Art, Your House Is On Fire!

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It’s a sad thing when a pop culture icon dies but it’s especially sad to us mid-thirty year olds who quoted their lines in everyday life for laughs and even just a common bond. Such is the case of the Canadian-born actor Rick Ducommun who we lost in early June of this year. If you are not familiar with the name you might be familiar with his character Art Weinberg in the dark comedy/cult classic, The ‘Burbs. I have to be honest, this hit me right in the feels even though we really haven’t seen much of him since the late nineties. I will explain.

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I first saw The ‘Burbs back in 1990, while home sick from school. On the way home from the doctor (who always gave me a damn shot no matter what I was in for) we stopped at the video rental store to pick up a couple of movies for the mandatory bedrest. The two picks for that day were Bedknobs and Broomsticks and of course, The Burbs. BedKnobs because of the obvious ghost armies but I am not sure why I chose The ‘Burbs? Usually my sick movies are the old standbys like Return Of The Jedi or Iron Eagle.

I was adventurous and boy that was a mistake because I hated that movie. The dark themes and bizarre characters where just too much to take for a fever-laden kid. The Exorcist cameo didn’t help, either. No, it wasn’t until a few years later that I gave it another try when it was the CBS Friday Night Feature. Perhaps it was my age or maybe just the mood, but I loved it. Even my Dad, with the one-liners and musical score, became a fan of Joe Dante’s film. Since then on, it was the most quoted movie between the two of us and just about all of those lines came from Rick’s character, Art Weingartner.

The line “Listen to your wife? Who listens to their wife?!?” has gotten my Dad in more trouble with Mom than the time we stained the deck during a ten-mile an hour crosswind only to later notice we also stained her herb garden. We have many common bonds but the movie The ‘Burbs really is a language all our own. Even today I can say, “”Hey Ray, what are ya’ll eating in there?’ and he knows that means “what’s for dinner?”.

So now, fast forward to 2001. I was in a LRS unit, deployed to a little stinkhole of a town in somewhere-Bosnia. I really lucked out in this unit because we were pretty much left to our own accord without much oversight. Our missions were both clandestine and conventional which meant sometimes we were in civilian clothes roaming the urban areas gathering intelligence and sometimes we were doing target acquisition and reconnoissance for Special Operators who did spook operations. It was dangerous, exciting and beat the Hell out of a Korea deployment or large base operations. Still to this day, I take a break to think from the dull daily drudge of my current career and it is hard to believe that was my life at one time.

Sometimes, however, the downtime could get so boring it would drive a person to insanity. With a fire base smaller than my backyard, keeping ones self entertained was almost as challenging as the operations. We couldn’t carry many personal items but we did have a couple of laptops to watch DVDs so when it was snowing sideways or the smell of goat was too much to take we would hunker down and watch one of the ten movies we had to escape.

Our medic was one of my best friends on the planet and we shared a love for my contributing DVD, The ‘Burbs. I swear we watched it at least sixty times that deployment and trust me, that love was infectious. Before we knew it our whole team was dropping quotes like “If I find one more, I’m going to catch him and staple his ass shut!” to “It’s not us, Art! It’s them!”. The locals would look at us and nervously smile when our ‘Burbs talk would start to become more of a theatrical rendition. It helped make everything a bit more tolerable.

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We even took our ‘Burbs obsession a step further by actually incorporating it into a real code for an operation and believe it or not, I have proof. Many times we would use closer range radios when ops would require each team member to be in contact with each other and not have to use Army radio tact. That meant other people could possibly be listening since the personal radios didn’t have the code protection the bigger ones did so our intentions, locations and who we are had to protected. Enter The ‘Burbs quotes which were broken out in every possible communicative need you would need for a mission. And it worked so well, it was almost like pig latin. Once you got used to it, it flowed.

Here’s an example:

The crows are too big for the bird feeder“: Suspicious people or movement

Pop ’em“: Engage

I’d rather chew broken glass“: Do not engage

We broke down specific scenes for scenarios that would or could be experienced outside the wire. Not that we talked in 100% ‘Burbs talk but if an enemy or someone who is a bit nosey were to listen in they would definitely be wondering what the hell we were talking about. And it worked unbelievably well.

