...fucking Mark

...fucking Mark

...fucking Mark.

Imagine a sad, defeated Mitch McConnell. He’s seated hunched over all alone in his dark empty office. Obamacare just passed. He’s got his glasses in one hand while the other pinches the bridge of his nose right between his eyes. And between the dry gasps that always precede a good cry, shakes his head, and says, not without humor, “...fucking Obama.”

That. That right there. That is how you say, “...fucking Mark.”

The ‘g’ is typically silent. Like when you say something is “rootin’ tootin,’” which is becoming so commonplace these days it’s just cliche. Everything is “rootin' tootin.’”

So, just to clear the air of the elephant in the room of long tailed cats and rocking chairs, this is not a story about what it is like to fuck Mark in the biblical sense of “fuck.” It is a true story, though Mark is not his true name. I am really nice that way. Not quite nice enough to not use a name so incredibly close to his real one. But, you know, nice.

I was hired to be part of the entertainment for a corporate Christmas function in Iowa. The entertainment was to involve an interactive improv show, with drinks and dancing to follow DJ’d by fucking Mark. Altogether I spent about two days with him. In a row.

Mark was an almost last minute replacement recommended by someone’s weed dealer. Mark had about two-and-a-half day's notice.

Chicago winter.jpg

The first time I saw Mark, we were arriving in the van at his pick up point in the far north Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater. It was the middle of the marrow-deep Lake Michigan cold that is the true dead of Chicago winter. Fucking Mark was wearing a red winter beanie, work boots, oversized dark blue jeans that he had, apparently, painted his floor in at one point (I asked and he confirmed), fingerless gloves, and a loose fitting gray tank top.

Beady little eyes, always fidgeting, his long brown hair that stopped just above his trapezius muscles. Honestly pretty impressive. The dude was stacked. He looked liked Scott Stapp from Creed had a baby with Cheddar Bob from 8 Mile. The Google image search you should do based on that last sentence is worth it.

As we turned into the corner and parked, he popped one eye wide open and turned it toward the van. This facial expression gave the impression that we had just severely insulted him. It was like you had just crossed a serious line with Popeye, and he's just decided to eat an entire can of spinach he doesn't even need to beat your ass.

We stopped at the curb, him still giving us a one-eyed glare. He just stood there like that, looking at us, for about 10 to 15 seconds, which feels much longer than it is. Something in his head clicked, and he began walking toward the van. Cautiously. He craned his neck forward with his rib cage sucked in, his hands hung from disengaged wrists at his drawn back sternum as his feet seemed to pull the rest of him along with his legs acting as leashes. He looked like Mr. Burns, but a bird, trying to figure out if we were food or, in fact, a trap, with a coked out eye of Sauron on top.

I thought we were either about to be robbed or offered free samples of the type of drugs you shouldn’t do.

He got to passenger window, my window. He moved his head around the window to see in like he was searching for a keyhole. I lowered the window.

“Hi, I’m Mark. I’m the DJ. Are you here for Mark the DJ?”

“Hi Mark, I’m Boss,” said Boss, driver, and owner of the company we were booked through, “Hey, it’s pretty cold out, if you want to go in and grab your coat that’s totally fine, we have time.”

“It’s no problem, I don’t live here. Besides I have really good callouses.”

Boss, “What?”

“Plus a hat.”

Mark was 32, and blind. Partially. Mostly. That’s why he approached the van the way he did. Every time Mark looked at something, he would get that one eyeball so close it would practically touch its subject. He did this with people too. I would describe the first handshake with Mark as "startling."

I assure you that I am not picking on Mark because he is blind, nor would I anyone ever. Being blind is not Mark’s biggest problem. His problem, from which all others grew, is that he is what my grandfather would have called, “dumber'n two turds fightin’ 20 turds."

Mark got in the van.

Boss asked where his DJ equipment is.

“Oh it’s in storage on the south side.”

A pause. Boss asked for something that you might maybe call specifics.

“I don’t know the address. But I know where it is.”

