Friday, October 19, 2007

Ode to VC

One of my best friends can't stand VCs. His judgment and character trump his VC sample size (one fat head); I trust his instinct. Our relationship has three challenges: symptomatically searching for a cure to my duck hook, constantly craving time to grab a beer and catch a game, and patiently tempering his temptation to smash the VC. The latter is similar to coaching Lenny in Of Mice and Men: Resist the urge to crush the mouse in your pocket. Unfortunately, the said VC is quite mousy; fortunately, my friend is smarter than the VC.

My amigo's temptation reminded me of a quote from one of my dad's best high-school friends, Joe West, circa 1964 in their days roaming San Carlos High School. "If you continue to have the audacity to doubt my veracity I will subsequently be compelled to horizontalize your perpendicularity."

Not sure if I ever met Joe West, but I do have a somewhat entrepreneurial, curiously creative story authored by my dad 13 Sept 94, Ode to Joey West, which reminds me of two pseudo groups we formed in college: the Cal Poly Coed Naked Lacross Club (created solely to sell CPCNLC t-shirts at Poly Royale; my friend Craig and I cleared nearly two grand in one weekend) and the San Luis Academic Regulatory Advisory Commission Authority (or SLARCA, fictitiously formed to mess with one of our roommates, Einstein, who was on the brink of expulsion).

Here's Ode to Joey West (grab a libation; this one’s meaty):

Joey figured that if we were going to start a new club, it had to have a catchy name. I don’t recall he saying why it had to have a catchy name; maybe he had read an article on marketing in Boys Life, the National Geographic, or the Harvard Business Review. He was the kind of kid who’s three-digit IQ drove him in strange directions; first, in high school, toward perilous albeit harmless deeds; later toward a plethora of felonious acts; but all of it rooted in an inescapable impatience which constantly festered into instantaneous boredom. When I first met Joey (we were sophomores; how we engaged, I can’t recall), we would go to his house after school and play chess. Well, actually he played chess and I moved the pieces around the board in a downward spiral of desperate defensive moves. So after a while, he would spot me a few pieces, and win. Then he would give me two moves to his one, and win. And for the final match at the end of the chess phase of our relationship, I think he started with only his King and half his Pawns, and gave me four moves to boot, and played blindfolded. We quit chess not because I was humiliated or beat into submission, but because he was bored. Big surprise.

The new club was eventually sanctioned by the high school authorities due to Joey’s clever use of some obscure section of the School District Regulations, and so it was listed in the Principal’s office right along with the Ski Club and the Glee Club and the Spanish Club. There must have been fifty clubs, all run by the appropriate authorities, each of whom was never able to join a club when he or she was a kid in high school. The authorities were, therefore, reliving those years of frustration in the spirit of full and complete retribution. Take the drafting teacher, Mr. Tomasio, the founder of the Drafting Club (I took two years of drafting, was quite good, and used this trade to successfully put myself through college; but I was unable to join the Drafting Club due to constant prior commitments) who was never admitted into his school’s Home Economics Club, the federal laws which would allow (require?) this, having been enacted only in quite recent times. Same with the Spanish Club, run by a guy who might have wanted to be in the Auto Mechanics Club in Costa Rica or wherever he was raised.

Well, this new club would not be run by a frustrated teacher seeking power and glory and the bylaws-given-rights to make up all the rules and administer the funds without audit and veto the admission of an applicant upon a whim. No, WE were going to do all those things and therefore appointed ourselves Generalissimo and Vice Generalissimo (Joey might have been in his two-hour Hemingway Spanish Civil War phase when we were discussing appropriate titles). You will correctly guess whom was who.

While the club was to have no purpose (and, proudly, it never did), it did have to have a name, and a snappy one at that, according to the Generalissimo. So we sat down one day at his house with a dictionary and created IBODINAE: the International Betterment Organization for Disestablishmentarianism And Epistemological Servitude. One of us thought up the words, and the other checked the dictionary. The other might have been me.

