailey’s Irish Cream or potatoes.

I finally passed out on my couch at 3:35 a.m. the next day and got a full 4 hours of sleep before my fraternity brothers barged through the door screaming things about San Diego and how I had to pack right now and drive 5 hours south no matter how dangerous that might be because I was going to miss the Clippers game and we’d already paid and they’d called me 8 bajillion times but I wasn’t answering and it was going to be the best bonding experience ever and—

The point of this whole story is kayaking. I know that probably hasn’t been obvious so far, but my brain is barely functioning, so every combination of words sounds like sheer brilliance to me until I reread it and find out it says “There was a cat lot of mulching to be deluged before picnic basket.”

Anyway, for spring break I stayed in a multi-million-dollar beach-front 1970s-style sex grotto mansion that my cousin’s friend’s girlfriend had shadily procured, most likely from a washed up rock star through Craigslist. We lovingly referred to it as the “Rage Palace.” The Rage Palace rested at the top of a cliff overlooking a beautiful beach and slept 18 people (in beds, which is like 40 people in spring break–floor sleeping units). It had clearly done too many heavy drugs in its youth and was now in a bit of disrepair—perfect for a bunch of rowdy college kids. The centerpiece of the erstwhile porn set was a giant, penis-esque fireplace located smack-dab in the middle of the main room, and surrounding the back half of this once-virile hearth was a weird glass chamber filled with clam shells. Extensive investigation into this phallic and yonic fever-dream of architecture revealed that the clam chamber was some sort of group shower or maybe just an enterable waterfall. Either way, its only remaining resident was a stuffed Toucan hung from the ceiling by its beak in a climbing position, a creature perpetually caught in the process of ascension.

Outside in the back was a gargantuan balcony precariously balanced on a cliff that had eroded away underneath the support pillars to the point that you had no idea how it all remained suspended in the air. From there you could see a huge stretch of beautiful Mission Beach, a veritable paradise, and for a scant few days, our personal playground. On this balcony were a pool, a hot tub, and a whole bunch of chairs, and the entire place was surrounded by a drunk-proof glass wall that came up to your waist. It was a wonderful place to drink, and drink, and drink.

But drinking has its downsides, like causing a complete inability to perform tasks. It took 4 people an hour to set up a volleyball net, and at the end of the hour, they only succeeded by giving up. We even made a game out of our lack of skill, cleverly titled “The Drunk Challenge.” You see, the Rage Palace came with one of those big plastic ocean kayaks, but the thing was ungodly heavy, so even with the combined strength of four strapping lads, we could barely lift it off the ground. Unable to get the plastic monstrosity to the ocean, we settled for the pool, dumping it unceremoniously into its week-long home, where it became the impetus for The Drunk Challenge.

The Drunk Challenge consisted of lining up the kayak so that it was parallel to one end of the pool, stepping onto the precarious death-trap (the whole thing had to be done standing up, straddling the seat sideways with your legs), turning it 90 degrees using the long kayak paddle, paddling it across the pool in a swaying battle for your life, ramming it head-on against the opposite wall, doing a full 180 that at any point could lead you to falling and smacking your head into concrete, paddling it back with frayed nerves, and dismounting, all while completely sloshed. The kayak was only about a foot shorter than the width of the pool, so you had to do something like a 7-point turn to redirect it. In order to balance, you had to keep your legs bent the whole time, so by about halfway your calves would be aflame with drunken regret.

And when you inevitably crashed into the water, the cold surge of failure would rush into your nostrils and you’d realize that pools seem a lot less warm at 3 in the morning.

One night, the time came for me to make my attempt. According to the judges (anyone who had completed the challenge previously), I hadn’t ever been sufficiently drunk before, but now I was fully qualified. After watching someone splash into the pool mere seconds into the challenge, I sprinted to the kayak, stripped to my underwear, and mounted it…in a strictly platonic way.

For some reason, the majority of our crew came outside to watch (and I’m pretty sure one of them filmed the whole thing. That’s going to come back to bite me). They were all enthusiastic spectators, whether cheering me on or shouting distracting vulgarities, but nothing could break my steel resolve. I turned the kayak, paddle waving unsteadily in my hands. I stuck it tentatively into the water, swaying dangerously close to failure—and immediately failed, splashing into the pool. But I wasn’t finished!

