Anything You Want to Be
Ben Cohen

The first time I remember feeling truly, electrically awake - the feeling when gulps of warm air taste delicious and the hairs on your arms stand like tiny wires - was the first night Billy Victory, Brock Jones and I prowled the sheltering streets of our high school neighborhood for no other reason than to see what might happen on them.

By 9 pm a compelling silence, which seemed to scold our very thoughts, already lay over the sloping velveteen lawns, spotted with Big Wheels and footballs dropped at the call of suppertime. Ghostly white basketball backboards, with perfect untouched white nets, seemed to float above the driveways, which were spotless, with concrete the color of the moon.

"You ever think about our houses?" I mused. "I mean, all our houses," indicating with a sweep of my arm the entire neighborhood. "Sure, they're really nice houses, but - I mean, look at the yards - everything that goes into them. Do you think you ever want a house like this?"

"I don't care about a fancy house," said Brock. "I just want a nice, ordinary one, but with lots of cool things in it."

"Yeah, I'd get an awesome car first, instead of some huge-ass house." Billy said.

"And a boat," I added, "stuff like that. And a gym with a full basketball court."

"Or a swimming pool and a big hot tub. What's the point of having a great bigass house, just by itself?"

We walked abreast, at arm-length from each other, a wide, walking wall of mutually reassuring bravado. We each wore bright summer-colored t-shirts from Pat Magee's Surf Shop (with black and white checkerboard squares or broad diagonal patterns), O.P. corduroy shorts and either hightop two-tone Chuck Taylors or blue-and-black checkerboard Vans.

Cutting away from Pinnacle Road, we ran hunchbacked through a drainage tunnel inch-deep with stagnant rat-splash: why? Because it was a shortcut, our own discovered shortcut, and our conquistadorian minds rebelled against going the ordinary way - it would be giving in to dullness, habit, fear.

"Who would you draft if you got the first pick in the fantasy league? Magic or Dr. J?" Billy asked, his voice reverberating in the tunnel.

"Are you kidding? Those guys together aren't worth Larry Bird," I replied to the others' derisive laughs.

"Awww, man, Bird can't even dunk!"

"You can have your dunks, I'll take the championship - and your money!"

At last we emerged in the backyards of the houses on Dusky Thrush, thick with cedar, thorns and burrs, and scratched our way to the sidewalk, lined with windows flickering a blue TV glow.

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Image: Mica Scalin

July 2003

Symposium on
Douglas Rushkoff's
Nothing Sacred

The Sacred and the Profane
A Conversation with Douglas Rushkoff

Reinventing the Wheel: A Review of Nothing Sacred
Michael Shurkin

They Gonna Crucify Me: A 'Lapsed Jew' Responds to Nothing Sacred
Ken Applebaum

Plus these other attractions:

Meditation and Sensuality
Jay Michaelson

Anything You Want to Be
Ben Cohen

Not Mentioned
Hal Sirowitz

Josh Graduates High School
Josh Ring

Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here

David Stromberg

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