Friday Free-for-All #64: Shoes, car, Sci-Fi

Here’s the next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.

What is the best pair of shoes you have ever owned? Why were they so good?

Oh, this is a fun one. When I was a freshman in college, I bought a pair of black leather boots. I think I did it through the Sears Catalog actually, and mail-ordered them to be delivered in-store. (This was just pre-internet.) Now, at the time, I paid the equivalent of what’s about $315 now, which was insane. I mean, even though I could currently easily afford to drop that much on a pair of shoes, I never would.

But there was just something about these. They made me taller, I could wear them inside or outside of my jeans, and they came two thirds of the way up to my knee.

And they sort of became one of my defining traits on campus. Apparently, to people who didn’t know me personally but who’d seen me around, I was “the guy with the boots.” I also once loaned them to a good friend when he’d been cast in the play Picnic, because one of the defining traits of his character was… ta-da, the black boots he wore.

Funny story there, too. There was an opening night party after the first performance, and he would give me my boots back after each show, which I’d return to to him before the next — easy to do when you all live on campus. So at this after party, I’m wearing the boots and he and I are standing together. One of the big-wig campus Jesuits comes over to say hello to us, and proceeds to compliment me on my performance in the play.

It’s all that my friend José and I can do to not just crack up, so we play it straight as if I was the guy in the play. Okay, sure, we were kind of the same height and similar coloration but, otherwise, did not resemble each other at all.

But the crowning moment for those boots came during senior year (yeah you pay that much for footwear, it doesn’t fall apart) when we had an orientation week magic show, and the middle act was a guy introduced with these words: “Once I say his name, you’re never going to forget it.”

And goddamn, was that true. Turk Pipkin. And he was amazing. He started out with using a jigger, an Alka-Seltzer and a condom to basically create an entirely new visual to the opening theme of 2001, then borrowed a woman’s purse and proceeded to find a tampon in a cardboard applicator and smoke it like a cigar. (Yes, she confirmed later that he’d asked her permission and planted the prop.)

Finally, he said that he could juggle anything, so toss those objects down — and all of my friends immediately started chanting, “Boot, boot, boot.” So what else could I do?

I think he wound up with a scarf, a set of car keys, and my big-ass heavy leather boot. He gave us all the look of death, but the audience went nuts — and then he proceeded to juggle all three, and I could tell by that point that he was actually grateful for the ultimate show-off challenge. It made him look even more amazing.

I know that I still had those boots for almost a decade after college, and they really came in handy once my dad gave me his old motorcycle. But, somewhere along the way, my feet outgrew them.

Meanwhile, Turk Pipkin is still around, and he’s turned his magically skills toward even better things.

What do you hate most and love most about your car?

Oh, there’s so much to love. First is that it’s the seventh one I’ve ever owned (hence its name, Señor Siete), and the first one that I bought slightly used from a dealer. While it’s a 2012 model, so doesn’t have all the modern bells and whistles, it has enough, plus it’s powerful, comfortable, and has a manual transmission.

Plus it’s also been paid off for a couple of years now, so there’s that. And bonus points for that manual transmission: That prevents 99.5% of friends from ever borrowing it because they couldn’t drive it.

What I hate most? It’s a 2012 model, which means that it’s getting older, even though the mileage is low — just over 60,000 right now. Still… it’s approaching that point where regular maintenance on major system stuff might just start to exceed the cost of buying or leasing a replacement, and I hate that. For example, I know that I’ve got about a $300 brake-job and possibly $800 shock replacement to do soon, not to mention that the tire pressure gauge batteries have started to fail ($90 a pop per sensor per tire) and then there’s also that regular X-thousand mile service stuff.

So, yeah. My tax refunds and remaining stimulus checks are getting dumped back in there. Sigh. If only they also had car insurance for maintenance. You know — like health care for cars. But they can’t even manage that one for people, even though the car version would be much cheaper.

What Sci-Fi movie or book would you like the future to be like?

This is a tough one. I mean, Star Trek: TNG would be an obvious first choice if it weren’t for that whole Borg thing. And TOS maybe, except that humanity is still at war with Klingons.

So two other universes come to mind, with caveats. One is the world of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, but note that I only cite the original trilogy. Why? Because the books beyond that sort of melded into the universe of I, Robot, brought in the whole idea of “The entire universe wants to kill us,” so the robots meddled with the multiverse in order to create the one in which humankind were the only advanced life forms to ever evolve.

Yeah, no. At least this shit doesn’t come up in the first three books, and the idea of really advanced predictive formulas to guide humanity in the right direction is very appealing. And, hell, even the Big Bad of the second and third books isn’t evil at all. He’s just got a particularly well-adapted genetic… thing.

Now, the other Sci-Fi book I’d go with is the final volume of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 series, which comprises 2001, 2010, 2061, and 3001. I’d go with the last volume, in which humankind has made all kinds of amazing scientific advances, including building space elevators, colonizing other moons within our solar system, being able to revive an astronaut dead for a thousand years, creating the ultimate human/computer interface and, finally, figuring out how to keep an ancient and powerful race of non-corporeal entities from destroying the planet. Well, at least for another 900 years.

