Totally Krossed Out, Totally Stitched Up

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Here is the lie I told my school on Monday, March 28th, when I walked into the teacher workroom with a giant bandage across my head:  I didn’t mention anything about backwards clothing, the 1990s, or the beautiful moment my face and the dance floor got to meet.  Instead, I told them the following:

“On Saturday, I was over at Bupyeong Middle School with my South African friends, playing football.  You know I’m not athletic, but they’ve been trying to convince me for awhile to join up and play and since it was such a nice day, I finally cracked.  Well, anyways, we were playing football – American football, that is, cause they needed a break from soccer or something – and I went out for a long pass.  I was running and looking over my shoulder, and that’s when I ran straight into my friend Matt.  Bang!  Knocked our heads right together.  I was down on the field, thinking why, oh why, did I agree to this?  Then I was off to the hospital to get stitches.  I’ll tell ya this – I am NEVER playing football again!”

Did my school buy it?  I have no idea.  They seemed to find it funny though.  Admittedly, the idea of me on the football field is ridiculous enough to warrant laughter.

“How long were you playing?” Hye Jeong asked.  “Five minutes?”

The real story isn’t exactly better, but it’s far more believable.  On Friday, March 25th, I went to a ‘90s theme party thrown at a bar called Underground.  I wanted to dress up but I didn’t want to spend any money, so I threw my jeans and a football jersey on backwards, turned my hat to the back, and went as 1/2 of the rap group Kriss Kross.  I suppose I was the one with the lighter skin, although I only know the verse first verse of the song, the one by the kid with the darker skin, who was obviously the more talented of the two.  “Don’t try to compare us to another bad little fad/I’m the mack and I’m bad/give ya somethin’ that you never had.”  The song played on a continual loop in my head, taking me back to the ninth grade, when I would ask someone “You down with OPP?”, get the response “Yeah, you know me!” and walk away not knowing at all what the question or that answer really meant.

It was a tough time to go through puberty.  Kurt Cobain died, OJ was found innocent, and the Broncos won not just one but two Super Bowls.  I grew up with the world turned upside down.

But back to Underground, the ‘90s party, and my accident.  At around 2:30 in the morning, I was good and drunk.  Like a fool, I listened to the alcohol when it talked to me: “I’m delicious – have more of me”; “You look really cool with your backwards clothes”; “Know all those times when you’re sober and you tell people you can’t dance?  Well you’re wrong!  Get out there on the dance floor and break it down Hammer style!”  Out to the dance floor I went, trying to shake it with a tall blonde friend dressed as Brittney Spears.  For a few blurry minutes, I was completely enjoying myself, drinking my beer and shaking it with Brittney.  Life couldn’t get any better.  Like the real Kriss Kross, though, my stay at the top was short lived.

Quicker than you can say “Oops, I did it again,” Brittney started to fall.  It all happened so fast.  Somehow I was falling too.  Down to the floor we went.  She ended up on her back (as Brittney often does), and I ended up slamming my face into a beer mug.  Wondering whether the fall was caused by Britt or my sagging backwards pants, I could feel the blood pouring down my face.  A few minutes later I was holding a tissue above my left eye, standing in the bathroom, occasionally bringing it down and looking at the massive red gash in my forehead.

I showed everyone my wound, waiting sullenly for the inevitable look of horror and the recurrent utterance of the word ‘stitches.’

The owner of the bar called an ambulance, and I was off to Gil Hospital.  Waiting in the emergency room, I snuck off to the bathroom.  The hospital staff hadn’t really seen me yet.  There was something I had to do before the CT Scan, before the nurse cleaned my divot with some kind of salt solution that made me wince in pain, and before the surgeon weaved the stitches through my face.  I was drunk, bleeding, and didn’t speak a word of the language.  Still I had a little pride left, at least enough to force me into the bathroom.   I didn’t want to look any more foolish than I had to.

In the bathroom I undressed.  I put my football jersey on the right way.  I pulled the jeans up so that the zipper was in the front.

