Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got? – Flannery O’ Connor
In either the wisdom of old age or the foresight that comes from an olive-oil heavy diet, my grandfather sensed his grandson might come across as a bit of a leper (with that girly voice and motor mouth of his), and in sympathy pressed the Bible’s hard corners into my palms before Freshman year. More than anything, he wanted this to be my inheritance: clear commands, set punishments and an infallible judge of character. I took one look at all those heavy words, those dusty stories and gave my grandfather the best ‘friend-zoning’ speech I could muster; I liked God, I just didn’t like like him. The old man squeezed out a parched smile, before heading back to the kitchen to dunk Syrian bread into hummus. Of course, to remain courteous, I didn’t tell Grandpa How I really felt; that I could never understand his surrender to the imaginary.
Joe Dagher, the immigrant World War Two Captain, the toughest sumbitch I’ve ever known. Who, at 80 still beat men half his age in arm-wrestling. Who ate orange peels when the bankers took his family’s money, and spit blood in the face of other boys who called him Sand Nigger and beat him for speaking Arabic. Who, huddled behind hay bales in the luscious curves of Italian county-side, crawling through the night to cut the Fascist soldiers’ throats. Since when did he surrender? He was given a uniform and told he was a soldier. He was given a gun and told they were the enemy. He fired that gun and was told he was a hero. He was always my hero… except when it came to G-O-D.
Yes, he was my hero, based on decisions made by fallible men, who had to answer to other fallible men, and so on until you reach God or . . .. At 17, when he handed me that bible, I didn’t know that so much of your life, belongs in other people’s hands. Regardless of if you want to pick up the gun or not. Meanwhile I was given a uniform- nobody accepted me as a soldier. I wanted to fight on the fields of battle and was told to give up. My Grandfather, saw the blood on his uniform, and realized that only God could name heroes. I never knew god and I was never called a hero, I was called a fool. A fat, ugly fool. Who should have never tried to fight in the first place.
That Bible, which he believed in over the generals’ praises and citizens ‘cheers, still sits untouched by his grandchildren, all the stories remain the same as when he tried to press them into our hands. Hell, hot; Heaven, cloudy; God, good; Devil, bad. And even though my atheism has hardened into nihilism, isn’t that still an intoxicating idea? All those rules and punishments people give us rendered meaningless, all the fallibility of finite creatures, turned over to a final judge. All your memories gently passing by, as you open the pages, and let the verses sing you truth.
Joseph and Matthew Dagher would wake up for years in Sunday’s first morning light, heading to their respective places of worship. Grandpa spent every Sunday in wooden pews, praying to the forever All-Father; believing that man’s true purpose and meaning lay outside of both his and the congregations bodies. He had already taken too many young men, from the face of this earth. And then there was his grandson, the boy too smart for God, who tried to find truth in his imperfect body. A boy, who didn’t respect an almighty judge but believed every word or slur from men who will eventually fade. A boy who could fathom the temporary, but sneer at the infinite.
At 17 I choose to believe the body was the Holy Spirit and not the other way around. Now at 30, my life’s concert is nearing its midpoint. The murmurs from arthritis are slowly turning to boos, and men have already booed me for my body as a young man! I have no idea what I’ll be thinking at 45, at 60, or as I lay dying, but I know that faith can happen at anytime, and that escaping labels is usually the first step to something bigger than ourselves.
My Grandfather rejected man’s claim he was a hero for a higher truth. Can I do the same as a failure? Is there any way that in being rejected by my faith I too can find meaning?
What was meaning for me then? What did it mean to suck?
The Suck Part 2: Magnum’s Opus
30-year-old-Matt, looks at his tattered cleats and listening to the painful Morse code of arthritis in his hands and knees: You thought you, Mr. 20 push-ups, were the savior of this team? You knew-in your pizza greasy heart-you knew you weren’t an athlete, that you were fat, and slow. So what was your plan to gain their approval? , To prove you’re smarter than them? And you wanted prove this… how? By referencing Joan Didion? By singing David Byrne lyrics? It sounds, even now like some sort of George Costanza crash and burn dating policy. Something so stupid, only an idiot couldn’t see the humor in the plan.
