Friday, April 15, 2011

THE ITCH TO PITCH (Part One): "National Lampoon's Space Station Vacation"

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.


A reboot is already in the works for this franchise. It will follow Rusty Griswold, now a grownup, as he takes his own wife and kids on a vacation. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'angelo are set to reprise their roles as Mr. & Mrs. Griswold, but probably relegated to some glorified grandparent cameos. This is a poor idea. Uninspired. Boring too. Who are they going to cast as an adult Rusty?** Don't give me any of that Anthony Michael Hall shit either. The only qualified actor in my mind is Jason Lively. He crushed the role in 'European Vacation'.

Let's face it, Chevy Chase is the true star of the 'Vacation' movies. Seriously. Look at what happened when Randy Quaid took the reins on 'Christmas Vacation 2'. Actually, don't look. It's not pretty. In my opinion, they should totally scrap the reboot idea. So, what's the next logical step for a Griswold family vacation? Blast off into outer space!

Other franchises have done it; admittedly, some were not so successful. But here? It's a no-brainer. The set up is rife with comedic potential. Imagine: excruciatingly funny anti-gravity set pieces, super powerful space station toilets sucking out excrement, complaints about crappy liquid astronaut food, obligatory Uranus/anus jokes, Clark's quirky dealings with a few difficult-to-understand Cosmonauts, dangerously hilarious hull breaches, absurd faces caused by oxygen depletion, classic rantings and ravings about the miseries of cosmic travel, poignant pontifications on the meaning of family within the human experience, crash landings on desolate planets, hostile and/or friendly and/or sexy aliens... the list goes on and on. Hell, even Cousin Eddie could pop up as a stow-away! Yup, this thing is writing itself.

To the kind folks at National Lampoons, please, take this idea into consideration. Reboots are boring. Outer space is full of potential. 

P.S. If your gut instinct is to keep the Griswolds on Earth, fine. I have one more idea. Get rid of the 'vacation' as a major motif and make it a minor one. Stay with me, okay? Have the movie center on Audrey (a role reprised by Juliette Lewis). The story? Audrey gets impregnated for the first time out of wedlock, and her boyfriend abandons her (William Zabka). With nowhere to turn, she heads home to seek support from her parents: Clark and Ellen Griswold. Regardless of the circumstances, Clark remains the proud - yet hapless and annoying - expectant grandfather. He wreaks havoc on Audrey's life for eight long months. Eventually, a major falling out occurs. Not to worry though, Clark and Audrey reconcile and the Griswolds get together for a fun-filled family vacation -- camping in Canada (Jason Lively tags along as Rusty). But, while deep in the Canadian woods, Audrey accidentally induces an early labor by coming into contact with the wrong bit of fungi. Clark is the only person who can deliver his daughter, and his future granddaughter, to safety. Will he succeed? Yes, since the movie will be titled: 'It's A Griswold!'

National Lampoon's Vacation (20th Anniversary Special Edition)National Lampoon's European VacationNational Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Special Edition)
Vegas Vacation (Widescreen Edition)National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2 - Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure

**Ed Helms is the new Rusty. Suddenly indifferent. I'm holding on to the hope that the Griswold clan will have an outer space blast off in the reboot's sequel.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fifty Funny Songs...

This is by no means a definitive list of the funniest songs ever made. Not even close. Simply put, these are fifty ditties that make me laugh (in no hierarchic order). Certain selections might not even be considered comedy by some, and I definitely left out shitloads of hilarious tunes. Whatever. Fuck 'em. A number of artists show up multiple times; I will group their works together. I'll also try to connect unrelated songs with a theme, however loosely. Okay, let's get giggling...

1. 'Fat' by Weird Al Yankovic
In my opinion, Weird Al is a comedic genius. I used to wait all day long for this video to play on MTV. I would laugh my little ten-year-old balls off every time. Still do, in fact. And yes, my balls are still little. And yes, I'm almost as fat as these obese dancers. Growing old sucks, but luckily this video never will...

2. 'Eat It' by Weird Al Yankovc
He was the master of Michael Jackson parodies, but at one time I did not appreciate Weird Al at all. In fact, he angered me. I was a huge Jackson fan as a very young boy (no pedophile humor intended). My older cousin tried to insult me when this video first came out by saying, "Eat It is better than Beat It." I cried tears of rage. The insult worked. Now, as an adult, I think this is better than 'Beat It' in a lot of ways. Funny how tastes change (food pun intended).

*On a side note: When Weird Al called Kurt Cobain to ask his permission to parody 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' Cobain asked, "It's not going to be about food, is it?"

3. 'Rape Me' by Richard Cheese 
Speaking of Cobain, here is a cover of his infamous song 'Rape Me' performed by L.A. based lounge singer Richard Cheese. His name alone is enough to love the guy. If that wasn't enough, his band's name is Lounge Against The Machine. Brilliant. They've covered many popular tunes. This is my favorite so far. 

4. ' Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah' by Allan Sherman
From one bow tie to another. Here's a timeless classic from the 1960s, based on letters of protest Sherman received from his son while away at camp. I don't blame the kid. I fucking hated camp too; I went for a week and never went back. Wikipedia tells me that the music is from a ballet named 'Dance of the Hours' by some mofo named Ponchielli.

5. 'Hello, I Must Be Going' by Groucho Marx
Second of three 'hello' songs. From the 1930 Marx Brothers film "Animal Crackers". IMDB trivia on the film: The movie's line "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." was voted as the #53 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).

