November 27, 2010

Important Advice: Don't Follow the Blinking Martini Glass

My college once hired a hypnotist to perform for the student body. I had always been incredibly curious about what it was like to be hypnotised, but I also had reservations about being made a fool in front my peers. That was a job I usually reserved for myself.

Most hypnosis volunteers I had seen in the past ended up like this:

I was especially nervous because I secretly find Cameron Diaz funny and once laughed a little too hard during a screening of "The Holiday." In the end, curiosity won out and I bum rushed the stage when the guy asked for participants. He told us that anyone who wanted to volunteer could come up, but for some reason everyone got needlessly competitive about getting up there.

The hypnotist looked ridiculous...

...but the first thing he did was make fun of my plaid shorts. This was ironic but also probably somewhat fair.

Finally, it was time for him to do his voodoo magic. This is when things went terribly wrong.

He started with small tricks like making us believe that we could not separate our clasped hands. The crowd chuckled as we tried to pry them apart. But then he made us "sleep." When he snapped his fingers, we all slumped over. He began giving us instructions about how we would believe we were driving race cars at top speeds. When he snapped his fingers, everyone on stage was going wild.

Everyone but me, that is. I was somehow rendered completely incapable of speech, movement, cognition, or non-zombie-like behavior.

I just sat there uselessly. Several photos taken from the audience revealed that my pupils were dilated to the size of dinner plates. At first everyone thought it was pretty funny.

But as the show continued and the hypnotist created new, hilarious scenarios, I remained in a drooling, baby-like state. People started getting nervous, not sure if this was normal.

I could hear and see everything that was happening, but I was simply unable to react properly to stimuli. I started to notice that even the hypnotist was looking at me a little worriedly. I would have become upset, but nothing really seemed to matter in my morphine-like condition. Not even the drool that was collecting around my chair.

Finally, when he snapped us all out of it, I kinda came back to. People crowded around telling me they were relieved and asking me what had happened. I really couldn't explain. I think I was still in a bit of a daze, like after one of those naps that lasts too long and stays with you for a while.

A few days later, I overheard someone I didn't know point me out to his friends and say, "That's that kid on drugs." I was disturbed but figured I had misunderstood. Then it happened again. And then a third time. I learned that everyone who didn't know me on campus assumed that I was addicted to heavy narcotics based on the hypnotist show. Apparently being hypnotised wasn't a logical enough explanation.

And that's the unlikely story of how I got street cred.

November 18, 2010

Little League Chew

When I was seven years old my parents signed me up for little league. I was reluctant to say the least. It was my understanding that you had to wear long pants for baseball. If there was one thing I hated, it was long pants. And there were so many other sports that didn't require long pants! Swimming, for instance, was virtually impossible in long pants. Nonetheless, we were Americans so I found myself in long stretchy pants, spiky shoes, and a mouth full of Big League Chew.

Lacking keen depth perception, I was the perfect choice for second string right fielder.

It was usually pretty quiet in the outfield, being that we were seven an all. My dad would routinely slap his hand over his closed eyes tell me for the last time not to sit down in the grass. I needed to focus. Come to think of it, paying attention during a game was not easy for any of us Pirates.

Our record was pretty bleak. This all came to a head during one particular practice. Coach noticed that all of us were staring off into space while someone was batting, and a warning was in order. He hollered for us to bring it in, so naturally we ambled toward him. Hustling wasn't really our thing.

“I can’t have you all staring into space. Not while someone is batting. You have to pay attention at all times or a stray ball could nail you. Is that clear?”


“Okay. Now hustle back out there.”

I loped back out to right field and immediately resumed staring into space. The next pitch, the very next pitch, a kid on our team did something none of us had ever done before.

Of all the places in the entire universe where that ball could have landed:

It ended up right on my nose. I never saw it coming. I heard a loud crack somewhere deep inside my skull, stumbled back into the grass, and saw my shirt turn from white to red.

I still wasn’t sure what had happened when the whole team crowded around. Everything looked all weird and shimmery.

“Now this is exactly what I was talking about!" barked Coach. Do you all see why you can’t stare off into space?! Do you see?!”

I practically expected him to dip his finger in my blood and write“PAY ATTENTION” on my forehead. I looked up to see my mom tearing onto the field. She swooped me out of the crowd and into the car. I started realizing that this was a pretty good deal. It didn’t really hurt all that badly (on account of the shock), I got to look at a whole lot of my own blood, and most importantly, I got to get out of my long pants early.

