I have pondered this long and hard, and made my way down the corridors of doubt, it has not been easy, and sometimes, even painful, but I have made myself think about it - and You know ...... when you really really really really think about it When the last song is sung and we go back upstairs and even later when the talking is done and our decisions declared, When you really, really, REALLY think about it, "House II" wasn't all that bad a movie.
I was going to write some long-ass rant about reaching out to my father and the friends I have made here and the general loneliness of the planet tonight, but you know what?
Fuck all that.
I waited all weekend for my Muse to come calling, and cram a good poem to start off that rant with or God Forbid maybe even give me an open line, but she didn't show. I called, and got her machine, and I always feel so stupid leaving those forlorn messages (I should keep a tape of Genesis's "Misunderstanding" for the purpose), but I left the message anyway, and she never called me back.
So anyway here I am with all the other page updates done and the promised update awaiting only a rant and people bitchin' on the comments page (god making THAT page was a brilliant move on my part, next I'll just post my Mother's phone number so you can call her and tell her what a putz I am), and meanwhile I'm watching the Simpsons and making peanut-butter and jelly sandwhiches and checking the bathroom for ants again, anything, ANYTHING to avoid writing that rant Museless.
So I called Harlan and faxed him some questions and used that as an excuse for the delay, and the sunufabitch calls me back within an hour and gives me my answers in between bites of gumbo, so now I'm REALLY stuck! I'm screwed! I've run out of bean dip before I ran out of corn chips. I've hopped the last train to Clarksville and found out Satan is the brakeman. I've rolled eight the hard way and forgotten to place my bet. I've landed on Planet Rant only to find my engines are clogged with seven-layer lasagna and there's no intelligent life to be found. I've...
awwwwww.......you get the idea. I'm hosed. But luckily, just like Dudley Do-Right's horse, my Muse shows up in the nick of time.
Only she's not dressed like she's going to a Cure concert. She's wearing galoshes and a tutu.
Uh-oh. Hey, I didn't order that!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, those of you who were feeling good about themselves and were anxious to stop by here for your monthly come-down, I'm sorry to dissapoint. I'll have some ardently serious and sideways mystical thing up here the week after Turkey Day about my Dad and my voice and what the Passenger said to the River of Lights, but this week I'm only trying to amuse with those zany, off-beat, gee-willikers words you love sooooooooooooo much.
Of course, the sad thing is if you're the type that thinks I'm about as funny as the Ebola virus, this is probably more depressing than any sad-sack navel-examinations I could post. And boy, will I be embarassed.
Not as embarassed as I've EVER been, though.
Let me tell you about that.
One year in the 1980's I went with my bestest buddy Steve Dollins to the Cinema 150 theater to see the Little Rock, Arkansas premeire of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". If you wanna know the year, you could always look it up.
We got there about thirty minutes early, because on a Friday night in Little Rock if you don't want to go to the movies your options are pretty much limited to (a) listening to half-assed punk music played by bitter twenty-somethings, (b) standing around outside the U-Serve car wash with about a jillion other juvenile delinquents and looking sullen, or (c) renting "Prizzi's Honor" or some other ancient movie from the only Blockbuster clone in town that hasn't turned your overdue movie charges over to the Mafia because "Prizzi's" is one of the three movies from the past twenty years you haven't watched multiple times, and that INCLUDES "The Little Mermaid" which your kids watched twice nightly (five times on weekends) until you started going to Red Lobster for lunch just so you could pretend whatever crustacean you were impaling on the tines of your fork was that little fucker Sebastian, or (d) spitting on cars from the freeway overpass. And mostly (d).
So we're there, about in the middle of the theater. Now, the Cinema 150 is the cream of the Arkansas Cinema crop. It is named so because its main screen is about three stories high (or maybe four, or then again I think it's three, oh you know, it's BIG) and takes up One Hundred and Fifty degrees of the circular cinema wall. Above you you've got this big dome with beams and everything and the seats rise up, up, up to right below the projection booth, creating an acoustically perfect spot where the wailing of some teething baby can be heard with the same clarity and volume as if it were crying its lungs out directly into your tympanic membrane. It's big and well-lit and due to the rising nature of the seats you can see damn near everybody.
