Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crab Walk

People win medals and awards for walking across the country. This may seem like a great distance, but I’m here to tell you the longest journey a single person can take is from the crab lice remedy section of the drugstore up to the cashier. And then, should there be a line, navigating it will feel even twice the unbearable eternity. Especially with people glancing at the product in your hands and doing their best to put some distance between you.

My first encounter (one of only two, I hasten to add) with the flesh-hungry critters was simply insult to injury, given that I got them off someone’s couch and didn’t even get to do the nasty. I was either 17 or 18 and my sexuality was stuck in some peculiar, no-man’s-land of denial I can barely access today. I remember the facts, I remember the behavior, but I just can’t remember how it all connected. I’d been getting it on with guys for half a decade, but I always rationalized it away and couldn’t bring myself to use the G-word because I didn’t act or dress like the swishy guys on TV. My access to information was nil and the scrambled signals in my brain had me convinced I’d been getting it on with guys as a means of release, simply because I hadn’t met the right girl. Of course my efforts at locating said girl came to nothing, whereas my attempts to seduce guys were as complex as a Rube Goldberg cartoon, not that my brain ever noticed.

My friend Richard used to tell me stories about a gay guy he worked with. “Billy passed a Perrier bottle today and broke the men’s toilet.” So I started dropping by the photo lab where Richard worked, ostensibly for a visit, but mainly in hopes of getting a glimpse of this guy who liked penises. Not, of course, that I liked them, but was merely familiar with how they operated in the sack when the right girl wasn’t around.

At that point, taste didn’t enter the picture. No, wait, that’s probably not the word I should be using, given the subject matter. Aesthetics, yes, that’s it, aesthetics didn’t enter the picture. Pretty much any guy, no matter what he looked like, would do in that he was life support for a tallywhacker. Today I would consider Billy an overly-processed freak, meaning he was pretty average for the late seventies.

Most of my usual contacts were starting to wise up to the fact that there was a word for what we’d been doing together and they didn’t want to be one, a conclusion utterly lost on me. I think it was easier for me to envision that, while there was a word for that, I wasn’t one, so therefore I could go on engaging in the behavior. Like I said, my reasoning was short-circuited when it came to this particular topic. So I figured I could get it on with this Billy and I’d ignore the fact that he was one of those and we’d both go home happy.

I managed to pry Billy’s last name from Richard and waited until my parents weren’t home. I looked up his number in the phone book and rang him up.

Note: This is the LAST thing you should ever do if you are conflicted and trying to land a gay encounter:

“HI THERE!” I screamed, suddenly evoking a lisp and speaking like the worst stereotype imaginable. “IS THITH BILLY?”
“Who is this?”
I would have hung up.
“Really, who is this?”
“Okay, Bruce, what is this about?”
“Well if you’ve seen me around isn’t it fucking obvious?”
“So what’s your story?”
“Are you gay, too? You sound it. Although in an entirely fake kind of way.”

So I reverted to my normal voice and explained, ha ha, I was a friend of Richard’s and was just playing a joke.

“You still didn’t answer my question.”

Silence for a bit and then a little light began to shine on the darkened parts of my brain.

“I don’t know.”

I explained how I was still in high school and had done stuff but didn’t think I was gay.

“Do you want to come over and talk about it?”

I did.

I drove to his place, sat down, and talked. And talked. Many, many questions were answered that afternoon. He didn’t make a move on me, but I was damn sure about to make one on him.

The phone rang. It was a very recent ex, wanting to know if he could come over and try talking things out. “You should go,” Billy explained. “It wouldn’t look good if he showed up and you were here.” I hugged him goodbye and thanked him for the chat, which really undid a lot of the knots into which my reasoning ability was tied.

This sensitive, Lifetime Movie of the Week moment, however, was marred by the fact THAT I LEFT HIS APARTMENT WITH MOTHERFUCKING CRABS!

I noticed an itch around my groin a few days later. It got worse and worse. Dinner with the parents became an ordeal, as it was a half hour I had to hide my discomfort, my legs squirming and rubbing together under the table in such a way that my upper body didn’t give away the game. After supper, I ran to the bathroom, yanked down my pants and finally saw them. Tiny insect-like beings, scampering around in my pubes like kids at a playground.

I freaked right the fuck out. I had heard of crabs, but it was not the sort of thing about which my Christian school was going to provide any useful information. I truly thought this was the exact same thing as an STD and I was going to have it forever and ever, amen.

I came so close to calling my older brother and telling him everything, just to find out what the fuck I should do. I had the phone in my hands at one point. But instead I decided that further information might be prudent.

I called my friend Richard. “Ha ha,” I laughed. “Have you ever heard of this thing called crabs?”
“Sure,” he said. “There’s a foolproof cure.”
“Really?” I asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
“You mix one part turpentine to two parts gasoline, then pour the mixture over the affected area.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. Then you drop a lit match on it and when they come running out of the blaze you stab ‘em with a fork.”

I decided to do some experimenting on my own. I experimented with various products under the sink. The first was my dad’s cologne. I was immediately caught out on using his stuff without permission, but thankfully no one noticed it was emanating from my crotch. I tried zit cream, hair tonic, toothpaste, Preparation H, baby oil, mercurochrome (which did nothing for the infestation situation but left my dick a jaunty shade of orange,) smelling salts ; the entire contents of the medicine cabinet and family first aid kit.

But then I found the magic substance. Desenex foot powder. Worked like a charm. I kept the application up for several days and dead larvae began dropping off my bush so fast that wherever I walked I left a trail of dead crustaceans in my wake. Important consumer tip here: should you find yourself in this mortifying situation, buy yourself some Desenex foot powder and apply liberally until the critters are dead. Better your fellow drugstore patrons think you have athlete’s feet than the actual state of affairs.

But I got off easy. Someone told me of their friend, who after bathing saw a crab louse in the tub. They freaked, made a doctor’s appointment, explained their recent sexual history, got a prescription filled and paid for it, then went back home and checked the tub.

It was a sesame seed.

A Visit To The Creation Museum

My friend Joe worked at a science museum and his idea of hell on earth was on the days when the home-schoolers would show up. He'd be midway through his standard, science-based presentation, when some fundy in a housedress would shout "Joe, Joe!" (The written word is simply not capable of replicating his hysterical impersonation of a midwestern, Christ-crazed, self-appointed educator shouting the phonetic equivalent of "Jow! Jow!" but I'll try.)

"I think there's another approach here you're not considering!"

Joe, having undergone this horrid scene so many times before, in the interest in keeping a job, played ignorant. "Which one is that?"

"The Holy Bible speaks of a seven day creation. Never mind your fossils and carbon-14 dating; the lord God created the earth in seven days."

Joe did his best to be diplomatic. "Yes. Another viewpoint. Yes. But as scientists..."

"Jow! Jow! You know that scientists are godless!"

Then why the hell would you bring your kids to a science museum, Joe invariably thought, each and every time.

In 2007, Australian non-scientist (a dingo ate your facts) Ken Ham opened the Creationist Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Because, really, where the hell else would this thing ever play?

Jow, I mean, Joe, told me we had to go and see this thing. I told him I grew up with this line of crap and didn't need to explore it further. He said he would buy me some waffles on the way back so I signed on for the trip to the Creation Museum.

We arrived and the parking lot was full of church busses instead of research scientists. There's a surprise.

The line to pay your way in was ghastly. It took forever. The place is an absolute cash cow, as there are no small numbers of people who want their faith to be validated like parking tickets.

Joe and I finally made it in to, not the museum proper, but yet another holding area which featured animatronic dinosaurs and people cohabitating together:

Because man roamed the earth with the dinosaurs at precisely the moment they discovered cotton-polyster blends. But still, all this seemed familiar, and it suddenly hit me just where Ken Ham got his facts:

After an hour wait, Joe and I made our way in and were herded into a multimedia show in sensurround (some thirty years after Earthquake) but The Creation Museum insisted this was state-of-the-art, where two angels prattled on about godless science while watery mist sprayed in our faces. Then we were free to check out the museum.

Pretty much what you'd expect. Exhibit after exhibit proclaiming the long-disproven moth argument, the usual carbon-14 is crap because it doesn't work on living things line of thinking (never mind that it was never designed for that purpose in the first place) and the usual fundy evolution-is-a-lie-despite-all-evidence-and-scientific-consensus claptrap. This is what I was expecting. This is what I could have lived with.

But then suddenly, this so-called 'museum' turned into something else entirely. You go into this cavern, and come out the other side in a mock-up of a residential neighborhood. You're invited to peer in the windows and see the sins of the neighbors played out before you. A man is drinking. A woman is cheating on her husband. Teenagers are looking at porn on the internet.

"Let me get this straight," I said aloud among the Christians.

Joe bolted. He knew what was coming and didn't want to be around for it.

I continued to bray, loudly, surrounded by the Evangelical Right. "So it's absolutely wrong for these boys to be looking at internet porn, but as long as we're here to point the finger and go shame, shame, it's perfectly okay for us to be taking on the Peeping Tom role and staring through their windows. So I can go back home and stalk my neighbors as long as I am morally superior. That's fine, right?"

The people in this particular exhibit wanted to see more sin and did not care for my calling them on it. "I'll pray for you!" one of them shouted.

