May

2001

An Ass From The Past

When I first moved to New York, I didn’t have an apartment lined up so I ended up sleeping on a mattress on the floor in my friend T.’s dorm at Columbia University while he finished up his degree. The residence hall was a number of small, two-person apartments, about ten to a floor. Across the building lived two girls that T. knew – M. and R. And next door to them lived Jake Dobkin, a name that may be vaguely familiar to long-time Short and Happy readers. This is his story.

I moved out after three months to my own place about twenty blocks down, but I stopped by and visited all the time – the security guards knew me by name. A few months before they all graduated, what we now all refer to as the “Jake Dobkin Incident” occurred. Jake didn’t really enter their lives until they were all just about out of there, but when he did, he did with a bang. The first contact came when some fellow anthropology students were discussing a profiling project in Park Slope. Jake leaned out of his apartment, said “Hey man, Park Slope is keeping it real, yo!” and went back inside.

He was one of those hilarious high/low culture whores, affecting a tough-as-nails “gangsta” persona while really being very deep and sensitive and listening to Morrissey, etc. R. once accepted an invitation into his dormhole and reported back that the decor was mostly mirrored walls and photographs of Jake’s modestly sized boner. His greatest achievement was a student art show in the laundry room. I went for the free snacks but didn’t stay for the art. His graffiti name was “Jugz,” which I thought was pretty unintentionally hilarious and I was brielfy enamored of the idea of naming myself “Swankk” or “Blakk Inchez” and “tagging” all over the inside of public washrooms or something. He was one of those upper-middle-class kids who so assiduously tries to blue their collars down. Most of his “artwork” was spray-painting stencils of his face all over Upper Manhattan. Real daring stuff – I think he got stickers printed up, too. The website of his graffiti crew was a goofball approximation of street legit, full of tough talk about all the bomb-ass tags or whatever, accompanied by cornball philosophy and puddle-shallow writing.

Eventually, M. and R. got so tired of living next to the black hole of suck that was Jugz that they started striking back, tearing down the sheets of Allen Ginsberg poetry he had taped up all over the hallways. He was generally menacing towards them, feeling like a tough guy because he thought he could intimidate two Jewish girls. It’s at about this point that T. and I got involved. I can’t resist needling overinflated egos – I’ve probably burned most of my bridges in the comics business by now – I’m pretty sure that my Neil Gaiman comments at the panel discussion I spoke on have pretty much nixed any chances I ever had of working for DC, for one. And so when presented with a target as appealing as Jake Dobkin, I couldn’t resist.

First, T. made a fake, official-looking notice from the housing board informing him that pretentious material was not allowed in public hallways. This was after M. and R. had already moved his reams of taped-up Borges printouts from the walls to the ceiling, so we felt that escalating action was more than justified. The next day, I hung a toilet brush that I’d found in the street on his doorknob with a little note saying “You might want to learn how to use this.” I also sent the MC 2 Hype Honky Cripple email at around that time.

The next day, we continued the brave campaign. I posted a sign on his door saying that he should start keeping a diary, so after he died people would read it and realize how smart and cool he was and then think “Gosh, we really should have treated him nicer!” and best of all we wouldn’t have to read it at all. Meanwhile, T. was signing his email up for a couple hundred gay porn lists. As I was leaving the building, I saw Jugz walking by with a few of his friends. In a loud stage whisper, I called out “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

Speeding on the simple thrill of mockery, I decided to nail the coffin a little more with a prank phone call. I got his number from the Columbia directory and left the same message on his machine – “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” Then I took a shower and went to bed.

What I didn’t know is that all Columbia University phones have caller ID on them. That’s how Jugz got my phone number. About an hour after I left the message, my phone rang. It was Jake. The first call started out like this:

(ring)

KTJ: “Hello?”
JD: “This is Jake!”
KTJ: “Who?”
JD: “Jake!”
KTJ: “Jake who?”
JD: “Jake Dobkin!”
KTJ: “Oh, Jugz! Hi!”

He blustered away about how tough he was for about twenty minutes, and about he and all of his tough-ass graffiti posse was going to kick my ass, about how he was going to look my address up in the “reverse directory” and wait for me outside my building, et cetera. Eventually he got tired and hung up.

And, about an hour later, he called back, roaring mad. I wish I’d recorded the call, but there’s a few crystal shining moments that I still remember really vividly.

JD: “You’re going to feel my raff!”
KTJ: “Your what?”
JD: “You’re going to feel my raff!”
KTJ: “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying. Your raff?”
JD: “MY RAFF!”
KTJ: “Oh, your WRATH. I thought you were talking about Raffi, that children’s singer. I’m not feeling him.”

JD: “Come on down here – I’ve got twenty guys in my dorm who want to kick your ass. I own this building. Everybody here knows who I am and they want to kick your ass!”
KTJ: “You’ve got twenty guys in your dorm? Are you having some kind of gay blowjob party?”
JD: “Come on! We want to kick your ass!”
KTJ: “I just took a shower – I don’t want to get all sweaty.”

