Full episode
Transcript

677: Seeing Yourself In the Wild

Note: This American Life is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Prologue: Prologue

Sean Cole

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Sean Cole in for Ira Glass. The first punch landed on sort of the lower back right side of my skull, behind my ear. That was the one that knocked me down.

This was a couple summers ago. I'd been walking down this sort of abandoned industrial block in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. It was after midnight. There was a big group of kids-- teenagers, boys-- maybe 9 or 10 of them, coming the other way. I was on the sidewalk. They were walking in the middle of the street, where the cars go. Also, I was on the phone with my friend, Sam, talking to him with my earbuds in.

So I just kept walking and talking, glancing over at the kids a couple of times. And then I saw them see me. And they sort of stopped and said something to each other. And then a few of them, casually-- like I wouldn't notice-- started walking in my direction. I don't know if taking off in a sprint was the best decision, or if you could even call it a decision.

A couple of the kids said, yeah! There are a few things I remember about the next 30 seconds or so and a few things I don't. I remember looking down at my shoes and thinking, why can't I run any faster than this?

Sam said, what's happening? I said, I'm being chased. Who's chasing you, he said. They're chasing me, I apparently said, which I don't remember. I don't remember how I got off the ground after the first punch. I just know that a second later, I was running again and still getting punched in the head. Being punched in the head while running becomes withstandable remarkably quickly. After the second hit, my skull was like, if this is all that's going to happen, you can manage. One kid way in the back, nowhere near me, yelled, give me your wallet, but laughing, like it was a joke. They never tried to take anything. They easily could have.

I've tried to come up with something to compare the experience of it to, but I've never felt anything else that intensely. I've never felt as good in my life as how bad that was. I rounded the corner and saw a semi truck coming. It was the only moving vehicle around. I ran toward it with my arms straight up over my head. And when I looked back, the kids had vanished-- gone just like they'd never been there in the first place. I slowed to a walk, which is when I noticed my earbuds were neatly spooled around my left ankle, like I'd done it on purpose. One of them was smashed. And when I lifted the other one up toward my face--

Sam

Sean, are you OK? Sean. Sean. Sean, talk to me.

Sean Cole

Sam was still on the phone.

Sam

Sean. Sean?

Sean Cole

Yeah, I'm OK.

Sam

Are you OK? What's up? What happened?

Sean Cole

I'm OK. I'm OK. I-- there was a gang of guys.

Sam

Sean, I'm recording this call--

Sean Cole

Can you hear me?

Sam

So tell me what happened. I'm recording the call.

Sean Cole

This recording is the whole reason I'm telling you about this. When he realized something was wrong, Sam had taken the phone away from his ear and opened up this recording app, in case I needed some kind of evidence or something later. He's extremely organized that way. And I'm really glad he did it. For one thing, I have this bizarrely candid portrait of myself now, in the moment exactly after one of the worst things that's ever happened to me. It took a while for me to be able to listen to it.

Sean Cole

But I mean, there was a lot of them. There was like a lot of guys.

I'm used to hearing my voice recorded and controlling the way I sound, like the way I'm talking to you right now.

Sam

Do you want to--

Sean Cole

There were a lot of guys.

But this was like some unbidden child creature, bubbling up from my throat. When I listen to it, it's like I've finally taken some mask off that I didn't know I was wearing.

Sean Cole

And they kept hitting me on the head, and then I fell. And I scraped myself up a bit, but I'm OK. They didn't get anything.

Sam

What did they hit you with?

Sean Cole

I think just their hands.

Sam

Oh god.

Sean Cole

God, that was scary. Jesus fucking Christ, that was scary.

Sam

But you're all right?

Sean Cole

Jesus. No, I'm fine. I'm OK.

Sam

Take some deep breaths, Sean. You're really going to hyperventilate.

Sean Cole

No, I'm actually fine. Like, I--

And this is another thing-- this kind of incantation I keep repeating of, I'm fine, I'm fine. Instead of telling Sam what did happen, I spend most of the call focusing on how bad it could have been. It's like I'm clinging to a buoy in the ocean after a shipwreck.

Sean Cole

It could have been a lot worse.

Sam

Jesus.

Sean Cole

It could have been a lot worse. I lost my glasses.

Sam

Oh no.

Sean Cole

But it's OK. I mean, I'm fine. I'm OK. I'm OK. It could have been way worse. I'm actually fine. I'm actually fine.

I never say things could be worse. Almost every other time in my life has been better than this one. And yet most of the time, I just brood about what's going wrong or what I wish I'd done differently. But here, I was clearly just paving over all the broken glass of what happened to me immediately, counting my blessings in a way I'm never usually able to. And of course, it could have been way worse. Truly catastrophic things happen to people all over the world every day.

I remember talking to Sam for 45 minutes. It was actually about 12 minutes, which I couldn't believe. I was like, where's the rest of it?

By minute six, six minutes after the attack, we're already starting to laugh about stuff. I told him that I had been heading down to my car to get a pack of cigarettes. And he says, yeah, well, I guess it'll kill you. It's good to know we were able to talk about it like that so quickly. It makes a lot of bad things seem more survivable.

We spend so much time trying to control how we're seen by other people. But sometimes we can catch an unexpected glimpse of ourselves that we haven't manicured and that has way more information in it about how we actually are. It might not be the funnest thing to witness, but at least we know. In today's show, we got two stories in which that happens-- two different people seeing themselves in the wild and what it confirms, or doesn't, about who they think they are. Stay with us.

Sean Cole

Jesus. And that was something. That'll wake you up, won't it? Jesus.

Act One: You Don’t Have to Be a Star to Be in My Show

Sean Cole

Act I. You don't have to be a star to be in my show. I want to tell you about my friend Zack's first big break-- Zack McDermott. We're pretty different people. Zack's from Wichita, and he has this kind of macho Kansan self certainty about him on the surface. I do an impression of him that I finally broke out when we were hanging with each other a couple of months ago.

Sean Cole

You know, I'm a writer. I wasn't able to get gussied up for you. I wasn't expecting you to be looking at my hair like that.

Zack McDermott

That was pretty good. That flatters me a great deal.

Sean Cole

Why?

Zack McDermott

I don't think you usually do impressions of people, unless you kind of really like them or don't like them at all.

Sean Cole

Or if you super don't like them.

Zack McDermott

Right.

Sean Cole

Yeah.