That wasn’t the only bloodshed I was involved in that Little League season. A few days before one of our games, sickness spread throughout half the team. Suddenly I became the second baseman. I was terrified. Everyone looked so much bigger closer up.

Soon, a runner was headed toward second base and someone chucked me the ball. God made it so that the ball landed in my mitt and stayed there. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I remembered learning that you tagged people to get them out once you had the ball. As the runner approached, I took the ball and hit him with it, right in the face.

He went down like a rock and I started jumping up and down. The crowd came running, but I began to notice that they were not crowding around me to congratulate me. They ran toward the other kid who was grunting on the ground. There was blood all over his face. Wasn't this just a part of the game? One of the parents looked at me angrily. “Why did you do that?!” Baseball made NO sense.

And that's how I came to love soccer.

November 16, 2010

November 15, 2010

Oodles of Noodles

I have never been the political activist type. In college, I recall that some people I knew drove up to D.C for a rally to end hunger and homelessness. I didn't really know what all that entailed, but I pictured that they got out of the car, joined a mob, and proceeded to yell and shake their fists in the direction of official looking buildings.

I guess I'm just not emotional enough for that kind of thing. I never really understood the whole being passionate concept.

Then one day, I accidentally stumbled into the middle of a controversy of which I still, to this day, am not exactly sure what the message was.

It was spring semester of my freshman year when our art professor told us we needed to do an impactful installation art piece, no drawings or paintings allowed. I sat down with my art partner, a pretty, sophomore girl, and we started brainstorming. Then we presented our top ideas to the professor. I suggested we wrap an entire tree on campus in tin foil. The professor asked what that would express. Well I sure as heck didn't know so I stammered something about industry injecting itself into the inner xylem and phloem of our society or some crap. Plus, it would look cool. He wasn't buying it so we went back to the drawing board. That's when we came up with the best idea.

We would build a giant, to-scale place setting of spaghetti and meatballs! This didn't really symbolize anything either, but it was cool so we picked it.

We snuck into the kitchen of a frat house to cook about 80 pounds of spaghetti. It made me glad that I didn't regularly eat there.

We boiled as many industrial sized pots of water as we could and dumped in the pasta. One thing we hadn't counted on was the fact that the pasta was going to be a lot heavier once it was cooked. It also expanded a whole lot. We dumped it into several trash bags and dragged them up the hill to my dorm room.

Next we baked two humongous blobs of meat to make giant sized meatballs. The outside sure cooked fast, while the inside remained raw. I had envisioned them cooking all the way through, but the smoke alarm in the building prevented that.

This wasn't even my dorm, so everyone was extra mad.

Next, it was time to set up the display at the entrance to the student union.

Finally, it was time to take pictures. We sure looked small next to the place setting.

Up to this point everything seemed harmless, aside from the whole smoke alarm thing. But then, this happened:

I was confused. Was this person upset because we had blocked the entrance? You could still get into the union, really. Then, it happened again. What was this strange reaction?

Turns out, we had set up this display on the same day they were hosting the OXFAM dinner in the union - an internationally sponsored dinner to bring awareness to world hunger. And here we stood, next to one of the most colossal wastes of food any of us had ever seen. It was like some sort of strange opposition to an anti-hunger campaign, and who is against ending hunger, really? It was like we were taking the side of the French aristocracy during the revolution. To make matters worse, I had to stand next to the display all day in order to shoo birds and squirrels away who kept trying to eat it. Not only had I enraged the socially conscious, but I also had to run around like an idiot shaking a branch at the local fauna as they tried to sneak past me.

The good news was that I was suffering for my art! I was a martyr - something passionate people dream about! After being yelled at a third and a fourth time, I was feeling pretty good. I also got smart and began recording people's reactions so that when we presented a summary of our project to the class, we could show our professor the intense reactions we evoked. Artists love that sort of thing. This actually made the passersby even more angry.

When we finally presented the project, it was a huge hit. The professor loved the way we evoked an ironic sense of passion among typically complacent consumers, a concept that we readily went along with as if it were our intention. We ended up getting an A-, which, to be honest, left me a little miffed considering the girl who filmed herself going to the bathroom got an actual A. The professor mentioned something about how she had challenged gender stereotypes while at the same time questioning the taboo norms of our modern culture.

I was bummed we were outdone, but man, it was one epic bowl of pasta. And I was an accidental artist. Let them eat pasta.