ranking the things I know I don’t know

After alienating 90 percent of my audience (what’s 90 percent of three?) with last week’s barely coherent electoral rant, I thought I might calm things down a bit with a topic that’s a little less polarizing. Like Android versus Apple (not the smartphones, but rather who would win in a battle between Data and a ripe Honeycrisp), or a post ranking world religions based on sexiness of their respective gods, or possibly a meticulously footnoted, 15,000-word screed on why feminism is racist.

I don’t want to lie to you: those topics are gold, every last one, and I will keep them in my back pocket for a time when the Muse stops answering my calls. (She’s already threatened a restraining order.) But while those ideas are guaranteed to generate literally tens of pageviews, I suspect they would all require a fair bit of research, as I know nothing about any of those things. Well, except for the Data/Honeycrisp fight; I already have an accordion folder stuffed to the brim with detailed notes. But you write what you know, they say, but then again, who are they? They’re not the boss of me! (Unless I am at work, and my boss straight-up tells me to write what I know, in which case that person actually is in reality the boss of me, and I will hop to it straightaway). As last week’s post clearly illustrated, ignorance has never stopped me before, so why not flip the paradigm on its ear, and specifically write about what I don’t know? And I don’t know much, but I know I love Aaron Neville. I also know that I am profoundly ignorant about a lot of important things, and I know almost all there is to know about how to put together numbered lists.

(Please note that this is not by any means a comprehensive list of things I do not understand. Trust me, none of us has that kind of time.)

I do not understand:

14. why a Top 14 list should be considered any less valid than a Top 10 list


13. why The Big Bang Theory is so popular

NERD RACISM, definitely

12. why people eat olives on purpose

Look, people, once you’ve squozen all the delicious oil out, you throw the the rest of that foot-sweat-tasting mush-ball into the garbage. After you warm up some chicken noodle soup, do you eat the can? (Apologies to my any readers who are goats, because if the cartoons have taught me anything, it’s that goats eat tin cans and alley cats eat fish skeletons served up on garbage can lids.)

11. how to spell “commitee”

You know, the thing where you get a bunch of people together and you have a meeting or whatever? I am literally a spelling bee champion and I cann’t for the life of me remember how many M’s and T’s and I’s are supposed to be in there. Probably more than I used. Cccooooommittttte?

10. how to fill out this list without getting all meta and padding it out with a joke entry or two

9. how you didn’t see that joke entry coming from a mile away

8. why Gilbert Gottfried doesn’t have his own series

Yeah, he’s a duck-voiced weirdo who occasionally spits out a boneheaded tweet that manages to offend great swathes of globe, but dang if he ain’t kind of a genius. If you don’t mind a heapin’ helpin’ of filthy jokes, I highly recommend his Amazing Colossal Podcast, which will both expand your horizons and make people think you’re a maniac because you’re listening to it on headphones at work and at random intervals you’re snort-guffawing like an asthmatic mule.

6. what is a “swathe”

7. how to keep the numbers from getting out of order

In my defense, I did say that I know ALMOST all there is to know about constructing numbered lists.

5. how to monetize this thing

I know step 1 is something like “get people to read what you write,” and step 2 is probably something like “don’t make jokey lists because Thrillist and Buzzfeed kind of already have that genre nailed down.” So maybe I should work on the basics before I move to step 3. I do know that I don’t want to have obnoxious autoplay videos or a bunch of ads running down the side of screen hawking gold coins and freeze-dried mail-order mattresses or whatever. I’m hoping to seamlessly and discreetly integrate ad copy right into the content. How hard could it be?

