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4:52 a.m. - 2003-02-14

"HIGHER LEARNING" HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CONSUMPTION OF MARIJUANA

Hey.

Can I ask you guys a favor?

The next time I type something here that remotely resembles the phrase "I'm going to go speak to some students today", somebody...ANYbody...please drop me an email and include the word "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" in it somewhere?

Cool?

Thanks.


So I'm getting ready for work yesterday and I'm about to leave.

Susie, being the doting, caring wife that she is, takes a second to swallow the remainder of her 37th bonbon of the morning to say "You're missing a button on that coat".

I look down and there's a knot of thread where a button should be.

"Dammit!" I exclaim. "Now I look like an idiot!"

"Wear another coat," she mumbles as she stares at Matt Lauer and silently counts the minutes until I leave.

"The only other coat I have has chocolate all over it from carrying Andrew the other night," I stammer.

"You've got 15 coats in your closet," she says, eyes never leaving the television.

Which is true. I've got 15 sports coats in the closet.

Two of those fit me due to my recent dramatic weight gain of 125 lbs as a result of my medical condition called "Somebody-hand-me-a-pizza-itis".

One was covered in M&M chocolate stains courtesy of El Andrew-o.

The other ... the one that I was wearing...was missing a button that had obviously popped off due to the fact that I was now twice the size I was a year ago.

"I don't know what to do," I cried. "If I wear this coat to the college, all the kids will laugh at me."

"Aaaaand?" Susie said in her ever-so-caring voice. "What do you want me to do about it?"

I looked at the clock. I had three minutes to leave the house in order to get to work on time.

"Nothing," I said. "You just sit there and fantasize about how Matt Lauer will someday find you and sweep you off to a deserted island where he will feed you bonbons and cater to your every sexual desire."

"Will do, Captain," she said, saluting me like a sailor.

Fine.


I get through work and get on the road for my 2.5 hour drive to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide and the University of Alabama.

This is going to be fun.

This is going to be exciting.

This is going to be.....WHAP!!!

I saw it coming. I coulda swerved. But I didn't.

A baby bird flew right into the grill of the van, flipped up, bounced off my windshield, rolled over the top of the van and landed smack dab in the middle of the interstate where the car behind me immediately put it out of its misery had it still been alive at that point.

That poor baby bird.

It had probably just been warned by its mama in bird talk: "Now Baby Bird...remember...always look both ways before carelessly flying over the interstate."

And Baby Bird was probably all like "Yeah, sure Mom. Whatever. You're just like the queen of flying over interstates and shit. Like I'm really going to listen to you."

And Mama Bird had probably made it across the interstate and was coaching Baby Bird across.

And then ... BLAMMO!! Mr. Mini Van takes out Baby Bird with one fell swoop as a horrified Mama Bird watches on in horror because ... well ... she's horrified...remember?

And today, they're probably having a funeral for Baby Bird on the side of I-65 outside of Clanton, Alabama. All the other birds from the community will be there and chirping about what a loss it is and how much potential Baby Bird had and Mama Bird will probably throw herself onto Baby Bird's carcass and chirp "Take ME, Lord!! TAKE MEEEEEE!!!"

...And then....they'll probably all take turns eating Baby Bird's flesh until he's nothing but bones and then spend the rest of the day flying around and shitting Baby Bird all over parked cars at the local mall.

I can't really say for sure as I've never been to a bird funeral. This is just a somewhat-educated guess.


I finally arrive in Tuscaloosa where I meet Carolyn at a local wing joint.

We eat wings and talk and she brings up things I wrote in my diary that I don't remember ever writing and I'm wondering "I wonder if she has me confused with someone else? Maybe she thinks I'm Disco or somebody?"

So I just kinda sit there and smile and nod and pray she doesn't realize that I'm not the guy she thinks she asked to come speak. I mean...that's a helluva drive for some buffalo wings.

So she pays and I forget to thank her (THANK YOU CAROLYN! THAT'S RIGHT...I WAS RAISED BY WOLVES WHO DIDN'T TEACH ME COMMON COURTESY!!). She's going to leave the tip and only has a dollar and change.

"Do you have any 1's?" she asks.

I have $30 in my pocket. A 20 and a 10.

"No," I say, completely forgetting the fact that I could easily give a 10 to the waiter and say "Could I get a 5 and 5 1's?"

I mean...my total thought process had completely gone to shit.