Zack McDermott

And I feel like you more super like me than super don't.

Sean Cole

I super like you.

Zack is this singular combination of things I really haven't encountered before. As well as being swaggery, he can also be awkward and vulnerable. He's conspicuously caring for the people he cares about. After my assault, he made me promise I'd call him in the middle of the night if I needed to.

He spent about seven years working as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society of New York, sometimes juggling more than 60 cases, righteously indignant about the court system. He's always giving advice, but he also needs to be reassured a lot. And he really likes other people's attention. He's always watching himself, in ways both literal and not, which, anyway, brings me to the story of the big break.

See, about 10 years ago, when he was still a public defender, Zack was also trying to make it as a comedian, grinding away, sometimes doing four or five open mics a night. His act was pretty intense back then. He had a mohawk, and Frank Zappa mustache, and jazz patch. One time, he came out onstage, just shouting lyrics from the rapper, Gucci Mane.

Zack McDermott

[RAPPING]

Sean Cole

He'd usually record his set, just with a little video camera or phone. And he also had this friend who was always egging him on, sort of repping him in a way. Zack always refers to him just as the producer. He doesn't want me to say who the guy is, but he's famous adjacent-- ran with a really heavy crowd. And apparently, he had big dreams for Zack's future.

Zack McDermott

It was like, oh, yeah, don't worry. I know Hova. Don't worry, I know Jimmy Fallon. Don't worry, I know--

Sean Cole

Hova is Jay-Z.

Zack McDermott

Yeah. You know? Meeting all these people with him and him telling me, like, you're my project, man. I'm putting everything behind you. I'm willing to put all my money behind you. I'm willing to put all my connects behind you. You're next, you know? Trust me. When I push the button, it's going to go fast.

Sean Cole

They worked on a pilot for a TV show together, held a casting call for the role of Zack's girlfriend, collected headshots, did screen tests-- the whole thing. And then, in the fall of 2009, Zack found himself walking out of his apartment building and onto the set of a TV pilot in which he was the star.

Zack McDermott

Everything just looked perfect, like a Coke commercial. It was a gorgeous day. It was a fall day in New York-- sunny. There was a realistic amount of people on the street, but not so many that the scene is going to look like rush hour. Because it wasn't. It was the middle of the day. It should look like the middle of the day. And everyone is also just a little too attractive.

Sean Cole

Like actors.

Zack McDermott

Everyone.

Sean Cole

I don't have audio of this because it was never actually recorded. Because it wasn't a TV pilot. Those people on the street weren't actors. This wasn't Zack's first big break into show business. It was his first big psychotic break, like the part of his brain that wanted to be in the spotlight all the time had suddenly exploded.

Zack was experiencing a type of delusion that we've talked about a little bit on the show before. It's called the Truman Show delusion-- not incredibly common, but not as rare as you might think either. Sufferers of Truman Show delusion basically think they're being filmed all the time by hidden cameras, just like the Jim Carrey character in the movie The Truman Show.

In the weeks leading up to the break, Zack had been showing signs of this oncoming split with reality-- little harbingers and then bigger ones. He'd been growing more and more manic, sleeping less and less.

Zack McDermott

I had some friends and family start to be concerned about me. And I kind of just brushed it all off. You don't understand what's going on in my brain. You don't understand how to write comedy. You don't understand how to do comedy. You don't understand how to do comedy after you're a lawyer all day.

You don't understand how to write a joke. Look, it's a mathematical equation. Let me show you. This is a premise. This is why this is funny. This is why that's not funny.

Sean Cole

That's your inner monologue.

Zack McDermott

You don't understand-- and outer monologue.

Sean Cole

Even the producer was concerned. He told Zack he had to go see a doctor if they were going to keep working together. And yet, when Zack walked out of his apartment building onto the street that day, he was sure the producer had staged everything just for him. And Zack was ready to perform, thinking of himself as some hybrid of Ali G and Johnny Knoxville.

Zack McDermott

I'm thinking my friend, the brilliant producer, had decided, you know what? Zack's not really an actor. He's not going to know how to act. I'm just going to throw him in somewhere. He'll eventually get what he's supposed to be doing and he'll just kind of like, basically method act himself. He could probably do that. You know? So, I go to Tompkins Square Park. Soon as I'm in there, I spot generic old man on park bench.

Sean Cole

That's what it would say if he was in the credits.

Zack McDermott

Yes, and he had a bike. And he was too old to have a bike.

Sean Cole

Another tell that the entire neighborhood had been cordoned off to showcase Zack's comedic talents. Zack thought it would be funny if he grabbed generic old man's bike and did a couple laps around the park with it. Generic old man did not take kindly to Zack trying to grab his bike away. Zack relented. It was surely a sign from the producer. Keep things moving. So Zack takes off in a sprint toward the middle of the park and vaults over the wall of this big doggy playpen.

Zack McDermott

I get down, like, on all fours myself. And I gallop with the pack. Running toward the end of the fence, I jump out the other side. And I'm like, all right, cool. Whatever that was worth, I did it. You know?

Sean Cole

That was funny, maybe.

Zack McDermott

Yeah, that was funny maybe. Who knows? And I also was thinking that the pedestrians were extras, doubling as production assistants. And I'm supposed to follow them, follow the foot traffic that will take you where you need to go. No one's coming up to me with a clipboard and a shot list or anything, right?

So they're then phoning ahead to the producer or whatever production unit, saying, OK, he's on First Avenue. He's almost to Houston. And like, OK, we'll make him go west then.

Sean Cole

Whenever Zack tells this story, he has a whole menu of deranged things he did that day to talk about-- running around the soccer field with his shorts pulled down while a game is going on, ordering champagne on a hotel patio and proceeding to yell at the cameras in the trees. As Zack remembers it-- and Zack's memory is all we have to go on-- this television non-debut lasted for about 10 hours-- a 10 hour narcissism variety show arranged for him to give the performance of his life.

Zack McDermott

I sprinted across the intersection of-- I think it was Houston and First Avenue.

Sean Cole

While cars were moving?

Zack McDermott

Oh, yeah.

Sean Cole

That's incredibly dangerous.

Zack McDermott

Not if it's professional drivers on a closed course.

Sean Cole

At its height, everything he did was the right thing to be doing. He was a master of improvisation, following all the cues perfectly. And then he started getting tired and then exhausted. Everything was still a clue, but he wasn't sure what any of it meant anymore.

