Monday, December 8

The Pre-CDP Essays (2000-2002: Volume 1).

For this week and this week only on the CDP, I will be spotlighting a group of essays written by yours truly before the existence of the World-Famous blog you're currently reading. Essays originally published on the website of my old punk band, spanning from 2000 to 2002 and ranging on a variety of topics, including: graduating from high school, working at a Hardware Store for $6 an hour, car accidents, Christmas, moving to Madison and starting a new life with the Missus, attending college and much more.

For longtime fans, you'll notice many things about these teenage essays. For one, they're not all that spectacular. Sure, it's very distinctly me and a good precursor to the supremely mediocre writer I would become in my mid-20's, but the teen angst and introspection is dripping from each and every word. Also, and this is probably the thing I'm the least comfortable with, it shows a side of me that was legitimately insecure, obsessive-compulsive and borderline-paranoid at times. You may even find that the writings of me as a late teenager on the verge of a brand new set of adult responsibilities will show a personal side of me that I don't actively show anymore, and for good reason. It ain't funny and it makes people worry.

Today's first pre-CDP essay takes place during the dog days of Summer 2000. I was 18 years old, recently graduated and living with my Grandparents; treading water at the Hardware Store while my girlfriend finished up with High School. Most every night would consist of me driving back and forth from my place to her place, wasting away the evening and heading back home for work the next day. 'Heart Of Dragon' spotlights one of the many typical evenings spent during the innocent, apathetic and pre-9/11 Summer of Teenage Love.

The numbers within the paragraphs represent footnotes that bring a more current explanation to some of the events, and even though it killed me not to, I've made no edits to the pre-existing essays. Enjoy.

Heart Of Dragon.
(First published appx. 08-01-00)

I’m not one to keep a diary or jot random thoughts onto paper. My reasons are quite simple: it bores me. I have no satisfaction in reading about things I’ve already done. I feel it keeps me from doing other things, and would soon turn me into a hermit, or an old man who loves nothing more than to share his stories with unsuspecting teenagers.[1]

(1. It goes without saying that this went on to be the single most ironic and unintentionally hilarious paragraph I have ever written.)

So I’m wondering why I feel it necessary to force you to sit through the events that went on last night. It was like almost any other night in my life, free of emotional extremes. Nothing impressive at all. Perhaps I’m way too bored, standing on tired feet at my place of work.[2] All the more that I need a way to pass the time. I’m already sorry that you have read this far.

(2. Clerking at a Hardware Store meant only one thing. Eight hours a day on your feet with nothing to do but write.)

The Girlfriend[3] and I were going to see Flight 180 play in Menesha, but we decided not to go at the last minute on account of sheer laziness. We were just at a concert the night before, and couldn’t bear to peel ourselves off of the couch that we had just nestled into at her parent's house. Soon after, however, our boredom got the best of us, and we decided that we needed to go out for pizza. So we called over to Sherry’s house, and got her and Ben to come along with us.[4]

(3. Now known as The Missus.)

(4. Sherry was Celia's neighbor, and on any given Summer night, it was a good bet that her and Ben were equally bored and looking for something to do over there.)

Before they showed up, we were watching the movie Fear. It’s a good film, provided that you like to watch Marky Mark smack women to pieces, or watch Alyssa Milano parade around in her underthings[5]. It kept my interest for approximately three minutes, and then we left for Oshkosh in my 1993 Ford Tempo, the Aquabats[6] blaring throughout the interior.

(5. I now own Fear on DVD.)

(6. The Aquabats were the soundtrack to many Summers.)

The waiter at Pizza Hut was the same one that served us when we were there a few weeks ago during a blinding thunderstorm. He asked us if we were nuts for driving around in it at the time. For the record, the only reason we even went there during the Storm of 2000 was because we were early for the start of American Pie 2 [7] at the theater across the street. A large, Twisted Crust pizza hit the spot [8]; I would eat my own testicles in ranch dressing if it were possible without bleeding to death or being committed. Someday science will find a way.

(7. Totally embarrassing and unacceptable, I know.)

(8. Does Pizza Hut still make Twisted Crust pizzas?)