4. why anyone has bothered to read this far

3. how life works

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand how life starts. I do have a couple of children, y’know, so I’m well aware that life’s beginnings have to do with my wife keeping her eyes closed for 90 seconds, politely asking if I’m done, and then going back to browsing Pinterest on an iPad while sobbing quietly. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m asking you: how do you even know how to live a life in this baffling, nonsensical plane of existence without collapsing into a jittery pile of sweat-soaked terror? Sweet dang, this world does not make a lick of sense. I do not understand why anyone does anything. I do not understand why everybody else has all the success and all I have to show for a lifetime of effort is an absurd amount of forehead real estate and a handful of dumb scars. I do not get what this world wants from me other than that I stop pestering it about what it wants from me. Also I sometimes wonder how did we even discover that you can eat an egg. But mostly just life itself: how do it work?

2. your mom

Seriously, what is her deal. I don’t know what her problem is with me, but whatever it is, I suspect what she really needs is a long, relaxing soak in a hot bath, made all the more luxurious with Aromatherapy Lavender Vanilla Bath Soak© from Bath and Body Works®. Bath and Body Works: I Bet Your Mom Would Like How This Stuff Smells.

1. why I ever thought this blog was a good idea

I don’t feel too guilty. Nobody understands this one.

throwing it all away

I do not know the identity of your candidate of choice in the 2016 UnitedStatesian presidential election, but if you’re anything like about 85 percent of the rest of the electorate, I can guarantee that person is awful. Just awful. And a poor reflection on your judgment, by the way.

I know, I know… the fact that you willingly visited this blog to read incoherent claptrap written by me–a balding nobody who is so forgettable that even though my name and face are prominently plastered across the top of the screen, I am still essentially anonymous–is already a black mark on your record. But if during this electoral go-’round you’re casting a vote for one of the two major party candidates… well, frankly, it calls into question just what you hope to accomplish with that vote of yours.

Because if the polls are to be believed, you don’t even want to. You’re about to pull a lever (or fill in an oval, or punch a button, or hang a chad) for a candidate that you don’t even like. A candidate you may even despise. A candidate you neither trust nor believe, one you have probably publicly disparaged in front of anyone who would listen. You are on the cusp of expressing your desire to hand the reins of power to a person that you find personally revolting. Someone you wouldn’t even trust to hold your stuff while you go to the bathroom for fear they’d immediately turn around and sell it to buy black-market Ukrainian Aspercreme. You’re about to do something that every bone in your body says NO to, which is in and of itself pretty amazing, since it takes a lot of willpower to ignore TALKING SKELETONS trapped inside you. (Dear God, that is some nightmare fuel right there. Every second of every day filled with the just-barely-audible murmurs of the bones within you, robbing you of sleep and all coherent thought as you are tormented by their ceaseless cries.)

Sorry, I lost track of things for a second there. What was I talking about? Oh, that’s right… Trump and Clinton are the worst. Seriously, the worst. And yet you are probably about to vote for one of them because you think the other one is incrementally worse. I mean, I guess it’s possible that your vote is motivated by actual enthusiasm for your candidate’s platform and his or her brilliant ideas on how to carry our nation through the chaos of the 21st cent–

BWAH HA HA HA HA, sorry, I tried, but I can’t even say it with a straight face. Do you actually believe that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump actually believe anything they have spewed from behind their rally podiums? (Podia?) Two craven charlatans who, on any single given issue, have 1) stated officially on the record at some point in the recent past that they are firmly on the other side of whichever view they most recently espoused, and 2) vehemently denied that they ever said the thing that we have actual footage of them saying. Two ancient frauds who have arguably failed at every worthwhile task they’ve ever put their hands to, and yet have somehow come out of every debacle richer and more successful. Not smelling like a rose, necessarily, because people still basically hate them, but neither of them is losing any sleep over it. As I put it way back at the beginning of the year:

I’m here to tell you, brothers and sisters… there is another way.

They will tell you there are only two choices in 2016. They are lying to you.

They will tell you that if you vote for anyone other than Clinton, you are voting for Trump. Or if you are voting for anyone other than Trump, you are voting for Clinton. Yeah, I can’t figure that logic out, either, but nobody said party hacks are paragons of logical thinking. Because that’s what those people are: hacks. They don’t have beliefs, they just have teams. They don’t care about the right person winning, or even a good person winning, or even a minimally decent human being winning… they just want someone from their team to win. It’s about victory for their tribe, and if you don’t want their tribe to emerge victorious, then you must–MUST–be supporting the enemy tribe.