Using “south” as our guide, and with a sundrop of hope, we made our way to the highway and around the city toward this mysterious storage facility. About halfway around the city, I smelled that burning leaves smell that, to me, always reminds me of running through the seemingly endless rolling plains and orange forests to explore that is rural Michigan in the autumn. To this day and forever my true heart will always reside there.

I contributed some small talk, something like the above, but shorter.

Others said something like, but longer than, “Me too.”

Mark contributed:

“Yeah, I still love going into, like, you know those old general stores? I love just sticking my head in bags of manure and inhaling as fast and deeply as I possibly can through my nose.”

The rest of us, simultaneously, sucked in an egg sized pocket of air. And held it. I was the first to break.

“You mean like... like, horse... like horse, uh, poop?”

“I mean yeah but it’s not like it’s human shit.”

“Oh.” I was willing to forgo all questions if I could be promised no answers.

“Yeah. I mean, other than my shit. Or farts. I like the smell of those. They’re actually, seriously? They’re not bad. Just not other people’s shit.”

“Yep,” I yepped.

“What in the Ever-Loving Sun God of fuck.” I thought.

I just accepted that there are places where there are giant sacks of shit on display, and all the customers come from miles around to smell them. These places are called “old general stores.” I held onto that information, put it in my back pocket, and moved on.

water torture.jpg

We arrived at the storage facility after stopping three different times to check the internet maps on our pocket robots while Mark left some voicemails. I know this sounds crazy, but even though we were on a schedule, through that entire search, time did not stop even once.

Are you starting to see how any one of these little pieces of Mark so far are relatively easily forgivable in isolation? But fucking Mark pokes at this primordial nerve in your brain over and over and over. It’s death by tiny spears. You cannot understand. You are young, and I envy you.

His equipment was in a square concrete room in the basement of the storage facility. It smelled like bong water and burnt food. I had a suspicion he slept here. He assured me he did not (I didn’t ask) because “no bitches would fuck me here.” I suppose he wasn’t wrong.

None of the equipment was ready to move. We broke down and packed up two large speakers, wires galore, two turntables, a crossfader/mixer, a home stereo sized dual CD player, crates of vinyl, CDs, more wires, and stuff. And yes, he owned a laptop. Three of them, laying on top of each other, underneath a half eaten hot pocket with a cigarette stubbed out in it, in the storage space.

Here is the best game: guess how much of this he ends up actually using other than the speakers. Now hold onto that guess, put it in your pocket. It’s one turntable, a handful of records, and his phone.

We made the six- or seven- hour trip in the van. Mark kept farting to prove to us that his farts really didn’t smell bad. He would get indignant when you told him to stop. Here is another fun game: guess if they did or not. I will tell you the answer after this sentence. Yes. Here is that same game on hard mode: guess how many scovilles.

There’s so much other stuff. Little Mark instances and stories. Thousands of the little nuggets of odorless Mark shit. Too many to include all of them. We lost him at a gas station because he walked across the street to another gas station to “check out the area.” He argued at every perceived opportunity, and poorly. He said the solution to gun violence was "little helmets with guns that detect when someone is pointing a gun at you" and “they probably already have them.” He had many, many opinions. Here is the last game: guess how they tended to land politically. This is actually the most difficult of the games. If you guessed “alt-right internet forum memes,” congratulations, nobody wins. There are no winners in any of these games.

We arrived at the venue. It was a large event rental space with catering in the middle of a nothing but a frozen tundra of dead Iowa cornfields. Snow and freezing rain was falling, and the DJ equipment needed to be brought in.

Mark asked if he can borrow my coat.

In the middle of the two of us carrying a speaker, he said he needs to go talk to the manager of “about this one thing.”

“Um,” I said. Mark dropped his side of the speaker, jogged in and did not return.

Boss relayed the story to me later. In the interest of setting up the tone that Mark would proceed to lay waste to, you should know that our boss could sell you a ketchup popsicle. He is a seasoned performer, legit funny, and a trained experienced natural salesman. And Boss was in mode.

Mark followed our boss’ voice, found him, shook his hand and asked where the fuckin’ manager was at.

Boss, “Mark! This is Client McClientsname, he hired us. Client, Mark will be your DJ for the evening!”

