The Problem with The Brantley Blog

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To anyone who is still here after my year long-hiatus from this blog, I feel like I owe you a big apology and an explanation.

The Brantley Blog was discontinued for two primary reasons.

Bad Feelings

What began as select drinking stories and misadventures from college slowly turned into a broader story arc of my coming of age after leaving home for the first time.  This was a natural evolution, but it came with a price.

I struggled with a lot of loneliness in my first semester of college.  During my second semester, I finally made friends and I got really close with a lot of people who didn’t have much in common with me other than our shared affinity for inebriation.  This didn’t end well.

Petty conflicts, jealousies, and certain individuals’ affliction of talking about people behind their backs led my group of friends to a boiling point.  We all met on top of a parking garage to air out our grievances with each other in a structured act of full disclosure.  We called it, I kid you not, a “Pickle Pow Wow.”   Instead of the kindergarten classroom tool of a “talking stick” with which speakers take turns so that they don’t end up shouting over top each other, we passed around a pickle in a pouch.

Tears were shed, hugs exchanged, bandaids applied to minor emotional scratches and wounds, but deep down we all knew that the group of friends was doomed to collapse in on itself.

I know that this is all incredibly stupid and “high school” dramatic, but it really genuinely mattered to me back then.  A lot of people that I cared about stabbed me in the back and friends that I tried to help resented my efforts.  It left a sour taste in my mouth.

Needless to say, the fun of mocking my youthful naivety and the joy of embellishing drinking tales were far preferable to describing how I lost numerous close friends over the course of just a few short months.  When the story that I was telling one blog post at a time reached this point, I suddenly found myself unmotivated to continue.  These events weren’t much fun to write about and I assumed that it wouldn’t be much fun to read.

I had it in my head that someone out there was piecing these individual posts together and reading them like a book; that this heavily foreshadowed climax was hotly anticipated.  I put a great deal of imaginary pressure on myself to get the story right.

Now I know that this was a silly thing to think.  I understand that blogs are typically consumed piece by piece rather than as a unit and that I could have neglected the hard parts of the story and nobody would have noticed.  But it was still enough to suck the fun out of The Brantley Blog for me.

Brantley:  The Great Disappointment

A recurring problem that I had with weaving my underage drinking stories was the looming presence of my parents in the back of my mind.  Both mother and father had recently joined Facebook and had dropped comments (Mom especially) here and there that made social networking lose its luster.  Thoughts of the shit storm that would arise should they find my blog and read about my youthful mistakes (most of which were intentional) prevailed over every revision and every edit of every post.

Over the last month or so, I’ve come to realize that it goes much deeper than fear of my parents finding out that I enjoyed being a little troublemaker in college.  A big part of my tendency to hold back in my writing has been knowledge of their inevitable disapproval of what I have to say.

You see, my parents are very religious.  As a kid, I remember my Dad making this objection throat clearing noise every time a character in a movie swore.  I remember him changing radio stations and calling certain pop songs “garbage.”  I remember my Mom forbidding me from seeing certain movies and how upset she was when she found out that I had used Napster to burn CDs with cuss words in them.

I, on the other hand, have more or less oscillated between atheism and agnosticism ever since the day that my parents decided that I was too old to get away with napping during church services.  I used to lay my head down in the pew every Sunday morning and rely on my family to wake me when it was all over.  Once that was no longer an option, I found myself increasingly uninterested in the entire body of rituals.

Every part of my worldview is so radically different from my parents that it makes for awkward silences during the holidays.  It would be stupid to let my political opinions alienate me from them, but at the same time, there are certain things that I feel very strongly about and it becomes really difficult to see any basic human decency in differing opinions on some issues.

Really, the worst part is that I get the feeling that they don’t even notice these awkward silences, these times that I shut my mouth in polite dissent.  It makes me feel like they probably don’t know very much about me and who I am, who I became once I left their house.

All of this is in the back of my mind during every keystroke, every sentence.  These things that I write, they are an extension of me.  To hate my writing is to hate me.  When it comes to my parents, that’s a lot of stress to handle every time I push that “publish” button.

It isn’t easy suspecting that a falling out with my parents will inevitably be a big part of my artistic journey.  Some days, it’s enough to keep my fingers from hitting any key other than “Backspace,” but I just can’t live that way forever.

I’m 26 years old.  I’m smart, thoughtful, kind, compassionate, and patient (though I struggle with this one sometimes).  I’m stubbornly optimistic and I don’t want to accept defeat, not for myself, not for society, not for the human race.

I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of my writing.  My parents should be too.  And if they aren’t, then that’s an issue upon which I can’t courteously keep my mouth shut.

From Here   

I plan on continuing to tell my stories, to laugh at myself and the things that have happened to me.  I plan on sharing my insights on petty injustices that I encounter in my day to day drudgery.  I plan on trying to make readers laugh or smile, to entertain a person or two if only for a few minutes out of their day.

