Throughout the past year, we’ve asked the MEL staff to share many intimate details about their personal lives. We are, as it turns out, a peculiar bunch.
Not long ago, I signed myself up to make a speech at one of my closest friend’s wedding rehearsals — something I hadn’t fully thought through, but felt I should do since the rest of his groomsmen were unwilling to volunteer. I’m not the most inspiring public speaker, so I decided to get a little help from a trusted friend who lives in an emerald-green bottle, better known as Jameson. The speech itself went pretty well — or so I was told; I don’t exactly remember what I said.
The next morning at around 6 a.m., however, I woke up in what I initially thought was a coffin — it was pitch black and dead silent. I was standing, but it took me a second to realize I was on two feet. Afraid to scream out, I began flailing my arms, hoping to come into contact with something that would clue me into where I was. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I happened upon a doorknob. I cracked the door open as quietly as I could, mainly because I still had no idea where the fuck I was. It turned out I was in the hotel bathroom, and though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I had fallen asleep standing up, perhaps midstream.
Since I still wasn’t sure whose room I was in, I quietly let myself out of the bathroom, grabbed my clothes and left. To this day, I can’t account for the hours between midnight and 6 a.m. that night. Thanks, Jameson, old friend.
For the longest time, I misused the expression “get my goat.” I thought it was used to describe something positive. For example, “this pizza is so delicious, it really gets my goat.” (This is embarrassing; Something that “gets your goat” is something that “grinds your gears,” so to speak). For years, no one ever corrected me! So, even after I learned the truth, I decided to keep misusing it, just as a social experiment. To this day, no one has ever corrected me.
Because I want people in this office to still have some vague pretense of respect for me, I’m going to pretend that I don’t have a deep abiding love for Batman; that I don’t think Kyle Rayner was the best Green Lantern ever (fuck Hal Jordan, fuck him right in the ear); and that I most certainly do not have an eight-inch action figure of obscure 1990s Marvel U.K. comics character Death’s Head II sitting in my desk drawer that I bought on a drunken Amazon binge.
Instead, I’m going to point out the obvious: Who the best superhero is depends entirely on who’s writing them at the time. Nick Fury is a silly macho spy serial — unless he’s being written by Garth Ennis, in which case, he’s a vehicle to examine America’s sickening culpability in engineering a constant state of highly profitable war, anywhere but in our own backyard. Superman is a dull, one-dimensional power fantasy — unless he’s being written by Grant Morrison, in which case he’s an icon of hope and a truly moving lesson in always, always using whatever power you have to help other people. Good writing is good writing, and it’s as true in comics as it is anywhere else.
Wait, shit, I got carried away. Er, uh, fuck it, I dunno, Spider-Man? Comics are like, for kids and stuff, LOL.
They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, but sometimes you know exactly what you’ve got, and you watch in horror and heartbreak as something wonderful, giving and loyal slips away right in front of you, lost forever into the deep, dark expanse of the ocean. That is the story of Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Titanic and my boobs, a glorious pair of genetic jackpots I took for granted for most of my life. They were big, but not too big. They had lift-off, but you wouldn’t know it from their humility. They never sought the spotlight, but they knew what to do when they got it. Then they were cut down tragically in their prime, when they still had so much work left to do.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate them in their heyday — they are responsible for more free drinks, paid apartments and general goodwill than I can ever repay to their admirers. Then, pregnancy happened, and for nine months they were all business, cantaloupe-like objects of useful horror, only to deflate post-nursing into something I’d still call perfectly adequate had I not known them before the war. The upside, I guess, is now they are proud veterans of maternal utility. That is wonderful and everything, but I still get flashes of the old days from time to time — me and my old boobs bounding across a sun-dappled field, me and my old boobs watching a moving Merchant Ivory film. I don’t know that I’ll ever really get over the loss, but for now, I can at least say thanks for the mammaries.
My favorite summer fling happened a couple years ago at an illegal rave. The party was called “The Copy Shop” because the host had access to an actual dilapidated copy shop and took it over every few weeks for a night of the L.A. Underground’s most insane grime and trap music. The party and building itself were always dirty and borderline unsafe — i.e., just dangerous enough to encourage even the most Puritan of basics to go wild. And since it stayed open until 4 or 5 in the morning, it inspired an interesting after-hours crowd as well.
One particular August night, I was sitting on the only couch in the whole place, taking a quick reprieve from dancing, when a hot, Armie Hammer-looking blond guy in a formal suit asked if he could join me. I told him that would only be okay if he told me why the fuck he was wearing that suit to this 100-degree hellhole. Apparently, he’d just been the best man in a wedding, which completely seduced me. We smoked a joint and began making out. The lit joint, however, was still dangling in my hand while we kissed, so one-by-one, my shameless, fiend friends gathered on the couch to get high, too.
