The Worst Student Film Ever Made

katy perry
Standard

*Names have been changed at my discretion

Synopsis:  A college girl is diagnosed with cancer, parties hard in an attempt to hide from her potential mortality, spirals from alcoholism to drug abuse to addiction, overdoses and dies only to find out in the afterlife that her diagnosis was a false-positive.

All of this was to be accomplished in 3 minutes of screen time.

Title:  “Positive.”

Unofficial Subtitle:  “The Worst Student Film Ever Made.”

Let me lay the groundwork for how we brought this abomination into the world.  Foundations of Production was an entry level course culminating in a semester-spanning project of producing a short film.  The class was split into small groups, mine consisting of myself, a girl that I kinda knew (Laurie*); a stoner that used to live in the same dorm building as me (Tyson*); and a best friend destined to betray me in the months to follow (Elle*).

We all prepared short scripts and presented them to the class for feedback. Everyone in our group took their film ambitions fairly seriously, but this whole project was technically “homework,” so inevitably our efforts became very convenience-driven.  This led us to produce Elle’s script, which featured few characters and locations.  We put together an airtight production schedule that would knock out the brunt of production (scenes taking place at parties) in one night.

Everyone resigned themselves to an irritating group dynamic that emerged long before cameras started rolling – Elle insisted on being in charge of everything.  She shot, directed, starred in, and edited the partially autobiographical monstrosity, ignoring everyone else’s input, and calling all of the shots along the way.

Oh yeah.  I forgot to mention that her script was loosely based on something that she was going through.

Now it may seem inappropriate for me to be so harsh about this girl who made a movie about her cancer, but she didn’t actually have cancer.  She had some sort of lady part cyst.  I always figured it would be rude to ask for more details, so I only ever knew what she confided in me (her then-best friend).  It’s not cool to have lumps of any sort growing on your insides, but Elle’s cyst was deemed benign in an expeditious manner.  There wasn’t a prolonged period where she pondered its cancerous possibilities.  Also, this not-cancer could not be blamed for her drinking problem.

The production churned on painfully.  Our character entered a party, did shots, smoked pot, popped pills, snorted coke, shot up heroine.  She changed clothes between each substance abuse escalation to signal that these were different parties – a subtlety that didn’t override the four, practically identical bedrooms in the same apartment where we shot our smorgasbord of parties.

Each scene was terribly lit.  Overhead lighting was abandoned in lieu of a single lamp that we carried from room to room.  Every frame of the footage was grainy or full of awkward shadows, or both.

When it was time to set up the heroine scene, Tyson shepherded extraneous extras out of the shot.  “You only want 3-4 people max in the room when you’re shooting heroine,” he explained.  No one dared ask him how he knew this.

Elle asked what she should do after she pretended to shoot the drugs into her arm.  Tyson’s answer was something along the lines of:  “After you shoot up, you’ll probably just want to lay down on the floor and feel the carpet.”

By the time Elle was ready to edit the footage, I was the only person willing to stay involved with this dumpster baby of a film.  She trimmed every take and pieced it all together while I just sat around and watched.  Rarely, she would ask for my advice, but only on small matters.  This take or that one?  Establishing shot before close up?  Close up, insert, close up?

For the sequence of the main character getting ready to go out and party after receiving her cancer diagnosis, Elle insisted on using Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.”  For those unfamiliar, this upbeat pop song is an absolutely perfect soundtrack for getting dressed up to go out drinking with friends on literally any day of your life except for the day that you get diagnosed with cancer.  My polite input on the thousands of reasons why this song didn’t fit the tone was extravagantly ignored.  I mean that. Extravagantly.  Ignored.

Elle considered sneaking the volume down and running the song through the entire substance abuse escalation montage.  Katy Perry – the soundtrack for a downward spiral and heroine overdose.  At least I talked her out of that.

The end of the film played out as follows:  Elle’s character wakes up in heaven, an area of pure white (the white walled hallway of Laurie’s apartment).  “A screen appears.”  That’s what the script reads.  We had no special effects capabilities or budget.  A picture-in-picture effect was edited sloppily onto one of the white walls.  On the “screen” Elle’s doctor (yours truly in a lab coat and black rimmed glasses) is shown explaining to Elle’s mother (Laurie) that the cancer diagnosis was a false positive.  Oh no.  Elle did all of those drugs and died and she didn’t even have a good reason to be depressed!

Each group had to show their films to the entire class. We delivered the final cut to the professor on DVDs.  Thank God this thing wasn’t uploaded onto the internet.

After a brief introduction, the lights were killed and the movie started rolling.  I’ve never blushed so hard in my life.  The class roared with laughter at the substance abuse escalation montage.  Elle’s editing made it seem like the entire downward spiral unfolded in one comically wild night.  To the audience, her character got dressed to go to a party, drank too much, smoked some weed, popped some pills, snorted coke in the bathroom, shot up heroine and dropped dead all within the course of like an hour.  The professor applauded us before admitting that he wasn’t sure whether or not the tone was supposed to be so freaking hilarious.

This was Elle’s mutant progeny.  We let her answer his inquiries into what the hell everyone had just witnessed.

An almost equally horrible film took some of the heat off of us.  It was called, “Mrs. Jickle’s Pickles.”  It was about an old lady who can’t open a pickle jar.  She really, really wants a pickle.  She calls her son.  He doesn’t have time to drop what he is doing and drive across town to help her open a pickle jar, because “Really Mom?”  She tries everything before calling 911 as a last resort.  The cops show up and aren’t nearly pissed off enough when they realize that this old lady is wasting their time with such trifling bullshit.  They scold her but can’t stay mad and end up opening the pickle jar for her.  The End.

For a student film that is as awesome as is just as “Positive” was horrible, check out:  Evil Beer.

Advertisements

The Boner Policy

Standard

Before delving into the collapse of my freshman group of friends from college, I think it’s important to describe some of the adventures that we had together so that you can mourn the calamity of our feuds as much as I did back then.

As I’ve said before, our common interest was partying.  In many cases, there was no further connection binding us together.

The group’s demographic skewed female to Jurassic Park levels.  There were basically three dudes, counting me, hanging out with like a dozen girls.  I loved the proportions at the time, but future events would make me question whether or not females are truly capable of empathy towards each other, or if any semblance of girl friendship is just a long con style intricate murder plot.

Bobby is one of those friendships that came out of our group (we called ourselves “K.I.T.T.” – short for Keep In Touch Tuesday) that actually made the enormous headaches that most of these people caused me feel worthwhile in retrospect.

The other guy, well, he had an emotional issue or two (or seven thousand).  We’ll call him “Tommy” because of his ongoing need for anonymity when it comes to the stories I have to tell about him.  Tommy was a quirky stoner with a lot of money and friends that liked to throw parties in their shitty apartments.

One such celebration of alcohol was The Lingerie Party.  Now 19 year-old Brantley had heard legends of lingerie parties, but was skeptical of their existence.  The concept was too awesome and it always seemed to happen to someone else.  I guess skepticism is the wrong word.  19 year-old Brantley thought of Lingerie parties as “winning the lottery” or “seeing a super majestic bald eagle doing its thing” – he knew that those things did indeed happen, but that they didn’t happen to many people despite everyone’s longing for them.

Well this time around, I was invited and I looked forward to the event with both excitement and trepidation.  You see, I was still self-medicating a lot of social anxiety at the time and if I didn’t get the dosage strong enough, I had a tendency to sweat like someone with a serious medical condition.  Being in nothing but my underwear, there was a strong chance that I would be making it rain on the whole party unless I somehow managed to attach the keg directly to my face.

