March 5, 2014

One time when I was a kid, I bled all over an ex trying to woo her back. Then I vomited in her car.

I’m going to be honest- I suck at breakups. More specifically, I have terrible reactions whenever I have to be around an ex in a social situation. There’s something that happens in my brain when I see an ex-girlfriend that I can’t explain. It’s like a short circuit. One second I’m myself: relaxed, hanging with friends, and telling jokes. The next, I’m a nervous wreck of a human being and capable of doing some truly stupid things to get the her attention.  
Like, cutting myself. On purpose.
Now, for a lot of people out there, masochism is a sign of serious mental illness, but for me it falls into the same category as cigarettes, alcohol, or my English degree- just another dumb thing I did trying to impress a girl
Enter… well, I don’t actually remember her name. I want to say it was Priscilla, but that could just be because I’ve been listening to a lot of Elvis lately.
Enter, Priscilla. Priscilla was a cute bagger at the grocery store where my mom shopped. My mom had just so many groceries, we required two carts. Priscilla volunteered to push one of the carts out to my mom’s van. I pushed the other cart.
We walked out to the van together. I knew I only had a small window of time to make with the conversation, but I had nothing interesting to say. Panicking, I decided to try a tactic I had often theorized might work, but never had the guts to try.
You see, 17-year-old-me always had this sneaking suspicion that the reason it was so hard to meet girls was because I was too nice and girls almost always went for jerks. What I decided to do therefore was to try and fit in as much "jerk" as I could within our brief conversation.
The conversation when thusly:
Her (rolling her eyes in boredom): Well, thanks for helping me push the cart out.
Me (awkwardly): Well, I figured you needed the help ‘cause you look like a f**king retard.
(The most awkward of pauses)
Me: Want to go see a movie on Saturday?
Her: Oooookay…
We wound up dating for a month after that and became close.
And then she dumped me.
You may recall from previous blogs that I’ll do things to impress girls that would not impress any girl, ever. Well with this girl- this girl whose name I can’t remember- I decided that I would cut my arm with my Army surplus knife to show her how much I cared for her. I know, that makes NO sense, but this wasn’t nearly as dramatic an action as you might suppose. Earlier that week, I’d cut the same arm a dozen times in the middle of a Burger King just to out-crazy this guy who claimed to be a werewolf (I'll get to that in another blog). 
No one's going to out werewolf me. 
My surplus knife was pretty dull, so the cuts it left were little more than bloody scratches and healed quickly. Only I couldn’t find my knife. Finally, I found a razor blade lying around in a drawer somewhere and figured, A blade was a blade. Right? Priscilla was going to be at this party I was going to the next day, and I just kind of wanted her to notice the cut and maybe think, Did he do that because of me? I know, that’s borderline sociopathic, but I was young and dumb.
Very dumb in fact, because as it turns out, a blade is NOT a blade. Well no, technically a blade is literally a blade. What I mean is that not all blades are equal. Some are much, much sharper than others. Razor blades, for example, are much, much sharper than old Army surplus knives. I discovered this the hard way.
I was sitting in my room with the lights off. It was around 4 am. I was all dark and broody back then, and people who are dark and broody like to cut themselves with the lights off for some reason. I braced myself with the razor against the top of my forearm. Some Bauhaus on the stereo. And then, I pulled the razor hard against my skin.
For a second, I wondered if I’d missed. I hadn’t felt a thing when I pulled the razor across my arm. No sting. And then there was the matter of what appeared on my arm. Normally, when I cut myself with my knife, a small line of blood would appear on my arm. Even though it was dark in my room, I could clearly see NOT a thin line of blood, but a big gaping white mark. As if a line of plaster had fallen on it from the ceiling. I got up, walked to the bathroom, and turned on the light.
To this day, I’m not really sure what I saw when the light came on. My arm was sliced open, wide enough to fit a pencil inside, and the wound was stark white. There was no blood at all. I’ve since learned that that rubbery looking white lining is called Adipose tissue, and if you’ve cut through a bunch of it, you’re probably going to want to seek medical attention. I did not.
Instead, I duct taped it.
The cut, which didn’t bleed for around 20 seconds after it was inflicted, started gushing blood all over the bathroom. Panicking, I grabbed the decorative towels off the rack to cover it. I thought about going to my mom who was a nurse and who could totally have fixed this situation, but in addition to being a nurse, she was also a mom and would probably kill me. I was already hiding a nipple piercing and a tattoo from her, and figured there was room on that list for one more. So, what I did was wrap that bad boy up in duct tape, tied a nice tight bandana around it, said, "That'll do, pig," and then called it a night.
When I woke up 10 hours later it was still bleeding. The duct tape had lost all of its stickiness and the bandana was soaked completely through. It was 2pm and almost time to go to the party, so I showered, put a bunch of bandages on the wound, tied another really tight bandana around it, put some clothes on, and headed out the door.
Now, when I say “party,” I mean it was my ex, my buddy Eric, me, and the guy who lived in the apartment. And a shit-ton of booze.
A little disclaimer- prior to this event, I’d only ever drank once in my life. It was with my friend Tiffany. She’d broke into her mother’s liquor cabinet and filled up a big coffee mug with Jack Daniels. I DRANK THE ENTIRE THING.
There’s a bit of a mythology in my family about the Rhodes men. Not only do we consider ourselves the strongest and toughest men alive, but we also believe ourselves to be near invulnerable. (This could, of course, just be all men.) Never did I believe the hype more than after I’d drank that mug of whiskey. Not only did I not get drunk, I didn’t even get buzzed. I must have some sort of super-tolerance, I thought.
What I didn’t know was that every time Tiffany broke into her mom’s Jack, she replaced the whiskey she drank with water to make it seem like nothing was missing. After a while, she had broken into that cabinet so many times that, by the time she poured me some, it was basically Jack flavored water.
Of course, since I had nothing to compare it to, I didn’t know that. I just thought I was the fricking Übermensch. And because I was the Übermensch, when I got to this party I started laying into the booze HARD thinking that I’d impress my ex with the super human amount of alcohol I could drink.
In short order, I was completely trashed. The last coherent thing I really remember is yelling Jim Morrison’s classic line, “I am the Lizard King! I can do anything!” and then falling face first into a pool of my own vomit. And honestly, I’m sort of glad that I can’t remember this next part.
This is the story from my buddy Eric. I never heard the story from Priscilla, because ::SPOILER ALERT:: she never spoke to me again. And rightly so.
So apparently, at some point in the night, I began to wonder why Priscilla had not noticed or said anything about the huge bandage on my arm. Now, it’s quite possible that she had. She could have said something about it a dozen times and I’m pretty sure I would’ve been too drunk to remember. If you had asked me my own name, I probably wouldn’t have understood the question.
So I made my way over to her and proceeded to tell her all about my grand romantic gesture. Only, apparently I wasn’t satisfied that she understood A) what I was trying to say through my drunken slurs, or B) what was under those bandages on my arm. So I started to rip the bandages off and show her.
The cut was still bleeding pretty bad and I was throwing up a lot, but apparently, shortly after I showed her the horrific gouge on my arm, I forgot all about it. What I didn’t forget about, though, was that she was my ex and I should win her back at all costs. So I kept trying to be smooth and do things like put my arm around her and give her hugs when she wasn’t looking. As you might imagine, that didn’t go well.
I’d like to believe this was an innocent drunken mistake and that I wouldn’t bleed all over a girl on purpose, even if she had dumped me, but sometimes I wonder if my sense of humor is even more morbid than I can possibly admit to myself.
Thankfully, even though I wound up bleeding and puking all over the inside of her car, she was kind enough to give me a ride home. (Well actually, my brother said she just sort of dumped me unconscious on the curb and then drove off, but it sounds like I deserved it.) That was the last I ever heard of her. My older brother carried me inside the house as I told him over and over how much I loved him. Then he put me on my bed and put The Door’s “The End” on repeat. It was one of the sweetest things my older brother ever did for me.  
My parents couldn’t help but notice what was going on, and since I had apparently lost my shirt in the ordeal, they not only noticed the cut and the massively drunk boy, but also the nipple piercing and tattoo I’d been hiding as well. There would be repercussions later, but not till I woke up many hours later when the bleeding stopped and the dry heaving began.
I called Priscilla’s phone number a couple days later and left a message. I jokingly offered to pay for her car to be detailed and tested for AIDS, but she never got back to me. I probably shouldn’t have said that on her parent’s answering machine.

