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Other Oddballs

Other Oddballs           

     With Comstock serving as the gravitational center of our college experience, there is no question that it served to pull occasional misfits and other bizarre personas into our midst. While it goes without question that personal association with Mooney was a given for the majority, there were a few who the rest of us managed to find, or found us. It is time now then that we all become reacquainted with such sensations as Ken and Rai-Ann. I have noticed that none of these fine persons have yet been mentioned in our incessant blogging, so I thought I would cast the net a bit wider in hopes of drawing in more ghosts from the past who googling themselves, are surprised to find their names included in our ribald tales.            

     Ken is a natural to begin with as he actually predated the Comstock experience, disappeared to the dark recesses of Air Force basic training and technical school, and re-emerged once again near the end. He was one of those characters usually described as such, who most people either greatly enjoy the presence of or detest with every ounce of their being. Given that I brought him around, it could be said I fell into the former category along with Knaus, while Aaron and Jason fell firmly into the other. This is worth mentioning as it is the only area over both years that Aaron and Jason were united on anything whatsoever.            

     I knew Ken from grammar school at St Paul’s; he was in the same class as Dave’s sister Gail, although we didn’t become friends until we ran into each other as summer help with the Kenmore DPW. Ken and I were both assigned to work with a crusty old bastard named Howard Griffin. Howard was about 70, grossly overweight, and chain smoked unfiltered Pall Mall’s as he drove Kenmore 3, a dilapidated mini-bus used for grass and lawn crew. About every 5 minutes of so he would treat us to a tremendous bout of coughing, followed by the production of a mucus clot the size and resemblance of a blackened fried egg. The continuous coughing and mucus production led to a foul temper, and he would lash our, accusing us of ‘playing fuck around’ when his whims were not being followed. Ken would imitate him flawlessly, peppering in nutty ‘Howardisms’ like “hotter than a whore house on payday”, or “one of these days I’ll learn ya how to fuck a sheep”. Howard busted him doing this often enough that he developed a palpable hatred of Ken and would explode on him frequently. Ken was only encouraged by this and did everything he could to get the old man’s goat until he was removed from the lawn crew until such time as Howard expired or otherwise left employment.           

     Most days at the DPW were fairly easy going and allowed for our late night partying that ensued most nights over the summer. We generally rode around all day listening to Howard’s platitudes and occasionally cleaning off storm receivers or mowing a lawn or two. Ken enjoyed employing Mooney-esque type tactics any time an attractive girl was spotted. Numerous were the times I was caught unaware, checking out the attributes of a local beauty from the passenger window, only to have Ken, seated always in the middle, lean over me, shout something crude, and lean back quickly enough that I got the full effect of the glare and occasional finger. This may have led to the 3 weeks of much worse duty we received soon after. Ken, Rob, Steve, and I were shafted with the task of hand shoveling out the entire contents of the salt garage. Salt dust flew everywhere, forcing us to don goggles and heavy gloves, as the 90 degree heat and copious sweat allowed the corrosive substance to stick to every patch of exposed skin. Tempers flared between Ken and Rob. Rob enjoyed asking everyone if they had cock for lunch several times each day, followed by bizarre drug induced giggling. By the time the job was over, the two were bitter enemies.           

     The most memorable DPW experience with Ken occurred during the annual summer picnic. This event was highly anticipated though the year and was scheduled around the last Friday in July. A budget was set aside each year, and with that bags of fresh raw clams were procured, along with juicy sirloins, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and of course several kegs of Genesee Cream Ale and bottles of whiskey. Summer scum such as Ken and I were invited to this event and for that one day, treated as equals with the rest of the crew.  Of the many things that could be said about Ken, that he liked to eat was accurate in spades. He began this picnic by downing several shots of whiskey immediately, followed by shot gunning several beers. Within moments, he was fully loaded and ready for his eats.            

     Generally 2 or 3 guys would volunteer to man the clam station so that they were being opened continuously. Good decorum maintained that you take a clam, prepare it, slurp it, and move aside until your turn came around again. Even Howard was able to follow this simple act of gentility. Ken was not, and hogged the front of the line as a man possessed, grabbing and slurping clams until some of the larger fellows managed to muscle him aside. Where the clam rule was loose, that governing the disbursement of the steaks was golden and inviolable. The village elders maintained a good and accurate head count and procured just enough steaks that each man received his fair due and not a one more. Ken, however, was able to outfox the grill men and received 2 from the outset. Through further drunken boorishness, he was able to snag 2 more. Three men that year went without – an unheard of travesty. Ken made no friend that day.           

     Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it was so fortunate that those who were robbed of their dinner were able to serve it such after so short an interlude. Something my grandfather always warned about was to never mix raw clams and whiskey, as the latter tended to harden the former in your stomach, rendering them indigestible. While I often took the old man’s tales with a grain of salt, this one proved on the money. I was there when Ken turned green and rushed to the bathroom stalls inside the garage building. After a half hour went by and he didn’t emerge, a group of us went back. He had locked the stall door, so an elected representative was given the unfortunate job of standing on the toilet in the adjacent stall and peering over. Ken was apparently seated on the can, pants half way down, and supporting an enormous puddle of vomit in the crotch of them. Ken moaned to be left alone; a request that could not be accommodated.           

