Tag Archives: Humor

Film School!

Hiya readers of Reasonably Ludicrous!

Sorry there haven’t been that many posts lately. This is due partly thanks to the fact that I spent my summer as a TA at Stanford summer camp again, encumbered by a constant barrage of high school enthusiasm, and partly because I just started film school!

Film school is this magical place where you go to spend two years writing screenplays, or so I thought. Then I arrived for the orientation and was immediately bombarded by the general idea that networking was the be all and end all of a successful life. Nothing makes for a smoother first impression than knowing that the people you’re just now introducing yourself to are the same people that will change your life forever and make or break your career.

In fact, said a professor, I’ve watched a million kids graduate from film school, and it didn’t matter how talented they were or how motivated. The only thing they had in common was how many friends they’d made. Oh, and all famous people ever met their most important contacts the very first day of film school. Great.

“Hi, I’m Russ,” I say, and then am filled with trepidation. Did my greetings come off as insincere? Should I have said “hello” instead of “hi?” Is my silly pun shirt giving off an unprofessional vibe? Is it good for a quirky screenwriter to give off an unprofessional vibe?

While all of these thoughts run through my head, the conversation moves on and everyone’s wondering why that weird guy with the shaved head is just staring blankly forward, drooling on his weird shirt.

Anyway, hopefully I haven’t made too big a fool of myself thus far. It’s important that I not only impress my future contacts, but I also must woo the 6 girls at the school.

And if I might not be writing as many blog posts as I once did, well, at least maybe I’ll make some entertaining movies? Like this assignment where we were required to make a two minute video introducing ourselves but weren’t allowed to appear in it.

Everybody else has all these artsy pieces, and then I come out with this. First impressions, here we go!

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A Rapid Descent

A month ago, my friends convinced me to take the plunge and go river rafting on the danger-spewing hellwater known as the Tuolumne. Luckily, I don’t feel puny emotions like fear, no matter how many people supposedly met their demise in this river and regardless of the fact that the rapids enjoy a difficulty ranking just 1 point below “unraftable.”

The Tuolomne is apparently not located in San Luis Obispo, so I have to drive north to a super secret predetermined rendezvous spot: the Sunnyvale In N Out. I get there around 10pm, at which point Brian, Zack, and I pile into one car and set off for the motel room Brian’s dad (Andy) had booked. Everything looks like it’s going to go swimmingly, which is perhaps not something you want on a rafting trip (PUN). But since I’m writing this blog post, you, being the discerning reader that you are, know that trouble awaits.

In fact, just as we’re pulling out of the parking lot, Brian gets a frenzied call from his dad: “So this motel is—static static—service doesn’t really work—static static—because there’s no gps signal. Just make sure to turn when you see a—static static—if so, then you know you’ve gone too far—static static—and remember—static static—white mailbox.”

Luckily, I once earned a merit badge in Orienteering, so with my expert navigation skills, we’re able to immediately miss the onramp. Undaunted, we find an alternate route to the freeway and speed into the distance…only to accidentally exit and go 15 miles directly out of the way. No big deal. We’re having fun. We just backtrack 15 miles to where we went wrong.

Turns out we’d done it right the first time.

It was supposed to be a two-and-a-half hour drive, but by the time one in the morning rolls around, we’re only halfway there. Plus we’re on some windy, backcountry road in the middle of nowhere with only a tenuous belief that we’re heading in the right direction.

For many miles, the only non-plant-thing we zoom past in the darkness is a single building surrounded by dozens of parked cars. You know, since we’re already so late, maybe we should check it out. We’re men of adventure, and who knows what this place is! Dive bar? Strip club? Secret meeting place for the occult? Plus we’d already pulled so many u-turns, we figured we should try to set a record. So after yet more backtracking, we park and stumble straight into an after-hours redneck convention, or at least a community of people tremendously dedicated to fulfilling their stereotype. Everyone sports tattoos of skulls or tractors or other hick-things, and one guy had even shaved the back of his head to look like a beard.

