Saturday, May 10, 2008


“We can’t have you in here with the other girls.”

The other girls shift skittishly, sensing the storm on the horizon.

Ursula sits on her haunches on the chair of her desk with her muscular brown arms folded on top of her black ashy knees, her back pressed uncomfortably against the bars on the window, her forehead and eyes pointed at the adults as though pure rage might explode out at them. Her neck swivels menacingly; the vituperation continues as the staff members warily close in. “Bitch! I don’t need your fat-ass face in my face! You want something in your face, go get another cheeseburger!” To another: “Just come at me! I’ll rip your titties off!” To the nurse: “You! Black girl! I’ll kill your baby!” The nurse takes a step backward and sideways, trying to shield herself behind some wall or counter or piece of furniture she wishes were there, letting her hands flutter like birds around her distended belly in their search for the most protective place to alight.

“We need you to walk into Investment.”

The girl has become rigid, barely moving. Her breath is an ursine growl. The last thing she says is “You’ll have to take me. And I promise it will be Prob. Lems.” She punctuates each syllable of that final word with another around-the-world sway of her neck. Her eyes lose their focus, and a roar, guttural and startling, emanates from between her clenched teeth and angrily parted lips.

“Ok, let's get the other girls out of here.”

The other girls leave their desks, their pens, everything. They funnel through the door in an ovine panic, following the staff to safety. They get jammed in the doorway, rammed into each other in their attempts to simultaneously leave quickly to escape harm and linger to witness the melee. A wispy girl, Rachel, is pushed, misses the doorway, and gets hit in her clean teeth by the wall-mounted pencil sharpener. She is swallowed up by the stampede, bleeding slightly from the corner of her mouth, led down the hall, and into a new classroom. The nurse looks sternly at all of them as she pauses pregnantly, then closes the door and gives them new pens. They strain to hear, quiet for the first time all day. The first sentence they can make out is:

“You have until the count of three to walk on your own. You are going either way.”

The men of the staff close the circle on the animal, hands forward, shuffling apprehensively. It bares its teeth, growls and screams.


Its painted claws clatter dangerously on the desktop.


Saliva pools on its lips.


The boss signals, and two men advance, each grabbing a wrist and a shoulder. The moment it is touched, the animal begins to thrash truculently, kicking, gnashing, jerking its strong arms in an attempt to knock the men off balance. They pull it off of the desk, away from the wall, and two of the women grasp at the flailing legs. It bends at the knees, the hips, the neck, trying to free itself. In a surprising move, it yanks its hand inward instead of out toward the attackers, and is able to catch the back of a man’s manacling hand in its teeth.

“She’s biting me!” he caterwauls madly. Several pairs of hands grasp at its nappy head, its strong jaws. The man doesn’t let go of its arm, though fangs are piercing his skin. Blood vessels are mashed between gnashing teeth and the bones in the back of the hand, causing an instant black and purple ring to shine through. He finally manages to pull the hand away, leaving a bite-sized roll of scraped skin in its mouth. It continues to spasm and scream, shaking its head from side to side in order to drench them all in its slobber. They rustle it into Investment, down to the cold pavement floor, and nimble fingers remove its shoes and belt. The nurse reappears with a hypodermic and doctor’s orders. Heavy hands hold its hips and thighs and head. A flash of brown fleshy buttocks lasts just long enough for the injection. They wait.

After a few minutes, the struggling has stopped. The man with the bloody hand has gone to watch the other girls, a wad of paper towels pressed to the wound. The thin girl, Rachel, shaken and jealous, raises a malnourished arm like a tentative twig growing in time lapse. “May I break chair structure and come ask you a question?” she asks sheepishly. He nods his assent, eyes still on the smashed plum that is the back of his hand. The closeness of her small voice seconds later startles him. “I need to isolate. I feel like I’m going to explode.”

“Sit there in the chair in the hallway, facing the wall, and stay where I can see you,” he instructs impassively. Every other hand in the classroom erupts into the air, each straining to peak above the others. A few girls blurt out. “But!” “Me too!” “I can’t!” The man’s glare successfully conveys his unwillingness to tolerate nonsense this day. Most of the hands have sagged back down even before he says, “We’ve all just been through something stressful. Nobody is in trouble here. Please stay on task. You can’t all isolate at once. Rachel, write me a Feelings Paper and come back to your desk.” They settle back into the work of eavesdropping on whatever might be happening in Investment.

“I think we’re okay to let her go and back out of the room.”

