Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 4, Part 2

But there was some good that came out of losing. I met this really cool girl backstage named Eos, who was a production intern on the show. If I can remember myself right, this is how it happened: When everyone came up to celebrate with Jake, I sort of slinked away to find my dad. I knew he’d have some words to share with me to help me kind of get over my sadness, because he always does. He just knows how to put things in perspective. It’s one of his best qualities. If you could know my dad, you’d really like that about him.

But with the bright lights, it was hard to see anything in the audience. So I went backstage to find a way out to the front and I asked this attractive dark-skinned girl how I should be going. She said it was complicated and offered to take me there herself. She also said she thought I did really well, especially with the 19th Century Authors category. She was true; I captured every square in that category, even though it took me much too long to remember the name of the story about Akakii Akakievich. When I finally buzzed in, I accidentally called it in Russian: Shinel. Trebek looked at me with a funny raised eyebrow and I immediately translated it into English: The Overcoat!

Anyway, so I followed Eos but then she got lost, too. So we laughed about that and started talking. I was curious about her name, which I recognized from Homer’s Iliad and also his Odyssey.

I said, “I like your name. It’s Greek, right?”

And she said, “Thanks. Yeah.” She said, “I like yours too Fareed.”

I said, “Is there a story behind you getting it? Because you don’t meet many girls named Eos.”

And she laughed and said, “Well, my mom actually named me Emily on my birth certificate, after her favorite poet Emily Dickinson. But at my school there were four other Emilys and I didn't like any of them, especially Emily Simpson who once barfed on the school bus and the smell was so vile it made two other kids hurl too. So I told my mom I didn't love the name Emily that much. And she said okay then change it. And I said great how about Feather, since my mom always quoted the Dickinson poem: ‘Hope is the thing with feathers.’ So instead of Hope, which, let's face it, is such a corny name, I chose Feather. But then my mom said well Feather is okay, but it was the name of our old neighbors’ cleaning lady when I was real young and we used to live in Lodi—that's in New Jersey—and although she thought Feather was a pretty name, and the neighbors’ cleaning lady was actually very pretty, my mom said if she called me Feather she’d always think of that woman who cleaned the O’Donald’s house. So we went back to the drawing board again and that's when we hit on Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn.”

She spoke real quickly and it was hard for me to keep up all the time. I thought maybe she told me what the connection was from Emily Dickinson and I was just missing it. So I asked her about that.

“Oh, right,” she said, and laughed a sort of nervous giggle, which I found very pleasing. “One of my mom’s other favorite Emily Dickinson poems is called Dawn. Do you know it?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so.”

“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door; Or has it feathers like a bird, Or billows like a shore?”

“No,” I said, “I never heard that one. But I like it a lot,” which was true, even though I was having trouble processing the meaning right there on the spot, as Eos was walking me around backstage, looking for the right door. I was also trying to understand the connection between the two poems because they both had the feathers. “Is that the whole of the poem?” I asked.

“I think so. If there’s more, my mom never recited it aloud,” Eos said.

“So you didn’t like the name Dawn?”

“Nah. Too, I dunno, old woman who sits under those hair dryers at the beauty salon, if you know what I’m saying. Eos is different. It fits me better. It’s, here it is!” she suddenly shouted, stopping in her tracks, referring to what I was only assuming was the way out of the crazy backstage labyrinth.

And so it was. And we crossed into the audience and found my father, who was happy to see me with a real big hug. I introduced Eos to him and the three of us made our way out of the studio and onto the bright, sunny, Sony lot. And I was happy to be distracted from my sadness over losing to Jake and that my father couldn’t make too big a deal at it because Eos was there.

If that was just going to be it, you could say it was reason enough for me to say some good came out of losing that day. But the story with Eos doesn’t end there. It turned out that it was her last day working for the show and that she was very excited because the following week, she was supposed to start another intern position for a magazine and Web site called, which I had never heard of at the time but have since made it my homepage. If you don’t know it, well it’s a site for trivia junkies and they have really cool quizzes every day and caption contests and week-long trivia scavenger hunts and word puzzles and all kind of stuff, actually.