I coolly suggested to Bobby that we grab some robes or like Hugh Heffner smoking jackets.  I also jokingly, but actually totally seriously, asked him, “So what’s the boner policy at lingerie parties?”  “Don’t get one,” he replied tersely.  Then the robes were more important than ever.

Helping Girls Shop for Lingerie

For some reason, Bobby and I accompanied a ton of the girls to the fancy mall so that they could go shopping for lingerie.  I thought the idea of being on hand to provide a male perspective to girls looking for skimpy underwear was a dream come true.  In reality, however, there are few responses that a slack-jawed 19 year-old boy can give to a lingerie-consumer requesting feedback (and none of them are particularly respectful).

Now at that point in my life, I wasn’t articulate enough to say things like:  “Women shouldn’t be viewed or treated like sex objects that exist solely for men’s amusement and gratification,” but something along those lines was clicking deep down inside of me.  I realized that these were more than just half-naked girls that I would soon be getting drunk with.  They were friends that I respected.  It was almost as if they were human beings equal to myself, you know?

After a few awkward moments of babbled feedback, Bobby and I absconded to the food court and ate meatball subs from Firehouse.

Bobby’s Weird Lime Chicken

The night of the party, the plan was for the boys to prepare dinner for the girls and then we would all part ways to get dolled up and go to this sexy underwear kegger.  Bobby took head chef duty, and we made this weird lime chicken that most people pushed around their plates politely before tossing into the trash.  Out of stubborn loyalty, I opted for seconds.  In a lifetime full of mistakes, this decision still stands prominently within the regret regions of my brain.

Unsurprisingly, Bobby and I were stripped down and ready to go to the party within minutes and the girls took much longer.  To be honest, I don’t remember all that much of the actual event once we got there.  I remember puking in the bathroom after just a few beers and being a good enough friend not to immediately blame Bobby’s Weird Lime Chicken.  I remember different scantily-clad girls sitting in my lap on the balcony next to the keg.  There really wasn’t any intra-KITT drama at that point, so it was a pretty tame affair as far as shit shows go.

The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery

Most importantly, however, I remember The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery ever to draw breath within our douche bag infested world.  He strutted around the small apartment with his chest puffed out and his arms held away from his sides like some kind of monkey with vertigo.  “I go to the gym a lot!” his body language shouted.  His hair was thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly gelled into spikes.  He wore sunglasses.  Inside.  At night.  Indoors.  At this nocturnal event.  Where there was no sun.  His heart boxers were cute but cliche.  But here’s the best part:  He wore about a half dozen Magnum condoms around his constantly-flexed bicep as a kind of arm band.  I wish I was a talented enough writer to make this up.

Naturally, I played him in beer pong.  Occasionally in a long-tenured beer pong career, you will encounter complaints that the cups don’t have enough beer in them.  The result is that they move around when the ball hits the side and the movement prevents the shot from going in.  It’s a real complaint, albeit an insulting one to make to someone far more interested in beer than pong.  The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery claimed that under filled cups were the cause of his beer pong mediocrity.  Every time.  After every shot that bounced off the cups and didn’t go in:  “Is there even any beer in that cup?”  I’m certain that if he acted this way at every party he attended, it was only a matter of time before someone’s fist decided that he had too many teeth in his mouth.

I don’t remember who won that game.  It doesn’t matter.  Pong is just a game.  Beer is a form of enlightenment.

I do remember my partner from the beer pong game sitting in my lap on the balcony later that evening.  The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery, who had been hitting on her and being brutally rebuffed throughout our entire game, strutted stupidly out to where we sat and asked her to grab him a beer.  She laughed in his face.  He grabbed his own beer and dumped it on her (and on me by proxy).  Everyone was on their feet and I don’t remember how I talked this girl out of altering some of his facial features.  I think I was standing in between the two of them and lightly shepherding the douche bag into the apartment, but I’m a pretty non-confrontational guy who totally panics in situations like that, so defusing this bomb was most likely entirely accidental.

The douche left eventually and we all kept partying and having a great time, despite Bobby’s weird lime chicken.

When Fate Graces You with an Apology

A few months later, The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery landed the task of going door to door in college apartment complexes for some reason or other.  I was hanging out with the girl that he dumped beer on when the douche knocked on the door.  He said his piece on whatever it was that he was doing and then awkwardly apologized for that night.  I laughed at it at the time, but now I know how rare it is to hear apologies from random shitheads that you cross paths with in life.  The potential divinity of the moment completely eluded me in that moment, but really, what are the odds of him knocking on that door in that apartment complex precisely at that moment when I was hanging out over there?

I wouldn’t be enlightened enough to see it this way for hundreds more beers.

The Greatest First Date Ever

Standard

Somehow or other, I managed to bounce back from the catastrophe of The Last Girl I Ever Led On relatively quickly.  And by “bouce back,” I mean “found another girl.”

Before I get into all of that, however, I have to explain my headspace after Spring Semester ended that first year of college.  I had overcome a lot of my own faults and had managed to finally make some really close friends.  This triumph was tempered by several romantic failures.

Somehow, my failures in the girl department accompanied by my victories in the friend department made me feel like a good guy that no one was giving a chance.  In short, I felt mopey and “unlovable.”  This was exacerbated by the departure of the vast majority of the on-campus population for the first half of the Summer semester.  It was a lot of time alone in my own head.

I felt like I was probably a catch and I wanted girls to notice how much of a keeper I was, so naturally I decided to develop flashy skills to impress them.  Why couldn’t I meet a nice girl?  Because I didn’t know how to give proper massages, I reasoned.  Why weren’t the pretty ladies that I was so kind to interested in more than friendship?  Because I wasn’t yet a master chef, of course.

Summer-long projects that began immediately after I said farewell to my friends included:  learning to cook, and teaching myself the basics of massage therapy.  I read an entire freaking textbook on massage and learned legitimate techniques and terminology.  Then, I christened my new Resident Assistant apartment with some cheap kitchen equipment and started trying to recreate the meals that my mom raised me on (which of course she had no recipes for because she memorized the directions and eyeballed all of the measurements).  These new skills would undoubtedly make me a lovable dude.

That’s when I met Meryl (not her real name, of course).  She was a friend of my friend Wendy (who was part of my doomed group of friends).  Both girls lived in Orlando, but Meryl went to school in Tampa (an hour south of Orlando).

After hanging out with Wendy, Meryl, and another girl one night, I got some phone numbers.  These would come in handy once Wendy left for a Summer-long internship elsewhere.

I decided to test out my cooking progress by inviting Meryl and the other girl over for dinner one night.  It wasn’t a date (though that would have been cool because it was two girls).  We ate dinner, made dessert, and watched a movie.  Other girl dozed off and eventually ended up sleeping in my bed (this was a studio apartment).

Meryl and I stayed up until like 6 AM talking while I massaged her.  There was no booze, or sexy time hullabaloo involved, just pure conversation.  Meryl seemed like an interesting girl and she was fun to look at, so that didn’t hurt either.  Eventually they departed that next morning and I was all gooey and infatuated.

The next weekend, I went home to Alabama to see my family before the full swing of all things Resident Assistant began that semester.  At one point during that trip, my grandmother randomly gave me a $100 bill for absolutely no damn reason whatsoever.  I was so excited about it that I forgot to ask my mom if my grandmother was sick or gonna die or something.  That’s how random this $100 bill was.  Mom confirmed that everything was cool, and to this day my grandmother’s rationale for giving me that money is a mystery.

That’s not really what this story is about, though.  With that Big Face Ben Franklin hot in my pocket, I decided to ramp up my courtship of Meryl.  I was gonna drop that whole bill on one magical night to impress this pretty girl.  Then she would HAVE to admit that I’m not “unlovable” (my word, not anything she ever said).

