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Burt Reynolds is a bad-ass

The following discourse all stems from a party conversation I had last weekend before the police came. I was simply asserting, with my usual eloquence, of course, that Burt Reynolds is nothing short of a complete bad-ass. Somehow I wound up finding myself in a distinct minority and soon no one, not even a guy, would talk to me.

The issue burns in me still because I know that I was right. Water is wet, lemons are sour, Burt Reynolds is empirically v. cool. An undebatable question, it would seem. Then it occurred to me that possibly the problem is less about Burt and more about communication.

I think the whole thing starts with the cryptic tradition of Opposite Days, festivals spawned by brilliant kindergarten minds at my elementary alma mater, Riverside School. The jist of these days was, if someone said something you disagreed with, you declared the day Opposite Day. I think that every day was Opposite Day because of this.

“You’re stupid.”

“It’s Opposite Day.”

(No possible retort.)

Slowly it came to be that if something was stupid or uncool, its opposite was obviously smart and cool. And once this plateau was reached—this was probably around fourth grade—my friends and I suddenly had a goldmine of humor. Vicki from Love Boat was cool. The mean milk lady was Gregg’s girlfriend. This was irony in its simplest form, two layers deep. You took the object in question, the mean milk lady, for instance, and then coated it, or her, with a varnish of sarcasm. Very easy, but representing only one level of understanding.

For the next ten years or so, I worked on perfecting this sophisticated form of character analysis. Recently, however, it has become clear that two layers is often simply not enough. For instance, once I was watching the always stimulating (kidding) Jay Leno Show when Jay announced that Barry Manilow would be making an appearance that night. I was excited. Barry Manilow, I thought to myself, is very cool. Two layers.

About forty-five minutes later, Barry made his way out to the stage in his black sequined blouse and, seated on a stool, belted out a duet with Star Search female vocal semi-finalist So-and-so, a duet that was so incredibly horrible that I cannot describe it in words, not even italicized ones. He was awful. He was not funny, or cool. Thus suddenly I had to add a new coat to Barry. Layer one: Uncool. Layer two: Cool. Layer three: Dismal.

Or was it even more complicated than that? For there are people out there who dig Barry not because he is uncool, but because they think that his predominate feature is coolness. Thus he is supposed to be cool, is really a tool, therefore is a bad-ass, but yet at the same time is simply ghastly. Four layers.

And now we arrive at Burt. Burt is deep, man, five layers deep. He is ultimately marketed to be really really cool. All along, of course, people were kind of laughing at him. That’s two layers. Then as a reaction to the fact that everyone thought he was a complete knob, he turned out being cool. He was The Bandit. He won many car chases. Three layers. Yet at the same time he was not only annoying for being a Steve McQueen imitator (that was level two); he was also annoying because he had become popular for being horrible, which is kind of unfair. That’s four levels. But then, if you watch Deliverance (“Where should we bury the body, Louis?” BURT: “Anywhere. Everywhere. [pause] Nowhere.”), you realize that he is so horrible that he is brilliant. Boom, level five.

Five layers, of course, is not the limit. And I have heard it argued that some personalities, like Mr. T., have transcended irony entirely. B.A. Baracus is a whirling, barrel-throwing, blow-torch-wielding whirlwind of self-parody that winds up as simply bad-ass.

Confused? It’s late and I’m not very good at explaining things anyway. A good way to practice your levels of irony is by playing the Nice Shirt game. Go up to someone and say, “Nice shirt.” When they say “thanks,” say, “No, really. Really. It’s nice.” Continue to insist that their shirt is nice until, frazzled, insecure, drooling, eyes bugging, they have no idea whether you’re serious or not. Then compliment them a few more times, until you yourself have no idea either.

So there. Burt Reynolds is a bad-ass.

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I Can Explain

Dear Future Employer,

I am enclosing my transcript, as per your request. However, I think it is important for you to realize that these grades tell only half the story. For I have led a college career full of adversity. Treacherous obstacles have continually blocked my trajectory to the top. But I have overcome them. If you’re looking for fancy majors, “suma cum” whatevers, or any other bells and whistles, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you’re looking for grit, for pure determination in the face of constant hardship, I’m your man, baby.

My story begins in high school. When I was in twelfth grade, my mother bought a soft gray convertible couch and put it in my room. Only a few weeks later, this couch set out on its evil plot to ruin my academic career. Soon I did nothing but lie on it, under a striped down comforter, sometimes listening to Danzig on headphones. Because of the couch I slept 20-23 hours a day. On several occasions, I even folded it out into a bed. My relationship with the couch continued until the following August, when, despite my many tears, my parents would not let me bring it to school. I was so blind.

With the couch safely in the distance, my parents thought my academics would improve in college. They were wrong. Dead wrong. Because before they knew it, I was sleeping with not one, not two, but three pillows. How could I have known that the more pillows I had, the less likely I was to get out of bed? And not only was I completely corrupted by the comfort of my bed, but my alarm clock, the device that was supposed to be the safety net, had a button on it that let me doze for an extra nine minutes! What with the pillows and the snooze button, I couldn’t possibly get to classes.

