Sunday, November 9, 2008

The 2008 Apple Valley Review

Sometime over the next seventeen weeks, there will be a major crisis. Nobody knows when or who or how or whether it will interfere with the Young America’s Foundation Valentine’s cruise featuring John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, and other right wing luminaries. Even if you booked your tickets months ago, you may never have the chance to watch the sun set over Vieques while listening to Ashcroft croon a lounge version of “Back That Ass Up.” That’s the nature of crises: like felons, they’re wily and unpredictable; like hooligans, they cause shenanigans—and cockamamie ones at that.

This crisis will be the first major test of Barack Obama’s ability to lead our country. Some say he lacks the experience to lead. Some say his recent comments aimed to deter young men from extensive pants sagging are disingenuous at best. Some say he is a Marxist communist socialist anti-American hater of freedom. We will finally find out when this crisis arrives.

When it does, real Americans will do what they always do: form a line from here to Wasilla and pass buckets of water down that line to extinguish the flames of the crisis. Or some metaphoric equivalent of that. Until then, real America can enjoy itself at the many fine big box establishments in suburban, urban, and exurban areas. What I love is that I can go to Cedar Rapids, or Coon Rapids, or Rapid City, and there will be Chili’s, and Applebee’s. There will also be Red Lobster, but I have a serious shellfish allergy so I normally try not to go there.

Although there are so many big box restaurants I love, I must say my favorite of them all is Old Chicago. Although there are 72 Old Chicagos in 20 states, the one in Apple Valley is special to me for three reasons. First, my favorite waitress, Shellsea, works there. She’s the one with the Sarah Palin hair and accent. Second, it’s where I completed their World Beer Tour, sampling 110 different beers from all over the globe, including Germany, in order to earn a plaque that is proudly displayed on their wall of fame. Third, without checks on government, democracy becomes impossible because the state can ignore or override what people say, making it a prerequisite to all other criteria.

Friday afternoon, I could barely contain my excitement as I headed south on Cedar Avenue. I imaged Shellsea waiting for me, holding a big grilled chicken Caesar with my name on it, and a suggestion from their exciting list of seasonal beers. Unfortunately, though, there was an accident just north of 125th Street: a minibus driven by a sad clown had collided with a school bus filled with chickens. The highway was down to one lane, and it took me 45 minutes to go 20 blocks. I would have to head straight to Apple Valley High School and wait until dinner for OC.

Apple Valley High School is unique among Minnesotan suburban schools in that its design is heavily influenced by recreational psychedelic drug use. Its interior is an explosion of angular, bright-colored design from some forgotten era in the 60s or 70s, created by a team of hippies influenced by the Source cult from Southern California, who practiced vegetarianism and poorly produced free-form psych-rock before it was co-opted by Modest Mouse fans, fashion environmentalists, and gay homosexuals. Not that I have any problem with the gay; like Sarah Palin, some of my best friends are the gay, and as long as they aren’t allowed to get married and Ted Allen is gainfully employed, I’m as happy as a former felon allowed to vote again for the first time, rejoining the community and making a positive difference in the world.

I was privileged enough to spend the day watching and judging fantastic high school debate rounds. I got to hear the brightest young minds of our generation flaunt their extensive knowledge of SAT words, foreign languages (the term “a priori” comes to mind), and that most important skill of all: the ability to present four contradictory positions in seven minutes without wasting time responding to the opposing argument directly. Needless to say, it was a spiritually and emotionally fulfilling day.

To make matters even better, I got to see some of my greatest friends from all over the country. Debate is just one of those activities where you form strong bonds with people; because everyone in the activity is fascinating, unbelievably intelligent, and pathologically competitive, these are the bonds that last a lifetime. During the off-season, we swap shirtless pictures on Facebook, chat on MSN about the housing commission whores and stray Jews in our lives, and wait for the days when we will finally be able to see each other face-to-face again.

When we do meet in person, we exchange hilarious stories about the arguments we hear in debate rounds. These are truly some of the most entertaining stories you will ever hear in your life. One time, we were debating this team from another school that we sort of have a rivalry with, and they tend to run this kind of weird argument by this one post-modernist philosopher. Their cases are based on random books or something. The argument is okay, but we just think it’s weird. Anyway, the story goes on for another 25 pages, but I’ll leave it for another day.

One of my oldest debate friends was judging a very competitive round, and I playfully told him not to fuck up the decision. Immediately, a stunningly fat man wearing a gray Adidas tracksuit ran up to me and said there was no room in the debate community for toilet language, that garbage mouths like me should go back to Mexico to keep America’s children safe from our pernicious influence. “Where are you from?” he asked, threatening to report me to the tournament’s ethics committee.

“St. Louis Park.”

“What a frickin’ surprise,” he said sardonically irreverently.

Even in the face of poorly dressed obese school administrators, hungry for food and power and always trying to impose their formal rigid moralism on us normal debate folks, debate is still the best thing next to arcane Japanese animated erotica.

As the last round of the day concluded, I was sad that the tournament was already half over, but very excited to be minutes away from Shellsea. My last round was in a classroom belonging to a teacher who, like Obama, apparently was consternated by the sagging of the pants, as well as other revealing clothing. The area above the whiteboard was covered in a row of signs with cutesy poems warning children that provocative clothing has no place in a learning environment:

If we can see your thong, you’ve dressed yourself wrong!

If too far you sag, you’ll make them gag!

Keep your ass in your damn pants.

I have to agree with this teacher. Teenagers are already sexually frustrated as it is, but at least most of them can wait until they’re home alone to spend hours surfing the web in a porn cycle, fantasizing about transsexual dwarf amputees or whatever kind of perverse filth is popular with those hairy-palmed adolescent hornbags these days. To them, I say as long as it’s done behind closed doors and does not in any way involve real animals—although stuffed ones or Animatronics are fine—then I don’t care about it and I don’t want to know about it and I don’t want to talk about it.