I began doing my research, finding out her favorite foods and flowers from Wendy and asking my guy friends for recommendations on where to take her.  I was lucky enough that she agreed to let me take her on a date to begin with, so I knew that I had to really do it right so that maybe I could get a second date out of it.

For starters, I spent a solid chunk of my first paycheck as an RA to get my car washed and detailed.  I went all out and did it big.  Somehow it cost me $80, which is madness, but I was younger then and probably got hustled.

Now, let me lay out for you how the date proceeded:

I arrived at Meryl’s mom’s house dressed as well as I did back then (probably like khakis and a short-sleeved button down).  As Meryl answered the door looking way better than I did, she was greeted by a big, beautiful Sunflower (her favorite).  Looking back on it, I wish she had a different favorite flower.  Sunflowers tend to come in pots of dirt (because they are big and ridiculous so they make for strange bouquets).  She smiled, thanked me, took the enormous-flower-and-dirt-bucket-combo and put that sucker inside so that we could continue on our merry way.

We had early dinner reservations because those were all that were available at the California Grill atop Disney World’s Contemporary Resort.  This place was NICE.  Had I been able to make my reservations for later at night, we could have watched Magic Kingdom’s closing fireworks show as we dined on fancy food.  Instead, we just enjoyed the awesome cuisine and atmosphere and I picked up the enormous check.  If we had been over 21 at the time, I would probably still be paying off that bill today, but since we couldn’t order booze it wasn’t all that bad.  This restaurant was recommended to me by my best friend, Bobby (shout out).

After dinner, we went to her favorite ice cream place.  I think it was called “Twisty Treat.”  I don’t really remember.  It’s the chain that has buildings shaped like giant ice cream cones.  You can’t miss it.

Once we finished our ice cream, I drove her out to Shaq’s neighborhood and we hung out on a playground in an enormous neighborhood of McMansions.  It wasn’t technically a “fancy” thing to do, but I thought it was neat and she humored me.

Now, you may not think that this sounds all that extravagant.  I have to remind you that I was 19.  I’m not a terribly “together” person when it comes to things like this.  I’m more the type of guy that sometimes forgets to put on pants.  This was a big freaking deal for me, and Meryl seemed to notice and appreciate that every step of the way.

Until I went to drop her off.

I walked her to her door, she told me that she had a great time.  I leaned in for a kiss and she dodged me, mumbling something of an apology as she countered with an awkward hug and then went the hell in her house and shut the door.

I was totally confused.  I really thought that I was doing well the whole night.  Meryl was a semi-religious girl, so I figured maybe she doesn’t kiss on first dates.  Maybe she likes to take things slow.  Like really slow.  Really, really, really slow.

I was probably misogynist for thinking this way, but I really felt like I earned a kiss after that date.  She didn’t even have to like me or ever go out with me again.  I just needed that kiss first, then she could feel free to bring on the rejection.

I called her a couple times after that, and she never responded again.  Wendy told me to give her space.  Whatever happened after that was never really explained to me.  We just never talked again. She had probably forgotten about me by the time that flower wilted, a symbol of our date – big, extravagant and impractical but destined to wither into nothing, leaving only a plain old pot of dirt.

It certainly didn’t chase away that feeling of being “unlovable!”  I mean this was the best game that I had to offer at the time and it STILL wasn’t good enough.  To this day, I still have her Elephant Man and It’s a Wonderful Life DVDs for some reason.  Those are some decent films, but I’d be willing to give them back should she ever come around with an explanation for why I didn’t get a kiss after that $100 date.

On a side note, I was experiencing technical difficulties with my phone during this short courtship.  It was a Motorola Razor.  You know, the ones that are only seconds away from breaking irreparably the moment you take them out of the package.  The hardware problems really forced me into some strange situations creatively.  You see, the 2 key didn’t work and these were the olden days of texting.  You texted by pushing 2 once for “a,” twice for “b,” three times for “c” and so on and so forth with the other keys and other letters.

Try texting someone without using the letters A-C.  It gets weird.  Quick.  One time I wanted to ask her if she wanted me to come over and give her a massage.  I did my best without those letters, ending up with:  “Rub you in your house?” – only that didn’t work either because of the “b” in “rub.”  Instead I opted to called her – but had I actually sent that text, I would at least know why she stopped talking to me!

 

The Last Girl I Ever Led On

Standard

Sometimes I look back on my adolescence and wonder if I was a budding sociopath.  I wasn’t killing critters or anything, but throughout middle school and high school I had a bad habit of leading girls on.  Sometimes it was by accident.  Other times I knew exactly what I was doing, but I didn’t quit because I enjoyed the attention – despite the fact that I wasn’t interested in the girl giving it to me.

It’s horrible.  I don’t condone it.  I’ve considered writing a series of posts apologizing to each and every one of these girls.  If The Brantley Blog has one purpose, it’s for me to take a good hard look at the steps I took to grow up, even (and especially) the embarrassing ones.

This story begins in the awkward aftermath of my Mallory saga.  After the dust settled and the permanence of the friend zone was established, I was hesitant to get my heart set on any one girl in particular again for a little while.  I tried to be a little more guarded with my love disbursement.

This led me to pursue four girls at once all at half speed, rather than one at full speed.  Not to diminish the unique character of each of these lovely ladies, but I will list them (in no particular order) A-D because most of them come back around and feature prominently in later points of my journey.

Girl A:  A social butterfly semi-interested in me but devoting a lot of attention to masking her penchant for drama.  I overheard her telling an acquaintance about the other guy that she preferred over me.  This is prime, Grade-A Brantley that we’re talking about here, ladies.  Even amidst my self-esteem struggles, I wasn’t interested in being the backup plan boyfriend.  Most telling of the whole experience was the look on her face when I asked about the other guy.  Talk about caught red-handed!

Girl B:  The most amazing girl in the entire world, The One…only not just yet.

Girl C:  A girl that became less attractive the more I got to know her, the lack of interest was mutual, though we remained friends.

Girl D:  The Last Girl I Ever Led On.

These lovely ladies weren’t necessarily listed in order of importance (duh), but Girl D was Girl D for a reason.  I was least interested in her.  So naturally, she was the most interested in me!

A petite girl with big blue eyes and an innocent sense of humor that betrayed her immaturity anytime she tried to make a dirty joke, Girl D and I met through her roommate Maggie – Star of one of my favorite posts:  The Awkwardest Lunch Conversation.  Ever.

D was involved with the Campus Activities Board movie club, which hosted almost weekly screenings in the Pegasus Ballroom (seriously, I have no idea why anyone would go to a school other than UCF).  The club also distributed passes to sneak previews of movies at the nearby multiplex.  At the invitation of Maggie and Mallory, I began attending these events regularly because they were equal parts free and awesome.  D and I got to know each other in this way, and despite her initial periphery within my burgeoning and doomed group of friends, she and Maggie eventually became regulars at all of our shenanigans.

With only about a month before Summer, I began spending time alone with D.  She was from up north and she didn’t have a car, so I chauffeured her around and relished in her boredom when neither of us felt like leaving campus.

The first whiffs of crazy came when I overheard her talking to her parents on the phone.  She reverted to full blown 13-year-old bratty teenage girl caricature within just a few sentences from her dad.  It wasn’t attractive.  At all.

Further emphasizing this immaturity was her picky toddler eating habits.  Our group of friends would have a meal together and she would always have to be accommodated, because she pretty much only ate chicken tenders and plain pasta with parmesan cheese.

This is where my tendency to lead girls on reared its ugly head.  I should have bailed, either telling her I wasn’t interested (like a grown up), or just avoiding her and pretending like she didn’t exist anymore (like a 19 year-old Brantley).

