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Sunday, December 25, 2005

PETER JACKSON'S KONG: OTHER VIEWPOINTS

I finally read Harry "Ain't It Cool News" Knowles' review of the new KONG and was shocked by his opinion of the piece. The guy is an annoying, stereotypical geek (yeah, yeah, I know that I fall into that category, too)whose writing is usually on par with that of a sixth-grader, but despite a devotion to the original that I heartily agree with Harry was able to evaluate the current remake intelligently, as opposed to his usual heaping of praise upon films that are completely unworthy of such attention. Go to http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=22032 and read it for yourself.

And also go to imdb.com and check out the user comments section for Jackson's KING KONG; I was pleasantly surprized to see the large number of moviegoers who were on the same page about it as me, rather than the usual legion of thralls who fall down in supplication before the latest Hollywood blockbuster/product. For once the public has not been mesmerized by the eye candy on display.

RAMBLINGS OF A CHRISTMAS INSOMNIAC

It's very early on Christmas morning; I'm in the family room of my mother's house in Connecticut, the sun has not risen, and there is nothing on TV except for infomercials, religious programming, DADDY DAYCARE, and that old standby, channel 11's "The Yule Log" (for those who have no idea what "The Yule Log" is, it's a four-hour, static, commercial-free shot of a burning log in a fireplace accompanied by an endless selection of Christmas songs. Yes, it's four solid hours of a burning piece of lumber. No, really!). In short, it's hell for a person whose work schedule has programmed him for a mostly nocturnal existence (I usually turn in for bed around 3:30 AM, and since I napped yesterday afternoon to compensate for my very early waking and train journey from the hinterlands of Brooklyn my sleep programming is kaput).

My old buddy, Chris - who's more of a brother really - was over last night, and as we do every Christmas Eve we found ourselves on a last minute quest for beer with which to fuel a holiday DVD viewing. This year's odyssey took us into Bridgeport's Black Rock area where we found a corner bodega that filled our libational needs, and our quest fruitfully culminated at Fairfield's 7-11 all-night convenience store (where to my horror I spied the glossy "Westport Magazine" on the rack right next to a poorly-drawn issue of Superman). In retrospect, we should have simply gone there in the first place since they not only stock an adequate selection of mighty brewskis, they also had edible snacks such as Corn Nuts (or, as I call them, "colon clearing wonders") and big, fat hot dogs for less than two bucks, with which you have the option of slathering the potential gastro-intestinal Chernobyl with free chili or cheese (I opted for both). I wasn't really even hungry, what with having indulged in my mom's excellent Yuletide cooking from the moment I set foot off the train, the Harrington ham being a particular favorite, but I was caught up in the familiar delights of being home even for a brief moment, and indulging in the kind of town-to-town jaunting engaged in during my misspent car-propelled youth (c. 1980-1983).

Chris and I eventually returned to the homestead and watched a truly pitiful collection of vintage 42nd Street movie trailers, mostly come-ons for truly terrible-looking Euro-horror obscurties and Italian/Spanish/French sex comedies that at least had the simple decency of keeping us awake with a delightful array of lovely Euro-titties and the now rarely seen splendor of "seventies bush." That treat was followed with Rudy Ray Moore's anti-epic PETEY WHEATSTRAW: THE DEVIL'S SON-IN-LAW, in which Moore plays a character who is exactly like Dolemite (google that name if you don't know what I'm talking about), except that he isn't, and the usual profane bargain basement blaxploitation/kung fu/sex/comedy shenanigans ensued before Chris and I called it a night at nearly 1:30 AM.

I settled into the foldout bed that now dominates what used to be my room and popped in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY to lull me to sleep (it's a good flick with great visuals, but let's face it, it is one ponderous motherfucker) and was presently in dreamland. For the first time since my early childhood I dreamt about things Christmas-related and came up with the following realization: In Dr. Seuss' classic children's book/annual animated inevitablity "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," we are regaled with the tale of the Grinch's attempt at fucking over Whoville and it's residents - conveniently named "Whos" - and I recalled the other story involving Whoville, namely "Horton Hears A Who." In that one we are told that Whoville is a microscopic community existing as a dust mote upon a dandelion, a delicate metropolis that could be decimated as easily as saying "boo!" Since the Grinch lives on a mountain top near Whoville, that means that he's really itty-bitty too, so he suddenly doesn't seem like such a badass to me anymore. And given the relativity regarding scale, the lifespan of your average Who, and probably the Grinch, would be pretty damned short, and both of those stories would have occurred in barely the blink of an eye to you or me, seeing as our proportions are downright Brobdingnagian in comparison to Old Doc Whovy, the Grinch, the kid who shouts "Yop!," and of course little Cindy-Lou Who, who was no more than two.

As I end with that inconsequential musing, I look up and see that the sun is rising to greet the gray Westport morning (it's supposed to rain, so no white Christmas) and I anticipate the soon-to-come opening of presents, but what is really getting me going is the excellence of soft-scrambled eggs with bits of diced Harrington ham mixed in... Hey, since I'm not getting any pussy for Christmas I can put aside my urges as a voluptuary and engage in full-bore gluttony!

Merry Chrismahanukwaanzakka, kiddies, and may 2006 be a better year for all of us!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A KING RENDERED A COMMONER: PETER JACKSON’S KING KONG

I finally saw Peter Jackson’s remake of KING KONG yesterday and while it is in no way a bad movie per se — and is infinitely better than Dino de Laurentiis’ 1976 cinematic atrocity — I have to say that is not for me.

Despite the fact that the 1933 original is my favorite movie, I divorced myself from the classic KONG for a few hours and trudged to the local multiplex, a strategy that helped me kill time until a cozy dinner party with some dear friends whom I hadn’t seen in months (barbecue joint schedule, dontcha know). Girded with a big sack of “buttered” popcorn and a fruit punch large enough to last through a three-hour-plus flick, I scoped out a seat that gave me a perfect centered vantage point in the virtually empty cinema. The lights dimmed, the commercials and trailers — all of which were pretty feeble — cranked by and then the film started.

We all know the basic tale: an ambitious filmmaker/showman leads an expedition to an uncharted island to film a fantastic monster. Said monster gets a major hard-on for the blonde starlet of the piece when she is sacrificed to him by the local crazy Negroes (in the South Seas???), hauls her up to his mountaintop crib through an island full of every horrifying creature imaginable while the film crew and sailors follow and meet hideous deaths, and is eventually captured and put on display on Broadway. The monster then escapes, snags the blonde again, climbs to the top of the then new Empire State Building, battles some biplanes, gets shot off of the building, plummets to a messy end and inspires the filmmaker/showman to state that “It wasn’t the planes that got him…It was beauty killed the beast.” THE END. The Jackson remake follows the same basic plot, but with a few tweaks and I will discuss in detail, so if you haven’t already seen the new one stop reading now for HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

As you know the basic plot, I’ll just break certain elements of the film down, plain and simple.
  • IT’S TOO DAMNED LONG. The story of Kong is already epic enough and it in no way needed to be expanded to over three hours of running time. The length also causes the film to seriously drag at times, so much so that I almost walked out during the last third due to its glacial pace and the fact that I already knew how the story ends. But I was good, and I stuck it out.
  • THE DEMYSTIFICATION OF KONG. In the sixty-two years since the original we have learned a lot about apes — specifically gorillas — and how they behave, and Jackson has approached Kong as pretty much an ordinary gorilla, only one who happens to be twenty-five feet tall. He’s no longer an ageless deity/monster, but a sensitive anthropoidal puppy dog when in the presence of Ann Darrow. In other words, Kong is now mediocre.
  • THE REIMAGINING OF THE ANN/KONG DYNAMIC. Ann Darrow is now a multitalented vaudevillian who, once she figures out that Kong isn’t as bad as he seems to be, entertains the big ape with somersaults, soft shoe schtick and juggling antics. There is no danger to Kong’s interest in Ann, other than the fact that she is in constant threat of being devoured by every critter on Skull Island as long as she sticks around. I really hated this development, especially when after rescuing Ann the crew hauls ass to avoid Kong, and Ann is ready to stay behind on the island so Kong will leave the rest of the cast alone. Now I don’t know about you, but no one in their right mind would volunteer to remain with Kong; sure, he’s a bad motherfucker and all that, but he can’t be there to protect your ass every waking second, and it is abundantly clear that Skull Island is a Lovecraftian hellhole full to bursting with carnivorous nasties. Ann may be blonde, but she didn’t strike me as stupid until she was ready to stay with Kong. And once Ann and the big guy become pals the saccharine factor goes through the roof, especially during the "Kong on ice" sequence that's meant to be charming but made me want to hurl, and Kong’s weepy demise. This is Kong, for fuck’s sake, not Old Yeller. I do NOT want to see Kong as a pussy.
  • UNINVOLVING CGI. Special effects grandmaster Ray Harryhausen (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI, CLASH OF THE TIITANS) has stated that he felt that making special effects monsters too realistic rendered them mundane; there should be a certain unreality about them to give the fantasy a certain magic. The effects geniuses at New Zealand’s Weta studios have created some technically incredible creatures for the film, a virtuoso display of just what is capable of being unveiled before our wondering eyes, but the magic that Harryhausen sought and achieved is glaringly missing and the monster battles felt to me like I was watching someone else play a video game, an experience that I am sadly finding to be quite common in big effects-laden pictures. I did not care for Kong as a character and was utterly uninvolved in his exploits, but I was able to appreciate the artistry that brought him to life. And at least the plant-eating dinosaurs stick to their leafy ways and do not attempt to chow down on the sailors.
  • AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RAVINE. What happens to some of the cast after they are shaken off of the log bridge by Kong into a deep ravine is the one truly horrifying moment of the film and I wish that the rest of the movie had one iota of the intensity found during this sequence.
  • DISAPPEARING NATIVES. Once the heroes return to the native village after their pursuit of Kong, the multitude of natives has disappeared with no explanation. Where did they go?
  • THE FINALE. I honestly did not give a damn during Kong’s Manhattan rampage — although I have to give Jackson thanks for using Max Steiner’s 1933 score during Kong’s Broadway debut — and when Kong did the slo-mo plummet from the zeppelin mooring, all I could think of was how much it reminded me of one of Wile E. Coyote’s falls in any of Chuck Jones’ Road Runner cartoons. The only thing missing was Kong fading from view only to be replaced by a muted “smack” sound effect and a tiny cloud of impact-disturbed dust.
  • JACK BLACK SUCKED OUT LOUD. Sorry, folks, but Jack Black’s Carl Denham was a study in arch overacting. If it weren’t for SCHOOL OF ROCK I would never forgive the guy for this performance.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about the new KING KONG. It’s an acceptable time-waster and really isn’t a bad movie, but as previously stated, it just wasn’t for me and as such disappointed me greatly. I seriously doubt that I could endure a second viewing thanks to its pacing, and I also doubt whether I’ll ever shell out the cash for the DVD. There's just no trace of "movie magic" to be found here. But don’t let my somewhat negative review keep you away from the box office; the giant monster genre needs a serious shot in the arm, and if KONG is a success it may pave the way for superior successors.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

JOURNEY TO SKULL ISLAND: DENIED!!!

