Now, this is how you write.

But before I get to that – Let me just say how much SOS likes it when she is brought, through idle online pecking, to a piece of writing that she loves. The last piece of writing she liked as much as Drew Jubera’s essay for GQ on southern-football junior colleges was about trailer parks, and she lighted on that piece in the same way.

The specific trail that took me to Jubera’s piece involved UD‘s interest in Zeke Pike. Zeke Pike is a superfuckup who plays really good football. Quarterback even. Plus Zeke has a great football name.

Zeke has now flushed out of three RDQ (Rapidly Descending Quality) schools onaccounta the fuckupery (do you really, at this point, need details?) — Auburn, Louisville, and Morgan State. UD was going to write a post speculating about the fourth school Zeke will attend (possible post titles: SNEAK PEAK, ZEKE. IS PIKE PAST PEAK?) (Pike’s Peak: Get it?), but she was having trouble coming up with the next RDQ school…

Then she read this comment on the article about him to which she linked up there.

They are desperate for a QB in East Mississippi.

So off she Googled to East Mississippi Community College, star of Jubera’s GQ piece. SOS offers some excerpts. Watch carefully. The guy knows how to write.

First paragraph – Setting the scene.

The landscape is drunk Faulkner: small and spooky and piss-poor. Piney woods run deep enough to hide whatever you don’t want found. What passes for the old downtown is one side of one block. Five brick buildings still stand; another four are gone, just disappeared, as if by cremation — nothing left but rubble and little piles of red dust. Drive by most days and the only open business is a working Coke machine on the sidewalk.

With the next excerpt, you note that one of the things Jubera’s got going is a wonderful back and forth between highfalutin (Faulkner) and lowfalutin (piss-poor). See how he continues the trick.

To local existentialists, it makes perfect sense. “There’s a lot to offer in Scooba, Mississippi. Want to know what it is?” Nick Clark, a white-haired former Lion who works in the school’s development office, asks me from across his desk.

I allow that I am totally stumped.

“There are no distractions!”

Existentialists. We’re going to keep this going, this glorious juxtaposition – not just because it’s funny and rich, suggesting at once the reality of the place, and the consciousness ol’ Jubera (and his readers) are bringing with them when they visit Scooba, but because many of the people Jubera talks to are self-conscious at quite a high level about their existence.

[The school’s] roster does tend to over-represent the discarded and dispossessed: lawbreakers, rule-benders, dropouts, dipshits, potheads, and assorted other screwups — almost all of whom can flat-out ball. Coaches recruit kids from houses without food, without parents, without floors. One coach sat across from a mother who stared back at him with four eyes. “She had a pair of eyeballs tattooed right over her titties,” he told me. “It gets surreal sometimes.”

Noticing some similarities to the article on trailer parks UD also loved? And notice too how the high/low thing keeps working: dipshits/surrealism.

Now to meet the coach:

The glassy eyes of an eight-point buck stare me down from a back wall as Buddy greets me from a big padded chair behind his big wooden desk. Buddy is big, too: A former center, he’s short and wide and rounded off at the edges. One of his chins sprouts a white goatee.

Buddy spits Red Man tobacco into a Diet Coke bottle. Originally from Alabama, he’s still Bama enough to name his yellow Lab Bama. Now 49, Buddy has said he got into coaching because he wasn’t smart enough to do anything else. He’d really like you to believe that. Tucked between the sports books on his shelves: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

A typical Buddy takeaway: “As a rule of thumb, big fish eat little fish.”

… “I try to be self-actualized enough,” [Buddy later] says, “to realize I’m an asshole.”

Can Jubera sketch a character in six sentences? Are you fucking kidding me? And another existentialist/surrealist! (Would have been even better if the book were Trout Fishing in America. Higher-level surrealism-consciousness.)

And again: Lyrical plus sordid:

Later that evening, in heavy air that feels more like bathwater, [the] players jog onto a practice field they share with the adjoining agricultural high school. The cornfield across the road and the little Baptist church beside it turn gold, then pink, then indigo in the sun’s lowering light.

It’s still football: Coaches bark insults, players run into one another, fights threaten to break out. A fat kid bends over after running gassers and pukes.

Gassers and pukes. The sun’s lowering light. Can you get enough of this stuff? SOS can’t get enough of this stuff.

*************************

Update: The notorious woman-beater De’Andre Johnson has “made his way to East Mississippi Community College.

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7 Responses to “Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says:”

  1. charlie Says:

    That line about the tattoos, pitch perfect. I taught, for awhile, at one of the poorer high schools in Oregon. Some years we had an over 40% drop out rate, several of my students recently released from kid’s prison. Not kid’s jail, prison, I was made to understand. Parent teacher meetings were interesting in numerous ways, one of which involved tats adorning bare arms, legs, necks, and faces. Nothing wrong with any of that, but one time a mom came, dressed in a halter top, with a winged penis above a breast. Gotta tell you, real challenge not staring and making sure what you were seeing….

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    charlie: LOL.

  3. Dr_Doctorstein Says:

    I agree re Trout Fishing in America, if only because “I try to be self-actualized enough to realize I’m an asshole” sounds so much like something Brautigan himself might have said.

    FWIW, I always thought any of these would be a great name for a band:

    The Kool-Aid Winos
    The Cleveland Wrecking Yard
    The Brautigans

  4. Jack/OH Says:

    Dr_Doctorstein: We have a Frank Crash Auto Wrecking near me. His real name.

    BTW-Anyone know whether tats have moved upmarket? Like rap, contemporary tats have had a longevity I wouldn’t have guessed at.

  5. MikeM Says:

    “Now, this is how you write.” So true.

    That is an amazing essay. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Dom Says:

    The end of that “…gassers and pukes” sentence isn’t a parallel construction. The fat kid has been running “gassers,” effectively sequential 100- or 200-meter sprints, usually intended to burn fat. Now he suffers from exercise-induced nausea, a sign of negligent coaching.

  7. Jack/OH Says:

    Columnist Michael Smerconish reports that recently canned Trump advisor Roger Stone sports a Nixon tat on his back in a piece in my paper today.

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