Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My True Horrors... CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST

  

     Halloween is my favorite holiday. The iconography, the history, the costumes, the parties, the trick-or-treating; I get giddy with excitement whenever autumn rolls around. Every October, as my own personal celebration, I immerse myself in a month-long horror movie marathon. I seek out scary films which I have never seen and watch at least one a day. Some are mainstream, some are obscure, and some are the stuff of legend. 
     In 2007, I watched one film which surpasses all definition. A film so notorious that it is purported to have been banned in over fifty countries. A film so gruesome that I still have a problem ingesting fish sticks without wincing. This film is 1980's 'Cannibal Holocaust' by director Ruggero Deodato. 'The Exorcist', which I first watched when I was in the fourth grade, is the only other viewing experience that equally rocked me to my core. I am now a different person for having experienced 'Cannibal Holocaust'. It is an anomaly of horror cinema. Let me tell you why.
     I was living in Los Angeles. About halfway through 2007's October movie marathon, I invited my friend and co-worker Ben Talbot to my apartment on a Sunday night. We'd drink some beers and watch a couple of horror movies with my brother. He gladly accepted. Ben and I had similar tastes in entertainment, so I knew he'd be a superb viewing partner through the good, the bad, and the cheesy of scary cinema. 
     Realizing my current Netflix selections wouldn't arrive in time - pre-dating my access to Netflix instant on television - I had to improvise. I decided to open a membership at Rocket Video on La Brea Ave., across from the over-hyped Pink's Hotdogs (Carney's on Sunset is better). Rocket Video is one of the last and best independent video stores in LA. Extensive selections, well-organized shelves, and a helpful staff; how the hell did Blockbuster ever become the model for video rental services? Boggles the mind. 
     I perused the horror aisle and picked out four items from my unseen movies list: 'Black Christmas' (1974), 'My Bloody Valentine' (1981), 'Happy Birthday to Me' (1981), and 'The House on Sorority Row' (1983). I continued looking around the store and came across a 'Cult Movies' section. There, a VHS box caught my eye: 'Cannibal Holocaust'. As a frequent reader of aintitcool.com, this title had poked it's head out in their articles for many years. Every time someone mentioned the movie on the site, comments would follow about how notoriously gruesome it was. I picked up the worn box - an old plastic video sleeve - and read the back. The phrase "The most controversial movie ever made..." solidified my decision to rent. 


Cannibal Holocaust

     As the clerk scanned my movies at the register he paused to look over the 'Cannibal Holocaust' box. He let out a puff of knowing laughter.
     "Bad?" I asked. "I heard it's crazy."
     He shook his head and laughed again, finalizing my purchases. I paid. As I exited the store the clerk called out, "Good luck."
     I thought he was just being a dick.
     On my way home I picked up a thirty-pack of beer, a bottle of vodka, tonic water, limes, and three bags of chips. We were now well-stocked for the night.
     Ben arrived around seven pm. My brother, Ben and I cracked open beers and conversed for a bit. What to watch? I showed them the options, all except 'Cannibal Holocaust'. I don't know why I held it back initially. Maybe I needed a few drinks to gain courage? We started with the classic 'Black Christmas' directed by Bob Clark (same director as 'A Christmas Story'). Please, at all costs, avoid the shitty remake and watch this film. Many directors have lifted from it, stolen from it, and brought zero justice in doing so. The tension is palpable, and the infamous twist still holds up as a mind scrambler -- an extremely positive viewing experience. Next up, 'My Bloody Valentine'. This piece of 80s slasher-cheese was ultimately disappointing when viewed after 'Black Christmas'. I thought it was okay, Ben was indifferent, and my brother hated it with a passion; he decided to go to bed, work in the morning.
     With plenty of alcohol still left to drink, and the the clock barely touching midnight, I asked Ben if he wanted to watch one more. Something different. Something notorious. I showed him the VHS box for 'Cannibal Holocaust'. He was in, but expressed the need for something more substantial to eat other than chips. I searched the freezer and found a box of unopened fish sticks. I got a thumbs up from Ben, so I fired up the oven, cracked two more beers, and pressed play on the VCR.
     The first striking element of 'Cannibal Holocaust' is the opening credit theme, composed by Riz Ortolani, set over beautiful aerial views of the Amazon. This theme has become one of my favorites in cinema history, and certainly my favorite in the horror genre. It is beautiful, memorable, atmospheric, and the complete anthesis of the horrors to come. 

