Like What You Like, a Pirate Taught me That

I don’t know why I was thinking of this earlier today, but I’m glad I was. And don’t get ahead of me thinking there was some clutch moment where that life lesson of self-acceptance saved the day. Nope, just a mundane day at work where the thought caught me and it made me smile. In fact, with this lengthy preamble, I’m already treating this nugget of life advice like it’s some unknowable secret I’ve mastered that you probably haven’t figured out yet. Psh.

It was a scholastic book faire, circa 2006. I’m in middle school, and I should preface (some more) that I went to a tiny, tiny Lutheran private school – and yes, it was about as cool as that sounds. It wasn’t because of any sort of privileged position, either. Just that it was right by our house and my mom wanted to do her best as a parent. In truth, I would now as I would have then traded in my time for the same years spent at a public school where I could have begun cultivating meaningful friendships sooner.

At the Lutheran school I attended, it was Kindergarten through 8th Grade with around 120 kids – total. TOTAL. That meant that if you didn’t fit in with your 15 or so classmates, it was tough nuts, because you were stuck with those same 15 kids your entire time there.

I did not fit in with my classmates.

By my memory, their interests largely ranged between baseball, horror movies, Top-40 pop music, none of which interested me. Baseball? Not a sports guy. Horror movies? I’ll take a comedy, thank you. Pop music? I like Metallica. And I played D&D and read manga, things that only nowadays are sniffing “cool” territory (except you, manga, you’re still a pariah from what I hear).

So yeah, book faire.

We peruse the pencils, browse the books, and excavate the piles of colorful erasers looking for favorites, and exit into the gymnasium. Two other boys, we’ll call them Jimmy and Timmy, are poring over their haul, namely a couple of sports magazines. They ask what I came out with, and I show them: an issue of Shonen Jump with Monkey D. Luffy on the cover.

For those not in The Know, One Piece was a cartoony pirate adventure, and that grinning doof in the middle is Luffy, the happy-go-lucky pirate captain protagonist

I still remember the looks on their faces and the sound of them laughing at me. And especially as an eleven-year-old, I’d been defensive and embarrassed before. I knew the reflex to hide it in my backpack and say, “Yeah, no, it’s kinda dumb. It’s for my-” blah blah blah.

But today was different.

I don’t know where it came from or why, but a muse of some kind came out of the ether, broke into my thoughts, and said, “You know what? No. Fuck these guys. One Piece is cool, and I like this.”

It wasn’t anger behind the thought, either, just complete and total dismissal. Their thoughts and opinions on my interests could NOT bother me one bit. And I credit Luffy’s dorky grin, now that I think back on it. He felt like backup, telling me it was totally alright to enjoy the things I found enjoyable, other people’s thoughts on the matter be damned.

And good goddamn am I ever grateful that lesson occurred to me as a kid. I think we all know someone who – or maybe ourselves struggle with this – lets the opinions of others dictate their interests and pastimes.

Bottom line is this: Like what you like, be secure in your opinions because your the one who they’re for. Try new things, sure. And if someone wants to disparage your interests, like your an adult who likes video games and cartoons or someone in a biker gang that enjoys crochet, just realize it’s the limitation of that person’s worldview. Take pleasure in the things you like.

Or else, hell, what else are we even here for?

Ciao for now.

Icebreakers

Y’know, I didn’t plan the title to be quite this appropriate, but after a quiet hiatus of two-ish months, it’s actually kind of fitting. I think of good icebreakers as fun little questions, or questions you ask “because why not?” And really good ones both break the ice and tell you something about the person you’re asking them of while they commence with said breaking of ice. Not totally sure why, but I’ve caught myself asking these kinds of things of my coworkers a lot more often lately – not because dialogue with them is awkward or anything, quite the opposite; I think it’s just because they’re sort of fun.

And why make it more complicated than that?

So without further adieu, Icebreaker #1: “If you were going to become an animal, what animal would you become and why?”

My favorite part to that one is actually all of the qualifying questions that usually follow it. “Like, at will, or forever moving forward?” “Right now, or is going to happen in a week or something?” “Will I keep my human intelligence, or just- poof! You’re a jaguar now?” And to answer those, the house rules we’ve been running with have essentially been “No, it isn’t an at-will kind of thing. It’s a permanent change. No, you don’t get a week to prep for it, it just happens here as soon as you answer – go with your gut. Yes, you keep your human intelligence.”

