Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Bad Idea Man's Suicide Note, Part 3

I rewound the tape, hoping I had heard wrong.

Sell bad ideas.

It was unmistakable.

For a year I've sold bad ideas. I made 1.4 million dollars before expenses selling bad ideas to over a hundred thousand people from around the world. My bad idea was being eaten up by the public.

What about a week from now when I wake up and it turns out that bicameral legislatures are a bad idea? What about music? Is music a bad idea? Love? Peace? Democracy?

If you're finding this note, I am already dead. The world wasn't meant to have a bad idea man. Bad ideas should be found out on their own or not at all - selling bad ideas is simply a bad idea, and so I'm done here.

I'll look through the records. I'm sure I've come up with more than enough ways to kill myself.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Bad Idea Man's Suicide Note, Part 2

Last year was the year that I got the concept of marketing my bad ideas, after a conversation with a cousin at Thanksgiving. He called to me from across the Thanksgiving table, "Hey, Mr. Bad-Idea-Man, should I carve the turkey now, or would that be unwise? Maybe you should take a nap and see."

I gave a sarcastic little chuckle as I folded my napkin onto my lap. "Real funny."

My aunt jumped to my defense. "I think your bad ideas are kind of neat," she said, talking to me but glaring at my cousin, "if I had bad ideas like yours, I'd write them all down so I knew what to avoid."

It was a few months after that that I started the Bad Idea Blog. The concept was simple enough: I recorded myself talking in my sleep during the night, typed it all up the next morning, and then sold access to my insights for $11.99 per year.

At first it was just my family that signed up, but it wasn't long before a few local media sources found out about it. A few catchy headlines later, NBC ran the story on a slow news day. There was an immediate spike in my number of readers, and when the surge finally receded I was left with a regular and reliable climb. I hit the hundred thousand mark a month and a half later and took a trip over Niagara Falls in a cardboard box to celebrate. My arm was broken on some rocks, but it was worth it. I was living the life of a king, and all I had to do to stay successful was sleep.

This was the story up until two days ago, when disaster struck. I was listening to the previous night's recording, typing up the bad ideas:

Buy an iPhone for your dog.
Wear a bluetooth in both of your ears.
Break up with your girlfriend via skywriter.

There was a pause here - I rolled over in my sleep, I think - and then, without warning:

Sell bad ideas.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Bad Idea Man's Suicide Note, Part 1

When I was twenty I tried skateboarding with my eyes closed, and I fell down the flight of concrete stairs that leads up to the entrance of the quad. I blacked out and they took me to the hospital, and, since I was unconscious, the doctors figured out my name by rummaging through my wallet. Unfortunately for me, I did not have my driver's license in my wallet at the time. Instead, I had a fake ID. The doctors took the name the ID had on it - not my own - and, viewing hospital records, determined that I was someone who I was not. By some terrible twist of fate, this someone was not allergic to ketamine, a common anesthesia that I am actually extremely allergic to. I have a medical bracelet for it, in fact, but I never wear it.

I don't know whether it was my body's reaction to the allergen or the surgery they performed on me or all of the alcohol I consumed at the party I went to an hour after I was released from the hospital on the grounds that I would get plenty of bed rest, but something inside me was changed. That night my roommate woke me, telling me I had been talking in my sleep.

"What was I saying?" I asked him.

"I dunno, man," he said, looking bewildered. "I thought I heard you say something about skydiving during a lightning storm."

The next two nights the same thing happened. I would open my eyes and he would be standing over me, telling me I had been muttering about juggling cats. It was at this point that it occurred to me he might have been playing a joke. The next evening I tape-recorded my sleep, and discovered, to my surprise, that I was not being lied to. I was chattering all night long about all sorts of nonsense: "wear sweatpants to a funeral," I said; or, "play russian roulette with a semi-automatic." Every night I kept talking, and every night I would suggest the same sort of things:

Bad ideas.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Scenes 6

The team scored and so I lifted up my bells and you lifted up your bells and the drums started and we laughed.

I didn't know where the door led but I was willing to figure it out and you were too and so the alleys were dark and damp and deserted but we were not afraid.

There was a poison zombie and we named him Sebastian.

I realize I've been doing these a lot lately but I wanted a sample post so I could introduce the following: write your own scene (or scenes). Email them to me, comment them, send them by carrier pigeon - I'll pick my favorites and publish them on the 31st.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scenes 5: Christmas Edition

I am very little and very warm and very in-my-pajamas and my toes are curled up in the shag and I look outside into the upstate New York landscape and the swing set is buried in snow.

You are decorating the tree and I am playing the piano.

An expert informs me that Christmas trees are better when you look at them cross-eyed (pictured above).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Scenes 4

We are looking at the Mona Lisa and you say why do you think she is smiling? and I think that is the dumbest question I have ever heard there does not need to be a reason to smile people can just smile because they want to smile why does there have to be a reason to smile people always ask that question when they see this painting but it does not mean a thing it does not mean a thing it means nothing but I say I'm not sure.

