Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Turn On Your Heartlight

What follows is a work of creative non-fiction. This conversation happened many times throughout the '90s, a decade when I was notoriously dumb. The setting could be a car, a room, a bar, anywhere I interacted with people. The other speaker can be male or female, or a group of both. Neil Diamond's hit "Heartlight" is playing.  Let us proceed:

Person: "Hey, the E.T. song!"

Me: "Ha, yeah, it's the E.T. song. Hey, wait. You're serious."

P: "Yeah, it's about E.T. Everybody knows that."

M: "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

P: "Are you insane? It's right there in the lyrics: "Gonna take a ride across the moon?" "Turn on your heartlight?"

M: "Yeah, he loved E.T. so much he wrote a song about him. You're thinking of Michael Jackson.
 Neil Diamond was a grown-up. And that stuff is just metaphors and shit. He's in love so he feels like he's riding across the moon. And the heartlight know, like, love and feelings and stuff. In his heart."

Exhibit A. Although I'm not sure which side this helps.
P: "Did you not see E.T.?"

M (agitated): "Of course I saw E.T. ! And I cried when those astronauts turned him into Grey E.T. But that doesn't mean I think every '80s song is about E.T."

At this point, if the other speaker was male, I might affect a humorous "dumb guy" voice to drive my point home. For example: "Duh, all songs are about movies. 'Back in Black' is about Star Wars. 'Purple Rain' is really about The Color Purple. Duh huh huh."

As a gentleman, I would not employ the dumb guy voice if the other speaker was a female. In that case, I would employ a high pitched "lady" voice, as follows: "My name is (arguer's name). I looooooove Neil Diamond and E.T. I think about them all the time."

This argument was repeated many different times throughout the '90s, with many different people. I'm not sure exactly when I realized that the rest of the world was right and I was wrong, but I remember an overwhelming feeling of shame and embarrassment when the scales finally fell from my eyes.

I mean, it's right there in the song! Turn on your heartlight! How could I have missed that?

I'd like to think that by now I have apologized for everyone I argued with. If I missed apologizing to you in person, please accept my humble online apologies at this time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Are You Ready For Some Football?

I had an idea this morning. I wasn't fully awake yet, so I guess technically it was a dream, but I was aware enough that I could sort of watch over everything and tell myself that I needed to remember as many details as I could, as this was going to be the million dollar idea I had been waiting on.

In this dream, two guys decided to start a football league. Not like the XFL or anything, more like an adult intramural league, only with a Super Bowl involved. Actually, the more this dream unwound, it appeared that they were more trying to hijack an existing kid's league, like Pop Warner or something, but since their team was made up of adults (which somehow wasn't against the rules), they could crush the competition with no problem, and win all the money, fame, and accolades the Pop Warner Super Bowl awards.

As this dream was unspooling, part of me was watching, waiting to see what happened so that I could use it as a screenplay in my real, non-sleeping life.

The guys build a team full of grown-ups, including a huge fat guy who was originally going to be on the offensive line, but then they discovered he had an amazing arm, so the fat guy got promoted to quarterback.

There were some parts that didn't really make sense, like this guy who would pop up now and then wearing a white button-down shirt. He had a quarter-sized bloodstain on his shirt that would grow until his white shirt turned red. Nobody seemed to be alarmed by this. Maybe he was the coach.

Throughout the dream, another part of my subconscious was poking me, saying, "Did you get all that? Did you see that fat guy quarterback? Make sure you remember that. Fat guy quarterback is your ticket to a money-making screenplay."

When I finally woke up, I realized that my dream was a mish-mash of a bunch of different movies that pop up on cable on rainy Saturday afternoons, and I was much too lazy to write a bunch of scenes and characters or whatever it is you have to do with a screenplay anyway.

So I did the next best thing. By documenting the idea here on the internet, I have now registered a copyright, which I believe is how those things work. So when Fourth and Long starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson appears in 2015, I should get a sizeable paycheck.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


You realize you're getting older when the simple and wonderful act of sleeping causes aches and pains.

I would wake up sore occasionally when I was younger, but I could always pinpoint the cause, whether from skating, running, criminally excessive yardwork, or in older years, drunken hijinks. Other than the yardwork, I figured this was the infrequent price I paid for fun, and besides, for the most part, whatever aches and pains I had would fade away throughout the day.

Now that I am old and boring, there's a fifty fifty chance that I'm going to wake up in the morning with a sore neck. Which doubly sucks, since I can't take it as my penance for fun, and I don't even get any psychological peace out of it.