But there were other dangerous obstacles attempting to pry me away from the success I so clearly deserved. One came in the guise of a mild-mannered woman named “Susan,” who, claiming to be my “friend,” kept passing me notes during my fascinating geology lectures. I tried to ignore her, I tried to explain that I was trying to learn, but she persevered nonetheless. Soon she had pulled me into her spiral of decadence to the point where I didn’t even go on the field trips and failed the mineral identification test. She—and the pillows and alarm clock—are the reasons I struggled freshman year.

Sophomore year, I lived with three deviants who continually forced me to drink alcohol and do other terrible things. Whenever I gathered my books and explained that I was going to the library for a night of wholesome studying, they almost literally threw me onto the couch and forced me to listen to very unsettling, drug-influenced music while pouring shots of tequila down my throat. In the meantime, I still had the same alarm clock and three pillows, but now I also had flannel sheets and a bedroom that was quite dark, so it was even harder to get up in the morning to go to class. To make matters worse, my textbooks were getting very heavy and it was becoming increasingly difficult to carry them around; eventually, due simply to their sheer weight, I had to stop using them.

By my junior year, these various conspiracies had prevented me from earning anything higher than a B- on my report cards. But I was convinced that by finally deciding on pursuing the English major, my academic scope would improve as it became more focused. Once again I was wrong. I couldn’t go to English lectures because of the early-morning thing and because of the heavy books thing, as well as because the lectures were always in the YUAG, which is a very uncomfortable room to sit in because there’s nowhere to put your feet. I couldn’t go to English seminars because of the heavy books thing and also because sometimes there were annoying people there.

And then, blast my fate, Main Garden entered my life and my academic prospects just flew out the window. Late at night, just as I was curling up with a nice copy of Lacan, I would start craving the sweet and sour chicken w/grape soda combo—and the next thing I’d know I’d be sitting, bloated, in front of Jay Leno, completely unable to move. And of course all this time I was still living with the same deviants who kept doing those awful things to me.

Now I’m a senior and I cannot predict what awful hurdles shall block me. The sinister Refrigerator Ball, a game I invented in which I throw a ball at my refrigerator, has already occupied a disproportionate amount of my time, as have Sega, Steve McQueen movies, and thinking about how I don’t have a girlfriend. I now have an evil window seat (with its own pillow; the bed still has three) which I sit on all the time. I also have yet to buy any course packets because they are too expensive. But I am strong. I can do it. I will persevere. I’m going to Naples now.

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The Lost Appendix

Appendix G: Further Uses for Your Book of Undergraduate Regulations. 

APPLESAUCE CATAPULT. While food-throwing is obviously forbidden in the dining halls (see Chapter V, section K.1, ANNOYANCES), students who wish to use their copies of the Undergraduate Regulations as applesauce catapults outside the dining halls are encouraged to do so.

AS A CHEAP HIGH. It should be addressed, however, that inhaling fumes from the binding glue of the Undergraduate Regulations, freebasing the back cover, or rolling “joints” with its pages is inconsistent with the volume’s packaging and is therefore obviously forbidden. See Chapter I, SECTION K, DRUGS.

AS A WEAPON. Unless the Undergraduate Regulations are rolled up and employed in a “good-natured spanking,” they are not intended to be utilized as a weapon. It should be added that the University can obviously accept no liability for papercuts.

DRESSING UP LIKE A PIRATE. Students are allowed to use their copies of the Undergraduate Regulations to dress up like a pirate. A corner of a page may be used as a makeshift eyepatch, and the volume itself can be rolled into a make-believe telescope.

FREE-FORM POETRY FOR A BEATNIK GATHERING. Students may read passages of the Undergraduate Regulations aloud in a jazz-poetic style only if bongo accompaniment ceases by 11:00 P.M. on Sunday through Thursday nights and 1:00 A.M. on Friday and Saturday nights.

HATS AND BOATS. Students may make hats and boats out of the pages of the Undergraduate Regulations. They may also make, but are not limited to making, fortune-tellers, Moebius strips, flying cuffs, Pi bombers, airplanes, water balloons, megaphones, and origami boulders.

PANTS-PACKER. Students may roll their copies of the Undergraduate Regulations into a cylinder and insert it into their trousers or brassieres. Comments such as “How’s this for a Yale endowment, baby,” however, are considered inappropriate under Chapter XI, SECTION D, COMPLAINTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

PET. Lonely students looking for a low-maintenance pet are encouraged to name their copy of the Undergraduate Regulations, get to know it, and provide it with a clean, well-lit, and ventilated cage.

PROPPING UP WOBBLY THINGS. The Undergraduate Regulations may be used to prop up wobbly things, such as a three-legged refrigerator or loose window. “Wobbly things” does not apply to undergraduates themselves, and the University assumes no liability if a wobbly student supported by a copy of this publication falls over and is injured.

REALLY CHEAP INCENSE. Copies of the Undergraduate Regulations were pre-treated with Indonesian Nag Champa incense and may be lit in a well-ventilated area.

SHOE MOISTURE ABSORBER. Pages from this publication may be torn out, balled up, and inserted into damp shoes to absorb excess moisture.

SNO-CONE HOLDER. Students vending Sno-Cones, Slush Puppies, and the like may use the rolled-up pages and cover of the Undergraduate Regulations to hold their iced confections.

