Happy Birthday, Mr. F!!!
<——– (Oy. I don’t know what’s worse. Mr. F’s glasses or my eyebrows. Damn, let’s call that shit a draw!)
It’s not technically true that I met Mr. Furious just before my 16th birthday; we had been in the same places at the same time since we were toddlers, attended the same elementary and middle schools, and always had a vague notion of who the other was. But it was just before my 16th birthday that we became friends, finding in each other the geekishly like-minded misfits our respective lives were missing, and promptly becoming so inseparable that his younger brother, only a baby then and now a teenager himself, referred to us as one person when he learned to speak: “Where ToddMelissa?” Now that I’ve just turned 33, more half my life has been spent with Mr. F as my confidant, conspirator, and comrade. I’ve spent more time on this earth with him as my friend than I did without him, and my life is immeasurably better for it.
In honor of his birthday, I’m going to repost one of my all-time favorites, originally posted March 24, 2006, which is about him: Still Mad for Furious. I’ve added some new stuff, too.
Anything but loving you would be HIGHLY ILLOGICAL, Todd.
And happy birthday. mwah!
Some of the 17 years Mr. Furious and I have spent as friends were spent as roommates, some as co-workers, some as conspirators on various doomed projects, like half-assedly forming a band called Nolte or authoring a terrible screenplay about a character named Orlando Florida. Importantly, they spanned the years during which we navigated the uneven path toward adulthood—a path along which I got raped, he came out, I got married and divorced young, he got kidney stones, and lots of other unfun stuff. Navigating it together made it infinitely easier, because Mr. F is the kind of friend that everyone should be fortunate enough to have. He has seen me at my absolute worst—embarrassing, shameful stuff; he has known me to be stubborn, hurtful, uncompromising, inconsiderate, irrational. He has known me to lie. Some of it was directed at him. Some of it caused huge fights. And he has, graciously, forgiven me every time, because he made our friendship worth earning his forgiveness.
He has also seen me at my best, which, in the weird way of the criminally shy, is sometimes even harder for me to fully share than my worst. But he knows my heart truly, in the way few people do—and though there’s a certain sentimentality to that which needs no exposition, it also provides for our ability to have egregious amounts of a particular variety of fun that only two very old, very close friends can have. The kind of fun that leaves one collapsed in a heap of gut-wrenching giggles, gasping for air and swearing one shall never recover.
I have rarely laughed as hard as I did on the morning I found myself, quite literally, having fallen onto the pavement in a Grand Avenue parking lot after my knees buckled from the weight of laughter. It was my first job out of college, and I’d been there a year when Mr. F graduated and I managed to finagle him a job at the same place. Every morning, he’d pick me up, and every morning, I’d inform him of the goings-on by a wee spider that had made its home in the cavity of the passenger side mirror. Every morning, he’d get increasingly pissed about this spider who would retreat behind the mirror if he tried to capture and relocate it to a hedge or the Great Beyond.
On this morning, the spider had spun a huge web, stretching from the mirror to the angled side of the windshield, and as we drove down Lake Shore Drive, Mr. F sped up, trying to take out the web with sheer velocity. It bounced and blew, but did not fall. The spider rode safe in the mirror cavity he called home. Mr. F swore and screamed at the web as we hit 60mph. “What the fuck?! Why won’t it go away?! I’m so fucking sick of this spider!”
He was genuinely angry, and I was stifling the need to laugh. A lot.
When we pulled into the parking lot, the web was still intact, and the spider had come out to stretch in the sunshine. Mr. F ran around to side of the car, determined to kill this thing once and for all. Just as the beast was nearly within his reach, it scurried away again behind the mirror. “Ahhrrrgghh!” Mr. F exclaimed. I burst out laughing. He went to work flailing his arms, destroying the web like a demonic windmill. Tears began to roll from my eyes. And then the yelling began.
“The mirror is NOT a haunted mansion!” he informed the spider, his face growing red. “You have 24 hours to evacuate, or I’m GETTING THE BUG SPRAY!”
“Wahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I cried. “Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!” I fell against the car, then slid down onto the ground, my entire body convulsed with laughter.
“It’s not funny!” he scolded me angrily. “My car is not a home for deadbeat bugs!”
He scowled at me. I started to drool as I gasped for air.
“Whatever,” he harrumphed, then stood with his hands on his hips, contemptuously watching me quiver on the pavement, until he began to grin.
We have made silly movies together, vacationed together, attended innumerable concerts together, met Mozza together, partied together (our birthdays being only nine days apart, we have shared quite a few birthday celebrations), done drugs together, seen thousands of films together, spent nights talking until dawn, and I have invaluable, precious memories from all of these things. When I cast my mind backwards over 17 years in search of fond memories, I most remember the times we have been have left in an absolute fit of laughter.
And sometimes I remember the times when it’s been just me left in an absolute fit of laughter, because Mr. Furious has done one of things that earned him that handle.