Somewhere along the way, he lost his shirt and also his shoes. And the next thing he knew, he was standing on a Brooklyn subway platform, hands behind his head like a captured soldier, crying so hard, he flushed his contacts out of his eyes. All he wanted was for someone to yell, cut, thinking to himself--

Zack McDermott

OK, fine, you've got your shots. Can't you see that I'm bawling? Can't you see that I'm here suffering? Can't you see that I'm done? Like, come out, come out, wherever you are, Mr. Producer.

So I'm crying. And I just scream, what do you want from me? Two cops come up. Their uniforms look real-- super real.

The next thing I recall with any clarity is being in the back of an ambulance.

Sean Cole

Huh.

Zack McDermott

And eventually, I hear a radio crack on. It's like, psh. Intake available at Bellevue Psych Ward.

Sean Cole

Zack was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder type I, which can involve psychosis sometimes. In Zack's case, lack of sleep and daily pot smoking might have triggered the episode. At Bellevue, he says they dosed him up with antipsychotics. At times, he could barely lift his chin off of his chest. He drooled a lot. He couldn't go outside. Zack's only experience with psych wards before this was as a public defender, representing EDPs, or emotionally disturbed people. And now he was one.

The delusion that he was on TV lasted in one form or another for the next 10 days. When he saw his mother, Cindy, coming down the hall on day two, he wasn't sure at first if it was her or an actor in prosthetics. He calls her bird because of the way she snaps her head back and forth sometimes.

The bird is here, she told him. The bird can't be here, he said. The bird lives in Wichita. She said, the bird got on a plane.

It took more than a year and a couple more episodes like this before he got stable. Along the way, he figured out a few things. He had to be good about taking his meds, and sleep was key. He couldn't burn the candle at all ends, like he had been, going on stage all the time. So he stopped, for the most part. He kept working his day job as a lawyer. They say you have to be at least a little crazy to be a comedian. But it's also possible to be so crazy that you can't be a comedian.

Zack has told the story of the psychotic break countless times at this point. It's a good romp, and he's got it down-- all the different parts. He tells it entertainingly. But while it's one thing to recount something like that from memory, it's another thing if someone catches it on video. You can actually see yourself in psychosis. I say this because after Zack got better and thought he was totally out of the woods, sanity wise, he did have another psychotic break. And it was captured on video. And for the first time in his life, sane Zack would be able to see himself in the midst of Truman Show delusion.

Woman

Do you need to call the cops, or is he OK?

Man

Yeah.

Zach McDermott

Shut the fuck up!

Sean Cole

Actually, let me-- sorry, I'm just going to stop that and explain what happened. So after a while, Zack quit lawyering and decided to try to make it as a writer. He wrote a book about that first psychotic break and his disorder, called Gorilla and the Bird. Gorilla is Zack's nickname because he's really hairy and barrel chested. Again, the bird is his mom. It was optioned for a TV series before it even came out. HBO is planning to run it. The director Jean-Marc Vallée, who did Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects, is on board.

Zack and I have had entire conversations about who might play him on the TV show about the time he thought he was on a TV show and wasn't. In fact, his therapist said to him-- sort of joking, but sort of not-- you know, you might end up playing yourself on that show. To which Zack basically responded, yeah, I think they might want to go with one of these A-list celebrities they're considering.

And then, Zack was trying to figure out ways to promote his book. And of course, these days, a lot of authors make videos when their books come out. And so Zack hired a production crew to shoot footage for-- he wasn't sure what. A promotional video, but if it was any good, maybe they'd do a bigger documentary.

He wanted to take them back home with him to Wichita to interview some of the people that he'd written about in his memoir, meaning his family, and have the crew follow him around his hometown for a week, just rolling on everything, documentary style. The crew consisted of two professional cameramen and a very seasoned TV producer that Zack happened to be friends with. He'd been around the cameras a bunch before this, by the way. And it didn't trigger his disorder.

So the morning the delusion really hit, Zack hadn't met up with the film crew yet. They were actually wondering where he was. He was supposed to call. Instead, he was driving around Wichita by himself in his grandfather's pickup. He was fighting serious back pain. And he had barely slept in three days. Again, sleeplessness is a huge trigger for his episodes. In the book, he writes, "The solution to mania is so simple, yet so hard to come by. Just sleep." And the thing his therapist said came back to him-- that Jean-Marc Vallée might want him to play himself on the TV show.

Zack McDermott

I came to believe that, oh my god, maybe my therapist was contacted by whoever. And maybe I really am auditioning for myself. So--

Sean Cole

Right now. Like, I am auditioning to play the role of myself. I'm in the process of an audition.

Zack McDermott

Yes. And I was just testing it slowly because I was like, be careful, you know? You've had this delusion before, and you've been wrong.

And not only that, I know how the world works a little bit. I know HBO isn't just like, yeah, let him play himself. Great idea. Like, no. But like, I don't know. Maybe the director's kind of crazy. He takes a lot of risks.

Sean Cole

And sitting in the truck, he started to have the feeling that in addition to the people he knew would be filming him later that day, there were also other cameras that he couldn't see, and maybe audio recorders, too, possibly right there in the truck with him.

Zack McDermott

I was listening to a song in his truck, and I was kind of dancing a little bit. And I was like, oh, this is kind of funny. And I was like, well, maybe you're not being taped right now. That's quite possible. That makes sense.

I was like, but maybe you are. So maybe just give them a little something to think about. Leave them with something, like, OK, he's got a little something there. He's raw, and he needs training. But we got something we can possibly work with here.

Sean Cole

So once again, the powers that be had spotted Zack's latent talent and set it up so he could just do his thing in the wild-- wow the crowd.

Sean Cole

Should we watch the video?

Zack McDermott

If we must.

Sean Cole

Let's watch the video.

Zack McDermott

This is going to hurt.

Sean Cole

Really?

Zack McDermott

I think so.

Sean Cole

How come?

Zack McDermott

Well, I think I'm going to feel bad for the dude I'm going to watch, who is me.

Sean Cole

So the video-- it starts with the production crew in their car without Zack. It's just one cameraman and Zack's TV producer friend, Jay. They're heading to a taco shop to meet Zack. They pull up to a standalone building surrounded by a big parking lot. And they arrive at the same time as Zack's family friend, Rob, an older guy with a white beard and a tan ball cap.