Or, you could opt out of that game by choosing not to play. Because that war is not worth fighting. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m voting. I’m not a complete nihilist who would advocate not voting. But last I checked, there are other options on the ballot. Better options on the ballot. And most states have a blank where you can write in the name of someone you think is a better idea. I’m skipping over the Republican and completely ignoring the Democrat. Because I can. Because I don’t have to play the Lesser of Two Evils game when there are non-evil options on the board. And my vote will be a vote for that person, not a vote-by-proxy for the candidate you hate slightly more than your own. My non-major-party vote is not stealing a vote away from your favorite sociopathic senior citizen, because there are literally zero conceivable arguments that could convince me to cast a vote for either one of those vain, yell-happy fail-bags.

“Oh, you’re naïve,” you tell me. Well, here’s the thing: people have died to ensure that I can vote my conscience, that I can vote for the candidate of my choice and that it will count. “Yes, but the way the system works…” you say. The system works that way because you have accepted that it must work that way and that it can only work that way, but it doesn’t have to work that way. 

Maybe my single contrary vote won’t count much on its own, but in the aggregate, if enough people agree with me, our votes can be a kick in the pants to the flawed human beings we have entrusted with political power. The only reason you think we have only two choices is because the two choices keep telling you they’re the only two choices, and for some reason–despite their letting you down over and over again, and despite clear evidence to the contrary–you’re buying it.

And I’m the naïve one?

There is another way, and I’m taking it. Most people think I’m wasting my vote, but you know, it is possible for most people to be wrong. (Lincoln was elected with around around 40 percent of the vote, meaning that most people thought he was the wrong choice for America. That’s right, I’m invoking Lincoln, which means my arguments must be ROCK SOLID.)

There is another way, and I’m taking it. It may not be enough to sway those who are locked in the either/or mindset, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

We’re in a bus. (Figuratively. Stay with me here. Trust me, I’m a bus expert.) And we find ourselves on a dead-end road that forks into one path that leads to a bridge that has collapsed over a river, and the other to the edge of a fairly deep canyon (it’s not grand, but it’s nothing to sneeze at). Half of the passengers fight passionately for the cliff option, as we might be able get up enough speed to jump it. Long shot, but who knows? And the other half insists that the bridge is the better option, as the water will cushion our fall and a handful of people might be able to swim to shore. Meanwhile, I’m pointing out that there’s a wide spot in the road right here, and we can turn this around right now, and y’know, guys, there was a turnoff back there that we drove right past, didn’t you guys see it? And one side insists that if I don’t choose the cliff it’s because I want everyone to drown, and the other side loudly proclaims that if I don’t choose the bridge I must want to be crushed on the jagged rocks at the bottom of the chasm. And the yelling gets louder and louder, and eventually no one will even acknowledge there’s a way out of this mess. So one side wins, and we all lose. And as we all plunge to our inevitable deaths, everyone points accusing fingers at me, and they scream, “This is on you.

And if you’re one of those arguing that my vote means what you say it means, then with all due respect (and I pray you take this in the spirit it’s intended):



Sorry, chumps, you don’t get to tell me what my vote means. You don’t get to make that call. You can’t tell me my vote is the reason he lost or she won or vicey-versey. Even if somehow it comes down to the electoral votes in one state! My state, say. Missouri. And Donald Trump literally loses Missouri by a single vote: my vote, because I voted for a third-party candidate. And so Hillary Clinton gets Missouri’s electoral votes, they put her over the top, and she is the President-Elect. Is her election my fault? NOPE. Because if I had voted for Trump, it would have been a tie, and where would that leave us? Possibly a cage match? (I’m unclear on the constitutional options.)

