Monday, April 30, 2012

Almond, Joy, and Mounds.

What follows is a pair of excerpts from a much-longer post on my old myspace blog about my time spent in Nashville, co-writing The 2006 CMT Music Awards with my dear friend Bret (@bretcalvert on Twitter).  They made the cut for this new blog entirely because re-reading them made me laugh.  Here's to a similar reaction from you.


Prologue: The Cornbread

I'm determined not to waste my three weeks here doing things that I could easily do back home (like your mom), and thankfully Bret and I are of a like mind in that. In our continued attempt to find more off-the-beaten-path places to eat, we ended up dining at a little hole in the wall called Rotier's. Bret and I were both fiending for some chicken-fried steak, and this place just screamed it. Imagine our surprise when we were handed menus and there was no chicken-fried steak to be found. Crestfallen but determined, we each found something we could abide by and prepared for a downright edible meal.

And as an extra surprise, Rotier's served us what was quite possibly the worst cornbread in the history of appallingly untasty rectangles. There is no way I can overstate for you the terror that this cornbread wreaked on our tastebuds. It was the Auschwitz of bread product. It made me beg for the sweet release of death. It somehow cheapened all that I know to be good and worthwhile in this world.

Meaningless, now.
So toxic was it to humanity's continued dominance in the world that Bret and I had to act to diminish its power in whatever way we knew how, and that way was to stick a Post-It on the wall of our little office and declare it The Cornbread. Now any time one of us told a truly horrid joke, the other didn't even have to worry about a verbal rebuttal; instead all one had to do was to solemnly point at the cornbread, and the joke-teller would know his deep inner shame immediately. Occasionally one of us would rub salt in the wound by yelling "Cornbread'd!" to accompany. I assure you, there is no worse fate than to be cornbread'd, and following it one can only know a life of shame.

Please don't be sad. I'm not cornbreading you, just showing you what it looked like.  We're cool, right?

And two entwined anecdotes from later in the blog:

I had a friend in junior high school who was a latch-key kid; we'd get out of school and walk home, then hang out at their place for an hour or so before I'd continue home, lest his mom arrive from work and find out that the house rules had been broken regarding having friends over unsupervised. It was a small daily thrill to hang out, get rowdy and just generally be twelve-year-old boys at his place, with the constant danger hanging over us of possibly being caught.

On one of these afternoons I used their bathroom; afterward I was washing my hands when I glanced down into the small trashcan next to the toilet.

There has always been a bit of mystique surrounding those little trashcans, for me. It was a moment of 'Eureka' when I realized as a boy why I almost never saw those little trashcans in bachelor's houses or apartments, but only in homes with women: oh, wow. All a guy ever needs this can for are cotton swabs and the cardboard tube that's left when he's out of toilet paper. The can's not here for guys. It's here for women. For their special items. Their 'once a month' items.

It was a big deal for me, as a kid. I was just getting to that age where girls and their anatomies were becoming the central reason for my existence, so I met every new discovery and postulate with a Cousteau-like level of interest.
Aaaaaand there went six straight hours of my adolescence.
So you can imagine my spike of intrigue when I looked down into my friend's bathroom trashcan that day and saw a flowery box called Summer's Eve. There was no way I was opening the bathroom door and going back out to goof around with my friend, at least not before I investigated this fascinating new girl-item. Even at my tender age I knew I had a rare opportunity before me. This sort of thing doesn't usually just fall into your lap; there's generally a lot of legwork involved in gaining this sort of clandestine access.

I don't care what my guidance counselor said, this would've worked.
I picked it up very gingerly, careful only to touch the two leading corners of the small cardboard box; apparently I thought there might be a forensic team following up my expedition, and I had to take care not to leave fingerprints.

The front of the box showed a woman with flowing hair, sitting surrounded by flowers in a flourishing meadow, her hair lifted by the breeze and her demeanor forever buoyed by the life-affirming effects of vaginal freshness. I was rapt with fascination at this, and turned the box over with the plan of reading and re-reading and re-reading the instructions to hopefully memorize them; maybe if I was really lucky, there'd be an illustration or two on the box...

And then the worst thing that could have possibly happened, happened. I turned my wrist over to rotate the box so I could look at the back, and that was the first clue I had that the actual item that originally came in the box was still sitting in the box and that it wasn't completely emptied during use.

