Patrick Elkins

Patrick Elkins
performance artist, singer-songwriter, poet, and puppeteer

Tottered on: 2 June 2006
Temperature: 75 F
Ceiling: mostly cloudy
Ground: grassy
Wind: SW at 7 mph


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TT with HD: Patrick Elkins


[Ed. note: Patrick Elkins will be performing at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor on 9 June 2006. Event details here. Below there's an Elkins composition mentioned, Applesauce Muffins, which can be previewed here along with some other tunes.]

HD: Ready to mount?

PE: Yeah!

HD: Here we go, okay, this gonna work for you?

PE: Oh yeah.

HD: Well, this is pleasant. Now, you've got a bandage on your leg, but on your MySpace page you refer to a ghost toe.

PE: That's true.

HD: So is 'ghost toe' an actual medical term? Or is that something you made up?

PE: I don't know that it is. And it's actually unrelated to the injury I have right now. I guess it was when I was young when I noticed it first. I think I first noticed it when I was going to clip my nails one time. I almost instinctively reached to start clipping a sixth toe that wasn't actually there. I've always felt on my right foot like there was an actual toe there. I can almost physically feel it, it just doesn't exist. And I asked my mother, I called her one day, because I was thinking about it a lot and I asked her if I had been born with a sixth toe. Because most people who are, they have it removed right after the birth at the hospital and I was pretty convinced that I actually had been born with a sixth toe but my mother said that I hadn't.

HD: Huh.

PE: Which leads me to believe that she's not my actual mother!

HD: Now you're just making that up! Now you have a hospital wrist band that is related to what happened to your leg?

PE: Yeah.

HD: So what happened?

PE: There's a couple of conflicting reports of what actually happened.

HD: But you were there, right?

PE: I was there, but last night, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what had happened. Then last night, I talked to someone else who was there, who had a totally different story.

HD: So what was your story?

PE: Well every Friday I go and meet some friends up at Arbor Brewing Company and we have a couple of drinks after work. And after that I went over to a friend's house. We were playing soccer on the street with some other people. There were two teams, one was the team with shoes and the other team was the team without shoes and I was on the team without shoes.

HD: Okay, so a variation on shirts-and-skins.

PE: Yeah, feet instead of torsos. And a friend of mine and I were on opposite teams: he was on the team with shoes and I was on the team without shoes. We both went to kick the ball and our feet collided. Which caused my little toe on my right foot to swell and grow red and it was really painful. The pain kind of wore off and then I was doing some free-style walking. Are you familiar with that at all?

HD: No.

PE: I could give you a demonstration, but it's impossible right now. It basically involves walking and then using trees or fences or you know various monuments, you can jump off of them, you can do tricks. It's a lot like skateboarding without the skateboard. So I was doing a little ...

HD: ... do you need a helmet to do this?

PE: You probably don't need one, some people might recommend one.

HD: You don't typically wear a helmet when you do this, though?

PE: I don't typically wear a helmet, but I don't typically wear a helmet when I ride my bike, either, so. I like to live dangerously. Anyway, so to my recollection, I climbed a tree. And when I was coming back down the tree, when I was jumping from the lowest branch to the ground, I jumped, and it was a little dark outside and I guess my depth perception was a little off. I landed kind of funny and my foot smacked the ground really hard, my left foot did and my heel hurt really bad. Now someone else remembers me actually injuring my foot while free style walking and I'm not sure which one of those accounts is actually true ... ... after that, a friend of mine was leaving for New York. He was having a going-away basketball party and I played basketball on my foot for three hours and the next day I did some dancing on it and I walked around on it for about a week. The last three or four days I was having a really hard time walking on it. A couple of years ago I tore a tendon in my leg in the same leg, and just when I was walking because my heel hurt so bad I had to keep all the pressure on the ball of my foot. And it was straining my tendon that I had snapped before and I started to get really worried about that because it was causing me a lot of pain. So I went to the doctor yesterday, and found out that I had torn some tissue on the bottom of my foot. I thought maybe I had fractured the bone or something, but it was just tissue and sprained my ankle.

HD: So you were admitted to the hospital?

PE: Well, I went to the hospital yesterday. I talked to my doctor, but they don't have X-ray facilities there and they wanted to do an X-ray ...

HD: ... so they hook you up with a bracelet just if you go to the ER then?

PE: Um hmm.

HD: Nice. Now you're stylin' for the whole day.

PE: Yeah, stylin' for the whole week. It says on here that it was Visit 6367. But I don't think I've been to the hospital that many times.

HD: They must be counting, I don't know cumulative monthly or weekly visits for everyone ...

PE: ... or maybe every Patrick who's ever been to the ER!

HD: So you just mentioned a friend of yours who was leaving town. This wasn't the same friend as last night's farewell concert?

PE: No.

HD: How was the show?

PE: It was really fun. Yeah, it was great.

HD: Who all played?

PE: Well, my friend Aleice [Barnette] is moving to New York ... And so my friend Chris and I and our friend Isaac played with her and her band. Then Martes Martes, another local band. And then Jason Voss also played. At the Dreamland Theater.

HD: Where is that exactly?

PE: It's in Depot Town down by River and Cross, near Sidetrack.

HD: So if you're standing at the Sidetrack front door, how would you get there?

PE: It's just a couple of doors down, actually.

HD: Same side of the street?

PE: Same side of the street. It's a really small space.

HD: Ground floor?

PE: Yeah, it is. They're looking for a bigger space right now. They were trying to get another space over near Huron, an old cobbler shop, actually. I don't think they actually got that space, I think they're looking at some other spaces.

HD: So last night did you do Applesauce Muffins?

PE: I didn't. I just played bass with Aleice. We played a couple of my songs at the end. We played a song called They'll Need Cocaine. We called her mother and played that for her.

HD: Over the phone?

PE: Yeah, played a couple other songs, too.

HD: So was her mom familiar with that tune before?

PE: She wasn't, actually. And I'm not sure if she could hear the words or not, which might be good.

HD: The lyrics to Applesauce Muffins, I mean there's kind of an ingredient list there. It's flour, sugar, applesauce, soymilk, and there's something else, I'm trying to remember.

PE: Nutmeg.

HD: Yeah, nutmeg. Have you ever made applesauce muffins with exactly those five ingredients?

PE: I haven't made them with only those five ingredients.

HD: What else goes in?

PE: I had a recipe when I wrote that song and I kind of used that recipe. I don't recall all the ingredients that went into it. I found the recipe a long time ago outside of my apartment just lying on the ground one day. So I took it inside and I actually did make the muffins. The funny thing about that song is when I wrote it and recorded it, I didn't think much of it. I wasn't even going to put it on the album that it appeared on. But I did, kind of as an afterthought. And then that was a song that, for a couple of years, a lot of people enjoyed and lots of people wrote to me about.