I plan on doing these things on a wider level.  I’m going to share this blog with actual people that I know and if my parents find it, I hope they enjoy it.  No.  I hope that they can’t help but enjoy it, even though they disapprove.  I hope that they are just as proud of me as I am of myself.

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The Bar Epiphany

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I have a recurring epiphany that pounces on me at bars sometimes:  I’m so unbelievably thankful to have found my girlfriend when and where I did.  When I’m at a bar and she isn’t around, I can’t help but notice people looking to make some boozy love connections and realize how hopelessly inept I would be at finding romance in such a way. 

The first time these thoughts and the ensuing gratitude assaulted me, I was extremely drunk before even stepping foot in the bar.  As the friends I came with went and danced, I thought to myself, “Sweet Jesus I hate dancing and if dancing were my only chance at meeting the girl of my dreams, I would certainly die alone.”  I immediately drunk texted my girlfriend to let her know how lucky I was to have her.  

The epiphany struck again last night when I went out for drinks with a few co-workers.  A fairly nice girl was telling me about her hobby of collecting shoes (Air Jordans in particular) and showing me pictures of the pair that she has coming in the mail.  

I wasn’t bored out of my mind, but there was no connection there.  Sometimes I talk to people and feel like I have absolutely zero in common with them.  I don’t hold it against that person and I’m certainly not rude to them.  

I like hearing about other people’s lives as they would tell it.  Mostly because I think that there always exists an abundance of sub-plots, half-truths, and ulterior motives between the lines; but  I also enjoy comparing and contrasting my perception of the person with the perception that they try to project with their stories.  There are three identities at play:  Who I think they are, Who they tell me they are, and Who they really think they are.  I tumbled down the rabbit hole pondering these things as I listened to her life story prior to moving to Florida.  Drinking a Fat Tire, struggling to listen over the din of a mediocre house band, and contemplating some of the complexities of human nature combine for multi-tasking far beyond my capabilities.  I could never have met the love of my life at a bar, and I would have become a miserable, cynical human being had I ever tried. 

Notes From My Girlfriend’s Birthday

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This is over a month late, but oh well.

I’m beginning to realize that I have a tremendously introverted time at bars.  That being said, here are a few of the things that I remember thinking when we went out for my girlfriend’s birthday.

We took Uber, which is basically a freelance cab service.  It was awesome and cheap, though my mom scolded me publicly on Facebook which (aside from providing her with right wing propaganda) seems to be the only way that she uses social networking.  “They don’t do background checks on those people!  They could be bad drivers and/or axe murderers!”  Something along those lines.  You know, typical mom stuff.

Our first bar was Little Indie’s.  It was a hipster dive with provocative pictures of nude pin-up girls providing the entirety of the decor in this building that literally had plywood walls in places.  There were a few booths and high tops for people to congregate around and a VJ stood by the door, playing music in front of a flat screen TV with VH1 Classic on mute.  The music didn’t match the music videos, which was equal parts off-putting and exhilarating.  The unisex bathroom had two beaten up movie theater chairs facing the toilet.  We all know that girls tend to accompany each other to the restroom, but I had never thought of it being a spectator thing.  The bar area was pretty cool and they had a couple dozen craft beers along with some very convoluted cocktails with fascinating names.  

We left and went downtown to Bar-B-Que Bar/Eye Spy/Sky60, which are all connected and semi-indecipherable to me.  I just read on Facebook that the whole trio is shutting down, which is a shame because they’re weird and I like that.  We pushed our way past crowds up to Sky60, which is a rooftop dance party with a decent view of the city skyline.  

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t enjoy dancing, so I occupied myself with getting us drinks and found myself in a purely utopian situation.  The bartender was pretty awful at her job.  Dozens of people were shoving their way to the bar top to assail her for beverages and she was clearly overwhelmed.  I stood politely waiting my turn, taking note of who arrived before me and after me so as to assert my place in the sequence should the need arise.  Some guys shoved in next to me and demanded some drinks.  The bewildered bartender told them that they would have to wait their turns and that because they were being ass holes it wouldn’t be any time soon.  

It was a nice-person-ocracy.  I received preferential treatment based solely on my understanding smile and manners.  I wrote encouraging remarks on the receipt when I signed it:  “You’re doing a great job!”  I added a smiley face just to emphasize that I wasn’t being sarcastic because in reality she was doing a dreadful job.  Even though this bartender seemed flabbergasted by the receipt printer for a solid 5 minutes at one point, I kept going back to her to have my faith in the worthwhileness of courtesy reaffirmed.  

Next to me, a very skinny guy tried to buy drinks for a girl behind him with no fewer than three declined credit cards.  

For some strange reason, a pack of a half-dozen fat girls kept migrating from this side of the dance floor to that side of the dance floor.  Unable to repeatedly part like the Red Sea for them, they shoved their way past us like linebackers and I wasn’t drunk enough that it didn’t annoy me thoroughly.  I contemplated rallying the troops for a game of Red Rover in which we held our ground against the migratory girls.  More comically, I toyed with the idea of twerking on them each time they walked past until they decided to take an alternate route.  