6. 'Hello, My Baby' by Michigan J. Frog
'Hello' tune #3. Originally a Tin Pan Alley song written in 1899 about a guy who has a girlfriend he only knows through the telephone. In 1955, the Looney Toons short 'One Froggy Evening' cemented its comedy status forever. Made me laugh when I was eight, will make me laugh when I'm eighty. Here's a link to the full short: 
And if that wasn't enough, Mel Brooks one-upped it in 1987 with an amazing scene in 'Spaceballs':

7. 'Springtime For Hitler' by Mel Brooks 
Mel Brooks is a true Renaissance Man. He's an actor/writer/producer/director/composer/and more. This musical number from the 1968 version of 'The Producers' (his directorial debut) is one of his finest achievements. IMDB says: Mel Brooks cannot read music. "Springtime for Hitler" and "Prisoners of Love" (as were all the songs Brooks writes for his films) were hummed into a tape recorder and transcribed by an expert.

8. 'Uncle Fucker' by Trey Parker, Marc Shaiman & Matt Stone
From one Renaissance Man to another. Trey Parker, in my opinion, is our current reigning comedy master. He can pretty much do it all (Matt Stone ain't no slouch either, and Marc Shaiman is a lauded composer, lyricist, and arranger). I can't find the quote right now, but someone cited "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" as the last great movie musical of the 20th century. Here is the obvious show-stopper...

9. 'America Fuck Yeah' by Trey Parker
From the Parker-directed marionette action film "Team America: World Police". While not a full-blown musical, there are plenty of hilarious musical elements in the movie. This song is an over-the-top parody of extremist national pride. Or is it? It gets me pumped up to love America, so maybe this isn't a parody at all. Fuck Yeah!

10. 'Now You're a Man' by DVDA
Opening credit theme from Parker's super-low-budget 1997 feature film "Orgasmo". For me, this song has more testosterone behind it than any of the songs on any of the "Rocky" soundtracks. Yes, even 'Eye of the Tiger'. If I were somehow forced to play in an NFL game for some insane and unfathomable reason, this is the song I'd pump in the locker room just before meeting my doom. The band's name, DVDA, is something that happens in porno movies. Look it up if you dare.

11. 'Hasa Diga Eebowai' by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, & Robert Lopez

And one more involving Parker from the new Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon". Saw it two weeks ago. Amazing. Brilliant. Hilarious. Crass. Heartfelt. What an entertaining show. I will not spoil the English translation of the song's title, and you shouldn't either. It is an amazing discovery within the show's context. This is currently so new that the soundtrack isn't available yet. I'll keep an eye out for it. In the meantime, buy tickets as soon as possible. You will not be sorry.

12. 'Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee' by Stockard Channing
Continuing with musicals. This is from "Grease", which ran on Broadway from 1972-1980 and had revivals in 1994 & 2007. The version below (definitive, in my opinion) is from the 1978 movie adaptation. Channing nails it and her legs are damn sexy. I always bust out laughing when she proclaims, "Eh... Fongool, I'm Sandra Dee." 

13. 'Sweet Transvestite' by Tim Curry
Here's my favorite number from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". Some people despise this movie. I don't get those people at all. 

14. 'Dentist!' by Steve Martin
"Little Shop Of Horrors", by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, is based on Roger Corman's 1960 low budget horror film of the same name. Here's Steve Martin bringing down the house in the 1986 movie version, directed by Frank Oz (the man who voiced Yoda, Miss Piggy, and Fozzy Bear).

15. 'My Little Buttercup' by The Three Amigos
Steve Martin was involved with another great musical number in "The Three Amigos", accompanied by Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Randy Newman wrote the song, and also co-wrote the screenplay with Martin and Lorne Michaels (the creator of "Saturday Night Live").

16. 'Medium Pace' by Adam Sandler
Connecting through Lorne Michaels: "Saturday Night Live" alum Adam Sandler's song from his 1993 comedy album 'They're All Gonna Laugh At You!'. The album title comes from a scene in the movie "Carrie".

17. 'Lunch Lady Land' by Adam Sandler
From the same album, as performed on SNL with the late great Chris Farley.

18. 'Ode to My Car' by Adam Sandler
More Sandler. From his 1996 album 'What The Hell Happened To Me?'.

19. ' Buckwheat's Greatest Hits' by Eddie Murphy
From one SNL alum to another, here are four musical performances from Eddie Murphy. Believe it or not, he used to be the funniest man alive. Return to us Eddie. Return to us, please. Be funny again...

20. 'Too Hot In The Hot Tub' by Eddie Murphy

21. 'Kill The White People' by Eddie Murphy 

22. 'Ebony & Ivory' by Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo

23. 'Jizz In My Pants' by The Lonely Island
And the final SNL cast member on the list, Andy Samberg. I believe the title is self-explanatory.

24. 'TV Party' by Black Flag
So much talk about SNL cast members, here's a song that name-drops the show. This is from the classic 1981 punk album 'Damaged', ranked number 340 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Watch TV... Have a couple 'a brews... TV party tonight!!!

25. 'Yakety Sax' by Boots Randolph
Continuing with the theme of television, I present one of two actual TV themes on the list. This is from 'The Benny Hill Show'. It's an instrumental, sure, but for some reason it makes almost anything funny. To prove that point, here below, someone added it to news footage of a police chase...