TARGET PRACTICE FOR STICKY HAND GAME. In the event that a student possesses a supermarket-variety, rubber sticky paper-retrieving “hand,” the pages of the Undergraduate Regulations may be torn out and lined up for target practice.

TEXT FOR RANSOM NOTES. Students involved in hostage situations may cut and paste typeface from the Undergraduate Regulations (set in AGaramond 11-point) to create ransom notes. Useful words include “convoked” (p. 106), “firearms” (p. 26), and “defacing or mutilating” (p. 96).

TOILET PAPER. In the case that a student deems the pages of the Undergraduate Regulations softer and/or more absorbent than the current University-provided toilet tissue, this publication may be used for that purpose, unless the use is inconsistent with Chapter IV, SECTION B, part 4, FIRECRACKERS.

WALLPAPER. The 114 pages of the Undergraduate Regulations may be used to wallpaper approximately 57 feet of wallspace, but students will be charged at the end of the year for the cost of repairs if the walls are not repainted in the official University color.

Thank you to Scott Hutson, Collin Eyre, and Zach Scheiner for all your help. This tagline is consistent with APPENDIX F, SECTION E, FORMS OF CITATION.


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Stuff I Can Do

The other night I decided it was time for my weekly shave, so I earnestly trudged into the bathroom with my shaving bowl (saves water) and my Gillette Sensor, which I bought after I saw that really cool ad in Superbowl XXV. Now, I’ve always been an Edge Gel man myself, as my father was before me, so you can imagine the sense of utter horror I felt when I saw that on this night, we were all out of the Edge. Apparently, the twenty-seven Campus Trial Packs that we took from Cobden’s in September, with their twenty-seven little sample cans of Edge Extra Protection, just wasn’t enough to keep us stocked until May.

So I looked around the bathroom and found an old can of Gillette Foamy resting on a remote rafter. I cupped my left hand, shook the can with my right, and served myself up a dollop of the Foam. Then it started expanding. And expanding. And before I knew it the glob had spread clear to my elbow and was pouring into the sink, Foamy friggin everywhere. And it was at this point that I realized that there are a lot of things I simply do not know how to do. I clearly cannot maneuver a can of regular shaving cream. I cannot knit a sweater. I have a Chia pet that I have sown yet still wait to reap (in desperation I wrote to the company—their response began “Thank you for informing us you are experiencing difficulty growing your Chia” and was addressed “Dear Idiot”).

All this was kind of bumming me out, so I sat myself down and decided right there to make a list of some things I can do.

Snapping bottle caps. One of my specialties. I can do pennies, too. Double up your arm and raise it so that your elbow is pointing forward and your hand is right above your shoulder. Put your fingers in the snapping position. Insert the edge of the bottlecap snugly between your thumb and middle finger. Snap. It takes practice, but soon you, too, will be exploding light bulbs with the flick of your fingers.

Fireball. Make a loose fist. Get a butane lighter (Zippos don’t work) and, pressing the button but not turning the lighter’s wheels, spray gas into the little chamber you’ve created with your fist. Now light your hand and open it. It doesn’t hurt but it looks really cool.

Blowing spit bubbles. An advanced skill I honed as I warmed the bench for my high school’s 0–20 freshman baseball team. First you have to learn how to make a little bubble on the end of your tongue by tapping into a pool of spit in the well behind your lower teeth, building the bubble by pushing your tongue against your lower lip. It’s really quite complicated. Once you’ve made your spit bubble, stick your tongue out and gently blow a steady stream of air at the bubble’s base. After many hours of practice you, too, can feel the euphoric lift of watching your saliva gracefully float to the floor.

I can levitate peas. Cock your head back so that you’re squarely facing the ceiling. Pucker your lips and rest a pea in the airhole. Now blow gently. The pea will rise, spinning, on a cushion of air. Doesn’t work as well if the pea is wrinkled.

A mean hummus. What you do is you put two cans of chick peas in a bowl, along with about 1/3 cup olive oil, the juice of two or three lemons, three or four cloves of garlic, and however much salt you want. Then you mash it all up and serve it with pita. Use a food processor if possible; chick peas are sort of hard.

Drinks with Yoo-hoo. The little-known mixer. Try the Kalu-hoo (two kalu’s for every hoo) or the Rumple-hoo, a Rumplemintz shot chased with the best water-based chocolate drink in town.

Stratego strategy. A risky thing to print, but my Stratego enemies know all my secrets anyway. If you put your 1 next to your flag, you cannot lose. Once I learned this strategy my innocence was lost and I haven’t played since. I also have a complex Crazy 8’s strategy which I am not yet prepared to disclose.

That dumb-ass card trick with the jacks. Specifically engineered to dazzle seven-year-olds. It is the only card trick I know. You take out the four jacks and fan them out—but, you sly dog, you have three other cards hidden behind the jacks! Then you put the “jacks” (nudge nudge) face-down on top of the deck, take the top three cards and slip them into the pile at random intervals, then clap your hands and the jacks are back together again! Incredible!

Type words into a calculator. A great gag for any occasion. Try typing “55378008” into someone’s calculator in the middle of chem, then read the number upside-down. Side-splitting hilarious! Other things you can type are “0.7734,” “71077345,” and, of course, the flippant, friendly, “hey-baby-what-are-you doin’-tonight” “14.”

