Monthly Archives: January 2014

The existential crisis of Boltman

boltman

All of my girlfriend’s friends wanted me bad. They were all after me because I was Boltman. Not just a guy in the suit, but like the real thing. It was a pretty cool dream.

I was living in this shitty little camper behind a chop shop run by a bunch of Mexicans, but it didn’t seem to impact my cred with the ladies. When you’re the living incarnation of the most badass mascot in the NFL, pretty much anything you do – even living in a crap camper surrounded by sketchy Mexicans – also seems badass.

I catch my girlfriend’s friend Leigh snooping around my camper. She’s freaking hot. I mean, not in real life. In real life, she’s kind of cute, but she’s bulimic and her hair’s gross and limp and starting to fall out, and her teeth are brown, and her breath is disgusting. In my dream, it’s her, just hot. And she has these lightning tattoos on her cheeks that are so badass they do Boltman proud. She looks like one of the tat-faced Romulans from that Star Trek reboot a couple years ago, but hot.

She reaches up on top of my camper and finds a baggie of weed and she’s like, “You smoke weed? I didn’t know you were so cool.” Then she gives me this look and since it’s my dream, I know she wants to bang. I don’t think we did. I kind of lost that part. And I don’t know why I hid my weed on top of the camper. That was pretty stupid. Even in San Diego County, it rains sometimes. In real life, I keep my supply in Boltman’s head. Dude, there is no better way to hotbox than putting on Boltman’s head. I’ll let you try it sometime.

The last part of my dream I walk over to the chop shop and apparently the Mexicans respect the shit out of me. Makes sense, though. A) I’m Boltman. B) They’re like, “Hey cabron, we see you over there at that camper. All your girlfriend’s friends want your pito. You be the shit, mein.”

I lean my elbow down on a car they’re working on and I’m like, “Que pasa, chicos?” One gets up and gets me a cup of coffee. Some of that strong Mexican blend shit. And we looked at my bag of weed because they wanted to see how dank my nugs were. And that’s about it. Pretty dope, right?

I told that story to Danny Woodhead in the tunnel before the game yesterday. We’re like the same height so we see eye to eye. Haha. Get it? Nah, but it’s tough being an undersized mascot just like it is being a small running back, so he gets me. After I told him the story, he said, “Yeah, man, that’s cool. I’m going to get locked in on this game now, though, so talk to you later.” He’s a pretty cool dude.

It’s not like I wasn’t taking the game serious. I took it real serious and the whole world knows what’s up now. Sportscenter Top 10, baby! I mean, Sportscenter Not Top 10, but what’s the difference? National TV exposure, man.

We had to win the game to make the playoffs. This was the first season in four years the Chargers brought Boltman back on the field and I’m thinking, yo, if we make the playoffs, they’re going to realize Boltman is the good luck charm. They’re going to put me on salary and sign me to a long-term contract and shit. Pretty good for a kid from San Diego Community College with a mascot school certificate, right?

Some people say mascots don’t make any difference in the game. That’s bull shit. Cheerleaders, true, but mascots have at least as much impact on the game as assistant coaches. Not like offensive coordinators. That’s stupid. But like the running back and linebacker coaches. You doubt me? Way back in 1996, Morten Andersen – best kicker in NFL history – missed a 30-yard chip shot that got the Jacksonville Jaguars into the playoffs in their second year in existence. Go back and look at the replay. Notice those goalposts swinging back and forth right before the kick when Andersen’s lining up? Look closer. That’s Jaxson de Ville, the best mascot in the NFL today, shaking the goalposts. Andersen got Jedi mind tricked. Wide left. Speaking of Jax, the NFL had to change mascot rules to try and stop us from winning games after he freaked out the Pittsburgh Steelers offense by running up to their huddle with a lifesize doll of their quarterback and stomping its head in.

Now the NFL says we “are prohibited from engaging in any acts of taunting opposing players, coaches or game officials.” Boo. But we still get the crowd hyped when the team needs noise, make life suck for opposing fans so they don’t ever come back and we do other things.

