I open my eyes and they sting like they’ve been soaking in bleach all night.
My head pounds from the bridge of my nose to the back of my skull.
The inside of my mouth is an arid desert full of dirt, gravel and sand and every bone in my body feels like it’s being crushed in a car compactor.
Welcome to the hangover.
During the past two months I’d built up such a tolerance to alcohol that it’s been taking more and more of it to numb the pain which means the next days are becoming more and more painful.
I get out of bed, get in the shower, get out and get dressed. I have a beer, a shot and a Smirnoff smoothie to combat the effects of today’s hangover while also planting the seed for tomorrows.
I trudge to my car, trudge through traffic then trudge from the parking lot to the school dragging my kit behind me and joining a herd of other black-clad Future Professionals doing the same.
To the rest of the world we must look like some Emo-nomadic tribe on the move and searching for the next My Chemical Romance show-asis.
I walk into school and it’s back to its normal pulsating, gyrating, spirited self.
Beyoncé and all her Single Ladies blare over the sound system as 200+ Future Professionals set-up their stations on The Floor then crowd their way into the Theory Room while the smell of pancakes floats throughout the air.
I go into the Core Room, everyone else has arrived, parked their kits against the wall and sat their asses down.
Bode sits at a table and motions me over. I push my kit in with the others then take the seat next to him as he hands me a Starbucks.
“Wasn’t sure how you like your coffee so I kept it black.”
“I like it free, thanks.” I tell him. “And is it just me or do you smell pancakes?”
“I do, I think it’s coming from the Theory Room.”
“I wonder why.”
A trio of attractive women burst into the room and circle around us.
“Hi! I’m Jackie.”
“I’m Jimbo!” she yells, waving to them from the table next to us.
“Oh-kay.” Jackie tells her with a WTF look then turns back and smiles at Bode.
“Fuckin’ straights.” Jimbo growls.
“We heard the new Core had two boys so we wanted to introduce ourselves.” Jackie continues.
“I’m Bode and this is Stuke.” he says, pulling me in as I take a sip of my coffee and spill it down my shirt and into my pants.
A confused look flashes across Jackie’s face.
“Wait, are you two…together?”
“Together?” Bode asks surprised. “Because I have my arm around him?”
“I don’t know, maybe. Just thought I’d check. It is the hair industry you know.” she says.
“No, we’re just buds.” he says as if it’s a no-brainer.
“Whew!” she says relieved. “But if you guys were gay that’s cool too cuz I’m all about the rainbow…”
“Wanna taste my rainbow of flavors?” Jimbo says in a low, predatory voice. Jackie ignores the beast and goes on talking to Bode.
“I just thought, you know, if you two were together then you were probably the cute, sweet one and Stuke was the angry, bitchy one.”
“Now that’s something I can’t hear enough of.” I tell her.
“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, well…you look mean and stuff.”
“It’s a side-effect of this drug I’ve been on.”
“It’s a hell of a drug.” Bode adds, making the trio giggle.
“Oh my god, will someone please staple my ears shut?” Jimbo moans.
“Ladies.” Charlie says to Jackie and co. as she saunters in. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the Theory Room?”
“Yes.” Jackie says annoyed. “We just wanted to meet the new guys before everyone else did.”
“How hospitable.” Charlie says without her usual smile.
“See ya guys at the meet-n-greet.” Jackie says with a wink as she and her crew scanter off.
“Meet-n-greet?” I ask Charlie with moderate to severe concern.
She looks at me like she’s about to break some bad news but try to spin it as good.
“Yeah it’s this little tradition we have every time a new Core starts.”
“And what does this “tradition” entail?” I ask, officially scared shitless now.
“Good morning, everyone!” Charlie says, addressing the class instead of my question. “How are you all doin’?”
She gets a few nods, a few half-hearted responses.
“Great! I wanted to let you know that before we get started today we have a little surprise for you.”
Everyone smiles while Bode and I remain suspicious. I have a feeling this is less of a “You won a new car” surprise and more of a “You have herpes” surprise.
I don’t like this.” I tell Bode.
“Me either.” he says. “Somethin’s rotten in Denmark*.”
Charlie goes on with her surprise spiel…
“So every time a new Core class starts up we do a meet-n-greet on stage in the Theory Room. It’s a chance for you to introduce yourselves to the rest of the school, plus, we serve coffee and pancakes!”
All those smiles morph into looks of horror as the class realizes the cruel nature of this ‘surprise’.
Introduce ourselves to 200+ strangers? On stage? Are you fucking mad, Charles?