I just coughed on you. Any time your hands are wet, sneak up on someone and, making bubonic coughing noises, flick your wet hands near the back of their head. I’m also quite accomplished at the difficult-to-master “I just hocked a loogie in your hair” effect.

Galloping horse sound with my tongue. I have no idea how I do this.

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Future Stars


Over break, when I wasn’t watching Rikki Lake, I spent a good amount of time in the attic of my house flipping through shoebox after shoebox of old baseball cards. The sheer quantity of cards up there is mind-boggling. Tens of thousands of them, some in plastic sheets, most in carefully labeled boxes with cryptic inscriptions like “Doubles, triples, and quadrooples.” In a market where some cards are worth upwards of $1000, my ongoing quest was always quantity, not quality, and if I don’t have a Nolan Ryan rookie in there somewhere, which I don’t, you can be damn sure you’ll find at least five ’82 Jerry Dybzinskis.

If a picture says as much as everyone says it does, a baseball card says even more. Cards mirror styles of the times: just as “867-5309 (Jenny)” sizzled its way on up the Billboard charts, the ’82 White Sox unveiled their flashy new uniforms, the ones with “SOX” in huge white futuristic letters strewn across the chest. The ’79 San Diego Padres are dudded out in brown and mustard yellow, while the Cleveland Indians of the same year favored hot pink jerseys and pants, accessorized with red-white-and-blue wrap-around belts—both ensembles would fit into an episode of Starsky and Hutch quite nicely.

Then, of course, there are the hairstyles. Gigantic afros on athletes of all races (Oscar Gamble, Warren Brustar, Nino Espinosa). Handlebar moustaches (Rollie Fingers). Absurd sideburns (Rich Gossage). Quite often, all of the above (Ross Grimsley). Embellishment is provided by beads (Kurt Bevaqua), enormous gum bubbles (Kurt Bevaqua again), gold ropes (Jose Rijo), sweatbands with the player’s face embroidered on them (Eric Davis). We live in an incredibly bizarre country and baseball players are not about to let you forget that.

And then, of course, there are the future star cards. The Topps card company prints these because rookies are always the most valuable cards in a set; by putting three or four rookies on one card, Topps triples—or even quadrooples—its chances of producing a card that people will want to buy. The downside of this is that the company stands to embarrass itself if it promotes, say, Marty Bystrom as Future Star God-boy (which it did) when Marty Bystrom looks and pitches like the guy in Blue Lagoon (which he did).

Thus we run into a problem when we learn that in 1980, the Future Stars, the New York Yankees’ soon-to-be proverbial meat of the order, the guys who give 110 percent and keep on givin’, the double-fisted, power-punchin’, almighty super dooper friggin’ FUTURE STARS are Bobby Brown, Brad Gulden, and Darryl Jones.

Kids have to learn about failure somewhere along the line, why wait until pre-algebra? Baseball cards present the perfect forum for a little lesson on the American tragedy. In fact, this particular card presents all the information anyone could possibly need surrounding the Yankees’ metamorphosis from a pennant-winner in 1981 to a team that straight-out sucked in 1982.

Conveniently, the tragedy of the future stars worsens from left to right, so from left to right we shall proceed. Bobby Brown actually put together a decent season once: in 1980, he hit .260 with 14 home runs and stole 27 bases. The following season he saw less action and apparently more curveballs and slipped down to .226 with nary a dong and four stolen bases. The season after that, Bobby found himself as far away from New York as he could possibly be, shagging flies for the Seattle Mariners, having been swapped for Shane Rawley, a ’75 Gremlin, and a box of Fig Newtons. Shane Rawley, naturally, was eventually traded for…shudder…Marty Bystrom. Brown was later sent to the San Diego Padres to model their uniforms; from there he went on to form New Edition.

If you look at Brad Gulden’s lifetime statistics, you can pinpoint in seconds what was without a doubt the best day of his life. In 1980, he had one hit in three trips to the plate. It was a home run. With a .333 batting average (better than Rod Carew) and a home run percentage of 33.3 (better than the Babe), you can just bet Brad Gulden was one happy guy as he trotted those bases in front of thousands of adoring fans. His incredible stats that year just ended up getting him traded, though, again to the Seattle Mariners, this time for Larry Milbourne and a copy of Having Fun with Elvis on Stage. Needless to say, Milbourne was soonafter traded for Butch Wynegar, who no doubt hung out with Marty Bystrom and who later suffered a nervous breakdown at the hands of the merciless New York fans. Brad Gulden was only heard from again in small peeps, finishing his seven-year career with 435 at-bats, a perfect .200 lifetime average, and a videotape of his 1980 home run which he no doubt watches nightly in his trailer back home in Carver, Minnesota.

Darryl Jones, sadly, saw his career both begin and close in 1979, when he hit .255 with six runs batted in in 47 big league at-bats. By now he’s most likely coaching somewhere or another. He has kids who probably don’t laugh at him. He might even go out and have a couple beers with Marty Bystrom every once in a while.

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Last Monday I was sitting in LC 101 taking a midterm, minding my own business, happily humming to myself as I filled in my IDs, when suddenly I was hit with a Question of such immense proportion, of such vast cosmic importance, that I simply had to stop writing. I put my pen down, I took a deep breath, I considered the Question in all its forms and knew that the previous night’s crammed knowledge of Henry James and Louisa May Alcott was going to be of no use whatsoever to me here. For this was a Question that no one in history had dared ask nor ventured to answer, and to me it was far more important than “Discuss the role of the individual in the works we’ve read up to this point.”