(In my defense, I was probably still psychologically damaged by the death of Baby Bird. Eating wings certainly didn't help in erasing the memory of my feathered friend either)

So an embarrassed Carolyn has to plead with the waiter that she WILL come back and WILL tip him more after class.

Meanwhile, I'm standing there, pulling off this ultra-cool stupid lummox look, trying to look like the only English I speak is "Hot wings and a Diet Coke please".

(I only mention this because Carolyn begged me not to mention it. And to point out that I've really been striving to perfect the stupid lummox look which seriously looks good on me if I say so myself)


We get to her class and I get an immediate case of the heebee-jeebees when I realize that not only is this the first time I've been in a college classroom in the last 20 years, but it's also the first time I've ever been in a college classroom completely sober.

Carolyn introduces me with an introduction that was probably written for David Sedaris, but Sedaris was probably busy cleaning his friend's toilet or something and I was 412th on the list of humor writers she could get in touch with after the first 411 politely declined.

So she gives the floor to me and I proceed to stammer and stutter and fly all over the place with my speech.

As I've noted here, I had no idea what I was going to talk about.

Here's some of the things I talked about:

* I talked about growing up in Germany and Greece. I completely forgot to tie in why this was important in my becoming a humor writer which was because I didn't speak the languages, so I barricaded myself in my bedroom and began writing all sorts of things. I think the students got the impression that I was just sitting there trying to impress that I was Joe Continental or something.

* I mentioned my comedy influences...without actually saying "These are some of my influences." I just mumbled "Steve Martin...National Lampoon ... Gilbert Gottfried ... my parents" while avoiding eye contact. These students looked at me as if I was having a nervous breakdown and was babbling my list of people I wanted to kill. I'm sure half the class spent the rest of my time there trying to detect any firearms tucked into my waistband

* I mentioned TWICE that I was having a breakdown while trying to speak.

* I told them that writing humor was hard and the pay sucked. Yeah. That's a good incentive to tell future humor writers. I guess I should have thrown in "And it's full of horrible diseases and you'll die young and alone."

* I pointed out that I was fat and missing a button on my coat. For the duration of the class, the girl next to me stared at my gut and wondered why these facts were so important.

* I told them about the hate mail that I receive for writing this diary and my recaps at Television Without Pity. Then I emphasized how writing humor sucked just in case they missed it the first time.

* For some unknown reason ... I have no idea why I even thought it was necessary to mention it ... but I said "I'm a former drug addict."

HELLLLLL-OOOOOOO????

The way it came out, it sounded like I did time at Riker's Island and had swastikas tattooed on my ass.

I smoked pot for 20 years. I was a completely functional person and a well-respected member of my community, raising thousands of dollars for various charities throughout the city ... and then I'd smoke a joint at the end of the night.

I wasn't strung out on smack, all ghastly pale, hanging out in dark alleys under a cardboard box and offering to lick businessmen's nipples for a quick fix.

I'm proud that I'm sober now.

But ... and even though I enjoyed smoking the weed for 20 years...I was hardly your textbook example of a "drug addict".

I really can't tell you what else I babbled about. Suffice to say, it made absolutely no sense and the students were just as lost as I was, wondering "Who is this guy and does he even remotely understand that he's not on the set of 'Dr. Phil'?"

I'm telling you guys...it was a complete and utter meltdown.


Then came "Question Time".

"What's your typical ratio on the use of metaphors?"

"Huh?"

"Do you feel your subject matter is somewhat discerning to those of higher intellect?"

"Huh?"

"Would you say that your writings reflect more of a Freudian or Jungian influence?"

"Huh?"

"Does your constant barrage of past-participles work in conjunction with your tendency to rely heavily on metaphors and if so, could you please explain why?"

"I'm sorry....huh??"

It became painfully obvious to me ... I was, without a doubt, the dumbest person in the room. These kids were whip-smart and I had a melted Pudding Pop for a brain. They paid attention in their classes and showed up sober, while I spent my college career in the back of the class, cracking jokes and trying to sell dime bags to frat boys.

I guess what I learned yesterday is that if you pay attention and do good in college, you won't have to resort to writing humor columns and end up reaching between sofa cushions for loose change to pay the mortgage.

But if any of you reading this today decide to take on a lifetime of screwing around, screwing up and not taking life's lessons seriously...remember this ...

...You can always write humor.

This entry is dedicated to the memory and life of Baby Bird Chirpy. Born 2002. Died 2003. Long may your bird soul soar and try to avoid speeding mini-vans in Birdy Heaven

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