Guest Blogging

I'm guest blogging at the Fringe today, as part of Fringe Break 2007.

If you want to read about my childhood obsession with Nickelodeon, click here.

Update: It looks like the version of the thing I sent to Fringes lost some of its matter, so I'm going to post the full text of it below.

You Can't Do That

Dedicated to
Flood, the Canadian blogger

When I was nine I decided I wanted to be famous.

This, I suppose, is not so unusual for a kid, and especially for a kid living in Illinois, but I was looking for a very specific brand of fame. I didn't want to play center field for the Chicago Cubs; I didn't want to be the next Michael Jackson.

I wanted to be on TV.

But I didn't want to just be on TV. I wanted to be on one of two very specific shows: You Can't Do That On Television or Mr. Wizard's World.*

I loved these two shows. I watched them on Nickelodeon pretty much every day after school, and once I decided that I wanted to be on them, I started paying closer attention.

During Mr. Wizard's World, I studied the single boy or girl that appeared on each episode, assisting Mr. Wizard in that day's science experiment. Some days, I envied that single boy or girl to the point that I wanted to crawl into the television screen and kick the kid's ass. Other days, I was more sympathetic; I imagined that the boy or girl wasn't really so special, and that there were probably kids at school giving them a hard time about being Mr. Wizard's bitch.

During You Can't Do That On Television, I studied Christine "Moose" McGlade and Lisa "Motormouth" Ruddy and Alasdair Gillis. I envied them a little, too, sure, but I never wanted to kick their asses; I wanted to be a part of the skits they were a part of: I wanted to be chained to that wall like Alasdair. I wanted to stand next to "Moose" and accidentally-on-purpose say, "I don't know," let the green slime cover me.

After a few weeks of study I realized that I was definitely hot enough, at nine years old, to be on TV. Alisdair, all those bright-eyed precocious cads on Mr. Wizard's World, they had nothing on me, looks-wise. I was pretty much hot from the time I was seven until I was seventeen, minus an awkward six months or so when I was eleven.

So, I didn't have to worry about not being cute enough. What I did have to work on was how I talked.

I noticed something different about all the kids who appeared on the two shows I wanted to be on: They didn't say "about," they said "aboot." They didn't say "out," they said "oot." And oftentimes, though this didn't puzzle me as much as all that "oot-ing," they ended their statements with "eh?"

I realized quickly that I was going to have to make some adjustments to the way my Midwestern born-and-raised ass spoke. And so I began to practice.

My mom would say, "Chad, don't you have homework you should be doing?"

I would reply, "What are you talking aboot? I'm finished already, and I'm going ootside for a bit."

My mom would say, "Chad, why are you talking like that?" And I would say, "Get oot of here. I don't know anything aboot it."

I also bought a chemistry set at the mall, and started conducting my own little version of Mr. Wizard's World. I played both parts--the old man and the curious-but-knowing kid. I would prepare little logs made out of newspaper and then sprinkle them with strontium chloride, borax, copper sulfate. I would get my little alcohol-fueled flame lit. And then I would say, in a deep voice, "So, Chad, what color of flame do you think the strontium chloride is going to give off when it burns?"

"Gee, I'm not sure, Mr. Wizard," I would say. "What aboot red, eh?"

"Well, let's see if you're right."

And then I would watch a red flame leap from the newspaper log, and I would make my eyes big and say in an excited yet demure way, "Woo! I was right."

"You were, Chad," I would say. "Now let's try the copper sulfate. This one might be a little harder for you to predict."

The kids at school, sure, they made fun of me a little. "What aboot it, Chad?" they would say, during a lecture on long multiplication. "Can you figure it oot?"

But I endured. I was a cute-ass nine-year-old, and someday, I was going to be standing in Mr. Wizard's kitchen when the taping began. We would light balloons filled with various gases on fire, or create an electrical circuit using only fruit and paper clips.

And once we finished that day's segment I would hustle over to the set of You Can't Do That On Television. Alisdair would be there, and so would Christine and Lisa and the rest of them. "Sorry aboot running late," I would tell them. "This is a lot of work, eh?"

"Don't worry aboot it," Christine would say, putting her arm around me. "We couldn't do it withoot you, eh?"

And I would feel loved, tucked there beneath Christine's arm, listening to her praise me. But I would deflect her praise a little, not wanting to seem too big-headed. "I don't know," I would say. "You guys were doing a pretty good job withoot me."

And then I would look up at Christine, and smile. But she would be shaking her head, starting to pull away. And that's when the slime would hit. I would feel it on the top of my blond head, and inching down my neck into the back of my shirt. It would be cold, chilly even, but I would step away from Christine and say it again, "I don't know."

I would lift up my arms toward the ceiling, toward the bucket of slime, and I would feel not only loved, but joy--real joy, pure as Canadian snow.

*For those of you who don't know, You Can't Do That On Television was a Canadian show. And Mr. Wizard's World, while American, filmed most of the shows I watched as a kid in Canada.


fringes said...

Sorry about the systems malfunction. I think it's posted in its entirety now. Thanks for hosting!

Christina said...

I knew you knew you were hot! He he he!!

Chad Simpson said...

Fringes--Thanks for having me!

Chris--I only knew because of people like you--who made me all big-headed.