Thursday, January 06, 2005

The True Story of John Allen All-American

Many of you have probably seen and wondered at the appearance of the name "John Allen All-American" on the hall sign-up sheets on the front door of Carroll. Please wonder no longer; sit right back and hear a tale of great happiness, deep despair, and formerly untold mystery.

My story is a queer one, but somehow I feel it exists in the very bowels of Carroll Hall, occurred long before the residents labored under the beatific care of good Father Steve, or bent their backs under Snively's cruel whip.

Many years ago it was very late at night, one of those frigid Indiana December nights where the wind shrieks mercilessly through the cracked and decaying ivy-less walls, and I dozed off while studying for two finals and writing a final paper for another class. It was not an unusual occurrence in the "old days" at Carroll, when most students carried 30-35 credits per semester, to see, at all hours, exhausted bodies draped over the books or typewriters or even those new-fangled computers. But this particular night preceded the last day of final exams and the hall was nearly empty of those eager bright-eyed young intellectuals who typically resided there, most having returned to the bosoms of their loving families for the gay celebration of the birth of Christ and gift-giving, etc.

Thus in the typing room I plied my trades alone with whirling mind and fingers until I could no longer keep my fluttering eyelids from slamming shut. I was soon awakened by a most unreal presence, super-real, if you will allow. At this point in the narration, my gentle audience will not be remiss in reminding me that perhaps the empty hall and the haze of sleep might have addled my senses. Perhaps my evening meal of "three-meat pot pie", Cap'n Crunch, and six cups of re-brewed coffee, graciously prepared by the cretins employed at the South Dining Hall, created a chemical imbalance in my brain which might be responsible for the following extraordinarities. But, gentles do not accept as base fact that logic can apply to all experience, nor find solace in believing that brain-fever or any comparable madness can explain away all paranormal experience. Only listen and decide.

From my light sleep I was awakened by a low sound, similar to that of a woman weeping, which seemed to emanate from the chapel next door to the room I occupied. On awakening I attempted to lightly pass it off, as I have touched on above, as merely that icy wind rushing through some tiny chink in the building's ancient dermis.

I tried to return to my studies, but after a time the weeping grew steadily louder until I fancied there certainly was some person in the chapel, most likely Notre Dame's latest date-rape victim. At first I was reluctant to try to address the tribulations of my unseen nocturnal companion, but when I remembered that Snively had once commented that watching your friends rape a woman and not doing anything to stop it was tantamount to watching your friends beer-bonging, I leapt to action. No sooner had I left my seat, however, but some towering fear gripped me and I fell to the floor shaking and in trepidation over the potential loss of my own life, for the sobbing had suddenly stopped and a piercing wail tore through my soul. I had never heard man nor beast produce such an unearthly sound, and may Lord Jesus grant I never hear it again. It was not a loud cry, but I felt sure that some tortured creature from the lowest pit of Hell had at that moment been expelled from the earth in a most unholy and savage abortion, straight into Carroll Hall's chapel.

The wail echoed in my mind briefly, and then the low whimpering resumed. Overcoming my initial fear, being the adventurous and foolhardy man that I am, I at last lifted my body and crept to the door of the chapel. I must confess that I expected to see a basilisk rear its terrifying visage before me, but the chapel was empty save for the figure of a young man standing at a window overlooking the lake. He was unknown to me; this I knew despite his back being toward me. His head was bowed and clutched in uplifted hands and his shoulders shook from long sobs.

I pushed open the door and entered as quietly as I could, standing for an interminable time until this man or spirit finally felt my presence in the room. When he turned to face me, again I coiled my body to spring through the doors, expecting to be greeted by fiery eyes and blood-drenched jaws. His very unspectacular appearance surprised me almost as much as if he had revealed himself to be a loathsome demon intent on dragging my unshriven soul back to Satan.