"No, you're staring in strangers' windows and feeling better about yourself for it," I said. "I don't really think Christ died on the cross so you can do that without guilt."

There was some loudly spoken talk about calling security, so I left the sin exhibit and managed to find Joe taking pictures of "proof" the earth was only six thousand years old.

"We probably ought to leave soon," I said.

He did buy me some waffles on the way home. I love Jow.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

When The Light Comes On The Chicken Dances

It's hard to get solid information when it comes to a dancing chicken. Harder still when it comes to a piano-playing chicken.

When I vacationed throughout the south with my parents as a small child I saw numerous fair exhibits involving animals in small cages where, if you put a quarter in the slot, the animal would perform a tiny vaudeville act just for you. Put a quarter in the box, and a squirrel suddenly shoots out of a box overhead and rides a tiny bicycle on a tightrope stretching from one end of the tent to the other and back again. But my favorite was the piano-playing chicken. You'd put a quarter in the slot, a light bulb would come on and the chicken would hop up on a toy piano and dance across the keyboard, playing a random cacophonous non-tune with its feet. The only Google results I've seen show pictures of chickens pecking at the keys with their beaks; the explanation being that if the chicken hits the right keys in the right sequence a handful of chicken feed will come cascading out of the piano at the finish.

These explanations are far more humane than what I remembered. My dad explained that, when the light came on, the chicken had a few seconds to hop up on the piano before the floor became electrified. Same with the squirrel. It did it's thing or got the crap shocked out of it. They're probably doing the same thing with Justin Bieber.

But the title here is a Spookshow In Your Pants song, a slightly different version once known as 'Crashing'. Click on the above title to have a listen.

Creature Feature Cards

In 1973 the Topps bubble gum company released a set of trading cards called Creature Feature consisting of horror movie stills with funny (or at least seemingly so to twelve-year-olds)
captions beneath. The one pictured above was the Rosetta Stone of my childhood.

My friend Mark Maynard had it and we thought it was just about the funniest thing we'd ever laid eyes on. Frankenstein coming out of the bathroom! HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA! Trouble is, Mark had it and I didn't. I chewed my way through hundreds of crunchy, flat, pink gum sticks and had a whole shoebox full of the damn cards but the elusive Frankenstein taking a shit never materialized.

I became a bubble gum junkie, spending my entire allowance and grass-cutting money on stacks of Creature Feature trading cards. I'd tear through the wrappers like it was Christmas morning, quickly scanning the cards and reaching for the next one in the pile. Creature From the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Phibes, Wolfman...no Frankenstein. Dracula, Mummy, Price from the Wax Museum, Frankenstein!!! No wait, this was one of the boring ones and not the one where he needs toilet paper. Drat! (I wasn't much good at cursing in those days but like to think I've made up for lost time.)

So it went for an entire summer. I never found the object of my desire; a pattern I'm clearly doomed to repeat. I can't help but feel if I'd only latched onto that picture of Frankenstein life would have turned out ever so much better.

You can re-connect with your inner grade-schooler and view the entire series of cards here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

AIDS Before Beauty

Glen and I began having regular sex in junior high school, although we were not queer. We just liked the feel of a dick in our mouths. I, perhaps, was more on board with this than he, since I liked the idea of penis flavor and quickly learned to dislocate my jaw like a python, whereas Glen had to have my erection coated in Avon strawberry lip gloss in order to keep from gagging. It's not that I was big; I just didn't bathe that often. But the strawberry smell brings back memories. To this day I cannot order shortcake at Bob Evans without getting half a boner.

We attended the same, private, Christian school, which perhaps would explain our insane, at-the-time, denial. You were not allowed to be homosexual. There was nothing in the rule book saying you couldn't have a dick shoved halfway down your throat, you just weren't allowed to be gay. Since we didn't speak with a lisp and run an antique store, clearly, we were not.

After graduating we kind of got what was really going on, which was problematic for Glen because he had a fiancee named Penny who collected glass unicorns. If giving me head didn't switch him, I imagine this would have, all on its own. But he also had a boyfriend named Billy, at the same time, he would sneak into his bedroom window every night while still living with his parents. Glen was either insane or daring; I'm not sure which.

I felt sorry for Penny and begged Glen to just cut her loose, but he wouldn't. No doubt she began to suspect, as she would call me in the middle of the night and ask me, her whiny, West Virginia accent pleading over the phone lines, "Tell me! Is Glen Allen gay?" My loyalty was with my friend so I'd pretend to be half asleep, as if that were not the one question that would instantly jolt me awake, and mumble "What? Huh? Are you insane?" She was, pretty much, but she'd nailed the gay thing nonetheless.

Some time later I met Tor. He was exactly what I wanted in anyone, except for one thing: He wasn't into me in the slightest. He tried, but no. I just didn't do it for him. When I look in the mirror I understand completely.
Glen knew how badly I had it for Tor so hid the fact that he and Tor were hitting it off famously. "I've been hanging out with Tor lately," Glen said, as though their shared interest in horror movies was where it ended. "He's nice."

"He's so much more than nice," I said.

"Really?" Glen asked, as though this were news.

I found out they were lovers, the late-eighties way of saying boyfriends, when they moved in together. Glen had created a sculpture, an H. R. Geiger rip-off I loved despite the fact it was total plaigarism, he promised I could have. But he told me Tor wanted it so therefore I couldn't have it. It was then I began to suspect that the person I'd always considered my best friend was now fucking what he knew to be the one person I wanted most.

Glen, the slut, was now in love. With Tor.

What the hell. I could kick them both to the curb and what would I be left with? No best friend and no one true love of my life. I also understood the one true love of my life was simply that because he was clearly best friend material wrapped in a hot, long-haired body. Tor understood me, perhaps even better than Glen ever did. What's not to love about someone who gets you? While it is well within the scope of my personality to be the world's most jealous prick, there was something about the Glen and Tor combination that made perfect sense. Tor wasn't into me, so his being into my best friend was a close second. I was somehow able to let it go. (This would not happen later, when he fucked my ex and then married a woman I'd introduced him to; a clear theme developing along the lines of anyone in my sphere of influence is somehow profoundly attractive to him except for motherfucking me.) The idea of Glen and Tor, though, became a good thing.

It would have stayed a good thing, a happy thing, were it not for the fact that in between Billy the boyfriend and Tor the true love, Glen went boy crazy and racked up numbers instead of emotion. He also racked up a little virus called HIV.

Although I loved him, Glen was a lying bastard and did not tell me about this when he knew. He grabbed my hand and pressed it against the back of his skull. "Feel that?" he asked, sobbing, "It's a lump. Brain cancer." This was his way of telling me he was HIV postive in the same way we used to suck each other's crank and not be gay. I was too stupid to get the message.

"Well, at least you don't have AIDS," I said. I might as well have been telling coon jokes on Martin Luther King Day.

I was spending the weekend with Glen and Tor when I found out what was really going on. Glen's temperature shot into the stratospheres and he was rushed to the hospital. "We found out," Tor said, "that Glen is HIV positive."

I did not cry. Apparently one thing I can do, despite all my other dysfunction, is pretend to be normal in a crisis situation. I went to the hospital and strolled the corridors, a pensive look on my face, as if that were enough to change everything. It must have been, as a month later Glen was just fine.

"You really scared me," I said.
"You scare me just by virtue of you being you," he said in the West Virginia accent I'd managed to shake but he couldn't get past.

So everything was ok. Until the next time. Once more Glen was in the hospital.

A month later we were at a Laurie Anderson concert. This is the way it went: he'd get sick, then get better, then get sick again. Sick of course meant that he was in the hospital and just might die.

He was there again, so bad his parents were in the hospital room. This terrified me, as I couldn't help but feel if I weren't the first guy to ask if I could jack him off he might not be in this ugly situation. Being held captive in a trailer surrounded by glass unicorns would certainly be its own private hell, but come on. Mortification is worlds better than a homo handjob pointing the way toward death. I was sure that his parents somehow sensed this and blamed me.
Glen's pain was so intense the hospital had fed him with Demerol. It caused him to hallucinate. He held out an invisible, ceramic bowl to his father. "Here, I made you some soup."

Glen's father was in the med corps in the Korean War. "That's Demerol," he said. His mother continued to glare at me as though I had purposefully injected her son with a deadly virus.

They understood that Tor took care of Glen in between the times it was necessary, when there was no other option, for him to become hospitalized. While never, ever, mentioning it aloud, they knew that Tor had cleaned up when Glen had shit the bed or vomited all over himself. They gave him a break. I did not fare so well. "Hello, Dan," Glen's mother said, her look and tone of voice effectively communicating "Spread any death around, lately?"

They left and Tor and I were in the room alone with Glen. "I'm cold," he said, so we moved to reposition the sheets. "I'd like to go to the bathroom, but I can't. There are moles in there."

We looked at one another and turned our heads to keep from laughing. Because when your boyfriend and a guy you've known since junior high is raving about rodents in the bathroom due to a fatal illness, you're not supposed to laugh. But oh god. It was so fucking funny. Moles, of all things.

"Moles," Glen explained, a month later when he was better. "Russian spies. I thought that they were in the bathroom, keeping watch and reporting back to the Kremlin." That Glen could remember his hallucinating state of mind when he was so close to death was amazing.