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My Grandmother kept all my old military items. From uniforms to awards to paperwork, she has bins and bins of it. Slowly, now that I am settled, I have been transferring them down to the house and when I am feeling a bit nostalgic, I peak inside to remember some great times and some down right terrifying times. That’s when I came upon a few field pads I “forgot” to  destroy when we left country. Usually, you had to burn anything that had sensitive material before you reticulated back to the States but I managed to forget these notes because somehow I knew I would be sitting in my living room showing people that The ‘Burbs actually did play a part of something besides cult film history.

Going back through the history of what this film has meant to me might be silly to most and that is understandable. Maybe that is why Rick’s passing has been a tear-jerker to me?

What am I talking about, of course it is! He was one heck of an actor and we are so lucky he shared his talent with us. I always love the actors who never had any serious roles but somehow managed to be more memorable than the Sean Penn’s and Al Pacino’s of our time. Actually Sean Penn is a bag of dicks but still. I love the ones like Rick Ducommun who made us laugh, and ad-libbed his way into our hearts with lines that you could mumble in an elevator and if someone responded, they were your friend for life.

Goodnight, Rick. Good show.

What’s In The Box?!

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I think we are going on seven months of nostalgia-rich Fun Packs from the amazing site, DinosaurDracula.com. If you are unaware of what Fun Packs are, let me explain. Imagine little trinkets from the obscure depths of the 80’s and 90’s which, if unprepared, can magically transport you back to the sixth grade. But that’s only if your old like me. That’s how math works!

This month we are in for a treat! Every Fun Pack has something special but this month really hit a home run. I’ll tease you with words like, “Turtle Pies” and “Boglins”to intrigue you. Did it work? If so, for only $25 a month you too can be a recipient of these Fun Packs and have smiling memories of your awkward youth.

So, if you have time (which if you’re in North Carolina you do thanks to three inches of ice) check out my nine minute video unboxing the great Dinosaur Dracula Fun Pack for this depressing month of February.

Chester’s Collectibles

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Oh lawdy lawd, you guys, I have recently found a gem. A diamond in the rough. A gold nugget in the land of pyrite. Some rock that is deemed more valuable than all the other rocks. I have found Chester’s Collectables and this is a huge win for VeggieMacabre for so many reasons.

A few weeks ago I was driving back from a meeting at Wake Forest University and spotted a little shop in a dying strip mall. It wasn’t the flashing open sign that caught my attention or even the word “collectables” out front but it was a mask from one of the most iconic horror characters of all time; Pinhead. No shit, Pinhead’s mask was in the storefront window and right then I knew magic happened. It happened all over the place.

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You see, I live in an area of the country that makes life for a nostalgic weirdo, like myself, very difficult. If it wasn’t for eBay, I would probably be a spending money on responsible things and no one wants that. I mean, even Target drags its ass when putting out it’s annual Halloween loot around here. I swear by the God of Thundar, if I see backpacks the last week of September I will cut someone. So, having a collectible shop like this is a real treat.

Another bonus is the owner, Chester, who is a real standup fellow. Maybe it is because he sees dollar signs when I pull up but I like to think he enjoys the conversation and our mutual love for old toys. Or maybe it’s because I’m a buyer and not a seller. Who  knows? But regardless, Chester does give me an all-access pass into the back room full of everything he hasn’t priced out yet or horror movie finds that could scare little kids who could potentially piss the floor. I don’t know Chester too well but I suspect he doesn’t like cleaning pee.

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Sometimes looking a gift horse in the mouth is a bad idea. Brian, from Review the World, had a great idea of starting another segment for this wacky site called, “Chester’s Finds”. Okay, I am still working on the title but essentially its random stuff that I buy to feed random posts and then put together “give away” packs to lucky winners via Twitter every month. I think this might be a fun little way to involve the reader. Also, there’s no way I have room for the random stuff I am about to acquire.

So, a little later on the first post will be popping up and I am excited to show you my haul from this month.

 

McBoo Pails…Sort Of.

As a kid nothing signified that Halloween was truly here like the launch of the McDonald’s Boo Pales. I am guessing the first ones came out around 1986 which carried strong all the way through the 90’s and then something happened. Maybe kids got fat and Burger University did a study and came to the conclusion that tradition and awesomeness was to blame? Whatever the reason, the Boo Pails disappeared for a few years leaving me sad and broken with nowhere to put candy that it can marinate in french fry smell. But luckily for us nostalgia nuts, they brought them back in the mid-2000’s. Happy days were had by all until now, 2013.

