Chuck Klosterman IV A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, by Klosterman, Chuck
- ISBN: 9780743284899 | 0743284895
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 7/3/2007
|Things That Are True|
|Southern-Fried Sex Kitten|
|Bending Spoons with Britney Spears|
|(This Happened in) October|
|Call me "Lizard King." No...really. I insist.|
|Crazy Things Seem Normal, Normal Things Seem Crazy|
|1,400 Mexican Moz Fans Can't Be (Totally) Wrong|
|The Amazing McNugget Diet|
|My Second-Favorite Canadian|
|The Karl Marx of the Hardwood|
|Deep Blue Something|
|That '70s Cruise|
|In the Beginning, There Was Zoso|
|Not a Whole Lotta Love|
|Band on the Couch|
|Unbuttoning the Hardest Button to Button|
|Garage Days Unvisited|
|The Ice Planet Goth|
|Something Wicked This Way Comes|
|No More Knives|
|The American Radiohead|
|Bowling for the Future (and Possibly Horse Carcasses)|
|Local Clairvoyants Split Over Future|
|But I Still Think "All for Leyna" Is Awesome|
|Someone Like You|
|Dude Rocks Like a Lady|
|Taking The Streets to the Music|
|Untitled Geezer Profile|
|Five Interesting Corpses|
|The Ratt Trap|
|How Real Is Real|
|The Tenth Beatle|
|Here's "Johnny" 207|
|Fargo Rock City, for Real|
|To Be Scene, or Not to Be Seen|
|Things That Might Be True|
|The Grizzly Hypothetical|
|The Transformation Hypothetical|
|The Unknown Companion Hypothetical|
|I Do Not Hate the Olympics|
|The Dress Code Hypothetical|
|Three Stories Involving Pants|
|The Court of Public Opinion Hypothetical|
|Don't Look Back in Anger|
|The Brain Pill Hypothetical|
|The Life Plagiarist Hypothetical|
|The Universal Morality Hypothetical|
|The Joe Six-Pack Hypothetical|
|Certain Rock Bands You Probably Like|
|The Hitler Theft Hypothetical|
|The Robot War Hypothetical|
|The Cannibal's Quandary|
|The Apocalypse Hypothetical|
|The General Tso's Hypothetical|
|Something That Isn't True at All|
|You Tell Me|
|Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.|
"Of course," I said in response. "Always."
"Okay, well...great. That's great."
He collected his thoughts for fourteen seconds.
"Something is happening to me," he said. "I keep thinking about something that happened to me a long time ago. Years ago. Like, this thing happened to me in eighth fucking grade. This is a situation I hadn't even thought about for probably ten or fifteen years. But then I saw a documentary that reexamined theChallengerexplosion, and this particular event had happened around that same time. And what's disturbing is that -- now -- I find myself thinking about this particular afternoon constantly. I have dreams about it. Every time I get drunk or stoned, I inevitably find myself sitting in a dark room, replaying the sequence of the events in my mind, over and over again. And the details I remember from this 1986 afternoon are unfathomably intense. Nothing is missing and nothing is muddled. And I'm starting to believe -- and this, I suppose, is the weird part -- that maybe this day was the most important day of my entire life, and that everything significant about my personality was created on this one particular afternoon. I'm starting to suspect that this memory is not merely about a certain day of my life; this memory is abouttheday, if you get my meaning."
"I think I do," I said. "Obviously, I'm intrigued."
"I thought you would be," he replied. "In fact, that's why I specifically wanted to talk to you about this problem. Because the story itself isn't amazing. It's not like my best friend died on this particular day. It's not like a wolf showed up at my school and mauled a bunch of teachers. It's not a sad story, and it's not even a funny story. It's about a junior-high basketball game."
"A junior-high basketball game."
"The most important day in your life was a junior-high basketball game."
"And you're realizing this now, as a thirty-three-year-old chemical engineer with two children."
I attempted to arch my eyebrows to suggest skepticism, but the sentiment did not translate.
"Obviously, this story isn'treallyabout basketball," he said. "I suppose it'skindof about basketball, because I was playing a basketball game on this particular afternoon. However, I have a feeling that the game itself is secondary."
"It always is," I said.
"Exactly. So, here's the situation: when I was in eighth grade, our basketball team was kind of terrible. You only play a ten-game schedule when you're in eighth grade, and we lost four of our first six games, a few of them by wide margins. I was probably the best player on the team, and I sucked. We were bad. We knew we were bad. And on the specific afternoon I'm recalling, we were playing the Fairmount Pheasants. We had played Fairmount in the first game of the year, and they beat us by twenty-two points. Fairmount only had three hundred people in their whole goddamn town, but they had the best eighth-grade basketball team in rural southeast North Dakota that winter."
"That's tremendous," I said.