They stand up and start slowly for the door. Without warning, it wheels up and around, punches the heavy-set woman in the face, aims a clumsy kick at the new guy’s knees. The woman throws her hands to her face. The new guy pulls the knee to his chest, swearing on one leg. There are still enough of them to grab it again and get it into a submissive position. This time they let it go and bolt for the door, which they close. They can hear it growling and panting, slamming its bulk against the other side of the heavy door. The long string of invective resumes. They exchange glances, wishing they could be anywhere else. Anywhere calmer.

Elsewhere: “Rachel. It’s been five minutes. You need to rejoin these girls or face a Natural Consequence.” His voice carries out to her in the hallway, but she pretends not to hear. “Rachel!” he says, not more loudly, but more emphatically. She turns her head, and he sees the wet tears on her face and in the chopped bangs that she parts by pushing them to either side of her plastic-rimmed glasses.

“I did it again,” she bleats.

“What did you do?” he asks, as he cautiously stands up.

“I self-harmed,” comes the pathetic response. As he comes around, he sees the electrical outlet on the wall. She has ripped the face off of it, and a shard of the hard plastic is clutched in her slender right fist. He sees the red viscous droplets on the edge of the weapon, continues around her and sees the bright poison red spreading all across her left forearm, seeping out of a six-inch cherry-pie gash in her pale skin, soaking darkly into the leg of her sweat pants, making sticky scarlet elbow prints on the chair. He cries out in alarm, then grabs for his radio. “Code Nine in Classroom Four!”

The ensuing commotion of staff members and radios and paramedics and craning girls is enough to drown out the commotion the beast is making a few rooms down by banging its head against the door until it tires itself out. “I hope you know what you are responsible for today,” comes the bitter voice of the fat staff lady through the little hole in the door of the animal’s cage. Her voice is muffled a bit by the bag of ice she is holding up to one side of her face. “A lot of good people have been hurt trying to help you, but do you care? No. I hope they press charges. I don’t get paid enough to deal with you.” But the animal doesn’t hear her, and really doesn’t care, and sleeps through the rest of the afternoon’s events.

It sleeps through the fat lady’s attempts to sting it with guilt, in order to assuage her own guilt about her size. It sleeps through a man’s testimony to the police as he gingerly favors one knee. Through the police officers’ assurances that the school won’t have to deal with this one anymore, because she’ll spend some time in Juvie and then she’ll be back to her mother’s, if mom’s out of prison herself by then; after all, no other school is going to take her after this one. Through the bosses assurances to the new guy that he'll get used to it, and not to care too much or you go crazy. It sleeps through a frail girl getting stitches up her arm, and a reward (all the attention she has been craving today). It sleeps through a nurse’s phone call to her supervisor, saying that she just had to get away, and that she might not come back at all, at least not until the baby comes. It sleeps through the gossip that spreads through the school, and its own elevated status as another rebel who showed the staff what was what. “Oh, I bit a staff member once,” they brag and lie. It sleeps through that, too.

It sleeps through a man’s sobs. The man has pulled over to the side of the road, just as the clouds mockingly burst. He wipes the tears off his glasses on his tee shirt with a bandaged hand, amazed by the catharsis that begins to spread through him. But still he sobs and sobs, for himself, for that girl, for ALL the girls, for the world, forehead on forearms on the steering wheel. The hail bangs unfeelingly against the roof of his battered old car.

Soon, the animal will be returned to the wild. “Untameable,” they’ll say.

God damn the bastards who raped that little girl.

What I Did in Church on Sunday

People are always asking me why I'm afraid of midgets. Well, here's the definitive answer, in children's storybook form. It's a definite departure from my norm, to say the least.

Man, I don't know what's wrong with me. The last thing I need is to be haunted by a midget ghost. I hope you enjoyed this.

Curse of the Gypsy!

Don't judge me: when I was a senior in high school, I was a compulsive litterer. I got the biggest kick out of throwing the biggest items out the window. Hitting drivers of convertibles or Jeeps with small pieces of rubbish was particularly rewarding. So was hitting street lights, stop signs, or cop cars. Parked ones. Mind you, I would never litter in the woods. But if we were in an already-polluted urban setting, and if there was a highway adoption sign up for some company I didn't really love, and if there were an eggshell carton or a Blockbuster receipt or a refrigerator box (yeah, I totally hit the Channel 7 News van with one of THOSE) in the car, I just couldn't help myself. Creating jobs, I would say. If the government is going to pay farmers to not grow corn, they can pay those lazy jerks to come out here and pick up my trash. Of course, this was mostly the result of my strict Mormon upbringing. I felt, with every toss of a Twinkie wrapper, that same shameful glee that normal kids must have felt when sneaking a cigarette, looking at a Playboy, or stealing pogs from the Pog Store in the mall. I could feel exhilarated and guilty, and I didn't even have to commit an actual sin! Breaking laws and still getting into heaven! The perfect Mormon teenage rebellion is one that would piss your mother off if she knew, but that you haven't ever heard them speak specifically about in church.

