Such a sad, strange, man.
Disassociated Press, 4/16/10
Zach Arnold takes a long drag off his Marlboro Light before tapping the ash down to the concrete. He’s a short man, rotund. Comparable to the Penguin, one of Batman’s several nemeses. Or perhaps that Travelocity gnome, which proclaims affordable deals for all travelers. Tonight, however, as we sit on the patio of a TGI Friday’s, he most resembles what several of his generation have become…a frustrated blogger.
“You see people…” He takes another drag off his cigarette. “…When most people go online, they aren’t looking to expand their worldview. Nah, they wanted to do that, they’d read a book or…or a newspaper. Nah, when people get online, they’re looking for escapist entertainment. I mean, how else can you explain LOLcats and keyboard cats and dramatic animals…”
I nod. Not in agreement, but to avert Arnold’s eyes as I close out my Twitter page on my iPhone. Our drinks arrive. The waiter sets my cranberry juice in front of me, and a Yuengling with a tiny umbrella inserted into the mouth is placed in front of Zach. “That makes it classy,” He chuckles, pulling the umbrella out, nearly stabbing himself as he sucks out what little beer was absorbed into the wood of the toothpick. He then asks me where he was. I slide my notes over to him, which he pores over with intent eyes.
“LOLcats…dramatic animals…right, yeah.” He shoves my notepad back over toward me before leaning back in his chair, the tempered steel of the seat groaning under the massive pressure his grotesque body exerts upon it. “Now, you see, I started blogging a while back. Probably 2002, 2003, something like that. And at first I was having fun with it. LiveJournal. Just putting random thoughts down, entertaining the few friends that read it. Then I got to thinking that hey, I could use my writing prowess for something productive. Get some debate going. I was having people write some decent comments out, so why not fan the flames a little? The first entry was supposed to foster a discussion on if our President at the time, George W. Bush, was using appropriate measures in his fight against terrorism. I put that blog up and guess what? Not one single comment. Only 2 hits. I know one of them was mine because I logged in at the library, see if anyone had posted anything. That night, I put up a post debating the merits between eating ice cream in the hot seasons, and eating ice cream in the cold seasons. Know how many hits that one got me? 65. The writing was on the wall, baby.”
I had no idea why Mr. Arnold had addressed me as “baby”, but decided to push that aside. This man was obviously getting drunk off one beer, or had been drinking before arriving at Friday’s. I glanced at my watch. Where the hell were my fried green beans? A loud belch from across the table snapped my attention back toward my portly interviewee. Swallowing the small amount of bile that had crept into my throat, I asked him to continue.
“Let’s see…ah, yeah, after that LiveJournal thing, I stumbled onto blogspot, and spent maybe a year or so using that thing. My heart wasn’t really into it, though, and I stopped posting maybe 8 months in. But!” He exclaimed, snickering as he leaned forward, resting his short arms against the table. “I got asked to join this spectacular improv group, called Made of Bees. And whaddya know, we get a website going on WordPress.”
I nodded again, this time in agreement. Yes, Made of Bees was an improv group nothing short of phenomenal. Over the past two years, they had entertained hundreds of people, leaving a residue of hilarity with every crowd they encountered. Truly, greatness personified.
My eyes return to Mr. Arnold, who while I pontificated on the magnificence that is MoB, had fallen asleep. A quick shake arose him from his slumber, followed by five minutes of assuring him that yes, only five minutes had passed.
“Sorry about that. Anyway, I decide that hey, I’m in this group, I need to start contributing in some way, other than sheer sexiness.” He leers at me, a sloppy grin across his face before continuing. “So I start writing on there. And I figure that since we’re a comedy group, I need to write some funny stuff. So I had blogs about me and my cousin wrestling in the backyard, how I named my sideburns, all that crap.” Arnold accosts our server just as she places my appetizer down, requesting another Yuengling with umbrella, punctuating his drink order with a “darlin'”. After watching our server leave, he continues. “So I get a few posts into it, and once again, I got people putting comments up! Telling me how they’re enjoying the hilarity and cleverness and that they’re looking forward to my next tale. Once again I had ’em in the palm of my hand.”
Arnold looks off into space, a mix of nostalgia and drunkenness clouding his eyes. “I had power. That felt good. It felt…right. But I wanted to use this power for good. To bring some light into this world. So I started writing some satirical stuff, like about how Obama was getting in trouble because he wanted to address all the schoolkids. People reacted well to that. And once I got that reaction, it was like a drug.”
His euphoria wouldn’t last long, however. Arnold’s eyes grow dark as he begins the next part of his saga. “And then…Aaron had to come and screw it all up.”
Aaron Grant, another member of the spectacular Made of Bees, was also a regular contributor. He had written three pieces. One decrying the former Ukrop’s market chain for utilizing senior citizens as cart pushers, and two which detailed his adventures in the gym. The first entry discussed a woman with a horrible tattoo on her lower back, while the other discussed the inability of old men in gym locker rooms to be clothed.
“And what do you know?” Arnold slurs, his eyes closing and opening slowly. “When I come back on to check the blog, the views on Grant’s entries sky-freaking-rocketed. I looked at the search terms, the words people used to get to the site. I was…shocked when I saw that 20 people had come to the site using the search term ‘elderly nudes’. I mean, ‘elderly nudes’? What kind of sick freak looks up ‘elderly nudes’?”
A plethora of them, apparently. Grant’s blog entries quickly became the crown jewel of MoB’s site. In fact, his first volume on the disturbing things he’s seen in his gym has garnered over 3,500 views alone. That’s almost half of the total page views for the Bees’ site itself.
I look back at Arnold, who is now weeping openly. There, at this TGI Friday’s, sits a broken man.
“I’m done, baby…” Again with the baby. I brush it off. “…From now on, no more suave political commentary. No satirical stuff. Just straight, flat-out funny stories about my life. I mean, everyone loves to hear stories about fat guys getting stuck on things, right?”
I assure him he’s correct. He smiles a sad smile, leaning back in his chair, of which the legs are now bowing out. “I’m proud of Grant, I am. That boy knows what the people want.”
I nod in silent concurrence, glancing back at my iPhone, enjoying a silent triumph as I become the new mayor of Friday’s in 4square. My victory is only slightly marred by my now-cold fried green beans.