One of my girlfriend’s co-workers apologized to me for buying her so many drinks as we left the bar.  She was staggering forward in front of us as we neared the stairwell.  “So long as she doesn’t fall down the stairs, I won’t hold it against you!” I joked approximately twenty seconds before she twisted her ankle on the third step from the bottom.  

There’s a small cafe that sells pizza by the slice at the base of the stairwell.  It gets mobbed with drunk people around 2 AM.  We joined the line to grab a slice, hoping to stave off the nausea portion of tomorrow’s hangover with tonight’s junk food.  I bought her a slice of cheese, for myself, a slice of pepperoni and sausage.  It came out to like $7 somehow.  The pizza was terrible.  It was like a New York style Totino’s pizza that was over-microwaved and then left out to get cold.  This place stayed in business not because of the quality product that it provided, but sheerly based on its proximity to inebriated people.  Why?  Why would you want to own such a shitty business?  How could you aspire to mediocrity?  They would have been better off ordering Domino’s and selling it by the slice.  I couldn’t stave off the annoyance.  I’ve made homemade pizza without any clear idea of what I was doing and it came out 100x better than these crappy slices.  

I handed my girlfriend her slice, pulled out my phone to call for an Uber, and then turned back around seconds later to find that she had already somehow misplaced her pizza.  

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

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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.

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done

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Disclaimer:  I actually didn’t do any of the illegal things described below because those illegal things are illegal and I’m a law abiding guy.  This isn’t a confession to crimes committed, just an entertaining story that totally never actually happened, okay?

Freshman year of college, I was walking home from a 6pm-9pm class one night.  The sun had already set and being the invincible still-teenager that I was, I made sure to take all of the darkest, sketchiest alleyways to get back to my dorm.  This was, after all, nearly a full year before I was robbed at gun point.

Lurking in the shadow of the Counseling building that was just yards away from my dorm community were two figures, a guy and a girl.  Rather than assuming they were up to no good, I decided I would ask them what they were trying to accomplish in such a poorly lit spot.  When they both nearly jumped out of their skin, well, then I assumed they were up to no good.

He was a typical fratty guy in a polo with too much gel in his hair.

Busty doesn’t adequately describe her.  I think I vaguely remember that she had a pretty face, but it wasn’t something that I noticed until we became Facebook friends.  It’s a miracle I didn’t keel over from a boob overdose right then and there.  When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration runs through the entire alphabet when naming hurricanes in one season, they resort to the greek alphabet.  I suppose she had Omega cups.

I’m not the type of guy who goes on and on about this stuff anymore, but I was back then and this story takes place in the past, so humor me when I detail how enamored I was with her knockers.  Guys of a certain age just aren’t that smart, okay?

It’s a miracle they didn’t throw the Earth off its axis and send us spiraling into the sun.

The teenage male's mind devotes an inordinate amount of memory to encounters with boobs.

Seriously, I’m done talking about this girl’s breasts now.

As I said, the guy seemed to be a Fraternity-type so with his fake swagger cranked up to eleven, he emerged from between two maintenance golf carts in the darkness to share with me an intriguing fact that was whispered to him.  He didn’t say by whom.

Our tiny, dorm-community mailbox keys were rumored to be capable of cranking up the maintenance golf carts.

I asked him if he had any luck and he said that he hadn’t tried before I came up on him and started asking questions.  I laughed at how ridiculous this all sounded and went on my merry way.

A few beers into the post-LOST festivities that night, I recounted the bizarre encounter to my compatriots.  The consensus was universal.  We had to test this theory.  It probably wasn’t true, but we had to know.  “No, no,” I told them.  They handed me another beer, then another, then another.  After I emptied the bottles into my belly, the conversation returned to this topic.  “No, no,” I repeated, but by now the dissent was laced with drunken chuckles.  More beers were handed to me and I consumed them.

The next time this rumor came up, the conversation was different:

“How many beers do you need to drink before you are willing to try this, Brantley?”

“At least ten.”

The Empty Bottle (EB) is the international measurement of bad ideas.

It wasn’t long before ten of the empty bottles that crowded every open surface in my dorm were accounted for by me.

Without much fuss leading up to my ruling this time, I informed them:  “Maybe like two more.”

After a dozen beers, I found myself standing back as I watched a handful of friends no more sober than myself fumbling with the golf cart ignitions in the dark.  Somehow, someway, my liver manned up enough that I was still the most prudent of the group.

This is how I ended up in the rear-facing back seat instead of driving, because

IT.

FREAKING.

WORKED.

Drunken courage and disregard for rules doesn’t equal coordination or control of your body, so two golf carts swerved all freaking over campus that night.  At one point, our driver took a turn as tight as he could.  The blonde, burnout girl sitting next to me on the back seat of the cart quit being on the back seat of the cart after succumbing to inertia.  She tumbled through the grass as she was thrown off.  It was almost the hardest I’ve ever laughed in my entire life.

