Brian Costello

This is the story of a man named Bryan (with a "Y"), a real smarty pants who loved flaunting his useless, inapplicable knowledge to anyone and everyone around him, be it in library elevators, friendly games of "Trivial Pursuit," the classroom, the dining room, the bus stop, the workplace, the produce section of Jewel/Osco, Sunday Mass, confessional booths, well, you get the idea: a real smarty pants.

In God's honest truth, Bryan loved nothing more than to patronize a local watering hole called Georgie's and play along with his favorite television quiz show, "Who Wants to Fornicate with a Millionaire?" This was a game in which winning contestants were given the privilege of sleeping with the rich person of their choice, because, as everybody knows, the wealthier you are, the better you are in bed. Bryan preferred playing along with this wonderful television program (but aren't they all wonderful?) in bars where he knew the clientele would never be as intelligent as he was: places with drunken Teamsters, toothless bagladies, and pedantic peabrained University of Chicago philosophy students.

Are you with me so far, reader? No? Well, perhaps you should put this away and read something a little closer to your fourth grade reading level, like the Chicago Sun-Times perhaps. For the rest of you, let us continue. On one average Tuesday night not so very long ago, Bryan had a very horrific encounter, and maybe it's what the jerk deserved, but it's scary, so scary, in fact, that I'm tempted not to unleash its terror upon the world, but, what the hell, maybe even you, dim reader, will learn a valuable lesson.

Our hero Bryan was seated in the middle of the fifteen foot length of the bar, yelling his correct answers at the large screen television to his right, before anybody else had the chance to venture a guess.

"The San Diego Clippers!" "The Legend of Billy Jack!" "Chester Arthur!" "1956!" "John Ritter!" This naturally annoyed the patrons around him, who were always on the verge of saying their answer before Bryan beat them to the punch. Salt was further rubbed into these psychic wounds by Bryan's weasely laugh of superiority after bellowing his answer, and whenever the host of "Who Wants to Fornicate with a Millionaire," one Phyllis Regin, cocked her eye at the contestant and asked them, "Are youuu surrrre?" when they made their guess, Bryan would proclaim, "Oh yeah! Boo-yah! In your face! Hoo hoo hoo!"

"Say, you're a smart, smart man, aren't you?"

Bryan's eyes darted to his left and saw a dapper fellow not in red and/or black, but in purple spandex pants and a zebra-striped sleeveless t-shirt.

"What the hell? Are you Ozzy Osbourne?" Bryan asked.

"No, but I've met him a few times. Let's just say I'm a big fan of television."

"Me too!"

"You've got a helluva mind for pop culture. Let me buy you a shot of liquor."

"Um. Okay." Bryan said, unsure of how to act, for no one had ever bought him a drink by virtue of his intelligence.

This gentleman, with shoulder-length brown curly locks and dark eyes, made a motion to the bartender, who poured two shots of a label-less, oil-black liqueur.

"To the advancement of relevant knowledge, necessary to perpetuate the human race," the stranger toasted, raising his shot glass into the air.

"In the immortal words of Jimmie Walker, from TV's "Good Times," Bryan said, clinking his shot glass to the stranger's, "Di-no-mite!"

The moment these two men finished their shots, they exploded from their stools like human cannonballs, departing the bar through the ceiling and out the roof.

Up they went, with Bryan screaming, until they were as high as the Sears Tower, the tallest building on the planet, and never mind that rigmarole about that shack in Singapore with the tall antennae. That's a bunch of bullshit. Bryan and this stranger floated in the sky, impervious to the cold and lack of oxygen.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" Bryan cried, wetting himself, much to the dismay of the pedestrians far below him.

The stranger laughed and said, "Nope. But don't worry, I shan't drop you. I have places to take you."

And over the City by the Lake they flew. The stranger made it a point to circle the Amoco Building, waving with a smile and a twinkle in his sinister eye. "Some of my best employees work in that building," he informed Bryan.

Next, they soared north through the LaSalle Street corridor of skyscrapers housing various well-known financial institutions. The stranger waved both hands to the buildings. "Hello, you evil bastards!" he yelled. "Keep up the wonderful work, especially you, Bank of America!"

