Knaus and I

            Since drafting ‘Thies and I’, it became apparent to me that some of the characters found herein and such probably require similar tales to be told. Chances are that in the collected edition, the T&I story will follow this one and thus what I am writing about probably makes no sense at all, unless you are a clever enough monkey to skip about or perused the formidable table of contents. If not, I’m certain you are already confused and having made your way this far, you might as well continue, as my words, I am certain delight to you even more than fresh cherry cobbler.

            Though it is probably of little interest to the reader, I met Knaus the same way I met Psycho, at one of the Wargames meetings. He had somehow, and without my knowledge or consent, been brought in by Louis to help ‘run the day to day operations’; something I was perfectly capable of pretending to do. Although threatened by the intrusion, I discovered early on that he was mentally in the same magnitude of bizarre that I was; something that I found strangely comforting. We also found ourselves taking the same art class in sophomore year, which is where he picked up the long discarded moniker, Mouse. As each of us took to the comic book style of art, I introduced him to Collector’s Inn, pleasing Jim to no end, as Knaus always seemed to have a wallet full of cabbage every time he walked in.

            That year I also managed to create another connection by bringing Dave to the art show where Knaus and I were showing off our wares. Within 5 minutes of meeting each other the two were wrestling like dogs in heat in the parking lot. A beautiful bromance was born, and one frankly, that I sometimes became the third wheel in. This was my first and only successful attempt at integrating groups of friends from previous periods in my life with newcomers, probably because it is usually something I try to avoid.

            The first time I stayed over at the Knauses over night, I knew I had met my match in oddness. The kitchen table was covered with newspapers, atop which were a collection of batteries in various stages of disassembly. Knaus revealed that he was performing detailed dissections on them, and although I had abandoned my childhood attempts at alchemy, I resolved to put my chemist hat back on and see what forbidden substances I could take apart at home, resulting in many burns. Knaus also revealed that day his own particular brand of logic when making scrambled eggs. I witnessed him dumping in quantities of vanilla extract into the mix, and when I pressed him on why, he stated that vanilla made things taste better, end of story. It was a principle that could simply not be argued with, though I will say they were pretty sucky eggs.

            That first sleepover was also memorable as it revealed Knaus to be as daring an intrepid explorer as I was, perhaps even more so. We decided to walk over to the old Thruway Mall from his house, taking a back channel along some old abandoned rail road tracks, something Dave and I used to do ourselves. After screwing around there for a while, we headed back utilizing a “shortcut” Knaus claimed to have intimate knowledge of. Somehow we became lost in this area, readily observable by entering these coordinates (42.904482,-78.786821) into Google Maps. This delightful looking “park” area is in truth nothing of the kind; the area is actually an industrial dumping ground amidst a swamp treacherous with piles of corroding hulks of strange machinery and murky channels of slightly frozen over sludge and water filled ditches. Did I mention it was February?

            Knaus led us deep into this wasteland with was what I feel were deliberate intentions to cause me the maximum amount of discomfort possible. We scurried around the piles, snagging our jackets and flesh on the razor sharp edges of rusty metal and frequently plunged one or both legs into one of the horrendous bogs. A mixture of snow and drizzle started to come down, further obscuring our limited view and sense of direction. For several hours we wandered, forced back to the center by the presence of trains or some insurmountable obstacle. Eventually we found our way to one of the side streets and took the by ways back, ending up in Town Park on Harlem. There we were accosted by an angry gentleman we affectionately referred to as ‘Dickhead’ afterward. With our muddy disheveled appearances he mistook us for a pair of sophisticated second story men who had been doing some breaking and entering in the local area weeks prior. We managed to convince him otherwise, but he banished us from the premises anyway.

            Despite the horrendous trip through the bog of doom, I let him convince me to accompany him through the tunnel that runs beneath the Galleria mall shortly after it was built. We began the journey in the mall proper and had Jeff along in tow. We got some cheap flash lights at the Dollar Tree, the kind that you have to hold down the button to keep lit, and ventured to the start of the tunnel, resembling old timey Roman catacombs. Jeff freaked within the first few feet and pledged to meet us, if we emerged alive, around the other side. Creepy does not begin to describe it. Pitch black, sterile, with a slow creek running through. At some points you could look up through a grate and see the happy shoppers walking above in a very different world. Near the end we found a side tunnel and began to venture down. An indescribably horrific noise, however, led us to believe a cult of Satanists was looking for fresh sacrifices, so we bolted out of there post haste.

            We managed to maintain a tight friendship through high school even to the point where I hooked him up with my cousin Ann for the senior prom. He was actually supposed to return the favor hooking me up with his cousin Lin, but fate intervened and I ended up going with Ende’s girlfriend’s friend instead. Before high school ended and after we both got accepted to UB, we made arrangements to become dorm mates the following fall; a service UB was willing to provide as roommates with prior friendships were less likely to cause administrative headaches by requesting room changes mid-semester. We were assigned to Schoellkopf hall on the South Campus on the fourth floor reserved exclusively for freshmen men. Not an ideal choice by any means, but it was a start.

            Our living arrangement was an interesting one, defined by the contract we drew up on the first day that allowed for privacy with female visitors (never required) and the settling of disputes on the field of honor. The field of course turned out to be whatever manner Knaus chose to enact his insidious revenge. In order to shield myself from him better, I constructed an enormous wall from the top of my desk, almost to the ceiling that I referred to as my ‘fire hazard’ as it consisted of mostly paper. Knaus respected the wall to a minor degree, though would often tear pages out of the phone book to turn into paper airplanes and launch them over in miniature raids. Fortunately for me, he had not yet stumbled on the notion of lighting them afire just yet.

            At least once a week we would trundle down to Shirley’s O’Aces, with or without the Irish Club, and stumble back in the wee hours of the morning. It was a grand tradition that later moved to Anacone’s but always followed the same pattern of cheap beer, some sort of bar food, and a traditional playing of William Joel’s classic, ‘Only the Good Die Young’ on the juke. On the walks back we would wax into bizarre conversations, such as what we would do if we stumbled upon a patch of decapitated heads on stakes. Knaus, I recall, immediately concluded that he would take as many of them home as he could carry. Hmm… it occurs to me that this post, as well as some of the others, will probably be deposed as evidence against the defence argument that he is sweet and silent as a lamby-pie.

            As a gift that year, Knaus procured for me a small collection of mice, one male and two females. By April the collection had grown to 42 mice and stunk up the room with great aplomb and all too frequent defecation. One weekend, when we least expected it; they made a bid for freedom. I came back to the room Sunday night and immediately noticed something different. The large tank I kept them in now sported a hole where there had been none before and no mice where there had been 42 before. Looking over at my desk I bore witness to the one named ‘Stripe’ after the Gremlin’s character dive into the moldering water in my hot pot, swim across, and jump out the other side slick with putrid grease. Furious, I called Knaus’s house to get him to come help round them up, but no one picked up. By the time he returned that evening at 11, I was sweaty, disheveled and had managed to recapture 3 of the slowest; the rest defeating my best efforts with ridiculous ease.

            Knaus did manage to help me capture the rest in a comedic run about, John Hughes style, with head clonking, crashing falls, frequent collisions, and all manner of events that would indicate the mice were far cleverer than we. At the end it was Knaus and I against Stripe, the lone hold out, and we were hopelessly outgunned and maneuvered. At some point the little bastard made it into the hall and we happily bid good riddance, but he made a surprise return a millisecond before we shut the door. Finally, improbably, Knaus got the mouse and a day later the lot was taken to a pet store with the most likely final destination in a large reptile of some sort.