The conversation was lighthearted and comical. I hadn’t seen Ben or Sherry in a few days, so it was nice to sit across from them and talk about absolutely nothing for an hour or so. [9] It made me realize that, although nobody is perfect, friends are friends. Of course, they probably think that I’m a worthless prick [10], but I value them as good friends at any cost.

(9. We still do this almost every night.)

(10. They do.)

The night before, The Girlfriend and I ran to Neenah to watch Caution To The Wind play at the Blue Moon Coffee House.[11] We ended up at a diner at around midnight with the bass player and a friend of his. At that moment, I thought about all the money I was spending going out to eat and attending concerts every night. Especially since I was supposed to be saving money for college. Every time I think I can get it together and and set a few pennies aside, I find myself with a cheeseburger in my mouth [12] and a large check to pay. [13] I really cannot believe that I’m not 300 pounds. So, here I was again at Pizza Hut, eating my fifth meal of the day, and my seventh slice of pizza that day, too (I had eaten pizza for lunch, too. I will have a heartattack on my 20th birthday).

(11. My band was banned there after we refused to tell the crowd to buy coffee during our set.)

(12. Pre-Vegetarian.)

(13. As you can see, my teenage problems are strikingly similar to my adult ones.)

Stepping out of Pizza Hut, and into a surprisingly clear Summer sky and beautiful night temperature, we all decided that nobody wanted to climb back into the Tempo just yet, so we walked across the parking lot to the video store to see if there was anything else we could spend more cash on. We dug through Hollywood Video for at least an hour, and when the dust settled, we had six films in our mitts. Ben and Sherry rented Hannibal and Josie & The Pussycats. I’ll probably borrow Hannibal from them when they are finished,[14] and already thought that Josie was a halfway-decent movie.[15] Celia rented Pollack and The Gods Must Be Crazy. We hadn’t yet seen Pollack, about artist Jackson Pollack and his subsequent insanity. She had, however, seen The Gods Must Be Crazy many times, and thought I needed to bathe in its brilliance. We’ll watch it tonight, so I have yet to make an informative decision on it. I rented Spinal Tap and Heart Of Dragon. I feel very much like a loser because I haven’t seen Spinal Tap yet. Being a rock star and all [16], it seems like a prerequisite. I think I spelled that wrong.[17]

(14. Never did; still haven't seen it.)

(15. Loved it.)

(16. Nope.)

(17. Didn't.)

We drove back to Winneconne and dropped Ben and Sherry off at her folks' residence. Me and The Girlfriend still had a couple of hours to kill, so we picked the shortest movie that we had and popped it in. This happened to be Heart Of Dragon. Earlier in the night, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to leave the store without a Kung-Fu movie, so Celia recommended this one. She claimed to have seen it during a Jackie Chan marathon some years back,[18] so I took her word for it. To repeat: This movie was recommended to me by Celia.

(18. One of the many reasons we were dating in the first place.)

It starred Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. They were brothers, and Sammo was retarded. I’m not being mean; he was legitimately a retarded man-child in the film. Jackie had to constantly look out for him, and kick everyone’s asses to make things right. Tables were broken, voices were dubbed, and tears flowed like water. The bad guys were hanging out in abandoned construction sites, and the gang leader had an extremely thin mustache. I love this stuff.

This movie is also notable for featuring the most surreal and disturbing theme song I have ever heard in the history of Cinema. It was the kind of circus-y music you’d expect to hear if you saw a clown hacking up a small child. I am currently in the search to find the sound file online somewhere, and if I find a good enough version of it, it will be on our next album; swear to God.[19]

(19. Check it out right here; we never released a second album.)

Sammo Hung’s retarded character was framed, Jackie Chan attempted to save him and was thrown in jail. The last scene of the film was Jackie Chan sitting in a prison cell after being the good guy for the entire movie. His hopes of being a sailor ruined. It looked to me that when he finally gets out, he was going to kill Sammo. Extremely depressing and unforgettably strange.[20]

(20. Also one of the few Jackie Chan movies that shows him shooting people with guns.)

I kissed The Girlfriend goodbye and started on the 22-minute drive back to my house at 10:30 on a Sunday night. I was happy. Smiling, even. I didn’t really know why. It was such a mediocre day; just like every other day I’ve spent during this long and boring Summer. What was different? Could it have been because nobody was at each other’s throat? Nobody was pissed off to the point of not speaking? Could it be because last night reminded me of the way things were a year ago?[21]

(21. There had been...tension. I'm sure you can relate.)

