Monday, April 30, 2012

Almond, Joy, and Mounds.

What follows is a pair of excerpts from a much-longer post on my old myspace blog about my time spent in Nashville, co-writing The 2006 CMT Music Awards with my dear friend Bret (@bretcalvert on Twitter).  They made the cut for this new blog entirely because re-reading them made me laugh.  Here's to a similar reaction from you.


Prologue: The Cornbread

I'm determined not to waste my three weeks here doing things that I could easily do back home (like your mom), and thankfully Bret and I are of a like mind in that. In our continued attempt to find more off-the-beaten-path places to eat, we ended up dining at a little hole in the wall called Rotier's. Bret and I were both fiending for some chicken-fried steak, and this place just screamed it. Imagine our surprise when we were handed menus and there was no chicken-fried steak to be found. Crestfallen but determined, we each found something we could abide by and prepared for a downright edible meal.

And as an extra surprise, Rotier's served us what was quite possibly the worst cornbread in the history of appallingly untasty rectangles. There is no way I can overstate for you the terror that this cornbread wreaked on our tastebuds. It was the Auschwitz of bread product. It made me beg for the sweet release of death. It somehow cheapened all that I know to be good and worthwhile in this world.

Meaningless, now.
So toxic was it to humanity's continued dominance in the world that Bret and I had to act to diminish its power in whatever way we knew how, and that way was to stick a Post-It on the wall of our little office and declare it The Cornbread. Now any time one of us told a truly horrid joke, the other didn't even have to worry about a verbal rebuttal; instead all one had to do was to solemnly point at the cornbread, and the joke-teller would know his deep inner shame immediately. Occasionally one of us would rub salt in the wound by yelling "Cornbread'd!" to accompany. I assure you, there is no worse fate than to be cornbread'd, and following it one can only know a life of shame.

Please don't be sad. I'm not cornbreading you, just showing you what it looked like.  We're cool, right?

And two entwined anecdotes from later in the blog:

I had a friend in junior high school who was a latch-key kid; we'd get out of school and walk home, then hang out at their place for an hour or so before I'd continue home, lest his mom arrive from work and find out that the house rules had been broken regarding having friends over unsupervised. It was a small daily thrill to hang out, get rowdy and just generally be twelve-year-old boys at his place, with the constant danger hanging over us of possibly being caught.

On one of these afternoons I used their bathroom; afterward I was washing my hands when I glanced down into the small trashcan next to the toilet.

There has always been a bit of mystique surrounding those little trashcans, for me. It was a moment of 'Eureka' when I realized as a boy why I almost never saw those little trashcans in bachelor's houses or apartments, but only in homes with women: oh, wow. All a guy ever needs this can for are cotton swabs and the cardboard tube that's left when he's out of toilet paper. The can's not here for guys. It's here for women. For their special items. Their 'once a month' items.

It was a big deal for me, as a kid. I was just getting to that age where girls and their anatomies were becoming the central reason for my existence, so I met every new discovery and postulate with a Cousteau-like level of interest.
Aaaaaand there went six straight hours of my adolescence.
So you can imagine my spike of intrigue when I looked down into my friend's bathroom trashcan that day and saw a flowery box called Summer's Eve. There was no way I was opening the bathroom door and going back out to goof around with my friend, at least not before I investigated this fascinating new girl-item. Even at my tender age I knew I had a rare opportunity before me. This sort of thing doesn't usually just fall into your lap; there's generally a lot of legwork involved in gaining this sort of clandestine access.

I don't care what my guidance counselor said, this would've worked.
I picked it up very gingerly, careful only to touch the two leading corners of the small cardboard box; apparently I thought there might be a forensic team following up my expedition, and I had to take care not to leave fingerprints.

The front of the box showed a woman with flowing hair, sitting surrounded by flowers in a flourishing meadow, her hair lifted by the breeze and her demeanor forever buoyed by the life-affirming effects of vaginal freshness. I was rapt with fascination at this, and turned the box over with the plan of reading and re-reading and re-reading the instructions to hopefully memorize them; maybe if I was really lucky, there'd be an illustration or two on the box...

And then the worst thing that could have possibly happened, happened. I turned my wrist over to rotate the box so I could look at the back, and that was the first clue I had that the actual item that originally came in the box was still sitting in the box and that it wasn't completely emptied during use.

I rippled in horror as fluid from my friend's mom's used douche ran across my hand, over my wrist and halfway down my forearm before I could drop the box into the trashcan and begin what would be nearly ten minutes of fevered, aghast handwashing. And even though no one ever found out (until now, of course), I felt very aware of the temperature of my own skin whenever I was around my friend's mom from then on; I just couldn't keep my mind still, once armed with the knowledge that a grown woman had unknowingly and friction-lessly exchanged fluids with a curious and confused twelve-year-old boy.  It wasn't erotic or sexy to me, just bizarre.

Fact is, I told only one person about this before writing about it here, and that is how this rambling anecdote will gradually come to tie into this week in Nashville; I relayed my douche-tastic tale to Bret as we were driving to Eckerd the other night in The PT (Pimp-Tacular) Cruiser.

This was no regular, isolated pharmacy trip, mind you. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that some combination of Bret and/or I have been to the Eckerd pharmacy/convenience store near our hotel nearly every single day we've been in town. I'm reasonably sure we count as part-time employees at this point, and will be looking for the W-2 come January. One would think that two grown men would have packed the things they'd needed, or at worst, would head to the store once to grab whatever they'd forgotten.

One would be wrong. Maybe for two normal guys, but Bret and I are writers, and thus divorced from any realistic adult notion of responsibility, purpose, or (quite obviously) fashion. Be it toothpaste, nail clippers, condoms, cotton swabs, chap stick or a hubcap for a '72 Pinto hatchback, we illustrate daily that our combined ability to neglect things we need is truly limitless.

Bret, three hours into our trip.
The best part of our ridiculous daily trips to Eckerd is the guy running the register, the only human being who's been to that building more than we have (and still only barely). He's a towering black guy (so Bret's in good with him) with a perpetually sleepy expression on his face (so he's cool with me, too; I don't like it when black people are too alert), and he's having more and more difficulty not laughing at us when we slink in with our tails between our legs looking for the latest thing we've managed to not bring with us in the first place. Not once have I remembered to look at this fellow's nametag so I can reference him more easily herein, though, so for the remainder of this anecdote we'll pretend his name is Almond. No real reason for Almond being his assumed name other than that its a placeholder for when I can actually look at his nametag later tonight when we discover the next item we need and don't have; if you're reading this document and the poor man's name is still Almond, rest assured that it doesn't mean we managed to stay away from Eckerd... no, no. It only means I'm a resolute idiot who somehow managed to forget to break eye contact with his dreamy, ever-sleepy gaze to look at his damned nametag.

Hopefully I was close, at least.