HD: It's kind of a bitter song.

PE: Yeah, yeah.

HD: Just keeping with the food analogy, bitter, I guess, but it's a resentful kind of song. Based on actual emotions related to food?

PE: Well, I can't say that it's not related to food. I think that it's easy to relate a lot of things to food. And I think that through food, we can see all kinds of things. I love to write songs about food. I think it's something that everyone can identify with, you know. It's one of the basic human needs. Just like in that particular song, it kind of refers to this feeling of being jilted by someone. It doesn't necessarily say whether it's a friend or a lover, or what it is, but ...

HD: Yeah, it's very general, almost a generic kind of resentment.

PE: I think that friendship and love are a lot alike.

HD: So you have a promise to keep. And that is to deliver the funniest joke I've ever heard in my entire life, about the orange ping pong balls. You wanna have at it?

PE: True. It's a long joke, I should warn you. And it might not be the funniest. But it will be the best.

HD: Oh, now wait a minute, I think in your email you said the 'funniest'.

PE: Well, it is the funniest.

HD: But you were retreating from ...

PE: ... I'm not going to retreat, I'm going to say it's the funniest and also the best joke that you'll ever hear. I can't think of a funnier joke. Would you like to hear it?

HD: Absolutely.

PE: Okay, I have to warn you, it's a little long.

HD: Well, I have to tell you that I've exercised a great deal of self-restraint in not doing internet web searches for jokes about orange ping pong balls in advance of your visit. So I'm approaching this in a total naive fashion. I've not heard this joke before, I'm pretty sure.

PE: Okay.

HD: And just to clarify authorship questions, did you make this joke up?

PE: I did not make this joke up. Someone told it to me probably fifteen years ago. And I have no idea who the original author was. I've told it a number of times since then. The great thing about it is the name of the character in this joke is actually Dave.

HD: Really?!

PE: Yeah!

HD: Well, that's kind of cool!

PE: Yeah, it's neat.

HD: Alright, let me get a grip on the teeter totter, just in case I laugh so hard I fall off.

PE: Okay, but I have to warn you again, it's a loooong joke. Takes a while to get to the punch line.

HD: Okay.

PE: So. There was this kid named Dave. And he went to his first day of kindergarten. He went to the second day of kindergarten. He went to kindergarten for an entire semester. And he came home with his first report card at the end of that semester and he gave it to his mother when he came home. She took a look a look at the report card. It said, "Dave is not getting along with any of the other kids, he refuses to take a nap at naptime, he eats the glue, he can't cooperate well at all and I'm really worried about his social skills." Dave's mother says, "Dave, this will never do. We expect you to come home with a good report card that's the way school works. And so I'll tell you what, Dave. We'll make a deal, okay? Next semester, if you come home with a good report card, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world, you name it, Dave." And Dave said, "Oh, okay mom." And he went back to kindergarten and after the next semester had passed, he came home with his report card and he showed it to his mother. And it said, "Dave is doing tremendous work now. He's stopped eating all the glue. He's taking a nap during naptime. He's not pulling anyone's hair and he seems to be making good progress with this reading and his math." And Dave's mother said, "Oh Dave, this is fantastic! I'm so proud of you. Well, I'm going to make good on my end of the deal. What would you like? What do you want? Anything in the world. You name it!" Dave thought about it for a second, and said, "Well, you know, Mom, what I'd really like is a package of orange ping pong balls." And his mom said, "Yeah, well, alright." And she went to the sporting goods store and she bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. And it was fine. Dave spent the summer playing outdoors with his friends and he had a good summer. And eventually first grade rolled around. It was time to go back to school at the end of the summer. And so Dave went back to school and after the first semester was over he came home with his report card, and showed it to his mother. It said, "Dave has failed 90% of the spelling tests that he's had to take this semester, he refuses to be sociable with the other kids, a lot of times when they're out at recess he refuses to come back in when it's time to come back it. We're just having a lot of problems with Dave and we're really concerned about him." And Dave's mother said, "Dave, Dave, this will never do! I'll tell you what, we'll make the same deal as last time. If you can come home next semester with a good report card, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world. You want a horse, I'll buy it for you. Anything you want." Dave said, "Okay, okay, Mom." So he went back to school and he came home the next semester with his report card and he showed it to his mother. And it said, "Dave seems to have really made a turnaround. He really seems to be making an effort, he's doing a lot better on his spelling tests. Obviously, you're spending some time with him at home. I really appreciate everything that you're doing, this is really just great, great work. I think he's really ready for the second grade." Dave mother said, "Oh Dave! This is great. This is fantastic, this is what we're looking for out of you." And his mother said, "Well, Dave, I'm going to make good on my deal again. What would you like? You name it. Do want to go to the fair? The county fair's this weekend, do you want to go there? Or I would buy you a horse. If you want a horse, we could have a horse in the backyard. We could build a little stable ..."

HD: ... let me guess, orange ping pong balls?

PE: You got it. Yeah, Dave said, "Mom, actually what I want is a package of orange ping pong balls." And she said, "Dave, are you sure?" And he said, "Yeah, Mom, I'm sure. I want a package of orange ping pong balls." "Alright, alright!" That summer, Dave went to stay with his cousins, who lived up north right by Lake Michigan. He spent a lot of the summer swimming, he spent some time up in Sleeping Robot Dunes, he just really had a great time all summer long. And he came back at the end of the summer, back to his parents' house. And his mother took him aside right before school started and said, "Dave, I just want to lay it out right now and just make the same deal. If you can come home with a good report card, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world. I'll buy you all the Legos that will fit in your room." Dave said, "Oh, alright, Mom." He went to school. He came home with his first report card and it was good. And his mother said, "Well, this is a good report card, Dave. The deal stands. What do you want? I know that you've been really interested in Transformers lately, I've seen you playing with those a lot, maybe you'd like that, or a different toy? Maybe a remote-controlled car?"

HD: This joke is fifteen years old. The Transformer reference dates it.