Sean Cole

The cameraman's walking around the side of the taco place. And there you are.

Zack McDermott

Hm.

Sean Cole

Oh, man.

Zack McDermott

Yeah.

Sean Cole

Zack's in a spider-man crouch with his hands on the ground, staring down. He's wearing an Adidas t-shirt and sweatpants. No glasses-- he dropped them somewhere, which means he can't see anything. He's clearly in a lot of physical pain. It's his back, and it's spasming.

Zack McDermott

I'm on my hands and knees now. I'm trying to stand up. I can't.

Man

You OK, dude?

Zack McDermott

Yeah, I just got to stand up.

Woman

Is he OK?

Zack McDermott

Pedestrians are asking if I'm OK.

Jay

Yeah, he's just-- his back's a little hurt. His back's a little hurt. He's fine.

Zack McDermott

My friend Jay is saying, he's OK. He's OK.

Sean Cole

It wasn't 100% clear what was going on with Zack at that point. And Jay and the others were trying to help him, to get him into a car so he could get back to his hotel and sleep. But they also kept filming because that was the entire goal of the week. And they thought Zack might want this footage. This is exactly what his book was about. And here it was happening.

Zack, meanwhile, was now pretty convinced he was auditioning to play the role of himself on the TV show that, again, is actually being produced about the time he thought he was on a TV show. Some blurry calculus told him that his producer friend Jay and Jean-Marc Vallée must be in communication somehow. In the video, Zack's on his knees, swaying back and forth in front of the taco stand. He closes his eyes, then opens them, and looks toward the camera-- the one that isn't there.

Zack McDermott

Hold on. Hold on. Ah. All right. Too much. Too much.

And I'm saying, too much. Too much.

Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Stop. Stop. Stop.

Sean Cole

It was freaky to see my friend like this. I've seen people in the park or on the subway, acting like Zack was that day. They're just so literally lost and don't know it. But you know it. It's like they're right beside you on the sidewalk and also in a forest that they can't be guided out of, not easily. But in this case, Zack was sitting next to me, watching with me. And he remembers everything that was going through his head at that moment.

Zack McDermott

I came to believe that through some combination of Jean-Marc and my friend here, Jay, the producer, that we had maybe a yoga instructor who was watching my movements and could tell, by the way I was moving, how much pain I was in and where I was in pain. Oh, man. You know what? I think I thought they were even shocking my spine somehow.

Sean Cole

Those back spasms-- he thought they were electrical shocks being triggered by this magical, imaginary yoga instructor. He moves in and out of different yoga poses on the ground.

Zack McDermott

And I think that they're thinking that, if we shocked him this way, he would not only move his body to correct his posture that would alleviate his pain, but it can also point him toward whatever camera was capturing the particular footage that was going to be sent to Jean-Marc Vallée, the real director of the real series, Gorilla and the Bird.

Sean Cole

Oh, I see. So it was both to help you and also for production values.

Zack McDermott

Right. And when you see me waving my hand and waving them off, that means, I'm not good right now. I don't really want to be shot.

Sean Cole

But you're not saying, stop filming, to the person who's filming this.

Zack McDermott

No.

Sean Cole

You're saying that to--

Zack McDermott

The larger production team that doesn't exist.

Stop. For real, stop.

Sean Cole

Which, when you think about it, takes a certain type of genius. Because Zack's original delusion that he was being followed around by cameras had come true, his brain had to come up with a second level delusion that, again, involved real people. The way he explained it to me, it's not like he forgets reality or hallucinates that the camera is really a dragon or something. He's able to take in all the data in front of him. It's just that he comes to the wrong conclusions about it.

Man

So you do that. I'll get the Ativan.

Sean Cole

Finally, Zack makes it to his feet and then walks off to the middle of the parking lot, sticks his hand in the air, and again, says, too much. Too much. Too much. Way too much. And then he's back down on his knees and finally on his back, lying in the parking lot as cars pass him.

Zack McDermott

Ah ah ah ah ah! Stop, stop, stop, stop.

Sean Cole

Zack was right about what he said before, that it was going to hurt to watch this.

Zack McDermott

I think I'm kind of just like, oof, oof. I think I'm just bracing myself for it the whole time. And I'm kind of like rooting for the guy and feeling bad for him. And like, buddy, oh, please stop. Oh, please stop. But in the same way I would feel bad for someone I saw on the street who's yelling at pigeons--

Sean Cole

Right.

Zack McDermott

Or whatever, you know? The difference is, I know that guy a little better.

Sean Cole

You know the guy that we saw in the video a little better.

Zack McDermott

I do.

Sean Cole

Yeah.

Finally, they managed to get Zack back to his hotel. And this is when we learn about a whole other side of psychotic Zack, one that's even harder for sane Zack to watch. So Rob stays behind. And the cast is now Jay, the TV producer friend, and now two cameramen, Trevar and Tyler.

They went and got all of Zack's stuff from his mom's house, where he'd been staying earlier-- his medication, and his clothes, and everything. And they roll up to Zack's hotel room door with one of those standard issue luggage carts. Zack's in the room, talking to his mom on speaker phone. Job one is to get an Ativan into Zack to put him to sleep. And they also keep shooting.

[KNOCKING]

He opens the door, and there are two cameras pointing at him.

Zack McDermott

Holy shit.

Sean Cole

Oh.

Zack McDermott

What's up, boys?

Sean Cole

You're in sunglasses and a towel.

Jay

I got your stuff.

Sean Cole

It's like Kanye West has answered the door here. Zack was about to take a shower, and he needed to see. The sunglasses are prescription. Jay had his regular ones.

Zack McDermott

Let me bring this. Let me just go here. I'm going to let you turn that corner.

I'm kind of hamming it up there. I said let me go here, and I'll going to let you turn that corner.

Sean Cole

Yeah, you're doing a voice.

Zack McDermott

Yeah.

Jay

Your coconut oil.

Zack McDermott

Mm-hmm.

Jay

Your glasses.

Zack McDermott

Oh, that's nice to have.

Jay

Your wallet.

Sean Cole

Zack's pretty disoriented at this point. His mom, the bird, chimes in on speaker phone sometimes, trying to talk him down. And even though Zack's discombobulated about almost everything, he still thinks he's playing a role, even if that role is himself. The blinking red light in his head is still on. All the while, Jay is being really caring toward him.

