By Ray Lesser
When I was in kindergarten, I used to cross my eyes and wiggle my ears, or hold my breath until I was blue in the face. I always wanted to be famous and I was willing to do whatever it took. Then one lunch period, I figured out how to make milk squirt out of my nose, and suddenly I had the whole first grade fighting to sit at my table so they could watch my act.
There is nothing like the sound of a roomful of people laughing at you, and pointing their fingers, and having the cutest little girls telling you how gross you are, before running to get the teacher.
Getting taken down to the principal’s office isn’t so bad. It’s really the mark of success, or at least early success. I mean first you do something and the teacher makes you sit in the corner, and then maybe you do something really spectacular, like belch for 15 seconds straight, and she sends you out in the hall. But getting sent down to the principal’s office takes real talent. You need to paint Fuzzy, the classroom bunny-rabbit, polka dot green, or take the frog you’re dissecting and stick it down Clara Inglehoff’s back, or secretly put a loaded Whoopie Cushion on the teacher’s chair.
Pretty soon my jokes and stunts were famous throughout the entire school. People came up to me at special events and wanted to shake my Joy Buzzer-laden hand and have their picture taken standing next to me. They asked me to do graffiti on their textbooks and library cards. The mark of really being cool was to have me autograph your yearbook, “To my Best Friend ever, get Sick and Die!”
In college, I became so well known and popular they elected me class president. I promised to take all the student activity fund and use it to buy beer for parties. We’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars that I controlled. Before long, our parties became practically world-renowned. People would come from everywhere. Sure, we didn’t have any money for bands, or decorations, or advertising, or prom queen paraphernalia, or any of the other crap that past student governments had spent money on, but nobody cared as long as we had kegs of beer. Well-known bands would play music for free, just because we’d have such huge crowds at our parties, and restaurants would donate food and snacks, just to become known as the Official Pizza of Cool U. campus. Celebrities would show up unannounced with camera crews to promote their latest movies, products, or shows.
When I graduated from college, a dozen different big ad firms were vying for my services. I’d already made a name for myself as one of the greatest promoters of my generation, but I wanted more than that: I wanted to be a star. I began drawing a little cartoon eggplant and his pal, a pile of spaghetti. They would say some sort of Zen Koan to each other every day, very inscrutable; nobody could understand what the hell it meant, but all their friends were talking about it and they’d pretend they got the joke, just so they wouldn’t be left behind. Pretty soon nobody even cared about the joke; they just wanted the images stamped on everything they owned, to let everyone else know how cool they were. Captain Eggplant and Spaghetti Man on your backpack and the ass of your pants, and before long, tattooed on your bicep or belly. Some fanboy stuck a tattoo right on his forehead, and got his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone, and then went on to become the Time Man of the Year, just for having Captain Eggplant on his forehead, so you can imagine how famous I became.
I couldn’t even open the door of my apartment; there’d be a hundred crazed fans camped outside every day and night waiting for me to appear so they could hound me to autograph the Captain Eggplant chia pet, or Captain Eggplant parmesan cheese container, or Captain Eggplant slippers, condoms, cell phones, scooters, frozen dinners, anything and everything licensers could stick his bulbous little purple presence onto. I couldn’t answer the phone because no matter how many times I changed my number, and got it unlisted, fans would somehow hack it and then inundate me with calls, and requests for my autograph, my photo, locks of my hair, pieces of my skin, my dandruff, my pee in a bottle (which was rumored to cure impotence), my boogers, my earwax, and anything else I ever touched.
I couldn’t even throw out my garbage. I had to hire people to sneak my garbage out of the apartment in briefcases and deposit it far away, where it could never be found and traced to me, otherwise fans would try to find my DNA on it and clone replicas of me in the lab. They’d take pieces of my leftover toast and have them dipped in bronze and try to sell them. Hell, they did sell them, on eBay, for $50,000.
And then I couldn’t trust anyone anymore. Even my closest friends would take their briefcases full of garbage from my apartment, and try to make money off them. They would take my old crinkled-up gum wrappers and have them made into necklaces that could pay for their kids’ college. They’d take old spaghetti boxes and have them framed, and fans would get into brawls fighting over the chance to get into the auction room where the bidding was taking place.
I had no friends anymore. I dumped my last girl-friend when I caught her stealing my dirty socks, which she planned to use to make a fragrance called Eau du Eggplant, to sell to the Euro-Trash market. I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t see anyone; I was a prisoner in my own apartment.
Anything I did or said was taken as genius, copied and recorded, repackaged and resold. Every utterance was analyzed. There were 10,000 blogs devoted just to parsing my Chinese takeout orders. I never had a moment of peace or solitude. My bank account got bigger and bigger and my life became smaller and smaller.
Then one day, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had a helicopter pick me up from the roof of my penthouse apartment, and, after a chase scene worthy of James Bond, was finally able to flee and disappear. I went to Switzerland where I had plastic surgery and took on a new identity. I faked my own death, but the frenzy for who I was and what I created didn’t stop. Everything became even more valuable because now collectors knew there would never be any more of it produced. The total production of all my life’s garbage became worth more then the gross national product of 74 countries combined. My net worth surpassed Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and finally even the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
Of course it didn’t matter anymore, because I had reneged on all of my possessions by disappearing. I left my entire estate to the Society for the Prevention of Crossed Eyes and Wiggly Ears. I just took the little anonymous bank account I had set up for myself in Switzerland, relaxed by Lake L., and wrote my memoirs, which will never be published until I really am dead, because if they were I know the whole circus would start all over again.
But I must admit that every once in a while, when I’m out at dinner and no one’s looking, I can’t resist the temptation to squirt milk out my nose. In a way, that first squirt was the highpoint of my life. I just had no idea that it would lead to making me too famous.