(continued from here)
Here is Gordy Pladson with a big wad of tobacco in his right cheek. The wad may be contributing to his genial mouth-breather facial expression, which seems to combine with the slightly capitulatory set of his shoulders and the somehow flaccid, Edselesque sound of the words “Gordy Pladson” to create a portrait of a guy born to placidly groove fat pitches and surrender leads.
All I can tell you besides that about Gordy Pladson is that he was Canadian. The first Canadian I met was at the boarding school I started telling you about in conjunction with Bob Bailor. It was this kid in my dorm who told everyone his name was Jason but whose real name, it turned out, was Dirk. Since he’d hidden the real name, it immediately became a means of derision. Hey, Dirk. What’s up, Dirk. His Canadianness was also fair game. I wish I could say that since I was primarily an awkward failure at that school that I refrained from making fun of other people’s shortcomings and weak spots but in fact it seems the opposite was true. There was a tradition in my dorm, Wilson Hall, of giving good-natured gag gifts to one another at a ceremony near Christmas. The dorm parents, the Schwingles, talked glowingly of past examples of gifts that perfectly fit this bill, such as when the proud Wilson Hallite Buster Olney presented Saul Bellow’s son, Dan, with a gift of an elaborate mock “Wide World of Sports” recap, complete with stirring music, simulated crowd noises, and apoplectic fake broadcasters (Buster providing the screams of both the play-by-play announcer and color commentator), of the eccentric Dan’s spastic performance at the start of the annual school-wide distance run known as the Pie Race. Sweet gentle teasing from a future nationally known baseball columnist to the son of a world famous author. Perfect. But though this gift only predated my arrival at the school by three years, it seemed to have come from a different time when Wilson Hall was full of famous offspring and bright young men with excellent posture and clear-eyed visions of useful, exciting futures. By contrast, the dorm in my senior year primarily became a place where drug busts occurred. Anyway, one year for the Christmas gift exchange I drew Jason-Dirk and responded by creating a mean-spirited, humorless “Dumb Canadian” joke book, which I read aloud in front of everybody while Jason-Dirk’s stiff grin gradually eroded from interior structural damage.
But we were friends, Jason-Dirk and I. I mean, I wasn’t always an asshole. We talked, laughed together. I don’t know, I guess there was a compulsion at that place to look for weakness and seize on it. It was especially good if the mockery could be done anonymously. There was this one prank invented by two cooler kids in our dorm that my friend Bill and I took over when one of them dropped out of school and the other lost interest. It involved kneeling by the window of our dorm room and waiting for a girl from the neighboring dorm to walk by below. We’d shout at them–“Hey! Hey!!!”–and then as they started to look up, a half-smile of expectation on their face, we’d dive down out of sight and unpause the boombox that we’d set up in the window and Elvis Presley would scream down “You ain’t nuthin’ but a hound dog!” Jesus Christ, imagine if your daughter had to hear something like that while crossing that intimidating campus? But we screamed with laughter, spasming on the floor like boated fish. Jason-Dirk was a big fan of this prank, I remember.
As it turned out, both Jason-Dirk and one of the hound-dog girls–by coincidence, she actually was sort of pooch-faced–were members of what they called the “judicial” that heard my case after I, while on probation for being plastered on rum at a dance, got caught smoking bong hits in my dorm room. It was up to the judicial to decide if I deserved to stick around a few more weeks until graduation. I’d actually asked Jason-Dirk to be my character witness, and he’d declined, saying he could help more “on the inside,” but during the judicial he didn’t say a word and didn’t ever even look me in the eye. Most of the proceeding was comprised of one of the judicial’s faculty members, a red-faced math teacher who was sitting directly to my right, angrily berating me for being a pathetic fuckup, an embarrassment to the school.
“My friends like me,” I replied at one point, lamely, as if my relationship with the small group of guys I smoked pot with was going to contribute to the greater glory of the school. I think I also noted that I briefly had a radio show on the campus station.