Friday, June 24, 2005

One last Steve Genard related anecdote.

One of my tasks during my senior year of high school was to come up with a suitable quote to appear under my picture in the yearbook. Each senior had space to put about 25 words and most folks used that space to try and sum up their high school experience.

It's kind of like if you only got to put 25 words in your entire blog. Just one post, ever. 25 words or less. What would you say? Similarly, it's hard to sum up 4 years of schooling and comraderie in 25 words. Most folks took one of the following approaches:

- Sappy Hallmark-inspired sentiment (e.g. "I love my friends and my friends are love")
- Bible quote (e.g. "Jesus says he who throws stones mustn' thy neighbor?" - Crap, ok, surprise surprise, I'm not a Bible scholar)
- Music lyric, usually heavy metal (e.g. "Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii - Robert Plant")
- A secret message to friends (e.g. "MCQZZ 8 Cinnamon buns!! FREEBIRD! 1987 Bazongas!! DZTDGLNIF forever!!!"
- Philosophy quote (I recall at least one Nietzsche and one Hitler quote)

Obviously none of those themes were right for me. I wanted something humorous, but I couldn't for the life of me think of the right words. I ignored this to-do item for months until the final day arrived and I had mere hours to write my high school epitaph.

Panicked, I decided to seek out help. I called the smartest and most literary guy I knew, Steve Genard, who was a sophomore at UCLA at this time. I told him what I needed and how much time we had. He promised to call me back within the hour.

He called back about 30 minutes later holding a book of Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson. This was a pretty good idea. Far Side cartoons are single-panel comics that are often science or biology-related and usually have a nice little edge to them. Steve rifled through the book, reading punchlines to me. After a few tries, he got to one that seemed appropriately inappropriate.

The picture in the comic showed three cows grazing in a pasture. One cow lifts his head and indignantly declares, "Hey, wait a minute! This is grass! We've been eating grass!"

This worked for me on a number of levels. First, the actual sentiment describes stupid animals suddenly realizing that they've been duped. This satisfied me as an appropriately subversive statement about high school. Second, if you're unfamiliar with the comic, then it just seems random, and that's good too. I like random. Mostly it was a quote that people could read what they wanted into. Seemed like a fine idea all the way around.

That was my senior quote and I was pleased.

Within days I was called to the yearbook office to explain my quote. The yearbook staff members suspected it was a diabolical marijuana reference. Considering that I was one of the squeekiest clean kids in the school, this was an amusing allegation. I explained where the quote came from and what it meant. They nodded vigorously in agreement.

Weeks later when the yearbooks came out, my picture was unadorned with a quote. There was a conspicuously blank spot where the quote belonged. Apparently, the powers that be had concluded that I was celebrating pot, and they censored my absurd quote. I guess they thought I was recommending smoking grass... instead of eating it...? Maybe? Geez, I don't know.

That's the peril of an ambiguous quote, I guess.

Regardless, it was a damn good quote and I will always remember that when I needed something witty and I needed it fast, Steve Genard was my go-to guy. Thanks, Steve.


jonathan said...

I've always loved that particular Far Side. Has the cow been duped? Or is she just thinking too much?
But my favorite cow-related far side has a bovine juror in a court case standing up and admitting to the crime.

Mike said...

The Far Side goes into my very small Comic Hall of Fame.