            Knaus at this point, and for years on forward, became the prime initiator of trips down to Alleghany to get lost, camp, or make every attempt to get injured in course of photographing wildlife and wee pretty flowers. Most of these trips simply involved a lot of hiking, though there were several traditions that had to be met each trip. One was a visit to Thunder Rocks where we would climb around and scale the impressive boulders. Second was the trip to the legendary beaver damn, the jumping off point where we all got lost that epic journey recounted in ‘How I Became a Horseman’. If this chapter precedes that, well, tough luck. Finally, no trip was complete without a stogie enjoyed usually on the trail leading down from Thunder Rocks to the stream that led to the dam. Due to our impoverished condition, these were usually Dutch Masters, but on one occasion toward the end, we enjoyed authentic Cubans.

            Despite the abuse suffered at his malicious hands, and in spite of the fact that he took to calling himself Malfeus for some reason, we decided to room together the following year rather than take chances on a devil unknown. Common adventures shared between all the roommates in that situation are recounted far too often elsewhere, so I will concentrate on a few items unique to point of this post. While it didn’t trouble us in the past, at least not me anyway, a point of contention came up regarding both my habit of snoring loudly and engaging in distracting sleep talking that made little to no sense. These things enraged Knaus and from time to time I would awaken to see him standing over me gritting his teeth in fury. At site to keep you awake at night assuredly.

On several occasions I did some sleep walking as well, always to his inconvenience. One happy night he was treated to being awakened by me piling the contents of his desk on his sleeping head as “they were about to start air brushing”. Another night I somehow found myself in the hall way, locked out, necessitating a furious pounding on the door until he unhappily let me in. His remedy was to play the same Nine Inch Nails CD on auto repeat each and every night; a condition that kept me from ever really falling asleep soundly and led to many missed classes after sleeping through them on the 5th floor of Lockwood.

Knaus also had an excellent habit of distracting me from schoolwork; something I heartily embraced. He’d look over at me from his desk, exclaim, “I have waaaay too much work to do”, then pull out the latest issue of ‘The Mask’ and commence to reading. This always resulting in me aping his behavior as Matter Eater Lad was far more engaging than BF Skinner. He also had a way of dragging me out to Anacone’s and such on nights before an early morning class. Always with the one-upmanship, if I had an important lecture, he would claim a critical final. He probably did as it was shortly after this that it was strongly suggested he change majors from aerospace engineering to something more his speed like basket weaving or photography.

Knowledge of fine and classical music was an area in which Knaus felt I was severely lacking and attempted to educate me in. Prior to knowing him, I was completely unaware of the iconic 90’s superstar band Transvision Vamp and how they rocked the air waves with such classics as Trash City. We had the opportunity to see them in concert once and to this day I contend that lead singer Wendy James was looking me dead on with the hairy eyeball, such was my magnetic presence in the crowd. I also learned of other enduring legends such as Savatage, Shriekback, and was treated often to the cat like wailings of a post-Blondie Debbie Harry. I’m sure it was musical ignorance that I often sought out knitting needles to end the agony.

When we finally all moved to Comstock, Knaus took on a more reclusive role especially once Aaron and I began our reindeer games and intimidation campaign. Still, on occasion, he would emerge from his oft locked sanctuary and announce he was on a quest for alcohol and trundle down to Anacone’s with or without anyone else in tow. Despite his apparent either shyness or unwillingness to speak in general, with a few beers in him a charismatic demagogue emerged who drew in the enfeebled masses. Often in such circumstances we would find him amidst a crowd of drooling hangers on, gulping up his every ill spoken word. If anyone thought to supply him with endless brandy the world could easily have another JFK or David Koresh, such was his inebriated cult of personality. 

In those heady days of yore he introduced us to one of my favorite summer festivals of all, Allentown. His enthusiasm for going downtown on the subway, slurping raw clams and beer, and looking at all the art we couldn’t afford was infectious! Since those days each trip back is a search to recapture the raw joy of Buffalo’s first summer festival of the season. We used to badger Knaus about entering his own photography as the camera apes down there were pulling down serious green for the same tired old shots of the Central Terminal and shit, but he was unwilling to lay down the cabbage to rent some space despite being able to command four digits a pop for abstract snaps of me eating dog food or Litter Box Jam. Even now I hope to run into him down there, but so far he has declined to compete.

As time progressed he emerged less and less unless it was to bang away on the worlds oldest word processor or not clean the cat box which had become an impressive tower of feces. Once, however, he emerged in a manner most unusual. I came home and was surprised to hear a small commotion and a female voice coming from behind Knaus’s door. As ¾ of the house, a demographic to which both Knaus and I belonged, were not currently being seen with female companionship, this stuck me odd. A bold enquiry led me to believe that Aaron and my cousin had ensconced themselves in there, apparently without Knaus’s knowledge or permission. I began to sweat at what he would do to them, or so I still contend, and when he came strolling through the side door like a thundercloud of death I gently broke the news to him in order to bear the brunt of his immediate wrath.

To my surprise he remained nonchalant about his sanctum sanctorum being so rudely violated. I could only imagine that he was saving his volcanic outburst for the soon to be damned. I threw myself in his path, but he simply stepped over me, the ashes from the cigarette dangling from his lips blinding me from making further pursuit. I managed to come up behind him just as he opened the door and prepared to bludgeon him before he could blast them with his eyes with a bolt of eldritch energy, but while I looked around for an appropriate tool, it became clear that the three of them were really in cahoots. The story, as I was led to believe, was that Knaus egged on by Aaron and Ann in their little exclusionary ka-tet, used a bed sheet tied to his handcuff ring above the bed to shimmy down the side of the house if for no other reason than to annoy me.

When the Comstock project wrapped up and Knaus moved back to his folks, much to their soul crushing dismay I’m certain, we worried he would become a fixture in our past; more of a relic than the hideous goat lamp we absconded with. In the final months we saw very little of him as he spent his time elsewhere and discouraged questions as only Knaus could. At times he would bring Malice, his familiar, along with him as they embarked on dark and mysterious deeds. Instead we were delighted to find that he now actually chose to spend more time in our vicinity, often making the long haul over to Princeton and joining us for our very frequent beer and movie nights. The newest recruits to the Whole Sick Crew, like Jenn with the tongue, Mary, Rob, Chet, and even Dave’s new interest Jennifer took a shine to him. It was the silver age of Knaus and we thought it would last forever.

When things at Princeton degenerated in the last year or so, Knaus, perhaps feeling the Discordia when mom and pops were on the outs (I’m pops by the way), kept his distance. Meetings with him became consigned to long evenings of coffee with myself, Dave and Jen or old school excursions to the forest where to my dismay, increasingly longer periods of time were being devoted to setting up complex equipment to photograph wild posies. When I broke the silence about my intended enlistment to him and Dave, I received open support, though some degree of skepticism as to my true intentions. Anyone who knows me well has difficulty pinning me as a ‘Yessir!’ style military man, except perhaps in the tradition of ‘Stripes’.

While in Basic training Knaus became my most frequent writer, a condition I was intensely grateful for. Basic was a dreary place in which I received frequent verbal comeuppances and days would pass without hint of a smile. Knaus, however, managed to coax out of me the very first laugh out loud with his long and convoluted tales of his wanderings with Dave in the land of UB looking to fulfill the Celestine prophecy. I attempted to share with the other folks, who could all use a giggle as well, but apparently I was the only one cracked enough to appreciate the mad ramblings of shellac headed penman.

Despite the distancing he displayed prior to my departure, he certainly made himself available on a near constant basis when I managed to make it home on leave. Although he had a full time job, not to mention achieving high year tenure at Work-n-Gear, he still managed to drag himself out each and every night until the wee hours. Not only that, but since I didn’t have a car at my disposal, he even drove. Fun nights of pool and beer were spent at old Anacone’s, Bullfeathers, old favorite Caputi’s, and of course our new favorite down on Franklin, the Sanctuary (or Spankuary as it was sometimes known) with its midget bar tender and gothic crowd who moved in from the now defunct Icon.

