Wednesday, September 27, 2006


In Which We Get Down to Some Monkey Business...

First, just a little housekeeping note. It galls me ever so slightly that I've been posting less frequently the past few months. Between work and the kids' school schedule and a few odd and wonderful details I'm not ready to share yet, I've been the busiest I've ever been in my life. Ever. Something has to give and sadly, my sleep and this blog have suffered.

I've made an effort to post every other day on average, but I think I'm going to be cutting back to about 3 times a week on average. Just for a while. Rest assured, I still plan to make my presence felt here, and I have no shortage of material to share. Aside from the next Giveaway of CRAP (which should start in October this year), I need to recount some tales from my fateful internship and share with you my recent adventures bicycling with the kids. I'm also in the process of doing assorted housekeeping duties, including scanning all the old family photos my parents left me and also transferring some ancient home videos into digital format.

Most of the video was taken when I was 19 and 20, and includes all sorts of odds bits--my dad telling a story about burying a cat alive; a cooking show spoof involving a pudding cake and an underwear drawer; a series of violent and violently incoherent action/adventure movies that I allowed my Big Brother to direct; and my own ongoing serial involving a trio of heroes known as "The Three Comedians."

Much of it is unwatchable--aside from the degenerating quality of the videotape (the content of which was already pretty degenerate to begin with), the audio is terrible and the editing is completely absent. Still, there are some noteworthy anthropological artifacts in there and you may be assured that I'll show you only the very worst of it.

On top of that, I still have lots of your questions to answer, so I'll pick one that came to mind last night, as I was salvaging videotape.

Sharfa asked what was the worst/best prank I ever played on someone. I played most of my pranks on Big Brother, but which one was the best? That took some pondering. As a young boy, I was always especially proud of the time I put soap on BB's toothbrush--he foamed at the mouth just like a rabid beast! Then there was the April Fool's day that I removed one bolt from the toilet seat so that when BB sat down he slid sideways and ended up making quite a mess.

In the end, I decided to put it to BB himself, and he responded, without hesitation, "I STILL haven't paid you back for the incident with that fucking gorilla."

Which I had almost completely forgotten about, to tell you the truth. It hadn't been a prank so much as an impulse thing, but it obviously made an impression on my brother, so:

It was the summer of 1986, just after my freshman year of college. My Dad was just checking out of detox and beginning his long tenure of sobriety that continues unbroken to this day. He was working up in Maine, I believe, while my mom and I were back at our place in New Jersey. My folks had decided to relocate to New Hampshire for good and so we had lots of work getting our neat old, slightly haunted house cleaned up and ready to put on the market. The plan was that we'd spend June and July doing the work that needed doing, and then go to New Hampshire for the rest of the summer.

Instead, I ended up in Providence, Rhode Island.

BB was still there, finishing up his degree in culinary arts from Johnson and Wales, which required him to work so many hours--practical credit--at a hotel or restaurant in order to earn his degree. So he was working nights at a catering kitchen. One morning, after he got off work, he decided to go down to the beach with some coworkers. In short order, he found himself sitting on a lawn chair by the water's edge and it was there that he promptly fell asleep. Five hours later, he awoke to find the tide had come in and his legs were just starting to float in the surf. He got up, drove home, showered, and prepared to go back to the kitchen. But as he was driving, he became aware that he was extremely uncomfortable. His pants seemed to be a size too small and his legs were really starting to hurt. By the time he got to the parking lot at work, he couldn't pull himself out of the car without help. Coworkers got him to the bathroom and that was where he discovered that his legs were beet red and swollen to almost twice their size.

Someone got him to the ER and that's where he was told he had second-degree burns on both legs from his snooze in the sun (having his legs in the water apparently only magnified the sun and worsened the effect). Thankfully, he'd been wearing a shirt and shorts and his arms were covered by a towel, but he also had pretty bad burns on his nose and scalp. The doctors at the ER assumed he'd spilled hot grease on himself in the kitchen; they had never seen that kind of damage from the sun. They admitted him to the hospital.

By two AM, large, pus-filled blisters were forming on his legs and BB was in such excruciating pain, they had to inflate him with morphine in order to slather his legs with Silvadine, a protective ointment used for severe burns, and to wrap him in gauze.

At 2:30, someone at the hospital called my mom and told her what had happened.

At 3:30, Mom and I were on the road heading north. In the back was my old military duffel bag, hastily packed with enough clothes and books to last me a month--the minimum time my brother would need live-in care until he, quite literally, was back on his feet again.

By around 10 AM, we found the apartment my brother was subletting for the summer. He was living on the second floor of what had once been a stately old home about a mile from the Brown University campus. But now it was clearly a neighborhood whose main characteristic was that it offered thugs a chance to perfect their breaking-and-entering skills. As we parked on the street where my brother lived, it seemed that every other car had a window punched out and its radio missing. Most of the other old houses or apartment buildings in the area had bars or plywood stoutly bolted over the windows of the lower floors. My mother swore quietly as we found the house. Our family never failed to find the Worst Neighborhood to live in, and my brother had clearly been carrying on the tradition.

The front door was unlocked--actually, there was no kind of hardware to lock at all on the front door. Where a doorknob had once been, there was now just a big splintery hole, as if a large, feral creature had taken a big bite out of the wood. "Jesus, I wonder how many times this place has been broken into," my mother hissed as she wedged her car keys between her fingers and made a fist (her ultimate defense against attackers). We lumbered up the stairs to the second-floor landing, where we found another door ajar.