     The movie begins with a TV program about four documentarians who have gone missing in the jungles of South America - a director, his fiancĂ©, and two cameramen. An NYU anthropology professor leads a search team to the jungles to find these missing filmmakers. Once there, the team witnesses disturbing and shocking rituals performed by local primitives. After gaining the trust of one tribe, the team discovers that the documentarians have been killed, but their footage has survived, remaining untouched. The team strikes up a deal for the footage and heads back to New York. 
     By this point, the fish sticks were done. I put them on one plate and covered another plate with all kinds of condiments for dipping sauces. Ketchup was the prominent condiment, if memory serves. We began eating and resumed watching.
     The anthropologist returns to NYU and views the footage. What unfolds is a series of atrocities that my brain can never erase. Several animal mutilations peppered throughout the found footage are actually real life mutilations, which were performed by the cast and crew of 'Cannibal Holocaust'. They include a muskrat, a turtle, a large spider, a snake, a squirrel monkey, and a pig. The turtle is the worst one of them all; it's an extended sequence where a live turtle is chopped limb from limb and then it's shell is pried open with a machete, revealing slimy innards. Ben and I suddenly regretted eating the fish sticks with ketchup. Besides these mutilations, there are vivid presentations of people being ripped open and eaten, castrations, forced abortions, impalements, graphic rape, and other abominations I'm surely blocking out. The climax of the found footage, as I recall, can only be described as a 'rape fiesta'.
     The movie ended. We sat in stunned silence. Ben got up after a moment, gathered his things, and mumbled something on the way out. I believe, to this very day, he still hasn't forgiven me.
     Controversy surrounded 'Cannibal Holocaust' upon it's original release. There were rumors going around in Italy - where the filmmakers hail from - that this was a genuine snuff film. The director was arrested ten days after the premiere. The courts not only believed that performers were killed on set to add realism, but that the girl in the infamous impalement scene was actually impaled by the crew.





     To add to the confusion, the actors had signed contracts which stated they would not appear in any media, motion pictures, or commercials until one year after the film's release. Facing life in prison, Deodato and the producers gathered the actors and brought them on an Italian talk show. They had to prove the violence had been staged. 
     From wikipedia: Although Deodato was exonerated for murder, the courts decided to ban Cannibal Holocaust because of the genuine animal slayings, citing animal cruelty laws. Due to this ruling, Deodato, the producers, screenwriter, and the United Artists representative each received a four-month suspended sentence after they were convicted of obscenity and violence. Deodato fought in the courts for three additional years to get his film unbanned. In 1984, the courts ruled in favor of Deodato, and Cannibal Holocaust was granted a rating certificate of VM18 for a cut print. It would later be re-released uncut.
     There is no doubt in my mind that this movie is a masterpiece. Some are appalled by the inclusion of true animal slaughters, but for me, they simply add to the dour atmosphere. Deodato had a message about the reality of violence and the imposition of modern life upon the primitives. He succeeded in making an unforgettable vision of the macabre. The true aim of any horror filmmaker should be to strike a nerve in the human psyche, and then twist that nerve to unbearable dimensions. Well, my nerves were good and twisted. For weeks after viewing, images and sequences would infiltrate my waking mind. These were not daydreams, these were day-terrors. 
     Eventually the terrors subsided. Still though, whenever anything bad or disturbing happens in my life I call it a 'Cannibal Holocaust'. Flat tire? It's a 'Cannibal Holocaust'. Broken leg? It's a 'Cannibal Holocaust'. Cheating spouse? It's a 'Cannibal Holocaust'. And so on.
     Would I recommend watching this film? It's hard to say. Is the potential viewer willing to change their life forever? That's the prerequisite: committal to a life-altering experience. Also, the promise not to hold me accountable. 
     Upon hearing how affected Ben and I were my brother decided to watch the movie for himself. Afterwards he said, "It wasn't that bad. You and Ben are pussies." 
     Maybe so, but every once in a while when looking through the freezer for something to eat I come across an unopened box of fish sticks. I am suddenly transported back to a viewing experience from mid-October 2007. Faint music fills the visibly chilly air.




Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gay Rooster (A Joke)...

What does the gay rooster crow at dawn? "Forget a-doodle-doo, just give me the cock!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

McSorley's Old Ale House

     McSorley's is one of the oldest pubs in New York City. There are only two choices on tap - dark or light - but clueless patrons enter everyday and request their favorite brands of beer. For example, a group of drunks girls will approach the bar and their ringleader will ask in a lisp, "Can we have four Blue Moons with oranges, please?" The perturbed bartender will reply in a huff, "Dark or light?" The drunk girls will huddle together and confer in whispers, confused by the bartender's retort. After a moment, the ringleader will step forward again and ask, "Um... do you have Coors?" The bartender will slam his fist down on the bar and shout, "Dark or light!"
    This exchange is a metaphor for life. 
    Most of our days are spent like confused drunk girls asking completely irrelevant questions, only instead of a bartender, we're speaking to Higher Powers. Why are we here? What is my purpose? How can I make more money? When will I get married? And so on. In return, the Universe offers us two true paths - dark or light. Do we want to be negative, hateful, and sad? Or do we want to find love, fun, and happiness? Negative produces crap, positive produces good. It's really that simple. Questions will be answered once we've lodged our decision in concrete. We just need to choose.
     So, which path is your path? Dark or light? 
     I'm an optimist. I'll place my money on light. Nine times out of ten, light is what the McSorley's drunk girls end up ordering anyway.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Robbery (A Poem)...

Dead cells were snipped with scissors
And fell down to the sheets
A bearded man arose again
With all intent to sweep

The front door swung wide-open
And knocked the bells to chime
There a thief stood, clad in mask
Married to a crime

His language was so unrefined
Warning not to stare
Either hands were on the ground
Or held up in the air

He got to working violently
Plundering the store
We counted toward infinity
Facedown upon on the floor

But a brave soul took a chance
Rushing from the side
First a loud bang, then a crash
The bearded man had died

The bells again, a quick retreat
So everyone could breathe
Except the man who cared enough
To take a chance and bleed

My Future Won't Last (A Poem)...