Which makes for some amusing observances.
Steve and I are sitting about mid-way up and about a third of the way left from the center seat. I usually try to pick out the Center Seat in the row I'm in, because at that point the movie best and equally fills my field of vision, bypassing distractions and allowing me to concentrate on the screen its the eighteen or nineteen Gummi Bears which have been licked and flicked thereon. We're chatting, eating the Arterial Bypass Big Tub O' Popcorn with Almost Real Butter, when we see The Fidgety Guy.
This guy is one of those 15 year old kids with the haircut that is shaved on the sides but is long on the top and longer on the top of one side and SWOOOOOOOOPS over from that side to lay over his head and part of his forehead like some mutant comb-over on Human Growth Hormone. He is about five foot five and weighs maybe thirty, forty, pounds, and his hands never stop moving for a second.
This, alone, would be nothing to draw our attention for long to the Fidgety Guy. What he is DOING is, though.
He's moving. And I don't mean just moving around like walking, I mean MOVING, like you move from your mom's house to college or you move from your apartment to your first house.
He is changing his Place of Residence within the theater, and doing so with great frequency.
Perhaps he is sniffing for the right pheremones, perhaps he is surreptitiously looking for gum underneath the seats, perhaps he was afflicted early in life with hemmorhoids and must live a nomadic existence in the harsh world of the cinema, I don't know. What I do know is something about this guy Just Ain't Right.
Steve and I watch, bemused, as the Fidgety Guy starts above us, sitting next to some retired man with his wife, and moves down three rows and inward to sit next to two frat boys. We are further impressed when, a few minutes later, he leaves the frat-rats and goes to the end of the row to sit next to a 30-ish woman, never saying anything to any of his neighbors in his brief occupancies. We are downright amused when he then goes to the front row to sit first on the right, then five minutes later on the left, of two giggly teenage girls.
Fidgety Guy then moves over to the left and mingles with a few people I recognize from the local Dungeons and Dragons club (okay, I played D&D, I admit it). This relationship (as you should guess by now) is, alas, ill-fated, and quickly dissolves. Fidgety Guy then makes a brief stop a few rows up, climbing over the seats like they were Really Big and Cushy Stairsteps.
Then Steve and I realize:
Oh God. Oooooooooh God.
Sure enough, after a couple more brief sojourns, the Fidgety Guy climbs over the seat in front of me and hesitates briefly which I (on the left of Steve) silently pray gorightgorightgorightgoright and Steve no doubt is performing the mirror-opposite appeal to his deity.
Fidgety Guy chooses left, and sits down. Right.....next.....to me.
After a minute or so which seems like roughly a week, I start to think maybe this is the place Fidgety Guy has chosen for his permanent home. I have to do SOMETHING. So I turn to FG and say "So, are you like the official seat-tester for United Artists?"
FG giggles nervously and says "Uh, yeah.". Oh GREAT - not only did I make eye contact, but he thinks I'm his buddy now! I can barely sense Steve cringing in sympathy (or maybe stifling a laugh at my expense). I consign myself to my fate.
But wait! A minute or two more, and Fidgety Guy is off again, climbing to greater heights and continuing his search for that perfect seat or that perfect seat-mate. I am scared to turn around for the thought that FG may see me again and decide to pay me another and more lasting visit, so the show ends there. I shake my head, and Steve nods, and we start talking about something else.
About five minutes later, shortly before the show starts, Steve spots one of the doctors from the psychiatry rotation he his on in med school looking for a seat. He stands up and motions the doc to come sit by us, and the doc sits down next to me in the seat so long ago vacated by Fidgety Guy.