17-year-old Matt is mix of optimism and desperation, after chugging a 40 in his dorm and walking to his first college party: Do I have an answer for this team? At 18, just a college freshman, do I think I’ll be the one to lead Western Michigan to glory? Well, not my first year! No… Even when I’m universe line at the season’s end. Even after my Callahan Video there will still be work to do. Building something special takes time.
That freshman year, I’m walking through WMU’s Fraternity Village and the trees are choking into brilliant oranges, yellows and browns. Around me hundreds of large men guard porches in my exact outfit, like coke-twitchy collies with popped dog collars. In my best polo, khaki shorts, fitted and white Nikes, I walk by undetected watching them wrangle flocks of blond girls into their ramshackle mansions covered with alien letters. The subwoofer moans of hip hop songs rattle through windows like the moans of tortured prisoners. I’ve never been so scared to drink alcohol.
I follow abandoned Natty Light cans struggling up street and watch the mating from beneath the brim of my Tigers cap. The women’s dye-blond hair is like Rapunzel’s straw; the boys’ muscles lead the interrogations. It’s just our bodies talking and telling stories. Pretty soon I’ll be at Andy’s house, to my first college party surrounded by the men who turned their teeth on me today yet again. The first time we’ll face each other having to use our brains, and I can’t wait. By the end of tonight they will all know my name.
30-Year-Old-Matt looks at the Facebook photos he still has from this era. He didn’t take many with his teammates, and they didn’t take many with him.
So why were they mean to me? …. The best analogy I can think of to college ultimate is Tinder, as designed by the Devil. You see all these people, a little too fat, a little too short, I mean all incredibly shallow, stupid reasons for not getting to know someone . . . but still you get to pick those reasons, you’re in control. So imagine them knocking on your door, and saying “three times a week, you have to spend time with me and you have to have a good time. Otherwise you’re not being fair”.
So why weren’t they mean to other kids? Well that nickname certainly didn’t help, but more than that, I tried to swap truth for faith. I wasn’t slow, they just didn’t understand fast. I wasn’t fat; they just couldn’t see the 6pack under the baby fat. I wasn’t short; other teams were just getting taller. How do you deal with that? What do you do with the insanity of someone who denies the infallible qualities that make our bodies unequal and measure us as animals?
17-year old Matt is approaching the house and tucks his polo into his khakis it makes him look like a plumping sausage searing on the grill.
What should I say? Something funny? An MST3K reference? No, they won’t get that. Probably won’t get Woody Allen, Steve Martin. and certainly not Eddie Murphy. Do I know a good joke? If it’s not pulled off right they won’t laugh. No Laugh=no playing time. Just get to the truth of why you’re here. Be straight, be a man.
“Hey Matt you made it!”
The house is weathered and handsome; perfectly matching the men I see waiting for me on the porch, Andy and two other seniors, a woman for each. Andy has what can only be described as an athletic face: lean cheeks from running, a constantly concerned brow, and a chiseled chin from all the times he’s had to grit his teeth on the field. The other two seniors, also say hello, but don’t move from their dates. They keep on gripping their belt buckles and women’s shoulders with big veiny hands. Only Andy breaks away from the bouquet of skirts and blue jeans to greet me.
“We got a keg downstairs, some of the other freshman are here, playing beer-pong. Make yourself at home baby.”
“Andy, I just wanted to give you a heads-up. First off, I really appreciate that you invited me here tonight. But I’m hoping we can talk about my role on the team? I think I have a lot to offer and … I’m looking forward to our discussion.”
I move to apply a high five I’ve seen other athletes initiate, like an eagle’s talons snapping into fish as we lock hands. But when I raise my hand he just looks at me, his eyes darting between the basement and me.
“It’s a fucking party dude, relax!”