     A mob gathered, led by the steak less, and several blue recycling bins were brought up from the basement. These were filled half with cold water and half with the mountains of ice procured to keep the clams cold. Like an old fashioned fire bucket brigade, the bins were passed from hand to hand into the bathroom where the strongest of the bunch, Tom Perno, heaved them over the side of the stall deluging the semi-comatose Ken. With each bucket emptied, he would cry out from the shock and sting of the ice rain. Finally after several go arounds, he lurched forth from the stall, a shivering sopping mess, pants at half mast still stained with the undigested smorgasbord he had consumed. As he staggered about, the crowd continued to throw buckets full at him. When he finally emerged from the garage, he was grabbed and hoisted into the back of a pickup truck. I volunteered to ride shotgun to drive him home. Each time we took a hard curve, he would roll to the other side, banging into the hot metal and groaning. We arrived at his house and hand delivered him to his mother, who with great reluctance took custody.           

     Aside from his usual antics, one of the things I enjoyed about Ken was his complete lack of self-consciousness coupled with a perverse attraction to rejection. At clubs he would proposition the ladies, one by one, until his advances would be accepted or the entire population exhausted; in most cases the latter. For someone like me, relatively shy in such establishments, this was a great learning experience as faithful wingman. There were times, however, where his lack of social etiquette could be a detriment. On one occasion, he and I met Ann and her friend Candice at Jimmy J’s on Bailey. Ken proceeded to down 4 successive mini pitchers of Long Island iced teas by slurping them in one continuous breath though a straw. He was hammered in less than 10 minutes. Once so, to Ann’s considerable irritation, he confessed feelings and went so far as to get down on one knee and proposed. Where most ill conceived grand gestures as such are generally rebuffed, this had more threats and profanity than most and succeeded in ending the evening early.           

     This brings us to a point where the characters of this tale, two of them anyway, converge. Rai-Ann had been a fixture at Comstock right from the beginning. She was somehow friends with Jason and apparently enjoyed his company enough to come by fairly often. I tried to determine if there was an angle to the whole thing. She was no gold digger as Jason lacked even copper pennies. Of the two, she had the car and he was most often in need of a ride. There was clearly no romantic feeling on her part, so we finally concluded that she was some sort of masochist, or perhaps fag-hag in training, awaiting the moment when he would emerge from the closet.           

     It seemed fairly obvious to me that he did view the ‘platonic’ friendship as a full blown case of unrequited love. He denied it to the fullest extent, protesting much too loudly. One evening I decided to find out for sure and consented to drink 40’s of Old English 800 with him. Once he was sufficiently sloshed, I coaxed an admission out of him that he indeed had a raging stiffness for her. Further prodding revealed it was no secret between them as he had made advances on her in the past that were rejected, though at least somewhat gently. Things became clear that she was no masochist, but a bit of a sadist, dangling her goodies before his eyes at every opportunity; her dear trusted friend she thought of as a brother. Well, I can’t say this hasn’t happened to many of us over the years, so in this of all things, I won’t find fault in the guy, but for the choice of his affection.            

     Ken and Rai-Ann remained in the periphery of things long enough that they never met up until the New Year’s Eve party in ’93. Ken had already shipped off the Air Force and was home on leave for the holidays. We held a typical Comstock party full of beer and cheer, and a nice pic of the event can be found in photo section, Ken smiling squarely in the middle. One degree of separation held true and it soon came to light that Ken and Rai-Ann were actually in the same class together at St. Paul’s and hadn’t seen each other since. Each was apparently happy with how the other turned out, and Ken began his typical advances, where were better received than most. They disappeared into the basement and soon after Jason came looking for me in an unholy rage. It was not often he got his dander up enough to project laughable fury, but this was one of those occasions. He had wandered down to catch Ken and Rai-Ann making out and responded not by interrupting, but by searching me out to request Ken be removed from the premises before his girl could become deflowered by the rogue.           

     Rare moments of true comedic mistiming come up in real life, and that moment was one of them. As Jason was busy ranting to me, Ken came walking up, ignored Jason completely, and asked me if I had a condom he could use. Jason gaped in abject horror as I produced ‘Ol Unlucky’ from my wallet and handed it over with a wink and a smile. As Ken waltzed away whistling, every intention of porking Rai-Ann on one of the musty mattresses on the floor of our basement, I turned back to Jason who was still speechless at what had transpired before him. “Sorry Jason, now what were you saying?” He grunted a sad grunt, turned away and slumped dejectedly off to another part of the house. I felt a little bad, but less so later on when it later came out that no deed was done. Either Rai-Ann somehow found objection to being plowed on a rancid damp mattress in an un-private environment next to the cat box and keg, or Ken exhibited the classic ‘whiskey dick’ symptoms that can arise in moments of inebriation.            

     What became of either of them, I have no idea. Ken moved duty stations and came home much less often by the time we moved to Princeton. I saw him once or twice there and never again thereafter. Interestingly enough, I followed him into the service, but never heard his name mentioned. As far as I know, he endures on. The story of his summer picnic rampage and subsequent icing is still told with reverence in the DPW garage, as that moment marked the end of summer help invitations to the event. Rai-Ann is now married and I actually saw her at a wedding a few years ago. Coincidence abounds as she turned out to be the cousin of Moe Shivers, whom I work with. She didn’t recognize me at the event, and I felt it best to leave the past where it was and declined to reintroduce myself. She looked exactly the same, and her husband, unsurprisingly, looked nothing like Jason.


2 Responses

  1. Thanks fucker Ken got what he deserved. I never new any of that about Ken other than the night with Rei-Ann. If she could stand to be locked in Jason’s room for hours at a time, then Ken had to have suffered from “whiskey dick”.

  2. I remember the party, with Jason stomping about like a madman. He was all ina a huff, with nostrils flaring. Yes, it was so much fun. I remember grinning throughout the entire vent. Such a shit-eating grin.

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