Cody got me.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about me, with some extended commentary for some of them:
1. My sophomore year of high-school (circa 1986-87), I formed a hip-hop (or “rap” as we called it) group and entered the high school talent show with some friends. We laid down some beats with a $25 Casio keyboard and rapped about the Brady Bunch. I think my stage name was “Chucky D.” I do remember that one of the other guys was called “McDLT” after the short-lived McDonald’s hamburger. Instead of a luxury car emblem around my neck (think Beastie Boys), I ripped the plastic AMC Pacer logo off my friend’s car and wore that.
Much to my surprise, we actually won the talent show against some heavy competition from “real” hip-hop groups, at least one metal band that went through the trouble of hauling an elaborate mail-ordered drummer’s cage (think Tommy Lee) onstage for their one song, and a few Whitney Houston wannabes. I don’t even remember what the prize was, or if we even stayed around to get it. As soon as we were crowned the winners, everyone was threatening to kick our asses: the hip-hop guys because we so completely violated the form, the metal guys because we brazenly mocked the heavy metal umlaut in our name (another story), and the Whitney Houston wannabes because, well, we sucked and they could actually sing.
I am not making this up. Sometimes I rationalize this whole thing as some kind of Dadaist experiment or performance art, that wearing the Pacer emblem around my neck and naming one of the guys after a McDonald’s hamburger was some kind of statement on consumerism, branding, and American absurdity — but I think it was actually just really all-around stupid.
2. My first job out of college was as a Pizza Hut delivery driver in Raleigh, NC — and it was one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever had. I had actually graduated with honors from Duke, but had zero idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated. I figured that driving pizzas around all over town would give me some time to think about what to do next and listen to some good music at the same time. The plan worked. Before I left, I was given a “Pizza Hut Delivery Top Gun” pin to wear on my hat, and I still have it. I posted about the pizza delivery experience on USENET in alt.society.generation-x back in March 1994 and had visions — never realized — of writing a short story about some of my experiences (code name: “Hut of Darkness”). Back then, many people my age thought our generation was getting screwed and would never have things as good as our parents (oops! thank you, Internet Boom). One quote from my 21-year-old self makes me chuckle today and long for the time when politics were a little more entertaining and a little less dire:
Ross Perot’s comment on pizza delivery illustrates the relevance of the topic to this group (I paraphrase): “Why is it that everyone who delivers a pizza to my house has a college degree?”
Related story: while I was washing dishes one night, the guitarist from my favorite local band just happened to walk in (Lisa Cooper from Picasso Trigger) and we became fast friends (Lisa, are you out there?). At their height, Picasso Trigger opened for Sonic Youth in Chapel Hill on their Dirty tour (an album which featured a song named “Chapel Hill,” so this was ultra-cool). When I read this sentence in the Trouser Press review of their last album (Bipolar Cowboy, 1995), I have to crack a smile:
everybody’s feeding back, everybody sounds like they’re out of their minds with caffeine and hate, everybody’s barging ahead with the song whether the rest of the band is ready or not and nobody gives a shit.
3. In college, I had the best work-study job in the world: running the Duke Coffeehouse, the only student-run restaurant and music venue on campus. Most Duke students avoided the Coffeehouse and thought of it as a place for campus freaks and random locals to hang out — which is exactly why I liked it. A story last year described the Coffeehouse like this: “The Coffeehouse hosted the humble early days of local musicians who would go far, like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, and traveling bands like Guided By Voices, Royal Trux and Beck.” I was there for that. In fact, I’m proud to say that my work running the place in 1992-93 made all of that possible. In 1992, the Duke administration was about to shut the place down when I stepped in and asked them to give me a few months to fix all of the problems. The prior managers had embezzled money into secret off-campus bank accounts and there was nothing but debt, angry creditors, and frustrated administrators for me to deal with, but I thought the Coffeehouse had so much unrealized potential. I implemented systems to take student meal plans (it was cash-only before) and profits went through the roof. That’s where I learned the old adage is true: sales fixes everything. All of the angry vendors were paid back in short order and I won the confidence of the administration. I leveraged that confidence to buy and install an awesome sound system and stage that Beck and the others played on (apparently, bootlegs of the Beck show are available, and Beck seemed to genuinely remember the place when I asked him about it at Yahoo! Open Hack Day). Anyway, I left a profit and no serious problems for the next manager and I’m still very proud of that.
4. I had quite a political career in high school and was class president my junior year and student body president my senior year. As student body president, I did all the morning announcements over the intercom, including the daily lunch menus. Chief among my accomplishments was a very successful fundraiser for the school library. Here’s how I did it: I convinced a local hog farmer to donate a pig, then went to the best BBQ restaurant in town to ask if they would cook and season the pig for the school so we could sell BBQ dinners before a football game. They agreed, and all we did was buy paper plates and plastic utensils. In the end, we couldn’t even fulfill the demand, and our margins were at least 98%. Success! (Note to my California friends: yes, it was what you would call “pulled pork,” but no one there ever calls it that — it’s barbeque.)
5. My first car was a rapidly-deteriorating 1980 Buick Regal (a bit about this car on USENET). I taped a photo of Willie Nelson to the dashboard and scrawled “American Hero” on it. I still feel that way about Willie.
It’s looking like this meme is getting a little played out, so I’m going to have to think a little about who I’m going to tag. . . look for an updated post soon.