Archive for April 22nd, 2005

Part I: ‘I Made You, Jimmy Kimmel!’

April 22, 2005

In response to recent questions and/or criticisms over my past use of a certain archaic term, I feel it may be useful to explain to our faithful readers – and I’m talking to both of you now, so listen up – just how cosmopolitan I truly am.

Yes, I hail from the equivalent of Mayberry, and lack both the means and the gumption (I do have all my adult teeth) to pack up and move to a big city. It’s equal parts disturbing and quaint to know that, as actually happened to one earlier this week, one might attend a meeting and find one’s state senator clad in dirty overalls and a trucker’s hat.

We are a laid-back lot, and that’s not always a bad thing, as anyone can attest who grasps the obvious charm and savoir vivre of Billy Bob Thornton. We move at our own pace and laugh at life’s absurdities, such as… well, never mind. You probably wouldn’t get the humor. So instead, just stand up for the forces of democratic freedom, if you wish.

But I digress. What makes me so cosmopolitan, friends – other than my brushes with celebrities including (and almost certainly limited to) Preacher Roe, Brett Butler (the has-been ballplayer, not the has-been comedienne), Beau Bridges, Handsome Jimmy Valiant, Jerry Clower and Ally Sheedy (who I think lives down the street from me) – is my status as an also-ran.

The year was 1999, and I remember it vividly because those were the halcyon days of yore, back when my wife toiled under the illusion that I knew something about anything. Buoyed by the love of a good woman, I proved my vast knowledge afternoonly by correctly answering at least one or two questions from “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” a campy, low-budget game show on a fourth-rate cable network.

One crisp November day, my wife announced that she had secretly signed me up to audition for a chance to be a contestant on the aforementioned WBSM. We were to visit Los Angeles the very next week, where we would stay in a hotel called The Metropolitan in beautiful, historic downtown Hollywood (also known as Hell). (The Metro’s actual website, which features many, many misspelled words including “experiance,” shows the hotel’s location on a Yahoo! Map whose only other landmarks are nearby trauma centers. ‘Nuff said.)

So like Jed, Elly May and the gang (only without the gang), we began the long journey from Bugtussle to Beverly. Hills, that is. (Except, of course, that we flew, and the authorities in California roped off Beverly Hills when they learned we were from the South, so we never got to go there.)

To say we were overwhelmed by the experiance of downtown Hollywood would be like saying the pontiff-election procedures are a little odd. (What’s all this with the smoke? Who’s electing the pope these days, Cheech & Chong? Is this just an elaborate scheme to get Ricky Williams to convert?)

Still, not wanting to stick out like a severed thumb in the fast-food chili that is America’s great melting pot, we visited the first ethnic restaurant we saw. I’ll say this for Hollywood – their ethnic restaurants are certainly authentic. Nobody in the place spoke English, the menus were printed in their native tongue, and when we finally communicated our order (“chicken”), they grabbed one as it ran by the table, wrung its neck, and tossed its wide-eyed, flopping, feather-covered body on the table. When they turned their backs, we dropped $100 on the table and bolted. (To this day, I have nightmares in which my wife and I arrive at the pearly gates and St. Peter keeps derisively referring to us as “Colonel and Mrs. Sanders.”)

The day of the life-changing audition finally came, and I found myself, along with about 100 other candidates for the show, standing in the dark on the sidewalk outside the Gower Studio complex. In retrospect, I’ve come to believe this was the first round of elimination. As we stood out there, we were approached by not a few street people. And I can’t stress this strongly enough: There is nothing, nothing, nothing funny about the vicious cycle of poverty, homelessness and severe mental illness in our country, except this: Them people talks funny.

I swear it was exactly like stumbling into a convention of Mushmouth impersonators. With a wallet full of travel cash and a heart unhardened by daily encounters with street people, I was what you might call an easy mark. They swarmed me like mobuhths to a flabuhme, and I handed out money like a lonely sailor on furlough in the Philippines.

I like to think that each of them dined on their very own paralyzed chicken that night.

COMING NEXT WEEK: The exciting con(b)clu(b)sion…