Yesterday I was all set to see the 10 AM showing of Peter jackson's KING KONG remake; I had bought the ticket and was rarin' to go...then I got struck down by the wrath of some bad chicken curry and had the Mount Vesuvius effect coming out of both ends all night long, so I was not only unable to see the flick, but I was too worn out and debilitated to go to work after two days off.

What I'm wondering is this: did the spirit of my beloved 1933 KONG curse me into not seeing its glossier desendent? Hmmm, spooky...

PASSIONS 101

Folks-

finally — FINALLY!!! — I have found an article that explains exactly why PASSIONS is a bright glimmer of ridiculous genius on TV; it's one of my all-time favorite shows and is the only soap opera that I watch, so please go to http://www.rotten.com/library/culture/passions/ for a far more eloquent explanation of its madness than I am capable of conveying. And for those of you who have no idea what the hell I'm going on about, please read the article; I know it doesn't air in the Uk, but hope springs eternal.

Monday, December 12, 2005

TENDER-ASSED, FALL-OFF-THE-BONE OVEN SPARE RIBS

As you know, I work at a barbecue joint and totally kick ass in the kitchen (I also excel at humility); I am often asked to pass on the recipes that were handed down to me from my very southern — and very, VERY fat — ancestors who taught me to cook, and for the holidays here is the first of a couple of classics.

Yeah, yeah, I know that ribs are usually better as a summer thing, but deal with it.

INGREDIENTS

Pork spare ribs (or beef if you don’t eat swine)
Budweiser beer
Liquid smoke
Salt & pepper
Hot sauce
Cheap barbecue sauce
Garlic powder (or as many smashed garlic cloves as you can stand)
Honey
Brown mustard (NEVER use yellow!!!)
Worcestershire sauce

Marinade however many spare ribs you need over night in Budweiser, sealed in a large plastic freezer bag; Bud is important as the beer of choice because it does lend a particular flavor to the meat, and it’s available in most countries so you have no excuse for not using it.

When you are ready to cook, preheat your oven — Ooh! Sounds so naughty! — to three hundred and twenty-five degrees. Shake about two tablespoons of liquid smoke (found in the barbecue sauce aisle of your supermarket) over the meat; don’t use more than that because a little of the stuff goes a long way and can give the meat an artificial flavor if misused. Season ribs with salt and pepper to taste, put them in a deep baking pan (the cheap tin ones you can get at the market are just fine for this, and you can save yourself the messy cleanup afterwards by simply throwing the bastard out) and cover tightly with foil. The pan must be tightly sealed because as the ribs begin to cook they will steam in their own juices, thereby becoming very tender. Cook for two hours.

While the ribs are slow cooking, prepare the sauce in a large mixing bowl or pot with plenty of room for stirring/whisking. Using the hot sauce of your choice (I recommend Trappey’s Indi-Pep West Indian pepper sauce), blend liberally with at least one bottle of cheap barbecue sauce (I’d go with two as a general yardstick), as much honey, Worcestershire sauce and mustard as suits your taste, and a shitload of garlic powder, or smashed garlic cloves if you prefer. I recommend the powder since it’s easier to mix, but the smashed cloves add the unmistakable kick of real garlic. When all of this is blended it should have a consistency just a tad thinner than cake batter.

After the meat has cooked for two hours, pour off 95% of the juices and add the sauce. Cover tightly again and return to the oven for another hour. After that hour the meat should be rather tender, and you can take the foil off if you’d like the ribs to be a little bit on the browned side.

I highly recommend preparing this the day before you serve it since it will really find its flavor overnight, and they heat up great in the microwave!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

THAT NIGGER’S DEAD: RICHARD PRYOR 1940-2005

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor the Third, better known to the public at large as Richard Pryor.

Born and raised in an Illinois whorehouse. The self-admitted bard of self-destruction whose notoriety as a drug and wife abuser threatened to overshadow his importance as perhaps the most preeminent comedic voice of the latter 20th century. Movie star and co-scribe of Mel Brooks’ classic western lampoon, BLAZING SADDLES (1974). Survivor of a freebase-induced self-immolation that he later claimed to be a suicide attempt. Poet of the scatological and vulgar. Shatterer of societal and racial taboos simply by virtue of opening his mouth on stage and being the first black comedian to honestly state what was on his mind in the, shall we say, “colorful” terms used by us highly rhythmic individuals within our own homes or other places where we could freely express ourselves without fear of hempen reprisal from Mister Charlie. Richard Pryor was all of these things, but above all the guy was simply one of the funniest motherfuckers who ever lived, wrenching laughs out of the most bitterly painful and embarrassing human experiences — mostly his own — and now after a nearly twenty-year battle with multiple sclerosis the man is dead of a heart attack, just a few days after his sixty-fifth birthday. And the amazing thing is that it took this long for him to go; I mean, the guy did drugs like a motherfucker, had at least one heart attack and did his infamous Johnny Storm impersonation, for fuck’s sake!

It’s kind of difficult to explain Pryor’s importance and impact to those who weren’t there to witness his meteoric rise and equally spectacular crashes-and-burns, but I’ll give it a shot.

My parents were both products of cripplingly dysfunctional upbringings in the deep south during the pre-Civil Rights era and both were exposed to the earthy black culture of the time; as a result, both of them developed senses of humor that acted as a form of self defense, only my father’s veered deep into the territory of the sophomoric and ribald, which is clearly where I get it from. During my formative years my dad attempted to bond with me in the same way that his father tried to with him, namely by telling me jokes and stories that were completely inappropriate for my age and level of understanding, but his ham-handed attempts did prepare me for vulgarities that would come.

At about the same time Richard Pryor’s comedy albums were really beginning to take off, specifically THAT NIGGER'S CRAZY (1974).

I had not yet heard any of his work, but whenever he was mentioned in the popular media his name was virtually synonymous with foul language and much of the white media didn’t quite know what to make of him. Black folks, however, did, and his honesty and vitriol were the next logical step up for an audience already used to the profane antics of such “chitlin circuit” comics as Moms Mabley, Skillet & Leroy, Pigmeat Markham and Rudy Ray “Dolemite” Moore. The difference being that Pryor somehow managed to be a lowbrow for a higher-brow audience than those who preceded him.

Having cut his teeth doing what pretty much amounted to family-friendly comedy in the Bill Cosby vein during the mid-1960’s, Pryor quickly realized that he needed to find his own voice and in the midst of getting his shit somewhat together — and coincidentally discovering the toxic muse of hard drugs — he did just that. Honing his talents in some of the aforementioned chitlin circuit dives, Pryor reemerged as a bitter, twisted firebrand who addressed issues of race, sex, drugs and general human stupidity in no uncertain terms, dragging the raw sensibility of American black humor out of the confines of the community and vomiting it up into the lap of mainstream America. And not surprisingly, white America soon embraced him and his humor in the same way that it embraced all the other shit that it would later co-opt, such as corn rows, rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop and tanning (come on, white folks, admit it! You like us so much that you even want to look like us!).

Now I knew none of this in 1977 when I “liberated” my dad’s LP’s of Pryor’s THAT NIGGER'S CRAZY and ...IS IT SOMETHING I SAID? (1975) and I was in no way prepared for what I heard. Yes, the rampant cussing was there, along with some seriously raunchy and blasphemous anecdotes — my first eye-opening exposure to the concept of “pussy farts” and the fact that Dracula can’t handle a crucifix because he’s allergic to bullshit — but what really got me was the way in which this material was conveyed to the audience; it wasn’t the fact that the stories and gags were incredibly foul, nasty and even tasteless, but it was the way in which Pryor spoke to me. He told a story exactly like the men in my family did, with a relaxed flow that takes you along for the ride, and peppered with profanity that you eventually no longer notice because it isn’t used for shock effect; it’s just the way the storyteller talks. And take it from me, black people have cornered the market on outrageous storytelling since day one, what with tales of Anansi and the like, and among other things, if it weren’t for our gift of finding humor in the worst situations possible we, would never have made it through the centuries of slavery.

One of our comedic fortes is the fine art of “lying,” or the spinning of ludicrous yarns for entertainment that succeed or fail depending on the teller’s delivery. The story can contain nuances that will make a listener laugh, but the overall tale must be presented as if you were recounting an actual event. The first such “lie” I ever heard came from one of my grandfather — a self-described “Injun” who was raised steeped in southern black culture — and it went like this:

Boy, I once knowed a man who had a dog whose ass he’d kick if he had a bad day at work. He’d come home, cuss out the dog and throw the motherfucker out the window. Now I used to hang out with the man every day, so I saw all this shit happen. First day, he came home, kicked the dog’s ass and chucked the leg-lifter out the window. Second day, he came home, kicked the dog’s ass, threw the bastard out the window. On the third day, the man came home, kicked the dog’s ass and then the dog looked at him and said “Fuck this!” and threw his own self out the window. Swear to God!

While that story is basically clean, you get the idea of how the form works. Perhaps the most famous example of Pryor’s handling of the lie is this one:

Ever hear the one about the niggers with the big dicks? Well, these two niggers went to see who had the biggest dicks but they wanted to do it in private ‘cause they wasn’t no freaks. So one says to the other “I gots to take a leak.” So they stop on a bridge, take out their dicks, and start pissing. One then says to the other “Man! This water’s cold!” and the other one says “Yeah, and it’s deep too!”

Silly, but funny.

So once I got past Pryor’s lies — the best of which were relayed by his alter-ego, Mudbone — he opened my eyes to issues of race and sexuality that perhaps I shouldn’t have heard at such a tender age, but when I ran into the exact same situations in real life I was armed with a perspective that allowed me to laugh while I felt the skewering of life’s serrated-edged blade. Case in point, regarding interracial romance:

Black women look at you like you killed your mama if they see you with a white woman. (mimics female voice) “Well, you shouldn’t be with a white woman anyway! (Cheers from black women in the audience)
Yeah, why should you be happy?” (Vociferous protests from black women in the audience)

No subject was off limits: his sexual abuse at the hands of a neighborhood child molester (who in later years had the nerve to show up on the set of JO JO DANCER, YOUR LIFE IS CALLING with his nine-year-old son in tow and demand an autograph!), a reenactment of his first heart attack, lusting after his teenage daughter’s school friends, his own love hate/hate relationship with the black community (“I just don’t give a fuck anymore! If someone came up to me and said ‘Fuck black people!’…”I AGREE!!!”), his mistreatment of his many wives and lovers, and his infamous and near-fatal love affair with cocaine were all grist for his tragic jester’s mill.

Those of you who are familiar with Richard’s work understand that he was a cripplingly flawed human being whose own self-hatred was matched only by his utter disgust at the world around him and such a worldview made for a pretty major league asshole, but Pryor’s humor appeals to me not merely for it’s hilarity, but for the fact that it sees the world as an escalating series of horrors that one can only face by laughing at one’s own personal idiocy and moving outward from there. Plain and simple, I understand where his humor is coming from.

