Mola Ram
Trust'll make sense once you read the story.

Previous installments: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Also check out the official Livin' Large FAQ, Cast List, Flow Chart 1.0, and Flow Chart 2.0.

For me, Christmas break was a time to stock up on some much-needed sleep and juvenation...two areas in which my supplies were running very -- perhaps even dangerously -- low. And yeah, we still called it "Christmas break" back then, not "Holiday break," "Winter break," "Semester break," "Festivus" or whatever else they're trying to pass it off as these days. And honestly, I'm not trying to be culturally ignorant or insensitive here. I'm not a God person or anything like that. But the reality is, American colleges arrange their first semester breaks and holiday vacations around Christmas. Based on the fact that my local Walgreens is already selling little ceramic Santas, I'd say Christmas is probably the most widely acknowledged and celebrated holiday in the United States. (Yes, my scientific method in this case centers around the sale of Santa Clause-themed merchandise at Chicago-area drug stores. Remember, I'm a writer.) I'm just saying, if Europeans won't let us call the NBA Finals a "World Championship" because it doesn't involve the entire world, we should call Christmas break what it actually is: Christmas break.

The best part about Christmas break was, without question, having three consecutive weeks to spend with Aimee. Having a bedroom to myself, however, was a very close second. There was no Heineken light on St. Louis Dr. in Kokomo, Indiana. I was able to sleep in near-to-complete darkness (the "near" being due to my strangely luminescent alarm clock). It was like someone had filled a bucket with awesome and dunked my head in it. The only hard part was getting used to falling asleep on the sloshy and undulating surface of my water bed. Oh yes, I owned one of those strange relics of the 1980s. I still can't believe somebody came up with that idea, let alone managed to sell it to thousands, maybe millions of idiots like me. I mean...a bed filled with water? The more time that passes, the less sense that makes.

Anyway, sleeping in a room without Mat was great. Spending almost all my free time with Aimee was really great, even if it kind of pissed off my friends and really annoyed my mom (who saw those three weeks as a chance to spend time with her son, who had been in absentia for most of the past four months). The time flew by, the way the best times usually do. But there were a few notable happenings.

My grade report arrived during the break. I had gotten five A's and one Medieval History. I was stunned, because I was sure I'd kicked that course's ass. I had gotten a perfect grade on every exam and paper, and the final had been (for me) a piece of cake. I'm talking chocolate with chocolate icing. I was sure a mistake had been made.

See, I couldn't accept anything less than an A in history. History is the easiest subject, right? I mean, history never changes. Well, you know, except for that whole "Christopher Columbus didn't really discover America" thing. But in general, history is about memorizing events and dates and then vomiting them back up for fun and fabulous prizes. I could screw up a math problem or fail to correctly interpret gender construction in Fatal Attraction, but every history question had one historical answer. At least, that's how I looked at it.

Because I am the King of Dorkus, I immediately tracked down my history professor. And even though I'm fairly certain he would have preferred a Christmas break free of annoying students, he took my call. He explained that my B was due to a low grade on my final exam.

"That's impossible," I said. "There wasn't anything on that exam I didn't know."

"Really?" he said, chucking. "Remember the essay question that asked you to summarize the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire?"

I did indeed remember it. I had left the lecture hall convinced that my answer to that essay question had been my shining moment of the exam. The Roman Empire was (and in many ways still is) a source of intense interest for me. So much so that, during the semester, I read books about it that hadn't even been assigned for the course. So, for that essay question, I had written probably four times what had been asked for. I couldn't see the problem, and I told the professor so.

"I agree that it was probably the best essay about the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire I've seen written by a freshman," he said. "But it appears you didn't read the question very closely. The question didn't ask you to summarize the Rise and Fall of the Roman asked you to Summarize the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire chapter from your text book."

I was speechless.

"And since you didn't do that," he continued, "you received zero points for that section, which was worth one-third of the total points for the exam."

And so I learned another lesson of college: make sure you finish reading a question before you answer it.

