Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Worst Frenemy

It may come as no surprise that I was the Worst Schoolboy Ever.  As a youth, I was as energetic as a newly released electron and just as dangerous.  A lot of the overwhelming energy was expressed in great violently physical confrontations. Me and my peers would flee the school right after the bell rang to do battle.

At the time I had a physique and demeanor that would probably have been described as "Scrappy."  I was small for my age - in the fifth grade, many of the girls were taller than me.  And because the sport that my parents chose to saddle me with was soccer, I never developed the physically impressive figure of a football player. So imagine if you will, a four foot tall terror with bulging calf muscles and a chest fit to cage birds in.  That was me, the smallest bully that ever existed in the halls of W.E. Cherry Elementary school.

Of course, our school wasn't very big.  There mustn't have been more than a few hundred kids in the entire school.  Everyone knew everyone else, more or less, in that obnoxious way that people always seem to think is a good idea on paper.  What this meant was that the people that you could actually fight were a relatively small pool.  I wasn't raised to pick on people smaller than me (which would have been impossible anyway) and picking a fight with someone above your grade level just seemed like suicide.  Nobody else in my class really had my aggression issues or a real urge to get a quick kick to the shins (a favorite tactic of mine, even today) - nobody except Ted.

Ted was a jerk.  A bit taller than me, probably a bit more handsome, and not very witty.  I remember he was the one that dubbed me "Turtle", a nickname that I would carry throughout school before HBO's Entourage ever made the idea of being called "Turtle" a good thing.  And so he made a perfect outlet for my midgety-rage.  We would fight like cats and dogs. 

At least once a week, for more than a year, we fought.  In class, where we sat only a chair removed from each other, we would spend more time plotting our next assault - some ingenious way to get the upper hand.  A detour taken on the way home from school to best maximize safety from an ambush.  A pair of boots asked for for a birthday, to get that edge in a fight.  One time he even leaped from a tree in a simulation of a flying elbow drop he picked up from WWF Raw.

Because of our seething hatred for each other it really came as a shock when I was invited to his birthday party.  My mother had gotten an invitation from his mother who had noticed that we spent so much time together, so we must be the best of friends.  Was she insane? Or just sadistic?  I never found out.  My mom insisted that I go - and worse, that I had to get him a present.  Mind you a week earlier this was the kid that was trying to punch my nose back into position from where it went crooked the week before that.

A birthday present? She was out of her goddamned mind.  I knew just what to do: I would get my mom to buy a really sweet and awesome present, and then run off from the party - my purloined present in hand - and come out smelling like roses.  I put on a wonderful act for my skeptical mother and convinced her to get a small RC Helicopter for the party present (Mom, all he ever talks about is how he likes awesome helicopters! I don't like them at all, but this one is the best, because it has a wireless remote...) 

But my chance to make a big escape never happened.  There was always a parent watching over us like prison wardens.  And something about the presence of cake and canned sodas took all the fight out of me.  I settled down and enjoyed the party.  I grudgingly gave my present (... it wasn't such a cool helicopter anyway... not even with its wireless remote and authentic looking rocket pods..).  I enjoyed myself quite a lot - and we even agreed to trade Nintendo games afterwards.

The next week, I punched him in the throat at the water fountain.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is, but it probably has something to do with helicopters.

The Worst Party

The Worstblogger family is a family of many strengths.  One of our greatest strengths is our capacity to handle our liquor.  If alcohol tolerance was an Olympic event, we'd probably medal bronze.  I've long held that the entire reason that all of us age so well is that we are internally pickled and preserved from the age that we could pick up a can.  It took me most of my childhood to realize that Jack Daniels wasn't a blood relative and that "Old Milwuakee" wasn't the capital of one of the 50 states.