He struck me at once as untidy--unshaven and wrinkled--but the cool quiet light of the temple could not hide the great kindliness which shone from his eyes which peered without fear from over spectacles which were sliding, askew, down his nose. I felt only remorse for having disturbed his lamentations, though the expression on his face was not one of reproach for my violation of his privacy. As if to allay my embarrassment, he slowly and without malice left the window to approach me. I relaxed as his features became more visible in the glow over the altar, showing him to be not in the least physically threatening.

Feeling the need to apologize I quickly ventured, "Forgive me, but I overheard you from the adjacent room," awkwardly motioning to the wall which had previously separated us. "I hope I didn't disturb you."

He smiled and shook his head, pushing the glasses back into place on his nose. "Not at all...I can see you're a little curious." His smile was as innocent and friendly as a child's, and his voice serene, but his eyes belied a most extraordinary perception. "Do you live here?"

He had now approached to within a few feet and his eyes unblinking, unwavering in their fix on me, softly commanded answer. "Yes."

Again my awkwardness allowed me to hold out my hand in greeting but he never took it. He merely broke his hold on my eyes and slumped into the first pew now staring intently at the sanctuary light which swung softly in the chill draught of the room.

Great expectation, more than genuine concern for his plight, caused me to sit also, though without his soothing gaze upon me, my wariness had again returned and I glanced at the door via the corner of my eye, keeping personal safety as a primary thought. The hall's isolation on shores of the frozen wasted lake had awakened in me primal fears of an axe and/or chainsaw murderer's bloody intentions on the first day I walked through Carroll's hallowed doors, and my lingering fears were not outweighed by the stranger's benign appearance.

So there we sat, he slumped in his seat staring absent-mindedly at the hypnotic swaying of the breeze-borne sanctuary light, me poised at the seat edge like a devout worshipper ready to fling himself on his knees, or through the church door, as the service required. In this deserted, with so unlikely a two soul-mates, this man told me a story which you shall now hear. His tale was begun with a labored sigh which often enough punctuated his outpourings, an unleashing of such sorrow and obvious misfortune as I could never describe with any justice to the true audible.

"My name is John Allen All-American."

I gasped at once, having seen his name time and time again appearing mysteriously and without celebration on the hall sign-up sheets since I was a freshman. The stranger paused and gave a wry smile at my simple awed recognition, but he did not acknowledge it further.

"I came to Notre Dame many years ago in folly of youthful fervor and love. But I'm getting ahead of myself; I should begin at the beginning. I come from Ireland, orphaned at birth, my father having been found dead in a bog a week before I opened my eyes, bruised by some roving band of thugs. The night I was born, the moon turned fire red. My poor mother, I'm told, cried out just once at the sight of me and fell down dead. So I was raised by a gentle and meek parish priest who taught me how to fish and play the tuba.

"When I was four and strong enough to carry my tuba from place to place, I decided to run away from the goodly priest and seek my fortunes in America. I stowed away on a steamer bound for New York, but in the middle of the Atlantic I was caught while practicing my tuba. The Master of the ship was a rather vile man named Limbaugh who tossed me overboard because he didn't want to be bothered with all the paperwork and official inquiries involved in carrying a stowaway into port.

"I nearly died of cold in the ocean waters, but I headed west, fearlessly dragging my tuba while visions of the New World swam in my brain. When I came close to shore, I was attacked by schools of man-eating sharks. I fought them off with my tuba, and after many harrowing escapes from those brute jaws, we washed up, exhausted, on New Jersey's beaches.

"I awoke sometime later, still exhausted, and went back to sleep. I had floated ashore in a morass of medical waste and the next time I awoke, I spent hours pulling hypodermic needles from my young body. My tuba was crushed and lifeless, its poor form wasted by seawater and battered by the death-grips of Great Whites. I had no choice but to go on alone, but I had lost the best friend I ever had, one who gave its life for me."

At this point he let out a heart-rending sob (which I tried to describe to you earlier, with little success) but he quickly recovered, and without further ado continued his monologue.