There was no way I could sit in the emergency room with my clothes on backwards.  The ‘90s were over.  I searched for my insurance card.  “I’m a professional teacher,” I thought, holding gauze to the cut, composing my story, bit by bit, about how it all happened on a sunny Saturday morning at a football field for teenagers.

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Iron Willy

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Recently, I fell and planted my head into a beer glass, which got me thinking about other goofy accidents I’ve had.  None could be more bizarre than my ironing accident from two months ago.  It was a minor event – thankfully – that didn’t leave any lasting scar or injury.  Just an uncomfortable feeling in my pants for two or three miserable days.

About two months ago, I was at the height of my “competent adult” mentality, where I wanted to prove to the world that I could go through my life in a reasonable and responsible manner.  Part of being a competent adult is ironing, I felt.  Mature individuals don’t show up to work in wrinkled clothes that look like shit, and so I began getting out of bed fifteen minutes earlier than normal so I could do my ironing.  Mind you, I hated every second of it, but once it was done I was able to at least look at myself in a mirror and think that I looked rather together.

One morning I had already ironed my shirt and pants, but while I was shaving (shaving every day is another part of the “competent adult” program) it dawned on me that I hadn’t ironed my undershirt.  I thought about this while I took my shower.  A mature individual doesn’t just iron the main shirt and say to hell with the undershirt.  That’s what a lazy individual does.  I washed my feet, turned off the shower, plugged the iron back in, and slapped the t-shirt down on the ironing board.  Confident that I was going to look fantastic, there I stood, completely nude in the center of my apartment ironing.

But my mind drifted.  I lost focus and in a flash the iron slipped off the shirt and briefly made contact with my body.  It was only a second, a short kiss of the hot iron on my skin, but boy did I feel it.  Especially due to where the iron landed. 

I had, in a moment of carelessness, ironed my penis.

“Ahh!” I yelled, realizing what happened.  “My penis!”  I ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on the tip.  My god, I thought, how bad did I get it?  I looked at it.  Already a small white discoloration had formed.  I touched it and it felt hard, as if one tiny part of my Johnson was in a state of permanent Viagra.

Like I said earlier, it turned out not to be a big deal.  In a few days, things were back to normal.  I wondered, though, what I would’ve said if I was lucky enough to bring a girl home during the time of the discoloration.  How would I have explained it?

“No, don’t be ridiculous, it’s not an STD.  That’s crazy!  See, what happened was, I was ironing and I slipped and I accidentally dewrinkled my Willy with the iron.  That little white bump is just a burn.  So it’s nothing, really!  Get over here, baby!”

The whole “competent adult” thing is all about baby steps.  Right now, the plan is in a bit of a decline.  I haven’t been shaving every day lately and my clothes are wrinkled.  Yet at the same time, my private parts have been unharmed by hot metal items.  It’s a trade off I’m willing to make – sacrificing a bit of my adulthood for the safety of my manhood.

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This is a Student Film

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In Blame Logic, all occurrences are the end result of a long and often tedious string of vaguely connected events, strung together by a pitiful individual who thinks too much.  I’m such a person, so I’ve always been a fan.  Let me give you an example of what I mean – My roommate is using the oven to cook dinner.  I go for takeout, and on the way I trip and break my ankle.  Using Blame Logic, the hospital bills should go to my roommate.  If he hadn’t monopolized the oven, none of this would’ve happened.  Blame Logic is a great way for me to never feel responsible for anything bad happening, and a nice way to convince myself that the entire universe is out to get me.

Sticking to this approach, it was really Katie Nelson’s fault that I got into a car wreck on the I-490 and totaled my Ford Taurus station wagon.  Katie was my co-worker at Blockbuster, and I had a disgusting crush on her.  The crush was disgusting due to the combination of its intensity and its one-sidedness.  Like someone who swears the Holocaust never happened, I was in absolute denial that Katie Nelson didn’t have feelings for me.  No facts or evidence would sway me towards recognizing the obvious.  Katie barely paid me any attention when her shift ended at five o’clock and I passed her going through the door on my way to take over her register.  Regardless, I was frantic about getting to the Blockbuster before she left, just so I could savor her cool look as she slid by.

