When I was in middle school, my father nicknamed me “the righteous brother”.
It was not a compliment.
Nor was he referring to one-half of the famous singing duo of “Unchained Melody” fame. A moniker such as that was certainly not a way to earn any street cred. And though some might see it as a compliment, the context was in reference to my annoying and judgmental tendency to preach morality to my two younger sisters. I was also a tattle-tale. Though I prided myself back then on my high horse of morality, I would be amiss to say that I didn’t have an ulterior motive: getting my little sisters in trouble.
It was bad enough that I had to endure getting made fun of my peers. But my own family? Though I later learned to embrace being the black sheep of my family, at the time, I just needed to accepted for who I was. Of course, being a “righteous brother” had its upsides: by the time I got to high school, I didn’t have a curfew like other classmates because I was always home early enough not to warrant one (fewer friends = less time for late-night hijinks). In truth, my straight-laced “righteous” behavior had less to do with morality and more to do with being afraid to get in trouble.
To put it simply, I was a wuss.
My cowardice emerged at a very early age. There is even photographic evidence to prove it.
I was just short of turning one and I’m being held in the arms of a clown at my hometown Memorial Day parade. There was no turning back. The look of abject terror on my face says it all. In fact, it is a look that suggests something much more sinister (though, on second thought – in my defense – who wouldn’t be afraid?)
This same look of fear is duplicated over several photos taken on the lap of Santa and the Easter Bunny. Santa is scary enough. The Easter Bunny’s soul-piercing black eyes and inanimate expression is even more frightening. Most kids grow out of this by the time they are five or six. I was still showing fear well beyond that. On a semi-related note, the fact I still believed in Santa at the age of 12 did little to help my cause.
I am just shy of three. My hands are held tightly over my ears as tears stream down my face. The source of such abject terror? … a kite, flown by my dad in the parking lot of the church behind our house. I was scared of the flapping sound it made in the wind.
EXHIBIT D: I firmly believed that fireworks could put a hole in the sky.
EXHIBIT E: I was convinced that Sesame Street characters lived in the vents of our car. And it freaked the hell out of me.
As I got older, my phobias increased, extending to lighting matches, bees, basements, and routine blood tests (of which even the smallest amount has caused me to pass out). I recently put off a routine blood test…for a full decade.
cred (of which the first step is to probably avoid using such pompous words as “modicum”):
Being the Gemini that I am (and me, too!) there are a few scattered moments where the righteous brother demonstrated signs of unrighteousness. Granted, it was often accidental. Some could write volumes about such rebellious behavior. I just need a few pages. Although these instances are far and few between, it is my hope that sharing them could perhaps earn the slightest modicum of street cred (of which the first step is to probably avoid using such pompous words as “modicum”):
Tearing it Up
Lying to cover up a crime is the oldest trick in the book. And it usually begins in childhood. I learned this lesson in the first grade after intentionally stomping all over a classmate’s steno notebook when nobody was looking. I didn’t even know whose notebook it was, yet, for forces beyond my control, I noticed it on the floor and felt compelled to destroy it.
Tear it to shreds.
Once my first crime was uncovered, the teacher pulled each of us into the hallway one by one in an attempt at coaxing a confession out of them. I feigned ignorance. But inside, I was already burning in hell. I was now a juvenile delinquent. And though I was relieved to have gotten away with it, the guilt was tearing me up. Once a Catholic…
This is my confession.
Playing in the Street
When I was five, I told my two-year-old sister to stand in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a matter of not knowing any better… nor was it a matter of me attempting to kill her (I think I made sure no cars were coming).
My motivation was to get her in trouble. Instead, all it managed was to get me in trouble. Within seconds after she entered the street, my parents burst out the front door and scooped up my sister out of harm’s way, as my grandparents watched from the porch. I remember the wooden brush against my ass. I remember crying. I remember my grandfather being so upset by my scolding, that he and my grandma left. Ever since, I continually ask myself: what was I thinking?
Having small children of my own makes this episode even more cringe-worthy. This incident also sparked my first grounding – one week without friends, which was not that difficult for somebody with no friends.
It was one of those hot, glorious dog days of summer. I was playing in the front yard with a hose, when I spotted our neighbor ‘Mr. K.’ approaching down the street in his car. For reasons I will never be able to fully decipher, I had the sudden impulse to spray him with a hose right through the open window of his passing vehicle. I managed to time it so that the point of impact of the hose coincided with the arrival of his friendly wave.
Upon impact, he quickly slammed on his brakes and started scolding me.
“What in the hell did you do that for?!” he said, wiping the water off his face with a handkerchief.
I stood there, helplessly mute, hose still in hand.
My mother ran out to see what was going on. She apologized, took me inside, and sent me to my room to think about what I had done.
I had absolutely zero motive. I had no ill feelings towards the man. In fact, he was the kindest neighbor you could ever ask for and I had no ill feelings . Yet, here I was, spraying him through in the face with a hose while he operated a moving vehicle.
