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My Most Memorable Half-Assed Ideas

I've made a living off of my ideas for the last ten years or so, either as an investigator with a civic watchdog group, a magazine legman or a researcher with a documentary television company. Professionally, I am just amazed sometimes that I earn a buck on the dumb shit that comes out of the recesses of my juvenile brain.

My personal life is a different story though. There have been some real stinker ideas over the years. The ideas I am talking about here aren't really life changing - just kind of stupid and a little lame.

I don't mean the big ones - dropping out of high school, leaving Chicago, not paying taxes in the 90s. I am talking about the mostly harmless, silly ideas that made me look stupid or a little thoughtless. (When I told my wife that I was writing this list, she said, "Oh boy, that's going to be a long one.")

Most of the bad ideas from my past stem from rushing headlong into some half-heard, misunderstood concept that I didn't bother thinking through: someone told me something outlandish, I believed it and raced to get involved with no thought to the consequences.

A lot of these involve my childhood best friend. We were experts at goading each other out of thinking something all the way through. You know how you have a small inner voice of reason that tells you why you shouldn't do something? Well, we were just the opposite.

Here, then, are my most memorable half-assed ideas:

1. X-ing.

R and I went through a six-month rave party phase in 1995. We hatched a plan to manufacture and sell herbal ecstasy to pay for our rave tickets since neither one of us had jobs. But like most things we did back then, it was only partially thought out, grossly grandiose and poorly executed.

We found a health food store that sold empty capsules and various herbal powders to mix in. Problem was, we had absolutely no idea what went into herbal ecstasy and we were too lazy to look it up (this was pre-Internet). I can't for the life of me remember what the hell we put in them but I do know that the main ingredient was cayenne pepper powder because R believed that the capsaicin would instantly expand the users blood vessels and create euphoric rush.

We sold about a dozen pills for $3 each at a rave in Sheboygan before we made an interesting discovery: What cayenne pepper powder herbal ecstasy pills does not do is get anyone high, or even remotely buzzed. About the only thing they actually do is burn a searing, blistering hole through the intestinal lining of anyone who takes them. We had to give instant rebates to anyone who bought a pill from us and make a mad dash back to Kenosha before a raver decided to kick our asses.

2. Merchant Marines.

My stepmother convinced me that the best career choice for a dead-end kid like me was to join the Merchant Marines. She told me that they would take anyone, no questions asked, and that the pay was an unfathomable $50,000 a year. R and I decided that the seaman's life was for us, mostly because we wanted $50,000. We also decided that it was best if we ate a bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms before we signed our lives away to the Man.

Only problem was, it didn't occur to us until after we had eaten the 'shrooms that we had no idea where the Merchant Marine recruiting station was located. We knew where the Coast Guard recruiting office was and figured that they could point us to the Merchant Marines. It also occurred to us, on our way to the Coast Guard recruiting station, that R was Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in a previous life and that I was the reincarnation of infamous Chicago gangster, Al Capone.

When we got to the Coast Guard recruiting station, we asked the receptionist if she was ready to sign up "motherfuckin' Goebbels and Capone for the motherfuckin' boats."

She was not.

We never made it into any branch of the service, but from that day forward, our nicknames for each other were "Goebbels and Capone."

3. Money For Nothing.

R and I always tried to find ways to game the system. We'd get stoned and come up with hundreds of get-rich schemes, none of which we ever acted on. But once, we hit on a plan so genius that there was no way that it could fail, and we actually put it into motion.

The idea went like this: We would take an ad out in the back of a magazine advertising prayers for sale from the Church of Equal People United (that would be us). If you sent in $1 to the address we provided, EPU would say ten prayers for peace in your name. It was a can't-miss - who wouldn't want peace for just a dollar? Hundreds of thousands of people, we figured.

We borrowed $75 from R's mom to pay for the ad and we took it out. (For the absolute fucking life of me, I cannot remember which magazine it was; I do know we used to respond to the gay pen-pal ads with our friends names and addresses.) Customers were directed in the ad to a PO box we had already set up from a concert promotion business that never got beyond renting a PO box. We waited for the cash to come rolling in.

The ad ran for a week and we didn't get a single response; not one dollar.

4. The Skullet.

For a dirthead, metal freak like me, not being able to grow my hair long is the most frustrating part of my life. My hair certainly grows; like a knotted, thick mat of coarse half-curly, half-wavy, half-Bozo 'fro. If I let it grow more than two or three inches it turns into Neanderthal-like crust of knots, poofs and thick dandruff.

I fixed that problem in the mid-nineties with a terrible idea: the rat-tail skullet. I shaved my head short but let one rat-tail strand grow - and mat up - to the middle of my back. I really thought chicks dug it because it made me look gangster but my friend Jennifer insisted on shaving it off every time she saw me. I finally let her do it after about six months of badgering.

That choice is going on the "best decisions I've ever made" list.

5. Like a Bouncing Ball.

I never developed much financial acumen as a kid. Money management was a big deal to my parents, so as a way of proving how much I never gave a fuck, I did the opposite of whatever they wanted. I was a stubborn kid so there wasn't much that they could do to teach me about money, banking or anything else for that matter.

