December 20, 2010
And have a Geeky New Year! Pick up 1 or 100 copies for all your pals.
And have a Geeky New Year! Pick up 1 or 100 copies for all your pals.
If you’re coming here for my top 10 movies of the year or my 50 favorite disco singles, I’m afraid I’m aiming to disappoint. Those lists are fun and everything, but I really can’t find it in myself to declare Furry Vengence the 9th finest cinematic experience of 2010, even though after doing all the calculations and checking the denominators and all that jazz, it appears to be true. Instead, I leave you with a miscellany of highlights from this “year we made contact.”
MY FAVORITE QUOTE: While sharing a cab one morning with a woman she didn’t know (you’d have to live in Hoboken, NJ to understand that’s just how things usually work out), my wife heard the quote of the year. It doesn’t really stand on its own like some Oscar Wilde quip, but there’s a certain magic to it. Looking out of the window of the cab, the woman sighed, motioned to a city worker who was emptying a trash can, and said, “That guy must have such an easy life.” Now there’s a chance that this woman had some insider information about the fellow, like she knew he’d recently hit the Powerball or scored the role of the villain in the The Dark Knight Rises or some such, but my wife didn’t catch that vibe. No, this woman had more of a “poor me, sitting in a cab, trying not to be late for a morning webinar with Tony from PR to discuss the importance of Twitter in the pet insurance industry, while this simpleton empties trash cans and whistles his day away before returning to his filthy hovel for a can of Spam and a hearty round of laughs compliments of America’s Funniest Home Videos,” sort of stink about her. Grass is always greener, indeed. I don’t know who this woman was, but my hat goes off to her and her wholly insular view of the world. My second favorite quote comes from a stranger who randomly asked me and friend the following: “Hey, you guys happen to be T-shirt enthusiasts?” Our response: “We wear T-shirts.” His follow-up: “Well, I’m a T-shirt enthusiast.” End of conversation.
THE HARSHEST CELEBRITY BRUSH-OFF: Celebrities don’t care much for me. I present, as proof, my following dust-ups with some high wattage stars. The comedian Dave Attell once blew me off when I approached him in a falafel restaurant and politely gave him unsolicited advice on how to make his TV show infinitely better. Bobcat Goldthwait, the MVP of many a Police Academy film, gave me the stink-eye when I nearly ran my shopping cart into his one snowy Christmas Eve in an empty suburban grocery store. And now, just a few days ago, I was rebuffed by a certain actor who was standing at a bar after a concert, patiently waiting for the barkeep to tender him a drink. He plays an iconic television character, so I tried to be smooth in my attempt to chat him up. “Let us get you a drink ____” I told him, using his actual first name, rather than his character’s name, which I’m sure he hears more often than not. He glanced at me and my wife, pivoted around on his heel, and walked away without saying a word. I keep his identity a secret for the purposes of guessing games and anonymity, because I assume he was just shy and it wasn’t because I reeked of, I don’t know, seaweed and cheese or anything.
THE FINEST STRETCH OF ROADKILL When traveling through New Zealand a few years back, my then-girlfriend-now-wife and I played a game of our own creation called Stoat/Possum. The country is just lousy with stoats (a relative of the weasel) and possums (not this kind, but this kind) and they make up the majority of the roadkill (aside from the hobbits). So when you’re driving along and see a lump of fur on the pavement, the fun thing to do is to yell out either “STOAT!” or “POSSUM!” in a booming Orson Welles voice. No need to keep score. It’s simply good times for the whole family. Driving to see relatives this year, I came across a fair bit of roadkill. The standard raccoons and deer, the occasional skunk or groundhog. A mattress. But on one trip, I scored an amazing quadrella. I’ll break it down for you in order of impressiveness. #1. A coyote, which isn’t all that rare. #2. A fox. That’s right, the proverbial sly fox. Sure, you don’t write home about a fox being roadkill, but then, what sicko writes home about any roadkill? Take it from me. It’s a bit rare. #3. A porcupine. Now you’re getting interested. You’re imagining what it might be like to roll into a Firestone Auto Center with a porcupine sticking out of your rear tire. This is becoming quite an impressive checklist. Add to that: #4. A bear. That’s right. A big old black bear. I don’t believe I’d ever seen a bear as roadkill before that day, and certainly not on the same stretch of road as a coyote, a fox, and a porcupine. I was lucky indeed. It was like some A.A. Milne novel had gotten way out of hand, and I was there for the glorious and gory catharsis.
THE MOST POPULAR PAGE ON MY WEBSITE: By far, it’s a little blog entry I did titled “Five Animals that are Uglier than Zac Efron.” It probably accounts for 90% of this site’s search engine traffic and I’m sure it leaves plenty of girls shaking their fists in anger. Even a few have left comments, including my favorite: “he is hotter than everyone who posted this website.” Everyone who posted this website is just me, Lauren, and I resent what you’ve said. After all, have you even seen me in a pink bunny suit? I’m not sure what Efron has done in the last year other than comb his hair a lot, but his fanbase is going strong, and according to my site stats, they’re entering things like, “animals, not zac efron,” “zac efron is pregnet” and “zac efron clever?” into Google, then stopping in here for a visit. Jeff Kay, who runs the fantastic West Virginia Surf Report linked to the Efron piece and brought in boatloads of traffic as well. In the spirit of the season, I feel I should return the favor. His site is a daily read for me, and should be for you. My favorite of his writings might not be his most celebrated, but heck, it gets me every time, and it’s about something as universal as Scandinavian healthcare. It’s an old gem titled “Sleep is Creepy.” Read it, and rest easy tonight, folks.
So Mikey Cunningham of The Hours fame was judging the NPR 3-Minute Fiction contest a couple months back. The rules were simple. Start a story with the line, “Some people swore that the house was haunted,” and end it with the line, “Nothing was ever the same again after that.” Don’t exceed 600 words and if you win, your entry will be read aloud the FM radio! Like Little Orphan Annie!
I entered a subtle little tale of teenage machismo and abandoned farmhouses. And guess what? Mikey didn’t like it. I lost. Actually, I’ll give myself some credit. I’m pretty sure I just missed the cut of the top 25 runners-up. That fact isn’t exactly confirmed by Carl Kasell, but I’m going to operate under the notion. And if 27th is good enough for the Maldives, then it’s good enough for me.
I thought of tucking the story away in a drawer and pulling it out on rainy Sundays to provide myself with a good windowsill weep, because what else am I gonna do, send it to the Paris Review? Postage to France is expensive! Then I remembered I have a blog and so I might as well share it in the style that is popular with the youth of today. That is, blogically (check Urban Dictionary for me, cause that’s gotta be something the kids say). So here you go. A very short story.
Oh yeah, and after reading it, read this real life tale that was uncovered a few weeks after my fictional one hit the bottom of Ira Glass’s trash can. Disturbing and creepy to say the least.
Some people swore that the house was haunted. Mark thought haunted wouldn’t fly. Poltergeists were subtle, and the time for subtle had passed. We needed raving. Bleeding. A sweaty lunatic with a painty maul.
Kelly had a girl’s name, but he insisted that back when men were men, they were called Kelly. Lesley. Marion.
“Sue?” asked Mark.
“Sure. Song about it, isn’t there?”
I drove. Always. Hand on the tuner. In search of night music. Not dark exactly, but something that stalked.
“This works,” Mark said.
“Whatever.” Kelly rolled down the window and I could smell the stuff they sprayed to kill mosquitoes. It was a summer of puddles, the summer that was supposed to matter.
We pulled up, noticed that Byron’s place had nylon siding and a sofa on the porch.
“Making crystal in the bathtub, I bet.”
I shook my head, but Mark probably wasn’t far off. I poked the horn, just enough to announce our presence.
Byron was out immediately, screen door snapping behind him. Kelly ducked down to hide his face and I motioned to the back seat.
We’d gone about half a mile when Byron acknowledged it was Kelly sitting shotgun. “Not hittin’ that party, are we?”
“Bingo.” Mark was enjoying this all too much.
“You gonna shoot me? Drop me in a ditch?”
“Something like that.”
It still puzzles me. Why accept the ride in the first place? He knew our loyalties.
Kelly finally said something. “No one’s gonna kill you.”
“Should I even try to mount a defense?”
“Ever been to the old Covington farm?” I asked.
“Sure. Empty silo. Good for acoustics.”
“James Taylor of Jersey?” Mark teased. “Girls find them romantic? Silos?”
“We never did anything. But that doesn’t matter, does it?”
It didn’t. Not now. “Know the story of the Covingtons?” I asked.
“Farmers. Long time ago. What’s to know?”
“Pig farmers. Kids were probably eight and ten when they were killed in a car accident. Dad was driving. Mom had distracted him. People thought the pair would turn to booze. They didn’t. They just stopped. Everything. Went down to the cellar, closed the door. Pigs slowly starved. Some went cannibal. When relatives showed up, they found a farm littered with carcasses. They opened the cellar—”
“—and found farmer and wife dead, still holding hands,” Byron said. “I’ve heard this type of story before.”
As the road switched from asphalt to gravel, I thought of campfires.
“That’s not it at all,” I told him. “They found them alive, but only barely. They’d chained themselves to pipes, so even if they wanted to escape, they couldn’t. And they couldn’t hold hands cause they made sure the chains were just short enough so they couldn’t touch. Punishment, I guess.”
Hanging branches swatted at the windshield. We were close.
Kelly stayed in the car. Said this was never his idea. “Friends are there to do the things you can’t,” Mark told him more than once.
Had Byron made a run for it, this would have been the moment. But he’d seen Mark in Gym. Knew what those legs were capable of. I was in front. In back, Mark, wearing the chain like a boxer’s belt. He gave it a shake, a ghostly rattle.
“Sue in there?”
“Jesus, no,” Mark said. “Think we’d do this to a girl?”
“Thought you’d be faithful to the story.”
I opened the front door. Glass and cheap ceramics decorated the floor. This is where kids came to break things. I flicked on my headlamp and stepped inside.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.