When I returned for good, Knaus came by to help move me in, although he conveniently showed up just as the very last box was removed from the truck, but had a bottle of SoCo in hand and was forgiven. I don’t recall much after that due to the illness, except that the annual Christmas exchange with Dave resumed and that a screening of our old classic ‘Eric the Viking’ was made to break in my new digs. Next thing I knew I was waking up in a hospital, bored from my near death experience only to have it relieved by a considerate Knaus shipping me a hefty load of books overnight.

In the year or two after my return, Knaus was around for a time, but gradually began to slip away into the night. He was a force to be counted on when Tiffany came to visit, once again eschewing work (since I couldn’t, new in my crap ass job at GP:50) in order to entertain her during the days. He was around often in those days and I think made one last epic trip to Allentown with us. He was also instrumental in decorating my pad with his home grown bonsai trees, necessitating me to line up someone to water them every time I went out of town.

Thies and I

            Whereas I have absolutely no doubt that the title character would prefer that I instead named this piece “King and I”, his attempts to get us to call him by this and other canine nicknames never quite caught on. This chapter, my tenacious little titans, is the long overdue answer to the earlier post, ‘Wolf and I’ by the author I now wish to roast in return. In truth, I don’t recall his version being necessarily a roast per se, but it’s been some time since I read it and thus feel required to fire back on a just in case basis. Truth be told, probably enough already has been said about this scurrilous lad, but a bit more, conveniently packaged should appease the hungry masses.

            I first met Thies back at St Joes at the old Wargames club meetings. At the time I though he and another character Booger were one in the same, and he undoubtedly attempts to make the same claim. I later came to realize that he was a separate yet similar entity all together, imported like a case of old cheese from foreign locals. Louis, who grew up in the near vicinity of him decided to bring him in to pad the ranks of the growing club with ardent supporters who would back his illegal status as dictator for life. In truth I believe Louis still runs the St Joes Wargames club from afar using hand picked successors and monitoring meetings closely in his strange box. In any event, I never chose to engage unless trying to actively kill his character; a trait I charmed everyone with.

            I quickly forgot him and the rest of the crew, but for Louis and Knaus who I was unable to shake all together. In my freshman year at UB, however, he found a way to creep back into my glorious vicinity. I was rooming in Schoellkopf hall on the south campus with Knaus when around the spring time his began having long phone conversations with some person known as ‘Psycho’ like a couple of old Mary Sue’s clucking away with girlish pleasure. My Holmsian instinct should have kicked in at that time and Thies’s face should have popped immediately into my brain, but alas, it did not as I doubt I ever knew his name and certainly not his new nickname. I did, however, have enormous appreciation for him as oftentimes he would abscond with Knaus for long evenings, leaving me the room to myself to watch whatever I wished on his TV/ VCR combo or rummage through his stuff.

            Eventually it came to pass that I was expected to meet this ‘Psycho’ character and Knaus invited him out to Shirley’s with us; a time I know I recounted elsewhere, so will keep to the short version herein. In any event, he proved considerably verbose, regaling me with tales of times he played pool before; a topic of considerable fascination akin to the checkers tournament my aged neighbor attempts to impart to me as I flee from the car to the garage. He did, however, hold his own in chugging down whatever shitty beer they were pouring and even went so far as to join us for garlic bread and cheese at Mike’s Big Mouth after. Unfortunately he failed the ultimate litmus test when he both failed to and objected to joining us in our ritual pee against the old Presbyterian Church on Bailey. We saw no more of him that year.

            Despite his constant crimes against my person I opted once again for occupying a dorm room with Knaus, and we found that we would be moving up to the big time at Goodyear. Little did I know that Knaus, in his typical underhanded and Machiavellian fashion, made arrangements with both Thies and JP to occupy the adjoining suite next to ours. I exploded with rage as I was under the misguided hope that sitcom style zaniness would hold true and through a mix up that room would contain some nubile coeds instead. In any event, I didn’t recall who these two putzes were anyway, so grudgingly acceded, as if I had a choice.

            I was forced to admit that the admission of these two extra individuals to my world turned out to be not such a bad thing. For one, I was no longer the sole object of Knauses malevolent intentions, leaving me to sleep considerably easier at nights. On top of that, I got to enjoy the show as Thies and JP locked horns from the get go, initiating a vicious graffiti war with indelible markers that remained a fixture in their room for the duration. Psycho, as he became known as exclusively, but for a brief time in the spring when Knaus renamed him ‘Brownie Buttfuck’, provided all manner of amusement on his own. We came to find that offering auditory descriptions of penis tortures, a conversation mysterious in its origins, was enough to make him curl up into a little ball on the floor, quivering and drooling, until we departed the premises.

            In those days we were also always seeking to define our signature look. Having at the time a full head of hair, I entertained notions of adopting the classic ‘Marvel’ wedge haircut seen on Wolverine and others, though it never panned out. Instead I settled for the classic 90210 sideburns and rocked them, Dylan McKay style. Psycho, not to be undone, grew a magnificent pony tail flowing from the back of his head in shining auburn like a good Catholic schoolgirl. In truth it exceeded no more than an inch and protruded like the turgid member of an especially hairy elf, but we forgave him the immodesty of it.

            Psycho proved to be very adept at commodity trading both to his advantage and our appreciation. He, unlike the rest of us left to fend for ourselves, was bequeathed with a fully loaded meal card that was not only good at the Spot cafeteria in the basement, but at Domino’s as well. Generally the transaction worked like this. I got paid on Fridays, cashed my check, gave Psycho his due, and then spent the rest on comic books. Due to my status of then being broke, I came to rely on advances from the meal card to feed myself delicious chicken sandwiches and pizza through the weekend until I could milk the sweet teat of freebies at food service once again. Though I paid no interest on the advances, I made up for it in other ways such as applying a good 4 lbs of meat and cheeses on his subs when he came through my line.

            Another delightful trait we discovered was his willingness to eat almost anything back then. I believe this was attributed to his nearly absent sense of smell; the only possible reason he would culminate his culinary odyssey with a plate of Nasty Olde Sauce. In the Goodyear days it was limited to more mundane fare, though I did bear witness to him once gagging down and subsequently upchucking a whole handful of jalapenos during a critical game of ‘truth or date’ with Ann and Tammy, the only two female visitors our room ever received. His amazing ability did allow him to survive on food stuffs such as popcorn for long stretches of time, much like a wharf rat.

            Although it became somewhat unavoidable after the toilet incident, Psycho was one of the driving forces that led us to the dark door of Comstock. While the rest of us could have theoretically returned home, Psycho’s parents up and moved all the way across the country when he went away to college. An apocryphal version of the story has this occurring without his knowledge, and that he returned home with gear in tow only to have the door answered by strangers, but this has never been truly verified or disproven. In any event, he needed permanent digs and lingering in the poorly ventilated basement of the Mooney’s, having his belongings mutilated and urinated on during weekly Dashwood Medicine hours was not along term solution. I, wishing freedom from any burdens of home life, and Knaus, with parents wishing themselves free of the burden of him being at home life, joined him on his quest with the inspired help of Dave.

            Due to events not worth recounting yet again, Aaron was relegated to one of the back bedrooms at Comstock, conveniently next to the bathroom and in clear ear shot of Louis’s frequent Mighty Taco cacophonous BMs. Unfortunately for him; he was also next to Jason which in truth helped to cement our alliance and friendship. Jason really got off on the wrong foot with him as in their first ever meeting, after he feigned that he poisoned the pizza Psycho and his girlfriend were eating with a packet of silica gel that said very clearly, ‘not meant for human consumption’. It was a slight Psycho was not to take lightly and the memory of it fueled many late night planning sessions filled with diabolical plots to irritate him. It also didn’t help that Psycho, a neat freak, was constantly cleaning up dishes Jason left wantonly about, or that I was only one to clean the kitchen floor, the magnet for the constant rate of spillage.

