Brush With A Killer
I remember seeing someone out of the corner of my eye as I raced by, pressed for time. Normally I ignore the people I rush by, whisked up as I am in the whirlwind that is my life. However, passing this one gentleman a coldness crept over me, like the feeling you get when you suddenly realize the neighbor’s Rottweiler has freed itself from its leash, and, growling, is creeping in your direction with those fierce, piercing eyes locked only on you.
As I result my eyes briefly found his and I viewed, in a mere moment’s time, the face of a man without any noticeable traits. I was struck by the impression that he had most likely never, ever blinked.
Then the moment passed and I raced into the fruits and vegetables section to pick up some artichoke hearts. I had already forgotten about him while standing in line at the meat counter, as I was busy choosing which pig’s nose and which organs I would buy for the barbecue that night.
Little did I suspect as I turned the next corner to look for my fruit leathers, I found myself in the breakfast aisle and was greeted by the most shocking image my eyes had ever witnessed away from a TV screen. The bland man I had brushed passed, the one who probably never blinked, had created a virtual bloodbath with the store’s supply of Count Chocula.
He drove a 24-inch hunting knife deep into another box, ripped it through the carton’s innards, laughed maniacally, yanked out the blade and licked it in almost theatrical rapture. Again and again he stabbed, prodded, and ripped at those Count Chocula boxes, and when those were all shredded ruins he turned his unblinking gaze to the cartons of Boo Berry, and Trix, which almost seemed to shiver in fear.
I turned and ran off, squealing like a banshee, leaving my shopping cart and barging through the emergency exit door. I did not stop running until I heard sirens, whereupon I collapsed in a heap and began sobbing, nearly in shock at the carnage I had witnessed. All I could see in my mind’s eye was my late mother, opening her arms to me, behind her sunlight, her skirts flapping in the summer breeze, a warm smile beaming across her face.
I ran to her, then all was black.
When I was in the Army we were once on maneuvres for a week in August. We bivuacked at the edge of a forest next to a naked, arid plain. Water was trucked in. There were no toilets. The weather was dry and hot. Rain and clouds were a rarity in that part of the world, at least at that time of the year. Every day we suited up in our BDUs, strapped on our Kevlar vests, packed and loaded up our rucksacks, and moved out to practice moving out and sweating under a blistering sun.
We learned out lessons well. We became experts at moving out, and we did not need rain since our bodies were covered head to toe in fluids. By the third day I could tell which members of my platoon ate pork, and also knew if the person next to me was one of them without looking.
By the fifth day I could almost read everyone’s DNA; every personality trait they had was glued to the reeking Pig Pen cloud in the air around them. I remembered my visits to the tear gas chamber with longing.
Day 6 and 7 passed in a haze. I remember slipping in and out of consciousness. I remember never untying the bandana from my face, and being unable to stop the flow of tears.
Interestingly enough, I had the same experience recently listening to a Taylor Swift song, but those were aural fumes and not nasal.
My Favorite Sound
The first time I heard it I knew it was something special. Like scenes in “Life of Brian,” “Spinal Tap,” and my beloved Penguin Classics version (because of the notes in the back) of “The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy,” I knew the Most Annoying Sound from Dum and Dummer would propel this film from just another funny movie to the royal Pantheon of Humor, which my desire to visit was stronger than my desire to eat or, even, watch cheerleaders (what a stupid idea); it’s all in the sell: Jim Carrey convinces us, effortlessly, that the excruciating sound excreted from his blow hole is indeed at least in the top 5 on the list of anoying sounds, debate there can be little, unless one counts Olivia Newton John’s ”Have You Ever Been Mellow?”, which is also pretty darn high on the list, though to be fair she had the music culture of the times to buoy her intention of moving in this direction, as the charts were busting at the seams with gratingly “nice,” cheesy tunes, like “Muskrat Love” from the Cap’n and Tenille (sp?), Morris Albert’s “Feelings,” “How Deep Is Your Love” by the f-cking Bee Gees, “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” by Neil Diamond and Yentl, and the dreaded “Top of the World” by the Carpenters, whose listeners should all have been shot directly into the sun, as the world would be a much better place now.
But I did not want to speak about Carpenter’s fans being shot into the sun.
Whenever I hear the Most Annoying Sound, I am completely convinced that there is hope for the world, that love conquers all, that the Patriots will win the next Super Bowl, and that all of our dreams are right there for the plucking...Kinda.
Alms for An Ex-Leper?
It’s hard not to write this piece without mentioning the “A” word–Age. I feel like ”Life of Brian” (1979) is losing relevance, though admittedly I have no frame of reference. I have no idea what the youngins like. Maybe it’s the wacky hairstyles in the movie. Maybe it’s the grainy photography, static-y sound, or weird accents. Maybe humor is, like, illegal now. For whatever reason, I just don’t find that ”Life of Brian” holds a place in people’s lives anymore.
Ex-leper: “Alms for an ex-leper?”