Mr. F truly goes from calm (or the low-level simmering awaiting deployment into wanton fury that passes for calm in his emotional make-up) to OUTRAGEOUSLY FUCKING PISSED in the blink of an eye. It’s usually about some little thing—he doesn’t blow his gasket about The Big Stuff in remotely the same way—and it’s a burst of fury that lasts only a moment and quickly subsides. And, um, I find it hilarious.
I can’t help it.
If you were there, you’d find it hilarious, too.
Especially when he’s mad at his food. I mean, when someone picks up a mozzarella stick he’s just been served, and half of it collapses from his hand like a pile of snotty goo, and then he throws the rest to the plate, declaring, “These aren’t mozzarella sticks—these are BULLSHIT sticks!!!” that’s funny. Even if he is genuinely mad.
Maybe even more so because he’s genuinely mad.
I swear I thought I would never recover the morning of the bad-tasting burrito. I had just graduated college, Mr. F was still finishing, and we were living in an apartment on Albion Street on the north side of Chicago that had a Pepto-Bismol pink bathtub and toilet. It was Saturday morning, and I was sitting on the sofa in the living room eating cereal and watching cartoons. Mr. F stumbled through the living room in the ubiquitous baby-blue robe he’d had since I met him, mmph-ing a good morning to me as he passed into the kitchen.
I heard some banging, the microwave working, dinging. A few moments later, Mr. F joined me at the other end of the sofa, balancing on his knees a plate topped by a just-heated frozen burrito. Breakfast of champions.
He took a bite, made a terrible guttural noise. “Blurrrgh!” I looked over to see him deliver a short, jabbing punch to the burrito. Its contents squirted from both ends. “FUCK YOU AND YOUR BAD TASTE!” he yelled at it, then stormed back into the kitchen, where I could just hear the sound of a fork urgently scraping a plate over the garbage can above the din of my own howling laughter.
I am quick to laugh, and I have a loud laugh that carries and causes me to blush in restaurants when I realize it’s made people stare. Mr. F isn’t quick to burst out laughing himself, and he’s more likely to shoot off a single “Ha!” in response to something he finds funny. But there have been occasions we have both laughed until we cried, totally ending ourselves. This was one of these times, the very thought of which nearly ends me to this day, more than a decade later…
Mr. F was a film/communications major; I was a sociology and anthropology major, so we rarely had classes together. In my fourth year and his third, I was facing a sociological theory course which not only sounded tedious, but was taught by a single professor, who had a hideous reputation. (A professor we’ll call Dr. Dandruff, for what I’ll assume are obvious reasons.) I convinced Mr. F to take it with me, as one of his electives, to his chagrin and my relief, as Dr. Dandruff turned out to be worse than I had ever imagined, having the unique capacity to be both mind-numbingly boring and detestably irritating at the same time, a loathsome demeanor made further unfortunate by his near-total lack of personal hygiene. He had the annoying habit of punctuating his lectures with questions that should have been rhetorical—“What is the difference between a billiard ball and a human?”—but would bring the class to a silent standstill as he waited for an answer. (“I’d be pissed if someone hit me with a stick,” I finally muttered from the back of the class.)
Suffice it to say, Mr. F and I were not fond of this class. We sat in the back of the room, our heads knocking against the cinderblock wall, writing each other notes back and forth about boys we liked and what we’d do this weekend. It was the easiest way to pass the time, which seemed to drag on endlessly until the bell finally rang—we were in the only building on campus that still had “bells” like a high school to indicate time was up.
During a particularly dreadful session one day, Mr. F nudged me with his elbow. I shook off my stupor and looked down at his notebook, which he was holding out for me to see. He had drawn a picture of Dr. Dandruff, with his entire body replaced by a giant ass, and two dialogue bubbles, which read: “Well, I’ll be damned! I’ve got a butt for a body!”
It looked, approximately, like this:
I thought this was perhaps the most hilarious thing upon which I had ever laid eyes.
But in the perfect stillness of the classroom, broken only so slightly by the monotonous drone of Dr. Dandruff’s lecture, I could not burst out laughing.
I looked away, squeezing my eyes shut, tensing my lips, trying, in effect, to turn my face into a clenched fist to hold in the laugh trying so desperately to escape. I could feel my face burning red.
Mr. F nudged me.
I ignored him.
He nudged me again.
And then it happened—the laugh I was trying so urgently to withhold began to make its getaway. It slipped out of me like air someone is trying to hold in a balloon with a pinch; a high-pitched squeal: “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” My gut lurched upwards, and as I held it back, the screech got louder and louder. “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
Beside me, Mr. F silently began to shake.
The other students started to look around, to see from whence the strange noise came, focusing on the two red-faced gits in the back, their eyes bursting with tears.
“What’s that noise?” Dr. Dandruff asked.
And then it came. “Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!” Both of us. Howling.
The entire class stared at us in slack-jawed wonder as we screamed, pounding the desks with our fists and collapsing against each other weakly. And on and on we laughed until the bell finally rang.