Next, we had to draft the Bylaws. Now, this took some time because Joey was faced with the dilemma of all organizations pre and post ours: how do you simultaneously get people to join, make them pay dues, and not let them do anything. We studied his family copy of Robert’s Rules of Order (Joey’s mom was President of the PTA), we researched through thick tomes on the family bookshelf, and we pondered and debated. In about 10 minutes, hitting the familiar wall of boredom, the Generalissimo decreed the following: (1) interested parties had to give me (I was the Treasurer, although Joe graciously kep the funds safely in his room in a miniature aluminum vault) one dollar, non-refundable, to become applicants; (2) applicants could move forward to full membership if they could correctly say, and then spell, the full club name; and (3) full members could move further forward into retirement (we should have entitled it “emeritus member”) by a majority vote of the Membership Committee, which consisted solely of we two. Needless to say, this club would not obtain 501c3 tax-exempt status from the IRS if it was formed today.

Finally, we had to hustle-up members. Using vague but persuasive promises that the dues would be pooled and invested prudently so as to earn interest equivalent to a case of Hamms Beer per Saturday night (doubtful math wizards were convinced the interest would compound at least into a case for every home football game), we sallied forth. If a guy had a buck but stumbled over the correct pronunciation of IBODINAE, we had the authority, as vested in us through the Bylaws, to make an exception. In fact, while it was not widely known (the Bylaws also required that no one except a duly appointed officer could read the Bylaws), we officers could meet our fiduciary responsibility to the Organization by admitting a member for less than a buck, and without the applicant ever getting past saying “IBO…”, and then even if he pronounced the “I” as if it was an “e”. That was one of the features of the club most successfully exploited in our marketing campaign: IBODINAE was very accommodating of its members’ needs and skills.

By Thursday lunch (I neglected to mention that the club was conceptualized, organized, named and officially by-lawed on a Wednesday afternoon), we had a full compliment of members eagerly awaiting the first club meeting, and anticipating the financial magic which the officers would perform, creating a case of Hamms out of interest only. Ben Franklin was a hero to us both, and he would have been proud of our liberal interpretation of his famous statement about the beauty of compounded interest.

On Friday night, the officers met in an emergency, closed session. Funds were counted, calculations were compiled, budgets were forecast. Alas, it appeared that the club was nearing a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (Joey’s older brother, a first-year law student, was an invaluable consultant to the club) and we had but two legal options: return the members their dues or pay the founders and officers their due. As often occurred on Friday nights, the trusty trio of our pal Mike Smith, his phony ID, and the near-sighted liquor store owner were engaged, and Joey and me remarked how the Hamms had never tasted so good.

The IBODINAE club lived on, according to the official records in the Principal’s office, for the entire school year. The yearbook staff, faced with the absence of any members willing to stand on the gym steps for the traditional club picture, chose – wisely, I believe – to skip to the next club, which was – as I recall – International something. On the pre-bar advice of Joey’s brother, we had resigned the morning after the case of Hamms (OK, so it might have been late afternoon) as IBODINAE officers at an official IBODINAE meeting attended by all the members who had shown up after the requisite five-minute notice (via a written announcement posted on Joey’s bedroom door). I am proud to this day of the strict adherence to the rules that me and Joey showed. Them other clubs could have learned a few things from us, no doubt about it.

So that afternoon, the closing gavel still echoing through his house, Joey turns and says, “What-do-you-wanna-do-now?” And our minds were off and running into the next adventure.

Like I said, Joey’s brain went off and running a little too far later in life. Like in collecge, where scoring a case of Hamms with your (temporarily ex-) friend’s money was not much of a charge. Told me once that his fraternity used to drive to The City and roll winos for fun. Met him years later when he was dealing for some guys in South Shore, disguised as the executive director of a modest non-profit art center in Davis. Didn’t show up at the recent 30-year class reunion. Could be dead, could be brilliantly successful in some venture requiring impatience, high IQ (perhaps ameliorated for lack of completely functioning brain cells). In fact, he could be Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo journalist. If not in fact, in awe.

I myself have a streak of easily obtained boredom, which I solve by modest imbibing and poor – but self-amusing – story writing. Maybe I should start another club: The Joseph West Memorial Association. Nope, it will need more vowels, how about The …

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