Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 12: In For A Penny, In For A Pound

My tenure with Tiger’ish was not my first experience with room sharing.  My crib was in a room that already held two of my brothers and a nephew.  We stayed in that arrangement long enough for me to remember getting myself into and out of my crib.  Eventually my older brother and nephew (who was older than all three of us brothers) were sent to sleep in the attic, and I got to move on to the lower bunk –my first regular bed and only a few years too late.  I hated sharing a room with my brother because the arrangement was treated as if it was his room and I was squatting.  What was mine was his and what was his was his.  If I wanted to play in the room, I needed his permission.  If I needed the light on to finish some homework, it was at his discretion.  I couldn’t wait for the chance to have my own room.  My brother was pretty eager for it, too. 
Our prayers were answered when I was 10 and one of my sisters got married.  The night of her wedding reception, my brother single-handedly moved all of my shit into her old room, and my new one.  We didn’t get back from the wedding until well after midnight, and he worked until dawn.  He didn’t want to spend another second sharing a room with me.  Our other sister was set to be married in a couple months and he decided that he’d rather wait for the bigger room to free up.  It was an easy decision as my new room was the size of a closet and his new room was the second largest bedroom after the attic.  I would have preferred to wait until he moved out and keep our medium-sized room, but I wasn’t given the choice.  It wasn’t even going to be converted into something else; it became the “back bedroom” complete with our old posters and bunk beds.

Honestly though, I didn’t care.  I wanted my own room too much to argue.  I loved the freedom of having my own space, even if it barely held a twin bed and a dresser.  I could do what I want, when I want.  I could escape my brothers by jamming a chair under the knob.  It was awesome for a while, but eventually my brothers learned there were benefits for them as well.  For example, they loved to shit in a box and hide it in my room.  Or piss on my sheets, cover it with my blanket, and wait.  Or simply just trash the room.

The worst was when my older brother discovered the keys to all the interior doors in my mother’s room.  He now had the power to lock me out of my room entirely.  Or to open the windows and pop out the screens during a rain storm.  That one had the added bonus of a stray cat finding its way up onto our neighbor’s roof, from which it leapt into my room to get out of the rain.  More than once I was locked in my room by my older brother, sometimes for the full eight hours my mother would be at work.

I hated those the most.  My every survival instinct had trained me to flee my brothers.  They were five and three years older and I wasn’t going to win any fight at 10 or 11 years old against a 15 or 16 year old, especially with his 13 year old tag-team partner.  Being trapped was awful.  I could take the lack of food, and bathroom emergencies weren’t an issue as I could usually find someplace they’d already shit or pissed if I really had to go, but just being at their total mercy was unbearable.  I never got over it, and I never learned a way to stop it.  The best I did was just before leaving for college, I stole the keys from my brother to lock my room up while I was away and kept them with me 141 miles and two states away.  In fact, I still have them with me, 1033 miles and four states away.  I vowed to be the dominant roommate in my dorm room.  I was determined to assert my preference over my roommate’s.  I would dictate what went on and when.  I would be tough, but fair.  I would be open to compromise, but would always maintain the upper hand.  Then, of course, I walked into the room for the first time and met Tiger’ish.

Needless to say, much of my plans of room-domination were scrapped.  I just wasn’t prepared for him.  I tolerated him as much as I could, and he did the same with me.  I tried to change him in any way that I could, and sometimes succeeded.  When I failed, I learned to live with it.  No amount of conditioning would make Tiger’ish change; he either took the suggestion or he didn’t.  Time made no difference, nor did arguing.  I learned to pick my battles and accept that our arrangement was temporary.  Most importantly, I could always leave and often did.  We were well into our second semester and I had come to trust that we had met a balance in our living arrangement.  There would be no surprises left.  

It was therefore quite alarming one morning when I woke up to see Tiger’ish squatting over the sink that was just at the foot of my bed.

I could tell he was bottomless, and I had a pretty good idea what he was doing, but I couldn’t fathom why.  He never tried this before, so why start now?

Me:  What are you doing?

Tiger’ish:  What’s it look like?

M: Don’t mistake this for approval, but tell me you’re only taking a piss.

T: Well, I ain’t facing the right way for a dumper, am I?

M: Nope, I suppose not.  Why are you pissing in the sink?

He then hopped down and sat on his bed.  I got up and ran some water through the sink. He wiped his hands on his pillow and said:

Door’s locked.

M: So unlock it.

T: Can’t.

M: What do you mean “can’t”?  Turn the deadbolt and open the door.

T: Can’t.

I went over to the door and discovered he was absolutely correct.  The deadbolt wouldn’t budge.  The knob wouldn’t turn.  I was trapped.  We were trapped.  I was trapped in a room with Tiger’ish, and in this room, he rarely wore pants.

I couldn’t imagine how this could happen, and started to freak out a bit.  He just went over to his computer and started clicking around, like it was a power outage; something that happened every so often, and was an inconvenience you simply had to wait out.  I tried turning the deadbolt until my thumb and forefinger was bruised.  I tried turning the knob until my palm was blistered.  They simply wouldn’t move, not even a little bit.  

I tried calling our RA, he didn’t answer and I left a message.  I called his supervisor, the heretofore useless RLC and was told that she couldn’t do anything and that I should call my RA, then she hung up.  I called the campus physical plant services, the department responsible for these locks and knobs and was told that they don’t take work orders from students and that I should contact my RA or RLC.  So I called the RLC back and she told me that she won’t do anything until she hears from my RA.  So I called him back and left another message.  I listened at the door to hear if I could hear laughter or whispers, as this had to be some sort of fucking prank.  I didn’t hear anything.

I was trapped and that would upset me by itself, but it was even worse because Tiger’ish was in there with me.   I worried what would happen if there was a fire.  It was certainly possible; the building was old enough that things like toasters were prohibited, and a toaster-related electrical fire was a fairly regular occurrence.  I worried even more about the alarm getting pulled without there being a fire.  Drunken alarm pulls were a nightly ritual and Tiger’ish never got used to them.  He always panicked and ran out the door as fast as he could, thankfully pulling some pants on in the process.  What would happen if he panicked like that and couldn’t leave?

Eventually I calmed down enough to realize that if someone had intended to do that, they probably would have done so in the middle of the night.  They couldn’t wait for us to wake up, and since neither of us had resorted to desperately pounding on the door or yelling for help, they probably didn’t even know that we knew we were stuck.  Plus, I didn’t even know for certain that someone had done this anyhow.  I couldn’t imagine how the door could get stuck on its own, but I had just as much difficulty imagining how someone could have done this to the door.  Giving up, I went back to bed to wait for our RA to call back.

About an hour later, I woke up because Tiger’ish had begun to listen to The Phantom Menace.  He had recently taken up the habit of listening to the first Star Wars prequel while doing other things.  He likened it to classic radio drama.  I had gotten used to hearing the battle sequences blare out of his computer speakers, but the really annoying part was hearing the dialogue without the distraction of images.  That movie has some shitty writing, but the acting doesn’t do it any favors, either.  Especially that fucker Anakin.

Anyhow, he’s clearly strapped himself in for the long haul, and to be honest, I didn’t even know if this door problem had even affected his plans for the day.  I went over to the phone to make sure the ringer was on and to check if our RA had tried calling.  He hadn’t, so I called him back.  Still no answer, so I called our RLC again.  I tried explaining to her that our RA wasn’t answering his phone and that I was missing classes as a result and could she please just do something about it, even if it only meant walking up the three flights of stairs to our door and telling me what the problem seemed to be.  She asked me if anyone was in labor or dying.  When I told her that we weren’t she hung up again.  I called her back and she finally said that if it was such a fucking emergency why don’t I call the cops?  So I did.