Drunken courage plus disregard for rules does not equal hand-eye coordination or basic motor function.

But then she was crying.  She scraped her hands and hurt her ankle.  Or knee.  I don’t remember because I was twelve beers into the night so my retention reserved itself for the inebriated joy of the wind in my hair as we tore through the night air in those stolen vehicles.  Regardless of which joint she hurt, it killed the night and we brought the golf carts back to where we stole them from and went back up to my room to hang out for a bit more before parting ways to sleep it all off.

It wasn’t an isolated occurrence and it wasn’t a secret that we kept very well.  It required boasting.  A lot of it.

We stole those golf carts probably two or three more times.  Each theft required a prerequisite game of “How many beers does Brantley need before this becomes a good idea?”  There was a bit of a sliding scale, but usually the magic number fell between 10 EB and 12 EB.

One night, we didn’t exactly return them in one piece.  A FedEx drop off mailbox leaped into the path of our cart and we couldn’t swerve (or stop swerving probably) in time to avoid it.  We crashed into that big metal box and knocked it about five feet from where it was bolted into the freaking cement.  We were cautious enough to only allow ourselves about 45 seconds of uninhibited laughter before we got the hell out of there before we found out exactly what the consequences of all of this would be.

Eventually we did find out exactly what the consequences of all of this would be.  It’s a total miracle that it wasn’t the hard way.  The rumors that circled the community took on a new tone.

The Fraternity-type and his enormously chesty girlfriend were caught on a stolen golf cart.  Campus police threw the book at them.  Both were hit with Grand Theft Auto.  Fratty-Polo guy was driving, so he got a complimentary DUI with it.

Learning from someone else's mistakes trumps felonies every time.

Looking back on all of this, these rumors were probably living up to the reputation of rumors.  Legendary things become legends pretty easily when drunken coeds are involved.  Stories that are passed around orally by people who only half-remember them evolve over time and truth  fades away into obscurity as the tales morph into outright lies.

Half-remembered stories orally passed around evolve over time, and truth fades away into obscurity as tales morph into outright lies.

The basis of this particular gossip seems believable enough though, even now.  We never stole golf carts again after that.

Moments of terrible judgement form the core of many great stories.

Oh yeah, like I said, this never happened.  I didn’t do any of this.  It’s illegal.

Democracy and the Greatest Drinking Game I’ve Ever Played

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One fateful day in late October, I was offered a life-changing opportunity in one of my Political Science classes.  

A public official was passing around a sign-up sheet for a paid opportunity to help work the polls on election day.  It was easy money for just a few hours of work, plus I would get the added intellectual bonus of peering behind the curtain to see the mechanisms of our great democracy!

Pole Dancing

Also, working the polls is exactly this glamorous.
Photo Credit: BoiseWeekly.com

I was available, so I put my name down on the list and was contacted a few days later with information on when/where to show up on that fateful night.

I apologize for how misleading this tale has been up to this point.  I don’t have any scintillating tales of what I saw when I peaked up our republic’s skirt.  Truthfully, it was an extraordinarily forgettable night.  Surrounded by many people my own age and many people at least triple my own age, we sat on folding chairs in a circle being very inefficiently managed.

Every so often we would be called for, just a few people at a time to move some boxes around.  Yes, this is how we elect the goobers that govern us.  We put stuff in boxes and then move the boxes around.  I just saved you a Civics course.  You’re welcome.

In the time in between rare bouts of labor I sat quietly, avoiding eye contact with these strangers and feeling very awkward in my own skin.  You see this election was a traumatic one for me.  Rick Scott was running against Alex Sink for Governor of Sex-Crazed Looney National Headline-Land (Florida for those who don’t realize the bizarre carnival that we risk our lives daily to inhabit).  It was the most transparent election that would ever be forced upon the public (hopefully).  A clear choice between the crook with a “(D)” next to her name or the crook with an “(R)” next to his name.  I couldn’t in good conscience contribute to the election of either.

Being a historically minded chap, I know that people have sacrificed so much for the right to vote.  Well, like, people other than white guys like me.  To not vote is to take a big pee on everything that those courageous individuals stood for.  The self-loathing made my skin crawl.  The feeling of my skin-crawling made my muscles crawl.  The ickiness of feeling my muscles crawl made my bones crawl.  I was spasming with contempt for myself.  Had someone thought to ask me which crook I voted for, I would have promptly thrown up on the floor, realizing that I had died a horrible death and was now sitting in my own personal hell.

Luckily, there were people my age in the room.  And like most people that age, they were talking about the important issues of the day (Tuesday, that is):  Getting drunk.  One fellow in particular was extremely bold and opinionated on the issue.

He was the Samuel Adams to our Constitutional Convention of strangers sitting on folding chairs in a dimly lit warehouse.  This analogy may or may not work.  I’m not sure whether or not Samuel Adams actually got the Facebook Invite to the Constitutional Convention.  As I understand it, he was a popular rabble-rouser in the bar who somehow drunkenly helped incite the American Revolution.  If this is incorrect, please don’t ever tell me because it makes my view of history at least 11x more awesome than the ones in the textbooks.

Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams – totally hammered and ready to revolt as usual.
Photo Credit: TheFederalistPapers.org

This enlightened individual bestowed upon our group a fruit from the tree of intoxication (you know, the one from Genesis).  That gift, ladies and gentlemen, was DRUNK MARIO KART.

Simple facts about childhood:

1.  At a certain age (generally 105 years old), you begin to rant and rave to younger people that your childhood was exponentially superior to theirs.  Your childhood took place in the Golden Age of Childhood, and the whole world has been steadily deteriorating since you stopped being a child.

2.  There is no Golden Age of Childhood.  Shut up about it already.

3.  If you insist on continuing this argument, I will crush you with this all-important question:  Did you play Mario Kart on your Nintendo 64 when you were a kid?  If you answered, “No, Brantley.  I played with sticks and dirt like God intended,” then your childhood was rotten and your parents didn’t love you.  

Mario Kart 64 cartridge

I’d hit that. I’d blow it too. Anything that it takes to get these stupid cartridges to work these days.
Photo credit: The giant friggin watermark on the picture.

Mario Kart is a video game featuring popular Nintendo characters such as “Italian- stereotype (#1 and #2),” “Reminder-That-All-Women-Are-Just-Damsels-In-Distress,” “There’s-Something-Racist-About-This-Gorilla-You-Just-Can’t-Put-Your-Finger-On-It,” “Horrifying-Dinosaur,” “Adorable-Dinosaur,” and of course, everyone’s favorite:  “Jovial-Effeminate-Fungus.”  In the game, each of the above stated characters that probably make sense somehow in Japanese culture race each other in go karts.  They battle their way to the finish line using weapons such as turtle shells, heat-seeking turtle shells, presents that aren’t actually presents, electrocution as an enhanced interrogation technique, temporary invincibility, and banana peels.

I sincerely hope that banana peels don’t actually cause car accidents, because I chuck them out the window when I’m out driving all the time.  They’re biodegradable and you can’t make me feel bad about this.

Drunken Mario Kart is hands-down the Greatest Drinking Game ever conceived. 

The rules are simple:

1.  You must finish your beer before crossing the finish line.

2.  You cannot drink and drive.  Put your controller down to chug your beer. 

3.  Avoid cliche “Fight Club” references when listing out the rules of Drunk Mario Kart.

For those crunching the numbers, races only take around 3-4 minutes on average.  Even if you stop frequently to drink your beer, races still don’t exceed 5 minutes.  Power Hour is for sissies.

The key to avoiding alcohol poisoning is to make sure that you have more than 4 people playing.  I recommend at least 6-8.  After each round, the first and second place finishers get to play again, while the losers in third and fourth place surrender their spot to other people waiting in the wings.  This increases the amount of time before someone vomits on your rug.

Don’t be surprised that this becomes a game of varying strategies.

Some people choose to park at the starting line and chug as much of their beer as they can stomach.  Racers in third and fourth place get the best weapons from the randomized system, so starting off behind gives you the means and the time to catch up and take the lead.

Others throw down their controller every time they hit an obstacle.  In the first several rounds, most players don’t find enough chugging time to finish their beer before reaching the finish line using this technique.  Later on in the night, obstacles become much easier to hit and those moments when your kart is toppling through the air amount to enough time to finish that can.

A third approach is to park just before the finish line and then chug the entire beer before everyone else catches up.  It’s bold, it isn’t common, and it’s risky.  You are banking on draining that brew before your competitors can chew through the substantial lead that you’ve developed by not popping the top until those last inches before the checkered line.

If you haven’t finished your beer before crossing the finish line, you are disqualified and have to give up your controller.  It’s probably for the best anyways.  If you are no longer in a condition where you can casually chug a beer every 4 minutes, you should consider taking a break from your consumption.

As I stated above, the night was quite forgettable other than this particular nugget of wisdom.  Eventually, the ballots arrived in giant stacks of boxes piled high on wooden pallets and then shrink-wrapped into place.  My contribution to the unfortunate election of Governor Voldemort?  Moving those ballots from right here to over there.

Rick Scott Voldemort Comparison

But seriously, look at these two. They could be twins that take turns sharing a nose.
Photo Credit: Cheezburger.com

If you can top this drinking game, I will mail you a hand-made coupon for a six-pack.  It won’t be redeemable anywhere, but I will put like $10 in the envelope with it so we can just pretend that it is legit.

Parents Weekend

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Parents weekend snuck up on me every single year of college.  Luckily, my parents only chose to participate for Freshman and Sophomore year.