A men behind us, a senior who doesn’t come to practices, but plays at any tournament he wishes, has his arm wrapped around a shorter blond woman, with the other he gestures towards me and Andy, who flashes him a short quick smile and then turns back to me.
“Baby it’s a party, we’ll talk about it later” I feel his hand on my shoulder, tilting my wide frame away from the group towards the front door. I just nod, and follow his eyes, two blue spotlights, lighting my way inside the house and down into the basement.
17-year old Matt stands the precipice of the basement door. He hasn’t turned the knob. From beneath the door crack perfume glides past him like the exotic tails of tropical birds and through the wood he can hear wild laughs and yells. So what’s a leader? I gotta say the philosopher I love (at least when it comes to explaining why I’m not a hit with the ladies quite yet is Nietzsche, and Andy is definitely what old Fredrich would call an Ubermensch.
Well looks the part: tall, strong, and I’m not afraid to say handsome. I’m not afraid to tell him he’s handsome. You feel like you can tell him anything, even if you got a lil’ bit of a school girl crush going on.
It’s not so much a crush as… you get that sense that somehow everything around you is okay. You are okay. Because if anything horrible did happen: We’re down 10 scores to a high-school team, you’ve turned it over on Universe and the team needs to get a D to bring it back. Even at a part, the way he looks you in the eyes, its like those irises are rings, casting a shield around you. It’s like no matter what goes wrong, he can fix it. Where as you would have to consider, he can just act.
Lemme tell you a story, I got another grandfather, and I don’t bring him up much … I guess because I always saw Grandpa Joe as ‘My Leader”. But Grandpa Jack was a baller in his own right… any Armenian his age is, considering they might still have visions of a Turk murdering their whole family as they watched from a hiding place.
Grandpa Jack worked in Ford’s Detroit… but when he wasn’t at GM he played in local Armenian weddings in a band. Well like any group of immigrants the Armenians had their own little Mafia. And as the legend goes one of the band members owed the Armenian mob on a loan. I want to say he was a violinist. Anyway so one day after a wedding a gang members ‘asks’ if the band will join them in the back of their car. Here two other Gang Members who proceed to tie up their hands join them. And then knowing they are musicians, proceed to shoot the violin player through his hands.
Now I love my Grandpa Jack, but I know what Grandpa Joe would have done, and I feel I know what Andy would have done. They would have grabbed that gun and the story would have ended with those gang members never messing up another wedding again.
And that’s to me what a leader is.
30-Year-Old-Matt looks at the Facebook photos he still has from this era. He didn’t take many with his teammates, and they didn’t take many with him.
Why do I keep talking about grandfathers as models for leadership? Well, I don’t know. Isn’t it all bullshit until you’re there? Right before you dive into the unknown, the infinite ink of death. Isn’t the only wisdom the only things you truly believe when you are about to enter a realm where you don’t know anything? Where you don’t even know if there is a you? So I don’t look back to my childhood anymore for leaders. The day Andy died for me as a leader was when I forgot shorts for practice I called him to see if he had any. He said he did and I arrived to find him at the practice field, holding a pair of worn out Umbros with GAY written in huge spray-paint and a faux-cum stain on the front
I can’t imagine a leader doing that.
To keep it on Grandfathers and Germanics, we can look to Freud for what a leader is. Besides insisting that besides Stiflers and Stacys we all have the hots for our own moms, Freud developed this wonderful little theory called ‘transference’. That because our parents cannot protect us once we realize about our sexual desires, and death/ suffering avoidance desires, that we transfer the omnipotence, the strength, the courage we once felt towards our parents, onto a leader figure(s) to address these anxieties. Carl Jung (The Pimp C to Freud’s Bun B) Take it from here:
“[Transference] . . . is always trying to deliver us into the power of a partner [leader] who seems [to have] compounded all the qualities we have failed to realize in ourselves.”