My whole world shakes
And then I collapse
I die when I wake
So my thoughts overlap
In a forever
I reach for the past
There's no progress forward
My future won't last

Delusive Blvd. (A Poem)...

Hollywood stars
Lodged in concrete
Pictures are taken
Pointed at feet
Meanwhile above
Stars go unseen
One star we mar
The other we seek

What a wrong city
What a strange street
Months of monotony
Wake, sleep, repeat
Sunset? Whatever
The weather's the same
Ten months of drinking
One month of rain

The last month's for praying
And wishing for luck
But money's elusive
So Honey won't fuck
Reclusive byways
Foolhardy feast
Pick up the pennies
Retreat to the East

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Questions of the Crotch...

If my crotch were made of Spic 'n Span, would you let me hump your kitchen floor?

If my crotch were made of popcorn, would you go down on me in a crowded movie theater?

If my crotch were made of questions, would you answer in a timely fashion?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thoughts...

Life is a parade of beautiful women that are all too busy twirling their batons to stop and have a meaningful conversation.

.....

Many wet dreams occur when ghosts take advantage of a sleeping person's genitals.

.....

Most likely, predetermined 'soul mates' do not exist. Instead, an equality of love between two living souls creates true 'soul mating'.

.....

If sexual drive were akin to dentistry, I'd be a drill bit in your mouth.

.....

Modern day obese couples give Adam and Eve a run for their money in the ribs department.

.....

Manhattan is like a baby panda bear; a little black, a little white, but mostly Asian.

.....

Los Angeles is like a baby zebra; a little black, a little white, but mostly a poser wishing it had been born a horse.

.....

Stop complaining about foreign films. Reading subtitles will make you smarter.

.....

Hollywood has been a perpetual travesty since the dawn of the naughts.

.....

It's a nightmare trying to fuck fat chicks when they smell like spaghetti bolognese.

.....

The grass might be greener on the other side, but it's also covered in a different brand of manure.

.....

The old proverb says: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But, what if that bush is your pubic hair?
.....

Be weary of mechanics with corroded teeth. If they neglect their own mouths, how can they be trusted with your car?

.....

The beach is the same as a short-lived romance: you start out with the best intentions, but in the end you get burned.

.....

Dyslexic Jews celebrate Overpass.

.....

Attending an all-boys-Catholic-school is similar to being on the Atkins diet -- you're encouraged to swallow a lot of protein.

.....

Most times while in a drunken stupor my only solace is the creature who is further down a deeper stupor.

.....

I am usually reluctant to bring an end to my reluctance.

.....

To cease pursuits of knowledge when class is out of session is to cease the act of living; to give up on a blessing.

.....

In line at the Home Depot, I act bashful when my lone purchase item is a plunger.

.....

Pornography can serve as a form of birth control; it helps men and women get off solo, grow very tired, and neglect sex with a partner.

.....

Sometimes, you just have to jump your own bones.

Ridiculous Hollywood Sequels I'm Ready To Write NOW... (Part Two): "Rain Man 2: Dark Storm"

Breaking into Hollywood in this day and age is a daunting task for any aspiring screenwriter -- especially those who aspire to originality. Remakes, reboots, reimaginings and sequels continue to dominate the yearly output of every major studio. Well, I'm broke. Screw originality! Sign me up for the goddamn job! Here are snippets, pitches, story outlines and casting suggestions for the ridiculous Hollywood sequels I'm ready to write NOW.


'RAIN MAN 2: DARK STORM'



The original 'Rain Man' is a wonderful, infinitely quotable film about rediscovering familial roots. Arguably the finest work in both Cruise and Hoffman's long and illustrious careers. Hoffman brought home the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Raymond Babbitt. The screenwriters, director, and picture also brought home golden statuettes. The characters are well-drawn, the story is engrossing, and the non-Hollywood ending is just short of brutal.


From IMDB trivia: On "Oprah", Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman said the "farting in the phone booth" bit was improvised when Hoffman actually passed gas while the scene was being filmed. Hoffman said it was his favorite scene ever.


'Rain Man' would have one hell of a time getting made today. Remade? I'm sure some industry folks are itching to have it happen. Count me out if that's the case. They'd probably cast James Franco as Charlie and Phillip Seymore Hoffman as Raymond (actually, on second thought, these choices aren't all that bad). However, if this movie is going to be sequelized, give me a call. I have a few ideas which might not stray too far from today's movie-exec mentality. 


Now, I am almost always of the mindset to bring back the original cast whenever continuations are concerned, but with Cruise being insanely expensive - and insanely cuckoo - we can cut him out for now. There is an easy way to shoehorn him in if necessary. More on that later. First, here's my initial idea for Rain Man 2...


    ESPIONAGE!!!


That's right! Up the ante a hundredfold from the original movie by switching genres. No longer a dramatic comedy, it'll be an action thriller!!! I say we inject the character of Raymond Babbitt into a world of super spies, car chases (finally proving he's an excellent driver), femme fatales, and villainous organizations hell-bent on world domination. Why? Because there is absolutely no way to match the emotional impact and surprises from the original film. Nope, no way whatsoever. Instead, make Raymond an autistic "Man Who Knew Too Much". We as an audience will root for Raymond because we already know and love the character. The action sequences and CG-eye-candy will bring in the asshole teenagers. Not to mention, Hans Zimmer could score the shit out of this thing!