26. 'Pee Wee's Playhouse Theme' by Cindy Lauper
Second of the two theme songs. Yup, for any trivia hounds out there, Cindy Lauper lent the lead vocals to this theme, but is credited under a pseudonym 'Ellen Shaw'. Another bit of trivia, this song was co-written by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo!

27. 'Lumberjack Song' by Monty Python
From American children's programming to British adult-oriented sketch comedy. Almost everyone should be familiar with the Pythons. They have the most entries on this list, and for good reason. This classic sketch is from their TV show "Monty Python's Flying Circus".

28. 'Sit On My Face' by Monty Python
The next two entries are from 1982's "Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl". Here's the show opener...

29. 'Never Be Rude To An Arab' by Monty Python
And now for the greatest song about racism ever created.

30. 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' by Monty Python
The closing scene from their 1979 masterpiece "Life Of Brian". After the original backers pulled the budget at the last minute (because they read the script), former Beatle George Harrison stepped in and saved the film with a large chunk of money. When asked why he was interested in such a risky venture, George said: 'Well, I wanted to see the film.' Blessed are the cheese-makers and blessed is George Harrison. 

31. 'Knights Of The Round Table' by Monty Python
From 1975's "Holy Grail". Camelot... it is a silly place.

32. 'Every Sperm Is Sacred' by Monty Python
The next two entries are from 1983's "The Meaning Of Life". 

33. 'The Penis Song' by Monty Python

34. 'My-ding-a-ling' by Chuck Berry
Following up on the theme of penis, here's another ditty about male genitals, but a little less overt. A double entendre novelty song, written by rock & roll icon Chuck Berry.

35. 'Big Balls' by AC/DC
What penis would be complete without balls? I feel bad for eunuchs.

36. 'Detachable Penis' by King Missile
Carrying over the theme of cock and balls, here is a very different tune about manhood. This video received a surprising amount of airplay in the 90s on radio and MTV. If only they would be so bold today.

37. 'MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack' by Beck
Speaking of MTV... now for a song written by Beck from when he was an experimental lo-fi folk hero. The original version was his first official release. Posted below is the 'lounge' version.

38. 'Satan Gave Me A Taco' by Beck 

From his "Stereopathetic Soulmanure" album. I love Mexican food so much that I would actually, quite possibly, eat the taco he describes.

39. 'Food' by Buck 65
All right, because Beck's satanic taco made me fuckin hungry, let's kick off a food section. This is from Canadian rapper Buck 65, off "Square". Although the album only consists of four tracks, each track contains multiple songs. Here's a snippet from track four.

40. 'Toast' by Heywood Banks
A song created with two forks and a toaster, used as percussion instruments? Fantastic.

41. 'Kielbasa' by Tenacious D
Opener from the D's self-titled studio debut. All you motherfuckers say a prayer...

42. 'Who Hid The Halibut On The Poop Deck?' by Yogi Yorgesson
Yogi is a regular on Dr. Demento's radio show. This song was included on Volume 2 of 'The Rhino Brothers Present: The World's Worst Records'. I'm sorry, but this is way better than that goddamn Drake song: 'You Da, You Da Best'. I'm 100% serious.

43. 'Ding Fries Are Done' by ?
The true origin of this song and video is still up in the air. Here's a web page with more info:

44. 'Takin Retards To The Zoo' by The Dead Milkmen
Time for a tangent. I apologize if anyone is offended, but I love this 48 second punk song. Sometimes, it's all about the brevity. Here's a link to a fan video:

45. 'Meow Mix Jingle' by Cat
Now for a tangent on a tangent... Speaking of the zoo, let's do a few tunes related to animals!

46. 'Ballad Of A Dog Named Stains' by Red Peters
I remember hearing this on the Howard Stern Show many years ago. Say what you will about the slow build, I think it totally makes the punchline.

47. 'Suck a Cheetah's Dick' by Wesley Willis
Wesley Willis was a musician from Chicago. He had an affinity for head-butting things (it was his favorite greeting). Due to this, a circular bruise remained a permanent fixture on his forehead. He passed away in 2003. R.I.P. I love how he specifies 'suck a MALE Camel's dick with hoisin sauce'...

48. 'Cut The Mullet' by Wesley Willis
A tangent on a tangent on a tangent: This has nothing to do with food, or retarded persons, or animals. Just needed to include more Wesley Willis. Here, he's letting you know that you should go the barber and tell him you're sick of looking like an asshole...

49. 'Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday' by Carol Channing
Okay, back to food related entries. Now we're getting weird. For sure, this is the creepiest, most fucked up, most psychedelic offering on this list. It's a hoot. From the 1985 TV movie version of "Alice In Wonderland", which truthfully, I remember being pretty cool. The Jabberwocky was scary as hell! The clip below is a scene which has stuck with me throughout the years. I mean, the logic behind the song is mind blowing. And Carol Channing's face, fucking hell... she turns into a goddamn sheep! Jesus Christ! Maybe this should be on a list of 100 scary songs, but it's absurd enough to place here. Children's entertainment was far better in the 80s, I don't care what anyone says.

50. 'Purple People Eater' by Sheb Wooley
Since the Purple People Eater is eating people, I'm including him in the food section. A novelty hit which reached #1 on the billboard charts in 1958. This is my friend Nathan Jordan's favorite song of all time (funny or otherwise).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Track By Track (Real Time Album Review) PANDA BEAR -- TOMBOY by Patrick Hennessey

1. You Can Count On Me

Psychedelic to the max. Enjoyable harmonies. The melody jumps all over the place, almost at the whim of the musical clicks, bops, and booms underneath the voices. Not the greatest opener ever, but surely it sets a mood. Suddenly craving a smidgen of LSD.

