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Dec 082011

“No recap the day after Adventure Time aired a two-part Christmas-ish episode?” millions of readers exclaimed at some point Tuesday evening. Most of the major papers covered it. Rick Perry was so frustrated he showed his true colors.

I was working. Your shock is very convincing. Did you study Meisner? Are you my mom? Either way, it’s true: sometimes even an AT recapper/Nerdmelt intern needs to earn some lettuce. You might be thinking, “but what was he working on that could possibly be more important than 21 minutes of Finn and Jake being kind of bored with the Ice King’s video diaries?” Let me tell you.

(“I hope he doesn’t tell us,” everyone thinks.)

Ignoring that hypothetical parenthetical: I was hired to assist the production of a cellular telephone commercial starring Steve Austin, formerly Stone Cold Steve Austin of being-a-wrestler fame. Does it look like I ever cared about wrestling, because I didn’t. I have a saved-tag on Tumblr devoted entirely to menswear, for glob’s sake. You don’t come to care about Michael Bastian’s spring line for Gant by worrying what The Rock might be cooking.

That said, Mr. Austin was nice as they come. The whole day of shooting was right pleasant. I was treated humanely, which is more than can be said about the last two commercials I worked. I’d tell some of those stories, except it’s not really the sort of inhumanity people care about. It’s not like I was starved and tortured and snatched from my family at a young age only to grow up as a former child soldier working on a Samsung spec. It’s more the sort of inhumanity the Ice King moans about on his videos. You know, like feeling lonely in a world full of mean, off-putting jerks that could care less about anything but their own survival in the most temporary of spaces.

When I finally got around to watching “Holly Jolly” I found myself sympathizing with the Ice King. I think this has happened before, but I was too creeped out by his rape-i-ness to understand it. Don’t get me wrong: his sexually predatory nature is alarming, but if “Holly Jolly” gives the world one thing, it’s learning that the Ice King was once a bespectacled human named Simon when the world outside his window still looked like the world we know today. Then he found a crown. Then he slowly lost his fiance, turned blue, and went insane.

Which is how I normally feel after a 12 hour day of picking up water bottles and running to Autozone to pick up green spray paint because the director doesn’t like the actual shade of the actual stems of some actual plants. The point is that my job on Monday was nothing like that, though it was long. I woke at 4 am to get breakfast for the crew across town at 5:45 am, then wrapped at 4:45 pm only to drive 40 miles for two returns. I showed up at Meltdown at 7:15 pm, 15 minutes early for a shift I tried to dodge entirely.

If you don’t know what Meltdown is, you are an impossibility. Could you be reading this recap and not know of the increasingly legendary comedy theater in the back of an already legendary comic book store? The location is a Kymaerican landmark, man! The existence of the entire establishment is a low budget Michael Cera movie waiting to happen. Open on Cera as a miscast, thirty-something Christopher Hardwick who, during one fortuitous afternoon saunter down the strip, encounters Gaston, very likely playing himself. The point is that Meltdown is rad and you should learn all there is to know about it so you’re prepared for the Hardwick biopic I plan on writing with the other Nerdterns.

Monday night at Meltdown seemed like most other nights, with eccentric industry outsiders willing to discuss anything but the industry milling around the biggest comic book store they’ve ever seen, alternately wanting to spend entire residuals checks in one go or wishing they hadn’t spent eight of their last eleven dollars to see 75 minutes of 80s themed sketch comedy. As familiar as it felt, something was different. Was it sheer exhaustion, I wondered. Or something more?

(“Seriously dude, we do not care at all,” everyone thinks.)

Finn faced a similar dilemma in “Holly Jolly.” In that example, I am Finn, who thinks something’s up, and you are Jake, who thinks Finn’s nuts and goes to bake treats to avoid watching the Ice King’s crap/reading the rest of this recap. Finn doesn’t care what Jake thinks, he wants to be sure there’s no secret evil on the secret tapes.

Finn is used to seeing everything but the emotional side of the situation, which is why he assumes that because the Ice King buried his videotapes they must reveal something vital. He can’t see what Jake sees, which is a sad old man alone with his penguins. Finn sees the opportunity for cosmic cataclysm alone, but Jake knows that the real reason the tapes were hidden: shame.

I think I’m more like Finn in this episode, even though I do love to bake. I’m always down to dig a little deeper, to test my patience in order to confirm my wildest suspicions. This show works because with so many types of wisdom bounce around at any given time, which accommodates every brand of weird human brain.

So what was really up with that Monday night Meltdown show, you might be wondering. Did you meet one of the writer’s of this episode or something? In fact I did. It was fast and awkward and he was wearing a bow tie, which was pretty awesome. We didn’t talk about anything. I said I was a fan, which feels a little wasteful even when you really, deeply mean it.

I often consider my life in terms of first impressions. (“Gag me,” you might be thinking, to which I point out I’m almost done.) I used to make terrible impressions. “What’s wrong,” strangers would say. “Nothing,” I’d respond, which would offend them by appearing to either shut out their willingness to help or deny their ability to observe someone in need. But nothing would be wrong or concerning or angering. I just didn’t understand my face, or other people, or something. I think (or hope) I’ve improved.

When you have a history of assuming you make flimsy impressions, you poll people later about it. They usually look at you like you’re crazy, like nothing was wrong to begin with, but then you start questioning the veracity of that. You wish you spent more time watching those shows about picking up on things people do when they lie rather than watching episodes of Adventure Time over and over. This is the fear of failure reduced to a microscopic scale.

On any scale, that’s the most important obstacle I face. I want to seem likable enough on the Steve Austin shoot that someone cares enough to ask me what I really want to do with my life. For some, that’s an inborn trait. For others it’s a skill to develop over time, a muscle to discover and grow. Finn knows what I’m talking about. Jake is super bored, though.

When I met him, I hadn’t watched the writer’s episode, though I knew it was his. Had I seen it I could have complimented the sweaters or asked about the origin stories of the rugs. I could have revealed that I paused the scene at the dump to mentally itemize all the junk in the background. I could have asked where he likes to shop and what he ate for dinner and if he knows my friend who went to school with Pen.

But truth be told, in the end it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

-Aaron D.

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