Being the decent, moral, religious folks that they were, I had thoroughly expected it to be a distressing weekend in which I tried to hide the byproducts of my debauchery from their judging eyes.  I was an adult and I didn’t need anymore of that “I’m so disappointed in you” crap.  In the days leading up to that weekend, I knew that I would need to clean up the beer cans, take down the beer pong table, and kick all of the beautiful naked coeds out of my bed.  Then I could feel guilt-free when I put on my best know-it-all teenager face seeing as how I wasn’t actually rubbing their noses in my sinful lifestyle, just walking around like the new man that it made me.

Given my well-documented social struggles, there wasn’t a ton of clean up necessary.  I hid my fancy bourbon and shot glasses away behind some stuff under my bed.  I folded up the barely-used ping pong table.  Most importantly, I hid my fake ID, which I never kept in the same place as my real license anyway.  Seeing as how they would be in my room and I didn’t want to leave it somewhere obvious like a drawer, I put it in the console of my car underneath a lot of other junk.

My family and I met up with some friends from back home at dinner the first night.  Our parents were friends from the swim team that their daughter and I spent so much time with throughout high school.  I felt like such a failure that I didn’t have anything to hide from the adults as we discussed our adjustment to college life.  Afterwards, my parents turned in early.  They wanted to be well rested for the football game the next day.

I picked them up from their hotel the next morning so that they wouldn’t have to pay to park on campus.  It saved them a huge nightmare of circling the garages on game day.  My dad mentioned that he needed to go to the bathroom, so we stopped at my dorm building and he and I ran up to my room.

At this point, I was sweating a little bit.  My mom had no reason to go through the console of my car, and I had my fake hidden in such a way that she would really have to dig to find it.  Still, it was stressful to picture her alone in the car with an item that could get me into deep trouble with my parents.  Granted, I would have done my best to pretend not to care that I was in trouble with them, but it really would have bothered me.

There's no shame in not wanting to disappoint your parents admitted no teenager ever.

My dorm was parent-friendly and my dad looked around before settling in at my desk chair.  This wasn’t the bathroom.  I wondered what he was doing.

“Your mother is under the impression that you have a fake ID.”

My performance must have been convincing enough, “What?!”

“I know.  I don’t know where she gets these things.”  He studied me.  “Give me your wallet.  I will just tell her that I looked through it while you were in the bathroom.”

I handed it over, thankful that the ID was in the car next to my mother, who was assuming that my father would find it in my room.

He didn’t find it.  The room got more comfortable.  He went to the bathroom and we went to the game, which he and I were more or less enjoying.

I knew that I would get under my parents skin if I joined the crowd chant of “Bullshit!  Bullshit!” when UCF was hit with a questionable penalty.  Naturally, I became one of the loudest voices in the student section.  My mother hit me and scowled.

But that was it.  It was all that she could do to me.  I was a grown-up now.  I couldn’t be grounded for using colorful language.

She didn’t want to stay for the second half.  She said she had a headache, and I wondered if I had shattered her heart with my profanity.

That was probably one of my dumber thoughts that weekend.

I’m proud to say that the UCF student section is insanely loud.  Brighthouse Networks Stadium is not a fun place for the away team.  We jump up and down on the metal bleachers, creating a racket that drowns out most communication on the field.  We howl during every defensive possession.  Fan forums love to boast about this, but I was always skeptical about the true impact of the ruckus until this year.

This season, my girlfriend and her business partner got press passes so that they could shoot pictures of the game.  They watched the home games from down on the end zones and she was shocked by how much of the student section’s cacophony polluted the field.  It’s no wonder my migraine-prone mother couldn’t handle a full 60 minutes of football.

The twelfth man actually does make a difference.

On a side note, Ben reached out to me a few days prior to parents weekend.  He let me know that his folks would be swinging by the dorm.  His solution to the fact that they were paying good money for a bed that he wasn’t sleeping in?  Well, he just figured he would put some sheets on it and lie, and he asked that I corroborate his story.  By now, I realized that the room was way comfier with him not in it, so I was thrilled to play along!

Do you have any awkward stories to tell about your college’s Parents Weekend?

Television Addiction: A Great Way to Make Friends – TBT

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Over the month-long semester break between Fall and Spring, I watched as my friends back home developed an all-consuming addiction that chewed up entire days and nights of their lives.

They discovered LOST, one of the greatest TV shows of all time ever.  At the time, ABC had every single episode on their website, where you could watch as many as you could stomach interrupted only momentarily by 15-30 second ads dispersed amongst each episode in about five places.

They lost themselves in it and they didn’t offer to take me along with them.  I would come over to a friend’s house, and there they were, huddled around a screen in a dark room, flailing violently in response to enigmatic plot twists as if they had completely lost control of their limbs.

The best plot twists have a devastating effect on the central nervous system.

Some nights I would pepper them with pesky questions about what was going on in the show.  “I thought their plane crashed on an island and they were castaways.  Why is there a cloud of smoke that is murdering people?”  “Why is he having sex with her?  I thought they were brother and sister.”  “You’ve already seen this.  What’s in the damn hatch?”