Not sure what we’re doing here (besides boosting our egos and feeling out of place), we figure we’ll let the bartender decide for us. Let him express his creativity, right? Apparently he’s in a bad mood, because he hands us raspberry vodkas mixed with seltzer water, a concoction so feminine and so vile that I think it actually took hair off my chest. Not wanting to get beaten up by the women who now had more chest hair than we did, we drained our glasses and got the hick out of there (PUN).

Brian and I need something, anything, to wash away that horrible flavor, but after miles of empty, barren darkness dotted only with the occasional murder-shack or rusted car, the only thing we can find that’s remotely food-like is a 7-11. We burst through the doors and immediately lay our eyes on two wrinkled and unappealing hot dogs who had clearly spent their entire existence rotating on those endlessly twirling spits, waiting behind that scratched and foggy pane of glass, hoping against hope that someday they’d be freed and could fulfill their destiny: ingestion. Unable to turn down something so clearly horrible (and really feeling for the hot dogs’ plight), and pleased that they’re only a dollar apiece, Brian and I go full-on Kobayashi.

A choice made deadlier and more exciting when we happen upon a machine that sports a single red button labeled “Push for Chili.”

We push. Chili oozes out in a constant stream of uniform, moist goop. What could this chili possibly be made of that allows it to remain unrefrigerated indefinitely, and how can chili have such a slimy-smooth consistency? We gloss over these questions and skip straight to the more important question: who can eat more “Nozzle Chili?”

Minutes later, the question morphs into “By the burning entrails of Prometheus, how do we end this soul-consuming stomach pain?”

Unable to find an answer, we crawl back into the car and press on. After getting lost about a dozen more times, we finally take the last left turn we can remember reading before our gps cut out. The dark forest road greets us with a giant “No Trespassing” sign.

We ignore it.

All we know about our destination is “white mailbox” and “a left turn into a driveway,” but nothing looks too promising. Then again, Brian’s dad is one o’ them hippy types, so it’s perfectly conceivable that he booked a room at some crazy person’s cottage in this valley of death purely for the eye-opening meditative experience it would provide.

We finally see a few huts shambled together to form a makeshift house. There’s a white mailbox in front, and the driveway is a left turn. Huzzah! Except there’s no lights on anywhere, and Andy’s car is nowhere to be seen. “Maybe he rented a car,” we tell ourselves.

We drive through it once.

Not too promising.

We drive through it again.

It can’t possibly be the place. But if that’s not it, then where the hell are we supposed to go? We decide to investigate on foot. One shamble-hut looks the most like a guest room, so we walk up to it, using our phones’ last remaining battery power to combat the darkness.

We creep to the door, shine our lights, and, just as we’re about to peer into the windows, we hear a shout.

“Fredbert! There’s somebody at ma’s place!” Followed by some gibberish I interpreted as “Grab the shotgun! And don’t leave any witnesses this time.”

“No, wait!” I shout. I can see her eyeing us from behind her door, licking her lips as she imagines the sweet taste of man flesh. “We’re lost, I swear. We’re trying to find an inn, one with a white mailbox.”

“Don’t know nothing like that round these parts. Now, if you’ll just move a little bit to left; that pillar is blocking my husband’s line of sight …”

Or maybe she just shrieked something about returning to the main road and never coming back…Either way, we were too busy sprinting to the car to pay much attention.

Turns out the place is only like two blocks farther down the road and is a very upstanding and obvious motel with a giant white mailbox. And we made it with three hours to spare before we had to be on the river!

In the morning, we roll out of bed minutes before we’re supposed to be at the launch spot. We scramble to our destination like eggs in a pan (SIMILE PUN), and right before we’re going to get on the water, our guide drops some serious knowledge on us: we’re not allowed to bring glass on the river. “But Andy,” we cry, “you told us a six pack per person per day.”

Andy shrugs innocently, as if he would never have said such a thing. Look around, he gestures. No one else brought any beer. At this point, it’s all too much. The travel, the lack of sleep, the perfectly good beer that will spend the trip in the trunk of Brian’s car. We sit down, the wind ripped from our sails. But then, in a moment of inspiration, we realize that rafts don’t even have metaphorical sails!

