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06:15 am - 2000-10-03

I HUNG OUT WITH BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

There's really only a few things in this world that I hate.

I hate that Quoted isn't updated daily.

I hate that the Tennessee Volunteers football team are heading toward a losing streak.

I hate that soooo many people want to try and convince me that professional wrestling is fake.

But what I hate MOST OF ALL is interviewing children.

Which is why yesterday leaves a bad taste in my mouth like I've been sucking shit out of a dog's ass.

Y'see...one of my story assignments this week was to interview this 11-year-old artistic genius, who just had his first art show at one of our local art galleries.

Keep in mind ... I live in Alabama. Where nine times out of ten, a child's art show amounts to little more than pages torn out of a coloring book.

I go to meet the kid and his mother. For the sake of argument, since I don't want to mention the kid's name, we're going to call him Bruce Springsteen.

I get to the art gallery and shake the little introverted freak's hand and introduce myself.

Now...I KNOW that 11 year old kids HATE shaking hands. It's a custom that only their parents engage in. No kid goes to school each day and greets his classmates with a handshake.

So this kid has one of those dead fish handshakes that creeps me out. He just leaves his arm limp and lets you do whatever you want to it.

Hindsight being 20/20, I probably shoulda pinned his arm behind his back and whispered in his ear, "You'd better cooperate you little creep."

First I take a few pictures of him with some of his favorite artwork. I'll admit...the kid's artwork was pretty good. He's no Henri Matisse, but then again ... I'm no Dave Barry.

Then we sit down and I JOKINGLY tell his mother, "Here comes the part I like to call 'Pulling Teeth'."

...Because interviewing little children is about as easy as discovering the cure for Muscular Dystrophy. Children are naturally shy around adults who are prodding them for information.

(I'm beginning to think the UBR "team" could have a field day with this entry.)

So I ask the kid how old he is.

And the little bastard hesitates.

HE HESITATES.

THAT'S THE EASIEST QUESTION I'M GOING TO BE ASKING, YOU LITTLE SHIT!!!!!

He finally answers ..."11"

Okay.

Rather than ASK the next question, I decide to phrase it where he can simply nod his head yes or no.

"So ... that would put you in the sixth grade?"

He sits there. Finally, he looks at his mom.

Mom looks at me and says "Fifth."

I sit there in disbelief and try to think of SOME WAY that I can excuse myself for a moment, run to my car, haul ass out of the parking lot, and pretend this never happened.

Instead I write down "11...fifth grade."

The next question "Why did you start painting?"

Bruce Springsteen lifts his index finger up to his lips as if in a "Shhhhh" motion.

Except, he was thinking.

Go ahead...lift your finger up to your lips and give me a thinking look.

Do it, so you understand where I'm coming from.

Got it??

Okay ... this is NOT an action that a normal 11-year-old boy would make.

It actually looks ... rather...ummmmm...gay.

Okay ... there's nothing wrong with being gay.

But it was just really weird to see an 11-year-old boy act like a little woman.

I'll be honest, it just really gave me the creeps to watch him do that prissy little move every time I asked him a question.

After thinking about his answer, he opened his mouth and the most bizarre sounds I've ever heard came out of it.

It's really hard for me to describe. I think in HIS mind, he was making sense to himself.

But I sat there and thought he was speaking Latin.

He couldn't enunciate properly. He spoke incredibly fast, but left his consonants back safely in his lungs. He rocked back and forth and turned away from me when he would speak and it all came out very, VERY quietly.

I'll try to give you an example:

When he said "Eeeee uhhhhh ooooo uhhhhhh eeeeee ooooooo uhhhhhh" it meant "I've been painting since I was nine."

I turned to Bruce Springsteen's mother and gave her a pleading, desperate look that said "Could you please help me decipher your son's irritating baby talk?"

She just stood there, arms folded and smiling, giving me a look back that said "Isn't he the greatest?"

So...instead of taking notes...I wrote out a grocery list and PRETENDED to take notes.

For the next 15 minutes, I would ask the kid a question, and he acted like he was on "Jeopardy". Like every answer had to be absolutely correct, phrased correctly and given in quiet gibberish.

And here's when I REALLY got irritated...

Once I say, "The interview is over", Bruce Springsteen gets all animated and speaks like an English scholar.

"Let me see what you wrote," he says, grabbing at my notepad.

I recoiled in horror. If this kid saw "Bananas, Potatoes, Bread, Milk, Coke" he probably woulda been devastated.

So I quickly shoved the notepad in my briefcase, closed it up and said "You can't do that! It'd be like someone reading what you just wrote in their yearbook!"

As soon as I said that, the index finger shot up to his lips and he stood there looking like a young Quentin Crisp as he tried to grasp what I was saying.

His mother FINALLY interceded and said "He's in the fifth grade. He's never signed a yearbook."

Hey mom ... there's probably quite a few things Bruce Springsteen's never going to do. Like father a child or get married.

As I was leaving the Art Gallery, I ran into a friend that works there. We made small talk and she asked what I was doing there.

"I interviewed Bruce Springsteen for the newspaper," I said.

She looked at me and then smiled.

"He's a weird one, isn't he," she said, grinning.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

************************************

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Is there anything kids do that irritates you?

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