Turned my iPhone to “Airplane Mode.” Can’t tell you how helpful this has been. No phone calls, no text messages, no access to the Internet. I can only use my iFuckPhone to tell time and play music, so I’ve made a habit of leaving my headphones at home. Can’t remember the last time I was this disconnected from what’s going on in the world; can’t tell you how nice it is; can’t tell you why I got so caught up in being so hyper-connected. Like cigarettes or gambling boats or running restaurants, you can lose yourself in feeding all these useless needs. It’s especially dangerous if you consider losing control of the gift we’ve created for ourselves, access to endless information at the slightest impulse. We’ve lost the art of slow walks. We roll our eyes at procrastination, as if watching an apple fall off a tree would be unworthy of Isaac Newton’s time. By the way, on purpose, I didn’t call him “Sir.” I’m not writing this to be respectful: of Isaac, myself, or anyone else. Hopefully this is more than venting. Hopefully this is more than ranting. To be Brutal, to be Frank, I’ll leave it to my Dad. He’s looking across the horizon to see what’s next. He’s a “Down The Road” kind of guy. Me, to get a handle on things, I’m looking back. Speaking of looking back…
Anita Hill got a call from the wife of Clarence Thomas.
Get this: a Supreme Court Justice needs his wife to argue the case. What a pussy. Not even a black pussy, just a pussy. In her defense, I understand, on a level, why she called. We carry things around. They nag at us, bother our sense of personal justice, drive us into the compassionless arms of The Lord. Even if we’re pretending it’s behind us. It’s not. Even if we’re pretending it didn’t happen. It did. Even if we pretend “It Is What It Is.” It isn’t, not always. So we drink Dewar’s, slightly shaken. We teach painting instead of making them. We stop singing. We go all-in, believing Aliens conspired with George W. Bush on 9/11. When really, behind all of this, there’s something from our past: some dream we’ve let go of because it got too hard, a cheap job that ended in an expensive lawsuit, a marriage tested where no marriage deserves to be tested, in public; or less severe, but still gnawing, the material needs of the people we love become more important than putting a little time aside, every day, to chase something irrational, instead of a pretty cul-de-sac, with a gate and a guard who expects a bonus on Christmas for creating the illusion of safety.
Clarence Thomas hit-on Anita Hill. I would. She’s got it all: talent, smarts, ambition, a great smile, a world-class legal career, nice tits. Clarence Thomas doesn’t have the guts to be honest with himself, let alone his wife. So 19-years later, after everyone else had forgotten about Long Dong Clarence, his wife makes a phone call, she leaves a message, at 7-in-the-fucking-morning. Why? I’ll tell you why. His past is eating her present. So she pretends to call for an apology; she pretends to call for love of The Lord; she pretends the Olive Branch isn’t a Thorn; but really, it’s because she never went down on her husband, stuck her fist up his ass, like a cruel gavel, pounding away, as she mercilessly teased his cock while her supremely perverted husband surfed the internet for porn, nibbling on slightly burnt bacon, dunking marble rye toast in eggs over medium-well, sipping espresso, in his work robe, until finally, with the permission of his wife, he blews his load – which is the color he secretly wishes he was – into the editorial section of The Wall Street Journal. Basically, she never got to know Clarence.
Too bad for Anita Hill, if only she’d turned her iPhone to “Airplane Mode.”
Vince didn’t like him. Not from the moment he laid eyes on his curly hair and perfectly tanned skin. Vince saw insecurity masquerading as arrogance. This guy, pledging his fraternity house was nothing more than a know-it-all from the North, a spoiled imposter. He reeked of privilege. The mission was clear, he’d squash Morelli.
On pledge week at Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, the buzz about Morelli was overwhelming. Never had Vince seen someone so unanimously coveted. He was like a prize the brothers were determined to win, in the very first minutes of pledge week. It was a treat to have a student from the North at the University of Florida.
Landing an out of state student added prestige to a fraternity, especially from a big city like Chicago, which made Morelli seem otherworldly, like a foreign exchange student. He must be brilliant, they argued during pledge selection, to get in from out of state. This would help, they argued, to bring up the fraternity’s GPA. Plus, to quote the final pitch, which cemented Morelli getting an offer to pledge, “This dude definitely gets major pussy, bro.”
