The adventures of a New Jersey college professor with very strange friends, colleagues, and family members.

Friday, June 23, 2006

And This Man Has Tenure, People...

There’s a Department Chair here at Very Serious University named Roger. Roger is an interesting guy.

Roger is approximately sixty years old, balding, short, scrawny, and has a pointy nose and vacant grey eyes. Heretofore, my dealings with him have always been formal, and I’ve just recently experienced the questionable joy of dealing with Roger up-close and in-person.

Roger’s sexual history is complicated. While he was married to his first wife, Phyllis, he had an affair with a woman named Linda. Eventually, Roger left Phyllis and married Linda, with whom he had three children. For the last six years, Roger has been carrying on an affair with a girl not much older than I am: his assistant, named Cathy. Cathy has stuck with Roger this long because she’s convinced that one day he is going to leave Linda for her…after all, he divorced his first wife in order to marry a mistress.

A few months ago, Roger got in trouble with the Dean of Faculty for having sex in his office with Cathy. He actually has a sofa-bed in there. The Dean told him that he had to get rid of the sofa-bed immediately, and that he had to be off-campus by a certain time. This caused much trauma, especially to Cathy, because they now had no place to have sex; she still lives with her parents.

A while ago, before I knew all of this, Roger “noticed” me. He asked me to go for Chinese food with him. Foolishly, I thought this was harmless.

At the restaurant, Roger suddenly leaned toward me, gave me a salacious grin, and said; “So…what kind of men do you like? Do you like older men?”

“Older than what?” I asked, stupidly. “Older than God? Older than dirt? Older than my father?”

Roger laughed and said to never mind, he had his answer. Whatever.

What followed was a series of increasingly more complicated and convoluted meetings, most of which involved Roger, Cathy, and me doing something social like going out for pizza or strolling through the park. It all seemed very innocuous, until one night when Roger approached me in my own office. I believe there was a thunderstorm in the background--it was sort of like in Frankenstein.

He made himself at home in my guest chair and leaned in, lecherously. “I have a proposition,” he said, with an evil smile.

“What’s that?” I asked, wondering if I would get some more Chinese food out of him.

“Cathy and I have been discussing the possibility of bringing in…another person,” he said.

I didn’t get it. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Do you write erotica?” Roger asked, as a complete non-sequitor.

“No,” I said, getting concerned.

“Do you think you could write a…scenario…about you, me, and Cathy?”

I told him that I absolutely would not. I had more important (and less gross) work to do. But he was not to be dissuaded:

“I want you to seduce my girlfriend,” he said. “I think we could do it as a drinking game.”

I was completely appalled. I tried to explain to Roger that not only was I not bisexual, I didn’t find him attractive at all (even if I did like “older men”) and refused to have anything to do with him or Cathy.

He meekly went away, and I was safe until the following morning, when I found an erotic paperback titled Caterina In Charge in my mailbox, with a post-it note saying: “Perhaps you’ll find this stimulating and it will inspire you.”

I tracked Roger down and told him in no uncertain terms that if he kept this up, I was going to report him to the Dean of Faculty, who already was out for his head for having sex in his office. Fortunately, this seemed to shut him up, at least for the time being.

The worst thing is that Roger and I share several students, who weirdly speak very highly of him as a professor. I keep wanting to tell them how creepy and scary he is, but that wouldn't get me anywhere.

At least he isn't allowed on campus until after dark.

Friday, June 16, 2006

1,500 Insane People

The day finally dawned at the Furry convention, and it was time for me to “gather material,” as Andrew said. The particular convention I went to was called Anthrocon—you can find out more about it here: Seriously, go look. I'll wait.

When we arrived in Philadelphia, I was immediately terrified because not only were there about 1,500 people there, but they were all dressed as animals (apparently, this is called “wearing a fursuit”). Frightened, I grabbed Tracey’s arm and refused to let her go.

I then noticed something strange…there was no talking. Apparently, since animals can’t speak, people dressed as animals can’t, either.

If you want to know how fursuiters do communicate, it’s by way of an activity called “skritching.” This involves going up to a compete stranger and scratching them on the back, with their paws or hooves or whatever the hell else they’re wearing. I wasn't there three minutes before a gorilla approached me and started "skritching" my back. Now, I’m a very friendly person, but that kind of freaked me out. "I'm sorry," I said, "but please stop doing that."

The gorilla turned sadly away, and made a big show out of his shoulders drooping a little.

The only Furry that spoke to me was a man dressed as an ostrich who asked me: “Do you want to yiff?”

Confused, I asked, “is that like dancing?”

I then discovered that “yiffing” is having sex while still wearing your costumes. While I’m not the most suave person when it comes to sex, I do prefer it with, you know, a human being and not an ostrich.

Tracey thought I’d be more comfortable in the Art Gallery, so we went there. Oh, dear God.