            The supreme efforts expended to make Jason’s life slightly less tolerable forged a bond and with Knaus rarely present anymore, we found ourselves in cahoots more and more often. Aside from just being bastards, we also adopted traditions of walking all the way to Tops from Comstock on Sunday afternoons and lugging back as many groceries we could carry. Part of the tradition, if I recall correctly, was the treasured procurement of Nestle Quick brand chocolate milk, which we would enjoy quaffing down in great gulps upon returning home, flaunting the empty containers at Jason and Knaus who were forced to drink the suspect drippings from the tap. Originally these shopping trips were meant to be at the L&T, but after Moustache Guy refused to sell us produce 2 minutes before opening (it was already on display!) we decided to boycott his wares. All food items upon return were marked with big angry notes, aimed more at Jason than the vengeful Knaus, who ate little, but what he damn well pleased.

            We also found ourselves in cahoots regarding TV watching habits and came to dominate the living room, so long as Knaus wasn’t present and it served to intimidate Jason who would be immediately outvoted from the show about the feelings of macadamia nuts he was already in to in favor of ‘Treehouse of Horror’. Knaus kept an enviable collection of authentic bad movies in his room, locked away safely while his TV combo was ritually abused. We found ourselves, much like Thursday nights in the dorms, creeping up on him, elbowing each other, to ask if we might borrow one of them for just a little bit. The answer, never guaranteed, was sometimes yes, and we would revel in the tale of an electrocuted man or some nonsense. After a while this became no longer necessary as my position at Collector’s allowed be to borrow, at no cost, any of the collection of very crappy horror movies my boss rented out to local creeps.

            Through my association with Collector’s I was able to pull him into my extra geekified universe of comic collecting. I got him started with ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine, a gateway product, for which he actually got carded at Seeley and Kanes. Next I made comics available free around the house, just sitting in white box for anyone to sample, and indeed, he did. Finally after months of grooming I was able to pull him into the shop and get a firm commitment to collect not one, but several different series to be kept in pristine condition with bags and boards. Unfortunately the line I got him stated on, Marvel’s ill fated ‘2099’ venture, turned out to be too sucky for words and those comics, so lovingly preserved, have not only devalued substantially, but actually depress the market value of any property they are housed on.

            Another commonality, I almost forgot, was our mutual love of fresh French fries; dripping with salt and hot oil. Living where we did the take out options were limited and any fries ordered were generally limp and soggy, and unworthy of our exalted palates. With a ‘can-do’ spirit not seen since old WWII era film reels, we rolled up our sleeves, boiled us up some oil in the wok Knaus procured but never used, and set to work peeling spuds. The results, well perhaps not as tasty as carnival fries, were certainly excellent and enjoyed several times over our stint there; that is until one of the girls Dan brought over yorked up in the remains.

            When the time finally came to depart Comstock, partially because Knaus decided to once again become a burden on his parents, and partially because we all but set fire to Jason and he still showed no signs of leaving, Psycho and I decided to continue our living arrangement, but in a better locale. Unbeknownst to me, Chet had snuck in the picture and became an unsavory influence, filling his head with castles in the clouds regarding the wondrous land of Princeton Courts. I suspected that Chet’s plan all along was to secure a couch near by where he could crash when his Chinese dad was drunk and pants-less, but nevertheless, we ended up there. I was sold on the convenience of Tops, right up a near vertical path behind the place. For Psycho it was the beacon of the hoops courts, which sold me as well on the idea of getting in shape.

            The first year went surprisingly well. The key to it all was our mutual obsession with TV shows generally no one else ever watched. Weekends were filled with basketball and full on tackle football over at the school to be followed by all manner of wonderful programming. The Adventures of Pete and Pete, X-Files (till I made him hate it), Lois and Clark, Seinfeld, the Simpsons, Dan’s Red Dwarf tapes, and finally Space Ghost. Such was the fabric of our character that bonds were so easily formed over the emissions of a smallish cathode ray tube.

            We also continued to have minor adventures, although most were not of the same quality as Comstock. The first Halloween we entertained ourselves by blowing up the Jack O’ Lantern I carved behind Tops. It was a marvelous spectacle and naturally Knaus forgot to bring his camera. We made frequent walks up to Tops in those days, right up the old path, sometimes waist deep in snow. We also grew a great love in ordering food from Jacobi’s, though still bear the guilt of probably killing one of their delivery boys by ordering in a terrible snowstorm and demanding satisfaction. The manager said he was never heard from again. Well, that day anyway.

            After some time though, the cracks began to show. It was fairly amazing that thing went well so long for basically two jackasses who had strong reputations for not cohabitating well. Slowly, I began to wax more slovenly and he grew more rigid in his German authoritarianism. I think much of it had to do with the fact that our TV watching habits took a turn south. Sure, we would always have Seinfeld, but I began gravitating toward the Discovery channel and shows about how to make cheese, while he insisted on watching things like Division 3 High School basketball and curling. Lights on or off? The debate grew thunderous to where on one occasion I replaced the perfectly good bulb in the Ugly Lamp with a burned out one I kept on hand for such an occasion.

            On top of that, he grew monstrously dependant on the gaming. Where I had taken great pains to cultivate a comic addiction, Chet trumped my Tylenol with codeine with smack in the form of Bloodbowl and Magic cards. Night after night I would haunt the living room, lights off, soaking up the flickering radiation from the tube. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Psycho, Chet, Matt and the rest would howl and bark, banging the table in wanton ecstasy because one idiot trumped another’s ‘Elf Taking a Whiz’ card with ‘Orc With The Green Apple Splatters’. I ventured in, with much snarling, only for food or a beer. They in turn would only invade my domain to use the can, a frequent unwelcome intrusion brought on by excessive Mountain Dew and Mighty Taco consumption.

            On many occasions they brought me to rage. Once, after a long Saturday at Collector’s, I came home with the express desire to consume my delicious Mrs Paul’s Pirogues that I procured for just that purpose the day before. I lifted the delightful blue box in the freezer. Way too light! Peering inside the tattered side, I would see but one lone surviving member rattling around, mocking me; too little to assuage my hunger. Pounding on Psycho’s door I demanded satisfaction. One fortunate thing in my favor was that Psycho, regardless of any other faults, was unquestionably honest to the point where it caused problems, such as when I needed him to lie about my presence to avoid friends and loved ones. Was it you? No. Matt? (I was hoping, as I felt he needed a good comeuppance for being so smarmy about working out in his mom’s basement) No. Dan (always the most likely) No. Chet? No reply. Chet? Silence. I had my man. I immediately called over there and got him after haggling with the Chinese woman for 5 minutes regarding what I wanted. I gave him a verbal lashing that really resulted in nothing. Faced with the prospect of dining on one of the Tony’s pizzas, I went to bed hungry.

            Eventually we stopped associating with each other on any level other than grunts or sarcastic pointed questions. I did my best to drive him from the apartment by any means necessary. It was an iron contest of wills between two juggernauts of stubbornness; either one willing to run a sword through his own bowel for even the opportunity to scratch the other. Eventually this grew old and we both made secret plans to move out and screw the other; he eyeing a cavernous basement apartment beneath some old building, and I eyeing the sky. Through some means I forget, our mutual plans became revealed and frankly, it made things much more comfortable in the end. We were able to reestablish cordiality and help each other move. When he finally departed and I had the place to myself for a few days, always my goal, in a tiny way I even missed the old goat, especially calling him ‘Boscoe’, which made him erupt in foul rage.

            By the time I came back from the Air Force, relations had fully normalized and we returned to the old days of bad movies, Allentown, basketball games, and meals. As much as I loath to give anyone credit, he was one of the only 3 friends of mine to make journey to Jersey for my wedding. Last I saw him; he handed over the treasured UB table, confiscated so many years ago; my legacy now for safe keeping. The best of times, however, will always be those moments after duct taping Jason’s room, high on a Quick sugar rush, munching home made fries and watching ‘Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers’ and worshiping at the alter of Green Arrow Mark Pike. You had to be there.