Anyway, the littering comes back later.

One weekend, I went camping with some Foof's (Friends Of Other Faiths), or "gentiles," as Brigham Young would have called them. There was Justin, the giant, whom we derisively called "Wheels," just so he would think we only kept him around for his car, which I'm not sure wasn't really the case. At any rate, it worked, because he always volunteered to drive us places in his huge beat-up Station Wagon, which we lovingly referred to as "Ecto 1," though it was not nearly as cool as the Ghostbusters' car, as this one had wood paneling on the outside and carpet that smelled like fat-roll sweat and cracked leather that revealed yellowing foam on the inside. Justin was actually a giant, at least in our minds. He was tall and fat and had a voice that rumbled around in his bowels, and he would later be able to hold a LOT of liquor. We also had Brad, my best friend, who gesticulated wildly with his massive Italian hands and was practicing a new smile for cameras that weekend where he would stick his tongue into the gap in his teeth so he would look less like a "gay zombie" in pictures. And there was Jeffie, who, when everyone was lighting their hands on fire using lighter fuel, decided to spray some on his crotch, caught his jeans on fire, and had to run into the frigid lake to keep the scorching zipper from doing further damage to his genitals. There was Peter, who would not use the latrine at night, because Brad had convinced him there was a monster living down in the poop, and whom we'd all agreed would be the first to die if this ended up being a horror movie, because he was likable but banal. And finally, there was Derek, who would wear a jock strap on the outside of his green jeans, and whom I think I never saw without a top hat on. He was the only one of us with facial hair, but Brad referred to it as "pubes growing from his chin." So, I never want to see Brad naked, because Derek's beard was GROSS. I'm not sure where I found these guys. They were somehow connected with the drama department at school, though they weren't really in the plays. They were sort of the "rafter people," if that means anything to you.

They packed along an energy drink appropriately called "Red Devil." It was Caffeinosaurus Rex, basically. Now, I don't ever drink caffeine. In fact, at that point in my life, I never had imbibed so much as a Pepsi. Not even diet. My friends thought this peculiarity about me was hilarious. These friends had once come across a video that the church had produced to teach us teenagers about the dangers of peer pressure. They also had a keen understanding of something that we Mormons don't always like to admit about our mindset, which is that without some level of persecution, we never really feel fully Mormon. Being mocked and scorned is in our heritage, and we somehow feel we are letting down our pioneer forbears if living our religion is easy and nobody is picking on us. So my kind friends obliged me by acting out the stereotypical "non-members tempting the Mormon with beer" routine they had learned in that video, only with this caffeine drink. All weekend, it was, "Come on, Robbie, all the cool kids are drinking these," and, "I bet he's just too chicken," and, "are you going to let you bishop and your parents run your life?" I played into their little scenarios like a good Peter Priesthood should. "You guys, you are my friends, but I respect my body too much to be putting harmful substances into it." This went on sporadically for the whole weekend.

The final day, we were packing up to leave, and I was mostly just hovering around the table, trying to pretend I was helping by stuffing whatever food was left over into my mouth so we wouldn't have to pack it up again. Jeffie came over and opened the cooler, and there was one lone Red Devil left. He reached for it, but before he could grasp it, I reached out, popped the top, and didn't stop 'til I'd slopped the last drop. In one single breath, I had committed what might have been my worst sin since sixth grade when I lied to the principal and told him I hadn't been playing chicken fight in the jungle gym when I broke my arm. My friends were instantly flabbergasted, but then highly amused. Mormon 0, Devil 1, by their count. By the time they had stopped laughing, I was beginning to learn that a caffeine buzz is completely indistinguishable from the feeling of the Holy Ghost leaving one's body. We piled up into the car and began the tortuous journey home.

