Mr. Blacks in “The Old College Try”

You will remember from our last installment that Mr. Blacks was reinstated as a government agent. We find him on a plane headed for Texas to help thwart a violent drug cartel …well, actually, we find him and his old hobo pal Rate Face engaging in a Roman-style Chariot race. And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, keep reading anyway. It doesn’t really matter.

Mr. Blacks got out of the shopping cart, which doubled as his chariot.

“I’m getting tired of this!” he said. “Do you want to play a Christian and I can throw you at a pack of hungry dogs?”

“I don’t think so,” said Rat Face. “I thought you were going to play the Christian next time. I’m still getting over my rabies.”

“Me?” said Mr. Blacks with disgust. “Play a Christian? What kind of Glenn Beck watching troglodyte do you think I am?”

This kind?

“Sorry, sir,” said Rat Face.

“You’d better be,” said Mr. Blacks, looking at this watch. “Hmm. It’s three o’clock. I have a feeling I was supposed to be somewhere right about now.”

Suddenly, an unmarked white car with tinted windows pulled up, and a government agent emerged from the back.

“Mr. Blacks,” the agent cried, exasperated. “There you are! We’ve been looking all over for you. You were supposed to be on a plane to Texas right now to help thwart that drug cartel.”

Mr. Blacks scoffed. “Forget it! That will get in the way of my wacky hi jinks!”

“Fine,” said the agent, “then we’re going to put you on administrative leave.”

“Done!” said Mr. Blacks. “Now get lost!”

“If that’s what you want, Mr. Blacks,” said the agent. “But I don’t feel right about leaving you  on the street. You’ve done a lot for this organization, despite your unpredictably behavior, your terrible temper, and the time you killed most of our agents in that ‘accidental’ anthrax incident.”

“Well,” said Mr. Blacks, “now that you mention it, I am getting a little tired of hilariously mocking and trivializing the serious societal problem which is homelessness. Maybe I should make another change in my life. What’s one step up from bum?”

The agent thought for a moment. “Sewer-cleaner?”

“No,” said Mr. Blacks, “foo far up.”

“Grad student in the humanities?” the agent said.

“Yes! Perfect!” said Mr. Blacks. “That’s one step up from bum, on step away from being a bum.”

Extremely rare instance of a grad student getting ‘leis’-ed (cue rimshot).

“Well then you’re in luck! Besides being a government agent, I happen to be chair of the cultural studies department at UC Riverside. If you’re interested in attending, I can hook you up with a pretty generous fellowship.”

Mr. Blacks vomited repeatedly on the street. “Riverside? Riverside? You monster! I’d rather eat that puddle of vomit than attend one of the lesser UCs.”

All the noise and vomiting woke up Rat Face, who was now taking a nap in a nearby dumpster. “Hey, watch it,” Rat Face screamed. “I’ll have you know, I have a PhD from Riverside!”

“Shut your trap, doctor.” He said the last word with as much hate-filled snobbery as he could muster.

“Yes, sir,” said Rat Face.

“Shouldn’t you be discussing the relationship between Hegel and the films of  David Lynch while grading blue books or something? Oh wait, I forgot. Your fellowship ran out and you didn’t get that adjunct position at Norwalk Community College.”

“Hey!” said Rat Face. “Have you been reading my thesis, Phrenemology of the Elephant Man?”

Mr. Blacks wasn’t event listening anymore. “Now that I’ve finished mocking grad students,” he said,  “I think it’s about time I enrolled as one.”

“Excellent,” said the agent. “If you don’t like Riverside, there are many other great schools in California.”

Mr. Blacks thought a moment. “I think I’ll choose Santa Cruz. They may not be the best, but their mascot is a banana slug with glasses! Pure hilarity!”

We can forgive them for thinking this is a cool mascot: the student body does a lot of drugs.

Mr. Blacks continued: “Plus, at least there will be lots of hot hippy dudes. Oh, wait, I mean chicks. Hot hippy dudes.”

“You said dudes again,” said the agent.

“Oh, whoops. Sorry. Dudes. The beautiful hippy dudes.”

The agent nodded.  “I wish you the best, sir.”

Later that year, Mr. Blacks sat in a classroom at UC Santa Cruz, wearing a tweed overcoat and smoking a pipe. Since he became a grad student, he had begun walking with an ornate cane, in order to grant himself an air of dignity.

He rapped his cane loudly to signal the attention of the professor.

“Mr. Blacks,” said the professor, “I’m going to have to ask you to raise your hand if you want my attention from now on, but go head.”

“Yes, I’d like to point out this discussion is clearly symptomatic of a schism between a logocentric metaphysics and a Derridian theory of dissemination, gender, the other and vaginas. ”

“Mr. Blacks, can you try to stay on topic?” said the professor, angrily. “I’m not going to ask you again.”

“Of course,” Mr. Blacks said, puffing on his pipe. “But you must admit that stylized body acts are caused by regulative discourse and capitalist society which are, in turn, diachronic with the prepositions and vaginas denoted.”

“Mr. Blacks, you’re clearly just stringing together buzz words.”

“Phallus,” replied Mr. Blacks.

“Okay, Mr. Blacks. Let’s get this straight. You’re in a general orientation session for all grad students. I’m trying to explain how to register for classes. Try to focus.”

Just then, a philosophy grad student with long, greasy hair in a pony tail and an Abraham Lincoln-style chin beard made a loud “pshaw” noise and nearly spit out his coffee.

Says Abraham Lincoln: “Mustaches? Fuck mustaches.”

