To quote my kid: O-M-G. It’s finally happening. My big break. After all these years of waiting on the proverbial sidelines, watching all the other guys hog the glory and the guffaws, and now my moment has arrived. Here, on this beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, in the backyard of the house I no longer live in (but help pay for), at my son’s 10th birthday party, surrounded by his peers and mine (though the other dads look like a bunch of boring, sad sack a-holes, truth-be-told) standing next to an ex-wife who never believed in me (ever) and this is my shot at comedy greatness.
At, let’s face it, the best-timed punch line that any maestro of the comedic arts could ever deliver into a perfect pause in any conversation:
The infamous capital “F” fart.
All along knowing that I was destined to have such a moment, that it was meant to be, that it was coded into my DNA. Because like his father before him, my father was a natural, a master of the form. Why, he could clear a room in seconds with one fragrant blast, toot the opening bars of the national anthem on demand or light candles on a birthday cake from across the room with nothing but his own expelled gas and a Zippo lighter. Yes, his seemed an effortless talent, a gift, available on a whim, but only to the uninitiated does excellence appear effortless. Because every master has their secrets, aces up the sleeve, and my dad’s was the cans of baked beans he always stashed in the glove compartment. Before every pub night, every Super Bowl Sunday, every backyard barbecue, he’d eat them cold, right out of the can like a race car engine sucks premium fuel. Not for pleasure, for purpose, by design. Brown bean juice dripping off his chin he’d grin at me and say “No pain, no gain.”
But his hard work and gastrointestinal distress was worth it, you ask me. The end result was always a roomful of grown men reduced to tears of joy and awe and I idolized my dad for it.
I mean, who wouldn’t?
So I followed in his footsteps and it was his name that got me my spot in Gamma Alpha Sigma, the legendary frat house where the beer and cauliflower flows freely and the fart is king. I was a shoe-in, a legacy pick. And what a time we had: the parties, the hijinks, the singed ass cheeks. Oh, the cheese we cut.
On the flipside, there were many failures I had to endure. Those ill-conceived attempts and missed opportunities as I tried too hard to live up to a legend. Because you can’t fart angry if you want laughs. Looking back, I was too impatient, too brash, too cocky. And unlucky–timing is everything. Of course now I understand that life needed to knock me down a peg or three before lifting me to that highest high.
Because the lows were low.
Like initiation night, when the pause in the drama department’s production of Macbeth–my cue, my opportunity–went on silent and un-fart-upon.
Or the pool party shart fiasco of Spring Break ’99 that ended with me alone in the motel bathroom, crying, hugging my knees in the shower as the water ran cold.
And definitely all the lonely nights spent practicing in my room, ripping beauties that carved through the tender air like a chef’s knife through a marbled rib-eye. Yet I felt empty inside. Because if bodily gas gets blown and there’s no one around to laugh, does it even make a sound? Does it really matter? Most people would say yes, that every expulsion of gas can be appreciated on its own individual merits, as a unique expression of its owner. But the purists, we know that a fart is only as good as the audience response, the people frantically waving at the air, holding their breath, plugging their noses and going red-in-the-face as they cough out laughter mixed with disgust.
Yes, that’s what I live for. That’s the juice.
And just when I thought it was a done deal, that I was over-the-hill–pot bellied, divorced, washed up–and this is it: my date with destiny. The perfect intersection of intestinal gas and opportunity.
At my kid’s 10th birthday party.
He’ll look back at this and be so proud.