Obviously my second-favorite part are the answers themselves and their justification. That jaguar one was a real answer, and the given reason was that he wanted to be a house cat, but if he gets to keep his human intelligence, then a jaguar is like that but a bit more badass. Plus, if you’re going to answer the question and introduce a scenario wherein you’re now suddenly a giant cat, there are some follow-up questions that beg answers: How do you tell your family? Do you tell your family? Where do you set up your new home if so, or if not? If you’re a predator now, then what/where/how do you hunt?

The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Personally, I chose becoming a hedgehog; but truthfully, that was just a gut-reaction and I don’t think it was really a smart choice. I’d become super cute, sure, but I think, like, anything that lives outdoors can and would happily eat me. Or at least brutalize me.

Lookin’ at you, stray cats.

The other classic is “If you could have a super power, which one would you have and why?”

This one everybody has heard and/or given an answer to. Mine is pretty easy: telekinesis. It’s subtle enough that most times nobody ever has to know you can do it, but it can also get powerful enough that you’re a goddamn Jedi, plus there’s plenty of room for creativity with it. But you also run the gambit of Usual Suspects:

Invisibility – Ugh, says everyone. Though, credit where it’s due, one of my friends did say that she’d use it defensively instead of to be a creep. She’d just go invisible when she didn’t want people to talk to her, and I can respect that.

Flight – Sure, but how, wings or thought? And how fast? Either way, you’re going to need goggles or something, plus it’s going to get cold. That and a slew of other problems come along with choosing to fly. ALSO, it’s one of those powers where if you suddenly stop using it while you’re using it – you die.

Teleportation – See this one’s also problematic. Is it short-distance, Nightcrawler style? Or is it like in Jumper where you can just pop across the planet? And do you think you can focus enough and picture your destination clearly enough, honestly, to be able to not end up glitching into a wall somewhere?

This last one is a little niche, but I still think it can be pretty telling of the person who answers it: “What’s your favorite D&D class, and why?”

Naturally, this will be a little limited to tabletop gamers being the only ones who can give you informed answers, but we are a growing breed, and it can be a chance to introduce newbies. Also, it can be a good way to be surprised. One friend who I was sure would swing either for ‘stalwart paladin’ or ‘playful rogue’ hit me out of left field with “I think being a druid is cool. Taming beasts and kicking ass as a bear, or something. Rad.”

Rad indeed, Robert. Rad indeed.

Personally, my favorite class is and always will be the Ranger, even if they get a little screwed over by Wizards of the Coast in the stats department. But even if their class features receive lesser support than others, it isn’t really what they can do that makes Rangers the best, it’s…well, what they are. They are so freakin’ versatile – ranged support, melee damage dealers, exploration/expedition heads, utility spellcasting, animal companions if you lean that way, etc. I get that this statement is true for plenty of classes, but I feel it in my heart the most for the Ranger: you can build it so many different ways. System-wise, Pathfinder may have done it the best, with the inclusion of “Urban” environments as a possible Favored Terrain. One of my favorite Ranger builds was making an urban explorer that was a treasure hunter, with Constructs as his favored enemy.

Taking silver is sort of a two-way tie between Bards and Monks, but that’s a separate discussion.

Anyway, so, yeah.

Circus Throws and the Value of Perception

Being a kid in high school means being an idiot, or at least it did in my case. You do dumb stuff, and you’re supposed to. Most will say that it’s because it’s for the experience of growing and becoming wiser, but that’s only about half of it. The main reason is because, if you survive it, you should come out of it with some funny stories to tell people later. Yes, of course, you should learn from them too, but they should also be good at parties.

This one was sort of a lesson in what happens when you give power to those who aren’t ready for it, kind of like teaching an unstable person forbidden martial arts. You’re arming them with an ability they aren’t otherwise fit to use. Such was the case when some poor idiot taught two other poor idiots how to perform what they called a “circus lift.”

Basically, you grab your left wrist with your right hand while standing opposite someone else doing the same, and then you each grab the other persons right wrist with your open left hand. What you should have between you when you’re done is basically a net of your arms. We were told – unwisely, as time would show – is that you can toss willing participants really, really high when you have them sit on your newfound arm-net. Just bend with the knees, count to three, and launch them.

And you know what? It works. It really, really works.