The Question was this: How many Skittles would it take to fill up LC 101?

Naturally the Skittles would have to be loose, so that if you opened the lecture room’s door you’d be inundated, maybe even knocked over, by a flood of candy. And how many packs of Skittles would that be? How much would it cost to buy them? How much would all the candy weigh?

Though I have yet to carry out the plan to completion, I now know what it entails should I decide to try one day. First, one pack contains 63 Skittles. (For the record, I use only standard, red-bagged, “Fruit” Skittles, as opposed to neon green Tart n’ Tangy, or the heinous mauve Wild Berry and orange Tropical.) Two packs, totalling 126 Skittles, fill an eight-ounce container. Eight ounces is 236.6 cubic centimeters.

Now then. My foot is 25 centimeters long, and it took 76 heel-to-toe paces to walk the length of LC 101, 51 to walk its width, and 18 to walk up the wall. (Actually, I guesstimated on the wall part.) The room is vaulted, so it has more volume than cubic multiplication might indicate; but I suggest that the stage in the front of the room and all the desks adequately displace whatever’s gained by the vaulting.

Multiplied out, the dimensions of the room are 1900 cm by 1275 cm by 450 cm. That makes for a volume of 1,090,125,000 cubic centimeters. Now all we need is a little division to conclude that in order to fill LC 101 to the gills with Skittles, you’d need 580,539,941 of them. That’s 9,214,919 packs. At 55 cents per, the running WaWa price, you’d have to shell out $5,068,205.83 (Ernie would probably have a fit)—but don’t forget that the 6% Connecticut sales tax would set you back another $304,092.35, so in the end you’d spend $5,372,298.18.

Once you bought the Skittles you’d have to figure out how to carry them the one block from Wa’s to LC; remember that you have more than nine million packs, which at 2.17 ounces each translates to 625 tons. Fortunately, there’s Valley Sand and Gravel out in North Haven: you could park a fleet of 31 three-axle, 20-ton capacity dump trucks along York Street to do the job.

Imagine now that all the Skittles have been paid for and transported. LC 101 is full. What happens next? Do the half-billion odd Skittles simply go to waste? Shouldn’t somebody eat them? I think we can all tell where the argument is heading. Thus the second major question: What would happen if you ate nothing but Skittles for an indefinite period? Would you die?

For this part I consulted Health & Fitness Works in Milford, Dr. Suzanne P. Quintner, head honcho. Though Skittles do contain 30 mg Vitamin C (50% of your US recommended daily allowance), all in all they really aren’t very good for you. The biggest problem is that they don’t have any protein. If you ate Skittles exclusively, you’d sink into Protein Deficiency Syndrome, or kwashiorkor. The first symptom is apathy: you’d no longer care about your tragic predicament, you’d stop looking for ways to escape LC, you’d forget to vote.

Then your muscle mass would begin to break down, so physically, your body wouldn’t be able to keep up with the energy rushes the Skittles would provide. You’d get weaker and weaker. Standing up would bring about tremendous head rushes. At this point you’d probably stop having enough energy even to brush your teeth, so you’d be a victim of profound mouth rot and cankor sores as well, not to mention severe sugar-induced acne. This process would take many weeks, and you’d spend most of your time sitting, carving things into the desks, if you could even manage that.

After a few more weeks of the Skittle Kwashiorkor Diet you’d start to notice that your new hair and skin was being produced without pigment because of protein deprivation. Eventually your weakness and apathy would shift into anemia. Here’s where things start getting bleak. Your blood would lose its ability to clot, production of digestive enzymes would become severely limited, you’d start to suffer from fatty liver and constant diarrhea. At this point almost anything, with the possible exception of scurvy, could knock you out for good—a cold, skinning your knee, dehydration, dysentery. As you breathed your last you’d curse the bite-sized candy that bit you, and hope that the ambrosia flowing in the afterlife doesn’t come in strawberry, grape, lemon, lime, or orange.

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Note: There should be a picture of a 1970s-ish couple here, which came with the frame.

Now look at these two.

The idea, I think, that the Carr picture frame company is trying to get across here is that if you buy their frame, you, too, can nonchalantly sling a racket over your shoulder, you, too can hold three tennis balls in the palm of one hand, you, too can fearlessly fold your collar over a zip-down sweatshirt, and goddamit, you can wear wristbands if you want to, too.

When you buy a Carr frame you get these people along with it, absolutely free. If you like, you can just leave them in there and hang them on your wall to remind yourself that love does indeed exist in its purest form. In fact, considering that this photo is the model, the portrait against which all portraits will be judged, it’s entirely possible that Carr, ltd. is saying that what we have here, locked in 5 x 7 glossy, is the absolute, ultimate relationship.

The absolute, ultimate relationship may be nice if you happen to be in it. But there can only be one absolute, ultimate relationship in the whole cosmos and face it, it’s pretty likely that even if you are seeing someone, your relationship ain’t it. If you’re looking for Truth in Romance, it all comes back to these two. They are packaged not only as lovers, but as an ideal. This is the picture you see on the mantels of everybody you don’t know, and it is precisely that universality—everybody knows these people, even if no one has actually met them—that makes them absolute and ultimate. They are together and they are smiling and that is all you know about them. They are frozen in the bliss of an eternally perfect relationship.