Okay, no more Germans. The point of all that is, Andy was really good at Frisbee, getting chicks and having a good time…. We wanted to be really good at Frisbee, chilling with bros and finding heat with galls… and deep down in our oily lil’ hearts we knew we couldn’t be. So we transferred everything we wanted to be onto Andy, and by virtue of this, once we did this we could not ever, let him not be our leader. Otherwise we would have to realize that ugly, oily little truth. That our dreams were just that, and that we were all full of dread and anxiety for never being able to live up to them.
So it’s not going to surprise you to know that this also heads the other way. We tend to transfer our anxieties fears and doubts onto others as well. So someone bad at Frisbee, if it’s an outlier for badness, becomes the dumping ground for all your dread, anxiety and fear about your own skills (and because this is Freud, some other weird shit … like constantly calling someone gay or a fagot to avoid your own dread about the certainty of your sexuality).
It doesn’t even need to be as dark as all that… but it can also be the question of ‘does this person suck as much as we think they suck, or am I not wanting to acknowledge my own dread (of sucking) so I imagine them to be far worse?
So does being a leader mean perpetuating this cycle of transference, or undermining it? To obey a system or transcend?
Or to put it another way, what is more heroic decision. To grab the gun and kill the two Armenian ‘Bad Guys’? Or to pragmatically reason that someone’s hands aren’t worth having to kill another man.
Tough questions… so tough I’m gonna need to head back to Andy’s party 13 years ago and get myself a beer.
Table, One Red Cup
Two Ping Pong Balls thrown across
Splash, Splash, ‘no way dude’!
A Yellow Mustard
Jersey with ‘Gay’ in spray-paint
They laugh and yell ‘drink’!
The basement, my first college party, it’s all new to me. For a moment I can only take in certain sights, hear certain words, my brain processing constricted haikus to try and complete a larger picture.
One of the new kids, Denton, is solo against a pair of seniors in beer pong. A lonely cup remains and as soon as the beer splashes he’s pumping his fists like fireworks. According to the rules, they need to drink all of the untouched pyramid of half filled beer across from them on Denton’s side of the table, instead the silverbacks gleefully bellow in unison:
The biggest senior is Brad, he’s built like a watermelon mated with a bear and he’s been relentless in pointing out how slow I am. “Freshman Drink,” he bellows again to his other beer-pong partner, Ness, who is folding his scarred arms across his chest and nodding with carnivorous intensity.
I’m still on the stairwell as Brad sweeps Denton under his arms and places him in front of the rippling red cups. Then, suddenly Ness turns and sees me! That feeling you get, right before you realize you’ve touched something incredibly hot and burning comes over me and I’m about to turn up the stairs.
“Matt, you fucking loser, are you leaving already?”
17 Year Old Matt, What do I think of the name–calling? that’s a good thing, that’s grooming! Cutting me down now so everyone will follow me later. Giving me my peg leg so I can be the Pirate Captain. Yea… I see them cheering on the pretty boys. Those Peter Pans flying out there on the field. Let them have that, I see the wires. That’s the thing about these ‘natural athletes’; on a team leaders aren’t the Ferrari’s paint-job looking all shiny and turning heads. If you turn heads, you’ll never use your own! No, leaders are the engines, or the racking-pinion steering, they’re what’s under the hood. The ones willing to take all the abuse, and none of the glory.
But why aren’t they hard on anyone else? They call the older captain slow. They call another player fat, they call another player gay. But they’re smiling when they say it to me. It’s not because they hate me, but because they are meeting someone beyond their understanding. That’s all stupidity is, meeting something beyond what you’re capable of understanding.
So tonight, when I hook up with the cute girl with tattoos all the jock boys can’t touch without combusting into confusion, or when I have the whole crowd laughing, or when I’m jamming out on a freestyle rap, will I rub their noses in it? No. That’s not what a leader does. I’ll just nod and let them know, they don’t have to be afraid anymore. That I’ll help them understand me.
30-Year-Old Matt: Man, 17-year-old Matt, I really envy your absurd rationalizing skills . . .. Can you handle all my OKcupid blind dates from now on?