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What the Hell is this? What does this have to do with Halloween? WHO SOLD THEIR SOUL TO DISNEY AND….GIRL TOY MAKER? You can actually hear the boardroom conversation where McDonald executives laugh evilly as they award contracts to Monster High, Star Wars, Lucas Film Ltd and Angry Birds. This sucks and I hate it.

And that is when I need to remind myself I am in my mid-30’s and what is neat to a six-year-old is probably total dog shit to me. I just hate when companies like these ride on the Halloween wave with no intention of giving a nod to the holiday. Or the people who made them a success.

Well, since I bought two of them I might as well see what they are all about.

Let us start with the girl bucket. (Or boy bucket if they so choose. I wouldn’t but that’s me.) From the Monster High toy line we see Frankie Stein and her diva face performing a hip 1960’s dance with a severed arm. Okay, I guess that is a little Halloween but it’s also clearly a year-round toy line so, I am sorry, it does not count.

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Inside the bucket we have the same old Happy Meal that you can get in April; a tiny french fry, burger or chicken nugget, apples and small drink. McDonald’s cuts a corner with the toy but does provide stickers which I am sure all parents will be chiseling off the TV and a link to a phone app where kids can play a game. This will make parents even happier. RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE SARCASM RABBLE RABBLE.

The Angry Bird Star Wars  bucket is exactly the same; stickers to be stuck somewhere and phone apps to smudge apple-sticky fingers on mom and dad’s iPhone screen. I don’t feel I need to give a side by side comparison.

 

The app is the only real Halloween themed part of the pails this year. I guess I am okay with this but McDonald’s really doesn’t hide the fact it’s all about low overhead. It’s as if the entire American society blamed little Fat Fatty Kevin’s obesity on puppet McNuggets dressed in Halloween costumes and demanded McDonald’s be lame and provide fruit.

Oh…wait. They actually did.

Let’s take a look at the app. Maybe there is some soul preserving qualities here.

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“Hey kids, this is advertising!”

Noooo shit, McDonald’s. I guess it’s just a little funny to see them state that in such a way. It’s even funnier that they are addressing kids when clearly it’s meant for adults (with no life) who care.

Okay, I feel the spooky vibe they are giving here. It’s very much like an Angry Bird skill where you pull the ball back and try to land it in the cauldron using trajectory and a bit of gentle skill. The hilarity begins when you have to collect vegetables, protein and fruit. Notice how the protein is a fish?

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Who does McDonalds think they are? I bought two buckets to write this review and Lord knows I don’t have any self-control so I ate two tiny fries, a hamburger, four chicken nuggets, two sprites and half an apple that I am sure is 40% preserves. Absolutely nothing in this meal is good for me or for my diet (yes, I am on a diet) so to have a game where you need to collect a carrot, a fish and a pear gives me the giggles. Sorry McD’s, you ain’t health no matter what you shove at kids. Sure, deep-fried meat pellets have protein but they also have fat-butt.

In conclusion I will say, I looked forward to what McDonalds was going to bring to the season since August. Not that I feel good about buying kids meals at 11pm and getting the weird eye from the McDonalds employee who HAS ONLY ONE EYE but I feel that a bit of my childhood is alive in Boo Pales and kids of today should experience them without having shit they already enjoy everyday plastered all over it. LET IT BE HALLOWEEN AND UNHEALTHY! IT WON’T KILL ANYONE!

D Minus. Try again next year.

 

 

 

Ode To My Favorite Halloween Painting…From A Calendar

I am about to share with you a very special memory from 1985. It’s no secret many of my nostalgic roots are grounded in the autumn season, Halloween in particular. As a kid I looked forward to the month of October sometime around July so I would always flip the kitchen calendar ahead to see what it had in store for the upcoming season. The year 1985 won hands down.

Mom always had Charles Wysocki calendars and I am sure if you grew up in the 80’s, you are familiar. I loved the detailed artwork especially in the Halloween and Christmas scenes. They had so much going on it was like Where’s Waldo chaos but with nothing specific to find. It was just busy and to a seven-year old in with ten TV channels, no VCR and definitely without video games, this was pure entertainment to me. I spent hours staring at this odd world and daydreaming what a horror hotel would be like. This is responsible for my love of Halloween.

A few months ago I was thinking about this calendar, in particular October of 1985. With a few Google searches and some wild guesses like “spooky scene 1980’s calendar”, to my amazement, not only did I find it but I could buy the original. And I did. It’s currently hanging in my office but I took it down to scan and share it with you.

Here are some closer images to take a gander at.