Our campus police force loved to boast that they were one of the few legitimate police forces on any college campus.  They weren’t rent-a-cops.  No sir, they were officers of the law with all of the rights and responsibilities of any other cop.  Why they thought this would impress the students, I don’t know.  The point is, if they are “real” cops, why do they work for a campus “precinct” and not the local police force?  The answer, as I would find out time and again, was that they were shitty cops.  They just sucked at their jobs bad enough to have to work here or not be a cop at all.  As far as I was concerned, their day of reckoning was at hand.  If they could help me, they would have my respect from then on.  If not, they were no more than the squad car of former townie high school jocks, parked outside the frat house on Friday nights, waiting to rough up a few privileged drunk kids.

Fuckers asked me the nature of the problem.  I told them.  They asked me if anyone was severely hurt or dying (I’m not kidding), and I told them that nobody was.  They then told me that mechanical issues were the responsibility of the campus physical plant services, and that I should call them.  Fuck.

I headed over to my computer and started playing solitaire.  I had given up.  Everyone I thought to call was at class or their line was busy, and I didn’t really want to ask for help, anyway.  I still didn’t know what had happened and I was afraid I’d somehow embarrass myself.  Tiger’ish had kept himself busy with Star Wars and furry porn, and as long as he wasn’t talking or trying to jack off, I left him to it.  I tried to distract myself, but I couldn’t focus on anything.  I was contemplating breaking a window, and he wasn’t even bothered.  I’m puzzling over who would do this and why –we’d been pranked plenty of times, but this time it went too far into potentially harmful territory –and he’s trying to download the audio from X-Men.  I’m making a mental list of the people I’m going to sue and he’s instant messaging with his girlfriend.  In other words, he was handling this much better than I was.

After a few more hours of my pacing, checking the phone, and leaving messages with our RA, Tiger’ish finally got off his ass and headed toward the phone.

Me:  What are you doing?

Tiger’ish: What?  I’m making a call.

M: Are you stupid?  What if the RA calls back?

T: He’ll leave a message.  I’m hungry.

M: So eat something, and put on some pants.  When they get here I don’t want your dick out.

T: I’m ordering a pizza.

M: What?

T: I’m calling Papa John’s.  I’m hungry and I can’t make it to the cafeteria, can I?

M:  But you can’t…the door…how…Fuck it.  Order away.

So he did.  Another hour and 15 minutes later we get a knock and the “Papa John’s!” holler.  I immediately try to shanghai the situation for my own benefit and start asking the pizza guy if he can tell me anything about our door.  He just starts laughing his ass off and asks if we are locked in.  I tell him we are and that we need help.  He tells me that maybe I should stop fucking horses and that we’d better find a way to pay him.  I tell him to fuck off, but Tiger’ish slips 15 bucks under the door.  The guy leaves the pizza –we can smell it –and takes off.  

Maybe I should stop fucking horses.  It became pretty clear at that point that someone had done something and that they targeted us because of Tiger’ish’s damn horse pictures on our door.  I blew up at my roommate.

Me: See!  This is all your fault.

Tiger’ish: What is?

M: The door, retard!  The same door that is so fucking locked that you can’t get your fucking pizza you fucking stupid fuck!  What did you think would happen?  Did you think he’d slide the pizza under the door?  God damn I hate you.

T: So how is this my fault?

M: Horse fucker!  HORSE!  FUCKER!  Who put up the horse pictures?  Who is a weird freak that everyone hates?

T: But I don’t fuck horses.

M: Goddammit…

I went over to the phone and called my girlfriend’s room.  I left her a message saying that she should call me as soon as she got the message.  By that point, I didn’t care if I would get embarrassed, and with what the pizza fucker said, I was convinced I was once again collateral damage in the war against Tiger’ish.

I also by then really had to piss.  I thought about using the sink, as he had already popped its cherry, but I was better than that.  I thought about emptying a Gatorade bottle to use, but ultimately decided I wasn’t ready to do that in front of Tiger’ish.  It would only give him ideas.  I went back to solitaire and waited.

Eventually our phone rang; it was my girlfriend.  I explained the situation, and she came over.  When she got to our door she told us that someone had jammed pennies all along the lock side of the door and had glued pennies to the door, spelling out “HORSE FUCKER”.  They then had put some sort of sealant along the lock side, sealing the pennies in.  Whoever did this took their time, and really wanted to fuck things up for Tiger’ish, and by association, me.  She went to our RA’s room and got him.  Apparently, he’d been in and out all day, but his phone’s ringer was off.  He had a hangover the other day and turned it off and he forgot to turn it back on.  He came to our door with a screw driver and hammer and, with a constant stream of laughter, went about the work of chipping the sealant away and unwedging the pennies.  He left “HORSE FUCKER” intact.  I eventually pried “HORSE FUCKER” off; I didn’t want to get billed for door damage if Tiger’ish or anyone else did it and fucked the door up.  We never found out who did it to our door, and by the time we got out, the pizza was gone.

A few days later Tiger’ish was very excited to see we had received our room assignment postcards for next year.  Every student at the university got ranked numerically by projected number of completed credits and was then assigned a time block in which to go and register a room for next year.  The more credits, the better selection of rooms.  If you so desired, you could bring a friend’s postcard and they would be your roommate, regardless of their rank.  

Tiger’ish, obviously, was ranked very low.  I, on the other hand, was ranked very highly for a first year student.  I came to college with a sophomore academic standing because I got the maximum score on the U.S. History, English, Physics, and Calculus AP exams while in high school.  That meant I had doubled the credits of most freshmen, and subsequently doubled my rank.  I had my sights set on taking one of the dorm rooms that came with its own bathroom.  Most of the highest ranking students were either living off campus or would take one of the on-campus apartment spots, leaving the dorm room with a bath but no kitchen open and definitely attainable by me.

I couldn’t imagine why Tiger’ish would care, though.  He was going to flunk out.  It was a certainty, and I assumed he knew it.  He’d been told as much by several people and he had pretty much given up on all classes and homework, so I assumed he had resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be at school next year.

Unfortunately, his self-denial was too great.  He was excited because he, too, knew what my ranking meant, and he, too, wanted a room with a bathroom.  He was even willing to have me as a roommate to get it.  I didn’t know what I could say that would do any good.  Prior to that day, I had figured my ranking was high, and planned to take a room with a bath and simply roll the dice that if none of my theatre friends wanted to room with me, that at least whomever took the other half of the room couldn’t be as horrible as Tiger’ish.  Sitting there, however, hearing his plans for decorating our future bathroom, I knew I was finished.  I wasn’t going to risk living with anyone I didn’t personally choose again.  The potential roommate wouldn’t be as bad a Tiger’ish.  But they would still get annoying, even if they were a friend.  Fuck that.  It was time for me to finally have a room of my own where I held the key.  I couldn’t afford to live off campus, so I was left with only one option.  I was going to do my damndest to join the ranks of that group I had grown to most resent.  I was going to kiss all the right asses, say all the right things, get my own room, and god damn it, get paid for the privilege.  I was going to be an RA.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 11: The Canadian Girlfriend

