I have always been partial to the Romans. As a kid, I loved to read about Julius Caesar
and the Roman Empire. It wasn't until I saw "Ben Hur" and "Spartacus"
that I realized that maybe the Romans weren't so glamorous after all. But why let a little
bit of ancient cruelty spoil a good clean night of debauchery ?
I took two years of Latin in the 8th and 9th grade, an event I consider to be one of
the biggest wastes of time in my entire childhood. It was part of the classical training
expected to be endured at a college prep school. Humph. My time would have been better
spent in auto mechanics or even typing. At least then I might acquire a skill that could
actually prove useful later in life. But no, Latin was mandatory.
Nevertheless, I took it as an incredible omen in early 1989 when for the first and only
time in my adult life those two wasted years of Latin actually came in handy. Yes, for one
brief, fabulous moment in time my extensive training in Latin gave me an edge that was
priceless. Hail Caesar !!
I had stopped at a gas station on the corner of Richmond and Montrose to fill up my
car. As I stood there at the pump, this sharp-looking sports car came squealing into the
station maybe 10 mph faster than necessary, then braked to a sudden stop. Out of the car
came a long-legged, long-haired young Texas beauty with tight jeans and lots of attitude.
She apparently needed gas too.
I noticed that the back of her interesting Tee Shirt read, "The Weiss College
Nights of Decadence". Hmm. Catchy title. I was intrigued. I became even more
intrigued when the young lady turned around to give me a clear glimpse of the front of her
T-Shirt. Now mind you, I was only looking for literary purposes. She realized I was
staring at her and returned my gaze with an imperious look of disdain.
The Rice Coed threw down the Gauntlet: Look if you Dare!! She
proudly threw back her hair, stood up to her full height, stuck out her chest, and made
eye contact with the haughtiest "doth this vermin dareth to gaze upon me ?"-look
imaginable. In other words, I was not worthy.
Now I had already decided that she was a Rice University coed. Now not all Rice Coeds
are quite as sassy as this particular lady, but I was sure she was from Rice. For one
thing, I had been on the Rice Campus enough times to know that Weiss College was one of
the dorms. Plus the Rice Parking Sticker on her windshield supported my assessment.
Accepting the Challenge, I studied the writing on her T-Shirt.
Emblazoned across her chest were Caesar's immortal words, "Vidi Vice Veni".
Except that something was wrong. That wasn't "exactly" how Caesar had said it.
His words as you probably know were "Veni Vidi Vici", i.e.
"I Came, I Saw, I Conquered". This girl was up to something.
So I carefully translated Caesar's original words of "Veni Vidi Vici"
into their new meaning. As a grin of recognition spread across my face, simultaneously a
look of horror crossed the coed's face. She realized I actually understood what her
Tee-Shirt meant and ruined her smug little game. Up till now she had been traipsing across
Houston wearing her nasty in-joke of forbidden words with complete impunity. She
thought she could go anywhere she wanted and no one would have a clue what her shirt said.
'Uh oh. He Knows !' was written on her face. As I realized what she had been up to,
I smiled more broadly. Now her expression changed to one of embarrassment. She turned
bright red. I was thoroughly pleased. Hail Caesar !
Now suddenly I had the upper hand. Did I do the chivalrous thing ? Hell, no, I
rubbed it in !!
"Nice T-Shirt !! Did you earn it or was it a gift ?" That earned
me a well-deserved look of disgust. I wanted to pursue the conversation and maybe talk a
little Latin to her... "Hey, Baby, Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All)" but it
was quickly obvious that I was a "Persona Non Grata (Beat It, Creep)". She
turned her back and avoided any further eye contact. So I uttered the immortal words,
"Vade Pulchra Puella" (Hasta La Vista, Baby) and left.
As I drove down the road, I was inspired. SSQQ should have a Toga Party !! Why
not ? It was an age when things were a little less uptight at the studio. The
Administration was younger in those days (i.e., me) and open to occasional silliness. I
mean, how could the studio that invented the incredible Sleazy Bar Whip Party and the
Western Honky-Tonk Party turn its back on a little old Toga Party ?
Do you believe in Karma, the Hindu concept of "What Goes Around Come Around"
? Little did I ever suspect my gas station idea would backfire so badly.