So, Almond's biggest contribution to our Nashville lexicon came when he and Bret tag-teamed to recommend I buy and try the bizarre Take-5 candy bar. The damned thing is a hodgepodge of just about every snack food you can think of: caramel, chocolate, pretzels, peanuts, peanut butter, cream gravy, theatre popcorn butter, some Gummi Bears, a fudgesicle, some buffalo wings, a loofa sponge, some dice, a pair of nickels... you name it, it's crammed in there. Bret and Almond agreed that they were the only people they knew who actually liked the things, despite repeated attempts to turn various friends and family members onto it in the past. So, on their twin recommendation, I picked one up and ate it in the elevator in the hotel while Bret eagerly looked on with that "here's the first draft of my novel, will you read it right this minute here in front of me and tell me what you think?" look on his face. I swallowed down the nineteen-snacks-in-one, pondered the fact that I'd just fired the opening salvo in what I knew would be a short, nasty and brutish offensive skirmish with my hotel room toilet, and offered Bret my critique in the form of a commercial slogan:

"Take-5? More Like Take-Some-Other-Number-Than-5!"

And here's the tie-it-all-together postscript; Bret and I had separated in the aisles of Eckerd, and he'd quickly observed an astonishingly beautiful woman from the adjacent off-campus housing, doing her shopping. Bret found what he was looking for, then went out of his way to find the aisle the beautiful lass was in so he could have an excuse to look at her again on his way by. Just as he reached her, she glanced up at him and caught him ogling her; feeling the need to cover for this, he quickly pretended to be shopping on the same shelves she was standing in front of, hoping to avoid an awkward situation by having this ravishing beauty believe he wasn't staring at her, but looking past her to this thing he desperately needed.

Which might have been a great plan if she hadn't been standing in front of a giant display rack of douches.
This, multiplied by at least eighty.
Left with no way to extricate himself in any sort of smooth manner, Bret simply hung his head and fled for Almond's post at the front registers.

Hearing this retelling moments later, I helped him work through the trauma to reconstruct his pretend-monologue at that crucial moment:

"Ah yes, I need some um, ...some Massengil... or some Summer's Eve... Hmm, nothing here strikes my fancy; I guess I'll just get some from Coop's hand..."


(originally posted to myspace in April 2006)

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Which, Ironically, Words Are De-valued

I'm a musical dunce.

As in, "Hey, some guy on the radio is singing 'Jessie's Girl'!  Just like the other day I heard a bunch of people singing 'Take a Chance On Me"!  They're all ripping off The Chipmunks, from that timeless album of songs my parents got me for Christmas in which they sing classic songs only a trio of castrato rodents could have written!  I hope these other people got permission from Alvin, or one of his considerable legal team at his record label!"

I recognized pretty early on that my taste in music is the sort of thing that infuriates real aficionados of that art form, in much the same way that someone extolling the virtues of the newest piece-of-shit Michael Bay Transformers film might ignite my ire.  I'm very much a junk-food music fan.

Acknowledging that, though, does not excuse my demonstrable history of having no idea what the lyrics are to many of even my favorite songs.  I don't know what switch never got flipped in my head, but I just can't be bothered to learn the words in most songs, even those I've heard and loved for decades.  Never mind that I can recite whole sections of film from memory without consulting any reference.

"I know what you're wondering, and the answer is yes, I do have a nickname for my penis. I call it The Octagon. I also have nicknames for my testes; the left one is James Westfall and the right one is Dr. Kenneth Noisewater. And, ladies, if you play your cards right, you just might meet the whole team."
Song lyrics just don't stick in that way for me.  I'll even sing along with a song phoenetically, sounding out rough approximations of what's being sung.  Perhaps this is because I am certain I will get it horribly, amusingly wrong if I put forth the effort to divine the true lyrics.

If I may use a perennial holiday favorite as my first example, let us look to Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit," the closing track from The Chronic.  Being a dorky white kid growing up in Middle America, I was right in the demographic that gangster rap was aiming for in the early nineties.  However, loving the CD and knowing the extensive backstory that fueled it were two very different things.  I had no idea that Dr. Dre had been in another group called NWA, nor that he split acrimoniously from fellow member Eazy-E and was using a fair amount of The Chronic's running time to call out his now-rival.  I couldn't have told you Eazy-E's real name.  Hell, it took me nearly a minute to come up with Dr. Dre's real name while typing that last sentence just now.
He combed his hair differently back then.
So I had no way of knowing who Dr. Dre was talking about when he took to the mic in his cover of John Phillip Sousa's "Bitches Ain't Shit" and began with,

"I used to know this bitch named Eric Wright,
We used to roll around and fuck the hos at night..."

The song goes on to tell a story of being wronged by Wright, and Dre deciding he's better off without such a bad influence in his life, though the flippant labeling of Wright as a bitch who ain't shit may be on the harsh side.

Here's the thing, though.  Dre puts a big creamy pronunciation on the word "named," and since I was going in ignorant of the players involved in this interpersonal drama, I mentally grabbed part of that word and tacked it onto the next one.

So, for a period I'd estimate running from 1991 until about, oh, say 1999, I thought that Dre used to know this bitch named Mary Wright, and that she was either a lesbian or I was too sheltered to know what "fuck the hos at night" meant after it had been appropriated and modified in black culture.

Is it this? It's this, isn't it?
Snoop Dogg once got me good, too.  There is an otherwise forgettable track called "Woof!" from Snoop's equally forgettable debut album with Master P's crew, entitled Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not To Be Told in a frankly shameful attempt to lure consumers looking for Melissa Etheridge's album of the same name, in which Snoop asks a question and then answers it himself via a backing track.  The actual Snoop-on-Snoop conversation goes as follows:

Snoop: "How many niggas you know that can fuck around and die and come back?"
Snoop: "None."

I agree, it's deplorable that his Carl Sagan quote goes unacknowledged in any of the album's liner notes, but I suppose it's not bound to the same legality as actual music sampling.  What stuck with me as a stupid teenager, though, was Snoop's laconic delivery of the backing track; essentially, if you want to hear "none," he said "none."

However, if you think he might have said "nine," then it's tough to un-hear "nine" even once you've sorted it out and know better.

I marveled at the blase attitude with which Snoop so casually told the world that he somehow knows NINE niggas who can fuck around and die and come back (!!!).  Anything north of three or four ought to count as at least worthy of being mentioned on the lead track.  Nine is just astonishing.  Not to Snoop, though.  Snoop is operating on a level which tells me he's got a cousin or a friend who knows at least fourteen or fifteen niggas who can fuck around and die and come back, which means I must at least pose the question of whether anyone's seen Suge Knight and Ra's Al Ghul in the same room at the same time.

A reference which tells you a lot of what you need to know about me.
It isn't all hos and bling for me, though.  I'm stupid about lots of non-rap song lyrics, too.  I once got it into my head that The Clash sang a song called "Rock The Cash Bar," which seemed oddly specific but not enough for me to question it.  Also not enough for me to avoid making an ass of myself by adamantly stating that those were the true lyrics in a dispute with a friend.  On what authority I was passing this edict, I have no idea.  At any point I could have said to myself, Self, you've been wrong on guessing song lyrics roughly 116% of the time since birth.  Why are you arguing this so passionately?

Because The Clash deserve an open bar, damnit.  That's why.
I don't fucking know what I was thinking, okay?
But nothing approaches the majesty of the Beach Boys' "Kokomo," which I managed to get wrong twice in the span of three lines, thus forever changing my notion of what the song was about.

First off, between shout-outs to every tropical destination The Beach Boys could think of, there are actual lyrics to learn.  It isn't just a geographic shout-out.

"Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Key Largo, Cincinnati... Mike, would it hurt your feelings if I said this list needed tweaking?"
This is how they send one stanza into the chorus:

"Bodies in the sand,
Tropical drink melting in your hand,
We'll be falling in love
To the rhythm of a steel drum band,
Down in Kokomo."

Let me break in here to remind you that I am not mentally retarded, as far as I'm aware.  I've never sniffed paint, I thought whippets were Taiwanese ripoffs of the Jim Henson estate until well into my twenties, and I don't believe I was dropped as a baby.

I feel I need to mention this as a prologue of sorts, to telling you what I simply accepted as fact upon mishearing the words to this song.  In my palsied mind, the following all happened, and were intended to sound woozily romantic:

"Bodies in the sand,
Tropical cake melting in your hand,
We'll be falling in love
To the rhythm of the steel mill there,
Down in Kokomo."

I wish I was joking here.  I really do.  I owned "Kokomo" on cassette-single, with Tom Cruise leering at me from the cardboard sleeve advertising "From the Soundtrack to Cocktail" in neon lettering. I listened to the song dozens, maybe hundreds of times after buying it sometime around 1989 or 1990.  I was a smart kid, I swear it.

And yet I thought that the Beach Boys thought that romance would bloom, if only we could both sit here with cake somehow melting in our bare hands as we stare at each other with moon-eyed adoration, listening to the constant industrial clanging and whistling and screeching of the serene steel mill just across the way there, beyond the trickling creek now purple with waste from the mill's output valves.

"You're right, Brian. Detroit is way more romantic. Somebody else write it in here, I've still got cake all over my hands from my date last night."
I'm not sure just what dystopian hellhole I thought the Beach Boys lived in, but it's heartwarming how optimistic they were to still find love under such conditions.

"Bodies in the creek,
Chemical run-off leaves a big black streak,
HAZMAT has their hands full,
And the future's looking awful bleak,
Down in Kokomo..."

(wet, hacking cough x 4)

Love is in the air. Love and coarse particulates. But mostly love.
27 April 2012

High School Bullshittical

While cruising the web for Ukrainian snuff films recently I came across one of those obnoxious ads smacked right in the middle of the page, made to look like actual content and just convincing enough that you read the first sentence or so before realizing you're wasting your time reading some ad feces instead of the article you were there to read in the first place.

I am going to point out some of the myriad problems I have with this ad.

Here is the text and image, unfettered for now by my withering barbs:

"Ashley Tisdale stars as high school senior Mandy Gilbert who's not too hot within the high-stakes world of teen society. But her social status is about to dramatically improve when she lands a date to the biggest party of the year with Drew Patterson, the school's hottest guy. Only problem she's grounded! With the help of her friends and her new, must-have video phone, she'll have to outsmart her overprotective dad and Drew's ex-girlfriend, in a crazy, adventure-filled day that proves that popularity can come and go, but good friends will always be in the picture.

Don't miss the premiere of the new [Some Fucking Network I'm Not Giving Free Advertising To] Original Movie Picture This! starring Ashley Tisdale Sunday, July 13 at 8/7c, only on [Some Fucking Network I'm Not Giving Free Advertising To]."


This ad, I'm convinced, is written by people who are at best delusional about the realities of life, and at worst the person you notice is licking pine tree air fresheners in a convenience store and wondering aloud why "they don't taste like Christmas."  I will now break down exactly how I came to this conclusion, and in doing so hopefully explain why the police recently picked me up for rubbing my scrotum on the air fresheners at the Sac N' Pac near my home.

First Of All

If you don't know who Ashley Tisdale is, please trade lives with me immediately.  I know her as The One I Haven't Seen Naked On The Internet from the tween phenomenon High School Musical, and my use of the word "tween" twice in this sentence should make a sad statement to you all about the man I've become.

Tisdale is most famous for that role, despite her attempts to release an album of what I can only assume is a litany of twinkling pop songs about how you can do anything if you believe in yourself, and despite her appearances in nonsense like Picture This! to further show her considerable range at playing vapid, pregnancy-pact swearing teens.  As I understand it, her character in High School Musical is named after a dog, which on the desirable brand recognition scale falls just below being known as "The Guy Who Packed His Sack at Sac N' Pac," which I'm currently in litigation against.

Knowing this, though, she will be referred to for the remainder of this document, and my life, as Shih Tzu, because it amuses me.
The ease with which I can be amused is not today's topic, though.
So, here's our first sentence of the advert once again:

"Shih Tzu stars as high school senior Mandy Gilbert who's not too hot within the high-stakes world of teen society."

I pause to point out the missing comma after "Mandy Gilbert," because I am an asshole, but also because I am a "writer" who doesn't actually write for a living while some dungchunk cashed a paycheck after proofreading this shit.
I mistakenly took the toil road instead.
Now, then, to the content of the sentence.  I recall what it's like to be a teen; their parents have little to look forward to for an easy six-to-eight-year span beyond drowning in their childrens' self-important, self-imposed teen dramas at all hours, ripe with their justification for whatever frittered-away nonsense is being passed off as OMG THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD this week.

But let us be clear on one fact as immutable as gravity: there is absolutely nothing "high-stakes" about teen society.  Being sad because you aren't popular and can't sit at the Cool Table in the cafeteria does not constitute high stakes.  I'd argue that it doesn't constitute stakes, at all.  I've seen protagonists in Mentos commercials with more dire situations.
"Pssh. old guy writing this blog don't know N-E-thing. Just yesterday my phone died at the theatre, right in the middle of the movie! I'm all R U KIDN ME??????? Never found out what Stacy said to make Andrea h8 her, u no??????"
Why this pandering waste of bandwidth made it into an ad posted to a website for adults is baffling to me.  Is there a human being not currently sitting in a pool of their own shit who reads that opening sentence and thinks, "Oh my, things sound pretty dire for Shih Tzu!  I'd better keep reading to make sure she's able to figure out that she can do anything as long as she believes in herself!  Learning how to fit my entire TV remote in my mouth will have to wait for another day!"?

And then . . .

"But her social status is about to dramatically improve when she lands a date to the biggest party of the year with Drew Patterson, the school's hottest guy."

I have a confession to make: it is this sentence that was the sole impetus for this blog.  Well, that and the accompanying picture.

Putting aside that the evident narrative crux of this film is some girl's attempt to be a princess of entitlement by clawing her way up the popularity ladder at fucking high school, it is sadly clear that Picture This! is a cautionary tale about the missteps that can lead a naïve girl to the dark world of date rape.

No, I'm serious.  Stay with me for a minute.
Let's look at what we know, just from the two sentences we've been given so far, and extrapolate it across what any of us know if we've attended a day of high school in our fucking lives.

Kids are cruel, horrible, self-absorbed creatures.  By the time they hit high school and want little more than to have someone touching their genitals on a regular basis, they've already learned all about the caste system that exists within a hierarchical society like high school, and the exploits and spoils therein.

So my critical eye falls to "the school's hottest guy," Drew Patterson.

First of all, just look at the guy.

Does he look like any of the gazillion good looking fuckheads that make up much of the upper crust of teen social society, that you all remember from high school?  There's a reason.  I'll obviously never see Picture This!, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to know that Drew Patterson deftly balances being The Hottest Guy in School with being the quarterback of the football team, or some other such instant signifier of male teen worth and status.