As they fluttered through the Loop, the stranger took Bryan westward, ascending higher and higher until the city below appeared to Bryan as nothing more than an elaborate Lite Brite board tilted on its side.

"Where are we going?" Bryan stammered through the wind.

Before the stranger could answer they had arrived, for when they descended upon the earth, it was sunset, and they were twenty-five feet from the front of a stage guarded by a phalanx of burly bikers wearing greasy denim and scraggly beards.

"This, Bryan, is the Altamont Speedway, in Northern California, and the year is 1969."

"What the hell are you talking about, that was thirty-two-" and then, Bryan looked around him and saw a sea of smelly, topless, and inebriated hippies.

"You of all people must know who played here, right?" the stranger asked.

"Oh sure!" Bryan answered, excited with the prospect of seeing history in the making, "The Rolling Stones, and did you know that the song they're gonna play when the Hell's Angels commit murder is 'Sympathy for the Devil,' a song in which the lyrics were directly inspired by Mick Jagger's reading Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita?"

The stranger laughed, stuck out his hand and said, "Pleased to meet you, Bryan, hope you guess my name."

"Yeah, that's the lyric!"

The stranger, whose identity people more intelligent than Bryan have surely sussed out, smirked, and laughed more, enjoying every moment of this. Regaining his composure, he told Bryan, "But, alack and alas, we can't stay here. I must take you someplace else."

"But I'm gonna miss the Stones!" Bryan whined, but the stranger didn't hear him because they had catapulted into the air once again, and now they found themselves in a packed hockey arena.

Around them, people were waving American flags, yelling "U ! S ! A !" over and over and over again.

"Now where are we, smart guy?" the stranger asked Bryan.

"No! No! It can't be!" Bryan yelled, watching the red white and blue team skating against the team in red with the white "CCCP" lettering. "This isn't the 1980 Winter Olympics, in Lake Placid, when the scrappy United States hockey team defeated the well-oiled Soviet juggernaut?"

"Yepper," the stranger said.

"Holy Jesus!" Bryan yelled.

"No!" the stranger snapped. "Not even close!"

"Did you know," Bryan said, oblivious, "that the Americans didn't defeat the Soviet team for the Gold Medal, that was just the semi-final round, and actually, they defeated Finland? And did you know that this victory also heralded a new era of jingoism in America further encouraged by President Ronald Reagan?"

"Ah, Reagan," the mysterious stranger sighed wistfully, "Soon, he will be seated at my right hand..."


"Nothing, let's go."

"But there's only five seconds left in the game, and I want to stay for the celebration!" Bryan whined.

But, before Bryan could get his words out, they were transferred again, this time to a dark room, empty except for a straight-backed wooden chair with numerous straps and a television hung six inches in front of it.

"What's this?" Bryan asked.

"Sit down!" the stranger yelled.

"Whuh?" Bryan started to say, but was forced into the chair by the overpowering strength of the stranger, strapped in by his legs, arms, and chest, while his head was held in place by a steel helmet that looked like an upside down wok. The television was plugged in from the top of the wok, the cord dangling in a parabolic arc over the chair, the television hovering directly in front of Bryan's eyes so it was all he could see.

"Do you really think you're smart?" this maliciously horribly unspeakably evil unknown Ozzy Osbourne looking gentleman screamed at poor, poor Bryan. "You're knowledge is meaningless trivia, never discarded as useless by your simple mind, and because of this, I leave you here with your precious popular culture and the millions of worthless images lodged in your brain!"

And with that, the devilish stranger disappeared, and Bryan watched, in rapid succession, the imitation of life on the TV screen: two-second increments of Mikey eating Life cereal, followed by a picture of downtown Montpelier, the state capital of Vermont, Brian Baker, the bass player of Minor Threat, a green, white-lettered sign reading: APOPKA, FLORIDA: THE INDOOR FOLIAGE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, 6.02 X 1023, a.k.a. Avogadro's Number (the meaning of which Bryan hadn't the slightest clue), happy voices singing "and like a good neighbor, State Farm is there," and so on, and so on, and so on, forever and ever, Amen.

LET US NOT PRAISE FAMOUS BRIANS! Mr. Costello's phenomenally scathing treatise on Chicago coffee-shop dishevelment, despite being soundly rejected by the Editors, lives on pleasantly in our memory. Contact Mr. C. here: