Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Everything's the Same Back in My Little Town

Here is a picture of a recording device on a tri-pod.

Tonight I need sleep. I haven't been getting much, what with being so busy and all and now I'm pooped as pooped can be. Soooooo. Hey kids, what time is it? That's right, it's time for another installment of my old blog. This post I wrote in January 2006 and it is partly about how my town in high school was given the prestigious title of video game capital of the universe, or some weird shit. Anyway, it ties in with all my talking about King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Just know that I wrote this before that movie came out, so there might be some ignorance there. it shouldn't shock you too much, if you've ever read my blog before. In the other documentary who's name I can't remember, they talked about what those gamers were doing now, and none of them seemed all that accomplished or happy or sane really, so I guess I made some bad assumptions in this too....Yeah. story of my life. Okay, dig in:

I graduated from Ottumwa high school in 1983. When we first moved there from Chicago, I was really into making fun of the Ottumwa accent. A lot of people said warsh instead of wash, they did the deeshes instead of the dishes and the city's motto was "Ottumwa someplace special" except they pronounced it, "spatial" and that always amused me too. I only lived there the four years I was in high school, but in those four years, a lot of cheesy shit happened. We were on the Today Show, in Life Magazine and we were on That's Incredible! several times.

It's odd for such a small town to get that much publicity but there were a couple of factors that went into it. The biggest was probably the proximity of Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. The Maharishis, more affectionately called Gurus or Fuckin' Rus, in general have a lot of money and come from either of the coasts. They used to have representatives come to our high school and try to talk about reaching spiritual enlightenment to a bunch of red necks whose only previous aspirations were trying to get laid in the back of their pick-ups. I always loved it when some guy in my class would raise his hand and ask, "So, if you guys can fly, then why don't you just jump out this window right now and show us?"

Maharishi International University also brought Andy Kaufman to Ottumwa. In the early 80's he used to hang out at Happy Joe's and ask the high school girls to mud wrestle him at the Ottumwa Coliseum. We all knew who he was, but no one wanted to take him up on it.

Another guy from Maharishi, gave us the title of, "Video Game Capital of the Universe"in order to promote his arcade. He started keeping the highest scores from all over the country and that first picture (I just posted that photo two days before, so you know what I'm talking about) of the post is from the 1982 year in review in Life magazine. The cheerleaders are from my grade but the nerds behind the machines were the best gamers in the United States at the time. I'm sure they all have WAY more money than I do right now (and probably an XBox in every room of their house).

We were on the Today Show for something totally unrelated to MIU. Somebody had a brilliant idea: they would take a bunch of men from Saudi Arabia, bring them to the heartland and teach them about computers. What they didn't count on, was that the Saudis would get corrupted by Western culture and start buying the high school girls cars and diamonds and all kinds of shit that their boyfriend's Wayne and Kinny probably couldn't even spell. Those girls may have taken Andy Kaufman up on his wrestling offer if he had offered to buy them a car. One of the young girls happened to be the sheriff's son's girlfriend and one day he and some of his boys shot up the house where the Saudi's were living. No one was hurt but it brought the Today Show to our town and believe me, they made the whole town look really tolerant and accepting. HA!

They solved the Saudi "problem" by moving them all down to Texas where there were no guns and people were much more accepting of other cultures. HA! HA! A girl in my class moved down to Texas with them, married one of the Saudis, found out he had other wives, divorced him and is now richer than god. I'm not really sure why I wasted my time going to college when there were so many eligible young men in my town. If I had only played my cards right, I could have an XBox in every room of my house. Hell, I'd be happy to own a house.


Tara said...

First! Woot! Get some of that sleep I keep hearing about.

Leo said...

Gotta love Ottumwa. My sister was going to Indian Hills at the same time you were in HS, roughly 80-81-82. Spent some time there myself. Do you know if they are still using the same high school, or have they built elsewhere? I was in that school several times for band/speech contests and it seemed to me that it was ancient way back then (early 80's).

Pamela said...

Wow, just think what an alternate universe you would live in now. wow...

Dexter said...

I still need to borrow that Kong from you.

laura b. said...

Your high school years sound much more colorful than mine. For some reason, I don't think anyone I knew was very heavily into arcade games...or hooking up with rich foreign boys. All of our foreign boys were poor it seemed.

Churlita said...


I did, and I'm going to keep trying to get more.


They do have the same high school. I think they remodeled it or something, because at my 20th hs reunion they took people on tours. I missed it, so I'm not sure how different it looks now. We used to call it Ottumwa Penitentiary for how it looks sitting up on that hill.


Any universe with money would be very alternate from mine.


Let me know, and I'll get it to you.


Plenty of our foreign boys were poor too. The poor ones couldn't buy the sheriff's son's girlfriend away from him though.

Johnny Yen said...

I have two associations with Ottumwa.

First, people of my general demographics (late forties) watched MASH reruns while we were in college in the early eighties. The character of Walter "Radar" O'Reilly was from Ottumwa.

I had thought that maybe they had made the name of the town up, when, in 1983, I took a train trip from Chicago to Oakland. The first stop west of Chicago was-- you guessed it-- Ottumwa.

.j.william. said...

in my experience, Saudi men are just as wanton with their money as you have written (at least, if they have any), but owning a home isn't as rad as it sounds.

So win some, lose some. It's all good.