My phone rang, later. It was Glen, saying his last goodbyes without a trace of sarcasm. That he was not making jokes had me truly frightened. My friend Lola called next, saying she would drive from Columbus to Cincinnati and pick me up, then take me back there, so I could see Glen. It is odd the things you remember in a time like this. I started reading a new Rolling Stone that had an interview with the so-called comedian, Carrot Top. It described how, ew, in all his college appearances some girl will always try to seduce him. "I will not fuck you, Carrot Top," the article claimed the girl said. Yet she did. This was what I was reading when the phone rang again.

It was Glen's mom, who had always hated me. She was in tears, explaining how Glen had called her and was saying his last goodbyes. I told her how he had done the same thing with me. She kept crying and I had nothing to say to console her. What could I possibly offer? Your son was a man whore and brought it on himself?
Goddamn motherfucker. A month later he was fine. He and Tor and I were smoking dope and lauging about the whole thing. "You mean my mother actually called you?" he chortled. "What did you two say?"

"We talked about cross-stitch patterns, Jesus Christ and the fact that you were dying," I said. "Then I placed an order for Avon strawberry lip gloss."
Tor called me some weeks later. Glen was sick again, but I was done. I was tired of jumping up and rushing across the state just so he'd be back to normal in a week or two. So I didn't go. I spent the weekend curled inside a pot pipe.
Tor called again. "He's gone," he said, his voice breaking. "Glen died this morning."

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

It was horrible. Glen had been on a respirator, unable to breathe properly on his own. He signaled for pen and paper, scrawling TAKE TUBE OUT NOW. "No," said Tor, "if I do that you will die." Glen pointedly stabbed at the note with his finger, getting the point across. Tor didn't do it. I couldn't have either. I could do it for a cat with liver disease but not my best friend.

Some months prior, Tor heard a loud crash from Glen's bedroom and had ran upstairs. He found Glen, who had been trying to make it to the bathroom on his own but too weak to do so, sprawled across the floor with explosive diarrhea everywere. As Tor cradled him in his arms, wiping him clean, Glen said, "I thought we said we'd never let it come to this."

"I must have been lying. Because I love you."

P.S. Tor finally gave me the goddamn sculpture.

I Gotta Come Clean

There's a reason I did a cover of Debbie Reynolds' Tammy. I'm tired of hiding it so click on this or this to find the real tale.

Man, I miss my football days. And my freaking kidney.

Oh wait, I forgot. I'm dead.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Wasp Woman

Roger Corman made a movie in 1960 called The Wasp Woman about a cosmetics magnate with an insane quest for eternal youth. She couples up with a crazed, beekeeping scientist who claims injecting her with royal jelly from his special wasps will do the trick. (Of course, in real life, only bees secrete this substance--wasps do not--but scientific accuracy was never the hallmark of anything Corman put out.) It does indeed restore her beauty, but has the unfortunate side effect of causing her to transform into a murderous wasp-lady.

Upon seeing this, like anyone, my very first thought was Why not set it to music?

So I put together what was essentially an EP of music inspired by this really lame film. When all was said and done I didn't much care for it. It was during the phase where I wanted to take the generic samples that came with the Acid sequencing program and try to transcend the fact that a kerjillion other people were using them by tweaking the actual song structure and come up with something different. I don't know if I succeeded or not, but the end results left me less than satisfied. Funny thing, time, in that in the here and now I don't mind it so much. If I remove myself from the process and just listen to it as music instead of a grand experiment I'm not quite so repulsed. I used a couple of these things in other projects, but here, for the first time in public, is the original sequence as it was originally designed:

Click on the titles in order to hear the mini-concept-cycle as God and myself intended:

1) Infestation

2) I Am The Wasp Woman

3) Some Days Just Get Shittier (Parts 1 and 2)

4) Wish Things Were Different

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Horror Haiku

Leatherface is pissed.
Hippies in a goddamn van.
Please kill Franklin first.

Teen kids having sex.
Jason shows up and snuffs them.
Christ, not another.

Michael Caine in drag.
Angie is no Janet Leigh.
Brian thinks he's Hitch.

Woman blows her lunch
and all her organs as well.
Fulci was a god.

Here comes crazy Jack.
Axe busting up the hotel.
The book was better.

Theatre of Blood.
Robert Morley has some dogs.
Hello, Rip Taylor.

David Naughton shifts.
Latex snout stretching to there.
I'm a Pepper, too.

Michael Landon shifts.
It's still ten times better than
Touched By An Angel.

Boy causes much death.
They say he's the antichrist.
You know kids today.

The mines aren't real safe.
Pickaxe through your fucking head.
Sing O Canada.

Look at Miss Kinski.
Even as a cat she's hot.
Wish I was some yarn.

Geek buys a damn car.
You would think they were screwing.
Folks die; roll credits.

Got bugs, Mr. Pratt?
Tell it to call you Billie.
The sequel so sucked.

Cabin plagued by ghosts.
Scary stuff keeps happening.
God bless Steadicam.

I see dead people
and a stunning twist ending.
Thank you, O. Henry.

Ape on twin towers.
It's even scarier now.
Thanks heaps, Al Queda.

Flies on the drywall.
Pig's eyes at the window frame.
Oh, sure, it's all true.

Saw off your damn foot.
You do that, underwear boy.
Once more with feeling.

Copperfield on train.
Jamie Lee, scared, shits herself
sans Activia.

There she is again.
To The Devil A Daughter.
Wish I was some yarn.

College kids with dough.
Ninety minutes of some twigs.
You call this scary?

Boy meets rabid dog.
Years later he's in leather.
Who's the fucking boss?

Cabin still haunted.
Plates smashing on a guy's head.
My god, it's Curly.

Legend of Hell House.
Is "Roddy McDowell" a
slang term for penis?

Little folks in jars.
How's this mesh with Frankenstein?
Fag director.

Kid kills some adults.
Halloween, or any day,
I can so relate.

Dead kid at seance.
George C. Scott cries yet again.
Is that all he does?

Penmanship medal.
Shoes in incenerator.
I dated that girl.

Ballet school mayhem.
Colors bleed off the screen.
Goddamn genius wop.

Little girl is nuts.
Forced cunnilingus with mom.
Pea soup, anyone?

Repo is awesome.
The soundtrack just kicks, brother.
Paul Sorvino? What?

Norman Bates back home.
People die again; surprise.
Whore, whore, whore, whore, whore.

Drill bit through ceiling.
Blood showers down like crazy.
Nope, still not Hitchcock.

A teenage vampire.
Emo kids all want him bad.
Sound familiar, Keefer?

Children of the Corn.
Thomas Tyron's Harvest Home.
It's plagiarism.

The dead like shopping.
I guess it's force of habit.
3M blood films well.

Jigsaw and puzzles.
Bet it wouldn't work without
post-production shit.

The shark is hungry.
Quint is awfully surly.
Here comes Schindler's List.

Woman from the well.
I've never been so frightened.
I rike this movie.

Snails, snails, snails, snails, snails.
Snails, snails, snails, snails, snails, snails, snails.
Midgets are creepy.

Girl gets sodomized
by an invisible ghost.
I should have her luck.

Wait for the action.
Keep waiting, it might happen.
It's a Hammer film.

Zombies moving fast.
Digitally speeded up.
Keystone fucking cops.

Some kids overseas.
Achille's heel gets severed.
Ouch, that's gotta smart.

They remade Chainsaw.
Studs instead of hippie boys.
Glad to watch them die.


Another oldie from back in the "Clunky Drum Machine" phase of Spookshow In Your Pants. I like the song, but the drums were at their clunkiest on this one. Click on the title to listen or save.

Gimme That Old Time Religion

My plea, sincerely, to the Motion Picture Association Ratings board, who in the seventies rated Jesus Christ Superstar, with its gory finale of a man being nailed through his palms, G, for general audiences, but in the here and now sees fit to slap right-winger Ben Stein’s pro-creationist Expelled with a PG-13 just because it contains archival footage of Edwin R. Murrow smoking, is to take a minute and get over yourselves.

Actually, I love the movie Expelled. Not because I believe in creationism but because I wholeheartedly believe in freedom. People are losing their jobs and having their lives turned upside down because what they want to say doesn’t match the P.C. thought police’s idea of what constitutes a valid argument. This is crap. I have a blog where I tell a story about jacking off into some socks, and these guys are right behind me in terms of my right to put it out there. Someone else believes in a Jewish zombie crawling from the grave and oh no, we can’t have this at all. I just think it’s wrong. You either believe in freedom of speech, period, or you don’t. There’s no such thing as middle ground. You don’t want to hear about how all the homos are going to hell and they don’t want to hear buttfucking jokes on Will and Grace at 4pm when the kids come home from school. Both points of view should be allowed to be aired. If you can’t get this, you are the worst extreme on either side of the argument. So you simply cancel each other out, as no particular party line can be judged by its crazy extremists.

But no, both sides have their share of morons who are more interested in being right; in holding THE TRUTH over everyone’s heads so they can feel a little bit better about themselves by pretending they’re the big expert and confusing belief with proof, rather than finding fellowship despite differences. These people will spend the remainder of the brief slice of life we’re given arguing with one another and no doubt deserve one another. Because being right and therefore smarter is above anything else. What a sad and pathetic way to view humanity.

Anyway, back to you, MPAA ratings board: Let me get this straight--capital punishment in the most violent way is wholesome, family fare, but someone puffing on a butt, back before the link with cancer was known, is something only teenagers should see?

