Learning to throw candy - Daniel Silliman

Of all the candies, I think the best for throwing is probably the hard, red and white peppermints. Any hard and round candy is good for throwing, but the peppermint's swirls would give the encouraging illusion of aerodynamic speed, so you could throw them with confidence.

Unfortunately, I just had a bag of colored suckers.

I was throwing them at the upstairs window of a big, dark house. My friend lived in one of the rooms upstairs and he was letting me sleep on his couch for the weekend. I'd slept on his couch the night before and then, that morning, hiked down to the main street and caught a bus to the conference downtown.

I was in Philadelphia for this philosophy conference, but mostly to see one particular philosopher, Slovoj Zizek. Basically, he is to postmodern philosophy what Jerry Lee Lewis was to early Rock 'n' Roll: Crazy, marginal, innovative and dynamic. Zizek is a big, sweaty Slovenian with a shaggy beard, who talks about psychoanalysis by talking about Hitchcock movies, who talks about Hegelian dialectics by talking about toilet design, and who talks about feminism by talking about Easter candies. If you have no tolerance for philosophy, then you wouldn't care, but I was a philosophy student in college and the way he combines the old and the contemporary, the complicated with the stupidly simple, seemed brilliant.

He seems like the kind of guy who could tell you the deep significance to throwing candy. Like, he could tell you how it actually explains something.

I caught a ride across the Midwest with a professor and I saw Zizek talk, but before he talked, he walked right by me, and my professor said, "You could have put your foot out and tripped him." There was really no good reason I would trip him.

Now though, I kind of wish I had, because a lot of people have seen a philosopher speak, but not that many people have tripped a famous one. Also, it was a weird day and when I try to pinpoint when, exactly, things went wrong, the only thing I can think of is "I didn't trip Zizek."

I don't know if that was the reason, but things got weird and I ended up, after midnight, locked out, stuck in the November cold, chunking candy at a window.

I should point out that I didn't know the person who slept in that particular room. I just picked that window because it wasn't totally dark. It was dark, but there was a TV on.

This is the sort of thing that could be a disaster -- getting locked out of a house in south Philadelphia without a cell phone after midnight -- but if you don't die, and you try to solve the problem by chunking candy at the window, it's so weird that you can't really call it a disaster.

It's more like a misadventure. Also, I learned a lot, which is always supposed to be a good thing, but what I learned was the best way to throw candy. I would like for that to be important knowledge, but so far, it really hasn't been valuable.

The suckers were left-over Halloween candy in the plastic pumpkin on the porch, which I considered lucky, all things considered, because in the movies people only ever throw pebbles at upstairs windows, which turns out to be totally unrealistic. There were no pebbles around at all. Where do these pebbles supposedly come from?

Also in the movies, this only happens when someone is in love, so candy makes a lot more sense than rocks. I decided I would pledge my love to whoever opened the window, if anyone ever opened the window, if I thought it would get them to let me in.

I didn't care who answered the door, but I thought I was more likely to be helped by an awake person. I thought the room with the TV on was more likely to have an awake person inside than a dark room.

I just had to hope they weren't watching a horror film.

And I hoped they wouldn't freak out at the tapping on the window and end up killing me. That would be bad. I decided to save some candy to try to appease the knife-weilding, wild-eyed person zombie-freak I was probably trying to wake up.

I tried to throw the suckers end-over-end, like you would throw a hammer or like a TV Indian would throw a tomahawk into the tree next to Davy Crockett's head. This turns out to be a bad way to throw a candy sucker, because they arch over the rain gutter and then spin out and flutter down to the roof.

What you have to do is throw the sucker so the stick is like a tail. I flung them, that way, and the tail balances the candy head as it sails over the porch roof and -- smack -- hits the glass.

Zizek has a new book coming out this summer. I'll read it, like I read his last one, hoping he will explain the philosophical importance of throwing candy.

Because otherwise, why didn't I just trip him?

Daniel Silliman covers crime for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 254, or via e-mail at dsilliman@news-daily.com.