That wasn't the only lesson I learned during my three weeks off. I had been saving up to buy Aimee something special for Christmas, which had meant several extra hours of slave labor at the dorm's food service. But even though I had successfully replaced my first layer of skin with a layer of nasty cooking grease, I hadn't quite earned what I needed for the gift I had chosen. Fortunately, I realized there would be a shortfall ahead of time, so I was able to take the necessary measure. That is, I sold my plasma.

My college town, like many other college towns across the country, had a business called The Plasma Alliance. It was a place where college students and homeless people could "donate" their blood plasma for cash money. I won't pretend to completely understand the process, but here's how it was explained to me. A small portion of a donor's blood is drained out of their body by a machine that separates the plasma from the red blood cells. The machine then mixes the red blood cells with saline solution and pumps it back into the donor's body. The plasma is later removed from the machine and used for scientific research Sounds simple, and for the most part it is.

What's complicated is the rest of the process. Before being allowed to donate plasma, the doctors on site give you an abbreviated physical. They draw blood to test for diseases. They ask you a bajillion questions regarding your health and sexual history. The first two things only happen the first time you donate (or once a year if you continue to donate). However, the questions are asked every single time you go. After the physical and screening, you have to sit in a waiting room with all the other donors. This can take up to an hour. Then the nurses take you into a large room with several rows of beds, each of which is occupied by a person hooked up to a creepy-looking plasma-draining machine. The donors usually look pale and tired...because, after all, it is a draining experience. (Yes, that bad pun was totally intentional.) However, the nurses won't let you fall asleep. If you start to nod off, they'll come by and yell at you. If that doesn't work, they'll shake you awake.

At any rate, the whole scene looks stunningly Matrix-like. In fact, if the human race is ever taken over by robots that run entirely off of donated blood plasma, I won't be the least bit surprised.

And that, my friends, is how many college students come by extra beer money. For me, it was a way to buy Aimee a fancy schmancy Christmas gift. Of course, I had already picked it out during Thanksgiving break: a gold ring with a light blue amethyst stone. Blue amethyst was really popular at the time, and my Guy Brain translated "popular" into "girls likey-likey."

But that wasn't the only way that my Guy Brain misled me. It also said that the stone should be shaped in such a way as to symbolize my love. So, of course, I chose a heart-shaped rock. Otherwise known as The Ultimate Cliche.

So, while walking in the moonlight during a light snow shower, I pulled the ring out of my pocket and -- with very sweaty hands -- presented it to Aimee. In typically girlie fashion, she hugged me and cried and put it on to admire it. However, later that evening after showering me with some well-deserved appreciation, she lowered little bit of a boom on me.

"Next time you're buying me a piece of jewelry," she said in a soft tone, "could you consult me first?"


"It's just that, you know, I don't really like blue amethyst all that much," she said. "And, well, heart-shaped stones are kind of cheesy."

All I could do was stare at her.

"I mean, it was soooo sweet of you to buy it for me," she said, "but if you're going to spend the money, wouldn't you rather get me something I really wanted?"

I swear if there had been a rock nearby, I would have crawled under it. Either that or beaten her to death with it. One or the other.

In terms of ripping the still-beating heart out of a man's chest, Mola Ram had nothing on Aimee. But it was another lesson learned, the lesson being: just because women like jewelry doesn't mean you can throw any piece of jewelry at them and expect them to like it. And I'll tell you this much: I haven't bought a piece of heart-shaped jewelry since.

During the break, I also saw my sister for the first time in five years. My mom arranged the trip and my grandparents drove. This resulted in me being trapped in a car with three chain smokers for four hours. And they all categorically refused to roll down a window. Oh, and did I mention my grandparents only listen to country music and I forgot to bring my Walkman? That was a hellish ride to Kentucky...and back.

The visit was okay. We got caught up on five years worth of life events in about an hour, and the rest of the time was spent rehashing old memories. I couldn't have been less interested. I'd already lived through all those memories, and I wanted to be home, making new memories with Aimee (despite the ring flap).

The one bright spot was meeting my adorable niece Shelby for the first time. That was pretty cool.