In any case, there is another way. And I’m taking it. Not gonna tell you which way you should take, but I’ll tell you this: that bus you’re on is going nowhere, and I got places to be. They’re not important places, because I’m not an important person. How important can I possibly be? I’m one of those third-party voters, and you know what they’re like. WEIRDOS. All fedoras and Renaissance Fairs and anime. All the time riding buses and telling people not to drive over cliffs and whatnot. WEIRDOS. Weirdos whose votes count just as much as yours. Weirdos who can count higher than two. Weirdos who can hear the Democrats and Republicans telling us it’s raining but who know for a fact that the warm moisture we’re feeling ain’t precipitation.

It’s not too late. Be one of us. Be a weirdo.


question time 8: the curse of question time

What the hell does “hacky” mean?

Hey, watch the potty mouth, honey! Families read this blog! Ha ha, just kidding, nobody reads this blog. Swear all you want! Why not drop an F-bomb or two? Who’ll notice? Frankly, given that I routinely infuriate every last human being I come into contact with, I’m a little disappointed no one has yet seen fit to unleash a frustration-fueled torrent of vulgarity upon my person. Lord knows I deserve it, and it would be 38 percent more interesting than anything I have ever posted here.

Also ha ha, just kidding, I probably should not have called you “honey.” You are honey in neither the literal nor figurative sense. That is classic demeaning sexual harassment-type language and I deeply regret contributing to a hostile reading environment for you broads. Wait, I mean skirts. Okay, I probably should not have said those things either. (At least I did not deploy the c-word, so give me a little credit.) If I were ever to ask a question at a televised presidential town hall event, a la Ken Bone, I suspect that this paragraph would come back to haunt me, possibly limiting me to 11 minutes of Internet fame. 12 minutes, max.

Anyway, Shannon is asking this because my original social media request for questions alluded to my “hacky” answers. The dictionary defines “hacky” as “lacking originality; hackneyed,” and there’s nothing more unoriginal and hackneyed than deploying a dictionary definition. I promised you hacky, and I like to think I’ve more than delivered.

You’re welcome.

Are we there yet?

Question for you, Robert: where is there? If by “there,” you mean Grandma’s house, then no, we are not there yet. If, however, by “there,” you mean “right on the precipice of societal collapse into a hellish, anarchic murderscape,” then yes, we are most definitely there.

I know you were probably making a reference to the typical refrain you hear from the kids in the backseat on long road trips. This is not something I have had to deal with all that much, because I refuse to make long car trips with my children unless they agree to remain unconscious for the entire drive. We accomplish this by leaving at like 10:00 pm and driving through the middle of the night to our destination. The advantages are clear: the highways are near-empty, the car is quiet, and I can listen to podcasts and whatnot in peace. Disadvantage: I am driving a large motor vehicle, carrying children, in the middle of the night, without sleep. About 3:00 or 4:00 am, this is basically me:

Last year, on a hideous overnight drive from Kansas City to Florida, somewhere south of Nashville I had to pull over and relinquish the wheel to The Wife because–in a combination of highway hypnosis and sheer physical exhaustion–I was hallucinating giant soup ladles on the horizon. I am not making this up.

I assume they were a hallucination, anyway. We were approaching the Alabama border. Alabama. I would not put it past those people to erect a giant psychedelic disappearing airborne ladle mountain to welcome weary travelers to their state. Wouldn’t be the craziest thing that ever happened in Alabama.

Price, we know that you are a discerning beer aficionado. Riddle me this, if you were forced to choose between drinking Natural Ice and the fermented sweat from a feral goat strained through a dirty gym sock, which would you choose? Would its temperature have any bearing on the decision?

Was the goat sweat barrel-aged? Served in proper glassware (snifter, obviously, or a tulip glass if a snifter is unavailable)? At the proper temperature (precisely 283.5 degrees Kelvin)? Was the gym sock made of sustainably grown cotton, sourced from local farms run by guys with giant beards and ladies with tattoos and copious underarm hair?