Jay

How are you feeling?

Zack McDermott

I'm feeling a little shocked, like literally and figuratively.

Jay

By all this display of--

Zack McDermott

Oh, hold on.

Sean Cole

Jay was about to say something like, by all of this display of generosity and caring? But of course, Zack means he was being shocked by a magical yoga instructor. And he's also amazed at all of the planning that went into this audition.

Zack McDermott

[INAUDIBLE] Let's quit acting and let me just fucking coconut oil my ass.

Jay

Cool.

Zack McDermott

All right.

Sean Cole

Did you say, let's quit acting?

Zack McDermott

Mm-hmm.

Sean Cole

So I can coconut oil my ass.

Zack McDermott

Mm-hmm. Which I guess if you think you're acting and someone's filming you, then you are acting. Coconut oil on that ass now.

Sean Cole

Oh, you were literally coconut oiling your ass.

Zack McDermott

Yes.

Sean Cole

Oh, I thought that was a euphemism.

Zack McDermott

No, I do that.

Jay, where are my real glasses? Give me my real glasses. Oh, I got them.

Barking orders like a real asshole. And--

Take it off. Take it off speaker.

I'm kind of being an overall diva here.

Sean Cole

It's true. Like, with the coconut oil, Zack comes out of the bathroom at one point with the jar and asks if someone can put some on his back. And this is probably the cringiest moment of the whole video for Zack to watch, mostly because the Zack in the video doesn't have any problem bossing everyone around. Trevar puts his camera down and complies.

Zack McDermott

Just dip a little and just hit me.

Trevar

All right. I see how this works.

Zack McDermott

Yeah, yeah. You got it. Don't rub it in.

Trevar

Not hard.

Zack McDermott

Yeah, no.

Trevar

Just, it's all around.

Zack McDermott

We're just moisturizing.

Trevar

All right.

Zack McDermott

No, no.

Trevar

Well, I'm not rubbing hard. I'm not rubbing hard.

Zack McDermott

No, I mean-- all right.

Trevar

I'm just rubbing it around.

Zack McDermott

Good. We're fine. Yeah.

Trevar

Yeah. Lower. There you go.

Zack McDermott

Yeah.

Cindy

Zackary, can you hear me?

Zack McDermott

I can hear you.

Cindy

You need to--

Zack McDermott

Look, I'm just oiling up, all right? Hey.

Trevar

Is that good?

Zack McDermott

Stop. Stop. No. That's not what we do.

Sean Cole

You're like, stop, stop. No, that's not good. You're not putting coconut oil on my back right.

Zack McDermott

Yeah.

Just, like, rub it. Just--

Sean Cole

Now Jay is doing it.

Zack McDermott

Not like-- no, just like you're putting lotion on. Hard. Harder, harder. Just rub that shit in.

That's really painful to watch. It's just I'm being such a dick to everybody.

Sean Cole

Well, you're here in a florid psychotic episode.

Zack McDermott

That's true. But I'm still not being nice. And no one there knows me all that well. I mean, Jay knows me best at this point here. But this is the first he's seen me be in any sort of bad mental state. And he's got kids at home. He's got a newborn. And he took time out of his schedule to come do this, for free. And he is taking care of me.

Sean Cole

He's babysitting you, kind of.

Zack McDermott

Yeah, and he's hiding his exasperation while he deals with me. But then you can see when he's looking at the camera-- I won't call it eye rolling, but it's just like, the guy's obviously frustrated and being pushed to the limits of his patience. He's doing everything perfect here. It's amazing what he's doing.

And so when I see that video, it makes me want to call Jay, my friend in the video, and say, hey, man. I'm sorry I spoke to you like that, and I'm sorry that I brought that stress into your life. But then out of the other side of my mouth, I'll preach to the general public, like, ain't your fault.

Sean Cole

When he does speaking events at bookstores and other places, talking about his disorder, he says, people shouldn't be ashamed of their own mental illness and their behavior during episodes like this one. His mantra is always, this happens, and it's OK.

Zack McDermott

Because I do believe this happens, and it is OK, as it relates to everyone else. But when I see it happen to myself, I'm like, that's not OK, man. You got to get your shit together.

Sean Cole

The Ativan's starting to take effect. Zack's getting drowsy. He has to fly back to LA the next day, but it's not clear he understands that. The bird on speaker phone has been steadily beating a drum, trying to coax him away from the cameras-- the real ones and the imaginary ones-- and just get him to go to bed. Sleep, of course, is the opposite of performing.

Cindy

Zack, now that you've got your Ativan on board, you just need to lay down, son.

Zack McDermott

Yeah, you're right.

Cindy

You don't need to worry about the clothing right now. So Zack, you just need to go to sleep. And then, you just need to coordinate with Trevar how to get you to the airport for your flight.

Zack McDermott

Oh, yeah, because I have my earplugs now.

Sean Cole

It looks like he's getting ready to go to sleep. He hangs up with his mom, but then after everyone leaves, he calls her back. Says to her, what the hell just happened? She says, what do you think happened?

He says, I'm Jake Gyllenhaal. No, she says. There's going to be a TV show made out of your book, but you are Zack. You aren't messing with me, he says. Nothing happened just now? Nothing, she says. You need to sleep. You're manic.

Zack McDermott

I'm just crushed that that just happened to me. In this moment, I'm kind of realizing that my mind has betrayed me.

Sean Cole

Again.

Zack McDermott

Yeah. And I just feel so fucking stupid--

Sean Cole

Oh, honey.

Zack McDermott

And so embarrassed. I mean, this is humiliating, you know? And it causes chaos, fault or no fault. I wish it was easier to be my friend. I wish I took up less space in the people that love me's lives.

Sean Cole

I watch the video several more times on my own. And I realize that maybe there's this one other thing that's unsettling for Zack when he sees the scene in the hotel room. Zack told me he doesn't want to be on TV anymore like he used to. But it's clear his delusion still does. The Zack in the hotel room still has this naked, unfettered ambition of wanting to perform, wanting all the cameras on him.

It's almost like a little kid's dream of stardom. The towel around his waist could just as easily be tied around his neck, superhero style. And the Zack watching the video is bashful about that, in a way that the Zack in the video is not. I didn't think to ask him about this when we were watching it together. So I called him later and said it on the phone.