I don’t know for sure. Maybe I’m just overtired. Maybe I had way too much caffeine this morning.[22] Maybe it’s just wishful thinking. A great relationship-saving device has always been peppering people with constant distraction to take their focus off of the jerk they’re hanging around with. I have always relied on this. Perhaps this is no difference.

(22. Pre-caffeine cessation!)

Here’s to not being an asshole. It just might make your day.

Todays second essay takes place a mere day after the events of 'Heart Of Dragon.' Another night out with The Girlfriend turns into a textbook nervous breakdown for your favorite Blogger Boy. I enjoyed this one; I don't write like a paranoid lunatic anymore.

The Gods Must Be Crazy.
(First published appx. 08-03-00)

On Monday night, me and The Girlfriend watched The Gods Must Be Crazy from the comfort of the Family Room at my Grandparents’ house. It was a very funny and very intelligent film, wrapped into an absurd, Monty Python/Benny Hill-esque package. We locked the door to the house at 10:14pm [1] and walked the 20 feet in the moonlit darkness to my car in the driveway. The construction crews took out the driveway that was in front of the door, [2] so now I have to walk in the dark and pray that I don’t step on a frog, have a spider land on me, or have God knows what lurk out and leave me in hunks on the stoop. While this hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure it will eventually.[3]

(1. I was still pretty wracked with OCD at this age, so you'll notice that there are a lot of exact times, dates, locations, measurements and destinations worked into my essays.)

(2. ...and taking the basketball hoop with it, which just killed me.)

(3. I meant this.)

So we drive. 22 minutes to her house. 17 of those 22 minutes in complete isolation and darkness. Fields, rows of corn and barren land. Power lines and pairs of eyes in every ditch.[4] I only have to take two turns to get her back home; the rest of the stretch is a lonely, straight shot in the dark. I have driven this path well over 200 times, and could do it in my sleep (and I have, on occasion). It is a time to clear my head of the day, to reflect on the events that transpired, or to sing loudly to myself so I can fall asleep quickly once I get home. But some nights, my imagination gets the best of me.

(4. You know, like raccoons and stuff.)

As soon as she slams the door shut, I am alone. I shine the headlights on her as she walks through her door, just to see her make it inside her house safely, and I pretend not to think about anything. But I am instantly hit with a sense of vulnerability. My imagination immediately begins its task of screwing me into a bloody mess. I begin to recite every scary story I have ever read, every newspaper article and every Urban Legend I have ever told someone to scare them should they ever wind up in my current position. In reality, there is nothing around. Nothing there to get me. But if I believed that, I wouldn’t be turning on the dome light every 15 seconds to check the backseat for an axe-wielding maniac.[5]

(5. Hey, driving in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night is scary, goddamnit.)

Before she left me, we were having a spirited argument over a story I was told concerning intersections with stoplights. We were discussing whether the lights were timed or weight-sensitive. The conclusion was that some were one way, while the rest were the other. I always pass through a single lit intersection on my way home, and it is always just me at that time of the night. Nothing but the lights and me. On the nights where I happen to hit it on a red, I sit in silence, twisting my head like an owl so the darkness don’t get the chance to jump me. This particular intersection is weight-sensitive, so I don’t have to wait long; as soon as I brake, I get the green light and continue on my way.[6]

(6. As pedestrian as it may seem, this paragraph becomes important later on in the story.)

But I remember reading about a kid like me, who drove a 1958 Fiat Spyder.[7] The car was incredibly light, and while driving alone at night, he was never able to trip the weight-sensitive trigger to change the lights. This would mean an endless red light until another car came along. Most nights, he claimed that he had to put his car in Park and walk over to press the pedestrian button, so the lights would change for him.[8]

(7. Sure I did.)

(8. Sure he did.)

This frightened me. I don’t ever want to leave the bulletproof confines of my car. It is similar to the notion that monsters could not get you if you were completely underneath your blankets. Any exposed skin meant certain death.[9]

(9. Still true.)