Instead, I went to SeaWorld with her.

And her parents.

It was miserable.  She bickered with her dad the entire time.  Right in front of me.  Right in front of everyone at SeaWorld.  Constantly.

At this point, you might be picturing her parents as evil-ass people.  They weren’t.  They were regular-ass parents.  Her dad would tease her and pick at her, not in a cruel or pointedly mean way, but it got perfectly under her skin every single time.  Maybe he was a bad person, because that never stopped him from continuing to do it to my sole embarrassment (I don’t think that she or her family bothered to become self-conscious).

Another enormous red flag was that night at mini-golf when I was joking around with Girl B:  The One.  It was harmless (or so we thought), but we always flirted all the time every single second that we were within flirting range of each other.  This didn’t go over well with D, but I didn’t even realize it at that particular moment.  See, she had been on and off the phone with her parents that night, so I assumed that her dad was making her upset, not me.

Don’t worry, D and I talked it through…after she sulked silently in the back seat of my car the entire drive home (30 min+) to the palpable social discomfort of the other two passengers and me.  As we approached campus, sobs began to bubble forth from that little perpetually sad place inside her.  By the time I parked, she bolted out of the car as tears started to pour from her eyes.  Remember, I had no freaking clue what this was about.

I was in a bad spot.  I didn’t want to be a bad guy, so I kept trying to repair this girl and make her happy again even though I really, really, really, really, really didn’t want to be with her.  Eventually, we had to sit down and talk about the whole mess.

Summer was fast approaching, and soon she would be on a plane headed north and I would be moving across the street to a different dorm.  I figured, “Why bother treating this girl like a human being and telling her I’m not interested?  That would be kinda uncomfortable and grossly mature.”  So I told her, “Summer’s coming up, so let’s not do this right now.  Maybe next Fall?” with absolutely no intention of maybe revisiting this next Fall.  She agreed.

That settled it.

NOT.

We parted ways, the whole group of friends committing to stay in contact through Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger (God I feel old right now).

D lurked on AIM, day and night.  She waited for my screen name to pop up.  Once it did, she ambushed me within 3.5 seconds of me signing on.

We weren’t in a relationship.  I never kissed this girl or did anything that I couldn’t take back or anything that would complicate me not dating her.  I thought Summer would give me a clean break.  It did not.  She still came to me with her problems and I talked to her but I never knew what to say.  She was always determined to stay upset.  There was no cheering her up.  Ever.  Eventually, I started responding to her messages less and less.

That’s when she started harassing our friends about us.  Soon after, I was bullied by just about everyone I knew to cut her loose rather than leaving her hanging for the next three months.  It was that obvious that I didn’t want to be with her.

And so I manned up and let her know that I wasn’t interested.  Through AOL Instant Messenger.

Totally not cool, I know.  I was a coward.  I stopped using AIM for a long time after that.  Without a Brantley to take out her incessant upset-ness on, D started bashing me to our friends.  And I mean bashing.  You have to remember the immaturity factor.

Examples of how I ruined her life:

She could no longer find joy in SeaWorld.  I ruined that for her because we went there with her parents that one time.

At the time, I wore cheap flannel jackets when it was cold out.  I called them “Lumberjackets.”  She promptly developed a hatred of that pattern.

She once cried when she saw a Dr. Pepper commercial (this beverage was quite the vice for me for a long time).  Cried.  Tears spewed forth.  From an emotional response.  To a Dr. Pepper commercial.

D had crafted a strange collage of every semi-interesting or clever thing that I ever said in her presence.  It was now practically ruined by salty, heartbroken, malicious, confused tears.

Most of these things she spewed to The One, who eventually decided she had had enough.  “Brantley’s a good guy.  You’re being crazy,” she told D (I’m totally paraphrasing, but this is probably accurate because my girl is the kindest person on the planet).  Soon D was complaining about both of us to all of our friends as she concocted conspiracy theories about how our flirtation was far more insidious than it actually was at the time.

Girl D was the last girl I would ever lead on.  I decided that even before realizing that I already knew the love of my life.  What seemed to be crazy behavior at the time looks even more insane now.  I think that if this had happened to me today, I would now have enough sense to fear for my life.

I shouldn’t be so harsh about her.  She certainly had a lot of issues, but I was somehow managing to exacerbate all of them.  It was one part god-complex (determination to cheer her up and fix her) and one part cowardice (too chicken shit to let her know the truth – that I didn’t want to date her).  What started off as an amusing, albeit manipulative game on my part landed me in exactly what I deserved:  a lot of freaking social turmoil.

Next Post:  A rebounding Brantley finds $100 in his pocket and concocts a foolproof plan to impress a girl.  

 

Pen Pals and Taking People for Granted

Standard

Throughout the more enjoyable parts of my second semester of college (which by no coincidence happened to be the parts that flew by the most), I dumped life updates on a girl from back home via Facebook messages.

Recently, I went as far back as Facebook allowed and dug up those messages (these are all 5-6 years old now).  I have no idea how this correspondence started.  The first message I was able to locate was referring to the turning point in an ongoing saga with a girl.  The way it was written indicates that this pen pal from back home, Jane, was up to speed before that fateful night.

The gist of it is this:  I really liked an unavailable girl.  She became available after ending a long relationship, but I didn’t want her to feel rushed into anything so I held back.  A forgettable jerk swooped in.  I ended up in the friend zone, desperate enough to confront her with my feelings and get turned down.  Just about all of our friends were mutual, so I couldn’t avoid her after having my heart kinda broken a little bit, etc.  Click some of those blue underlined words for the full story.

Jane was there, listening to the play by play, offering kind words and advice (most of which I didn’t take).  She was a few years younger than me, so she was a Junior in high school at the time.  We knew each other from a Drama 1 class that I took in Junior year that was heavily populated by freshman girls that thought I was so awesome just for the fact that I was a little bit older than they were.  I was kinda interested in Jane at the time, but didn’t want to put up with the inevitable teasing I would have had to endure for dating a freshman.  She was kinda interested too, but assumed that nothing would ever happen between us.  Honestly, we didn’t talk that much after that one drama class.  As I said before, I have no idea how this correspondence came to be, but it was an absolute life saver for me.

And yet I treated her like an interactive diary, something I wrote in purely for myself with no expectation or acknowledgement of a response.  All of our communication was extremely one-sided.  I dumped all of my drama on her and she responded almost exclusively to it without adding anything personal about herself.  On the rare occasion that she brought up her own baggage, it was always prefaced with an apology for talking about herself and then transparently framed as being relevant and similar to what I was going through.

The girl that turned me down, Mallory, was literally everywhere after she turned me down.  I didn’t want to lose her as a friend and I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to hold her disinterest in dating me against her, but I had a lot of trouble letting things go back to normal.

Jane was there for me through the whole process, and when it was all resolved with a heart to heart conversation between Mallory and me, I terminated our Facebook thread.  Literally.  I said, “I had a great talk with Mallory.  Everything is going to be fine now.  No more need for this message.  Don’t bother responding.”

Re-reading that part made me nauseas.  I don’t want to see myself as a self-centered guy, and I certainly didn’t see that in myself back then.  Those first years of college, I did everything I could to be there for people, especially when it cost me my own personal health and sanity.  I had some bizarre sense of showing love and compassion through self-sacrifice at the time:  If you truly love someone, show it by letting them make your life a living hell.

But none of that effort applied to Jane, who never caused me even the slightest inconvenience, let alone the full blown drama cyclone that my then-friends were brewing.