PE: And so Dave said, "You know, Mom, those things all sound great, but actually, what I'd really like is a package of orange ping pong balls." "Okay, alright." So his mother went to the sporting goods store and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. After she brought them home she said, "You know, Dave, let me lay it down again. I want the same deal to stand. You know, next semester, if you can bring home a good report card again, I'll buy you anything you want. You want an orange ping pong table, I'll buy that. Or you know, we don't have a swimming pool, maybe we could get a swimming pool. That would be really nice for the summer. You wouldn't have to go up north to visit your cousins, you could go swimming right here." And Dave said, "That sound's pretty good, Mom. I'm going to try really hard this semester." And Dave went back to school. Sure enough, he came home with a great report card. Teacher said, "I can't say enough good things about Dave. He's been helping out the first graders, going to their class every once in a while and helping them with their reading and helping them with their spelling tests now. And I can't remember the last time he missed one of his vocab words on the Friday morning quiz." And his mother said, "Oh, Dave, this is great. You name it, what do you want? Anything, you know, don't spare any expense." And Dave said, "Well, Mom, I've been thinking about it for a while, and what I'd really like is a package of orange ping pong balls." And his mom said, "Are you sure, Dave? I'd be more than willing to buy you anything you want. We could go to Toys R Us and just walk down the aisles and you could just pick out anything ..." And Dave said, "Mom. I want a package of orange ping pong balls." "Well, alright, I'll buy you a package of orange ping pong balls then." And so Dave went back to his cousins that summer and spent the summer swimming, sand surfing on the dunes, him and his cousins. They went to a garage sale, actually, and they took off the wheels and they took candles, melted them, and used the wax and just poured it on the bottom of the skateboards and used that to surf down the dunes. They had a great time all summer long. At the end of the summer, he came back to his parents' place and his mother said to him, "Now, Dave, I want to make that same deal. I'll buy you anything you want if you can bring home a good report card." And Dave said, "Okay, Mom, alright." And so the semester went by. And Dave came home with his report card. Unfortunately, the report card this time wasn't so good. His mother took a look at it and she said, "Dave, this is not going to do."

HD: Poor Dave.

PE: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Dave. The deal will stand next semester. If you can bring home a good report card next time, I'll buy you anything you want. I'll buy you an actual skateboard. You can leave the wheels on it, skate down the road." Dave said, "Okay, yeah, that sounds pretty good." So he went back to school. He came home with his report card at the end of the semester. His report card was great. Basically as perfect a report card as a third-grader can bring home. His mother said, "Oh, Dave! This is so perfect. I'll tell you what. Me and your father have been talking and we're thinking about putting a below-ground swimming pool in the backyard." Dave said, "Wow, Mom, that sounds great. But you know, it's not that I don't enjoy swimming, it's just that what I could really use is a package of orange ping pong balls." And his mother said, "Alright, Dave. If that's what you want." So she went and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. That summer he stayed home. And he got a paper route. And he worked on the paper route over the summer and saved up a little money. At the end of the summer, his mother said, "Dave, you're going into the fourth grade now."

HD: It feels like he should be in college by now.

PE: Really?

HD: Okay, he's in the fourth grade, I'm sorry.

PE: There is an abridged version of this joke.

HD: No, no, no. I want the full-blown version.

PE: Okay. And so he went into he fourth grade. And actually, the morning he was going back to school, his mother got him out a bowl and poured some cereal in it. And just before she poured the milk, she said, "You know, Dave, I've been thinking and I'm going to make that same deal. You know, you're getting older and I don't know if we need to keep making these kind of arrangements, but I really feel like it's best for everyone if we could just keep this agreement going and I'll say it again. Dave, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world, if you just bring home a great report card." And Dave said, "Yeah, yeah, just pour some milk on my cereal, Mom. Don't worry about it, you know, I'm a great student. Relax. Actually, Mom, you know I think I'm going to work this paper route during the school year, too. I think it'd be good for me. Bring home a little extra change, you know, to have in my pocket." And she says, "Well, hmmm, I guess that's reasonable, as long as it doesn't take too much time from your schoolwork." Dave said, "Mom, don't worry about it! Just pour that milk on the cereal, c'mon I'm hungry." Mom said, "Alright, Dave." So Dave went back to school and he was working the paper route still. Every day after school, he'd go and deliver the papers. He'd usually do a pretty good job of it. One time he got bit by a dog. It was a really unpleasant experience. He had to go to the doctor. He bit him on the ankle. He was actually on crutches for a couple of weeks.

HD: Just like you!

PE: Ironically enough.

HD: Now is that a part of the standard joke or did you just improvise that because you ...

PE: ... oh, no. This joke really never changes.

HD: Alright. continue.

PE: So anyway, at the end of the semester, Dave brought home his report card and his mother took a look at it and she said, "Dave! It's all C's, a C in every class! Dave, do you think that's good?" And Dave said, "Mom, that's average! It's okay to be average. I'm a working man now." And his mother said, "Dave, I don't think this will do. We expect good grades out of you. Now Mrs. Jones down the road, her son, he got all A's except for one B-minus. And everyone knows that kid can't count. A B-minus is great for him." And Dave said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm really busy with this paper route and everything." And she said, "I'm going to tell you what, Dave. If you don't bring home a good report card next semester, you're going to have to quit the paper route." Dave said, "Alright, okay." Went back to school, still delivered papers every day. Tried to make a little more of an effort after he got done with the route to do his homework and not just to watch television or just go read a book and then go to bed. And you know, he made a decent effort. And at the end of the semester he brought home his report card. And his mother took a look at it and said, "You know, Dave, this is a lot better. You know, I think that we're going to let you keep that paper route." And Dave said, "Thanks, Mom, I think it's really good for me to have this route to have some sense of responsibility." And his mother said, "I think so, too." And so he stayed at home that summer and he worked the route all summer long. Didn't get bit by any dogs. He actually bought a Taser gun that he brought with him on his route.

HD: Jeezus.

PE: Which helped with the dogs. But anyway at the end of the summer, it was time to go into the fifth grade, and Dave's mother said, ...

HD: ... he should be in graduate school by now.

PE: Dave's mother said to him, "Dave, I want to make sure again that this paper route business isn't going to affect your grades at all." And Dave said, "Mom, I've had this route for a year now. I'll be fine, everything will be fine, okay?" And his mom said, "Okay, but if you aren't doing well in school this year, one bad report card and no more paper route." And Dave said, "Okay, Mom, alright." And so he went back to school. And his teacher in the fifth grade was this elderly gentleman, who for years and years was well known for asking his classes to do these incredible projects, where they'd study a state or a country, I think every year it changed. So one year it was a state and the next it was a country. And they took on the state of California, and there's a lot of things that have happened in the state of California in its existence. So they tried to cover the entire scope of California's history, its cultural history, and all the things that have come from California. It was a huge project. And everyone in the class spent an entire semester working on it. Unfortunately, Dave still had to do his paper route every day after school. And you know, he really enjoyed the project they were working on, but he found that he never felt like he had any time to work on it. At the end of the semester, he got his report card, and he actually took the scenic route home from school, but he got back to his house and he handed it to his mother, the report card, and she took a look at it and she said, "Dave. I'm sorry. You're going to have to lose the paper route. This will never do." And Dave said, "But Mom!" And she said, "I'll tell you what, Dave. I don't want you to do the paper route any more. However, if you just spend your time studying and you work really hard at school, I'll buy you anything you want. As a matter of fact, I'll give you a thousand dollars if you want it at the end of the semester, if you just bring home a good report card." And Dave thought about it for a minute and he said, "Alright, Mom, alright. I'll give up the paper route." So he went back to school and the second semester of the year, they studied more typical items than the project they had started the first semester. And Dave really bore down. He did all of his homework, and at the end of the semester he came home with his report card. It was fantastic. Dave's mother said, "Oh Dave, I am so proud of you. I think it's made a huge difference not having this paper route and spending all your time on it after school. You can just come home and do some homework and play with your friends. You're too young to be working anyway, Dave. And I always keep my word, I'm a woman of my word. So I'm going to make good on the deal. And I said that I'd buy you anything. I said I'd give you a thousand dollars if you brought home a good report card. And you brought home a good report card. So, Dave, do you want the thousand dollars or do you just want to go down to Toys R Us and look around? Do you want a bike, do you really want a bike?" And Dave said, "You know, Mom, I've been thinking about this for a while, and actually I'd like a package of orange ping pong balls."