As far as I know, I'm just sleeping like a normal person. A friend once told me (kind of angrily, for some reason) that his dad insisted that nobody should ever sleep with their head higher than their body, but his dad was a chiropractor, which I'm still not sure is quackery or not. Still, that sort of stuck in my brain, so I try not to have a huge tower of pillows under my head.

Now that I think about it, this pain actually started when I was in the prime of my youth. I was about 25 or so and woke up one morning with a pain on the right side of the neck. Pain so bad that it hurt to straighten my neck enough to put on a shirt for work.

I made it to work like a responsible employee, where the pain got worse, so much so that I was  typing with my head resting on my shoulder. Some of my female coworkers gave me some cramp medicine, but that didn't seem to do anything. I tried a few times to straighten my neck out through the pain, but it wasn't happening.

There was a party that night, and I was in my twenties, so of course I had to go, even if my neck was clamped at a 45 degree angle. Maybe I looked like I was deep in thought.This would be my life from now on, a guy with his head fused to his shoulder. I should get used to it. I'd have to wear special shirts from now on, like in those movies where evil doctors transplanted another guy's head on some poor sap's body.
Hey, the guy on the left even looks sorta like me.

I was pretty sure that my neck vertebrae would eventually fuse to my shoulder blades or skull or something and I'd end up in a freak show like the Elephant Man. I drank a few beers that night which helped take my mind off my disfigurement and future carnival employment, then walked home and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up like a normal person. My neck was fixed! All it took was some alcohol and self-pity to fix things up, just like always.

Those were dark, pre-internet days. Now, within seconds I can find that I just had a pulled neck muscle. Pulled neck muscles are fairly common and it could have been solved by massage, which wasn't gonna happen, since the thought of massages sort of creeped me out at the time, and truthfully, kinda still does.

I'm still not entirely convinced, however, and still think that my morning soreness has something to do with the fusing of my neck vertebrae, which will reduce me to Elephant Man status in another 10 years or so. 

Eh, I was probably gonna end up working in a sleazy carnival in some capacity anyway, thanks to my laughable financial planning; at least this way I'll be in showbiz.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Poison Arrow

The opening day of Mowing Season is always bittersweet. Sweet, because after my lawn looks nice, I am free to judge my neighbors' shabby landscaping skills; bitter because I have to actually do work before getting down to the judging.

This year, as I was mowing around the flowers on opening day, I found an arrow. Yeah, an actual arrow, as in bow and arrow. I immediately blamed my shitty neighbors across the street, but their arrows were usually sonic. A few minutes later I found another one hidden in the grass. It didn't look like anything on the porch had been punctured, but it's not everyday that you find a quiver of arrows on your front lawn, so I was a little concerned.

I knew that there hadn't been any Indian attacks here in at least a hundred years, and even if the warpath had heated up, why start with me? Why not hit the sheriff or the ... stagecoach manager or something? I'm just an innocent homesteader, trying to scrape out a living here on my property.

Of course, they might not be recent arrows. They might be mystical revenge arrows launched from an ancient burial ground that was razed to build my house. That would explain quite a bit, actually, like why I've had to replace my TV 3 or 4 times, or why that faucet drips blood occasionally.

The cursed arrows. Hey, that's an awesome band name!
Using knowledge of the ancients, I submitted the arrows to a lengthy and intense cleansing ceremony, sort of like the one Billy Jack had to endure before kicking the crap out of those rednecks.

And hey, as an aside, ever notice how many southerners will claim some microscopic amount of Native American blood to make some tenuous claim of...well, I'm not sure exactly. Like, "Well, I'm actually 1/32 Cherokee," or "There's some Creek blood on my mother's side." Who do they think is buying that stuff?

Actually, I just left the arrows on the back porch and sort of forgot about them. 

Last week I put the haunted arrows in a bag of yard trash. You could see the tips of them poking out of the bag. I was a little concerned about the garbagemen getting cursed, but figured they probably had to take training on that sort of stuff, what with people regularly throwing out possessed dolls and ouija boards and whatnot. 

Yesterday when taking in the recycling bin, I noticed something was amiss. The trash bag was still there, but the arrows were gone. Some mystical Native American spirit took them from the Hefty bag and transported them back into the Land of the Dead. That, of course, is the only scientific answer to what could have happened.

With the arrows gone, I'm pretty sure any and all curses on the house have been lifted, but I might have to undergo another purification ceremony just to make sure. Or I might have to embark on an epic quest, like the time I searched for my niece in Comanche territory for five years. But that is a story for another time.

