I had this friend, some years ago, named Bjorn.
To say that Bjorn was odd is like saying that Mt. Everest is tall–it’s true, but it doesn’t even begin to encompass the sheer, elemental oddity that was Bjorn. He occasionally reminded me of an alien sent to earth to experience everything possible. He had that same air of enthusiastic, feckless wonder. Had Bjorn been mugged, for example, he would have enjoyed the experience thoroughly, asked the mugger out for coffee, and welcomed the chance to experience the mugger’s reality.
For about a year, when I knew him, he was obsessed with “I, Claudius,” the British 12 hour miniseries about Roman political intrigue, featuring Patrick Stewart and a few other notables. And when I say obsessed, I mean he rented every video from the library and watched them all, over and over, like a teenager with a particularly syrupy love ballad, endlessly, until his roommate, who had about as much interest in Rome as he did in fourteenth century French needlepoint (which is to say, very little) could recite the shows. Going over there, it was equal odds whether the guy on screen going “Fire! Heh heh! Fire!” was Beavis or a young Nero. Bjorn himself could not only recite the shows verbatim, but could act out the whole thing in pantomime, and did so, with uncooked chickens, during a brief stint at a deli, which evidentally got him fired. (I confess, every now and then I wonder what some of the Caligula scenes would be like, with the part of Caligula played by a naked raw chicken, but like so many things, I’m probably happier not knowing.)
I thought of Bjorn last night, not because I went mad and decided I had become a Roman god, but because, after the “I, Claudius” phase but before he began carrying a large wooden pig around as a conversation piece, Bjorn lived in an apartment where he claimed the radiator was possessed and talked to him in the night. At the time I thought he was exaggerating for comic effect, or possibly insane, but having since moved into an apartment with loud radiators, I find myself sympathizing.
Fer example, last night, at around 2 AM, the following sounds emerged from the corner: “Hissssss clang clang paBONG! paBONG! paBONGaBONGaBONGa! hiss bubble bubble bing bing PLONG! hiss wham! wham! paBONGGGGGG…” and so forth, and so on, a sound falling somewhere between an army of dwarves with sledgehammers tunnelling up from the basement, and two raccoons in plate mail attempting to copulate inside a tea kettle. Lately, the radiator directly behind my chair has taken up the refrain, so that I’ll be painting innocently away, someone in another apartment will turn on the hot water, and suddenly “clangclangclang paBOOOONNGNNGN!” will ring out directly behind me. I’m waiting for it to explode. My office chair will take the worst of the damage, but I’ll still limp into the emergency room with half a radiator sticking out of my spine. If I die in such an explosion, I beg of you all–avenge my death! Destroy radiator-kind wherever it lurks! Death to the hot water demons! No more!
In other news, I finished another comic today. Yay!
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