If my disregard for our friendship wasn’t self-centered enough, I consistently read between the lines that Jane was probably totally in love with me.  We had talked openly about how things never happened back in high school and I was always so insanely honest with her, so I brought it up.  She asked what I was referring to when I mentioned that some of the things she wrote made it sound like she was still interested in being more than friends.  I reread every word of every sentence and provided her with several instances.  She jokingly called me an egomaniac and I didn’t deny it in that moment.

Then she sent me an amazing care package to help me get over Mallory.  Seriously though, parents don’t love their own offspring enough to put together a care package this epic.  I lost count of how many baked goods there were.  Cookies, pastries, a whole damn pie, I think some kind of cake.  It was ludicrous.  And so, so delicious.

Beyond fattening me up with so much lovingly made food, she made me a very funny collage that moved from dorm to dorm with me for the next year.  At the time, I had a big crush on Hayden Panettiere of Heroes.  I joked that I was going to marry her when I moved to Hollywood and became a big shot after college.  Jane made a collage of Hayden photos next to photos of me with all kinds of goofy love messages (and Hayden’s name as a hyphenate:  Panettiere-Newton).  It was hilarious and creative and it made me smile every time I looked at it, which is why I put it right next to my desk to keep me company every time I did homework.

All of my friends from back home were convinced that Jane was madly in love with me (especially the ones in Orlando that I shared the sweets with).  I told them that she said she wasn’t and I took her word for it.  I have no idea how I would have pursued anything with this girl even if I had wanted to.  Starting off as a long-distance couple is crazy daunting.  Plus, she was underage and I was nineteen.  I don’t know the legal ramifications of that and it makes me feel icky even contemplating them.  Everything would have been extremely complicated, and it probably would have gotten in the way of where I was headed with the girl I was meant to be with.

About five failed girl pursuits later, I revived my correspondence with Jane.  We picked up right where we left off, as if I hadn’t told her to shut the hell up and stop being supportive when I whined to her several months ago.

I brought her up to speed on everything.  There was the drama queen girl that flirted while she tried to hide from me the fact that she was talking to another guy.  Then a girl that I was curious about but soon found out that neither of us were interested.  The love of my life was mixed in there too, but that wouldn’t develop into anything for several more months.  There was the blonde girl that I took out on the most magical first date ever in the history of broke college guys trying really hard to impress girls (she didn’t even let me kiss her good night and then she never returned my calls after that night).

Most catastrophically, though, was the last girl that I ever led on.  It started off as something with potential.  When I realized I didn’t want it to become anything, rather than being a man and telling this girl, I just said “Well you’re going home for Summer break, so no need to get involved right now!”  This completely blew up in my face.

Jane sat there and read my half-ass retelling of these events (seriously, I didn’t even bother with capitalization or proper punctuation).  I got a lot of enjoyment out of sharing them with her.  It made me feel super interesting.  She never really got a word in that wasn’t in direct reference to something that I wanted us to talk about.

We stopped talking for a while over the Summer.  She stopped returning my messages.  I think she was a counselor at a Summer camp, but I can’t know for sure because I never even tried to get to know her better.  To further emphasize how little I cared about her feelings, it never even occurred to me back then that she may be fed up with my crap and my selfishness.

By the time she responded again, my group of friends with nothing in common had bonded firmly and were now falling apart over everyone meddling in each others’ problems and relationships.  I, of course, insisted on trying to fix everything (remember – I had a twisted idea of love meaning self-sacrifice).  Jane told me that I couldn’t and that I was only stressing myself out trying.  I didn’t listen, I just wanted to be heard.  All of that blew up in my face, but I know that it could have been worse.  So many of my friends were complaining about each other to each other, spewing additional negativity and strife into the group.  I was puking all of mine onto Jane through our Facebook messages.  By using her as an outlet, I kept myself from pumping more bad stuff into an already toxic mix.

I can’t emphasize enough the extent to which this girl was there for me.  She never asked anything in return, and I never offered anything.

This part makes me the saddest:  I told her about Kaitlin, the love of my life, and how I had fallen for her over the Summer.  I detailed all of our first days of dating to Jane.  She was my cheerleader, that one little Jimminy Cricket voice telling me that I deserved something good when I was having difficulty valuing myself.

I told Jane details about my new relationship that normally would have been about a thousand miles outside my comfort zone.  I guess I thought about Jane so little that I never feared her judgement.  Maybe I just felt safe, safer than I have with any other friend before or since.

Our last messages to each other were in November of 2008.  I sent her a note on her birthday, which just happened to be ten days before mine.  It was nice for almost a whole paragraph, but then it became all about me and my drama again.  I wrapped up with a hollow mention about trying to see each other over Thanksgiving break.

She replied on my birthday with a message almost all about me, mostly responding to my self-centered rant in the middle of the birthday wishes I sent her way.  Just before all of this, she mentioned that she wasn’t doing anything for her birthday.  She was having trouble with her friends and would probably just be spending the day alone at home with her parents.  I didn’t ask for elaboration.  After everything that she was there for me through, I didn’t even ask her if she wanted to talk about it.

I vaguely remember something that she wrote on my Facebook wall some time later.  “Remember when we were friends?  Me neither.”  I don’t remember how much time had passed.  Somehow the harshness of it seemed an unprovoked mystery to me at the time.

If there’s one thing my dwindling population of friends in college taught me, it’s that decent folks are extremely rare.  If you find someone that genuinely cares about you and puts up with you at your worst, cherish them.  Realize how important they are to you.  For God’s sake, let them know!

I haven’t had many friends like Jane, and I’m not sure that I will find many more.  I truly regret letting her vanish from my life.

I know that this post refers to several instances that are just barely halfway described.  More details are coming, I promise!  Stay tuned for next week’s post:  ‘The Last Girl I Ever Led On’.

“Kids These Days”: How Criticism of Millennials Might Reshape Your Retirement

Standard

The Call:

A few mornings ago I was listening to one of those entertainment talk radio shows that dominate the AM hours.  This was a Wednesday, when the program featured a special segment where hosts read aloud listeners’ email rants and then brought on air the rant’s author to explain their opinion/grievance/gripe/hot air or whatever they decided to spew forth into the world to help eradicate that whole “faith in humanity” problem that some people seem to have.

The point is to feature guests with unpopular opinions.  Listeners get pissed off and call in to speak their mind and sling a little mud.  It’s actually surprisingly civil.  The hosts screen the calls beforehand and they don’t connect callers directly with the curmudgeonly guest, allowing for mediation.  As soon as it gets to personal attacks, the hosts cut it off.

All in all, I believe the process of getting pissed off over the fact that someone has a different opinion is a pretty useless thing to do.  When I feel myself getting worked up, I cool down by putting things into perspective:  This is a total stranger on a silly radio show.  I will probably never meet them and their opinions will most likely never affect me.

This week’s guest was a fellow that loved to write into this particularly multi-cultured radio show to share his racism, homophobia, misogyny, and all kinds of other bile.  The hosts could never get this fine specimen of throwback intolerance to call in and defend his reprehensible opinions.

Until this particular Wednesday.

“Kids these days…” he started.

“Kids these days don’t want to work.”

“Kids these days are entitled.”

“Kids these days just want everything handed to them.“

“Kids these days are lazy.”

“Kids these days refuse to start at the bottom and work their way up.”

“Kids these days have parents that do everything for them and they can’t take care of themselves.” 

And so on and so forth.

Noteworthily, he ended with a mention that college grads should be willing to clean toilets and mop and that it angered him that they felt above such janitorial tasks.  

As I said, I try not to let the existence of people with different opinions get under my skin, especially people as petty and inconsequential as this man who makes time to write bigoted diatribes every week and send them to a local radio morning show.  But he still managed to really get to me.