Raymond is a savant specializing in numbers, right? So he'll simply overhear a numerical code for an atomic bomb while shopping for underwear at K-mart: 400 Oak Street. From there on in it will be a rapid succession of twists, turns, crosses, and double-crosses.

Here's a sample scene:


INT. KITCHEN - DAY

BALD THUG, clad in a dark suit, pummels Raymond with smacks and slaps, then corners him next to a gas stove.

                        RAYMOND
             Definitely hurt... Definitely hurt...

Raymond trembles in fear, guarding his face with his arms and hands. He notices a pot of boiling water on the nearby stovetop.

                        RAYMOND
            Uh oh... Very bad....

                        BALD THUG
            Give me the code, retard!

                        RAYMOND
                  (Whispers)
            Hot water burn baby...

                        BALD THUG
            What?

                        RAYMOND
                  (Louder)
            Hot water burn baby...

                        BALD THUG
            Okay! You want to play games?

Bald Thug reaches for a gun holstered inside his suit jacket.

                        RAYMOND
                  (Shouts)
            Hot water burn YOU!

Raymond grabs the pot, throws it, and drenches the Bald Thug with boiling water. 

Bald Thug falls to the floor, SCREAMING in agony.

Raymond escapes through the back door.

                        RAYMOND
            Charlie Babbitt! Charlie Babbitt!


Cruise could be included as a 'damsel in distress' of sorts, if absolutely necessary. 

PICTURE THIS: The villains would capture Charlie Babbitt and torture him as a way to get to 'The Rain Man' (an alias the bad guys overhear for what they believe to be a cunning, code-hacking menace). Eventually, Raymond will give himself up in order to save his brother, but only if the evildoers agree to fly Charlie to safety on Quantas. But seriously, I'm not married to this subplot, so it can be excised in future drafts.

I believe "Rain Man 2: Dark Storm" could be a huge box office success. Would it do the original movie justice? Fuck no! But that's the day and age we live in. Nothing is safe or sacred. Just don't screw this classic with another remake. Sequelize it! Do it nuts, balls out, crazy, insane, etc. Push the character of Raymond Babbitt forward through ESPIONAGE! Or just let him exist as is. Your call, Hollywood.


Rain Man




Previous
Installments
part one

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Within The Confines... (Free Verse)

            Within the confines of my room, I am king.  
            Here with friends - technology and imagination - total control is at my fingertips.                    
            There is no pressing reason to escape these beige-colored walls.   
            Sex is easy, digital.  
            Food: bags of chips, any flavor but barbecue.  
            Drink: water and whiskey, sometimes together, mostly separate.  
            This is paradise.
            My bed is a soft Mecca of prayer and sleep.
            I also read books.

            Outside... people have always bothered me.  
            Laughter, sadness & mood swings – not my kind of scene.  
            I enjoy one emotion at a time.  
            Right now I am happy.  
            My manuscript is almost finished.
            June of last year I began writing.  
            Before that I ate food.
            Much later, in bed, I finish.
            What a piece of shit! 
I think.
Post.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Sunset Cowboy (Short Story)