I tried so hard to stay away.  I told myself it would never be me, but then the teasers for Season 4 began airing.  The survivors were going to be rescued!

In January of 2008, I tried watching LOST for the first time.  I was immediately addicted.  Every spare minute of every day I spent in front of my computer.  I had to catch up before the next season began!

Homework fell by the wayside.  New Year’s Resolutions of getting out of my dorm room and making new friends were forgotten.  LOST had taken over my heart and soul.

Binge-watching will be the downfall of civilization.

I’m not proud to say that the addiction was cut off cold-turkey.  It wasn’t a decision of my own.  I just ran out of the stuff.  I had to wait until season 4 was aired, one episode per week.  Three seasons of 20+ episodes each and I had managed to chew through them in less than two weeks.

With my LOST addiction no longer occupying so much of my time, I actually did get around to that homework and friend-making.

LOST was moved to Thursday nights.  My Spring schedule gave me Fridays off from class.  I had a beer pong table, a fridge full of cheap beer, and an amazing TV show to celebrate my three-day weekends.  It was perfect.

It became a ritual for my new found friends, even ones who didn’t watch the show (they were put in the corner and shushed when they asked questions about what the hell was happening).  When those white letters popped onto the black background with a triumphant horn and percussion combination signaling the conclusion of that week’s episode, we would explode into speculation as we returned the couches to the common room and unfolded the ping pong table.

Arts and entertainment have tremendous power to bring people together.

Beyond just the incredible, intricate, philosophical journey that LOST took me on, it also served as an inauguration for weekends of binge drinking and getting out of my shell to make friends.  It wasn’t just a profound narrative experience, it was a big part of growing up for me.  For that reason, I will always hold the show dearly in my heart.

Do you have any TV shows or movies that you associate with important periods in your life?

10 Hammered Miles – TBT

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In honor of the marathon I will be running this weekend (my second), I figured I would share one of my odder encounters during college – and that’s saying something.  

It was senior year and I was training for my first ever half-marathon.  Things were going fairly well with the training, which involved routine runs just across the street from UCF’s campus.

I was in the home-stretch of a routine 5 mile run when I noticed a guy jogging on the other side of the road, which was grass rather than sidewalk.  It was two lanes each way with a large median between, so I had to squint to confirm that this college student in beast mode was running barefoot like a boss.  Beyond his sturdy feet, which I’m sure possessed Hobbit-like resiliency, he impressed me with his pace as he pulled out further and further ahead of me.  I wasn’t racing him by any means, so I let him fade into the sunset with no further concern.

When I caught up to him again, he was doubled over puking.  I was nearing the end of my run and I had half a bottle of water left, so being the good samaritan that I am, I crossed the road to check on him.

They say that humans are about 60% water.  Well this fellow was 60% vodka instead, so I suppose he wasn’t a human at all.  I asked him if he was alright and he was still drunk enough to insist that he was, but he accepted the water anyways and thanked me.  As we walked away, he told me about his fun day drinking at the pool on campus with the bros.  Several yards away from the vomit, I began to suspect that his sweat, breath, and skin were a stomach-churning 150 proof based on the Pig-Pen like cloud that he seemed to be living in.  I couldn’t help but picture him dissolving into a puddle of Skol lighter fluid like that Senator in the first X-Men movie.

x-men melting senator

But he felt bad about cutting my run short, so with all of the pleasantries out of the way, we started jogging again.  Seeing as how he would probably be dead from dehydration pretty soon, I let him set the pace.  We were going slow enough for me to carry on a conversation with him, which back then meant that we were running slightly faster than the ground beneath our feet.

“I’m jogging home!” he announced to me.  My own house was coming up soon, so I wondered if he lived in my neighborhood.  He didn’t.  Instead, he lived off of Dean Road.

I don’t expect that to mean anything to you, so allow me to explain.

That’s like 5 miles away, running along one super busy road, crossing it, running down another super busy road, crossing that one, all the while hoping that the soles of your bare feet are pale enough to persuade the insane drivers of Orlando not to splatter you into Jello shots with their cars.

jogging to dean road

He was drunk enough that I didn’t mind stating the obvious, “That’s a long way, man.  Were you planning on running that?”

“Yeah dude.  It’s fine.  I’ve run like 10 miles before and I was even drunker than this.”*

“Do you want me to call someone to pick you up?”

“Nah dude.  I lost my phone at the pool.”*

“I could call you a cab.”

“It’s cool man.  I’ll just run.”*

* I’m assuming this is what he was trying to say, but he was a once-in-a-generation talent at slurred words so I’m not 100% sure.

I didn’t know this guy well enough to get aggressive about his intoxicated well-being, so I stuck to my manners.

“Well, this is my neighborhood.  You should at least swing by and let me give you a bottle of water or something.”

He thought that was a cool idea, so soon we found ourselves in my kitchen.  He was throwing back glasses of water like it was the saddest happy hour in the world.