A Tradition Like No Other

The Comstock and Princeton era’s birthed a number of traditions, most formed out of boredom, laziness, or lack of choice.

Every holiday has it’s own traditions, especially *mas.  The most persistent and pervasive of all Comstock traditions was the Brown Bomber.  Mike’s grandmother took great pride in baking.  All throughout the year Mike would come home with a coffee tin of baked goods, but especially around *mas.  What is a Brown Bomber?  It is not a Fraternaty initiation, nor another of Larry’s army stories, but a golf ball sized sphere of rice crispies and peanut butter coated in chocolate.  Sounds awesome!  They sure are, but after you have had hundreds of these suckers you are done.  Done for good.  Mike, myself, and every single character of the crew tasted defeat after a handful of Brown Bombers, even the immutable Paul fell.  The only one left standing was Dan.  No doubt due to his thick stomach walls earned with his mom’s pork chips and the infamous pickle jar.

The next tradition started before Comstock, but was engulfed by Comstock.  that was Mike’s dad’s Bills-Miami party.  Mike’s dad would open his garage to a big party with lots of food, guys, and a big TV.  Aside from myself, Paul, Dan, and Mike the party-goers were comprised of grizzly old men from the neighborhood.  Inevitably they would spin tales of of Jack Kemp, and various other “old man nonsense”.  EDITOR’s NOTE: I can’t wait to be an old man and use my growing collection of crazy old man behaviors; when the sole purpose of my remaining life is to both others.  One of us would make some comment about some Bills player that was a group favorite just to roust the old men.  By 1999 the Bills height of power was diminishing, and Miami was sucking with no Marino, hence the party moved from the Miami game to a random other game.  With this move the fever of the party waned, and along with Mike entering the Air Force, coupled with the Paul’s decent into hermit-hood, and my detachment from Mike.  that last thing I wanted was to spend MORE time with Mike.

Many television programs made their way as a Comstock tradition.  The first of which was the original Beverly Hills 90210.  This started when in Goodyear.  Given no cable in the dorms at the time, we where stuck with 3 channels, 2 of which where often blurry.  Only the soon to be beloved Fox was routinely clear.  Paul, Mike, and I decided to make one of our routine trips to Tops in the University Plaza.  Paul held us up for a minute to use the bathroom.  As all readers know by now, this “minute” lasted way more than a minute.  In the meantime Mike and I flipped on the TV just in time for the start of the weekly installment of the antics of spoiled rich kids played by 30+ year olds, some balding and pretentious enough to purposely mispronounce their name.  By the time Paul emerged, hair gel in tact, Mike and I where hopelessly locked into the show.  Only 5 minutes remained.  The siren song of Beverly Hills did not release us from it’s icy grip for another several years.  It is odd what you become engrossed in when your entertainment options are limited.  If it hadn’t been for Paul and his meddling hair.

Many other TV shows where targeted by Mike and myself over the years: The Adventures of Pete & Pete (I recently bought the Season 1 DVD), the classic Degrassi Junior High (the story of a Canadian junior high, which recently made a comeback in the same fashion as Saved by the Bell: The New Class), and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – the draw of Dean Cain, former Buffalo Bill and sprinkle in the famous line from the first episode..

Terri Hatcher: *long tirade about how she is the experienced reported, and Dean is some punk, closing with how any co-authored pieces will have her by-line above his*
Dean Cain: *smirk* “Got it.  You like to be on top.”

Other, less obscure, programs became Comstock favorites also, including Seinfeld and the Simpsons.  These where both recorded on VHS tape and a formal event was help where Mike and I split up the tapes just before he entered the Air Force.  Dan often barged into Princeton Sunday night just before Simpsons time.  He tried initially to barge in during the show, but when we refused to answer, even though with the TV blaring, it was quite obvious we were in there.  Dan would bring some strange movie or British TV over to watch after, but Mike would always go to bed early, and since I would relish any time I could spend at home with Mike gone or asleep I would watch said weird program with Dan.

The X-Files was a favorite of Mike and mine both, until Mike ruined it for me with his fanatical behavior.  No sounds during the show.  No one over.  Disconnecting the phone.  Watching it in as much dark as possible.  I grew to dislike the X-Files, and stopped watching it after the first season, never to return.

While living at Comstock itself we where stuck with Paul’s TV/VCR combo.  We where also stuck with the same 5 movies.  Having watched them all, including when we broke down and watched Frantic, the default because One Crazy Summer.  I lost count how many times we watched this.  mike often fell asleep long before the end.  Clutching his Daisy Duke beer can handle, and occasionally talking in his sleep.  When Mike talked in his sleep you could ask him questions and he would reply, uttering such gems as “I had sex with 30 houses and stuff.”

All these years of limited viewing left us fans of MST3K, and after some buffer time when Princeton vanished, and the Comstock era ended, we started a new tradition of Crappy Movie Night.  We would gather with pizza and beer, and watch 2-3 terrible movies.  The event was a success only 50% of the time, but then again , what kind of incentive is Manos: Hands of Fate or Lolita.

The final tradition that also held favor for several months, long after Comstock was over, was Travel Friday.  In an effort to not end up in the same bars each week we forced the issue.  We would gather and car pool over to some restaurant/bar that no once had ever been to, and engulf some dinner.  If the place was god we would stay, and if not then we would head to some new place that was unknown to all or most of us.

There are certainly other “traditions” that could be mentioned, like someone being trapped in the Comstock bathroom every party, or Jason getting upset with Dan, but those are left for another post.

Wolf and I

Now that we have 100 stories out there, our readers will have a pretty good picture of the setting of Comstock. It is time we delve a little deeper into one of the key relationships around Comstock, not to mention I am saddened that my name has not been more prominent in the recent posts.

As is obvious by the title, this post centers around the evolving relation between Wolf and myself, one of the lynch pins of the whole Comstock experience. I am going to take you through the story of our relation (God! Have I said “relationship” enough already! As Mooney would say, “We are not Gay!” :)) from start to finish.

The first time I met Wolf was when I visited St. Joe’s to join Louis in the “War Gamer’s Society”, a society not a club – club’s do insufficient damage. Unbeknownst to me I would here meet a number of future hooligan associates include, Wolf, Knaus, Schultz, Burns, and JP. I am not good with names-to-faces; it takes me a few meetings to match them up, so much to their future anger I thought Mooney, Wolf, and some guy named “Booger” were the same person. In my defense, on each of my visits only one of this trio would appear each time. There is nothing else memorable about this first meeting with Wolf, mostly due to not knowing who he really was, and since I had just been introduced to so many of Louis’s school comrades I selectively choose to ignore some. As there was nothing particular of note with Wolf I found no problem in placing him on the “ignore” list.

The next era was when I sophomore year when I moved into Goodyear. These dorms were setup to have two doubles with a shared bathroom. Wolf/Knaus in the nicer (carpeted, TV) room and JP/myself in the other. This is where my relationship with Wolf really began and grew with many stories that have already been described. Perhaps the most ritual interaction, besides the Thursday night drive with Knaus to stock up on GAB, was Saturday mornings. Wolf worked at Collector’s Inn, while I did nothing. He would arise early and want to bum use of my SUNY Cash Card to get cheese covered=waffle fries from the glorious Spot in the basement of Goodyear. I can’t say as I blame him as this was food for a god. Many visitors came just for this delicate masterpiece. The Saturday conversation unfolded like this:

“Hey?”
(in a Knaus like funk, as I was sleeping) “What!”
“You going to Spot?”
*loud sigh* “Yeah”

I would inevitably arise and would quickly turn gleeful as we approached the beloved waffle fries. To his credit, Wolf knew this would be the case, hence his lack of restraint when awaking me, though he always did it from the other side of a closed door.

Our third act of the Wolf/Thies combo was Comstock. Here there is not much to say as most of this blog is centered around the many hijinks this commode-like habitat festered.