I leapt out and remounted, this time even more focused. Paddle in hand, I began to turn the tilting behemoth beneath my feet. Slowly, ever so slowly, I made my way to the other side, rammed the wall, and turned around. My legs burned with the effort, my arms shook with the cold, my brain pounded with the alcohol. And I still had to make it all the way back!

It took me 5 and a half minutes to complete The Drunk Challenge, but by god I did it. And after dismounting, I raised my paddle into the air, reveling in my victory, even if I was soaking wet and shivering, underwear clinging unflatteringly to my shriveled junk in front of my friends and that girl I’d been attempting to seduce. For the next half hour, I loudly proclaimed to anyone who would listen that it was the proudest moment of my life. Who knows? Maybe it was.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Saga of Spring Break, in which I wage glorious war with a flock of angry seagulls.

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I Have No Style

Russ is still sleeping off his post–Spring Break hangover. So this week all you loyal Reasonably Ludicrous followers will have to deal with something different: me, Sam.  My writing style is notably different from Russ’s  in that he is fun and I am not.

That’s not entirely accurate. It’s that Russ can find happy, collaborative humor, the kind that everyone can enjoy together. I can’t do that kind of humor. The only way I can be funny is to point out when there is a problem. Usually I’m the subject of my own humor, because as I have proven time and time again, I am an exceptionally easy target.

I often wonder if this self-deprecation is an inherent quality of my upbringing. It’s not unreasonable to speculate that some few formative experiences molded me into a shuddering mass of neuroses, and that the long institutionalization within the hearth of the American School System fired me into the man that I am today: somewhat lumpy and increasingly fragile. It’s only now that I’m exposed to the cool air of reality that I realize there’s not a glaze in the world that can fix the cracks in the clay.

But you didn’t come here to listen to me sculpt abstractions; you want some concrete. Well here’s the truth, folks. I was, tragically, born without a sense of fashion.

I was doomed from the start. Near-sightedness prevented the development of crucial pattern-recognition, leaving me unable to distinguish the hideous from the complex. My parents, naïve fools that they were, decided to allow me to pick my own clothing. And for whatever god-forsaken reason (maybe because of Todd next door, who was always grilling fish in them) I attached myself to Hawaiian Shirts.

I would wear them everywhere. Their combination of formal and fun made them perfect for literally all occasions:

Parties!

Class!

Church!

The Beach!

Utility has always guided my decisions in some way or another, which was why I also liked to complement my ensemble with cargo shorts (keeps you cool, and so many pockets!).

It took me well in to high school to realize that these outfits were actively hindering my acceptance into the fold of mainstream society. Rather than alluring, peacock-like flair that drew attention towards me, these rainbow colored masterpieces of tessellation were actively alienating me from the opposite sex I had heard so many great things about.

Had I had a traditional childhood, I’d have been blessed with elementary-school bullies who would have stomped my ‘style’ out of me before I had time to grow a collection. But either I went to a particularly nice school or I was too tall to be pushed around, because the only person who told me I looked like an idiot was my sister, and that’s what she always said anyways so why would I listen to her?

So I continued on, dimly aware that I wasn’t exactly ‘stylin’’ but that was okay because I had a style all my own.  In fact, it was that sense of individuality and aversion to peer pressure that solidified my resolve to continue wearing Hawaiian shirts. I wasn’t going to do the ‘cool’ thing, just because everyone (and I mean everyone) told me I should. They were just imposing their conformist ideas of ‘fashion’ on me because they couldn’t handle how unique I looked.

Gradually, however, the social stigma overcame the joy. The joy of integrity is worth only so much to a pubescent high-schooler. At some point I caught on that if I was going to get ahead in this world I was going to have to put the Hawaiian shirts away for good.  So I phased all but my favorites out of the rotation, and eventually those went as well.

I could never bring myself to get rid of them completely. To this day some of them hang lonely in the corner of my closet back home, hoping beyond hope that the next time the door slides open it will be me, ready to take them on a trip. But instead it’s my cat, looking for a damp place to hack up a hairball.