The view from my porch

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Arrested For Driving While Blind

I've received a lot of tickets in my driving lifetime. A few for speeding (thanks, 301!) , a failure to come to a complete stop which was totally made up, and a stack full of stuff on my last night in Bradenton, including driving without shoes, dim taillights, failure to produce license, and probably driving while being too much of an outlaw for the Man to deal with.

For the most part, I've accepted that I've been at fault, paid my debt to society, moved on, and wondered how many more points I can afford on my license before my insurance skyrockets.

But it came as quite a surprise when I was going to have my car searched on my way home from Atlanta earlier this week.

I was driving back to Jacksonville after another successful trip to see my girlfriend. I was keeping it around the speed limit, even though I feel that these unnecessary rules cramp my style.

I was probably doing about 76 when I saw the two cop cars up on an overpass. I was able to slow down without making it too obvious, and continued on my way, nervously checking the rearview mirror every few seconds.

After a few miles I figured I had it made. "Sorry, suckers," I thought to the cops. I was still under the speed limit when I passed another cop on the side of the interstate.

"Can't do anything about driving 3 miles under the speed limit, copper," I said in my best '30s gangster voice, as I mentally flipped the double bird.

A few miles later I saw that the cop had his lights on and was chasing some poor sucker. Hey! That sucker was me!

I pulled over, confused.

"The reason I pulled you over is because I think your windows are darker than Georgia law allows."

What the hell? I bought the car at a Honda dealer, not a crackhouse. They would have told me if it was illegal, right? And besides, I lived in Florida. Your Georgia rules don't apply to me.

He put some sort of weird device on the window.

"Yeah, see, this reads an 11 and Georgia law requires a 30."

"Wait, so I'm lower?"

"No, you're higher. 11 is less than 30. Do you have anything illegal in the car, like drugs or weapons?"

"No. No. Just some clothes and trash."

"Well, I have to ask you, do you consent to a search?"

Aw, crap.

As an ex-journalist and current librarian, I'm a firm believer in America's civil liberties. I mean, what else is gonna stop some English king from quartering soldiers in our houses or telling us what to print in our broadsides or searching our taverns and public houses for bootleg tea? I also think that the drug war has opened a whole can of worms involving quasi-legal search and seizure, asset forfeiture, and a host of other bad stuff. But thinking about how much I wanted to get home, all that ACLU stuff flew out the window.

"Yeah, sure."

He took my license. Shit, I wonder how long this is gonna be? Hey, I've only had this car for like three years. What if someone stashed a bunch of cocaine somewhere and forgot about it? I could have been driving around in Tony Montana's car all this time and wouldn't know it til I got searched and ended up in prison. Hey, what if the cop plants something in the car? He seemed like the type to do that. I mean, I am in Georgia. Do they still have chain gangs here?

He walked back and asked for my registration.

"Now, I'm not gonna find anything illegal in here, right?"

"Just clothes and trash. How long will this take?"

"It'll take as long as it needs to."

He studied my registration. "What year car is this?"

"'98. Oh, wait. '09." Shit. I was thinking of the old car. I'm totally going to prison now.

He walked away again and came back again after what seemed like an hour, but was probably more like 4 minutes.

"You know, if you have any sort of misdemeanor stuff in there, you can just dump it out here on the side of the highway, no harm, no foul."

What the hell sort of trap is that? Does anyone actually fall for that? He's totally gonna plant some cocaine in the car. That's how they got Dolemite in that documentary.

It was totally gonna escalate like this if I had been there a few more minutes.

"I don't have anything," I said, mentally preparing for hours in the Georgia sun watching my car being taken apart and waiting for my spot on the chain gang.

"Well, I thank you for giving permission for the search. Here's your license and registration back, along with a written warning. We just have to check every now and then with all the suspicious characters out there, you know?"

Yeah, you mean because I'm white, right? I thought super-aggressively at the cop. That showed him.

Whether it was institutional racism, my non-criminal wussy looks, the cop's laziness, or some combination of the three, I got let off with a warning. A really kinda bullshit warning, but at least I didn't have to wait while my car got taken apart, and was able to keep off the chain gang.

So if you're driving to Atlanta from Florida, watch your speed, make sure your windows aren't tinted too much, and don't fall for that misdemeanor trick. That's gotta be a trap, right?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Agony of Defeet

I had this thing against wearing shoes when I was a teenager. I don't know where it came from, and as with most things from that time period, it seems pretty ridiculous in retrospect.