Carr has to be working in cahoots with The Man on this one. These people are shoved down your throat. You have no choice but to buy them when you buy a frame. Until you unscrew it, take out the metal backplate and that piece of brown cardboard from the middle, you absolutely must look at them, you are forced to deal with these people. You have to. Then you have to ask yourself why you and your significant other never play any tennis, or maybe you think back to the one time when you did and you couldn’t serve and then when you finally hit a good one you got in an argument over whether it was in or out, which eventually became an argument over who’s selfish and what the hell do I want from this relationship, which eventually became a discussion about stopping the car and letting me out right here and never calling me again because I’m changing my number.

Beyond the fact that They Are Love, here’s how you can tell that these two are in an ideal relationship. First of all, check out this guy’s beard. Perfect, neatly trimmed, just like the ladies love it. This guy has hair all over his face yet he’s still sensitive; he has mastery over his manhood. That dynamic of macho control carries over to the wristbands. This guy sweats and he accepts it, but that’s no reason to get his grip all slimy.

Now look at her body language. Notice her racket is touching his heart. It’s the tennis motif that makes this photo stand out, so the racket, the sword of the game, the thing that makes it all happen, ultimately emerges as the ultimate symbol of the active principle of their relationship. By touching his heart with that wand, she’s getting a vibe straight from her man’s very soul. Also notice that she is closed, her arms folded, while he’s spread out and embracing. These are opposite forces that play off each other. Carr Frames knows that when you’re looking for a lover, you’re looking for what you don’t have, whether it’s a huggable, warm personality or an hugging, extroverted character. Also he has wristbands and she doesn’t, which has to factor in there somewhere.

Though he’s undeniably a handsome devil, this guy isn’t afraid to be honest about his body when he’s with his woman. He probably smells pretty bad, what with just having played three sets and all, but he’s not ashamed to put that right arm flush against that barn door, go ahead, put that pit in her face. Because she accepts you, man, she knows you’re trying. You’re a little fat, you have kind of bad teeth, your clothes are kind of cheesy. But that’s OK. (The vivid colors of the original are unfortunately lost in this black-and-white reproduction—his shirt and shorts are white with brown stripes and her jacket is custard yellow with blue piping.)

And then, of course, there’s this whole issue of the three tennis balls in one hand. It’s an assertion, again, of unleashed full-throttle testosterone fury; most wimps can only hold two balls at a time. It’s a cute little prankish gesture toward his lover, kind of like giving her rabbit ears, that shows th thateir relationship has its light side. It’s also really phallic.

In the next few days, you may run into these two when you’re out looking for Valentine knick-knacks. They can be intimidating. But at the same time, perhaps they are a constant, energetic reminder of what a crazy game love is, with its foot-faults and aces, its unforced errors and its triple match points. Then again it’s just as possible that they’re models hired by the frame company, that they’ve never met each other, and the only thing on either of their minds is how to get the other into their hot tub tonight.

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February Mood Pilgrims

Now that it’s February, it’s time to consider indulging in one of the month’s hallowed traditions: holing yourself up in your room for a weekend and not telling anyone where you are. Generally you don’t even need to decide ahead of time when you’re going to partake—let the wonderful month of February decide for you! It’s hard to say whether relationship problems, bad grades, annoying rooming fights, or just a general lack of photons is going to drive you into self-inflicted quarantine, but it’s going to happen to you in the next 28 days. Remember, you can’t fight it, but you can be prepared.

Before you get started with your preparations, remember that above all, you want attention. In the worst-case scenario, you avoid every social and academic pillar of your life and no one notices. Don’t let that happen. Draw a few quick sketches of skulls and place them in strategic positions around your room. This will raise the curiosity of your roommates. Keep drawing those skulls, painting them on the walls if necessary, until you detect that they’re starting to worry about you.

Whenever by necessity you must come into contact with anyone you know, be sure to stare blankly and sigh. Eat alone in the dining hall and send occasional longing glances to your friends across the room. But run away any time anyone gets too close. (And don’t forget, when storming out of a room, push to get out, pull to get in. And make sure your fly is up.)

Since you’ll be spending all your time in your bedroom—if you don’t have a single, just pretend your roommate isn’t there—it’s important to build a comfortable environment for yourself. Naturally, going to the dining hall is a blatant no-go, so it’s a good idea to stock some staples: a box of Crunch Berries, some wacky-shaped pasta, Pop-tarts, a pack of Fruit Stripe, a case of Jolt—these are some of the more obvious purchases. It’s kind of a hassle to prepare sandwiches, but in the end you’d probably be glad you took the trouble to whip up a few fluffernutters. Alcohol is, of course, optional. But then again, sometimes it’s the key that makes the blues make sense. Just don’t get destructive.

You will very, very definitely need music for your hermitage. Make yourself a few mix tapes. It’s completely up to you which songs you choose to include on them, but as a general rule of thumb at least half of them should remind you of that awesome relationship you had last summer. Don’t be afraid to feature songs that call forth warm, happy memories: they’ll be all the more ironically depressing when you play them in your hermitage. If this is an emergency and you don’t have time to make tapes, Morrissey’s Bona Drag will do nicely.