We pushed it open and there, splayed on the floor like a corpse, was BB.

He looked like he'd been the victim of a botched mummification, and that whoever had attempted the job had left in a hurry. He was naked from the waist up, a horrific, eye-bleaching sight in itself. Below the grimy dishtowel that covered his nethers, he was wrapped in yellowing, crusty gauze. All we could see were his toes and they were horribly bruised, purpled and distended.

He opened one bleary eye as we stared at him.

"Kill me NOWWWW!" he croaked. The morphine had worn off an hour earlier.

Poor BB. He really was in excruciating pain. He couldn't sit or get up or walk or crawl without help. Together, Mom and I managed to get him into the bathroom so he could sponge off and change the bandages he'd been wrapped in at the hospital (he would end up needing new bandages three or four times a day).

While Mom got BB situated, I tried to make myself useful by cleaning up the kitchen, which seemed to be nothing so much as an exhibit on the subject of How Dirty Can Dishes Really Get? At work, my brother didn't have to worry about dirty dishes. When he sullied a pot or pan or plate, he just dumped it on the poor bastard who had to spend his working days up to his elbows in soap and slops, washing the stuff. Since one of my most recent jobs had been as a dish-jockey in a college dining hall, I had some experience with this sort of thing. And I had better get used to it. If I was going to be living with my brother for a month, I was going to be chief cook and bottle washer and without either of us working, we sure as hell wouldn't have the money to order takeout.

I rolled up my sleeves and got busy. First, I cleared the sink and counter of existing crockery. And ants. Once that was done, I began picking up glasses and plates and cutlery from odd corners of the house. There were plates and a bowl on the floor where my brother had collapsed. From the bathroom, my mother handed out a stack of cups and saucers, which she had found on the toilet tank. It was like a horrid little scavenger hunt.

I went into the front room of the apartment, which had a large bay window in it. I parted the dusty curtains and saw that, even with the bug streaks and the large cracks in the glass, the window commanded an impressive view of the street below and the small square of parkland beyond it. The room was dark and cool and furnished with an assortment of thrift-store cast-offs. As I collected dirty dishes from rickety, cigarette-burned end tables, I suddenly stopped. I had the strangest feeling someone was watching me. It was an old house, and I had grown accustomed to the sensation living in our old, slightly haunted house in New Jersey. But this was different somehow. Or maybe I was just tired from driving all night with my mom.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dark form sitting in a lumpy old arm chair, partially hidden by the door that opened to this room.

Stifling a whimper, I yanked the curtain open behind me and dusty light shone in, revealing a man dressed in combat boots and camouflage fatigues, sitting cross-legged behind the door. In one black-gloved hand draped across the arm-rest, he held a glittering, Rambo-style hunting knife. He was wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball cap.

And a gorilla mask. An enormous, matted, hairy rubber gorilla mask.

I screamed so loud that the cracks in the window behind me elongated by about five more squeaking inches.

"What in the name of God--?" my mother cried from the next room. She was just emerging from the bathroom with my brother in tow.

BB, the big turd, was chuckling weakly.

"I think MM just met my roommate Bobo," he said...

Well, MM, don't worry about posting outdo most bloggers in that regard with your informative, well-written posts. I'm just trying to get in the habit of posting regularly, myself. Looking forward to hearing more primate tales.
Poor BB! That had to suck.

I am dying to know what's up with the "gorilla". So, of course, you decide to cut back your posting schedule ;P
This one made me happy because I went to school in Providence.

Your posts are missed, but if you're not out there living your crazy life, you're going to run out of stories! =)
Oh, and I'm sorry to hear about your awful incident, BB. I hope you had better luck w/ RI's ER than I did.
No worries on the blogging frequency -- it just gives me more opportunity to go back through the archives!

(Besides which, I run a short story blog that updates only once a week -- what could I possible know?)

And like all the commenters above I am very eagerly awaiting the next installment of this tale :-)
Squeee! I knew there had to be an abundance of prank stories between you and BB, so glad you decided to answer that question!

Life can certainly find a way of interrupting ones blogging. I consider it part of the ebb and flow of living.

Are you somehow related to my lil bro? He once put shampoo on my toothbrush.
He thought it was as funny as you.
My brother had a sunburn that required a cast when he was very little. That sucked.

As for pranks, I once replaced all the stuffing for oreos with white toothpaste. Got my Dad and a whole bunch of friends. LOL, now THAT was funny.
It's amazing how many awful (and often bizarre) injuries you and your big bro have been through - reminds me of those old episodes of Home Improvement - do all of the hospital people know your names too? ;)

looking forward to finding out about this gorilla thing...

i'm with everyone about the posting frequency - as long as you keep writing, we'll keep reading!
It's amazing how many awful (and often bizarre) injuries you and your big bro have been through - reminds me of those old episodes of Home Improvement - do all of the hospital people know your names too? ;)

looking forward to finding out about this gorilla thing...

i'm with everyone about the posting frequency - as long as you keep writing, we'll keep reading!

Been there. I had second-degree burns over probably 90% of my body from a sunburn at age 16. The severity of mine doesn't sound like it matched yours - the thrice-daily bandaging and the morphine - but it did cover a larger area and I was in agony for over two weeks. I haven't worn shorts outside even once since that time. And I absolutely slather myself with sunblock when I play ball now.


Quality has always been to the fore here, so don't worry about the quantity. I assume you're working on a project or two that might afford us a big heaping helping of yourself all at once, so it'll be worth the semi-drought now.

Except, get to the conclusion on this one NOW, please :-)
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