When I was in high school, I idolized the kind of NY, Italian, street gang-guy I saw in celebs like Billy Joel and Stallone. I really wanted to be in a street gang, which, if you know me, you know how completely asinine even the thought of that is. But I didn’t want to be in a real street gang, I wanted to be in more of a movie street gang. I didn’t want to actually hurt people, I wanted to strut around the streets like Travolta in a leather jacket, maybe smoking cigarettes. I wanted to know some guys named Mikey and Vinnie. Maybe learn to use the f-word occasionally and not feel guilty about it. That’s all I knew. I really wanted to be a Baptist preacher and I carried around a copy of “The Cross and the Switchblade” with me all of the time. It was a book about a preacher who went to New York to save the street gangs. I figured I could do that. Maybe have the best of both worlds. Although I would have to nix the f-word probably.
One year, I asked for a leather jacket for Christmas. My parents couldn’t afford a real leather jacket so they got me a vinyl one. It looked a lot like the real thing and I wore it all the time in high school and college. I’m wearing it in this photo. It looks a lot like Billy Joel’s but, I’m guessing, his was real leather. I always imagined I’d one day get to go to a “rumble” in my jacket, but I never did. Once, the neighborhood bullies tried to challenge my brothers to a fight and I thought it was the perfect opportunity, so I grabbed my jacket and a long chain I’d been saving for the occasion, but my dad went out and ran the bullies off so nothing really happened. Eventually, I changed over to Billy Joel’s “suit jacket and loose tie” style, which seemed to work much better for me.
When I was in middle school, my dad started getting into a new hobby of selling things at flea markets. He was a school teacher but would do the flea market stuff on the weekends and he ended up making more money doing that than he did teaching. So I grew up around flea market culture. I’m still fascinated by the southern flea market characters I encountered every weekend. Flea Markets, antique stores, secondhand shops, thrift stores are all still a huge part of my life. It gets in your blood and won’t come out. Like a stiletto. Sorry. I go to antique stores just to relax. I could spend an entire weekend doing nothing but visiting thrift stores and antique shops. Last week I stopped by a thrift store to look for some junk pieces I could recycle as art. While I was there I saw a really cool leather jacket. It still had all of the tags on it. And, holy crap, it was exactly my size! I can never buy clothes off the rack because I have freakishly long arms but this jacket fit perfectly. And it was only $25!
I used to never buy or wear anything leather. I’m vegetarian because I’m an animal lover and I never thought it was right to not eat animals but still wear them. Then, I decided to wear a kilt for a year in 2012 and I had to buy leather stuff. Boots, straps, vests, all that stuff that makes you look more cool in a kilt. I also started eating fish last year, so screw the animals! Dang, I should have used the f-word there. No wonder I never got in a street gang.
I bought the jacket. I took it home and cleaned it the way the leather stores I Googled said I should clean leather jackets. Last night I put it on for the first time in it’s full, freshly laundered, glory. I dug out the switchblade knife I have been keeping in my nightstand (in case The Bishops want to start some shit) and I came out to the kitchen to see what my wife thought. She laughed. Laughed? It wasn’t really the response I was looking for. I mean, this is a real fucking leather jacket! (Yeah!) But while she was laughing, she also took off her bra. It was like she did it without even thinking. I don’t even know if she knows why she was taking it off. It just happened. Dang, the first time I put on a real leather jacket and the first girl I see immediately whips off her bra. I knew it!
I don’t know how to talk to women. Seriously, I’m 51 years old and still have no clue. Yesterday I was downtown, wearing a nice kilt (Royal Stewart tartan) and I was walking my new puppy. I was on the sidewalk and I noticed an attractive woman passing behind me. She stopped and approached.
“What kind of puppy is she?” she asked.
“She’s an Australian Shepherd” I said.
“Aw, she’s very cute! I used to have one. They’re great dogs. What’s her name?”
“Keely,” I said.
