Fresno and the Exchange of Electrons

May 5, 2018

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Ready for a huge revelation? I was on the high school Quiz Bowl team. Ahhh, the elusive unicorn: an Asian on a high school academic based competitive team. Can you hear Sir David Attenborough's whispery voice: Observe the diminutive member of the group cautiously attempting to gain societal relevance. Will he be successful in gaining the attention of the females entering heat? Ahhh, lurking in the shadows are the pack of football players preparing to give a swirly to the cautious and skittish Asian. I wanted to meet more Asians and being on the basketball team wasn't working out for me very well. Okay, so maybe I didn't want to meet more Asians. And, I definitely had no prayer of playing basketball. In actuality, being on the Quiz Bowl team made me hate Asians even more than I already did. Hold on, let me explain before you organize any marches in Washington, D.C. folks.

 

My recent weight loss experience won't attest to this, but I'm actually über-competitive. This is a terrible trait to have when you are awful in so many things. For instance, I'd be the kid who strikes out in t-ball. I still have yet to actually finish a round of golf without destroying a club, or throwing it violently. My parents were very nervous allowing me to take shop class because me around power tools was determined to be a very hazardous combination. I wasn't allowed to mow the yard because of the fear I would chop my foot off. The last time I went bowling, I scored a 34. See, I'm even competitive in sucking ass at bowling! But, there were enough wins in life that I became addicted to one thing. You might think it was winning. Incorrect, madam. I became addicted to not losing. And apparently there was nothing better for me to not lose in than Quiz Bowl. As a freshman in high school, we all took a test to see our potential nerdiness. I might as well have had a neon sign pointing right to my three pocket protectors. I didn't just score well, I scored so high the faculty advisor started to send out recruiting videos to MIT and Yale. (Remember that whole Suck a Bag of Dicks, Harvard? I'm not even going to reference them for amusement purposes!). Maybe the actual event after the test went something like "Hey kid, you might like being on the Quiz Bowl team". Or, maybe it didn't. The truth may lie somewhere in between. Or, possibly 100% within the latter scenario. Don't judge me, dude. You weren't there.

 

Quiz Bowl practices were two hours of glorious dominance. From Day one, I was immediately the top points leader. It was like when Georg Hackl first started luging and began promptly sliding motionless down ice better than any man has ever done before. That level of dominance. Or, boredom. You pick. Anyway, my greatest competition was a senior who was smart, sang, acted, and played instruments who had the personality of a rhino being castrated. Yup, her personality was incredibly loud and when you were around her, you cringed and protectively cupped your nuts. She was hot shit and she knew it. She apparently had alpha-dogged her way to the top of the dork hierarchy and she wasn't about to give up her throne. Sauntering into the library as an 88 lb. 4'10" geek prodigy alerted her to a potential usurper of her crown. It became quickly apparent that not only was I going to make Varsity (Oh, fuck you, I'll call it Varsity since there were 15 members and we could only start four people per team! Maybe the letter jacket was pathetic, but you take what you can get!), but, it was going to be a tough call by Coach who was going to be the Captain.

 

Thus, started four years of demonic dominance by Kutztown Area High School. Four straight county titles. My first year we placed higher than K-town had ever placed at the state tournament level. I smashed our third-place trophy in the snow bank because I was so furious we had lost the championship. We didn't just win, we annihilated teams. Many other teams had a higher Asian quota than our lone representative. Who has two thumbs and was the lone representative? This guy! I would look across the stage at the other teams and see who I had to destroy. And many of them were Asian. So, I associated Asians with people I had to beat. And there were some worthy competitors. That just made me hate them more.

 

As I was also an insufferable and annoying little prick, I developed some really obnoxious habits. One of them would be when I heard a question I was confident no one else would know, I would disassemble my buzzer and then put it back really quick before buzzing and answering the question correctly. I would use my teammates body parts to buzz in on my behalf. I would answer questions in the third person. Alas, even Michael Jordan missed some shots, so there were the occasional questions I was stumped in. If we had a dominant lead, I would ring in and always answer "Fresno". No matter what. The question might be "What element is used as the filament in an incandescent light bulb?" I'd look around, and then BOOM! I'd ring in and answer "Fresno". And then we'd lose points and my teammates would put their head down and think "Here he goes again". My coach would look at me with helpless aggravation. My opponents would reflexively extend their middle fingers. Berks County's version of Alex Trebek would silently wonder if I ate paint chips as a kid. After the first couple times of this occurring, I was asked by Mr. Steitz, our coach, why I kept on doing this and why it was always Fresno. I had no real good answer for him except for the fact that since 4th grade, I've had a fondness for insulting California's largest inland city. That poor man dealt with 4 years of hearing Fresno. It wouldn't surprise me if he traveled there after I graduated and burned the fucking city to the ground. That's kind of what I was going for.

 

Apparently, you can put that on the long list of things I'm not very good at. Inspiring targeted arson of major urban centers by exasperated English teachers. Even though he didn't do that, Mr. Steitz was my favorite teacher of all time. Even when that son of a bitch gave me (ME! HIS STAR PLAYER! ME!) a B in his class. He said it had something to do with my refusal to do any assignments. Ever.

 

Fresno is a great answer if you want to be a dick, which I was basically okay with being. But as maturity starts to creep in, I was suddenly inspired to find the antithesis of Fresno. And, I don't mean Las Vegas. I mean an answer that is always correct. No matter what question you ask, to have the universal remote of all answers. Since you probably read the title, you're going to be able to guess what answer I eventually came up with. Just wonderful. I spent about a dozen years pondering the existence of such an answer harder than a Buddhist hermit ponders Nirvana. You saunter into my blog, read the title, and you have immediate enlightenment. I swear, life just isn't fair sometimes.

 

The root cause of everything comes down to the exchange of electrons. I'll sit here and wait while you go through every scenario to prove me wrong. And, don't be Neil DeGrasse Tysonish and start mentioning quarks and neutrinos. Nobody likes you. Did you know that? We're not going to discuss valence shells, space orbitals, and other stuff that vaguely rings a bell to you, but didn't learn because you were too busy picking out your corsage for junior prom. I believe the binary of physical and metaphysical life is centered around certain electrons being exchanged from one atom to another. Oddly enough, as I'm writing this, "Islands in the Stream" is playing in the back of my mind.

 

I know the answer is probably not as satisfying for you as it was for me, so in the interest of providing superlative service, I'm going to provide an alternative answer. The answer to the mystery of life is not, in fact, 42. I so dearly wish it was. That would make life far more dissonant. The answer that is always correct to life's puzzles and questions and the unifying bond that ties us all together is

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