Since we were proper exhibitionists, these onlookers didn’t cramp our style until he asked me to leave with him, at which point I felt embarrassed to abandon the real loves of my life to go fuck this random, if besuited, stranger. He was undeterred: He asked not twice, but three more times if I was sure I didn’t want to go back to his room with him. It felt like I’d won an Oscar for kissing! Upon his last attempt, my friends just broke into applause, conflating his desperation with my prowess.
In my day-to-day life, I think I’m good about only using sorry when I actually have something to be sorry for. But in my personal life, sorry is one of my favorite words.
Inevitably, people in relationships get into fights. My relationships are no different. Unfortunately for me, I’m OCD about resolving them. The idea of sleeping on an argument is a physical impossibility for me: I won’t sleep; I won’t think about anything else. It consumes me. So I find myself apologizing just to resolve an argument neatly, even if I’m convinced of my own innocence.
Girlfriend gets drunk at the bar and starts an argument? “I’m sorry.” Girlfriend blows off plans at the last minute, and doesn’t understand what the big deal is? “I’m sorry.” It’s no wonder my long-term relationships have often felt inequitable.
During the first semester of my senior year in college, I was at a bar with a large group of friends when I realized this one guy kept ordering drinks on our tab. I told him to fuck the fuck off and stop doing that. The next few moments are kinda blurry. I got decked just above my eye and was bleeding profusely. This guy was much smaller than me, so when I realized what happened, I grabbed him by the neck and body slammed him onto the ground with the intent of choking him to death. Except my friends foiled my plan. They hadn’t seen me get hit, so far as they knew I had just gone berserk on some poor, innocent kid and was trying to strangle the life out of him.
That’s more or less when they pulled me off him. Only when I stood up and they saw the blood running down my face, did they realize what had happened. The offending party took this opportunity to get the hell out of there, and my friends apologized for not knowing that my attack was just in self-defense. I remember seeing the kid out at a bar many months later. I contemplated beating the living piss out of him (I have that same urge right now, actually), but I was quickly dissuaded by the memory of waking up the next morning after our previous altercation — blood on my pillow and feeling like a sack of shit physically and metaphorically.
I grew up in a small town in rural Northern California, and there wasn’t a lot for teenagers to do there. In the time-honored tradition of bored teens everywhere, my older sister and I spent a lot of time sitting around smoking and drinking with her dirtbag friends. (Also in the tradition of bored teens, they weren’t nearly as bad as they thought they were, but they were still exactly who our mother wouldn’t have wanted us to be spending time with.) One evening we were at a party in the apartment of a guy called Pedophile Mike, in a building affectionately known as the Felony Inn. (My sister now reassures me that Pedophile Mike wasn’t actually a pedophile; all I remember about him is that he had a rubber vagina in a drawer in his apartment and everyone referred to it as Magic the Gathering.)
I wanted a smoke but didn’t have a light, so I borrowed a lighter from this kid named Jacob, who everybody called Johnny Hardcore. What I didn’t know about Johnny — although perhaps I should’ve guessed — was that he enjoyed modifying his lighters such that they functioned more like little flamethrowers. When I flicked the lighter at the tip of my cigarette, it instantly sent up a vast column of flame, engulfing my cigarette and taking most of my eyelashes and eyebrows with it. I’m lucky I kept my face.
Thanks for nothing, Johnny Hardcore.
C. Brian Smith was a member of the Whiffenpoofs of Yale, the oldest collegiate a cappella singing group in the world.
The experience is loaded with stories, which I often find myself telling to anyone who will listen. We toured around the world wearing white ties and tails, sang for princesses, ambassadors, heads of state and so on. Trouble is, zero people under the age of 74 are interested in listening to a story about collegiate cappella. Even I, 15 years removed, am boring myself right now talking about it.
Chocolate would be better served covering shit. Another waste: The perfectly fucking good coconut that gave its life for that nauseating texture, which makes me gag as soon as it hits my lips as well and stays on my tongue for what seems like hours. And so, both should stay in their respective lanes: chocolate encasing a Three Musketeers bar (clearly the finest candy on the market) and coconut in boxes that are marketed as a novel twist on water (which, it should be noted, are great for hangovers).
One of the best parts of my job is going to film festivals, but that requires a lot of standing in lines. I have stood out in the snow waiting to get into a movie at Sundance. I’ve clutched an umbrella while rain pounded down as I waited to get into a movie at Cannes. I’ve stood in lines in Toronto and Beirut and Los Angeles and Columbia, Missouri. Name a festival, I’ve waited in a line there.
All that waiting might sound tedious to other people, but I’ve never really minded. It reminds me of being younger and waiting in lines for an hour or so to see the latest big blockbuster. The waiting meant anticipation and excitement, and being with a bunch of people only made it seem more like an event that we were all taking part in together.
When I stand in line at a festival, I know that what’s waiting for me beyond those doors is a movie that no one else in the world has seen yet — a movie that I’m lucky enough to get to experience before a lot of other people do. That’s why waiting in line never annoys me. It’s a reminder that what I do is really special. I never want to take that for granted.