Good grief, the top corner has some pretty crazy things going on. From a lynched scarecrow to a an executioner walking his spiked pig and cow-cat, it’s hard to wrap you mind around the scene if you didn’t have the whole picture. I’ve been debating whether to send this cropped portion as a Halloween card but all my friends don’t need any further excuse to question my sanity.

I am a big fan of the wispy ghosts through the cemetery. I remember thinking of these before bedtime at seven years old. Oh my innocence lost.

Holy cats, look at all of this! It’s hard to know where to start but my eyes always go to the Amish Jedediah guy in the broken window. Know idea why because you have a number of crazy creatures carrying hammers and axes, looking menacingly at you. I would make fun of the guy with the ax for the way he is sitting but, you know, he has an ax. I’ll let that one slide.

Notice the chipmunk-bear riding a bird? Yeah, I barely did too. And a naked dog…thing.

Here we have two gents having a nap, one with a horned dog on his lap. I think they are asleep but judging by the theme, they may well be dead. I’ll leave that up to your imagination but we clearly see a blue hand sticking out of the bag so death isn’t exactly a gamble.

Pithia’s Bloodlust Wrinkledeath is by far one of the greatest names to be named a name. Can you imagine your last name being Wrinkledeath? There could only be one profession for you! If you weren’t a body remover you had to at least be a pro wrestler.

This is funny because back in the day the girls in my second grade class wore these pants which had straps for their feet. I believe they called them stirrups. I always thought the guy with bare feet was wearing girl pants. That dates me as an old man.

So there is my little piece of my history which explains what made Halloween so special to me. There are thousands of these types of memories but it’s rare to own one and get to relieve it, if only for a few minutes.

Tribute to the Best GI Joe Toy: The Tomahawk

There I was, minding my own business on a Wednesday night, watching my new-found love of TV shows, The Toy Hunter, when I was suddenly transported back to December of 1987. No, I wasn’t really get sucked through a wormhole and landed 26 years in the past, forced to watch my 9 year-old-self wear pants that were too high. It was more of an existential experience back to when I had one of the best toys a boy could have. But over the years it slowly lost its pieces and parts in a pretend war campaign waged against Cobra. And the Empire. And Skeletor.

I was such a shit on toys. (I hope I remember to come back and think of a better phrase than that)

That particular episode of The Toy Hunter, the focus was on finding the GI Joe line from the early to late 1980’s and one of my all time favorites as a kid who was destined to one day join the real Army. I remember collecting so many of the vehicles that at one time I needed to rely on Star Wars creatures to operate them. The GI Joe guys seemed to have an issue with their legs coming off.

There was one vehicle, however, that ruled the rest of them. Of course this is up for debate because there are a million of nerds who will argue differently but this was the one that ruled my collection. It was the UH-6N Tomahawk helicopter made by Hasbro and it brought serious clout to the battlefield in the backyard.

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image from yojoe.com

This was more than just a toy. This was a toy that your other toys could interact with. Hours of fun could be had with this massive vehicle and I do mean massive. Keep in mind, I was 9 years old and probably 60 pounds soaking wet so playing with this helicopter would be the equivalent of “adult” me pretending to fly my ironing board around the room. Most of the time I was loading on legless joes in a hot LZ while medics applied tourniquets and the aircrew laid down a barrage of suppressive fire. I had a realistic imagination and was probably a real drag to play with.

This toy also had another special memory attached to it because like all kids who just can’t wait for Christmas Day, I found the awesome box under their bed in early December and had to crawl the walls for almost the entire month before opening it on Christmas Day. I hope kids still are that way.

So, I guess you are asking why I am writing about a Christmas gift in June? I can answer that. Bringing this tale back full circle to The Toy Hunter, this particular toy, in the unopened box went for $8,000. And that’s when I made this face:

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$8000 for an almost 30-year-old toy??? It’s hard to fathom six pounds of plastic parts to be monetarily equivalent to a 2003 Acura. I was in disbelief that not only was my favorite toy in a sealed box so expensive but that there are people who actually would pay that much! Why? I was a bit shocked but I also felt a bit validated because I consider it my favorite childhood toy.

Although the Tomahawk is probably a shell at the bottom of a box somewhere in the recesses of the parents’ basement, I took a piece of it with me through my evolving adulthood. It’s a rare thing for me to hold on to very much (both figuratively and literally) from one stage to the next but this bag is something I have not departed with almost thirty years.