My buddy Peter and I became a regular sideshow attraction most lunch periods by the Senior Steps, taking volunteers and hucking them up into the air. We got good at it and an eensy, teensy bit famous for it. So it just became what we did for a few weeks. Then we had That Day happen. You know the one, the one that earns those capital letters, and the fateful dun-dun-duuuun piano bass.

It had rained pretty heavily the night before, and our usual launch pad was the grassy slope next to the Steps. As you could imagine, it was still slick and muddy by the time lunch came around, and that should have given our regularly schedule launches cause for postponement. But this wouldn’t be the Tale of Two Idiots if we did that. So of course we kept throwing people that day. (And in our defense, it should be The Tale of About a Dozen Idiots given how people kept stepping up, despite the slippery conditions.)

It comes to our last throw of the day, and a friend of ours steps up – we’ll call her Ana, for the sake of this. So Ana sheds her backpack, takes a seat, we do our countdown, we launch her, and…well, you know those times you get a feeling? A Bad Feeling? It’s the moment directly after doing some irrevocable that forces you to raise your eyebrow a bit and think, “Uh-oh. That might have been a bad idea.”

Right away, you can see that Ana’s trajectory and mid-air balance are off. She went pretty high, too. The way she hit her arc and is on her way down doesn’t look too promising, but there’s nothing to do but cringe and see how she ultimately sticks the landing.

She does not stick the landing.

What happens is she breaks her damn ankle. It was a loud, pretty sickening cracking sound that I can still hear pretty clearly in my head when I think about it. I remain pretty proud of my instincts, because I didn’t waste any time in acting. It was pretty clear precisely what had happened, and I’m off to the nurse like a lightning bolt. I’ve always been a tall kid, and as a seventeen-year-old Energizer Bunny, I made really good time. I get to the nurse, quickly explain what’s happened, and lead her to the site of the accident.

The only problem is that I didn’t tell anyone I was doing that. So to everyone else, I just threw this girl in the air, heard her ankle break, and Usain-Bolt’d out of the scene like a complete a**hole.

Things wound up alright in the end, and I’m a lot better at communication nowadays.

Little Surprises

Who doesn’t like little surprises now and then? They’re good for a little spice to keep life interesting, to break routine, or to provide a serendipitous little boost when you might not have known you needed it. It can happen when you see a friend you weren’t expecting to, get some good news, find those five dollars in your wallet you forgot about, or happen to come across a box of .45 calibur magnum rounds of ammunition in your mother’s kitchen cupboard.

Yeah, that sh*t happened as we moved her out of her last house, the one she’d lived in for sixteen years. Turns out we’d been keeping the plates and cups within inches of what is technically a tiny box of controlled explosives for almost two decades.

Got them turned in/disposed of at the nearest police station, but just…damn. It’s food for thought, you know? Never know what’s in the walls, n’ stuff.

My First Encounter with Cannabis

I’ve become a pretty reliable user of edibles at this point in my life. Not constantly, or even really all too often, but I do enjoy that it’s a regular, easy part of life now. And, as with anything, everyone has their first time with it – “it” being whatever is in question, not just cannabis. Mine was in probably the best of all possible circumstances: it was Game Night at my aunt and uncle’s house, and it was enchilada night. D&D was the game, and Grognak, the Ghostblade was my name.

To that point, I’d never tried cannabis, period; and I think this was within a year of its full legalization in California, so dispensaries were popping up all over the place. My aunt Steph had come home with a number of baggies of cannabis cookies which was, just as a concept, entirely new to me. I didn’t even know you could do that sort of thing with weed. Cookies? F**kin’ love cookies.

So at some point in the night, I wander into the kitchen to re-up on enchiladas, and Steph enters to walk over to the refrigerator. I look over to see her grab the baggy, take out a cookie, nom on said cookie, and then look over to make eye contact with me. Without saying a word, she holds the bag out to me by way of offer. I’ll be honest, I don’t have any heavenly idea why, but I took it as a challenge. There in that moment, she didn’t actually think I’d accept a cookie and she was betting on it. (She totally wasn’t, but that’s how my brain chose to interpret the moment.) So, while maintaining eye contact and just as wordless, I reach my hand into the bag and draw out a cookie. Her eyebrows shoot up (which is the lone thing supporting my it-was-a-challenge theory), and she watches intently as I pop it into my mouth and chew. Then, still a mute, she shrugs her shoulders and leaves the kitchen.