The only reason I can even begin to understand people who do not appreciate this film is because of what happened the first time I saw it. Days after watching "The Holy Grail"(1975) in Chemistry (don’t ask-we had a great teacher), I just had to see everything these Pythons had ever done.
Brian: “Did you say ‘ex’-leper?”
I brought "Life of Brian" home and slipped it into the ol’ VCR (yeah, I’m old). Within minutes I was rolling on the floor. I had not reacted to anything like that before and to nothing else since.
Ex-leper: That’s right, sir. Sixteen years behind the bell, and proud of it, sir.
But my brother, sitting right next to me? Not. One. Giggle. It was the first time I had ever truly experienced the distance between us, and it helped to explain his statement later when he said he had to watch “This Is Spinal Tap” 5 times before he realized how funny it was.
Brian: Well, what happened?
Maybe it’s empathy? To understand a lot of the jokes, one must be able to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, like in the first scene in the movie (?). Jesus is giving his famous “Sermon on the Mount” speech, and the camera pans away from him, backwards, still showing him. It moves down the hill, revealing the hundreds of followers gathered at his feets, listening to him. Then it rises up the next hill, now a long ways off, and finally turns away from the Savior and focusses on Brian’s mother, who yells (at God) “LOUDER!!”
Ex-leper: I was cured, sir.
But my brother, also named Brian, BTW, could never be accused of a lack of empathy, so what gives? What am I missing? Why don’t people talk about this movie like they used to?
Ex-leper: Yes, sir, a bloody miracle, sir. God bless you.
Brian: Who cured you?
Maybe its time is past. Maybe people need to live their own dreams, enjoy their own ideas about what’s funny and what isn’t. See but, there has never been a time when that wasn’t true, and yet many people have still been able to see the humor in other generation’s comedians. I still love Buster Keaton. Turn on those Three Stooges. I know the Bugs Bunny square dance song (1950) by heart. I love Aristophanes, Shakespearean comedies, Laurence Sterne, Ring Lardner, Lenny Bruce, Redd Foxx, Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks, Carol Kane, Richard Pryor, Madeline Kahn, Douglas Kenney, Eddie Murphy, Dave Barry, Norm Macdonald, Mitch Hedberg, Ty Burrell, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, John Oliver and Gandhi. Only a few of these belong to my generation. Why must anyone limit themselves at all?
Ex-leper: Yes, sir, a bloody miracle, sir. God bless you.
Brian: Who cured you?
For me, it’s a matter of being able to live and to learn. Watching a narrow list of generation/gender/race-appropriate talents does not make for well-rounded individuals, does not allow for understandings across these variables, and, most importantly, does not welcome change. If you don’t change you won’t get better.
Ex-leper: Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business. All of a sudden, up he comes. Cures me. One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone. Not so much as a by your leave. ‘You’re cured mate.’ Bloody do-gooder.
“Bloody do-gooder.” LOL. We are upon the real reason I wrote this. When the film came out, it was immediately crucified (see what I did there?) for being heathenous (word?) and/or blasephemous. I’ve titled the piece so and included the dialogue to make a point:
Brian: Well, why don’t you go and tell him you want to be a leper again?
Where is the blasphemy in this scene? Is it Jesus’ fault, or Jesus’ problem how this fool reacts to being healed? Does the movie say anywhere that religion or any God/son is something to laugh at? Or did they say the way we behave with respect to organized religion is inherently laughable?
Ex-leper: Ah, yeah. I could do that, sir. Yeah. Yeah, I could do that, I suppose. What I was thinking was, I was going to ask him if he could make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy, which is a pain in the arse, to be blunt. Excuse my French, sir, but, uh--
It is a lack of imagination that will doom us all. Our adherence to stony, inflexible dogmas and simple childish ideas about wealth, success, and the goodies and the baddies makes it impossible for any of us to think of any of the solutions to our problems. We can’t even appreciate ”Life of Brian” anymore.
Brain’s mother: Brian! Come and clean your room out.
And ingratiousness. Being ungrateful doesn’t help.
Brian (handing ex-leper a coin): There you are.
Ex-leper (to Brian): Thank you, sir. Thanks (looks at the coin Brian has given him)–Half a denary for me bloody life story?
Brian: There’s no pleasing some people.
Ex-leper: That’s just what Jesus said, sir!
A Dreadful Latrine Collapse (A True Story)
The news was grave, Henry the VIth heard from his Curia Regis. The feud between Landgrave Louis the IIIth of Thuringia and the Archbishop Conrad of Mainz (Die Pfälzer wieder! the King grumbled to himself) had escalated since the defeat of Henry the Lionth. Hank wiped his brow with royal grace. He was tired, for July in 1184 was just as hot as any other year, excepting those after the invention of climate change, of course, ca. mid-1990′s for those keeping score at home.
“Perhaps his highness would care to let his attendants wipe his brow for him,” the grizzled wiener-schnitzel Lord DuPious spake in Deutsch, “as becomes a ruler.”