Our relationship blossomed mostly around the common enemy of Thirty Puddles (named so for his bed wetting, not his spilling of drinks). It was during this era I enjoyed

letting the cat horde assault Wolf’s beloved xmas tree, and learned of his Bills outlook. He was not interested in football, except Miami, except the Bills games. If the Bills won it was the greatest game ever, and if they lost, it was the worst game ever. Consequently each week born a new watershed. After two years of success, it was only logical to continue our roommate-ship. Which leads up to Princeton.

The first year was good, some of the stories have been told, but as the second year grew on our activities together grew to a minimum, other than whatever we could do to aggravate the other guy into going to bed so we could watch the TV. Wolf sat in the dark to “create a movie theater” atmosphere, and used his infernal breadmaker, whose crumb avalanche lead to the cockroach squashing incident foretold. I’m sure more tales can be posted about this time that I care to recant presently.

Our final act as roommates was to divide up “the tapes”. Since the time we entered Princeton we advanced our technology to include a VCR. We frantically began to record episode after episode of “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons”. We had 10-12 volumes of each. Not only was the content of the volumes timeless hilarity, but the increasingly poor quality was a reminder of simpler times that were starting to erode away. Many nights have one or both of us fell asleep on the couch (often in a drunken stupor) with one of these modern art-worthy recordings playing all night – continuing to erode the tape without anyone to enjoy the antics archived upon.

We are now in the final chapter of the Wolf/Thies saga. After Wolf had entered the Air Force. It was only after we had stepped away from each other for some time, and had to deal with “real” jobs on our own that we both admitted that we had enjoyed that last year as roommates, instead of trying to annoy the other. Wolf offered up a final Comstock-ish proposal. Upon leaving the Air Force we began playing basketball with Chris, Chet, and myself on a weekly basis. He proclaimed his embarkment on a new journey, each step to be progressed to after the successful completion of the previous step.

1. stop drinking (achieved for a time with non-alcoholic beer)
2. lose weight (basketball helped a little, with #1 helping a lot)
3. stop smoking (he cut back for a period, but never quite got here)
4. regrow hair (untouched)

In summary, Wolf and I shared much laughter over the years, and provided the other with a minimal amount of aggravation. Even at the end of Princeton we were polite agitators.

From Booger to good friend Wolf served a purpose. Wouldn’t you like to have a Wolf too?

Mini Marathon

This is a collection of short incidents.

Origins of Psycho – From high school until I left Princeton my nickname was “Psycho”. Where did this nickname come from? Expecting a clever or even mildly interesting origin? Fool! I was on the phone with Louis, and he called Knaus, so after over an hour of 3-way phone conversation Knaus made a judgement. The next day he told Louis, “That guy sounds like a psycho.” How ironic that Knaus called ME a psycho.

Winter Sock Run – Before Louis and I met Dan, Matt, etc. we knew some guy named Jeff. One night the three of us were watching movies at Louis’s house and his parents left. Somehow, perhaps Louis can recall, Jeff and I took turns daring each other to run from the back door to the fence and back in our socks. It was winter, with plenty of snow on the ground. After the first few times we spent the time between our runs picking the enormous chucks of snow out of the expanding holes in our socks. I forget the final total, but it was close to 30 trips. When the spring arrived Louis’s dad awoke and peered out the back window to see a path of dead grass well worn in his backyard.

Cheese and Pepsi – This is another middle/high school period event, like the “Winter Sock Run”. I have no idea why this started, Louis? However, Louis and myself debated how disgusting cheese in Pepsi would be. Louis was adamant I could not drink a glass, while I was just as stout that I could. After much stern debating we proceeded upstairs to settle the matter. Now, in my mind I pictured a glass of Pepsi, in the shapely Classic Coke glasses, with cubes of yellow cheese, much like ice cubes, plopped in. The reality of the solvent was tearfully different. The timeless Pepsi glass was true to vision, but then Louis produced a cheese slice from a package of Velveeta sandwich slices. This was foreboding, but only for a moment as Louis freed the soft cheese (BAD!) from it’s plastic sheath. He then mangled and mashed the cheese into the Pepsi. The tipping point was peering in the final beverage and viewing the greasy fingerprints in the squished cheese. My mental stomach allowed me to only take 2-3 sips. I hold that it was Louis’s false advertising that led to his victory.

Free Ravioli – There is some story I was a part of, but I do not remember, involving my freshman year, where the Ravioli vending machine was discovered as broken. We immediately ran back to our room to procure a backpack which we filled entirely with mini-Ravioli cans.

That’s Not a Urinal – Louis and I attended a free golf class one summer. The climax of the class was to play 3 holes at the course. I spent the night before at Louis’s house. We woke up late and Louis’s dad drove us over to the golf course. We got there in time for me to head the restroom. I was about to let the morning fountain loose , when I half-opened my eyes to see myself?! Why is there a mirror over the urinal? I have seen a newspaper, but a mirror? Holy crap! I am about to pee in the sink! I sidestepped to the real urinal just as some schmo entered the restroom. A close call.

Fashion Conscious – This is a piece of advise rather than a full blown story. I suggest all single guys shop with either a gay or a girl. They can shop vicariously through you and you will get much better clothing out of it. Some other points of catour (sp?); tell people, and by people I mean women, you are spending about $300 on a new wardrobe. As far as footwear goes only shoes or multi-colored sneakers (two primary colors and a third, trim color) are necessary.

The Year of Aaron – Much like the previously mentioned “Year of Rob”, I proclaimed the following New Year’s Eve it would be the “Year of Aaron”. I decreed I would ask a new woman out each month. I did this, the first month, and was successful for a short, 1-2 month relationship. After that the momentum of the “Year of Aaron” petered out. I mention this to show that we are 2-for-2 on “Year of” decree.

Death From Above – Louis’s parents held a party in their backyard. Louis and I decided to throw some water balloons over the corner of the house. Louis was the spotter, peering around the corner of the house.

Aaron throws the first water balloon over the corner of the house.
Louis: “It landed 30 feet away from anything.”
Aaron adjusts on his second throw.
Louis: “That was only a few feet closer. Move a LOT more to the right.”
Aaron adjusts his third throw.
Louis: “RUN!”
Aaron jumps on his bike and takes off.

I rode my bike around the neighborhood for 30 minutes until I encountered Louis riding him bike. The postmortem was the third shot was hit a cake on a table. It flew in at the perfect angle to fly under the table umbrella. The cake splattered everywhere, all over several people. The party-goers did not know what happened so I was safe.

Poll – Never mentioned before friend Nick is a sicko, but a lovable sicko. I experienced a phase where I created a new poll to ask everyone I knew. One of this was “What is the least amount of money would it take for you to sleep with the sex you don’t find attractive.” (got to be alternative friendly). The median answer was $100k. Nick was typically unique in his response, “I’d do it for a quarter if I needed to make a phone call.”

Taddle Tale (HA!) – Knaus, Ann and myself were just lounging in Knaus’s room. We heard Dave and Wolf arrive home. The muse of tomfoolery suddenly struck! By an unusual coincidence Knaus had parked his car around the corner that day. Knaus would exit the room, unknown to Wolf/Dave, then drive his car home. Ann and myself would make noise in hushed tones from Knaus’s room. We expected Wolf/Dave to follow Knaus up to his room when he arrived, and watch the rage Knaus would certain showcase upon finding Ann and me in his room. The first problem was to get Knaus out of his own room quietly. Regular readers will recall his room was on the second floor. In literal cartoon style we fashioned a rope out of a bed sheet and jacket, with which we lowered Knaus out the back of the house. A surprising success.

The plan worked to perfection to this point. Knaus brought his normal halo of tense into the house. Wolf immediately proclaimed, “Ann and Aaron are in your room!” We heard this all the way upstairs, and Ann was semi-livid. Knaus managed to hold the charade when he unlocked his door. Ann and I played the part of the surprised, guilty intruders. It was not long before Ann was unable to contain her anger, “You tattled on us!” “No I didn’t.” “We heard you!” For the rest of us it was an entertaining episode.