When I later apologized, Mr. K simply smiled and said:
“Do me, Baby!”
Struggling to gain acceptance from my peers, I decided to tell classmates that my sister’s animatronic Cricket doll said “Do me, baby.” I was in fourth grade. And I did not even know what “do me” means.
Cricket was a female contemporary of Teddy Ruxpin – robotic dolls that play cassette tapes inserted into their ass. As the tapes play, their eyes and mouths are programmed to move along with it – like Chuck E Cheese characters on a smaller scale that you can take home with you like a pet. Neither one of them – or anything of their ilk – say “Do me, baby.”
For my punishment, I received a stern warning from Mr. Brusco – our cigar-chomping principal. I also had to write a note for my parents that said: “Today in school, I told my classmates that my sister’s Cricket doll said “’Do me, baby.’” It will not happen again. And I am sorry.”
I kept my promise. And Cricket still lives at my parents.
High Balls, Wrestling, & Jell-O
When I was little, I would goad my cousin Tony into wrestling matches at holiday functions at my grandparents’ house. To paint a better picture of this matchup: I was a skinny, weak toothpick and Tony was…husky. Without fail, Tony would agree to wrestle, only to then promptly pummel me. Like clockwork, I would scream for help, at which point Tony would get scolded. The frequency that this scenario played itself out was on par with Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football. I promised not cry for help, yet sure enough, I did. Every time.
One time, around the age of 10, I found a new way to get Tony into trouble. This time, it would involve booze. While standing at the drink table, I convinced Tony to let me make him a high ball “just like Grandpa.” Though my cousins and and I were accustomed to “Jr. Highballs” (Squirt and cherry juice), I decided to add a splash of whiskey to Tony’s drink (not mine). When he were caught, everyone immediately blamed Tony. Nothing he could say could convince them that innocent Bobby had anything to do with it.
However, I was not spared punishment when I decided it was a good idea to fling a spoonful of Jell-O and Cool Whip at another cousin’s face at another gathering. And like both the journal and the Mr. Kay squirting, it was totally unprovoked.
Take this Gift and Shove It
It’s probably not a good idea to show your appreciation for a Christmas gift from your beloved Godmother by shoving it onto the floor because it was only a sweater when you were hoping for a toy. What a prick.
When I was little, I had a track record of puking where one shouldn’t. Take, for example, the time the time I entered my parents’ bedroom to inform them that I had to puke, only to proceed to puke right on their floor in front of their bed. (Some of which splashed onto the bedspread). I was 10. And it was a longer walk to their room than it was the bathroom.
Another time, I made into the bathroom on time, but chose to puke into the sink, rather than the toilet, which was directly behind it.
One way to really piss your parents off is to place a pan of freshly popped popcorn onto their brand new, white Formica countertop.
If I could impart any wisdom to my children, it would be to avoid “friends” who think it’s a good idea to prank call the police. Notice the quotation marks I used on “friends”. True friends don’t put all the blame on you, even though you were the unwilling accomplice who actually tried to talk them out of their stupid little prank. In the end, the police showed up and promptly escorted me back home, where I was issued a prompt warning. I didn’t even attempt to explain my role in the situation, out of fear that my “friends” would retaliate. In other words, I was less afraid of getting in trouble with the law than I was facing retribution of my “friends.” The only other time I would ever get in trouble with the law (aside from the occasional speeding or parking ticket) was being interrogated by the FBI for being a possible terrorist suspect following a late-night film scouting expedition on an industrial island in Detroit. I should come with a warning label.
Everybody has a breaking point. And even though I found turning the other cheek to be a convenient way to cope with my bullies, one day I finally decided that I had enough with one in particular.
After enduring several years of bullying, the time had come to take a stance – which pathetically only consisted of a half-assed, weak slap (or, more specifically, a mild graze) across my bully’s cheek while he was chomping on his bologna sandwich in the cafeteria.
His immediate reaction was to laugh, then continue eating his sandwich as though nothing happened. The dozen or so witnesses also laughed. Adding insult to injury, the bullying didn’t let it up. In fact, it was about to get worse.
At least I tried.
Got a Light?
While trudging through a snow-covered parking lot in downtown Detroit after leaving a bar, my friend Patrick and I were approached by a half a dozen or so individuals that we pretended not to feel threatened by.
“Hey!” one of them shouted to us.
We kept walking, hoping they would just leave us alone.
“Hey! You got a light?”
“Sure,” Patrick said.
We were both relieved that we were worried about nothing…despite the guilt for judging them too quickly.
Patrick reached into his pocket, only to be sucker-punched squarely in the jaw. He momentarily lost his balance, but somehow, stayed on his feet. The perpetrators put up their dukes, seemingly prepared for a brawl. But they couldn’t have picked two bigger patsies. We had no interest in fighting back.