Yeah, we can do other things. I got my big shot yesterday against the Chiefs and I took it.

We’re tied 24-24 and the Chiefs are driving late in the fourth quarter. Their quarterback completes a pass into field goal range, but the idiot threw it down the middle of the field and they’re out of timeouts. They rush the field goal unit out while the clock’s ticking down. I’m on the sideline like, “What do I do? What do I do? What would Jax do?” Then I see this Chiefs fan jump out of the front row onto the sideline. This asshole is trying to run onto the field so he can get play stopped. That’s the rule. Fan on the field, automatic stoppage of play and the clock. He’s trying to buy their damn kicker time to get set up.

Boltman is not having it! The best thing about my Boltman costume is it’s pretty unobstructive. I’ve got a big lightning bolt foam head – he’s so badass, rocking Oakleys and this big grin that says, “Yeah, I’m a boss” – and then a muscle suit for my arms and upper body, which I don’t even really need because I’m a physical specimen already. But other than that it’s pretty much just me in shoulder pads and a Chargers uniform. Backflips, round offs, cartwheels, I can do all that acrobatic shit. Fans go nuts when I do back handsprings the full length of the field when we run out of the tunnel before kickoff.

The point is, this Chiefs fan doesn’t know what he’s stepped into. Security sees him, but he’s coming right at me. This is meant to be. Boltman to the rescue. I get a running start at him and he thinks it’s funny. Hey, look at this mascot coming right at me! Then I drop the boom. Diving tackle, fully airborne, WrestleMania style. Right into this dude’s ribs. Perfect form tackle. Dwight Freeney would have been proud.

I turn around just in time to see Ryan Succop running into place. He never gets a chance to get lined up and misses a 41-yarder. Chargers win in overtime. We’re going to the playoffs. You’re welcome, signed: Boltman.

So you know the party is on! The team’s all going out to Fluxx to celebrate. I know how the players roll so I get there at the same time as them and everything. The line isn’t just out the door, it’s around the block, but of course the bouncers are letting all of us in ahead of everybody. Peeps didn’t even care. They all start spazzing, clapping, pulling out their iPhones and snapping pictures. I’m waving back at them when this big ass bald bouncer with a half dozen fat rolls on his neck (why are they always big bald guys with fat necks?) puts his hand on me. I’m like, “Easy, big guy. I’m with the team.”

The jerk has the balls to be like, “You don’t look like Danny Woodhead and as far as I know there ain’t no other midgets on the team.”

I was about to get rowdy with that comment, but Phillip Rivers came up right next to me and I say, “Hey Phil, tell this dude I’m with the team, please.”

He says, “I ain’t never seen this boy in my life. Don’t let him through, Little John.” Man, Phillip Rivers knows who I am. He sees me in the locker room all the time. He’s such a redneck asshole. That’s why nobody likes him.

I’m about to explain to this bouncer – how original, a big guy called Little John – that I’m Boltman when Danny walks up and another bouncer lifts the rope for him. I yell, “Danny, Danny. It’s me. Tell this guy to let me in.” But I guess he didn’t hear me because he just kept walking in with his girl and a couple other dudes. Woodhead’s a pretty cool guy.

“I’ve had about enough, little man. Back of the line or you’re never getting in this club again.” That’s what he says to me. Can you believe it? Boltman, the guy who wins the game that gets the Chargers into the playoffs, standing in line with the rest of the commoners. Fine. I go to the back of the line. But I still get in like an hour later.

“Give a nig a little bit of power and he can’t help get carried away with it.” That’s what I say to this decent-looking girl with her ass hanging out the back of her dress. Damn, I love San Diego weather. She turned back to her girls. Whatever, she’s not even that fly and I can’t turn my game on yet because I’m still so mad at that nig. I’m not a racist or anything, it’s cool to call them nigs. I call Malcolm Floyd my nig all the time and he just shakes his head because it’s funny and that’s our thing. Malcolm Floyd is a goofy looking nig.