“That’s cute” she said, petting the puppy. “What’s your name?” she asked, looking right at me. I noticed at that point she looked a lot like a young Tina Fey. I’m bad with ages but she could have been 30. Possibly 27. Maybe 32. Young Tina Fey was petting my puppy. And she wanted to know my name. I could feel myself starting to close up. Why did Young Tina Fey want to know my name? I’m not in any shape for a relationship, I just got out of one. And 30 is too young for me. I guess it would be harmless to go for coffee though. I’m going to have to Febreeze my car before we go anywhere. What, does she want kids? Crap, she may already have kids. How can I afford a big house right now? How much does it even cost to send a kid to college now days? I’ll bet that cost will double in 18 years!
“Rick,” I said.
“Oh, that’s easy to remember, that’s my brother’s name,” she said. I looked at her petting my puppy. “Well, have a great holiday, Rick. Your puppy is very cute.”
“Thank you. You have a good holiday too.”
Then Young Tina Fey walked away. I crossed the street, mentally pounding myself in the head. I didn’t even ask her her name. I have no idea if she was interested in me or just being friendly but most likely she was just a nice girl trying to have a casual conversation with a stranger. Instead she encountered a dork. With zero social skills. In a kilt. Walking a puppy.
I felt bad for her. I felt bad for me. I started hoping she would go home and Google “Rick, kilt, puppy” and by some chance land on my Facebook page. She would contact me and I could apologize for not asking her name. I could suggest we meet for coffee where we could discuss Australian Shepherds. Tina Fey. Maybe even how many kids she wants someday.
Good lord, I can’t afford a big house.
Yesterday when I came home from the studio I noticed drops of blood on my front porch.
I immediately joked “Oh, look! A killer came to visit!” Then I thought of my pets inside the house. What if the house was broken into and my cats and dog were harmed? I opened the door, checked the animals and found everyone sleeping, unscathed. I looked around on the floor and carpet for signs of more blood but saw nothing. It seemed to be confined to the outdoors. I went back out to the porch to examine the blood drops and noticed on the white porch post, right above the hand rail, a huge blood splash. The kind of splash you’d see if someone took a blood-soaked sponge and flung it against a wall. Now it was looking more serious. I walked across the porch to a wicker chair in the corner and noticed the seat of the chair was covered in blood. It appeared that someone with very bloody pants had sat there for awhile. Huge blood drops were also under the chair and splashed all over the front window. This was starting to look like a crime scene.
I tried to determine what would cause all of that blood. I didn’t even want to consider it was human. Did an animal get hurt and run onto the porch for shelter? It would need to be an animal that could somehow get up on that handrail. But there were no bloody paw prints. It could have been a bird, I suppose. There was too much blood though. Do birds even have that much blood in their bodies? I guess a couple of birds could have had an MMA-style melee on the front porch. Still, no signs of feathers, prints, drag marks, anything. Just lots and lots of blood.
I decided in order to be safe it would be a good idea to call the police. There might have been an incident I didn’t know about where one of my neighbors had been murdered in the night and the police would gain additional information knowing what direction the murderer went after committing the crime. It could be the killer pondered knocking on my front door to… I don’t know… borrow some Lava soap and a Tide Stick then had a last minute change of plans. It does sound silly but, contrary to popular speculation, I have no idea how an insane person thinks.
I dialed the police and the dispatcher did seem somewhat concerned. I didn’t want her to think I was just some nut, so I tried to play up the part about the blood. It’s difficult to impress a police dispatcher so I felt I really needed that prop in order to be taken seriously. I think it might have worked. She said an officer would be out soon.
I wasn’t sure if I should meet the officer out front when he/she arrived. I’m not sure how alarmed he/she would be when the “bloody porch” call came across the radio. Maybe they would send two cars. Or three. I didn’t want to appear overly anxious or suspicious but I also felt like I should help the officers in locating the house. When I saw the squad car come up the street, I went onto the porch to wave him in.