HD: Jeezus.

PE: And his mother said, "Dave, are you sure, are you feeling okay?" And Dave said, "Mom, I'm fine. What I'd really want is a package of orange ping pong balls." "Alright, Dave, alright." The summer went by and he wasn't working this summer. He spent half the summer at home and then for the month of August he went up and visited his cousins again, went swimming, put in a little more sand surfing, went to some garage sales, went to the water park, went to the demolition derby at the county fair. Quite potentially the highlight of Dave's entire summer.

HD: You know they have a demolition derby out at Saline in September.

PE: Nice.

HD: You ever been to it?

PE: I used to go up to the fair in Hart. My grandparents had a cottage up there, so I used to go up and watch the demolition derbies. And I've been to the one in Hudsonville, but I haven't been to the one is Saline.

HD: It's worth a look.

PE: When I went to the one in Hudsonville, I saw a car almost explode, it was really neat.

HD: So do you have to re-start the joke now from the very beginning?

PE: Yeah. So ...

HD: ... no, continue, I'm sorry.

PE: So the summer went by and the demolition derby was undeniably the highlight for Dave. So he came back home after that at the end of the summer and his mother said, "Dave, what was the highlight of your summer?" He said, "Mom, it was the demolition derby." She said, "I'll tell you what, Dave. If you can bring home a good report card at the end of the semester, I'll take you to the demolition derby. Hell, I'll buy you an old beat up car and you can drive it in the demolition derby." He said, "Really, Mom?!" She said, "Yeah, I don't care if you're sixteen or not. You can do it." He said, "Alright, Mom, okay." So he went on back to school and then he brought home his report card for the semester and his mother took a look at it and said, "Dave, this is great. This is a fantastic report card. And I'm a woman of my word. So let's say we go buy an old lemon, we'll get you a helmet, and this summer you can go down to /sayleen/, and you can be in the demolition derby." He said, "Well, Mom, that sounds really great. But you know there's something else that I would enjoy more." She said, "Well, what is it? You name it, what do you want to do?" He said, "Well, actually I'd like a package of orange ping pong balls."

HD: Jeezus ...

PE: And his mother said, "Are you sure, Dave? Because I'm willing to put my neck on the line, I'd register the car in my name, just so you could drive it in this demolition derby, even though you're only in the sixth grade." And he said, "Mom, that's okay. All I want is a package of orange ping pong balls." And she said, "Well, alright." They didn't actually make the deal for the second semester. She didn't think it was necessary. So Dave went back to school, and he couldn't stop thinking about that demolition derby. You know, obviously he loved orange ping pong balls, but he also loved the demolition derby. He couldn't stop thinking about it. All the time during math class he'd be drawing pictures of crumpled up cars with flames on the them. He couldn't think of anything else most of the time. And he came home with his report card at the end of the sixth grade, showed it to his mother and his mother said, "Oh, Dave, this will never do. When you go to junior high, colleges are going to be looking at those grades. You're going into the seventh grade. I don't know if you realize that, but when you go into junior high, colleges look at your junior high school grades. That makes a big difference. You're going to really have to be on top of your game. So Dave, this summer, I want you to stay home and I want you to study all summer long." Dave said, "Mom, no, I want to go up to visit my cousins. I want to go to the demolition derby at the Hart Fair!" And she said, "Dave, I don't want to hear it. You're going to stay home this summer and you're going to study." He said, "Oh, alright."

HD: His mom's turned into kind of a hard-ass.

PE: Yeah. she expects results. So Dave stayed home, he mowed the lawn every week, he studied every day. A lot of times, he'd be sitting in his room reading or looking at some math problems his mother had made up for him, and he'd look out the window and see the other kids playing, walking around town, smoking cigarettes, and he think, Man, this sucks. Well, at the end of the summer, his mother took him aside and said, "Dave, you know, I'm really proud of you, you've been studying all summer long. And you know, the seventh grade, it was really problematic for me when I was a child, when I was your age, Dave, I just know that your body's going through a lot of changes right now and also there's just a lot of social expectations that you aren't going to be able to meet and it's just a really tough time. It was one of the most difficult times in my adolescence, going into the seventh grade." And Dave said, "Okay, Mom ..."

HD: ... can I interrupt you for a second?

PE: Yes?

HD: Does Dave get lucky by the end of this joke?

PE: Depends on what your definition of luck is.

HD: Okay. Continue.

PE: And so Dave's mother said to him, "Dave, we're going to make the same deal we made before. If you can bring home a good report card at the end of the semester, I'll buy you anything you want. Anything in the world." He said, "Alright, Mom, alright." So he went back to school. And he came home with his first report card. And it was good. It was three B's an A, a B-minus, and an A-minus. And his mom said, "Dave, this is really great. You've got a good report card."

HD: It could have been a better, I think.