Maybe it was the fact that I woke up at 6 am to run 5 miles that morning.  

Maybe it was the fact that I was on my way to work an 11-hour shift.

Maybe it was the fact that I deliver pizzas for a living.

Maybe it was the fact that I spent all of my years in public schools taking the most challenging classes available to me and working my ass off to make good grades.

Maybe it was the fact that I scored high enough on the SAT, achieved a 4.8 GPA, and volunteered for 75 hours to earn my full-ride scholarship for college.

Maybe it was the fact that throughout college (in addition to being a full-time student), I worked a part time job 25-30+ hours every week while also taking on unpaid internships.  This lazy bum right here pulled 60-hour weeks (this doesn’t include hours spent on homework and term papers) in order to get prepared for the “real world.”

Maybe it was the fact that I graduated college in the top 10% of my class.

Maybe it was the fact that after graduation employers told me that my college degree had no value and that I needed to work for them for free to gain experience before anyone would pay me.  

Maybe it was the fact that most friends my age worked just as hard because our parents told us that a college degree would open doors for us in life, and now our parents and people their age are telling us that we are entitled because we want jobs. 

Entitled.  For wanting jobs.  For wanting to work.  How the hell does that even make sense?

It could have been any of those things.  It was probably all of them.  That’s why this garbage pisses me off when it really shouldn’t.

You can criticize me in a lot of ways.

You can tell me that my optimism is naive.

You can tell me that my ambitions are silly.

You can tell me that I’m not unique, that there are thousands of others just like me.

You can tell me that I’m arrogant, that I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am.

You can tell me that my compassion isn’t practical and that someday I will outgrow it.  

I’ll take those criticisms, the same way that people my age have always taken criticisms from people your age.

But don’t call me lazy.  I’m too tired and cranky from my textbook not-lazy lifestyle to put up with that.

You know what I do for fun?  I run 26.2 miles.  Don’t lecture me about motivation.

Don’t call me entitled when my whole life I’ve been told that employers would value me once I earned my college degree.  If my parents had raised me to believe that four years of busting my butt to get a higher education would result in me mopping and cleaning toilets, I wouldn’t have bothered.

The Culprits:

People that criticize an entire chunk of our population based solely on the years in which they were born need to take a good hard look at themselves.  This gentleman that called into the radio show had previously refused to open his racism, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, hatred, ignorance, intolerance up to criticism.  It wasn’t until he decided to tackle the issue of “Kids these days” that he felt safe enough to face listeners that might disagree with him.  Why is it more okay for you to hate people based on their age than based on their gender, race, or sexual preference?

As I said before, this segment in the morning show is very well-conducted and it stays surprisingly civil.  This man’s peers called in to (halfway) disagree with him:

“My kids aren’t like that.  I raised them right, but I still agree that lazy ‘Kids these days’ out there in droves.”

“I know a lot of people that don’t fit into that mold, but I still see where you’re coming from.”

“It’s not the whole generation, just the ones that weren’t raised right.”

Notice any pattern here?  People buy into this notion that “Kids these days” are going to be the downfall of our world, and yet the “Kids these days” that they actually know don’t fit the stereotype.  It’s anecdotal, I know, but isn’t exposure to people of different groups the best way to end bigotry?  How many intelligent, hard-working, motivated “Kids these days” do you have to personally know before you stop automatically looking down your nose at the ones that you’ve never met?

It’s so easy to fear the menacing, ambiguous “THEY,” but once you meet one of “THEM,” aren’t you supposed to be smart enough to recognize that lumping huge groups together based on superficial criteria results in a monumentally useless worldview?

The Conspiracy Theory:

Finally, let me posit my nifty conspiracy theory on this issue.

There are many people in our country that would love to curb entitlement spending, Social Security included.  Some of them have unfathomable resources and platforms in the channels that guide our public dialogue.

Isn’t there a possibility that they’re playing both of us?

They’re turning soon-retirees against the people that will continue paying into Social Security.

And the bigotry isn’t lost on younger workers:

“According to a Pew Research survey taken earlier this year, just 6% of Millennials say they expect to receive full Social Security benefits when they retire. Fully half say they expect to get  nothing at all.”

People my age are buying into the gloom and doom outlook that so many project for our country.  How long do you think we will stew on our cynical expectations for Social Security before we decide to just liquidate the whole trust to pay off some of that National Debt that we will inherit from our parents and grandparents?

Imagine a world in which those retirement benefits that you paid into your entire life were wiped out.  That’s the world that Millennials are imagining.  Why wait until we get screwed over?  Why not go ahead and cut the cord right now?

After all, it will only affect that generation that spits on us and calls us lazy as we toil to find our way in a world that tells us that we have no value.

The Answer:

I personally don’t believe in liquidating Social Security, but a demographic that is being constantly derided and held under thumb might find the notion pretty appealing.

Anyone that clicked through and read the Pew Research link knows that “Generational War” is fairly overstated and that the majority of Americans aren’t buying into it.  I’m merely pointing out the danger of a cultivated animosity between age demographics.

I believe that there does not exist a single challenge in the history of mankind that our country can’t overcome.  You can tell me that my optimism is naive.

Just remember that when you call me lazy, when you call people with similar experiences to me lazy with no supporting evidence other than our birthdate, you are raising your hand to be counted amongst the ignorant.  And you might just be kicking a hornet’s nest that is resting right next to your retirement.

Stop.

Instead let’s start a new group, one comprising of all ages:  Americans willing to work together to solve our nation’s problems and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,  people old and young that believe in our collective ability to solve our problems and look out for each other.

No more “Kids these days” – only united Americans open-minded and militantly loyal to each other.

 

Memorable Classes: Script Analysis

Standard

Peg was a strange bird and she taught a variety of somewhat-dry classes with all of the flair and drama that you would expect of someone with her stage acting credentials.

If the word pairing “Script Analysis” doesn’t conjure boredom for you, let me elaborate.  The class covered three units, three schools of thought on storytelling.

The first followed Aristotle’s Poetics, a breezy read that emphasized the importance of Plot (yes even above Character).  It was supposedly the first book about storytelling ever written, though being the loquacious type that he was, I’m sure Aristotle opted to go around talking about his ideas rather than shutting his trap long enough to jot them down himself so there was probably an unpaid intern that deserved a little bit of credit too.

The second unit delved into Lajos Egri’s Art of Dramatic Writing.  It was a dusty old book that you can buy for a nickel on Amazon.  Written in the mid 1940s, Egri’s book focused primarily on stage plays as his source work.  Regardless of the minor irrelevances for my film education that this bred, his notion of character-driven storytelling was revolutionary at the time and is still what we pretend to be aiming for with our screenplays and novels to this day.  Granted sometimes as writers we have to indulge a little bit and make the T-Rex inexplicably kill the Velociraptors.  Sure it’s Deus Ex Machina, but “Forget it Jake, it’s dinosaurs.”  <- Sorry, but we read the script for Chinatown in this class too.

The third unit was based on a blustery tome written by a pretentious windbag:  Story by Robert “Deuce Muffin” McKee.  That’s not his real middle name.  Well it might be, but I doubt it.  By the way, a “Deuce Muffin” is a muffin that is poop.  It’s probably not a real thing.  I might have made it up just now.

If you’ve seen the brilliant film, Adaptation, then you know Bob McKee as the man that killed that movie’s extremely engaging voiceover.  His work was very film-centric, and while it was good and useful, his tone was haughty and he liked to pretend that all of his rules and tips and guidelines were laws of physics that couldn’t possibly be defied by mere mortals such as you and me.