There probably isn’t a more suspicious looking picture than a 6′ 5″ hairy man in a kilt standing on a bloody porch waving at the police. In fact, I think it’s the very scenario they use in Police Academy for determining when it’s okay to fire your weapon without giving warning. The officer cautiously got out of his car and walked up the driveway to my house. I explained the whole situation to him and showed him each giant blood pool. I thought we’d bond a bit if he knew my detective work was solid so I told him I had already checked for bloody fingerprints around the door and windows but found nothing. I think I may even have used the word “perpetrator ” a couple of times. While he looked around I cleared away some of the junk on the porch to make room for the mobile crime lab technicians that would soon arrive. I’m sure they use a lot of big, fancy equipment.
Almost immediately I began getting the feeling the officer wasn’t impressed with the rivers of blood flowing from my front porch. In fact, I think he would have been more concerned if the porch was dripping with marshmallow creme.
“It was probably some animal,” he said in an exhale; the kind that usually precedes “you dumbass.” “Maybe a fox or a coyote drug something up there.”
“Like what, a roadrunner?” I asked.
I mean, I didn’t ask that but I wish I did. I started feeling sorry for the family who had been ghastly murdered the night before and would not be getting a proper police investigation. I wondered which house they lived in and if they had mowed their lawn more recently than I’d mowed mine.
At that point it hit me. I could see it in the police officer’s eyes. I was going to be that guy’s story down at the station for the next several weeks. All the officers would be standing around their cars telling crazy perpetrator stories about arresting meth-crazed homeless men and drunk, braless women in filthy, “beater” tank tops. His new kilt story would top them all.
“Hey, here’s one!” he’d say. “Did I tell you about the guy in the skirt who called in because a sparrow cut itself shaving on his porch?”
They would all cackle loudly and instinctively grab their holsters to steady their gun butts, preventing the wobble of their bellies from accidentally firing off a round. “Judging by that dress he had on maybe it was just ‘his time of the month!'”
That would be the evening’s big closer joke. They would roar again, toss down their cigarettes and get in their taxpayer-funded police cars to drive home for the evening. Most of them would take a few moments to look up my website so they could get an actual image of the person they were cruelly laughing at. Seriously, people this kind of police bullying has got to stop!
Early this morning I awoke remembering that “a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” I got out of bed and quietly walked to the living room window that overlooks the front porch. There on the stained wicker chair was a big, orange cat staring up at the bird feeder on my porch. His eyes darted around the sky every time a fat little morsel flew around the feeder. He was clean. Must have been unlucky in his hunt at that point. I opened the front door and he quickly darted off. He hid behind a tree and stuck his head around to give me a final look. “Go on!” I said and he scampered away.
“Mystery solved,” I thought. In a flash, a hooded man sprung out of the bushes and plunged a knife into my heart and upper torso. Probably around 37 times. Blood pulsed all over the walls of my porch, the doors, the windows and on that stupid wicker chair. My limp body dropped onto the porch and the stranger ran off into the night.
That last part didn’t happen, of course. But it’s the story I’m telling next time I have to call the police dispatcher.
Late August of 1972 my entire family was brutally tortured, then slaughtered by a teal and beige casual sport dress. It was a thigh-length, sleeveless with round neckline and princess seams on the front and reverse. Authorities said the dress buttoned all the way down the back. To make matters worse, it was a size 8. By all accounts, a very high-end, quality garment. Before 1980 crimes by dresses were rarely reported in this country. Most victims of dress crimes were too embarrassed or intimidated to come forward. I had no choice. My entire family laid scattered throughout our modest ranch home in pools of their own blood, victims of outer-wear violence. I alone was spared that brutal day. I had spent the summer at a special camp for children who couldn’t tan. Little did I know, before that summer was over I would be orphaned, severely depressed, and gain an intense distrust of women’s clothing. The investigation of the crime took almost three years but eventually the perpetrator was discovered on a rack at a consignment store in Atlanta. The dress was tried, convicted and given the death sentence. In April of 1986, after serving almost ten years on death row, the dress was cut up into hand towels and various scraps. Even though I know justice was done in this case, you now know the reason that, to this day, I can not wear a dress.