I, being the rebel that I am, never became much of a big drinker.  My father seemed to drink enough for the both of us (or, indeed, for the whole family) and so during my university days I was more likely to be chugging liters and liters of Coca-Cola than PBR at the student bar.  The joke was on me, the Coca-Cola was more expensive and probably had more long-term side-effects to my health than the dollar beers would have.

Despite all this, I never missed a chance to tout my prodigious ability to withstand the rigors of drink.  I was the worst sort of armchair quarterback - shouting at others when they were obviously failing in their binge-drinking, expounding tons of advice on how to better drink, and yet never donning the gear and stepping out onto the field myself.  This all came to a horrible end one day.

There was a girl (there was always a girl...) named Julie.  She was the moon and the stars, and just as unobtainable as those heavenly bodies.  I pined after her like a parrot for the fjords.  She mixed with my circle of oddball friends, but always managed to have a boyfriend when I was single - or was single when I was not.  But not this time.  It was her 21st birthday, she had recently broken off with her latest boy (a mutual friend of ours, I'm not the Worst person in the world for nothing).  I had recently been dumped by my girlfriend (probably because I spent most of my time looking at Julie and not the girl I was supposed to be dating).  There was my window - a glorious opportunity.

Being the generous soul that I am and by dent of being the oldest guy in our circle, one of legal alcohol-purchasing age, I offered to procure the libations.  I think I even said "I will procure the libations,"  a sign at how desperate for her attention and approval I was at the time.  A keg was purchased.  A house off campus was driven to.  A party was started.

Having purchased the keg, I took it upon myself to be "The Keg Guy."  Everyone entering the party was given their miserable paper cup and directed to me.  I sat there in the backyard, lounging in my luxurious plastic lawn-chair, dispensing brew to all those thirsty souls that came my way.  I greeted everyone with a challenge "Hey, giving up already?" as I filled up their dixie cup to the brim and sent them on their way.

The problem came when I realized that I had been pouring myself a drink every time I poured one for someone else.  There were easily twenty people at the party - and while there was certainly more booze than just my keg, very few of them turned down a chance at free beer.  There's no way to verify this, but I would say that - on a conservative estimate - I must have drank at least ten thousand dixie-cups of cheap beer.

I felt like a king.  There in my wonderfully scultped plastic throne, I observed the bonfire with heavy eyes and a light heart.  I sat swimming in my thoughts of how I was undoubtedly impressing my unwitting Julie.  The poor, innocent fool had no idea that she was being drawn into my web of ... of whatever it was that I was weaving in order to impress and seduce her.  Yes, she would be mine at any moment.  In fact, there she was now, helping me up out of my plastic perch.  And leading me out away from the fire.  Funny how your legs seem to notice your intoxication faster than your brain.  I must have yawned - was I tired? Do yawns contain physical matter? Julie really is a sweetheart to put me in this taxi and let me rest my head there in her lap.

And now she is in my room, ahh success.  And undressing me - her claims that it's just to make me clean fall on deaf ears (I know that she is preparing me for our imminent love-making) - some idiot must have soiled my shirt, because I realized faintly that I was covered in vomit.  Into the bathtub I went as caring hands doused me with warm and soothing water.  I must have dozed off - because I woke up the next day in a fresh set of pajamas, alone, in my own bed with a note left by Julie saying that I should lay off the drink.

There was to be no frantic love making.  Julie didn't speak to me for three weeks after the event - and to top things off, I found out that one of the party-goers who arrived late (a very popular sportsman in our university) had a terrible accident - slipping on a pool of spew, horribly twisting his ankle and removing him from the rest of the seasons sporting events.

I wasn't invited to any more parties.  I never understood why. But here are some parties I wouldn't mind joining:
The Libertarian Party
The Raving Loony Monster Party
Rich Burlew's Party

Have a worst party experience? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Worst Wurst

Sausage... or hate crime?