"They had a power forward named Tyler RaGoose. He was the single most unstoppable Pheasant. He was wiry and swarthy and strong, and he almost had a mustache; every great eighth-grade basketball playeralmosthas a mustache. The rumor was that he could dunk a volleyball and that he had already fucked two girls, one of whom was a sophomore. It seemed plausible. They also had a precocious, flashy seventh grader who played point guard -- I think his name was Trevor Monroe. He was one of those kids who was just naturally good at everything: he played point guard in the winter, shortstop in the summer, and quarterback in the fall. I'm not sure if Fairmount had a golf course, but I assume he was the best chipper in town if they did. They had this guy named Kenwood Dotzenrod who always looked sleepy, but he could get fouled whenever he felt like it. That was his gift -- he knew how to get fouled. Do you remember Adrian Dantley? That stoic dude who played for the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons with a really powerful ass? Kenwood Dotzenrod was like a white, thirteen-year-old Adrian Dantley. It seemed like he shot twelve free throws every night. These were just perfect, flawless Pheasants. And it's hard to understand how that happened, because -- once those kids got into high school -- Fairmount defined mediocrity. They were never better than a .500 club. But as junior-high kids, they were a potato sack full of wolverines. They were going to humiliate us, and everybody in my school seemed to know this.
"Because we were junior-high kids, the game started right after school. It was scheduled for 4:15 p.m. That school day was interminable. I was wearing a gray acrylic sweater and cargo pants, because our coach didn't let us wear jeans on game days. It was a different era, I suppose -- no rap music. I remember walking around the school in those idiotic cargo pants, eating corndogs at lunch, pretending to care about earth science, and justlongingfor 4:15. Because I had this irrefutable, unexplainable premonition that we were going to play great that day. I didn't think we would necessarilywin, because Fairmount was better and they had the mustache dude, and we were lazy, underfed losers. But I still had a vague sense that we would not humiliate ourselves. We would execute and hustle, and the game would be close. This feeling was almost spiritual. And I was not the kind of kid who looked on the bright side ofanything; I was never optimistic about any element of my eighth-grade life. But something made me certain that good things were on the horizon. We started warming up for the game at 3:55, and I can recall standing in the lay-up line and looking at the Pheasants at the other end of the court. Half of their team had spiky rattail haircuts, which was the style of the time. It was a different era, I suppose -- Don Johnson and David Lee Roth defined masculinity. The gym felt especially hot and especially dry. I couldn't make myself sweat. I remember thinking,Our school needs a humidifier. Our cheerleaders weren't even paying attention to us. They were probably looking at Tyler RaGoose's potential mustache."
"So did your team play well?" I asked. "Was your intuition correct?"
"Fuck, yeah," he responded immediately. "We couldn't have played any better than we did. I mean, remember: we were junior-high kids. We were just little guys -- half our squad weighed less than one hundred pounds. I still didn't have pubic hair. But we played like basketball geniuses. Fairmount scored on the first possession of the game, we scored on the second possession, and it just went back and forth like that for the entire first half. Nobody on either team seemed to miss. Do you recall when Villanova upset Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game? It was like we were all possessed by the spirit of Villanova. This was unlike any junior-high game I've ever witnessed, before or since. It was better than half of the shit they show on ESPN2. That Trevor Monroe kid -- this spiky-haired little elf who was maybe five feet tall -- knocked down three twenty-one-foot jump shots in a row. My memories of this are all so goddamn vivid. It actually freaks me out, because I barely remember anything else from that winter; I barely remember anything else from that entire school year. But I somehow recall that the score was 35 to 33 in Fairmount's favor with ten seconds left in the first half, and somebody from our team dribbled the ball off his own foot. Trevor Monroe rushed the rock up the court and threw a blind bounce pass to a kid named Billy Barnaby in the right corner; Barnaby was a 4.00 student, and he was probably the only fourteen-year-old boy in Fairmount who actively liked poetry. Girls felt safe around him -- he looked like Topher Grace. I jumped in his direction, but Barnaby threw in a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, pushing Fairmount's halftime lead to four points. When the rock nestled in the net, Barnaby awkwardly clapped his hands and sprinted into the visitors' locker room with one fist in the air. It was like he had just blown up a federal building with the White Panthers. It was intense.
"Now, the second half was more like a standard junior-high basketball game. There was less scoring, and we behaved like normal eighth graders. Players would fuck up on occasion. But every possession was still akin to the Bataan death march. I don't think I have ever wanted anything as much as I wanted to win that game. I mean, what else in my life did I care about? I was fourteen. What else mattered to me? Nothing. There was nothing I cared about as much as playing basketball against other eighth graders. I had no perspective. I suppose I liked my bedroom, and I liked girls who owned Def Leppard cassettes, and I liked being Catholic. I liked eating gravy. But this game felt considerably more important than all of those things. If I were to play in a Super Bowl or the World Series tomorrow night, it wouldn't feel as monumental as this event felt twenty years ago. I could not comprehend any valuable existence beyond this specific basketball game; my eighth-grade worldview was profoundly telescopic. I suspect this depth of emotion can only happen when you're that particular age."
"And I assume this realization is what you were referring to earlier," I said. "I assume this realization is why that afternoon was the most important afternoon of your life: it was the cognition of your deepest desire."