For those of you who have never heard any of his albums, I recommend the following:

CRAPS (a very early recording of stuff that would later be polished into classic Pryor bits)
RICHARD PRYOR (the one with him dressed like a stereotypical bone-through-the-nose native)
THAT NIGGER’S CRAZY
...IS IT SOMETHING I SAID? (my personal favorite)
WANTED
RICHARD PRYOR LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP

And as for the movies he made and starred in, I say avoid them all; some have their moments — SILVER STREAK’s bit with Gene Wilder in the worst blackface makeup on record is hilarious — but most suck. When it came out, Pryor himself even publicly admitted that STIR CRAZY was a piece of shit, so what does that tell you?

And for the whole story straight from the horse’s mouth, I urge you to read PRYOR CONVICTIONS, Richard’s autobiography with an assist from Todd Gold; no punches are pulled, and when it comes time for me to chronicle my own fucked-up life story I hope that I am capable of doing so with the unflinching candor found in the pages of that book.

I really can’t add any more except to say that I actually wept for the guy when I heard tell of his passing. I didn’t know him, but I feel like I lost a good friend. A very fucked-up friend, but a friend nonetheless.

I loved you very much, Mister Pryor, and I hope that now you can find the peace that eluded and mocked you during your life.

Friday, December 09, 2005

WHAT A SURPRISE: YET ANOTHER LUNATIC AT THE BARBECUE JOINT

While I was enjoying a day off on Tuesday, my boss says that yet another refugee from the rubber room dropped in at the barbecue joint, regaling an unwilling audience with his endless prattle for several hours.

The outpatient in question was described as an imposing black guy who went on at great length about having virtually every job one could imagine, such as being a ranger, a machinist, and — my favorite — an agent for a secret government branch that required his Navy Seal-acquired scuba skills for retrieval of fugitives in some Louisiana bayou, a bayou that purportedly boasts turtles the size of Volkswagons and catfish as long as station wagons.

He then offered to buy my boss a carpet to replace the rubber runner that we put down on the floor when it rains or snows, and busted out a familiar picture book of the Park Slope area to show the bar patrons what the neighborhood looked like back in the days, a book that he claimed he wanted to donate to the restaurant. He showed the tome around and fixed the patrons with an icy stare that sounds reminiscent of the time when Snoopy worked to perfect his darkly-browed vulture imitation. My boss used that as his cue to get up and escape for a smoke break.

At that point the creepy bastard asked our lovely guest bartender, Margaret, to return the book, and she cheerfully said ”Sure!” He then announced to her that he was going to go home and write his name in the book so no one would take it. Margaret again said “Sure,” at which he approached her with Snoopy/vulture effect in full tilt and threateningly snarled “DON’T FUCK WITH ME.” He sauntered out and ran into my boss as he exited, and by all accounts was very polite as he left. That image was shot down when Margaret filled my boss in on being thoroughly creeped out by the exchange.

As a result, should he return, the guy becomes our second patron in nearly a year to be eighty-sixed for outright hostility. The joint only has one rule, clearly posted on the wall, and that rule is “Be nice.” To bad that douchebag wasn’t.

WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND

One nice thing about the bitter cold winters here in the Rotten Apple: you can walk down the street engrossed in reading a magazine, step in dog shit and not care because the turd in question is frozen solid as a rock. You WIN!!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

ON BEING A SCARY BLACK MAN

This afternoon I was out picking up groceries and as I approached my block I noticed a petite blonde casting fearful glances at me from over her shoulder. We both neared my corner and she kept turning to look at me...

Now for those of you who have never met me, I am six feet tall, around 240 pounds and tend to dress in black, and today I was decked out in my black leather trench coat, sun-goggles and a hideous raccoon hat (complete with the unfortunate scavenger's face just above my eyebrows), all quite fitting for the bitter cold and generally cruddy weather. In other words, I resembled a mulatto Frankenstein's monster on a four-week LSD bender.

The paranoid young woman rounded the corner and I was right behind her as we approached my building — where I have resided for eight years — she started to loudly shriek "STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" She stepped up onto the stoop of my building and frantically fumbled with her keys in a desperate to gain entrance and escape the dusky pursuer who no doubt intended her complete and utter MANDINGO-style violation. Presently she crossed the threshhold and closed the lobby door with a look of relieved smugness. Said smugness changed to abject horror as I walked up, calmy opened the door and walked in.

She backed up the stairway to the second floor, wide-eyed, and again yelled "STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" I said nothing, and as she warily advanced to the stairway to the third floor I turned to my own doorway, opened the door and said, "LIsten, lady. I live here. Deal with it." She spluttered for a bit, and said, "Oh, my God! I'm so sorry!" as she darted up the stairs like her naughty bits were on fire and she needed to sit in a tub full of water posthaste.

The saddest part of all this is that this has happened to me on several occasions over the years, and I have simply resigned myself to the fact that I am a scary black man to those who don't know me.

My favorite exmple of this is from some nineteen years ago during my college days at SUNY Purchase when a stereotypical Jewish princess from Long Island came up to me one day after class — for the record the class was "Rebels, Freaks and Prophets," taught by the legendary and truly excellent Esther Newton — and said, "you know, Steve, when I first saw you and that huge afro and leather and sunglasses and biker boots, I was terrified of you. Then you opened your mouth to speak in class and all fear flew away from me..." To my credit, I did not curse her out, but I ignored her from that point on.

So the moral of this is: unless some black guy is holding you down on the asphalt with a Ginsu pressed to your throat, please don't assume that we are out to get you. In fact, for all you know the brotha with the Ginsu may be attempting to remove a dangerous parasite, thereby saving your melanin-challenged ass.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

WHILE WAITING FOR THE NEW KING KONG...

As Peter (LORD OF THE RINGS) Jackson’s much-anticipated remake of the 1933 KING KONG approaches, Warner Brothers has been kind enough to release a boxed set featuring digitally remastered prints of KING KONG, SON OF KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG on DVD with an obscene amount of extras — including commentary on KONG and JOE by living treasure and absolute master of stop-motion animation, Ray (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS) Harryhausen — and my copy of the set arrived today. So much for using my day off for cleaning my apartment…

The 1933 KING KONG is my all-time favorite movie since it contains pretty much everything I would like to see in a film; it’s got suspense, action, graphic violence, an epic scale, romance between a he-man tough guy and a beautiful leading lady, crisp black-and-white photography, and a shitload of dangerous stop-motion monsters. And of course, King Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World! It’s the movie that got me hooked on giant monster flicks the way a hardcore junkie loves a freshly loaded needle, and I will stop whatever I’m doing if I find out that it’s on TV, sit my beige ass down and stare in unabashed wonder at the sheer perfection unfolding before my eyes. I only wish I could have seen it on opening night back in 1933; I saw STAR WARS on opening night by accident in 1977 and it completely rocked my world, so I can only imagine how an audience some thirty-four years earlier must have shat a collective cinder block when faced with such spectacle that they were in no way prepared for.

My usual Monday activities curtailed by the cruddy weather, I delighted at having the films at my disposal and was saddened only by the fact that all of my friends were at work and I couldn’t have anyone over to share my geekery with. Nonetheless I tore open the package and set to viewing.

As I’d seen KONG about eleventy-jillion times since childhood and it’s annual running at Thanksgiving on New York’s WWOR for years, I dove straight into the second disc, a treasure trove of geek spank material including an exhaustive 2 & ½ hour “making of” documentary that has to be seen to be believed. I sat there with my jaw in my lap as Peter Jackson discussed recreating the legendary “Lost Spider Pit Sequence,” a bit cut from the original in which the unfortunate sailors whom Kong cast off of the log into a deep ravine where they were promptly devoured by a bevy of Lovecraftian wigglies; Jackson also reveres KONG as his favorite film, and he had the power and greenbacks to recreate the sequence with actual stop-motion critters rather than CGI and degrade the color into B&W. Lovely…

I then sat through KONG with commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, and the magic of that film was only amplified by having Harryhausen describe what it was like seeing that film when it opened and he was thirteen years old. Movie buffs, we have KING KONG to thank for inspiring — dare I say obsessing? — Harryhausen and spurring him on to create what may arguably be the finest handmade visual effects in film history, so even if you aren’t a fan of the big gorilla you owe him one motherfucking SERIOUS debt.

Next up was the lamentable SON OF KONG, a quickie sequel that actually made it to the screen less than a year after KING KONG. Willis O’Brien’s animation notwithstanding, the less said the better. Robert Armstrong’s reprisal of his role as Carl Denham is still fun, though.

Next up was MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, coming some sixteen years after KONG and being everything that SON OF KONG could never have hoped to be. It’s not a sequel, but it fits neatly into an unofficial trilogy and is an utter delight; the tale of a giant gorilla and his human companion who are appallingly exploited by a lucre-hungry showman — sound familiar? — has charm to burn, and Jo’s personality is the polar opposite of Kong’s insomuch as while Kong is sympathetic Joe is actually sweet-natured until fucked with beyond all reason. Unlike Kong, Joe’s fate is not dire and you and your little one will not be reaching for the Kleenex at the end of the flick. When you watch this one on DVD, check out the commentary from Harryhausen — who cut his stop-motion teeth on that film — Ken Ralston, and Terry Moore; it’s a lot less “Golly, I love this movie” than the KONG commentary, and it’s fun to have Moore along for the ride since she played Joe’s companion. And in the sixteen years between KING KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, the stop motion technique was refined quite a bit and some of the sequences in the nightclub when a drunken Joe rampages are logistical nightmares that no sane animator would even go near these days, but Ray Harryhausen was the Bruce Lee of such techniques, and Joe’s demolition of the nightclub is truly incredible when one takes into account exactly how much concentration, patience and talent goes into the creation of top notch model animation.

So if you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for your kids or the film geeks in your life, or even for yourself like I did, pick this set up. And I recommend using deepdiscountdvd.com for this; the set cost me a total of $30.42, including postage and handling. Trust me, it isn’t even like spending money.

Monday, December 05, 2005

RETURN OF THE BIRTHDAY GIRL

A couple of months ago an attractive blonde sat down at the barbecue joint’s bar, ordered a stiff rum drink and announced that it was her birthday. I wished her a happy one, and almost immediately my “looney sense” began to tingle. That extra-sensory ability is one that has been honed in me by years of dating and/or dealing with women of varying degrees of sanity, and this chick was registering a solid 10 of warning vibes. Heeding my instincts I avoided her and observed from a distance, and sure enough she was as crazy as an outhouse rat, a condition that was only amplified by her copious liquor consumption. I swear that I could almost hear the out-of-tune toy piano soundtrack of her madness as she sloppily worked the room.

This woman has since showed up a few times, always reminding me that she’s “the birthday girl,” and last night she dropped in again. She appeared to be slightly drunk when she arrived, and quickly compounded her intoxication with a few rounds of rum and coke, loosening her tongue and making her irritatingly friendly.