As I'm perpetually ravenous, I soon began to bug the other guys about stopping for some grub. We drove-thru a Taco Bell, and I ate a ton and drank a large root beer. Soon the effects of the Red Devil, the windy road, and the "Mexican" food combined, and I knew I was going to retch. So, I totally blew chunks in the plastic Taco Bell bag. It was unpleasant, but as a point of reference, it was not as bad as ralphing Kenticky Fried Chicken (which is the worst I have experienced), but still slightly worse than just eating at a Long John Silver's. And since Taco Bell, and all Mexican food, really, only uses four or five ingredients to create the entire menu, it didn't look all that different from how it had moments before I had eaten it. A fun fact about root beer: its main coloring agent, caramel coloring, acts as an acid/base indicator, like red cabbage juice that you get to play with in elementary school science classes, and when it hits the acids in your stomach, it turns into a bright pink, frothy liquid that the masticated tortillas and ground beef kind of float around in if that's what you've been eating, which is really neat to look at, but smells terrible. So now we were driving down the freeway with a bag of vomit in the car, and Justin was displeased with this new piece of cargo in Ecto 1. You don't want to see an angry giant, even if he isn't quite as big as I recall. And remember, gentle reader, my propensity toward littering....

Without a second thought, I chucked the upchucked muck out the open window. The bag spun straight to the windshield of the car behind us, smearing throw-up everywhere. The driver of that car turned on the windshield wipers, but the bag was stuck to one, and the vomit spread everywhere. There were napkins and wrappers and things, too, creating a tarring-and-feathering effect as they stuck to the beans and cheese and stomach acid on the clear glass; it was terrible. After the bag o' barf dislodged itself and flew off, the victimized vehicle caught up to us in the next lane over. I was yelling at Justin to outrun it, but we were in his big ol' honkin' station wagon, "Ecto 1," and we had a giant on board, and it just wasn't going to happen. I looked nervously over, and who do you think I saw?

It was a gypsy woman (Brad maintains it was a Mobu priestess, but he is also the guy who made up the Poop Snorkeller). This lady had a silk cloth around her head, and baubles, bangles, and beads on her wrists. In her swarthy hand she clutched what looked like (and we very well could have been imagining things) some sort of bone with feathers tied to it. She was shaking it at me. At ME. And she was shouting something that we couldn't hear because her window was rolled up, but we just KNEW it was in some crazy foreign language. My friends recognized the signs immediately: "Dude, she just put a curse on you!" yelped Peter from where he was hiding at the foot of the passenger seat.

Could it be? Could the woman really have put a curse on me? I'm not so sure. However, from that moment on, nothing has gone right for me until it has gone wrong a hundred times. Mere months later, I broke my spine and was stuck in a wheelchair. When I served a mission after that, they called me "Elder Maldecido," or "cursed elder." Everywhere I went, chaos followed. When my little Chilean town started flooding, and we got evicted, and robbed, and we were starving to death, and our members lost their houses in the flood and we had to go help them find them, and everything was going wrong, I thought back to that bag I'd hurled into and out of the car on the freeway, and I wondered.

One day we were down by the train tracks near the gypsy encampment (gypsies are more normal in South America than they are here). It was a rainy day (actually, the only moments it didn't rain during those three months were the moments it was hailing). As we reached the top of the berm near the tracks, we came face-to-face with an old gypsy woman. She looked me in the eye, and said, "Tu eres maldecido. Sal de aqui! Dejanos tranquilos!" You are cursed. Leave here. Leave us alone. My companion thought it was funny that the lady thought I was cursed. I would half-heartedly laugh along with him later as he would tell the other missionaries about that encounter, but secretly I was wondering if there didn't exist some sort of Priesthood blessing I could give myself to have that crazy curse removed. I hear the sun came out in that village the very day I was transferred.

A few months and a different mission later (I had come down with some mysterious disease of the autonomic nervous system that was never identified, and I'd been transferred to Knoxville, Tennessee), I was in the mission office on my way home (sick again). The office had an elderly couple who handled all the mission affairs. At that time, we had two elderly couples; one was training the other, as it was just about time for the first to go home. As I sat there, looking forlornly out the window at the overcast sky, waiting for the mission van to pick me up and take me to the airport, I heard the old old guy say to the new old guy,

"Everything will go fine until your last eight weeks here. Then everything that can go wrong will. You'll have more sick missionaries, robberies, evictions, car accidents, bike accidents, lost credit cards, and hospitalizations during that time than you had the whole rest of your mission."

Eight weeks. The exact amount of time, to the day, that I had been in the Knoxville mission. And every single item on that list had happened to ME during those eight weeks. I just sighed and kept my burning eyes focused on the stratus clouds out the window, trying not to think about a certain gypsy woman (or maybe Mobu priestess) and a particular ballistic bag of beans, beef, and bile that I had so carelessly tossed out the window years before.