And don’t get me started on those emos.

Luckily, all these distractions floated away as soon as I entered Old Chicago. It was dreary outside—the coldest day of the year by far with a mix of rain and snow coming down—but entering OC was like returning to the womb, the ultimate homecoming. Shellsea had new lowlights that went well with her uniform, and she enthusiastically hugged me before showing me to my favorite spot at the bar.

“It’s a real chiller outside, isn’t it?” she said. “That’s what ya get living in Minnesota though. They say that under all this Minnesota nice is a real tough cookie.”

“Preach it to me, sister! Now let’s hear about your seasonal beer specials.”

“Ooh, we’ve got some real exciting choices this time. There’s a Winter Warmer from Rooftop Brewery in New Ulm, and of course Autumnal Fire’s always good for what ails ya.”

“Especially if what ails ya is sobriety!” I said.

She cackled with laugher as I chose a stout from Wisconsin. I once knew a man who married a stout from Wisconsin, and boy could I tell you stories about him.

Digressions aside, the evening was as great as I expected—at least until a rowdy group of high school robotics coaches came in. Apparently there was a robotics tournament at Eastview High School. Those damn robotics people always show up to piss on your fiesta. They take money away from debate teams, and they treat us like doo-doo. They’re so classless, too. All the coaches were slamming Purple Hooters and loudly talking about their favorite techniques for pleasurable robot programming. I don’t want to hear about some robot scaring burglars away when I’m trying to focus on enjoying a chicken Caesar.

So I ignored them. Dire Straits was on the stereo, the food was enticing, and I anticipated another day of stimulating debate rounds ahead. After returning home, with a full belly and some leftover buffalo shrimp fettuccini for a midnight snack, I was thankful that real America was still just what is was: real! I fell asleep immediately and had dreams about Sarah Palin baking a variety of dessert bars for an American Legion meeting.

Next day number two: It was colder than Fred Phelps at a Bette Middler concert outside, but that didn’t dampen my spirits a bit. Apple Valley High School was abuzz with competitors and coaches anticipating the first round of the day. As the preliminary rounds come to a close, there are always many epic battles, debates so good that judges have to periodically stop taking notes and simply marvel at the pure logic and intelligence saturating the atmosphere.

After round seven, the novice and junior varsity debaters returned from their respective off-site locations, and instantly the cafeteria was crowded with little kids screaming and crying and biting each other. I escaped to a remote corner of the school to talk about poker strategy with my friends. Stories about poker are almost as prevalent—and certainly as interesting—as those about debate rounds when you’re with forensics people. I was reminiscing about the time I had a big chick in the pocket and everything was looking fantastic until the river delivered a bad beat.

“That totally sucks, man.”

“Speaking of total suckage, I have a hilarious story about what happens when an open limp and a nut hand come together.”

“Is that the one with the donkey with the pocket rocket?”

“Oh, damn! I’ve already told you guys that one. That was my best story.”

And it was a great story. Real America is filled with real Americans and their great stories. If you don’t ask, though, they might not tell them.

After a delicious lunch of walking tacos and juice boxes, it was time for the announcement of which debaters had fought through the field and earned a spot in elimination rounds. The tension was incredible, but it was delightful to see the joyful reactions of those who made the cut. A novice from Scarsdale screamed out in thanks to his Rabbi when his name was announced, and another debater collapsed and started speaking in tongues.

Naturally, the elimination rounds were exciting to watch, difficult to judge, and took place in rounds filled with hygienically challenged kids. The temperature rose to Old Chicago levels, but instead of the delicious smell of pizza and beer, it smelled more like the locker room at a gym for gutter punks.

The rounds progressed toward finals, a match between two debaters that I had no interest in, so I left with my friends for our big night at Old Chicago. I always like to spend the first night there myself, for the pure experience and to reconnect with Shellsea, and save the second night for a communal blast. We sat at our usual round table, ordering several pitchers of Autumnal Fire and the app sampler with onion sticks, freedom fries, broccoli shooters, popcorn beef, and their famous spinach-artichoke dip with bacon, ranch, and corn nuts.

“Remember that time when that one debater had a value of that of teamwork?”

“What a retard!”

“Dude, I know. I haven’t heard anything that stupid since someone went for four-minutes straight Malthus good after the NC ran a spark blip after three Stav off-cases and a phil spec.”

“I haven’t seen a dump like that since the morning after my last dinner at Fogo de Chao!”

“Ho ho ho ho ho ho!”

“That reminds of the time when someone was running felon voting leads to nuke war with that Berube card, and they dropped a McIntyre a priori but still picked up two judges who thought the magnitude was sufficient or some shit.”

“That’s like when the brink overwhelms uniqueness with Wittgenstein hits someone running the gift K in front of mommy judges from Alabama.”

“Or like Mouffe. I mean, how can you take it seriously if her name is Mouffe. What’s next, Wang?”

“Better yet: Schlong.”

“Ho ho ho ho ho ho!”

It was a night to remember, a night in real America, the America we real Americans live in, where we drink American beer and eat American pizza and listen to good old American rock and roll. We are young and old, smart and smarter, men and women, straight and bi-curious, but our love of debate brings us together and keeps us that way forever.

That’s why I know that a year from now, despite how many crises occur in the interim, I will be back with my friends, my Shellsea, my grilled chicken Caesar, and a big smile on my face.

Dedicated to all my boyz in the community. Be real 4ever. Keep your RFD’s straight and your sexual relationships straighter. LOL & pz out 4-reals—

-Gelf-Dawg ‘08

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