2. Tomboy

Nice percussion. Interesting synth. Again, enjoyable harmonies. Lyrics unintelligible. The melody line hits some interesting notes. This song is definitely going places I didn't expect. I could see myself humming this tomorrow. Cool outro.

3. Slow Motion

Dope opening. Craving that LSD again. Typical song structure is out the window. Repetitive, but in a good way. Loops done right. Layers upon layers. Trying to dissect it. Keeps hitting new and interesting notes that I never could have expected when the song opened. This will be great music to leave on in the background while cleaning or writing or smoking bongs.

4. Surfer Hymn

Ocean opening, synth bells. Panda Bear always has a shadowy Beach Boys/Brian Wilson thing going on. This song sounds like it was written by Brian Wilson, if he were suffering from OCD and completely immersed in the computer age. Kind of wish somehow this was a little more stripped down.

5. Last Night At The Jetty

The opening musical notes made me laugh for some reason. Good harmonies. The clearest, most straightforward song so far. At this point, my favorite of the bunch. Great middle section. Always a loop and curve ball with these guys. Keeps me guessing. Love it. "I had a good time now/who could say I'm not..." Tried to keep up with the lyrics, they lost me. Kudos to the creepy ending. I really enjoyed this one.

6. Drone

Alarm clock opening. Wouldn't want to wake up to that noise. I'd punch a hole through the wall. Very spacey number (not Kevin Spacey). My least favorite, so far. At least try to scare me or enlighten me with a song like this. It's doing neither. Give me a demon voice or backwards messages or choruses of a million angels singing. Nothing. Single synth key ending. I guess that's the Drone. What, is a 4th grader with a Casio keyboard making this music? No me gusta. Skipping next time. At least it had a proper song title.

7. Alsatian Darn

Okay, back to the album. Interesting time signatures. Sounds like the music is going to fall apart at any moment, but stays glued together with the wonderful harmonies. Loads of handclaps. This one is cool. Nice build, keeps adding ingredients. It's amazing to me that someone can even write a song like this. What ideas do they start with? The strangely structured music? The odd time signatures? The murky melody lines? I envy musicians who can do this sort of thing. Cool number.

8. Sheherezade

Creepy piano notes. Creepy vocals. I kind of forgot that I wanted LSD before. Don't want it anymore. Maybe a joint, but I'm feeling sobriety for this track. Sparse so far. If shit don't kick in, this is another skipper, unless I leave the album on in the background while I'm doing something... Yup. We're nearing the end. Another skipped song. Two skips out of eight.

9. Friendship Bracelet

Another bit of laugh out loud music, and that's not a bad thing. This one has some interesting colors. Loads of sound modulation, but not overwhelming. Animal noises everywhere, but not real animal noises I'm guessing. Effects loops. Decent.

10. Afterburner

Nice percussion. Hmmmm... the music has a tiny bit of disco flavor to it. Digging the shit out of this one. Building momentum, always a good thing. Trippy bass. Craving that LSD again. The background flourishes are fantastic, not jarring like in some of the other songs. Now they added a little Latin flavor. A keeper. Second favorite. Longest of the album, but felt shorter than Drone.

11. Benfica

Great vocal opening. For some reason, even when the music is sparse, it's still hard to figure out the lyrics. I don't know why that is with Panda Bear. Maybe I'm just not listening close enough, but I do have headphones on. All right. Loop it up and fade it out.


Overall, this was an enjoyable listening experience. A lot going on. I definitely have to give it another spin (even Drone), but my gut feeling tells me that there will be two tracks I'll skip out of eleven. Like I said earlier, I envy musicians who can create music like this. I'm confused as to what ideas they begin with. Probably the loops, maybe the vocals?