Random basketball aside: Christmas is always the day for basketball double-headers, and I got to watch the Chicago Bulls (behind 28 points by Scottie Pippen and another 17 each from B.J. Armstrong and Toni Kukoc) defeat the Orlando Magic (who got 24 points from Nick Anderson and 20/10 from Shaq). After that, the Phoenix Suns obliterated the Houston Rockets thanks to 38 points and 18 rebounds from Charles Barkley (not to mention 36 points and 9 assists from Kevin Johnson). At the time, the Rockets were a league-best 22-3, but the Suns (who themselves were 19-5) appeared ready to claim the championship the Bulls had denied them the previous summer. Of course, Charles Barkley always was at his best before the playoffs.

Despite some pitfalls -- the B in history, the ring faux pas, the against-my-will trip to Lexington -- I felt completely refreshed and renewed by Christmas break. As Han Solo might have said, I felt strong enough to rip the ears off a Gundar. (Speaking of which, Star Wars fans should watch this.) In fact, my mojo was so mojo-mazing that I honestly and without irony thought to myself: "I can do this. I can make it through another semester with Mat."

That was, of course, before I actually went back to school.

When I did return to the room on a chilly Saturday in early January, it was the same old, same old. Mat was there, but not a word was uttered. It seemed we weren't on speaking terms in light of the "bloody smear" incident. Then, on that first night back, Mat brought some young girl back to the room and started sexing her up while I was sorting through my second-semester schedule. It was a different girl the next night, after which he once again stayed up until the next morning watching MTV by the light of his Heineken sign.

And that's when I decided I was done living with way or another.

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Blogger Cortez said...
"if Europeans won't let us call the NBA Finals a "World Championship" because it doesn't involve the entire world"

I call it the World Championship because the NBA champs intact would beat the shit out of the champs of any of those European leagues.

Blogger BJ said...
And odds are good you're gonna get a lovely set of Technicolor bruises on the inside of your arm.

Philisophical question. Which makes less sense; the waterbed or the Water-Pic?

Blogger Unknown said...
So is Mat playing, er, riding the bench in his basketball uniform at this point now that he passed his test?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
What does medieval history have to do with the roman empire?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
BJ -- Fortunately, that never happened to me. But other unsavory things did. For details, see BadDave.

Apocalypse34 -- Yup.

Anonymous -- It is felt that the fall of Rome led to the beginning of the middle ages.

Blogger Nick said...
did you kill him? you killed him, didnt you? i knew it.

Anonymous Stephen Hawking said...
This installment was much better, thank you.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
I dunno about the rest of you heathens, but in December I celebrate Thuggee New Year with the rest of Mola Ram's followers, so stop pushing your "Christmas" nonsense on me. After all, the stones will be found... you won't!

Mr. Bawful, at your suggestion I just finished reading The Lie (preceded by The Average American Male), and I'm a bit concerned. Do you identify with one or all of the characters in that book (I'm guessing Kyle, the guy who gets his heart broken)? If so, did you ever hatch any kind of revenge scheme against Aimee or any other girls who broke your heart? Also, do you know of any girls who have read those books? I'd be curious to hear what their reactions would be (assuming they actually finished either book, rather than flinging it across the room or something). BTW, the same question would go for any woman who has ever watched In the Company of Men, which might possibly be the worst date movie ever.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
So at what point do you close the deal with the girlfriend?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
wow. I've been reading all of these installments and they feel like a timepiece from quite a while long ago. When you mention Shaq playing, it seemed entirely out of place. I can't believe how long he has been playing..
It's quite incredible when you really think about it.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Not knowing too much about Midwestern geography, except lower Michigan and northern Ohio, I had to do a Google Maps search of [college school name] and Kokomo with the street name given in this part, just to get a sense of distance. I feel only moderately creepy for doing this.