I'd drive down to the store to pick up a Coke or whatever, gripping the gas pedal with my toes like a chimp, then walk over the hot, disgusting cigarette butt and spit-encrusted parking lot to go inside the store. I also didn't carry a wallet, so I'd pull out a wad of crumpled bills, Spicoli-style to pay the cashier.

I have no idea why I did this. Maybe I was trying to reinforce Florida stereotypes. Maybe I thought shoes and wallets were for chumps who were brainwashed by society into conforming to what The Man thought was acceptable.

The soles of my feet must have been tough enough to walk on hot coals.

One night I was with some friends from my community college newspaper. The newspaper class was in the late afternoon, and a group of us would hang out in the newspaper office late into the night. Sometimes we were working on the paper, usually we were just wasting time.

I wore shoes at school, so I have no idea why I was barefoot at the time, but there I was, barefoot as Fred Flintstone. We were hungry, so we ended up at Denny's.

As we walked in, the server pointed to the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" sign, which I had ignored in my hunger for a Superbird.

"You can't come in here without shoes," she said.

 "What? Who made that rule? Mussolini? This is totally bogus," I thought, or possibly said. 

We walked back to my car in defeat. Hey! I had a solution! I was going to get my Superbird after all.

I had a brown marker in the car. Why did I have a brown marker and not a pair of shoes in my car? That is a question I can't answer.

The paper's art director helped me decorate my feet into a pair of brown shoes. They didn't look half bad. Sure, you could see my toes, and the brown wasn't really evenly applied, but they looked good enough to pass. I think she might have even Sharpie'd some shoelaces on there.

I was totally ahead of the curve on this one.

You know you're getting older when you start to identify with the authority figures in the movies when you once supported the free-spirited kids. I mean, jeez, just shut up and do your detention, stupid Breakfast Clubbers. Don't you think the Dean has other things to do with his Saturday?
Poor Dean Wormer just wanted the parade to go off without a hitch.
I was promptly and rightfully kicked out of Denny's. I never got my Superbird. When I recall that night, I don't think of a free-thinking kid challenging a stupid rule and causing some squares to question their assumptions about their regimented life, I think of the poor server who was working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift and had to put up with a smartass who really should know better.

I'd like to think I learned something that night, and started wearing shoes like a normal person, but I know for a fact that wasn't true, since my last night in Bradenton I got a ticket for operating a vehicle without shoes. I didn't even know that was a law.

I'd also like to think the experience of walking around shoeless added to my distaste of men walking around in sandals or flip-flops. Seriously. Nobody wants to see that stuff. It's almost as bad as marker shoes.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crime and the City Solution

Poking around the comics/graphic novel section at work the other day, I found CRIME, a big bound volume of '50s crime comics. With a title like that, you gotta take a look.

The library has a few bound collections like this - big color reprints of horror and crime comics that caused a stink in the '50s. Enough of a stink that there were Senate hearings and comic burnings.
They're not even storing them in plastic sleeves before burning them!
Soon rock and roll would take the heat for juvenile delinquency and fun, and comics were off the hook for a while.

As a librarian and a fan of entertainment with no redeeming social value, I've always been against the censors and banners of the world. And who the hell gets that worked up over some comic books, anyway?

Well, uh...maybe those squares from the '50s had a point. Holy crap, were those things gory. You've probably seen stuff from the horror comics, where bad people get their ironic comeuppance, like a greedy guy gets drowned in molten gold or whatever. The funny thing is, a lot of the 'bad' people didn't really deserve their fates. Like, for the crime of dancing with another man a woman gets mummified by her jealous husband, or a guy who is rude to waiters gets eaten by vampires. Kinda makes getting your hand cut off for stealing seem quaint.

That's to be expected in horror comics. What I didn't expect was how gory the crime comics were. Everybody's getting machine gunned or stabbed or shot on just about every page, all in beautiful detail. As in the horror comics, there is a moral at the end, where the criminal is either shot or led to the electric chair or noose. All of this is illustrated with lots of bright red blood, popping eyeballs and jumping tears of sweat.

I suppose the publishers could say that by demonstrating that crime doesn't pay, the comics were actually moral instruction. Possibly, although the only instruction I've gotten out of them so far is some cool slang, like, "Aw, go peddle a herring," and "Wot a night, baby! Dancin' wit you is like wrasslin' with a feather!" Which is answered with "Yeah, Slug! Ain't that music the nuts?" Look for me to drop those phrases in conversation the next time we run into each other. It'll be the nuts.

So with all this gore, violence, and outdated slang, I have to give CRIME Googoomuck's highest recommendation. Five stars, two thumbs up, 12 tommy guns blazing. Seriously, it's the nuts.