So, 15 minutes into the drive home, and I’m scaring myself into oblivion. Everywhere I turn, there are grim visions. A kid is hanging from the telephone pole. There’s a garbage bag full of body parts on the side of the road. Blood crashes across the street like a flash flood. I am wide awake, and I try to convince myself that there’s nothing to blame but myself, but it doesn’t stop me from shaking. I drive faster, but the antlers of a deer in the distance cause me to cautiously slow back down. If I were to crash out here, I would surely die. Not from the impact, though. A stalled car in the middle of nowhere would instantly cause my heart to explode well before the Boogeyman had a chance to get me. 18 minutes down, 4 more to go.[10]

(10. When I was a young kid, I saw police officers discover a garbage bag in a highway ditch that contained the torso of a missing woman. Needless to say, it stuck with me for awhile.)

I saw the intersection approaching. The lights were red, but I was confident that they would change before I got there. They were weight-sensitive, after all. Besides, I had no time to stop. Whatever was out there, chasing me, wouldn’t take a break for a red light. I had to get back home to my bulletproof blankets. I was now about 100 yards from the intersection, still red. I began to brake slightly, looking for any cops to help me in case the man in the backseat decided it was time to start carving me up. I had planned on running the red light tonight, anyway. Getting a ticket [11] was better than getting slaughtered by a madman, and I floored it with about 50 yards left to go.

(11. In my paranoia, why was I still worried about the cops? Wouldn't that be a good thing?)

Suddenly, my entire Dashboard panel went red. Flashing lights and noises began ringing throughout my car. I looked around for the cop, but there was nobody around. This was all coming from my car; there was something seriously wrong with it. I gasped. I was four minutes from home, and for only the second time in my life, the Wild Stallion v2.0 decides that it doesn’t want to drive anymore. This was when I realized that it wasn’t an oil light or a Check Engine light. It was a Seat Belt light.[12]

(12. This was before I thought it was necessary to buckle up.)

It was the picture of the little man in the driver’s seat with his belt on, reminding me that I probably should, too. I waited for it to shut back off, but it wouldn’t. I punched the seat belt console; I tugged and pulled. Still it beeped and flashed, the little seat-belted man still staring up at me. Instantly, I thought, “Why on Earth would that turn on now?” It made absolutely no sense at all. I had been in my car for over 20 minutes now, and all of a sudden, it feels that I should buckle up? I was frantically wondering who was trying to tell me what. Then it came to me.

I was about to have an accident.

Right away, I knew that this was supposed to be taken as a sign from somewhere. It was telling me that I was 10, maybe 15 seconds away from wrapping my Tempo around a telephone pole, and if I wanted to live, I should do as they say. Taking this as a sign from the Gods,[13] I threw on my belt and floored the gas. If this was how I was going to go, I wasn’t going to hold back. I took all of my terror, all of my irrational fears, closed my eyes and waited for my fate.

(13. If you believe in God, why not believe in more than one, right?)

I opened my eyes. Nothing happened. The light had stopped blinking and I was sitting in my driveway with the engine idling quietly. I was safe at home; safe with my bulletproof blankets. I once again scurried the 20 feet in the darkness to my door, praying aloud. I figured that if I was in mid-conversation with God, there was no way that I’d be killed in my own driveway.[14] I turned on every light in the house on the path to my room, dashed into my bed and was asleep no more than five minutes later. I was safe from all of the horrible things that were chasing me that night. It was a good thing that I had kept my wits about me, or I would have been a goner for sure.[15]

(14. A ludicrous theory if there ever was one.)

(15. And a ludicrous attempt at irony, too.)

The next day, I told The Girlfriend about the Seatbelt Incident, and she kind of perked up and leaned in my direction. She then told me that on that very same night, she dreamed that I was lying in a coffin with my relatives observing my funeral. She kept screaming and apologizing to my corpse, claiming that it was all her fault.

“How did I die?” I asked her.

Car accident.

TOMORROW: The Pre-CDP Essays.
(2000-2002: Volume 2)

I would eat my own testicles in ranch dressing if it were possible without bleeding to death or being committed.

This ranch dressing thing you've got has been life-long, huh?

Another night out with The Girlfriend turns into a textbook nervous breakdown for you're favorite Blogger Boy.
you're favorite Blogger Boy.


