Mindless Pubescent Killing Machines

My early years, let’s say the seven or so before the second grade, were spent in Albuquerque, N.M. living a life of almost sin-free exposure. I suspect I knew a cuss word or two, but not much else about the ill ways of the world. The temperate climate there and the fact that it was the seventies meant drive-in movies were a staple of free-time existence, and my family took in their fair share – including my two favorite stuffed animals, Phoenix and Squeaky.

From the back of the Pacer, through the large hatchback window it afforded me, I could always divert my eyes to other films playing – the one’s that weren’t G rated. We might have been there to watch Grease but you could always find some R-rated flick screening across the way, and if there were enough people there to see it you could hear it too – the little speakers working in unison provided adequate exposure to say… the hellish screams of trapped teens in Carrie.

At some point, through this viewing methodology I was able to see Children of the Corn. Having just IMDB’d it, I can see that point was post-Albuquerque – which means we must have kept hitting drive-ins for a spell in our days in Texas or possibly went during our trips back to New Mexico to visit family. The location isn’t relevant, but the memory of Malachai, Isaac, and their minions certainly is. I have a firm hunch that it was from this film, my fear of youth-mobs was born.

Sometime later, due to some true-crime novel or possibly a paper pushing garbage to make sales – my mom introduced me to this theory: in the future, due to increasingly corrupt moral values and lackadaisical parenting the population would find itself dealing with mindless pubescent killing machines – children who’d stab you for your wares, leave you for dead, and never experience remorse. You need not scan the internet too hard to find incidents that mimic that line of thinking. In the last week alone I read about: a girl who killed the family cat to use its blood for a Lady Gaga show, and another girl who shot her father with his crossbow because he took away her cellphone, and numerous flash-mobs of teens creating all kinds of havoc in and around Chicago’s Miracle Mile.

But long before I had such easy access to macabre stories of youth gone wild, I’ve always been on high alert when confronted with more than a few whipper-snappers on a NYC city street. The other morning, while taking an early and peaceful stroll to see a friend for breakfast, I came upon three or four dozen of them, hanging out like vultures in front of the local Mickey D’s. Would I walk around them, even though I had only a few minutes until my friend could brand me truant? Hell no, although as it turns out he would have condoned that action due to possessing the same fear. No, I just did what I always do – grab a smoke and light it in front of them, as if I haven’t a care in the world, and to say, “Look at me. I’m smoking – tough guys smoke, right? right?” I’m sure even the nervous chuckles in my head are audible on some level to this evil breed.

But yes, the ol’ guy-you-better-not-mess-with-because-he-smokes trick – works every time. Has so far anyway.

Karma Punk’d

Two days ago we moved into a furnished sublet in Brooklyn for a temporary stay. The apartment’s owner is a seemingly lovely woman. Had I met her more than twice, each time for less than ten minutes, I might feel inclined to not even use the word seemingly. Her place is aces; a full-floor unit with a great vibe, comfortable furniture, solid AC units, and a bed that for two straight mornings has left me as recharged as any I can remember. There is one rule during our stay here however, one that I’d agreed to happily after spending six months surrounded by the jungle – we were asked kindly to not kill any bugs during our stay – specifically, we were asked to abstain from killing the one or two tiny cockroaches we might see when operating the kitchen sink. I assured our host that this was a task we’d honor, as we’d spent six months living with all manner of insects, and had always done our best to accept them or remove them without killing them, cupping them in various glasses and placing them back into the wild. That said, I’ve come to believe we are on some sort of Buddhist reality TV show. The first two nights here, I’ve encountered far more than the ‘one or two tiny’ cockroaches I’d expected – any trip to the bathroom at night means conducting basic hygiene routines amongst at least a half-dozen small to medium-small roaches – there aren’t hundreds, not even dozens, but there is always just enough to make me think there are an infinite number more lurking all around me. I’ve killed not a one, nor do I intend to. To be honest, aside from the one that crawled onto the couch with me last night, they don’t really phase me the way they might have prior to our residency in Costa Rica. But, I have come to believe there may be hidden cameras recording our resolve – and that in some small television station production room somewhere, a producer, possibly our landlord of two-weeks, has a release-more-roaches button she or he can press while shouting, “I’m going to break these two yet!” I don’t blame her, filming us going back on our word, while commiting violence against anything – even cockroaches – probably makes for better TV and higher ratings. But it isn’t going to happen, I refuse to be Karma Punk’d for the idle thrills of the lazier Buddhists of the world.