There is a scene in the movie Untamed Heart where Christian Slater’s character “Adam” tells Marisa Tomei’s “Caroline” that, for some time now, he has been sneaking into her bedroom and watching her sleep.
Contemplate for a second the wild-haired, socially-retarded oddball Adam, sitting on the nightstand in a gape-mouthed gawk while the tiny, sweet, vulnerable Marisa Tomei slumbers, completely unaware. Now see if you can keep your freaking skin from crawling off your entire skeletal structure.
As daft and demented as you and I might consider this ding-dong behavior, when Adam drops his sicko bombshell on Caroline, she takes it in with the unabashed awe of someone who has just been told she looks “mighty cute in them jeans.”
“You watch me sleep? Why?” she sheepishly asks, piano music tinkling in the background.
“You… have a peace. I don’t have peace,” Adam replies with a glazed-over stare.
Well, thank you, Mr Bundy, for actually admitting you are, in fact, an unzipped nutbag.
I wish I could say that Caroline instantly hoses the nocturnal peeping perv down with industrial-grade pepper spray but, no, that would be an unsentimental and way-too-obvious choice. Instead, she seems to be curiously fascinated and maybe even more than a little bit turned-on by the revelation.
Adam continues in his exposé, confessing that all of his dreams are filled with images of suffocation and despair and that Caroline is his only source of peace. This, of course brings Caroline to tender tears. She tenderly touches his scarred chest and they immediately, and with great tenderness, make out on the porch swing.
Now, before I go on, let me get this out of the way. I like this movie. I own this movie. I’ve watched it more than once and I’ll watch it again. I wish I had Christian Slater’s hair and overcoat and if I could figure out any possible way to make it happen, I sure as hell would sit for hours and watch Marisa Tomei sleep. I wouldn’t even care if she drools. Seriously. Marisa, if you are reading this, I just want you to know I’m really quiet, I won’t touch any of your stuff and I’ll let myself out around 3:30 or 4:00. Email me.
But that’s beside the point.
The thing that really skarks my skivvies is this Hollywood tradition of the scary, yet romantic, leading men who continually bag the hotties doing the very things we regular guys get a Birkenstock up the hieney for trying. Freaks with minimum wage jobs, living in cellars, driving 70s model cars, make gorgeous women love-loopy simply because they carry around a book of Pablo Neruda poems, know where to find Cassiopeia in the constellation and piss the girl’s name in the snow in a quaint Edwardian Script font, All supported by a John Mayer soundtrack.
Moronic dorks like Will Ferrell and Jack Black should need the special effects budget of a Peter Jackson film to make them appealing to women like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kate Winslet but in Hollyworld they have no difficulty at all. John Cusak could play an out-of-work, halitosis suffering ex-con, show up at an antique shop slathered in hog bile and still get lucky with Rachel McAdams before sundown. Even Forrest Gump got laid. By Robin Wright, for crap’s sake.
I guess I’m ranting so loud about this because I really, really, REALLY wanted to be one of those sensitive, romantic, outsider-guys. I tried it. I left my hair unkemt for days, wore mismatched Chuck Taylor sneakers, rode a bicycle around delivering roses to strangers, held radios up to bedroom windows and worked in menial jobs where I pretty much kept to myself except when I saw a friendly Golden Lab that I just seemed to understand on a level where language was unnecessary. Never once did I attract the intrest of a leading lady, prom queen, socialite, debutante, cutie-pie or sweetheart. The closest I ever came was, once in a mall, the late Hollywood screen legend Patricia Neal looked up and smiled at me. But I’m pretty sure it was only because she thought I was the guy coming to take her to go pee pee.
So here I am and here I shall remain. Single-outcast-quirky-artist-geek living in a musty apartment with a closet full of thrift-store clothes and my too-friendly Golden Lab. Obviously I still don’t know what the hell women are looking for. Anyone wanna buy a book of poetry and a ’79 Chevy Malibu real cheap?