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The Story of Brad

Monday, 24 September 2012


Hi, I’m Brad. Bradley William Frederick II, actually. My college buddies call me Billy or “The Deuce,” but mostly now I just go by Brad.

I’m in computer animation. You know those turtles in “Finding Nemo”? “Duuuuude”?Yeah, I was involved in a creating a lot of the scenes with the dad in it.

Pixar? Yeah, that means I worked for Pixar. For four years, actually. It was a pretty amazing time, actually. Opened a lot of doors for me. It was a lot of hard, grueling work, but the people there are amazing, and there’s a part of me that wishes I could go back there.

No, I’m not married.

Oh, the ring? Yeah, well, I was married. My wife died. Back in 2005.

No no, it’s OK. I mean, thanks, that’s sweet. It’s been a long time, right? That's what you're thinking? And I know the ring seems like a freaky thing, like maybe I’m holding on a little too much or too long, but it’s not like that. I mean, it messed me up pretty bad for a while, and I don’t think I’ll ever know a darkness like the place I was in after that.

In fact, that’s how I met those two guys over there.

Yeah, that’s Rusty. He’s a data systems analyst in Atlanta. And that tall dude next to him is Palmer. That’s his last name, but we’ve just always called him that. Anyway, I met them both in a widower support group down in Atlanta. We all showed up within three weeks of each other and helped one another through the dark times.

Oh yeah, and we all have kids around the same age, so we connected that way, too.

Palmer lives in Chattanooga now. He moved up here in, like, 2009 or something. We’re up here visiting him for the weekend. Rusty and I come up here once in a while. It’s so much more laid back and cheaper than Atlanta. We don’t have to constantly feel like we’re well-off single guys hunting for women, y’know? We can just relax and enjoy ourselves. The single scene in Atlanta is too intense. Not our style, you know?

Palmer works from his home. He works for the government. He does research for... well, he won’t talk about it much, but we think he does a lot of classified background research for counter-terrorism projects in the CIA. He knows, like, five or six Middle Eastern dialects and languages. I don’t really understand it all, but I just know not to ask too many questions about it. He just came back from Islamabad a few months ago. Had to be there for a couple weeks I think. But like I said, he doesn’t talk about it.

You know, if I ever got serious about someone, I’d probably take the ring off. But until then, I don’t see what the problem is. If it means some women don’t want to talk to me when we’re out at bars or whatever, that’s fine. I get it. But I’m not gonna take off the ring just so I can get laid, y’know?

No no, enough about me. I’m just a boring former Pixar guy who now does most of the computer animation for the Geico lizard. I mean, yeah, I guess that makes me one of the better computer animators in the country, but really I’m just working hard and raising my 7-year-old daughter alone in a 4-bedroom house in Buckhead.

So what’s your story, you hot thing you?

__________________________________________

Last weekend, I reunited with two college roommates in downtown Chattanooga. We are 20 years older, married with children, and saddled with boring grown-up problems and responsibilities. We wouldn’t trade our lives, but men don’t generally like talking about their grown-up problems and responsibilities in our time together. We see our time as a releasing of the familial pressure valve.

As we sat at Mellow Mushroom on Saturday night, waiting the requisite three hours for our meals to arrive, we had fun inventing new personae for ourselves. If we were the kinds of guys who went out to bars and made up names and jobs for themselves and then hit on women under these new aliases, who would we pretend to be?

If we actually did this, if we were remotely capable of pulling such a thing off, maybe it wouldn’t have been so funny working up the stories. But we spent two hours eating dinner and laughing so hard we wheezed and cried as we fine-tuned these fictional characters, knowing they would never step foot outside that restaurant.

Sometimes, it’s best and healthiest to work through our problems. Talk ‘em out. Talk ‘em to death. But sometimes, it’s just nice to push the eject button and talk yourself into another existence, into someone else’s imaginary life of trial and triumph, to laugh at their foibles and lament their invented tragedies.

We left Mellow Mushroom to watch a concert by Departure, a band that makes its living pretending to be Journey.

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