Or Tim Burton’s filmed version of the children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It got a PG for insanely ambiguous quirky situations but the seventies musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory got a G even though it was strongly implied that all the bad kids died horrible, mutilating deaths whereas in Burton’s version they all showed up for the finale. But oh lordy, Johnny Depp is more peculiar than Gene Wilder so by all means, warn the parents.

What the fuck is wrong with you people? The F-word, of course, gets an automatic R, meaning that Little Miss Sunshine deserves the same classification as the Saw movies. You can watch entrails being pulled out of someone in slow motion, but speaking a good, earthy word describing the sex act—or in most cases, used as a simple expletive—is just as wrong. Murder and cursing are on equal terms? But have you seen this show, Family Guy that comes on right before Will and Grace in syndication that the kiddies are watching?

God has cursed you for your pious sins and it’s called flat screen plasma and Blu-Ray.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bok Bok Bok Commercial

Another from the yet-to-be-realized Spookshow In Your Pants Radio Hour. I wrote it, did the music and gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the hen. Joe did the voice-over. It came out eggsactly like I wanted.

Click on the title to have a listen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Spotmaker

This was one of the iconic commercials to seep into my consciousness during the late seventies. I thought it was hilarious, and would stop whatever I was doing and run to the television whenever I heard it start. I memorized it word for word in no time and soon, in the privacy of my bedroom, I had the blocking down pat as well. The high-stepping dance down the glassware rack, the flamboyant flinging of the arms while saying "spotting and streaking glasses and dishes", not to mention the upraised, oh mary, palms while keening "OH NO! CALGONITE!" But I'd nailed it. I had the vocals down perfect (the opening Hn-hn-hn-hn laugh constituting a no-brainer given my years mimicking Charles Nelson Reilly as Hoodoo.) I did it for my friends and it slayed them; the whole crowd said I had it down spot on (so to speak.) So I decided to do it for my parents one evening at dinner.

I thought that the Spotmaker was a very funny cartoon character designed to pimp a product. What I failed to take into consideration was that my parents saw him as a tiny, green homosexual, sent to spread his filthy lifestyle via people's dishwashers.

I crossed the kitchen, where we ate, rinsed my plate, then opened the dishwasher to put it away. Immediately I crouched down in front of the open appliance and dove in. "Hn-hn-hn-hn-n-hn-hn! I am the Spotmaker!"

Both of my parents froze their forks midway to their mouths.

"I live inside your dishwasher, spotting and streaking dishes and glasses!"

Here I danced down our tiny kitchen, flouncing my arms at imaginary glassware.

"Do I make you unhappy? Do I embarrass you?"

At this point it was made expressly clear that I did, when my father banged his fist on the table and shouted, angrily, "Stop talking like a queer!" In the interest of accuracy, he was yelling through a mouthful of chewing tobacco, so it sounded like "Mrop tbrrkn brike br queer!" but over the years I'd learned to translate perfectly.

"I'm not a queer; I'm the Spotmaker!" I protested to no avail. "Actually, his only weakness is Calgonite."

My line of reasoning did not sway the masses. My Dad's blue cleaning-crystals of faith was not about to subvert what he already held in his heart as the truth. But he'd been finding reason to call me queer at least once a month since I was far too young to even have a sexuality, so I wasn't surprised. It also hit me that I'd had the same pejorative leveled at me when I'd imitated Hoodoo from Lidsville; another balding, accused homosexual who was also painted green.

I began to wonder about my father's view of homosexuality. Did he imagine there were secret, underground clubs in Huntington, West Virginia where men strip down to their green jockstraps, paint their skin the same shade of green, shave their heads and spend the evening evilly snickering to one another? Perhaps questioning his view of gayness might have been the ignition spark which caused me to question my own. Thanks, Spotmaker!

Mega-thanks to Joe for showing me the link and reminding me of the story.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Big Angry Bear

Maybe it was because our familiarity with one another bordered on us being sheep clones, but Beth had a way of opening a lock in such a manner that I, several rooms away at the other end of the apartment, knew exactly what kind of mood I was in for. It's not that she slammed the door nor made a wild, dramatic entrance--she was simply capable, on occasion, of emitting a force of pure negativity that would come whooshing down the hall like a poltergeist and envelop anyone who happened to be there. Just a shred more intensity and plates would have been flying off the shelves.

This ability had its useful moments. A co-worker was having an affair and she and her new girlfriend were visiting. But the woman also had a new wife of two whole weeks; an ex-stripper crackhead who liked to throw down. Could this girl pick 'em or what? The wife, a bone skinny ho with Mr. Ed's teeth, came stomping into our apartment without knocking or ringing the bell, clearly on a thirst for blood and screaming the woman's name. Crackhead or not, she probably had a point. But morality is the first thing to go in the face of potential bodily harm and I quickly hustled the affairette into my bedroom and hid there with her.

Beth did that trick of hers where she puffs herself up, spewing attitude like pepper spray, and appears three times physically larger than she actually is.
She met the woman in the hallway, yelling, her formidable presence filling every square inch of space.

"What are you doing in my house?"
"That girl o mine she--"
"Bitch think she--"
"GET OUT!!!" Beth screamed, opening her full reserve of hostile vibes. It was like being at an exorcism. The slut slunk away on command as though cast into a herd of swine.

A burglar was later given the same treatment, Beth catching him in the act and with the same result. So, see, having a woman like this around can be a very handy thing to have on hand.

The trouble was that people who didn't know her would see Beth having a full-scale meltdown over cigarette smoke and come away with the impression she was like that all the time. She wasn't. Her positive emotions were just as extreme and she could make opening a can of tuna seem like you were at a party. But I tend to hang with timid people and most of them were scared of her. A few started calling her The Big Angry Bear. Just not to her face.

"How can you live with that?" they'd ask.
"Well, she can be a lot of fun."
"Dude, I saw her shame and practically castrate you just because you left a Twinkie wrapper on the coffee table. Why would you put up with that?"
"Because she didn't find the six others stuffed behind the couch."

Beth was also good for crowd control. We had a come-as-your-sexual-fantasy party at our place and some drama went down we didn't count on. Tor and his wife, Krista, came and she had dressed as a dominatrix. This would have been ok were it not for the fact that another friend, Joe, used Krista's prop whip to good-naturedly swat her on the ass. It was not a come on--hell, Joe was sitting right next to his own wife when he did it--but Krista used the incident as an excuse to act as though Joe had seared her buttocks with a curling iron while sticking his tongue in her ear. Tor fumed with righteous indignation as though every living man shared his sensibilities and Joe was simply another in a line of thousands wanting to make it with a braying hyena playing dress-up in a leather corset. It was an odd bit of role reversal as Joe and Julie, the suburban couple, saw the whole thing as a silly stunt while Tor, who had spent his entire adult life doing his best to present himself as a pansexual, anything goes, libertine, started thundering like an evangelist about the lapse of morality and disrespect for the institution of marriage he'd just witnessed.

I did not see it, but Joe tells me that Tor pulled him into the bathroom and tried to pick a fight. Tor was a slight, kittenish man and Joe was twice his size and a karate instructor, but it didn't deter Tor from trying to come off like Walker, Texas Ranger. "Fucking posturing, Banty rooster," is how Joe describes it. "I could have put him in a coma using just my thumb." He could have, too. But knowing Joe, he probably egged Tor on just for the entertainment value. I could hear Tor shouting from the other end of the apartment.

"How dare you?" Tor screamed.

This is something about Tor that is absolutely hysterical, although it is not wise to let him know you think so. When he is pushed into full-scale fury he will always trot out How dare you?, unaware this phrase has not been uttered convincingly by anyone since the turn of the original fin de sicle'. You expect him to follow up with Good day, sir! and stride out of the room in a huff. There is not a trace of self-referential humor when he does this--in fact it is a signal for quite the opposite. When these particular words escape Tor's lips he means business. Physical harm, inasmuch as he is capable of implementing, is not far behind. He can beat me up. So can seven year old girls. Anyone else, probably not, but Tor's unshakable faith in his magic words prevents him from seeing this. How dare you? is a logic puzzle that will render helpless any semblance of brute strength or cunning; the spoken words alone crippling in their profound and awesome power. Naturally, Tor's utter sincerity while invoking How dare you? is what makes it all the more amusing. Somehow, in his head, the utterance of these words are the zenith of expressing anger and he reserves it until long after a barrage of normal profanity and real world, this-century threats have proven ineffective. It is only when you have pushed him to the breaking point you will hear the deadly, confrontational triage of wordsmanship. How! Dare! You? is the final shake of the rattle before the pit viper, albeit a foppish one most likely wearing a cravat, lunges and sinks its poison fangs into your calf.

Beth wasn't having it. Fuck Tor and his Edwardian line of crap.

She forced her way into the bathroom and made it clear that she would mop the floor with both Tor and Joe if they didn't either shut up or leave right then. I'm thinking her chain mail bra was an added convincer, as she could have whirled it around her head and used it as a mace if need be.

No one heard a peep from the offended parties for the rest of the night. Karate instructor or not, Joe knew when he was bested.