We are on a bus and it is late and all around us people are discussing religion angrily and you are a devout Christian and I do not believe in God but we have been best friends since sixth grade and I ask if I can put my head on your shoulder and you look a little uncomfortable but you say okay and your shoulder is a little bony but I fall asleep just the same.

You try on my shoes but they do not fit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scenes 3

You told me I was not a nerd and I said Not a nerd? I must be dreaming! Then I woke up.

You hit the scientist in the face with a crowbar and he screamed and died and we laughed for about twenty minutes.

I was posting on my blog but it sucked.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Fate

You have heard of fate, I am sure, because people say you were fated to meet them, they say you were fated to be together, that every moment of every life is leading up to this, that you are here and it was fate that brought you here today, and though I like the idea I cannot help but wonder if people are fated to not be together, if people are fated to be strangers, if people are fated to miss each other.

During the average school day you miss one hundred eighty-seven people. Fourteen could have been your friend, but four would have found you annoying; twenty-nine would have said something funny; eleven could make cookies and would have made cookies for you; nine share your passion for Hunter S. Thompson and miniature yorkshire terriers; and one - exactly one - would have put her hands on your chest and told you to close your eyes and would have pressed her lips up against your ear and whispered, softly, sweetly: "I love you."

Once, as an experiment, a kid decided to stop missing people for a day. He went to school with a sandwich board on - one with a list of his hobbies and the sports he played and his favorite bands - and introduced himself to everyone he didn't know. That day he made fourteen new friends, laughed twenty-nine times, and received eleven different batches of cookies (seven chocolate chip, three oatmeal raisin, and an odd variation on a peanut butter cookie that included bits of celery and chopped up sausage links). Unfortunately for the boy, however, the girl who would have loved him had a sore throat that day and stayed home sick.

You and I could have missed each other - it would have been easy - but for one instant something happened: fate blinked, maybe, or fate sneezed; fate's wife walked in and asked him if he wanted grilled cheese or tuna for lunch and he stopped paying attention while he looked out the window (his kid was flying a kite), and when he looked back down there we were, meeting, our strings crossed permanently, tied in one of those knots that are not complicated but that are so damn small it is just impossible to get them undone. I’m not sure if there are words out there that can express how glad I am that I did not miss you and that you did not miss me, but if there are I have yet to find them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Haiku

I frequently find
myself at a loss for words;

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Become Inspired

Here is a good way to inspire someone:

Your friend comes to you because he has not taken a good picture in a while and he needs an idea for a story because he is like a balloon ready to pop he is ready to pop he has everything he needs just under the surface he has all the energy and motivation he just needs a needle he needs you to be a needle for him you are very good at being a needle for him so what you do is he will come to you and say all of the pictures I have taken lately are terrible and you say so take a good one and he says I need a story idea will you give me a story idea and you say no.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Regarding Trips by Train, and also Being Alone

I'm on a train while I'm writing this - the 4:09 from Baltimore to Philadelphia - two cities that members of my family call home. My sister and I grew up just outside of Philly in a little suburb called Wayne and now she's a psych major at Johns Hopkins and I'm still in high school. I was visiting her this weekend (the second in December), and now I'm headed home. It's a Saturday evening; the train is quiet.

Outside, it's snowing. It started about an hour ago at ultimate practice and now we're in the thick of it; the sky is gray and the air is foggy and filled with flakes. This kind of weather makes for good traveling along the Northeast Corridor - the forests look empty without leaves, dark branches silhouetted against a light background. When we're lucky enough to pass over a body of water, the gray surface turns the same shade of gray as the sky; the horizon disappears, leaving only a solid gray wall.

We'll be pulling into Wilmington in a moment.

In the seat in front of me are a young woman and her son. She is reading and he is cutting out little Christmas trees out of green construction paper. I cannot help but admire the attention he is devoting to his task.

The fog is letting up a little bit, and the sky is darkening. The train begins passing through more residential areas.

I am riding alone. I like to ride alone, even though I don't do it much. I visited my sister once last year, but other than that I don't think I've ridden alone. I know that there will be no shortage of times in my life when I travel lone. I think it's something of a rite of passage. It's pleasant enough to be in solitude; as young children, we don't get much in the way of being alone. We're with people: our parents, our teachers, our chaperones. As adults, we're alone all the time. We take the bus alone. We go to our jobs alone. We fall asleep alone. If we're lucky we get married or we have children - we get people so we don't have to be alone, but even with people we have to be alone sometimes. Adults have to be alone sometimes. It's just the way things are.

Solitude is nice. Right now I'm feeling okay about being alone. The bottom line is this, though: being alone is okay, but being with people is better. I'm taking this train because I wanted to visit my sister in Baltimore and now I'm headed home on a Saturday night because I want to see my friends and tomorrow I'm performing in a concert because I want to be with people and to sing with people and to show off for people.

The Christmas lights around here sure are pretty. I wish you could see them.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Anti-Jeff: Part 3

Things were turning out okay.