That felt weird, to feel like I won a chemical game of chicken without even a word between us, but I took it as a win, gathered my enchiladas, and went back to the gaming table.

Here was where I began to really draw on what knowledge I had of cannabis experience from the things I’d heard. I was sitting there, hacking apart harpies or whatever our monster of the evening was, when I had the passing thought that maybe I was immune to THC, because I wasn’t feeling anything. So then, naturally, it was precisely then that I noticed the leg warmers I had on my calves.

For the record, I wasn’t actually wearing leg warmers (duh). But it felt like my legs below the knee felt slightly, comfortably compressed, like I was wearing socks made of Heaven’s light; which, actually, is how I picture it too, like my calves were glowing a pale golden color. At the same time, I fell the halo that’s formed around my head, like I’m wearing a headband of the same light, and a number of other sensations all hit my perception at once.

First, do me a favor, and think about where in your mouth your tongue is right now. You know how when you think about it, you can suddenly feel the boundries of your tongue? The grooves of the roof of your mouth, the edges of your teeth, and all that. Mmhm, I had that with my brain. I suddenly felt, in strange detail, the boundary of my brain within my skull. And as I noticed that, it felt like it was subtly waving or pulsing, like a fish splashing out of water, but in super slow-mo.

There was also a bit of sensory overload besides my sense of feel. Colors seemed brighter and more vibrant, smells and tastes were deeper, and I felt like my range of earshot had gained ten or so feet to its radius. It was like my perceptions had all gone up a tick on their respective dials.

But the “paranoia” was where I was glad to have heard about it before. My breathing had quickened and my heart rate was noticeably up, and I could feel all the physical sensations of a mild panic attack, though none of the associated panic or thoughts. It was like my mind was taking a back seat to my body freaking out a bit and thinking, “Huh, is this what people mean when they say they get paranoid?” Some self-conscious thoughts hit me too, like what I must be looking like and a pressure to act normal; but it was like my awareness watched those thoughts float by from an exterior point of view.

By the end of the night, the sensations calmed down and everybody made it home safe, but I always kind of relish that that was my first encounter with the Devil’s Lettuce.

In freakin’ cookies!

Why I Can’t Watch Hockey

Unlike what the misleading title might have you believe, I have an enormous respect for hockey athletes, and this story has almost nothing to do with that anyway. In fact, I don’t even write that “enormous respect” thing lightly, either. I mean it. It’s mind-boggling to me the way they can coordinate movement on the ice and the incredible dexterity of handling the puck all with the tactics of play with their teammates and opponents.

Insane.

ANYWAY, I know a bit of this because of one time Amanda, Pierre, and I went to a hockey game being hosted at an ice skating rink near us. It wasn’t a pro league, obviously, and in fact it was a bunch of seniors – which made for a really easy sell even to me, a non-hockey fan.

“Hey,” Pierre pitched, “you want to watch a bunch of old guys play hockey? There might be a fight.”

I was in.

So we’re sitting there, watching the game, when I try to point out something regarding one of the players. I think he’d done some fancy skating I wanted to call out, I don’t remember- doesn’t matter. The point is his jersey number was #78, and I tell them this to try and identify him, to which they say, “Who?”

“He’s number seventy-eight.”

“Where?”

“Right there.”

“Where? I can’t get a clear look at his jersey.”

“He’s number seventy-eight,” I say, beginning to get exasperated. “There, by the other goal. He’s wearing a green jersey and red shorts.”

“Who?” says Pierre.

“The motherf**ker in red shorts, by the opposite f**king gate now,” is my reply.

He looks at me, confused. “Evan, they’re all in black. No one’s wearing red.”

I’m shocked. Never before in my life did I think my eyes would deceive me such that I confused black fabric with bright-ass, unmistakeable red. I look back to the players.

“He’s…he’s in a green jersey…”

“Yeah, I see the green jersey, but his shorts are black, dude.” He taps Amanda on the shoulder for back-up. She nods and reinforces his assertion that Red Shorts was, indeed, wearing black shorts.

I stammer, watching the players now with a bit of existential dread. Is this what color-blindness is? I thought. That is so surely scarlet red, how am I seeing that if it’s black? Uh-oh. I don’t know all how, but this will definitely affect a bunch of things in life. Ink choices, traffic signals maybe, for sure my fashion sense. Am I-

Then I see them snickering, and I’m finally allowed to have it dawn on me: I’m being gaslit, and my gullible ass bought that fable hook, line, sinker, the pole, the fisherman, and the whole damned boat.