Now this might have been a simple, bittersweet-but-ultimately-happy story about a boy putting away childish notions to become a man. But that’s not the kind of story I tell. My lack of fashion sense isn’t limited to Hawaiian shirts, you see. It’s a constant, malevolent force, just looking for a new way to manifest itself. It worms its way through my psyche, waiting for me to make a choice just bad enough that people will gently chide me for my lack of self-awareness. But the joke’s on them, because that will simply convince me that I should continue on my way, just to show them they don’t own me.

In college I was finally able to grow my hair beyond my collar (I had gone to a Catholic school with a strict dress code against facial hair and hippies), which I overcompensated for by not cutting my hair, at all. This was a brilliantly freeing notion to me, because my hair had always worked against me in high school. It grew quickly and unevenly, and I would comb it into all sorts of terrifying shapes. But now I would embrace my hair and allow it to become what it had always wanted to be. There was a brief phase of white-man afro, after which it collapsed from its own weight and became a kind of shaggy mane. I thought this was awesome. I decided I would grow it out until it was a ponytail. But my normally sprouting-like-a-weed hair-growth rate slows to a crawl right after about 10 inches. I managed to tie it all back, but all I could produce was a little puff ball.

I know what you’re thinking. This is the hair of a bad-ass muthafucka. But my social calendar from that period, if I kept a social calendar, would have told a very different story.

Nowadays my hair is a much more reasonable length. I wear t-shirts with only one funny picture on it once, as opposed to many times over and over again. If I have a formal occasion to go to I have a selection of ties, which have tasteful patterns and no pictures of the Cat in the Hat.

And yet still, I am haunted. Recently I was visiting with Sarah and Karen, these two girls that I had taken a trip with the previous summer. Somehow, I don’t know, somehow they got to talking about how poorly I had dressed on this trip.

Apparently it had been the subject of much hilarity, none of which I had been privy to. I had actually been a source of regular entertainment for them, wondering what eye-gouging ensemble I’d put together next. It had been so bad that our other friend Mark had actively avoided being seen with me in public.

“Remember the jeans shorts?” Karen burst out, and they both collapsed into hysterics.

I made a mental note not to wear my jeans shorts when I saw them again the next day.

Did you know that jeans shorts are a fashion faux pas? Because I sure didn’t. But they are. There’s even a derogatory term for them: jorts.  It seems that Jorts (which redirects to Shorts on Wikipedia) are the kind of clothing suburban moms wear, and only when they’re hanging out around the house, not you know, out. This is apparently common knowledge, and according to Karen has been so since the early 2000’s. I’ve been wearing jeans shorts for the entirety of my 23 years of existence, and this is the first I hear of it.

This does little to allay my perpetual suspicion that everyone I know is keeping secrets from me.

••••

What I don’t understand is, if they felt so strongly about my fashion choices, why not they tell me? Why allow me to repeatedly make a fool of myself in public? Why bother to protect my feelings in the first place, only to reveal the horrible truth to me afterwards, when there’s nothing I can do about it?

“Well it wasn’t really a big deal most of the time”, explained Sarah. “We were out of the country, so you just looked like a tourist.” After all, it wasn’t until we had gotten to New York that Mark began actively avoiding being seen in public with me. He had people to impress, whereas in China everyone was going to stare at the gay black man no matter what he wore, or how unstylish his companions.

So with tact not dissimilar to my fashion sense I will transition into a conclusion about all of this, which is that fashion is context-dependent. You judge what’s acceptable based on perception of surroundings, a mix of conscious and subconscious notions of stylistic relationships and your current surroundings. It’s how you know that something is ‘inappropriate’ for an occasion—style is judged by how something responds to normalcy. There’s a reason they call a sense of style ‘taste’– like taste, style is entirely based on the subjective accumulation of perception.  And if it’s subjective, I can spin it in my favor.

So it’s not that I don’t have a sense of fashion. Rather, I have a limited palate. I’m a ‘picky’ stylist, in that I make choices not based on what other people think when they see it, but rather what appeals to me personally, for whatever formative experiences led me to that conclusion. Sure, my nipples may poke through this shirt like tiny little pebbles. But it’s 100% cotton! Not hanging up my pants doesn’t make me a slob, it makes me a hipster! Hawaiian shirts are cheesy now, but I’ll be hailed as a visionary in a matter of decades! You just wait.

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