In case you’re wondering… yes. The third book has a prologue that ends in 2101, which is just as the original moon monolith phones home, which is 450 light years away. 3001 is the year that the answer comes back.

Friday Free for all #42: Bizarre, fan base, what, question?

The next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website, although it’s been on hiatus since the Christmas Countdown began. Here, I resume with this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

Who is the most bizarre person you’ve met?

This hands down has to be one of my post-college co-workers/roommates who I shall refer to here as Strauss in order to protect… oh, who knows what?  We first met at my first out-of-college office job, and hit it off pretty well for starters.

He was a few years older, recently arrived from the Midwest with his much younger fiancée — IIRC, he was 28 and she was 21. He definitely had a very outgoing and strong personality, and I could best describe him as an old hippy soul trapped in a much more modern body.

He also had no concept of boundaries, but I was too young and naïve to see how that could be a problem.

Of course, it didn’t help that I had a massive but unstated crush on him, Anyway, I wound up spending a lot of time outside of work with the two of them, mostly getting stoned off our asses and having these wild, recursive conversations that, honestly, I really enjoyed.

When circumstances at the apartment I’d been living in changed — i.e. my two roommates abruptly announced they were moving out — it became necessary to find a new place. This coincided with both Strauss and fiancée and another work friend also needing a place, so the four of us wound up renting a c. 1919 house together in Van Nuys.

Well, house and guest house, with a tiny garage and yard. And, for some reason, I took the back bedroom in the front house, while Strauss and fiancée took the front bedroom. Our older work friend, let’s call him Darren, took the entire guest house to himself, which never really made sense.

And… when you just know someone from work or hanging out, you know an entirely different person than one you wind up living with. Long story short, Strauss was a total trip and a half. He had real problems keeping his clothes on, for one thing, which I wouldn’t have minded except that it felt like part of that was just gay-baiting me, never mind that my attraction to him was dead by this point.

He was also addicted to, well, everything, whether it was weed, coke, alcohol, LSD, and so on. Basically, if it were available, he’d do all of it, and there were many an afternoon turned evening when I’d hear Fiancée plaintively reply to him packing yet another bowl, “Strauss, we can’t possibly get any higher.”

Then there was the time I walked out into the living room late at night to get some water from the kitchen and I found him hunched over the toaster, which he’d plugged in and turned on, set sideways on shag carpet no less, in order to snort coke off of it.

Oh yeah — I don’t think either of them ever washed a dish or utensil. The used plates just piled up in their bedroom, next to the un-emptied ashtrays. While Fiancée was clearly the more mature of the two of them, I don’t know why she put up with him.

In any case, they both abruptly moved out after a bizarre scene at a party in which he sort of sexually harassed me by standing in front of me and planting both of my hands on his ass, and going on a weird, “You want that, don’t you?” monologue that just came across as a homophobic taunt.

This led to me reacting in a rare burst of aggression, so I twisted his arm behind his back and brought him to the floor. The next day, the two of them just packed up and left with no notice. Fortunately, this was right after another friend of Darren’s and mine was looking to move because the cousin he lived with had burned a hole in the kitchen counter of their apartment by leaving the toaster oven on when he went to work.

Oh, finally, it wasn’t until years later that Darren told me that he used to see Strauss standing in the back yard in the very early morning hours, variously staring at his window and mine. I have no idea what was up with that.

Which celebrity or band has the worst fan base?

Easy. The celebrity who shall be nameless who is vacating the White House on January 20. Every last one of his fans is toxic as hell.

What makes you say “What was I thinking?” when you look back on your life?

What was I thinking when I went to an expensive, private Catholic university to go to film school when I could have, instead, spent a lot less by going to UCLA or CSUN, staying in touch with a lot of my high school peeps, and majoring in something that would have given me a secure financial base from which to then finance my artistic ambitions?

If I’d gone the public route, I might have even been able to afford to go on to a Masters or Doctorate, which meant a lot more then than they do now. And if I’d been smart, I would have majored in computer science, because it was exactly the right time — and I definitely had interest in the subject.

Barring that, I could have held my nose and done marketing, or majored in PoliSci or History and gotten my Real Estate license at the same time.

And all the while, I could have done acting or writing on the side or as a minor because, as I look back on it, everything I learned about writing came, for free, from an amazing mentor I met long after college anyway.

What question would you most like to know the answer to?

Probably another no-brainer, but it’s this: Are there other advanced and sentient civilizations out there in the universe? If so, how many, and where? And how advanced?

And if there aren’t any at this moment, how many have there been that are just so ancient that they expired long before we rose? Or how many are there yet to be who are, at this moment, at the point we were hundreds of thousands of years ago?

And if there happen to be any at approximately the same stage we are give or take 500 years (and/or 25 generations) in either direction… where are they and how many lightyears away are they?

And if they’re 500 years/25 generations ahead of us but multiple lightyears away, how close are they to developing a superluminal way to get to or communicate with us quickly?

Okay, that’s not one question. Fuck it. It’s field of questions. A smorgasbord. But enjoy the meal, because every bite of it is important.