"After crossing the toxic wastes, I arrived in an affluent, sprawling suburban neighborhood. A kindly old couple found me eating out of their trashcan and living in their pit bull's little doghouse. Unfortunately they found me after the pit bull did, and without my tuba to protect me this time, the dog ripped out my left kidney and right lung. The couple took me into their home and put me to work in exchange for room, board, and emergency surgery. In my spare time I went to school and dreamed of going to college and becoming a man.

"It was during the halcyon days of my youth that I was given the name of John Allen by my guardians, all memory of my former name being lost to me during my frequent brushes with death amongst the sharks. I was rather fond of my new name, despite feeling pangs of guilt during the occasional rush of events from my past, and I determined to make my adoptive parents proud by surpassing my classmates in all aspects of scholastic, artistic, political, and athletic achievement.

"It was not until I had graduated from kindergarten, however, that I experienced the very essence of life which has plagued philosophers and theologians since the beginning of time: I met a girl. Lalena was an intelligent, beautiful and thoroughly nice young lady, only with a cruel
streak a mile wide and a great ugly wart on her right cheek. But what man struck by Cupid's dart sees a great ugly wart on his true love's right cheek?

"Lalena was practiced at the art of pitting one rival lover against another in a demented game of Darwinian wooing. My unrequited love possessed me straight through second grade until junior high. At last, when my ardor and persistence finally appeared to be paying off, she took me to a secluded spot amongst the ferns behind the school and whispered in my ear..."

I caught myself practically shaking him in anticipation of the beautiful lady's words, but first I heard only the mournful sigh.

"Those words I have often tried to forget, but they plague me like the sin I never new....She said 'I want a man who will be the most richly rewarded American Hero.' Then she allowed me a brief kiss on her wart. I fainted from ecstasy at the labial contact with her tangy skin infection, and when I had recovered my senses I was resolved to become the true All-American Boy.

"I pumped iron, I pumped differential equations, I pumped crossword puzzles, strengthening myself for the true gift of her love. I was the school president, won the National High School debate championship, the National High School Mock Court, and the National Quiz-Whiz Bowl. I received awards for painting, sculpture, poetry, and fiction writing. I excelled at all sports (except swimming) and was named to the Parade All-America teams in football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, cross-country, track, and badminton. I won the French Open and the Indianapolis 500 and beat Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a one-on-one charity basketball tournament. I was accepted at the University of Notre Dame.

"In a final attempt to prove myself worthy, I changed my name from plain old "John Allen" to "John Allen All-American".

"At last I felt worthy of Lalena's love and I went to her on bended knee and professed my devotion. Her scorn was unbearable, and in my first semester living in Carroll Hall at Notre Dame, I received the dreaded "Dear John Allen All-American" letter -- she had left me for the local Elvis impersonator. My grief was monumental, and the only way to drown my sorrows was to sign up for every single dorm activity from intramural basket weaving to Bald Olympics.

"Thus I skated through my four years at Notre Dame a student zombie devoid of life and happiness. One spring evening my bitter existence gave way to eternal blackness I was attempting to cross the thawing lake when a small fissure opened in the ice and I drowned."

With these last words an immense wind began to howl about the building. The sanctuary light swung heavily and burst from its moorings, crashing to the altar and setting the table cloth ablaze. A swirling madness of wordless demon screaming escaped from the activities room. As the wrenching whirlwind increased I covered my eyes and ears and prayed aloud for God's forgiveness, believing my end had come. Suddenly all was still. When at last I opened my eyes I glimpsed the stranger's shadow passing through the swinging doors. In a terror, my mind tried to force me against the pew, but my Christian soul suddenly possessed my body and I leapt after the shade as he disappeared into the stairwell. I heard the basement door slam shut and again fear unhinged my joints. And again, in unconscious agony my feet propelled me, now out of the building, tracking the tortured soul through knee-deep snow and burning cold.

Oh, I wanted to stop and return to the building, and the chill wind clawed at my tattered red robe; but my naked legs churned through the snowdrifts until I stood at the edge of the lake.

