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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 175

I Dream Of Tenure With the Light Brown Hair

     Max R. Lark has dreamed for years of winning one of the big national debate tournaments. It does not matter to Max if he wins LD, or Policy, or Congress, or an IE. As long as he wins.

     On the Monday morning before Gladecreek, he can almost taste the victory that he is sure will soon be his.

     As a high school debater, Max was an LDer of national level caliber. He qualified twice to the Combat of Conquerors, in Junior and Senior year, and in both those years qualified to both Catholic Forensic League Nationals and Non-Catholic Forensic League Nationals. He made it to elimination rounds in every single one of these tournaments. And at some point, in every single one of these tournaments, he was eliminated by Elron Tsk-Toy.

     Elron Tsk-Toy…. The name of Max's high school debate nemesis is still famous in certain circles, where Elron is considered perhaps the best debater of all time. A student at Peanut High in Vestpocket, Georgia (Go Goobers!), Elron was barely into his sophomore year when most of his competition began to regard him as unbeatable. Half of his opponents would psych themselves out the minute they saw his name next to theirs on the schematic; all Elron had to do was open his mouth, and he would win those ballots hands down. When Elron did have to debate, against competition like Max R. Lark that was willing to fight, he usually won those ballots too. Elron Tsk-Toy was the ultimate Master of the Debate Universe.

     Max R. Lark is sitting in the faculty lounge of Mickey Memorial, the Orlando, Florida, high school at which he is a first-year Social Studies and Debate teacher. Idly rubbing his finger around the handle of his coffee mug, Max is staring out the window and marveling for the millionth time at Elron Tsk-Toy's debate prowess. Max would hear Elron's affirmative case on a resolution, and find nothing that could be said against it, because it would be absolutely true. Then Max would hear Elron's negative position, and that would be true too. How do you argue against a mind so strong that it can create two contradictory truths simultaneously? The only person who would have had a chance against Elron was Elron himself; too bad they don't have walkovers in debate like they do in horseracing, where there is only one entrant who does a triumphant run of the track alone, knowing that winning is inevitable, be it a field of one, or a field of millions.

      Peanut ET. That was usually Elron's code back then. Peanut ET. Versus Clyde Barrow ML, which was Max R. Lark's usual code. As in Clyde Barrow High School in West Texas, which was Max's alma mater. Good old Clyde Barrow (Go Robbers!).

     Max looks at his watch. He has a class in five minutes. Freshman Social Studies, the sort of thing that notoriously goes to untenured teachers. He shakes his head. Tenure. It ought to be his goal, and it is, but not here at Mickey Memorial. Mickey M has the odd debater (including, he thinks happily, Dan Viagra, acknowledged current Master of the Debate Universe and Max's protégé at the moment) but is not considered a debate school on the national circuit. No one had ever heard of Mickey Memorial until Dan Viagra came along, and there isn't the support in the administration for the sort of forensics that would insure not just survival but growth after Dan graduates at the end of the year. It is merely a fluke, although a fluke engineered by Max, that Max is here now too. The minute Max heard of Dan Viagra and Mickey Memorial, Max conceived of his plan to use them as a stepping stone. Max's real goal is to be the head coach at one of the biggest debate schools in the country. It doesn't matter which of the biggest debate schools in the country; any one of them will do. As long as they're big, and in the country, and he is the head honcho.

     Today Mickey Memorial, tomorrow the world. And all of it riding on Dan Viagra.

     Max shakes his head. Viagra is good. Real good. As good as Max ever was, with an advantage Max never had, which is that he has someone like Max to coach him. Nothing against the Clyde Barrow coaches, among whom there was turnover that would put a McDonalds to shame, but none of them possessed the coaching skills that Max has now. For Max, it is something of an if-I-knew-now-what-I-knew-then, except he does know now what he knows now, and he is able to impart it to Viagra, who is the equivalent of the Max of then. It is all coming together, as if it were always meant to be.

     This weekend Dan Viagra will make his first big stand of the year on the national circuit. He hadn't been invited to the Manhattan Lodestone Round Robin, and Max had decided to skip the standard Lodestone, holding back until Gladecreek to let his boy run, a little dark horse to take them by surprise. There is no question in Max's mind that Viagra is good for Octos, and probably Quarters. But Viagra can go further. He can do semis and finals, and even win. He is that good.

     Only one question remains to be answered, and that is the question that has been bothering Max R. Lark all year. Who does Peanut have in the bag? Peanut did send a Round Robinski to Manhattan Lodestone, but the buzz was that the Robinski was the B team, and that the A debater was a junior being kept under wraps, getting a little more local experience before being pushed out to the big time. Not unlike Viagra, except Viagra is a senior.

     Peanut High. It ought to be amazing that Peanut High is still Max's nemesis, until you know one very salient fact, that Elron Tsk-Toy is, at this very moment, acting as Peanut High's Assistant Coach for LD.

     Elron Tsk-Toy. Max's archenemy in high school. And now Max's archenemy after college.

     Will it never end?


