Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Thursday, July 06, 2006


The Idiot Pool

My wife and I spent the recent July 4th holiday in Ohio, visiting my family and helping out a little bit with the arts festival my mother started. That's right, I said she started an arts festival. She was sitting around a few years ago, probably petting a dog--'cause that's what she does--and she was hit with the notion that the town my parents live in needed a group to promote the arts. So she founded one. Then she decided that it might be a good idea to gather local and regional artists in one place so that people could see their work and be exposed to a nice variety of creative endeavors. So she did that. Which is pretty impressive.

The weekend wasn't all about carrying heavy-ass bleachers across parks so that three people could sit on them to listen to a crappy dulcimer and zither group, although we did that. (I should point out that dulci-zithering is not indicative of the festival as a whole; it was, instead, the one ghastly low point.) We also spent some time swimming in my parents' new pool. Pools are very nice, especially when they're not open to the public, which greatly cuts down on the danger that a group of teenagers will point at your flabby, gray hair-covered chest and giggle endlessly. Instead, it was my family who pointed at my flabby, gray hair-covered chest and giggled endlessly. So that was fun.

My dad's wanted a pool ever since I can remember. He used to dump some chlorine in the bathtub and try to swim laps, but it wasn't really the same. It was nice, then, to see him finally get something he's been after for so very long. It's kind of like how Karl Rove would feel if, at long last, he got rid of the Bill of Rights.

I was so impressed with the pool that I'm considering putting one in our apartment. We could clear some space in the living room. Except that, now that I think about it, I'm reminded of another 4th of July and another pool...

(insert harp music and wavy-screen technology)

The summer of 1991, I had put together my first improv troupe. We picked the staggeringly original name Spontaneous Combustion. The group went down in flames after being hijacked by a member who wanted us to teach empowerment/self-expression workshops using improv to draw people out. *shudder*

Anyway, that's really neither here nor there, except that it explains why, instead of returning to my parents' house for the summer, getting a job, living rent-free and banking some cash, I decided to stay in the town where my college was so that I could work with this ill-fated group. I'd lived on-campus my first two years in school and had never hunted for an apartment before, so I had no real idea of how to go about it. I answered an ad for a sublet not far from campus.

The sublet was half of a room in a two-bedroom apartment, living with three other guys who'd lived together for a couple of years in one of the dozens of crappy apartment complexes near the campus. They seemed okay. Nice enough. I didn't like the process of looking for an apartment enough to hold out for something better, so I took it. And thus began probably the worst summer of my life.

The guys I was living with seemed to be in school not so much to learn or to find a direction in life, but more to advance the cause of binge-drinkers. And they took that mission seriously. These guys partied all the fucking time. They threw a party the first night I was there, in fact. A loud, drunken, pass-out-in-your-own-vomit party. Now, I'm a shy person. Really. And I'm especially shy--to the point of social anxiety disorder, in fact--in a room full of people I don't know. So to be confronted with a whole hoard of word-slurring strangers was not fun for me. 'Round midnight, I ducked into my room and tried to go to sleep. The party, of course, lasted for a good while longer. I remember, at one point, they needed someplace to throw a girl who'd passed out and I think they'd forgotten that they'd rented my bed out, so I came very close to having her thrown on top of me. I lay in the dark, cursing my poor decision-making skills.

The whole summer went by in much the same manner. These guys worked together as house-painters, but it rained quite a bit that summer, so they were around a lot. I reached the conclusion that they were basically frat guys without a frat. Which, I guess, means that they were smart enough at least to avoid paying for friends. One of them was running a food stamp scam of some kind, so at least there was always food in the house, some of which I swiped from time to time, as I was working part-time at a costume shop at the time and couldn't afford to do things like eat. They bought a puppy, basically so that they could tie a bandana around its neck and teach it to drink beer. They kept a tank of pirhanas who they fed bologna. They put a kiddie pool in the living room, mostly, as far as I could tell, so that they could throw girls into it at the many, many loud, obnoxious parties they threw. I spent more than one night sleeping in my car.

July 4th, desperate to spend as much time as possible away from these pinheads, I went to hang out with a friend of mine and his girlfriend, who lived in a nearby town. We went to a fireworks display and had some beers, pretty mellow stuff, which was nice. After the fireworks, I said goodbye to my friends and went back to find the apartment looking somewhat like a post-bomb Nagasaki.

Apparently, everyone had gotten very drunk early in the day, as there were no houses to paint on Independence Day. One of the drunkards then got hungry and decided to fry him up some tater tots. He dumped some oil in a pan, put the tots in it and set it on the stove, then wandered away. A little while later, he smelled something burning, remembered that he was cooking and went back to the kitchen to find an oil fire on the stove. Being stupid, he grabbed the flaming pan and started running through the apartment, with the intent of taking it out the front door and, I suppose, hurling the flame at his enemies. He got about four steps out of the kitchen when he realized that carrying fire isn't fun. As his arm was burning and he didn't want to follow through on his outdoor plan and going back to the kitchen seemed like too long of a trek, he did what any utter moron would do. He threw the oil fire into the kiddie pool in the living room, upon which the oil fire became a fireball that knocked him on his ass, blackened the walls and melted the drapes.

I moved out fairly soon after this and have never sublet an apartment since. Now, looking back after fifteen years, I guess the lesson I learned is that only idiots put pools in their living rooms. Also that you shouldn't buy a dog--even if you really, really want to teach it to drink beer--unless you're willing to house-train it and you're not borderline retarded.