I walked toward the front door to get some fresh air after tending to the contents of the billowing smoke shack, and as I neared the threshold she beckoned me over. I politely greeted her and asked what was up, and she stared blankly at me for a moment before asking me if I was one of the establishment’s managers. I explained that I’m just the cook, and she warned me that I had better watch it because I might get fired. She then reached out and took my hand while looking up into my eyes and stating that when she was last at the joint I was clearly upset and yelled at people so much that I drove away customers, including her, but my obvious anger caused her to come back…

Folks, let me tell you that the incident she was referring to NEVER happened, and as near as my co-worker, Tracey, and I can figure out she has me confused with some other psycho at another establishment.

Anyway, I withdrew my hand, a move that offended her, and she then demanded my hand back and requested that I sit down next to her. When I refused to sit, she told me that I shouldn’t yell at people because that’s not what God would want me to do. At that point the crazy carnival music began to play and she asked me if I believed in God. When I told her that, no, I do not believe in God, she got silent for a moment and then looked at me incredulously, and said “You don’t believe in God? Why not?” I offered that in my forty years I had seen enough evidence to convince me utterly of the non-existence of such a deity, and once I dropped that bombshell Birthday Girl attempted to sit me down and give me the God rap. I stopped her in mid-sermon and said, “Look. You have your opinion and that works great for you. I have my opinion, which you clearly are not willing to let me have, and once you try to drag me down the road to religious conversion, I’m OUT.” I then retreated to the safety of the kitchen, doing chores that I had reserved for the next day in a successful effort to avoid Birthday Girl’s rantings.

Presently Rob and Andrea — two of our favorite regulars — arrived and sat down next to Birthday Girl. Andrea came to the kitchen to chat with me, but I warned her not to leave her unsuspecting boyfriend with the drunken loon. She soon sat down with poor Rob, who had been kindly weathering BG’s lunacy, including her sad tale of how her family couldn’t deal with the fact that she was in love with a black man, a development that also killed her intentions of becoming a nun. At that point, BG noticed Andrea and said to her, “I am white. You are black.” Now Andrea has a slightly spooky way about her, and she looked at Birthday Girl with an expression that read to sane eyes “Bitch, I KNOW I’m black,” or “Come near me again and I’ll fucking deck you, right here and now!” Rob and Andrea soon left to go to a show, but they both stopped in to the kitchen to see me before they left and let me know in no uncertain terms that Birthday Girl was “twelve shades of fucking crazy.”

My boss was behind the bar and very wisely cut off BG’s liquor flow, but just as soon as Rob and Andrea left a group of three Polish contractors came in and took up residence at the end of the bar right next to our heroine. They tried to hit on her and buy her drinks — which my boss put the kibosh on — and that’s when Birthday Girl revealed her native-speaker proficiency with the Polish tongue, which we were treated to at Motorhead arena-concert-level decibels. Between loud pronouncements and brief crying jags, BG would excuse herself and head outside to smoke and communicate via cellphone with her ebony lover-man. Soon enough, the merry Poles realized that the Birthday Girl was pretty much partied out and made sure she got into a cab.

But where one birthday girl was a tiresome irritant, another was a welcome bit of Latina sunshine.

A few months back two cute Puerto Rican chicks just barely of legal drinking age dropped in late one night, and we instantly hit it off because we are all movie geeks. The girls in question are named Ericka — a luscious mami if ever I saw one; too bad she’s young enough to be my daughter — and Joyce, and last night was Joyce’s birthday.

Joyce is funny as hell (when she laughs she snorts just like Chrissy on “Three’s Company”), smart as a whip, and very easy on the eyes; she has a slight Rosario Dawson/Vanessa del Rio look that totally works. She and Ericka had been in the prior night and now Joyce was ready to go out dancing and partying to celebrate her twenty-second year of existence. She sat at the bar for a couple of hours, waiting for a friend to pick her up, and we kept each other amused. I hope she had a happy birthday and I also hope she comes back soon. With the yummy Ericka in tow…

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

DAVID CRONENBERG ON DOCUMENTING ONE'S LIFE

I have often asked myself why I blog and I have never really come up with a satisfactory expanation, but tonight I have found a partial answer while watching the new two-disc DVD of David Cronenberg's exquisite remake of THE FLY.

Cronenberg's THE FLY is one of my absolute favorite films, dripping with intelligence and the "body horror" that the director is known for, and one of the most touching and tragic love stories in film history despite its finger-down-the-throat visceral grue and disgustingness, and I treated myself to the new DVD release yesterday while out on one of my weekly day-off excursions into Manhattan for comic books, fish and chips, and whatever else I can get away with before I return to the kitchen. I initially went into the video store in search of another piece of biological sci-fi, namely FANTASTIC VOYAGE, but while searching fruitlessly for it in the "F" section I came across the new release of THE FLY and all bets were off.

Last night I watched the second disc, which is FUCKING LOADED with extras, including a two hour and forty-some-odd minute "making of" documentary and an exhaustive look at the effects, and it was utterly fascinating, whetting my appetite for the film itself, complete with Cronenberg's commentary throughout. So tonight I sat back, excellent slice of Quiche Lorraine from Night & Day ready to shovel down my gullet, beer at the ready, and got down to business. I've seen the movie many times so watching it with the commentary was sheer jiblet gravy, especially since Cronenberg has a vision and thematic viewpoint utterly unique in the world of film, and for that I will always love and appreciate him.

Anyway, while watching and listening to the movie, I reached the point when Cronenberg got to the moment in the film where we see the videotaped chronicle of the sheer, repugnant horror of watching Brundlefly winsomely talk about how he eats, and the director offered this observation about why people document their lives on videotape:

"Once again, that whole idea of documenting your life, no matter how hideous, in fact, the more hideous, the more you want to document it; in a way it takes you out of your life, it makes it a movie, it makes it not be real, and I think that's why people have the impulse to document their own lives, even their worst moments... ESPECIALLY their worst moments."

I have documented many happy moments and musings from my insignificant existence, but well said, David Cronenberg. Well said indeed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

REQUIEM

Last week another of the barbecue joint's cast of characters joined the Choir Invisible, and here is his story.

One of the things that anyone who works in a bar/restaurant can tell you is that sooner or later you will encounter certain regulars/repeat customers who simply drive you right up the tree, and at the top of the list for me was L—. The guy was a fifty-something Puerto Rican local who loudly expressed his disdain for Mexicans and was stinking rich thanks to real estate investments made by himself and his wife, but prior to my first encounter with him he had been a long-time intravenous drug abuser and due to that aspect of his lifestyle he developed a virulent case of HIV.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I found out that I had the HIV and there was no cure in sight I would probably drink like a motherfucker from the moment I woke up until the second that my body finally could take no more and just shut itself down for a few hours, and that’s exactly what L— did every single day for years. During the nearly eight months that L— frequented the barbecue joint I never — and I do mean NEVER — saw the guy sober. He’d show up totally blasted and ramble incoherently, the only understandable words issuing from his mouth being, “STEVIE! I NEED A SAN’WICH!!!” or “HEY, BOO-BOO! I NEED A SAN’WICH!!!,” and it got to the point that if I or anyone else in the place saw him coming we’d have his sandwich and side of homemade sauce ready and in the bag within moments just so we could get him out of our hair. He was so plowed that he even once walked in, right past me who served him his brisket sandwiches every single day, found the only other black guy in the room (who looks NOTHING like me) and said to him, "STEVIE! I NEED A SAN'WICH!!!" Hell, it got to the point where we’d even bump his order to the top of the list on our busiest nights. I know that sounds unnecessarily mean but due to his rampaging drunkenness the guy was a danger to himself and others, occasionally coming in clothed in his pajamas and covered from head to toe in his own blood after taking an inebriated spill, even going so far as to try to enter the kitchen in that state of disarray.

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear right now: NO FUCKING WAY will I ever let such a major sanguinary biohazard into any kitchen I’m working in, and that’s that.

L— was allegedly kept on a short leash by his wife and given a limited allowance with which to buy various small items, including setting up a sandwich account with us, and he was eventually accompanied by a caretaker who guided him around the neighborhood and made sure that he didn’t spend his meager cash on some of the dirt-cheap horse to be found in some of the less savory establishments in the Greenwood Heights area. In recent months, provided his caretaker was elsewhere, he’d run up his tab and when he could no longer afford booze on his own he would attempt to borrow money from my boss, myself or any other staff member available and we’d all turn him down flat. After I finally put my foot down and told him in no uncertain terms that he would never get even one red cent from anyone in the barbecue joint, L— staggered out of the establishment, deeply hurt by my stern standpoint, and stood outside attempting to shake down locals and random passersby for beer money. Since that strategy was met with success on the same level as that of CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC (the Village People movie that unofficially marked the end of the disco era), L— moved on to other things.

Periodically, L— would be hospitalized for a week or two and forced to dry out under supervised conditions, but the minute he got out he’d hit the bottle hard once again, thereby rendering whatever prophylaxis he’d undergone thoroughly moot. Simply put, the guy was just too far gone to give a fuck.

During the past month and a half L— would come in and attempt to reminisce with my boss about various events that he was convinced that both of them had been involved in, events that my boss would flat out tell him he’d had no involvement in. The poor bastard was now totally delusional and we got to witness his swift descent into barely-functional madness.

Which brings this narrative to just over a week ago and a few details supplied by an unimpeachable source:

I was in the kitchen on the Sunday in question and I heard L— enter the joint and approach the bartender. He pulled out a $20 bill and informed the staffer that he was settling up his tab and that we should let our boss know that his account was now squared. He then left to wander down the block (at which point my source’s info kicks in) to the home of a local with whom he’d had a longstanding animosity. Upon arriving at the man’s apartment, L— made peace with his enemy of old and staggered to the bodega to purchase several forty-ouncers of either Budweiser of Colt 45. Upon obtaining his beers, L— went home and promptly began to vomit blood, so much so that he literally bled to death on his living room floor, in front of, some accounts say, his poor wife.

The guy may have been a fucking nuisance and a biohazard, but nobody should go by puking up blood all over the goddamned place.

The next couple of days following L—‘s demise witnessed many locals coming in and sharing their memories of his sad life, and his nearly-toothless brother coming in for a few before shipping L—‘s body back to Puerto Rico the next day. Handling his sibling’s passing with a sense of prepared inevitability, the brother was rather amiable throughout his time on the barstool and candidly answered the one question I had during all of it: if L— knew that by kicking booze and smack he could prolong his life for a few more years, then why not get help, especially if he was wealthy enough to afford it without even noticing a depletion in his bank account? His brother kicked down his Schaeffer tall-boy and simply said, “Hey, he liked to party a little too much, know what I mean?” Then some more relatives arrived and led the brother away, and with that L— was relegated to the lore of the barbecue joint.

POSTSCRIPT:
Furthering my theory that by working at the barbecue joint I am living as part of the revolving cast of a soap opera/sitcom, shortly after the death of L— an old man who looked like one of the rummies who hang out at the local V.F.W. sat down at the bar and ordered a beer.