PE: "It could have been a little better, but you did a good job. It was all that studying, I think that's what made the difference." And Dave said, "Well, I'm not so sure about that Mom." And she said, "Well, regardless, I'm going to stick to the deal. What would you like, what do you want?" And Dave thought about it for a couple of minutes and he said, "Well, you know, Mom, I could use a package of orange ping pong balls." And his mother said, "Are you sure, Dave? We don't even have a ping pong table. Why don't we go to the sporting goods store, I'll get you a ping pong table, maybe I'll get you some skates and a hockey stick." He said, "Mom, I just want a package of orange ping pong balls. That's all I need." And she said, "Alright, Dave." And she drove to the store and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. She came home with the ping pong balls and when she gave them to him, she said, "Dave, I hope that you know that I expect you to continue getting good grades, even after I give you these ping pong balls. So next semester we're going to make the same deal. If you can bring home a good report card, I'll buy you anything you want. Anything in the universe." He said, "Alright, Mom." Unfortunately, when Dave went back to school, Dave found himself sitting in class staring out the window, thinking about the spring, thinking about how bad he wanted to be outdoors. He just couldn't stop thinking about it. Everyday in English class, the teacher would be talking and he'd just be staring out the window, just looking at the grass and the trees, thinking, Wow, I'd love to be out there. What I wouldn't give to be on the dunes surfing those things right now. And he found his thoughts drifting from his studies, even when he sat at home doing his homework. He'd sit there for three hours and only get a couple of math problems done. The whole time his mind was somewhere else. Well, when he brought home his report card at the end of that semester, it wasn't good. And his mother said to him, "Dave! Dave, didn't we talk last summer about the importance of good grades in junior high school? How are you ever going to get into Yale with grades like these? Dave, you're grounded for the entire summer." Dave was really upset, naturally. And so he ran away for the summer. And he actually spent a little time with the travelling circus. At the end of the summer, he decided he missed his parents and he really wanted to go back home. Life on the road just wasn't for Dave. And so he went back home. His parents were overjoyed to see him. And his mother said, "Dave, I'm so sorry if I've put any kind of pressure on you that exceeded what you were capable of. I'm sorry if I pushed you too hard, Dave." And Dave said, "Mom, you know, it's not that big of a deal. Just don't worry about it, okay?" And she said, "Well, you know, Dave, all I've ever wanted is the best for you and that's why I want you to go to a good school. I want you to go to a good college and get a good job and marry a nice woman." And Dave said, "Oh, okay, Mom." So his mother said, "Well, to that end, tell you what. We're going to make the same deal we made before. If you can bring home a good report card at the end of the semester, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world. But I don't want you to feel pressure. I don't want you to feel pressure, Dave. I don't want you to feel like if you bring home a bad report card that we're not going to love you. Because I'll still love you. Your father will still love you. We'll just love you a little more if you bring home a good report card."

HD: Jeeezus ...

PE: And Dave said, "Well, okay, Mother, yeah. I would really like your approval." And so he went back to school. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks later, his mother's approval started to become increasingly less important to him. And those same kids he'd seen a couple of summers before, smoking cigarettes, well he started smoking cigarettes. And he started cutting class every once in a while. And every once in a while, him and one of his friends would hijack a car and drive up to the beach. And for a couple of weeks he stopped going to school altogether. Well, at the end of the semester, for the last five days of class, he actually did go back to school. And he tried to do his best on his final test for the semester, but it just wasn't enough. And he brought home his report card to his mother, and his mother said, "Oh, Dave. This will never do. Dave, we expect results from you, Dave. Now I don't want to pressure you, you know. I don't want you to do anything drastic like run away with the circus again, but isn't there some kind of incentive that we could offer you? Something that'll make you get good grades, bring home good report cards, so you'll go to a good school?" And he said, "Well, Mom, there are a couple things I can think of." And his mother said, "Dave, hold that thought, because I'll tell you what. If you can bring home a good report card next semester, whatever you're thinking of, no matter how many things you're thinking of right now, I'll buy them all for you, every single one of them. No incentive is too great for a good report card." So Dave said, "Okay, Mom, alright." So he went back to school and he actually made a real effort to not cut classes and stop smoking cigarettes. He brought home his report card at the end of the seventh grade and his mother took a look at it and his mother said, "Dave, now this is what I'm talking about. These are the kind of grades that we expect from you." And Dave said, "Thanks, Mom." And she said, "Now, I want you to think back, think back to the beginning of the semester." And he said, "Okay, okay." And she said, "Do you remember when we were talking about incentives?" And he said, "Yeah, actually, I remember that conversation." And she said, "Now what comes to your mind now when I say that word 'incentive'?" And he said, "Well, Mom, there's only one word that comes to mind." And she said, "What is that one thing, Dave?" And he said, "Orange ping pong balls." And she said, "Well, you know what? I'm going to go out and buy you a case of orange ping pong balls, Dave." And he said, "Whoah. Hold on. Mom, I actually only need one package. Just one package of orange ping pong balls." She said, "Are you sure? I'm willing to ..." He said, "Mom. I just need a package." And she said, "Well, I'd buy the whole store supply!" And he said, "Mom, I just need one package of orange ping pong balls. That would make me happy." So she went out and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. Well the eighth grade came around and it was time for Dave to go back to school again.

HD: I can't believe this guy hasn't graduated yet.

PE: And ...

HD: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but you know how when you're doing a file transfer or an upload on a computer and it gives you a progress indicator of how far along the process is? Could you give me some kind of idea of how close we are to the finish line here?

PE: Well, I offered to abridge it for you. If you'd like an abridged version, ...

HD: No, no, no, I definitely want the full, unabridged version and yes, you did make the generous offer of an abridged version. But now that I'm into it this far, I don't want to waste it.

PE: I'd say we're probably three-quarters or two-thirds through at least.

HD: Two-thirds. I think I need to take a bathroom break. This will be unprecedented on the teeter totter. [Ed. note: Bathroom break around five minutes]

HD: Do you remember where we were?

PE: I remember it was the eighth grade.

HD: At least. Just as an aside, as you're telling this joke, there's enough different about each grade, I assume that the differences are important in the telling of the joke, is that how you have it catalogued in your brain, by grade?

PE: Um hmm. Most of it. Towards the end of the joke, you'll see it gets a little away from that. It starts becoming important milestones in one's life.

HD: Oh my god, we have a whole life to contend with?!

PE: It's not a long life.

HD: Yeah, well at this point I wouldn't be too sad if Dave dies at the end.

PE: ...

HD: Eighth grade.

PE: Right. So at the beginning of the eighth grade, Dave was getting ready to go back to school, the first day of school, and his mother said to him, "You know, Dave, I'm going to make this same deal. If you can bring home a good report card, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world. I'll buy you the whole stock of orange ping pong balls in every sporting goods store from here to Bloomington, Indiana.

HD: I spent some time there, by the way.

PE: Really?

HD: Yeah, I went to grad school there. That's where I met my lovely bride.

PE: Really?

HD: Yeah.

