Friday, November 28, 2008

The 2008 Glenbrooks Review













An Open Letter to Everyone Everywhere Along the Stretch of Highway 94 from Minneapolis to Chicago the Weekend of November 21, 2008:

All y’all suck. Big time. Our world has really gone to hell in a handbasket. I can smell the flames from Satan’s Rock, and I am not referring to the stone formation outside Tomah, but the fiery pit of hell from whence sulfuric and other stanknasty odors emerge. Everything is so dark-sided! Get the hell out of the upper Midwest in Jesus’ name I pray!

I don’t even know where to start on this list of grievances, ungodly horrors unleashed upon my person. I suppose that since we’re talking about the apocalypse and linear time is apocalyptic time, at least according to those damned gays, we’ll start at the beginning and go as straight as possible from there.

Which isn’t going to be easy.

Last Friday, we set off towards a competitive crossword-solving tournament in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I took five students with me, all adept wordsmiths. We travel together once or twice a month, which is lots of fun: They try to make me listen to terrible music and stories about their experiences with rifles and PCP, and I drive 120 miles per hour and tray to splat as many animals along the highway as possible.

The trip can be done on either of two highways: 90 or 94. Although the former has Medieval Times and a string of rural areas where I imagine the modern equivalent of Gilles de Rais would set up shop, we took 94 this time, since it takes us past the Dells, Racine, the Ho-Chunk, and Wisconsin Fun, the family fantasy fun experience between Hustler and Baraboo.

Before we even reached Wisconsin Fun, we saw one of those new-fangled windmills self-destruct: centrifugal force gone bad. I wasn’t surprised to see that happen, since God knows those unholy environmentalists who are always talking about clean energy and global warming and other lies are probably not capable of the craftsmanship it takes to make a nice sturdy windmill. Pieces of sharp metal flew all over the countryside; we even saw a slice lodge itself right in the middle of a cow.

Now, I don’t have a problem looking at dead animals. In fact, I once planned to go into taxidermy until I realized it required a two-year degree from the University of Phoenix (and not the online type!). But it will be awhile before I cut into a nice juicy piece of beef without remembering that windmill carnage.

“That poor cow. What did anyone ever do to him?” one of the students asked.

“Poor cow? What about the billions of women you have just violated by using a masculine pronoun. You are the one naturalizing domination and that domination is real because language shapes reality.”

“Shut up, you two-dollar ho-ass bitch-lady!” I said to the overly sensitive male student. “You’re both wrong. But you know what’s right? And right here?”

Wisconsin Fun! If loving Wisconsin Fun is wrong, I don’t want to be a gooderson. What could be more exciting than watching teenagers hoisted violently into the air by rusted-out cherry pickers equipped with ultra-powerful engines? I’ll tell you what’s more exciting: when one of those pickers bursts into flames and catapults a child three directly into a billboard advertising the Rick Wilcox Magic Experience at Wisconsin Dells.

Everything was going well until the device that connects your iPod to your cigarette lighter to your car radio to your asshole was working about as well as a liberal’s noggin. Just when we got to the rockin’ solo of a Led Zeppelin song, the bitch would short out, release a burst of noise that sounded like tortured ferret, then blast mariachi music at extreme volumes.

“This is a nice song,” one of the students said.

“I hear Air Mexico has good prices on tickets to Spain. Why don’t you go back there, you heathen?”

“I’m from Malta.”

“Same thing. Some land of dark-sided heathens putting curses on their small electronics exports so people in American can’t even drive down the fucking highway without having to listed to some Taco Bell commercial! And without that Chihuahua even.”

“Watch out for that sidecar!”

I swerved expertly, although the fat tattooed biker flicked me off. “Fuck you harder, Grandma Fuck!” I screamed. “You don’t even know me motherfucker! And what the hell is with this traffic? Is there a fucking sign that says ‘Please change lanes frequently’?”

Indeed there wasn’t. Instead, there was a sign alerting drivers to a white PT Cruiser emblazoned with the Schlotzsky’s logo which contained a child abducted by a man with a full beard and a long white dress.

“Jesus Christ!” I said, lamenting all that’s wrong with the world.

“Actually, that description does sound like Jesus Christ,” one of the students noted.

“Are you telling me some sicko would dress up like Jesus in order to win the trust of tender, delicious young children he wants to kidnap and violate repeatedly?”

They all nodded vigorously. But even so, why would someone so otherwise crafty drive such an easily identifiable vehicle?