Mark grabbed Client's hand and shook it, shoving his wide open eye right in Client’s face, “Are you the manager?!”

Client said, “no” like he was just asked if he had fucked Mark’s wife.

“OK,” eyeball still close enough to count pores, “I need some help because I’ve only ever actually done this I think maybe one or two times on my own and...”

“Mark!” shouted my boss’ skeleton from behind a polite smile belying the hunger pains he felt in his gut that only revenge satiates. “I think the other guys need help bringing in the rest of your stuff?” Boss said it without breaking character in front of the client. Boss could sell you a pickle-flavored boat.

When Boss told me that story later, I laughed so hard I grew tits.

Mark asked us to introduce him as “DJ Tushy Flex.”

“That sounds like you’re puckering your asshole, Mark.”

“What, that’s not what it is.”

“...what is it?”

kid DJ.jpg

“Dude it’s my fucking DJ name.”

We did the improv show. It was great. Fun was had by all. Mark stood behind us and his DJ equipment, arms crossed, unmoving, the entire show. He just stood there the whole time with a neutral expression and blinked.

The show ended and it was time for Mark to DJ. We introduced him as “Mark the DJ.”

Just to establish my credentials as one to stand in judgment of a DJ set, let me just say that I am a long time fan and hobbyist with an above average level of appreciation for the craft of DJing.* I want you to know this so you can understand how serious I’m being when I say, that DJ Check-Out-My-Glutes was, by far and by away, the absolute worst god-dang rootin’ tootin’ DJ I have ever heard in my whole entire life.

He refused to take requests. He would only play what I can only describe as rasta house. Corporate America, of course, long known for their affinity for obscure electronic dance music subgenres.

He would cross back and forth between completely incongruent songs that made no sense. Like when he rapidly switched back and forth between Kiss from a Rose by Seal and some fucking drum circle happening near a murder. Not in some cool mash up way either. In no universe did those tempos match. There was no rhythm to the switches either. Just back and forth between those two songs, playing with the crossfader like a hyperactive kid flipping a light switch.

In a heroic effort, boss took over the sound, plugged in his mobile pad and bought a subscription to a music streaming service and started playing requests. People started having fun.

Mark would somehow keep getting control back and switch in the middle of the song to a recording of some guy yelling over the sound of a middle school marching band warming up.

Several hours of this went by and it was time to leave. Mark didn't help with the load out because he was smoking weed in the green room, which was really a large business meeting room with high ceiling to floor windows that faced the parking lot. When chastised, he angrily insisted that we’re the true idiots here because nobody told him he couldn't and “cigarettes smell worse.”

The freezing rain made the roads unsafe and we were exhausted, so we decided to stay overnight and drive back to Chicago in the morning. Mark held us up at the gas station so he could spend over three-fourths of his night’s paycheck on a bottle of “real Iowa whiskey.” Back at the hotel I tried some. If a politician running in the next primaries compliments Iowa on their historically good whiskey, I will know they are a liar.

Later on than we would have liked, we were in the hotel room hanging out with the TV on. Mark had the remote. He was seated directly in front of the TV, eyeball practically making a smear on the screen flipping through channels. It occurred to me that this might actually be how he went blind.

Mark landed on Women’s college basketball. His accompanying comment made between the landing and subsequent dismount from this channel was, and I quote: “Ha ha ha, women’s basketball. Show me your titties. Take her titty out and bite it. Whoa, that one’s actually hot.”

Myself and another cast member exchanged a knowing pained look at each other that we knew he would never see, then pretended to be distracted by our phones.

He flipped some more and eventually stopped on A League of Their Own.

"Oh sweet, A League of Their Own," he said.

A League of Their Own is a timeless and distinctly American romp featuring unforgettable characters and heart. I think there is a good argument to be made that it is the greatest baseball movie ever made.** But I think Mark might have missed one of the central messages of A League of Their Own. It may even have been, in fact, the central message. I am also pretty sure that, at some point, Mark has voted. I can’t be certain of this because if he ever told me he voted I surely would have repressed that memory.

The next day, during the drive home, I was woken up from a nap by Mark. He was shouting about how unfair it was that he couldn’t say the N-word but the two other cast members in the van, who were both African American, could.