When I was in high school there was a phenomenon known as “The Canadian Girlfriend.”  Every so often, someone in school would awkwardly excuse themselves from some social event by saying that they couldn’t go because they have a girlfriend who can’t come and they wouldn’t want to go without her.  Upon further questioning, it was made clear that this girlfriend, of whom no one else had ever heard, was Canadian.  She was usually a model, and because of exotic Canadian laws, the lucky boyfriend couldn’t show the rest of us any pictures, but she’s the most amazingly hot woman, like, ever.  This Canadian girlfriend had previously gone unmentioned because he didn’t want to make us jealous.  She’s that hot.  Where did they meet?  Well his uncle has a business in Ontario and he knows someone who knows someone and they started talking on the phone, etc. etc. etc.
Obviously, there never was any girlfriend at all and the poor kid thought it was better to lie then own up to the fact that he didn’t get a date for the Sweetheart’s Dance.  The invocation of The Canadian Girlfriend is far more humiliating than having no girlfriend at all, and yet, it was used time and time again.  She wasn’t always Canadian, sometimes she was from Chicago.  Sometimes she was from a different school, but a religious one and her asshole father won’t let her attend school functions at any school but her own.  She’s not always a model, but she is always the most beautiful creature to have ever graced the earth and there is never an accompanying photo –except in the most pathetic of cases.  Once in a while, the Canadian girlfriend’s photo looks like it was carefully cut out of a magazine.  In those instances, she looks exactly like Heidi Klum.  In even more pathetic instances, she looks like the model from the fucking Target ad in this past Sunday’s paper. 
Strangely enough, despite the general social awkwardness, lack of hygiene and general slovenly nature of the boyfriend, this vision of beauty found him to be so desirable, so charming that she had eyes for no other.  Occasionally they were engaged.  Sure, these crazy love-birds are only 16, but in Canada that’s like, ideal marrying age.  Culturally speaking.  The rest of us wouldn’t understand.
It’s not as if everyone else in school had dates or girlfriends or any hope for either.  Sure there were some of us who found our way into relationships, but there twice as many who simply didn’t, and could tell that that was OK.  The crippling lack of social awareness of those with Canadian Girlfriends kept them from realizing that to have a Canadian Girlfriend was far worse than to have no girlfriend at all.  In one truly sad instance, the boyfriend was so committed to his fantasy that when challenged to call his Canadian Girlfriend, he stepped up to the plate, actually to the payphone, and dialed.  In this case she wasn’t so much Canadian as she was Minnesotan, and with all of our Wisconsin-bred ears pressed to the phone we heard him explain his reason for calling and her shattering denial.  Just because they were cousins, and even if they shared a bedroom at Grandma’s during Christmas, no, they were not boyfriend and girlfriend.  In fact, she’s telling her Dad and she won’t be sharing a bedroom with him anymore. 
Someone so committed to a fantasy life, or rather, so unsatisfied with the reality of their life, is a truly sad and pathetic beast.  In other words, someone like Tiger’ish.  It was for these reasons that upon hearing his claims of having a girlfriend, my mind went immediately from any thoughts of personal testicular safety and straight to the fervent hope that Tiger’ish had a Canadian Girlfriend.  There was no doubting that he was talking to someone on the phone, and there was no reason to think it wasn’t a female, but I held out hope that whomever he had on the line, no matter how much they liked him, would bristle at the identification as his girlfriend. After all, he had put the phone against his shoulder when he told me he was speaking to his girlfriend; she might not have heard.  I prayed it would be a misunderstanding akin to that of the Minnesotan Cousin. 
If Tiger’ish had a girlfriend, that meant there was someone out there who thought of him -to cut right down to it- as a potential mate.  I sat there, trying to listen to Tiger’ish’s conversation, but my mind kept filling with visions of returning to our room to find him fucking this girl and doing so exactly as the pictures had shown him fucking the goats.  He would be behind her, holding her legs up and apart, while she held herself up on her elbows.  Like a wheelbarrow race with only one naked team in the running.  For whatever reason, I pictured her overweight and with severe acne on her back.  I had no face for her in my vision of the damned because, of course, she was wearing an animal mask.  Like some satanic rite, she was wearing the face of a goat.  Just like at his computer, I would have the displeasure of seeing his orgasm.  Even within my own mind, all of this was enough for me to dry-heave.  I ended up leaving the room for a while; I was pretty shaken up.  He just couldn’t have a girlfriend.  I wouldn’t allow it.  If the universe made any sense at all, there could be no one out there for him.  Surely whoever was on the phone was a fucking furry, but even they have to draw the line somewhere, and Tiger’ish had to be beyond what would be deemed acceptable.  Tiger’ish could not have a girlfriend.  She had to be a Canadian Girlfriend.  She had to.
One of the characteristics of the Canadian Girlfriend is that no matter how unlikely the story, no matter how obvious the ruse, the boyfriend won’t admit his lie.  In the instance of Minnesotan Cousin, no amount of debate will get him to see the truth.  A friendly girl will be seen as a girlfriend until the friendship ends.  For these reasons, I had no intention to even bother asking Tiger’ish about his girlfriend; what would be would be.  Instead, upon my return, he had a question for me.  He wanted to know if I was sure that my balls didn’t hurt. 
Me: What the fucking hell!  What are you asking me?  No, they don’t fucking hurt and why do you keep asking?
Tiger’ish:  Well, do they itch, do you have a rash?
M: Goddammit!  I will punch you in the nuts if you don’t stop it!  No, my balls don’t hurt, and you had better stop!  What the fuck?
T: No aches or swollenness?
M:  That’s fucking it!  You’re done.  Why are you even asking?
T: My girlfriend wants to know.  I don’t care about your balls one way or the other, but I told her I’d ask, so I’m asking.
M:  Well, and I can’t believe I’m even participating in this discussion, I already told you they feel fine.  Stop asking.  Why does she even want to know?  Who is she and does she know that she’s your girlfriend?
T:  She should know; she’s the one who asked me to be her boyfriend,
-Fuck me…­-
T: and it is really strange that your balls don’t hurt at all.
M: Why?
T: Because she’s a witch,
-Are you fucking kidding me?-
T: and she’s really good, too.
M:  You mean she’s like Wiccan, or something?
T: What?  I don’t know even know what that is.  She’s a witch.  A really powerful one and she cast a spell on you to make your balls hurt and that’s why they should hurt.
He went on to explain that the witch, Zebedorah, was in fact a fellow furry and that as a powerful sorceress, she was honing her craft.  The problem was, much like Tiger’ish, she was entirely limited in her regular interactions with only fellow on-line furries.  She needed a guinea pig that was both able to be observed repeatedly but not anyone she felt bad about harming.  Tiger’ish suggested me.  She could cast the spells, he could watch the results and thus, their romantic bond was forged. 
Now, as I rule, I don’t consider myself superstitious.  I find it hard to believe that if things like magic existed, that it would remain only on the fringes of society and not be fully incorporated into everyday life.  On the other hand, I always went to parochial school, and every good Christian knows that magic is make-believe, but miracles are the work of God. 
When I was in second grade I had a teacher who was a total fanatic about the occult and, more exactly, training her class in the art of combating Satan’s evil forces.  When other eight-year-olds were learning math, we were watching films allegedly recorded in secret during Black Masses.  Instead of science we learned how to detect Satan’s influence in rock music.  We weren’t allowed to watch The Grinch during the Christmas party, but we were allowed to watch videos recounting tales of child-abduction and sacrifice.  We wouldn’t know Abraham Lincoln from Albert Einstein, but we could all identify Anton LaVey.  All of this was to prepare us.  As good Christian soldiers, it was inevitable that Satan would come for us with a vengeance.  I’m sure our teacher meant well, but we were too young.  One kid freaked out at the grocery store because their mother tried to buy a magazine with Michael J. Fox on the cover.  He was looking into a crystal ball to determine what new fall shows would be hits, and that is a satanic act.  Another child couldn’t sleep the night without waking up in terror, convinced that he was going to be hung from an inverted cross and bled out.  Needless to say, most parents got upset.
My mother, however, was all for it.  My mom had a habit of cruising neighborhood garage sales in the hopes of finding Ouija boards.  She fought her own little holy war by buying these board games and then smashing them to bits.  Strangely enough, her righteous fury only applied to games she could buy at a bargain; she never bought the new sets at full price from Woolworth’s.  At any rate, when most parents started to complain, my mother just rolled her eyes.
The school administrators, in their infinite wisdom, agreed with the parents and decided that the teacher was a bit intense for second graders, so they changed her assignment for the next year.  Instead of warping the minds of impressionable second graders they entrusted her with the infinitely more mature third and fourth grades.
Yes, that meant she had the same students and we had the same crazy fucking teacher.  For three years in a row.  The occult remained a focus of her curriculum and that was that.  I'm sure the parents tried their best, but only a couple kids were pulled from the school. 
I mention this to stress that on a conscious, intellectual level, I knew that Zebedorah couldn’t be a witch, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being conditioned for so long at such a young age didn’t leave me with some concerns.  I’ve always been around people who firmly believe in such things as the supernatural and that those who dabble with it are, in fact, dancing with the Devil.  Willful participation in occultic practices such as witchcraft came with it the very real chance that you were opening yourself up to demon-possession.  Dozens of examples have been cited to me over the years.  That’s where I was worried.  Regardless of what I believe, what happens when Tiger’ish and Zeb believe they are possessed?  When they go on their inevitable killing spree, won’t I be the first to meet their wrath? 