So Eos explained to me and my dad, as we were sitting eating lunch at the cafeteria on the Sony lot, that she had pitched the mentalfloss people an idea for a 30-second weekly video feature for their site called Ask Otis. Basically Otis was her cat, a wirehair, which her parents had given to her at her 24th birthday a couple months ago. And Otis had this habit of doing all kind of funny things with his mouth, like he was talking. So Eos had this idea to film Otis with her camcorder and record a boy’s voice on top of the video so it looked like Otis was actually doing the talking.

Eos said cats were very popular on the Internet—that people loved watching funny videos of cats on YouTube doing funny things, like playing piano. And she told me and my dad that this was giving her the idea to make a pitch to mentalfloss. So basically every week there’d be a new episode of Ask Otis. Eos would go out on the streets of Los Angeles with her camcorder and interview random people at the mall, at the park, basically at all kind of places like this. And she’d ask them trivia questions like What is the best-selling record album of all-time? And so people would give their answers and she’d edit them together into like a 20-second montage—some funny answers she got, some serious answers, but all of them incorrect. Then, at the end, Otis would be there giving the correct answer to each week’s question. And that’s why she called the feature Ask Otis.

Eos said the people at mentalfloss were very enthused about the idea and agreed to give her an internship, and pay her, and give her some small budgets for supplies and all kind of things she might be needing for producing it. I was getting so excited when she told us the idea, I forgot for the moment all about Jake and his hairy buzzer-arm mole. And I forgot about Lily and Trebek and maybe even the pretty lady in the minivan.

“I think it’s going to be such a big hit online!” I said.

“Really?” Eos said.

“Yeah,” I said.

My dad said, “I’m not really understanding it, but if Fareed says it’s a good idea, it must be. This here is a very very smart boy, you know.”

I said, “Dad,” and my face became hot.

“Well you are,” he said.

“I know he is,” said Eos. “I’ve never seen anyone nail the 19th Century Authors category like he did, so quickly. And believe me, I’ve seen a bajillion kids come through here.”

After lunch, Eos showed us around the lot a little bit. We saw people making a sitcom pilot out on a street that sort of looked real at first but then you could understand that the buildings on the street weren’t real. They were just kind of the front part of the building with nothing behind. I had to laugh at that one. My father couldn’t believe it either.

“People are getting money to paint these fake houses?” he asked Eos.

“To build ‘em and to paint ‘em and to make ‘em look like the paint is even peeling off them, if you can believe that” she said, giggling her giggle again.

She walked us to the parking lot, which wasn’t too far away. I remember the sun was even brighter then, bouncing off the pavement and making me wish I hadn’t misplaced my sunglasses somewhere inside our Winnebago. In Israel, a good pair of sunglasses is very important because the sun is even stronger than in Los Angeles because we have much less smog and all kind of stuff in the air. I read once that much of the stuff in the air here in California is actually from China. That their chemicals and pollution are coming over the ocean and sitting heavy over the coast here. I don’t know if this is fact or not, but if it is, it’s very scary. And if you stop and think on it too long, well, it can make you sort of afraid to breathe in too deeply.

At the Winnebago, we started to say goodbye but Eos wanted a tour first. She’d never been in a mobile home before so we wound up driving her off the lot a little and down through Culver City. If I can remember myself right, it was during this drive that she asked me if I wanted to help her make Ask Otis.

At first I thought she was making jokes. But it became clear she was serious.

“I could totally use your help,” she said. “If you have time or interest, that is.” I looked to my dad, who was concentrating on the road. “You could hold the camera while I interview people,” she said. “And you could probably come up with much better trivia questions than me, anyway. I mean, you know way more than me when it comes to most subjects.”

I was becoming overwhelmed with excitement. It seemed like the very best way to spend the rest of my few months in America. “Dad?” I said, almost unable to control myself.

Without taking his eyes off the road, he mumbled in Arabic, yimkin mumkin, which sort of means “Well, possibly.”

And I knew he was going to give me his permission from those two words, because for him, yimkin mumkin always mostly means yes. And so I guess you could kind of say the day took a turn for the better from that point, and Culver City suddenly looked like a beautiful bright oasis to me and I wanted to scream from joy and give Eos a big bears hug, even though I didn’t do either.

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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