The spinal cord of the class was a series of criticisms that we had to write about a specific script that we chose at the beginning of the semester.  I chose 25th Hour, by David Benioff (currently of Game of Thrones fame, but this was long before that).  It had been produced and directed by Spike Lee, one of my favorites at the time.  The story chronicles the missteps of Monty Brogan as he wraps up his affairs in his final 24 hours of freedom before reporting to jail for an enormous drug sentence.  The script is powerful, the film beautiful, the performances stunning (Edward Norton playing Monty, Rosario Dawson as his wife, Philip Seymour Hoffman as his dweeby teacher pal and Barry Pepper as his brash stockbroker friend).  Let’s not get sidetracked here – unless you need to step away from the computer to go watch this movie.

This was one of three classes where I began to notice certain familiar faces and made friends accordingly.  Johnny (of Evil Beer fame) chose either Donnie Darko or Edward Scissorhands.  I don’t remember which, only that I was insanely jealous because those are two of my absolute favorite movies of all time ever.

Elle (of the doomed imploding friendship) chose My Own Private Idaho – a film so masturbatory that anyone other than Gus Van Sant claiming to have enjoyed it is either:  A.  A Liar  B.  Gus Van Sant in disguise.  I’m sure there is a great deal of meaning in the flick, but to this day my friends and I only mock a handful of scenes in this bizarre tale of male prostitutes starring River Phoenix and Keanu “I Know Kung Fu” Reeves.  The point is this:  Elle wasn’t very smart, so she should have picked something a little more straight forward like Ice Age 2 or something.

Forcibly trumping the relevance of all of our academic endeavors as they pertained to this class was Midnight Cowboy.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Brantley, that guy has a name.  Surely his parents didn’t name him ‘Midnight Cowboy.’  That can’t possibly be on his birth certificate.”  And you may be right about that, but I’m telling the story and I haven’t given you enough information to produce documents to prove that this isn’t his name, or even that he was born in the United States as opposed to say, Kenya.

Well, Midnight Cowboy was writing his papers on, you guessed it, Midnight Cowboy.  (Trivia Aside – Midnight Cowboy is the only X-rated film ever to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards).  He sometimes had a little bit to contribute to the weekly class discussion, but most of the time he had everything to contribute to the weekly class discussion.  Don’t get me wrong.  He chose a rich film to write essays about, but I wasn’t being graded on his essays so listening to his oppressive hogging of one of my favorite professors got old.  Quick.

Anyways, I managed to squeak out an A in the class after rebounding from a C on my first for-real college paper.  Apparently Aristotle and I didn’t get along.

But the highlight of the class was Peg and her grand sense of characters and symbolism and metaphor and freaking everything in life.  Yes, even that model plane advertising the aviation museum where her husband worked.  It was grand too!  She was like Sally Bowles as played by Liza Minelli, only she didn’t provoke a bubbling rage within you every time she opened her mouth.

Years later I would watch Peg go HAM as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the most microscopic black box theater in the world.  Seriously, this thing was like those Mighty Max and Polly Pocket play sets with the little figurines that you always lost immediately.

How It Feels To Be Famous

Standard

Obviously I don’t really know how it feels to be famous.  I feel like we’re off to a great start here, reader who clicked this post because the title sounded interesting.

I have felt like the most interesting person in the room precisely twice in my life.  I figured I would share one instance with you before I get into the dirty details of just how catastrophically most of the friendships that I established in my first year of college came crashing down in the next several weeks’ posts.

After an ongoing successful execution of a New Year’s Resolution to be a better person, people that already knew me started to genuinely like me just a little bit.  People who didn’t already know me were a little less put off by my existence, making friendship an easier feat than it used to be when I wasn’t such a nice guy.

Being liked is a strange thing when it involves friends.  No, not “liked” that way (those of you using the middle school vernacular), but to be appreciated for your strangeness, individuality and contributions to a given friendship.

That’s weird to think about sometimes, because people put so much thought into their romantic pursuits and relationships.  They overanalyze every little nuance of their prey’s mannerisms in hopes of deciphering whether or not there is a reciprocal interest in maybe hanging out with no pants on sometime.

Friendship, on the other hand, is one of the most widely undervalued commodities in the human connection economy.  You can enjoy someone’s company tremendously without putting very much thought into whether or not they “get” you and all of your eccentricities, or if they would help you out if your car got towed while you were at an overcrowded Halloween Party.

That last bit was referring to Kalina, the roommate of an acquaintance from back home that I began hanging out with once I got down to college and struggled to make friends.  Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have judged her the type to drive my ass all over town to get my car back on such a rotten night.

All of this fluffy bullshit is building up to one particular moment.  Kalina had some friends from High School drive down to party with us one weekend.  They were from an area somewhere near University of Florida (home of countless insufferable sports fans).  These friends were  either two memorable girls or two memorable girls and a totally forgettable third.  I truly don’t remember if they were a duo or a trio, but if they were the latter I can’t picture this hypothetical third female’s face or recall a single thing about her.

Kalina had told me on multiple occasions how much she was looking forward to the weekend, so I was hanging out at her apartment when the friends arrived.  As they excitedly bounced up and down and hugged each other and shrilled like little girls at a sleepover, I stood back comfortably awkward as I awaited an introduction.

That’s when this bizarre feeling hit me.  “You must be Brantley.  Oh my God!  We’ve heard so much about you!”  I needed no introduction.  These girls already knew who I was.

That’s what it feels like to be famous.  The first time in my entire life that I ever saw these people, they knew who I was, had a few humorous anecdotes that they felt summed up my identity, and were happy to see me despite the fact that I had never intentionally or unintentionally done anything impressive within a 100 mile radius of them.

I don’t remember how I responded.  I was too cool to settle for the cliche “I hope you’ve only heard good things” line, but I also get sneaking suspicions that I was more clever back then, so maybe I nailed the response and immediately confirmed all of the nice things that Kalina had told them about me.

It was a bizarre out of body experience, similar to the time that girl wanted me to sleep with her for her boyfriend’s amusement.  I probably blushed and felt a sudden urge to drink heavily, but these girls liked me and thought I was cool and I didn’t have to do a damn thing to give them that faulty impression.

Anyways, I just wanted to share this upbeat moment that was one of my biggest social triumphs in this first year of college.  Some of the stories that happen next are going to get a little dark and frustrating.  I’ll do my best to keep them funny and I will definitely pepper in some lighthearted stuff as I go, but a lot of ravaged friendships really messed me up for a while and I’m just now getting to where I can laugh at them again so we will see how I do in recounting the crap carnival that is this blog’s destiny.

Stay tuned.  It’s about to get uncomfortable but interesting.

 

Memorable Classes: History of Motion Pictures

Standard

What would all of these old college stories be without a few anecdotes from the actual classes I took?  Despite this blog’s focus on everything else, I genuinely was in this thing for the higher education!

History of Motion Pictures was my very first film class.  It was a three-hour once-a-week class, one of two that I took in my first semester.  Now these sound magical in theory and for the most part they are, but it was quite a departure from the consistently 50-minutes/class period high school classes and those were only a few months behind me in my rearview mirror.  Three hours is a long time to be doing anything.  Whether or not a class like this is convenient or unbearable solely rests on the professor’s shoulders.

It’s not like I ever had much of a choice in whether or not to keep scheduling myself for this style of course.  All film classes were three hours once-a-week so as to allow for screenings and discussions (or it would have if not for some of my professors’ predilection for extremely long films).

History of Motion Pictures was one of the few classes that I took that were taught by actual film faculty, rather than adjuncts and graduate students.  The gentleman teaching it, Bob Jones (no really, that’s not an alias), was probably the oldest member of the film faculty.  He was easily in his late sixties, possibly in his early seventies (or maybe he just aged very poorly).

