Personal Pieces postsSunday October 16, 2016
Last night I dreamed we were watching a TV show or movie about drug wars or gang wars, and the setting was a rival gang in Mexico or Colombia or somewhere else in Latin America. An attack was imminent, we knew that much; the gangmembers were without character, unknown to us. They were just there to be eliminated as an element of the plot. The attack began at night when one man, maybe sleeping on a wooden table, with a tent-like canvas behind him, popped his head up and was shot in the head through the canvas. He was the first. Then the bullets started whizzing and winging. They just kept coming, and the camera with them, deeper and deeper into the gang's headquarters, toward its nominal leader, and men kept falling. We never saw the attackers, we just heard and felt their bullets. It was like a million other cheap massacres I'd seen on screen but it began to hurt, watching it. Each bullet was like a bee sting, and there were a lot of bullets. “I'm tired of this,” I said.
Then we were watching the aftermath of the attack. It was the next morning and authorities were carting the bullet-riddled bodies away and trying to clean up the mess left behind. Two men were labeled with first names but the last name was sort of the Spanish equivalent of John Doe. “Right,” I thought, “because how would they know who these guys were? How could they identify them?” That seemed like an entire investigative arm of the police I hadn't considered before. The men and women who try to figure out the names and lives of nondescript dead men.
We Interrupt This Blog for a Wedding
That's me on the right later today. But hopefully better dressed and with less drama.
Wait, that's wrong, isn't it? He's dragging Elaine away from a wedding. Oh well, you get the idea.
Also, what other movie image to go with? “The Godfather”? He's going to abuse her, then one brother will beat him up while another will have him killed. “Diner”? That's about fear of marriage. “Romeo and Juliet”? Doesn't end well. So, this. Plus Dusty's one of my patron saints.
Dreaming of 'Hamilton'
I'll see you in my dreams. Or not.
Last night I dreamed that “Hamilton” was touring and playing in Minneapolis, so P and I visited to see it. We hooked up with my old college roommate and his wife, who knew less about the musical but were game, for drinks and a nosh before the show.
The theater was crowded and kind of chaotic, and it was more like a movie theater in that the afternoon show was leaving as we were arriving. I ran into an old bookstore friend, who was dressed in some odd outfit (he'd always been odd), and he told me it was an OK production but the touring Alexander Hamilton wasn't great. My friend was disappointed. I kept thinking, “Don't tell me this. I don't want to know this.” It felt like spoilers.
Above the theater was a hotel, which is where we were staying, and I was in our room, fixing a drink, and thinking of watching it all on TV, when I began to hear the opening strains of the overture from below. And I'm like, “Wait. TV??? We came all this way to see the play. I need to be down there.” But then I had to go to the bathroom, and then I couldn't find the key to our hotel room, and then I couldn't fit the key into the door. The hallway was crowded and people were watching, and I seemed to be bending the key out of shape to try to get it to work. (Freudians, have at.)
One of those awful anxiety dreams. Dreaming like I'm running out of time.
I had another “Hamilton” dream about a month ago. In that one, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself gave me tix to the Broadway show. P and I were already in New York, and the tix were for six days in the future—on the other side of the New Year—so we had to rearrange our schedules to make it all work. That, too, became an anxiety dream about where to stay, where was our stuff, etc.
In neither dream did I see the musical. So even in my dreams I don't get to see “Hamilton.”
A Pass from Peyton Manning
I've told this story before but not here. So one more time.
In spring 2001, I was working on the first Xbox iteration of “NFL Fever,” a short-lived game that never could compete with “Madden NFL”—despite, I should add, our cover guy that year, Peyton Manning. One day he and his father, Archie, another football legend, arrived at RedWest in Redmond for a meet-and-greet with the team. Hell, I can even tell you the exact day: April 16. I know because that evening I went to Safeco Field to “greet” Alex Rodriguez on his first day back in Seattle after signing a $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers. That game was a proud moment for me. Before then, Mariners fans had always been rather polite with returning players. We'd always applauded them. Not A-Rod. We showered unrelenting abuse and paper money on the bastard for nine innings. It was the beginning of something new, for both us and him.
Anyway, on the Microsoft campus, everyone on the team got their photo-op with our cover guy. Peyton stood in the cold and drizzle, polite, smiling, gracious, as each of us took our turn. Some folks, in their photos, had Peyton handing off to them, etc., but I was too shy for that. And all of us were too shy to ask for what we really wanted.
Almost all of us. One upper-level mucky muck wasn't. When the photo session ended, standing 20-25 feet away, he clapped his hand, held them up, and said, “C'mon, toss it here.” Peyton did: a nice lob. Almost before it arrived, the mucky-muck was shaking his head. “No, no, no,” he said, and tossed the ball back. “I mean really throw it.”
A small smile passed over Peyton's face.
I swear, the arm motion of the second throw was exactly the same: easy, smooth. He wasn't rearing back or anything. But the ball just shot out of his hand like a rocket and landed right in the guy's gut. I still remember the small satisfactory “oof” sound the mucky-muck made. But give the dude credit. He asked. He can say, “I caught two passes from Peyton Manning.” Me, I just got this picture.
Well, one more thing. The football in question was mine, so later in the afternoon I had to chase Peyton down to get it back. “You want me to sign it?” he asked. “Sure,” I said. He got out his black marker but paused. He turned the ball around in his hands, reading. “What are all of these other signatures on it?” he asked. I didn't go into the whole permatemp situation at Microsoft; I merely said that I'd left the team last year and this was my going-away present back then, and everyone signed it with little messages like “Great working with you.” One line, from a guy named Jimbo, I still remember. I was the only non-gamer on our team, so whenever we had to do a group test for like “Motorcycle Madness,” I would always lose, but everyone would have to wait for me, with my handle “Withak” (as in “Erik with a k”), to finish. So on the football Jimbo wrote, “Withak, hurry up and finish!” which I thought was pretty funny.