When I was a kid, my mother cooked most of the family's meals.  Dinner was primarily a family affair, devoid of TV, video games, comic books, or fun in general.  The Worstblogger family would gather around our wooden dining table (in the dining room that shared space with the living room and the kitchen,  we were neatly efficient like that), hold hands and say Grace before setting upon the food in front of us like wild jackals.  I like to think that someone was creeping behind our terrifyingly ugly sofa, documenting us for some future report on the eating habits of white lower-middle-class America.

My mother was, and still is, a very good cook (although I heard that this wasn't always the case, and Granny Rabbit said there was a time that mom could manage to burn water).  She could cook the hell out of some good southern food - but looking back on things, her repertoire was pretty limited.  You could probably have set a calendar to our dinners. "Ah, meatloaf and green-beans, it must be the 6th - trash goes out tonight!"  My mother could do her shopping for the entire month without a list (even though dad would invariably write the same list, without fail, every month) - so ingrained was our dining menu.

So it was always something of a treat when we got something different.  The occasional Soupy Mac and Cheese night, the rare Stromboli dinner, and the make-your-own-pizza evening were all highlights of my youth (these were before we had the Internet).  But not every deviation from the norm was relished, particularly when it came down to my father's favorites.

One of these was Kielbasa.  These long, suggestive sausages from some sadistic village in Poland terrorized me.  I despised the taste of them for some reason or another and I flatly refused to eat them - full stop.  This was problematic because when there was Kielbasa for dinner - that was it.  I never quite understood why but these sickening sausages always seemed to take the main-dish slot on the night they were served.  They were never surrounded by something to help you push it through - just served whole, sometimes sliced, and taking up the lion's share on the fake-china.  I'm sure my mother must have prepared something for me on the side (thanks mom, it's probably the reason I'm such a fussy eater today! I accuse my parents!) - but it was very clear that this was a meal made for my father - for his enjoyment - and the rest of us would just have to grin and suffer through it.

There was no leaving that table until you had finished everything on your plate.  To make matters worse, our family dogs were traditionally the sort of small terrier that couldn't discretely finish food in such proportions without attracting attention.  There was nothing for it, you ate - or you sat at the table until your food had gone as cold and hard as one of Medusa's admirers.  Kielbasa night was always a battle - and I am still waiting for an apology from the Polish.

Two things from Poland that I enjoy:
Polish Winged Hussars (Not a sexual position)
The protagonist of Wolfenstein was Polish!

But did you know: A terrible Lech founded their nation?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Worst Brother

This is why I never eat cereal.

I am now thirty years old, and looking back on my younger days I have come onto two realizations.  One, that I am now old enough to even warrant using the phrase "my younger days" and Two, that I was not a particularly good brother to have.  In fact, I was probably the Worst Brother ever.  I have two siblings (and two step-siblings that came along much much later in life, when I was already an adult).  A sister, two years my senior, and a brother, five years my junior.

My sister, by way of being older, more physically impressive, and more socially graceful than myself (all of which is still true today) managed to escape most of my terrorizing.  My brother, on the other hand, was five years younger than me and sized perfectly for tormenting.  Couple this with a younger brother's adoring trust of his elder sibling and an innocent, trusting view of the world, and you had a perfect storm of what it takes to be a perfect target.

My grandmother had a rabbit farm at the time, home to more than 500 of the creatures being sold for snake-food and pets over the Northern Florida region.  It was our duty, as good grandchildren, to assist on the farm once a week.  The weekend visits to "Granny Rabbit's House" were sacred, inviolate. You could more easily miss a Sunday at church than miss a visit to Granny Rabbit's.  

It usually fell to my sister and I to tend to the beasts, a task that was not as hard as it was tedious.  Changing the water in their bottles (made ingeniously out of discarded glass sprite bottles by my grandfather) and adding food to their trays.  Do this down 10 rows of rabbits until you are tired and had a growing hatred of Bugs Bunny and you could come close to what we experienced.  

