Friday, February 22, 2008

Cole Hall, Part Two -- The Saga of Exidor

It’s now been just over a week since Unspellable Name Jerk shot up a lecture hall and its occupants at my old school -- which, smartass remarks aside, I take a little bit personally. The story gets weirder and weirder, the more we learn about this jamoke. I don’t have anything substantive to say about that. What I’d rather talk about right now is how weird the place was 20 years ago, give or take, in the middle of a long, dull stretch of nothing particularly dramatic happening. Because it was dull, yeah -- but it was weird, too. Koo koo for ko ko puffs weird.

Part two in a series of n about my personal experiences between 1985 and 1990 in that now-infamous auditorium in Cole Hall on the NIU campus is all about Exidor. If you were there at the time, you know exactly who I mean.

But first --

An Interstitial Debaffler

So -- some hypothetical reader might have wondered -- what the hell was the point of the first part of this thing? And what’s with the title(s)?

Well, it’s all a convoluted reference to something that Karlheinz Stockhausen said in 2001. The FAQ on some unofficial Stockhausen website tells it this way:

13 Did Stockhausen call September 11th a "work of art"?

At a Hamburg press conference in 2001 Stockhausen said he believed that the destructive activities of Lucifer (the Devil) were apparent in the world today, for example in New York. When asked to be more specific Stockhausen said the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre was Lucifer's greatest work of art. Johannes Schulz of NDR, just one of the reporters in attendance, filed a seemingly malicious report (omitting the word Lucifer and the context of the question) which was subsequently broadcast on German radio. Before the broadcaster had clarified its original mistake other networks world-wide picked up the story, humiliating the composer cruelly and unjustly. Many newspapers set the record straight in future articles, but inevitably these corrections achieved less prominence.

(Emphasis added.)

It’s obvious now, right? Death and destruction as lecture hall performance (by Lucifer) … the movie “Performance” starring Mick Jagger shown in the lecture hall (Jagger as Lucifer -- Satanic Majesties; Sympathy for the Devil, etc.) … Easy peasy. Probably not even necessary to provide this gloss.


And now, onto the main event --

The Exidor Saga

All right, Mork, put your hands in front of your face, and repeat after me. "Oh, no, please don't."

I don’t like math, and math doesn’t like me. For most of the time from 1986 onward, math and I have been living under a reasonably amicable mutual nonaggression pact, but the pointy-headed pencil pushers in charge of writing up the general education requirements at NIU laid down the law and made me take some of it.

So, in the second semester of my freshman year, I reluctantly took a course called “Finite Math.” I still have no idea what the class was about, but the name sounded good to me. Especially the word “Finite.” I definitely liked the idea of a limited quantity of math. If there had been a course called “Infinitesimal Math,” I would have taken that one instead.

“Finite Math” was kind of one of those “Math for Poets” type courses, only it was more like a “Math for Poli Sci Students” type thing -- and, you can be certain, poli sci students are generally not poets. (With the possible exception of yours truly, of course.)

Anyway, once a week, small groups of us met with a teaching assistant, who, as I recall, was a personable enough grad student from India. Everyone but me constantly complained that they couldn’t understand what he was saying -- which I thought was rank bullshit. He spoke better English than most of the drunken, hypertestosteronated buffoons on my dorm floor. But I digress.

Three times a week (on paper), we met in Cole Hall to hear a lecture delivered by Exidor. Everybody called him Exidor, because … are you familiar with the Exidor character from “Mork and Mindy”? He looked like this:

And so did Exidor. I mean, both Exidors looked like Exidor. I mean … you know what I mean.

I think everybody came up with the “Exidor” nickname on their own, independently, because any offhand reference to Exidor always, without fail, elicited a reaction along the lines of “Hah! Exidor! That guy!” It was almost a Jungian thing.

Exidor was a freak. It’s not nice to make fun of the weird-looking, I guess, but I periodically ran into the dude throughout my undergrad career, and Exidor clearly was weird to the core.