I’m about to tell this big bouncer what I think about him, but I calmed down standing in line for an hour so I decide to play it cool. I stared him down, though. I don’t care how tall he is. He acted like he didn’t see me because he was talking to these two club skanks trying to get in. But he knows what’s up.

It’s hot as hell in the club so I pop open another button to let my pecs do the talking. I told you I don’t need that Boltman muscle suit. And it must be my lucky day because I turn around and see Leigh on the dance floor with two other club skanks. Maybe it was just because of that dream, but her skinny legs were fly in that miniskirt. She used to get PO’d at me for calling her stork legs, and my girlfriend bitches at me about how you shouldn’t mess with the body image of girls with eating disorders, but I don’t know what I was thinking. Her legs were so sexy the way she moved when she danced. She doesn’t have any chest to speak of, but that’s all good because she’s got one of those tight little white girl booties. Like she’s still 14 or something. I hate those big hips and booties all the guys on the team are always talking about. I try to tell them to quit listening to rap videos because that shit is disgusting, but they don’t listen.

I decide I’m going to go surprise Leigh and show her my skills on the dance floor then apologize about calling her stork legs. I close my eyes for a second and I see her face in my dream. She’s so hot with those face tats.

I grab her around the waist from behind and grind right up on her. We had to take all these dance classes at mascot college and I’ve got mad rhythm. I forgot that Leigh’s a jumpy bitch, though, and she turned around and pushed me and yelled, “Get off me, asshole,” before she even saw who I was.

“Damn baby, chill out. It’s just me,” I say.

“Oh God, Frank. You’re such a disgusting little freak. You know Alice is meeting us here later.” Then she and her girls walked off. I was going to hit her with a comeback about her small tits, but I guess Alice is probably right about bulimics and that body image thing. I’m firey. Small guys got to be. But I’m not cruel. Damn, I forgot Alice said she was coming to Luxx. Having a girlfriend suxxx, dude.

I don’t even have a chance to get off the dance floor when I hear this voice say, “You’d probably have more luck with the ladies if you wore your Boltman costume, Franky.” There’s always an asshole, right?

I turn around and who should it be? The Mother Fucking San Diego Chicken.

The Mother Fucking San Diego Chicken (photo: USA Today)

The Mother Fucking San Diego Chicken (photo: USA Today)

I mean, he’s not in his chicken suit, but it’s the guy. He used to be my hero. I idolized him. He was the greatest. The greatest of all time. Philly Phanatic, my ass. That’s just East Coast bias, for reals. But then I met the guy and he’s really the biggest jerk of all time. I’ve already had to deal with the bouncer, wait in that freaking line and get dissed by my girlfriend’s twig bitch friend who’s totally busted compared to in my dream. I’ve had it. It’s time to let the panther loose.

I say: “Don’t they have an age limit for getting into this bar?”

He says: “Don’t they have a height requirement?” Oh hells naw!

“Obviously not, Chicken, because I came in with Danny Woodhead tonight. Who’d you come with, you old ass has been?”

“Funny. I came in with Woodhead, too. His little girl Gia loves my act. He’s a pretty cool dude, that Danny Woodhead. I thought that was you at the entrance. I said, hey Danny, did you hear someone call your name? He said keep walking.”

Damn. It was already embarrassing to get caught like that, but getting betrayed by Danny? That hurt. Especially after what I did for the team.

“You know what pal, I don’t care how old you are. This ends tonight. This is my town. I’m going to mess you up right here, right now.” Seriously, though, I wouldn’t hurt an old guy like that. He knew what I was talking about. Mascot challenge, right there on the dance floor. I know he can’t do half of his moves anymore, but he’s too proud to admit it. Pathetic old man should have retired years ago, but he can’t handle giving up the fame so I’m going to have to take his heart. I’m in pretty dope shape so I can probably pull off all my moves until I’m 40, but I swear, when I can’t do back handsprings down the entire field anymore, I’m just going to have myself euthanized or something. What’s the point of living as an old washed up has been?