Vince was the first to cast his vote: Thumbs Up, “This guy is 101% Pi Lam Material.” In celebration of a new pledge, the brothers sang out, “To the window, to the wall, til the sweat drops off my balls, til the bitch breaks down and crawls, shoot off skeet-skeet, Motherfucker, shoot off skeet-skeet, Goddamn, shoot off, shoot off, young lady, make love to a Pi Lam Man.”
It needed to be a long-term strategy, Vince decided. You don’t turn all the brothers against you, right off the bat. You don’t lead with your strong hand, not on the first punch. You pace yourself, build into it. You expose weakness, slowly, then chip away at it. There was no way Vince could persuade all the brothers, right now, this guy was weak. He’d look bitter. He’d give Morelli allies, before he even sensed an enemy. You don’t win by going for the knockout punch on the first swing – that was Iron Mike without Cus D’Amato in his corner – Vince knew how to pace himself. Since childhood, he’d been a Golden Gloves Kick Boxer. Winning took stamina. Winning was a craft. This was going to be fun. Ding!
The Briefcase Boys were an elite group at Pi Lambda Phi. They studied finance, with a minor in art history (for cultural references on dates with sorority girls). They looked ready for a job interview at Goldman Sachs. They got their name by literally carrying a briefcase to campus, like they were going to work, every day, even weekends, especially weekends. It was a mindset. In one semester, Vince had closed the gap between acceptance and leadership. More than looking the part, short-cropped spiky blond hair, impossibly fit, at least a head taller than any of the brothers, Vince became their leader because more than anyone else, he saw himself at the top. He saw himself in the role of leader until it was no longer a role, but as much a part of his DNA as the father he had lost, too young, to cancer and booze.
Vince’s father was a hitter. It had always been that way, so it was normal, it was home. It didn’t take much to provoke his father. But when he lashed out, it was violent. His mother took it. She kept it to herself. If this was as much as she could get from love, she seemed to accept her husband. Until he came home, one day, particularly drunk, dangerously violent. Before she could even acknowledge he’d walked in the door, he took a knockout swing. But on this day, instead of taking it, instead of accepting it, Vince’s mother ducked hard to the left. He put his fist through the wall, leaving a hole bigger than her head. The next day, Vince’s father came home, sober, with supplies to patch the hole. But his mother wouldn’t have it. The hole was there, it was hers and she wanted it exactly where it was, like art hung deliberately low, making even more of a statement. It stayed there, long past all of their friends seeing the hole, long past all of their family seeing the hole, long past Vince remembering to notice.
Every morning, at Pi Lam, when Vince woke up, the first one in the fraternity house, to wake up, every day, even weekends, especially weekends, he saw the hole. Day by day, with stamina, with craft, with everything he owed to his mother, he’d work to fill it.
Morelli was embraced by The Time Travelers. A fringe group of rebels in the fraternity. They smoked pot, slept through class, if they even went to class. They went to midnight showings of Pink Floyd “The Wall,” as if this was a path to insight. They challenged the authority of The Briefcase Boys simply by walking into the room, reeking of pot. With no effort at all, Morelli had fallen from The Golden Boy of Pledge Week to what Vince considered The Leader of the Misfit Toys. Vince had planted seeds of doubt, slowly, letting them grow over the course of the 2nd semester. Then Morelli began publishing letters in the school newspaper, The Florida Alligator. The letters got a lot of attention on campus. The newspaper received more calls about his letters than the weekly columns. Soon, he got a call from the editor. He was offered a weekly column of his own. He called it “Gumption Trap.”