Even without any attempts from Tiger’ish to carve a pentagram into my chest, this new wrinkle in our lives proved to be a great annoyance.  First, there were the interrogations.  Is my hair thinning?  Have I discovered any new teeth, and if so, were they in my mouth?  Did my ass hurt?  Was my vision blurry?  Have I received any visits from a dead relative?  Was I pissing blood?  Shitting blood?  Was I attacked by a squirrel?
As near as I could tell, Zeb didn’t have any resource or spell book that she was consulting.  Based on hearing Tiger’ish’s half of their conversations, she was trying to compile her own tome of original recipes.  Which leads me to the second annoyance:  their phone conversations.  They spoke on the phone a lot.  Most of the time, it was furry speak (complete with conversations comprised entirely of animal sounds), but almost as often it was about me.  Evidently, Zeb needed to really know me to fuck with me.  Tiger’ish didn’t really talk about me, though.  Instead, he gave a running commentary about me.  “He’s checking his email.  He got a drink from the fridge.  Dr. Pepper.  A can.  He’s looking at me.  He’s flipping me off.  He’s leav--.”  Another side-effect of their conversations was Tiger’ish couldn’t use the phone without standing right next to its wall mounted cradle.  The cord was more than long enough to reach anywhere in the room, but he stood stock still next to the wall where it hung.  Doing this, he’d get fidgety, and without fail, he would turn the ringer volume down to zero.  It took me a good two weeks to figure out why I wasn’t getting any calls but tons of voice mails.  He didn’t have that problem because she never called him; they’d arrange a time for him to call her because our long distance was built into the room costs.
I began to compulsively check the voice mail every time I returned to the room.  The campus phone system was really shitty and there was no way of knowing if you had mail; you just had to call the voice mail box and find out.   There was call-waiting on our phone system, but Tiger’ish never knew how to use it and wouldn’t give me the phone even if he did.  Luckily, the voice mail would take a message even if the phone was in use.  This led to one of the creepier moments of my life. 
I don’t know what happened exactly, but I think someone had called our number while Tiger’ish was on the phone with Zebedorah.  My guess is that the caller hung up just as the voice mail kicked in, and the result was a voice mail recording of Tiger’ish’s conversation with his witch.  Prior to this, I had never heard her voice.  I never answered her calls because she never did call.  When he called her I could hear just enough to infer that she was in fact female.  Now I had the chance to hear them both, and during a time when they thought they were completely alone.  She spoke like the fucking wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz.  Like a goddamn joke, she really was playing up the hokey, over-the-top, broom and pointy hat witch identity.  He was speaking normally, but much lower, like he was trying to seduce her with his voice.  It was what they were saying that was really bizarre.  For five minutes straight –the time limit for our voice mail box –they were just repeating the phrase, “Tonight is the night of pain.”  They repeated that over and over and over.
Suitably creeped out, I was more than happy to be going to the final dress rehearsal for our school’s production of the opera The Ballad Of Baby Doe.  Being a theatre major, I, like most other theatre majors, took the biennial opera as my opportunity to fulfill some of the backstage requirements for my major.  The opera always attracted vocal performance majors, and they are easily the worst people on earth.  Worse than witches.   Rather than spend weeks in daily rehearsal with assholes that wear scarves indoors and constantly sip hot water with honey, I chose to limit my exposure to tech week and the two weeks of performances of the opera.  I had snagged a pretty sweet spot as an assistant stage manager, which was much preferred than being tasked with costume or makeup work on these narcissistic assholes.
The Ballad Of Baby Doe features an off-stage gunshot and the director wanted an actual shot with an actual smell of gunpowder instead of an obviously fake recorded sound effect.   Part of my various duties as ASM, I was responsible for retrieving and loading a starter pistol.  When cued by the Stage Manager, I fired the pistol off stage and then left the back stage area to unload and replace the pistol in its lock box, which was kept in a locker –also locked- in the Technical Director’s office.   Every previous night, this was no problem.  I had more than enough time to follow procedure and return to the backstage and my communication headset to be ready for my next cue.  The night of the final dress, however, was very different.
Our school was fortunate enough to have a state-of-the-art fine arts complex.  While a lot of the cash for this building came from alumni donors, a pretty sizable chunk came from the city.  The sole condition on which this cash was given was that whenever the city desired, and always assuming the school wasn’t already using it, the city could use our building as a banquet hall.  In fact, the final design of the lobby was created for this purpose, and a full catering-ready kitchen area was added to the plans.
Well, when the front office of the Fine Arts building got the call asking if the building was available for that particular Thursday night, the calendar seemed all clear.  Sure the opera would be opening the next day, but Friday is not Thursday.  So the building was booked.  When they realized their mistake, the building managers decided it would work out.  We, the opera, would remain enclosed in the theatre spaces, while the guests had the run of the lobby.  Theoretically we wouldn’t even know each other was there.  Of course none of these decisions were made by people who knew anything about the actual requirements of this opera.  Requirements like returning a gun to the TD’s office, which was next to the catering kitchen. 
When we got to rehearsal that night, they told all of us about the event (as if we couldn’t tell by the lobby being set for it, and the caterers running around), and stressed that we weren’t to leave the theatre spaces.  When I asked about the gun, they told me to do the same thing I always did.  As long as I stayed away from the lobby, I should be in the clear.
Now, you might be wondering why any of us would even bother wanting to go to the lobby.  Most of these events were either city parties, or the occasional wedding reception.  This night however, was unique.  It was the spring of 2001, and the crown-jewel of Indiana, the great city of Gary, had won the honor of hosting the Miss USA Pageant.  Gary, Indiana is a filthy stinking shithole and the pageant organizers knew it.  The sole venue that even began to match what the organizers wanted was booked for the pageant itself, so they had to look elsewhere for a pre-show venue.  Somewhere that looked elegant, somewhere nice that the pageant host could have his traditional pre-show dinner with the contestants a few days before the actual event.  Somewhere befitting the level of celebrity of their esteemed pageant host and dinner guest-of-honor.  They found that venue in a small college town just 25 miles away from Gary.
The host?  William Mother-Fucking Shatner.
Now I suspect if you asked anyone at our school, the concern was that we would try and sneak a peek at the young beauty queens.  On the other hand, I can only imagine that Captain Kirk wouldn’t travel with a twelve member security squadron unless he felt he needed to.  All I know for certain is that what these twelve men lack in reasoning ability they make up for in brute strength.
I had fired the shot, and was on my way to return the gun to its lock box.  As luck would have it, right as I was heading down the hallway that granted access to the TD’s office, there too was Bill and his men, waiting just outside the kitchen for his proper introduction to the contestants.  The twelve all eye-balled me, and Shatner gave me a quick nod and turned back toward the curtain they had set up through which he would enter the lobby.  I just went ahead with what I was supposed to do, and unlocked the office door.  I went in and unlocked the locker.  I entered the combination on the lock-box.  I pulled the gun out of my pocket.  Faster than any human movement I could imagine three of the twelve came through the door and slammed me right into the open locker door.  It hit my ribs with the narrow edge of the door and the pain was intense.  Next thing I knew I was face-down on the ground, with one dude standing on my neck, while the other two were each standing on my wrists, with my arms fully extended out from my body.  The gun was lying by the door to the office.  Like the fucking Secret Service, they start talking into their sleeves and the other nine rush in.  Nobody says anything to me, and I can’t talk because my face is shoved into the ground and I can’t really breathe anyhow.  A moment later, out of my peripheral vision, I see Shatner’s shiny tuxedo shoe enter the room.  He steps on the gun.  He picks it up.  I hear it open and see the remaining seven starter blanks fall out onto the ground.  I hear him say, “Jesus Christ you shitheads.  Don’t you know a fucking starter pistol when you see one? Twelve of you gorillas and none of you’ve ever gone to a track meet?  Lift the fucker up.”
I get lifted up by my shoulders and turned to face Shatner.  He asks me what I’m doing, and I tell him.  He tells them to let me go and they do.  By now I’m so mixed up and in pain that I just squat down and start picking up the blanks.  I put them in the locker and I feel a nudge on my arm.  I turn to see William Shatner pointing the gun right at me.  He waits a moment, turns it around so I can grab it properly and I take the handle.  I put it away and he says, “Kid, your lip's bleeding and I’m sorry for that.  I’d offer you an autograph or a cup of coffee, but I’m late for an appointment with 50 beautiful women and you’ve got a show to do yourself.” Still barely able to breathe, I just nodded and he left.  I went back to the backstage -luckily with enough time for my next cue- put on my headset and leaned against the wall and tried to catch my breath.
The locker slam bruised a rib and I felt every breath I took, as I would for days afterward.  Tiger’ish’s phone call kept coming back to me while I finished the rehearsal.  It truly was a night of pain.  When I got back to our room, he immediately interrogated me, “My girlfriend wants to know, was tonight a night of pain?” 
I didn’t want to admit that it was and encourage them, so instead I said, “Fuck you dude.  Stop asking because I won’t answer one way or the other from now on.  Man I wish your girlfriend was Canadian.”
“She is.  She’s from Toronto.”
Fucker’s girlfriend really was Canadian.  Just like William Mother-Fucking Shatner.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 10: The Grass Was Always Greener When He Was Only Fucking Goats