PE: Ironic. Anyway, so Dave went back to school. It was the eighth grade and he was feeling a little more confident than in the seventh grade, felt like he had more of an idea of what was going on. At that point people weren't locking him in his locker anymore, or giving him wedgies in the bathroom. Now he was the person locking people in the lockers and given them wedgies. So he felt a lot more confident and brought home his report card at the end of the semester and it was fantastic. Almost all A's. One B. But it was good. And his mother said, "Oh, Dave, this is great! What's it going to be? Do you want more orange ping pong balls? I'll buy you as many orange ping pong balls as you want." Dave said, "Mother, I would like a package of orange ping pong balls, now that you mention it." So she said, "Alright, then, I'll buy you a package of orange ping pong balls." And she did. Made good on her word. And she said, "Well, Dave, we're going to make the same deal. If you bring home a good report card next semester, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world. Anything you can think of." He said, "Alright, well." She said, "I want you to spend this entire semester just thinking about what great grades you're going to get and what you're going to do at the end of this semester when I make this offer to you." He said, "Alright, Mom." So he went back to school. Actually he did spend a lot of time thinking, Hmm, what am I going to do when I do bring home a great report card? And he knew he was going to, because he spent every night studying. Every night. And before he'd go to bed every night, he'd sit down for a while and he'd think, What am I gonna get? What am I gonna do with this offer from my mother at the end of the semester? Well, the semester ended. And he brought home his report card. He showed it to his mother and it was great. It was fantastic, it was all A's. And she said, "Oh, Dave! This is so great. You've brought home a lot of fantastic report cards, but all A's?! This is unprecedented. Dave, what do you want? You name it. Anything in the world, anything you can possibly imagine, but what do you want?" He said, "Well, Mom, I've been thinking about this question for a long time. All semester long. And you know what resolution I came to?" She said, "What's that, Dave, what is it?" He said, "I'd like a package of orange ping pong balls."

HD: Well, of course he does.

PE: She said, "Are you sure, Dave? It seems like you're getting a little old for orange ping pong balls." He said, "Mom! I want a package of orange ping pong balls!" So she bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. That summer, he got a job working at the grocery store. He was the guy who had to go out into the parking lot and collect all the carts and bring them back into the store. And sometimes he bagged people's groceries.

HD: It's important to pack square bags. I learned that from Ingrid Sheldon when she was here.

PE: Who?

HD: Ingrid Sheldon, former mayor of Ann Arbor. And she worked in a grocery store in her early years and was apparently quite adept at packing square bags. Took pride in it.

PE: I used to bag groceries, too, actually. I wasn't really that great at it, though. I don't think I cared enough.

HD: You do have to care a little bit, at least.

PE: I mean, I cared enough that I wasn't upsetting people, but I'd always pack the bags really heavy, I think was my problem. I'd just shove a whole bunch of stuff into one bag.

HD: Did you enjoy asking that question: paper or plastic?

PE: We didn't ask it back then, it was all paper.

HD: So this was really back in the day. I'm sorry I interrupted you, please continue. Dave was working at the grocery store.

PE: Dave worked at the grocery store all summer long, and at the end of the summer, his mother took him aside and said, "Now, Dave, you're going into high school. Things are going to be a lot different. From now on, every grade you get becomes infinitely more important. These report cards you're bringing home, in the past, it meant a lot. Your junior high school grades, they meant a lot. But this is what it really comes down to: if you can bring home good report cards now, you're going to be able to get into Yale." He said, "Well, okay, Mom." She said, "To that end, I want to extend the same invitation I've extended every time before. I'm going to say if you can bring home a good report card, I'll buy you anything you want. Anything in the world. You know, just recently I was in your bedroom, and underneath your bed, and I found a bunch of pornographic magazines. And Dave, if you bring home a good report card, I'll buy you a /hooo-ker/." And Dave said, "Well, er, uh, Mom, uh ..." He was very embarrassed. She said, "I'll buy you all the pornography you could possibly hope to read in your entire lifetime, Dave. Just bring home a good report card."

HD: Let me pause you a second. She said that she would buy him a hooker?

PE: Um hmm.

HD: Oh, the way you pronounced it was ...

PE: Yeah, Ypsilanti pronunciation.

HD: Oh, okay. ... that threw me.

PE: So he said, "Okay, Mom." And it was tough, being a freshman. It was a large school, a lot of kids there and he was a little intimidated at first, a little overwhelmed. And he was trying to get his bearings. He made his way through the semester and at the end he brought home his report card. His mother took a look at the report card. It was three B's a B-minus, a C-plus, and an A-minus. And his mother said, "Well, Dave, you know, I understand that this has been a tough semester for you. I understand that being a freshman is really tough. But I expected something a little better than this. You've shown in the past that you have so much potential, Dave. Dave, you have infinite potential. You're capable of so much. And Dave said, "Thanks, Mom." "But I just don't feel right rewarding you for this kind of effort." And Dave said, "Mom, come on. This is a good report card!" And his mom said, "Well, it's just that we expect a little more of you, Dave." He said, "Mom, come on." She said, "We'll keep the deal for next semester. Next semester, if you make the honor roll, I'll buy you anything you want, anything in the world." And he said, "Okay, Mom, I'm going to show you!" And sure enough, next semester he made the honor roll. So you know what his mother did?

HD: Bought him some orange ping pong balls ...

PE: Well, first she asked him, "Dave, what do you want? What do you really want out of this life?" And he said, "Well, Mom, I want a package of orange ping pong balls." And she did actually go out and buy them for him. Now that summer he spent at home, and he decided not to work. He just took the summer off. He didn't do much of anything. He had a lemonade stand just for a week or two, but he felt just too old for the lemonade game. And he watched a lot of television. He actually had the Comedy Central schedule memorized. And you know, he ...

HD: Now, wait up, you've added that to the joke, because back 15 years ago, they didn't have Comedy Central, did they? Maybe they did.

PE: They ... did.

HD: Okay well, anyway, he had the schedule memorized.

PE: Maybe it wasn't Comedy Central. It was Nikolodeon, okay? [laugh] That might have been a recent addition. It's hard to tell jokes, when you're using these antiquated ...

HD: ... especially when people keep interrupting you.

PE: No, no, that makes it all the more charming. So anyway, it came time for him to go into his sophomore year of high school, and his mother said to him, "Now, Dave, we've talked before about how important it is to get good grades in high school. Because these colleges are looking ..."

HD: ... yeah, if you want to get into Yale, you need good grades.

PE: "... and being on the honor roll is great, but being on the honor roll won't get you into Yale. I need to see some A's, Dave. If you bring home all A's ..."

HD: By the way, does it turn out to be important that it's Yale as opposed to just any prestigious college?

PE: Oh yeah.

HD: So you couldn't substitute the U of M for Yale and make this joke work still?

PE: It would probably work.

HD: But not as well? Fair enough, continue.

PE: And so he said, "Okay, Mom, I understand." And so he went back to school. Once again, he found himself starting to hang out with the 'bad seeds', we'll call them. The kids in school who were smoking cigarettes and cutting class. And he met this girl that he really liked. He really enjoyed her company. And she was considered one of the bad seeds. She hardly ever went to class and smoked cigarettes and drank booze on the weekends and stole money from her parents. But Dave thought she was great. Felt she was a kindred spirit that he really identified with.

HD: What color hair did she have?

