There are points on every man’s path where he must stop and proclaim, “I am here! I have reached this point on my personal path, if you will pardon the alliteration!”
And this, my fellow countrymen and you few random Canadians, is one such proclamation at one such point on one such path. In brief, today’s post – i.e., the post you are now reading, perhaps aloud to your most perspicacious pupils – is the twenty-fifth post that I, proser, have produced for the weblog known as NotGraphs.
Again, pardon the alliteration.
It is at such junctions, too, that a man must pause to reflect on his accomplishment, to gaze back upon his origins and all the capital-A Adversities he overcame, Adversities being an all-night strip club to which the aforementioned proser suffered an unfortunate dependence for a period of six foggy yet disturbing years.
What follows is what you have wanted, and awaited, for lo these many sentences: a personal and compelling account of my rise to this arbitrary numerical milestone.
Born, perhaps poetically, to a circus geek and a circus freak, I grew up in a poor yet supportive home often populated by alcoholic clowns, surly dwarves and aggressive plate spinners who frequently commandeered the Chinet even when I hadn’t quite finished my Beanie Weenies. Perhaps due to all these “creative types,” I quickly became a lover of the written word – specifically, the word “HELP.”
Unable to coax rescue, however, I shaped my own escapism by means of pen and paper. That is, I stabbed clowns with a Bic ballpoint and also started fires by pressing half-smoked cigars to Brawny paper towels that the clowns had used to stanch blood loss. I also did some writing. Mostly I wrote short stories, often about a grown man who feverishly clicks “refresh” to see if anyone has responded favorably to his arbitrary-milestone post, but also about more-plausible things such as making out with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in an orbiting spacecraft.
My father took note of my interest, and, to his credit, sought to foster my emergence as a man of letters. Owing to his inability to afford a complete Scrabble set, however, we often matched wits by playing words such as “hrm” and “kllp.” Upon entering a time of home schooling, I wrote English compositions by dipping Pixy Stix into an inkwell filled with the blood of the birds whose heads my circus-geek father had bitten off. One composition centered on the triple word score for “pmk” – 33, if you must know, but 66 if paired with “myw” – while another centered on the paste created when powdered candy spills into pigeon blood.
At college, which I had entered on a circus scholarship, I finally met a girl. She didn’t like me, so I continued to spend time writing and also masturbating. Of course I often wrote about masturbating, which in turn inspired me to masturbate.
Needless to say, this created a vicious, or, more accurately, delightful circle.
“Write what you know,” the professors had said. And so, post-graduation, I joined – spawned might be a better word – the “beat beat” of an alternative weekly. Using a rating system of “One Hand” or “No Hand,” I critiqued music and TV and what still stands out, in a manner of speaking, is that Chant: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos fell into a tie with The MacNeil-Lehrer Report.
At length, my work took me to the club known as Adversities. Situated between Ye Olde Discount Denture Shoppe and an illegal beef-processing plant, it boasted a noon buffet of stewed meat as well as a Tuesday matinee featuring The Perfect 10 Dancers, so named because whenever Skinny Patty and Large Marge stood directly next to each other, they formed what resembled a “10.” (In service to full disclosure, I should mention that there were times when they resembled an “01.”)
Pledged to the ethics of journalism, I could not in good conscience write a positive review of The Perfect 10 Dancers. During the show, Patty would often get lost in what I called “the total eclipse of the Marge.” As for Marge herself, she kept ladling stewed meat toward her mouth while neglecting to wear the complimentary Adversities bib, sponsored by Sanitationz XXX Arcade: Where Gentlemen Meet!
With notes for a negative review in hand, I got up to leave. Just as I did so, I dropped my pen to the floor. Swift and heroic, a waitress arrived to pick it up, using a chisel and ball peen hammer. Much obliged, I stayed for another drink.
The drinks kept coming.
The dancers soon became a genuine 10, and then something of an 11.
By Saturday I had a room in the back.
By Sunday I had a cot in that room, and a bucket.
Four years later I sobered up, but I still owed a lot of back rent.
So I kept writing positive reviews.
And here I am now, at NotGraphs, still just making shit up.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.