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And with one voice . . .
After I told everyone about my revelation the word spread quickly. Perhaps it was the beer, perhaps it was the stress brought on by our Senior Papers coming due, or perhaps it was just our natural aversion towards a bastard like Hackman. Whatever the reason, within a few days we had a regular group of people who would make the journey to our balcony and yell at Gene Hackman's house, nestled in the mountains like a festering middle finger in the middle of our dreams.
It caught on. There were times when we would have dozens of people involved. The act of yelling at him brought on a catharsis, a sense of inner peace not unlike the end of the first Superman movie. But instead of having to fly against the rotation of the earth and turn back time, we just needed to drink a few beers and scream about how ridiculous the plot of Enemy of the State was. Bad grades on your latest paper? Fuck you, Gene Hackman. Girlfriend broke up with you? Fuck you, Gene Hackman. Can't win a round of Goldeneye? Gene Hackman, you son of a bitch.
When the balcony wasn't enough, we started climbing the bell tower and screaming from the top. The cries of "Fuck you, Gene Hackman, you bastard!" Could be heard throughout the campus and up into the mountains beyond.
Were there complaints? Oh, indeed. Fellow dorm dwellers got pretty upset at times, until we invited them up to yell and then they saw the light. Occasionally the police were called, and one time I had to meet with the Dean in regards to a harassment complaint from Mr. Hackman himself. That bastard.
But we were on a mission from God. Or Beer. And we had a lot of time on our hands, since 2nd semester senior year all classes are cancelled except for Art. Some people spent that precious time working on their papers, some people made plans for their future, and some people lost themselves to sordid debauchery.
I used my time to yell at Gene Hackman.
But nothing lasts forever.
It came to a head one day in late Spring. I was on the balcony, yelling, when all of the sudden, from the other side of the arroyo, I heard a voice emanating from the house.
"Screw you, Lippart."
I responded in my usual quick witted fashion.
The voice mocked me as it flew across the dessicated landscape.
"You heard me the first time. Screw you, you goddamned pussy. You don't have the balls to say that to my face."
Maybe it was the rage, maybe it was the heat of the morning sun, or maybe it was the 5 beers I had consumed. Looking back, I am not sure. All I knew then was that now was the time. It had finally happened. He was answering my call. I grabbed my barbed wire baseball bat and stormed off, across the dried river bed and over to the hated spot.
I charged up to the gate and hit the intercom button. There was no answer so my first reaction was to accept the challenge. I yelled at him to come out, to look into the eyes of the guy he ran off the road so many years before. There was no response, and my initial exuberance was replaced by a buzzed confusion. I had also cut my hand on the bat, in my haste, so that tampered my mood somewhat.
I heard laughing and saw some of my college buddies nearby. Ah-ha, the old "pretend you are Gene Hackman challenging me to a fight so that I run across the desert with my bat" trick.
I felt quite foolish after that and thought that, maybe, it was time to let the Hackman feud die. I trundled back up to the apartment, cleaned the blood off my bat, and had a forlorn beer. It tasted of impotence and wasted years. Then I realized I was drinking Milwaukee's Best Ice.
In a normal world, that would be the end. Thankfully the world is far from normal.
Two years later, Hackman was arrested in LA for some road rage incident. A morning radio show in Florida was discussing the arrest when a listener called in and told them the St. John's "Hackman" story. A few days later one of them tracked me down and did an interview. I told them everything. They thought it was a great, so the following Tuesday they had a "yell at Hackman" segment, where people called up and blamed Hackman for things like cars not working or marriages failing. It stuck, and for a while the Hackman hate lived on.
Every once in a while I go back up to campus, and someone always asks me "hey, were you that guy who hated Gene Hackman? What was that about?". So I tell the story, and inevitably they ask to go up to the balcony and give it a shot. Sometimes we even climb the bell tower again.
And so it goes. People might say this whole story is stupid, absurd, and one of the most useless things they have read. And they would be right. For a while, though, up on that mountain, we tapped into something, some sort of primordial force that bonded people together. I am sure there are many people who will never forget the moment when they climbed the outside of a bell tower at 3 in the morning to scream away their troubles at an actor they had never met. It was like a baptism, only with beer and rage replacing holy water and servitude.
Hackman, you son of a bitch.