jun 28

The Pugilist Nemesis At Rest

Let me tell you a story.

    The first couple months of college sucked. I was a pre-med student at a boring midwest state school who hung out with other boring pre-med kids from the midwest. It was like high school, except everyone wanted to be valedictorian. The best thing I could say about my doctor-to-be friends was that they were as exciting as organic chemistry.

    One day, I accidentally walked into a dorm room where a couple slacker kids were on the floor playing Nintendo. Not even bothering to notice what game they were playing, I immediately focused on the poster hanging on the wall. It was a standard-issue Michael Jordan dunk shot -- the kind of poster that has no purpose other than to hang in a dorm room. Except the ingenious Nintendo players had taken a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, cut a 3 x 3 hole in the center, taped it over the poster so that the hole highlighted one player in the fuzzy background on the bench beneath Jordan's splayed legs, and scribbled "Detlef Schrempf" on the poster.

    I instantly knew that these guys were going to be my friends.

And now, let's have Chuck give his version:

    I met My Nemesis in November 1990. I walked into somebody's dorm room to play Nintendo, and he was sitting on the bed, holding an acoustic guitar on which he could play only one note -- the opening note of Tesla's "Love Song." He was wearing a denim jacket, and he had used a black Magic Marker to draw the symbol for anarchy on the back. It was just about the silliest thing I had ever seen. We immediately became friends.

The first story is how I remember meeting Chuck Klosterman; the second is how he tells it in his new book, Killing Yourself To Live, which officially comes out today.

I'm not here to tell you Chuck is lying about how we met. For his last book, I did a point-by-point response to what he wrote about us, and he almost seems to concede fuzzy historical remembrances this time around by subtitling the book "85% of a True Story." Actually, I might be completely wrong about what really happened. In fact, "what really happened" is probably a useless concept when discussing drunken Nintendo battles.

(But just for the record, let's get a parenthetical in here. I am resisting the temptation to tell you the 15 percent that is inaccurate in his telling of our times together -- which you can hear for yourself in this MP3 of him reading from that chapter. But again, that's not what I'm here to talk about, because, for the most part, it's "true" (especially when you put it in quotes), and whatever isn't true is better this way anyway.)

Here's where I should tell you about the book. KYTL is basically a travelogue disguised as a memoir. First devised as an article for Spin, the ostensible narrative is Chuck travelling around America and visiting the places that rock stars died -- but that's all subterfuge for reflecting on various relationships and friendships from the past (and that's all subterfuge for reflecting on life and death). When he comes to Minneapolis (in theory, to visit the place Bobby Stinson died), the book recounts how a group of music critics (plus me, "someone who probably should have been a music critic") go to the Kitty Cat Klub, drink too much, argue way too much, go back to my house, drink more, climb on the roof, and nearly kill ourselves. And yeah, there's some stuff about the fist-fights we had in college.

Now that's out of the way, so let's get back to what I wanted to say. Look at the two different stories at the top of this page -- now ask yourself this: Which story is better? In college, this was the kind of thing that Chuck and I would have argued about for a week -- not just whose story is better, but what percentage of other people would think each is better, and who told the story most economically, and which story was more historically true, and if historical accuracy even matters, and who would play the parts in the movie of this story, and what Kant thought "better" actually meant, and so on. It was completely nuts.

But it was also probably the most important time of my life. Even though there were several occasions where I literally wanted to strangle him, nowadays my emotions about Chuck are pretty simple: I think he's funny, and he only occasionally pisses me off. As for "what really happened," it's all a blur, some of it intentionally so. But I now know this: I learned more about friendship from him than anyone else in my life.

But I can still totally kick his ass.

The link farm:
Buy the book
Listen to part of the book
Discussed on Stereogum.
On The O.C.
Entertainment Weekly review
KYTL being made into movie.
The Dessert Island Question.
Book Notes from Large-Hearted Boy


I did not own a Michael Jordan poster. It was actually a Magic Johnson poster. And the player I framed on the bench (with the 11 x 8.5 piece of paper) was actually Gary Grant, who was playing with the L.A. Clippers at the time of the photograph. Troy Ivesdahl can verify this information. As such, this is an 85 percent accurate explanation of the first night Rex was in my dorm room, which happened two days after I met him (while he was playing Tesla's "Love Song"). That said, the information in this post is philosophically correct. Thanks, Rex. -- CK1

posted by Anonymous at 2:25 PM on June 28, 2005


posted by Rex at 3:46 PM on June 28, 2005

I remember stuff a little differently as well, but you know, what the hell, we were drunk, thinking about getting drunk, wishing we were drunk so we could actually talk to women, and some people were studying. At least that's the way I remember it. Never had to get in any fights though. Not with my friends anyway. You guys were fun to watch. It was like John Paul Jones egging Bonzo on to gettin in Page's shit with all his paranoia... Funny thing about the Zeppelin reference is I met you all during a game of D&D. No shit. First and Last time I played. I think it was in the fourth floor on West Hall, but that could be my 15% of falsehood.

posted by SS at 12:08 PM on June 29, 2005

All I gotta say is that if I had gotten into a fist fight with you (steve) instead of chuck, I wouldn't look so damn handsome today.

posted by Rex at 11:45 PM on June 29, 2005

doesn't that girl who voiced violet in the incredibles have a book out about this?

posted by Anonymous at 9:53 PM on June 30, 2005

Here's the thing. To me when I look at writing, I look at something that piques my interest. In this case the first little intro did. I got to that saying, ok who is this Detlef Schrempf and why would that make the writer want to be friends with someone. wetwired.org

posted by pylorns at 2:03 PM on July 11, 2005

I'm watching an episode of the X=Files and it makes me think of you two and your differing points of view... Check out the Bad Blood episode Season Five, Disc Three if you are as nerdy as me.

posted by SS at 10:09 PM on July 25, 2005

http://www.nypress.com/18/33/news&columns/ames.cfm we're down at the whippin post for another round...

posted by ooch! at 1:44 AM on August 24, 2005

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