Of course he never once said “N-Word” or “the N-word.” I mean, of course. And though I haven’t said so explicitly, you guessed it. Yes, of course he is white.

“Why? Why, Mark. What, do you need permission ahead of time just in case? Like, if you find yourself in this situation where you really need to use it?” I attempted, among other things, despite what was clearly a brick wall.

“No, but what I’m saying is why not.”

“Because it’s a hurtful thing to say, and the people in this van are asking you politely to stop.”

Later, Mark asked me what I thought of his DJ set. This was long past me being fed up, so I told him the truth as delicately as one can tell someone that they were awful. Mark told me he had a gun, then threatened to kill me for “talking shit.” He was serious. I told him, I shit thee not, that he’d have to fucking aim at me first. That was not a nice thing to say, nor smart. But I did.

No, I am not afraid of him reading this.

It's too long.

We got back to the storage facility and put all the equipment back. Mark met a ride who was waiting for him there. We said "good" and by the time we got to "bye" our backs were turned.

By the end of the trip, Mark had gone from being an obnoxious but mostly harmless joke to being legitimately... not a good guy. Maybe even dangerous. He had no mental impairments or disabilities, as least no diagnosable ones I could see.*** He was never doing a bit to mess with us. I never detected in him a desire to be seen as funny, and I know my own.

I think that at some point somebody should have told him that how he’s behaving is not OK. Though I am not qualified to be the arbiter of who deserves to have painful criticism handed out to them, surely in this case somebody at some point should have been willing to hurt this guy’s feelings. Not to hurt this guy’s feelings, but being willing to have that a price Mark might have to pay for his and the world’s greater good, because he's a dick. And nobody ever did that for this guy.

He's racist, misogynist, self-assured with no qualifications to be, ignorant, genuinely unintelligent, has a crushing confidence, and defaults to aggression at the whiff of any criticism. Does this remind you of anyone?

That is why when I turned around after hearing him slip on a patch of ice, I thought to myself, “Welp, there by the grace of God goes The President of The United States of America.”

It’s OK. Let it out. You deserve that sigh.

...fucking Mark.


*I love dance music. I have always loved dance music. When I was a kid I listened to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation cassette on repeat. I had a poster of her in my room. When my dad went to music stores to look at guitars, I always wanted to play with the synthesizers. What is generally (and stupidly, because none of the bands sound the same) called “90s electronica” is my favorite music of all time. I started making my own dance music in high school with a cheap little computer program. My freshman year of high school, I auditioned for battle of the bands with a full heavy as stone 1996 or 97 desktop computer and giant CRT monitor and a synthesizer. I got in. I got more equipment. I started sneaking out to go to and play at raves in high school. I swear on my life, I did nothing stronger than pot, and even that was seldom. I just loved the music and the energy so much. Dance music used to be hippie culture, even though now it’s more club culture. I will be that guy and say dance music was better before it was popular, and please stop sarcastically calling me dad.

I have favorite DJ mixes, I’m constantly seeking out new ones. I make them in my head for fun. If I wasn’t poor and had DJ equipment and a laptop that could run the necessary software, I would be spending all my time playing around with it and making mixes for fun. Somewhere in Michigan in an attic there are tons of old mix tapes I made as a kid. I can even appreciate a DJ on the level of a wedding DJ. What song follows what? How did that energy match? What’s the crowd doing? You don’t need to beat match to be able to read a crowd and play a good song.

Once, in line for one of those underground parties, I saw two guys speaking to each other in sign language. I inquired, for it was a music event. I was a bit of an asshole that way. He told me that his friend was deaf, and because of the bass and volume this was the only way he could experience music. That is how much I like dance music.

**Yes I am including every movie you just thought of. A League of Their Own is the only one where they are fighting for just being able to play which is just an extension of them fighting for their very meaning  as the devastation of the largest war ever waged plays as a backdrop to what is already a very stressful situation. Highest emotional stakes. Also most quotable. Funniest by far. These are but a few among variety of reasons I say A League of Their Own is the greatest baseball movie ever made.

***If it matters, I have worked with people with special needs of all ages through several different jobs.

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