The old duffer launched into the well-worn spiel that the staff endured from many of the older, alky locals, namely about living in the area since the Cretaceous era, hating the way the neighborhood is changing (translation: young, educated people who have actually been somewhere else are ruining their provincial tribalism), blah blah blah, all while clearly settling in for hours of drinking and boring us with his droning/slurring nonsense.

Our beleaguered barkeep, Jeff, walked into the kitchen in an attempt to get a moment’s peace — it was early on Sunday and there was no one in the bar except two of the cool locals and the old guy — and I headed out behind the bar for a glass of milk (hey, it was early!). The old coot reached across the bar and grabbed my wrist, offering “Hey! My name’s D— and I was in here on da night youse guys opened! I forgot ta leave a tip fer da red-haired guy behind da bahr, so could youse give it ta him fer me? I wanna be a regular, so I wanna start widda fresh tab…”

I hurried back to sanctuary in the kitchen and watched as Jeff suffered through more of the coffin-dodger’s inane ramblings until the old man eventually staggered away, apparently displeased at Jeff not having heard his softly-slurred request for another beer. The old turd didn’t even leave a tip, a fairly common custom with some of the older locals. Hopefully he won’t return, but the whole scene felt like an audition for the role of our new irritating barfly.

Life goes on…

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

THE HORROR...THE HORROR...

Here's another story from the barbecue joint trenches, and it sure as fuck ain't pretty.

On Friday night, "Cotton Ear," one of the joint's rotating cast of worthless douchebags came back in and asked to use the bathroom. The woman in question is the wife of "The Troll," some idiot who tried during the early days of the joint to become our live entertainment as a guitarist while trying to pass his wife off as a singer (who purportedly had a brief career crooning at vaious rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike; no, seriously). My boss gave the guy the nay-no but he persistently tried to weasel his way in, ultimately to no avail.

This couple is hard to get across to the casual reader because they are a true horror that must be personally witnessed in order to be understood. They are obviously junkies, never sober, are redolent of who-knows-what, and worst of all they have a beautiful infant daughter whom I am convinced was kidnapped. The vaginally-equipped portion of the pair even came in one night and asked me if we threw out food each day and if we'd give it to her and her verminous mate.

Anyway, on Friday night Bride of Troll came in and asked our bartender if she could once again use our bathroom. After her lavoratorial visit, she promptly left and vanished into the night. Then our waitress attempted to use the facilities and recoiled as if avoiding the strike of King Cobra. "FUCK!" she cried, "It smells like the homeless!!!" Being the only staffer on duty at that time who was able to deal with the situation since the kitchen was closed and the bartender was otherwise engaged, your humble narrator girded his loins and opened the Ladies' Room door.

There are those who say that people who witness Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian horrors that man was not meant to experience go mad at the first exposure to such sheer, otherworldly evil, and I am here to say that I nearly gave up the last vestiges of my sanity upon crossing that threshold. I reeled as though physically assaulted by the horrific stench and, staggered though I was, I somehow managed to wobble into the kitchen and dig out the appropriate tools for handling such an olfactory Chernobyl, namely several rough bar rags and a surfeit of bleach in a spray bottle. With the theme from GHOSTBUSTERS playing in my head, I disconnected all emotion and got down to business. After pulling my shirt up over my nose and mouth to form a makeshift air filter, I entered the now-violated privy and sprayed bleach willy-nilly into the air, all while casting a critical eye over the entire room. The fetid miasma that cursed the atmosphere was without question the most powerful yeast infection waft in the history of pussy, and compounding that was the horror of that vile woman having somehow left her steaming, drippy feces on both sides of the toilet seat.

I had to clean that, folks.

After handling that douche-chill-inducing spectacle I hit every surface in the restroom with bleach and called in a friend of the bar who happens to be a seriously experienced nurse to verify that it was safe for women to use. Once I was given the all-clear I retired to the bar and sucked down shot after shot of tequila in an attempt to soothe my shattered nerves. The next day I explained all of this to my boss — minus the screaming and cursing that occurred once I was out of that vortex of pestilence — and stated flatly that the musical goon and his plague-disseminating spouse be permanently banned from ever setting foot in the joint ever again, a decision made by all of the staff in attendance that night, especially since they only ever come in to drop their toxic waste and never spend a fucking cent on anything.

My boss — who is already rather pallid, being the spawn of Russian-American coal miners from Pennsylvania — visibly turned chalk white upon hearing of my ordeal and flatly approved the 86ing of the two offenders. I can't wait to tell them that they are no longer welcome...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

SMOKE 'EM IF YA GOT 'EM: CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER FULL-TIME STONER

A few days ago I was offered a taste of some righteous Northern Lights bud; no joke, folks, I’m talking some serious Cheech & Chong shit, so I figured why the hell not? I sparked the joint with the well-practiced ease of the experienced stoner and waited for the effects to kick in as the illicit vapors filled my lungs. Soon enough the familiar frontal lobe wobble began and I gave in to other-than-nicotinal bliss. The odd thing about it was that while I was enjoying some primo smoke, I was in no way as wowed by the experience as I would have been during my heyday as a full-time, pot-smoking reprobate, an era that began twenty years ago and yet somehow seems like only yesterday.

During my formative years I self-righteously railed against “druggies,” firmly convinced that anyone who partook of even the most innocuous path to an altered state of consciousness was destined to die alone, wretched and scorned, most likely infested with all manner of vermin, residing in a discarded refrigerator box while wallowing in a pool of day-old piss. Such views were seeded by my know-nothing-of-the-outside-world parents —both products of a Depression-era deep Southern upbringing (translation: ignorance as culture) who both had teaching degrees, sheepskins that they felt granted them a superior and unimpeachable omniscience — and an endless rotation of televised public service announcements that came in the wake of the hippie era, a government-fueled attempt at sobering up the nation, which may not have been the best of ideas since we were still in Vietnam, being shocked by Watergate, and gearing up for the juggernaut of Disco.

I was one of the few kids where I grew up who never tried pot during junior and senior high school and my resistance held firm until the second semester of my sophomore year of college (Spring 1985), when a friend who I still hold dear to this day talked me into taking a few hits off of a bong crafted from an Agree shampoo bottle. I didn’t “freak out” and go on a Manson Family-style binge of murder and mutilation while shrieking the lyrics to Alice Cooper’s “Cold Ethyl,” and as a result I would occasionally smoke a bowl with friends at a party.

Then came my third year of college, or what may be more honestly referred to as my head-first, total immersion into 1980’s stoner culture. I lived in a single room in a basement suite of the dorms that was once the university's infirmary, and a budding stoner could scarcely have asked for a more secure toking space. I equipped my room with a multi-colored crazy quilt of movie posters, old photos and comic book promo ads, surrounding a large and comfortable bed festooned with comfy pillows, and the one item that no would-be opium den is complete without: the obligatory lava lamp. The icing on the psychedelic cake was my ever-growing record collection, and in no time my room became THE hangout spot for my friends.

Yer Bunche, circa Spring of 1986.

Our smoking implement of choice was a two-hosed glass hookah named “the Fusion Plasma Generator,” and it was the lightsaber of water pipes; perhaps it’s because of the impact that it made at the time, but I will swear in a court of law that I have never gotten a better hit out of any smoking apparatus since. The FPG was the first in what would become a long line of bongs and such, usually one those plastic $30 pull-tubes, and an infamous pipe that bore the moniker “the Claw,” so named because it was a regular stemmed pipe whose bowl rested firmly in the grip of a nauseating dried chicken's foot. But such horrid sights did not deter my friends and I from getting wasted as often as humanly possible, a tight fraternity of stoners united in our utopia of love, peace, incense and junk food munchies. And sometimes we even went to classes!

During that year I became consumed with getting as high as possible as often as possible, and it definitely had an effect on my schooling, but seeing that I was in an art school in the 1980’s it was pretty easy to do everything while baked and get away with such behavior being written off as standard hijinx that the creative are heir to. And despite the easy availability of much harder drugs on campus, I stayed true to my leafy love.

That romance intensified the following year during my tenure as a resident assistant — or R.A. in common parlance — and I have to say that I was the kind of example that parents dread when sending their little darlings off behind the ivy-covered walls of higher learning. By the fall of 1986 I looked like the long-lost melanin-infused member of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, complete with Death Star-sized Afro, black karate gi top and prescription Wayfarers to hide my perpetual case of red-eye. I actively encouraged my hall full of freshman charges to get stoned and drink constantly, and they were mostly all-too-willing to oblige, adding drunkenness and drug abuse to their away-from-home rampaging carnality with nameless partners. At the time I felt like I was encouraging freedom for those former-high-schoolers, but in retrospect I realize that I aided in the scholastic crash-and-burn of some of those kids. I know they had the choice to say “no,” but I have to admit my part in what went on, despite my attempts at cultivating the image of a post-modern, psychedelic Pied Piper. “Do what thou wilt,” indeed. Stupid, and wasteful. (Hell, I even got away with passing off an entire semester’s worth of intoxication and sordid sexual encounters by telling the dean to her face that I had skipped classes due to what I thought was the onset of a totally fictional case of “congenital blindness” that supposedly plagued my family, a performance that allowed me to continue my education for another year and finally graduate, but that’s a story for another day’s posting…)

My hall quickly became notorious on campus for its rampant stonerism, but if ever there were an example of “hide in plain sight” then I was it. Yet, as things are wont to happen, I was eventually found out by my boss — a clueless motherfucker to an absurd degree, who was a pitifully self-loathing Born Again Christian/closeted homosexual momma's boy — after being inadvertently ratted out by another hard-partying R.A. who gave me up while being reprimanded for his own peccadilloes, and I was quietly ejected from my position so as not to embarrass an administration that somehow never noticed — or cared — that such a shameless partier had been allowed to gallivant around unchecked for nearly the entire school year.

The following fall I ended up in the school’s apartments for a semester, an even more ideal setting for all manner of unchecked debauchery, and became host to several spectacular keg-and-weed shindigs that culminated with me being described in a student senate session as — and I quote — “a detriment to learning on campus,” a designation that still fills me with pride thanks to the person who dubbed me thus being a complete and total asshole who hadn't seen a trace of pussy since he slid out of his mother's. During this time a high school friend of mine joined the United States Marines and gave me a three-and-a-half-foot two-chambered bong that he christened “Nuke.” Unless you had arms long enough to make the reach, Nuke required another person to light it, and needless to say, the legend of the great beast made the rounds among the campus’ stoners and other riff-raff, attracting low-lives like flies, all of whom sought to get "nuked." By the time the Spring of 1988 rolled around, I only had one class left to complete before I graduated and could no longer reside on campus, so I left Nuke in the capable hands of the Beer Police (more on them in future postings) where it eventually had to be destroyed to end the growing tide of unsavory stoner pilgrims who sought to test their mettle against its mighty evil.

Spring of 1988: two of the Beer Police (Smoky and Senter) experiment to see if Nuke can be utilized rectally.