Anyway, on the football, Peyton, with another small smile, gave me his autograph then added, “Great working with you!” which I also thought was pretty funny.
I had that football for about 10 years. But I didn't try to protect it or anything. The opposite, really. My friend Gavin and I used to toss it around the Microsoft parking lot during (for him) smoke breaks. Eventually, it began to shed and a few years ago I just threw it away. NFL Fever? Microsoft tried three iterations before throwing away not only that title but the whole sports division of Microsoft Game Studios, including NBA Inside Drive and NHL Rivals. This week, it was Peyton Manning's turn. On Monday, he announced his retirement from professional football.
I wrote this about 17 years ago, at the dawn of the Internet age, but I never sold it; I might not even have tried. I thought of it again when Playboy decided to stop featuring nude women in their magazines.
Recently I was surfing the Web for pictures of pretty girls when a name I hadn’t thought of in years popped into my head: Gig Gangel. She had been Playboy’s Miss January 1980. I remembered her not just for the usual anatomical reasons, nor for the happy coincidence of the four hard G’s in her name, but because she was the only playmate I ever pinned to my wall.
I was 16, living in an all-male household—the divorce had split us up along gender lines—and I already had posters of several booby actresses in my room (Cheryl Ladd, Lt. Uhura); so why not a naked one? Yet Gig lasted less than a week. One night my father brought home a date, a woman I’d never met, whose politeness I mistook, with the egotism of adolescence, for flirtation. Wasn’t I wearing a high school letter jacket? What woman could resist?
I was waiting for friends to pick me up so we could cruise around town and do our not much of anything, and for some reason my father wanted to show her my room. Because I was so neat? I forget. Anyway, they were halfway up the steps when I remembered Gig. I think I made some noise of protest but it was too late. The lights were flicked and there she hung. The next day, still mortified, I took Gig down, and, as the saying goes, we lost track of one another.
The Web gave us a chance to reunite. Typing Gig’s name into the search engine elicited a surprising number of sites—I thought her more obscure than that—but I immediately focused on the only one that didn’t sound like a perverted man panting. The URL was Japanese, and after several seconds, lo and behold, Gig began to download. It was her centerfold shot: a Bob Fosse fedora tilted seductively over one eye, red red lipstick, and a fishnet body suit. For the week she was on my wall I used to mentally trace the lines of that fishnet, which stretched to the point of bursting over her voluminous chest, and then slowly converged until the lines became indistinguishable and intermingled with whatever was going on below her waist. (Full disclosure: I had no idea what was going on below her waist.)
Gig: mid download
Manipulating the URL I discovered I could call up other centerfolds from my teen years, such as Candy Loving, the 25th anniversary playmate, and Lou Ann Fernald, Miss June 1979, playfully pouring a pitcher a water over herself, as girls do.
But I soon became less interested in the centerfolds than in the stat sheets accompanying them: Turn-Ons, Turn-Offs, Favorite Movies, Secret Dreams. These have long been a national joke (a big warm bed on a cold rainy night, etc.) but provoked interest now for cultural reasons. Generally, a playmate’s favorites include both high culture (to make the girls appear smart) and low culture (to make them appear fun), and the two don’t mix well after 20 years. Gig’s favorite movies, for example, were The Godfather and The End; and apparently when Liz Glazowski, April 1980, was done finished with Harold Robbins she loved nothing more than to curl up with a little Ernest Hemingway.
Overall, there wasn’t a lot of difference in these various likes/dislikes. One prefered autumn, the other spring; one blue eyes, the other brown. Most liked roses. No one cared much for crowds or traffic or hairy backs. The September ’79 playmate, Vicki McCarty, said she was tired of hearing about Ronald Reagan, so you get the feeling the’80s were a bit of a drag for her. Well, not just for her.
It was when I began reading the “Goals” and “Secret Dreams” of these girls, though, that the whole thing turned sadder than I’d anticipated. It was like flipping through an old yearbook and wondering whatever happened to this “Most Likely to Succeed” or that “Most Talented.” Did Sandra Joyce Cagle (February 1980) get to ride a hot air balloon cross-country? Did Henriette Allais (March 1980) learn to play the flute? Was Vicki Witt (August 1978) ever shipwrecked on a desert island with Lee Majors?
Most wanted to be famous actresses, of course, but a quick search through IMDb reveals that neither noun nor adjective took much hold. Rosanne Katon, Miss September 1978, was featured in The Swinging Cheerleaders and Motel Hell, and even managed to share scenes with future Oscar winner Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party; but then “Girl #3” roles began to go to younger playmates and her career fizzled.
Yet Ms. Katon is Meryl Streep compared with the other playmates. More common is the experience of Lee Ann Michelle (February 1979), Sylvie Garant (November 1979), and Liz Glazowski (April 1980). Each hoped to light up the silver screen; each appeared in not much. Garant wound up on two episodes of two Canadian TV shows, while Glazowski’s sole credit is a bit part (as “Liz”) in “The Happy Goes to Hollywood.” I find nothing on Michelle.
As for Gig, who wanted to be a famous singer? She did appear in the 1993 straight-to-video actioner “Killing Device,” opposite Alan Alda’s son Antony, and under the stage name (or married name?) “Gig Rauch.” But there’s nothing on her on iTunes.
In my youth, playmates seemed mythical beings; they generated such fantasies. Now I realize they're just another group of people for whom the world didn’t turn out as planned.