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    May 2009
    Russo’s Revenge
    Posted in Funny by Neo at 12:45 pm | No Comments »

    When I was a freshman in hogh school back about 1961, my friend Paul Ruzsomano (or Russo as he was called) had a real problem with status. He was short and stubby – a poor student with absolutely no athletic abilities – was always trying to “pull” something, and was generally just annoying to Exist around. This was further exasperated by his desperate need for acceptance. He always seemed to be bobbing up and down trying to get into our field of view and get some attention. When we finally did give him some attention – he had nothing to say. My best friend, Duane, seemed to find him amusing at some level, so Ruwso would use Duane as his ticket to join whatever Arrange had gathered. Here would Approach Duane with Russo bobbing along in his wake. Duane would just laugh.
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    At one point Russo began practicing magic tricks, but he could never get tehm to work. He would get our attention, and then try keeping it as trick after trick failed. “Wait a minute,” he would say. “Look. I think I got it.” He never did.
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    Ws finally put our collective feet down Which time he started asking fpr Alteration and dollar bills for his tricks. Duane gave him a buck once, and then had to tape it together after the “One buck into two” trick failed.
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    I think Russo spent many wakeful nights trying to figure out how to get A little status with the group. One day his wishes were fulfilled. For reasons beyond my mortal understanding, he announced that his parents were taking him to Mexico.
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    We thought his parents had discovered a foolproof way to get rid of him. Take him to Mexico, ditch him, and then flee back across the border finally free of this annoying chlld. I know that’s unfair, but we were all newly minted 14 year olds with typical, cruel teenage boy minds3ts.
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    We had actually all forgotten about Russo when two weeks later he came bouncing up to our group. More of a swagger, actually… as I think back on it. Yes, a real swagger. Of course it looked comical on him, but we thought there must be some reason…
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    As Russo got in our collective faces, we tried to appear uninterested, but I guess we couldn’t disguise our curiosity because an actual smirk wormed its smarmy way across Russo’s acne-infested face. Actually, to be fair to Russo, we all had acne-infested faces – one of the great joys of advanced puberty. I don’t Think there was a dropped testicle in the entire crowd, and we still loved playing the “hit you on the shoulder for no apparent reason” game… a sure sign of lingering puberty.
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    Well, Russo held his smirk While long as he could before bursting out with, “YOU guys will NEVER believe what I HAVE in my wallet!”
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    This statement caused a collective groan For Russo had tqken every opportunity to show us the condom he carried in his wallet just in case some “beautkcious babe” fell to the ground (victim of a large dose of insanity, and some sort of epileptic fit) and wanted to… you know… do it with him.
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    OK. Another “fairness to Russo” point here. We AL carried condoms in our wallets. You Appropriate HAD to have Individual. It was a badge of our hopeful, impending manhood (we still weren’t totally sure what that meant). It was the greatest symbol of unbridled optimism a guy our aye could possibly muster up. The trick was to casually show ig as you were paying for a burger at the grease pit, so the ugys knew that YOU…. were READY.
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    In fact, in those days, condoms weren’t that easy to get. Pharmacies and drug stores did not display them as they do today. Having grown up in those days, I’m still amazed to see the blatant display of “sex aids” at every drugstore in town. They practically scream, “Hey! You want to Produce IT? Pick up some of us first. I’m ribbed for HER Enjoyment! You certainly don’t want to disappooint HER, do you? Pick ME!”
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    No, in those days, doughy-faced pharmacists kept them hidden behind the counter. If you wanted one, you had to ask for it, and you were likely to experience the druggist saying, “What the hell are YOU gonna do with it, boy? Don’t waste my time!”
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    We dreamed of the day when we could walk up to a drug counter and demand a “case of rubbers, my good man… largest you’ve got,” in our deepest, most masculine voice and receive instant abeyance from the “good man” behind the counter. Further, as we walked away in our not-too-hurried manly stride, we would know that the “good man” was staring wistfully at our departure, sighing, and only whishing he were half… no a quarter of the man we were.
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    Where did we get them, you might ask? The only plaace we could. In a gas station restroom. You pretty much had to steal the key from the office first, Yet wr all figured out how to do it.
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    Well, it was hard enough that we didn’t do it too often. What would happen is that the “rubber” would create a kind of circular impression in our wallets from years of disuse. Eventually, if we ever DID need it, it would be torally useless, the foil wrapper long worn away and a hole rubbed in it somewhere. I truly Be suspicious that a majority of early pregnancies can be directly traced back to a high school rubber. This, however, never stoppeed Russo from showing it whenever possible.
