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An Attempt to Be More Interesting

by Charles Rempel

It started with a phone call and an email.

The phone call was to a friend of mine from high school. She asked me how I was, and I answered, "Fine." Then she asked me what's going on, and I said, "Nothing." I chuckled. I chuckled the chuckle I've chuckled for twelve years over those two simple words I've told my friend every time she calls me. Yet this time, I noticed how those words rang true. I was fine, and I had nothing going on. This didn't bother me, though, because it was my little joke and I loved it.

The email is what really opened my eyes. I am on the Helmet list, not for fans of the band, mind you, but a rag-tag collection of miscreants and deviants with which I had the good fortune to attend university. What should scare you about the Helmet List is that its inhabitants live among you. For example, readers in the Roanoke, Virginia, area should beware of a handsome man named Neil. He's dangerous, especially with the hearts of the ladies.

I'm being to digress so let me get back to my point, if in fact I do have one. There was a string of emails concerning the Navy flight crew that was being held in China. I read them all, but did not feel inclined to throw in two or three cents into the fray, because my insight to the situation could be found in the most cursory glances at MSNBC and highlights of Red Sox games. In short, I knew there was a plane in China, and that the U.S. Government didn't want it there. Through the dozens of emails I received on the subject, I came to two realizations. The first realization was that I was pretty uninteresting; I came to this conclusion when I noticed that I had nothing to say on the subject and I noticed that my friends Ian (who lives in Beijing) and Chris (who visits China yearly) and Mike (who has a technical background and experience in the armed forces) and Scot (who is the Naval flight surgeon for the very crew being held in China) and Stirling (who served as the master of ceremonies, our own private Oprah to keep questioning and needling until all the facts were on the table) did, and I really had nothing exciting going on that would excuse me from not knowing about a world event like this. The second realization was that I was even less interesting than I was in the first realization, because I realized I didn't even notice the part in the first realization about my friends' connections with the China Incident; that came from an email by my friend Gus.

I looked at the Helmet List emails and thought, "I've fallen into uninteresting, and I can't get up." And with that decade-old reference, I fell even further.

I hadn't always been uninteresting. I have my share of grand stories, usually told when I'm at a party and had a little too much to drink and always about when I had been at a party and had way too much to drink. Sometimes I tell stories about my days on the Duke lacrosse teams, but that's only when I feel like lying to people. But when it comes to telling stories, interesting stories, about my life in the past four years, I have nothing. Stories about comedy-writing shut-ins aren't high on the list of conversation starters, or so the people at the grocery store keep telling me.

So, in the spirit of leaving my pale current lifestyle behind and becoming the charming, urbane "life of the party" (like the movie characters of Hugh Grant, except without that fake British accent of his), I will attempt to be more interesting. This attempt with be a two-pronged attack: the first, which I will describe today, will be the creation of a veneer of interest that will make my life and stories and me in general seem some exciting and vivacious; the second, to be described at a later date, will be the transformation, through internal and external forces, to actually become the interesting man the veneer claims me to be.

7 Steps to Making My Veneer of Interest

1. Instead of using my real name, I will now sign letters, emails, web pieces, etc. with a two-word phrase describing what was written or my physical or emotional state while writing it. I feel this gives my written works a certain "pizZAZZ!" that it normally doesn't have. For instance, had I written this whole piece after, and not during, the creation of my veneer of interest, then this piece would have been authored by "Interest Accruing" or "Bea Moore-Interesting" or "Silky Smooth." I'm sure this would be of interest to the readers; wouldn't you enjoy an email from someone called "Curiously Stenchy?" I know you would if the alternative is a live conversation.

2. I will dress more provocatively. Now when I say more provocatively, I'm not talking "drag queen goes to the junior prom," but something more than the T-shirt and shorts that has been the staple of my wardrobe since 1991. Just like a sizzling serving of fajitas (note to Done: I have found out today that "fajitas" is actually pronounced fah-HEE-tas... just wanted to share that), my clothes need a dash of spice to be hot. I need something that stands out, like Michael Jackson's glove or Ken Griffey Jr.'s glove or even O.J. Simpson's glove. With that in mind, I'm going to start wearing a tri-cornered hat, like the fathers of our country.

3. I need some excess in my life. Here are the people who have the best party stories: speeders and boozers and druggies and sex perverts. I need to pick a vice and run it into the ground. Does bee-keeping count? I'm thinking about bee-keeping.

4. I will quote the written word more and movies less. It has only taken me thirty years to figure this out, but I see now that the people quoting John Updike novels at parties are seen as heroes of culture, while we movie quoters are told to light our farts out on the patio (hypothetically speaking, of course). So, for example, I will no longer quote the movie "Caddyshack," but instead I'll quote the screenplay by Brian Doyle-Murray & Harold Ramis & Douglas Kennedy.

5. I need to go outside more. My friend Neil (you may remember him from paragraph 3 as the handsome ladykiller) has a story that starts, "It was a beautiful African night and the Masai were dancing in celebration of my birthday." I have a story that starts, "I turned on the TV to watch 'Jenny Jones' and instead I saw the Emergency Broadcasting System test." So, I must leave the nine city-block area of my neighborhood and see what else is out in the world. Heck, even the story that starts "So I'm drinking a Diet Pepsi in Encino" is more interesting than what I got now.

6. I should carry $16 at all times. This is self-explanatory.

7. I need to get a signature something. George Burns had his cigar. Woody Allen has that floppy hat. I need to find something that become my trademark, something that can be emphasized in my Hirschfeld sketch so that my ever-expanding eyebrows (a good place to hide Ninas) can play second-fiddle. I'm going to use two items as my trademark: a blue towel and a robot dog.

I believe these simple tricks are all I need to seem more interesting, while buying me some time to find out how to actually BE more interesting. So the next time you go to a party and you see a guy in a three-cornered hat and holding a blue towel, talking about diet soda in the San Fernando Valley while his robot dog yaps at his feet, be sure to join the conversation and tell everyone just how interesting this guy is. I'll surely thank you for it.

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