We stopped for gas just outside the Bong Recreational Area, a place for tired motorists to relax with some Bong-related recreation activities. You can bet your crackpipe I wasn’t going anywhere near those dopers. However, we did stop at the nearby DQ, the one across from Mars Cheese Castle. Someone had mounted a cow carcass to the back of their trailer, an appetizing sight; I wondered if was the same cow vivisected by the windmill popping. Inside, there seemed to be quite a few Bong visitors hungry for Blizzards.

“Can you add some more hot fudge to that, dude?” the man in front of me asked the girl making his treat.

“I am not a dude, you rat-faced motherfucker!” she screamed, grabbing a squeeze bottle of butterscotch and assaulting his eyes with it. She jumped over the counter and assaulted him upside the head with a napkin holder, knocking him out cold.

We treated her nice, like ladies want to be treated, and were rewarded with expertly made desserts. Women really do know their way around the kitchen, and that’s where they should stay, if you ask me.

As we returned to our van, I nicely reminded the students that if they dripped in the car, I would strangle them to at least the brink of death with my malfunctioning iPod cord. From there, it was straight to Illinois and our hotel, the Hyatt Deerfield.

The Hyatt was the main hotel for the tournament, and as soon as we walked into the registration area, I saw the most feared competitor on the circuit, M. Online Reared, and his coach, Enrico Diablo. They had installed a rotating platform in the center of the room to allow them to sneer at everyone without having to move.

“Those smug motherfuckers are going to be surprised when my secret weapon anally rapes them!” I said to the coach next to me in line. He turned, revealing a priest's collar.

“Is it the new ultra-thick deluxe anal swizzle stick?” he asked.

“You’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.”

“God damn it!”

While I registered, the students ordered pizzas from a well-regarded local Chicago-style deep-dish pizzeria. We waited for the delivery while watching America’s Most Violently Destructive Yet Hilarious Bloopers. This is seriously the greatest show ever. Some guy tried to ride a bike down a steep slope of volcanic rock at over 100 miles per hour until the bike imploded and he splooshed face-first against the rock. And some kid was skateboarding down a hill, flew off his board, and landed crotch-first against a post.

“Right in the unit!” I said, laughing uproariously.

“What a nut-buster!” a student added.

“Excuse me? I have a call for Mr. Dick Hertz.”

“That’s enough,” I said. “Show some fucking respect to the poor man whose genitals may never function again.”

After watching a few more violent incidents, I realized it had been quite a while and still no pizza, so I called to see what was up. “The delivery guy was just there, and he couldn’t find you. But he’ll come back.”

“You better fucking believe he’ll come back, and he’ll take his tip of a nice sturdy silver dollar and swallow it and then call me tomorrow to describe the pain when he shits it back out. And if that ignorant fuckwit isn’t here within the next fifteen minutes, I will personally get every local Dairy Queen employee to trash your restaurant and smack the fat off your stomach.”

Eleven minutes later, it was dinnertime.

The next morning, we woke up at an ungodly hour and headed to Glenbrook South High School, the site of our preliminary rounds. All the poor fashion choices of the crossword community were out in full force: sagging pants, half-shirts, stripper heels, and B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirts. It’s so hard to deal with the assault on the senses from all that fugly. When I was choosing where to go to school, I just looked up all the girls on Facebook and chose the one with the lowest percentage of fugly.

Someone from another school came up and asked if our team was especially dressed up for this tournament. God knows why that would ever be an interesting topic of conversation, but we are talking about crossword people here and not people with even remotely acceptable social skills.

“Shut up and pull up your fucking pants!” I said. “Nobody wants to see the entirety of your boxers and the first few centimeters of your creamy, muscular thighs when we’re trying to focus on what five-letter word means ‘tweak surreptitiously.’ There is a time and a place for exposed boxers and thighs and it’s when you and your boyfriend are about to get busy in a Burger King bathroom.”

He walked away awkwardly, since there is no non-awkward way to walk when your pants are hovering just below buttock. Soon after, the first round was posted, and all the students went to their assigned classrooms to show off their verbal prowess. Between rounds, we spent most of the time marveling at the freaks surrounding us: the wolf-man lookalike, a couple making out in front of the ballot table, and the judge with unusual facial piercings who looked more like an attendee of a convention for arcane fetishists.