We like to think of ourselves as mentally secure, most days. We may have our baggage, sure. It comes with life. But we see or hear stories of people that believe outlandish things, simpletons that throw in behind transparently deceitful cult figures. They’re like goldfish, with the sphere of their beliefs visible from the outside in its entirity, and we can laugh at how foolish the fish must be fore believing their bowl to be the extent the world.

But really, these situations deserve more empathy. They ought to be approached with a mindset of “There but for the grace of God go I,” for any one of us is capable – within the right circumstances, upbringing, environments, or pressures – of believing what is antethetical to that which is before our very eyes. It should be a lesson of how malleable we can be, how vulnerable even the sanctity of our own minds can be, of fatefully temporary we all ar-

Ahem. Yeah. Anyway, um, yeah. I don’t really watch a lot of hockey. Cool sport, though.

A Real Love Story

You know those dreams where you’re fall or trip, and the shock of that is enough to jolt you awake so you wind up really trying to catch your balance? Yeah, I’m pretty sure most of us have.

But have you ever hurt someone doing that?

Technically I did, when I was nine. I was travelling up to Oregon with my uncle, aunt, and two cousins. I was the runt while they were both teenagers, so I sat in the bucket seat. I had some sort of falling dream, woke up flailing, and smacked them both symmetrically in their respective groins. I still remember my cousin Kacy’s response, a remarkably calm, “Okay, man. You alright?”

<sigh> Good role model, that man.

But that’s not really the thrust of our anecdote here today. This one is goofy, not really something anyone should be proud of, but also one of my favorites. For it, we hearken back to circa 2012, Amanda and I are early-twenty-something’s that have just started dating, and after a month or two start regularly sharing a bed most nights.

When you start sleeping next to another body for the first time when you never in your young life have before, some funny things happen. All that rolling around you’re used to just doing without knowing you do it suddenly encounters obstacles, like odd elbows and knees. I’m a sturdy Stomach Sleeper, but more than once inside our first couple of weeks sleeping beside one another, we’d bumped foreheads and woken up from it.

Why do I bring this up? After all, these things happen.

Simple: context.

So, I’m having this dream, right? I’m a counselor at some kind of summer camp for young tykes, and for unknown dream reasons, I get into a fight with another counselor. Obviously, it’s my dream, I’m on Home Turf, so I’m going to kick his ass. But our fight takes place next to a set of stairs, and I guess my subconscious was more accurately in-tune with my real world Dexterity Score than I am, because I go to throw a punch with my back to the stairs and my foot slips off that top step.

Cue muscle impulses to punch- oh, and now you’re falling.

So I wake up mid-punch.

Remember how I mentioned I’m a Stomach Sleeper? Well that means I sleep with one arm under my pillow to support my big-ass head, and this particular night, that happened to be my left arm. That left it perfectly cocked back when the Whoopsie Signal left my dreaming brain to punch poor Amanda squarely on the forehead, who was asleep facing me on my right.

Poor thing. She trusted me, and she never stood a chance.

Now, hear me out, I knew right away what I’d done. I was wide awake the instant my knuckles connected between her sweet, innocent eyes. But when she sniffed loudly, demonstrating she’d come to a bare, drowsy sort of consciousness, I absolutely squinted my eyes and strained my voice like I was in the same way.

“Oof, are you okay?” I half-chuckle, half-whisper. “I think we bumped heads,” I lie.

“Oom,” she replies sleepily. “Sorry. You okay?”

We trade tired yes’s and goodnight’s, and lay our heads back down on our pillows, me pretending to fall “back” asleep. But make no mistake, my eyes are wide open, fixed on her, watching her reaction. When she settles back into softly snoring, I doze off too, grateful to have gotten away with it scott free.

The next morning, I come clean. I ask if she remembers anything from last night and she sheepishly goes, “What’d I do?” because normally that’s how I would introduce telling her she snored or tooted or something. When I tell her that what she thought was a bump of heads was actually me punching her in the face, she – shockingly – was less than thrilled with it.

“You let me fall back asleep??” she chided. “I could have had a concussion.”

Weirdly, one of the best compliments I’ve been given, to think I’m strong enough to deliver a zero-wind-up knockout punch in my sleep.

