August 9, 2006
A friend of mine asked today, "when was the last time you felt cool?"
Hmmm. Bloggers are decidedly uncool. So subtract a few years. When did this blog start? Married people. Not cool. Now we're back to 2003. In LA I lived in Silverlake, which used to be cool, but by the time I lived there all the cool people had exited for Echo Park or Eagle Rock. I worked in the movies for a while. Cool from the outside, so not cool from the inside. The definition of uncool is being screamed at by your boss while on a Gulf Stream Jet and having the only other people in the cabin, 3 stewardess, snicker as you sit and take it. Also I was working on crap films like the Sabrina remake and IQ. The cool people worked on films like Bottle Rocket and Shallow Grave. My life as a nomadic backpacker... potentially cool for people stuck at desk jobs, but on the road there were always people who went further. When I arrived in Mongolia the talk was of mythic backpacker Ronnie from Tasmania. His exploits were discussed in hushed tones always ending with, "He vanished in the Gobi you know." That guy was cool. College? Please. I wore red socks (virtually every day), wrote a thesis on Chinese bronze casting, and thought it was fun to post xeroxes of raisin bread slices all over campus. Sigh. In high school I weighed about 90 pounds, talked with a deep drawl, and would get very excited when discussing "the world of the future." I was the school photographer. School photographers are never cool. Two words: Academic Decathalete. I showed up to Jr. High with a broken leg and on the first day broke my crutches. I had to hop from class to class. That pretty much ruined it for that year.
The last time I was cool? 1979. I was in 6th grade. Brookhollow Elementary home of the mighty Beavers. Mr. Johhny Futch, the principal (Futch is an unfortunate name for a principal), caught me doing a bit from Steve Martin's album Comedy is not Pretty to a group of classmates. But really I was reciting the bit for Janet, a transfer student from Baton Rouge who had only been in school two months (and would only stay month more before her parents mysteriously decided to move again.). Janet loved Steve Martin. She could talk dinosaurs and she loved orange velour. This last fact she told me over lunch a few days after arriving and within a week I had convinced my mom to buy not one but two velour shirts. One was red but could pass as orange. I told Janet it was tangerine and she deemed it "amazing." Janet was horrified when Mr. Fuchs grabbed me by my chain mid-joke (yes I wore a silver chain) and dragged me away.
Mr. Futch had a glassed-in office visible to anyone that walked by. Picture a square office with two glass walls open to the cafeteria. On the back wall, a painting of a deer and on the other, a big blackboard. In the corner a window and a potted plant. The desk sat dead center. It was bare save for a few framed pictures of deer kills, a soft focus portrait of Mrs. Futch, a microphone, and a large wooden paddle carved from a 2 by 4 and polished to a high gloss sheen. The office smelled of mimeograph ink.
Futch liked to lecture before he doled out punishment and he gravely informed me that "cussing" would not be tolerated. Speaking in a soft voice he contemplated the number of "licks" I would be receiving. One wouldn't teach me a lesson, and I needed a lesson as this was a second offense, but eight might be to much... "five, five is a good number". I was steeling myself for the blows when without warning he was called away leaving me alone in the office. "Don't touch anything," he smiled, "or you're looking at seven." I waited. I scanned for books to stuff down my jeans. Nothing. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Outside I saw my class in the cafeteria. They were almost finished and Janet was there. She saw me and made a sad face. I waved. She waved back. The bell was ringing. Lunch was over. I knew my class would be passing the office and in that moment I felt overwhelmed. "SOMETHING must be done," I thought. I looked outside. It was raining. On the chalkboard I wrote in big letters. "I did it for you Janet." I underlined Janet twice. Then I quickly opened the window and slipped out. In less than a minute I was on my bike pedaling full tilt down Live Oak Lane. I knew Mr. Futch would be calling my mom. I knew she would probably be waiting for me. Probably outside the house. She would drive me straight back to that office. But as I rode my bike on that rainy day I was cool as hell. I knew it. Janet knew it, and that's all that mattered.