Through my tears I saw the blurred figure of the stranger floating above the lake until at its mid-point he began a slow descent into the tempest-driven waves. As the figure sank out of sight I saw a faint unearthly glow above him--a golden dusky visage of a female angel--and once again a sigh reached my ears, but this a sigh like the wind that bears the sweet spring rains, one of pure joy and repose, "Oh Lalena... I can't blame ya, Lalena..."

I awoke slumped over my typewriter, and found I had nearly overslept my exams. I scurried to campus, aced my tests and turned in the most brilliant paper I had ever written, and the events of the night before faded as a less brilliant dream.

I didn't think more on the stranger until I was returning to Carroll Hall, preoccupied with thoughts of returning home and boozing it up during the Holidays. But as I passed the lake I noticed the miracle which made me shiver with the fire of the Almighty. The lake was now frozen solid and smooth as a baby's bum except for a black stain where my unreal visitor had laid his enslaved soul to rest.

As I packed my bags, again the doubts of my experience played loud and festive in my mind. John Allen All-American? The ludicrous tale invented itself in my own dazed and study-sozzled brain. There was no other rational explanation!

I put away thought of the stranger and hurried toward my perfect father's smiling face at our Chrysler Cordoba, trunk gaping, yearning to take my luggage into its luscious interior, the door ajar, beckoning me to allow its fine Corinthian leather to massage me into forgetfulness. But as I moved to push open the front door I nearly fell through it, as though a great water-drop had struck my pate. I saw the sign-up sheet for those residents staying in the hall during break...

One name in black ink seared my eyes: "JOHN ALLEN ALL-AMERICAN".

Monday, September 06, 2004

Jake & Bake VII: The Postmortem

Two full weeks have passed since Jake & Bake VII--one which will forever live in infamy—and the statute of limitations has seemingly expired for any further investigations by officials. As such, it is safe to disclose the details.

Saturday kicked off innocently enough. After the pre-requisite viewing of a bad cable movie at the Wyndham Hotel ("Heat"), Sean, Tom and Chris headed out to Old Brooklyn for a pizza party at MikeN's. Due to his continued raucous behavior, Mike's 4-yr. old son, Andrew, was in constant danger of being arrested and placed into the spider jail. Violations included swinging too high, eating pizza, and taking a bath.

Around 5pm the group headed downtown to Cleveburg to convene at pre-heat HQ, Wilberts. They were soon joined by attendees Harry, John, the Hayster and special guest, Mike O'Connell. Luckily, extremely few of the 200+ seats were occupied by the three or four other bar patrons, so the crew basically had their run of the place. This included a marathon session at the bar-top video trivia game.

At roughly 6:30pm--"roughly", as in, no one was sober enough to have any idea what time it truly was--Chris, the Hayster and MikeO were engaged in a thoroughly detailed and scientific discussion of the current state of the pharmaceutical industry. At this point, a young "lady" sporting a tank top emblazoned with the phrase "Viva la Bam" sidled up next to the Hayster, nodding in agreement as he continued his soliloquy. Now while Chris was pretty sure he'd met Jack's future-wife-to-be last year, he wasn't sure if she and Viva la Bam were one in the same. Apparently, as it would soon be proven they were, and still are, not.

Turns out VLB was out with friends at the bar next door celebrating her 21st birthday. In the midst of her drunken stupor, she'd wandered away from the crowd, no doubt drawn by the effusive intellectual tomes emitting from Wilberts. She admitted she was "lost", though being 40 feet removed from said friends could hardly be considered as much. We briefly entertained her with by posing with her for some photos for the camera she'd brought, and continued with our in-depth conversations on the comparative ethical merits Pfizer vs. GlaxoSmithKline.

Shortly thereafter, a thuggish-looking character--we'll call him, "The Jackass"--entered our private bar and interrupted our innocence. The Hayster asked coyly, "Hey, do you know this girl? She says she lost her friends...". At that point, The Jackass stated, "She ain't lost," as he not-so-gently wrapped her head/neck in a semi camel-clutch position. The happy(?) couple then departed, and our time with VLB was over.