In fear of leaving you with a deflated feeling, I will, as is a mirror of Comstock.

Fight Club

Aside from one notable exception, there is little argument that the majority of the males who stepped though the door had abundance, even if not used for best practice, of testosterone. The exception of course is the housemate who admitted in mixed company that he would like to try “heeetero” before “hoooomo” sexual intercourse, had crying and bed wetting problems that were unrelated to each other, had been mugged by a vicious 8 year old who could have passed for 10 by anyone’s standards, and frequently waffled on vegetarianism. This entry is certainly not about him, nor shall he be mentioned again unless additional comedic shock tactics are required to prop up mediocre narrative.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea and has formed an image of a sweaty Tyler Derden promoting bare knuckle battles in our smutty basement, let me be honest and say that rarely ever happened. The closest we ever came to an ass kicking in anger was the pathetic attempt of Pat to pummel Schultz for allegedly slipping it to the missus and destroying our screen door in consolation. I’m also ignoring the most obvious thing in reference to blitzkrieg assault CK managed to inflict at near glacial speeds upon an oblivious Dan. What did often happen was Knaus or Dave would be looked at in some manner not to their liking or a sub par hair band would be maligned and a boisterous wrestling match or deliberate forking would ensue.

From the get go, Dave and Paul were all over each other in a strictly platonic, bellicose, non-homoerotic way. How did these two strikingly similar brutes even know each other? How did any of us really? This provides good opportunity to segue tangentially into a ‘who knew who’ flowchart. I will grant that some characters knew each other before I begin shortly, but I’m writing this entry and could care less to know their dreary pasts before I came into the picture. If you have a fascination of how JP and Dan were childhood chums united by their wooly hairstyles, I’m sure either would be honored to be asked about it.

Freshman year at St Joe’s, luck of the draw and a haphazard seating arrangement would pair me next to Louis in Russ Owen’s fascinating music appreciation class, which we both took an immediate disinterest in. With Ravel’s Bolero drudging on in the background, Louis would regal me with tales of pen guns, a teacher with a dead arm, and some schnook he hung out with during his bad ass days at Franklin middle school. We also found ourselves in most of the same classes and had ample opportunity to talk. Despite my constant harassment of his dietary habits, we managed to conceive and put together a pitch to start a Wargames club. Granted a Wargames club already existed, we somehow felt the need to start a second that would be run our way, or more specifically, Louis’s way as president for life.

The Wargames club acted as a nucleus, drawing in all manner of beasties great and small. Some would play no role in future events like Ken S., or blaze up as momentary stars like Sean O., only to fade away, while a select few would become die hard incumbents like the dread Knaus. So, by the end of freshman year, we have direct links between Louis and me, followed by Knaus, and a secondary link to Aaron, who was the aforementioned schnook from Louis’s Franklin stories. The crystal of our cabal slowly grew, adding in Dan and JP (who I thought were the same person for 3 years), Schultz (who I knew since second grade and cub scouts), Sean B., and finally Aaron in person, who was known as Psycho. Psycho and I mutually mistook each other for Booger during this period; a character whose true name has been best forgotten.

Dave came into the group in sophomore year. I had known him since second grade as well. Although he also enjoyed indulging in the world of GURPS, his busy work schedule precluded him from joining Psycho in non-student club member status. That year both Knaus and I had art class (which is where he picked up his famous rhyming nickname when John Sinatra pointed to a fake rodent being used for O’Donnell’s pumpkin coach and exclaimed for the first time, “Look! It’s a Mouse Knaus”), that culminated in a big year end show. Dave was convinced to attend the show having nothing else to do apparently that day. I introduced him around, and by mid show he and Knaus were grappling each other in the parking lot, seeing who could smash the other’s face into the bricks above the bike stand the fastest. I think Knaus won that round, if only because he had no compunction against fighting dirty.

If Knaus fought dirty, Dave usually held his own by fighting more, and not being afraid to utilize escalation tactics. Where wrestling matches were generally confined to just that, Dave never failed to surprise an opponent with a right hook or kick to the boys. Sophomore year in high school was also the first and only time Dave and I fought in anger. We both worked after school for Jim Herkert’s cleaning company mopping up at old St Paul’s. Dave, although only hired a mere month before me, insisted on calling me ‘rookie’ with the full rights and honors usually afforded someone of that status at fraternities or zany police academies.  We all have limits and I reached mine over the disputed presence of dust bunnies in the kindergarten room. I launched myself at his wiry frame, instigating a drag out battle. Before blood could be spilled, a mistimed lurch sent us both into the side of the gigantic aquarium. Breathless with horror, we watched as it teetered back and forth and finally settled itself. This ended the conflict with nary a splash.

Where most boys tend to lessen their outwardly aggressive tendencies by the time high school is over, primarily due to interventions by the opposite sex, they increased with Dave, Knaus and admittedly I at times. While comparisons to Don Juan, Casanova, or even the good Marquis DeSade were few and far between, this was nearly universal in the environs and did not have so violent an impact on Thirsty, Siuda, Norton, or even Mooney, who resembled the Marquis in both claims and deeds as close as any of us. The predictable result was inconvenient destruction, some injury, and a story or two to fill the gaps while I think of something more interesting to write about.

The first college battle of any note occurred the first day we moved into Goodyear. Knaus had just finished magnum opus in doorway paintings, and we gathered to set a spell in the room while the rainbows and unicorn slowly dried. As our hall mates moved in they likely assumed a seventh grader had been promoted up though the grades due to unparalled genius and had just graduated the ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ phase. The notion was about to be disabused. From the mystery of his desk, Knaus produced a small figurine of Garfield sidekick Odie and seemed completely enraptured with it. Aaron was intrigued enough to ask to see it, and gave Knaus enough opportunity to quickly turn away, hogging the precious to his bosom. Greedy as Gollum and incensed at the unspoken refusal, Aaron advanced, determined to at least get a closer look. Knaus cowered, a transparent feint, and clawed it all the closer. I could not help but become involved.

Moments later a tumbling collusion of flailing limbs emerged from the door of 709 East, and meandered thrashing down the hall as the rest of the good people schlepped up their hot pots and comforters. “Let me see the Odie!” “No! It’s mine! MINE!” Eventually the whole mess of it, rug burned and all, came to a writhing halt before RA Jason’s doorway. A crowd had gathered around, curious as to the nature of the ruckus. Explanations were demanded and there was no way of making the situation sound any less ludicrous than it truly was. For this, and so many other reasons, those on the south end of the hall often chose to take the back stairs rather than risk going by our door to get to the elevators.

Aaron, having suffered the worst in that tête-à-tête, thought he at least understood the nature of the threats in his environment, but this could not be further from the truth. Heretofore, he had not yet been introduced to Dave, though had heard enough about him in passing. Although long since Dave has developed a passion for fine literature, well aged wine, and gravity defying breasts, at the time of this story his one true passion was the tremendous musical talent of Canadian hair bag Getty Lee and Rush. Aaron, a die hard Kraftwerk aficionado, could not abide by this notion and choose to challenge it the first time Dave graced our room with his presence. I explained before that Dave was never one to be afraid to take things up to the next illogical level, and in this case he skipped the first few floors all together. Before he could blink, Aaron found himself thrown back on the bed in a half-nelson, with JPs long unwashed fork drawing tiny beads of blood and perspiration from his neck. A good case of ptomaine poisoning is usually enough to dissuade further comment and this was no exception.