I yell at some dudes to clear some space and, let me tell you, the San Diego Chicken got served. Served. I did a backflip, straight into a front flip, trotted a couple circles doing fist pumps to get the crowd into it, then busted out some sick break dancing. Chicken has nada on me.

But before that jerk had a chance to try and come back at me, these three guys walked up behind him and were like, “Hey Pollo Loco, who is this douchebag? He giving you trouble?”

Then, I hear that big redneck’s voice right behind me. Phil says, “You mean you guys don’t know? This is Boltman. He won the game for us today.” It’s kind of hard to pick up sarcasm when the DJ is thumping bass like it’s going out of style, so for a second I actually thought he was defending me.

Then this smart ass anonymous nobody beside Phil yells, “More like Flying Faggot Man.” That big redneck Rivers and everybody starts laughing at me. God, I hate Phillip Rivers. You know what, I’ve had about enough of this crap. I bounce out of there, but don’t’ think I’m going to let that Chicken forget he got served so hard he didn’t even attempt a comeback.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of my shitty night. I get a cab and on the way home I check my voice mail. I’ve got one and I’m hoping maybe it’s my girlfriend because right about now I could use a little support, or some pussy, or something. I don’t know.

But it’s not her number. I click on the message.

“Hey Frank. It’s Sean O’Connor.” He’s director of stadium and game day operations. “Look, Frank, I’m sorry to have to do this, but that stunt you pulled today, tackling the Chiefs fan, we’re going to have to let you go. Spanos demanded it specifically. You’re fired, Frank. Between you and me, I think you’re going to be OK. Judges hate fans that run onto the field. But you violated security protocol, and Spanos says it’s your neck if the guy decides to sue. You can come clean out your stuff and turn in the Boltman costume between 9 and 10 tomorrow morning. Goodbye, Frank.”

Man, I couldn’t help it, I start crying in the cab. Crying like a little bitch. This is not how my day was supposed to end up. The cab driver asks me what’s wrong. I say, “I’m not Boltman anymore.”

Saying it hits me like a ton of freaking bricks. I’m not Boltman …

Advertisements

Happy Jack – Chapter 1

beach

Editor’s Note: This post is the first chapter of my recently completed novel manuscript “Happy Jack.” Enjoy!

Forward from the author, James “Fish” Fishman

The man who you will read about in this account is real. There are no shortage of hospital records, college transcripts and public tax files to prove he exists.

The psychic and emotional powers I will describe this man as possessing are, however, open to skepticism. But there is no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of the hundreds of eye-witnesses interviewed for the writing of this account, of his unique abilities. These witnesses testify with stunning consistency to the sensation of euphoria experienced in his presence, the lengths to which he went to please them, the feeling of addiction and withdrawal when he left their lives.

What does it mean to make everyone happy?

In my personal experience with Jack, his presence causes your pleasure synapses to fire like crazy. You feel high in a way that no drug compares, but you’re not aware that you’re being acted upon by an outside force. If that were the end of it for Jack, I wouldn’t have much of a story and Jack would probably be a much different person.

In describing his own perception of his “special trait,” Jack told me over beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans early one eventful summer morning that “I just understand what people need to be happy.” He couldn’t elaborate, and I can’t ask him to elaborate now because as you will see that morning was the last time I would ever be able to speak to Jack. From that conversation and more with the very few others who knew Jack’s secret, I gather he was often incapable of articulating why he performed a certain action to guide someone to happiness even they didn’t know how to acquire. His understanding is one of instinct. Some other force imbues him with the answer and guides him to provide it, all while Jack is left with only the space in the corners of his mind to contemplate why, chewing on the question as he would another of his favorite doughy beignets.