I don't litter any more. I've never drunk caffeine since then, either. But still, my life is a circus: entertaining and chaotic. And still, whenever I go back home, I have one eye out for a dusty, beat-up Volkswagen Rabbit with a mystical, scarf-headed woman inside, so I can find her and somehow make amends. Like take her to Seven Flags Car Wash, where it's a two-for-one special on Tuesdays. But until that distant expiatory day, at least I have better stories to tell. Right?

Friday, May 9, 2008


I know that probably the first thing my friends think when they think of me is, "Man, that guy's a super-genius." Well, thanks, friends. If you DON'T think that, you're no friend of mine.

Well, the point of this e-mail is to debunk that ever-spreading notion. It's true, I can probably kick your butt at Trivial Pursuit, or Boggle, or Blurt or Mad Gab or even Twister. I know a lot of random things, and like to tell people about it. But there is one vast area in which I have a disturbing dearth of knowledge, and that is history. I really know next to nothing about it. You may have known me for years and never caught on to this, because I am very good at evading situations in which historical knowledge might ever prove useful. I've always been embarrassed about the fact that all my knowledge of history comes from an eight grade history class I took in 1994. But why should I be ashamed? It's the public school system's fault. It's my Deadhead 11th Grade U.S. history teacher, Mr. Smith, who would stand at the front of the classroom with pit stains spreading down to his nipples, cursing us under his breath, pulling on the sides of his mad scientist hair, and frantically, stammeringly threatening, "OK, you guys, be quiet! I'm going to turn off the video! I'm going to send someone to the Student Responsibility Center!" He never did either. One kid pierced his ear in class and didn't get in trouble. Another kid once yelled out, "Mr. Smith! You're leaking milk!" Another kid was selling pot to the man right before class. But the worst we ever got was threats. And that's because we all knew the secret that Mr. Smith didn't want us to know: if he turned off the video about the history of rock music in America, he would have no idea what to do with us. We watched a video almost every day of that class. If you want to ask me about the the Grateful Dead or Phish, I'm all over it. But I only recently learned that the Civil War wasn't fought between whites and blacks. Turns out that was the Civil Rights Movement. Totally different things. You can see why I was confused, though.

So, in the American spirit of deflecting responsibility for my own shortcomings, and in keeping with the Oprah/Temptation Island/Catholic ethic that reasons that redemption comes only through disclosure, I'm officially coming out of the closet as a history dunce. Here, then, for your consideration, is an e-mail I wrote last summer to a friend who was in on my little secret, in response to her accusation that I didn't even know which World War came first. I lay myself at the mercy of your judgments.

Here's what I actually do know about the history of American wars: I do know which World War came first. I even know that Hitler and Japan and Italy were the enemy in the second one (though I have no idea who we fought against in the first one), and that both world wars were before Viet Nam and after the Civil War, which was after the Revolutionary War. I don't know when the Korean War happened in all of that, but I think it wasn't too long ago. I know there was a War of 1812, but I don't know if we were in that one, and I don't know whether that was before or after the civil war, or maybe it was just what the Europeans called our Civil War, because they seem to have had plenty of their own.

There was a Spanish-American War, and I assume that was after the Revolutionary War, but whether it was 200 years ago or 25, I have no idea. Also, I'm not quite sure whether the United States was in that war, or whether it was a war between Spain and the Americas in general, which seems to make sense. Maybe that's how Mexico and Cuba and Argentina and all the rest got free.

There was also a French and Indian War. Was it French against Indians or US against French AND Indians? I guess I'll never know. I seem to recall that it took place in Canada, back when Canada had a military.

President Eisenhower (Eisenhauer?) was a general in one of the world wars. Or a president during one? The one President from "Annie" in the wheelchair (one of the Roosevelts I think, but not Elanor) was President during WWII. I learned this from the movie "Pearl Harbor," which is based on a true story. He was portrayed by Dan Akroyd. This war ended with us dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and one other Japanese city, which I think was called Nagasaki, but that might be an electronics or motorcycle company that I'm confusing it with. I think the European-holocaust part of the war was over at this point and it was just us versus Japan. We were allies with Russia in WWII, which was led by Stalin, who came after Lennon, who defeated the Czars and killed Anastasia's family and maybe Anastasia too. I don't know if there was a war involved with all of that. I know that Stalin was a really bad guy, and I don't quite understand why we were allies with him except for the whole common enemy thing. Maybe nobody understands that.