Furthermore, we must question his motives.  He's The School's Hottest Guy.  He's in a petri dish of hormones, surrounded by girls who all notice his looks and are at daily loggerheads over their conflicting wishes to not look like sluts but still give into their loins' quavering call to wet Drew Patterson's tip when he comes off the practice field all sweaty.

Ask any ten guys if they'd like to have random, strings-free vagina thrown at them on a daily basis, and you'll get at least fourteen "yes" answers if you allow yourself to count men offering unsolicited replies as they overhear you while walking by.

And Drew Patterson's status is very much a part of that.  No guy gets handed the brass ring and decides to smear it in fish oil to make it harder to hold onto.  He'd get along just fine for the rest of his high school life by simply showing up and being beautiful and picking which bowl of cereal to stick his spoon in after whatever dance or game happens that Friday night.

And yet here we have Drew Patterson risking it all in order to pursue what any adept high-schooler would see as a social charity case.  It's someone from the ivory tower of popularity reaching down a hand to help up one of the untouchables from the filthy unwashed mass.  This is not a statement on the appeal, or lack thereof, of Shih Tzu.  It is entirely a reflection of knowing what high school is like.  The popular don't go out of their way to mingle with those who are "not too hot" within the no-stakes world of teen society.

So Drew is looking for the easiest slice of sex he'll ever have.  Take out the poor little unpopular girl and just bide your time during "the biggest party of the year" knowing what wonderful things she'll do to your penis afterward, out of sheer appreciation for having noticed her and boosting her status at school.  If there is a voice among you who can deny that such abuses of power are among the staples of teen society, I can only assume you are a hatchling who somehow bent science to begin life in your mid-twenties; furthermore, I would like to know how many times, rounded to the dozen, you've fallen for the Nigerian prince email scam.  Use your fingers to count if you must.
But he promised!

And when it comes to that moment, in the car or behind a fence out by the pool near The Biggest Party of the Year?  Well, it won't matter if she doesn't want to, see, because Drew Patterson is The Hottest Guy in School.  You might as well fuck him, because he's going to tell all of his buddies that you did anyway, over high-fives on the practice field.

Besides, it's not like he's worried Shih Tzu won't be in the mood to rut.  If he's thought ahead enough to calculate his odds and pick an easy mark, he's surely accounted for the possible derailments and made sure over the course of The Biggest Party of the Year that if she wasn't receptive already, the GHB will surely help quell her objections.

Furthermore . . .

"Only problem she's grounded!"


Your sentence is four words and you still can't manage to punctuate it properly or divide the thoughts in any meaningful way that might convince me that you didn't just let your cat walk around on the keyboard and then hand your boss whatever it came up with?
Present company of course excepted, Mr. Mittensworth.
The copy editor of this ad should be beaten with a tack hammer in full view of his family.

Beyond that . . .

"With the help of her friends…"

Ah, you mean the ones she can't wait to leave behind as she climbs the social strata of teen society after coming home from The Biggest Party of the Year and sneaking into her parents' bathroom for its superior lighting so she can see better to pick gummy streaks of Drew Patterson's baby batter out of her hair?

"…and her new, must-have video phone…"

Neat.  How assured do you have to be of your tech gadget to be the company itching for prominent product placement in the "this is how it was in the hours before I was date-raped" movie?  Whatever the answer is, my immediate rejoinder is, "Cool!  I'll be over here, never buying your product!"

Hopefully the DVD contains the deleted scene where she uses the device to Twitter "OMG DREW PATTERSON JUST GAVE ME THE SECOND BIGGEST PARTY OF THE YEAR, SEE YOU ALL AT THE COOL TABLE AT LUNCH ON MONDAY LOL!" to her friends.

"…she'll have to outsmart her overprotective dad…"

Of course.  That's where they get you, where the real pathos of Shih Tzu's story hits you in the chest and aches.  It's in making us live the fear and paranoia and rightly-placed concerns of her soon-to-be-heartbroken father, whose best efforts to protect his little girl were for naught, as he grits his teeth through telling her that she can't shower until after the nice police lady arrives and takes a few samples.

In the time leading up to The Biggest Party of the Year, though, he'll be cheerily depicted as a humorless scold bent on ruining Shih Tzu's chances of ever being popular, and with no other motive visible around his glowering eyebrow of disapproval.

"…and Drew's ex-girlfriend…"

Well, there you go.  Take what we can all agree to be the bedrock, unassailable fact that Drew Patterson is a by-the-books date rapist in training, and add this little nugget, and it's as if I'm not even joking anymore.  Either-

A) he's fuck-crazy after having been dumped, and is looking for absolutely any outlet he can find to shoot his man-malt into, to get back at his ex and make himself feel worthwhile, or
B) He broke up with his girlfriend, took some shit from his buddies for appearing vulnerable, and is proving a point to them that he can tap any ass in this whole school, doesn't matter who, you can even pick her.

Writing's on the wall.  Poor girl never had a chance.  I'm assuming one of the film's final scenes involves tersely worded corroboration of Drew Patterson's whereabouts on the night in question, voiced to the press by his parents and friends, their eyes telling different stories than their mouths.

"Sir, are you lying or simply re-enacting the event in question?"
"…in a crazy, adventure-filled day that proves that popularity can come and go, but good friends will always be in the picture."

…as long as you believe in yourself, that is.

And that ending line is as disingenuous as they come, to boot.  Three sentences ago she was elated to land a date with a hot guy in order to improve her pathetic social standing, and all it takes is one "crazy, adventure-and-date-rape-but-mostly-just-date-rape-filled day" to teach her that popularity is ephemeral and useless and that it "can come and go"?

Bullshit.  Teenagers – real, actual teenagers not invented in a script by some fifty year old who can't remember their own teen years – don't act or think like that, by a long shot.  There's no way Shih Tzu comes out of this night, even if she manages to thwart Drew Patterson and dodge a thick steaming shot of his gutter butter, with some greater knowledge of the world and the nature of friends.  Even if she did, she won't have time to contemplate it since she'll be quite busy fending off accusations of being The Slut Who Fucked Drew After The Party for weeks to come, regardless of whether she actually did.  Any rumor Drew Patterson doesn't start himself will surely be spread by his ex-girlfriend, to spread the message that he's off-limits at the price of your virtuous reputation.  It is only when Shih Tzu is out of high school and in therapy that she'll truly recognize the lessons she should have taken from those cold, impersonal few minutes with the stick shift of Drew Patterson's car digging into the small of her back.

Then again, she is wearing a fucking TIARA in the picture, so maybe empathy to her plight is a bit much to ask.

My Picture This! Grade: @ $ &  ^  (FOUR random punctuation symbols out of five!)

(originally posted to Myspace July 2008)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Smash Deferens - The Legacy of Floyd

Let me tell you about Floyd Aaron.*
(*not quite his real name, but it's close enough)

In elementary school, Floyd was a bully I had the misfortune of sharing classes with.  He was not particularly bright, but he knew which of his classmates were least likely to fight back.  I had few interactions with Floyd in elementary school, but by far the most memorable was the moment in Mrs. Carlton's class when he shoved me out of my seat and onto the floor while Mrs. Carlton was out of the room.  I think back to that moment and wish I'd had the fortitude to stand back up and punch out a few of Floyd's teeth so he'd lose the idea of me as a viable target.  It's not like we didn't have an audience; there's something about a kid shoving another one out of his chair and deploying the phrase "fucking pussy" in a non-Google-image-search-related capacity that grabs the attention of a room.
In the back of the classroom, young Cornelius Porno has a life-changing brainstorm.

