The Eighth Page

Lawrence Dai Says Goodbai

“What’s your favorite color?” It was a simple enough question – a standard “favorite category” ice-breaker – but believe it or not, I had just about everything riding on the answer. It was fall term of 2005 and my awkward, 100-lb. freshman self had just plopped down into a chair of a Bulfinch classroom. I scanned the other potential writers in the room and quickly scoffed at the pants-wearing, street-walking riffraff that surrounded me. This was probably their first Phillipian Features boot camp. I mean, technically, it was mine too. But if you really want to get technical, I should probably be doing hard time for attempted arson (if Morse is still standing by the time you read this, you will know that I have failed yet again). A dark, shadowy figure stood silently at the head of the table. As he stepped into the light, I noticed a John Deere trucker hat which sat neatly upon the mountains of his brown, curly hair. The Jewish-looking trucker spoke: “My name is John Badman. Welcome to Features.” My heart pounded as I finally got to meet the man behind the byline – John Badman ’06, Features Editor-at-large. I had been reading his articles online ever since getting accepted to Phillips Academy and over the summer I had made it my goal to someday become half the man he was. As the sign-up sheet was passed around, I struggled to think of something clever to write in response to the “favorite color” question. Had I still been in kindergarten, I would’ve just said “blue” and been done with it – you know, continue on my merry way and probably soil myself once or twice throughout the course of the day. But alas, this was Phillips Academy and at Phillips Academy, the answer is never just “blue” (unless the question is in reference to our primary school color). When the sheet finally arrived, I panicked. “Colors… colors… what are some funny colors?” I thought to myself. “Periwinkle? No, too effeminate. Tickle-me-pink? Damn, same problem. What about mauve? …No, no, definitely not mauve.” It was at this time that I first started to question my sexuality. Luckily, that thought passed quickly and under the “favorite color” category, I wrote the next thing that came to mind: “The color of friendship with a hint of cinnamon.” My youth up until that point revolved around Disney Channel Original Movies, or DCOMs, as I had so lovingly called them, and “The Color of Friendship” was probably one of my favorites. It was the story of two young teenage girls who overcame the racial barriers of the times in the name of true friendship. In other words, it was the perfect movie to belittle. And as with all things, one must add a dash of cinnamon if one wishes to achieve greatness. Because of my unique taste in colors, Badman handpicked me out of a whopping group of seven potential writers to write the following week. And thus, my Features career was born. I began my journey by writing long-winded narratives about my wild, made-up trips to exotic places. Each week, I’d write 600-800 words on how I, an unknown freshman boy, would venture into the depths of the Amazon rainforest and live among the savages of the all-female nudist colonies that most Features writers knew all too well. Not surprisingly, this particular genre of humor led to accusations of “sexism,” not to mention many lonely nights spent sitting in front of a computer screen – checking my email, of course. But alas, I could only make up so many misadventures before my limited knowledge of the female anatomy became all too obvious. As much as the Features section has changed over the years, I doubt it will ever be able to handle the 5,000-word short story I wrote, entitled “Monologues of a Three-Breasted Single Mother.” Going into lower year, my work began to segue into short hypothetical dialogues and diary entries from other people’s perspectives. I wrote about how a married couple would interact at PA, summarized with such great lines as: “I’m starving to death over here. Make me a sandwich, Bob… But Wendy, the dorm’s fourth meal hasn’t come yet…” and “How’s abouts I get me and you into this hott Ryley dance next week Saturday. It’ll be off ‘da hook.” All I can say is my five years of intensive study in Ebonics at the local adult learning annex practically paid for itself. I also fondly remember writing a movie review for Final Destination 3 without ever having seen the movie. *Spoiler Alert* Everyone dies at the end. I, along with my partner-in-crime, Eli Grober ’09, later founded the PAPS Police Log, our own take on how student life must look from PA’s #1 enforcers of the