Our team was doing quite well, which apparently angered another coach from Minnesota, so he wrote down a list of all the ways to distract our students and passed it out to everyone in the tournament. Luckily, I had purposely fed false information that contributed to this list, and most of the items were things we spent practices desensitizing ourselves to: erotic lip-smacking, blowjob gestures, nipple tweaking, soft grunting, etc.

We returned to our hotel satisfied with our results. The World’s Most Explosive Explosions was on, but the narrator sounded kind of British, so we put it on closed captioning. Unfortunately, British people had apparently done the captioning as well. How else do you explain phrases like “Lo the dickaholic hitting thround” and “My value is that of justice?”

We changed to Lifetime, where the premiere of the original new made-for-TV movie The Thomas Dilts Affair was just beginning. The tagline was, “One paper, one argument, one enraged coach.” That also sounded like shit, so we got in the minivan to have dinner somewhere in Chicago. The traffic, though, was unbelievable. It was like a mass exodus from the suburbs. Some bitch in a red Chevy tried to cut me off before the tollbooth and I screamed, “I rebuke you in the name of the lord, Grandma Fuck!”

“No habla Ingles.”

“Then habla this!” I said, followed by a gesture meant to convey a fist going through a nostril. Just then, our stereo started blasting mariachi music, and the woman smiled, apparently assuming I was trying to be friendly. “Jesus Christ on a cracker!” I screamed, ripping off the faulty device. “On the highway of life, everyone sucks balls.”

We wound up ordering pizza again.

After a final preliminary round in the morning, the list of students advancing to elimination rounds was released. We had two in the group: not bad, but not great. One of them was in the same round as M. Reared. “What am I to do? He’s just too good for me,” the scared student asked.

“Remember this: He’s not a Christian!” I screamed. “He dabbles in dark-sided stuff. You need to be a God warrior, to rebuke his sinnin’ ass all over the room and win for the glory of the light!”

“I’ll try.”

“And if he gets all up in your face, don’t back town. Look him straight in the eye and tell him, ‘Smell it! Smell it! Take it!’ If he can dish it out, he can handle it.”

Our other finalist was in a much easier group. Both of them were clearly defeated. “You’re all failures!” I told the team. “I do everything in my power to make sure you are prepared, that you can at least seem smart, that you don’t fucking suck at life, but what difference does that make? I may as well be speaking Swahili. But I bet you worthless shit lumps will understand this: What do you call a group of idiotic losers who deserve to go the way of the whooping crane?”

“A classic rock band?”

“Good guess, but the answer is: Y’all!”

They looked demoralized, but I wasn’t done yet. Far from it, in fact. But before I could continue my tirade, two coaches interrupted us with their own angry fight.

“You got more, bitch?”

“I got a lot more. Firstly, the way you treat people is some fucked-up shit. You go around with your stank face talking shit about everyone, but really you’re the one who’s shit.”

“Hahahahaha! That’s all you got, bitch? You don’t even know me, motherfucker! Let me tell you this: Talk to the fucking hand because the fucking ears aren’t listening.”

“I’ll do more than talk to your fucking hand, motherfucker!”

The argument continued as they walked further down the hall. I turned to the students and said, “Now that they’re gone, brace yourselves because it’s Daddy’s turn again.”

But before Daddy could resume, a coach from Texas approached a coach and student near us and started accusing them of some ethical shenanigans.

“How dare you call our tactics cockamamie? I’ma maim your cock if you don’t shut the fuck up right now.”

“Shit is just not right. Why you gotta act like that? You’re just making the whole community look like petty assholes.”

“Simmer down, son. I think you need to look up ‘petty’ in the dictionary because the only petty I got here is Tom Petty because, just like him, I won't back down, I’m gonna stand my ground, so you better get the fuck out my grill if you don’t want a cap to be busted.”

Everyone was enraged. The tournament had been taken over by the dark side; my own anger was useless. It was time to go back to Minnesota.

There was nothing left to do except have a hearty meal at the Machine Shed, risk assault for more delicious DQ treats outside Eau Claire, and briefly get caught in a rift in spacetime caused by the “Next Exit” advertisements for Wisconsin Fun.

It was this rift that restored my hope in a non-apocalyptic time, a new temporality that would resist the temptation to go to the dark side, that would bring us to a better time outside the cycle toward the toilet of chaos Satan seems to have us trapped in right now. I’ll say it fervently, angrily, but never surreptitiously:

Catapult us into a universe of post-linear temporality in Jesus’ name I pray!

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