Instead, twenty other sixth-graders sat in tomb-like silence and watched me slowly stand back up, stand my chair back up, and sit down on it while Floyd Aaron glowered at me.

You think you know where this story is going?  I highly doubt you are correct.

Cut to my freshman year of high school.  I'm making my own junior-league Dungeons & Dragons tabletop games; I have a hairstyle best described as Autistic Bart Simpson Impersonator, Plus Rat Tail; I occasionally wear M.C. Hammer-inspired pants to school.
Like this, only with a blindingly bright seizure-inducing pattern, and without the proven financial success.
 All signs point to a bizarre determination within me to die a virgin.

I sit directly behind Floyd Aaron in Science class, he in the front row, me in the second.

Now, at this point in my life Floyd would have had ample reason to shove me off of a chair and accuse me of being a functioning vagina; given the brief description I just gave you of Me Circa 1991, you probably want to build a time machine and do so yourself.  I know I do.

And yet the dynamic is far different now.  Suddenly Floyd and I are downright friendly.  He takes an immediate interest in the D&D games I'm constantly writing and drawing at my desk while not busy with classwork, and it ends up being an in-road to something approaching an actual friendship, albeit one that never once existed outside the walls of that Science classroom.  Before I know it, Floyd and I are trading football cards, and trading elbow nudges and knowing nods while surreptitiously ogling the girl in our class who we both desperately wanted to sleep with.  Hell, in a box somewhere to this day I have a role-playing game I created which stars people from our school in the various roles, and Floyd is one of the five playable characters you can choose to be when you start.

It was a surprising turn-around, not least for its timing.  I was by that point no more than a year from that pivotal and freeing realization that the opinions of high-schoolers, as they pertain to me and the lifestyle choices I made, were utterly meaningless; by the end of my sophomore year I had embraced and run with my image as a weird outsider who didn't give a shit that you were laughing at him for wearing mismatched shoes, and who made sure you knew it if you half-heartedly attempted to tease him for it.

Had Floyd not slipped in under the bar, just before that realization, there's no way I'd have given him a chance.  I was just barely still under that "hungry for peer approval" umbrella enough to forgive his being a piece of shit to me at our previous campus.

Which is good, because a more level-headed Me might have thought, Wait, why is Floyd Aaron being nice to me, and what outcome does he possibly expect from it other than for me to tell him to go fuck himself now that he's spotting me eight inches and a hundred pounds?  Isn't one apocalyptic kick in the balls enough?

See, that's the part I didn't tell you yet.  Floyd Aaron holds the dubious honor of having "wracked" me in the testicles harder than I have ever been kicked before and, I submit, harder than any man (or, hell, any woman) has been kicked in the balls in the course of human history.

The Ingram Dam is one of the few highlights of my hometown.  The Guadalupe River flows over it and cascades down the face, and in the spring and summer months it is choked with swimmers and tubers and folks drinking beers and having picnics on the higher parts of the Dam where the water doesn't flow.  I have the Ingram Dam to thank for my first glimpse of two people having sex, but that's a crotch-centric story for another day.
Back where the trees meet and conceal that rock wall in the background; doggy-style, if you must know.

One of the most exhilarating activities the Ingram Dam offers is dam sliding. At the center portion of the dam, where the water flows the most, one can ride down on an inner tube and splash into the river below. The more daring among us try to "ski" down the dam standing upright; I've never tried this, figuring my chances were good for a cracked skull if I did.

I'm terrible with these estimations, but I'd guess that the slide down the dam is maybe thirty feet.  Could be as much as fifty, or up to a few miles. Could be a lot less, as you may already be laughing at my estimation skills after seeing the actual photo of Ingram Dam I just posted.  But that's neither here nor there.  On one summer day in my youth, my family went to the Ingram Dam and I ran into Floyd Aaron.  This wasn't long before his transformation into a bully douchebag, but the change hadn't happened yet, so we were just two kids who knew each other from school and who decided to play together at The Dam for awhile.

Floyd was able to ski down the dam standing upright.  He did it several times while I watched and considered trying it myself; I finally decided against it when I noticed how much speed he built up by the time he reached the bottom of the dam and splashed into the river proper.  If not a skull fracture, I was convinced I'd at least have half the flesh ripped off of my back if I tried it and fell.

We decided to both go down The Dam at the same time, me sitting on my tube and him standing upright.

If you have any parting words for mine, now's the time.
I sat down in my tube and pushed myself over the edge, blissfully unaware of the true agonies this life was about to hold, and completely unaware of just how high a pitch I could hit while screaming.

As I slid down the dam, I tried to look back to see Floyd skiing down behind me; my attempt was enough to turn my tube, such that by the time I splashed into the water at the bottom I was completely turned around and facing the top of the dam.

My tube squirted out from under me.  My inertia carried me down, bumping my butt on the bottom of the shallow resuming spot of the river at the dam's foot, my legs still splayed toward the sky.

And then both of Floyd Aaron's feet slammed into my testicles at the full speed of his knifing into the water from successfully skiing down The Ingram Dam.

I am become Floyd, the destroyer of nads.

Short of hitting it with a dump truck, I don't know how one might go about causing greater pain to the male crotch. Frankly, I'd question the scientific motive and funding of anyone who would try.

The pain was everything.  The pain was the world.  The cosmos shuddered to keep the impact crater contained within its borders.  Summer lasted nine extra days that year, from the Earth shifting on its axis. Every low-water crossing in the county flooded, just from the water displacement of the kick.

White daggers replaced my vision, and my innards reorganized themselves alphabetically in a split-second.  Had I any cognitive capabilities in that moment, I would have appreciated the irony of worrying that I might split my head open on the surface of the dam, now that both of my testicles had cracked my skull from the inside while in flight.  That, or the further irony that I could never hope to willfully sire children now, though I'd have dozens of kids I didn't know about due to every woman who waded in the river that day inexplicably going home pregnant.

And having to answer some tough questions at the hospital nine months later, as to why their newborns are so purple and bruised.

Still underwater, my response was a bit muffled: "GGGMMMBBBPPLLGBLFFFGGG-" was the first part, though it went on for quite a bit longer than you'd think human lungs can exhale.

After what was anywhere from five seconds to a couple of years (my skill at estimation strikes again, though this time I assure you every second felt like a lifetime), I got my feet beneath me and was able to stand and surface, lest I drown in three feet of water and Floyd successfully kill me and any possible descendants in one fell ski.  I could barely see, what with the river water, the silt from my bouncing off of the river bed, my stinging tears, and the aforementioned blinding daggers of white agony.  My vision cleared enough to see Floyd standing in the water a few feet from me, his eyes wide.  I think he asked if I was okay; I'm not sure, though, as everything sounded like my thudding heartbeat.  I said "yes," or at least rasped it with what was left of my voice.