Not-So-Famous Last Words

I’ve never been mugged. I’m beyond positive that posting those four words will open the door for it to happen in the future, but don’t fret – I’ve already put my knuckles to wood, three quick knocks should, at the very least, buy me some time. I don’t have any numbers in front of me, but I suspect getting killed after a mugging is the rarest of the multiple, possible endings to that crime. But in my head, when I construct a narrative around the act, starring myself of course, it typically ends with my assailant ushering me to the next world via a gun or knife. Which is why I walk around armed with one liners I hope I have the strength to deliver to him or her, should he or she stick around long enough to hear them. That Tom Hanks’ gangster movie might have been the impetus for such an exercise. I believe Paul Newman tells Mr. Hanks’ character, “I’m glad it was you,” right after Hanks shoots him to death. Newman was Hanks’ father in that film, so there is some rationale behind those last words. I’d like to think that when a stranger finishes me off, out on some dark street, presumably late at night, that my uttering the same – “I’m glad it was you.” – would at the very least screw with my mugger-killer’s mind for a few days, weeks, months, or years. I’ve got other one-liners, and for a short period of time, my friends and I made a game of it: What one last thing would you say to the stranger who mugged and killed you? Other answers, my own and theirs, have included: “Ain’t we a pair raggedy-man,” “your shoe is untied (followed by a last second pop to the nose),” and “now the world will never get to see my special brand of dance.” We have dozens, but for me that Newman line, if it was Newman at all, really stands the best shot of making the jerk who iced me uncomfortable for a while. I’ll be the first to admit that I am probably giving cretins and criminals far too much credit here, and that they’d probably not think about it much given their crystal-methed state of being, but if there is some sort of being to welcome me upon my arrival to the other side – at least he might say, “Nice one, Rosch!” I can’t imagine a little humor would be a bad way to start phase two, and it’ll be good to have an almost instantaneous new friend there.

I’m No Claire Danes

We returned to the states yesterday from Central America – Liberia, Costa Rica to be exact. If you’ve ever been to that airport, you know it’s a tiny, predominantly open-air joint with a relaxed atmosphere, and in my opinion, adequate security. If you were to compare their passenger preservation procedures to those in stateside airports, you might not come to the same conclusion. No one asked me if I’d packed my own bag for instance, and that’s fine since I’m not in the habit of paying someone to do it for me yet. A good deal of the luggage yesterday, just shy of all of it to be honest, had been packed by my better half. It matters not, because even if I had packed all five of those bags, put every item in them before sealing them, I’d still have stood in line during customs thinking the very same thing I think every time I enter or leave a country: I hope I’m not transporting something illegal that a handsome stranger managed to stuff into my bags while distracting me with his handsome-man smoke and mirrors abilities.

Since I have a strong hatred for knickknacks in general, you’ll rarely find me coming back from anywhere with anything anyway, and so I can easily speak a solid ‘no’ from my mouth when border agents inquire as to whether I’m bringing back anything into the states. But after I say that ‘no,’ it is proceeded by the thought, ‘other than the drugs, guns, or monkey brains delicacy some stranger of ill-repute, but with a devilish charm, put into my luggage.’ My wife just unpacked our bags this morning, nothing of the sort in any of them, just like always, save a stowaway spider that might single-handedly bring New Jersey to its filthy knees. You’d think after years and years of making it back home without incident, and no narcotics some mule-trainer hits me up for later, that I’d just come to grips with the fact: I’m no Claire Danes.

Street Money Beat Down

Finding large sums of lost money on the streets can be a pickle for any moral soul. My wife just found some this morning and she’d like to return it, because she is a good egg. She’s gone about the business of putting up a sign that might provide this amount’s rightful owner with a means to see it returned. All good, should be interesting to see who contacts her, and get a sampling of humanity’s honesty.

When I see any bill on any street, in NYC or even Podunk, USA, without fail my thinking is: Yay, money, free money, wait – this is some sort of gang-initiation where some newbie is supposed to beat the crap out of the first person who dares snag this cash from the ground. Even a dollar leads me to this conclusion, because if I were running a gang my logic would be that the lower the amount used to select someone at random for the initiation-beating, the more frightening the legend of it and my gang. I would want to run a very cruel-sounding gang is all I’m saying.

Don’t get me wrong, that senseless rambling has never stopped me from taking the money – I’m apparently a bit more paranoid that leaving any money behind, even pennies, carries its own toll on the passerby. And I guess that screwy line of thinking beats out the street-money-beat-down fear. However, before I pick up any lost cash, I do a good bit of looking around for frothing-from-the-mouth teens hellbent on proving their worth to other psychopaths.