So I was totally unprepared when my friend JJ suggested that I cash a $1,500 check for him so that he could have the money to move to Atlanta. He explained to me that the check was bad; told me right to my stupid face that the check would bounce. Don't worry though, he said, they'll just take the money out of my account, they can't do anything to you. I'll even give you a $100 of it for helping me out; it'll be like free money for you.

So I walked up to the window at my bank, cashed JJ's check on my account, and turned around and handed him the $1,500 cash. JJ promptly asked me to help him load his moving truck, said he'd leave my $100 with his girlfriend and that I could pick it up when she got home (told you I wasn't thinking things through back then) and drove to Atlanta, never to be seen again.

Guess what I learned at 19-years-old? Banks take the money out of your account if you cash a bad check, no matter who wrote it. Bet you knew that when you had your first bank account. I was in overdraft on that account for three months before I was able to pay it all back. I sure showed my parents that they weren't going to teach me a damned thing.

6. Press Rewind.

I was living with a friend of mine in Kenosha for free. He was letting me stay on a foldout bed in the living room and never asked for a cent in rent. He was obsessed with movies, Blade Runner in particular, but his VCR had crapped out. I was working at a factory at the time and making pretty good money so I decided I would buy him a VCR for letting me stay with him.

I drove to K-Mart one night with $100 in my pocket for the VCR. As I got out of the car, a guy came running up to me, sweaty and nervous. "Hey man, wanna buy a VCR?" he said. "I just stole it and I'll sell it to you for fifty bucks."

He held the VCR in his hands. It had been taken out of the box and wrapped in cellophane. I could see the owners manual through the wrapping and it looked like a model I was looking at anyways. "Yeah, sure. I'll take it." "We gotta hurry because I think the police are on the way." He grabbed the money out of my hand as soon as I got it out of my pocket, shoved the package into my arms and dove into an idling car parked a couple of spaces over.

I drove back to the apartment really full of myself. I had gotten a brand new $100 VCR for only $50. The roommate wasn't going to believe that. I carried the VCR into the apartment and made a really big deal out of giving it to him. But as he started unwrapping it, my stomach sank.

In the harsh light of the apartment, I realized that what I thought was the owners manual was actually a cut-out of a newspaper ad for the VCR I wanted. I also noticed that the cellophane wrapping was actually Saran Wrap; by the time T had unwrapped it all the way, he discovered what I already knew: I got sold an old junk stereo receiver wrapped up to look like a VCR. The sweaty guy in the parking lot had inexplicably ripped me off. And he seemed so cool.

The roommate thought that was the funniest fucking thing ever; for some reason the guy had cut off the power cord so I couldn't even use the receiver.

7. Neck Beard.

I can't grow facial hair above my jaw line. It's another curse from the dirthead Gods. But that didn't stop me from growing a nasty, ungroomed, pubic-like neckbeard to hide two of the four chins I was packing in the early '90s. Next to the dreadlocks I tried to grow in high school, the neckbeard is the nastiest thing I've done above my shoulders.

8. Angry Rant No. 1.

I still don't know why I thought this was a good idea: I posted an angry and self-pitying rant about the intentions of women and the nature of relationships on the "about me" section of my Yahoo Personals profile.

I got one response to my ad; a woman said I should get help and to please not respond to her.

9. Angry Rant No. 2.

I was the editor-in-chief of my junior high school newspaper when the adviser left me in charge of what went into the paper while she was out on medical leave.

As soon as she left, I published an anti-school administration diatribe because they wouldn't play any heavy metal at the school dances. In it, I may have called the dean an "Eichmann" and the adviser a "Goebbels"; if memory serves, there may have also been the suggestion that the heavy metal kids would burn the school down if we didn't get some Metallica at the next dance.

I was instantly fired and indefinitely banned from writing for any school publication. That ban carried over to high school for a while, too.

I probably set my journalism career back 15 years in that one half-assed "editorial."

10. The Walls Are Closing In

R inherited a house in Kenosha and invited me to come live with him. I hadn't lived in a house since I had left my parent's home; it was all apartment complexes and couches up to that point. I was never able to make any changes or add any flourishes to the places I had lived before R's. This was my big chance to finally get the room that really reflected who I was and what I was about.

So I did what any depressed, underachieving person should do: I painted the walls and ceiling pitch black (there may have been some dark blue in there too but the light destroying effect was the same.) The black walls and black ceiling turned a normal-sized room into a 3 X 3, monastic depression chamber that threatened to close in around me and suck me in whole. I had to keep the door closed at all times because of a cat allergy; the effect was to completely seal me into narrow, deep, black pit.

I got soooooo depressed in that room that I wouldn't get out of bed for days at a time. It didn't help that I was on a big Nine Inch Nails kick either.


Comments welcome.


Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That
* Lists I'll Never Write
* Things I Miss About My Imprisoned Best Friend
* Things I Miss About Being Single
* Things I Love About Being Married
* Why Chuck D Should Have Been Our First Black President
* Picture This
* My Suggestions For Ways To Further Desecrate Wrigley Field
* Signs I Am Getting Older

* Fan Note: Me & Metallica


Posted on June 9, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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