Joe-Ja on My Mind

     Peanut High in Vestpocket, Georgia, is way further South than Mickey Memorial in Orlando, Florida, much in the same way that any high school in Wyoming is way further West than any high school on the island of Oahu. It is not a question of looking at the map, but of looking at the heart of the people who live there. Florida is more New York than Flatbush or Flushing Meadows, especially in the boomtown of Orlando, a city about as famous as Skaneateles until Uncle Walt started buying up real estate (no offense meant to Skaneatwegians). Any city where everyone is from somewhere else can hardly be said to contain a state of mind, except insofar as the Mouse state of mind rules the Orlando area, whereas everyone from Vestpocket, Georgia, is tenth generation Vestpockwegian, tracing their ancestry to Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandpa Haggis P. McDonald, notorious nobleman/debtor/indentured-servant/Puritan slash slash slash whatever else the stock of our great family has arisen from. The Georgia peach is as stamped as solidly on the minds of everyone in the state as it is stamped on the back of their commemorative quarter. If you're from Georgia, odds are you are really from Joe-Ja, and you speak the Queen's English more like the first than the second Elizabeth. And when it comes to talking like a true Southerner, or Suth'nuh, Fingerlee Dirsch comes close to being the leader of the pack.

     "Whale," he drawls, "Ah thank thayt Foojama ba's raidy as he's evah gawn bay." [Well, I think that Fujiyama boy is as ready as he is ever going to be.]

     Elron (his mother was a Scientologist) Tsk-Toy, a man of few words, nods.

     "Thayt Foojama's gawn take Gladecrick frall s'wuth." [That Fujiyama is going to take Gladecreek for all it is worth.]

     Elron Tsk-Toy nods again.

     "Ah'm lookin' faweda the'is." [I am looking forward to this.]

     Elron nods for the third time. He is being positively effusive.

     "We gawn puh nutha pony onna trophah shayelf, Elron." [We are going to put another pony on the trophy shelf, Elron.]

     "Fujiyama does have a good chance of doing well," Elron says. Although born and bred in Vestpocket, his voice is as flat as the Oklahoma prairie.

     "Doing well?" [Dune whale?] (All right. By now you get the picture.) "Doing well? That boy is going to eat that place for breakfast. I haven't seen anyone so psyched since we first sent you to the Combat of Conquerors."

     "I was young then," Elron replies.

     "You're young now," Fingerlee Dirsch says. "And I envy you every year of it."

     Fingerlee Dirsch was Elron Tsk-Toy's coach half a dozen years ago, when Elron was a high school debater, and for that matter, Fingerlee Dirsch was the coach to not two or three or four but innumerable champions, in LD and Policy and Speech, on the national level, since time immemorial. Fingerlee Dirsch, the head coach of Peanut High in Vestpocket, Georgia, is the quintessential forensics coach, the ultimate Debate God.

     Fingerlee Dirsch is the person Max R. Lark wants to be when he grows up. And it could happen relatively soon, because Fingerlee is retiring this year. And someone will have to take his place, and it won't be Elron, because Elron is going off to Harvard to law school as soon as he finishes whatever diddly nonsense is holding him back now at Emory. "You ever going to graduate, boy?" Fingerlee is wont to ask, to which Elron always says he has a few loose ends to tie up, putting paid to the discussion. Lord knows -- and presumably Elron knows too -- what those loose ends are. On the one hand they drive Fingerlee Dirsch crazy, but on the other hand, they keep Elron in the neighborhood often enough to act as assistant coach, so there is a benefit. Especially when they have an LDer as strong as Fujiyama on the team.

     "I only know one thing," Fingerlee Dirsch says.

     "What?" Elron asks.

     "I have felt the tiny footprints of Max R. Lark up my back, and I do not like it. I know that boy is going to try to beat us this year, and then he is going to try to get my job, and I want to do everything I can to make sure that never happens."

     "You don't like Max." It is a statement of fact, not a question.

     "I don't like pit vipers, I don't like pork tartare, and I don't like Max R. Lark. 'Nuff said, young Elron."

     "I always sort of liked him," Elron says, thinking back to their years together.

     "And you always sort of beat the pants off that little snot-ass. And we will do the same this year. I do not want to have to explain to the administration of Peanut High why I would rather fall off the end of the earth than have Max R. Lark replace me when I hang up my saddle. I want to beat Lark so badly this year that even he wouldn't have the chutzpah to dream about trying for my position."

     It is the first time Fingerlee Dirsch has ever used the word chutzpah. Chee-utz-per, actually, is the way he pronounces it. But Elron Tsk-Toy gets the drift. Fingerlee hates Max Lark, for reasons that are completely unexplainable.

     It is going to be an interesting Gladecreek.


Will Max R. Lark end up as a debate god?

Will Elron Tsk-Toy win yet again?

Will Fingerlee Dirsch get another pony for the trophy shelf?

Is Gladecreek that obvious a reference?

Will Glitter have a second DVD of deleted scenes?

Be sure to Czech out our next episode: "Isaiah Berlin -- Easter Parade -- What's Wrong with this Picture?"

Go to the next episode due Oct 10, 2001.