Tag Archives: Andre

Story of the Day: 2-1-11


The Legend of Scary Gary: Part 2

Player Black came to us by way of Zeta Psi. Zeta Psi was the Animal House of U of M. It was the frat for the weirdoes and the druggies and the people who would never in a million years join a frat. It wasn’t even a real frat. Legend had it they were kicked out of the Greek Council because someone was making cat in their attic. Cat is short for methcathinone. It’s like crystal meth on crystal meth. It’s made from paint remover and battery acid and it supposedly makes users bleed out of their peeholes. The only place I’ve ever read about cat is in a 1995 article in Spin Magazine. The article claimed the drug was sweeping the nation, but judging from the amount of time I just spent explaining what it is, I think it’s fair to say the cat epidemic has yet to take off.

Even though Zeta Psi wasn’t technically a frat, they still had pledges and hazing and all that fratty stuff. Just because one’s peers do not recognize one’s legitimacy does not mean one cannot adopt those peers’ rituals. I think Thomas Paine said that. I don’t know what kind of thing goes on during the pledge period at normal frats, but from what I gather, the thing that went on during Zeta Psi’s pledge period was drugs. Lots of drugs. They would make their pledges do lots of drugs and then scare them with Frankenstein masks and things. If the pledge didn’t go insane, he was Zeta Psi material.

My freshman and sophomore years, I lived in the weirdo dorm, East Quad. East Quad was home to the Residential College, the program from which I graduated. The R.C. was a small, creative arts-focused college inside of U of M. Most of our classes took place in East Quad, so we didn’t really ever have to leave or get dressed if we didn’t want to. We didn’t have a functioning grade point average because we got written evaluations instead of letter grades. My college transcripts say things like, “participates in class regularly” and “great handwriting.”

Zeta Psi loved weirdoes, so East Quad was the unofficial breeding ground for Zeta Psi pledges. And frat parties had free beer, so we spent a considerable amount of time at Zeta Psi. They once had an Easter party where they gave one of their guys a bunch of acid and crucified him above the front door for the entire party. It was like the Hall of Presidents, only real and scary and with Jesus.

One of the punks I lived with senior year was a Zete, which was how Player Black came into our lives. Player Black had stumbled upon Zeta Psi during a party and made himself at home. The technical term for his residential status would be “homeless,” but he wasn’t like a crusty-old-pee-flavored kind of homeless. He was a hustly, moochy kind of homeless. Like he had more important things to do than find an apartment, and you should be pumped that he decided to share his genius with you for a few weeks. Zeta Psi was in such a constant state of anarchy that they could go weeks without noticing someone had moved in, so it was the perfect place for a dude like Player Black to crash.

He showed up at a couple of our parties, by way of our Zete housemate. The young punks liked him because they were sophomores and he was a total character. As a wisened-old graduate, I had lost my patience for characters. Characters thrive in college towns, where there are plenty of wide-eyed undergraduates looking for a story to tell the next day. Unfortunately, as one learns, the story loses some of its fun when one wakes up and the character is still there.

No one really knows how Player Black got his nickname. He was black. So, I guess that was part of it. But he did not fit any definition of player I’ve ever known. Having a place to sleep at night is pretty much the most minimal criteria for being a player. I can only assume he gave himself the nickname Player Black, which is about the most un-player thing you can do.

His other nickname was the King of Cats, which I also assume he gave to himself. He claimed that cats couldn’t get enough of him. This one appeared to have some basis in reality. Andre’s cat Tricky Kitty really did seem to perk up whenever Player Black came around.

Nearly a month into his stay on the couch at Zeta Psi, the Zetes finally had enough of Player Black and they sent him out on his ass. He packed up his gym bag and headed straight over to our house. At this point, I was no longer on the lease; I was subletting from Andre and the punks for the summer. So I had little say or responsibility over what went on in the house. If they wanted to spray-paint the upper living room and knock out the stairs to the basement so none of us could do our laundry, it was not my concern. I had graduated, and I was sure to be on to bigger and better things come fall. I didn’t know what those things were, but pretty much anything is bigger and better than living in a non-functional house whose interior walls are coated with spray paint.

Player Black fancied himself a rapper. His sole possession was a cheap Korg drum machine that he used for making beats. It didn’t have a speaker, so he’d punch up the beats and make us listen to them through his waxy old headphones, staring at us with a huge grin while we pretended to enjoy them.

“Nice,” we’d say, nodding our heads, because that’s what we were expected to do.

“That’d get the party started, ‘miright?” he’d ask.

“It certainly would get some kind of party started,” we’d answer.

For the first few days of Player Black’s residency, I tried to keep out of it. If the punks wanted him to stay in their house, that was their right. It soon became apparent, though, that no one wanted him there; they just weren’t sure how to get rid of him. And as the only functioning adult, it eventually fell to me to kick him out.

There were two straws that broke the camel’s back. The first happened in the middle of the night. I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I heard Player Black talking to someone in our upstairs living room. “Yeah,” he said, “you like that?” I walked out into the living room to find him sitting on the couch, holding his headphones up to Tricky Kitty’s ears. When he saw me, he looked up and grinned.

“He likes my beats,” he said.