Zack McDermott

Yeah, I think that's probably-- yeah, I think that's probably true. It's almost like I've kind of renounced the hustle in my normal day to day, this naked pursuit of fame and stardom. But yeah, like you're saying, the id keeps going no, dude. You're not fooling anybody, least of all your own brain. This is what you want, except that you're a performer. Yeah, I'm so shy about my acting aspirations, I didn't even realize that.

Sean Cole

It's sort of like sane Zack set the stage for delusional Zack to get what he wants-- to be the star. And now that there's video of it, sane Zack has to confront what that show actually looks like-- the Zack show. And he's not a fan.

The full title of Zack's book is Gorilla and the Bird, a Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love. I could talk about how great, and hilarious, and important I think it is, but I've already annoyed a lot of people doing that. So, see for yourself. Coming up, that one mistake that haunts you, and you just can't get over it. And then, you watch the same screw-up happen all over again four decades later. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

Act Two: Distant Replay

Sean Cole

It's This American Life. And I'm Sean Cole in for Ira Glass. Today's show-- Seeing Yourself in the Wild, stories of people who get to-- reluctantly decide to-- come face to face with an unedited version of who they are and what they do with that information. And I am now delighted to bring you Act 2 of our show. Act 2, distant replay.

So, this story is about a man who's been reliving this one moment from his life over and over again. He remembers every last detail of how it felt, how it changed his life. And then 40 years later, someone shows up with a recording of that thing. Emanuele Berry explains.

Emanuele Berry

The man is my dad. And the thing he cannot let go of is a high school basketball game from 1978. I found out about the game when I was a kid. My mom had saved this old newspaper clipping, or maybe it was a yearbook. But either way, there is this picture of my dad on a basketball court. And when I brought it to her, she told me not to ask my dad about it. And so, I never brought it up. But it bugged me, because basketball is the one thing my dad and I share.

Of my four siblings, I'm the only one who fell for the game like my dad. I loved being on the court; the sound of squeaking shoes, creaking floors; the way the entire space of the gym would vibrate; the way my body would twist, and turn, and pivot to the basket. I loved basketball, but I also loved the attention my dad gave me because of it. In the car after games, we'd annoy the hell out of the rest of my family by dissecting my every move, figuring out what I could improve on, what I did well. It was like we were speaking our own language. Together, we laid out big dreams for my future-- club teams, high school star, college, the WNBA.

But when I got to high school, I cared less about the game. Our postgame talk stopped feeling like conversations and started sounding like lectures. I started to dread the car rides home.

And there's one ride for my junior year of high school that I still think about all the time. I was walking to my dad's car after the game. And as soon as I closed the door, it started. Why didn't you do this? You need to do this. How could you do this? As I listen to the steady rhythm of my dad's critique, I realized, these lectures weren't about me or what I wanted. They were about him.

So I did something I had never done before. Shut the fuck up, I shouted. He was taken aback for a moment, and then stony silence, waiting for an apology. But it was an apology I wouldn't give. I told him that I didn't want to talk about basketball with him anymore. And if that's all he wanted to talk about, we didn't need to talk. So we didn't. For over a year, we barely spoke to each other.

A lot of time has passed. I haven't picked up a ball in forever. Neither has my dad. The silence is long gone. But there's something that hasn't been repaired. Nowadays, we just exchange basketball pleasantries. Did you watch that game? How does the team look this year? LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

Basketball gives us the illusion that we know each other. But I'm not sure we do. And I've been wanting to know my dad better-- to talk to him about something real, something that matters to him. So that high school basketball game from 1978 seems like a good place to start.

I visited my parents in Michigan. And when I walk into the living room, of course, there's a college basketball game on in the background. My dad's in his usual position, sunken into his recliner. Even sitting down, he's still big. Long arms-- his hands make the remote look teeny. I ask him to talk upstairs.

Bobby Berry

On what?

Emanuele Berry

Do you want to sit back here?

Bobby Berry

Anywhere is OK with me.

Emanuele Berry

OK.

Bobby Berry

I go to sleep.

Emanuele Berry

No, you can't go to sleep. We're talking.

I'm nervous. My dad is intimidating. We chit chat for a long time before I bring up the game and that old photo my mom had kept.

Emanuel Berry

And I remember her saying that it was sad and that I shouldn't mention it.

Bobby Berry

That picture was of the final game when we lost in the semifinals. I blame myself for losing that game.

Emanuele Berry

Why?

[DEEP SIGH]

There's a lot in that sigh. My dad grew up poor in Mississippi, the youngest of 11. And for him, basketball was a way to college. But in the 10th grade, he suffered a serious knee injury. His knee would swell when he ran, so he had to stop playing.

But he got an unlikely second chance. Before his senior year of high school, his family moved to Michigan. There, the surgeon found bone shards under my dad's kneecap. He removed them, and the swelling stopped. My dad could play basketball again. That dream to get a basketball scholarship to go to college was back on.

My dad joined his high school basketball team. They were called the Everett Vikings, and they were good. They'd won the state championship the previous year. The star of that team was this guy named Earvin. But most people just call him Magic Johnson. Even in high school, they called them that. The coach was thrilled when my dad joined because he was tall. And the team had lost Magic Johnson and all of their height. As the season progressed, my dad flourished. He was a strong rebounder. He could dunk. He even got a nickname.

Bobby Berry

They wanted to try to figure out a name for me, a nickname for me. They already had one for Earvin. As everybody know, Tim Scott nicknamed Earvin "Magic" Johnson. One of the sportscasters found out I was from Mississippi. During a game where I dunked the ball, he said, Mississippi Slammer. That's where they got the name the Mississippi Slammer.

Emanuele Berry

His team was cruising through the season to the state playoffs, which brings us to the game I was never supposed to ask about. It was the semifinals. The team was supposed to wear suits to the game, but my dad didn't have one. So he had to get one at the last minute.

He missed the pep rally, and he got to the gym late. My dad remembers going to the locker room, the starting lineups being announced. And when the game started, he says he just felt off. He remembers this one play in particular, where he says everything fell apart.

Bobby Berry

I grab a rebound off the backboard above the rim. And I go up above the rim, to where I'm basically-- all I had to do was just drop the ball in the basket. Instead, I threw it across the basket. And I never will forget it. It was hard on me because that was a turning point in the game that had made me feel that I lost the game.

Emanuele Berry

How long do you think you carried around that one little moment?

