Sunday, September 09, 2007

O Wallace where art thou?

I had a really random dream last night. All these totally random guys from high school were in it. Not the guys I hung out with. Totally Random Guys. Andy Peggs was there. Chris Huey, too. And Matt Wallace. Oh, Matt Wallace! He was at the police station with his sister, turning himself in with the comment "It's impossible to live as an international traveler on only $15 a day!" by means of an explanation. What this nonsensical observation has to do with the authorities is unclear to me. But since it wasn't the real Matt Wallace, but rather my dream-Matt Wallace who said it, I suppose I can't really blame him.

For those of you who don't know, Matt Wallace was what passed, I suppose, for a John Tucker at my high school. He slept with a fair number of the hot girls at my school, and...well, I guess that was pretty much his only accomplishment. But, particularly in high school, it's still a pretty juicy one. I know girls who still Google-stalk him.

But Matt Wallace is more important to me personally because he was the first person I can remember encountering who was arrogantly confident in a conversation in which he was also completely wrong. Not like, I disagreed with his conclusion. COMPLETELY WRONG. On a basic, factual level. You know the kind of person I'm talking about. These days we call them "Republicans." Someone who is talking and you know they're wrong, but they say it with such bravado and so unyieldingly that you end up questioning your own knowledge, thinking they just might be right. It's what Kafka refers to as "confidence based solely on ignorance." Don't get me wrong, Matt Wallace was by-and-large a good guy. But there are two conversations I had with him in this manner that still stick with me today, both of which occurred in 8th grade. I summarize them below for your pleasure:

1. Words to the Michigan fight song. Everybody knows the Michigan fight song. Hail to the victors valiant (not so victorious anymore, tho), Hail to the conquering heroes, etc etc. Here's what you may not know: the fight song has two endings. One is Hail to Michigan, the Leaders and the Best. The other is Hail to Michigan, the Champions of the West. Certainly if your name is Matt Wallace and you are in 8th grade, you don't know that. Trust me. I know from experience.

I can remember vividly in Mrs. Gleason's science class trying to explain to Matt that, yes it didn't make any sense for a Midwest school to praise itself as the champion of the west, but yes, those were in fact the lyrics. I should know; I'd just come from attending a football game that weekend. But he would not be deterred in either his disbelief of my assertion or his mockery of me for promoting such seeming stupidity. Looking back on it, it was really pretty sad for him that a guy who'd lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 13 years didn't know the words to the Michigan fight song. But it's probably sadder for me that I can actually remember this conversation.

2. The Wallaroo. Before I moved to Ann Arbor I spent part of the summer visiting my uncle in Seattle. While there we attended the Seattle Zoo, where among the many menageries that astounded us there was that featuring the wallaroo, a cousin of both the kangaroo and the wallabie. Flash-forward to 8th grade:

Scene: The 8th-grade common area at Greenhills School.

ME: Matt, I love your name. It reminds me of the wallaroo.
MATT: You mean the wallabie?
ME: No, the wallaroo.
MATT: There's no such thing. You made that up.
ME: Um, no I didn't. It's like a small kangaroo.
MATT: No, that's the wallabie.
ME: No, yes, there is the wallabie, but also the wallaroo.
MATT: No.
ME: I'm telling you, I saw one at the zoo over summer break.
MATT: I will contract genital herpes in five years.

Okay, that last part didn't happen. But trust me, the wallaroo is real. It's not a ThunderCat; it's not some fucking mythological beast. It's real! Unfortunately, this was back in the days before Wikipedia, so I couldn't just wiki it up and prove it to him.

Anyway, I didn't know it at the time, but this experience would be oft-repeated in my adult life. The actors would change, the subjects vary, but the underlying theme would remain eternal: confidence based on ignorance. From the validity of Saddam Hussein's connection with 9/11 to the existence (or lack thereof) of valet parking at The Movable Feast, I have and will forever be hounded by people who don't know what they're talking about, but man do they do it with gusto. But Matt Wallace was my first. You always remember your first.

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