I get asked about the scar a lot. It’s pretty big- a couple inches long and a couple millimeters wide. I usually tell people I got into a knife fight. protecting a baby. from a bunch of ninjas. It’s still a pretty embarrassing story to tell. I never cut myself again after that. I’ve also never got that drunk again.
I wish I could say I’ve never made an ass of myself in front of another ex-girlfriend, but I have. Pretty recently. And Lord knows, I probably will again too.
No one likes breakups but they are a part of life. You can’t run away from them. Eventually you’re going to see an ex, whether it’s in a bar, a grocery store, a wedding, or whatever, and all the insecurity and confusion that you experienced getting dumped is going to rush back to you. And when it does, you may act out trying to prove you still care about her- or that you don’t. Just try not to bleed or vomit all over the person. It’s gross and highly ineffective.
But if you do happen make a mess of things and embarrass yourself, try to laugh it off and find the humor in the situation. It doesn’t make any sense to beat yourself up about it. Take it from a guy who knows, sometimes it’s best to just “cut yourself” a little slack.
The scar as it looks today. Colored in with a bit of red marker.

February 24, 2014

One time when I was a kid, I destroyed an entire street with a porta potty.

One time when I was a kid, I destroyed a whole street with a porta potty.
I want you to picture this- Imagine you've done pretty well for yourself in life. You have a good job and a nice house in an affluent suburb. You've got a three car garage, a sprawling front lawn, and a novelty mailbox that looks like a fish or something.
Now imagine you wake up one morning, step outside to get the paper, and find yourself standing in a toxic war-zone. The first thing you notice is that the lawn is utterly destroyed. Signs of tire tracks and something else, something big, have shredded the cool green turf. Your novelty mailbox is crushed. Odd pieces of plastic are littered everywhere. A mysterious blue liquid has stained your driveway. And what is that smell? Is that… feces???
You look up and down your street and discover that this didn't just happen to you. The entire street has been destroyed. Lawns, mailboxes, the actual street, everything is a total mess. Also, there is shit EVERYWHERE.
I don’t mean there is stuff or debris everywhere. I mean there is shit- poop, feces, crap, stool, excrement.
And then you see, at the end of the block, a completely demolished, utterly abused porta potty smashed into someone’s lawn like a meteor.