We make the proper introductions, and the doc and Steve notice some other doctor that they hate a few rows down. I mention that I can vomit at will (more about that sometime) and would be happy, for a fee, to coat the object of their scorn in the overpriced candy of their choice. You know, the usual chit-chat.
Then the talk turns, as it always does, to psychiatry, and I mention to Steve's Doctor Friend that I have a fascinating case study for him.
Now, I am not nearly as good a storyteller as Harlan Ellison (whew, that takes care of the obligatory reference), but I can be damn near as animated and loud and full of sound effects and other vocal accompaniments as Da Man himself. I proceed to tell the story of the Fidgety Guy, complete with exclamative punctiations and frantic hand-gestures.
I put on quite a show. I regale those around me. I describe the swoop haircut, the faux-generation-x clothes, the pimply face, and a dozen other things I forget about Fidgety Guy. I tell a long and varied tale of FG's quest for the perfect seat and his stops along the way, in a manner that would do the bards of old proud. I elicit laughter and head-shaking, all the appropriate responses.
Curiously, Steve isn't participating in the discussion. I figure he's just letting me have the spotlight, and continue my masterpiece.
I describe each seat and each neighbor lucky enough to receive a visitation. I make frequent postulations as to the possible disorders or traumas that could have caused Fidgety Guy to act so, including comments as to the number and character of his friends and his relationship with close members of his family. I may even have burst briefly into song.
I begin to draw the tapestry of my story to a close as I describe my heartache as FG moved ever nearer, and finally sat next to me. I proudly describe my snappy and witty question to FG, and my fear that this total loser, this reject, this walking ad for Prozac, would be my neighbor for the whole movie!
"But luckily", I say, "Mr. Fidgety climbed up and sat next to the poor people behind us, and then" ... I turn around as I am saying this ... "Oh. He's .... still .... there."
And yes, Fidgety Guy is.
Yep. He was there for the whole command performance. He had the front row seat at the concert. He was privileged to be close enough to witness every nuance, every detail of my excited rendition of his recent life. He had the catbird seat at my one-man show, subject: Him. If he missed a moment or two of my tale, it was only for blinking.
The two people sitting next to him look only slightly less perturbed than he did. All three have the look on their face you see in movies when the mother has on her face, a few seconds before she sits down on the floor in shock, when the policeman or clergyman tells her that her child is dead.
It is not a pretty sight.
I turn not-quickly-enough back around, as does Steve's Doctor Friend, and we do not speak again, either of us, until long after the start of the movie (which was a really smashing bit with Harrison Ford, not that I was in any condition to notice). Steve doesn't turn back around because, of course, he had known the whole time that Fidgety Guy was Still There and wasn't a big enough idiot to turn around in the first place.
After the movie, Steve tells me he wanted to tell me about the imminent presence of Fidgety Guy, but that I was going on so fast and so fervently he really didn't know how to stop me. Plus, he says, he figured there wasn't any sense BOTH of us making fools of ourselves.
If you see the Fidgety Guy in a theater somewhere, making his sad way from seat to seat, please stop him and tell him I'm sorry.
The moral of the story is this, if you will allow me to lapse into my quasi-mystical mode briefly:
When we talk, when we write, no matter about what, we are always telling tales from our lives. Sometimes they are straightforward tales, and sometimes they are buried so deep not even we can fish them out. But we always do it. If we do it long enough and spread our words widely enough, we can take it for granted that the subjects of some of these tales will hear them, and recognize them for the mirrors that they are.
For this reason, I always try to keep it in the back of my head that by writing stuff like this I am revealing not only my secrets, but the secrets of everyone I know. I use my friends and family so, for my own gain, and bear the risk of hurting them or betraying their trust. It's a tough row to hoe, and the scary thing is the better I get at what I do the worse it gets.
It's embarassing, and dangerous, and it illustrates exactly what I in my attempt to be a writer do NOT want to do.
But it sure makes for a goddamn good story every so often.
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