Because of this, I drove far too fast down the expressway and my car spun out of control.  I hit a truck and then went careening into the guard rail at light speed.  As the police cars came and the smoke poured out from under the hood of my demolished family utility vehicle, I could only think, “Damn!  Katie’s got to be gone by now!”

Like I said, it was Katie’s fault that my car was totaled.

Coincidentally, one of the frustrated drivers stuck in the traffic jam created by my accident was Adrian Lozano, who just so happened to be my professor at film school.  Adrian was a fat lesbian who wore all black and disliked everything.  Her range of approval went from mere hatred to all out repulsion.  After screening our projects, certain students would beam with excitement, claiming, “Adrian Lozano only mildly despised my film!”  Perhaps the one thing Adrian disliked more than anything was being stuck on a backed-up highway.  When she found out that I was the cause of it, her lip twitched and she said, “Oh, so you’re the reason I was twenty minutes late getting home.”

I had never felt so ashamed in my life.

Soon after the accident, my mind could only focus on things of the utmost importance: my upcoming final project at film school, the wrecked car, and Katie Nelson.  I became horribly depressed.  Bumming rides to and from school from my friend Richard, I’d hang my head as if all hope was lost.

“Snap out of it!” Richard said.  “You’ve got a student film to make!  Don’t you realize the opportunity you have?  This could be your big break.”

Richard himself was making a documentary on an overweight guy who liked to dance in public.  “It’s going to be called ‘Fat Guy Dancing,’” he said proudly.  “I shot some footage of him dancing by a fountain last night.  It came out really good.  The lighting is perfect.”

With my car out of commission, Richard was my transportation.  He would also be my cameraman once I started my film.  I figured anyone who cared enough to light an obese street dancer like he was lighting Marlene Dietrich had to be worth working with.  Richard gave me some advice about my project.

“Take everything that’s happened,” he said, “and channel it into your film.  That’s what artists do.”

That sounded good, especially since it implied I was an “artist.”  Alone in my bedroom, I poured my heart into a ten page script.  The story involved a man who had accidentally killed someone in an auto wreck.  Now believing that he was capable of anything, he kidnaps the girl he’s crazy about.  He believes he can force her to love him.  But he can’t, and in the end, he sits in a parking lot in his junked car and watches as she goes off with someone else.

The next day, I handed my script to Katie Nelson and asked her to star in my film.

“Who’s gonna play the guy?” she asked.

“I am,” I said.   My student film was turning into a complete exercise in ego: it was about me, would be directed by me, would star the girl I was crazy about, and so it might as well have me in it, too.  Just like in classic painting, I figured – no artist ever painted a self-portrait of someone else.

To my surprise, Katie called me the next day and was enthusiastic about the project.

“I think it’s good,” she said.  “Do you really want me to be in it?”

“Of course,” I said.

“Why do you want me?” she asked.

The obvious answer was, “I desperately love you and see this as my only chance to ever impress or get anywhere near you.”  But I didn’t say that.

Instead I said, “I just need a girl and I don’t know anyone else.”

By this time, most of the other students in my film class had already finished their films.  They showed their work in class to a typically unimpressed Adrian Lozano.

“It’s technically well done,” she’d say, “but I don’t see any emotion in it.”

Aha!  If it was emotion she wanted, my film was going to be stuffed with it.  While the other students aped Kevin Smith, I was putting myself on film without shame.  It was all going to be out there for the world to see – everything I felt in life, naked, captured in crisp digital video.

Finally, the night came when I arranged my film to be shot.  I had more or less run out of time, and so the entire thing would have to shot in one night.  My father let me borrow his car so that I could go pick up my starlet.  Coming out of her house, Katie looked radiant.

I opened the passenger side door for her and Katie hopped in.  Heading in the direction of my apartment – or as I had called it on the phone, “the set” – Katie suddenly began telling me about her sex life.