“Excuse me, professor, but if I may respond to Mr. Blacks for a moment, he clearly failed to account for the use/mention distinction. Blacks obviously meant to denote the word ‘phallus’ at time t but he actually referred to the thing in itself. As we can see from Tarski’s lemma, x is not valid in every frame which satisfies P. Therefore, the set is not canonical. It’s called Kripkean semantics, guys. Ever heard of it?”

He chuckled to himself in his extremely nasal tone and he and another grad student with a sweater vest slapped each other five.

“Look,” said the professor. “You two are talking at cross purposes. You’re not even in the same discipline! I’m just trying to convey some basic information here.””

Mr. Blacks muttered something under his breath.

“What was that, Blacks?”

“Uh, it’s just that I think I know a little bit more about phalluses than you guys…”

The professor sighed. “No one is questioning that Mr. Blacks, but we’re not talking about–”

“I’m questioning that,” said the student with the sweater vest.

“Okay,” said the professor, “all three of you are going to have to leave if you don’t concentrate on the phallus at hand! I mean the matter at hand!”

“Fine,” said Mr. Blacks, “I’ve had enough of you simpletons anyway! I’m out of here!”

As he was about to leave the class, he poked his head back in. “I still get my obligatory, rubber-stamped A though, right?” he asked.

“Um, no,” said the professor.

“Fine! I don’t need it! It’s all just a signifier with no meaning, anyway!”  And he slammed the door.

As he was walking into the quad, one of his fellow grad students called out to him. “Hey, Mr. Blacks! Are you coming to the colloquium tonight? There’s going to be lots of Sousseur, cubed cheese and boxed wine!”

“No,” said Mr. Blacks, “I have officially quit being a grad student. Although I have already been offered tenured positions by Harvard and Yale, I realize that I don’t want to waste my time talking about the works of dead guys. I am a true artist, not a mere parrot! Now I’m off to go hang out with some hot hipster dudes!”

The grad student looked at him.


“But wait! Don’t you want to drink beer and bitch about the quality of undergraduates’ writing skills?””

“N,” said Mr. Blacks. “I’m done with that. Besides, all this philosophizing is making me question my own existence. My wacky adventures raise all kinds of ontological issues. I mean, am I a character, an actor who portrays a character, or a real individual? It’s very confusing.”

“Yes,” said the grad student, referring to Mr. Blacks’ life. “I’ve never really been clear on that, either.”

Later that evening, we find Mr. Blacks smoking a joint, wearing old school Reeboks, tight-fitting jeans, a vintage T-shirt that says Pabst Blue Ribbon, and horn-rimmed glasses. He is hanging out with two undergraduate art students.

Beloved nectar of hicks, hipsters and wealthy Chinese businessmen.

“Man,” said Mr. Blacks, “you guys have got to check out China Bat Earthquake Patrol. I’m going to play them on my radio show tonight.”

“China Bat Earthquake Patrol?” said one of Mr. Blacks’ fellow hipsters, a girl wearing a low-cut shirt with a unicorn. “I’ve never heard of them.”

“I haven’t heard of them, either,” said a third hipster, wearing ironic suspenders and a pencil thin mustache. “So they must be rad.”

“This blog gets, like, no traffic. Therefore, it’s awesome.”

“Yeah, they’re part of the Hippo 7 collective,” said Mr. Blacks. “They release their albums only on eight-track and phonographic cylinders from Thomas Edison’s era. ”


“Hey, want to listen to Radiohead?” said Mr. Blacks.

“Radiohead? Pfft. They, like, have a significant fan base,” said the guy in suspenders.

“No, I meant ironically,” said Mr. Blacks.

“Oh yeah, totally.”

Mr. Blacks ironically put on “OK Computer.”

“Hey guys, check it out. I scored some shrooms,” said the girl.

Mr. Blacks responded by shoveling several handfuls of hallucinogenic mushrooms into his mouth.

The walls turned into water, and a rainbow-colored flower grew out of Mr. Blacks’ palm.

“How do you feel, man?” said the guy.

Mr. Blacks shrugged. “Eh, I don’t notice anything unusual. This is pretty much par for the course.”

“Rad,” said the girl.

“Rad,” said Mr. Blacks. “So what do you think you all will do when you graduate?”

I’m going to move to Park Slope and rent an old meat packing warehouse, and then open it up as an art gallery. Except the warehouse itself is going to be the art,” said the girl.

“Dope,” said Mr. Blacks.

“I’m going to move to Silverlake, play synth in a band, and start a screen printing T-shirt company, except I’ll lose interest after making a few for me and my friends, and then I’ll just mooch off my parents for ten years. Ironically,” said the other.

“Dope,” said Mr. Blacks.

Mocking hipsters is so hip right now.

“I gotta ask you guys. Are we using the word ‘dope’ ironically?” asked the girl.

“No,” said Mr. Blacks. “Seriously.”

“Dope,” said the girl.

“Actually, what I just said was ironic. We’re totally mocking it.”

“I’m too stoned to understand that.”

“Dope,” said Mr. Blacks, ironically drinking a Mountain Dew.

Suddenly, his phone began playing the Mexican Hat Dance, because that was the most ironic ring tone he could find.

“Hold up, my piece is ringing,” he said.

“Yo?” He said into the phone. “No, no, I’m using it ironically. You know, cause I’m white? Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Dope. No, man, ironically. Ironically.”

Mr. Blacks put down the phone.

“Sorry guys, I gotta peace. That was my friend Rat Face. He’s having a  gladiator recreation down at the junkyard.”

“Rad, man. Can we come?” asked the two hipsters.

Mr. Blacks looked them both up and down.


Will we ever get tired of Mr. Blacks mocking different social groups? Will he ever stop being some sort of weird pervert? Will he ever be a spy again? Find out next time.

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