Though his hearing aid suggested some deterioration with age, you never would have known it from his sense of humor and surprisingly decent lectures.  For those who believe that all history is boring, I encourage you to study film history.  It’s full of larger than life characters, sex, debauchery, and ruthless business moguls.  It’s like Game of Thrones:  Capitalism edition.

That being said, like most of my film classes in enormous lecture halls, I rarely stayed for the movies.  He didn’t start us off on the right foot in terms of keeping us motivated to attend the second half of the class.  Our first film was Sunrise by F.W. Murneau.  It wasn’t bad, but I quickly discovered my short-attention span for silent films, and this one was really pushing it.

The second film made my decision for me.  D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance was a sweeping, epic apology piece (he had just faced harsh criticism for his last film, Birth of a Nation, which depicted a heroic Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction Era south).  It was like Crash for the 1920s movie goer.  There were multiple story lines, spanning multiple eras all tied together by a theme preaching tolerance for our fellow man.  Jesus even showed up for one of the subplots.  The set pieces were massive, a true testament to Hollywood’s showmanship back then.  I couldn’t watch it though.  The film quality made too many characters look alike, which made the switching from plot line to plot line impossible to follow.

If you haven’t seen the Netflix season of Arrested Development, (for starters, what the hell are you doing with your life?) there’s a character that is “Face Blind” – he can’t distinguish one face from another, meaning he can’t recognize people, not even his girlfriend or his own mother.  Well, imagine suffering this guy’s affliction and trying to follow Crash.  I couldn’t tell if that lady on the screen was a Suffragette or Mary Magdalene.  I walked out.

Sometimes I look back and feel bad about passing up on so many opportunities to watch incredible classic films such as these, especially because so many of them are hard to come by.   Back then, however, I was simply following my professor’s lead.  He appointed ushers and left a teaching assistant to run the films.  And then he left the lecture hall and went back to his office.

The most memorable thing about Bob Jones was his microphone.  He had somehow developed a comfort zone with his handheld, wired mic.  Remember, he was old.  When some yuppie AV administrative lackey decided to force onto him a lapel mic (the ones that you clip onto your shirt), he wouldn’t have it.  Instead, he attached that dainty little microphone to his old bulky one with some cardboard and tape.  He looked like a hobo MC, but that never seemed to bother him.

The Return of Heroes: Ordinary People with Extraordinary Abilities Doing Increasingly Ordinary Things

Standard

With the recent announcement that NBC will be reviving it’s once-great drama about ordinary people discovering that they have extraordinary abilities (Heroes) for a miniseries in 2015, I’ve taken a deep breath before weighing in on the judgmentally -challenged network’s decision.

For those unacquainted with the show, the first season of Heroes is without a doubt the greatest season-long story arc I’ve ever seen accomplished in a television series.  The second season was promising, but crippled by the Writer’s Guild strike, and thus half as good as the first.  But still I kept my hopes up for the Monday night event that I looked forward to all week.

“Heroes” was a story told in Volumes, with the first two seasons being Volumes 1 and 2.  The second half of season 2 was meant to be Volume 3, but it didn’t happen because of the WGA strike.  The third season consisted of Volume 3 and 4.  Volume 3 started out promising with an interesting new focus on some of the more vile people who had developed superhuman abilities, but the character arcs began to circle back on themselves and become repetitive.  This problem persisted through Volume 4, which had a far less promising premise.

By the time season 4 of Heroes infected a dwindling population of American television sets, true fans of the show were ready to take the series out back and shoot it.  It truly hurt to watch such a great show suffer so much.  The character arc problems continued and the pace at which they repeated themselves quickened.  The mythology unraveled.  It felt as if new writers were brought in and given only Spark Notes on the show.  There was no pay off, and the plot kept getting worse and worse.

In the words of Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory:  “Heroes gradually lowered the quality season by season until we were grateful it ended.”

All of this has been an elaborate set up for my own abusive relationship with the series.  I tried Heroes for the first time when my mom went to Alaska to visit my older brother and I was left home alone for several days.  I was just a high school kid, bored, looking for something to pass the time.  The pilot had me hooked.  I stayed up all night watching the first 8 episodes all in a row and arrived at my high school classes the next morning exhausted and hungover from my bender.

By the time I picked up on the series, Heroes was on that hiatus that most shows take around Christmas.  It wasn’t but a few more days before I was caught up with the first 12 episodes and faced with a long wait for the show’s return in January.  I used the gap to peer pressure my friends into joining my obsession, and soon we were gathered around, poorly supervised at someone’s grandparents’ house every Monday night, losing ourselves in Heroes.  This was my senior year of high school.

Before heading off to college, I purchased Season 1 on DVD.  After so many initial lonely nights alone in my room, I began my first failed attempts at branching out.  They all centered around people that I already knew and getting to know their roommates.  It was the lamest entry into the second degree of separation anyone has ever attempted.

One girl who had been in a few of my high school classes, Catherine, was living in an apartment off campus.  Catherine and I never really hung out, more of just – around each other.  We had some similar friends, one of my closest swimming friends in particular.  Those first months of college, we went on road trips to Gainesville to see our mutual friend, and actually kinda got to know each other a little better.

Soon I was showing up uninvited at her apartment, leaving perverted stick-figure comics on her roommates’ communal dry-erase board, and forcing my Heroes problem down their throat.  Catherine and one of her two normal random roommates, Kalina, both bit.  Their other normal roommate, Connie, was shy and had a separate group of friends but also joined us at first.  She soon fell off our break neck pace though, and then there were only three of us and frequent joiner, Luis from back home.

We tore through that first season, often watching four episodes in one sitting.  It wasn’t much in terms of a fascinating social life, but it got me out of my dorm and off campus even.  It helped me become friends with Kalina and got me talking to people that I didn’t previously know before.  It was a small, disfigured step in the right direction I guess.  More importantly, it was the Beta version of my LOST and beer pong nights, which formed the core of my socialization a few months later.

On a side note, Catherine and Kalina had another roommate, Jessie.  Jessie was a hot mess, emphasis on the “hot.”  She was very attractive physically, but had the worst personality in the world.  There wasn’t much going on upstairs for her (her brain I mean, not her boobs – those were fine), and her biggest concerns all revolved around vacuous social functions.  Jessie wore her virginity like a first place ribbon that she used to taunt guys with as she dressed scandalously and flirted relentlessly, sending the complete opposite message.  She bragged about not drinking too, but that soon ended.  Jessie and Catherine were in the same sorority, yet ran in separate circles.  Being the messy roommate, Jessie would soon find herself at odds with the other residents of that apartment.  Eventually she took a page out of my roommate’s playbook and just stopped living at the apartment.

There’s a key anecdote that captures Jessie’s wild and often moronic spirit.  She didn’t like the taste of water.  I can’t explain that.  I can only state it as fact, the way that she always did.  Instead, she hydrated using Diet Pepsi.  How she still had teeth is a complete mystery to me.  Well as I said, after getting to college she traded bragging about not drinking for actually drinking.  Her “No H20” diet coupled with copious amounts of beer while tailgating before an early season football game in the ludicrous central Florida heat of August/September (they’re practically one 60-day long month down here) put her in the back of an ambulance.  This was before her falling out with her roommates, so she just vanished one weekend after failing to meet up with them at the game.

I know that it looks like I glorify binge-drinking with some of these stories, but you gotta stay hydrated kids!  Booze dries you out.  That’s why your head hurts the next morning.  Alcohol took the edge off of my social anxiety, and at the time I credited it more for my social accomplishments than I should have, but I’m not advocating that you go out and beer bong a six-pack right now.

Not until you drink plenty of water first.

Beer is important, but water is more important.