Initial numerical reaction: 7.4/10

My True Horrors... THE EXORCIST

The Exorcist - Movie Poster Print

     Fourth grade. Heavy Metal was all the rage and I was listening. Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, the list could go on and on. I would cut pictures out of magazines like 'Hit Parader' and 'Metal Edge' and paste them over every inch of my bedroom wall. I wore a denim jacket with a large Iron Maiden patch covering the back -- Eddie in the fighter-plane cockpit from 'Aces High'. I had a mullet, and sometimes, a couple of shaved lines in the side of my head for no good reason. 'Headbanger's Ball' was the best show on TV, and every last cent allotted to me by my parents went towards buying the cassette tapes of bands I would discover on the show.
     Oddly enough though, in another medium, I was not so adventurous. Horror movies scared the shit out of me. Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, Michael Myers: these were the plagues of my childhood nightmares. For some reason, the spooky images and dark iconography of Heavy Metal did not bother me at all, yet several famous movie monsters - and their endless cheesy sequels - were complete agony on my nerves. 
     Friends would suggest watching horror films at sleep overs. I would counter-suggest raunchy comedies like 'Trading Places', or some porno VHS my older cousin had been nice enough to lend me. Porno would always win out and spare me the nightmare of having to shit my pants in front of my friends. There were certainly times when I was without porn, and my suggestions would fall on deaf ears. Times like those, I had to grin and bear the horror film torture chamber.
     For days after viewing certain movies, I would catch bouts of hysterical insomnia. I'd beg to sleep in my parent's room, much to the frustration of my mother and father. My parents were somewhat easy-going about which forms of entertainment I ingested, except when it ruined a good night's sleep. My mother urged me to stay away from the "Halloweens" and "Friday the 13ths" of the film world. She warned that I would eventually have to suffer on my own, and not in her bedroom.
     One night, just before summer vacation, a friend and I were listening to a King Diamond record. My father must have heard the high-pitched vocal stylings and demonic interludes blasting from behind my closed bedroom door. He came in and asked what we were listening to. We showed him the album cover. He asked us to lower the volume and left us to continue listening.
     After my friend went home, my father sat me down for a talk. He explained that some of the music I was listening to had occult undertones. This led to a serious question and answer session about the essence of good and evil. It was an interesting and eye opening discussion for me as a nine-year-old. As far as I can remember, this was the first time I was an equal in a conversation with my father, not just the recipient of a lecture. He expressed fear that Heavy Metal music (namely King Diamond) might expose me to certain ideas that were not suitable for a young boy, especially a young boy who feared scary movie monsters. I defended the music, letting him know I was more interested in guitars solos than lyrical content, which was true. Towards the end of our long conversation, he brought up 'The Exorcist'.
     "Promise me you will never watch that movie," he said. "There is a face in there, a face you will never be able to get out of your mind. Even for me as a grown man, I'm still haunted by it. And I saw it over a decade ago."
     I promised my father that I would never, ever, watch 'The Exorcist'.
     Two weeks later, enter my summer crush, Jessica. I started hanging out with her randomly - and her friends - after joining a game of manhunt in order to even up the sides. From then on, I was part of their group. This was the first clique I ever associated with that had an equal mix of males and females. There were eight of us in total. We spent summer days riding bikes, going to the pool, playing kickball and eating pizza. It was typical summer wonderment. 
     I tried to impress Jessica with dirty jokes and meaningless tests of strength. She flirted back, in the innocent way fourth grade girls do, with taunts and teases. One day, she handed me a note which said she liked me. It was shaping up to be the best summer of my young life.
     One blisteringly hot afternoon in August, boredom struck the group. We were sitting on Jessica's stoop, passing the time, too hot to exert any energy. The subject of favorite movies came up. I cited 'Weird Science' as my personal favorite. Someone suggested we get out of the heat and into Jessica's air conditioned basement to watch something. We all agreed.
     Downstairs, we rummaged through an extensive VHS collection. Sadly, someone picked out 'The Exocist'. Only Jessica had seen it. Everyone else had heard tall tales of how brutally frightening it was. Jessica assured the group that it wasn't so bad. In fact, she claimed to have found parts of it funny, mentioning something about green puke. This blew my young mind. How could a movie have such a negative effect on my father, yet tickle the funny bone of a fourth grade girl I was crushing on? By unanimous decision, we decided to watch 'The Exorcist'. I should have kept the promise to my father.
     The actual viewing is a blur. I don't remember if I whimpered in fear throughout or sat there in stoned silence. All I know is that the film was like a sledgehammer to my brain. It caused massive amounts of damage, which to this day, has never fully healed.
     I left Jessica's house and held it together long enough to ride my bike home. Once home, I bawled. In the sunlight or in the dark, lights on or lights off, it did not matter; a young girl's demon face - and countless other horrific images - were all I could see. I tried to take a shower, but couldn't bring myself to close the bathroom door for fear that a demon would possess me. I couldn't go near my own bed, for fear that it would start shaking, and then a demon would possess me. I couldn't even pray to Jesus for help. The infamous crucifix scene convinced me there was no use. 
     My parents remained my only solace. I confessed to them that I had watched the film and they allowed me to sleep in their room that night. But, sleep did not come. I sobbed, and shivered, and eventually just passed out from sheer exhaustion. The movie was a third degree burn on my psyche.
     This went on for weeks; the uncontrollable sobbing, the terror, and the insomnia. Eventually, my parents grew fed up and would not allow me to sleep in their room any longer. As a compromise, I was allowed to sleep in my younger brother's room. It was no use. I would bawl myself to the brink of exhaustion and plead to be let back into the semi-safety of my parent's room. They remained fervently against it. Enough was enough, I needed to overcome my fears.
     The last week of summer vacation, my mother grew desperate. She did not want my hysterical insomnia to spill over into the school year. I was keeping her, my father, and my brother awake at night, and she was afraid that I would eventually have some sort of nervous breakdown in class. She tried to reason with me during the daytime, explaining that 'The Exorcist' was only a movie -- demons, ghosts, and monsters do not exist. She even went so far as to have a priest come from the local Catholic church to bless our house. The gesture proved useless. I was convinced the devil was real and he was coming to get me. Sleepless nights and constant crying continued.
     Finally, one September night before Labor Day, everything came to a head. I began my usual bawling and pleading in the dark. Suddenly, my mother rushed into my brother's room in a frenzy. Her hair was messed up, she wasn't wearing any makeup, and her skin was pale from lack of sleep. There was a wild look in her eyes. She grabbed me by the arms, shook me, and shouted like a madwoman...
     She dragged me out of my brother's room, deposited me into my own room, and slammed the door shut. I stood there in the dark, fully shocked out of my frightened mind-state. I contemplated what had just occurred. Slowly, the wheels began to turn in my mind: If the devil is already in me, and it's too late, what is all the fuss about? I've been crying myself to sleep for weeks... and I'm not possessed yet! In fact, I'm standing here alone, in the dark, at this very moment and nothing is happening. 
     Somehow, it seemed a rational explanation. The devil was already in me. It was too late.
     I turned on my bedroom light. The familiar faces of Heavy Metal musicians stared down at me from the walls. They were a forgotten comfort. I grew calm, and oddly enough, I was no longer scared. I climbed into my own bed for the first time in weeks and rested my head on a pillow. Slowly, but surely, I dozed off. Slumber presented me with pleasant dreams. 
     To this day, I am convinced my mother pulled off one of the greatest psychological tricks ever pulled in the history of motherhood. By telling me that it was too late, that the devil was already in me, she knocked an irrational fear of movies out of my head. Her surprise tactic was over the top, but I can't blame her; she was at the end of her rope. She tried to reason with me, but reasoning didn't work. A true scare proved to be exactly what I needed to snap my young mind back to reality.
     Now, as an adult, every once in a while I'm visited by a young girl's demon face in the middle of the night. I tense up and turn on the lights, but I do not cry. I usually take a moment, collect my thoughts, and smile. The devil is already in me. It's too late. I fall back to sleep with a clear mind, zero fear, and a knowing smile.