Just as casually as anyone could, he asks me to call him Tiger’ish.  Now, I am immediately met with a choice: Do I agree, and run the risk of in some way endorsing behavior I will later regret, or do I refuse and run the risk of raising his ire against me? Given his recent attempts to make me happy, I cautiously agreed to call him Tiger’ish.

Me: OK, you’re Tiger’ish.  Why?

Tiger’ish:  Because that’s who I am.  Logan was the farm boy from Tennessee.  Tiger’ish is something more.

M:  Are you a tiger now?

T:  What?

M:  Look, I don’t pretend to know how any of this animal-sex stuff works.  I don’t know if you people think you are animals or like to pretend you are animals, so just tell me what you want me to know about the new you.

T:  Well I do prefer an animal identity, but why would you guess a tiger?

M: Spell your new fucking name.

T: T-I-G-E-R-‘postrophe-I-S-H.

M: So you’re a large cat that is similar to, but not, a tiger…

T:  I thought you knew me.  I’m a wolverine, of course.

M:  So where does the name come from?

T:  My personality.  I am kind of tiger-ish.

M:  But, despite that, you are a wolverine?

T: Yes.

M: Got it.

And from then on, he was Tiger’ish.  At the time, it seemed harmless enough.   He had recently experienced some indignities that I suspect began to teach him that no matter who you are on the farm, you aren’t anything special in the real world. 

First there was the incident with CORE.  CORE was a two-semester class that was required for all first-year students.  Officially, it was intended to be a leveling field for all freshmen, where, regardless of prior education, every new student came to learn an identical approach to critical thinking and analysis.  Through class discussion, the reading of texts, watching of films, and subsequent writing of essays examining those texts and films, each new year’s pupils would meet each other equipped with the same new knowledge, the same academic experience, and the same MLA style.  Unofficially, it was an excuse to kiss the ass of every guest speaker to visit campus with a book to sell, and more importantly, it was a way to steal thousands of dollars from the freshmen class each year. Dozens of books were required for CORE, and they were always tied to someone the University was trying to please.  If it wasn’t a visiting author, it was an author the University was trying to court.  Or it was an alumnus who’d been published.  Or it was from Oprah’s fucking book club.  These books weren’t even the worst part.  For whatever reason, each semester, a different essential reading packet was “published” and sold for $65.00.  This packet was literally a couple dozen photo-copied pages held together with a rubber band.  They were not bound in any way and yet the front page always carried the very clear warning:


This, as they changed the content of the packet anyhow, was just insulting.  In my second semester packet, I received exactly 27 single-sided pages.  These pages were copied from a book, whose author and title were conveniently blacked out at the top of each page.  I would later discover that this was an essay copied from, and almost certainly illegally, a David Sedaris book.  Which was also sold at our campus book store.  For $25.00.  For the entire book.  Which was a full $7.50 at Barnes & Noble. 

The problem was that CORE was a form of roulette in which, unless you had the same professor for both semesters, you never knew how closely the professor would adhere to the course-wide guidelines.  Also, for the sake of diversity, you were prohibited from having the same professor for both semesters.  So some people got professors who were just as disgusted at being forced to teach this crap as we were to “learn” it and would give their entire class an “A” if they attended at least half of the sessions, which would be unofficial study halls.  Other professors, aspiring to be Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society would take the course as it was officially intended and try to inspire us to reach new academic heights.  Other professors, resentful that all associate professors were required to teach two sections of CORE a semester would hijack the course and require their students to study Meteorology, for example. 

I was lucky in my first semester.  My professor spent the first class explaining the truth of what CORE was and from then on only asked that we play along enough to make him look good.  By contrast, my second semester was taught by a woman who proudly told us that she was one of the first people in the world to obtain a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies and that no man in her class could obtain better than a “B” for a semester grade.  She went on to decry the sexism from which all collegiate males have benefited, and vowed to fight back for women, one “B” at a time.  To be honest, I don’t think she quite knew what feminism was.  Either way, she was one of the teachers who very much did require us to have our reading packets and regularly assigned essays beyond the course-wide syllabi and were always in response to “gender roles within the text” and we were inexplicably required to include cited resources.  If I am writing my own essay analyzing my own response to watching fucking GATTACA, why the fuck do I need to cite a resource?