"No," he said. "That's not it. That's not even close. The thing is, it started to look like this game was going to go into overtime. It was 48 to 48. Fairmount had the ball, and the semi-mustachioed RaGoose drove the baseline and scored with maybe twenty seconds remaining. We could not contain his machismo. So now we were behind, 50 to 48. Still, I believed we would somehow tie things up. I was certain we would score; for the whole game, we had always managed to score when we truly needed to score. But this time, we didn't. We turned it over. We were trying to feed our post player, and the ball ricocheted off his paw. So now the Pheasants had the ball with a two-point lead, and I had to intentionally foul Kenwood Dotzenrod with five seconds remaining. It was the only way to stop the clock. It was an act of desperation. I was desperate. It was the most desperate thing I've ever done."
"So...you lost," I said. "And I gather that this must be one of those stories about dealing with heartache: this was when you realized that losing can be more meaningful than winning."
"No," he said. "We ended up winning this game. Kenwood Dotzenrod missed his free throw. He shot a line drive at the front of the iron and the ball bounced straight into my hands; I called time-out while I was catching it. Our coach designed a play that didn't work, but that aforementioned post player -- Cubby Jones, a semi-fundamentalist Christian who's now a high-school math teacher -- got fouled at midcourt with one second remaining. One of the lesser Pheasants stupidly went for the steal -- remember, we were just eighth graders. We were all stupid. So now Cubby Jones had to make both of these free throws with one second on the clock, which is an insane amount of pressure to put on a fourteen-year-old named Cubby. But he rattled in the first shot and swished the second, and the game went into overtime. And -- not to brag or anything, because this is just what happened -- I ended up hitting a sixteen-foot jump shot at the buzzer at the end of OT. We won 56 to 54. It was the greatest night of my life, at least up to that point. So I suppose I am technically the hero of this particular anecdote."
We both finished our beverages.
"Curious," I said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm a little disappointed. This story is far more conventional than I anticipated. I would never have assumed that the biggest moment of your existence would be making a jump shot before you had pubic hair. To be frank, this is kind of a rip-off. You've made dozens of confessions that were far more consequential than this."
"But I still haven't told you the part that I remember most," he said. "Winning the game, making the shot. . . I remember those things, yes. They made me happy at the time. They are positive memories. But the moment I remember more than any other -- the moment that is more than just a nostalgic imprint -- is the feeling that came after desperately fouling Kenwood Dotzenrod. Because when that happened, I was certain we had lost. Everything felt hopeless. It seemed unlikely that Kenwood would miss, implausible that we would get a reasonable opportunity to score if such a miss occurred, and impossible that such an opportunity would result in any degree of success. And I had invested so much energy into the previous twenty-three minutes and fifty-five seconds of this eighth-grade basketball game. I had -- at some point, probably late in the third quarter -- unconsciously decided that losing this game would be no different than being alone forever. It would be the same as being buried alive. Everything else became trivial. So when I desperately slapped Kenwood Dotzenrod on the wrist and I heard the referee's whistle, I felt the life drain from my blood. My bones softened. I felt this...this...this kind ofpredepression. Like, I knew I couldn't be depressed yet, because the game was still in progress. I still had to try to win, because that is what you do whenever you play any game. You try to win. You aren't allowed to give up, even philosophically. I still had to pretend that those final five seconds had meaning, and I could not outwardly express fear or sadness or disappointment. But I instantly knew how terrible I would feel when I went to bed that evening. I could visualize my future sadness. And because I was an eighth-grader -- because I had no fucking perspective on anything -- I assumed this would bother me for the rest of my life. It seemed like something that would never go away. So I stood on the edge of the free-throw lane, tugging on the bottom of my shorts, vocally reminding my teammates to box out, mentally preparing myself for a sadness that would last forever."
"Interesting," I said. "It seems that you are describing how it feels to be doomed."
"And this sense of doom is why an eighth-grade basketball game remains the most important moment of your life?"
"Maybe," he said. "Actually, yes."
"But you weren't doomed," I said. "You won the game. That one guy, the white Adrian Dantley...what was his name again?"
"Right. Kenwood Dotzenrod did, in fact, miss. Your team did, in fact, get an opportunity to score, and Cubby Jones did, in fact, make his free throws. You were never doomed. And even if this scenario had ended differently -- even if Kenwood Dotzenrod had made one of his free throws, or if Cubby had missed one of his -- your adolescent sadness would have been fleeting. You would have been sad for a week, or a month, or maybe even a year. But those things fade. This is just something specific that you happen to remember, and -- because you seem to be actively dwelling upon its alleged significance -- you unconsciously re-create all the other details you've forgotten. That's why it seems so vivid: you'remakingit vivid, just by talking about it. I mean, come on: everybody has a basketball game they remember, or a girl they kissed duringPretty in Pink, or some alcoholic cousin who died in a hunting accident. Or whatever. You know what I mean? It all seems so arbitrary, and -- at least in this case -- completely backward.You're disturbed about something meaningless that worked out exactly the way you wanted. It's not just that I don't understand what this metaphor signifies; I honestly don't know if this story involves any metaphor at all. Where is the conflict? What is the problem? I mean, you said it yourself: technically, you are the hero of this story."
"Yes," he said in response. "Technically, I am. But isn't that always the problem?"
Copyright © 2006 by Chuck Klosterman
Excerpted from Chuck Klosterman, Volume 4: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.