The Exorcist Poster C 27x40 Ellen Burstyn Linda Blair Jason Miller

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coffee Run Down (Short Story)

Copco 2510-9963 Acadia Reusable To-Go Mug, 16-Ounce Capacity
      I nodded off mid-sandwich during lunch. An unchewed bite sat in my mouth collecting spit. On the brink of dreams, my boss accosted me. The situation was far from urgent, a query letter needed to be proofread. I resumed chewing.
     “Please get it done right away,” he said. “It needs to be sent out by two.”
     I stopped chewing and started grinding my teeth.
     “No problem Don.”
     Scorn seeped through my false tone. I became cranky after a short-changed lunch break.
     Back at my cubicle - workstation zero - I rubbed two knuckles into my eyeballs. Intricate patterns and shapes formed in my brain. These phosphenes danced around in strobe then scurried off into oblivion. I longed for Lady Sleep. She had been an elusive bitch lately. Five nights running, she played keep-away with my dreams.
     She’ll get what’s coming to her tonight! I thought with a yawn, even if I have to beat the rest out of her! 
     Next door, in workstation one, Cindy answered a ringing telephone. She applied her usual flirtation techniques in order to gain an upper hand in the conversation. Without question, the caller was male.
     Cindy’s voice began to excite me as I made an attempt to proofread Don’s query letter. Thoughts swarmed through my mind, sexually explicit in nature. I shifted in my chair to hide excitement and elbowed my erection into submission. Moments later, Cindy ended her conversation with an emphatic smack down of her telephone receiver.
     I lost my train of thought.
     The query letter began to dull my senses. A headache struck without warning and my eyes crossed. I was run down. I rested my head on the desk and drifted off into space.
     I thought about getting work done. I thought about my bed and pillows back home. I thought about Cindy’s mouth. I thought about asking her to rub pepper in my asshole in order to jolt me awake. 