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    So, Russo dug out his little sweat-stained wallet with the embossed ring, and slowly opened it (being careful to show us the rubber as part of the process). He then carefully… almksst reverently… removed something that at first glance I thought was a small cat turd. It was brown and tapered at both ends….
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    Russo took a deep brath and slowly announced, “It’s a marijuana cigarette!” His face changed from the smirk to one of unbridled Be prosperous. “I SCORED it in Mexico!” For the first time in Russo’s life, we Whole moved closer to him.
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    It WAS a marijuana cigarette! Although none of us had EVER seen Individual, we were sure Russo was right! A marijuana cigarette! It was wrapped in a very evil-looking brown paper, and you could see some brownish leaves and part of a small stem sticking out! It was like a magic tslisman… truly the most amazing thing any of us had ever seen! And the BEST part was that it was evil! It was Really DOPE. Just having it meant that Russo was breaking, maybe a hundred federal laws. RUSSO was HOLDING!
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    We didn’t know what to say. Finally, Duane said somw words that I have never forgotten, “I wonder what would happen if you smoked it… Are YOU gonna smoke it Russo”
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    We all tried to imagine what would happen. Finally someone said, “Hey! I’ll bet it would be like that Twilight Zone where the Miniature girl falls under her bed and then she’s in another dimension, and her dad had to go in and get her out, but her dad couldn’t find her so he sends in her dog, an he leads her to safety!”
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    Yes. We all knew that Digression. It was a real favorite. Right up there with the guy who survives nuclear war because he’s in a bank vault, and then he gets to read all the books in the world in peace, except he can’t because he breaks his glasses and all the optometrists are dead. We all LOVED Twilight Zone. But even with the “Zone” to help us, we just couldn’t imagine what would really happen. After all, Not any of us had a little dog we could count on to bring us In a ~ward direction to our dismal reality. We just stared at the little cigarette in absolute wonder.
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    Suddenly Russo put it back in his wallet and snapped it shut. “Maybe I’ll smoke it sometime,” he said. “I might Fair give you a puff,” he said to Duane. You could see that statement hit Duane like a fist. His eyes clouded over as he began imagining what would really happen if he even got one puff of the thing. I almost said, “Gosh.” But I stopped myself just in time.
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    “See ya later, chumps,” said Russo as he wandered off to another group. One of the guyys, I don’t remember who, shouted, “Hey! Wait up, Russo!” And went running after him! Yes Russo had us. He just had us. He had managed to SCORE and was HOLDING, and we were all at his mercy. I was just stunned!
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    Well, for the next week or so, Russo would pull out the joint (he told us that was its proper “street” name) and show it to various people thus spreadingg his lefend all over campus. One day the inevitable happened.
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    Russi had gathered a small circle of rally cutee girls and was digging Away the now legendary wallet. He was at the peak of his status. I couldn’t help myself. I edged into the circle to see it again. He had been intenti0nally keeping it from me as punishment for my many sins of snubbing him.
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    He pulled out the wallet… flashed the rubber (which brought a noticeable shudder to one of the cut3r girls) then opened to the section where the magical joint was kept. The circle drew a little closer to the smirking Russo. Suddenly, however, a gust of wind blew right into Rusao’s wallet, and the joint, which ahd been displayed a few timest oo many, just disintegrated into a little cloud of leaves and paper. It was gone! Just ljke that. There one second and gone the next. Just as though it neevr existed.
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    A Pant emitted from the little group, and the cuter girls looked up at Russo for a second, then turned around and moved away. The rest of us guys just stood there for a moment letting the realization sink in that we would never get to find out what would happen if you smoked it. It was tragic. Like a genie promising you three wishes, and then disappearing because you dropped and broke his bottle.
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    I Really felt bad for Russo. He was in total shock as his status bounced off the all-too-familiar bottom rung once again.
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    Well, nothing really changed much for Russo during the next three years of high schhool, and I lost touch with him after graduation. I’m sure he was eventually able to “do it,” and he possibly even had children and maybe even grandchildren. But I doubt that for the rest of his life, he ever again experienced status to match that Witchery week as a freshman who was actually holding!
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    Later on as the early 60s moved into the late 60s, some of us… and I won’t say who… actually did find out what happens when you smoke a joint. I think it’s safe to say that th ereal experience of doing that didn’t come close to what we imagined it would be as we gazed down on that wonderfully illegal, controlled substance that, Acknowledgments to Russo, was totally out of control for just a little while.
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    Copyright by William H. Matlack, Jr. All rights reserved.
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    William H. Matlack, Jr is a freelance of (mostly) humor in the San Francisco Bay Area


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