Jim Speaks

Yes, the charismatic co-star of the buddy-cop smash hit  my travelogue Memoirs of a Gas Station finally has a voice. When I asked Jim – my partner in crime boozing and travel during the summer of 2008 – to write a guest post for this blog, half of me expected a scathing rebuttal to my (allegedly) foggy recollections and half-baked opinions published in the book. It seemed this would be the perfect opportunity for him to slam me on my own turf, and I was completely fine with it.

But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that Jim almost never does the predictable thing. Instead, I opened my email inbox and found this gem – a passage detailing our origins and the things that made us the wonderful weird way we are. Please enjoy, courtesy of Jim:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”

That’s how I remember the Facebook message I sent to Sam Neumann Spring of 2008. Bold, brave, and manly as a grizzly fight atop a mountain of Bud Light. All attributes I would generally ascribe to myself.

In actuality it read:

“What’s your plans for the summer? Nothing? Well, you should go and work in alaska with me. Broads, beer, bush whacking, 23 hours of sunlight, the list goes on. But seriously, you should think about it. We’d make 9 an hour, plus room and board. Somehow you end up with a Ferrari. Give me a call.”

Not quite the eloquent, grammatically correct and awe-inspiring message my memory served, but it did the trick. I bagged my best pal for a summer of pumping gas and hawking muffins for just over minimum wage 2500 miles from home.

In truth, Sam and I had done a lot of bizarre things together, so it only made sense that he would respond with a resounding yes to this, the dumbest proposal of our friendship.

To understand why Sam said yes, you need to know about a few notably dumb, key moments which led to our summer of love and moose:

  1. The First United Methodist Scavenger Hunt
    While other teenagers smoked drugs and listened to Limp Bizkit to express their emotions, Sam and I made up shit that we thought was funny to fill our evenings. One such evening, Sam and I fabricated a church youth group scavenger hunt. This consisted of us blasting contemporary Christian rock, going to fast food restaurant drive-thrus and excitedly yelling “Hey! It’s team eleven with the First United Methodist Church Scavenger Hunt, are we the first team through?!” What followed was serious confusion, us reading off a list of items like 50 packets of mustard, 40 straws, a small tub of sour cream… all of which we assured them should be pre-assembled, as promised by our youth pastor, Rod. We filmed this and thought it was fantastic.
  2. Foul Play
    When we found out that our high school had an unused TV studio, we decided it was time for it to be used. We somehow connected with the spastically excited director of the defunct TV studio and decided it was only right that we should start our own show. It would be called “Foul Play” and we would pick a topic and argue about it. Usually it was sports, about which I know absolutely nothing. But, we figured that doesn’t stop anyone on CNN, so we went for it. We had a run of two episodes, but I’m pretty sure with 18 viewers, it was the highest rated television program ever to air on Chisago Lakes public access.
  3. Sam’s Big Day
    During graduation party season, Sam and I lamented about answering the same dumb questions over and over at the event from friends parents and distant relatives. Well, being ingenious smart-asses, we came up with the perfect solution: a video that answered all those questions so people wouldn’t have to ask. The result included Sam on a pontoon and in various lake situations answering questions such as “Where will you be attending school this fall?” or “Where are you working now?” Classic! Like everything we did, not everyone got it, but we didn’t care. It was bizzaro and pretty funny in our minds…
  4. Friday Afternoon Taped (FAT)
    As middle-schoolers, Sam, myself and a few other good buddies decided that we were all pretty funny and we also had access to a video camera, so we would come up with a sketch show that would rival Saturday Night Live. The result was FAT. A several-year series with a revolving cast and recurring characters, such as the Owl Man, T Pederson’s Tricked Out Trick Hour, Sylvan Learning Center, among other things. I’m pretty sure it won some awards.
  5. Mungo Jerry Prank Calling
    In what many (Sam and I) have deemed the best prank phone call of all time, we would call friends and family from an unknown number and sing the melody of “In the Summertime” once through. When we ended, we would wait until we heard them respond in some manner, then we would launch into the song again. This would continue until the person hung up. Hilarious! And as you can imagine, not everyone got it.

In short, Sam and I were always up for whatever ridiculous thing the other suggested. Our trip to Alaska was the pinnacle of that. A pinnacle I hope we can top. Sam, it’s on you. I’ll keep an eye on my Facebook message inbox.

4 Comments

  1. Sarah Somewhere09-30-2012

    I’m still laughing about the “In The Summertime” prank, so simple it’s genious! My friends and I used to prank people trying to sell them hair removal cream…don’t ask. Going through the drive-through on our bicycles was about as badd-ass as we got, (total rebels yo) but your Christian scavenger hunt was pure genious. Ah the care-free summers of youth, when all you wanted to do was stir shit up… May the shenanigans continue!

  2. nigel walker11-14-2012

    Hi Jim
    I have just finished ‘the gas station’ and have been looking for ‘your trip to Nova Scotia’–I can’t find it————
    In Sam’s book he said you were planning a trip there—I WANT TO READ IT !!!!!!!!come on guys, are you too busy drinking Bud Lite to go.————-I will just have to read ‘gas station’ again until Sams next book———-I felt so empty when I finished gas station———- we did a trip around Alaska in a truck-camper in 2010——(Denali was too expensive for us though).– This added extra interest for me.
    PLEASE give Sam a kick for me –tell him to get writing—I just love his style (but leave out all that sport crap !!!)
    Nigel——-Lakenheath UK

  3. linda pearce11-29-2012

    Sam- Just finished your book & it was/is the most enjoyable read in a looong time. I was so sorry to see it end. I really, really hope you keep writing. You also look almost as I had you pictured. Great job!!!!
    My brother died homesteading outside of Fairbanks. He wanted to go to Alaska most of his life & loved it there.
    He was in his 50s when he finally went with little money. & high hopes. You gave me a glimpse of what he saw.
    Thank you……..

    • Sam11-30-2012

      Linda, that is an inspiring (if sad) story. I recently read a quote that went something like, “I’d rather live a short life doing something I love than a long one doing something I hate.” I’m glad your brother finally got to live the life he wanted, even if it was cut short.

      Thanks for the note, and thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed.

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Sam Neumann | sam@samneumann.com | Boulder, CO