     Would a peppery asshole jolt someone awake? Sure! Could I smuggle a peppershaker into the men’s bathroom, undetected? Does the office kitchen even have a peppershaker? What other ways do tired coworkers cause much-needed jolts to their systems? 
     I awoke in a daze. Aleks, a male coworker one pay-grade above my own, snapped his fat fingers in my ear. He laughed with gusto, relishing the opportunity to rouse me from a slumber. I growled. Aleks continued snapping while suggesting a coffee run. It was an excellent suggestion. He elected me to go, another excellent suggestion. I leapt up from workstation zero and blinked my eyes in rapid succession.
     “Them Donuts makes a great cup of coffee,” I said.
     Aleks asked around the office to see if anyone else wanted in. Cindy shook her head no, as did others. In the end, it was just the two of us. I psyched myself up for the journey with a flurry of quick hops.
     “My treat, fuck-face.”
     “No, you paid last time.”
     Aleks fished through his wallet and handed over a five-dollar bill. I was spent, too tired to argue, so I palmed it. With another man’s money in my hand, I made my way to the exit.
     Outside, I inhaled deeply. I tricked myself into believing a scent from the salty sea wafted through the air. The scent was really a byproduct of my delirium, or the garbage dumpster. It was a dirty trick. Lady Sleep was playing the prankster again, releasing a waking-dream. 
     She will pay tonight! I swear it! 
     Them Donuts sat square in the middle of Calaca Plaza, a moderate sized shopping center across the street from my office building. I considered a jog. Dogging traffic would become my exercise for the day. Instead, I shuffled across the street like a sluggish oaf.
     Calaca plaza offered the quick and easy shopping experience. A Floppy’s Tacos drive-thru was located just left of Them Donuts, located to the right was Paulie’s Pizzeria. Paulie’s offered a decent Tortellini Alfredo and an outstanding meatball hero, but the owners were young Jewish Australians pretending to be Italian Catholics from Brooklyn; they were almost as delusional as my sleepless self. Other stores in the plaza included a disgusting Smithy’s Chicken Shack and a Head’s Up Smoke Shop, where I bought pineapple-flavored rolling papers from time to time. This time though, it was all about the coffee run.
     I noticed a green minivan idling out in front of Them Donuts. It took up four spaces, parked perpendicular to the proper way of parking. A bare-chested Mexican man circled the van. Tattoos decorated his body. A hefty Mexican woman followed his circular path, pleading for attention. I slowed my pace to assess the situation.
     “Carlos! Please! Give me back my glasses! I can’t see without them!” the woman cried. She followed with a few words of Spanish, which I did not understand.
     Carlos was holding a pair of eyeglasses in his right hand, playing keep-away, taunting the woman. The woman was not amused. She made lame attempts to steal the glasses back. Carlos ducked and dodged. He gazed at her with wild-eyes.
     “Please Carlos! Why are you doing this to me?”
     Carlos didn’t say a word. He showed his teeth in a snarl. The woman bawled in desperation. I passed by with my head down and entered Them Donuts.
     Four elderly gentlemen occupied the seating area inside the shop. They glanced at me casually. These gentlemen, who were usually immersed in multiple games of chess, were now distracted by another game – the game of keep-away outside. With the shop clerk nowhere to be found, I joined the four gentlemen as a spectator. We all leaned forward, attempting to eavesdrop through the window.
     Carlos, now stationary, was in the midst of a hushed soliloquy. The woman struggled to hold back sobs, breathing erratically, wiping her nose clean. She fidgeted while listening. It was obvious her one last shred of patience was about to be depleted, but she allowed Carlos his moment of speech.
     Carlos punctuated his final point with arms akimbo, head tilted to the heavens. He stayed in this pose for a moment, eyes shut, breathing deep. The woman began a retort. Carlos opened his eyes and nodded. He seemed to agree with whatever point she was making.
     On the sneak, the woman reached out in an attempt to steal the eyeglasses. Carlos performed an evasive action, then a spin move, and the woman failed to gain control. Furious, Carlos punched the minivan’s side panel and decided to resume the game of keep-away.
     The four gentlemen conferred with one another.
     “He’s drunk,” one gentleman said. “She’s doing the right thing by distracting him. She’s trying to keep him from driving that van.”
     Two gentlemen shook their heads up and down, grunting in agreement.
     The fourth gentleman disagreed.
     “I think he’s torturing her. It’s obvious she’s been unfaithful. She looks like the dishonest type.”
     Carlos and the woman continued their chase around the parking lot. They passed in front of Paulie’s Pizzeria. One of the young owners exited the pizza shop and threatened violence with a wooden baseball bat.
     “Eh! Not by my pizzeria!” the owner said in a mock Italian accent. “Take it a-somewheres else!”
     Carlos changed his course, heading toward Floppy’s Tacos.
     Inside Them Donuts, a television propped near the ceiling spewed information. The information was a breaking news story. A violent skirmish between Israel and Lebanon had escalated. Explosions and chaos filled the screen. People were hurt and dying. 
     The report distracted the four gentlemen’s attention away from Carlos and the woman.
     “It’s the goddamn end of the world!” one gentleman said. “I give us three weeks before we’re involved.”
     Everyone grumbled.
     “There’s no way we’ll enter unprovoked,” a second gentleman said. “Unless Iran and Syria step in, we’ll sit back and let them slug it out.”
     “I agree. Right now it’s a fair fight,” a third gentleman added.
     The fourth gentleman, without voicing an opinion, returned his attention outside.
     Carlos and the woman were speaking again, engaged in what seemed to be a healthy dialogue. Still though, Carlos remained tense and prepared for another sneak attack.
     Inside, behind the counter, the shop clerk emerged from a back room marked ‘employees only’, drying his hands with a towel. I approached.
     “How you doing?”
     “What’s up dog?”
     “Not much man.”
     We pounded our fists together in an urban greeting.
     “Damn tired today. You see the show going on outside?”
     “Yeah. They’ve been at it for a while now. What you need? A Boston Cream donut with sprinkles?”
     “Not today buddy. Today I need two extra large cups of coffee and one extra large cup of ice.”
     “You got it.”
     “Leave room for some French vanilla creamer too.”
     The clerk smacked his palm down against the counter and went to work. He brewed a new pot of sludge. I turned around to check on the game.
     Carlos entered the minivan and pushed the woman away with a stiff arm. He slammed the driver’s side door shut. The woman clawed at the window like a rodent digging for food.
     “Oh man,” one gentleman said. “He’s going to drive!”
     Everyone grumbled.
     “I hope he gets into a car accident,” a second gentleman said.
     “I hope he just kills himself though,” added a third.
     The fourth gentleman turned his attention to the television near the ceiling. A Lebanese diplomat declared war on Israel in front of the United Nations. Security-General Kofi Annan presided.
     Outside, Carlos sped off in the minivan. The woman failed to win her glasses back. She howled in agony. Her utter hopelessness seeped through the window glass and almost perked me up. I couldn’t help it. The situation was stimulating.
     Carlos turned the minivan into the Floppy’s Tacos drive-thru, heading in the wrong direction. He circled round the fast food chain four times. A bottle of beer replaced the glasses in his hand.
     “This is crazy. Somebody should stop him,” I said, contributing nothing to the situation.
     A brand new Lexus entered the Floppy’s Tacos drive-thru and met Carlos’s minivan head on. Carlos played a new game – a game of chicken. The Lexus swerved to avoid collision and lost; the driver was pollo. Carlos, victorious, gulped his beer in celebration. He turned his steering wheel to the right for another wrong-way pass around Floppy’s Tacos.
     I yawned. 
     Damn you Lady Sleep! Here I am watching pure excitement and debauchery, yet my mind is totally preoccupied with drowsiness. You’ll pay tonight for sure! 
     “Damn. That fool’s wasted!” the clerk said, placing my order down on the counter.
     I paid using Aleks’s five-dollar bill. The shop clerk produced two dollars change from the cash register then ventured over to the shop’s window for a better view of mayhem.
     I turned my back on the window. It was time for a ritual. I poured one coffee, my coffee, into a large cup of ice. The two substances mingled in a clash of opposing temperatures. They battled inside a Styrofoam cup, seeking to become the other’s usurper. Ice won out after an impressive debut by coffee. Next, I added French vanilla creamer to the mix. This neutralized both sides. Stirring the light-brown mixture with a wooden stick, all the cup’s contents soon became one. 
     On television, the Lebanese-Israeli conflict escalated. Many outside nations lent their opinions on the matter, failing to take concrete sides. With a fade out, large white text ushered in a commercial break. The letters were bold. The text read: WORLD WAR III? 
     Meanwhile, outside, a Calaca Plaza security guard attempted to flag down Carlos’s minivan. The guard had no such luck. Carlos challenged him to a game of chicken. The guard dove into a row of nearby bushes to avoid vehicular manslaughter. He was out of his element. He quit the game a rookie.
     Carlos’s woman waited patiently outside of Them Donuts for another turn at bat. Finally, she was up. Carlos sped past pointing at her with his index finger and his pinky, forming cursed bullhorns. The woman braced herself. Carlos let out a war cry and threw the eyeglasses, left-handed. They smacked against the donut shop’s window. Everyone inside, including myself, jumped on impact. The eyeglasses shattered. The woman collapsed in defeat. Carlos took a victory swig of beer and fled Calaca Plaza.
     The game was over. The four gentlemen returned to chess. I fastened my coffees into a cardboard cup holder and pounded fists with the shop clerk in an urban farewell.
     “Back to hell,” I quipped and exited the shop.
     Outside, I passed close to the woman as she collected the pieces of her broken glasses in solitude. It took every ounce of effort I could muster to avoid looking into her tear-soaked eyes.