With college finally done I found myself back home for a little over a year, still smoking cheeba when I could, even hosting a now-legendary weekend-long “weed fest” during the summer of 1989 while my mother was out of town touring Greece. My Westport home became so vaporous — even with the windows and screen doors open — that it resembled the surface of Venus, and my college and high school friends in attendance littered the couches, beds, floor and lawn in a state of near-catatonia. For my own part, at one point I found myself upstairs away from the rest of the partygoers with a favorite college friend who had thoughtfully brought a bag of psychedelic mushrooms, a bag that she and I devoured and soon we were tripping our faces off. For all intents and purposes, I feel that weekend was the true and excellent coda to my youthful drug experiences, but my days of brain cell destruction were far from over.

I moved to New York in early 1990 and it was there that I found out the comics industry is a repository for drunks and drug abusers of all stripes, and discovered that my years of collegiate indulgence amounted to training for the much more hard core world of adult stonage. For years I smoked and drank with abandon, eventually seeing my much more expensive pot habit supplanted by much alcohol binging, a state that reached a self-destructive peak, or nadir if you prefer, about six years ago. I have reigned in my clearly addictive behavior considerably since then, sticking almost strictly to beer as intoxicant of choice, and not really giving much of a damn about pot anymore, kind of a “been there, done that” thing, and I marvel at the enthusiasm of the new generation of stoners, an enthusiasm I shared just as ardently during my misspent youth.

All of that crossed my mind the other day, my synapses ignited by that first familiar drag of a really good joint. Nostalgia sure is a motherfucker.

Monday, October 31, 2005

HALLOW-WEEN

So it's Halloween again, and I once more venture forth onto the unsuspecting streets of the Rotten Apple, looking like a loony. This time I wandered about in a Knights Who Say "Ni!" helmet from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, a cheesy plush helmet with bendable antlers that adds about two feet to my already six-foot frame, and I looked gloriously silly.

As expected I had to endure both kudos and brickbats from the general public, and here are the highlights of my brushes with the unwashed masses:

-A bible-thumping sista took umbrage with the obviously pagan bent of my outfit and told me in a shrill voice — accompanied by the dreaded neck roll that black women wield like whirling morningstar — "You KNOW your costume offends THE LAWD!!!"

-While eating lunch at the Manhattan Mall's Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips outlet, a sixty-something mentally-challenged man approached me and sweetly asked me if I was going to see Santa. I assured him that I was indeed on my way to the North Pole to see the big guy, hoping to get a job as a replacement reindeer in case one of the eight (nine if you count the red-nosed mutant) couldn't make it this year. I asked his name — which was Richie — and promised him that I'd put in a good word with Santa. He was delighted to hear that and thanked me profusely, while his caretaker mouthed a discrete "thank you."

-A guy was waiting to cross 4th Avenue in Brooklyn and when he saw me he asked if I was looking for a shrubbery.

-At Manhattan's Jim Hanley's Universe comic shop, two of my favorite staffers were attired as Will Eisner's the Spirit and Tony Stark with his Iron Man gear on under a suit jacket.

-I ran into and photographed two nubile you girls on St. Mark's place on the Lower east Side, both of whom rocked bustiers as naughty versions of Snow White and Red Riding Hood.

-A cute little toddler was dressed in a bonnet that made her look like Yoda, and her sheer cuteness was a joy to behold.

I'm going to skip the big NYC parade tonight since it's as crowded as the set of SOYLENT GREEN, but I will while away the hours with a stack of scary DVDs and luxuriate at home.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, Y'ALL!!!

GOING BOLDLY: SULU COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET


No surprise to most of the known universe, but George Takei, better known as Sulu from the original STAR TREK TV series has finally come out of the closet. If you ask me, the only person he was coming out to was himself, but what the hey? He's always been one of the coolest motherfuckers out there, so I wish the guy the best and congratulate him on finally going public. More power to the guy! Go to http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/28/people.georgetakei.ap/ for the news story.


"Oh, my!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

THE ROCKET CRASHES-INFAMOUS SNL ALUMNUS DEAD AT AGE 56

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, once the nation’s stronghold of irreverent and offensive humor that protested the utter uselessness of what passed for TV entertainment, and now a textbook example of how to kiss the ass that you used to kick. Since it debuted in 1975 several of its alumni have gone on to the metaphysical after-party, and one of the more obscure joined the Choir Invisible just the other day, namely Charles Rocket, the victim of an apparent suicide in Connecticut. Hey, I grew up in Connecticut, so I can relate.

You are now undoubtedly saying, “Who the motherfuck was Charles Rocket?” Well, little buckaroos let Uncle Bunche fill you in.

Charles Rocket was one of the mostly horrendous cast who replaced the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players in 1980, a cast that gave the world a teenage Eddie Murphy — who was relegated mostly to the sideline by idiot producer Jean Doumanian, who felt that he wasn’t funny (translation: he was black) — and, with the exceptions of Joe Piscopo and Gilbert Gotfried, the rest of that sorry cast vanished into well-deserved obscurity. Denny Dillon, anyone?

I discovered SNL during the tail end of its second season and was hooked by the dirty humor, sheer tastelessness and great live bands that I had never heard of — it was there that I discovered Devo, the Talking Heads, Elvis Costello and others — and once the original cast departed to mostly bigger and better things I resolved to give their successors a fair chance. As a result of that fair chance for the most part being soundly betrayed I have only periodically checked in on the show since it has devolved into the kind of safe, sanitized horseshit that I hated before the original SNL and still despise to this day.

Charles Rocket as a performer was just as bland and talentless as most of his fellow cast members, and despite taking over for Bill Murray on the “Weekend Update” segment with his feeble “Rocket Report,” he had not one character or sketch to his credit that anyone remembers...except for the following tale:

On February 21, 1981, the nation was gripped by DALLAS fever as viewers wracked their brains in an attempt to answer the burning question “Who shot J.R.?” and SNL was hosted by DALLAS regular Charlene Tilton. During one of the many weak sketches that ensued, Charles Rocket was unexpectedly shot by an unknown assailant, setting up the rest of the show for endless — and bad — jokes revolving around “Who Shot C.R.?”

My fifteen-year-old ass was underwhelmed by all of this, and when the cast finally assembled onstage for the customary goodnights, Rocket was brought out in a wheelchair and Charlene Tilton expressed her happiness at Rocket having survived the attack. At that point Rocket turned to the camera, on live television, and said “I just wanna know who the fuck did it,” followed by a smarmy smirk. That line was clearly NOT part of the script, since the rest of the cast looked as surprised as the rest of us, complete with Charlene Tilton looking so shocked that she could have fired her tampon into the audience.

A week after that sophomoric attempt at being a “bad boy,” Rocket appeared on the show during the news segment and apologized for his gaffe, after which he went into a story about a then-recent hockey game in which somebody got hit in the face with the puck. At that point Rocket turned to the camera and sarcastically uttered the phrase “Did somebody say ‘puck?’” He was fired not long afterward, and the last thing I remember seeing him in was a recurring role during the short-lived FOX television series FLYING BLIND, with Tea Leoni.

And that’s all you really will ever need to know about the late Charles Rocket.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN...

I am currently watching LAW & ORDER: SVU — featuring the ever-alluring Mariska Hargitay in undercover prostitute drag! Yes!!! — and have just seen my first Christmas-themed TV commercial of the season. For fuck's sake, it isn't even Halloween yet!

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: OLD BOY

Today, while laid up fighting off a bad cold, I finally sat down and watched the much-ballyhooed OLD BOY, a film I bought on DVD several months ago on the gushing recommendation of a friend whose taste in cinema I rather respect. He explained the basic setup without divulging the major details and I must admit that it sounded great, so when I could I purchased it and sat on it until I could spare the two hours to immerse myself in a two hour subtitled thriller that demanded one’s absolute attention.

The months passed while I waited to see OLD BOY and literally every single review for it that I read or heard from those who saw it was positively glowing. Well, now that I have seen the flick for myself I am once again forced to conclude that since most of the Westerners I know do not watch much Asian cinema, they are easily swayed by the stylistic trickery, “out there” plots, and graphic sex and violence that are all several degrees more severe than anything to be found in the States or the UK at the local multiplex or Cocksucker, er, Blockbuster Video outlet.

At this point let me warn you that if you intend to continue past this point on this post I will be revealing all of the twists in OLD BOY, so proceed at your own risk.

So just what the fuck is OLD BOY about? It tells the story of a guy (Min-Sik Choi) who buys a present for his daughter’s third birthday and gets busted for public drunkenness. Once a friend bails him out and they get out onto the street, the protagonist is inexplicably kidnapped and taken to a cell that looks rather like your standard room at a Motel 6 and imprisoned there for fifteen years. He is fed through a slot in the door, gassed nightly to ensure sleep, groomed regularly while in a gassed state of unconsciousness, trains in fisticuffs against a foe drawn on the wall, and keeps up to date with world events via the kindly-provided TV set in his room. One day he is released onto an inner city rooftop and he immediately sets about figuring out just what the hell happened to him. He learns that his wife is dead — supposedly murdered by him — and that his daughter has been raised in Sweden, so now all he wants is revenge on those who locked him up. He soon is brought home to live with a cute young sushi chef — whom he immediately tries to rape while she’s on the toilet — and the two slowly piece together the puzzle with the help of a mysterious cell phone that places the former prisoner in touch with his tormentor. Much violence and weirdness ensues, including a scene where a guy’s teeth are removed one-by-one with the business end of a claw hammer, and eventually the hero has sex with the virginal sushi chef, who has come to love him over a period of about a week.

At one point the bad guy gives the hero a deadline of five days to figure out the whole story and when he does here’s what we learn: both the bad guy and the hero were classmates in 1979 and the hero discovered the bad guy’s incestuous relationship with his sister, a bit of info that made the rounds of the school’s rumor mill starting on the day that hero transferred to another school. The sister’s reputation as a slut is thus established, and rather than deal with the fact that she was pregnant by her brother, she supposedly convinced herself that her period stopped and her belly began to swell because she believed the rumors, and committed suicide with the help of her brother. The brother, now rich as all hell through no explained means, grew up and waited until the hero had a family of his own and had him kidnapped. He then secretly raised the hero’s daughter and had both of them hypnotized so that various plot points could be set into rather contrived motion, all leading down the path to unknowing incestuous love. Once the hero finds out about this he begs the villain not to tell his daughter what has happened, agreeing to literally become the bad guy’s dog — yipping and barking in a pathetic imitation of man’s best friend — and alarmingly cutting out his own tongue, the tongue that spread the story about the bad guy’s sister (the hero suddenly and inexplicably blames himself for all of the misfortune in the film). The villain agrees to keep the hero’s daughter in the dark about having fucked her own father, and then shoots himself in the head with a derringer since he now no longer has anything to live for (???). The story then skips ahead to find the hero now tongueless and in touch with the woman who had hypnotized him and his daughter; she hypnotizes him again so that his “bad” side, which knows the whole sordid truth of the story, dies while he otherwise lives on with his daughter as his doting lover. THE END.