In our car lay a gallon of water. Why not turn that into…a gallon of beer!

And thus, the River Brew was conceived.

We empty every variety of beer we’d brought into that jug, then pack it away and hope for the best. And what a best it is! When we arrive at the campsite, we dig a hole in the river and submerge the jug. After it’s been cooled to perfection, we whip out our concoction and take a swig. Consensus: delicious.

Things were really going great. I mean, no one had even fallen out of the raft that day. And falling out is a seriously nerve-wracking prospect. Sure, you could die, but we weren’t too worried about that. The truly horrifying aspect was that we’d all agreed: whoever falls out first is required to eat a wrinkle-dog absolutely drowned in Nozzle Chili.

The trip itself was kinda fun too, I guess. We surfed rapids, played bocce, hiked into an abandoned mine full of centipedes and bat (singular), and enjoyed that rare adrenaline rush that comes only when you know you could float to your doom at any moment.

But the only doom we ever faced came when we were docking for lunch on the second day. We’d pulled in at a problematic angle and were starting to float downriver. One of the guides yelled “Somebody get out and grab the ropes!” I bravely rose to the occasion and attempted to step out of the raft, only to slip and faceplant into the water.

It was the closest any of us came to falling out, and let me tell you, to this day, I have not recovered from that second Nozzle Chili dog.

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The Joys of Airplane Travel

I feel like I’m teetering dangerously close to bad stand-up with this topic, but I’ve had some pretty interesting experiences on planes, I swear, so bear with me. They may be sadly devoid of gremlins and thus not up to a Shatnerian level of greatness, but I’ll do my best to be a worthy replacement. After all, my parents didn’t name me Russell Kirk Nickel for nothing.

I’m under the impression that everyone shares the fantasy of meeting a tall dark stranger on a plane, hitting it off over a mutual hatred of the shoddy in-flight entertainment and, thanks to the cramped seating that ensures levels of intimacy which would normally take months to develop, deciding to share a cab fare to the hotel (for the sake of economy, of course), and as long as you’re both staying in town for a couple of days, there’s really no reason to waste money on individual rooms when hotel beds are so sizable…and so lonely.

At least, I know I’ve been waiting for this to happen ever since that whole puberty fiasco. This unspoken desire that I assume is shared by every passenger adds an exciting and erotic undertone to all those forced conversations of uncanny politeness. The people who refuse to talk to me when I assail them with an unending barrage of friendly inquiries into their line of work, reading material of choice, and sex life aren’t actually trying to sleep or work; they’re using body language to convince me that they’re not particularly interested in getting a hotel with me. Most likely because they’re already spoken for. What else could it be?

But I don’t let failure after failure get me down. Every flight, I disregard my A-priority seating, wait until about half the passengers have boarded, then try to sit next to the person who looks most receptive to hours and hours of friendly conversation and a little flirting. College was a golden era for this, since every flight to or from Spring/Christmas/Thanksgiving break was packed with students.

The very first time I flew home from Stanford was at the end of admit weekend. I spent the whole weekend wandering campus and taking in life with a beautiful girl (with whom I was very honorable since my then girlfriend was waiting for me back in San Diego), and before I knew it, I was taking a flight home. And just by chance, aforementioned beautiful girl Emily was on the very same flight. So of course I sat with her…and her mother, who’d come along to keep her safe from predators like me. Having a girl you’ve just met’s mom sit a foot away from you makes hormone-driven dialogue a difficult endeavor, and age-specific innuendo becomes the better part of valor. I kept having to engage her mom in conversation to seem polite, and somehow the discussion shifted rather unfortunately to their belief in Catholicism, a topic that God in no way intended for in-flight banter. What followed was nigh on an hour of high-minded philosophizing that my half-semester of Dante could never have prepared me for. Attempting to atheistically deflect the good-natured religious prodding of a cute girl’s mother is like walking on eggshells (or water), and meeting the parent(s) after just 2 days made me feel like things were moving faster than locusts on plague day. Still, I must’ve been sufficiently charming and uncontrarian, because during the descent, Emily offered me her number.