Assuming you answered “yes” to all of those questions, then would I gleefully consume goat sweat over mass-produced skunky American lager-style pisswater? SWEET LORD NO. Pass me that Natty Ice, bro! Sure, I am one of those unbearable Craft Beer Guys, but I’m not crazy. I mean, here’s the thing: all things being equal, I’ll choose something lovingly crafted in small batches over any given AnmillerCoorsch swill, but even I am not so blindly loyal to the Craft Beer Movement that I assume that the trappings of that movement automatically make a beer good.

On a trip out of town a couple weeks ago I tried some beers at a small craft brewery that I had been wanting to try for a while, and it was all I could do to keep from gagging. They were horrible! If I thought watery disinfectant was worth drinking, I’d purchase some spring water and Mr. Clean and make my own at home. At that moment, I would have gladly taken a Natural Ice, if only to wash the taste of that nasty craft beer out of my mouth. Look, I’m all about supporting the little guy, but geez, little guy… you gotta meet me halfway.

All that said, don’t even try to tell me some craft brewery isn’t RIGHT NOW thinking about brewing and marketing a Feral Goat Sweat Double IPA. (Of course it would be an IPA. Of course it would.)

What does 42 smell like?

Late in 2012, at the end of a long season training to run a marathon, I injured my knee and got knocked out of the running game for like a year-and-a-half. (I’ve mentioned this before.) 2013 was a very long year. Every time I tried to get back into running, I hit a wall. Not a literal wall, though I might as well have, because the results were the same: I was in pain, I was angry, and I couldn’t run. If you think I’m hard to live with now, you should have been around in 2013. How my family put up with my passive-aggressive snippiness all year is a mystery to me. I imagine that every time they saw a pillow, there was an intense internal debate on whether or not they should push me to the ground and press that pillow tight to my scowling face.

I was 42 in 2013. 42 stank for me, Dan. It stank on ice. 42 smelled like failure. It smelled like an overflowing camp toilet thrown into the dumpster behind the Red Lobster. Sure, I would have preferred a pleasant melding of leather, sandalwood, and french fries, but we can’t always get what we want.

For everyone else, though? 42 smells like fermented sweat from a feral goat strained through a dirty gym sock.

Are snipes real?

They're real, and they're spectacular.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?
-A different Shannon

Don’t ask me! Just watch this classic 1970s ad that OH MY GOD SHUT UP, did you know there’s an extended version of that old commercial? The one with the crudely animated turtle and owl? The one that looks like it was drawn by a drunken cartoonist with his non-dominant hand, with backgrounds painted by a concussed three-year-old? Turns out BIG LOLLIPOP was not telling us the whole story.

I had no idea this existed. My whole life, I’ve only seen the truncated version that starts with the elderly turtle and lops off the sick owl burn at the end. How has this version been hidden from me for the better part of a half-century? Of course that naked Charlie Brown-sounding kid would have sought the wisdom of a manic cow and a creepy blind fox! Why wouldn’t he? It seems so wrong on its face, yet it makes a bizarre kind of sense, like finding a lost season of Knight Rider in which he drove a Pacer with the voice of Carol Channing.

Actually, that… that idea is gold. GOLD. I will vote for any presidential candidate, regardless of party, who will make the timely production of this show a plank in his or her platform.

Hasselhoff/Channing 2016: NOW MORE THAN EVER

that’s what dumb do: the time(s) I looked the fool in marching band

Last week I took some time to illuminate you about one of the many ways I have found to endorken myself publicly: by being a band geek. And while I was okay at it during my high school years, in college I was just barely good enough. Like, there was last chair, and then there was the pity chair they tacked on to the end just for me. I was not a shining example of bandsmanship, is what I’m saying. Especially during marching season, which was little more than an extended period dedicated to humiliating not only myself, but also everyone around me.

I’m not saying I stumbled around the field at halftime like a frat boy trying to find his room key at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it’s just that I occasionally got… distracted. Cut me some slack, kids, I was surrounded by hundreds of bleating horns and crashing cymbals and thumping drums and whispering woodwinds. Of course, so was everyone else, so what was my problem? No, seriously, what was my problem. (Feel free to speculate in the nonexistent comments section.) Let me give you a couple for-examples of my clownish marching ineptitude.