I had no idea if I was okay.  I wanted very badly to throw up, or just let my shaky legs give out again and just float away down the Guadalupe to whatever new town I might call Home and start over with life.  I didn't see any blood in the water, but I couldn't fathom how that was possible; I was terrified to pull open the drawstring on my swim trunks and peer inside, having no idea what I might see.

I tried to take a step and nearly fell over; my legs were not going to support me for long, and for some reason it was vitally important to me that I get up and away from all of the families and students at the dam, so I could vomit and/or burst into tears in relative privacy.

I ended up settling back into the water and letting my natural buoyancy aid me in wading over to the climbable surface of the dam; my testicles felt like someone was continually squeezing them, sending waves of fresh nausea through me.  I must have done The Acting Job of the Century in telling Floyd I was okay, because I glanced up the Dam to see him already most of the way to the top, preparing for another slide down on feet that would almost certainly glow under a blacklight for the rest of his life.

The next few minutes are an indistinct blur.  I know I didn't throw up, but I think that was just the result of my abdominal muscles prioritizing it beneath aiding me in sobbing loudly for the next half hour in the parking lot across the street from the dam, at a business cannily named The Dam Store.

If the swelling never goes down,  I'll have to put one down each leg of my Hammer pants!
Eventually I could walk semi-normally.  I dried my eyes as best I could, then waddle-limped back over to where my family was sitting on towels near the dam, careful not to let on what had happened. I didn't think I'd be in trouble, but I knew that letting my mom know what had happened would result in an exhaustive medical examination to see if I needed to go to a hospital, and I was now very reluctant to let my mom see that part of me after the previous summer's good-samaritan-deed-turned-tick-picking adventure.  Again, that's a crotch-centric tale for another day.

If only.
Floyd and I never spoke of it again.  In fact, our next interaction that I can remember was his shoving me off of a chair and calling me a pussy a couple years later, in the sixth grade.  I can only assume he had finally realized why he'd been picking chunks of seminal vesicles out of his toes at every shower for the last two years, and lashed out at me out of sheer gay panic.  It was a bond neither of us could deny, as much as we'd both like to run from it and saddle-sore hobble from it, respectively.

We'll always have The Ingram Dam.

25 April 2012

Overpriced by roughly $2.25

Walking to work this morning I passed the discount movie theatre, as is the case every morning that my homemade balsa-and-saliva wings are on the fritz.

"The Two-Dollar Theatre", as it is commonly known about town, is quite the apt nickname. As in, some enterprising junior Trump could probably buy the fucking thing with that much money and still have enough left over to use a public pay phone to tell someone about their ruthless corporate takeover.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's a shithole. I've walked into the various screening rooms of the two-dollar theatre and immediately felt a deep and searing empathy for, and kindred with, Abu Ghraib inmates. There is no movie-going experience at the two-dollar theatre which one could not improve upon by sitting in the adjacent alleyway and staring at the exterior brick wall for a film's estimated running time instead. Because as you're sitting in an alley staring at a brick wall, using your imagination to dream up the film you're now pretending to watch, you can also burn off some of that surplus imagination to no longer feel the myriad discomforts and inhospitalities that lie on the other, interior, side of that brick wall, and for that you are a much better person.

Walking into the darkened screening room at the two-dollar theatre always makes me feel like Nicolas Cage in some of the darker scenes midway through the film 8MM, when he was lurking in the dingiest parts of town looking for snuff films for his murder investigation. If I turned on a blacklight in this screening room, I'd likely be blinded by the spuriously spattered seminal supernova.
You wish.

On a good night there might only be eight or ten seats covered in black trash bags, a helpful notice to patrons that the seat is out of order AND a subtle reminder of just how horrid an event and/or liquid must have occurred and/or landed there to make just THAT particular seat worthy of the bag, when any junior health inspector would take one look in the room and throw out his back trying to stretch a black trash bag over the entire building and perhaps the adjacent Jack In The Box for quarantine purposes.

The seats are all fused together by rows, as well. I am a big fucking ox of a dude, but that matters not; Calista Flockhart could be sitting in one of these seats, and if she adjusted in her seat in even the most minute ways, to cross her legs or scratch her nose or ovulate, her entire row of seats would move, including my tubby ass. Protozoa shifting on the armrest is noticed by everyone in that protozoa's row (not to mention the fucking protozoa talked ALL THE WAY THROUGH Hot Fuzz, the damned micro-prick).

Distracting oneself from the accommodations by partaking of some snack bar goodness is also a crapshoot; the cola seems fine, though my taste buds are admittedly dulled at this point to the introduction of strange new scrotal dippings, but I'm reasonably certain that the popcorn is whatever was left unsold at the end of the previous night at the real movie theatre across town, owned by the same folks. I'd place the likelihood of that at maybe 30 percent, with an easy 30 percent of THAT being the possibility that the two-dollar theatre's popcorn stash also includes that swept up from the aisles after the previous night's showings at the "good theatre."

Pictured: the popcorn to be served at the 2:00, 3:45 and 6:30 showings of The Da Vinci Code, tomorrow.
The theatre always, and I mean ALWAYS, smells of some vague stale olfactory assault perched between urine and death. Spend some time at a retirement home and you've got a pretty good idea of the stench, minus the outside chance of the odor of strained peas and partially digested Scrabble tiles. What, that's what old people eat, isn't it?

When I saw Adaptation at the two-dollar theatre, I was appalled to notice that there was a rip right in the center of the screen, which some jizz rivulet had chosen to patch up with shiny reflective tape.

To then project a billion-watt bulb onto it to show a film.

Yes, the center of the screen shines now, like at any second the whole wall could open up and show me the portal to Narnia or something.
Pictured: every second of the film Adaptation, according to the Two-Dollar Theatre.

I tell you all of this, unbelievably, as a tangent to the story I meant to tell when I sat down, though it is an amazingly cathartic tangent to relay.

It is a well-known fact that the two-dollar theatre is a fetid mephitis which threatens to swallow all that is good in the world. That's not just my opinion; that's actually a direct quote from the San Marcos Visitor's Association's pamphlet on the page marked "Sights To See."

It is the Dachau of movie theatres.

I say this to you because it seems like someone, at some point, would take the initiative to either renovate the damned place or burn it to the ground to collect on the insurance. I'd vote heartily for the latter if I wasn't already painfully familiar with the unpleasant aroma of burnt carpeting, scorched black-trash-bag-semen-stains, and seared celluloid from the long-forgotten reel of You, Me and Dupree sitting under dust in a back room after no one at the studio responsible for the film noticed it was missing. I don't want that heady elixir hanging over the breathable air in this town for weeks at a clip.

So that leaves renovation, or at the ABSOLUTE LEAST, making appearances. You know, I grew up flirting with the poverty line for my entire childhood and adolescence, but Mom and Dad still went through the rigmarole of keeping a cabinet filled with fancy stemware on the off chance that we'd be hosting a fancy dinner at some point in our tin-roof shanty. Okay, I'm exaggerating the shanty part, but it always amused me that my parents went to the trouble to maybe impress some hypothetical guest who might foolishly endeavor into our home expecting even the slightest whiff of opulence.

That's all I'm asking for, from the management of the two-dollar theatre. Give me the illusion that you give a shit, and aspire to be more than you are.