Behold, the reminisce of the GI Joe Tomahawk chopper. Sadly, it all fits in a zip-lock bag.

Here we have the 18 point description of the helicopter and weaponry. You have to admit, this was a hell of a machine. It makes you wonder with crazy weapons like the “Laser-enhanced NVS (night vision system) 50 Cal Machine Gun” how they still couldn’t hit a Cobra trooper. Had they had some basic riflery range training, that show would have been a different cartoon.

Take a gander at all the cool tax-paid-parts that made this a formidable opponent on the battlefield. It looks heavy.

When you open the four page fold out we see the directions to put this behemoth together. I am sure this was the part that made Dad groan. And even with plenty of other toys on Christmas morning to keep my attention there was no way I would let Dad drink his eggnog in peace until every missile was on the winglets and every Joe was seated in the constructed ‘copter.

I believe that is how I was busted for peaking at the presents by whining to my father, “Come on Dad! I waited a whole three weeks for this! I mean…er…forever?”.

These toys were especially cool because each GI Joe had a back story. The pilot that came with the chopper was “Lift-Ticket” but his civilian name was Victor Sikorski, SSN# 675-51-5671, from Lawton, Oklahoma. I can see this was a little nudge to the makers of helicopters like the Tomahawk, Sikorsky.

I find it kind of neat that his story is pretty realistic from the way real Army pilots follow their profession. Opting out of Officer Candidate School and going to a Warrant Officer program was and is exactly how you become a pilot in the US Army. As a veteran, I get a little tickled how realistic the plot of Lift-Ticket’s life was. But that’s just the Army nerd in me. I won’t bore you with all that.

Stickers! Okay, decals. I never put decals on my toys. I did, however, decorate everything from my windows to books with them. I can’t tell you why but I am guessing that once Dad put the vehicles together, I wasn’t taking the time to stick warning signs next to the jet intake areas. My Joes knew not to stand there.

This is off topic but I was actually sent to the principal’s office for putting similar decals on the back of the bus’ windows. I had to scrub all the windows on the entire bus line that Friday. Looking back, I think that punishment was a bit  harsh. There is no way a kid today would be required to pay that price without the news being involved. What little pansies we raise today.

I forgot about these. Back in the 80’s we didn’t have this precious internet so we had to rely on good ol’ postal service. In every vehicle’s box had a card for mail-in points for impossible to find toys. Mostly, it was a Sgt. Slaughter campaign from his commercials and I was definitely a SGT. Slaughter B.A.T.T.L.E. Brigade member. All the way!

Seems a little weird that recently I met the Sergeant in the flesh. I am still a little put off by the smiley dick he drew for me. And his frill on his drill sergeant hat. All a bit strange. I am rethinking what his acronyms really meant now.

Lastly in the ziplock bag, we come to an actual part that I could never keep connected on the Tomahawk; the ramp. The little bastard kept opening mid-flight and in a fit of rage I tore it off and tossed it in the bind with all the miscellaneous guns and rockets from years of toy collecting. I told my platoon that seat belts were S.O.P (Standard Operating Procedure) from then on and I could calm my imagination and OCD.

These nostalgic posts always go from a scream to a whisper so I will leave you with this.

Eight fucking thousand dollars???

EDIT!!!

The Tomahawk was not $8000 but $1500. That gaint coffee table made to look like an aircraft carrier, The USS Flagg, was $8000. Still a lot of money, considering.

So…sorry about that.

Inspiration from a Skating Wall-Walker

Inspiration doesn’t come easy these days. I try to find it by volunteering or helping those less fortunate but even then it’s a fleeting moment of “meh”. I’ve been sucked into corporate America and closing on a house, so soon I will be assimilated into the masses who go to Home Depot on Saturdays and become an active member of a home owners association. While it is necessary to leap forward as an adult, I still do require a bit of inspiration that reminds me of simpler times. And that happened a few weeks ago when I took some kids roller skating.

Let’s be clear, I don’t skate. Charlie don’t surf, Billy don’t skate. I will, however, watch those who do and that’s mainly hoping for wipeouts or older male teens who have roller skate dance-offs. I like to laugh at misfortune. But after an hour or so the hilarity diminishes and I am forced to complain that the music stinks or the fact sweaty kids are gross. My volunteering for the local rotary chapter always turns out to be more painful than I anticipate.