For starters, one of our fundamental marching moves was called “high mark time,” which involved marching in place while bringing your knees way up, like a high step without stepping anywhere. It was drilled into us to keep the side of our foot close along the inseam of our stylish marching pants as we raised our knees, to keep the step clean and precise. On the Monday after a weekend game, the director was showing us slides of the halftime show (like a football coach reviewing game film, but with slightly less concussion footage). One photo showed the back side of a line of clarinets, all crisply performing the high mark time… all except for one iconoclastic holdout whose leg stuck out like a dog marking a fire hydrant. We were all trying to figure out who it was (don’t tell me you can’t see where this is headed) when it became obvious that the doofus in question was standing to the left of the tallest clarinetist in the section, and that yes, I was positioned to the left of the tallest clarinetist in the section.

You had one job, Horn. ONE JOB. I had somehow found a way to screw up pretending to march.

At least that screw-up wasn’t all that obvious to observers in the stands (most of whom, let’s just be honest, were probably either in the bathroom, in line buying nachos, or had left already to secure kegs and red Solo cups for post-game). But if you’re going to make a mistake, I say, make it an obvious one.

Picture this: pre-game. Stands are packed. The Pride Band is marching onto the field to salute our proud nation with the Star-Spangled Banner. A long line of woodwinds is marching in a straight line from the end zone to a destination somewhere in the vicinity of midfield, where they will take their place in formation with the rest of the band. I was amongst that line of woodwinds, and as we marched in our customary 8-to-5 stride (that, eight steps for every five yards) we were all mentally counting down the steps until we were supposed to stop. And so I came to a sharp halt when we got to the yard line in question.

Well, presumed yard line in question, I guess.

Because everyone else kept marching.

[Expletive!] I had stopped five yards short! And lordy, did I stick out like a sore thumb: a perfectly straight line of bandspeople moving in formation, with one clueless half-wit hanging a few yards back for no apparent reason. Oh well, the show must go on… so I quickly recovered, caught up with my line, hit the next line marker right in step with them, and stopped.

And they kept marching. Again.

Because no, Price, we still weren’t there yet. Flustered, I caught back up to them. This time, I just decided to march with them and halt when they halted. For whatever reason, I just had no memory of where that was supposed to be. I just kept my head on a discreet swivel, desperately watching the marchers to my right and left to try to suss out the finish line. Eventually, they stopped, and I only went a yard or two further before I realized it and had to scoot back to the line.

Back when I was in the Pride, in the olden days before Twitter-shaming, we had our own guilt-heaping tradition: people who made mistakes during pregame or halftime had to run a lap during the third quarter. And brother, you best believe I ran that game. I’m surprised the director didn’t personally chase me around the track with a pack of rabid Rottweilers.

I wasn’t all that great at marching, is the long and short of it. Or playing, come to think of it. Why I wasn’t booted from the band with extreme prejudice is a mystery to this day. I assume the band director allowed me to remain out of pity, or perhaps to keep me around as the Goofus to everyone else’s Gallant. As a cautionary tale. As the solitary DON’T after a long list of DOs.

I suppose I should be thankful that the university graciously allowed me to participate despite my embarrassing them nearly every time I took the field with the rest of the band. But then, if I was booted out of every organization I publicly humiliated with my gross doofitude, I’d be unemployed, single, and probably dead. Because if there’s one group I’ve let down over and over again, it’s humanity. But hey, every team needs a sixth-string bench warmer who makes the rest of you look good. How about you stop pointing and laughing and maybe offer a simple thank you? I’ll just sit right here and wait for your gratitude to flow my way.



band jive

Brace yourselves, babies. I’m about to drop a big ol’ truth bomb on you here. I’m going to reveal something about my past that will stun you and could possibly even knock you off your feet, so to avoid liability issues I kindly ask you to take a seat. Buckle in, if said seat includes some kind of restraint mechanism (if you’re driving a car, for example, or riding a roller coaster, both of which are ideal environments for reading and/or enjoying my writing). Here goes.

