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Dinner for Five

One of my longest running internal debates is whether or not I'm gay.

I actually didn't write that, one of my colleagues did while I was on break. I decided to leave it in for the manifold enjoyments it might offer our readers; in that my bit of it remains a nicely turned phrase, it's a unique look into the working conditions I deal with here at Barking Carnival, and it's also a not so subtle cry for help.

I think it would be nice if our readers send the Barker they feel is most likely responsible for this act of vandalism some emotional support. Or maybe a glitter-covered Wham! poster. Whatever you think they'd like.

In any event, I'll start over.

One of my longest running internal debates ( preface: they are legion, ranging from trivial Ginger/Mary Ann - Kirk/Picard pablum to more gut-wrenching heartfelt decisions that really matter, like whether Saved by the Bell: The College Years was worse than Saved by the Bell: The New Class. I know. Morton's Fork. I warned you. ) is what person, in the history of the world, I would most like to hang out with.

There are two problems with this internal debate. Three if you count the fact that you're having an internal debate in the first place- but we're going to brush that one aside, because we like you. You're our kind of guy. A man's man. Full of bravado and handshakefulness. The kind of guy who is supposed to be poring over productivity data on a flatscreen during the faculty meeting but is secretly wondering if Dalton could beat Snake Plisken in a stick fight. You use Splenda, but you rip open three packages at once and thrash around like a Mamluk cavalry attack getting it into your coffee. Like a real man. The kind of man who heartily splashes his aftershave on in the morning and speaks loudly and slowly to spanish speakers throughout the day so that they might understand. In short, you're one of us.

Anyway, back to our internal debate. Two problems. One: half the people I'd like to hang out with don't actually exist, in fact never existed. Shocking. Two: it's fairly volatile at the top of the list, making it hard to nail down a true leader from minute to minute, for example if you're trying decide between Jack Donaghy and Spiderman. It'd be nice to include both. Which brings us back to problem number one. Damn.

In order to circumvent this I've established some ground rules, loosely using the formula Jon Favreau popularized on his series of the same name, only instead of pseudo-intellectual (does that count as a Peter Kingism? Judges?) hollywood types hiding behind a facade of erudite conversation and noxious cigar smoke you can invite anyone who has ever existed. You can literally pick any person in history at any point in their lives. Ever. Except Huck.

We'll provide a universal translator/babel fish equivalent, a supposition of unconditional positive regard/suspension of disbelief from the participants, and a location, say Maudie's between 6pm and 8pm this Saturday. You pick 4 people. Plan carefully. The other fundamental rules of the universe remain in play. Brehznev and Krushchev may or may not get along (it's sort of complicated). If you can't take Genghis Khan down without help then don't invite/provoke him. Or invite help. Wacky pairings like Jesus and Hugh Hefner probably look better on paper. Etc. If four of the San Diego Charger Girls will not make out with you currently, odds are that'll carry over also.

Alternatively, put Sir Richard Francis Burton and Andrew Ridgeley in your list just to fuck with Scipio. That's a completely valid approach.

My list is heavy on intellect and light on partying, here it is, in no particular order.

1. Robert Hooke. You can substitue anyone from the founding years of the Royal Society here: Wren, Boyle, Wilkins, Moray, whoever, but Hooke is the most interesting to me. He was a fairly well acknowledged asshole and stole quite a few of his ideas, but still the breadth and depth of intellect there was astonishing. And probably the Tex-Mex would calm him down. That whole time period in London is pretty interesting, it was the free-wheeling chaotic inception of formal scientific peerage the way we understand it today and it must have been a helluva time. Build a microscope one day, attach bellows to a dog's ass to figure out what it connects to the next. No rules, comically stupid outfits, and literally just making up shit to experiment on half the time. It was like a cross between the NIH and a bunch of drunk frat guys. Dude. Dude. We set this shit on fire yesterday and it fucking went off. Seriously. No. No. You should've seen it. Should've seen it. Newton got pissed dude. Called Boyle a total douchenozzle. Seriously. Check it out. It's like phosphorum or some shit. Ask Hooke, he was there. Ask him. Wait,... what?

BTW- Neal Stephenson has some interesting fiction about that time period if you're interested.

2. Alan Lomax. If you want the abridged version read The Land Where The Blues Began , but that's only part of the story. This guy was way ahead of his time. Poseurs usually put Robert Johnson in this slot, but Clapton got it wrong on this one. Trust me. The crossroads mythology and the mystery surrounding his early years is interesting- but he's a minor player in the original blue pantheon- most of whom Lomax hung out with at some point. He recorded Son House and Muddy Waters before anyone who remotely looks like us, including dudes from 60's Brit rock bands, cared. He left Harvard for UT (during the Great Depression, so he's probably on TaylorT's list) and basically became a folklorist. He branched out into every other kind of non-mainstream music conceivable, basically spending his life traveling around the world recording songs that wouldn't exist anymore if he hadn't. The only downside is that the whole One-World music phenomena that annoys you during a Starbucks interlude is his fault. Minor deduction there, but overall well worth talking to for a few hours for the Delta Blues stuff alone. Carl Sagan asked for his input for the Voyager Golden Record.

3. Jefferson. You could put one of several of the more notable polymaths here, Leibniz, Newton, Goethe, Ben Franklin... Jefferson is the one I'd like to talk to. Read up sometime on his opinions on the Republican State, national banking, human rights, civil liberty, gun control, even slavery- the issue for which he is most often attacked. He was a very deep thinking individual. It'd be interesting to talk to the guy who crafted The Declaration for no other reason than that, but this guy had a lot of sides to him. Archeology, philosophy, religion. His book collection was the seed for our Library of Congress.

4. Plutarch. Similar theme to Lomax here, you could hang out with Alexander, Sulla or Pompey themselves or you could hang out with the guy who was in the best position to know all of them, by immediate reputation if nothing else. Plutarch was the historian of his day, so much so that with only a third or so of his writings surviving he still influenced western authors two millenia later. I'd really love to pick his brain.

So there are my four. They'll probably change tomorrow. As it's the offseason I'm genuinely interested in hearing who makes your lists- if nothing else I expect to find some people I've never heard of, but should have.