     Crossing the street to return to my office building, I whistled a happy tune, anticipating my much-needed jolt of coffee.
     Ten feet away from my office building’s entrance, I spotted Carlos’s minivan. It was abandoned and idling a yellow loading zone. Terror struck. Carlos was nearby. I could feel it. A thought crossed my mind: Lady Sleep! Attacking with another waking-dream? Bad girl! 
     But, when I saw my fellow employees gathered by the break room window, I knew this was no dream. It was a harsh reality.
     A well-manicured holly bush rustled to my right as Carlos emerged. He lunged for my coffee cup holder and won it with ease. He held it over his head, taunting me with maniacal laughter. I looked to my fellow employees for support. None of them moved. Aleks turned away.
     “Carlos,” I pleaded. “I’m really tired and need that coffee to wake up! Please give it back! I’m desperate!”
     Carlos stared at me, wild-eyed. He didn’t say a word.
     “Why are you doing this to me?”
     Carlos showed his teeth in a snarl. My run down state, combined with the tattooed man’s menacing presence, caused me to weep. Instead of exerting myself, I shuffled away in defeat. The menace disappeared. Carlos was concerned.
     “Don’t go. We haven’t even negotiated yet,” he whispered. “You still have a chance to win.”
     I entered my office in silence, a loser, and joined my fellow employees at the break room window.
     Outside, Carlos deflated like a punctured basketball. He gawked at the ground, contemplating my early forfeit. He launched the cup holder at my office building with zero enthusiasm.
     The coffees, the ice, the French vanilla creamer, the Styrofoam cups, and the cardboard cup holder exploded against the break room window. The impact startled everyone, except me. We watched Carlos enter his minivan.
     The angry wail of police sirens gained strength in the distance. Carlos recognized the sound. His chest inflated and his menace returned. Grinding his teeth, Carlos opened a new beer bottle and sucked down a hefty gulp. He pressed down on his minivan’s horn, shifted into gear and sped off. The man was ready to meet the law head on.
     Inside, after a long moment of silence, Coworkers turned to look upon me, all except Aleks.
     I thought about the poor woman who had been victimized in the parking lot of Them Donuts. I thought about her broken eyeglasses and how I could have helped in some minor way. But I also realized our situations were completely different: her loss of object was singular; my loss of object was shared.
     “Why didn’t anyone help?” I asked.
     Coworkers turned away.
     “It was your coffee too,” I said to the back of Aleks’s head.
     Aleks turned to me and looked deep into my eyes.
    “It may have been my coffee, but it wasn’t my fight. Keep the change man. I owe you, next time.”
     Aleks walked away. Coworkers dispersed.
     Returning to workstation zero, I rubbed two knuckles into my eyeballs. Intricate shapes and patterns took the form of Carlos in my brain.
     Cindy, next door in workstation one, made a phone call to what I gathered was a female friend. She spun an exaggerated tale of exploding coffees, tattooed men, and minivans. She included me in the yarn as well, but excluded my real name. Instead, Cindy called me frail.
     I finished proofreading Don’s query letter by two o’clock and he let me go early with a pat on the back.
     “Chalk it up to exhaustion, buddy,” the boss said of my short day.
     I nodded and gathered my belongings in a hurry.
     While driving home the usual route, I fantasized about the due rest to come.

     Sleep will be so nice. Today was such a horror. Sleep will be precisely what will get me through tomorrow. 
     Nothing new transpired at bedtime. Lady Sleep played keep-away with my dreams.