We simply turned our other cheeks and bee-lined it to the car, without further repercussions. What exactly was their motive? Clearly, they didn’t need a lighter. Was it a bet? Some sort of gang initiation? What would have happened if we retaliated? Fortunately, we never found out.
I’ve never been in a fight before. But I have been beat up. And pushed, shoved, knocked down, dunked under water, tied to a tree, and shoved into dogshit). And then one time, sucker punched in the face.
I was minding my own business, sipping on an Appletini when some asshole approached me from the other side of the patio fencing.
“Hey, bro,” he began. “Give me a sip of that.”
“Sorry, man,” I politely refused.
Without a word, he cold-cocked me right in the eye.
And I was down for the count!
Next thing I knew, I woke up, lying on the ground and surrounded by my friends, a couple of police officers, and a pair of paramedics. When I finally came to, I could still see stars, along with a couple of paramedics staring down at me, and my wife.
Despite the throbbing sensation in my eye, I never felt manlier than I did in that moment. I survived a real punch! And that takes guts.
Last, but not least, the suspect was quickly apprehended by police.
My Tarantino Moment
A few years ago, I was staying with a friend in a seedy part of the San Fernando Valley. While loading up my rental car before heading to the airport, I turned around and spotted three men walking down the street in my direction.
I wouldn’t have thought much of it, other than the fact that one of them was brandishing an assault rifle. In broad daylight.
I froze in terror, not quite believing what I was seeing. Surely, this was a dream. But it wasn’t. Were they going hunting? I reminded myself I was in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.
As the men drew nearer, I realized that freezing in my tracks wasn’t my best option. I had to hide. But where? Did they even see me? And if they did, was my ass grass? And why was nobody else around?
I turned to head back to my friend’s apartment, however her building was gated and locked behind me. And she had already left for work. I pulled out my phone to dial 911, but I had no signal!
I was shit out of luck.
I prepared for death…or, at least, a kidnapping.
I scrambled to hide behind a wall. I could still see the men from my hiding spot (which, looking back, didn’t exactly put me out of harm’s way). But they had passed by without incident. I waited until they disappeared out of sight. I then ran fast as lightning to my car and headed to the airport with my tail tucked between my legs. My Hollywood dream in a nutshell.
When I was 14, my family was visiting my cousin and her husband. In their basement was a shrine to Marilyn Monroe. Like any 14-year-old boy, my hormones were naturally raging, so I was especially drawn to a fully nude pic of her snow-white body sprawled out on red satin sheets in all her glory.
Realizing I was alone, I began snooping around a storage room and stumbled upon a large stack of Penthouse magazines. After much deliberation, I decided to stuff a copy down my pants (“Is that Penthouse in your pocket?”) to sneak home. I kept it successfully hidden in my desk drawer for years. The only porno magazine I ever “owned.”
On the very tip of Cape Cod lies the beautiful resort town of Provincetown – the “San Francisco” of the east coast. Several years ago, my then wife and I took a sunset stroll along the Cape Cod National Seashore on the edge of town.
After walking about a 1/4 mile away from the main beach, we noticed several makeshift tents perched on top of the dunes along the coast. My first thought was that it was perhaps a homeless colony.
But upon closer examination, it was a colony of gay men. Dozens sunbathed outside their tents. And several more were fucking both inside and outside their tents. A mere 50 feet away or so. We tried our best to mind our business and continued walking.
The closer we got to the tip of the Cape, the more bizarre things became. Naked men surrounded us, passing us by in either direction, brazenly walking along the shore, strutting their junk for all to see.
Like a car accident, it was hard not to look – more than likely more so for my wife, than me, but honestly, who was keeping track? They seemed to be increasing in number. We approached an inlet pond, where dozens of naked men swam to and fro like giant Sea-Monkeys. Or, Mermen.
A gay man’s paradise.
I have never been much of an exhibitionist. However, something got into me. Not sure if it was the beautiful nature that surrounded us, or the swarm of naked men, but I was suddenly inspired to join in. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So I did. I removed my t-shirt and swimsuit, and joined the masses, before we pushed further toward the tip.
I briefly dated a girl in college that I had met in the infancy of online dating. Being that I was an English major and she was an actress, we decided to see Shakespeare in Love on our first date, followed by a gourmet meal at … Big Boy. Half way through our meal, following my second run at the soup and salad bar, I came down with a horrible case of pink eye.
Taking a date to Big Boy, combined with a steady stream of ooze running out of your eye is never good. In fact, going to Big Boy on a date period is probably not the best idea. (This was not the last time, either. A year or so later, there was another Big Boy date involving diarrhea that I will spare you the details of).
Despite the puss oozing out of my eye, we still made out afterward. In the parking lot of a church where once upon a time, the house where I spent the first three years of my life once stood. Just a few yards away was the spot where I cried over the sound my kite made flapping in the wind – one of my earliest memories.