It was actually pretty fun for a while – there’s a certain giddy adrenaline rush you get from being challenged to a fight, and my mind rushed crazily through the preparations I would have to make to fight twenty guys. Wrap my knees and elbows for better striking – wear a few layers of shirts – maybe gloves? I was making a little checklist for getting my ass kicked. After about forty-five minutes of this, though, I started to get a little bored and a little paranoid. If this jackass had the lungpower to rant at a complete stranger for nearly an hour, who knows what the hell he might do. I wished I had had the presence of mind to hook up the tape recorder, and my ear was starting to get all red and sweaty. I couldn’t put him on speakerphone because I didn’t want to wake up my roommate. So I started to concede a bit – let him think that he’d “won” so I could maybe get some sleep tonight.

Meanwhile, T. was having it fairly rough back at the dorms – the skanky girls referenced in the MC 2 Hype Honky Cripple email had sent their football team boyfriends to beat his door down. He called me, his voiced hushed as their lunkhead fists beat innefectively against his door. I offered to come down and let them punch me a few times if it would make them feel better, but they eventually went away.

Jake’s threat that he’d know if I ever came back to the building wasn’t followed up on, of course – I went back the next day. A few weeks later, Jake caught T. in the lobby of the building and grabbed him in a big hug, pinning his arms to his sides while whispering in his ear “I’m gonna kill you, you know that?” as the security guards watched bemusedly.

When T. graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors, so did Jake, and I made kissy-faces at him throughout the whole ceremony. And that was that – everybody moved on. I thought.

Around six months ago, I got an email from Jake Dobkin saying “You better watch out, I’m still looking for you!” I forwarded it to T. and we had an unsettling laugh about it. I wrote back “You better look hard – I am very small,” and that was the last of that. It felt a little weird knowing that somewhere out there, I had an enemy, but not all that weird. And that was the end of the Jake Dobkin story.

Until yesterday, that is, when Chet, my business partner over at Portal of Evil and the kind donator of the bandwidth to host this site, forwarded me an email from the very same Jake Dobkin, written in the quasi-legal jargon that most Internet retards use when they’re really serious about something. I wondered what he’d been up to, so I took the opportunity to plug his name into Google. The first thing that came up was this. Now this was interesting. Apparently Jake’s new bag is taking credit for other people’s Web design projects. You should really read that link, it’s pretty fascinating.

Here’s some excerpts from his first letter to Chet:

“I was informed by our counsel that there is some vaguely threatening and potentially libelous writing about me on your site. I’m sure that this stuff is long outdated and in error, and I assured them that I could clear it up with a simple e-mail to the site host. Please remove the following pages from your site, or edit them to remove my name: http://www.oldmanmurray.com/kthor/100599.htm and http://www.oldmanmurray.com/kthor/081100.htm.” Feel free to read those – they open in a new window.

I like the “Long outdated and in error” part a lot – also the implication that my 55-second four-track experiment is “vaguely threatening.” Chet, of course, wrote back just to make fun of him, but Jake soldiered on…

“Listen – I don’t like people talking vague smack about me. If I noticed it myself, I would have taken care of it – unfortunately, someone else found it and is now giving me a hard time. It’s indexed or something, and they think it might be harmful to this thing they are doing. Just tell me who ‘kthor’ is, or how to contact him. ”

This made me laugh even harder – how were people using this to “give him a hard time?” Were they humming the song when he walked by? Because I don’t think I need to tell you exactly how happy that would make me – it would be like being the kid who made up “Fatty Boombalatty.” Chet made fun of him again for not being able to find the enormous “Mail” button on my site, as well as his complete inability to come up with anything better than “it might be harmful to this thing they are doing.” Despite the fact that Chet had been CCing his replies to my email as well, but he apparently couldn’t figure out that the name “kthor” and the email address “kthor@portalofevil.com” went together, and it was pretty entertaining watching Chet bait him while he tried to figure out exactly how to send me email. Eventually he did.

His letters carried a ridiculous conglomeration of wounded puppy and bad-ass Internet high-roller – apparently he was catching a whole lot of flack about a one-minute song, a mocking email, and the fact that I called him a pussy. One would think that his current employers would be a little more concerned about the page that paints him as a ranting, unreliable maniac who takes credit for work he didn’t do and harasses his prospective business partners, but who knows? One of his emails contained the phrase “I guess that might have been during the so called “crazy period”.” Uh-huh. Then he tried to get me to remove the pages by offering to “send some e-consulting work my way.” First, I’m not even sure what e-consulting is, and second, is that a bribe? First he was pretending to be a lawyer and now he’s trying to be my boss? I am so confused. I think I liked it better when he was threatening to punch me in the face.

Obviously, the pages aren’t going to change – if you don’t like being portrayed as an asshole, Jugz, don’t be one. Sorry, Charlie, but when people threaten to beat me up, my sympathy for them goes straight out the window. I’m curious exactly what the big deal is about this – have his new bosses not found out that he’s a lunatic whigger yet? One would think that the big pants and the “Yo, G” talk would have tipped them off, but maybe he dropped all that when he got into the high-powered world of the Internet. I know that after I got my own website the number of people I threatened to beat up went way down.