And seriously, blue amethyst? In a heart brilliant cut? Uggghhhh. This is pretty much unspeakable to anyone from Arizona, especially Maricopa county where I've gone to Four Peaks and picked up better quality, almost-Deep-Serbian amethyst off the ground, let alone the amazing stuff you can see at the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
"history never changes. But in general, history is about memorizing events and dates and then vomiting them back up for fun and fabulous prizes."

As someone with a degree in History.. this made my head want to explode. That said... a history professor who wants you to summarize a chapter? Well he obviously wasn't helping fix that misguided notion you had with a high school assignment like that. Also, while reading the question is important and all, he could have and should have given you some wiggle room. Sounds like a bad teacher.

Blogger Victor said...
I like the sound of Christmas break too. It's just more traditional.

Wow your professor was a giant douchebag. He's the reason the American education system gets ridiculed.

So did Aimee ever wear the ring? Other than on the day you gave it to her.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'd expect better things of John Contreni than that. And if the paragraph that begins "See, I couldn't accept anything . . ." sums up your thoughts on the subject, I'm not surprised by your "B."

Blogger chris said...
Matholomew, I can sympathize with you: I remember agonizing a few years ago writing a paper for an African history class...since I had gotten a C on the previous one for about similar reasons. And I spent eight or nine hours wondering what to do, knowing that if I produced a well-written analysis of certain (more interesting) aspects in a certain book, I'd get downgraded for not picking the TA's choice of plot points to follow. (Despite the fact the assignment never specified which portions of the book were more important!)

Finally, I just decided, I was going to write the paper I wanted, and while I only got a B- for it...I've always been happy with myself to sticking to how I felt the assignment should be done.

So I guess the difference between your dilemma then and mine from a few years ago awareness of the forthcoming likely mediocre grade, and my desire to write the the best paper I could write, instead of the one this guy wanted.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
When I was in college I took a class on the Japanese economy (that was actually the name of the class), which was taught by a Japanese man, and essentially the class was all about how in post WWII Japan their economy had grown so fast due to the ideas about teamwork and whatnot. Anyway, our final was to in some way summarize a lot of what we'd learned in the class, but I instead decided to write about all the things I thought had been wrong with their economy (none of which were covered in class), which had led to the drastic dropoff in economic prosperity they had at the end of the 80s and the early 90s. I figured the teacher was gonna hammer me for basically pointing out that the whole class we'd been taught this idealistic view of how great everything was over there when ultimately it didn't continue to grow in the way it had up till that point; but to my surprise the teacher gave me an A. That was the only time I really ever went out on a limb like that with a test in that way though.

Wild Yams - you should see the French movie "Choses Secrets" - it's kind of like the female version of "In the Company of men" (which by the way is a kick ass movie).

Cortez: Well, till there is a proper international tournament on clubs level, I think the NBA should stick to NBA Champions, maybe North American champions at best. It look really redicoulous when the US was getting their asses handed to them in international competitions not long ago, to go out and claim to be the world champion. Same applies to baseball.

FIFA has a club tournament where all top teams from different continents compete. However, I doubt FIBA and the NBA can cometo an agreement on this one. They can barely sort things out with foreign players in the nBA wanting to play for their national squads.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Nick N. -- Sadly, no.

Stephen Hawking -- As long as you're satisfied.

Yams - I totally identified with Kyle. No revenge schemes. Actually, me eventually (and rather inevitably) moving on turned out to be the best revenge of all...although I didn't want to cause any hurt.

Some of the women here at work read The Lie (the book made the rounds, as did Average American Male, after I introduced the people here to Chad Kultgen). The ones who read it thought it was pretty funny. Might not be a representative sample, tho'.

Anonymous #2 -- A gentlemen never tells...without getting a few beers in him first.

Anonymous #3 -- It's weird for me to think about how much the NBA has changed since I've been watching it. Even though I was crazy about the Bird Era Celtics, I didn't really start enjoying the NBA as a league until the 90s. So when I think back to when I was in college, that, to me, was my favorite overall NBA era.

AnacondaHL -- Look, I've paid my dues for that ring selection already.

Caleb Smith -- I sincerely apologize for impugning your degree. And what I said was a gross oversimplification, I know, and meant more to describe how I felt about studying history in a freshman level class.

