The strangest people were always calling Mark. This undoubtedly has something to do with the ads that were run for years in the GMHS paper, The Hornet — first by my editorial predecessors, then proudly by me.

The ads were vague, and encouraged the reader to call "The Dave Hotline." (862-ITSY). Whether it was intended to be an advice line, a party line or one of those sexy 976 numbers we were hearing so much about, no man could say.

The phone calls I remember weren't generated by the ads though. They usually came at midnight or later, and inevitably aroused the ire of Mrs. Darin. When she'd been sufficiently sedated with "mom, I'm on the phone!", Mark would open the mystery bag.

Usually it was Roman, drunk and babbling about recent movies, how married life was treating him and the impending birth of the child he planned to call "Bitsy" for some reason.

When it wasn't Roman though, it could be any number of people from Mark's past. The infamous Vic, known only to me from his appearances in "The Fearsome Pig People of Paraguay" and its sequels, would occasionally call, forcing Mark to update the rehearsed speech that came when people took the advice of the button on his wall that said "Ask me about VIC!"

Every now and then, TR would call. This was always quite entertaining. Mark would usually talk with The Goon for about 5 minutes, not bothering to hide or apologize for his open hostility. Then, inevitably, he would hand the phone off to whomever had the misfortune of being within the cord's reach. Once or twice it was me... and all I could do was lamely mutter "yep, uh-huh" for 15 minutes or so in an attempt to run up his phone bill.

The best time was when Mark laid the groundwork about "Traci," his new girlfriend, then passed the phone to a befuddled (but commendably cooperative) Jenn, who was intended to play the role of Traci. Being, as we all were, a theater-type, Jenn slipped into character easily, and it was all the roomful of us could do not to crack up as she kept TR on the phone for easily half an hour.

It didn't change much when we moved in together either... but then I had the distinct honor of speaking with Uncle Rudy from time to time. Mark's Uncle Rudy was always into something — usually porn stars, but also ostrich farming and TV producing. I imagine he was what Mark would have been, had he been in better health and the rest of us hadn't stolen all his chicks. Uncle Rudy always announced himself when I answered the phone, probably knowing full well that his reputation preceded him.

"This is Rudy," he'd say, the smarm practically dripping out of the holes in the phone. I always pictured him making that little pointy-gun motion with his thumb and forefinger after that.

There was a point to all of this, but I seem to have forgotten it.


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