I wish I could say that I can only imagine what sort of terrible person would do such an utterly unhygienic act of vandalism to an innocent stretch of tract-mansions. Unfortunately, I know exactly the sort of person that would do such a thing- me. And my bff, Revi, of course.
Revi and I always had a thing for porta potties. I know that sounds weird and don't ask me why we did- we just did. It started one night during one of our midnight rendezvous. We'd go on these walks where we’d sneak out of our respective second story windows at night after everyone had gone to sleep and spend hours walking around the hills and housing developments contemplating life and its myriad of endless hypotheticals and possibilities… and we’d break stuff. Like, a lot of stuff.
We were a weird offspring of suburbia. On one hand, we were born and raised in them, on the other, we despised them entirely. The suburbs had a sort of horrifying homogenizing effect on people, like a giant machine whose only purpose was to take smart people and run them down with petty standards and achievements until they were as boring and personalityless as most of the people who built them. So, like tumors upsetting an otherwise placid existence, we set ourselves out to destroy anything and everything that typified the place where we lived.   
The porta potty thing started one night around midnight when we were walking through a part of the development that was still under construction. It was standing there like a giant, toothpaste-green beacon. I knew I wanted to push it over, but at the same time, I didn’t want to touch it. It was a giant plastic toilet, after all. Lord only knows what might happen if I tipped it over. I could see the same deliberation in Revi’s eyes too. We must have come to the same conclusion at the same time because both our hands were on it simultaneously. 
This turd-house was going to get flushed.
A big push and down it went. A great swash of horrifying blue liquid and feces came rushing out of it with a loud, "glurping" kind of sound. We stared at it for a moment proud of ourselves, when suddenly there was a noise off in the distance like someone coming to investigate, and we bolted away from the scene of the crime laughing like maniacs in the night.
After that, we couldn’t pass by a porta potty without toppling it over. Dare I say, it became one of our things. (See blog entry #2 about how teenagers give themselves “things.”) One night in Texas for example, we pushed over 23 porta potties in one night. Tipping over portable toilets was a sign of solidarity. Of fraternity.
This is just a dramatization, but it's pretty much what it looked like when we were done. Times 5. 
But this night we really took this shit too far. We’d been driving around in my old 1992 Mustang convertible with the top down (because it was stuck that way), when we saw a porta potty. We were in a very affluent neighborhood, the streets were lined with giant, stucco McMansions, but one house was still under construction and guess what was in it's driveway?
I put the car in park but left it running so we could make a quick getaway. Then we jumped over the doors, walked up to the portable toilet, and pushed it over. We sprinted back to the car gigling, jumped back over the doors, and then I put the car in drive.
Back when you could still afford to get away.
But then a curious idea overcame me. Instead of driving away, I sat there with my leather-cut-off-gloved hands on the steering wheel smiling crookedly at Revi. I've written before that Revi and I were almost telepathically in sync when it came to our dubious deeds (See Blog #1 about car thievery), and this time was no exception. I looked over and he also had a mischievous smile on his face.
Slowly, I started to move the car towards the big blue box of poop, gently making contact with it and my front bumper. And then I started to push it down the street.
The flimsy plastic poop receptacle shook as I muscled my speed up- 10 mph, then 15, then 25. Weird blue liquid (which I've found out since is actually formaldehyde- the same stuff they use to embalm dead bodies) and human feces sloshed violently out of the thing, over the hood of my car and all over the road. Then I steered that bad boy right up onto some unfortunate person's lawn and literally lost control of my shit.
Which reminds me of a very valuable lesson I'd like to share with you about proper automotive maintenance: If you're ever driving a porta potty at 30 miles-an-hour over a bunch of people’s lawns, you're going to want some good, fresh windshield wiper blades installed on your car. The combination of blue formaldehyde and human feces is surprisingly opaque. If you haven't changed your windshield wiper blades in, oh, let's just say "ever," you will be flying completely blind out there- and trust me when I say that's a situation when you really want to be able to see what you're doing.
Poop and formaldehyde were getting everywhere. We wound the windows up and turned on the windshield wipers, but it really didn't help. Every time we hit a bump, which was every couple of seconds, a literal shit-storm would rain down on the front of the car.
After passing overall several lawns, we decided this shit wasn’t worth it and it was time to make a clean get away (no pun intended). I stopped the car, and then did a three point turn so that the porta potty was now directly behind me.
This is really when I should have just driven off and been done with the whole scene. I mean, what more could we have done? The neighborhood was thrashed, the porta potty was all busted up, end of story, right?
Sometimes you have to know when to quit. But the thing about committing horrible acts of vandalism is that if you ever knew “when to quit” them, you probably wouldn’t have started then in the first place. So I revved the engine, threw the car into reverse, and gave that flimsy blue toilet one last big bump with the back of my car.
It hit with a loud, satisfying crash and a spray of blue goo. But when I went to drive away, something curious happened- the porta potty came with me. It had got stuck on my back bumper and now poo and blue embalming fluid were sloshing all over the back of my truck.

And we couldn’t get it unstuck either! We tried stopping and starting real fast, and swerving all around, but to no avail. It looked like we were going to be dragging this thing home with us until Revi climbed to the back of my moving car, hung on to the trunk for dear life, and kicked the crap out of that porta potty until it finally disengaged.

Then we made for a speedy get away. So speedy (and let’s not forget somewhat blind), we ran straight through a red light and were nearly smashed to bits by a big rig. Lord knows what our parents would have thought if we had died covered in poop and stinky blue formaldehyde, one block away from a street bearing the same description.

I wrote a little while ago, that sometimes when you do something horrible, you get caught by the cops. Sometimes though, you’re lucky and get away clean. What I should have said was, “Sometimes, when you do something horrible, you might not get caught but you do get covered in shit for your troubles.” In those cases, it’s not the universe punishing you. It’s not even society. Sometimes doing something stupid and mean only really hurts yourself. And, whoever owns the porta potty. And like, 7 or 8 people’s lawns…

Actually, I take that back, what I did was way worse than getting a bit of feces on me- no matter how hard it was to wash off. (Probably would've helped if I hadn't waited a week to wash my car.) Seriously, I think about it now as an adult and I can’t even imagine how pissed off and frustrated someone ruining the front of my home would make me.
And you KNOW it's going to happen too. As soon as I get a lawn, I'm going to be sitting on my deck enjoying a drink, and BAM! There’s just going to be like 7 or 8 completely thrashed porta potties ALL over my lawn.

And while that maybe unavoidable, I hope that when all this karma does come back to bite me in the ass, I’ll be able to look at the situation with humility and humor. Bad things will happen to me, but I've also been that bad thing that happened to someone else, so there's really no reason for me to get all indignant about it. I hope I’ll be able to see a little bit of me in that a-hole who rams a porta potty into my yard with his car. And chances are pretty likely that I will too, because if I know anything about karma, I'll have probably fathered him. 
And in a weird way, deep down inside of me in a place I'll never tell him about, I'll be proud of him for doing it. 
Because here's the thing about teenage me- I wasn't just some crazy person who wanted to break stuff for no reason. I looked out at the world around me and I saw a problem with the suburbs, with the mentality in them. I couldn't define it then, but I can tell you it was the same mentality that led to an economic state that wiped out the middle class in America; it was the same mentality that created two giant floating continents of trash in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, BIGGER than the size of Texas; it was a mentality that didn't mind closing down American manufacturing plants and unemploying thousands so that Levi's and baseball gloves  could be bought a few dollars cheaper at the Wal-Mart; a culture that seemed to only be able to take the easy way out of things- whether in marriage or the way we take care of our environment. 
A culture that didn't care. 
A culture that- even though I was born and raised in it, fought in its military, and educated in its colleges- I could never, ever succeed in.

I saw this all as a teenager and I didn't know how to express the frustration and futility I felt, nor the anger of all these suburbanites hiding behind their white washed stucco walls ignoring the problems they were contributing to the world. So I drove my car out to a featureless housing complex, unidentifiable from any other suburban neighborhood on the west coast, and I got shit all over the place. 

February 14, 2014

One time when I was a kid, my girlfriend dressed me up as a Nazi on Valentine's Day then broke up with me.