I’m sorry, but, while visually interesting, OLD BOY is one of the most overly contrived loads of allegedly clever cinematic bullshit that I have ever sat through. I hope that I have saved you the two hours that were stolen from my life by this film, and as soon as my next day off rolls around I will trade the DVD in for something that I will really enjoy and watch more than the one viewing that a gimmick movie like this requires. For more opinions that echo mine, go to the entry for OLD BOY on the Internet Movie Database and click on the “user comments” section. TRUST YOUR BUNCHE!

TRUE LIFE FUN AT THE MOVIES

Ah, the magic of the movie theater experience. The thrill of anticipation, the smell of the fresh popcorn, the twisted antics of the audience...they all meld to create the indelible tapestry of our moviegoing scrapbook. I have heard the accounts of those who bore witness to Psycho, King Kong, and other such cinematic landmarks being unspooled for the first time and found that most of the films that I have experienced firsthand are pretty much lacking in worth of any kind. I mean, how do you recount the nostalgia engendered by attending the opening night of Night Patrol, an alleged comedy starring Linda Blair and Murray Langston (better known to us aficionados of '70's trash as the Unknown Comic)?

With that earth-shattering question on my mind, I settled on mostly recounting the memorable situations in which I saw some of the worthless flicks that I love and adore, occasionally focusing on the few true classics that have graced my life. And remember, kiddies, cinema is one of the few common threads that modern humanity has, and bad movies are truly one of our uniting factors. Rent John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness and see what I mean; love it or hate it, you'll find yourself strongly opinionated about it, with absolutely no middle ground.

OPENING NIGHT- FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
In the bygone days of pre-gentrification, Norwalk, Connecticut was a scuzzy little town with a large quotient of criminals, junkie hookers, drugs, violence and questionable activity; sort of Connecticut's answer to Baltimore. In other words, a great place to go for a kid stuck in Westport, the ultra-boring town next door.

The movie theaters in Norwalk ranged from those owned by a theater chain to the independent art/porno/cult movie house, the Sono Cinema. The Sono could get pretty wild, but nothing could compare to a rowdy audience at the infamous Norwalk Theater. Norwalk Theater was the closest thing that Connecticut ever had to the classic Times Square grindhouses insomuch as it specialized in violent, sex-laden exploitation flicks, the kind that drunks and heroin addicts like to sleep it off to. The derelicts in the audience would even make non-sequitor comments at the screen, such as the time when a junkie started yelling "Give her the big one!" enthusiastically during a scene of two cab drivers talking.

Anyway, opening night came along for the "final" film in the utterly worthless Friday the 13th franchise, and I called the theater to get myself and a couple of pals in to see it on opening night (I worked for the Cinema National theater circuit at the time, and got in for free to most theaters in the state). The manager said "Come on down," so my friends and I went. Imagine our surprise when we arrived and found the theater looking like it was in the center of a demilitarized zone.

The front doors had been torn off, popcorn and spilled soda had turned the lobby into a quagmire that required a swamp boat to navigate through, and the poor concession girls were shivering and crying. I asked the manager what the fuck had happened, and over the Zulu Nation-like din that issued from the audience, I heard her tell a tale of misery and violence. She told me that the patrons had been worked up into such a frenzy over the possibility of finally seeing Jason Voorhees (the unkillable bogeyman of the series) get his ass kicked that they had actually stormed the entrance, barbarian-style. The place looked like it had been sacked by an army of crazed Visigoths on a PCP bender, was filled beyond capacity (over 550 seats), and roughly ten people in the audience had paid for admission (yet they did pay for their refreshments. Go figure...). There were even four squad cars full of police in attendance, and the poor bastards advised that it would be best to run the movie or else there would have been a full-scale riot.

My friends and I waded into the tumult, and actually managed to score seats when a bunch of stoners got up to sneak a few bowl-hits behind the screen. The lights went down, and an unholy roar exploded from the adrenaline-charged throng that would have been totally appropriate at a public beheading. The trailer for 7 Doors of Death came on, but it was impossible to see due to the impromptu shower of popcorn and malt liquor that obscured the screen. A chant of "Jay-son! Jay-son!" began and only died down when the main feature began.

What followed can only be called the greatest display of audience participation that it has ever been my pleasure to witness. Foul rejoinders hurled at characters who couldn't respond, people in the balcony sticking their hands into the projector beam and creating shadow hands that played with the actresses' tits, an out-of-nowhere sing-along to the old "car rock" hit "GTO" (which would have made a modicum of sense if the song had been included in the film)... Folks, we're talking two hours of humor, insanity and "will I make it out of this movie alive?" terror. If I could download the memory of this show and sell it on DVD, I would be a millionaire overnight.

Epilogue- the crowd dispersed peacefully, no one was arrested and the doors were repaired the very next day. Surprisingly, the subsequent showings went off without incident. Oh, and Jason is killed by a young, machete-wielding Corey Feldman (until he returns two films later-don't ask).

KILL OR BE KILLED- I saw this one in White Plains, New York back in 1980. Basically, it was a really bad South African martial arts film that was utterly unremarkable and a total ripoff of the basic Enter The Dragon tournament formula. The star was some talentless hack named James Ryan who attempted to capture Bruce Lee's sense of menace, but he was a big, fat zero of personality onscreen.

What made this movie a hell of a lot of fun was a small group of juvenile delinquents sitting in the back of the theater who made scathing and hilarious comments from start to finish, most of which had to do with their doubts about our hero's sexual orientation. However, their best barbs were reserved for the villain, a Hitler-wannabe who had a hand puppet that acted as his other personality (pre-dating South Park's Mr. Hat by about 17 years). The squeaky voice that they gave to the puppet while he was supposed to be saying something ominous will live forever in my memory. Picture this Hitler guy looking at his hand and having it say (in a voice reminiscent of Mickey Mouse) "Hey! Can I play with your dick?" Upon hearing that bit of improv, an irate father stormed out of the theater with his highly amused nine-year-old in tow.

OPENING NIGHT: NEW JACK CITY ON TIMES SQUARE- I went to see this now legendary "gangsta" opus during the last days of the pre-Disney Times Square, and the theater was packed with drunks, junkies, hookers, loud hip-hop fans (who considerately brought their blaring boom boxes), myself and my buddies Joe and Nina — the only two melanin-deprived people in the entire audience.

The room was thick with the fetid stench of low-grade ditch weed and semen, as the air chimed with the clink of discarded forty-ounce malt liquor bottles rolling under the knife-slashed seats. The floors were sticky with all manner of questionable effluvium, ranging from semi-crusty wino vomit to spilled soda that was acting as a breeding ground for minute flies. True Times Square ambience at its best!

My friends and I settled into the general chaos, and once the lights went down we realized that we were seated in front of a charming young crackhead couple. From the second the movie started, the crackhead chick loudly and violently berated her boyfriend for being "too muthafukkin' cheap" to go out and buy her more crack, when he had instead spent money on a large soda. The poor bastard seemed to shrink before my eyes as her nonstop torrent of abuse escalated into a sort of theater of the absurd. It got so bad that my friend Joe turned around and offered the guy some popcorn as a consolation (which struck me as not only funny, but humiliating to the point where I was afraid they guy would whip out a gun and ventilate Joe right then and there). Mister crackhead politely declined Joe's offer.

By about two-thirds of the way through the film (when Chris Rock's "Pookie" character was smoking tons of crack and furiously over-acting), the guy gave in to utter defeat and slinked out of the theater, screeching harpy at his side, and in search of her next fix. There was a brief silence when they left, and then some guy yelled out to the projectionist "Hey, nigga! Rewind this muthafukka so we can hear the muthafukka from the muthafukkin' beginnin'!" It was at that point that the entire audience broke up laughing; we all realized that we had been so absorbed in the crackhead antics that we hadn't noticed that the film had a plot and dialogue!

On a side note: unlike some of the opening weekend theaters in the Bronx and Long Island, surprisingly there were no murders at the Times Square showings of this film.

THE IRATE PRICK AT THE OPENING NIGHT OF SCARFACE- Let's face it: you don't go to see a movie like Brian De Palma's remake of Scarface if you're looking for wholesome family fare. This film has achieved legendary status for its copious amounts of gratuitous violence, ultra-indulgent cocaine use, and one of the all-time most flagrant uses of the word "fuck" ever committed to celluloid. In short, it ain't for the kiddies.

I saw Scarface at Westport's tiny little hole-in-the-wall theater Fine Arts IV on opening night, and the crowd was clearly in a bloodthirsty mood. When the scene with the now-infamous chainsaw torture came on, a middle-aged couple got up and bolted for the exit. The male of the couple stopped at the door and yelled, "The fact that you people are actually bearing witness to this filth voluntarily makes me vomit!!!" That pointed observation was met with a 300-person chorus of "Fuck You" that did my heart proud. He huffed and stamped impotently and fled into the night. The fucking pussy.

These are far from my only true life movie theater adventures and I will add more, but what about you? Do you have any such tales? Write in and share, ya bastids!

STRAPHANGERS' VENGEANCE: PEOPLE ON THE SUBWAY WHO NEED SEVERE BEATINGS

If you live in the Big Apple you have no doubt taken the subway on pretty much a daily basis. The city’s underground mass-transit system is pretty easy to figure out, relatively cheap, and an excellent opportunity for catching up on one’s reading. Sadly, in much the same way that a really good fuck can lead to unwanted pregnancy and a host of diseases, the wondrous subway is also a magnet for the worst behavior that one can find outside of a padded cell, perpetrated by both “upstanding” citizens and the vilest dregs of society. In some cases, the average straphanger would actually welcome the muzzle of a snub-nosed revolver stuffed into their bridgework rather than face some of the horrors of daily tubeway pests.

My own personally witnessed favorite example of the worst that can happen during a commute occurred a few years ago during the Christmas season; festive decorations as far as the eye could see, kids ready to explode with anticipation of Santa hooking them up with righteous swag, seasonal tunes filling the air, a general feeling of goodwill and happiness. Perfectly charming, right?

Wrong.

As the 6 train made its way to Grand Central Station, the doors opened at Fourteenth Street, allowing the Yuletide throng onto the already packed car. Among the entering swarm was one of the city’s legion of the homeless — once more frankly known as “those fucking bums” — who appeared to be foaming at the mouth while he incoherently rambled to no one in particular. It was painfully obvious from his lack of basic motor skills and wildly rolling eyes that he was totally drunk, on drugs, out of his mind or all of the above.

The mass of subway riders did their best to shift positions to allow this walking trash heap to pass among and away from them, but there was only so much room to let the guy through. For what seemed like an eternity, this wobbling waste of life lurched like a zombie while spreading his stench of days-old urine and dried-on vomit to the agonized nostrils of innocent passengers. Suddenly, the train came to a jarring halt, causing the bum to lose his balance and topple headlong on top of an adorable six-year-old girl while her mother watched in horror. As his intoxicated mass pinned the child to the floor, the bum lost all control of his bodily functions and the unmistakable sound of his bowels letting loose like a clattering volcano filled the air along with the most sickening reek of spewed shit that I have ever encountered. Now, I regularly eat Indian food and all sorts of spicy goodies, so I am not a virgin to horrible bathroom smells, so trust me when I say that this was a plague-upon-Egypt-level funk.