Easily 80% of the art (which, bizarrely, as all very well drawn) was X-rated, and included many drawings of foxes having sex with wolves, tigers having sex with horses, and dogs having sex with squirrels. Even weirder was that the non-explicit art all seemed to include lesbians. And people were actually buying it.

Thoroughly freaked, I went back upstairs to my hotel room and immediately called Andrew. He was just as weirded-out as I was. While I was talking to him, someone knocked on the door.

I opened the door and saw…Steve. He was dressed in full horse regalia, looming over me in a latex horse suit and a rubber head. He was at least seven feet tall and looked terrifying. My first thought was: “My God, he’s between me and the door.”

I babbled some excuse about using the pool, and took off. By the time I got back downstairs to the convention, something called “The Fursuit Dance” had begun. It truly has to be seen to be believed. Hundreds of people dressed up like cats, lions, birds and gorillas, were freaking out on the dance floor. The music seemed to be some sort of modern industrial music and they had a laser light show, followed by a talent show. When that was all over, they had a “Fursuit Parade”, which is pretty much self-explanatory.

The only workshop that I attended was for a Tarot card reading. It didn't go well. Being divorced, I wanted to ask if I had a shot in hell of every finding somebody else. Sadly, the reader shook her head and said; "I'm sorry, I don't see any relationship cards in your reading at all."

The convention wrapped up with a huge meeting trying to figure out how to improve the convention next year. I wanted to suggest “no yiffing”, but I think I would be overruled.

And there you have it…my dealings with the Furries. I promise my next entry will be even more bizarre.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Frightening Men I Have Known

This is going to be a two-parter, because there’s no way this amount of weirdness can be contained in one entry. Hang in there.

Occasionally, when I need extra money, I take a crappy temp job. A few years ago, I was hired by the FAA, where I was supposed to supervise a large group of insane men who were aerospace engineers. The leader of this dysfunctional group was a man named Steve.

Somehow, Steve found out that I’m an English professor. Usually, I try to keep this out of my various temp jobs, because I find the “secretary with a Doctorate” conversation to be both embarrassing and tedious.

In any case, Steve came down to my desk one day with an enormous pile of paper, and said to me: “I understand you’re an English professor.”

I sighed. “Yes,” I said. I wondered who ratted me out.

“Would you do me a favor?” he asked.


“I wrote a novel,” he said, handing me the huge document. “Would you read it and tell me what you think?”

There was no way to bow out of it gracefully, so I said: “Okay.”

The manuscript was more than six hundred pages long—single spaced. “What kind of novel is it?” I asked.

Steve paused as if looking for words, then said, “well, it’s sort of Science Fictionish."

“Oh, that’s interesting,” I said. “I’ll have a look.”

Steve seemed satisfied with this, and started to walk away. Then he turned around and said: “It’s about horse-people. Is that okay?”

I blinked. “Do you mean people who like horses?” I asked.

“No,” said Steve. “People who are horses.”

I just stared. “How is that possible?” I asked.

“It’s anthropomorphic fiction,” he explained.

In more than ten years as a college English professor, I had never heard of this. I freely admitted my ignorance. “I don’t know what that is.”

“It’s when an animal takes on human characteristics,” he said. “In my novel, they’re horses.”

What the hell did I get myself into, I wondered. Steve left and I flipped through the manuscript.

Five minutes later, Steve sent me an e-mail. Attached was a frightening picture of him dressed as a horse.

It was a very intimidating horse. It stood at least seven feet tall (the hooves were extremely high) and was made of black latex. A long black mane blew in the wind. The accompanying message read: “Does this turn you on?”

I had no idea what to say to that, so I began reading the novel. Oh, God.

The “plot” involved a World War II pilot who woke up one morning and found that he had been transformed into a horse. Weirdly, he didn’t have any problem with this, and by the time the first chapter was done, he had already had sex with a female horse-person (apparently, it’s more common than you would think). The rest of the cast turned out to be deer, elk, foxes, and squirrel. There was some sort of power battle going on that involved magic rings, magicians, and war.

Feeling sort of confused, I left work that day and found a note from Steve on my windshield. It was a poem, and it was so convoluted I can’t even attempt to describe it here. The last line of the poem was: “I want to see you in a rubber doe suit.”

I wondered if this constituted sexual harassment. If it did, I couldn’t even imagine having to explain this to my boss. The whole thing was phenomenally weird.

Over the next few weeks, Steve became more and more obsessed with seeing me dressed up like a deer. He sent me websites. He sent me e-mails. He sent me more pictures of himself dressed up like a horse. (The horse's name, by the way, was Black Destrier, which apparently has something to do with medieval knighthood.) He kept telling me that, if I wanted, he could arrange a "private live viewing" of him and his frightening costume (which had apparently taken years and thousands of dollars to make). I kept politely turning him down, but he simply would not go away.

You probably think by this point that it couldn't get any weirder.

It does.

Stay tuned.