This was my first ever girlfriend. Her name was Casey. Or maybe it was Sherry. Or … you know, I don’t remember. It was a long time ago. What I do remember is how awesome it felt to finally have a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. It felt like I was finally an adult.
I met her at a school dance. We danced a couple times, and then she told me rather forcefully, that I was now her boyfriend. Well, I wasn't one to argue. In fact, I thought it was pretty awesome. I didn't even care that she was ugly. I had a girlfriend.
The girl wasn't anything I’d call a girlfriend by my current adult standards. We never kissed, we only dated for two or three weeks, and in retrospect, I didn't even like her. Not that I knew that at the time though. Even though she smelled awful, she hit me a lot, and made me dress like a Nazi, I still found myself completely committed to the whole thing.
Despite the relationship being relatively larval compared to my real relationships, it did start two unhealthy habits that I've carried over throughout much of my adulthood: 1) Making an ass of myself to impress a girl I don’t even really like that much. And 2) Not knowing when to cut my losses and run.
For the kids out there, when you get into a relationship with a boy or a girl, you will find that there are these wonderful ‘behavioral quirks’ people have that we adults like to refer to as “red flags.” If you can catch onto these red flags fast enough and break it off, you can save yourself a lot of heartache down the line.
Not that I knew that at the time though. I wouldn't have known what to do with a red flag if it punched me in the face. Which this girl did. A lot. I’m not really sure why. I was a pretty mild mannered eighth-grader. Usually, given my history, when a girl punches me in the face, I figure she had a pretty good reason- but this girl just seemed mean.
And then there was the whole Nazi thing. Now, before you freak out, this was for a theatrical version of The Sound of Music and not some crazy Neo-Nazi death cult. Casey (or Sherry or whatever) was an extra in a big dance scene and convinced me to audition to be an extra also so I could be her on-stage dance partner. I’d never been in a play before. Even with those Catholic school Christmas recitals my class put on every year, my teachers usually just made me sing from off stage because I was so uncoordinated, I’d just screw everything up if allowed on stage. So being in a play was a pretty fricking scary thing for me.
Of course, I took solace in thinking I would just be an extra. That is until the casting director, this portly man who looked like Nathan Lane with a bad comb over, took one look at me and yelled “Nazi!” in front of the entire group. He wanted to cast me as Ralph and the girl begged me to take it. So I did. I had lines, and a song ("You Are 16 Going On 17"), and all sorts of crap I had to remember.
I was scared as hell. I wasn't good at theater stuff. Not only was I not good, I was bad. And I was going to have to perform in front of people who were also going to see how bad I was. And if there’s one thing I really don’t like, it’s being bad at stuff in public. (Which, I would like to point out, is entirely different from behaving badly in public, which I’m actually very good at.)
To add to that, there was the whole Nazi thing. Now, growing up blonde-haired and blue-eyed sort of gave me a bit of an anxiety complex about Nazis growing up. When you learn about World War II in school and they get to that bit about Nazi eugenics, if you look like me, everyone in class sort of turns around and stares at you like you had something to do with it. It makes a guy a tad nervous about the association.
Of course, I wasn't going to let anyone know how scared I was. I was trying to impress a girl after all, and when I do something stupid to try and impress a girl, I follow through.
So I learned all my lines, and practiced my song, and went to all the recitals, and got punched a lot by my sort-of-girlfriend, and I tried not to barf at the thought of sucking super badly in front of a huge group of judgmental strangers.
And then the big night came. I don’t know why, but they had the play on Valentine’s Day. Maybe they thought there was something romantic about a family running for their lives from a bunch of genocidal Germans or something. It’s hard to tell because theater people, God bless them, are weird as hell.
And honestly, it started OK. I did my song and said my lines, and even got a bit of a rush out of the whole thing.
And then it was time to change into my Nazi uniform. That was not a pretty sight. Thankfully no photo exists of it anywhere. My mom said, (ironically, I hope to dear God) that Hitler would have been very proud of me. I’m glad one of us would have been, because I sure wasn't.
But, even in the eighth grade, my ability to do stupid things to impress a girl had no bounds. And like today, it often backfired on me.
Like I said in a previous blog, often the thing that I do to impress a girl does not wind up impressing her at all. And my Nazi makeover did not impress (whatever her name was) at all. Right before I was supposed to go out on stage, on Valentine’s Day, dressed like a Nazi, my very first girlfriend broke up with me.
I’d like to say that I went out on stage afterwards, killed it, and I've had a love of performing ever since. Wouldn't that be an awesome ending to this story? A way better ending than walking out on stage crying, forgetting all my lines, telling a thoroughly bewildered audience that my girlfriend just broke up with me, and then running off stage never to return again. Way better.
So now we come to the wrap up, the part where I tell you the moral I learned in all this. But honestly, I can’t really say what it is. I still make an ass of myself trying to impress girls. And I still ignore red flags. Hell, I ignore red flags like people on the subway ignore crazy homeless guys.
But I have to believe that one day, I’ll make a total ass of myself impressing the right girl, and she’ll find it hilarious and endearing. And she’ll have some red flags and I’ll ignore them, just like she’ll ignore mine- because as much as we like to pretend otherwise, everyone has them. And maybe that’ll turn into the whole marriage thing, and we’ll have kids that we can dress up like the von Trapp family and have them sing songs when they go to bed.

Because, although I don’t know anything completely certain about love, I have to believe that this one thing is true: It's a lot easier for people to love you for who you are when you give them the opportunity to see who you really are first. 
And also, when you don't make them dress up like Nazis. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.  

January 25, 2014

One time when I was a kid, I was arrested for waving a samurai sword around in a dry cleaners.

One time when I was a kid, I was arrested for waving around a samurai sword in a dry cleaners.
Now, as I've stated before, I’ll pretty much do anything to impress a girl. What I haven’t said, is that often times the “anything” that I’ll do to impress a girl is not anything that would impress any girl EVER. Take for example, brandishing a sharp as hell katana in a dry cleaners. Maybe that would be romantic if I was saving her from a horde of ninjas. Maybe it would be romantic if she was really into guys with samurai swords and I’d, oh I don’t know, KNOWN HER AT ALL.
And far from “romantic,” maybe it would have been at least half way excusable if it’d been the first time I had ever made that mistake.
Unfortunately, it wasn't.
The first time (of many) I was ever suspended from school, it was for showing a cute girl my brother’s hunting knife, which fourth-grade me ignorantly brought to school for show and tell. She immediately told the teacher. Then in high school, I was promptly kicked out of school after bringing yet another one of my brother’s knives- a switch blade- to school and showing it off to the wrong people, who then reported me to the school police.
Now needless to say, A) I have no idea what girls are into. B) I have NO sense of when showing a knife or sword to a girl is OK. And C) I am totally shit at learning my lessons the first time around. And the second.
Which brings me to the samurai sword. I had bought it only weeks before from the mall in Phoenix. I’d just gotten a student credit card from Wells Fargo and my then girlfriend made me promise to use the card responsibly. I’m not sure if I just lied when I promised that, or if I genuinely had no grasp on the concept of “responsibility”, but the first thing I bought with that credit card was a Cinnabon. And then I walked into the cutlery store next door and bought a katana. To this day, I still can’t smell Cinnabon without thinking of swords.
It was a pretty awesome sword too. What is traditionally called a “stick katana” because it sort of looked like one long, curved piece of white oak. Samurai’s would hide their swords like that during a time when it was illegal to have them, which I figured was perfect for me because (I honestly believed) I could walk around with it and no one would know what it was.
An example of a stick katana. Toootally inconspicuous, right? 