Bobby Berry

I still carry it around. Obviously, I'm still talking about it.

Emanuele Berry

What do you think would make you not carry it around with you?

Bobby Berry

I don't know. I can't go back in time and redo it.

Emanuele Berry

They lost the game by just a few points.

Emanuele Berry

Did it feel like opportunities were closing for you with that game?

Bobby Berry

Yeah. If I had played better, and we would've won that game, we would have been in the finals. And there would've been more visual eyes on us. And the thing was is that I was only out there for one year because I came up here in my senior year. So nobody really knew who I was. For me to get the more exposure, we needed to continue to win. And when we didn't win, I think that just-- a lot of the opportunities for me to be seen went out the window. I have a lot of resentment about the opportunities that I feel that it could have changed my life from the way we are now.

Emanuele Berry

When my dad says where we are now, he means no college degree, a career managing restaurants, raising five kids, and making ends meet. Where we are now is missing part of a lung and slipped discs. Where we are now is no kidneys and dialysis, while still working 60 hour weeks. It's been over 40 years since he missed that shot. Maybe that's how long it takes to mourn an alternative universe.

But part of me also wonders, isn't that long enough to let it go-- to see that it's just a game? That where we are now is also 40 years of marriage and kids who went to college, one even to Yale-- not me. And it's not like my dad hates his job. I've never thought of our life as anything other than a good one.

I got it in my head that if he could watch the game, he'd see things differently. Maybe he didn't play so badly. Maybe he's just being hard on himself. And I wanted to see it. I've never seen him play.

So I looked for the tape everywhere-- his high school, TV stations, the Michigan High School Athletic Association. And then, a few months later, my dad reconnected with one of his high school teammates. And he said, I have a copy of the game. And not only that, but he and the other guys on the team had a different take of how my dad played. They said they remembered him playing great-- that he's the reason they even stayed in the game.

He gave the tape to my dad. My dad tried to watch it once, but didn't get too far. So, a few weeks ago, we sat down in the living room to watch the game together.

Emanuele Berry

All right, you ready?

Bobby Berry

I think so.

Emanuele Berry

You think so? Are you worried right now?

Bobby Berry

I'm nervous.

Emanuele Berry

Why? What are you nervous about?

Bobby Berry

Watching myself 40 years ago playing basketball, revisiting those moments. But my teammates said that I played very like a bear, or beast, or whatever. I would like to see that part of the video. Versus what I perceive that I did not play very well. So from retrospective, I would like to see that version-- the beast.

Emanuele Berry

The beast? The Mississippi Slammer?

Bobby Berry

Well, you know, I'd take anything right now.

Emanuele Berry

Here we go.

A grainy black and white court comes into focus. Players zoomed towards the basket and layup lines. Lots of them have afros.

Bobby Berry

Can you tell which one is me?

Emanuele Berry

Um, not yet. Well, it's all over the place.

And then I see him. It's his body language, so like my little brother's that it gives him away.

Emanuele Berry

Is this you?

Bobby Berry

That's me, yeah.

Emanuele Berry

Is that you?

Bobby Berry

Yes, that's me.

Emanuele Berry

He's sporting a white jersey and teeny, tight white shorts that are very shy of his knees. Tube socks and high top sneakers-- the shoes make me cringe. Ankle support apparently was not a thing. And he's way skinnier than I've ever known him.

Emanuele Berry

You're so teeny.

[LAUGHTER]

Bobby Berry

Yeah, all 189 pounds of me.

Emanuele Berry

When was the last time you were 189 pounds.

Bobby Berry

Yeah, in high school.

Tv Announcer

Hold on, this game is underway.

Emanuele Berry

The teams line up at the big [INAUDIBLE] half court for the jump ball. My dad loses the jump. The other team picks the ball up on the court, fires off a quick jumper that bounces off the rim. My dad's team takes the ball down, and throws up a shot, and also misses. My dad grabs the rebound.

Tv Announcer

Bobby Berry has it.

Emanuele Berry

Bobby Berry-- that's my dad. The funny thing is that as he watches, he seems to forget that he knows how this game ends. And he's watching it like any other game on TV.

Bobby Berry

Come on.

Emanuele Berry

My dad's team scores the first two baskets. It's 4-0. But the lead doesn't seem to matter to him. He's already down on himself.

Emanuele Berry

What are you seeing right now?

Bobby Berry

Me standing.

Emanuele Berry

Yeah?

Bobby Berry

Yep.

Emanuele Berry

What do you mean?

Bobby Berry

Um, I don't go to the ball. I go away from the ball. Watch the ball come to this side. Now watch where I go-- opposite side of the ball.

Emanuele Berry

I start to say things like, it just started. It's not that bad. I'm pointing out every good thing he does.

Emanuele Berry

Look, you just got an offensive rebound.

And I'm so busy talking, I almost miss the play that's haunted my dad.

Tv Announcer

[INAUDIBLE] Tony Daniel high post drives around his hand, puts it up-- no good.

Emanuele Berry

You got the board.

Bobby Berry

There it is.

Emanuele Berry

Is that the shot? Was that it?

Bobby Berry

Yes. Yeah, that was the shot.

Emanuele Berry

You want to--

Bobby Berry

[INAUDIBLE] No, I don't want to see it again. Once is enough.

Emanuele Berry

The play is over so quick. It's just a second on the screen. And the thing is after that shot, his teammate rebounds the ball and puts it in. In other words, the miss-- it didn't matter. They still score.

But it did matter to my dad. He never really recovers. And for the rest of the game, he misses shot after shot. Though it's not all bad. He makes a monster block on the next play. Though watching, he barely seems to notice. Next play down, he's fouled on the shot. So he gets two free throws.

Bobby Berry

Yeah, free throws! That's what I mean.

Emanuele Berry

You made your free throw.

Bobby Berry

I missed a shot, two feet away.

Emanuele Berry

I keep trying to get him to see what his teammates saw. He won't.

Emanuele Berry

You guys are up by quite a bit.

Bobby Berry

Yeah, I know. That's the point. We lost.

Emanuele Berry

At halftime, it's 22-21. My dad's team is up by one. But by the second half, it's as if my dad remembers what he's watching and how it ends. No more yelling, he just sort of sits hand over mouth, quiet.