With his Vodka Body Mass Index or VBMI (if this isn’t a real thing, it should be) down in the 55-58% range, he decided to take me up on the offer to use my phone.  Luckily for him, a phone number was accessible to his brain through the haze of a black out drunkenness.  Unluckily for him, that number belonged to his boss.  He left a strange voice message.  It sounded like one very, very, very long word.

I asked if he wanted to try again, and the liquor figured it wouldn’t be worthwhile.  I didn’t have money to call him a cab, but I offered anyway.  He declined, seeing as how his wallet was with his phone, probably off somewhere planning an intervention for him.

I offered to drive him home if he promised not to puke in my car.  Being the stand up guy that he apparently was, he refused to make a promise he couldn’t keep.

With an abundance of “Tankyuuzz,” “Thansssmanns,” and “Baies,” and the bottle of water that I gave him, he staggered up the street, out of my neighborhood, and out into the world again.

His boss’s number was in my phone, so I called and left a voicemail in English.  He never called back though.

Seeing as how I read local newspapers religiously the following week and found no article about a human-shaped vodka vessel being hit by a car, I have no idea what happened to him.  I have to assume that he made it, whether it was that night or the next morning after he woke up in the bushes and then continued drunk-running home.

I feel pretty confident that nothing bad happened to him, because local news in Orlando lets us know anytime anything bad ever happens to anybody in Central Florida in the most terrifying fashion imaginable.  That is, of course, between our Casey Anthonys and George Zimmermans.

I told this story to some friends when we were tailgating a couple months ago.  The general consensus was, “You’re a much better person than I am.  I would have given up on that guy way sooner than you did.”

I guess that’s a good thing.

Baker Act Pat – TBT

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As a popular destination for people in my dorm community with a hankering for beer pong, my room began seeing very heavy traffic each weekend.  Some nights, new faces were more common than familiar ones, especially with the parade of strangers that OJ ushered through my door.

One particular weekend, a broad framed and slightly portly fellow from up north named Pat joined us.  He was quiet, but beer pong breeds instant camaraderie and as Pat’s face grew redder with each game, we boisterously projected a genial manner on the guy and he smiled more and laughed harder as the night progressed.  Pat was an easy-going guy and fun to have around, if only as another body in the room adding volume to the laughter and happiness to the sweaty drunken atmosphere.  At the time, we were always in need of beer pong opponents so that we could play with teams of two, so I felt like we found a real keeper in Pat.

He partied with us twice in one weekend.  With the populations that OJ assembled varying between the two nights, I came to realize Pat’s connection to the chain smokers in the courtyard.  He didn’t do much to shift the group dynamic with us, so I assumed he was just a quiet guy lost in the ruckus of the cigarette gang and that was why I never noticed him before.

The next weekend, OJ and I prepared to gather bodies for binge drinking.  I mentioned inviting Pat and we tried to run him down, but never got a hold of him.  This became a recurring pattern over the following weekends.  Back then, I remembered Pat’s last name and I found him on Facebook and friended him.  I asked him where he had been on his wall, but got no reply.

I asked the chain smokers if any of them had seen Pat lately.  One casually mentioned that Pat had been Baker Act-ed the past couple of weekends.  The Baker Act is a law that states that someone can be detained and observed for up to 48 hours if they are reported to be a danger to themselves or others – at least that was what I learned from my peers.  I was shocked that such a quiet, laid back guy could be locked away for something like that.  I was even more flabbergasted by the way that the smokers were laughing about it until one of them elaborated on it.

Pat had a girlfriend back home who was a drama queen and things had become quite a train wreck between them.  His psycho girlfriend’s favorite tactic was to call the cops on him after they had a fight over the phone.  She would tell the officials that he was threatening to hurt himself, and just like that, Pat would vanish for a couple of days.  “What a bitch!” I thought, finding this to be an easy explanation to believe.

Legal experts and convincing liars often look exactly alike.

When Pat returned, I only saw him and spoke with him in passing.  As he resumed his use of Facebook, some of his posts were pretty dark and brooding.  It isn’t uncommon for people to jokingly say things like, “Oh my God, it was so awful!  I just wanted to kill myself!”  Something about the way that Pat phrased those sentiments online was different though.  There was an angry edge to them, as if he genuinely disliked himself and felt that he deserved physical punishment for his inadequacies.  I searched my beer hazed memories for any sign of sadness in the big quiet guy and I thought I understood a little bit about why he was so quiet.  Maybe he didn’t want to hang out with us anymore because being around people having fun just made him feel more alone.  It was a feeling that I could have related to only a couple months before meeting OJ.

I never saw Pat again, even in passing.  I think someone told me that he moved back home.  I couldn’t comprehend the disconnect between the guy drinking beer with me and the guy who very openly desired to hurt himself.  It showed me how superficial the bond between college drinking buddies can be.  I had two very fun nights with this guy by my side, and yet I didn’t learn a single thing about who he really was.  It wasn’t real friendship, just intoxicated physical proximity around a drinking game one night.

You can drink a lot of beer with someone without learning a single thing about them.