She could pull some crazy, though. A group of bar friends had the idea one night to re-convene at our place and have a music jam. I arrived with Eddie, a mutual friend who had played drums in bands for decades. As soon as we walked inside he spotted and made a beeline for Beth's tall hand drum she'd bought at the Michigan Women's Music Festival.

"This is really cool," he said. We took it back to where I had my keyboard rig set up. He tapped out a beat, another friend cut loose on the guitar and I noodled on the synths in my usual, clueless fashion. Beth, who was a part of the plan, arrived late. She walked down the hall and into our music room and you would have thought she'd seen Eddie jerking off all over a baby.

"NOOOOO!" she howled, angry tears bursting from her face. "Bad! Bad! Wrong!" Clearly we could see that the target of her fury was Eddie but had no idea why.

"You fuck! You goddamn bastard! Bad! Bad! Wrong!" she screamed again, as though he'd soiled the carpet.

Her uber-lesbo, feminist sentiments blew a few circuits and went right into crazy town. "You are touching my drum! MY drum! Why are you touching my drum?"

Eddie looked confused, as though she'd gone off on him for breathing her air. We all did.

"Beth, I've been around drums since I was thirteen."

"You! Don't! Under! Staaaaaaaand!" she raged. She was right, we didn't.

"You asshole! A woman made that drum!"
"A woman probably made the toaster, but you're not all fucking precious about that. What the hell, Beth?" I always knew just what to say. To turn things up a couple notches.

"Beth, please," Eddie pleaded.
"It is MY drum! I know the woman who made it by hand herself!! I met her at the Michigan Women's Music Festival and you've no right to touch it!"
"I thought we were all coming over to play music..."
" I saw you!" Beth shouted. "A drum is a woman! You don't beat her! You play her!"

This little tidbit, I later learned, was lifted verbatim from the audiocassette the woman who made the drum thoughtfully included with her product so that purchasers might properly relate to it as a feminist totem rather than, you know, a musical instrument.

"A drum is a woman!" Beth repeated, hysterical.

"You know," I said, "I have scoured that thing from top to bottom and never found any genitalia. Can you show me just where on your instrument you can determine it's sex? Cause if my retro synthesizer is capable of getting a boner it would really make up for the lack of MIDI capability. If I could back into that fucker while playing some minor chords I think I'd be in heaven."

This is the sort of talk, to someone who views men in the same way certain people do the CIA when it comes to the Kennedy assasination, which simply cannot be endured. Beth ran, screaming and crying, into the backyard and wrapped her arms around a tree, no doubt re-living another moment from the Michigan Women's Music Festival. She sobbed and wailed so loudly I was sure someone would call the cops. Eddie went out there and tried to calm her down.

"Beth, what's going on? I told you, I've been playing drums for years."
"But you were playing MY drum!"
"OK, but other people have sat behind my kit. No big deal."
"That's because your drum set is part of the patriarchy! My drum is a woman!" she snapped.

But mostly made from a dead cow, which could seriously piss off a sizeable segment of people, I mean women, at your little gathering, Eddie probably thought but wisely did not say.

But that was Beth, and unexpected tantruming from out of left field was part of the package, just as living with me meant more conversations about 70's children's TV programming than any one human could bear to endure. I could see, from an outsider's view, how everyone who had witnessed Beth and I in similar screamo scenes might think we were headed for the evening news. Beth and I had many fierce, public, knock-down-drag-outs that probably made us seem like one of those horrible married couples who are too into verbal degradation to ever consider filing for divorce. But in reality, the relationship was more like siblings who'd grown up with one another and had the absolute freedom to go crazy on each other's ass within an inch of fratricide then say, "Hey, you wanna go get ice cream?"

She told me stories of a roommate she'd lived with who made insane demands and was forever coming up with new household rules. "You don't say?," I said, remembering last night's hour-long hissy about a thumb print on a mirror.

"No, this woman was nuts," Beth explained. "I went on vacation and had left a popcorn pan in the sink before I left. When I came back I found she had carried my pan down to the basement and left it there, saving it for me to wash when I got back!"

I filed this story away and then a truly marvelous thing happened: Beth left for a week's vacation in Florida. That alone would have been a truly marvelous thing in that I could blare the stereo, smoke in any room I felt like and rub my dick all over her goddamned drum just because it called to me and said it wanted it bad. But she'd also left a popcorn pan in the sink! I don't know if she has this little ritual before she goes on vacation where she thinks popping corn will keep the jet in the sky the next day or what, but finding that pan after she'd left made me laugh out loud. Of course I immediately carried it downstairs and left it in the basement, giggling about how funny it would be when she got back.

By the time she returned I'd forgotten about it. She went out that night and since I had to go to work the next morning I went to bed.

I was awakened by another example of her communicating her present condition through the way she opened the door. It was loud and clumsy, in very specific way. It meant only one thing: Beth was home and she was shitfaced.

I heard her stagger and stumble in the hall, talking out loud to herself. I smiled; it was like listening to an old-time radio show, assuming Fibber McGee and Molly were allowed to cut loose with a torrent of profanities. I heard her go into the kitchen, just on the other side of my bedroom, and start clattering through the cupboards.

"What the fuck?" she barked.

More clattering, although more frenzied. It sounded like she was tearing the place apart with her bare hands. "Where is my goddamned pan? Where is my motherfucking pan?"

I practically had my whole fist in my mouth to keep from busting out laughing. The more frustrated the sounds from the kitchen became, the more hilarious I found it.

"God damn it, I want my pan! Where's my pan? My pan! Where's my tit-fucking pan?"

A mental image of a mohawked lesbian, pleasuring herself by shoving the handle of a popcorn pan up and down between her breasts, came to life in widescreen, 3D technicolor. I'm amazed I didn't go into respiratory arrest.

Suddenly her angry self-talk became a full-fledged roar.


That was the one that put me over the edge. Like there still might be a smidgeon of justice left in the world, even though her precious pan was gone, if she still had the lid. But no, it was missing as well and all hope for humanity was doomed. I stuffed my face into my pillow and shook like I was having a seizure.

"All I wanted to do was make some goddamned popcorn and---"

Here she broke off. Silence for a few seconds. Just from the sound I could tell that the lightbulb had finally popped on in her head. She broke into a run, trotting down the hall, then Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! down the basement stairs.

"That motherfucker!" she shouted. I heard her storm back up the stairs, through the long hall and suddenly my bedroom door was yanked open. She fired the dirty pan from across the room where it whizzed so close to my head I could feel the breeze of its trajectory blow against my scalp (if it had actually made contact I'd be writing this with a felt tip pen gripped in my teeth.) The pan slammed against and bounced off the wall, crusty popcorn kernels raining down all over me. Ferociously, she slammed the door shut hard enough to crack the hinges.

I could have been killed, but I found it fucking hysterical. Tears of laughter drenched my pillow, which I pretty much had wrapped around my head to muffle my snorts. It occurred to me that she was probably doubly frustrated, now, since her special OCD pan, the only one in the house, to her mind, which could be used for popping corn was somewhere on my bed and she'd just screwed herself out of a snack. I think I finally got to sleep around three hours later, exhausted by manic giggling and the physical effort it took to conceal it.

The next morning I stumbled, sleepily, into the living room where Beth was sitting on the couch. She asked the only possible question that could have been raised after such an incident:

"You want some eggs to go with that pan?"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

O Tannenbaum!

This is a story of young love. Not my first love, but the first that was reciprocated, at least by an actual person and someone else's hand other than my own. I'd spent two years loving a boy in West Virginia who claimed he was straight, then came out, finally getting that it was only me he wasn't attracted to instead of guys in general. He dated various dinner theatre actors, which stabbed at my heart, as it would anyone's. Later, his mother told him he wasn't allowed to be gay so he married a fat girl. I couldn't deal and ran off to Galliopolis, Ohio, a town about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. There I met a guy in a doughnut shop who I told I loved even though I was absolutely lying. You do that sort of thing if you want a cute person in a teency, rural town to do you. Particularly when the gay community in such a place consists of six people who know one another and your best option is to settle for cute and stupid instead of just stupid. I moved on. I went from Gallipolis, Ohio, right across the river from the Mothman sightings, to Columbus, Ohio, home of James Thurber and Lazarus department stores. It was at this point my parents began to demean me for my high-falutin', big city ways.

As far as love stories go, what I'm about to descibe is the real deal. It's the sweetest story of near-statutatory rape you'll ever hear, outside of Edge of Seventeen or I Love Rock and Roll because everyone knows middle-aged women make it so much cooler and forgivable to confess the hotness of high school boys than homos in their early twenties, right? But yeah, I was 24 and Tom was 18 and he was a senior in high school. I had another teenage friend named Paul. We met in a magic club meeting and there are no demographic boundaries whatsoever when it comes to a shared love of card tricks. We were fast friends despite the age difference, probably because I have always been woefully immature. That, and the mean age of all the other magicians in the club was around 70. We had no hip replacement stories nor medicare anectodes and turned to one another to keep from going out of our minds with the onslaught of unrelenting boredom. Paul didn't care that I liked guys and I didn't care that his idea of music was Nolan Thomas singing 'Yo Little Brother.' He told me there was an out, gay kid at his high school who was working part time as a talking Christmas tree at the local mall. He said I'd like him. I was single and prospects were nil. I figured I ought to go and have a chat with this tree.