There were some boats called the "Monitor" and the "Merimac" that were the first warships with iron sides and they played a big part in one of these wars. I think the Civil. They fought against each other. There was also an important boat called the Lusitania that was sunk by a German Uboat (like a submarine, according to Das Boot) and that made us go to war then.

The Korean War was in one of the Koreas. I would assume the North one because that's the one the news says is the bad one, but maybe it was in the south one and they're good now because we won. I don't actually know who won that war. I know M*A*S*H* took place there. I know the Viet Nam war was against the Viet Kong, who were led by someone named either Ho Chi Min or Charlie something. Maybe the city or the road was Ho Chi Min. I am VERY confused as to who was president during Viet Nam. I thought it was Kennedy, or Nixon. Maybe they both were. I don't know which of those two was president first, but I do know they ran against each other, and Kennedy won because the debates were televised and he was more handsome.

The civil war was north versus south (The south is called the confederacy and I don't know if the other one had a name like that) and it was over a state's right to secede from the union. The southerners called the northerners yankees. I think. It also seems to me that the Brits called the Americans Yankees during the Revolutionary war, but I'm basing that on the fact that Yankee Doodle was written by British people, I heard. Lincoln was president during this one, and he freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation either during or after the war. France fought on our (North's) side. The line between the north and south was called the Mason Dixon line and it's between Maryland and Pennsylvania (I had to do a state report on Maryland in 5th Grade). There was a general Lee for one side (south?) and a general Burnside who invented sideburns. Lincoln was killed after the war by a man named John Wilkes Boothe, who when he was arrested, told the sheriff or whoever that his name was "Mud." no idea what that means, but it was turned into a song by Primus in 1993 (i DID learn that in my American History class). I think the Ghettysburg address was also after the war, and Ghettysburg was a battlefield. Despite its name, the civil war was the bloodiest we Americans have ever fought. Unless you count the bad guys' casualties.

In the Revolutionary war (which either started or ended in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence) the British were called Redcoats and we were fighting against King George the something, who wanted taxation without representation in Parliament, which is like Congress only they yell at each other more. Paul Revere had to warn everybody with his lantern on a horse whether they were coming by land or sea. I think this job is what they called a minute man, because they ony had one minute to respond and send out the signal. I assume this plan eventually helped win something, or why would there be a poem about it, right? Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner while he was held captive(?) on a ship during that war.

There was a battle at the Alamo and that may or may not have been part of a war. I think it was against Indians, but maybe Mexicans, and a lot of famous people like Davie Crockett, Jim Bowie (inventor of a special knife and also a spoon in a Far Side comic), and a man named "Custer," who had his "las stand at the Alamo before he was killed (Also subject of a far Side where he has a "last sit"). We may have gone to war with Mexico, but I don't know if we did or whether it was before or after California was part of the U.S. There was that Pancho Villa guy, and I think he tried to fight us, but maybe he was just a bandito, but we don't say that anymore because it's racist. Or maybe just Fritos isn;t allowed to say that. They have a poster up for Pancho Villa in Beto's, which is a really cheap and greasy Mexican restaurant here in town. Also, there is an Otter Pop named after him.

World War one ended on November 11, 1911 at 11:11 a.m. on a boat in the pacific. This was the first war to use trench warfare, which I learned all about in a Hemingway book I had to read in 10th grade, and it sounds muddy and horrible and HELLA boring. According to Hemingway, if you live in a trench, you have to describe everything to death. Like, you can't just dig a trench. You have to grasp the handle of the five-foot pointed tipped shovel, more firmly with your left hand than your right, and place the tip of the shovel on a soft spot in the brown dirt, and then gingerly raise your right combat boot up until it came to rest upon the back of the blade of the shovel, then transfer your weight onto that foot, as the shovel sinks two and a half inches into the earth before it encounters a layer of nickel-sized rocks that make the shovel reverberate in your hands with a metallic thud. From this book, I learned that I hate war and trenches. Or else I hate Hemingway. I can't tell which it is that is so boring and overwrought. Anyway, I really probably know the least about WW1, or the Great War, as it was called before WWII.

The end. Seriously, that's all I know about war. And probably some of that isn't even right. There might have been other American Wars, but that's all I can think of. And you'll notice that I don't consider something to be history if it happened during my tenure here on Earth.

If you can afford it, send your kids to private schools.