This is totally hearsay, but someone told me he lived in a crappy boarding house somewhere in the student ghetto, like in a single room -- which was believable, because he spent all day, every day hanging out in common areas on campus. For example, if you ever went to one of the reading rooms at the Student Center, at any given time, there was about a 25% chance that Exidor would be lounging in there. And if he wasn't there, he was skulking in the law library. Or camped out in the coffee shop. Or tramping between hangouts. He did a lot of reading. He also, allegedly, did a lot of creepy ogling at coeds, but I can’t vouch for that (although I don’t doubt it).

During my last year at NIU, I had a job at the newspaper library in Reavis Hall, and Exidor used to show up every day for an hour or so and sit and read five or six papers. That’s how I discovered that, from a distance of 12 or 15 feet (I never got any closer), Exidor smelled … really … weird. The best way I can describe it is, the smell was like what you would smell if you stuck your nose inside a pencil sharpener. A full one. It was a unique funk that I truly never expect to encounter again.

All that is the stuff of collegiate legend, to be sure. But Exidor had his indisuputably finest, grandest, magnificentest moment in that fricking lecture hall, in Spring 1986, in my Finite Math Class.

Every single meeting of that class was the same. I squonched myself down into one of the movie-theater-style seats and hovered in a state between sleeping and waking while Exidor squoggled some squaggles on an acetate sheet overheadedly projectified onto a big screen and droned some nonsense that might have been human speech, but might as well have been dolphin, or mackerel.

Meanwhile, there were 70 or 80 other kids in there with me, sitting in the dark, in what amounts to a big movie theater, bored out of their soft little inchoate minds, just like me, while this dorkmazoid from the planet Ugottabekiddinme drew horribly unfunny number-centric cartoons on an overhead projector and said a bunch of stuff that made no sense whatsoever, as far as we could tell.

And then … and then … and then. Picture this. Picture the huge, bright white movie screen at the head of the classroom, and picture the huge black shadow of Exidor’s Sharpie-wielding fist scribbling whatever it was scribbling, and the even huger black shadow of Exidor’s head encroaching on the frame.

Then picture the remarkably big black shadow of something round and six-legged falling out of the shadow of Exidor’s hair and plopping smack onto the middle of the acetate. And then -- before you could even finish gasping at the fact that a wriggling insect had just fallen out of your math teacher’s hair and was being projected onto the huge bright white movie screen at the head of the class -- picture the huge black shadowy finger of Exidor casually and nonchalantly descending from the sky and squishing the bug into oblivion.

Oh. Man.

I’m not sure I have ever heard the expression “Did you see that?” so many times in the hallway after a lecture in my life. I am reasonably sure I have never experienced a better reason to say “Did you see that?” in the hallway after a lecture.

I am almost completely sure of one thing. As weird as he was, Exidor never killed anybody, never shot up a room full of people, never lost his mind and took it out on a bunch of strangers. And the only thing I ever saw die in Cole Hall was that bug.


Feral Mom said...

This post makes me nostalgic for overhead projectors, large lecture halls, and Mork and Mindy simultaneously. No mean feet, STDPM.

Great, haunting stuff. I look forward to the third installment, but I'll be sad to see this one end.

Feral Mom said...

Err, feat.

Anonymous said...

Ban angry toes!

Anonymous said...

In response to three elements of your post:

1. The "Lucifer's Artwork" comment just goes to show that there are pretty much maybe two or three acceptable responses to 9-11... otherwise, shunning immediately ensues.

B. I also had the experience of the Exidor-helmed math class, but nothing nearly as "outside the box" as you described. Speaking of "outside the box", I suspect that, were I to watch Mork and Mindy now, I would either find it to be way more or less wacky than I remembered 25 years ago. Either way, I'd be looking for obvious signs of Robin Williams cocanie use.

Q. Uh... I forgot what point Q was. Await further instructions.

Anonymous said...

Point Q: I thought Lucifer's finest work of art was that "Cars on a spindle" thing. Or BJ Gigglesnort Hotel, although the latter was probably more the work of Cthulu.

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss said...

Yes, the car spindle in Berwyn (BERRR-WYN?!?!) is up toward the top of the Luciferian masterworks, but I think they're tearing that thing down soon, if they haven't already. Who's they? Satan haters, I guess.

In other news of this blog: Double secret comment probation is over. I shut off the moderation feature ... so, play nice. I'm no longer supervising.