The concept behind the talking Christmas tree is this: someone, in this case Tom, is hidden inside a hollow, polyurethene tree like one of the Keebler elves, only wired with a mic. Kids come up and tell the tree what they want for Christmas or whatever else they feel like talking about. The tree responds, its electronic voice booming across the department store. I lurked about, waiting for all the children to leave.

"Hi," I said to the tree.
"Um, hello," it said, probably not used to twenty-somethings addressing it.
I went for whimsy. "Do you guys hate dogs? I mean, given what they do on you and all?"

The tree answered immediately. "We just focus on the fact that in China dogs are considered free-range cattle. We have other things to worry about. Moss. What you guys call crabs."
"No," I said, "aphids are crabs. Moss is psoraiasis."
"And Dutch Elm Disease is rectal cancer. Do you have a point?"

Damn, this tree was funny. "I'm Dan," I said. "Paul's friend."

The tree thought for a minute. "I hear you do a mean Carol Channing," it said.

I belted out a couple of croaky stanzas from Hello Dolly, the gayest thing I have ever done in my life, even more so than taking it up the ass. "Come around and open my back door," the tree said.

My brain fizzled and sparked under the weight of too many replies.
I went around behind the fake tree and sure enough, there was a tiny door. I opened it and there was Tom, crouched inside wearing a headset. He was tall and lanky and much too big to be crammed into a tree, which made me laugh in his face. He probably thought I found him unnatractive, little knowing the mere thought of someone who's managed to secure a regular paycheck from being a talking Christmas tree, to me, is like downing several hundred smoked oysters.

I probably made some inappropriate sap jokes.

"Can you come back at 8:30? That's when I get off." Again, my comedy club mind overflowed with too many zingers.

I wandered around the mall at the height of Christmas frenzy, an act which makes waterboarding seem positively humane, then went back to the tree at the designated time. Tom stretched after emerging from the tree, relieving his cramped muscles and I would like to think unknowingly, causing his shirt to ride up and reveal a flash of skin above his belt buckle. His body was just what revved my motor, the delicious, bone-revealing frame of a borderline anorexic; the sort of person who has to wear snowshoes in the shower to keep from slipping down the drain.

Thing is, cranium contents notwithstanding, from the neck up he just wasn't my type. Since I was in my New Wave phase, this was probably due to the lack of applied cosmetics. And the hair. Curly and a little fluffy whereas I wanted it long and flowing or spiked and reeking of Aqua-Net. But no, he looked like Ann B. Taylor as Alice.

Five minutes later I was willing to gobble his pube-trimming remnants from off the bathroom floor. He was so smart and so funny that I was in love before the escalator hit the lower level. This is still my formula for the ideal mate: someone who is wickedly intelligent but enjoys acting like an idiot. Tom was my first exposure to this heady combination and my first insight that what's inside can truly make a person beautiful. He morphed, like CGI special effects, from ew, the hair, into the most beautiful face I'd ever laid eyes on. It was also apparent, during our short walk around the mall, that he liked me, too. He showed me his fake tap-dancing skills and his faux-Israeli call to prayer. Love, love, love.

Time out to deconstruct: Truth is, you can't really love someone unless you really know them. This means at least a year of being around someone or, if you really want to make sure, living with them. If, after that, you still want to kiss the person who's annoying, electric pencil sharpener of a laugh makes you want to put their head through the television, then yes, you probably love them. There's no such thing as love at first sight. It's an endurance trial at best. Confusingly, Infatuation at First Sight is a very real thing. This has dicked with more people than you can imagine because, unfairly, it feels just the same as love. Infatuation makes you swoon, breathe heavy and pop a boner. Love does the same thing, but also keeps you from comitting homicide. There's a subtle difference. So of course Tom and I, two weeks after meeting, professed that we loved one another.

There was just one problem, shared between he, me and Norman Bates: His mother. Tom still lived with her. She was old, so much so that the fact that Tom and his sister were not retarded was pretty much a miracle. This woman, due to the cruelest act of fate a gay kid can consider, also taught math at the very same high school he attended. The fact that he was not shy about telling anyone he was hot for guys, she must have felt, reflected on her abilities as both parent and teacher. His fondness for the main vein and broadway shows was a horrible reflection on her.

Consequently, Tom was barely allowed to leave the house. She probably imagined he would run off to the pet store, buy a supply of white mice, then sneak behind the Taco Bell with a toilet paper tube. Tom's mother monitored his every waking move, demanding at all times to know where he was and who he was with. Ironically, this is how I've since treated all subsequent boyfriends.

My friend Tor, who was there at the time, tells me that he never remembered any gossip about Tom being queer. He had his suspicions, but none of the kids ever mentioned anything about sexuality. Instead, he says, what he heard was that Tom's mother was a cunting bitch who treated him like a dog in a wire cage. What Tom wanted to do with his pecker wasn't news; the fact that everyone understood he was being held captive by a crazy, old woman was what fed the high school rumor mill.

Tom's mother would send him to the store and he'd whiz by my place, giving us a scant five minutes to kiss each other and swear our love. A week later, he would lie and say he was going to some girl's house (hope, no doubt, springing eternal in his mother's mind) and he'd get to spend an hour with me. But finally someone at his high school threw an all-night party and Tom's mother gave him permission to attend, no doubt praying some big-haired cheerleader would finally switch him. He called and I picked him up from there and we headed for my place.

In the car he was smarter and funnier than ever, his version of getting me liquored up. When we got back to my place, we started ripping each other's clothes off before we even made it up the front steps. Inside he finally emerged completely from his clothing, stunning, like an eighteen-year cicada. We shuffled, naked and embracing, to the bedroom and it was great. Even the sex was smart and funny. "Just so you're aware and not alarmed later," he said, adopting his most serious face, "when I climax I scream out the word 'cockroaches.' Hope it's not a turn-off."

I pulled him close. "Call me Mr. Peepers," I begged seductively.

We found it hilarious. Absolutely hysterical. We snickered and laughed all throughout our first coupling. (This would happen time and again with other boyfriends, but for all the wrong reasons.) If you are instantly comfortable enough with someone to actually point out the funny side of sex with one another, first time around, mid-act, then I'd say there's some serious chemistry there. Not that I didn't have serious chemistry with later paramours but it usually took the form of windowpane and blotter acid. He did, in fact, yell out the word 'cockroaches', which he would continue to do in future encounters in such a way it made my heart swell. There is no aphrodisiac like someone fully committed to a joke. I wanted to slide my dick between the hemispheres of his brain. Tom and I held each other afterward, made sarcastic comments and laughed like fools. It was incredible.

But then, of course, we'd catch sight of the time. "Only a half an hour left. Shit." It was always like this. I couldn't call him; he could only call me when Mother was away. Surprise ten minute appearances, like he was a guest on my talk show. Meeting him for fast-food dinner in a very public place. Waiting in line with children, me wanting to scream at them to get the fuck away so I could have private time with the tree. There had to be a knothole in that thing somewhere.

It went on like this for quite a while. At least in the young love time continum, where a day feels like six weeks and a kiss seems to last forever.

Tom's mother begrudgingly allowed that he could have a birthday party at his house. She of course would be on hand to monitor the entire affair. With her there, the concept of a party among his classmates surely seemed appealing as Algebra II. But people said they'd show up, because, who didn't like Tom? His sheer force of personality superseded his gayness, even in a high school in midwestern Ohio during the mid-nineteen-eighties. He never had problems with jocks threatening to beat the crap out of him. He was just Tom, funny as a motherfucker, and nearly everyone adored him. Especially me.

Which meant I had to attend the party. This was a stupid, stupid, stupid idea on both our parts. Mother, we should have realized, would not be sitting quietly in her fruit cellar but lurking about, inspecting the party for moral decay. I was pretty much the poster child for this. She knew every student attending on a first-name basis and I, a total stranger, was youthful for my age but not exactly able to pass as valedictorian material. Plus there was the fact that I looked like every member of Duran Duran, along with the entire Maybelline product line, had been thrown into a gene splicer. I kind of stuck out.

Tom and I were forward-thinking enough that we planned for me to arrive when the party was in full swing instead of when only a few classmates were there. We might have also considered that leading a baboon, or me, into a crowd of average teenagers might attract undue attention, but no, we didn't grasp that essential point. I showed up and Tom immediately dragged me to the piano. I sat on the bench beside him and he banged out a hysterical, torch-song rendition of My Funny Valentine. I was in tears, laughing, mascara trailing down my cheeks. We started talking, whispering actually, each telling what we most liked about the other. Then I went off to mingle. Thanks to the dynamic I'd grown accustomed to--impromptu phone calls from out of nowhere with Tom saying "My friend and I are coming over right now! She has to meet you!"--I knew a lot of the people Tom hung out with at school. More than a few were also gay, if not neccessarily out, the sheer number of which gave me hope for the future.

A bony hand clamped down on Tom's shoulder, like something in a movie about witches eating children. It was Mother. "Who...was...that?" she said, carefully spacing and hissing her words.
"That's Dan. He's a friend of Paul's."
"Then why isn't he talking to Paul? Oh, I know. Because Paul's not here."
"Well," Tom said, stalling for time, "he knows a lot of Paul's friends."
"Like you?"
"Yeah, we've met."
" I don't like his hair at all. Not one bit. What kind of man colors his hair?"
"Rock stars? Televangelists?"
"There's another kind of man who colors his hair." Here, Tom's mother flopped her wrist, American Sign Language for queer as a cat fart.
"I don't color my hair and I'm that way," he said, driving another knife into her sternum.
"I don't think it's healthy he's here in my house."

