You May Be Right. I May Be Crazy.
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!
Why I Cannot Wear A Dress
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.
I Love You, You Freak.
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?