Jeff had gotten new glasses (the inefficient kind, without frames), so I took the opportunity to get some new ones of my own. The government recently published some new information reporting that inefficiency could be contracted through eye contact, and I think Jeff was starting to notice that I was avoiding looking him in the eye (he mentioned something when I started looking around the corners of my house with hand mirrors). The new pair I bought was complete with government-issued Jeff Reflective coating. It was expensive, sure, but my health and efficiency were worth it.

My plan was working perfectly. Every week Jeff went to visit the other Jeff in a warehouse just outside of town, and I tracked him every time with a locator in his shoe.

During one of the meetings I made a call from the house to a certified JeffFree purveyor of firearms. The purchase was going to be quite expensive until I told him what I was planning on using my item of choice for; in the end, he offered me the gun for free, his only condition that I not come to the shop but rather that he stash it in the trunk of my car in a few days ("can't be too careful these days," he explained, "what with all the Jeff spies been runnin' around"). I agreed it was for the best.

Finally, the day came. It was a Saturday evening in November, I remember - a little chilly, dark by 5:45. I pulled my government-issued outer garment close against me as I snuck from my car to the building I now knew Jeff to be in. I pushed open the door. It squeaked.

I moved slowly.

The warehouse was large and dark, lit only by the small amount of moonlight that was able to struggle through the grimy paned windows. The primary feature in the space seemed to be large wooden crates. A metal catwalk was hung from the ceiling, connected to an upper level door. A crack of incandescent light streamed out from the crack under the door.

I climbed up the rusty ladder, cursing every tiny noise my feet made against the iron. Once up on the catwalk I crawled, maneuvering slowly towards the slit of light that seemed my only hint as to the Jeff's location.

Faint voices emanated from under the door. They sounded Jeff-Like.

"Oh man, this whole 'against the Jeffs' thing is getting a little ridiculous. How are people falling for this?"

Yes, definitely Jeff-Like.

I pulled out my gun and kicked open the door and there they were, sitting in a small table in a small room and looking small themselves and so thoroughly at my mercy. Unfortunately for them, I wasn't feeling merciful. The fear in their eyes was instant and for that I was grateful - I wanted them to be scared.

I stepped into the room slowly, my gun leveled, my finger poised.

"No long speeches," I said, "no melodrama. This ends here."

I pulled the trigger.


Appropriately enough, this picture was taken by Jeff B. I think it sort of fits with the post, and I also quite like the photo in and of itself.

There will be one more installment of this story.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Carpet

We performed Sweeney Todd freshman year, which was a pretty good time; to be honest, I preferred it to Footloose, though I had a much smaller part. Contributing factors to my enjoyment were the obvious ones: the freshness of the experience, the fact that Mr. Joseph directed, and so on, and so on, and though these reasons were all very important it was for an entirely different reason that I really look so fondly upon the experience.

It was one of those late rehearsals, the kind that happen right before the show and last about eight hours or so, especially if they run long (this one was running long). About ten minutes into the second act (Johanna, Reprise) I began to get sleepy - not tired, for tired implies real exhaustion, and I was not exhausted. I was just comfortable - Tyler had shown me the wonders of removing my sneakers and socks in the orchestra pit and I was discovering the joy of being barefoot inside, in public, where I was really not supposed to be that way. My toes dug deep into the carpeted pit floor.

Oh, that carpet. I don't think I've encountered one quite like it in all my life. It was soft and fluffy - the kind that deserved to be in front of a warm fire - and it almost seemed like it was in front of a fire that night, what with the bright, burning spotlights on stage and the dim pit surrounding me. Outside, it had just started to snow - big, fluffy, fat flakes that drifted downwards as if in slow motion - and I had just recently sprinted back from the potluck dinner at the middle school. My hands had warmed up quickly after a brief chimes solo and now I was content, cuddly, and comfortable. I looked over at Tyler and saw that he had spread out on the floor. I decided I wouldn't mind a little rest either.

(As you can probably deduce from all the time the drummers have on their hands to relax, Sweeney Todd is not a percussion-heavy musical.)

I put down my sweatshirt as he stood up to begin playing the next song, the first of many that included no part for me. I sat down, testing the waters, seeing if it was really okay for me to be lying down in the pit. I let measures go by and nothing happened - no reprimand, no calling-out - I was simply not needed. I was free to lie down, and I did, cautiously.

I was short freshman year: this much you know but I want to make it clear that my voice was squeaky and that I was short enough to extend my legs all the way from the tam-tam to the timpani, an impossible feat for nearly anyone else. As soon as I settled in, I realized it: this was bliss. Being tired in public, secretly, staring up through the vibraphone keys and listening to the lilting alto, my head raised only enough to be comfortable but not enough to be useful, hidden, buried under a mountain of trap table legs and bass drum stands: this was something new, something incredible. I was surrounded by good friends and good music and I was just there, cozied up with the crash cymbals we kept on the floor, enjoying my surroundings silently.

I drifted off in the pit that night, only briefly, not enough to miss a cue but enough to fall in love with that carpet - that furry one that I dug my toes into one winter evening rehearsal.