It’s Friday afternoon, you have the food, you have the music, now it’s time to set yourself up. Anytime you’re attempting temporary flight from the steely grips of a twisted, unfair reality, remember to dress comfortably. Often you can feel more sorry for yourself if you’re wearing particularly ugly clothes—like that just-a-little-too-small rugby shirt that says “IZOD” across its front in 24-inch letters, or that custard yellow sweatshirt that someone left in your room last year and you’ve been using to mop up spilled beer and/or yogurt.

The room itself will need sprucing up. Candles, colored light bulbs, and black lights are musts, since your overhead or that crappy halogen can be so oppressive. Since your bed will be your base of operation, be sure to have extra pillows and blankets. Surplus blankets can also be used to make a fort, the perfect place to hide if one of your roommates ventures into your shrine to try to find you. (If they call out your name, either saying nothing at all or responding “I died” is appropriate.)

Once you’ve closed yourself in for the weekend, it is vitally important to avoid all contact with the outside world. Trips to the bathroom should be limited to two a day, max. One of the disadvantages of stocking that liter of Jack Daniel’s is that the more times you go to the bathroom, the more you amplify your chances of running into—and talking to—someone. If you are forced into human interraction, mumble, twitch, and don’t make eye contact. If you are at all tempted to talk to this person in anything but the most evasive manner, abandon your plans for weekend solitude completely: you clearly don’t hate people enough.

You’ll be surprised how time will just seem to have wings when you’re alone in your room. You can choose from a vast array of quiet and contemplative activities that will allow you to brood with little effort. Many experienced February mood pilgrims simply recommend sleeping. It’s very possible to sleep 20 to 22 hours of the day; if you are unable to sleep that much, at least try to throw off your sleeping patterns enough so that you’re waking in the evening and going to sleep, or passing out, at dawn. This disruption of the sleep cycle will carry over throughout the month, not only serving to remind you of your joyous weekend, but also becoming fodder for “sleeping disorder” dean’s excuses.

Sleep, however, is always plentiful, and it’s best not to waste these precious few days on something you can do just as easily when you’re happy. This is an ideal time to get in touch with the little poet inside you. Write a few verses, accompanying them with harmonica. Read a few Raymond Carver stories and look at photos. Read old letters and write new ones that you don’t plan on ever sending. Rant into a dictaphone, read comics, play solitaire. By Sunday you may even be in the mood to make a few crank calls. Smoke a carton of smokes and, as you start to get a little lonely and start missing people, drink to old friends.

The next morning, pour a bucket of cold water on your roommate while they’re in the shower. This is February. And remember, anyone who makes fun of fur-lined mocassins never owned a pair.

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Choose Your Own Misadventure

Note: This column, while “hilarious,” was rejected by the editors and was never printed.

1. You wake up. Your very favorite section in the whole world starts in thirty minutes. You notice a glass of water by your bed. You also notice that your brain is throbbing and someone seemed to have lined your mouth with cotton while you were sleeping. If you hit snooze, go to number 2. If you get out of bed, go to number 3.

2. You hit snooze, fall asleep, and wake up nine minutes later. You were dreaming that you were playing Monopoly with Sam Donaldson, you think. If you hit snooze again, go to number 6. If you get out of bed, go to number 3.

3. You roll out of bed to get ready for the day. Yesterday’s outfit, laid out on the floor, is ready to go. If you decide to take a shower, go to number 4. If you head straight for class, go to number 5.

4. You’re in the shower. It’s hot. Then it’s cold. It stays cold for a while, then it gets hot. Then it’s cold again. You wait for it to get hot but it doesn’t so you get pissed and start yelling and throwing soap. When you get out of the shower, you realize that your tantrum has netted nothing but a pair of thoroughly soaked shoes on the bathroom floor. Looks like you’re going to have to wear your high school bobos instead. Nobody in your entryway feels sorry for you, though, and as you head out the door for class five minutes later, you swear that you hear the guy across the hall from you mutter under his breath, “Nice bobos. Attention K-Mart shoppers, attention…” It’s going to be a tough day. Go to paragraph 7.

5. You make it to class, five minutes early, even. Lucky you were wearing your durable rubber-soled perma-grip shoes—you saw people falling all over themselves on the ice on the way to class. Section goes well. You toss in three CP’s (Class Participations), smile twice at The Hot One in the left corner of the room, and manage to write that paragraph-long response in the last five minutes. Lunchtime. Go to number 8.

6. 10:00, 10:09, 10:18, 10:27…as the snooze-manipulated readings on your clock get closer and closer to section time, you can think of more and more reasons why you don’t actually need to go to class today. At some point you hit the alarm-off switch. You next wake at 2:14. Go to number 9.

7. On your way to class you slip and land squarely on your back. You try to get up quickly to save face but slip again, this time face-first into a slush puddle. As you try to steady yourself for the third time, you see six of the coolest-looking people in the world were watching the whole time. “That wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t wearing those corny bobos,” you hear one of them whisper to the other. Go to number 10.

8. As you walk out of section, you notice The Hot One swallowing an aspirin. You still have a slight headache, so you ask for one. The two of you get to talking, and decide to go out to lunch together. The Hot One knows a place—they’ll drive. Go to number 11.