Or so we thought...

The two walked outside the bar and proceeded to (apparently) have a somewhat heated conversation on the deck, some 20 yards away from pharma-chat central. While the JB7'ers resumed their discussion, both Chris and Hayster noticed out of the corner of their collective eyes a flash of flesh, which they quickly, and accurately, interpreted at The Jackass popping VLB in the forehead with a forearm shiver. Agreeing on the events, they walked outside only to find a sobbing VLB standing alone on the deck. She was soon joined by one of her female "friends" (where the hell was she 20mins. ago?) who assured them that everything would be handled.

Our pharma boys then informed the rest of the attendees of the unbelievable events which had just unfolded. With heightened interest, a few of them wandered next door and pointed out The Jackass, still boozing away after his abusive tirade. Chris and Jack proceeded to quite obviously and emphatically point him out, going as far as to tell the details to a table of six or seven Ohio State jabronis seated near the door. By now, about ten guys were edging towards the next-door bar deck entrance to get a look at The Jackass. He eventually became aware that a number of boozed-up testosterone-ladened gents found more than a passing fancy in his antics and he jumped in a cab to leave for the evening.

Or so we thought...

A few minutes later, a couple of his buddies came next door to confirm what had occurred. We gave them the details, but did not feel especially comforted when one of them remarked, “Geez, this stuff happens a couple of times and you don't think much of it. But then he does it a third or fourth time and you start to wonder". Yeah, good observation, Einstein.

Close to 9pm, one member of the JB7 group reported back that the tarp was being removed from the playing field and the game would start shortly. The crew then wandered to the box office to get tickets--not from the box office, but from one of the many scalpers who circle the area like vultures in an attempt to unload their wares. Through the slick negotiations of counselor Donohue, we procured eight tickets for a mere $50. Not bad.

Proceeding into the Jake, it was clear that some time would pass before any baseball was in fact observed. A quick stop at the Pepsi Porch, a few beers from the nearby vendor, then off to the outfield gardens. Here the group decided to take in a few pitches while engaging in additional important conversations about critical topics such as child safety gates and the surprising Jagermeister availability nearby. Hopefully Dr. Pepper has details on the latter, as counselor Donohue admits to not recalling as such. By this point, events and chronology seemed to become shrouded in a veil of alcohol.

The group decided to start towards their seats soon thereafter. Chris and Tom opted to try their luck at the radar gun pitching game. Well, Chris, with Tom paying. But first, the fireballer needed a pre-game freshening at the loo. Approaching the head, he spotted none other than The Jackass, now attired in a different thuggish baseball shirt. Very smooth. Not.

Rejoining counselor Donohue, Chris noted, "Hey Tom--there's The Jackass who popped that girl from the bar", to which Tom replied with disagreement. I mentioned that he must have changed his shirt, but still had on the same hat and was talking with some of the other gaboons from earlier. Tom decided that something must be done about this, and told me he was going to talk to him. I knew very little good could come of this rapidly approaching series of events, but opted to watch from a distance.

Tom then approached The Jackass and inquired as to whether he was the guy who was "beating his girlfriend" before the game, to which he must have taken offense. I say this not because Tom told me as much, but because he then took a swing at Tom (but missed). His handlers quickly restrained him, and I scurried over to aid counselor Donahue, hopefully by getting him the hell outta there. As I was pulling him away, the police arrived, while a number of fans in the section began yelling at The Jackass who was still being restrained. (I later found out that he had been involved in some spitting incidents with these fans. Yeesh--busy night!) The police approached us for a recap of what had occurred after said fans gave them the low-down. Upon discussing the details, Tom was asked if he wanted to press charges, to which he then asked if he'd have to truck back to Cleveburg to testify. The answer being 'no', he happily agreed to press an assault charge against The Jackass. Our friend was led away in handcuffs to spend the rest of the night in jail.