“So,” she said, “I got laid last night.”

Absorbing the blow of those words, I almost lost control of the car.  It would have been the second wreck Katie would’ve been responsible for.

“What?!”

“I’ve been miserable lately,” she said.  “I decided to sleep with the bartender from Donnie’s.  It was just to cheer me up.  I don’t think I feel any better, though.”

My hands shook on the wheel.  “Why would you do that?” I asked, sneering like Adrian Lozano during my midterm project.  “Don’t you want someone who likes you and would be good to you?”

“No,” she said bluntly.  “Not at all.  I don’t want a boyfriend.  I just want to have sex right now with no strings attached.”

At that point, I might as well have taken her back home and forgotten the whole thing.  It was done.  For the hour or so that we tried to make the film, Richard chain-smoked and worried about the editing of his film, I couldn’t focus on anything other than the mental picture of Katie having sex with some sleazy bartender, and Katie just sat there looking sad.

Finally I threw in the towel and put my student film out of its misery.  Just like that, my ego-trip was over.  All that was shot from my ten page script were a few lines of dialogue and some shots of Katie sitting on my couch, looking lovely.

Later that night, I looked through my prop box in an effort to inspire myself.  I had to shoot something, after all.  Nothing jumped out at me except a fake finger I had in the box.  My new film (shot by me, directed by me, staring me, and featuring special effects by me) consisted of me sitting around chain-smoking.  Near the end, I open the pack for another cigarette and there isn’t one.  Then I take a knife and cut my finger off.  I put the severed finger (which was – relax – the fake finger) into my mouth, light it, and smoke it.  Fade to black.  The end.

“What the hell was that!?” Adrian Lozano gasped.  “It’s terrible!  Poorly shot…there’s no point…what on earth were you thinking?”

Bent over in shame, I muttered, “I thought it would be funny.”

“Well,” she huffed, “I didn’t hear anyone laughing.”

It was true.  That would change, however, in a few moments, when “Fat Guy Dancing” made its premiere.  The class laughed uproariously as the Fat Guy popped and locked to Da Dip.

Squeezing out her words through laughter, Adrian managed to say, “Well done, Richard!  It’s perfect!”

Maybe an artist puts himself on the screen.  Richard put something up there that made people laugh.  In a school of thinkers, his dumb little film turned out to be the best thing made all year.

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I didn’t see much of Katie Nelson after that.  She quit Blockbuster and moved away.  Taking her words at face value, all she wanted was someone who didn’t like her so much; she didn’t want the pressure of being admired.  Maybe that was my mistake.  Maybe when she passed by me on the way out the Blockbuster door and shot me that cool look, I should’ve returned it.

A month after the disastrous screening of my half-assed student film (in front of the entire film program), I was kicked out of film school.  I didn’t have what it took.  Not the desire to succeed, or even the knowledge of how to work a camera or read a light meter.

“What are you going to do now?” Richard asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Work more hours at Blockbuster, I guess.”

This is a student film – how it works.  A man picks out his star and pictures Hollywood, oh Hollywood, and the titles of his movies on marquees.  Every story of a student film is the story of a dreamer and his dream.  Then, somehow, things happen.  The car gets wrecked, the star goes away, and the movie doesn’t play the same way it did when he pictured it.  When it’s over, he realizes that he’s put his whole heart into an abject failure.  There was a moment of belief, though – not just for him, for his star as well.  She might have left to pursue less ambitious dreams, true, but he can’t forget something.  He can’t forget that for one brief bit of time, she believed in him, and perhaps she even shared a little bit of his dream, too.

Some people can take an image and capture it on film.  They’re the ones who have everything come out just the way they’ve envisioned it.  I’m not one of those people.  My images only take shape in my head, and usually a long time after I’ve first tried to capture them.  I don’t really envy those first people, I don’t think.  It must be depressing, in a way, to take a look at what you’ve done, and know that you’ve seen it all before.

 

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