         The 1st Bullet
Dave offered Patrick a liter-sized drink named ‘Adios Asshole’. It had an odd blue coloring; if presented in a clear plastic spray bottle, the liquid could have been mistaken for a non-streak-glass-cleaner. Patrick almost didn’t accept the monstrosity. He shouted over the obnoxious EMO-punk music blasting from large overhead speakers.
         “What the hell is this?”
         “Just take it,” Dave shouted back.
         “I don’t want that! It’s blue and it’s gaudy!”
         “I bought it for you! It cost twelve dollars! You wanted a drink, right?”               
         “I wanted a fucking beer, not a carafe of Smurf piss!”
         “It’s an ‘Adios Asshole’, stronger than a Long Island Iced Tea! I thought you wanted to get drunk. I was trying to do something nice…”
Back and forth conversations of this sort happened daily between Dave and Patrick. Dave was a control freak and a manipulator. For example: Dave had listened to and nodded at Patrick’s original request for a beer, but ignored it while speaking with the bar tender. Dave ordered what he knew to be the complete opposite of a beer, just to stir things up.
Patrick had a hunch that the ‘Adios Asshole’ was neither a mistake nor a friendly gesture, it was simply a mind game; he was now an unwilling opponent in a stand off. Patrick understood though, Dave was sick and socially awkward. Situations of this sort were how Dave compensated for his own brand of social retardation.
Patrick, as usual, suppressed the urge to punch Dave’s jaw. Instead, being the better friend and an overall better person, Patrick removed the blue monstrosity from Dave’s hand.
“I’m already too drunk as it is. This will send me over the edge. I’m telling you. I shouldn’t drink this…”
Dave laughed a weasel’s laugh and took a swig from his own beer bottle. He relished the meaningless victory. Dave could tell Patrick was on the path to an inevitable blackout, to be followed up with a drunken stupor. He was glad to help fuel the fire, it was how he entertained himself while feeling awkward in public.
The surroundings suddenly grew louder and more obnoxious. They were inside the crowded Cowboy Cantina on Sunset Blvd. It was a Saturday night, mid-July, which meant numerous Los Angeles douche bags were out in full force, and touristy douche bags were intermingled in the crowd. Faux Cowboys and Cowgirls (the wait-staff) borderline harassed the Cantina patrons. They were relentless in their shouting. They offered drinks, food, shots, and worst of all, muddled serenades with acoustic guitars - all for the glory of a tip.
To add to the miserable surroundings, glossy and unoriginal music videos played on countless TV sets mounted near the ceiling. Images of young white men whining about life coincided with over-driven guitar riffs. Patrick wished for a blackout to cut the speaker’s flow of electricity. Silence would be a welcome friend.
The most interesting thing about the Cowboy Cantina was a mechanical bull in the corner, fenced off behind a wooden barrier. The operator played it safe. No speed beyond level two, out of ten, had been reached that night - maybe ever? The operator was simply there to make sure drunken girls with big boobs bounced plenty for the crowd. If the crowd around the barrier cheered in approval, the operator was a success. Tonight, the crowd’s cheers were uproarious.
Patrick winced while breathing in through his nostrils. Beneath the Cantina’s ultra-strong odors of alcohol and perfume loomed a sweet, yet repulsive scent; a pungent flowery chemical odor. Patrick supposed the managers must have used a chemical cleaner to cover up the building’s true abnormal essence. The cover up would go on for infinity though; the managerial staff was trying to hide a stink that was embedded in the very foundation of the Cowboy Cantina. Patrick decided to breathe in through his mouth and ignore the strange fragrances. 
He took a first sip from the blue asshole monstrosity in his hand, and coughed. It tasted too sweet for binge drinking. He glanced around the room and imagined what would happen if a real Cowboy entered the Cantina’s plastic double-doors. He pictured a bearded devil, spitting tobacco juice on the ground, punching a waiter in the face, quick drawing a six-shooter, and gunning down the music speakers to silence the EMO. Patrick swayed, in a daydream.
“Who are these sluts we’re with? What are their names again?” Dave asked, breaking Patrick’s train of thought.
“They’re friends from work. The Double Jens.”
Patrick glanced over to the mechanical bull. The Double Jens were hanging out by the wooden barrier, rooting on the riders. They were Jen Turner and Jen Collins. Patrick worked with them in the offices of Hollywood Munch. His fellow coworkers had nicknamed them ‘The Double Jens’ because they were almost always together, inside or outside the office.
“I think the blond has great moose tits.” Dave said.
“Did you get her a drink?”
“Fuck no!”
“You said you would…”
“I know I said I would, but I’m not laying down money for either of them. If I turn my back and they start tongue kissing a Guido, I’m out twelve bucks.”
Patrick took a second sip of the liter-sized asshole in his hand. Gulp. Wince.
A rowdy bachelorette party was seated next to Patrick and Dave at a long dining table. The women were in the midst of yelling at one another, sounding like a group of clucking chickens in a barnyard. Patrick overheard the maid of honor, who was wearing a silver tiara, finish up a story about the bride-to-be giving a C-list celebrity head in the bathroom. Her fellow bachelorettes roared with laughter. The bride-to-be, wearing a golden queen’s crown, wiped her mouth, flashed a thumbs-up, and downed a shot. Ladies at the table broke into a scattered applause.
Patrick observed the women out of mere curiosity. He couldn’t look away. They were all unattractive, yet somehow intriguing. The maid of honor caught Patrick staring and made a face in disgust.
“There are a lot of ugly guys in here tonight,” she said, purposefully loud enough for Patrick and Dave to hear.
Dave turned away, hurt by the comment. Patrick stayed put, thinking for a moment, then opened his eyes wide and spewed forth a string of animal noises – goats, ducks, dogs, wolves, cats, and chickens. For the finale, he stared straight into the maid of honor’s eyes and let out a long moooo-ing sound. By the look on her face, she was genuinely hurt. Patrick felt satisfied. Before any of the bachelorettes could retort, he walked away sipping his monstrous blue drink through a straw. Dave almost followed, but thought twice and retreated towards the bathrooms.
Patrick decided to get away from the stale air of the Cowboy Cantina and walked through a curtain, out onto an open-air patio. He was met with a thick fog of cigarette smoke. Cowboy and Cowgirl servers continued harassing the bar patrons outside, but now the patrons were allowed to suck dirty lung smoke in through their mouth. For some, the smoke was their only solace.
Patrick saw his two friends, Jacob and Nina, in the corner by a heat lamp. He worked his way through the jumbled crowd to join them. Nina unleashed her usual greeting by smacking Patrick on the chest.
“Let’s get a shot you big hairy bastard!” she yelled, followed with a burst of unladylike laughter.
Jacob shook his head and leaned in toward Patrick. “She’s fucking drunk man. Getting home is going to be a nightmare.”
Nina noticed Patrick’s over-sized drink and threw her hands up in approval.
“Yeah! Adios Asshole! Wooo-hooo!”
         Patrick looked down at his drink. He was surprised to find it three-quarters empty. The alcohol demon had overtaken his body on stealth mode. It was blocking out his common sense.
         “Okay! Fine! Let’s do a shot!” Patrick said. “What should we take?”
“Southern Comfort and lime, motherfucker!” Nina blurted out.
         Jacob shook his head and laughed. “Christ. I’ll go get them for you two lushes.” He disappeared into the cigarette fog.
         Nina began swaying all over the place, dancing to EMO music. She bumped into some nearby hipsters. They scowled. Patrick laughed and tried to steady Nina, applying his hand to her shoulder for support. Nina mistook Patrick’s help as in invitation to dance. She began grinding her pelvis in circles on Patrick’s thigh. Patrick grew an erection.
After a song’s worth of grinding, Nina noticed a mannequin dressed in Cowboy garb mounted on the wall next to them. She snatched up the mannequin’s hat and placed it on Patrick’s head. Patrick accepted the hat like a king’s crown. Nina took a step back and laughed out loud.
         “You look like a real Cowboy!”
         Patrick touched the hat. It felt good on top of his head.
         “I am a real Cowboy,” he said in a faux Southern accent. “I’m from Texas.”
         Dave appeared from out of a cigarette cloud, holding a beer, and two shots decorated with limes. He laughed at Patrick’s appearance, handing over the shots.
         “Where’d you get the hat, fool?” he asked.
         “Off the dummy,” Nina pointed.
         “What’s this?” Patrick asked. He studied the shot. He was already forgetting, browning out.
         “So-co and lime,” Dave answered, taking a sip from his own pint of beer.
         “I thought Jacob was supposed to get these...”
“Jacob went to the bathroom, so I bought them for you.”
Nina wobbled from side to side.
         “Bottoms up!” she shouted.
         Patrick and Nina clicked glasses and pounded the liquor. Three seconds after swallowing, the world went black for Patrick, like the shutdown of an old television set.