But if I believed that, I wouldn’t be turning on the dome light every 15 seconds to check the backseat for an axe-wielding maniac.

I do this all the time. Every time I look into the rear view mirror, actually. I have this horrible image in my mind that I'll be looking in the mirror and some dude will just rise slowly up with the Aphex Twin smile going on and I'll pee on myself.

A stalled car in the middle of nowhere would instantly cause my heart to explode well before the Boogeyman had a chance to get me.


This is awesome. I can't wait until I'm old and famous so I can post the horrendous things I've written in the past. However, your stories aren't horrendous. They show that you have some extent of literacy. My journals, however, are sprinkled with one-word entries, fancy drawings of curse words and phallic, bad poems, symbolism i mostly don't understand, lyrics to Margot songs and tales of sexy teachers. You've inspired me, though, to try harder.
CARGIRL - Yes, the ranch dressing thing has been lifelong. In fact, I think it comes up a few more times this week.

My editors must have been slacking on the job with that 'your/you're' thing. The change has been made, and I appreciate you're eagle eye.

Mmm-hmm, exactly. I'm still like this sometimes, but only because it happens for real in this city.

I'm glad your enjoying it. If you think that you're earlier stuff was just too ridiculous for print, you can do what I did, and just wait awhile and re-post the stuff your doing right now as a late teen. Works easier that way.
Your editor rules.

Heart of Dragon rules.

The Gods Must be Crazy rules.

We are both rocking some hideous hair in that first pic...yikes.
About to read the second essay, but I had to pop in and let you know that these essays couldn't have been written in 2000. They are, I'm pretty damn certain, from the summer of 2001. Two reasons: you say you were 18 at the time, and I know you're at least a year younger than me. And dammit, I was 18 during the summer of 2000. Secondly, both American Pie 2 and Josie and the Pussycats came out in 2001.

Emily for the win!

OK, back to my hole.
I agree; I think they were probably written in 2001. Didn't think of that- I wore the Josie ears when I was a Senior, so it would have had to have been 2001.
Fine; change the 00's to 01's then. My Wayback Machine must be malfunctioning.

Tomorrow's essay is from 2001 for sure, and on Friday, I may run one from 1999.
I have successfully asserted my one-year-age-dominance over the CDP, and can now rest easy.
That's right Emily---put that young'un back in his place!
While today's essays were probably written in the Summer of 2001, I was indeed 18 in the Summer of 2000. I was born in February 1982.
Damnit! So I'm only 3 months older than you.

Does that mean you were part of the "Smoke Free Class of 2000" too?
I never think about an axe-wielding maniac in the backseat. Every time I get one of those "You're a woman and so you need to know all these tips about staying safe!" emails, it mentions checking your backseat before you get in the car, and every time I think, "What? Who does that?" My paranoia usually limits itself to my house or being outside. Cars are totally impenetrable by crazy people.
berryjo - I thought cars were impenetrable by crazy people until I regularly invited them into my car when I drove a taxi. That's left me with a totally different take on all this. Crazy in the car? Not scary at all. Possibly a waste of time or a pain in the ass but not scary.

CDP - I believe the traffic lights have induction loops to tell whether there's a car there. It's quite possible for a tiny fiberglass car or a motorcycle not to have enough ferrous material for the loop to register that it's there. Strap a refrigerator to the back and you'll trigger it just fine.
First reaction to pic number 2: Will the real Slim Shady please stand up.

And dark country roads bordered by corn fields terrify me. Where my grandparents live in Pennsylvania it is practically nothing but corn fields - across the street, down the road...everywhere!! I'm able to convince myself at least once a day that some mentally unbalanced rural youth with a name like Jedadiah will come rushing out of the field wielding rusty and dangerous farm implements.
Maus--that's exactly the problem that we had growing up in rural WI. The drive home alone at night is just corn fields, cows, and the very occassional street-lamp. It was not uncommon at all for your eyes to trick you into thinking you see and Ryan both thought we saw someone hanging from a tree once and we screamed and screamed. I don't remember what it turned, but it was scary as heck. We were also frightened by a rustling movement out in the country, and it turned out to be a cute little fox sitting in the ditch.
*turned out to be

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