mary in grilled cheese

11/28/07

Three Examples of Great, Though Fleeting, Human Achievement

1. I’m sitting in Mr. Everhart’s early Geometry class in 10th grade, and he’s explaining some proof about angles in a circle, while all of us are struggling to stay awake, half-dead in loosened neckties. He goes to the board and draws a giant circle, and gets a few more words out before stopping.

Most of the class snaps from their stupor, as we can’t believe what we’ve just seen: Mr. Everhart has drawn a perfect freehand circle. He wasn’t even trying – just swiped the chalk across the board, but there is no doubt that he has accidentally created abject perfection. Not usually swayed by interesting things, even Mr. Everhart stops and looks at the board, slightly mesmerized.

After class, some of us measure it – sure enough, perfect to the millimeter. It stays on the board for weeks, becoming something of a talisman, before the cleaning crew, unaware of (or unwilling to accept) divine truth, wipes down the board with a sponge.

2. We’re at the fraternity, about three of us guys lounging on the two single beds I stuck end-to-end, when we hear a commotion in the hallway. Apparently Jack, one of the handsome, good-natured bros from a New Jersey prep school, has been in the bathroom, telling some of the dudes to look in the toilet.

Sure, we think, this is going to be completely stupid. We weren’t the kind of fraternity that threw kegs out the plate-glass windows and told jokes about minorities; we were earnest dorks who were trying to get good grades, get laid, and run the school, not necessarily in that order.

But when we got to the stall, we stared into the toilet in awe: Jack had laid the biggest, most oddly-stunning poop any of us had ever seen. Yes, it sounds gross in the sober recollection of this blog, but in the moment, it was actually kind of inspiring. I won’t describe it, but you get the idea – perfect in every way. Later that night, I’d see other brothers, randomly informed of its presence, looking into the stall with their mouths agape, like pilgrims visiting Our Lady of Lourdes.

There it stayed for days, until our caretaker Robert, not fully grasping the import of this benchmark by which all other human output might be weighed, flushed the toilet.

3. I’m playing hoops at Umstead Park, which was always third choice for pickup games in Chapel Hill. Dave, Andy and Bryan have already left, but there’s still lots of light left, and a new game needs a sixth. This one kid, a younger, shorter kid, makes a driving move and tries to English the ball off the backboard, but instead, it just hangs.

And hangs. The spin gives it one rotation around the iron rim, then it kisses the backboard one more time, and slows. Slows, and stops. Sitting on the rim.

Not on the back part of the rim against the backboard; while rare, I’ve seen that happen four or five times. This ball was actually resting on just the rim, perfectly balanced, held there by the most infinite of chances, in the tiny black grooves of the basketball.

We all froze, mid-dance, watching it, in total disbelief that we were seeing what we were seeing. Sure, it was a ratty ball, and a rusted rim, but in that split second, we knew it was magical, and nobody breathed lest the spell be broken.

Except for the kid who shot the ball. Frustrated at the lack of a score, and astonishingly unappreciative at the spectacle before him, he whipped his baseball cap at the ball, which fell silently off its perch like long ashes dropping from an abandoned cigarette.

0 thoughts on “mary in grilled cheese

  1. Anne

    Your last sentence For The Win. *gapes in admiration*
    We poor humans are so bumbling and imperfect most of the time, accidental perfection can really knock us back on our heels.
    Nice entry, Ian.

    Reply
  2. Steven Garrity

    My father claims that back in the stupid-old-days, when smoking was cool, he was driving behind some friends and motioned (mostly sarcastically) for them to throw him a cigarette.
    They did, and from the driver-side window of one moving car, to the driver side window of another moving car behind it, the cigarette landed perfectly between his fingers.
    I believe him.

    Reply
  3. Anne

    Steven: That’s exactly what happened when Obi-Wan reached up from his speeder on Coruscant and grabbed Anakin’s dropped light saber while Anakin struggled atop the bounty hunter Zam Wesell’s speeder hundreds of stories above the ground !
    OMG, I’ve outed myself. (slinks back into Star Wars Geek Closet…)

    Reply
  4. LFMD

    I have one! I have one!
    Happened last Monday. 7:25am. Baltimore Beltway. I am driving in the fast lane (will I ever learn?). Rainy conditions. Dark. Everyone is going at least 75 mph. All of a sudden, I see out of the corner of my eye that the car up ahead in the slow lane (there are 4 lanes in all) has lost control. The car spins and continues to drive to its left, DIRECTLY ACROSS ALL 4 LANES OF TRAFFIC. Immediately, all the commuters drive hither and yon, trying to avoid collisions. The blue SUV directly in front of me is hit by the SUV in the next lane. Blue SUV hits against the jersey wall, spins around, and is now headed towards ME. I turn to the right to avoid being hit head-on, narrowly fitting my Civic between the two SUVs which have smashed against each other and bounced away from the impact. I drive and swerve some more, and to my shock, I realize that I have not been hit by another car, and I accelerate to get forward and away from any other cars.
    I peered in the rear view mirror as I drove away — I was THE ONLY CAR to escape the 7 car collision. At least 7 cars were smashed together across the four lanes, and no other cars could get through. I am sure that the chain reaction lead to more collisions behind the cars that I could see.
    I pulled over at the next exit to see if my car was OK. Not a single scratch. I must have avoided hitting the other cars by centimeters, because at the time it was all happening, I thought I would surely get hit. . . . I was just trying to figure out how to cause the least amount of damage to my car.
    I am rambling more than I should, but my point is that I could not believe that I was spared from that accident. After walking around my car to check for damage, I sat on the curb and bawled my eyes out — I was so thankful.
    When I told my family what had happened, my little Catholic school daughter said, “Mama, your guardian angel was watching over you.” Divine intervention? Dumb luck? Whatever it was, I was thankful.

    Reply
  5. drake

    Woot! I got a mention in today’s blog. Sorry I missed the amazing ball trick.
    I recall seeing Rick Fox in an early season game at the Smith Center – probably Dec. 1989 or so – get called for a foul. He had the ball above the key and with his back to the basket slammed it down in frustration. It bounced once and swished in. Too bad it was dead ball.

    Reply
  6. Mark

    One night in Chapel Hill, a couple of friends and I went for a walk and wound up behind the Dean Dome, in a fairly isolated area with a fair bit of grass. We laid down and just took it easy, looking up at the night sky. We just laid there, looking up, not saying anything. Total silence other than distant sounds.
    After five or ten minutes, it happened. Straight over our head, one shooting star. No one said anything for a few minutes until finally one of my friends said “Wow”.
    At that point, my other friend said “What?” Turns out, he had his eyes shut. Missed out on a perfect moment.

    Reply
  7. turnitblue

    I don’t know about that baseball clip–looks spliced or somesuch, but I’m a little tipsy.
    Just joshing here but yeah, that Dean-Dome shooting star thingy is wild; they must have installed that with the underwater audio system there at the Natatorium nearby. Dean’s got his pulse on the button in the office with the baby blue phone. I hear cloudy nights are a little less spectacular, but that is some facility–why do folks think we call it Blue Heaven?!
    Seriously though, feeling the old North state’s earth move under your feet is a Chapel Thrill and some kind of seminal bidness (Watch it Potty Minds!!).

    Reply
  8. ken

    Thanks for the mention, Emma. I was just going to post the baseball clip and there it is. And for the record, the baseball thing really happened. No hoax. I went straight to the source and confirmed.

    Reply

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