My girlfriend was very angry when I showed her my purchase. “WHAT DO YOU NEED A SAMURAI SWORD FOR!?”
And because I was a cheeky little devil, I yelled back, “WHAT IF SOMEONE TRIES TO ATTACK ME WITH A KNIFE?!”
And because she didn't get the obvious humor of what I said, she yelled, “WHO’S GOING TO ATTACK YOU WITH A KNIFE IF YOU ARE WALKING AROUND WITH A SAMURAI SWORD?!”
And with a wry smile, I calmly said, “Exactly.” But once again, my infallible humor was lost on her.
A word of warning to any teenage boys who may be reading this: Think twice before deciding to behave like an obnoxious butthole to a well-intentioned girl. Sure it may seem funny at the time, but when you get arrested outside of a Pizza Hut trying to impress a completely different girl, which you will, and your girlfriend finds out about it, which she will, either one of two things will happen: If she’s a kind and generous person, she’ll put you out of your misery and break up with you. But if she’s an evil person with poison in her heart, she will stay with you. Because she now owns you. Forever.
You: “I think we should get Chinese tonight.”
Her: “Said the guy who wasted 150 bucks on a samurai sword and then got arrested.”
You: “OK, I guess we can try that new Turkish place you've been wanting to go to for three weeks.” (And then you wind up really liking it and she holds that over your head too.)
One person who thought the sword was an absolute stroke of genius was my best friend, Revi. He flew down to visit me in Phoenix a week or two after I bought it and we decided to take a road trip with it up to our home town, San Ramon, CA.

We kept the sword with us at all times. In the desert, we took pictures posing with it while filling up the tank at a gas station. When we stopped the night in So Cal at his sister Mariel’s place, we snuck out to the beach at night with the sword and bags full of fruit. Then under the light of the full moon, we took turns throwing fruit at each other and slicing it in midair. That’s right, we invented Fruit Ninja ten years before Fruit Ninja was even a thing. Suck it, smartphones.

The one and only Revi. Accept no imitations.

We arrived in San Ramon late the next day and met up with my family at my mom’s house. My mom ordered a pizza and Revi and I said we'd pick it up.
That’s when our luck ran out.
Next door to the Pizza Hut, there was this dry cleaning place. We still had a few minutes before the pizza was going to be ready, so Revi and I decide to go into the dry cleaners. I knew the Vietnamese girl who worked there from high school, and since I thought she was cute, I wanted to show off my samurai sword.
Now you may be thinking, “Why would you think that a girl who was of Vietnamese descent would be into a Japanese samurai sword???”
Well, I know that now! But let’s just chalk it up to youthful cultural naivety as opposed to blatant racism.
            But the real lack of judgment on my part was overestimating just how much I knew this girl- and how little she knew me.
Imagine this- you’re a 18 year old girl working at your parents’ dry cleaning place when all of a sudden a guy you sort of knew in high school but hadn't actually seen in two years walks into your shop with his friend. They’re both big guys- around six feet- and dressed like gothic bikers. And, oh yeah, they have a frickin’ samurai sword that they begin waving around the dry cleaners like they’re fighting off a bunch of invisible ninjas.
After they left, would you:
      A)    Leave the shop open and wait for the crazy people to come back and murder you?
      B)    Close up shop and then call the police and tell them that there are a couple gothic ronin bikers next door at the pizza place with a sharp ass sword and maybe the police might want to get down there before they start trying to slice pizzas with the damned thing.
Needless to say, she was a smart girl and alerted the police. The police responded quickly, and were outside the Pizza Hut waiting for us. with. their. guns. drawn.
Now, when I say they had their guns drawn, I don’t mean they had them in their holsters ready to be drawn. I don’t even mean that they had them out and pointed at the ground. They had their guns out and pointed right at our chests waiting for a good excuse to shoot us.
“Drop the stick,” they yelled, referring to the katana. “And the pizza!”
Revi and I spent the next three hours with those nice policemen. They asked us all sorts of questions like, “Where are your drugs?” (we had none), and, “Why are you walking around with a katana?” (Um… because it’s cool?)
Revi, with his hands cuffed behind his back, sat on the curb hoping to Dear God, that they didn't find the throwing stars, knives, or the über viscous looking "Batarang" knuckle dusters sitting in plain sight in the Mustang, whose ragged convertible top was currently down (because it was stuck that way, rusted as it was).
Because you had no idea what I meant when I said "knuckle dusters..." 
I spent it with my hands cuffed behind my back too, but since it was my sword, I was thrown on my back in the cop car. I have to say, I always thought those Crown Vic's would be much more comfortable in the back. They aren't.
Now, for those of you who have never been arrested, I'll tell you that the worst part about it is how public it is. Smiling nervously at the Pizza Hut patrons walking in and out of the dining establishment as if to say, "Just a big misunderstanding people! We'll all be laughing at this in ten years on my blog!" Everybody stares walking by to see the gothic vampire bikers in handcuffs and the police waving a samurai sword in the air as if getting ready to perform the final part of harakiri. And just like harakiri, you feel gutted because all the pride you had walking around in your bad-assed leather pants, chains, spiked gauntlets, tall boots, and leather jacket is turned around on you and you feel like a total freak just for being yourself. 
Thankfully, someone from Pizza Hut called my mom who then came down and sorted out the whole mess. It took a while, but eventually she convinced them that despite looking like a couple of slasher-maniacs, we were really nice boys whose only real crime (apart from brandishing a somewhat poorly concealed deadly weapon) was: for me- becoming a total idiot around cute girls; and for Revi- thinking anything good could come out of letting me try and impress a girl.
The police said they’d let me go, but they were taking the sword. Seeing as how I was going to lose it regardless, I thought this was a pretty sweet deal.

It’s an odd coincidence, but some years later I saw what looked like my stick katana. I found it at the garage sale of a retired police officer living here in Sacramento. I swear, it could have been the exact same sword. It even had scuff marks on the tip of the wooden scabbard as though someone had used it like a cane everywhere he went for a couple weeks. I picked it up in my hands, felt the heft of it. It seemed cheaper than I remembered. More of a costume piece than a serious sword. I felt a serious temptation to take it out of the scabbard and wave it around a little bit. A mischievous smile crept over my face.
“What are you looking at?” said my then girlfriend.
“Just an old samurai sword,” I told her. “Nothing that impressive.”

At least, that's what I should have said.

