Here, then, are my top 10 dubious achievements of my life. If you know me and can recall an event that knocks one of these off the list, let me know and I'll do so. The most dubious achievements are the ones your mind has blocked out to protect you. Note that these little events in my life have not been ordered in some sort of 'Top Ten' best-to-worst or other sort criterion; I've simply assembled them as they came to mind. Before you snicker too much, I'm sure you and I can trade stories quite handily. Anyhow, we begin.
After dropping a friend off at his house at 6:00pm, I decided to make my way back to work to finish some tasks left undone. On the way back, I looked down at my radio, looked up again, and found I was barrelling towards the center of a traffic circle. (Rotaries are very common in Massachusetts). Braking as fast as I could, I still jumped the middle of the rotary and bounced my Toyota up onto the grassy center and plowed right into a large stone in the center. This stone turned out to be a World War II memorial that the tow truck guy explained to me had been hit "dozens" of times. My car was hauled away for scrap, although I wasn't.
The graphical map of this foolish accident might provide further illumination. I am happy to report that in 2001 the city of Cambridge finally redid this insane intersection and hopefully a lesser amount of car destruction will occur.
My father took all of his children to Ixtapa, Mexico, which was a great idea except for the fact that I'm a xenophobe. Xenophobia is a fear of foreigners or foreign cultures, and as a result I wouldn't leave the hotel grounds. The family didn't mind and went on all sorts of tours without me, leaving me to hang out on the beach and pool. Within a short time, I discovered that I could order food and drink and have it charged to the hotel room I was staying at. In other words, all I needed to know was the three-digit hotel room and I could drink Cokes for free. Of course, these were cool cokes that came in glass bottles and by the end of the week vacation, my father got his hotel bill and found I had ordered something in the ballpark of 110-115 bottles of Cokes. Dad was displeased.
Hey, didn't every growing youth spend at least two summers a hundred miles from home learning Pascal and Basic at a college in Williamstown, Massachusetts, becoming amazingly proficient at pirating software and occasionally playing Dodgeball? Well?
This was also my first experience with a "college" meal plan, that is, go in the door, eat all you can, you can't take food out. This was JUST the thing to give a growing 14-year-old boy.
I'm happy to report that you can relive my childhood by simply gazing upon a photo we had taken of our group. I'm the one with the big black hair in the exact center of the middle row.
While hanging out with my bud Jeremy one fine home-from-college summer, I went to visit my brother at Friendly's. This should have been a pleasant enough visit, but upon driving into the parking lot we found that some complete dork moron (His name is Dean Rodier for the folks at home) had parked his car ACROSS THE EXIT. This completely surprised the two of us and we stopped the car short and had to maneuver ourselves backwards away from this passage-blocking monstrosity of rudeness.
Maybe it was the complete and total disregard for everyone else in the lot, maybe it was the boldness of where he had chosen to park (not idle, park) or maybe I was 19 and had waaay too much sugar on the brain that day, but suddenly, I had one goal on my mind: MAKE THIS CAR SAD.
I stormed into the Friendly's, where my brother was working at the counter doing sundaes, and in a feat of brotherly love and trust that has yet to be equaled by ourselves or anyone we know, I held out my hands, said "Whipped Cream!" firmly, and my brother simply turned around, grabbed two industrial-sized whipped cream cans, and handed them to me, no questions asked. I then walked calmly out to the car, stuck my hands into the sun roof, and emptied the cans into it.
About the time I finished, Dean came flying out of the Friendly's, realizing I had turned the inside of his car into a confection, and basically pinned Jeremy and myself down until the cops arrived. The cops took our names and said if we didn't pay for the cleaning, we could be pulled in for reckless whipped creaming or whatever charge was put up.
With my butt firmly across the barrel (my father would die before having his son get a criminal record for this), Dean decided that the price for having his car seats "cleaned" was $1,250. Over my heady protestations, it was paid for. Meanwhile, we later found out ol' Dean's father owned a Car Upholstery Business! So, we're definitely talking an all around Bad Idea In The First Place here. I've since limited my use of dessert topping to express my anger.
In my first college apartment, I did a great job of blowing through the allowance my father provided for me. (I wasn't allowed to have a job; it was desired that I concentrate fully on my studies.) One sorry afternoon, I had had no food for several days, and I was hungry beyond belief. My roommate had gotten quite sick of paying for my food, so I was not allowed to touch the juicy morsels inside. I found two slices of bread that still were under my name, and under the sink I found some "No-stick Pam(tm)", which is a spray-on edible teflon-esque substance. The can in this case said "Butter Flavored!" and I took this to mean that it would taste just like butter! Alas, this was not the case. In fact, when I toasted the two pieces of bread and sprayed the No-stick Pam(tm) on them, I succeeded in making the bread taste like hair spray. Needless to say, I did choke down the bread.
I didn't see a club performance of a band until I was well into college, so when I got tickets to see They Might Be Giants at the Paradise rock club in Boston, I was really excited. So excited, in fact, that I showed up at 12 noon for a 8:00pm show.