“How darest though address me without capital letters!” the King spat venomously, before changing his vibe and ordering an attendant to mop his sweaty brow. Over his prodigious collection of lacy underthings, King Henry VIth wore seven layers of royal T-shirts, broaches, um, pendants, and other royal, like, clothes plus his fuchsia wolverine robe which he would have almost taken himself if he hadn’t been sick for the hunt that day. In short, he was smoldering.
“By God I standeth in a smoldering cauldron inside Hell’s deepest rung!” worded the ruler, stupidly referring to Dante’s “Divine Comedy, and its description of the levels of the underworld, although the Italian would not be born for another 80 years or so. “Chief Officer! Set a course for Erfurth!” the King commanded.
“We have no Chief Officer,” Lord DuPious informed him, then after an awkward pause, added: ”your majesty!”
King Henry VIth looked down at him from his long, upturned nose. He reigned his trusty steed, a hardy Bavarian named “Horst,” who apologized immediately. Then he said:
“We shall have a Chief Officer as of now, and he shall lead us to Erfurt, but not too close to the Brocken. That Brockengespennst gives me the royal willies.”
“But Your Highness,” squeaked Lord Braunnase, “what shall become of your campaign against the Poles?”
“Let the Poles wait,” ordered the monarch. “I shall decide when they will be allowed to murder us and chop our genitals off and feed them to the wild dogs and celebrate with naked midgets and..”
“Er..To Erfurt!” commanded the new Chief Officer, pointing that way. He was appointed to the position by the fact that he spoke up loudly and said he was it. Luckily he was pointing in the right direction.
The King decided to call a diet, which excited fitness lovers everywhere but angered the korpulent Lord DuPious to the point that he considered not attending.
Messengers went out throughout the Teutonic kingdom to invite influential Middle Agers to the Hoftag, where both sides would be able to voice their grievances before the King, who shan’t be listening, would ignore everyone and proclaim his decision for the greater good of the Holy Roman Empire.
By July 25th dignarities from the farthest regions of the Land had arrived, even goons from Bavaria who were ordered not to speak unless spoken to. It was better for everyone that way.
The Archbishop from Swabia, a region known for its noodles and its terrifying version of the German language, welcomed them all with a 45 minute blessing which no one understood, even himself.
Then delegates from Thuringia and Mainz began shouting at each other, which was the King’s cue to move to an alcove above the fortrette’s medium-sized walls and look at the servant girls out in the street as they bent over to tie their shoeless feet.
The house they were in was built before the advent of a fourth digit, if you can believe that, using an architectual methodology known as “toss something together and hope it stands.” The walls were made of solid rock, and would remain standing until howitzers were invented, and the wood in the ceilings and floors was the best that Erfurth residents had found amongst the rubble of the last building that had stood there.
This wood was kept moist constantly, for fear that its dryness would either cause it to possibly decay into sawdust, and because wet wood was all the rage that decade. Sadly this did not help the inate strength of the building material. This, combined with the fact that the King’s diet–no, the other one–emplaced dozens of very-heavily dressed persons that certainly exceed the maximum capacity of the wood’s holding-up quotient (HUQ), enabled the floor underneath the dignitaries’ feet to collapse and send the entire assemblage tumbling, ass-over-teakettle, downwards. Except for the King in his alcove, who was still busy peeping and hadn’t noticed what had happened.
The weight of this gaggle of German nobility, combined with the building materials from the upper Stockwerk, was also too much for the wet ground floor to halt, much less carry, and downwards they all plummetted into the basement, which was filled with...
″Scheisse!!!!” someone screamed.
There were few survivors. Those who did not drown in the cesspool under the house were crushed by falling construction materials. All told, over 60 people perished in a most distasteful manner.
For at least one of them, however, a lesson was learned. The experience became a foreboding metaphor. It was henceforth an absolute priority to ground the source of their power in a solid base.
Changing The World; A To Do List
1) Metric or bust
2) Hawaiian shirts mandatory
3) No saying “like” except where, like, necessary
4) No more bleeping musicals*!
5) The only legal businesses, governments, and armies are those without heirarchies
6) No more iso-ball in the NBA
7) Everyone must play at least one game of ice hockey and get into at least one fight but is not allowed to take their gloves off and they must wear Socker Boppers (good luck holding the stick)
8) No effing grades no more
9) No trophies no more
10) No double negatives never!
11) Everyone must listen to “Hard Times” (The Brandos’ version) as many times as I want
12) No ghettoes noplace
13) no color-coded suburbs
14) The colors magenta, fuchsia, and lime green are stricken from the color wheel
15) We get our sugar only from mosquito bites**
16) Vegan, gluten- and sugar free Twinkies made from kale***
17) Only living things are coveted, no material goods like Socker Boppers or expensive Jordache jeans
18) OK ghettoes but only people who think their race, species, country, or gender is better than others are allowed to live there (and nowhere else)
19) The New York Yankees must now run the gauntlet between two lines of muscular Austrian Goasslschnalzers, or whipcrackers, before every game. Extra points for larger flakes of skin.
20) Pro Wrestling.
21) Boobs for everyone!