Victor -- Actually, the professor was cool. And even though his decision to bust me for not reading the question correctly seemed harsh at the time, I'm glad he did it. It really did teach me a lesson.

She wore the ring for, I dunno, a month or so before taking it off and never (to my knowledge) wearing it again. I have no idea what became of it.

Anonymous #4 -- Wow. My prof was fingered! Contreni was great and I loved that class (which is part of why I went on to minor in history). Not sure what you mean by "expect better things" from him. I really didn't mind him doing what he did, because he was right. I didn't answer the question correctly. Remember, I'm writing this story as I remember experiencing it.

Wild Yams -- Nice one! Taking those kinds of chances never worked for me. Random Other Test Memory: Due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, I got stuck in a situation where I had to take a difficult statistics test in less than five minutes. And yes, I answered all C's down the scantron sheet. And you know what? It didn't work.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
Bawful... its cool, I wasn't offended at all. I didn't actually think you were attacking the study of history or anything, I realized you were just trying to illustrate your mindset at the time.

Unfortunately, a lot of people do have that view of history. That is... "facts and dates." But facts and dates are by far the least important aspect of studying history, and because historians are essentailly doing scholarly detective work... conclusions and interpretations change constantly.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Bawful - Well if it makes you feel better, the reason why blue amethyst was probably big back then was because around that time, the Russians figured out an industrially appealing way to generate synthetic blue quartz, and other color combinations (ametrine), so you most likely got a fake and/or overpaid. Oh wait, that probably doesn't make you feel better at all...

My random test story: I woke up late for a sophomore level chemical engineering test, arrived 25 minutes late (50 minute class, ~50 students), pretty much figuring I was screwed. My professor was cool and still let me take it with the remaining time.

I ended up with one of the three 100%'s, Matrix-bullet-dodge style. But fuck, I never woke up late for a test ever again.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Caleb Smith -- You're right, of course, but at the time I was more interested in proving myself and getting good grades than actually learning. That would change over time, and, in fact, the one class in college that had the most profound impact on how I would eventually preceive the world around me was History 417: The Ancient Near East.

I now have a much greater appreciation for the fact that historians don't just accumulate dates and events, but they also have to put them into their proper perspective and try to figure out what the human condition was like during those times.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful - I'd love to discuss Chad Kultgen's books with you, especially if you've ever personally recommended them to women; but would that be a discussion better suited for email or here?

It's interesting that the 90's was your favorite era as a fan of the NBA, since in many ways it was during that time when defenses ruled and things that normally excite fans (i.e. scoring) dropped off considerably. Then again, the presence of that Jordan guy definitely helped make things more interesting as a viewer.

Just FYI, this is the main reason you want to be careful of marking all C's on a Scantron exam.

Caleb - Depending on how religious your teacher is, the facts and dates might be constantly changing too :)

Blogger Basketbawful said...
AnacondaHL -- Are you TRYING to hurt me?

For the record, that five-minute test I took happened becuase of Aimee. No, really . She was spending a semester in Washington D.C. I was going to drive there during my October break. On the morning of my departure (well before my test), I drove to Kokomo so I could pick up some things she wanted from her home. On the way to K-town, my car broke down. I had to walk several miles and eventually hitched a ride with some old farmer. I had to have my car towed and wouldn't get it back for days. grandparents drove me back to Purdue. I looked into flights, but the cost was prohibitive. But there was Greyhound! I bought a ticket and the bus was scheduled to leave 30 minutes after my test started. I figured 25 minutes to take the test, five minutes for a buddy to drive me to the bus staion, no problem. Only it took the proctors 20 minutes to get everyone seated and pass out the exam. So I said "fuck it" and blew through it....then left for the 24-hour bus ride.

Now I really hate myself.

