When I was 22 I walked 20 feet across hot coals as part of a ridiculous rag week stunt at University. The coals were 1200 degrees Farenheit and hot enough to blister your skin on contact, but your reporter somehow made it across unharmed, along with 50 other confused finalists who really shouldn’t have done it either. But we did. The point of this is that my life has been somewhat up in the air lately, and being a man of dignity and decorum I’ll save the details for the closest of my three thousand Facebook friends. Still, I’ve been thinking a lot about walking across fire lately, and I’d like to share this with you…
To survive the coals, the instructor told us to visualize the most positive experience we’d ever had, and project it on a 100-foot movie screen inside our heads. Then you had to associate a gesture and a verbal hook with that vision, and hypnotize yourself so that you could call it to mind when you did it. Mine was a fist pump and the words “come on.” Said like a nervous boy from East Croydon but with the attitude of Biggie Smalls. In other words, I looked like an absolute mentalist before I did it. Friends who came to watch said they’d talked to me beforehand but that they couldn’t get through, and the only thing I remember of the conversations was the feeling of cool grass at the end of the feat. Then needing to sleep for 14 hours.
In my mind, I was visualizing Mr. Crouch. He was a well-meaning basketball teacher at my high school, one of the few athletics teachers who had ever believed that I would amount to anything outside the English classroom and frankly, one could tell that he was always rather conflicted about it. I didn’t play any of the other sports and I was too mouthy and a bit gay-looking/gay-acting to be well coordinated, which when you’re from Croydon meant you liked Morrissey. But I could jump higher than most of the other kids and that counted for a lot. Plus, I really looked up to Dennis Rodman.
I would play okay in practice and occasionally score once or twice in a game. But I wasn’t a star, and eventually Mr. Crouch decided to drop me from the team. The next practice I remember lining up a three-pointer, closing my eyes, and shooting it perfectly, right in his fucking face.
I have never been happier. And with that, here’s a mixtape of the songs I’ve been listening to most over the last six weeks.
Be My Downfall — Del Amitri
The Swish — The Hold Steady
I Never Said I Was Deep — Jarvis Cocker
What Is It This Time? — Jamie Lydell
Runnin’ — The Pharcyde
The Last Time I Saw Richard — Joni Mitchell
I Do My Father’s Drugs — Joe Pug
Your Touch — Black Keys
So much for dignity and decorum, I guess. But I hope you’ll enjoy it. And here’s to you, Mr. Crouch. Because while I didn’t realize it at the time, you may have very probably saved my life.