Shifting Through Gimmicks

I don’t think anyone has exceedingly great memories of middle school.  At that age, everyone seemed desperate to carve out an identity.  I struggled too because I didn’t think I had a memorable personality.  People told me to “just be yourself” but it turns out short, skinny and docile wasn’t a recipe for success.  I needed to stick out.  So I went through about a 2 year phase where I would try out different gimmicks.  My first gimmick was flipping a coin.  I thought that’d make me seem bad-ass.  Like I was Two-Face.  People would be looking at me saying, “Ooh he’s such a brooding intellect that he needs a coin to make decisions for him.”  Heads: I’d get chicken nuggets for lunch, Tails: Mexican pizza.

I learned one cardinal rule of being a nerd.  Don’t flash your cash.  All the bullies at school knew I had quarters.  That year I spent a lot of time upside down.  

After that there was about a two-week span where I would always have licorice.  You’d see me in the hallway and I’d just be chomping on some Twizzlers.  Little chunks of licorice would always be getting stuck in my braces.  I really have no idea what the purpose of that was.  In retrospect it was kind of a creepy way to get people to talk to me.  “I’ve got candy.  Want to play tether-ball?”  Good thing I couldn’t grow a mustache back then or I’d probably be on a watch list by now.  

None of those gimmicks worked so I thought I needed to do a drastic turnaround.  I had so much rage, but I felt trapped…like a rat in a cage.  So one day I came into school wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt.  It was that black one Billy Corgan used to wear that said “Zero.”  

I was in a pretty dark place in Middle School you know…all that homework…

It’s amazing how much really can be expressed in a T-shirt.  That t-shirt summed up how I felt about the world then.  That we’re all just cogs in this suburban machine, man!  I wore the shirt proudly for exactly 47 minutes.  Then some eighth grader was walking down the hall, saw me and said, “Zero?  Is that the number of push-ups you can do?”  That shirt never saw the light of day again.  It still somewhere in the bowels of my dresser drawer along with an Austin 3:16 t-shirt and an Amos Zeroue jersey.  

I’m still looking for that gimmick, that thing that makes me unique.  My new thing is using old-timey metaphors.  I watched True Grit about a month ago and now I say stuff like cowboys used to say.  I’ll be at work and someone’s telling me about some report:

Co-Worker: These numbers seem to indicate that gross margin is up for the quarter.

Me: Well if a cat has kittens in the oven, that don’t make ‘em biscuits!

Co-Worker: What?

Me: You know what son?  Talking to you’s like hollerin’ in a sawmill.

Co-Worker: Are you looking at the same excel sheet as me?

Me: Con sarn it!  You best be as silent as watersnake ‘for I give ya’ a bunch of five to yer jabberbox!  (spittoon ding)

Letters from Smitty – Walking Tour


Greetings Fellow I-Phone Purchasers,

                I must begin this letter with an apology.  It seems that I may have offended some readers when I made the claim that “God Doesn’t Exist” in my latest Op-Ed piece for the Sheridan Press.  I wrote that article in haste and unfortunately was not able to spell check it appropriately.  What I meant to say at the time was “God Don’t Exist.”  I was attempting to reach a more youthful demographic of Sheridan, WY through using younger vernacular and “street slang.”   You know, like Boulevard, Lane, Road, etc.  Please accept my apology, you fool.

I am writing to you now, Dear Reader, in the hopes that you can give me some guidance.  As of this moment, I have become lost in the woods somewhere in Montana.  It is regrettable and embarrassing to say the least.  As a man of the forest, I thought my internal navigation skills would surely be able to get me out of this mess.  But every time I try to get out of this thick jungle brush, I become entrapped even further.  Time is of the essence my friends.  I have been without food for two days and I am dangerously close to running out of bath salts.

This all began when my roommate Smitty decided he wanted to go on a walking tour of the “The Bloody Bozeman Trail,” which, as you all know, is close to the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn.  Smitty is very enthusiastic about historical slaughters, so I thought we should go take a looksee.

We started off the day normally enough.  We woke up at 2:17 AM, had a bowl of stewed beets and practiced our sensual yodeling.  Then we hopped into Smitty’s Ford Festiva, loaded to the brim with all manner of automatic assault weapons, and headed out to the trail.

The walking was easy enough at first, although Smitty had forgotten to bring his hiking shoes.  He kept screeching, “My socks are getting dirty!  Fudge it!”  I told him that it was unacceptable to complain about that problem, given the fact that many Native Americans only had moccasins to wear on their feet when they rained terror down upon the 7th United States Cavalry just a few miles from here. 

“Crazy Horse didn’t complain,” I said.  “Any frustration he felt, he expressed it through scalping.  You could learn something.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized my mistake.  A word of advice for future reference: never insinuate to Smitty that it is ok to scalp.  He took my comment quite literally and I found myself racing through the forest in order to elude my tomahawk-wielding roommate.   Where he got a tomahawk from, I’ll never know.  Oh wait.  It was on Amazon. 

I was too overcome with adrenaline to feel it at the time, but I believe Smitty did take a sizeable chunk of my scalp.  So dizzy and disoriented, I wandered into an occupied bear cave as I supposed it to be the safest place to regain my strength.  This is where I write to you from. 