Truth is, that last part was a total lie. What I really said was, “Oh my god, I used to have this samurai sword when I was a kid! Ah, I really wish I had fifty bucks so I could buy it!” And then I stared at it longingly before putting it down.
Because even though I’m an adult now, even though I've given up the chains and leather pants and other crap I used to wear, I still think swords are cool. And maybe that’s not the most mature thing in the whole world, but what’s the use of all of these life lessons I learned as a kid if I can’t keep part of that person I was alive and protected inside of me?
            And you know what I’m going to protect him with…

January 6, 2014

One time when I was a kid, I broke into an apartment and peed all over the place.

One time when I was a kid, my best friend and I broke into an apartment and peed all over the place.

Let me tell you, sometimes in life you’ll go out and do something incredibly stupid and get off scot-free. Sometimes, the police nab you and you get handcuffed and put into the back of a cop car until your mom comes and convinces the police officers that you’re really a very nice boy and you didn't intend to threaten anyone by waving your samurai sword around in the Pizza Hut, you were just trying to show it off to the cute Asian girl behind the counter because you are retarded and thought that that’s what cute Asian girls were into.  

But other times, you do something beyond stupid. You do something so completely dickish and gross that, because the cops don't catch you, the universe itself has to punish you. And it waits for JUST the right time to do it.

Like at a job interview. To become a police officer.

Which is where I’m going to start.

So, I was 24 and had just got out of the military. I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I hadn't been out very long when I got an interview to work with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department as a Sheriff’s Deputy/Prison Guard. It was a good paying job, with good benefits, but more importantly, it seemed like my best chance to prove I wasn't a loser to my then wife, and save my marriage.

I was being interviewed by this big, tough looking, mustachioed sergeant. It started off great- I came suited-up and professional looking; I spoke about my military experience very eloquently; and I seemed bright and sharp.

And then the background part of the interview started. The sergeant prefaced this part of the interview by saying that all answers would be checked against a polygraph test, and that even if I told him about something bad or illegal, it wouldn't necessarily be held against me as long as I told the truth.

Once again, I was doing OK. I didn't have any recent encounters with drugs. I didn't have a problem with drinking. I hadn't broken the law or been arrested lately. And then he asked me the question that ended it all. He asked, “Have you ever committed any acts of vandalism for which you were never caught?”

The short answer was, “Yes. Hundreds.” That’s basically what Revi and I did for entertainment as kids. We broke things, set them on fire, threw them into porta-potties, and then pushed the porta-potties over onto someone’s lawn.

Not that I was going to tell this guy that though. Being a juvenile delinquent teaches you a couple things about telling cops about the horrible things you've done- for example: don’t do it, stupid. But still, I couldn't pass a polygraph test if I lied, and I really wanted to get this job and save my marriage. So I decided to take a chance and tell the truth.

Of course, I could have delivered “the truth” a little better. I could have been a bit more eloquent. I could have told him about the pain and the loss I experienced as a kid, and how all those troubled feelings came out through so many acts of vandalism, and how deeply I regretted them now as an adult.

But unfortunately, when he asked about my previous acts of vandalism, the first thing “the truth” manifested itself as was a long, drawn-out, Bevis and Butt-Head like laugh (“Huh. Huh, huh huh, huh. Huh.") and a nervous smile.

And then I proceeded to tell this police officer, in as professional of a way as I could, every horrible and weird act of vandalism I could think of. 

It went on for about a half an hour. The whole time I was talking, the deputy was as quiet as a priest in a confessional. I thought, Hey, maybe this won’t disqualify me from a job after all! Maybe it’s all OK, because I’m telling the truth like he wanted! The deputy was so calm, so professional. And then, I told the story that finally BROKE HIM.

The conversation went like this:

Me- And this other time, my best friend Revi and I broke into this apartment and peed all over the place.

The Deputy- Excuse me, what?!

Me- Um, yeah, one time my best friend and I broke into this apartment and peed all over it. And another time we tipped over this guy’s basketball pole and-

The Deputy (becoming noticeably agitated)- No, no, no, go back and explain to me exactly what you did in this apartment.

Me (becoming physically nervous. The deputy seemed to be swelling up. Maybe he wasn't angry, maybe he was just part puffer fish, but he sure seemed angry.)- Yeah, one time we were staying at his uncle’s apartment in Santa Clarita. Down in Southern California. We had climbed up onto the roof and were running around from rooftop to rooftop. It was flat, and disjointed, so you could jump from one to another pretty easily.

The Deputy- Get to the peeing.

Me- Oh, well, we’d found a vacant apartment, so we thought we’d climb down onto its balcony from the roof and see if we could get inside. Revi said that we probably couldn't get inside, but I tried the sliding glass door and it was unlocked, so we let ourselves in.

Me (again)- Once we were in the apartment, Revi said he had to go to the bathroom. While he was in there, I thought to myself, When he’s done, I’ll go in and pee in the bathtub. It’ll be so funny! But then, right as I thought that, I heard the distinct sound of Revi peeing in the bathtub. And in the sink. And on the floor. “You stole my idea, you rat bastard!” I yelled. I could hear Revi’s maniacal laughter from inside. So, I start looking around for somewhere else to pee. I found an open washer machine and I peed all over it.

And that was the end of the story for me, I was ready to move onto the next question. However, the deputy was still unsatisfied.

The Deputy (He leans towards me. His face flushed almost to a shade of purple. And then…)- BUT WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU BREAK INTO AN APARTMENT AND PEE ALL OVER THE WASHING MACHINE!

Now at this point, I should have tried to calm him down. I should have explained that I wasn't that person anymore. Crap, I was a tried and true military veteran now. Practically a war hero (sort-of, not really). But instead, I tried to explain why I did it to him with the logic I used when I was a kid. This was probably a mistake in hindsight.

Me- Well, you see, he (I pointed towards an imaginary Revi figure, who was not in the room) peed in the bathtub... So I had to outdo him!

I looked at the raging police man for a spark of recognition. Surely, he must have played games of one-upmanship with his friends? Involving breaking and entering and/or urinating?

As it turns out, he hadn't.

The Sheriff’s Deputy composed himself, but looked at me as if he felt like a worse human being just for having met me. Then he said very calmly, “Well, that’s all the questions I have for you today. You’ll be contacted in seven to ten days if you’re selected for the next phase of the interview process.” (I wasn't.)

And it’s funny, but even when I left the interview I still felt like because I’d told the truth, I had a good chance of getting to the next phase of that interview process- the polygraph test. I’d bared my soul, confessed every wrong deed I’d ever done, and hopefully been absolved.