         The 2nd Bullet
         Patrick woke the next afternoon buck-naked in bed. His whole existence pounded in a slow, deep rhythm. The pounding was his head and his heartbeat combined, transformed into a sinister internal bass drum. A pasty film covered the roof of his mouth. He tried swallowing, but his throat was too sore to oblige. The left side of Patrick’s skull housed a second unnatural pulsation, faster than the internal bass drum. He felt around his forehead and found a swollen wound. The wound was covered with a balled up mess of band-aids. He winced in pain, touching the makeshift dressing.
         Over on the far wall, above the computer, a Cowboy hat sat mounted in prominence. Patrick stared at the hat and searched his memories. The last clear vision he could muster was a shot with Nina. Everything else was lost. Pieces of the night were surely missing.
         It was a struggle to sit up. Patrick stepped down on the carpet and his feet were met with an odd, cool sensation. He looked down. Covering his bedroom floor was a mangled mess of sliced turkey, yellow cheese and sourdough bread, looking as if a bear had devoured it. His headache suddenly doubled and morphed into a marching band’s snare drum roll. He rose slowly and retrieved shorts and a t-shirt from his dresser. His body cricked all over. Bruises and scrapes decorated his pasty pale skin.
Patrick’s bathroom counter was covered with the contents of an old first aid kit. Scissors were left in the sink, tweezers on the floor. Band-aids and bandages were strewn all about. Patrick looked in the mirror and recoiled in horror. The left side of his forehead was swollen purple, crusted with blood. He removed the band-aids and recoiled again. Three deep gashes were embedded in his flesh.
         Patrick was bothered by his lack of memories. He commenced cleaning the gashes with peroxide and water. It was an arduous forty-two minutes before he felt satisfied that there was no serious infection. After cleansing, the wounds looked worse than before. He cursed his own image.
         “You motherfucker! What the fuck did you do? You stupid son of a bitch! You fucking drunk! WHAT DID YOU DO???”
He continued with the self-deprecating tirade while applying gauze to the wounds.
         Exiting the bathroom, Patrick noticed Dave’s bedroom door was shut. This seemed odd being it was three o’clock in the afternoon. Patrick heard a TV on inside the room and knocked.
         “Dave?”
         After a few moments, Dave opened his door.
         “What the fuck happened last night?” Patrick asked.
         Dave shook his head. He let out a snide puff of laughter as he approached the refrigerator. He grabbed a bottle of water for himself.
         “What didn’t happen?” Dave asked, opening the bottle, gulping down a drink.
“The last thing I remember was taking a shot with Nina.”
         “The last thing I remember was you telling me over and over, ‘I’ve seen Rambo thirty times. I know how to heal my wounds.’ I tried to convince you to go to a hospital for that gash on your forehead, but you said all you needed was gunpowder and a book of matches.”
         “No fucking way.”
         “Look.”
Dave pointed to the living room coffee table. There sat an empty and opened DVD case for ‘Rambo 3’. Patrick stared in shock. Sylvester Stallone stared back in defiance.
“I…  I...” Patrick stuttered. He closed his eyes. “I can’t remember a thing.”
“Do you remember knocking over two tables at the diner, then throwing your wallet and keys at me while running away?”
“No!” Patrick shouted. The image formed in his mind. He cringed.
“Then, outside of the diner, you had a fist fight with four black teenagers.”
“What!”
“I showed up at the tail end,” Dave said, shaking his head, remembering. “They were walking away shouting, ‘you ugly white cowboy motherfucker!’ You body-checked one of them and they got scared and kept going. Then you spotted me and went on a tirade about how you fought and won against, your words, ‘four little punk-ass tricks’. After that, you said the cowboy hat on your head was the only thing that mattered to you anymore.”
“I was still wearing the hat?"
“You wore the hat all damn night! I started calling you 'The Sunset Cowboy’! It was the only name you'd answer to!”
“Holy shit! I remember!” Patrick said. A foggy memory spilled into his mind. “I dove into the bushes to hide the hat, so they wouldn’t take it. The black kids laughed at me, but one of them kicked me while I was down.”
“Well, according to what you told me later, you beat the shit out of them using a wind-mill fighting style.”
“Is that how I got this?” Patrick pointed to his forehead.
Dave shook his head no. His expression turned grim.
“After we got back here you started flipping out, saying that you should  go have sex with The Double Jens. You decided to leave and find them.”
“Oh Jesus! Did I go to their apartment?” Patrick was horrified.
“Luckily no. I followed you and talked you out of it. But then you met some ugly ass blond girl on the street,” Dave said, making a face in disgust. “You were going to bring her back here to smoke weed and have anal sex.”
“Anal sex?”
“I guess. That’s what you kept saying. She was fucking gross.”
“Did she come back?”
“No. I convinced you to come home without her and you just took off running, sprinting down Sunset. That’s when you tripped over a parking meter and smacked your face on the concrete.”
Patrick felt dizzy. He had no clear memory of anything Dave was describing.
“Can you hand me a water?”
Dave opened the refrigerator and handed Patrick a bottle of water. Patrick almost finished it all in one gulp. He shuffled toward his bedroom, wiping his mouth.
“I’m going back to sleep,” he said. “I’ll be hung over for a while.”
Dave applauded and announced in mockery, “There he goes
ladies and gentlemen, ‘The Sunset Cowboy!’”
Patrick closed and locked his room door. He stepped over the turkey, bread and cheese and plopped down in bed. He was asleep within three minutes.
 The next day, at dawn, still hung over and soar, Patrick arose, entered the kitchen, and chugged a container of orange juice. He returned to his room and set his alarm for eight a.m. Work started at nine. He needed two more hours of sleep.