I don’t know how roller skating was decided as the activity I was chaperoning but I will say, stepping into a roller rink building is like stepping back to 1987. This carpet agrees. There is not much that can change besides the music and if the main activity is roller skating in circles and a few limbo games, you gotta stick to what works. Even the arcade barely changed, I assume. There is no way a place would buy half of these “push the quarters off the ledge” machines.

I think what really hits the nostalgia bone is the fact nearly 90% of all the elementary and middle school birthday parties I was invited to was hosted at Sparkles Roller Rink. And I hated every single one of them. The reason being is I can’t skate. To this day I have the worst balance and if there are wheels under my feet, my face is on the floor. What made it even worse was being forced to wear the damn skates because everyone else would know I suck. By putting them on I could at least hang on to something and avoid the constant torment of adults questioning what wrong with me like “aren’t you having fun?” or “are you feeling okay?”. If there is anything worse than your peers making fun of you it’s the parents of the birthday kid asking if you wanted special treatment. I always opted for catastrophic falls and holding on for dear life to an awful video game no one wanted to play and without of quarters.

Lost in my own thoughts when I should have been watching the kids we brought, I spotted something that I had not seen in years. It was a roller skating wall-walker. And what really blew my mind was the fact he had to be at least 60!

This is not the greatest picture but in a room full of strange kids, I had to take my pictures quickly and discreetly.

As you can see he is walking that wall. It’s clear that if this wasn’t his first time on skates it had to have been at least 40 years since he has graced the rink. It was both inspiring and a little nerve-racking. This dude’s hips were in definite danger especially when negotiating the breaks in walls that were for access to the rink. There were a few “whoa” moments and even a spill or two.

Every time he completed a lap (which took 20 minutes) I was certain he would just return to a bench and join the other adults who, by the way, had their feet firmly planted to the ground. But no, he just started a new lap. It was like watching a goose trying to cross a highway. He didn’t give a shit.

Around the fourth lap or so, I had to give this guy some encouragement. So I waited until he crawled his way past my side of the rink and I said “way to go, man!”. He shot me a look like I just told his daughter to wear shorter dresses. I was a little taken aback because I had been so impressed with his resilience and stubbornness to master an activity designed for an 8 year old that I was certain he would give me a thumbs up. Nope, he was a bit of a dick.

Well, even though his attitude towards me was shitty, I am still inspired by his determination to both look foolish and not give up. I can’t imagine the amount of aspirin this dude had to take the next day. I saw him flail and flop on the ground no less than a dozen times. So, every time I am engaged in a long and arduous activity I will think of the 60 year old wall-walker and remember, don’t give up.

Okay, I just reread this post and I disagree with all of this. The guy never got better at skating but in fact much worse. He should have given up the second he started tap dancing backwards and making arm gestures like a mime pulling an imaginary rope. He lost 16,000 man points and I can’t imagine at 60 years old, someone would aspire to be a decent roller skater. There are so many other great activities that don’t require you to look like a cat with tape on its feet.

Sorry for all of this. Happy Thursday!

 

 

 

The Christmas Novelty That Will Not Die

This is starting to be an unintentional trend here on Veggiemacabre and I while I don’t want this to be a candy blog, tis the season, you know? I really wish this was a Triscuit/Hormell pepperoni blog but that would just attract eighty year old versions of me and a tarot card reader said I would grow into an asshole. I hope that she didn’t mean that literally.

The ol’ hard candy mix that has plagued every grandmother’s, great aunt’s and crazy cat lady’s holiday candy dish since Moses smoked weed, talked to a burning bush and was told to decorate a Christmas tree leading to why we celebrate Jesus’s birth…that way. It’s a staple for my holiday traditions and while I never could chip away a piece from the fused mix that I can remember, Christmas would not be Christmas without it.

Surprise bag! Here we have a good window (that is fogged up with candy dust) of what this assortment is without having to get sticky. Nothing is really standing out as the candy from 1985 that Grandma bought in ’66 but that is why this bag is called “Deluxe Filled Hard Candy” and the other is called “Old Fashion Mix”. So high hopes for the latter.

I don’t know why but every time I say the phrase “old fashion” I think of the wallpaper from Subway in 1987 and Three Dog Night. Weird.

So here we have both packs; “Old Fashion” on the left and “Deluxe” on the right. I can definitely recognize some pieces and for a brief second my olfactory senses took me back to a time when the only concern was having to visit my great aunt who continuously cleared her throat and spit into tissues followed by reapplying lipstick. God rest her soul.