I got to keep that sense of inner peace for all of two minutes before I called Revi to tell him all about the interview. I told him how much I told the officer and his reaction to the peeing story. And then Revi asked me something that brought my entire world down. He asked, “Did you tell him about that one time when you totaled that dumpster while you had a guy locked in your trunk?” I hadn't. And then he asked me another thing, and another, and another and I hadn't told the sheriff’s deputy ANY of them. And then I realized that I was never going to pass a polygraph test, because as much as I could tell the officer, there was always going to be SO much more I hadn't.

I’m not sure what the life lesson you should take away from this story is, because honestly, I’m torn between two. So I’ll present them both and you can decide which you think is most valuable to you.

Option A-

This taught me something important about job interviews that I still use to this very day and that I would like to now pass onto you: Even with the threat of a polygraph test on the line, for God’s sake, just frickin' LIE. You’ll never get anywhere in life if you let your past mistakes drag you down. And whatever you do, don’t ever tell your potential employer about the time you broke into an apartment and peed all over the place. I can promise you, they won’t understand.

Option B-

Screw option A. Be yourself. If I had got that job, and “saved my marriage,” I’d be a horribly unhappy person today. My marriage sucked and my ex-wife was a demeaning and abusive adulteress. After the divorce, I decided to follow my dreams of being a writer. Two weeks ago, I got my MA in Creative Writing. Even though life isn't exactly perfect right now, I still have me and the people in my life who appreciate me for who I am. 

So yeah, being yourself might lead to screwing up a couple job interviews, but it could lead to something much more fulfilling. It’s up to you to decide which path you want to walk.

Valuable life lessons, kids. 

December 9, 2013

One time when I was a kid, I stole my mom’s credit card and bought a bunch of porno.

One time when I was a kid, I stole my mom’s credit card and bought a bunch of porno. This taught me a few life lessons and I’d like to share here with you now.

1.     Don’t buy porno with your mom’s stolen credit card. SERIOUSLY. If you think your parents walking in on you masturbating is embarrassing, think of how much worse it is when they’re shaking their credit card bill in hand and there’s some naughty nurse getting gang banged by three minotaurs on your TV. IT’S A LOT WORSE.

2.     I don’t know what the connection is between Disney and porno, but EVERY SINGLE VHS porno originally started out its life as a Disney movie. Usually one of those old, “Disney Sing Along Songs” that you had as a kid. You know, the tapes that collected all the songs from movies like Beauty and The Beast and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (respectable porno names in their own right) onto a single VHS cassette that your little sister could then play over and over again until your ears bled? Peel back the sticker label of just about any VHS porno, and you’ll see a big fat Disney logo etched into the cassette.
I know this because when you buy porno with your mom’s stolen credit card as a kid, you tend not to want to leave it out in plain sight. People start asking questions like, “What is this Cockzilla movie?” or, “The Creature from the Pube Lagoon? That sounds scary!” But having all your porno disguised as children’s movies brings up its own set of problems. Namely, when your little brothers decide they really want to sing along to some Disney songs and pull the tapes out of your room without asking. And also, when my parents did finally catch me and demanded the ill-gotten pornos, I handed them a bunch of Disney movies and they looked at me like I was insane.
 It’s sort of an embarrassing experience.

3.     If you DO wind up buying porno with your mom’s stolen credit card, whatever you do, DO NOT record the soundtrack from one of those pornos (exaggerated grunting and all) onto a music cassette tape- no matter HOW catchy the song is. And especially don’t pick up your best friend, Revi, from high school blasting that song in your crappy 4-banger Mustang convertible. And if you’re really stupid, and you do pick Revi up, for the love of God, don’t drive down the street swerving over the double yellow line like a maniac, blasting porno music, while you and Revi scream obscenities at junior high kids on your way from the high school to the junior high where your sister is waiting for a ride.
This is because there is a cop right behind you THE WHOLE FREAKING TIME. And he wasn’t just driving behind us silently, oh no. He was blaring his siren, flashing his lights, and screaming at us with his head out the window for a whole fricken’ mile! We were just too caught up in being total jackasses to notice.
And this is how angry we made that cop- he brings his car to a screaming halt behind us in the crowded junior high parking lot, jumps out, slams his door, and then, in front of parents, teachers, and little kids, proceeds to yell every conceivable swear word known to man at us. He was so mad, and his face was turning so purple, that I honestly wondered if he would just pull out his gun and shoot us right then and there. He was so pissed, he ran out of breath swearing at us and nearly doubled over. And then! And then he stopped, and looked around at all the parents and kids staring wide eyed at HIM, and he's so embarrassed by his own behavior, that he lets us off without even so much as a warning! Which was really incredibly lucky for me, because otherwise I would have probably gone to jail. All this because I stole my mom’s credit card and bought porno.

So this is my advice to all the people out there in need of a little wisdom: For the love of God, look for it somewhere else. Seriously, didn't you read the crap I just wrote? I do not have a good sense of judgment. Also, my mom deserves some kind of medal for putting up a jerk-off like me (pun sooo intended).

Damned kids. 

July 22, 2013

One time when I was a kid, I jumped off a cliff to impress a girl. Naked. In public. On a cold day.

One time when I was a kid, I jumped off a cliff to impress a girl. As you've probably guessed, it all went horribly wrong. Not in the sense that I was killed or anything- this story would be much harder to write if I was dead (lots of complicated emotions, there).

No, it went wrong in a whole other set of ways much more embarrassing than falling to my death in front of a girl I barely liked. But in a lot of ways, it probably would have been better if I had died. At least then I wouldn't have had to suffer the embarrassment of so many people seeing my naked pimply butt on such a cold day. 

But I digress.

It all started because, well, I’ll basically do anything to impress a girl. Anything. One time I walked into moving traffic until a girl would tell me her phone number (totally worked too). Another time, I wound up with a full body bruise after I did a face plant into a mountain because a girl suggested we do mountain biking for a date. I’d never gone before, but of course acted like I’d done it a million times. Another time, I got punched in the junk and had my glasses broken by a girl who turned out to be a total sadist. I figured out she was a sadist halfway through the date. Common sense would be to end the date after the first time my junk was punched, but I stayed and tried to pretend like it was the most normal thing I'd ever done on a date.

See the thing about me is it doesn't matter if I like a girl or if I can see a future, I’ll still try to impress her. During the time this story takes place, I was dating a girl who was a complete nutter. If you don’t believe me, let me pose a hypothetical situation for you: Let’s say you’re sitting at home and you need to pee. The bathroom is perfectly free. Do you:

A)     Go use the restroom like a sensible human being.
B)      Go outside, squat down, and wee in the dirt.

