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A little help from my friend - Placebo Effect

By S.Brendan Short | April 11, 2002

While I generally describe the experience of being the leader of the crack staff of the Johns Hopkins News-Letter as an unmitigated joy, it does have certain pitfalls. I manage to avoid most of these through simple disguise: Oddly enough, I seem to be "stealth" enough that most people don't know who I am, and frankly I like it that way. Nonetheless, I still get approached on occasion with requests, and sometimes even complaints. Apparently, people don't always like the work we do. Who knew?

The biggest problem I encounter th,ough, is envy. Everyone wants to be a journalist.

On occasion, however, this dovetails nicely with a desire of my own. So it was a few weeks ago, when a few of my friends decided that they wanted to be featured in my column. In the interests of pushing the boundaries of experimental column-writing (and, I don't mind admitting, of lessening my own workload), I decided that they would each write a 200-word blurb and I would present them for your approval. One caveat, however: Due to a few of those unavoidable publication snags, these pieces, which all relate to their Spring Break experiences and were originally intended to run closer to the end of the break, have not been printed until now. This should in no way lessen your appreciation of their literary merit. Enjoy.


Standing on The Strip at 2 a.m., most definitely in the midst of a clich, was an experience both awe-inspiring and repulsive. It was amazing to see how people CAN simply be entertained by flashing lights, bright colors, and loud bells :) The saddest part was that I was no exception, subject to a painful fascination, the way people can't help but stare at an accident on the highway. There is definitely something about Vegas that takes your breath away.

And yet, I'm sad that a place like Vegas exists. Every mountainous fountain, lagoon of lights, or indoor rainstorm cries out against the amount of time and money that could be spent elsewhere. Every gigantic nickel slot casino, drive-through wedding chapel, or dark alley advertising "Girls Girls Girls" illustrates a world where life is easy, fast, wild and ridiculous. Crazy Stuff. And yet there we were.

So why again does a place like this cause us to gaze entranced around us or sit for hours pushing buttons and losing money? I have no idea, but it does! I guess that's the mystery of Vegas.


It all began seven years ago with a 1995 Angels baseball team that was destined to break my heart. Somewhere along the line, a catcher named Jorge Fabregas who wore the number 14 on his back became my hero.

He is by no means the star of the team and often not even in the starting lineup. I can't fall back on his physical appearance as the reason that he became my favorite player, and when asked in Spanish class what made him so appealing, I had to settle for "carism?tico." Still, there's something about Jorge.

So when six of us ventured to spring training in Tempe, Ariz. last week, I had one goal in mind, and the Angels did not disappoint. We watched excitedly as they practiced and joked just 20 feet from us, and two of us decided to yell a resounding, "Hi Jorge!" He turned and waved, and then minutes later, the unbelievable happened. Jorge finished his game of catch, turned and looked for us, and threw the ball to me with a grin. I can't say I reacted with composure.

That, coupled with my friend's encounter with a dream named Todd, made for quite the momentous weekend. So here's to Jorge and Todd - all my bats!


I am not a coward. I laugh at horror flicks and routinely place myself in death-defying situations. My nickname should be "Nerves of Steel."

OK, fine. Who am I trying to kid? I admit it, I've been known to check under my bed for the random serial killer and in my closets for sketchy characters from the WB. I wait for a 1 mile gap in traffic before I venture across the street just to make sure I don't get run over. The way I look at it, it's not a matter of being spineless, it's just that I've had far too many dark and traumatic experiences.

For example, take my one night stay in the ghost town of Jerome, Ariz. over spring break. A certifiable boomtown during its halo copper mining days, today Jerome is the sleepy hillside home of 300 people and/or spirits of dead miners. Five friends and I stayed at the Jerome Grand Hotel, AKA the former hospital where who knows how many people died in the very room we were staying in. Was I scared? Pshaw! Why should I fear vengeful ghosts and diabolical plots hatched by evil friends intent on scaring the wits out of me? I had bigger problems that night: I had to sleep next to the nightstand. of death. I'm lucky to have made it out alive.

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