Friday, March 26, 2004

The Untold Tale of COBRA!

In the comments section of Near Mint Heroes, another blog I discovered recently, I posted the weird story of the events that led to the Journal of a New COBRA Recruit winding up in the Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology. It's long and weird enough that I thought it would be worth reproducing here...

OK, the long story: First off, the COBRA piece was accepted by McSweeney's and set to run in mid-September of 2001. Then something happened that made them a little squeamish about running something that made fun of terrorism.

But, eventually, it ran in Jan. 0f 2002, and I was happy, and patted myself on the back, and sort of forgot about it. McSweeney's ran one other thing of mine, but the Cobra story barely ever entered my head.

OK. Several months later, in June, my wife and I got back from a 3-day canoeing trip and were just sitting around being tired. The phone rang, I answered it, and it was this guy with a really weird voice asking for Keith. And I said that was me. And then:

Him: "Well, I told you I'd be giving you a call, so here I am."

Me: "Huh?"

Him: "Come on, it's me. Jeff. You know, from the Nineties?" (the Gay Nineties is Minneapolis' flaghsip gay bar)

Me: "What are you talking about?"

Him: "You gave me your number friday night. At the Nineties."

Me: "I was floating on a friggin river in Wisconsin Friday night. I was like a hundred miles away from the Nineties, and have never set foot in there. I can't dance, for christ's sake. What would I be doing in there?"

Him (sounding hurt and accusatory): "Listen, you can pretend all you want, but what happened happened, and you gave me your number, and it I guess it meant a lot more to me than to you."

Me: "I'm hanging up now."

I was pretty freaked out. I mean, we get a lot of wrong numbers (we're one digit off from a popular movie theater), but this guy had asked for me by name. So something weird was up. I did *69 and got the number he'd called from, and then went online to try a reverse phone lookup. I wanted to see who this weirdo was.

Half an hour of that got me nowhere. That phone number was registered to some woman's name. Frustrated, I decided to clean up some general online junk just to accomplish something. First thing I tried was to check a junk email account that I never used because all it ever got was spam. And buried among the offers for kiddie porn and penis extensions, there were a bunch of emails from an editor at Houghton Mifflin trying to reach me to see if they could put Cobra in the anthology. The most recent one, dated like a week before, said that it was their last attempt, and if they didn't hear from me, they'd drop it.

So I called them, the story ran, and I got all happy again. My posture's been a little bit better since then, and I keep getting compliments on my penmanship. All because the Cobra story got some love. And that wouldn't have happened if that anonymous weirdo hadn't mistakenly called me (after a couple of years of trying to figure it out, I still have no idea who that was, how he got my number, or what was done in my name at the Nineties) and indirectly driven me to check that dead mail account.

Wow, the story was even longer than I thought...

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