What’s that old adage about your first day in prison? You find the toughest nastiest motherfucker and in front of his boys, you beat the hell out of him? Because every moment you beat the hell out of Debo’s body, you are rendering the onlookers more and more impotent via their viewing of the event. And in the future, they will associate you as someone who can bring on this feeling (based on their memory of the event) and give you wide birth.
The Germans had a similar philosophy on leadership in the army for establishing group loyalty: Blutkitt or “Blood Loyalty”. For reluctant soldiers or participants in WW2, they would often give them the most horrific assignments. And once that horrible moment or duty occurs, every second that passes where you don’t intervene, makes you culpable. You are bound to the group not out of belief but out of guilt. . The horror they saw within themselves when they did nothing, will bind them to the group, as their ‘self has been hollowed out by their impotence and silence.
As Ernst Becker beautifully puts it:
Those baptized in the fire can no longer stand-alone.
God, I need that drink.
Ness’ face, even in the best of times reminds me of a hunting knife that’s recently been run through skin and tendons. There is a smile there but it’s only a cover on something crawling under the surface. I grip the handrail and start heading down.
“No, Ness, I just forgot something upstairs.”
“What, your fucking vagina?”
Several of the other boys are now starting to look at him but realize there is no safe place, moving from his hands; covered in burns, to his arms; covered in scars, before finally settling on his proud stony chest. He gives them one quick glance and they all look down but we know he’s nearing that point. Where people start to whisper about him again— “Did you hear about the one time he punched the…”— and Brad puts a firm hand on his rumbling shoulder.
He says, and hands me a red cup. But there is no unbridled joy in his statement. It’s only a statement of facts. I put the plastic to my lips, tilt the beverage and beer runs down my throat, washing away all my witticisms and comebacks. Then the next round of beer-pong starts and the alcohol kicks in and the male-strom begins to truly.
I drink and furtively eye girls, and drink and try to talk to someone about fiction, and drink, and move to corner thinking: My grandfather was a soldier, a captain in Goddamn WWI! I should go up to Ness and smack him in the goddamn mouth!”
30 Year Old Matt stares at his liquor cabinet and thinks he needs more scotch to get through this story: One can go mad, keeping track of all the slings and arrows.
One of my favorite sitcom refrains is that of Tobias in Arrested Development, who for some reason wears jean shorts under his underwear that he refuses to take off. When pressed, rather than trying to explain his idiosyncratic suffering, which he surely doesn’t understand himself, he will defiantly howl:
“I’m a Never-Nude, it’s a real condition!!! There are Dozens of us! Dozens!”
Tobias rages because we (characters and audience) laugh at his suffering. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s suffering. Our laughter posits that there is a correct way to wear clothing in society and in mocking Tobias, we are giving consent (explicit or implicit) that we are part of a greater US, and Tobias is a party of a lesser THEM. We are not laughing as friends but as judges.
For many years this sport was considered the ‘Never Nude’ of athletics, with our goofiness, spirit, and substance abuse and we got laughed at. But that doesn’t change the fact that success and failure in this sport, is predicated on winning and losing, and winning and losing is predicated on those who through athletic ability or skill, are able to find success. At the end of the day, ultimate still boils down to a system of exclusion or inclusion. You either help or hurt your team. Your actions on the field are either a strength or weakness; you are either an US or a THEM.
17-year-old Matt is certain though that he’s a Frisbee player as Brad yells
Everyone raises a cup or a fist shouting “Mustard!”
I’m given a shot glass and for some reason I’m shirtless. Everywhere I turn, beer and sweat coats me like a dogs tongue. I wink at a girl, who gives a rotten milk gulp as she stares at my buttery potbelly. Ness is putting freshman into headlocks, like a momma bitch nipping her pups. Denton and several other freshmen are helpful Lilliputians inverting Brad over the keg, a gargantuan hummingbird greedily sucking nectar.
