One year ago, this was a different world. New Orleans was still intact; “truthiness” was not yet a word; and the first installment of a column later christened as “ID Check” had just debuted in this paper. Back then, Boston had yet to meet Internet-TV-cooking-show host Louis Scheele, the poor-man’s four-star chef whose signature dish at the time was hot-dog ramen chop suey; or The Best Thing Ever, an acoustic trio who embarked on a 12-date early-May tour of New England bathrooms; or the Jamaica Plain–based electro-porn duo Angela, who, after writing seminal tracks like “Jack You Off”, faced the creative challenge of moving beyond rhyming “ ‘shit’ with ‘tit.’ ” Yes, the world was a very different place.
Over the past year, I’ve enraged local wrestling fans by referring to them as “lumpy,” staggered around Davis Square dressed as a zombie, pissed off my local alderwoman, sneaked into an abandoned amusement park, and traveled to a Revere strip club with a guy who calls himself “AssMan.” Along the way, a bird crapped in my lap, and someone started a rumor that I was dating an ex-MTV VJ.
But it wasn’t all fun and games; I learned some stuff too.
So in honor of the one-year anniversary of “ID Check,” a column that’s appeared every week except when it’s been held for things like Hurricane Katrina, Christmas, and extra time to write an assigned cover story on bro jobs, I give you the lessons I’ve learned:
When naming a column, consider its insult potential. For its first three months this space remained nameless because we here at Phoenix HQ couldn’t settle on a moniker. My first, admittedly sucky, idea was “Peep Hole.” Say it fast and it sounds like “people,” right? Thankfully, a co-worker pointed out that if you stutter it becomes “pee-pee Hole.” Um, nope.
When a young pianist drives your ass to a different state on a weeknight, bring lots of cash. Last December, Scituate native Casey Dienel, an adorably spacey musician who’s since relocated to Brooklyn and landed on Time Out New York’s “25 New Yorkers to Watch in ’06” list, offered me a ride to New Hampshire so I could watch her perform for an upcoming “ID Check.” Before we left, the New England Conservatory dropout mentioned she might not be coming home that night — her boyfriend lived in Portsmouth — but she said she’d find me a ride home. At 1 am the show ended. Dienel wasn’t heading back to Boston, and no one else was either. I was screwed, didn’t know my way around, and didn’t have any cash for a cab ride home. Fortunately, I found a kind-hearted acquaintance from Newburyport who let me crash on his hardwood living-room floor, before trudging to the commuter rail at 6 am and heading straight to Phoenix HQ, where I spent the day droopy-eyed, un-showered, and smelly.
Strangers won’t send a 60-year-old Dumbledore look-alike college professor their naked pics, even if he asks nicely. Last September, “ID Check” featured Bob White, a communications professor and short-form filmmaker at Simmons, an all-women’s school. The end of the piece noted that Professor White once wrote a short poem that included these lines: “send me a picture of you naked/then i will have a picture of someone naked that i know/i have so many pictures of naked strangers.” The poem had been printed in a Simmons literary journal, and a college administrator worried White would soon be inundated with nude-student photos. He didn’t get any, so he shamelessly suggested, “If you mention it in the Phoenix and I get some, it proves that more people read you than read the literary magazine.” It was a cheap ploy, but I admired his determination, so I put it in. He didn’t get any this time either. “The only nude photo I received following the article was from my sister,” he said, “and alas, it was not of her.”
After writing about AssMan, electro-porn, and “MySpace Bitches,” a little God can’t hurt. After profiling Bob Whetstone, the ubiquitous walking advertisement for Christian salvation seen outside every major sporting event and concert, the 57-year-old bipedal billboard sent a letter:Dear Camille/ Thanks for your nice article on me. I have had a lot of good feedback on it. Also the picture was very good to get the message out for souls to look to JESUS … I will be praying for you. Love, the JESUS guy, John 3:16.
So, at least I have that going for me.
Read all the “ID Checks” at thePhoenix.com/idcheck.