9. You put on some sweats and cook up some ramen. Then you sit in front of the TV. Smoky and the Bandit just came on. You stare transfixed. Go to number 12.

10. You get to section 15 minutes late, soaking wet. Your bobos are squeaking loudly on the floor. A few people are openly and unashamedly laughing at you. You sit in the far corner, hoping to rest a little. But you get called on four times in the next thirty minutes, and each time you wince as you’re forced to respond with the kiss-of-death “Um, I’m a little behind in my reading.” Your TA asks to see you after class. Go to number 13.

11. You, The Hot One, and The Hot One’s Saab head down to New York, where you eat lunch in a charming bistro, then wander around the Village, arm-in-arm. You do a little shopping, and at one of those used clothes stores, The Hot One buys you the nicest sweater you’ve ever seen. The two of you head to The Hot One’s mother’s penthouse on the Upper East Side for dinner. Later that night, as you stare across the table at each other, the wine flowing, candles burning, music playing soft, The Hot One tells you that the moment they saw your awesome shoes in section that day, they knew you had to be theirs.

12. You can’t help but shed a little tear when you see Burt Reynolds head off into the fading sun after outsmarting that fat old Smoky for the last time. You’re just about to turn off the TV when the Police Academy Marathon comes on: all six of them, uncut and uninterrupted. You heat up another Ramen Pride and dig yourself a little deeper into the couch.

13. After class it’s just you and your TA. “I’m going to fail you,” the TA says, breathing onion-smattered plaque-breath into your face, “Unless you agree to spend this weekend with me and my friends. We’re going to be doing some review sessions, maybe a few party games. I was going to fail you outright, but when I saw how neat your shoes are, I realized that deep down, you’re just like us.”

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How to Pick Up Women

Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of reader mail, much of it from concerned young lovers looking for a little advice on exactly how to attract that quelqu’un certaine. Now this is perfectly understandable because A) everybody wants someone to snuggle with in these cold winter months; B) everybody wants someone they can bitch to in these depressing winter months; and C) after all, since I do know a great deal about the subject I’m clearly the obvious person to turn to. So here they are, The Eight Steps to Achieving True, Life-long Romance in just ONE NIGHT.

First you need to telephone the object of your desire to invite them on a date. While the key here is of course Be Yourself, the secret is Pretend You’re Someone Else First. When they pick up the phone, the wonderful “Is your refrigerator running?” gag is a great ice-breaker and will make them realize right from the get-go that you are indeed a creative and wry person. Or you could hyperventilate into the receiver and ask them what they’re wearing, which would expose them to your passionate side. But remember, don’t let them hang up on you.

Now ask them out. They’ve been charmed by your wit already, so there’s no way they’ll say no. But if they do, keep naming new dates up to and including May of your graduation year and you will be guaranteed a night of romance. If they insist that they have no idea who you are, tell them you’re the outgoing president of the YCC, own a yacht, or play lacrosse, any of which can get you whatever you want. If they insist that they do know who you are and that that’s precisely the reason they don’t want to go out with you, tell them you’re someone else.

 At step three we move to the BIG NIGHT itself. Be sure to dress up. Wear either tails, a formal dress, or a leisure suit. Pick them up about a half hour to an hour early—people say that this is annoying but that’s just a front. Compliment your date. Tell them that they’ll knock your whole family’s socks off when you take them home with you over spring break. Start holding hands at this point and do not let go for the rest of the night.

The fourth step is flat-out the most important part of the whole night, the core to the whole mystique of picking up lovers. On the way to dinner, tell them in empassioned tones that you are absolutely in love with them, that you never think about anything else, and that you cannot live without them. Crying a little has been known to help. Show them the love letters and macrame bracelet you’ve been working on. Say that your analyst used to say you were insecure, but now that you know you’ve found your lover for eternity you aren’t worried about a thing. If you sense that they feel a little awkward, assure them that there’s “No pressure”…but keep crying.

 Now that the passionate mood has been set, go to an expensive restaurant. Insist on ordering for the other person, and now that you’re intimate don’t feel uncomfortable referring to them as “my lover,” as in, “I’ll have the lamb, and my lover for life here will have the sweetbreads.” Rack up as high a bill as possible, insist loudly on paying for it, then look in your wallet and say that you left your money at home. This little premeditated blunder allows your new lover to assert financial independence and feel good in the process.

 For the sixth step, go from the restaurant to a hip club for some dancing. What you need to do here is start acting distant and strange and suddenly abandon your date on the dancefloor. Go to the bar and drink broodingly, making occasional violent gestures like smashing bottles over your head or threatening to kill anyone who talks to you. Here you establish that you are A) deep; B) independent; and C) belligerent, all of which are obvious turn-ons. Naturally, make your date pay for your drinks.

On the way home rant loudly that you saw your lover talking to another person in the club, and that that had better not continue or else. You may also want to let them catch a glimpse of your rebellious disdain for authority by starting a long-winded diatribe against The Man and throwing rocks at police cars and fraternity members. Here also is the ideal opportunity to throw up on your date, a gesture which never fails to galvanize a budding romance.

Finally, insist on a good-night kiss. If your lover refuses out of modesty, lick them on the cheek and run away screaming.

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