Tom's mother began to follow me the way Korean convienience store owners do African-Americans. No matter where I was or who I was talking to she was there, arms folded and her tightened, mean face staring as though sheer will could cause my dick to drop off and roll down my pant leg. Finally, after some furious hand waving she whispered something to Tom.

He sidled up to me while I was talking with Andrea. "You've been asked to leave," he said.

"Love ya," I replied as I made my exit. "It's been fun."

This was, sadly, the beginning of the end. Maybe I'm romanticising the situation, but I think our shared intimacy over My Funny Valentine clearly and effectively communicated to Tom's mother that her son and I were more than aquaintences or even friends. I'd like to think the way we looked at one another brought to her mind images of both of us gargling body fluids simultaneously. It sure did to me.

No matter what mental specifics prompted it, the surveillance efforts on his mother's part, after the party, quadrupled and he was interrogated with even more deranged fervor. Casual trips to visit long-standing friends were suddenly suspect and his mother would make him call her from there and also demand to speak to the friend, just to make sure. His already boxed-in life had become ever much more so and I was responsible. I can't blame him at all for not wanting to live like this.

Before I go on, would you like to meet Tom? Experience him just as I did in all his high school hotness and see how fucking funny he was back in the day? You can. The big news at the time was that Hollywood was coming to Columbus to film a movie. The stars were arriving! Nick Nolte, Ralph Macchio, Morgan Freeman and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' Royal Dano! Sadly, the results were a really unfunny comedy called Teachers which you can get on DVD and in which, in good old 1984, Tom landed a part as an extra, playing in a not especially demanding role, a high schooler. There's a scene in a hallway where a student pulls out a gun and all the other kids hit the floor. Everyone pretty much crouches to their knees. But if you look carefully, the tallest, lankiest one does a pratfall worthy of Chico Marx. Smart but funny. It came out on video while we were dating, if you can really use that term to describe a relationship forged on surprise, ten-minute visits. I am probably the only person in history who has, more than once, jerked off to a Morgan Freeman movie.

I decided I would have my own party for Tom and all his friends, without the glaring spectre of a praying mantis in a house dress spoiling everyone's fun. He created the alibi and I can't remember what it was; only that it worked. Mother allowed Tom to be away for an evening. This was before the word party became associated in my mind with drugs, alcohol and doing my best to alienate everyone present. It was simply music, good times and fun without the electric eye of crippling, parental supervision. We danced on my glass-topped coffee table until it broke, causing us to drop two feet with glass shards flying everywhere. I did not pick up the mess for weeks, much as I do now, given that disarray can serve as a visual reminder of joyous or nutty times gone before, even if in the present that definition references when I spilled scrambled eggs all over the cat. The coffee table destruction was so much fun I invited my guests into the kitchen to avail themselves of all the dishes in the cabinets and to, please, smash them to bits just because it was so exhilarating. We did. Broken cheap China was everywhere. Damn. I need to have another party like that, and soon.

But Mother's opression continued to bear down on Tom. I was probably a sheer prick to expect him to live that way in the name of love. It was like saying I, myself, was reason enough for him to be chained to a post in the basement and forced to shit in a salad bowl.

He arrived one night, unexpected as per custom, and I moved to kiss him. Something tensed. I didn't like it.

"I've got something I'd like you to read," he said.

Whenever a kiss feels like the other person is being rubbed down with lizard entrails and they've got something for you to read, you can bet your ass it's a Dear John letter. It was. As I had yet to perfect my stone-faced, I-will-not-show-you-my-weakness personna, I cried. As Tom was just not funny, but smart, he did not point out how pathetic I was behaving. Had he done so, a gruesome scene involving hacksaws and my bathtub might have occured. Essentially, according to the letter, our relationship was just too intense too survive. He was still in high school. What do you want? Flaubert?

It wasn't just his mother, of course, that killed the concept of us. It was being that age, with your whole life ahead of you. How the hell was I supposed to compete with that? Nonetheless, decades later, when I heard Tom's mother died I visited her grave. I did a fake tap dance on top of it, humming My Funny Valentine the entire time.

Anyone out there, I beg: Let's go home and rap with one another.

Update: 3/17 Per Tom's request, here's Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark in concert from 1985 doing 'Secret'. It was, after all, "our" song. Well, after the Ray Conniff Singers doing 'Coconut Wireless'.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Another very short song from the Spookshow In Your Pants dicography, probably because once again I was trying to be real and can't do that for very long periods of time. When the dark clouds roll in, I feel helpless, horrified, and disgusted at who I am as as a person and want to wish it all away. This clip is supposed to mirror the mindset, combining the usual wacky outlook with disturbing intruding thoughts. I've used this sequence in other pieces, but I think the stark brevity of the original sums it up best.

Click on the title if you want to share my less-peppy moments.

But of course this post wouldn't be complete without this:

McDonald's In Detroit

"Gimme all the money in the drawer, motherfucker!"
The counter help behind the six inch plexiglas shrugs.
"I said give me all the money in the drawer or I'll blow your fuckin' head off."
"Really?" asks the teen in the paper hat.
"Whatchoo mean really? I said give me the money."
"I know what you said. I'm just not particularly motivated to do it. Besides, there are people behind you, sir. They look hungry."
"Fuck hongry. Empty out that cash drawer or I will blow your damn head off."
"Sir, if you could just please step to one side if you're not ordering anything. I need to get these people taken care of or the manager might become very upset."
"I ain't stepping aside for nobody."
At this, the patrons in line voice their displeasure.
"You asswipe, my daughter wants a strawberry shake."
"I only have a half hour for lunch and I need my Asian Chicken Salad."
"Hey, idiot, you're wasting our time."
"If you don't move it I will fold my Filet O Fish in half and shove it up your ass."
The man with the gun turned to the people behind him. "I done told the man to give me all the money. It's not my fault he's being so slow about it."
"Sir, please, if you're not placing an order could you just please step to one side so that others might enjoy our line of reasonably priced products? "
"Yeah," a man growls, "I want a number one value meal sometime today."
"Sir, I will place your order when you arrive at the counter but there are still two people, not counting this guy with the gun, ahead of you."
"Sorry," the man says.
"Gimme my cash!"
"No sir. It is not your cash. It belongs to the McDonald's corporation; a very, very, very small, teency-tiny portion of which is going to the Ronald McDonald House, an organization for parents who have children with cancer."
"Awww. That's sad. No, wait, I mean, gimme that money, mofo."
"Excuse me," a woman says, "Do you think I could have three of those yogurt parfaits? I know you think that no one noticed you cut them down to a third of the size they used to be, but some of us have eyes, you know."
"Yeah," says a man. "Chicken McNuggets used to be huge but now they're practically the size of a dime."
Celebrity talk show host David Letterman is also in line and says, sarcastically, "Really. If there was a part of of a chicken you could conceivably call a nugget, would you want to put it in your mouth?"
Everyone laughs.
"Shut up!" the man with the gun yells. "All of you."
"Top ten reasons I can't get my fucking lunch," Letterman says, and everyone laughs again.
"So how are you liking Detroit?" the kid behind the counter asks the TV star.
"Shut up! I have a goddamn gun!"
"It's ok," answers Letterman, rolling his eyes. "Mostly."
"Are you going to give me the money or not?"
"I'm going to have to check with my manager on this." The kid disappears, which causes the line of people to audibly sigh and pointedly check thier wristwatches. "Hey," the man with the gun says, "I just figured he would hand it over and I'd be gone. I'm in the same boat as you."
The boy in the paper hat returns, accompanied by a man sans similar chapeau and wearing a necktie, which in the McDonald's world means an ass that needs to be licked, pretty much constantly. "What seems to be the problem here?" the manager asks.
"Gimme all the money in your goddamned cash register. Do it or I will shoot you in the face!"
"Is that David Letterman?" the manager asks.
"Yeah," says the kid in the paper hat. "He's just as funny in real life as he is on the TV."
"Hey!" yells the man with the gun.
"I hear he and that Paul Schaeffer don't really get along."
"Hey!" the man cries again.
"You know Letterman got one of those baboon hearts, like Baby Whatsername. Those rich shits get anything they want. My mom, she died, but if she had her own talk show she'd still be kicking."
The man who was causing all the trouble rapped on the plexiglas with the butt of his gun.
"You have three seconds to give me the cash before I open fire."
"Hi David! I'm the manager here!"
Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Three of the four shots fired bounced off the plexiglass, the one remaining stuck barely a sixteenth of an inch into it so that a slight breeze might jar it loose and cause it to fall onto the floor next to the others.
"Excuse me," the manager said, "can you scoop those up and throw them away?"
"Or recycle," said the kid in the paper hat.
"We have a lot of elderly customers. Never mind the fact that the loud noises might have sparked a stroke or something, but could you pick up your spent shells so they don't trip on them. Someone could break a hip."
"I gots a pistol. Bullets, not shells."
"Just the same. Would you mind?"
"Ok. I'll pick 'em up."
" Thanks. Now do you want anything?"
"All the money in the drawer."
"Fine. A diet Pepsi."
"Sir, we only have Coke products."
"Ok, a diet Coke then."
"What size?"
"For here?"
"To go."
"That'll be a dollar ten."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Something's Not Quite Right About The Baby / Feel

Legendary among Spookshow In Your Pants fans (all four of them) was the epic concept piece Monkey Barbara And The Other, which told the story of a girl with four-meter forearms locked away in an attic by her cruel parents in a town that valued conformity above everything and also worshiped waffles. This cut from that song cycle still makes me smile after all these years. Click on the title to have a listen.

