Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is incredibly un-fun in 2020 and I miss blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Weirdest Interludes of My (and Possibly YOUR) Life
I’m mystified by people who don’t have a good memory only because I cannot imagine my life without mine. I have a ridiculous memory, which often makes me our friend group’s historian and fact checker. People have referred to it as my superpower. I have a photo of the roughly 600 kids who were in my 8th grade class. I’d bet I could give you the first and last names of 500 of them easily, 500 probably.
I can place myself into virtually any era of my life and give you chapter and verse about its details – the feelings, the players, the music, the sights and sounds – and sometimes this happens when some sort of trigger I didn’t anticipate shows up out of nowhere. That’s almost always fun because it means even if I’m not actively remembering something, I know it’s still up there for safekeeping, and available for activation.
As time goes on, sometimes reflecting on those interludes irrefutably forces me to reckon with the idea that who I was is not who I am. It can be a weird feeling, and one I’m not always comfortable with. But I’ve always said I think it’s a fallacy that we know ourselves well at all, and given how many iterations we’ve all been through, I think that’s pretty indisputable. Don’t believe me? Think about who you were before a global pandemic changed the entire world. Do you think we’ll look back on quarantine as one of those interludes?
Some versions of you don’t last very long, and those are usually the weirdest (see, again: pandemic, global). So, without further ado, here are the five weirdest non-pandemic interludes of my life in chronological order. Maybe you’ve had ones like this as well. Feel free to share ‘em in the comments or with me on social media.
When I had braces
You wouldn’t think this one would count, but my god, when you have braces, it dominates your thinking the entire time you have them. You modify both what and how you eat. Your mouth is frequently in pain. You have to go to the orthodontist constantly, so your social schedule is all fucked up. And you feel like you look like Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. God love you if you ever had headgear. I never did, and I’m infinitely grateful I didn’t.
I got mine in the summer of 1995 shortly before I turned 14, wore them for 18 months, and then gratefully got them off. I remember that first day vividly. I got them on, went to Villa Italia Mall with my mom, and in a rush to beat the oncoming pain charging into my mouth, tried to eat Chick-Fil-A as my first meal. A couple of bites in, and all I could feel was an absolute pipe bomb of food debris now lodged in all the new Jigsaw-like traps in my mouth. An absolute nightmare.
I had a swim meet two days later, and my mouth hurt like hell. I stood on the side of the pool and couldn’t bring myself to dive in out of fear of further hurting my already painfully tender mouth with the impact. If I stepped wrong, pain radiated up my body like a bolt of lightning into my jaw. Eventually I *ahem* braced for impact, quit being a total gash, dove in, and things were largely fine. I swam like shit, though.
Like anything else, you learn to live with these uncomfortable metal brackets that constantly cut the inside of your cheeks, the rubber bands that make your head feel like a giant, tensed slingshot, and just sort or work around it all. Then one magical day they come off, and you can’t stop running your tongue over your teeth because they feel gloriously slimy. Braces off day is one of life’s underrated red-letter days.
When I lived in Texas
Between my sophomore and junior year of high school, we all moved to a suburb north of Houston, TX. My dad had gotten a new job and asked my mom and I if we’d be amenable to moving. At 16, I was going through some sort of ill-defined pissy identity crisis where I hated pretty much everyone and everything, so I said, sure. I was definitely up for a change of pace and change of scenery, so off we went.
It wasn’t but a few days in that I realized exactly what that meant, and I very suddenly regretted agreeing to this. I didn’t know just how much of my identity I tied up in my home state. High school in Texas, compared to Colorado, might as well have been high school on Mars. The size of my school more than doubled in size. It was shaped like Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, and felt like it too, with its more authoritarian leadership style and cult-like cliques. I never felt like a Texan, couldn’t ever bring myself to identify as one, and mostly just felt like I was marking time until I could return to my home state to go to college. Two things I’m intensely grateful for relative to my time in Texas.
- I discovered that I make friends easily. I met my friend Stephen within a week of arriving, he came over to my house the next week to watch wrestling, and I’ve counted him as one my absolute best friends ever since. I had a date to homecoming within a month of starting school. I had a good and varied circle of friends from the swim team and elsewhere, including my friend Ashley, who I’m still in touch with all these years later. If you’re ever in Asheville, NC, hit up her ice cream shop The Hop.
- Going to a new school means you get to figure out who the fuck you are. I always liked those cat’s eye sunglasses that were popular at the time, but never would have worn them at my old school because I was afraid my jackass friends would make fun of me. Being in Texas, I thought, “No one knows me here. I can be whoever I want!” So I bought some, tried on a bunch of other identities during my time there, stopped being afraid of girls, and leveled the fuck up personality-wise. It was great, and when I returned to Colorado for senior year (none of us liked living in Texas), had a kickass year.