We do have some indication that Jack’s condition is not unprecedented. In many cultures, but most prominently passed down through the oral traditions of Haitian Voodoo practitioners (Vodouisants), folklore exists telling of children who bring happiness to all those who set eyes on them. The evidence suggests these children in Haiti were hunted down and taken from their homes by Voodoo priests and priestesses in order to please spirits. It seems they never lived long thereafter. But I find it fitting that the strongest history, anecdotal and superstitious as it may be, of people with this power comes from Voodoo folklore. Vodouisants, after all, have altered the course of Jack’s life even more than I have.

The end product, the exterior effects of his peculiarity and not the mysterious cause, was what first drew me to the man known as Happy Jack.

When I met him on Dauphin Island, that precious accumulation of Gulf sand dangling like a fragile golden chain below the slender neck of Alabama’s Mobile Bay, soon after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, those exterior results looked like the human-interest story I needed to get my producers off my back.

I could always see a story and built a career on jumping right in with no regard for consequences. For those of you familiar with my career as the CNN news caricature Fish Fishman, you may recall some of my more famous – or infamous – TV moments. If CNN needed to throw someone into the middle of a hurricane, I was their man. If CNN needed to put someone in a flak jacket and let bullets and missiles fly over their head in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Sudan or Detroit, I was their man.

More notoriously, if CNN needed to cover a snowstorm that wasn’t so snowy or a flood that didn’t really flood, I was the man willing to pile up snow in a field or stand in the middle of a drainage pond to give my cameraman the shot CNN needed to convince the viewing audience that we were delivering to them a major news event.

Of course, in the budding age of camera phones and social media, I was caught completely unaware when my “good shots” became viral internet sensations capturing the insanity (and inanity) of 24-hours news television. I used to blame CNN, the producers, but I was complicit undermining the serious journalism career I had hoped to create.

In that sense, Jack is my salvation. He was compelled to help me achieve my dream.

But, at first, I only saw the story. The story right in front of me. The homeless man risking his life to rescue people trapped in homes they thought would keep them safe before the hurricane reduced them to splinters.

I didn’t begin to sense the bigger story, Jack’s personal story, until much later. To be precise, in April 2010, when I met Happy Jack on Dauphin Island for the third time while on assignment to cover the BP oil spill. When he disappeared, and I felt the symptoms of withdrawal described again and again in the testimonials collected for this work, I began to grasp the nature of what I had encountered. A skepticism I didn’t know I was clinging to eventually melted away. I saw that Happy Jack possessed magic, or something – a power, a gift, a supernatural ability.

But I still didn’t fully understand what device drove this man until after I tracked him from Dauphin Island to a tiny apartment in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where I found him standing over a perverse sex addict chained down in his bed. That’s when he explained it to me, and she asked for help.

Along that tortuous path, he fulfilled his obligation to steer me to happiness. To help me get over my fear of starting over. Earnestly pursue becoming the serious journalist I so fiercely desired to be. Let go of Fish Fishman and just be James again.

I needed to be James to tell his story the right way.

It took many nights, and many long arguments with my editor, to best decide how – and in what order – to recount Jack’s life. In the end, we decided to unveil the secrets as they would have been revealed to Jack.

In this decision, I worry the following pages are somewhat not in keeping with the principles of good journalism. I sometimes withhold context the reader is owed to frame what was happening to Jack during certain periods of his life. I will break a best practice for any journalist: I will bury the lead. I won’t always attribute facts and opinions to their source. In some cases, this anonymity is used to protect my sources. Jack was involved with a countless number of individuals in New Orleans whom the word “shady” does not even begin to describe. But I have at times chosen to forego attribution because I do not want it to get in the way of the reader experiencing Jack’s predicament more intimately.

In exchange for forgiveness in these matters, I hope I can reward readers with a proper understanding of a person who secretly fought the biggest war imaginable. He could never win more than a few battles, and yet he chose to fight for us.

I did not write this account to convince you of the authenticity of a mystical being. I wrote it because Jack Hazelwood is an incredible man who has done more to help the depraved, forgotten, snakebit people of the Gulf Coast than anyone. He deserves to be mentioned with the greatest of our modern saints: Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Mandela.

His story deserves to be told.