Andy’s in the corner with his girl and golden boy smile with several other freshman and Will. Will is a frat boy senior I normally associate with stories about how sorority girls are easy, especially when you get them drunk. A gin and tonic splashes in his hand and though I know it’s risky, I walk over. For some reason when I’m around Andy, things feel ok.
“So,” Will explains, “I know you guys think we’re assholes, but you should see the shit I did to get into my fraternity. Let me just tell you about jewels . . . you freshman fuckers should have to do this too but the captains saved your ass, literally”.
He turns to Andy and tries glaring to display his anger about ass-related hijinks being verboten. Andy smiles a smile so perfect Will has to stop and grin. He takes a slug and continues.
“This fucking guy. All right, so every fraternity has a pledge week. You have to go through a week proving just how bad you want to join. My Frat, they gave you a ‘jewel’. It was an olive, covered in hot sauce that you had to keep in your ass crack for all of pledge week. . I know you’d like that, right Denton?”
Denton flashes a broad grin and gives a friendly, thumbs-up; he’s again a tripod leg in Brad’s third kegstand of the night. Will laughs, sucks gin, and then continues.
“God, he’s so fucking gay. Anyway so this ‘jewel’, the frat brothers, would make sure all week, it remained buried. The setting didn’t matter, could be in class, and could be while you were walking around campus with your ugly High School Girlfriend. When they said ‘show me your jewel’, you better fucking have that olive in your asscrack.”
Around Will, the circle of freshman and seniors have widened to include Denton and Brad, whose tee-shirts looks like a homeless magician’s cape.
“So you’re thinking, ‘Okay that’s a little embarrassing, one week with an spicy olive in your asscrack, that’s not so hard.‘ Well, at the end of the week, guess what your first meal is at the frat?
Our eyes widen and we lean forward, we know what’s coming and smiles begin to turn on across our faces.
We explode, in laughter and fluids, not so much because it’s funny but because it’s the first time for us newcomers that it’s explicitly okay to laugh. Will starts slapping his knee furiously and his tumbling gin makes the room smell like a bachelor’s Christmas. Our arms droop over each other’s shoulders. Someone is running upstairs-hand over mouth, to vomit-another person is making out with an overly painted brunette and they look like pie-eating contestants. Everyone seems to be spinning and I can’t focus on anything until I lock eyes with Andy. I can feel that if I don’t speak… I’ll have to empty my stomach.
“Andy, I think I should play more.”
I watch as he winces and his brow narrows. The big blue floodlights are upon me,
“I have a lot to offer the team, I’m creative, I’m unique, and I’m a different voice.”
One or two other seniors have turned their attention away from Will and I can see him glaring, first at them and then at me. I turn back and only see blue, his all-encompassing blue.
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
30-Year-Old Matt literally backs away from his keyboard in horror: Oh god, I forgot about this… I really started freestyling?
17 Year Old Matt is dropping this hot flow:
We at the WMU// NOT THE EMU// I said Hot Sauce // You say Achoo // God bless you
They call me Matt Dagher // I got the flavor for yellow Mustard…. // I ain’t talking Custard!
“Hey Eminem, why don’t you shut the fuck up?”
I had expected hands to be raised. Then I realize I’m drunk and then I realize that everyone is staring at me, including Ness, who has stopped giving freshman headlocks and is now gorilla slapping me in the chest.
“God, why are you so fucking weird. It’s like I want to call you a faggot, but that’s not even enough.”
I have to keep talking, there must be someway to build a bridge. They have to know that I’m right. That they are wrong. That they are idiots, these apes, these assholes. These fucking assholes deciding my future. It’s wrong!
“I’m weird here, in Kalamazoo, no one would think I was weird in Ann Arbor. You know, where people read books!”
Andy starts spreading his arms, like a police officer in the riot’s first wave. I’m not sure if he’s trying to protect them from me or me from them. Either way I’m still yelling:
“If I played at the University of Michigan, I would be on Magnum. And I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this shit. I’d be a starting player, I’d have friends, and I wouldn’t have people calling me faggot.”