Once we got to Comstock, the battles were no longer so easily confined to a small cinder block cell, and became both more interesting and more dangerous. I don’t remember what set it off, likely nothing whatsoever, but it was the angriest I ever saw Knaus get, which is saying a lot. It was a three way match, and by some luck of the twist, I managed to get his lacquered bulbous head in a firm lock. Dave chose that moment to pounce from behind, a sneaky brute, and sent us both tumbling forward. The position was just so that I slammed into the loveseat by the mantle, and Knaus’s head slammed into the brick fireplace façade beyond it. He exploded in fury, throwing the both of us back, roaring in saurian rage. Hair askew and red faced, he look around. I jumped back to take refuge in the dining room, while Dave, wide eyed in amazement, froze in place. Knaus shoved past him, and with the mighty swinging kick of a punter, unloaded his bare foot on the solid maple coffee table, sending it end over end. He was already up the stairs, limping considerably, as it landed, snapping off a leg.

Hours later, after silently brooding, he came hobbling down the stairs and was able to talk about it. He felt that although he certainly stubbed, broke or jammed all 5 toes on that foot, it was the wiser choice at the moment than his initial instinct. As his head connected to the fireplace, he was filled with the overwhelming urge to throw me directly though the Florida room window. A move innocuous in westerns would have likely meant a long hospital or morgue stay and inevitable arrest and trial. It was my quick leap back, however, that had saved me. As history has a way of repeating itself, Knaus also managed to destroy my coffee table at Princeton, although with me bearing the brunt of injury that time.

Ever one to attempt to learn those life lessons that fall into my lap, I began to extricate myself from the battle royale practices after that incident, except for cases when really drunk or annoyed. For Knaus and Dave, there was no stopping. One day I came home to a terrific din of crashing and banging above me. There was no question as to what it was as Knaus’s car was in the driveway with Dave’s Bronco behind it. Suddenly silence. I had to look. At the top of the stairs I found Dave lying motionless on his back, a large bruise appearing on his forehead. Knaus was crouched over him with look one could almost describe as tender concern. Dave’s breathing was barely audible as Knaus gently coaxed him to speak. Having watched a little too much WWF, Knaus managed to get Dave up over his head, and succeeded in body slamming him to the floor, but not before Dave’s head and neck were caught against the solid steel desk. For about 10 minutes we debated calling 911, convinced Dave’s neck was broken and that paralysis was quickly setting in. He rose, redeemed and in all his glory, soon after and set us all at ease.

The final bit worth telling doesn’t involve a fight at all, though is steeped in asinine male behavior of the same cloth and thus finds a place here. One evening I emerged from my room to find Dave and Knaus in the study area sitting close and looking both pained and determined. They both had a lit cigarette in their hand and was pressing the burning coal at the end to the others extended index finger in a macabre game of chicken. Each held his finger to the fire voluntarily and was in no way bound to keep it there, but for some misguided sense of honor or bravery. The game was to decide who could keep it there the longest. The room smelled both of heavy smoke and a subcutaneous layer of human fat beginning to burn. I can’t even recall who won the contest or if the cigs extinguished themselves first. In any event, I was invited to participate and show my mettle. Announcing that there was far too much testosterone in the room, I took my leave.

Wolf, Pronounced Stephen

Sing O Muse. Sing of prank phone calls.

A relic of a bygone era, and destroyed in its purest form forever. In these days of caller ID, easily traceable phone records, and number blocking, the prank phone call is obsolete. Unless you use a public phone, and when was the last time you saw one of those?

There was a time when myself, and certain unnamed associates, scratched out creative itch by indulging in these delights of shock and subterfuge. Understand that these were not your standard guffawing fifteen-year-old phone prank of making a call and yelling, “Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuck you,” then hanging up. These were finely honed deft jibes, where a person might not even realize that they had being pranked until near the end, and maybe not even then. We each crafted a persona and made calls in that guise.

Sometimes they failed. Sometimes the results were beyond our wildest expectations. During our phone romps, we got two people to admit to homosexual tendencies. One was Mu-tai Man, D. Craik (whose story will be handled in my next post). Another was the cousin of a certain individual who may or may not be lurking on this site. However my favorite prank was completed by the modern man of twists and turns, Mike, during the Days of Comstock.

The persona crafted by Mike was called Stephen (pronounced with a “f” sound, rather than a “v”). He had a weak whiny voice, and a slight lisp. Stephen was a confused person. He often didn’t know how to do things, or get to places, and had a bad habit of making plans but never showing up. Hence his propensity of calling complete strangers for help.  

The first time I heard Stephen make a call was at the UB dorms. The recipient was my Uncle Dick (never was there a man more aptly named). Stephen had decided to be fashionably homosexual while at college, and called my Uncle for a date (he was into older men in their 60s) Stephen called, claiming that a female friend of my Uncle’s had given him the number. When the call was made, my Uncle (a raging alcoholic) was so deep in his cups, that he didn’t notice that the call was being placed to my house (where he was staying the night) and not his own. He seemed to accept the situation cordially; they talked for a bit, and parted without obscenities. We got a mild chuckle and thought nothing else of it, but the aftermath was explosive. Dick had called up his friend and the pair got into a heated argument, during which there were many hang-ups and call-backs, that ended their friendship forever. Later when I asked him about it, he said, “She had some woman call me up and hit on me. I didn’t like that.” It wasn’t Stephen’s fault, he was just curious, and as I said, my Uncle was well named Dick.

Flash forward several years. A schism had occurred in the Rocky Horror cast, causing the creation of the Dashwood Society. We had our meetings, our quirks, and our victims. While there was a range of callee’s and personas, we had our particularly favorite victim, whom we singled out for a specific series of pranks; Boring Ben.

Boring Ben was an unbelievably annoying figure. Whenever he opened his mouth, I felt like smashing my head into a wall or onto a rusty spike, to avoid hearing his “witticisms.” He was under the impression that he was very funny or “witty.” And when not abusing us with puns, or bragging about his high I.Q., he would spend hours quoting Monty Pythons lines, from which he derived his sole source of humor. He once spent an entire evening reciting every line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Every Goddamn Line. I haven’t been able to watch the film since.

He also claimed to suffer from nightmares (such a tragic figure), and would pretend to fall asleep in a corner, then start flailing his arms about, as if wrestling his inner demons, in order to garner attention and sympathy. He was a central figure in why the Dashwood split from Rocky. For all of these reasons and more, Ben received our special ministrations.

Boring Ben knew all of our voices, so what we would do was have a series of calls made to him, each from a different person. Sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, so it seemed that a horde of unrelated people, whom Ben didn’t know, would call him up and abuse him. What tied them together was that each person would, at some point, call him, “a boring pretentious fuck.” Where this occurred was up to the individual, and adding to this, Ben had a bad habit of arguing with a prank caller.

Often the person was straight forward. For example: A call from Mahatma Nick:

Ben: “Hello?”

Nick: “Hey Ben, you’re a boring pretentious fuck.”

Ben: “What?”

Nick: “I said you’re a boring pretentious fuck.”

Ben: “This is the third time you’ve called me.”

Nick: “No, this is the first time I’ve called you.”

Ben: “No it’s not!”

Nick: ‘Hey, where’s Vicky at? I want to ask her about her hairy nipples…”

And so on.

I’m sure he guessed it was us, but with our constantly changing line-up of guest stars, he never knew for certain. Especially since Jeff Death was still friendly with the crowd, and always claimed that we never did anything of the kind. This gave, to me, a certain elegance to the whole affair. There were many calls, but my favorite was when Stephen needed help and only Ben could provide it:

Ben: “Hello.”

Stephen: “Hello Ben?”

Ben: “Yes.”

Stephen: “I’m Stephen. I’m in your psychology class at school. I missed the last lecture, and I hoped you could give me the notes to it?”

(Pause)
Ben: “Which class?”

Stephen: “The psychology class. It’s the only one I’m in.”

Ben: “But I’m only taking anthropology classes this year.”

Stephen: Oh. Well, I talked to the professor and he said you were a boring pretentious fuck.”
Short and sweet with a perfect Twilight Zone twist at the end. We all fell back laughing, and continued to do so until rosy fingered dawn reached towards the sky.