Maybe you have never really been up close and personal to a rabbit.  They are quite cute, up to the point where they scratch and bite at you for putting your hand in their cage, or try to pick them up.  They also produce a prodigious amount of poop.  Rabbit poop is amazing stuff.  The beasts evacuate their bowels in these perfectly shaped little pellets that look almost, but not quite, like cocoa-puff cereal in miniature. Five hundred rabbits eating their weight in rabbit food everyday produce an immense amount of poop, which through the cunning design of my grandfather's cage design - fell onto the floor to be scooped up and sold as fertilizer at a later time.

Perhaps you see where this is going. It was a rare day, Jack was finally deemed old enough to help out on the farm - instead of just tagging alongside our mother's apron strings, he was to go with me to tend to the rabbits.  Finally, a chance to have some fun.

"Jack, I'm your older brother, right?" 
"Yeah, Dan, you know that."
"And I'm smarter than you, because I can write and do math and read books."
"Mom says I'm smart!"
"But don't you want to be... you know, smarter?"
"I guess so."
"If you don't tell mom, I'll show you how we got so smart."
"I promise!" 

It was too easy, I had pocketed some of the pellets from my earlier rounds - and no worries, my pocket was easily dirtier than rabbit poop, if anything the pellets probably cleaned my pocket somewhat. I offered him the things, telling him that they were "Smart Pellets" and that all the kids that were old enough ate three of them a day.  He ate them.

Sure, there was hell to pay later, but my satisfaction was so great that I barely even noticed the punishment - I still don't recall what it was to this day - but I DO remember how his pretty, trusting eyes looked at me with such hope as his teeth sunk into that first bite.  Priceless.  I'm the worst brother Ever.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Worst Movie Ever

Dear god, save us from his felt-y grip!

There are a lot of painful memories from my days at the University of North Florida.  It was the place where I really developed into this worst-Dan that I am today.  One of the formative events that took place in that bygone era was my initial viewing of the movie "Manos: the Hands of Fate."

A little background: our beloved Alma Mater is (or at least, was at the time) situated within several acres of natural wildlife preserve, surrounded by woods, the nearest source of entertainment was a Publix that you could walk to (alongside the highway, without the benefit of sidewalks).  Me and my car-less friends were often stranded for long stretches of time within the confines of the dorms.  In the last years of my journey through University, I had befriended two scholars "Clever" Dan Richardson and David Barron.  These two would quickly become bastions of humor and sanity in my final years as a student there - we shared a great many things in common - one of which was a love of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

This was a time before reliable torrent sites and a time after VHS tape trades, so finding copies of the venerable series was always a chore, until we found the motherload.  A website that claimed to have all of the episodes - and that they would burn them to blank DVDs (an innovation of the time) for peanuts, all in the name of spreading the joy.  We sent out for every title that looked like it might involve a side-boob (Girl in lovers lane, Fire Maidens of Venus) or grotesquely under budget fantasy (Deathstalker, Merlins shop of Wonders).  In the mix we threw in "Manos: the Hands of Fate", just as a whim, because you had to have a certain number of selections before they'd ship to you for free.

What a whim.  We ran through those videos with a passion - when you are trapped in a university apartment for hours and hours and hours with no women (on purpose, you don't know the women we were avoiding), no alcohol (no choice, there wasn't a place close enough to buy any) and nothing on TV (because there is NEVER anything good on TV) having something that eats two hours of otherwise dead-time is a lifesaver.

We made it into a kind of event, all of us would pile into my apartment, sit on the bed and the one chair, and mock these terrible movies.  We usually held it at my place because I had a mostly absentee roommate.  But I recall that time, he was home - and we decided to have the thing at David's place.  Up in that hot loft, looking on at his tiny screen, we geared up for the next video in the queue: Manos.  We couldn't get more than 10 minutes into the vile thing before David got violently, physically ill.  He spent most of the time in real physical, bowel-wrenching pain (the rest of us managed to keep our pain on the mental tier of anguish).