Before I’d left for admit weekend, Klaus (the ex) had informed me that I’d better not come home with any cute girls’ phone numbers. But how could I turn down Emily (especially in front of her mother)? It would’ve been one thing if I’d simply input her into my phone, but this was a plane, and apparently turning on a free-with-a-two-year-contract piece of technology causes multi-million dollar flying contraptions to crash. So good, ol’ fashioned writing it was. I didn’t have anything to write on, so Emily solves this problem by retrieving a giant colorful pen from her purse and scrawling her digits across my entire arm, then decorates my guilt-limb with cutesy hearts and stars.

I got off the plane, bid her farewell, headed toward the baggage claim, and ran right into the girlfriend, who’d come to pick me up as a surprise. Yay! Well, at least I had fond memories of the flight to keep me happy throughout my stay in the dog house.

But wait! There’s more! Like that time the pilot made an announcement on the P.A. during our descent. Apparently someone had left one of those extremely useful and cost-effective Juicy Couture handbags in the bathroom, and when they’d gone back for it, it was gone!

Suddenly, the plane was abuzz with rumor, and the witch hunt was on.

No one would fess up, and the plane quickly became a cramped prison, but without the amenities. The pilot announced that no one would be allowed to leave until the purse was recovered, and once we landed, police would be brought on board to search our belongings. Chaos broke out. People erupted in anger, jumping up and yelling at anyone and everyone, and I huddled in the corner attempting to appear as unobtrusive as my massive girth and witty t-shirt would allow.

The shouts continued, the threats escalated, and the pilots promised ever-increasing retribution, from “we’ll turn this plane around and go straight back home” to “we’ll force you to eat a second in-flight meal.” Finally, from just a couple rows in front of me, the purse hurtles through the air, flung with the vigorous abandon only a criminal fearing his or her capture can achieve. In this case said criminal was a her, and the her was a 6-year-old girl. Everyone watched as the purse sailed over their heads, bounced off an elderly man’s shoulder, and came to rest in the aisle, the lone testament to the purloining atrocity that had occurred.

Or what about that time I sat next to the very professional looking Asian man? We made a bit of small talk but mostly kept to ourselves. Then halfway through the flight an old man collapses in the aisle literally right next to me. A woman starts screaming, and a flight attendant rushes to the situation, then shouts those classic words: “Is there a doctor on board?!”

The guy next to me is already leaping into action, checking the old man’s pulse, looking into his eyes, trying to rouse him to consciousness. I can’t believe I actually got to experience that scene from all the movies, and first-hand, too! Dr. Lin helped the guy regain consciousness, then helped him back to his seat and administered some friendly and charming advice along the lines of “no more collapsing!” As the old man stood, the plane erupted into cheers and applause, and the doctor waved graciously. “Just doing my job,” I think I heard him say before he proceeded to get all the ladies.

I’ve found myself on some flights even that soulless character from Up in the Air would’ve found interesting (including a four-hour flight during which this guy paced up and down the aisle the entire time like a crazy person, casting waves of anxiety over every other passenger), but the most important flight of all was the one on the way to Stanford’s admit weekend. A lot went down going to and from that place. You see, that was the day I met life-long friend, sexy hunk of man, singer extraordinaire, and best artist in the blogosphere, Sam Julian. I guess technically we’d met before since we were both captains of our rival high schools’ Improv teams, and thus had needed to organize our fair share of competitive Improv battles, but it was on this flight that we truly got to know each other. Sam’s mom (in classic mom fashion) had forced him to get to the airport 3 hours early, you know, just to be safe, which meant that he arrived at the same time I did. Nothing particularly interesting happened, other than my sitting next to someone who would end up changing my life. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and look where it’s gotten us.

So even if I’ve never managed to have that airplane fling, I did end up with that special someone who’s more about the long term, and even though he can’t quite fulfill all my wishes (try being female, Sam. Seriously), he can certainly draw them.

Do you guys have any good plane stories?

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