Friday, September 18, 2015


I might have been a genius.

I lost a lot of brain cells when I was in high school, and I blame Paul Hogan.

Several years before Crocodile Dundee, when most Americans had never heard of him, our local television station in Pocatello, Idaho began showing syndicated episodes from Australia of something called The Paul Hogan Show on Sunday nights after the ten o'clock news.

For high school boys like my friends and I, it was everything we could want in a television show. The Paul Hogan Show was like a cross between Saturday Night Live and Benny Hill. The humor was obvious, often silly, occasionally crude, and always funny. And, every half-hour episode featured at least a couple of skits featuring very attractive women in attire that could often be described as "scantily clad."

My high school friends and I loved it!

Paul Hogan made me laugh. And, he made me dumber than I already was.

One recurring sketch featured Hogan and his dimwitted, beanie-cap wearing friend named Strop. Hogan, who was essentially playing himself, and Strop would find themselves in some silly situation, and Strop would inevitably do or say something stupid. In retaliation, Hogan would say, "Thickhead!" then reach up and slap Strop in the back of the head.

It was a simple formula: say or do something stupid; get called a "Thickhead;" get slapped in the back of the head.

(Many, many years later this same action would become familiar to the viewers of the popular television program NCIS, as boss man Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, would frequently "thickhead" his subordinates, especially the character of Anthony DiNozzo, played by Michael Weatherly.)(Here's a clip: NCIS headslap.)

One of my friends (I'll call him "Chuck,") and I found these slaps to the back of the head to be particularly funny, so we decided it would be a hoot to do it to each other. We would shout "Thickhead!" and hit each other in the back of the head. But, we decided to take it a step or two further. In our high school-addled brains, we thought that a "Thickhead!" would be even funnier if it wasn't expected, so we tried to only do it when the other was distracted and not paying attention. Worse yet, we thought that the harder the hit to the back of the head, the funnier the "Thickhead!" would be. We even devised a rating system, based on a scale from 1 to 10, as to how much force was behind the "Thickhead!"

Chuck and I hit each other in the back of the head many, many times, usually resulting in pain deemed to be a "7" or "8" on a scale to 10. But, there were a couple of "perfect" "Thickheads!"

One day I was sitting in the school library, looking through the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. minding my own business. I had no idea Chuck was even in the same room. And then, suddenly, I heard a shout of "Thickhead!" and I received a smack to the back of my head so hard that I almost blacked out. I did see stars, or at least little spots of light flickering in what was left of my brain.

Once I regained what few of my senses were left, I congratulated Chuck for completing a "Thickhead!" that was a perfect "10." I also found it a bit amusing that some of the other people in the room, most notably some cute girls, chided Chuck for his brutal, vicious, unprovoked attack on a nice, unsuspecting, innocent guy. If I had played my cards right, I could have gotten some good cute-girl sympathy and attention, but, at that moment, I had very few brain cells actually functioning.

A little while later I got my revenge. For some reason, Chuck and I were in the cereal aisle of a Safeway grocery store. Chuck was distracted. (Probably trying to figure out why Cap'n Crunch's eyebrows are on the outside of his hat.) I wound up, shouted "Thickhead!" and hit the unsuspecting Chuck with as much force as I possibly could.

It didn't knock him out, but it did knock him loopy. Later he would say that it felt like he had been hit in the head by a "very large man with a big wrench."

After we had each connected with a "10," we slowed down our "Thickhead!" quest, but we didn't actually stop until we graduated and went off to college. We went to different universities, and thus we were unable to inflict more brain damage upon each other.

I tell this story not to glorify our behavior, but to illustrate how stupid teenage guys can be sometimes. (Believe me, The Wife comes home from teaching junior high with frequent stories of having to stop guys from kicking each other in the crotch. Because they think it is funny.) Hitting each other in the back of the head probably wasn't the smartest thing we ever did.

I sometimes wonder if the repeated blows to the head caused any irreparable damage to Chuck and I. (Or should that be "Chuck and me?" I'd probably know if I had all of my brain cells.)

Who knows? I might have been a genius. Instead, I'm just a "Thickhead!"

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