Looking back on it now, he was the lucky one - trapped in the singular bathroom for stretches of time - or he would have been the lucky one, if the other Dan and I hadn't decided to pause every time David left.  If we were going to suffer through this film, by gods, so was he.  I think it must have taken the three of us over three hours to finish this 90 minute movie.  I am pretty sure that is over the recommended dosage of exposure to Manos (which, for the record, states that "0" is the preferred amount).  We survived, barely.  But there was always a sense of betrayal - that good friends wouldn't have let you suffer so - that we all carried.  I still carry it to this day.  Friends don't let friends watch Manos.

This nutter is Re-Mastering Manos
David Barron, writes better things than Manos.
Manos, in puppet form!

What is your worst movie?


The worst blog will continue here for a few more days but good news, we've found a new home!

Heroes Have No Homes is our new... home?  Check it out, because it's flippin' sweet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Worst Book

Spoiler: The only dragons are on the cover.

The very worst book that I was assigned to read in high school was The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. I can remember, reluctantly and with great terror, how my brief "I hate reading" phase began.

Let's remember together: I was a fresh-faced high school sophomore, newly transferred from my freshman year in Maryland's reputable Great Mills High School (affectionately known to those that attended those hallowed halls as "Ghetto Mills") to the relatively small an unknown establishment of Hawthorne High School, in the thriving rural village of Hawthorne, Florida.  Hawthorne has more letters in its name than most of its citizens had in their mental-arsenal.  When asked, "What do you like to read?" most people would probably stare at you blankly, slowly reaching for their rifles.

In my youth, I was not a very good student - but I DID like reading.  English was probably the only subject that I didn't absolutely drive my teachers insane in.  But excelling in reading in Hawthorne was like ... it was like performing magic tricks in front of cavemen (at first they are cautiously impressed, then fearful, and finally you are clubbed over the head and dragged off screaming) .  That's not to say there wasn't a core of nerds hidden away - there were, and we had great fun being smart and unpopular and unlaid.  But there was a certain oppressive air against those who relished in what was charmingly referred to as "Book Learnin'."

It was then, to my horror, that the teacher at the time decided that the best use of our class time was to read the book in class.  She knew that nobody would do the reading at home and anyway, it was an easy way to keep a bunch of rowdy kids quiet (or so she thought).  You've never seen a larger gathering of people that move their lips when they read.  So, I read.  The book wasn't very exciting to me - even though it was about Asian women, there wasn't a terrible amount of sex in the thing and no dragons (which was unforgivable, because anything related to China should have at least one dragon in it) - but I managed to finish the book within the week.

When I showed up to English class that following Monday, I was prepared to talk about the plot, the characters, and the absence of dragons with my peers.  I was excited to casually show off my understanding of themes and narrative devices and wax poetic about how a dragon could have really saved the thing from the slow parts in the fourth chapter.  Then the teacher announced that there was to be a quiz on the reading - Panic! Could I remember all of the salient points? Maybe I should have re-read ... - a quiz on chapter one.

What? One Chapter? In a week?  Was she out of her mind? Perhaps it was a mistake.  I politely raised my hand and corrected her - "You mean the first part? There are four parts to the book... do you mean the first one?" to which I realized, No.  No she was most definitely referring to the first chapter of the book.  My colleagues looked at me as if I had grown a Zaphodian second head - but gave me none of the respect that should have gone with the feat.

I coughed, sat down, and pretended it was a joke.  I had finished the book, but soon realized that the teacher didn't believe that I had - so I had to read it again.  And Again.  I must have read that damned thing five times in class, just so I wouldn't be yelled at for slacking off.  I had to read that book with its boring mothers and sexless daughters and non-existent dragons five whole times.  That was when I began hating to read. And that is why it has always stayed with me as the Worst Book.

I didn't even know you could play Mahjong outside of a computer.

Do you have a Worst Book? Leave a comment, share the pain.