To bring you up to speed in the story: The Earl of Waffleton and his wife just had a baby that turned out non-standard and so by decree of the Chancellor of Waffleton it, and they, have to be destroyed. Monkey Barbra hears ths announcement on her radio.

The Chancellor of Waffleton:

Citizens of Waffleton I come to you with weighted heart.
The shower for the Earl’s wife is cancelled as of now.
Sorry ‘bout the inconvenience; hope your gifts can be returned.
Go buy something nice to help you ease the sting of grief.
Take heart in the knowledge when bad things happen to the faithful

We grow stronger with each passing trial.
Try and hold to some small hope that someday you will understand
The Waffle King don’t cause these things—he allows them.

Something’s not quite right about the baby!
Something’s gone amiss in utero.
Someone’s nonconformity resulted in deformity.
Someone’s little bundle has to go!

Citizens of Waffleton, you can’t imagine how it looks—
Just so sick and ugly we can’t take a photograph.
Baby’s arms and legs are fleshy flaps devoid of bone.
Nothing there from the neck up; no eyes, no ears, no button
Just a mouth atop a stump that spits and gurgles constantly
And as for baby’s sex…uh…we’ll get back to you…

Something’s not quite right about the baby!
Something in it’s strange genetic code.
Someone was a Ho and that fucked up the embryo—
Someone’s payment for the crime is owed.

In accordance with the laws and wishes of The Waffle King
Triple execution makes good sense.
Nothing gets exterminated while it’s being incubated—
Once it’s born, the judgments will commence.

Citizens of Waffleton, please gather in the parking lot
Of Flapjack Mall ‘round two o’ clock tomorrow afternoon.
Three unwholesome reprobates will be destroyed per holy law—
Three small fires burning with the stench of family shame.
The Earl and his wife agree to take their places willingly.
Offering themselves to Waffle King in sacrifice.
Only their foul offspring will be shackled with restraints.
Come on down—I guarantee a blessing!

Something’s not quite right about the baby!
Something in the way the bastard looks.
Fire up the tallows; bring the hot dogs and marshmallows.
See the way it dances while it cooks!

Monkey Barbara:

Funny how I’m jealous of The Earl and his wife
Yeah, they’re going down in flames—at least they had a life
Safe here in my attic no one knows that I exist
It’s always someone else who’s getting caught and crisped
Can’t take much more of this
Can’t take much more of this
Can’t take much more of this
I just might freak I just might learn to feel


I know the consequences
I know the consequences
I know the consequences then
If I should crack and just give in
I just might get out of this rut
And off my pimply, monkey butt
I might behave like one sick pup
Do a little acting up
Do something dangerous and real
Something more than simply feel


You Give Me Fever

Cold sores. Fever blisters. Whatever you call ‘em, I get ‘em. It’s my understanding that, secondary to gender, there are two types of people: Those whose lips suddenly erupt into the fluid-filled equivalent of bubble-wrap and those who don’t. Color me among the unfortunate.
It’s supposed to be a wintertime thing and usually is, but mine can show up any time of the year. Other people complain about the cold and flu season because they’ve woken up with a stuffy nose; my big grief is greeting the day looking like Oscar Wilde on his syphilitic deathbed.
As if the indignity of seeming a lesion-ravaged leper were not enough, the appearance of these unwelcome intruders upon my person is always accompanied by the acute paranoia that this one inch flawed area on my body is all anyone else can see, as though I were wearing a two foot, novelty foam rubber top hat that, through means of a concealed battery pack, also flashes a neon announcement to the world that blinks “Herpes! Herpes! Herpes!” on and off accompanied by the sound of an air raid siren. This is not an unfounded fear. When you get a cold sore there is always an amateur microbiologist amongst your peer group who feels compelled to mention, usually in the largest crowd in which you circulate, “You know that’s a form of herpes. Not Herpes Simplex, the kind you get from sex, but it’s still herpes.” Thank you dear good doctor. I was still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that canker sore is only one consonant away from cancer sore. It’s like hearing that you’ve got the good kind of leukemia.
What makes this situation fully mortifying is that you know only part of the population will accurately comprehend this information. People who don’t get cold sores are in no particular rush to study up on them. They just assume you’ve had your mouth on the nastiest part of a nasty person. It shows on their faces, like spotting Catholics on Ash Wednesday. You find yourself mentally constructing a profile of the average fever-blister-getter in hopes of determining who around you might be sympathetic, much like trying to figure out if the cashier at the beer store is gay. You also assume people are profiling you as well. You can feel total strangers thinking “Yes, I have severed cat heads in my freezer at home but at least I’m not unclean.”
Getting a fever blister is a horrorshow of premonition, based on the fact you feel it coming, like radiation victims knowing handfuls of hair in the shower will soon mean skin detachment and explosive diarrhea. You feel something akin to razor rash, only coming from inside your lips. This reminds you of how utterly awful shaving is going to be for a while--dragging a razor across a blister-ensconced upper lip merely slices them open, resulting in robust and bleeding scabs (always seen as cute, cute, cute) whereas not shaving causes spiky hairs to form inside the pustules which prick the living crap out of you from within until you want to tear your lips off your face with locking pliers and throw them in the river.
This initial tingling (which will move from that, to pain, to feeling you have pubic crabs swarming on your mouth) signals that your little translucent friend is on its way and there is nothing, nothing you can do about it. You have a day to gather supplies before you transform like a werewolf; supplies to keep you nourished and entertained while you avoid letting anyone see you for the next two weeks.
The next stage is a pronounced redness, which indicates that your earlier paranoia was well founded. At this stage of the game it can pass for a wine-stain birthmark, which although unattractive still allows you to move through society without suspicion of being a slut. It does, at least, allow you to gauge the surface area of the soon-to-be blistered skin and know just how much of a whore you’ll soon be judged.
Then come the blisters, tiny at first but by the end of the day they look and feel like water balloons. The pressure build-up from the inside fluid is so intense that, should you prick one with a needle, you can spritz down the back of someone's shirt merely by pursing your lips. This, in fact, is generally what happens to people who feel moved to mention the word herpes in my presence.
There’s a popular radio ad for a product called Releev that claims to be able to cure this condition “in just one day.” Don’t you believe it. What you get for your twenty bucks is a little tube full of mysterious goo that is as effective for treating cold sores as a glue stick is at fixing amputated limbs. If you want to go cheaper there is the proven favorite Campho-Phenique which treats your problem through aversion therapy by assuming you’ll forget all about the fact that you have a fever blister if you run around smelling like moth balls.
The timing involved is invariably the worst--so much so I believe the virus is wired to the subconcious in such a way that when I know I'm going to be most socially prominent the pustules are simply willed into life. I would bet money I could be locked away, alone, in a remote cabin for years and never get a fever blister. The Unabomber probably never bought Blistex in his life.
One first date, though, and my lips will sprout what appear to be pepperoni slices before cocktails have arrived. I am at my most charming and suddenly my date's getting-to-know-you smile is replaced by someone watching a toddler get autopsied. The conversation awkwardly turns to getting tested. For everything. My new friend slowly slides their chair back as if six more inches distance will prevent them from being quarantined. Another date destined to end with a handshake.
I always do the worst thing possible and drain the blisters. I know it simply prolongs their presence, but I reach a point where I can't bear to be in public a second longer looking like I've got inflated condom tips growing from my skin. So I stand before the mirror with a needle I've sterilized by wiping on my pants and go to town. The fluid leaks all over and it appears my lips are actually crying over the way they look. Unfortunately, the now-stretched skin, not having all that pretty fluid to fill it up, hangs in tatters like a window treatment in the projects. So I tear it off, revealing raw, open flesh, and what do you know? My mouth has it's own little vagina and it's that time of the month. Now I really look like a freak. I could, I suppose, carry a supply of tiny band-aids with me I could curl around my lip to hide the soon-to-be scab, but that would only result in a hundred "What happened?" conversations which would be much worse than the usual, embarassed, looking away. I've tinkered with the idea of inventing stories involving highly theatrical bar fights or near-death spider bite episodes. But then most likely the pooling lymph fluid would ooze away the adhesive, revealing me to be both disgusting and a liar when the band-aid finally slides off and drops off into my soup.
I find myself trying to point the offending side of my face away from all possible viewers, so that I end up twitching around the room like David Byrne dancing. I can't imagine this works in the slightest. "That poor man," people must think, "He's hurt himself very badly or maybe had a stroke, in addition to his diseased, fucked-up lip."
The trouble with having a scab that feels like a manhole cover stuck to my mouth is that patience is not my strong suit. I always attempt to peel it off long before it's time has come, resulting in more fresh blood and having to start the healing process over from scratch. But at least I'm left with something, a part of me, I can turn sticky-side-up and put in the chairs of people I've seen giving me the herpes look. Especially if it's summer and they're wearing shorts.