PE: She had red hair. And so they started hanging out increasingly often. And Dave found himself thinking less and less about school and about his school work. And when he brought home his report card at the end of the semester, it was terrible. Three D's, two C's and a B. And his mother said, "Dave! Didn't we talk about the importance of all A's?! I said that the honor roll wasn't going to be good enough and you can't even make the honor roll!!" And Dave said, "Well, Mom, a B is good! I got a B! Look at the B!" She said, "Dave, one B!? You're such a gifted scholar. I know you can do a lot better than this. I really want you to buckle down. And if you can bring home a good report card next semester, I'll buy you anything you want. I'll buy you twenty cartons of cigarettes, if you want them, Dave. Anything you want. Just bring home a good report card." And Dave said, "Oh, okay, Mom, whatever." He went back to school and started thinking about what his mother was saying and how he would like to go to college, I guess, and I guess Yale is as good a place as any, and maybe I should try to get some good grades, you know. He still spent a lot of time with the girl that he had a crush on, but the first or second time he said, "You know, I'd really like to hang out with you tonight, I'd like to go down to the 7-11 and get a slurpee, but I've gotta do some math homework," after he said that once or twice, she stopped calling him back when he tried to call her. And she stopped talking to him at school. So he spent most of his time studying. He brought home his report card: all A's except for one A-minus.

HD: What was the A-minus in?

PE: It was actually in math. And his mother said, "Dave, this is great. This is fantastic, because you know that Jones kid down the street?"

HD: He can't even count.

PE: "Yeah, he gets all A's except for a D-minus in math. So I can go down and tell Mrs. Jones ..., yeah, this is going to be great. I'm looking forward to tea tomorrow, let me tell you." And Dave said, "Yeah, well, great, Mom. Hey Mom, you did say you'd buy me anything I wanted, right?" And she said, "Yeah, Dave, of course. You name it, what do you want, Dave? What do you want? More than anything in the world, what do you really want?" And he said, "Well, I'd like a package of orange ping pong balls." And so his mother bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. Well, the summer went by and Dave actually went back to work again, this time at a video store. And he spent the summer working at the video store and he really enjoyed it. He got free movie rentals and so he watched all kinds of great horror movies all summer long. It's pretty much what he spent most of his time doing, just watching all these different horror movies. At the end of the summer, his mother said to him, "Now, Dave, you're going to be a junior this year. This is the year that really counts. Because when you're a senior, it won't matter, because you'll be applying to colleges then. You really need to get your GPA up there. Now if you can bring home all A's, now I don't mean any A-minuses, I mean all A's, so help me God, I will buy you anything, anything in this entire universe that is for sale." Dave said, "Alright, Mom, I'm gonna do it." Dave had a resolution to do it, and you know what? He did it. He brought home his first report card: all A's across the board.

HD: Hey, not bad for junior year of high school.

PE: Not bad at all. His mother said to him, "Dave, this is so incredible. What do you want? You name it." And Dave said, "Well, Mom, I think I'd really like a package of orange ping pong balls." His mother wasn't surprised, I can't say that she was surprised.

HD: Well, if she was surprised at this point, she'd have to be sorta stupid, huh?

PE: Yeah, for expecting some kind of change in her son that's just not going to happen. So she went out and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. She actually bought him two packages.

HD: But he always only wanted just the one package.

PE: And she brought them back and gave him both of the packages and he said, "Mom, that's a really kind gesture, but I only need one package." She said, "Well, Dave, there's six balls to a package, you could have twelve balls, if I give you both of these packages." And he said, "Mom, I just need one package. I only need six balls." She said, "Well, I was talking to your father, and we were thinking about getting a ping pong table downstairs ..." and Dave said, "Mom. I don't want a ping pong table. I don't need a ping pong table." His mom said, "Alright, alright." And the day came when it was time to go back to school after the winter break, and she said, "Well, Dave, I want to make sure that we still have this agreement. You know, it's so important that you bring home good grades. If you can bring home all A's, I'll buy you anything you want. Anything in the world. So the semester went by. And Dave suffered once again from spring fever, but to a much milder degree than previously. And he came home with his report card, his mother took a look at it, and it was all A's except for one A-minus. And his mother said, "Dave, this is a great report card. I can't say I'm not upset about the A-minus ..."

HD: Yeah, I was going to say, she stressed the importance of all pure A's with no A-minuses.

PE: "... I can't say I'm not upset about the A-minus, but I know it's tough in the spring, you know. And I know you've traditionally had a tough time in the second semester of school. And so, Dave, I'm going to make an exception. What do you want? Name it, right now, on the spot. What do you want? I'm going to go and buy it right now." He said, "Mom, I want a package of orange ping pong balls." And you know what she did?

HD: Uh, she bought him a package of orange ping pong balls.

PE: You're right. That summer, he worked at the video store again. Although this summer, instead of watching all the horror movies, he started checking out the romantic comedies. And watching one of those, he thought, You know, Jennifer Aniston is really underrated as an actress, she's done a lot of good work. And Hugh Grant, he's done a lot of great work. And the summer went by and it was over and his mother took him aside. It was actually the morning that he was about to go back to school and she said, "Now, Dave, it's your senior year of high school. And I know that last year I stressed the importance of being a junior and how important that is. And you have a good GPA now. You've brought it up. But I just want to make sure that you don't get senior-itis and that you don't slack off during this last year." And Dave said, "I'm not going to slack off! What could possibly go wrong?" And she said, "Let's make a deal, just so that I have a little piece of mind for myself." "Whatever, Mom." "Well, let me tell you what. If you can bring home a good report card, I'll buy you a car." He said, "Wow. That'd be great, Mom." He hadn't had a car previous to that. He just got his driver's license less than a year ago. He said, "That'd be great, Mom, I'd love to have a car. I always have to bum a ride off you every time I want to go to the movies or anywhere else, and you hardly ever let me take your car. So yeah, I'd love to have a car, that'd be great. I could go on dates and hang out with my friends. Yeah, that'd be great, Mom! Okay." She said, "Well, bring home a good report card and I'll buy you one." "Alright!" They shook on it.

HD: For the first time. Wow.

PE: For the first time. Well he went back to school and he finished that first semester of his senior year of high school, brought home his report card and before she looked at it, she said, "Dave, tell me right now if there's anything I'm going to be disappointed with or if there's anything that's going to surprise me." He said, "Well, Mom, there is something that might surprise you. But I want you to take a look." She opened it up. All A's. "Oh, Dave! Dave!" She gave him a huge hug. "Dave, this is so great, I'm so impressed. I'll tell you what, we can go down to the used car lot down on the corner right near our house. And any car you want down there, I'll buy it for you. Let's go down there right now." Dave said, "You know, Mom, actually, I was thinking, just beyond the used car lot there's that sporting goods store. Could we go there instead?" And she said, "Well, Dave, do you want a kayak or something, instead of a car?" And he said, "That's not quite it, Mom, I'd just like to go down there." "Okay, Dave." And she thought they were just going to stop there before going back to the used car lot, of course, and she took him down there. And as soon as he went in, he just made a bee-line for the ping pong section, the table tennis aisle. He came running back with a single package of orange ping pong balls.