I am really not sure if this is a review or just an ode to Christmas candy but I think I owe it to all those who are like me and have never tasted these assortments but had to have them within reaching distance from the tree. I owe it to my great aunt at least.

WATERMELON NUMBNUTS!

Take it for what it is. These candies will always have a soft spot in my heart that is three sizes too small. I don’t think they are for eating as much as they are for adding color and a bit of nostalgic glory to the season. There is one last test though…

Houston, we have perfection.

Tales From The Darkside Got Me Grounded

This story is a testament to how much simpler life was back when I was a kid. I had almost completely forgotten about this story until recently when I was talking to Kristen and low and behold, it just popped in there! The brain never ceases to amaze me because this memory has been stored for over twenty years only to randomly fallout like a picture used as a bookmark falling from a Garfield comic. (Because we all have read these in the 80’s) It comes at a good time too because this blog was turning into rubbish with mindless beer reviews and beef jerky. That’s no way to go through life, son.

Saturday nights for a certain period of my life were a special time. For whatever reason, from 7:00 to let’s say 10 or 11:00, my parents hosted a few couples from church for a bible discussion party. Well, I assume that’s what it was though I can’t be sure because my evenings were far better, which you will find out soon. After their bible yap, everyone would mingle and share the desserts each couple brought. I was allowed downstairs for that. Until then I was confined to the parents room with the TV, books of sharks, and whatever else a young seven-year old needed to pass the time. But at 9:00 my attention was devoted to a very special program that sometimes proved to be regretful whether it was later on at night from fears of what lurks under the bed or….well…keep reading.

I didn’t have cable until high school so with five channels (not including PBS because that was like watching school) and four channels on the smaller rotating dial, the selection was limited. But on Saturday nights there was quite the programing on Atlanta 46! The most memorable, of course, was “Tales From the Darkside”. For those not familiar, get out. I kid! I kid! It was a thirty minute program that featured two stories of macabre and strange tales usually starring some middle of the road actor from the time. Not all the shows were great but to a seven-year old, each one was a masterpiece.

One fateful Saturday afternoon my Dad informed me that a couple would be bringing their kids to the bible party and I would have to share my Saturday night of B-rated TV. While I was a little disappointed because as an only child I am a spoiled little dick, I had no say in the matter and began looking for the bright side. I mean, it could be fun.

It wasn’t at all. I knew it the second they arrived as I watched them pull into the driveway. These kids were melvins who brought their own pillows. They brought their own pillows for Christ sake! I sighed and walked limp-armed back to the parents room across the hall, head hung low and waited to hear people walk up the stairs. But instead Mom called for me to greet the un-welcomed guests and walk them to my Saturday sanctuary where no parental guidance was required.

I must have look like a pill giving a limp handshake to…Whats-his-face (let’s call him Jimmy for lack of memory) and his little sister, Rebecca.

Rebecca would be a problem for me.

With their idiotic board games and pillows in hand, we trudged upstairs to ruin my night. I offered to leave them in my room to do their will upon my collection of GI Joe and Legos, but that only appealed to Jimmy; the one kid I thought wouldn’t mind a night of twisted tales of grown up gore. Rebecca was stuck to my side like a rock in tire tread. Looking back as an adult it was pretty cute but to a kid that waited all week to hear the intro to “Tales From The Darkside”, it was an un-welcomed advance and there was no way to give these home schooled kids the slip.

Throughout the evening I tried to be entertaining and cordial. Jimmy wasn’t too bad, partly because he had Castle Greyskull to play house with and could care less about the world around him. Rebecca, however, sat hip-to-hip with me on the floor, eyes fixed on the TV as we watched “Small Wonder” and I nervously counted down the program schedule until “Tales From The Darkside” aired. Only one more “feel-good” show to go!

Dad brought us popcorn and cokes and asked if I was being a good host to which I responded “yeahyeah” without breaking gaze from the TV. He left to rejoin the adults and I could hardly wait because now was the time I had waited for patiently and even though I had to share this moment with these two weirdos, it was happening.

The intro alone distracted Jimmy from battling the forces of Cobra as he joined his sister and me on the floor, soon to witness the macabre and scary tales this glorious show had to offer. And brother, this one was a doozy! It was the first episode and pilot for the show that George Romero himself wrote and produced. The episode was called “Trick or Treat” and had demons, witches, pirate zombies and Satan himself all wrapped into a half an hour. Let’s break it down, shall we?