I rippled in horror as fluid from my friend's mom's used douche ran across my hand, over my wrist and halfway down my forearm before I could drop the box into the trashcan and begin what would be nearly ten minutes of fevered, aghast handwashing. And even though no one ever found out (until now, of course), I felt very aware of the temperature of my own skin whenever I was around my friend's mom from then on; I just couldn't keep my mind still, once armed with the knowledge that a grown woman had unknowingly and friction-lessly exchanged fluids with a curious and confused twelve-year-old boy.  It wasn't erotic or sexy to me, just bizarre.

Fact is, I told only one person about this before writing about it here, and that is how this rambling anecdote will gradually come to tie into this week in Nashville; I relayed my douche-tastic tale to Bret as we were driving to Eckerd the other night in The PT (Pimp-Tacular) Cruiser.

This was no regular, isolated pharmacy trip, mind you. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that some combination of Bret and/or I have been to the Eckerd pharmacy/convenience store near our hotel nearly every single day we've been in town. I'm reasonably sure we count as part-time employees at this point, and will be looking for the W-2 come January. One would think that two grown men would have packed the things they'd needed, or at worst, would head to the store once to grab whatever they'd forgotten.

One would be wrong. Maybe for two normal guys, but Bret and I are writers, and thus divorced from any realistic adult notion of responsibility, purpose, or (quite obviously) fashion. Be it toothpaste, nail clippers, condoms, cotton swabs, chap stick or a hubcap for a '72 Pinto hatchback, we illustrate daily that our combined ability to neglect things we need is truly limitless.

Bret, three hours into our trip.
The best part of our ridiculous daily trips to Eckerd is the guy running the register, the only human being who's been to that building more than we have (and still only barely). He's a towering black guy (so Bret's in good with him) with a perpetually sleepy expression on his face (so he's cool with me, too; I don't like it when black people are too alert), and he's having more and more difficulty not laughing at us when we slink in with our tails between our legs looking for the latest thing we've managed to not bring with us in the first place. Not once have I remembered to look at this fellow's nametag so I can reference him more easily herein, though, so for the remainder of this anecdote we'll pretend his name is Almond. No real reason for Almond being his assumed name other than that its a placeholder for when I can actually look at his nametag later tonight when we discover the next item we need and don't have; if you're reading this document and the poor man's name is still Almond, rest assured that it doesn't mean we managed to stay away from Eckerd... no, no. It only means I'm a resolute idiot who somehow managed to forget to break eye contact with his dreamy, ever-sleepy gaze to look at his damned nametag.

Hopefully I was close, at least.

So, Almond's biggest contribution to our Nashville lexicon came when he and Bret tag-teamed to recommend I buy and try the bizarre Take-5 candy bar. The damned thing is a hodgepodge of just about every snack food you can think of: caramel, chocolate, pretzels, peanuts, peanut butter, cream gravy, theatre popcorn butter, some Gummi Bears, a fudgesicle, some buffalo wings, a loofa sponge, some dice, a pair of nickels... you name it, it's crammed in there. Bret and Almond agreed that they were the only people they knew who actually liked the things, despite repeated attempts to turn various friends and family members onto it in the past. So, on their twin recommendation, I picked one up and ate it in the elevator in the hotel while Bret eagerly looked on with that "here's the first draft of my novel, will you read it right this minute here in front of me and tell me what you think?" look on his face. I swallowed down the nineteen-snacks-in-one, pondered the fact that I'd just fired the opening salvo in what I knew would be a short, nasty and brutish offensive skirmish with my hotel room toilet, and offered Bret my critique in the form of a commercial slogan:

"Take-5? More Like Take-Some-Other-Number-Than-5!"

And here's the tie-it-all-together postscript; Bret and I had separated in the aisles of Eckerd, and he'd quickly observed an astonishingly beautiful woman from the adjacent off-campus housing, doing her shopping. Bret found what he was looking for, then went out of his way to find the aisle the beautiful lass was in so he could have an excuse to look at her again on his way by. Just as he reached her, she glanced up at him and caught him ogling her; feeling the need to cover for this, he quickly pretended to be shopping on the same shelves she was standing in front of, hoping to avoid an awkward situation by having this ravishing beauty believe he wasn't staring at her, but looking past her to this thing he desperately needed.

Which might have been a great plan if she hadn't been standing in front of a giant display rack of douches.
This, multiplied by at least eighty.
Left with no way to extricate himself in any sort of smooth manner, Bret simply hung his head and fled for Almond's post at the front registers.

Hearing this retelling moments later, I helped him work through the trauma to reconstruct his pretend-monologue at that crucial moment:

"Ah yes, I need some um, ...some Massengil... or some Summer's Eve... Hmm, nothing here strikes my fancy; I guess I'll just get some from Coop's hand..."


(originally posted to myspace in April 2006)

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