The world’s spinning and people are staring at me. I need to be saved. I need a leader.
That’s when Andy turns to me and says, “Quit being such a Magnum, Magnum”.
“Really, Andy, that’s all you can say?”
That’s when it happens. When they see I’m upset. I watch as smiles spread like lice throughout the crowd. That’s when everyone knows my name.
“Yeah Magnum, quit being such a fucking Magnum”. Ness says, holding a Miller Lite bottle and scanning my body for where it’d do the most damage.
“Really? Look guys, I’m sorry, I just don’t understand why you’re so mean to me. Why won’t you give me a chance?”
“Because you’re a fucking Magnum.” Brad bellows.
The room is spinning, and there is nausea, like cheerios covered in black mold rising in my throat. I turn back to Andy, whose eyes now lead up the staircase.
“Go home, Magnum.”
I turn to one of the freshman and hope that we are still brothers of inexperience.
“Yeah Magnum, go home. Go home Magnum, Go home Magnum,” Denton begins cheering, and the crowd chants along with him.
“Go home Magnum,” Andy tells me as the crowd chants my name. Over his shoulder, Ness is palm-slapping the bottle.
“Yeah, Magnum,” a fat freshman who looks like Jared from Subway tells me. “Get the fuck out of here.”
“Magnum, put your shirt back on and go home,” a pretty blond girl with ivy green eye shadow tells me, before turning to touch the chest of an older teammate with salt and pepper hair.
“Magnum, quit being gay and get the fuck out of here,” Will yells into my face. His spit tastes like juniper and I stagger up the stairs, swallowing my vomit and shame. I careen into a mailbox, and then a parked car, then a lawn and I feel my glasses snap in two. Then I’m crying and vomiting at the same time. Then I wake in my bed and the first thing I do, covered in sweat and yesterday’s booze, is check my asscrack for an olive. And it’s not an olive; it’s a jewel, a huge sweaty ruby, fat like a fly’s eye. And I turn it over… and on top it says Magnum… and I scream but it still says Magnum, and I smash it against a wall but it still says Magnum. So I swallow it, I swallow it all.
Then I wake up and I realize that my next five years at Western have just begun.
30 Year Old Matt: So Matt (you ask), what’s the big deal? I mean, I get it. They didn’t like you. They gave you a mean nickname. You like citing all these other writers, and authors and philosophers, well allow me to quote you one of the seminal voices of our generation:
“Cause the players gonna play play play play play // and the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate // Baby I’m gonna shake shake shake shake shake it off // Shake it off”
Good point, let me tell you about that hate, and how I tried to shake it off.
They called me that nickname for 5 years. It’s how they introduced me to new teammates. It’s how they introduced me to other teams. That’s what they would tell girls to call me when I was trying to engage in the most sacred of college activities, getting laid. Even slinging sandwiches at Jimmy Johns, the name on my time card said Magnum. It’s what all my co-workers called me. It’s what they saved into their phones. It’s how they listed me on their roster.
For 5 years they made me live in their hate. Hate that I could never escape with logic, or words, or effort. They made me into a golem, a tautology of a human being. We’ve all been insulted in this way (“You’re such a _____”, “God you’re so_____”) but at least they get a “you”, implying there is someone behind that insult. For me, Magnum took away my name. Imagine having to live within an insult for five years.
Think you could shake it off?
Dostoyevsky once wrote this little gem, which (I know it’s lame!) But I think it’s best to end uncertainty with the certainty of a master.
“Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unvented tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? “
I’ve given you the evidence on my time at Western Michigan. Maybe the best thing you can do for your own team, job, family and loved ones. Is answer Dostoyevsky’s question. Maybe the best thing you can do is pick a side of what it means to be a leader? To be a team?
Or maybe you’d like to spend five years of your life like I did…
In the Suck.
Next time on the Suck. What does it mean to discover love in a different culture? Find out when the Eggheads of Kalamazoo College meet a young Matthew Dagher Margosian trying to outrun fat and failure.