HD: Six balls to a package.

PE: Yeah, and his mother said, "Dave, that's all you wanted?!" And Dave said, "Well yeah, Mom, that's all I wanted, just a package of orange ping pong balls." She said, "Well, alright," and she bought him a package. She said, "Well, should we stop at the used car lot on the way home?" He said, "Actually, Mom I've got to get home right now. She said, "Can't we just ..." He said, "No! I've got to get home right now. I don't care about a car." And so they went back home. As soon as they got back home, he ran up to his room with his orange ping pong balls and locked the door.

HD: Now we're getting somewhere.

PE: She thought, Hmm, that was odd. And you know during the year he had applied to Yale and at some point he heard back and he ...

HD: ... this was the Early Admissions Program?

PE: Yeah, it was the Early Admission Program and unfortunately he did not get into Yale. He was not accepted. And so he went and finished his last semester of high school and he had applied to a number of other schools. He applied to Harvard, Duke, and a couple of other schools. And eventually one day he got a letter, though from the University of Michigan saying that he had been accepted. And he thought, well I'll go to the University of Michigan, I guess. And he told his mother ...

HD: ... you could do worse.

PE: His mother was slightly disappointed, but yeah, she wasn't upset and that's exactly what she said, actually, she said, "Well, you could do worse." And Dave said, "Yeah, that's how I feel. I like Ann Arbor and I've been there once or twice to visit, and now I'll go there and go to school." And during the next four years, Dave's mother and Dave, their relationship suffered a little bit of a breakdown. They didn't talk as much anymore. Once Dave was in school, he met a lot of new friends and he stopped coming home to visit ... Originally he started going back home every month, at least once a month. And then he started going every couple of months. And by the time he was a junior in college, possibly on Christmas and maybe one other time during the year, he'd go home and visit his parents. They didn't see as much of each other as they had previously. But eventually, Dave graduated from college.

HD: What'd he major in?

PE: He actually majored in engineering. An interesting choice, because his mother always thought that he would go into English or something in the LSA, but he wasn't interested in that. He wanted to be an engineer. Well, eventually, when he did graduate, his parents came to his graduation ceremony. And afterwards, his mother gave him a huge hug. She said, "Oh, Dave. I know that we don't talk as often as we used to and perhaps our relationship has suffered a little bit since you've been in college. But Dave, I am so proud of you. Your father and I are both so proud of you. We've decided that we want to buy you a new Mercedes Benz as a graduation gift." Dave said, "Mom, that sounds so great! Except I don't really need a car." She said, "Well, Dave, what do you need?!" He said, "I need a package of orange ping pong balls." She said, "Dave, you're graduating college, your father and I want to buy ..." He said, "Mom, I want a package of orange ping pong balls!! And that's all I want." His mother had never heard Dave yell like that. She said, "Well, okay." And she actually went out and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. They went out to eat at Chili's, and then they went back home to his apartment.

HD: That's the traditional graduation dinner at Chili's?

PE: Yeah. Dave actually went to graduate school and eventually graduated from grad school. And on the day he graduated ...

HD: ... see, this is the place where Dave's life and my life start to diverge. He actually finished the degree.

PE: His mom said, "This is fantastic, you should be really proud of yourself." He said, "I am. I put a lot of hard work into this." She said, "Well, we'd like to buy you something really nice. You know, we see these new high-rise lofts they have here in town and I know you're thinking about taking a job here around the city. So hey, we'd like to put down a down payment on one of those for you." He said, "Mom. I don't need a place to live. I need a package of orange ping pong balls." His mom said, "Are you sure, Dave?" "Mom, I need a package of orange ping pong balls." "Oh, alright." And she went and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. Well, eventually Dave met this really nice lady. They were down in Indiana ...

HD: ... in Bloomington?

PE: Yeah, actually, I think it was Bloomington. Dave went down there for a soccer tournament one weekend and they met. They started corresponding and he started spending more time in Indiana, and eventually she came back up to Michigan and they began a romantic relationship. And after some time, they moved in together. And eventually, Dave popped the question and she said yes. So they decided to get married. On the day of their marriage at the wedding ceremony, after the ceremony was finished, Dave's mom came up to them and said, "Oh, Dave," she was crying, she said, "Oh, Dave, I'm so happy for you. This is such a beautiful woman that you've chosen to take as your wife ..."

HD: ... did she also have red hair like the bad seed from before?

PE: Yeah, yeah. And she said, "Dave, I'm so happy. I'm so happy for both of you. And your father and I have been talking and we've decided we'd like to buy you both a house. We'd like to buy you a house here in town and we're going to put down the down-payment on it. We've been talking to this realtor and there's this beautiful house, it's over close to 7th Street and Liberty and it's this beautiful place ..." And Dave said, "Mom! There is one thing we could really use. And I think we'd both appreciate a package of orange ping pong balls." She said, "Dave, are you sure? Your new wife?!" He said, "Mom! We need a package of orange ping pong balls." "Well, alright." And she bought them a package of orange ping pong balls. Well eventually, Dave and his new wife, they bought a house of their own. They saved up for a while and they eventually put down a down-payment. And they bought a house.

HD: In Ann Arbor?

PE: In Ann Arbor. Ironically, close to the original location of the house his mother had chosen.

HD: Did the house they bought have a teeter totter in the backyard?

PE: It did. Ironically enough.

HD: Damn them.

PE: It also had a wheelbarrow, and a bike wheel, a grill, a couple of chairs and some trees, a nice wooden fence surrounding everything.

HD: Huh.

PE: And Dave's mother came to see the house and she said, "Dave, this is a great house. This is really nice. You know what, Dave? ..."

HD: We want to buy you a house-warming gift?

PE: "... we want to furnish the entire house for you." Dave said, "Well, Mom, that sounds great, but you know, I don't think we need furniture right now so much as we need a package of orange ping pong balls." And his mother said, "Are you sure, Dave?" "Yeah, I think that's what we need." And so she went out and bought him a package of orange ping pong balls. Now unfortunately, after some time ...

HD: ... now, you've stopped tottering. Does that mean the punch line is coming? [Ed. note: HD's hopeful tone here cannot be rendered adequately on-screen.]

PE: Dave grew ill. He had cancer.

HD: This is grim.

PE: It was terminal cancer. Dave was on his death bed. And his mother came to visit him. And his mother said, "Dave, there's nothing worse in this life than outliving one of your own children. This is a horror that should never be imposed upon a mother. Something this terrible should never have to happen to any person. And Dave, you're such an exceptional person. Why the Lord would choose to take you now? I'm going to become an atheist, I renounce God. But Dave, I have to know one thing. What did you do with all those orange ping pong balls?" And Dave said, "Well, Mom ..." And then he died.