Apparently other fans don't tend to do this, because when I walked through the open door, I suddenly found myself being told to carry stuff this way and that for the bands that were playing tonight. This was perfectly fine with me; I was happy just to be around for the bustle.
While lifting a box, I looked up to see John Flansburgh and John Linnell standing in front of me. Linnell said "Hey, do you know a good place to eat around here?" I said there was a McDonalds down the street, but before I got an answer to that suggestion, another band member went by and said "We got it handled, John." and my two idols strolled off.
(OK, maybe this one isn't that dubious, but it's a pretty weird way to see a concert.)
I helped lift and move stuff for about three hours and got to hear everyone's sound check. By the time They Might Be Giants played their last encore, I had been there over 11 hours. You would think I would have learned from this, but I later saw a show in Provincetown, RI where I came at noon and the show ended at 3am. How I walked away after that, I'll never know.
In one of those amazing spontaneous events that rise out of an entirely boring summer's night, myself and about 5 other kids suddenly launched into an idea we called "Operation Applesauce", whereby we went to all the conveniently-located crabapple trees, picked and scooped up all the apples we could, went up to the top part of East Hook Road at around 8pm, and covered the entire road with apples.
If I could somehow accomplish this, I would have a ceremony where all of my selves from every birthday I've had or will have arrive in the same field, grab the me at age 9, and beat the living crap out of me.
What was I thinking? With about 30 feet of pure, slippery rotten apple, those cars didn't have a chance. Most of them just shot through the massive pile of apples without stopping, probably because of pure momentum. After just a few cars, the road turned into a slippery pile of mush, and it started to be a little, well, traction-free.
The defining moment came when we saw car headlights, scattered, and I (again, truly the Dumbass of the Ages) jumped into the rain ditch by the side of the road and lay still. When this car went through, he hit his brakes, and slid another 20 feet beyond his braking point, apples flying everywhere. It was dark and I was perfectly still, but this guy got out of his car and begain screaming at all us Bastards who at this point were mostly cutting it like jackals down the side of the hill, far out of reach. He railed for about 3 minutes, probably 10 feet from where I lay, and eventually got into his car and drove off. Truly, we could have killed him. Truly, he would have killed me. Truly, one of my most dubious achievements.
Apparently the general rule at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is that if you get into any court case with them, they ban you off the campus. I got into a legal battle with the MIT Police Force, the case came to an end (the case was dropped, actually), and they sent me a letter letting me know I was "persona non-grata" and could never visit the campus again, even if invited by a member of the MIT community. Hey, thanks!
From that point on, I've told people I graduated from MIT persona non grata.
Atari Games, to celebrate the creation of their Atari 2600 Pac-Man Game (which, I might add, was one of the most pathetic, slapdash, slipshod piece of programming ever to churn out of the cheese factory they tended to call a development studio) help a massive "Pac Man Day" in Citicorp Center in New York City. Being a confessed "Pac Maniac" I couldn't resist. To complete the picture, you have to know that I had that great uncontrolled 11-year-old hair of unequal length, and an old army fatigue jacket with "PAC MAN" t-shirt transferred on the back. Now, it was me and literately THOUSANDS of kids jammed into the inadequately-planned celebration area at the Center, with all of us vying for places to stand and have fun. They had the contest, which only had maybe a dozen of us actually show enough nerve to go up on stage, and due to a REALLY LOUD chomping sound, I placed somewhere around third. Of course, this is up to dispute, because the place essentially turned into a riot (I can still recall my father up on a balcony, screaming at me to stand against a wall so I wouldn't be stepped on) and they generally just THREW stuff into the crowd, but I was third. Remember me and weep, fellow Pac Man Day attendees!
My father sent me to Surprise Lake Camp, a summer camp for tons of impoverished jewish kids from the Bronx. This would be all fine and good except that I wasn't an impoverished kid from the Bronx. It has to rate among the worst weeks of my life; I hated all the activities, one kid tried to kill me, I was a constant victim of vicious pranks, and on the whole I think there was a better way to make my summer months "activity-filled". But I don't mean to digress into what an utter hell this camp was; I wish to talk about how I almost killed myself!
I was hanging out with a group of kids between activities (the activities at the camp were highly regimented; you HAD to go either swimming or do dodgeball; you HAD to study in your bunks or play baseball) when they all decided to start doing an old, I would assume time-honored activity: breathing really hard, kneeled over, and then standing up and having someone hold their hands to their chest until they passed out. What shouldn't bother me is that they were doing this, what should bother me was that I suddenly wanted to join in. Why I suddenly felt the need to fit in with this crowd totally escapes me, but what doesn't escape me was when I stood up fast, they squeezed my chest, and I passed out. I was out for three minutes, enough for the group to both think I was dead and begin to argue over contingency plans of what to do with my corpse.
While I don't feel any aftereffects from that activity, I know it must have done some considerable damage. Good thing there wasn't a convenient roof for us all to jump off of. Ah, childhood.