The 3rd Bullet
On his way to work, Patrick drank a coffee, a Gatorade, and two waters. He also ate three donuts and a cinnamon raisin bagel. This was his usual hangover cure and it worked like a charm.
Almost every employee at the Hollywood Munch office asked about the white gauze bandages taped to Patrick’s forehead. He gave a few quick one-line answers about a drunken accident, and tried to look busy on the phones. He did his best to avoid further conversation.
One of The Double Jens, the brunette, asked Patrick out to lunch during the mid-shift. He accepted her invitation, but remained convinced something horrible had transpired between them on the night of debauchery. However, over tacos, Jen explained the hilarity of Patrick’s performance at the Cowboy Cantina from her point of view.
“You came up to me and Jen and you were wearing a Cowboy hat. We thought you looked great. You started dancing with us, saying you were a real Cowboy, and that you were from Texas.”
“Oh man,” Patrick said, fully embarrassed.
“No, it was funny. Jen T. opened the top three buttons on your shirt and let out your chest hair. You were overjoyed. It completed the Cowboy look. That's when you decided to ride the bull.”
“I rode the bull?”
“You really don’t remember?”
“Not at all.”
“Well, you signed some papers and paid five dollars to ride. It was your turn after about ten minutes. You jumped on the bull and pointed up to the sky. One of the employees tried to teach you how to ride, but you just ignored him. So, the ride began and the operator must have jacked the bull’s speed up to a crazy level. You were thrown right off. But, without hesitation, you jumped back on and pointed up to the sky again. People were cheering for you. The crowd loved it, but the operator threw you off again. The second fall looked like it hurt, but you got right back on a third time.”
“A third time???”
“Yup, but now, people started booing you. The crowd turned in a heartbeat. And the operator threw you off really bad. It was the worst fall of all, because you smacked your hand against the side of the bull as you went down.”
Patrick took a look at his left hand. There was a dark bruise between his index finger and his thumb. He opened and closed his fist a few times.
“I was wondering how I got that,” he said.
“The best part though, when you were exiting the rider’s area, a big meat-head bouncer stared you down. He had his arms crossed and shook his head in anger. He said, ‘Nobody rides the bull three times. Nobody,’ and you said, ‘Reckon I’m the exception, partner’.”
Jen took a break from the story to have a bite of her taco and a sip from her soft drink. She resumed, “Then the three of us went to the bar and ordered drinks. Every time the bartender turned around, you reached up to turn off the television set. You kept yelling, ‘Emo sucks shit! Emo sucks shit!’ Then lectured the bartender on how the place smelled bad, like chemical flowers. She had a bouncer escort you out for being too drunk. That was the last Jen and I saw of you.”
“What a nightmare,” Patrick said and shook his head.
“It was a fun time.”
“From the outside looking in, it's a laugh riot. From my point of view, it’s completely depressing.”
“How did you hurt your head?”
Patrick groaned and took a bite out of a steak taco. "I’m still a bit foggy on that.”