Is that asking too much? A bridge too far? I can already hear your arguably sober rejoinder: "Coop, you're asking an awful lot of a discount theatre that only charges two bucks for tickets, and even LESS than two bucks on some weekdays, and maybe you oughta take that into account before you launch a diatribe such as this." And to that I can only say that you haven't endured watching a film while feeling a particularly energetic (and sharpened?) spring digging into your ass as you sit in what you are categorically certain is the same seat that someone else died in as recently as that morning, if your senses are to be trusted. Well, that, and good use of 'diatribe' in your rejoinder.

Today on my way to work I passed the theatre and regarded the posters under glass at the front foyer, as I often do. These are carted straight over from the actual theatre across town, and shoved into the two-dollar theatre's lightboxes regardless of whether they're actually cut to fit; often this leaves the posters ragged, creased, folded over on the edges, or even torn down the sides in order for some minimum-wage kid to say he replaced the posters for the week so he could go home that night.

The two-dollar theatre has three screening rooms, yet four poster boxes on its front wall. Based on everything I've told you thus far you'd not be surprised if I told you the fourth box was littered with remnants of birds' nests and Whataburger cups, but this is surprisingly not the case. Instead management chose to assign that box the dubious title of "Coming Soon."

Which should fill you with the appropriate terror.

This is remarkable for two reasons. First, the letter 'i' in the word "coming" is maybe the only letter 'i' the theatre owns. I am constantly impressed and amazed by the creativity the minimum-wage kids have to deploy in order to update the marquis every week with such a vast vowel shortage; I've been treated to more backwards 'L's and upside-down 'T's as vowel surrogates than I can hope to convey for you. I can't fathom what this theatre did when they had to advertise the opening of "MTSSTSSTPPT BURNTNG."

Secondly, the Coming Soon lightbox is a blatant lie to all who behold it. Maybe it's wishful thinking on someone's part that, yes, maybe one day they actually WILL be showing Georgia Rule, but until that day comes, damnit, we're gonna keep on believing and let the Georgia Rule poster occupy the Coming Soon box unless we can convince Lenny to stop masturbating in the projectionist's booth with his freshly popcorn-buttered hand and come change out the featured Coming Soon poster for something a little more attainable and realistic for our means. Maybe License to Wed, just to keep expectations low.
Not that they could get much lower.

I really want to know who's driving slowly past the two-dollar theatre every Friday and being newly crestfallen with disappointment every time upon seeing that Georgia Rule hasn't yet moved into one of the three Now Playing lightboxes. I have no doubt they lead very fulfilling lives.

Now, believe it or not, I am only just now getting to my original point which was the genesis for this blog. Passing the theatre this morning I took in the banquet of movie poster goodness they had prepared for me to try to entice me to enter The Seventh Circle of Celluloid Hell; I could not suppress a snort of derisive laughter at what I saw.

On the far left, of course, was Georgia Rule, with the beguiling faces of Ms. Fonda, Ms. Huffman and Ms. Lohan teasing all of us with their ever-pending status at the two-dollar theatre.
It Blohans.

Just right of that were the Now Playing lightboxes, and sandwiched between I Now Pronounce You Ninety Minutes Of Shitty Homosexual-Panic Themed "Comedy" Safe Enough For Middle America Adam Sandler Fans To Still Feel Comfortable Watching, and the unforgettable epic Billy, Do You Like Gladiator Movies? No? Well, What If We Told You Colin Firth Is In This One And That It Sucks?, was a poster whose majesty I cannot hope to harness with mere words. Even words like "I'm being sarcastic, this poster smelled of duodenum" fail to make the desired impression.

The two-dollar theatre is now showing the alleged comedy Who's Your Caddy?, starring Big Boi of the rap group OutKast, and yet they were unable to scare up an actual poster for the "film," so instead the minimum-wage kid's final act on Thursday night was taping up three 11x17 sheets of paper, each with one word of the film's title on it, and arranged in a nice stair-step pattern to pleasingly lead the eye down the bountiful cascading waterfall of bland greyscale text and into the bubbling brook of someone's urine that has collected and dried on the sidewalk in front of the lightboxes.

I spent as much time putting together this mock version as they did with the real one.

I can't even get my mind around this.

Granted, the type of people who are likely to spend any amount of time even considering going to see a painfully unfunny and strained race-relations comedy about a black caddy showing up the stuffed shirts of the establishment at an all-white country club, starring a rapper most well-known as "the other, less charismatic one from OutKast," aren't people who are likely to be able to read the name of the film they're seeing on a proper poster to begin with. The minimum-wage kid could have rubbed a stick of butter on the inside of the lightbox and just told the film's target demographic that the eventual pattern of stuck houseflies and gnats spelled out the film's title, and no one would have been the wiser.

Starring Not The One You Were Hoping For!
 Now, I have not seen Who's Your Caddy?, I assure you. I won't go see it, I won't rent it, and if I happened across it on cable I'd flip by it so quickly that my thumb might actually pass THROUGH my remote control and into some blessed alternate reality outside the fabric of our time, wherein no such malfeasance as Who's Your Caddy? exists to debunk popular belief in the existence of a god.

So the film might be a real hoot. I'll never know. I will conjecture with some confidence that the unseen film features at least a three-fifths majority of the following:

a) a scene in which a golf cart is outfitted with shiny spinning rims and/or jacked up on hydraulics, offset by reaction shots of disapproving elderly whites.

b) the less-charismatic one from OutKast sinking an unlikely putt in a way that does not jeopardize his street cred, followed by a declaration that such an approach to golf is "how he rolls," offset by reaction shots of disapproving elderly whites.

c) copious nasal impressions of stiff white people by members of OutKast's entourage who were cast in the film due to their proximity as the only other black men on the golf-course set during filming, including but not limited to scenes in which white golfer's (admittedly absurd) choices of attire are ridiculed by men who then willfully go out in public with forty-three inches of visible underwear above their beltline, faux-gold fronts on their teeth, one-and-only-one pantleg hiked up past their knees, and perhaps worst of all, Oakland Raiders jackets. All offset by reaction shots of disapproving elderly whites.

d) at least one moment where one of the formerly disapproving elderly whites decides that the less charismatic one from OutKast is okay after all, then either makes an intentionally (?) horrid attempt at showcasing his/her rapping ability or refers to a black person as 'dogg' while swallowing thickly and hoping not to be beaten for it.

e) no less than nine Wayans brothers, if you count the stagehands who worked on the film without actually appearing on camera.

f) a jumpin' soundtrack far, far surpassing the quality anyone could expect from a film whose benefactors actually looked at the title Who's Your Caddy? and nodded with unironic approval.

g) a valuable life lesson about the benefits of being yourself and keepin' it real.

h) a very warranted feeling of seething, swelling outrage from intelligent black moviegoers as they are once again confronted with Hollywood's notion that this shovelware is "the only sort of entertainment we know how to make for you" now that out-and-out minstrel shows are largely frowned upon.

For the most part.

In reaching the end of my tirade I have come to realize that all is actually right with the world, here. The levels of quality and care behind both Who's Your Caddy? and the two-dollar theatre mean they're truly made for each other, and both are perfectly symbolized in the pedestrian, creatively bankrupt presentation in the lightbox, of the pedestrian, creatively bankrupt title of the 'film.'