I was a band geek.

I know, right?! Who would have ever thought that an approval-craving, socially awkward misfit would gravitate to the arts? Why wouldn’t a short, clumsy, rail-thin Star Trek fan be naturally drawn to, say, athletics?

Wait, why aren’t any of you acting surprised? Hmmph. All right, fine. I guess it’s not all that shocking. I mean, come on. I’m a dork. And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that band-types are inherently dorks, but let’s be honest: if someone plopped you in the courtyard of an American high school and offered you a million dollars if you could produce a dork within five minutes, don’t try to tell me you wouldn’t make a beeline for the band room. Not passing judgement here, it’s just science.

So, yeah. I was a nerdy outcast back in my schoolin’ days, and for whatever reason I found a home of sorts with a bunch of other nerdy outcasts who thought making music was kind of cool and who were fine with being considered decidedly uncool. And because it was not enough for me to be considered weird just by the very fact of my membership in the band organization, I decided to take it one dorky step further by playing the clarinet. Because why wouldn’t I. Of course, it’s not like I had a burning passion for the mellifluous tones of the clarinet. My bedroom was not plastered with Benny Goodman and Pete Fountain posters (not only because there was no such thing, but also because it was not 1943). I made that decision the way I make all my decisions: I put it off until I was forced to clumsily stumble into a corner where only one decision was possible. So basically, I played the clarinet because I knew a guy who had one I could use. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have played drums, partly because I have a surprisingly solid sense of rhythm but mostly because I really enjoy hitting things that can’t hit back. But no, I had to choose a musical instrument that may as well have come with a magical cloak that made me invisible to girls. A dude carrying a clarinet in high school is like a dude walking into a speed dating session with a printed-out herpes diagnosis and a badge that says “NOT YOUR TYPE.”

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t have stuck with it all through junior high school (this is what we called “middle school” back in Ye Olde Dayyes) and high school and all through college. I had fun in band. I did! And I was actually not too shabby at it. I was good enough to make All-Region every year and even All-State my senior year (though I suspect that says more about the shallow depth of the Arkansas clarinet pool than it says about my raw talent). And I had enough musical proficiency that I was allowed to also play saxa-ma-phone and even a little bass drum here and there when the need arose. (And if you ever need an image to pull you out of a depressive episode with its sheer comic ridiculousness, just picture a scrawny dwarf like me carrying around a bass drum.) That was in the pre-college years, anyway… in my college years, when I was competing for placement with people who actually cared about practicing and whatnot, I almost always hovered near last chair. Humiliating, yes, but better than I probably deserved.

In the only example of a more-or-less positive influence I have had on their lives, both The Boy and The Girl have gravitated to the band world in their adolescence. The Boy, in fact, is in the Pride Band at Missouri State… the selfsame marching band where I spent four years taking up space on the field. That’s what woodwinds do in marching band, you know. You can’t hear them on the field (and who would want to? ugh). Woodwinds are there just to fill in the holes between drum and brass formations. Seen and not heard! As it should be! As a baritone/euphonium player, The Boy need not worry about sad irrelevance on the marching field. You can hear him! Of course, that puts a little added pressure on him, as you have to both look and sound good out there amongst them yard lines and hash marks. The woodwinds only had to look good, which they generally did, despite my rank marching incompetence.

And oh, such incompetence! The stories I could tell you about the myriad ways I managed to trip over my own feet and step one way when I was supposed to step another and look the fool in front of literally dozens of hundreds of spectators. And those stories shall be told, in next week’s very special installment of my ongoing “that’s what dumb do” series.

Disappointed? Of course you are. Now you know how my band directors felt.


“that’s what dumb do: the time(s) I looked the fool in marching band”

(or some such title, kind of up in the air right now … eh, I guess that one is good enough, not going for a Pulitzer here)