Writing Switch: Terrible twos — it’s coupling season | AspenTimes.com
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Writing Switch: Terrible twos — it’s coupling season

Benjamin Welch and Sean Beckwith
Quarreling kids - boy shouting at his brother
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

We have a lot in common with some of the most famous duos throughout history — the most striking resemblance being that there also are two of us. Lewis and Clark, Stan and Kyle, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Batman and Robin (well, nobody wants to be Robin) … there are literally hundreds of people you can name, and now you can add another pair to that list: Ben and Sean. This week we lay down on the couch and play armchair psychologist to determine which traits of a smattering of terrific tandems also manifest in ourselves.

Calvin and Hobbes

SB: At first thought, I lean toward Calvin because his imagination is too expansive for Ben. Stupendous Man at one moment and the next Spaceman Spiff, maybe even throw in a little Tracer Bullet.

But then I thought about it and realized Ben has various alter egos. They may not be superheroes, private eyes or astronauts, but they’re all self-delusional nonetheless.

The biggest reason I’m clearly Hobbes is word count. If you’ve ever read Calvin and Hobbes — which if you haven’t, you should — there’s a running bit where Calvin goes on lengthy, misguided rants that Hobbes either dissects in a couple of sentences or doesn’t address at all.

If that sounds familiar, then you’ve probably read this column a few times. A few, well-put words often works better than an onslaught of diatribes. (Also, if either of us gets to be a tiger, it’s me. 1986 was the year of the tiger.)

BW: Many of the philosophical conversations Calvin has with Hobbes resemble topics Sean and I discuss, except rather than sledding down the mountain we’re going up it on a chairlift.

The structure is generally me making an astute life observation or telling an amusing, ironic story that is meant to cause reflection and expansion of the mind, and he responds first with silence and then a veiled insult, like I’M the idiot.

Calvin is the crazy genius in training — the mastermind behind the group’s antics — while Hobbes tags along with faux hesitation mainly because he can’t resist the high likelihood of opportunities to antagonize. Hobbes falsely fancies himself wiser, or sometimes that he has to save Calvin from himself; however, it is Calvin’s presence and participation that is the very cause of existence for Hobbes, who can only hope that the day when he is outgrown is still far into the future.

Woody and Buzz

SB: The crux of Woody and Buzz is Woody constantly telling Buzz he’s not a real space man or can’t shoot lasers or can’t do this or that, which clearly makes me Buzz. Anyone who goes by the motto “Optimism is perverse” is definitely a Woody.

I haven’t seen “Toy Story” in a while but I think Woody saves the day, which doesn’t line up with my preference to always be the hero. That said, Buzz has a dope catchphrase — “To infinity and beyond” — which lines up with my superior headline writing abilities.

Now, if the debate was Tim Allen or Tom Hanks, that’s a different story. I mean, I’ve never dealt cocaine to underaged co-workers, but I can’t say the same for Ben. I’m not saying Ben peddles drugs to children, but I’ve never seen anything definitive proving otherwise.

BW: Sean and I met almost six years ago, when he started working at The Aspen Times as a part-time proofreader. Just as Woody and Buzz’s friendship started off a little rocky, it stressed me out when he sauntered in at 7 p.m. and yelled “BEN WHERE ARE MY PAGES?!” as if I hadn’t been pounding away at the keyboard all day. We figured things out pretty quickly though — Nebraska Cornhusker football is a great equalizer.

Buzz respects that Woody is still the sheriff even if sometimes he’s kind of a doofus because it’s better than the alternative. You want Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear or the Squeaky Toy Aliens in charge? Hell no. While Woody is trying to get the Little Green Army Men organized, Buzz is goofing off and playing Hot Wheels with Rex and Ham. Woody’s moral compass is a little too rigid to be a completely accurate representation of my own, though; by “Toy Story 3” I was really over a decade’s worth of “OMG but Andy!” Still, the benevolent dictator method is my preferred approach to management, which is good because apparently unlike Sean, I have the capacity to embrace long-standing legal traditions such as “innocent until proven guilty.”

Phelps and Lochte

SB: What a toss-up we have here. The most decorated Olympian of all time who happened (happens?) to use his impressive lung capacity for recreational purposes, as well, and a fellow gold medalist who jeopardized (ruined?) his swimming career because he trashed a gas station after getting shit-canned and then proceeded to cover it up with a story so terrible he got the gate treatment.

(Top 3 favorite gate scandals, ranked: 3. Lochtegate; 2. Porngate — Government officials forced to resign after watching porn during government proceedings; 1. Pizzagate — Not the Hilary Clinton one, the one involving assault with a pizza slice and former Man U manager Alex Ferguson.)

As far as who am I between the two, I am going to go with Phelps because he’s a world-class swimmer and my dad was an All-American swimmer, so I clearly have the genes. (My dad also enjoys this column and letting people know he was an All-American swimmer in high school. So shout out Steve Beckwith and all the folks at Aspen Glen. Don’t forget to vote for you boy in Best of 2020.)

BW: So, this is a little off-topic, but I have a friend who looks sort of like Michael Phelps, or at least his brother. At a certain time in the night, his go-to pick up line will be to introduce himself as Michael Phelps, which he obviously isn’t but the resemblance is similar enough that they do a double take, like “what?” Pretty funny, right? Well, one evening he was having a rough go of it and the people whose table he was at clearly wanted him to leave, so I thought I’d give him a hand.

“Sorry about my friend Michael. He’s probably had a little too much,” I said to the group, holding out my hand. “I’m Ryan Lochte, by the way.” That’s the only time I’ve ever had a woman throw a drink in my face (surprisingly).

What are you more likely to get busted for in a foreign country, some weed-related offense or carousing in the streets and belligerently yakking on a convenience store door? That’s which one you are, though Sean’s two Colorado Press Association awards (one of which is half mine) don’t exactly look like a full neck of Olympic medals as much as he thinks it does …

Musical duo

SB: Sonny and Cher? Peter, Paul and Mary Jane? The only thing we have in common with either of those two pairs is a love of turtlenecks and the possibility of a ski-related fatality.

Ben is the only one among us who owns skis so you can figure who’s a candidate for on-mountain-related death — and who’s “Strong Enough.”

So for our musical comparisons, let’s go with Outkast. This is particularly easy because Ben is the eccentric, unpredictable, verbose artist, and I’m Daddy Fat Sacks. B.I.G. B.O.I. It’s that same muthaf—a that took them knuckles to your eye.

BW: Sean’s manufactured umbrage at hipsters has been exposed by his enjoyment of my “Quarantine Mescaline Drip” playlist (follow it on Spotify), which is packed with indie dream pop/surf rock/psychadelia tracks I’ve discovered in the past six months and also randomly “Hush” by KRS. So why not pay tribute to the original emo kids with a Simon and Garfunkel comparison?

They’re both luminaries, yes, but what makes Art Garfunkel my spirit doppleganger is his penchant for indignation when he thinks he’s been slighted. Oh, you want to edit my best joke out? FINE. I’ll catch up with you next time you trick me into a reunion tour. No, officer, I’m not mad that you’re giving me a ticket, I’m mad that I’M A LEGEND AND YOU DON’T RECOGNIZE ME. Just because I’m also 5’2” doesn’t make me Simon, it’s the piercing TUMULT and EXASPERATION you see in Garfunkel’s eyes that I relate with. We know they’re coming for us, while the Paul Simons/Sean Beckwiths would rather puff around on a piccolo, beg for a body guard and insist “You Can Call Me Al.”

sbeckwith@aspentimes.com bwelch@aspentimes.com


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