Vince never missed a single thing Morelli wrote. He read them religiously, highlighting sentences as if he was studying for a midterm. Little by little, in conversations at poker games with seniors and brothers in the upper echelon of the fraternity, he’d use Morelli’s own words to plant seeds of doubt. Already, The Briefcase Boys were committed to “Black Balling,” a 2/3rd vote, which led to expulsion from Pi Lam. The moment finally came when Vince saw an opening for the knockout. After a ski trip, where the brothers rented a bus, and took off from school for the week, Morelli published an article where he exposed the antics of the brothers, which were supposed to be hush-hush. He talked about showing porn on the bus, delighting in the reaction of The Little Sisters, who’d come along more for the sport of fucking than skiing. He glorified smoking pot on chairlifts, forecasting a time in America when pot smoking would be elevated, like a chairlift on the high-wire of life, up to the top of the society, up to the top of awareness, up to the top of acceptance, before descending into mainstream, where it would be casually enjoyed, instead of vilified by intellectual cowards. The article underscored the philosophy of fraternity life, “Treat Women Like Whores and Whores Like Women.” It wasn’t a new idea, to be sure. But Morelli did something new, which was, to Vince, a clear declaration of war. He tied the attitude of the ski trip to the spirit of The Briefcase Boys, calling out their behavior, and name, in a public forum, the school newspaper, which was read, on campus, and off, by students, professors and the Dean of Student Affairs, Dean Jim Scott. He did what no one had dared before, he used their name in public, “The Briefcase Boys.”
The protests on campus were immediate. Women’s Groups began protesting in front of Pi Lambda Phi, calling it “Porn Lambda Phi.” Dean Jim Scott opened an investigation into the ski trip, threatening to throw the fraternity off campus. Worst of all, The Little Sisters stopped putting out.
The Briefcase Boys called an emergency meeting. Confusion settled in. No one knew what to do. As Morelli was becoming vilified within the fraternity, for his candor, he was becoming beloved on campus, for his candor. Vince detested weakness. Confusion annoyed him. He knew exactly what to do. Like his mother, he’d seen this coming. So he ducked hard to the left, and came up, swinging.
“Look,” Vince said as he rose to speak, “I voted for this guy. So I was duped, just like the rest of you were duped. I’m not here to say I Told You So. I’m with you on this. We were all duped. Unfortunately, during pledge week, we saw something in Morelli he refuses to see in himself. He aims low. He thinks small. He’s a bottom feeder. He’s bringing all of us with him, to the bottom. He thinks there’s a big lesson at the bottom. You know what’s at the bottom? Losers. Morelli is contagious. He’s a virus with hair gel. Now he’s poisoning the air with words of betrayal. He’s destroying our reputation on campus. There are secrets of the brotherhood you do not bring out into the light of day, let alone publish in the school newspaper.” Heads were nodding. Even a few of the older brothers, from Time Travelers, who’d come to defend Morelli, we’re nodding. They seemed inclined to join the mob Vince was assembling. Sensing the moment, feeling the room was his, knowing he could take this anywhere he wanted, Vince reached into his briefcase, for the words he highlighted with his yellow pen, “Treat women like whores and whores like women? Are you kidding me? Seriously? In the school paper? Come on! This sleeping all day, whining all night, wishy-washy, druggie degenerate won’t be happy until there’s not a single girl on campus who wants to be seen wearing our letters. The letters I wear with pride. The letters I pledged to uphold. The letters of brotherhood. Brother Mine Forever. Not 4-Years But A Lifetime. These aren’t just words. They’re a creed. A promise to reach for greatness. The fist lesson of Pi Lambda Phi is having the courage to follow your convictions. Well, I’m following mine, right now. I make a motion for Black Ball.”
There was a hush. Then a sudden motion to end the meeting made by an older Time Traveler. It got a 2nd. And a 3rd. But not before the president of the fraternity nodded his head, letting Vince know he was behind him. That’s right, Vince thought to himself, the president is behind ME.
Vince didn’t have the title, but there was no question who was in charge. As the meeting broke for the night, Vince was approached, quietly. There was a weekly poker game, by invitation only. The door was opened to the presidential suite, where the poker game took place. Vince walked through it, with the knowledge he was walking into the room as a temporary guest. Soon enough, he wouldn’t need an invitation. Soon enough, he thought to himself, the room would be his.
As he sat down, and the door closed behind him, so too, for the moment, did the hole.