The next morning I’d told the punks what had happened. “I can’t have this guy playing his beats for the cat at 3 o’ clock in the morning,” I said. “He’s a total lunatic. I want him out. Today.” When I got home from work that night, however, he was still there. He was sleeping on the couch in the downstairs living room. The only light came from the TV, which was tuned to a WNBA game. I don’t know why, but the thought of him falling asleep on my couch while watching the WNBA suddenly felt like the ultimate sign of insolence.

“That’s it,” I said. “You’re out of here.”

Luckily, he went without much of a fuss. I guess a guy like Player Black has gotten used to being kicked out of places. Nevertheless, it was the end of the road for me. When my high school buddy Don called up the next week and asked if I wanted to move to New York with him, it didn’t take me long to make a decision.

Spoiler alert: that decision was yes.

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Story of the Day: 1-31-11


The Legend of Scary Gary: Part 1

This one might be a little twisty-turny, because the minute I started writing about it, another part of the story popped into my memory banks and I had to readjust the starting point. But it’ll be worth it, I promise. I hope. I hope to promise.

By the way, 1 month of stories, right? Not bad, right? Thanks. And we begin.

I moved to New York at the end of the summer after my senior year of college. That summer, I had been working in the children’s section at Borders in Ann Arbor with no idea of what I should do with the rest of my life. I wasn’t very worried about it, because I was young and that summer was filled with a steady diet of shenanigans. It’s hard to get too worried about anything when shenanigans are on the menu.

Borders was the best place to work, especially in the children’s section, where we got to do fun things like read books to kids at story hour and figure out how to shelf that annoying series of kids’ books with the googly-eyed animals in which the round, liquid-filled googly-eyes jut out 2 inches on either side of the cover.

That was also where I first discovered my fear of animal costumes. Not of encountering them, of being inside them. I was signed up to wear the Curious George costume for story time. The night before I got drunk. Yeah, college! I’m sure the alcohol was still leaking out of my pores when I got into work, but my coworkers were kind enough to not say anything, even though I was about to climb into a fuzzy suit and interact with a bunch of children.

I got the feet and the body on, no problem. It was when they put the head on me that I broke down. “I can’t do it!” I screamed. “Get this fucking thing off me!” I felt so gross and it was so hot and claustrophobic that I knew the minute I got in front of children, I would either pass out or accidentally murder one of them. I had to spend the rest of the morning watching my coworker Meredith valiantly performing the task that I was too chickenshit to do as I reorganized the googly-eye books for the gazillionth time.

When I wasn’t freaking out inside Curious George costumes, I was going through the post-grad motions in the house where I’d spent the previous 2 years of my life. I moved in the summer after my sophomore year with Chris O’ Connell and four strange upper-classmen, and I was currently on my fourth and final iteration of roommates. This iteration was anchored by Lisi’s younger brother Andre and his friends. I loved Andre like my own brother but his friends were punks. They spray-painted their tags all over the walls of the upstairs living room. Not in a drunken stupor, either. They had a house meeting about it. One dude was like, “do you guys think it would look fresh if we spray-painted our tags all over the upstairs living room, even though none of us know how to paint graffiti and our tags look like the scrawlings of preschoolers?” and the other dudes were all, “Totally.”

We had a lot of weird parties that summer with a lot of weird guests. One night we were hanging out on the porch and this older dude with a brushtache walked by and started talking to us. He introduced himself as Carl. He looked like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused with a dash of Hulk Hogan. He was drinking buttermilk out of the carton. He was one of those guys that you think it’s cool to talk to when you’re in college and drunk on a porch but if he came by one of your parties today you would probably call the police.

That night we ran out of beer after the stores had closed. Carl told us if we drove him to his ex-wife’s trailer, he had a case of beer that he could bring back to the house. I was the only one with a car, so I loaded up 2 guys with me … I wasn’t about to go by myself … and we headed out to Carl’s ex-wife’s trailer, which was like 15 miles outside of town at the end of a bunch of twisty-turny-methy-murdery dirt roads. Carl’s ex-wife was so country that her trailer wasn’t even in a trailer park. Just a trailer, all alone, in the woods.

Before Carl went up to the trailer, he gave us some helpful advice.

“I don’t think my ex-wife is home,” he said. “but if she is, she’ll probably try to shoot me. Keep the car running, and if you hear gunshots, get the fuck out of here.”

Sure, we said, nodding vigorously. Of course. Of course we would get the fuck out of there if we heard gunshots.

He nodded and got out. At the door to his wife’s trailer, he looked back at us and gave us a thumbs-up sign. He unlocked the trailer and walked inside while we watched in terrified silence, hyperventilatedly. After a few minutes that felt like more than a few minutes, like several minutes, like maybe even more, Carl came running out of the house carrying a case of beer. He leapt into the car and slammed the beer on the floor. “Go!” he screamed. “Go, go, go, go!”

We went. We went like we were getting chased by Mothman. We went screaming like children who had been terrorized by a berserker drunkard in a Curious George outfit.

“What the fuck, man?” I asked Carl, who was sitting in the passenger seat, chugging a Natural Light from the case. Natural Light! I swear, we went through all of that for a case of Natty Light.

“Oh, I was just fucking with you,” he said.

“Was that even your ex-wife’s trailer?” I asked.

“Yeah, but we’re cool. I’m still fucking her.”

“Cool,” I said. Inside, I was starting to wonder if maybe it wasn’t time to look into getting out of Ann Arbor.

Carl stopped by one more time that summer, but by then we had a bigger concern: Player Black.

— To be continued —

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