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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The James Woods Story

“Someone to care for,
To be there for,
I’ve got…James Woods.”
--Peter Griffin

I have always really liked James Woods.

I know, I know. I can’t figure it out either. It’s not like he’s a Shakespearian trained actor, or is especially outstandingly handsome. I just like him. I enjoy every movie he’s in. (My favorite is The Hard Way, which also stars Michael J Fox.) I also like him because he's just so intelligent--he's in Mensa and went to M.I.T.

Anyway, a few years ago, the BeowulfParents decided they apparently had too much money in the bank, so we went to our favorite casino to squander it.

When we got to the casino, there was a lot of noise and confusion surrounding the poker room. There were almost a hundred people standing outside of it looking in with great interest. I asked a passing cocktail waitress what the fuss was all about, and she explained that the casino was hosting a celebrity poker tournament for charity.

We thought that was pretty cool, but since none of us play poker, it didn’t affect us in the slightest way. We headed down to the casino floor and hit the slot machines.

I ran out of money embarrassingly fast and with my last few dollars I went to the central bar and ordered a Fuzzy Navel. As I sat there sipping it, I looked around the floor to see if I could see my parents.

Suddenly, a strange middle-aged man began thundering towards the bar with a determined look on his face. It was a face I recognized and was absolutely stunned to see—it was James Woods. What the hell is he doing here? I wondered.

For reasons I will never understand, as soon as James got to the bar, he pounded me on the upper arm like an old Army buddy and said, “hi!”

“Hi,” I said, just kind of staring at him.

“Having any luck tonight?” he asked, after ordering his drink.

“Not really,” I said. “How about you?” Then it dawned on me. “Oh, wait! You’re probably here for the celebrity poker tournament.” He confirmed that he was. I asked him how he was doing and he told me he was down almost sixty thousand dollars. For some unbelievable reason, he didn’t seem phased by this at all.

“So, what do you do when you’re not gambling?” he asked. I was happy that he was trying so hard to be friendly, but the whole thing was still kind of weirding me out.

“I’m an English professor,” I explained.

That did it. James proceeded to launch into a long speech about the problems in our educational system which allow functional illiterates to go to college (which they almost immediately flunk out of) and how college tuition is going to bankrupt everyone. He was very dramatic about it—he waved his hands around and talked at lightning speed.

There aren’t a lot of subjects that I can talk about with aplomb, but education is one of them. James and I started talking over one another as we each agreed with the other one. The conversation went something like this:

“And you know what else?...”

“Oh, I totally agree. And another thing…”

“Right! I can’t see how…”

“Yes! No one seems to know…”

“Exactly! And then when you…”

“Oh, absolutely. And then you…”

"I know! And also..."

"I totally understand where you're coming from! And..."

It went on and on for easily 15 minutes. He forgot entirely that he was in a poker tournament, and I forgot entirely that I was having a conversation about education reform with a major motion picture star. When he finally snapped back to reality, he wished me a good night, I wished him good luck, and he went back to the poker room to win his sixty grand back.

I left the bar to find the BeowulfParents. When I did, I said; “I just had a fifteen minute conversation with James Woods about the state of education in America.”

“That’s nice, dear,” said my mom. Absolutely nothing phases her.

Later, I felt badly that I had missed my chance to tell him how much I enjoyed his movies, and ever since then, I kind of giggle when I see James Woods in a movie or on TV. And don’t even get me started on that episode of Family Guy when Peter becomes best friends with him.