And this is where I start to think, wait, is he mad at me? I start to worry that this was a terrible idea. This isn't going to make him feel better. Rather than think about one mistake in a game from 40 years ago, he can now watch 40 minutes of mistakes.

The game remains close. And I can see what his teammates are saying about him being a beast. He's pulling down lots of rebounds. He is the reason they're still in the game. But he's not scoring much. Then, in the fourth quarter, their opponent pulls ahead by just a few. And my dad's team can't catch up. It's over.

The camera shows one final moment of my dad. It zooms in on him before he heads into the locker room. He leans down, wrapping his arms around his coach, consoling him. My father at the kitchen table has far less compassion for himself.

Emanuele Berry

How are you feeling?

Bobby Berry

Uh, depressed. But I can't do anything about it. It's like I said. It's sad to see that game over again, that's for sure. And I didn't-- still, I feel the same way. I felt that I did not play very well, the way I felt that I should.

Emanuele Berry

My dad finally got to see how this moment actually looked from the outside. And it didn't change anything for him.

Bobby Berry

You can't imagine that things were different. The tape proves the way I felt that I played is what the tape shows.

Emanuele Berry

When we were watching, I worried that I'd upset my dad. I had.

Bobby Berry

Well, you're reopening a wound.

Emanuele Berry

Me?

Bobby Berry

Yes. Why are you making me watch this game?

Emanuele Berry

Does it make you that upset?

Bobby Berry

I'm not upset. It just reopens it, and making me revisit it is not necessarily making me--

Emanuele Berry

See, I think my hope was that by watching it, it would make you feel better. Like, you could let go of it.

Bobby Berry

The only way I probably can ever let go of it is go back into time and reverse everything. And that's not going to happen.

Emanuele Berry

Is that really what it would take?

Bobby Berry

I think that's probably what it would take.

Emanuele Berry

I think it makes me upset that you feel upset or that you feel depressed about this. Because it just--

Bobby Berry

I know it's just a game.

Emanuele Berry

It's not that it's just a game. It's just that it's so long ago and that like, yes, it's sad--

Bobby Berry

Oh, believe me. In my life, I'm a very blessed and happy man.

Emanuele Berry

Well, that's it, though. That's exactly it. It just feels like this is such an insignificant thing to all of the great shit that you have going on in your life.

Bobby Berry

Watch the language.

Emanuele Berry

Sorry.

My dad did point out one positive thing in the video that I couldn't have noticed.

Bobby Berry

You know what I said to my coach?

Emanuele Berry

What did you say?

Bobby Berry

I'm sorry, sir.

Emanuele Berry

What were you sorry for?

Bobby Berry

Losing the game. Now I gotta go. I never told anybody what I said to my coach.

Emanuele Berry

What did he say back?

Bobby Berry

No, you played your ass off.

Emanuele Berry

At this point, we've been talking for close to an hour. And I realized what I'm doing isn't working. I've been keeping things positive, trying to make my dad see something else-- sugar coating it. And you know what I hate? I hate when people sugar coat things.

The truth was, he was right. He didn't play well. That dunk-- he really did pass the ball over the rim, instead of just dropping it in. After that, he only scored three points. He played exactly the way he told me not to play for most of my basketball career, hanging out around the basket, hands down. He missed easy put backs. He did rebound well, but without him as a threat offensively, his team suffered.

I think he's absolutely right. If he'd played better, they would have won. Maybe what he needed wasn't to see himself differently. What he needed was for someone to see him just the way he is.

Emanuele Berry

I mean, to be frank, it was not a great game for you.

Bobby Berry

It wasn't a great-- it was a horrible game for me.

Emanuele Berry

But I wanted you to also see yourself play basketball. And I think I was hoping that it would be different than you imagined.

Bobby Berry

Why would you think that?

Emanuele Berry

Because I always imagined that I played like shit. [LAUGHS] And I like to think I don't look that bad on tape.

Bobby Berry

Well, you see?

Emanuele Berry

We chatted a little longer, my dad looking drained-- I think a little sad. It was late, and the Raptors were about to play the Bucks. So I left my dad to watch his game. I spent the evening pretending to read, but really, I was worried about what I just did. The next morning, my dad told me he had something he wanted to say.

Bobby Berry

You know, I actually felt a sense of relief after watching the game with you. I don't think I would've watched it, to tell you the truth. So getting through that with someone that you care and for them to sit there, and watch, and just be brutally honest, like you said, that I played like shit-- excuse my language. But those things are important.

Emanuele Berry

And that's what I wanted, to talk to my dad about the important things. And since I started this conversation, we've been doing that more and more. We've talked about his childhood in Mississippi, about his health, like how dialysis is so depleting, and about his own parents and how he sees them.

Our conversations are not always this deep. But you know what they're not always about? They're not always about basketball.

Sean Cole

Emanuele Berry is one of the producers of our show. A version of this story appeared on The Nod, a podcast that tells stories about black culture that you won't hear anywhere else. Like, LeVar Burton discussing the love life of black Star Trek characters. You can find The Nod wherever you get your podcasts.

Credits

Sean Cole

Our program was produced today by Lina Misitzis and Nadia Reiman. Our staff includes Bim Adewunmi, Elna Baker, Emanuele Berry, Ben Calhoun, Zoe Chace, Dana Chivvis, Aviva DeKornfeld, Neil Drumming, [? Hillary ?] [? Elkins, ?] [? Damien ?] [? Grave, ?] [? Michelle ?] [? Harris, ?] Seth Lind, Miki Meek, Stowe Nelson, [? Katherine ?] [? Raimondo, ?] Robyn Semien, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, and Nancy Updike. Our managing editor is Diane Wu. Executive editor, David Kestenbaum.

Special thanks today to Dr. Cindy Cisneros-McGilvery, Jayson Haedrich, Rob Howes, Trevar Cushing, Tyler Rickstrew, Aurelie Hagen, Farley Chase, Eileen Berry, Tony Daniels, Jorge Just, and Sam Greenspan. Our website, ThisAmericanLife.org, where you can stream our archive of over 600 episodes for absolutely free-- ThisAmericanLife.org.

This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks, as always, to my boss, Ira Glass. So this is weird. I called him to ask him about the show this week. And he was at the beach with his pet donkey. And I'm like, what are you doing? And he's like--

Zack McDermott

Coconut oil on that ass now.

Sean Cole

I'm Sean Cole. Ira will be back next week with more stories of This American Life.