That’s love.

A Snowball Fight in Summer, and the Fart that Started It

It’s a useful talent to be able to turn an awkward mistake into an opportunity to make it funny, or at least to find the humor in it. If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’re you gonna do, right?

I thankfully had an example of the lesson early when I was ten. I’d just taken a shower – like a big ol’ boy – and was coming downstairs, making a show of swiping my hairless armpits with deodorant, to see my mom sitting in her chair watching TV.

She worked night shift at a hospital as a nurse, but would spend her mornings this way at the time. I made some joke to get a laugh (duh, what jokes are for), and she replied with a dull, tired stare. When I plum asked her for more of a reaction, she looked me in my eyes and ripped a big ol’ fart.

A cheek-flapper.

A real Blue Ribbon winner.

A serious fog horn in a bear cave kind of sound.

She then of course starts laughing hysterically at her own fearsome flatulence and I, being ten, begin comically swiping the air in front of me with my deodorant stick in lieu of a proper air freshener. That’s when the white, chalky stick flies free from its plastic pocket and slams up against the television screen and splays in all directions like a synthetic snowball.

I think it’s further hilarity, but the abruptness with which my mom’s laughter suddenly stops could have halted traffic.

“Oh, come on,” I say wisely, “you have to learn to laugh at these things.”

Deadpan, my mother stares at me for a hard moment before dryly exlaiming, “Ah-HA-ha…”

Which of course gets her to crack up at her own funny all over again.

I blame the sleep deprivation.

That Time I Upset a Karate Master

(I came across this gem while digging around through some folders on my laptop. It’s a story back from 2019, and I think one of the first ones I shared on here. That said, it’s been a bit since it’s been aired out, and I don’t want it to ever be said that I pass up an opportunity to humble myself with an embarrassing tale. Like the Half Man from clan Lannister once said, “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
So, before further adieu, a story about me f***ing up in front of a whole bunch of people…)

If I may, let me set the scene:

We’re in a martial arts studio currently packed full of kids in their gis, parents line the room, an old guy with a white ponytail stands in front of them all, and there’s a giant tiger painted on one wall with its claws sinking into a big ol’ Ying-Yang. The front door is open so you can hear the cars passing and see the Chinese food place across the street. I’m a cheerful, curly-headed eight-year-old in the judo class that’s wrapping up. I’d just earned my orange belt probably the week before, so I’m smiling big and feeling powerful.

Class wraps up, we bow to one another, and clear the mat so the karate students could have their time. I grab my dufflebag and head off to the bathroom to change, knowing some sweet, sweet orange chicken and fried rice will soon be mine.

Let’s pause real quick to address two personality traits that will soon unfortunately take center stage. They don’t sound that bad, but by their powers combined led to the most embarrassing moment of my life (and I’ve farted in front of a middle school crush in gym class).

One, I’m generally a pretty jolly, easily excitable guy. It was true as a kid and has largely remained that way into adulthood.

Two, it’s really, really, really easy to mess with me. Like, I’ve had to grow a thick shell of skepticism to protect my soft, gullible underbelly, but that doesn’t always work (and has actually been used to enormously great effect, but more on that later – lookin’ at you, Pierre). Nonetheless, I’ve seen more than my fair share of gas-lighting and stupidly easy pranks.

Right, we all set? Good.

So class wraps up, I grab my duffle bag, and hit the bathroom to change. To this day, I have no idea how to explain what took over, but I started singing. I don’t remember what it was or why I felt the need to do it, but I apparently felt a song in my heart and needed the porcelain throne to know it (maybe it was the acoustics). I don’t even remember what song it was, but I’d wager good money it was Celine Deon’s “My Heart will Go On” or something. So picture that.

Anyway, about a minute into my solo, there’s a knock at the door. First hunch that comes to mind is that it’s my friend being impatient for the bathroom, so I pause, tell him to give me a minute, and get right back to belting out my tunes. I only get a couple more words in before there’s another knock. It never crosses my mind that maybe he has to poop or something, so I tell him again, a little less patiently, that I’ll be out in a second and try once again to resume my singing. Immediately, the knocking continues.

Now, I realize what you’re probably thinking, oh Rational One: “Hey, Evan, it’s probably a kid who needs to poop. Give up the john.” And to you I say, “Yeah, that would have been great advice at the time. I really wish I’d had you there” (not IN the bathroom, God, but you get what I’m saying).