Tiger’ish coasted through first semester CORE with a professor who only required her students to show up once a week, and then, only long enough to take roll-call.  She told them that being raped at the book store was payment enough for an easy course credit.  This ill-prepared him for the idealist he was to find in his second semester class.  The worst CORE professors to get were the ones from the English Department, because they were more or less teaching CORE for all the rest of their classes anyway, and also were careful to hold CORE as a sacred experience in the hope that when their asinine book of poetry finally got published that it too would join the required reading list.  Tiger’ish got one of these idiots.  Just shy of tenure and being able to stop teaching CORE, this professor had really deluded themselves into thinking they were that-one-teacher-who-changed-their-students'-lives.  Committed to connecting with each student personally, the first grand act of compassion was to hand out index cards to each student and ask them to write a few things about themselves; where they were from, what they hoped to achieve at college, etc.  The crucial question for Tiger’ish was: By what name would you like to be called?  For whatever reason, Tiger’ish took this opportunity to display some of his knowledge from his first semester pre-med courses.  Through the careful academic study of dozens of medical texts, Tiger’ish had come to realize that the Latin equivalent of any word was simply the word in English with “US” added to the end.  Trying to impress his class with his knowledge, Tiger’ish wrote that he would like to be called Loganus. 

The professor collected the cards in careful order and then went around the room introducing each student and sharing the information from their cards.  When she got to Tiger’ish, she didn’t say Logan-us, instead she said Log Anus.  Anyone who didn’t know about Tiger’ish from his first-semester misadventures knew of Log Anus by the end of the first second-semester week.
Again, knowing that “Logan” might have had some frustrating associations, I wasn’t totally shocked that he was looking for a new identity.  His other indignity relates to his comprehension of Latin.  Simply put, he had flunked all of his pre-med courses.  Through the delightful workings of a well-oiled bureaucracy, Tiger’ish –as we all were- was instructed to sign up for second semester courses based on our expectations of passing or failing.  Failing never occurred to Tiger’ish, despite his barely ever attending class or doing homework.  As sure of himself as ever, Tiger’ish assumed he was enrolled in the second semester pre-med classes and even went to what would’ve been his first.  This class was a biology lab, and each properly enrolled student would come to class and find a work table for themselves, complete with some exciting project.  Tiger’ish ended up roaming from table to table, looking for his name.  Eventually he had to ask for help and was publicly told that he wasn’t in the class due to his failure from the previous semester.  Tiger’ish met with his advisor who explained to him that he had, in fact and in writing, been made aware of this circumstance and was left with no choice but to focus on general education courses until the next fall when he could start over.  He was assured that he wasn’t the first pre-med to flunk only to restart with great success.  He was encouraged to take advantage of his newly found free time and was reminded that most students in other majors would be kicked out of on-campus housing for not taking a full course load, but that an exception was made for the pre-med students.

Tiger’ish wasn’t in college for general education; he was there to become a doctor.  It seems pretty likely that he thought he merely had to go to college and that would make him a doctor, but the real world was finally getting through to him.  How could he go back to the farm without a medical degree?  I suspect he didn’t much want to be Logan anymore.  “Logan” was bound to be a disappointment to his family back home, and certainly didn’t fit in anywhere else.  “Tiger’ish” however, was whoever he wanted to be and could define and redefine himself at will.

The whole world of furry porn was bad enough, but nothing could’ve prepared me for Tiger’ish and his total immersion in the furry community.  What started off as a means to achieve an orgasm became an outlet to a community that, not only accepted his every peculiarity, but celebrated them.  This community, however, only existed for Tiger’ish through the magic of the internet, which when combined with his vast amounts of free time and general dissatisfaction with the outside world, meant that I was left to face the insanity.
Furry porn led to furry chat rooms.  Chat rooms led to AOL instant messaging sessions that comprised entirely of:

SirStallion:  Neigh, Whinnnney,  Neigh

Tiger’ish: Grrr, HOOOOOOWL!

It went on like that.  Tiger’ish would breathily read these exchanges in real-time, trying to approximate the actual animal sounds being invoked, all the while laughing knowingly at the secret joke shared between the two animal identities.

Chat rooms led to another weird form of porn: licensed character porn.  As a tangent to his usual proclivities, Tiger’ish became fascinated, if not aroused, by perusing fan-made drawings of things like Smurfette getting bukake’d by Papa, Brainy, and Vanity Smurf.  (I admit that the last one surprised even me.)  If it was a cartoon between 1980-2000, Tiger’ish looked at a porn derivation of it.  Which is to say nothing of comics -both strip and book, video games, and toy-lines.  Which led to his next horrifying hobby, dabbling with being a plushie. 

An unfortunately well drawn depiction of some Care Bears engaged in an act that defies explanation but focused heavily on the theme “Golden Showers” captivated Tiger’ish like nothing else.  He expressed his appreciation for the artwork to some online friends and in record time he went from wanting to be a wolverine to wanting to be in a character costume from Six Flags.  Or more accurately, he wanted to be a wolverine dressed up like a cartoon unicorn.  He began searching for tips on how to create your own plushie-wear, and lucked out when a friend offered to sell him some pants.  Evidently, a fellow plushie underestimated their own girth and ended up with some plushie pants –good for whatever costume you desire! –and sent them to Tiger’ish after his check cleared.

Before I knew it, Tiger’ish was no longer spending his time at his computer bare-assed.  Instead, he looked something like a faun, with offensively unconvincing fur.  I won’t pretend to know materials make for a good plushie costume, but these pants were awful.  The fabric looked like felt, plain and simple.  In effect, Tiger’ish began wearing felt sweat pants.  He seemed happy enough with them, so what do I know.  His search continued for help in crafting a perfect unicorn costume, but to my eternal happiness, he never managed to get beyond those felt sweat pants.

In hindsight, I dodged a deadly, hollow-point bullet.  One of the requirements for my theatre major was enrollment in a class called Social Influence of the Theatrical Arts.  This class met four days a week, and when in class, time was spent studying how theatre and acting have been used for more than artistic expression or simply as entertainment.  One example of this is role-playing in psycho-therapy sessions. Another example is when a play is performed to effect social change in some way.  When this course isn’t in class, it is traveling as troupe performing just such an influential play.  In my freshmen year I opted to not take the class simply because I didn’t feel like having a morning class four days of the week.  Thank god I didn’t take it.  I can only imagine what nightmares living with Tiger’ish would’ve caused me if I had.
The play that was toured throughout the tri-county area was a little gem called Little Bear.  This play was performed for children, ideally in Pre-K through 2nd grade.  In Little Bear, the children get to meet a fun and friendly little bear who simply trusts too much.  One day, Little Bear meets Big Bear.  Big Bear likes giving hugs and rubs and, despite Little Bear telling him not to, rubs Little Bear on her private parts and in general, sexually molests her.  Not knowing what to do, Little Bear confides in Little Moose.   They still don’t know what to do, so they ask Big Moose, who carefully tells the Little Critters (and the audience) about not feeling guilty or ashamed when you are abused and how to tell a trusted adult, be it a parent, or if need be, a teacher or even a police officer.  Big Moose helps Little Bear confront Big Bear, and Big Bear leaves the forest, never to return.

Written by child psychologists, the play was lauded for not putting an allegorical or metaphorical spin on the act of abuse.  The kids saw Little Bear get sexually abused.  Unfortunately, many kids recognized the abuse from their own lives and after performances spoke to their teachers and the therapists who would travel with the show. 