Escaped Convicts Dig Music Too

Throughout my life there have been real incidents or situations that have only served to fortify and feed my already suspicious nature. Dark gut-feelings that became realities, accidentally exposed plots, and occasionally bizarre events my paranoia uses as guides for my remaining time in this world. The following is the latter – a true tale of a situation I lived through due to my special brand of paranoid thinking.

In my late teens and early twenties I made at least one drive a year from Texas to Florida, usually with a pal or two, but once or twice I did the drive solo. I believe this particular trip was closer to the end of those runs back and forth to visit a girl, and even though I’d not hit twenty-one I made the trip by myself in my father’s gold Fiero. From Austin it was roughly an eighteen hour drive and I decided to leave late in the day, which would put me in Jacksonville before noon. That decision would also have me driving through the Deep South in the witching hours of the night.

As was common for me on these caffeine-fueled straight shots from point A to point B, I had some AM news/talk radio blaring to keep my mind active – typically blaring rock music only served the sandman’s objective. While entering Mississippi, a bulletin came over the air announcing that three or four prisoners had escaped from a relatively high-security lockup somewhere in those parts. My brain registered the words that made up the story, but as I’d not fully developed that lobe of the brain that measures consequences, just a short time after hearing the announcement I pulled off of the interstate for gas.

The pumps at this station were a good distance from the structure housing a cashier and goodies for snacking. I pulled the Fiero in front of the pump nearest to the store, jumped out, and began to fill the tank. This was before Pay-At-The-Pump was everywhere, and I doubt I had a credit card at the time regardless. All I know is the pump turned on, and I proceeded with the task at hand.

Just seconds into it, I heard two voices calling to me from in front of the store. It was two fellows sitting on the sidewalk, legs stretched out, with their backs against the anterior of the building. They called to me – asked me if I wouldn’t mind putting on the radio while I filled up – I told them I didn’t think running the car while pumping was a good idea.

They laughed and reminded me, “You don’t need run the car to work the radio son.” They were right about that of course.

It was late, I was tired, and frankly not as smart I’d like to think I am. I turned on the radio, turned it up at their request, and might have even changed channels once or twice as the fuel worked its way into the tank of my two-seater. They were pleased, thanked me, and never moved from their seated position some thirty feet away.

When I was done, I pulled the keys from the car quickly and locked it in preparation to make my way to the cashier to pay. The men protested my action aggressively, and practically demanded I turn the radio back on while making payment. I refused despite their harsh overtones.

I walked past them and into the store as they tried in vain to change my mind about the tunes with all manner of barbs, good-natured and otherwise. But they never moved. When I got inside there wasn’t a soul in sight. No one behind the counter, no one mopping up, and no one pacing the few aisles that existed for midnight munchies either.

I stood patiently in front of the cashier’s corner with one eye on the store and the other on my car, with open ears working feverishly to hear what the two fellas outside might be saying.

Not more than a minute had passed when finally a man came into the store from a backroom door, he’d been in a stock room or office I suppose.

He walked toward me, toward the cash register, while buttoning up the last two top buttons on his station-issued Dickie’s style shirt. He took a look a long look outside the window at my car, then asked me how much I’d pumped. I told him the amount, to the penny, gave him just enough in bills to cover it, and politely said, “I don’t need the change.”

I turned to leave as he struggled with the register. I opened the door, keys in hand, and looked to my right to see if the two music lovers were still there. They were gone. I bee-lined to the car, jabbed at the lock with my key, opened it, threw myself inside and got the hell out of there and back onto the highway.

About five minutes later I saw six or seven police cars, stopped near a bridge, and all manner of flash light beams working the woods to the left and the right of it. It was only then that it occurred to me: those two gents who had so adamantly demanded to hear the radio had been wearing the exact same outfits – a solid color from head to toe. I sped on, said nothing, and told myself I was just being paranoid.

To this day I think had I borrowed my mother’s Pontiac Bonneville instead, I might have joined the gas station attendant they’d tied up, possibly killed, in the back room of that station. Fortunately for me, my father had a soft spot for tiny sports cars, albeit one of Pontiac’s most prolific lemons. In fact, I might be the only one left singing the praises of that particular vehicle.

Poisoned Drinking Straw

My attempts at being responsibly green are easily shelved every time I take a drinking straw from a dispenser. Theaters, burger joints, sporting events – if theirs are the unwrapped variety it matters not. Germs? Simple germs have nothing to do with my actions. I always press down once, remove and discard the first, and then press it again and use the next straw in line. For most of my life I’ve done this just in case someone took one straw,  then laced it with a deadly drug, or even a less-than-deadly drug that only causes immediate pooping or some other form of moderate discomfort, and finally shoved this newly poisoned drinking straw back into the box for some poor soul – some poor soul that isn’t on to that ol’ chestnut.