These events would in themselves be more than enough for a memorable weekend. But it was just the start.

Finally completing their go at the pitching game (top speed: Chris, 71mph), the two insurgents decided to rejoin the rest of the group in the section 541 seats.

Or so we thought...

Walking up a stairway past the first club box level, I peered down the hallway to luxury, only to see the expected sentry guarding the entrance. However, no such sentry was posted at the second level of club boxes. "Hmmm," I wondered out loud to counselor Donohue. "Of course, the door is locked anyways."

It wasn't.

We walked in, and started strutting as if we belonged. "Of course," I continued to Tom, quietly, "each club box door is locked anyways."

They weren't.

We walked for a bit before trying one door, and then walking in. It looked as though someone had been in there previously, but no more. We opted to sit down and have a few beers. Sadly, we were disappointed that the beer selection was not so great--we opted for a couple of Lites. Pretty soon a club box cleaner & restocking lady came in. She asked if we were supposed to be in there. Duh, of course not. Counselor Donohue, however, noted “Yes”, but when prompted for our tickets, we confessed that we must have lost them. She then asked us to get lost, and we agreed to do so, if only temporarily.

Not having suckled sufficiently on the teat of the forbidden fruit that is the sporting arena luxury box, we strutted a bit further and found yet another vacant box (thank goodness for the Indians' recent 9-game losing streak). We once again entered freely, and sat at the barstools overlooking the field. Soon, we opted for another round of free beers, and made a few cell phone calls to let other losers know how much more we were enjoying the game, if only for the time being. I'd say we were in our "new" club box for the better part of 45 minutes.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, or at least that night our good thing must come to an end. The very same club box cleaner & restocking lady came in to our new box (I guess when you only have 3 or 4 club box owners show up each game, you don't need many helpers) and we once again went through the charade of "you sposed to be here", "yes", "where's yer ticket", "musta lost it", "get out". This time, upon exiting, we'd decided our luck had run out and I whispered to Tom that perhaps we should amscray to our "real" seats. Yea, our cleaner friend had had enough of our indiscretions and had already alerted the authorities. As we scurried towards a stairwell, I relayed to Tom, "don't look now but a couple of guys in suits are following us."

Indeed they were, and caught up with us in the concourse patio. We went through another round of the game (charade of "you sposed to be here", "yes", "where's yer ticket", "musta lost it") but with higher stakes and without the "get out" part...for now. Pretty soon we had three stadium box officials, the cleaner lady, two plainclothes cops and other official characters interrogating us like we'd just knocked off the local bank. Still clutching his 32oz beer procured when we first entered the Jake (but sipping ill-gotten spoils from elsewhere), Counselor Donohue took over the defense for the plaintiffs in "Jacobs Field v. Fillio/Donahue". The questioning included a walkthrough of the alleged box where we allegedly procured beers. In responding to their questioning, Tom answered that, yes, we were "mistakenly" in the club box but, no, "I didn't take any beers" (which was true--Chris was the one who had absconded the brews, not Tom). He apologized for any confusion and noted that we would be glad to pay for any missing brews. Throughout the questioning, our defense hinged on having some tickets (later "lost") from Tom's colleague or uncle or something, supposedly for the First American Bank suite (none such existed).

Eventually the posse dissipated to the two stocky plainclothes police who were tasked with escorting us out. They took down our address/information and walked us down to the street exit. One of them noted before this, "weren't you guys down on the lower level with that dude who got arrested for assault?", to which we acknowledged. Indeed, they must have thought, “these two guys are just trouble waiting to happen.” We left the Jake and returned to Wilberts to take in some horrific cover band music.

The remaining night's events are still to be told by other parties. This includes:
  • Mike O'Connell, sleeping in the van in the driveway of his aunt's house;
  • Harry's attempted rally with patrons of the Boneyard;
  • Tom losing his debit card; and
  • Tom almost getting arrested...again...at the Marriott.

I defer to the other distinguished "gentlemen" for comment...