The 4th Bullet
Later that night, Patrick was relaxing in bed, smoking a joint, staring at the Cowboy hat hanging in prominence over his computer. The phone rang. Patrick checked the caller ID and saw it was Jacob.
         “Hello?”
         “What’s happening Eastwood? How you feeling?”
         “Like shit. I’m still hung over. Trying to smoke it off.”
         “You were a wild man the other night.”
         “So I heard.”
         “Nina was bombed, I had to carry her home. She ended up pissing in my closet, thinking it was the bathroom. Before I left the bar though, you kept walking up to girls saying you were from Texas. Some of them were into it. Did you get any action?”
         Patrick relayed the bits and pieces of night he had heard from Dave and brunette Jen.
         “Did you get your forehead checked by a doctor?”
         “I don’t think it’s that bad. There are only three deep gashes. They’ll scab up and eventually turn into scars. Not that big of a deal,” Patrick said with the utmost sarcasm. 
It dawned on him: his sarcastic statements were most likely true. The three deep gashes would scar up and stay marked on his forehead in permanence. The idea was depressing. He would be doomed to remember ‘The Sunset Cowboy’ for years to come. He stubbed out his joint in an old coffee mug by his desk. The Cowboy hat above his computer suddenly seemed like a gaudy ornament, straight out of a nightmare.
         “Your roommate is a real dickhead,” Jacob said.
         “Why? He saved me from getting an STD from some dirty anal whore. He’s an angel.”
         “Angel my ass. He slipped you a Mickey. You and Nina both. That’s why you guys were so wrecked. I should kick his ass.”
         “What? A Mickey? You’re fucking around.”
         “Nah. I’m serious. I ran into him while I was making my way to the bathroom. I told him you and Nina were out on the patio waiting for me to return with shots. I asked if he wanted one and he said no. When I came back later on with the So-Co shots, he’d already given you both one-hundred-fifty-one proof whiskey, with lime. He passed them off as the fucking southern comfort! I flipped out. He got all scared and ran away before I could choke his neck.”
         “That sneaky son of a bitch! He tricked us? I can’t believe that...”
         “Come over to my place and check out the piss stains in the closet next to my dress shoes. You’ll start believing.”
 “How did you find out?”
         “After Nina became an incoherent mess, one of the Cantina servers told me. Dave ordered two whiskeys, specifically requesting the highest proof, and fed them to you guys.”
“That dirty fuck!”
“Nina puked for about two hours and didn’t fuck me at all the next day. I should really kick his ass. For real.”
         Patrick decided to end the call. He needed to confront his roommate.


        The 5th Bullet
Dave was in his bedroom watching TV, giggling along with the canned laughter of a sitcom. Patrick entered, Dave gave him a round of applause.
         “There he is ladies and gentlemen! The return of ‘The Sunset Cowboy’! How’s your head feeling today, pilgrim?”
         Patrick ignored Dave’s question and got right to the point.
         “Did you slip Nina and I shots of one-fifty-one the other night? Did you put lime on the glasses to trick us into believing they were Southern Comfort?”
         Dave sat in silence with his arms crossed, blinking his eyes rapidly. He was flustered.
         “Who told you that?”
         “One of the waitresses told Jacob. Nina pissed in his closet. Jacob wants to beat the shit out of you.”
         “Tell him to calm down. It was a joke,” Dave said, brushing off the severity.
“A joke? Look at what happened to my head!”
“You’re blaming me for your drunken stupor? Take responsibility for yourself, man! I didn’t force any liquor down your throat! I just happened to hand you a drink. Or two.”
Patrick stepped forward. Dave flinched.
“If you ever pull something like this again, I’ll let Jacob beat the ever-loving shit out of you. In fact, forget Jacob, I’ll do it myself. You hear me?”
Dave looked away. He sat frowning in silence.
“When I ask for a beer, you get me a fucking beer. You’re a manipulator and I’m through with it. By the way, I want your half of the cable bill tomorrow! You hear me? Tomorrow!”
         Patrick walked away, but thought twice and returned for some final words.
         “And do the dishes every once in a while you lazy prick! I’m not your goddamn cleaning lady! I'm tired of wiping your shitty little ass!”
         Dave sat slack-jawed and stunned.
Patrick left the room feeling good about what he’d said. Hopefully, Dave would dwell on his bitter words for a long time to come and bleed with the bullets of truth.


The 6th Bullet
Back in his bedroom, Patrick got down on his hands and knees to pick up the big pieces of turkey, cheese and bread from the carpet, which he'd been ignoring for two days straight. He thought about what transpired moments earlier and wondered if he had gone too far with the outburst.
Deep down inside, Patrick blamed himself for the Cantina blackout, but would never let Dave know. Dave deserved a payback for his multitude of past offenses. Maybe this was the dawn of a new day, a day where Patrick didn’t have to look over his shoulder and second-guess himself while his deviant roommate skulked about.
         Patrick looked up at the Cowboy hat mounted over his computer.
         “The Sunset Cowboy,” he said, and laughed to himself. He liked the sound of it.
         Patrick threw out the largest chunks of food and decided to vacuum the rest in the morning. He cleaned his wounds with peroxide and water and examined them closely in the bathroom mirror. His forehead looked no better than it had the day before. He applied an antibacterial ointment and fresh gauze pads, accepting the fact that the three large gashes would scar up and stay visible on his head for life. They’d eventually become a distant reminder of the night he couldn’t remember. The night he was a real cowboy. The night he came from Texas.


Child Cowboy Hat (Brown) Child (One-Size)