Originally published in Seattle Weekly
I’ve had a very busy week, flitting from this high-society party to that glamorous music industry shindig, hobnobbing with famous and brilliant artists and musicians, and brooding introspectively in front of a crackling fire with a beautiful Russian double-agent, but unfortunately the various non-disclosure agreements I was coerced to sign prohibit me from even referring to those events in print. Instead, I intended to offer my exegesis of the book of Deuteronomy, (which bares a surprising resemblance to the later work of Don Rickles,) when I received a curious letter from my editors at the Seattle Weekly.
I was asked to undertake this column a month or so ago as a short-term “residency”, which served the purpose of legitimizing my claim that I was a “journalist” and so therefore would be financially unable to make restitution to the plaintiffs in the unfortunate miscarriage of justice that was the judgment against me in Radcliffe v. Roderick’s Miracle Enhancement Pants. That ruse accomplished I was prepared to draw the curtain on my writing career in order to concentrate exclusively on fleecing consumers by finding ways to get them to pay me to play guitar. But now the brain-trust in the executive office suites of the Seattle Weekly, who answer directly to the cabal that runs the Village Voice from a subterranean cavern a mile under the Zugspitze, who in turn must submit to weekly spankings by the undergraduate members of Skull and Bones, have proposed that I continue to columnize.
This puts me in a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, the notoriety that accompanies being a columnist for a weekly newspaper is a bit overwhelming for someone as naturally shy and retiring as myself. The back-slapping and ballyhoo that accompany every publishing day threaten to knock the fedora with the “press” ticket right off my head. My brother Whitey, who plays the role of the Red Rasputin at the Showbox Theater, even complained that people are mistaking him for me, which has always irritated him since we were little kids back in the fjords of Norway. On the other hand the perquisites of mainstream journalism are astonishing. My Seattle Weekly press pass has already proved invaluable in twice excusing me from fifth period gym class. Also, I get to choose any available seat at matinees at the Seven Gables Theater.
I remember when I first came to this windswept, seaport town. I walked the mean streets of Broadway, shoulders hunched against the driving rain, hands jammed deep into the pockets of my Filson jacket. My soggy spiral-bound notebook brimmed with angsty poetry and discomfiting doodles of barmaids. I chance gazed upon the Seattle Weekly in its street-corner dispenser, (it cost money then!), and wondered how a young man could ever rise in life so high as to write a cover story therein on Seattle’s ten best noodle restaurants? I threw my notebook down in frustration and disgust and shook my fists at the gray, unrelenting sky. “How many roads must a man walk down?” I yelled, still walking down Broadway. And the years went by. (This story is consolidated from many separate instances during that era where I threw notebooks in frustration and disgust, wondered how I could get hired to write for the Seattle Weekly, shook my fists at the sky, and where the Seattle Weekly rated the ten best noodle houses. It does not represent an actual event and is for illustrative purposes only.)
Now I’m a bona fide columnist. Yes, I think I’ll take the Weekly up on their offer, and not just because the lucrative contract includes a cubic zirconia clause with which to dazzle my mistresses. It’s because I’m a man with stories to tell!
Story Number One:
I happen to be missing one of my front teeth. Normally when a man my age is missing one of his front teeth it’s a sign that things aren’t going so well for him, but in my case things have never been better. The missing tooth does inspire curiosity, however, so I’ll tell the story of how I lost it.
When I went off to college, the student housing people sent me a questionnaire, (which I filled out with the same dedication to accuracy and personal integrity that I bring to my journalistic work) promising that they would match me up with a roommate who shared my interests. I confess, I was more than eager to meet whomever they picked, because my questionnaire was, I thought, hilariously offbeat. I pictured someone smirkingly ironic like MTV VJ Kevin Seal. Imagine my horror when my freshman roommate turned out to be the tassel-loafer wearing, sailboat sailing, hair gel applying, argyle sweater knotting, Haircut 100 listening, damn pretty-boy snob Greg Roberts. Did they take my sarcastic responses seriously? During the first week we lived together he made a masking tape line down the middle of our room and UP THE WALL demarcating his side from mine, although in his defense I did take apart all the electrical outlets in our room in a scheme to “rewire” the place and shocked myself insensible. Anyway, we ended up having a grudging respect and friendship, although tempered by some genuine cultural incomprehension like you might have with a foreign-exchange student. And we used to fight, as boys will.
One day some item of my clothing, I think a shoe, fell off the pile on my side of the tape line and onto the spotless floor of his side and, in a fit of pique, he picked it up and threw it out the window. I was incredulous, and threw out a pair of his shoes. Soon we were chucking each other’s things out the window and onto the lawn in front of the dorm, and eventually he was swinging a nine-iron at me (preppy!) while I slap-boxed him and hid in the closet. Finally I hit him a little too hard and heard his head conk against the cinder block wall of our dorm room with a sickening ‘klunk” like a honeydew melon. His eyes turned red with rage and he chased me out of the room and down the hall screaming obscenities in hot pursuit. He was fairly dangerous with that nine-iron, so I made the fatal error of trying to escape by heading down the stairs.
Old Greg Roberts was madder than a preppy with a bonked head. I was starting down the stairs at a full run when he dove at me from the top step, catching me around the arms and diving with me down the staircase. He rode me down, actually, and we landed on the banister at the bottom on my teeth. When I came to I was flat on my back with my mouth overflowing with blood and the RA standing over me screaming in panic. The story as it was told to me later was that the RA was screaming “Call a doctor, call a doctor!” and I reached up, took the pen from his shirt pocket and wrote on the wall next to my head, “Not a doctor, idiot, a dentist.”
Anyway, most recently I broke the fake tooth I had in there on a piece of Maguro sushi in Toronto. Finally done in by the softest of all foods. I don’t know what happened to Greg Roberts but I’m sure he’s a stockbroker or real estate mortgage amortizer or portfolio manager, and I bet his wife is pretty. I hope he’s bald.