An aside:  When I was in Little Bear, during the spring of my sophomore year, we got a healthy bit of local press for being the first known production of Little Bear to have Little Bear portrayed by a male actor.  Just sayin’.

Because heavy genital and breast-groping was performed on-stage, the costumes for Little Bear were specifically designed to both protect the performers from one another’s gropes, but to also visually accentuate the buttocks/genitals, etc. of the costumes’ exterior.  The care and maintenance of these costumes were the responsibility of the actors.  This means, they were usually stored in the actors' dorm rooms.  If I had taken the class as a freshman, Tiger’ish would’ve taken my Big Moose costume –which was absolutely a plushie’s wet dream –and done who knows what unspeakable acts to and with it.

Another aside:  Although we opted not to distribute them, each group that paid the performance rights for Little Bear, was also entitled to cases of Little Bear coloring books, recounting the story.  Inexplicably, there was a page depicting the abuse.  You could color the abuse!  Big Bear was simultaneously squeezing tit and kneading bush.  And you could color it!

Dodged bullets aside, Tiger’ish was far more popular than Logan ever was.  Nor was the popularity limited to cyberspace.  Before long, Tiger’ish was sending out our phone number and spending hours chatting and growling with his new friends.  This really pissed me off.  Beside the fact that Tiger’ish couldn’t use the phone without turning the ringer off, these people were encouraging behaviors that I had to deal with.  None of them knew the real him.  I could only imagine that even in the subset of this particular fetish, he was unique.   These people knew enough to hide their fetish in appropriate shame, Tiger’ish did not.  These people could never guess that he truly believed in unicorns and leprechauns.  Even being his usual candid self, they had to assume he was just playing the part.  No one would dare get to know him with the level of intimacy that I had been forced to.

Then one day, while on the phone with somebody, Tiger’ish pauses his conversation to ask me a question:

Tiger’ish:  Hey, I have to ask you something.  Do your testicles hurt?


T:  Your testicles.  Your nuts, your balls.  Do they hurt?

M: No.  Why?

T: My girlfriend wants to know.

He then put the phone back to his ear and reported that I said no…

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 9: A Personal Pornography History In Which Logan Barely Gets Mentioned, But Tiger'ish Finally Gets A Name-Drop

I must admit that when I found Logan’s picture it confused me. It actually took me a moment to realize that it was his new jerk-off aid. The animal heads on human bodies, the cartoony drawing style; it all went so far away from anything I had considered sexual that I just stared at it in bewilderment. Eventually I noticed the penetration and I finally got it. Then, I was repulsed.

I had, to that point, considered myself well experienced in the realm of porn-exposure. I honestly felt, both with pornography and life in general, that I had seen more than most and couldn’t be taken by surprise. My naiveté was a combination of long being jaded by porn and by, quite simply, an inability to imagine what I was looking at.

My personal porn history goes back almost to birth. When you live in a small house with many older brothers and sisters, you lose your innocence very early. For some people that means the first-born doesn’t get to watch G.I. Joe until he’s five. But then, of course, the three-year-old sitting next to him has a two year head start. In my house, where the ages –at the time- went from 16 to four, it meant I consumed as many R-rated movies as I could.

My oldest sibling, a brother fully 25 years my senior, had a delightful habit of taping everything off of premium cable every single day. Banks of VCRs, programmed so that when VCR 1 ran out of the first six hours of Cinemax, VCR 2 would kick in. After work, he’d come home and put a fresh tape into VCR 1, etc. Repeat this for HBO and Showtime. He would then stop by on Fridays with paper grocery bags full of unlabeled tapes, with no clue what was on them or where anyone could find The Fox & The Hound or Bachelor Party. It was then the awesome job of Peter, Paul and I to view the tapes and label them. (Incidentally, those two films shared a tape.)

So from my earliest memories, I had already learned to get excited by the “The following film contains… NUDITY!” that preceded the movies. We became connoisseurs, we knew which flicks earned the R for a brief shot of buttock-thrust and which had tits-aplenty. I went into the first grade an experienced man. I was the know-it-all who told the rest of you things like, “A girl can’t get pregnant unless you pee in her pussy,” “Fucking is when you stick your thing in her pussy, screwing is when you stick it in her butthole,” and, because we went to a Lutheran school, “A cock is just a dick, but a prick is the tip of a pastor’s penis.” I believed it all, too.

The first clue that there might be more to sex than what I could see on Cinemax came in the Spring of my 1st grade year. Our school held a paper drive and my brother Peter had discovered the mother-lode. Someone felt it wise to donate four large boxes of hardcore porno mags. HUSTLER being the tamest of the bunch. Being reasonably smart, Peter stashed the boxes off to the side of the school and waited for the day to end. We three brothers carried the boxes home, where we knew no one else would be. The only time I was ever safe with Peter was when he had no choice but to include me in his crimes, lest I serve as a witness against him. These are the greatest moments of my childhood. His plan for these magazines was inspired.

Most boys would either dive into the boxes and each grab one and flip through it. Others, perhaps less experienced than we were, might cluster around one issue as a group, discussing and pondering the images and what they meant. Peter decided to sell tickets.

He took the boxes into his room and forbid Paul and I to see them. He promised we would get our chance, but we might as well make some money, too. He closed his doors and Paul and I started discussing how we could both get the magazines from him and not get him to tell on us. A moment later Peter came back out –to be fair to him, it really was only a moment- and he had three clippings cut from a magazine, one for each of us. He told us to go out into the neighborhood and round up every boy we were friends with. Each kid was to be shown a clipping (in each case, the clipping was a headless, bodiless pair of breasts) and told if he wished to see more he had to pay a dollar. We went out, gathered about a dozen kids, and Peter brought them into our house. He led them to our stairway, which was fully enclosed in a room all by itself -a doorway at the base of the stairs, a doorway at the top -and told us all to sit on the stairs like at a stadium, facing the blank wall. He turned out the lights and used this:

Not only did Peter create a porno theatre –complete with images bigger than any TV set could offer, but with top-grade porn. None of this, my-legs-are-crossed-with-my-hand-over-my-bush bullshit. We had clinical photos. Not only were the legs spread, so was the labia. I was seven years old and had more sexual experience than most men twice my age. To be honest, it frightened me. I had seen a woman’s pubic hair before and just kind of assumed that’s that. I knew there was a hole, but I didn’t realize it could resemble the Predator (which is what it totally looked like to me as I had just seen that movie on tape). It was only the joyous enthusiasm of the other gawkers that kept me from running away. Eventually the show ended and the older boys all had to get home for some reason, so Peter sent everyone away. Like so many things, the magazines quickly became familiar and therefore uninteresting. Peter eventually sold them off to various kids, always keeping a page or two for himself. I had become comfortable with the sight of a vagina, but was too young to be excited by it.

And so things went until my seventh grade year, when my friend Jimmy got a modem. The internet was still a niche interest and not remotely mainstream so that Jimmy’s parents probably didn’t even realize it could be used for porn. All they ever saw was colorful text on a blank screen while Jimmy hopped from bulletin-board-system to bulletin-board-system. Jimmy had discovered that if you posted “Show me some tit pics” someone would, every single time, send one. The image would take forever to load, and each moment waiting was an adrenaline rush of fear: what if his mom came in and the picture popped up? I, completely unfazed by bosoms, raised the stakes by suggesting the request “Show me the sickest porn you got.” It was by this method that I first saw bottle-penetration (meaning both bottles-in-orifices and genitals-in-bottles in one amazing collage). That alone was enough for Jimmy to refuse to ever ask that question again. He figured his mom could handle her 13-year-old seeing some tits, but not recyclable-rape.