What did I do instead? Well, you remember that orange belt I was so proud of? I coiled it up and whapped it against the door like it was a disagreeable stepchild and I was a parent in the 1930’s.

…yup.

I was proud. I’d stood up for myself, didn’t fall for my bully’s antics, and stopped the knocking. I looked at myself in the restroom mirror and put my hands on my hips proudly.

The silence was interrupted by three more knocks, this time quiet and timid ones.

I threw on my pants (yup, hadn’t gotten those on yet) and opened the door. To my shock, I wasn’t met by my friend Troy, but Sensei Ponytail. I don’t remember what he said, I was just too busy looking at the ROOM FULL OF STUDENTS AND PARENTS PRETENDING NOT TO LOOK AT ME.
Like, shit. I wish they’d just laughed outright. Trying to spare my dignity in that moment as I realized what I’d been doing was like emotional keelhauling – which Adult Me now congratulates Ponytail for doing. I can honestly say it was a fuck-ton (metric, of course) of character-building in a pretty small window of time. But my mind was suddenly arrested by imaging that first minute before the knocking, the minute where they’re all just sitting there, listening to me, smiling and thinking “No. What? He’s- he’s still- he’s still singing? Like, he knows that door is thin as hell, right?”

He brought me in front of the karate instructor as the students went to their drills and I apologized to him. To this day, I’ve been as sincere as I was in that moment probably just a handful of times. He played the Tough Guy move and told me to give him push-ups until he got tired.

I did…like, three.

Remember the “orange chicken and fried rice that would soon be mine”? Mmhm, well, I focused on that a lot more than push-ups as a kid, so when he called for push-ups, he got, like, three. A heartfelt and earnest three, but also shaky as hell and absolutely no more than that. All the while, the parents’ hot gazes bored into the back of my head like angry little gophers.

I’d love it if this was my superhero origin story and I could tell you that today I’m a total Marine-bodied stud who doesn’t take his morning shit without pumping out fifty push-ups, but I’m super not. Instead I’ve chosen just to never sing loudly in bathrooms like a dick again. (If you sing in bathrooms, by God more power to you. Just don’t be a dick about it.)

Anyway, on that note, catch y’all later.

The Laundry Disaster of ’05

I’ve alluded before recently that I can take instructions a little too literally at times, and that that’s had a history of getting me into funny spots. As I’ve thought on it, I’ve come to realize that’s actually been a bit of a longtime habit and not something I’ve just started doing in recent years.

One occasion that is a favorite of my mother’s to bring up was a time I ruined an expensive household appliance as a kid.

The year is 2005 – got up to a lotta sh*t when I was twelve – and I’m upstairs in my room. I’m probably playing PlayStation when my mom calls up the stairs, “Hey Evan, make sure you do your laundry.” I probably make some complaining, groaning sound, to which she out-groans me and shouts, “Just take all of your clothes and do a load, okay?”

Well’p. You heard the woman.

So I do. I take all of my clothes, jaunt down the stairs, start the load with an indeterminate amount of detergent, and bound back upstairs to get back to my game. About thirty minutes later, I hear my sweet mother’s voice again screech, “God DAMMIT, Evan!”

Hmm, can’t be too good news what follows, me’thinks.

I peer around the corner of the top step to see the door to the garage open, light spilling from the doorway, and a ton of smoke. Thin, white smoke, so not a huge fire or anything, but still: a lot of smoke. I run down the stairs, look in the garage, and see the dead, fried up remains of what used to be the washing machine, choked to death by an <ahem> unknown assailant. She asked me what I did, and I told her: I took all of my clothes and did a load of laundry.

All of my clothes, a load of laundry.

What she didn’t care too much for was the way I’d taken all of my clothes – dirty ones, clean ones I thought I’d “freshen up,” snow pants I’d worn once a year ago and no longer fit, a sweater I’d worn last Thanksgiving that had gum on the sleeve for some reason, a dress shirt or two that was hanging in the abyss of my closet, everything – and stuffed it all super-pack style mercilessly into the yawning pit of the twenty-year-old appliance.

That poor machine died a thankless, inglorious death.

I’m not saying that I stand by the actions of my twelve-year-old self, but it does make me think I might be part genie for the way I can happen to find any possible Monkey’s Paw approach to requests.

Take THAT, Ancestry.com!