If there is any justice in the world, everyone involved in either the management of The Two Dollar Theatre or the production of Who's Your Caddy? is being peed on as I'm typing this sentence.

If only Georgia Rule had been about representin' and keepin' it real, it might actually be Now Playing. If only.

(originally posted to Myspace September 2007)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh, Do Tell!

I was once a night owl.

My work day ran from three until around eleven p.m., and thus I would come home and just be awake until four or five in the morning, then set my alarm for two in the afternoon to be up for work.

I fell into a lot of awful television habits during those late night hours. As you may know, the networks aren't exactly fighting to put compelling programming in the coveted midnight-to-sunrise block.

To my credit, I managed to almost completely avoid half-hour infomercials. To my debit, I spent several deplorable months watching The View every night when it inscrutably broadcast at 2:30 in the morning.  There was a small part of me that tried to justify this as research on women and the issues important to them.  I admit this was flimsy.

There was another random obsession that roughly coincided with my bizarre nightly appointment with the ladies of The View, and that was what I can only assume were syndicated reruns of The Montel Williams Show.  I imagine I could confabulate an excuse about wanting to research the black, or perhaps just bland, experience through a prism only this man could provide.  More likely, it was a nightly binary choice between Montel Williams and a thirty-minute ad for an abdominal crunch machine you can collapse and roll under your bed after use.

So, Montel, then.

There is nothing memorable about The Montel Williams Show.  With exactly one exception, I cannot recap the contents of a single episode of the hours and hours I wasted sitting in front of it.  It was Syndicated Talk Show Template X, in which we plug in Blando Calrissian and have him nod somberly as he moderates conversations about how this baby ain't yours, oh yes it is girl, oh no it ain't, or the monument to water-cooler talk that is You Won't Believe The Horrible Things, That Being Sex, That My Daughter Is Up To!

However, I did say "with exactly one exception" just now.  And that exception is the one moment from The Montel Williams Show that has stuck with me for now nearly a decade, as I've wondered off and on whether I was being subjected to an elaborate, incredibly straight-faced prank, or if Montel Williams' parents were diabolical geniuses of baby-naming.

I doubt I would think back on this moment so often were it not for Montel Williams' current job shilling for some payday loan company; at seemingly every commercial break on Comedy Central lately, he pops up and barks gruffly at the viewer, "BOUNCED ANY CHECKS LATELY?"

Hey, fuck off, man.  I'm just trying to watch The Daily Show, I don't need you making insinuations about my personal finances.

Between this and the previous commercial for the same company, in which Montel introduces himself upfront as if he's either hoping none of his friends or family will recognize him or simply wishes his name had fewer syllables in it ("I'm Mntl Wmms..."), the man has been inescapable for me these past few months.

And so my mind wanders back to the bizarre night I was introduced to Dootel Williams.

See, on this one episode of The Montel Williams Show, Montel was discussing twins and the bonds they share, both biologically and emotionally and even beyond what science can explain.  You can imagine how in-depth and probing such an examination was in the hands of genome expert Montel Williams.

And Montel declared that he had some experience on the subject, before introducing his twin brother, Dootel.  At this point a second bald black man with a slender build and a neatly trimmed goatee entered stage and sat down with the first, and the two proceeded to have a discussion that, I swear to you, I could not verify as genuine nor debunk as trickery.  Was this some sort of split-screen tomfoolery involving two Montels?  Was this a gag being played so straight-faced that they never let on, elevating this particular episode of The Montel Williams Show to some sort of Andy Kaufman level performance art?  Or did Ms. Williams birth two boys and seriously decide to name them Montel and Dootel?  What if she'd had triplets, or stuck with the naming convention for any future children?  It would quickly sound like a family of futuristic Gillette shavers lived together, or at least an awesome X-Men villain or two.  Wouldn't you have to surreptitiously slip fertility drugs into the family food supply, just to preserve the chance of walking into an Office Depot some day and getting printer cartridge assistance from Duodecatel Williams?

For once in my life, The Montel Williams Show had my undivided attention.  I watched until the last frame for a reveal of some kind, and then sat in bewilderment as some other program began and I realized that the truth would remain elusive.  There was no "JUST KIDDING, EVERYBODY! DRIVE SAFELY AND DON'T BOUNCE ANY CHECKS ON YOUR WAY HOME! GOOD NIGHT!"  There was no obvious special-effects breach where Montel's and Dootel's conversation didn't quite match up right.  There was no moment where the two men were touching, or overlapping in the depth of frame afforded by the camera.

I went to bed that night/morning distinctly thinking that Montel Williams had done this for no other reason than that he realized he could, and the implications therein were chilling.  I wouldn't have been the slightest bit surprised in the days that followed to hear that a man fitting Montel Williams' description had just gone on a crime spree, with Montel Williams publicly stating that it wasn't him and that he had recent footage to prove that there was a second viable culprit. No one on Earth had more reason to be fearful of death in those first few weeks than someone who'd ever wronged Montel Williams.  His agent likely slept with a gun under his pillow, if he slept at all.

Now, once Montel Williams and his blunt overdraft avoidance tips began shouting at me anew this year, I realized I could take to Google and solve the Dootel Williams mystery once and for all, in mere moments.  And yet I found I didn't want to.  I wasn't sure I wanted to live in a world where there was literally no chance of my passing Montel Williams on the street, then doing so again five seconds later and thinking there was a glitch in The Matrix.  Part of me delighted at the thought of Montel and Dootel pulling Parent Trap shenanigans together, or standing facing each other and each pretending to look in a mirror while they mimed combing hair neither of them has.  Are you telling me you want to go on living in a world where this exchange...

Montel: "This baby ain't yours!"
Dootel: "Oh, yes it is, girl!"
Montel: "Oh no, it ain't!"

...can never happen!?

Show me someone who says this wouldn't be awesome, and I'll show you a goddamned liar.
Sadly, I succumbed to curiosity this week and finally looked it up.  Perhaps predictably, there is no Dootel Williams.  Montel does have a brother, named Herman, of whom no public photos exist to distinguish him from Montel.  None of my guesses for how to spell Dootel return anything; it seems to think I either want to look up hotels or find out whether dead men do, in fact, tell tales. And Google returns exactly one seemingly worthwhile result for "montel williams twin brother," though it's a dead link that once read "Does Montel Williams Have A Twin?" with text beneath it which begins, "Yes! He is an identical twin, and his brother has appeared on the program," which is less corroborative and more indicative that I wasn't the only one fooled that day.

Beyond the potential that Dootel murdered Montel and assumed his identity, then scrubbed any traces of his original life from the public record (pleaseletitbetruepleaseletitbetrue), it appears that the existence of Dootel Williams was a hoax that I just desperately wanted to believe for all of these years.  It was a deflating feeling on par with the discovery that the most famous photo ever taken of The Loch Ness Monster was a fake.  I almost want to willfully ignore that I know it, and just go on living in the fantasy.
The original, uncropped photo appears to show Montel Williams on a SeaDoo, but further investigation revealed it simply to be Sally Jesse Raphael.

You know where nothing remotely this interesting ever happened, ever, ever, ever?  That's right: on The View.
Moreover, audience members yelling "break out your twins!" during tapings of The View rarely got the desired reaction.

~24 April 2012