It wasn’t too much later that we both got our first taste of hardcore porn on film. A mutual friend invited us to his house to see something. He had found his dad’s porno tape and had perfected the art of the VHS rewind: using the counter on the VCR to ensure that the tape, when ejected, was exactly where his father had left it. Jimmy and I felt fully prepared for the bounty we were about to receive –this friend had a big TV, and with my history and Jimmy’s recent exposure to bottle-porn, we both assumed we were prepared to witness what really ought to be no big deal: two people fucking, just like each of our parents must’ve done. “Play” was pressed and a little bit more of my innocence was lost.

The clip was simple enough: two people, a man and a woman, fucking doggy style. The camera slowly moved in, getting closer to the genitals and at one point the cameraman’s hand even reached out to move the gentleman’s arm from blocking the shot. My years of experience with graphic stills and Hollywood sex scenes didn’t prepare me for the violence of thrusts, grunts, sweat, cellulite, and bodily fluid. I fell prostrate before the 50-inch screen, mouth agape in horror.

Jimmy had a total nervous breakdown: Not three seconds into the video, he ran out of the room and began sprinting in a circle throughout the house yelling, “”Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” over and over. I don’t know how long we went on like this -seconds or minutes- but all of a sudden, the doorbell rang.

Ryan, our host, hissed, “Shut it off! I’ll get the door.” In my panic, my finger found the smallest button on the VCR: "Pause." As Ryan slowly opened the door, which was perpendicular to the TV screen so that the image wasn’t immediately visible to those outside, I stared at the frozen image of a giant 50-inch ejaculating cock and fell backwards onto the floor, sure I was having a heart attack.

The doorbell ringers were a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses, whom Ryan quickly dismissed. I got back to my knees and Ryan hit “Play” again. The ejaculating cock turned to face the camera, and the image smeared out of focus as the lens coated with semen. The screen faded to black and I thought I had passed out. The only reason I knew I hadn’t was that, through all of this, Jimmy was still running around yelling, “Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!”

By the time I got to college I was supremely confident that nothing more could shock me like that video did. While on a band trip in high school, someone had mistakenly unloaded the tour bus driver’s suitcase with ours. All the men in the band were getting our tuxedos on, wondering whose suitcase it might be as none of the girls had knocked at the door asking about it, when finally one brave soul, Amos, decided to open it. It was immediately obvious that it was the driver’s -a complete stranger beyond knowing that his sweater vest said "Bill"- but Amos peeked around in the pockets and pouches anyhow. He reached into one and pulled out a VHS tape with the labels torn off. Being horny high school boys, we all realized what this meant. When we were out at the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk playing a medley of themes from Jurassic Park this guy was using the VCR on the bus to beat off. It was immediately decided that we were taking his tape. We played the odds that he wouldn’t dare report his porno missing and even if he did, they couldn’t punish all of us. The bigger debate was in deciding who should smuggle it back to Milwaukee. Amos eventually took the tape across the hall and knocked on the ladies’ dressing room door. He asked for Sarah, who was known for her trusting nature. He asked her to put this tape in her stuff and give it back when we were back at school the next week. She did so without a moment’s thought.

Back at school everyone wanted to see the tape but didn’t want to take it. I took it on the grounds that I was the one of us with the best chance of not getting in trouble. I probably could've watched it in our living room, but not knowing exactly what would be on the tape, I took it up to my bedroom instead. I popped it into my VCR and spent the next five hours watching a video called Asian Animals, an anthology video comprised of clips from hundreds of porno flicks –each one featuring Asian women. Or blondes in kimonos, but you get the idea. Five hours is more than time enough to desensitize you to hard-core fucking. The dialogue, however, will always make you laugh.

So, going into college, I didn’t necessarily think that I had seen it all, but I did think nothing could phase me like that first giant vagina did. The space monkeys wasted no time in trying to out gross us all, the bathroom stall being the usual spot. I didn’t search for porn myself –I, oddly enough, didn’t want to deal with Logan getting into it, and so I was limited in my exposure to what images they printed and hung in the toilet stalls. I saw shit, vomit, bondage, fisting, cutting, the whole enchilada. Except, evidently, furry porn.

I had to assess the situation and decide: was this cartoon manimal porn an acceptable substitute to actual photos of himself with goats, or would I tell Logan to keep searching? Yes, it was animal-based, but clearly rooted in a realm of fantasy where, this image at least, couldn’t be recreated with a real animal. But then again, it was still zoological in nature.

Ultimately, as the cocks, tits, and twats were human-like (if covered in fur) I decided that I would allow it in the hopes to never address the issue again. I placed the picture back on his bed (yes, in my confusion I picked it up), and went about my day.

I avoided returning to our room for as long as possible, hoping he would not realize I had seen it and put it away. When I did return, Logan was back, and the picture was tacked to his bulletin board. Fuck.

I decided to play dumb, but Logan wouldn’t allow it. He asked me point blank if I had noticed it. I told him I had and he asked me if I thought it was really sexy.

Me: No.

Logan: Why not? Is it the animal stuff?

M: Dude, you gotta understand…yes, it’s the animal stuff, but has it occurred to you that you’ll never meet a girl with a dog’s head? If this is what gets you off, how are you ever going to be happy with a regular person?

L: When I look at the internet, it doesn’t seem like there is such a thing as a regular person. This is what excites me, and I guess, cause I didn’t draw it, it excites others, too.

He had and still has a point. The internet has destroyed a rite-of-passage for the American male: The Quest for Boobies. I’d spent countless hours over the course of my childhood years looking for boobs, pussy shots, etc. Watching hours of movies –hoping to simply see some breasts. Lugging a box equal to my body weight an entire city block because it had porno magazines in it. Waiting patiently as the modem played Russian Roulette with a friend’s mother. Perfecting the art of VHS manipulation out of a desperate urge to see sex. Losing years of my life in heart failure in fear that the Jehovah’s Witnesses would see that, indeed, we’d found someone, but it wasn’t Jesus. Smuggling a tape across the country on the expectation that it was porn. It used to be hard work to pursue pornography. As a result, more of the simple things held power; to see a girl’s cleavage as she bent down by her locker was thrilling. A hint of panty when her shirt rides up: breath-taking. The first time a girl actually lets you get to first base, second base, etc.: a lifelong memory.

Logan was an early example of what I fear is now all too common. Largely shielded from sexuality (with one majorly bizarre exception) he didn’t take baby steps. The progression from seeing pubic hair to seeing labia to seeing insertion simply didn’t exist. Pornography should be meted out like a good strip-tease, not fully clothed to gaping assholes in one single step. It is easier to see “2 Girls, 1 Cup” for most 12-year-olds than it is to sneak into an R-rated movie. It isn’t so much a sadness that kids are being corrupted, it is a sadness that they are missing out on the journey of discovery. If nothing is perceived as off-limits, what is there to rebel against? What is there to search out on the expectation that you aren't supposed to see it? If your first exposure to sex is shit-eating, won’t that inevitably become familiar. Where do you go from there?  And can you ever get aroused by simple sex, let alone a pair of tits?

But as I said, Logan’s assertion that, obviously, he wasn’t alone, was correct. I had decided to not fight this battle anyhow, so I said to him, “You know what? You’re right. I don’t get it, but who am I to judge? It seems legal enough, so have fun Logan. Just don’t have fun if I’m around."

To this he replied, “Oh yeah, don’t call me Logan anymore. I'm Tiger'ish now.”