law. I was only told much later that all of the logs we had written were hanging up in the Public Safety office. That piece of information explained a lot – namely, how I managed to accumulate $90 in illegal parking fees in one month. This becomes more ridiculous once you realize that I’m a boarder and I don’t even own a car. Lower year was also the year I wrote my fake presidential platform, in which I jokingly overemphasized communication as my main priority. The next year, I would actually run for school president on basically the same platform. And now, I’m the Exec. Sec (Executive Secretary). Yes, it’s a real position and yes, my higher-ups do occasionally ask for foot rubs. But I do it because I want to, not because I have to. I spent my Upper year as a prefect in Rockwell, which meant that while I had less time to spend down in the Phillipian newsroom, I had more time to get back in touch with my freshman self (especially since I was still one of the shortest guys in the dorm). My immature sense of humor was reborn and fortunately for me, it came under the close tutelage of my mentor, the one and only Jonathan Adler ’08. If Badman was my deadbeat father who went out for a pack of cigarettes when I was too young to remember and never returned for the rest of my Features career, then Adler was the maternal figure. His strong, well-moisturized hands guided me along my way as my seed began to blossom. He helped me grow as a writer, a lover, a JV Tennis doubles partner, but most of all, as a friend. It was Adler who introduced me to the secrets and nuances of fake news, which lead me to later write such satirical headlines as “Patriots Blame Loss On Belichick’s Ugly Red Sweatshirt” and “Senior Class Like Totally Doesn’t Feel Like Seniors.” And who could forget “Head of School Barbara Chase Makes Surprise Campus Visit?” Luckily for you, these classic hits are now available on a wonderful 2-disc set w/carrying case! After Adler’s heartbreaking departure, I took over the reins of the section for better or worse. I dreamt up crazy, elaborate themes like “Features Airlines” and “Features Fairytales,” only to have those pretentious members of Upper Management shut down the 10 pages of content I wanted. Apparently, once the humor section bypasses the “News” section in page count, the paper becomes a “joke.” But the wonderful girls (and Dickey) of Upper Management didn’t totally prevent my creative juices from flowing. I managed to assemble a whole page of Leap Day jokes for the Feb. 29 issue, not to mention the six-page section we ran on superheroes. Yes, that’s right, six pages of Features. Inevitably, the paper was a joke that week and the best goddamn joke ever. And now, as my tenure as editor has already been over for more than a week, I must remember to thank all those who’ve had a part in it. I thank my freshman year English teacher, Ms. Curci, for her encouragement in writing humorous articles and for being my one faithful reader throughout my time here. I thank my Upper/Senior year English teacher, Dr. Kane, for opening my eyes to the world of satire, and what it can accomplish. I thank my former Features associates (apprentices), B.J. Garry ’10, Billy Fowkes ’10 and Ben Prawdzik ’10, for working hard and always capitalizing on each opportunity to take a cheap shot at the Arts section. B.J. and Billy, I know you’ll do great things with the section. Ben, now that you’re one of the big shots, you’d best be letting us do more than six pages next week. I thank John Badman, for indefinitely altering my Phillips Academy career for the better. I thank Features editors Will Cannon ’07 and Dave Curtis ’07, for continuing the ongoing tradition of Features — and for not ending my life that night in WPAA when you gave me a lacrosse helmet and then proceeded to punch me in the head as hard as you could for 20 minutes. I thank Pete Smith ’07 for showing me the obvious cons of having a Features Senior Associate. I thank Alex Moss ’09 and Sam Weiss ’09 for once again, showing me the obvious cons of having multiple Features Senior Associates. I thank Jonathan Adler, for passing me the glorious torch of the Features Editorship, may it burn forever. I thank my co-editor and best friend Eli Grober for always keeping me sane (or at least trying to) when it was Tuesday night and we had no content. And of course, I thank my parents, whose proficiency (or rather, deficiency) in the English language has allowed me to write things that no other kid could get away with. Just keep being proud of me, Mom and Dad. I hope to God no one ever tells you what “procrasturbation” means.