So, if anyone out there has any working knowledge of the topographical layout of Battle of Little Big Horn (or a the Sioux call it “The Massacre at Greasy Grass”), would you please write me with directions on how to find my way back to the Trail?  I’ve asked the bear in the cave for his address, but he appears to be hibernating, and therefore unresponsive. 

Thank you, Dear Reader. 

Scalplessly Yours,

          Alan Gibbons

Mike Tomlin at His PhD Thesis Defense

If not for his successful career path to become the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin would have been a theoretical physicist.  Here we find the verbally vague coach defending his thesis in front of a board of faculty at William and Mary.

Dr. Thorton:  Mr. Tomlin, you assert that all matter flows in a non-consecutive pattern.  How can you break from Aristotle’s view of matter; that it is continuous and can be divided and broken down without cessation infinitely?  Why should we believe your new standard?

Mike Tomlin:  The standard is the standard.

Dr. Thorton: Um…ok.  Good.  Well then.

Dr. Xien: So what you’re saying is that the point of matter can exist in multiple planes?  How can there be any reconciliation with our reality if that is the case?  If we are all existing in multiple dimensions simultaneously, how do we live day-to-day?

Mike Tomlin: Be where you’re at.

Dr. Xien:  No more question, I guess.

Dr. Patel: Mr. Tomlin, would your theory have any practical applications?  Perhaps in manufacturing?

Mike Tomlin: Iron sharpens iron.

Dr. Patel: This is ridiculous. 

Mike Tomlin: We’ve got to be ten toes into this thing.

Thoughts on Being Married:


–          I found it extremely difficult to make the switch from saying “my girlfriend” to “my fiancé.”  The word fiancé is revolting to me for some reason.  It conjures up images of frontward-facing fanny packs. 

–          I watched some videos of people fainting at weddings.  Normally, I would laugh at their misfortune.  “Ha Ha.  That person passed out and fell on top of the candelabra!  Thank God that’s not me.”  But then I started thinking, “That could be me.”  Then that turned into, “That will definitely be me.”  I spent the final hours of my last night as a single man doing deep-breathing exercises and trying to find a store that sold Smelling Salts.

–          I’m still trying to figure out what makes people so nervous during weddings.  I think it’s the finality of it all.  You are entering into a holy contract with God himself that you will protect and love a person completely and unconditionally.   If you don’t, God will sue you!  He will sue your ass so freaking hard it will make your head spin!



–          On the morning of the wedding, it’s important to have your friends around.  That’s what good groomsmen can do.  They just lighten the mood and distract you from your worries.  There’s nothing like a good solid wedgie to help you relax.

–          If you’re like me, you won’t be able to look directly at your bride as she comes down the aisle.  She is the sun, after all.  The center of your universe sparkling brighter than ever that day.  If you do wish to look at her, I would suggest polarized sun glasses or one of those eclipse boxes you used to make in grade school.

–          My dad is usually a plethora of useful advice.  When I asked him about what I should do on my wedding day he only had one piece of wisdom to impart:  “Don’t get too drunk on your wedding night.”  He paused for effect.  “You know…too drunk.”

–          Surprisingly, the cake that you paid an almost imaginary amount of money for is worth it. 

–          You know that catered dinner that you were looking forward to eating after a stressful day?  The waiter might as well just show you your entrée then throw it in the trash in front of you.  You will never even sniff it.


Honey moon:

–          The entire wedding experience is over the top to start.  However, a honeymoon at a Caribbean resort is sure to warp your life expectations more than anything else.  “This is what our life will be like forever, right?”

–          As with most places I go, I get the sneaking suspicion that every single person on this planet makes a lot more money than I do.  In my mind, everyone on the island was either an international spy or the owner of a copper mine in Argentina.

–          We were trying to find our “honey moon friends.”  This is another young couple that we would hang out with during the week and then stay in sporadic contact with throughout our lives.  We didn’t meet this couple.  We had a solid candidate on the second night but things just didn’t click.  It’s like we were on a mediocre first date.  There was this awkward moment between us at the end of the night:

Couple 1: Do you want us to walk you guys to your door? 

Couple 2: No thanks, we have an early day tomorrow.

Couple 1: Oh…OK.  Well, I guess this is goodnight.  (goes in for a kiss

Couple 2: Goodnight. (turns head slightly and gives the cheek.)


Couple 1(returns to their Pontiac TransAm and punches the steering wheel) 



–          We came back to our apartment and immediately dropped all of our luggage.  The luggage sat there for a few days, taunting us, reminding us of the fun we once had.  I started to refer to those vessels of emptiness as “fun husks.” 

–          There is a legitimate postpartum depression that follows all of this going on.  Only a few days ago, I was being showered with gifts, enjoying complimentary breakfasts and going on Jeep tours of economically disadvantaged tropical towns.  Now,  I’m at Giant Eagle, looking at different types of deodorant. 

–          Wearing a ring is strange.  I find myself toying with it constantly.  I put it on and take it off repeatedly.  I swirl it around my finger.  I look at it all the time.  I find myself referring to it and me as “we.”  I have an undeniable urge to strangle filthy hobbits.  It’s my preciousssss. 

–          I was a husband for little more than a week before I started to get a very real urge to wear track pants.  I’m guessing next week the goatee will start to come in and about a month from now I’ll be complaining about Luke Ravenstahl. 

–          I have a wife.  A beautiful wife at that!  What a lucky dog!