As the pinned child squirmed and shrieked at her violation, the bum then let fly with a bladder full of hardcore wino piss which flowed in all directions, soaking not only the poor girl but also the carefully wrapped presents that sat on the floor. As the bum lay thrashing about in his own personal filth swamp, the horrified passengers snapped out of their shock and dove to rescue the little girl before she absorbed more of his shit/piss stew like a sponge. The bum ranted and raved like he was possessed, and as he was positioned onto his ass there was a loud “squish” when he sat full force onto lake of turds within his pants. The girl’s mother swooped down to remove her daughter from the spewing bum’s unwanted attentions, grabbed the kid and fled to the closest door. The ruined child howled as if she’d been stabbed and when the doors opened she was whisked away into the less-foul air of Park Avenue South. The bum suddenly straightened up, looked around and said “Uuuruuggch???” And thus was a Christmas memory born.

Yeah, that’s a pretty extreme story, but it is far from the only horrible and annoying thing that New Yorkers endure every fucking day. Despite increased police presence on the trains, there is no way that the cops can ever hope to combat the endless parade of idiots and irritants that infest the underground railways, in fact their efforts are pretty much as useful as electric earwax. Let’s face it: the authorities and the general public are fighting a losing battle against this bullshit so it is a good idea to be familiar with our common enemy. Here is a field guide to some of the human vermin whose complete and utter non-existence would make the subways a much more tolerable place. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

EVIL GRANNIES
These are those obnoxious senior citizens who feel the mere fact that they’ve avoided taking the dirt nap for as long as they have should give them the uncontested right to violently slug their way onto a subway car (using physical prowess that would make an twenty-two-year-old Olympic athlete envious) in search of a seat and give you shit if you have anything to say about it, with the standard retort of “I’m old and fragile.” When I encounter this particular sub-species of the elderly I realize that the Inuit have the right idea about letting the seriously aged loose into the tundra to end up as an old-sicle or a snack for wolves or polar bears.

JABBA THE SEAT HOG
You’ve seen this foul collection of walking gin sugars and pork rinds a million times, in fact it is impossible to miss him or her since they are so fucking fat that they have their own gravitational field. Every centimeter of their doughy flesh wiggles like a dropped slab of Jell-O as they approach the three empty seats that can barely accommodate the continent that passes for their ass. Heaving and gasping for air in a fair imitation of a beached trout, this subway leviathan spreads out its hammy limbs, absorbing every possible bit of available space, causing distress even to the microscopic germs in the air. I understand the problems of being overweight, but what removes all sympathy for this particular assmunch is the attitude that they give off. I once had a jacked up ankle that required me to take a seat during my commute, and when I managed to find one of those seats that places your legs into the aisle I ended up next to a Jabba. The guy undulated his pudding-like head in my direction and said “It’s kind of tight over here, don’t you think?” I looked at this no-stranger-to-KFC fuck and offered the kind suggestion that he buy an industrial strength girdle and shut his fucking mouth, only this time around a mouthful of air rather than a steaming ladle full of simmered pork fat.

THOSE FUCKING EVANGELISTS
Among the most rock bottom annoying of the common subway pains in the ass, the top-of-his-lungs purveyor of the word of God would irritate Jesus himself to the point of the Savior backhanding the idiot with his stigmata-punctured mitt. Religion is best spread in such appropriate venues as churches, synagogues, mosques and Satanic altars, just don’t foist it on me while I’m pretty much held captive in a subway car. These would-be holy rollers aggressively shout about how all viewpoints other than their own are not only wrong but will send all unbelievers on a one-way trip to Hell, where they will smoke a turd for a pain-filled eternity. That would be enough, but most of these guys will stand there for several stops, never letting up on their tirade until inevitably out-shouted by irate free thinkers or Jews. And why is it that most of these guys are black? Speaking as a card-carrying highly rhythmic individual, I know for a fact that we have much more important things to do with our time, such as writing misogynistic rap songs, drinking forty-ouncers of Olde English and fucking fat white women, so where do these dudes get off?

GROOMERS
It’s one thing to see someone fix their hair or makeup on the train, but it’s another thing entirely to witness the grody slobs who engage in all forms personal hygiene just short of applying Preparation H or changing a juicy, saturated tampon. There is a time and place for everything, but these people have personal habits that would make a monkey blush. I have personally seen people trimming their nose hairs, shaving their legs and armpits, and worst of all I have “caught shrapnel” as an inconsiderate twat clipped her toenails; I was in mid-yawn when a yellowed chunk of this woman’s talon careened into my open mouth. Much hardcore cussing ensued as I tried my damnedest not to puke up my breakfast all over the aisle.

THE SHAMELESS ELDERLY PORNO FREAK
I love me some porno. Videos, books, spank mags with shots of girls with their pussies splayed open like humid ham sandwiches, all of that shit. But I do not share my interest in such material with my fellow subway passengers. On several occasions I have been subjected to the awesomely creepy sight of an old man — invariably white — with a brown paper bag full of hard core jack-rags poring over their pages with an intense gaze usually reserved for studying for the SATs. These filthy old bastards have no concern for who may be sitting next to them; they have taken up residence in their own private reading room, utterly oblivious to the wide-eyed seven-year-old girl in the next seat who’s looking at what she may think are the old man’s photos of exotic pink sea life. The only way to deal with these pervs is to get up and sit somewhere else, preferably in another car, but by that time it’s too late; you now have the image of someone’s grandpa checking out a gash festival in public and not giving a shit if anyone notices his flaccid turkey neck of a cock attempting to sputter back to life.

“ENTERTAINERS”
Beggars on the subway are annoying enough, but the worst of the breed are those who fancy themselves entertainers. You know who I’m talking about: break dancers who move like they have cerebral palsy, violin players whose instruments are hopelessly out of tune, screechy-voiced would-be crooners who belt out songs that were old when God was born, and worst of all, the deafening doo-wop groups. Maybe this would all be okay if you happened to be into the harsh interruptions of your already miserable existence that they are forcing on you, but the odds against you actually enjoying what they are selling are pretty fucking slim. You are between stops with no hope of escape, and they know it. Consider yourself fucked.

VENDORS
They scurry into the train like a rat on crack, nervously surveying the car for cops, dragging a cardboard rack loaded with all manner of stuff no one — and I do mean no one — wants or needs. A blue, see-through plastic dolphin filled with sugar water or a pen with a picture of Nixon on it that loses its clothes when you shake it? He’s got ‘em. What makes these guys actually think that you would buy one single item from their display of worthless junk that wouldn’t even pass muster in the cheapest storefront in Chinatown? I have never seen anyone purchase anything from one of these parasites, yet they are as common as tits on women. Their even more hateful brethren are the supposedly deaf guys who try to extort you into buying cheap plastic ballpoint pens from them at insane prices by playing on your sympathy for their handicap. I for one would like to buy one of those pens and immediately drive it through the eardrum of the douchebag who sold it to me.

WOULD-BE ROMEOS
Why is it that there are guys out there who actually think that they’ll get some play by being as obnoxious to women on the subway as possible? They attempt a rap that has no chance of working, and those on the train continually witness these attempts at suaveness crashing and burning Hindenburg-style. I guarantee you that these guys have not seen a trace of pussy since the day they slid out of one, and it is likely that they never will again if they keep this shit up. And why is it that they are nearly always black, Italian or Hispanic? All of these groups pretty much win the stereotype sweepstakes, and it’s behavior like this that will keep such perceptions alive into the foreseeable future.

EMBARRASSMENTS TO THE RACE
Loud, uncouth and obnoxious blacks and Hispanics who turn the subway car into a study of the most offensive ethnic stereotypes brought to life should be shot the second they open their mouths to scream “nigga” and rendered down into something useful, such as glue or lamp oil. I cringe in sheer embarrassment whenever I encounter these types, and they always represent the absolute worst of traits that make white people hate us. And do not get me started on the white kids who act and speak like Ol’ Dirty Bastard on a coke bender…

ORTHODOX MOLESTERS
Intensely disliked even by those who share their faith, the subway is plagued with Orthodox Jewish men who frequently molest non-Semitic females whom they feel they can treat disgustingly since they are shiksa trash. Steering clear of black and Hispanic women who would most likely kill them for the slightest offense, these Chosen routinely choose white chicks as their favorite targets; several of my melanin-deprived lady friends have horror stories about the insanely vile things that these guys have tried on them, everything from whipping out their greasy Johnsons to trying to lodge their fingers into the girls’ unwilling snatches. The worst of these true life encounters involves a friend of mine who showed up to work looking utterly devastated after realizing that one of these black-clad blights upon society had massively spewed his love custard all over the rear of her new dress. This sort of behavior should be payable by having these assholes doused with the foulest menstrual waste possible, a fitting punishment since these guys have no respect for the female.

THE “HERE’S MY DICK” GUY
Long a mainstay of the late night trip home, the “here’s my dick” guy happily displays his flesh pencil to innocent ladies for reasons known only to himself. It’s sad that smoking is outlawed on the subway because it would be hilarious to watch some irate chick stub out a ciggie on some idiot’s engorged member. Talk about harshing the boner…

FRIED FOOD JUNKIES
Eating on the train is no big deal… unless it’s some asshole that has hauled some fried food into the car. Usually stuff like Popeye’s chicken or smelly fried fish sandwiches are the irritants here; both of which are fine when consumed in a space with plenty of ventilation, but on an enclosed train the stench of rapidly congealing grease and fat can be overwhelming and nauseating. And the slobs who usually stuff their fat faces with this stuff on the train have no intention of properly disposing of their food waste and simply leave it on an empty seat or dump it onto the floor, bones, half-eaten thighs and all.

SMOKERS
Inconsideration takes human form in the guise of the smoker who simply cannot wait to light up until they get above ground. A subway car is enclosed and stuffy enough, and it fucking sucks to be asphyxiated by the fumes of someone else’s carcinogenic self-destruction.

THE “GOTTA SHIT RIGHT HERE AND NOW” BUMS
Is there anything more horrible than seeing some stinkbomb unsteadily stand up, drop his pants and start growing a tail? I don’t think so. Such a sight is guaranteed to clear a car the second the doors open at the next stop. (Dishonorable mention: insane/intoxicated female derelicts who change tampons and sanitary napkins on the train. Yes, I have seen it happen.)

DEAD PEOPLE
Since passed out passengers are not an uncommon sight, it is inevitable that some poor bastard will give up the ghost and remain unnoticed, riding the rails as rigor mortis sets in. I once witnessed what I thought was simply some unconscious drunk being examined by a cop who had just entered the train; the officer tried to wake the guy up by banging his club against the seat next to him, and when that didn’t work the cop looked long and hard at the guy. He then produced a telescoping version of one of those little dentist’s mirrors and held it under the guy’s nose. When there was no trace of the mirror being fogged over by the guy’s breath, the cop stopped the train and called for a crew to haul the corpse out in a body bag. The woman who had been seated next to the stiff was visibly turning green and promptly flashed the hash all over the empty seat to her left.