Another fun test story took place during my fourth year. It was a Native American History course, and the prof told us up front that we could blow off one exam and retake it no questions asked. I figured I'd never need to do that. For some reason, I made only a half-hearted attempt at preparing for the first exam. The day of the test, I looked at the first page, realized I knew nothing and just got up and walked out. Thank goodness the prof gave me that wiggle room.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- Drop me an email about the Kultgen books...unless somebody here really wants to read our discussion.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Bawful - you slipped up a bit and mentioned your school in your comment from 4:29 pm when you say: " grandparents drove me back to....." Might wanna change that!

Blogger Sos said...
Bawful, you just ID'd your school! I'm sure we all know it by now but you should edit that lest Big Mat will find you!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You might want to edit your second to last comment, because of the school name ;)

Anonymous Shrugz said...
Did you consult ANY girl or any one at all when making this heart shaped purchase? (just curious about how stupid people are in general)

I'm pretty sure girls buy guys stupid things too (I mean really how many ties can a guy get?)

Anonymous Andrew said...
Dang it! I'm sure I could've sold plasma where I went to college. They had a pre-med program. Well, I would've wanted to try the plasma bit once.

As it was I settled for psychology experiments to supplement my job income. Good times. Well, sort of.

Blogger captnscud said...
bawful, i cant believe you recommended an average american male to the fairer sex. it's one of my favorite books but i always figured women would be offended by it....i wasnt really feeling the lie, it was a little too ridiculous for me

Blogger TableOfElements said...
Well, given the topic I can't say I'm stunned about the teacher's "summarize the chapter" requirement. Was the textbook chapter perhaps an analysis, or re-presentation, of Gibbon's masterwork? If so, it seems more than fair to expect of a college student that s/he be able to reproduce one of the most influential arguments about history, and about studying it, that white Western European guys have ever produced.

Nice story Mr. Bawful

I just "Tell dat ho wat up" , feels good.

Blogger Brandon said...
Current college student here. First that teacher is facking asshole, like seriously. Second, I donate plasma every week to buy my greenage lol, I guess beer sometimes too. Lastly, this series is extremely addicting. Good job Bawful

Blogger said...
so did you dork snuggle with aimee all winter or did you get some.......much reading done?

btw: is carmelo anthony the new 'future nba all star'

think about it...insane stats in college,
ok stats as a professional,
totally overshadowed by his peers.

Anonymous Anonymous said... - But the difference is, unlike "future NBA all star", Melo stands for something. His convictions alone will take him further. Sure, that conviction is "Stop Snitching", but we all gotta believe something, right?

Anonymous DocMike said...
I'm a university instructor. While that history instructor can hang his hat on being technically correct, if indeed you kicked butt on everything else in the class except that question, and if the only problem with your final was an answer that demonstrated knowledge but was technically not what the question asked, then he is one of the problems with our educational system.

I assume you got the same amount of points on that question as the guy who scribbled a picture of female genitalia, left his test wadded up on his desk and left early.

He could still have sent the same message (i.e. READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY!) with a penalty that didn't torpedo your grade in the class. And yes, for a straight A student, a B is a torpedo to your GPA.

Instead he sent the message that he's a little too caught up in his own power over students. I hope I never get that full of myself.

Blogger T-Mill said...
I tihnk the waterbed thing was purely a Kokomo, Indiana fad. everyone in my family had one.

Anonymous DocMike said...
CassavaLeaf: But Carmelo is crazy good right now... He actually is top-level.

Blogger Dooley said...
Props to the shout-out to Festivus

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I don't get it! "one way or another." So, which way was it! such a cliffhanger.

Blogger Jamie said...
I couldn't..maybe could believe what I was reading. Around Halloween..I dated said Mat...then after returning from an away game my sister saw him get off the plane on tv and some blonde chick met him and gave him a big hug. I was watching Mat's stupid snake named Big Ten and kept his Bike in my bathroom of my apartment...he claimed the gorl he was seen with on tv was the "one". From what I understand..he took her to Spain with him to play overseas...

Blogger bdrasin said...
Nice read. Of course I know the school and your roommate, and I'm 90% sure I know the history professor too (initials JC by any chance?). I'm sure it absolutely made his Christmas to cut you down over the phone like that...the jerk