After the magical introduction we begin the story with a typical Scrooge-like character, Mr. Haggles, played by Bernard Hughes (one of my all time favorite actors). He is having his books balanced by a couple of accountants and we begin to learn what a cheap miser he really is, charging one of them .04 cents for another cup of coffee. But we also learn he has a twisted side too as he scares the two accountants into a bowel evacuation by an animatronic…thing that he uses on children during his favorite “SEASON”, Halloween.

It’s Willy from Alf!!!

That’s right. Mr. Haggles says what I have always believe and that is Halloween is a season, not a day. Anyway, he goes on to explain how every year he tempts the children in the valley to find the IOU’s of their parents that he holds liens on, hidden somewhere in his house, and if they find them all debt is forgiven. But no one ever has because of the terrifying tricks he has set up around his home.

We see during the afternoon of Halloween the bind he has on the parents as they are so deep in debt to Mr. Haggles that they even have to buy costumes for their children on credit in his general store. He taunts them into sending their children to the Hell house with the chance to have their debts forgiven.

Much like Romero’s style, there is a deep cultural issue hidden behind a cheeky horror story. We see how desperate people in financial distress can be and in some cases, putting their children in harm’s way to get out of their situation. I’m not going as far as saying prostitution but…kind of?

Oh Jimmy, find the IOU’s and get those much need braces or don’t find them and get a beating. The odds aren’t good since Mr. Haggles has a house full of spooky sounds and animatronic ghoulish surprises in store. Jimmy comes close but just couldn’t take the torture of Mr. Haggle’s taunts.

As Jimmy runs out of the house his father picks him up in a nurturing way and walks home defeated. Mr. Haggles laughs at the terrified kid but there is a moment when he has his bubble burst when Mr. Muldoon isn’t angry but rather a caring father. You can almost hear Mr. Haggles sigh a “humbug”. Who is next?

Another potential victim rings his doorbell and from his Wizard of Oz type control room, he looks to see who it is. Another kid? A parent coming to whoop an old man’s ass? Not quite!

In every story when a greedy person meets their fate, there seems to always be this third-party who’s entire being is for punishing the sinner. By far, this is my favorite punishment. He looks into the peephole only to see one of the scariest witches as she cackles a “trick or treat”. He opens the door to shoo away this prankster only to come to the realization that this is a real witch. She flies through the house on her broom and magically finds the hidden IOU’s and blows them in his face. Frantically, Mr. Haggles jumps to catch them all completely overlooking that he HAS A FUCKING WITCH IN HIS DEN and runs through the house shouting “my money!”.

 

In each room he is met with these type of creatures, who are not animatronic, but real and all over his cash. He is in disbelief that a pirate-zombie is sitting on his check deposits and scurries to salvage the flying cash. Which leads him to….

 

 

Ah, Satan himself. The Devil reverses the taunting and repeats “you’re getting warmer” and Mr. Haggles crawls his way down a bright red corridor which is made of what appears to be bubble wrap. While the set design looks to be a mediocre haunted garage that can be found in any suburb on Halloween night, it is a little creepy. Mr. Haggles crawls his way, chasing his blowing cash, to what is perceived to be Hell. Good riddance.

But what about all the poor people who were in debt to Mr. Haggles?

 

 

Well, the witch gave it all to Billy. The End.

As we finished this tale of awesome, I came out of my “Tales From The Darkside” trance to the world around me. Only Jimmy was sitting next to me but where was Rebecca? Apparently during the Hell scene she ran from the room and down to the bible study in tears telling her parents that I forced her to watch ‘R’ rated devil shows. Before I could evaluate the situation I heard the familiar sound of my Mom’s fast paced stair climbing gape. There was nowhere to hide. Jimmy looked at me and said, “You’re in a lot of trouble”. Fuck you, Jimmy, you home-schooled melvin.

The credits were still rolling while Mom and her parents breached the door and she yanked me from the floor so fast there was a tiny pop from a sound barrier break. I was escorted to my room by the elbow and Jimmy was taken downstairs to join his traumatized sister and would be given cookies and cake until their parents decided to leave. I cursed them all from my bed having daydreams much like Ralphy from The Christmas Story, thinking how sorry they would be if I was blind or have an affliction that required sympathy. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

By the next week when bible study came around, the melvins did not join me. I was thankful for this but my Saturday nights had to be spent without TV. But was it worth it?

Yes it was.

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