“I promise it’s not that bad.” she says knowing full well no one is gonna believe that line of horseshit.
“I can’t do this.” Jimbo says, fanning her face with her hands. “I have social anxiety and I could throw-up, pass-out or soil myself.”
“You’re gonna be fine, Jimbo. Every Core does it and they survive.”
“If I wanted to survive I’d be on Survivor!” Jimbo screams, making her hysteria contagious.
“I can’t do it either.” Tracie the sad giraffe whines. “I have a fear of public speaking, my throat swells up and I’ll suffocate!” she says as her eyes fill up with tears then cascade down her long face.
“Guys, guys, guys.” Charlie says, attempting to regain control. “You’re in the people business and in your profession you’ll be meeting new people every day and you’ll have to talk to them.”
“Yeah but they’ll be paying us to do it in money not pancakes!” another girl blurts out, bringing the panic in the room to a fever pitch.
“People, it’s really not that-“
“We’re ready for you, Charlie.” a random Learning Leader says as he pops his head into the classroom.
“Thanks.” she tells him, sounding like a worn out mother of 12.
“Now let’s put on our big kid pants and make some magic.” she says, motioning for us to stand up.
“The only magic I’m making is a mess in my pants.” Jimbo says as we follow Charlie out of the room.
Charlie leads us to a side door of the Theory Room and opens it…
The room is packed in black while The Black Eyed Peas “Imma Be” pumps through the speakers and the frenetic murmur of a hundred different conversations going on at once puts a buzz in the air.
On stage sits a long table and 12 empty chairs.
“Okay, just walk out there and have a seat.” Charlie directs us.
We walk into the room and onto the stage as applause erupts like we’re a much-loved sports team sitting down for a press conference before the big game.
I take a seat next to Bode and look out into an ocean of black and 400+ eyeballs staring back at me. Up against a side wall is the pancake buffet where a line of Future Professionals wait to be served dessert for breakfast.
Once we’re seated and the music dies down a flamboyant, charismatic Asian kid with shaved sides, blonde hair and wearing all black strolls out with a mic in his hand.
“Gooooooood morning, Paul Mitchell! How is everyone today?” he says with the charm of a beloved talk-show host.
Everyone screams and loses their collective shit which tells me two things right away:
- People love this student.
- Whatever’s about to happen will come at the cost of our dignity.
“Now all you old hags know me but for you Core Babies my name is Marshall and I’m the host of the coast, the master of ceremonies and the sweet, sugary syrup to your pancakes…” he says, running his hand from chest to crotch, thrusting his hips and driving the crowd in-fucking-sane.
“And Babies…I’m about to make it real sticky for you up on this stage!” he says to deafening, rabid cheers.
This wasn’t a meet-n-greet.
This was an ambush.
Charlie had sold us out on the cheap for some sort of twisted, initiation based hazing that involved 12 unsuspecting dupes and a mob of ravenous Future Professionals hopped up on sugar, caffeine and the wanton lust for public humiliation.
This was gonna hurt and it was gonna hurt bad.
But hey, at least there were fucking pancakes…
*While the phrase Something is rotten in the state of Denmark first appeared 500 years ago in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ as a term to describe a situation in which something was wrong, it’s best known today as being used twice throughout the 1993 neo-noir film ‘True Romance’.
The film was written by a then unknown movie nerd named Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott who knew how to capture and stylize action, violence and adrenaline because he was one hardcore motherfucker.
19 years later, staying true to his hardcore ethos, Scott would throw himself from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in L.A. after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, choosing to end his life on his own terms rather than that of the disease’s.
The film boasted a goldmine of who’s who at that time in cinematic history due in large part to the sheer awesomeness of the story Tarantino wove and the larger than life characters he created.
It stared a relevant Christian Slater, a young and sexy Patricia Arquette, an out of focus Val Kilmer an unknown Michael Rapaport, an always stoned Brad Pitt, an unrecognizable Gary Oldman, a vicious Christopher Walken, a sadistic James Gandolfini, a gruff Dennis Hopper and a brief appearance by Samuel L. Jackson who talked about eating “the pussy, the ass…all of it.” right before his sternum was unexpectedly blown out with a 12-guage shotgun.
In addition to the well-known line something’s rotten in Denmark the movie also had another line immortally tattooed into pop-culture lore:
You’re so cool
If you’re a fan of the movie then reading that line right now just made your eyes juice a little and your heart flutter.
If you haven’t seen the movie I implore you to do so as it’s a timeless film with superb acting, captivating storytelling and tons of cocaine raining down on our heroes in the 3rd Act.