Now, I like peeing outside as much as the next red blooded American, but I don’t make a point of doing it EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to the bathroom. However, this girl would not pee in a perfectly good restroom. Whether we were at her house, a restaurant, a hospital, or wherever, she would excuse herself and go find a bush outside.

You know how teenagers have things. Like, how they’ll assign themselves daft little “quirks” in order to seem more personable or something? Well, this girl decided her little “quirk” would be peeing outside. And just like people with other quirks, she would tell people about her quirk as if it made for interesting conversation. “What am I doing you ask? I’m peeing outside. It’s my thing.”
Make no mistake, she was crazy in a whole lot of other ways too. But that’s the one insane thing I want to press upon you, because that’s the person I nearly killed myself trying to impress- THE GIRL WHO PEES OUTSIDE. And her friends.

I don’t remember a whole lot about her friends other than her best friend was SO MUCH cuter than her, and I really wanted to impress her too. And while I’m being honest, I also wanted to impress her best friend’s boyfriend, the long haired, leather pants wearing gothic mega-douche.

We had decided to drive down this canyon road where they had previously found a swimming hole formed beneath a small concrete dam in the creek. The canyon itself was beautiful. I put the top down on my Mustang, so nothing separated us from the steep canyon walls and open sky.

When we got to the swimming hole and parked, we found that the nice weather had attracted quite a number of people to the small pool. The dam wall rose 20 feet above it and some people were jumping off it into the swimming hole. This doesn't sound all that dangerous, until you looked below the dam wall and noticed that perpendicular to the wall, a large concrete slab jettisoned out about 4 or 5 feet before the start of the swimming hole. Anyone who jumped off the cliff would have to clear that or they would be basically killed. To add to that, the dam wall everyone was jumping off had slimy algae growing on it, making it all the more likely someone would slip jumping off the cliff wall and do a face plant on the concrete slab below.

Also, have I ever mentioned that I’m afraid of heights? Terrified, actually. They give me that “whole body’s gone numb and I’m about to poo my shorts” kind of feeling. Never in a million years would I jump off something like that. Never, that is, unless I was trying to impress a girl. Because that’s just the sort of man I am- a stupid one.

So I turned to my girlfriend, and her best friend, and her best friend’s giant portable douche-bag, then I pointed to the cliff and said, “Watch this,” like a total cock.  

Now, Sigmund Freud theorized that man has a drive stronger than his urge to procreate. Stronger than his need to survive.  He called it a “death drive” and said that men had urges that made them act counter intuitively to survival. That people, in some way, actually want to die.

Well, I don’t think that sounds right at all.

I don’t want to have a death drive. In fact, I hope dying is the last thing I ever do. It seems quite unpleasant. And maybe that’s why once I climbed up to the top of that 20 foot wall, I completely froze. I’ll admit that there was a force acting against my will to survive, a force that made me act counter intuitively to a nice long happy life, but it wasn't a death drive- it was a sex drive. And on the top of that dam, the gears of my sex drive and the gears of my survival drive were grinding violently against each other until all faculties of my dumb teenager mind came to a crashing halt altogether.

And there I stayed. For what seemed. like. forever.

This was a bit embarrassing for me, because as much as I hate heights, I hate the thought of people knowing that I’m afraid of something even more, and right now I had a whole group of people standing 20 feet below watching me be afraid of something.

Now what I should have told myself was, “What are you doing this for, you moron? This girl doesn’t even know how to use a bathroom. WTF??? Instead of wasting your time up here, why don’t you get off this damn wall and find yourself a better girlfriend!”

But after about 10 minutes of standing nervously on a slippery dam wall staring down certain doom to impress a girl who didn't think indoor plumbing was a particularly grand idea, I said this to myself instead, “I bet you wouldn't be so nervous if you were naked. And then you’d have to jump off because you’d be naked. Brilliant!”

So, I stripped my clothes off and threw them dramatically down the cliff to crowd who hooted and hollered at me. And for a second, I wasn't nearly as nervous as I’d been.

And then I had a thought: if I had jumped to my death before, I’d be just another kid who’d died in a freak accident. But NOW if I died, I’d be the naked idiot whose naked dead body the paramedics would have to scrape off the concrete slab below. It’d be a whole new level of stupid. I’d probably be on the news. People would talk about it at school. My parents would hear about it. And worse yet, my little brother would hear about it.”

So for the second time that day, I froze. Only this time I was naked.

For what seemed like hours, I stood on the tip of that damn dam naked for all the world to see. I stood for so long, the weather had time to spoil: the clouds turned grey; the temperature dropped; and the resulting chill guaranteed that my naked body had absolutely NO chance of impressing anyone.

Finally after what felt like hours on display up there, my Freudian death drive mercifully kicked in. A death drive suddenly made perfect sense- dead people don’t need to worry about girls who don’t pee inside. Dead people also don’t need to worry about dying naked or shriveled penises. In heaven, everyone is naked, there is no shrinkage, and everyone’s penis has little wings on it so no one ever says “To the left” when someone says, “How’s it hanging?”

So with all the strength I had left in my numb legs, I pushed off the side of the concrete wall and then clumsily slipped right off the edge of it.

As I fell awkwardly to my death, I remember thinking, “Well, at least I won’t have to see these assholes ever again.” And then the worst thing ever happened: I didn't hit the concrete slab.

I came close. Super close. Close enough to feel the air between the slab and the back of my skull as I fell past it. But before I knew it, I was deep in the pool and swimming up for air.

There was no hooting or hollering to greet me, of course. I think everyone had gotten bored of the whole thing by that point and just wanted to go home. Lord knows I did. But we stayed for a half hour more like nothing had ever happened. I even walked around naked for a few extra minutes trying to make what had been a moment of extreme vulnerability seem like nothing more than voyeuristic bravado.

But it wasn't, and everyone knew it. And I knew everyone knew it, too.

So now we come to the part of the story where I say this was the last time I ever did anything incredibly stupid to impress a girl. I met a new girl who liked me for me and learned the value of just being myself. Only it wasn't and I didn't.

And thank God too. If I never did another stupid thing to impress a girl, I would have missed out on 99.9% of my greatest adventures. I wouldn't have joined the military. I wouldn't have hiked the John Muir Trail. And I definitely would never had gone back to college to get my degree.

When it all comes down to it, what’s so bad about making a cock out of yourself trying to impress people? What's so glorious about "just being you"?  In reality, the ridiculous things I've done to impress people are who I am. My life is a long string of bad choices to impress girls, family, friends, girls, pedestrians, random people sitting around in coffee shops, people from other countries, people I don't like, aliens from outer space, Santa Claus, girls, and puppies.

And maybe all that was wrong. But hey, I was just being myself.