When I was a full-fledged dues-paying member of a scooter gang
A 1983 Honda Aero80. That was my bike. My hog. The best ride I ever had. Perfect for college. My friend Beano from the radio station also had a scooter and invited me to join the Killer Bees, a CSU-based scooter club founded by a chick named Brenna whose email was something like SweetBrennaBee@whatever.com. I thought why the hell not, paid my dues, got a big yellow sweatshirt out of it, and started going on rides with my new club, of which, there were only like 8 or 12 of us. It was harmless fun, and we’d end our rides usually with beer. Two things stand out here.
- On a meandering ride, we happened upon an honest-to-God biker bar in Timnath, just outside of Fort Collins. We pull up on our dainty little scooters and scan the place trying to determine if we go in. Word starts spreading throughout the joint that we’re outside, and leather-clad tough guys start POURING out the exits to get a look at us, these dorky little cherubs on their adorable little 50cc playthings. All of them are laughing, and I suspect they’re speculating to each other if we have the balls to park our bikes and come in. We don’t, and ride away.
- We got invited by the Fort Collins Scooter Gang to join them on a long ride one summer evening. I wish I were making these details up, but I swear they’re true. We all met at Hooters, then rode out to Severance for dinner at Bruce’s Bar. There were at least 50 scooters all blasting through Fort Collins, and if you want to bring people joy, be a part of that dorky mob. Everyone is laughing at you and you know it, but who gives a shit? You’re on a scooter surrounded by fifty other carefree weirdos, and they’re not. You’re having much more fun than them, and you know it. Let them laugh. And laugh they do. Hard.
When I was hoodwinked into a long-distance relationship I wanted no part of
Sometime during college I got tired of my high school girlfriend of more than two years. We had gotten into the dumbest ass fight about going tailgating and watching the football game on a Thursday night. So I went without her, did shots of Jägermeister straight from the bottle with some new chicks I met, drank a bunch of beer, ate an overcooked hamburger that tasted like lighter fluid, watched the game, and had more fun than I had in months. It was epic. It was freedom. It was college! And I knew the days were numbered in this relationship.
It took me a few more months to end it for good, but when I did, I vowed not to find myself shackled to some needy wet blanket like that for the rest of my college experience. Fast forward to the first semester of graduate school, and I go on a date with a woman who works with my mom. It goes well enough, but she lives an hour+ south, and I’m not doing that shit again. Somehow through persistence and some sort of Jedi Mind shit, I wake up one day, and I’m like, “Oh fuck, I’m back in a relationship.” Only now I’m avoiding her calls, pretending to be sick or in class, and generally behaving like a juvenile jackass instead of just breaking up with her like a man. On one night when I pretend to be sick, she’s very sweet and sends me Chinese food to help me feel better. I feel too guilty to eat it, so I throw it away, which pissed off my roommates something fierce.
I finally work up the nerve to break up with her face to face during one of her trips up to Fort Collins, and it takes FOREVER. But I’m free!
Not so fast. I start dating Kristin pretty much immediately afterward, fast forward five years, and we’re married. As for the girl who hoodwinked me into a relationship… well, she dated two of my friends. After breaking up with her, they both went on to date the woman they would marry. Good. Luck. Chuck.
When I traveled a lot for business
Considering I’ve been on my own for five and a half years, had an apocalyptic 2019 from a financial standpoint, and we’re currently in this fucking pandemic that seems like it’s never going to end, the life I led when I traveled a lot feels like several lifetimes ago. But make no mistake, once upon a time I was on the road A TON.
I had United Premier Status, was Hertz #1 Club Gold and got upgraded pretty much everywhere I went, collected Marriott points (which are dogshit BTW – ask anyone from Starwood how they’re feeling since the merger), and had serious insights about the best places to eat in at least a half dozen airports. I was on the road usually once a week, sometimes more. There was an August where I slept I think 6 nights out of 31 in my own bed. One time in Houston, I spent like two hours during an afternoon booking out my travel for the next month and a half.
On a related note, I almost never have to wear a suit anymore, and that used to be my standing ensemble for business travel, which is why I owned seven of them. I own my own tuxedo, which has gone unworn for at least five years. I’ll sometimes put a tie under a sweater simply because I have great ties, and apparently as I approach 40, I like the “cool professor who uses profanity” vibe.
The point is, who we are is not who we were, nor is it who we will be in perpetuity. I suppose this is but a simple letter to myself to remind me that while this pandemic sucks (as I write this, I just learned my kids are going to be home from school for the entirety of December), it’s not permanent.
Figure out the next iteration of yourself, and then work toward it. And whoever you are, make the next version of yourself your new favorite.