Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tales From The Lebowskis - Mornings at Hulka & Holly's

Growing up, I always wanted a brother. I had a sister, which has turned out to be nice in the long run, but growing up we fought miserably. Meghan and I really couldn't stand each other as kids, because we really weren't at all the partner-in-crime the other wanted. I wanted a sibling who would be interested in things like Ninja Turtles and robots and video games. She wanted a sibling who would be interested in things like American Girl dolls and sports. It was a bit of a mismatch, and neither of us were mature enough to be adults about it (WE WERE CHILDREN, LITERALLY).

Now, eventually, I did join a fraternity. I have lots of brothers now, which is awesome. But long before that, the closest thing I had to brothers was cousins. I have four cousins which were/are like brothers to me growing up. Chris and Kyle Rudedawg are like my younger brothers. Jimmy and Charlie Easterbreak were like my older brothers. Jimmy and Charlie weren't always my cousins. They are my Aunt Holly's sons from her first marriage. Hulka is now their stepfather, but when I first met them, Holly was still his girlfriend. The night I met them, at a Pizza Hut, I somehow erroneously believed at first that Jimmy was named Charlie and Charlie was named Jimmy. I absolutely refused to believe them when they corrected me, and I think I wound up in tears over it. This small hiccup did nothing to stand in the way of future awesome times for us three.

Jimmy was the oldest of us, then Charlie, then me. Jimmy was also the best behaved when we were together, and Charlie and I resented the fact that he would get in trouble the least, so we would periodically plot against him in minor ways. It was nothing personal, we loved Jimmy, we just resented his higher status. It was pretty standard.

We got to do all the dumb, fun stuff that brothers do (well, they were actually brothers, but I got to be part of it). We had burping contests, played war games outside, did stupid voices to make each other laugh, stuff like that. Actually, making Jimmy laugh was something Charlie and I liked to do a little too much sometimes. Jimmy has asthma, and we were too young to really fully understand how bad it was for him to have an attack. We would just consider laughing himself into an asthma attack as proof that we were being REALLY funny. Like a compliment. If we really knew what we were doing, we would've been the biggest assholes.

A major league bonus of hanging out with Jimmy and Charlie was the fact that they and Hulka had tons of video games. I LOVED video games as a kid. I still like them a lot, but obviously with appropriate moderation. Not back then, I was like an addict. And they had so damn many, we could play for hours. We would team up on hard games and try to beat them, we would replay our favorites, we would sing funny songs to the tune of the game songs, really it was a fun social thing, it just happened to be video games.

I was such a wired kid though. I would get excited and just be a total spaz. So nights when I got to sleep over, I would regularly wake up pre-dawn and want to start playing video games with Jimmy and Charlie again. I would just be too excited to keep sleeping. This wouldn't have been so bad, since they tended to be fairly excited to get up and keep playing too (although not always, sometimes they told me to go back to sleep). The problem was, when I got excited like that, I tended to have trouble regulating my volume. This caused problems for Hulka and Holly.

They liked to sleep in on weekend mornings, as do most people. The shrill sound of a child's laughter at 4 AM isn't the most welcome sound in the world. Nor is it at 5 AM. Nor 6. You get the idea. Holly was very kind in her reminders to try to be quiet in the morning. Hulka had slightly less patience, and would try to establish iron-clad rules. For example, I was not allowed to get out of bed before I could actually see the sun out of the window. Once I could see the sun, I could go into the kitchen to check what time it was, and if it was before a certain time (7, maybe?) I had to go back to bed again. No noise before 8 or 9, I can't remember which. That was the hardest for me. I would wake up and fully intend to be silent and keep Hulka happy this time, but nope, inevitably I'd get excited and make noise and incur Hulka's wrath.

Hulka's wrath pretty much consisted of him shouting my name, telling me to get my ass into his and Holly's room, then telling me very sternly to keep the noise down for a while longer, then sending me back out. This would frequently be repeated a few times per morning. It would work temporarily each time, you don't argue with a big angry man in his underwear. It's just that I would forget to be quiet again shortly thereafter. Oops.

Something Jimmy, Charlie and I liked to do was make funny tapes. They had an old boombox with a record function and we had a couple of cassette tapes we would pop in, then record ourselves being jackasses. Some classic moments included a skit involving a mystical "Geeenieee Bear!", Charlie singing INXS in the bathroom, and Charlie and I ruining Jimmy's well planned out sketches with fart sounds. That last one was pretty common. Being the oldest, Jimmy would actually come up with lines of dialogue for us to learn and make a funny tape. We'd usually go along with this for a minute or two, mess up a line somehow, and when he'd get upset at us, we'd just make fart noises on tape. One time in particular he decided to get his revenge on me for being a brat in his skit by narrating gross things to happen to me. I got poop on my face, he claimed. Somewhere there exists a recording of me angrily shouting that "If I get poop on my face one more time, you're gonna have poop in your stomach!" A comeback for the ages.

The greatest recording we ever made, though, happened early (although not ungodly early) one morning. It was probably 7:30 AM or so. The three of us were awake and ready to make another classic tape. This time, Jimmy thought we could use musical backup, so he was going to play the old, out-of-tune piano along as we recorded. I wish I had the audio recording to post here, but it's lost to the sands of time. I will try to transcribe it from memory.

The skit begins. Jimmy narrates while Charlie and I call comments from the peanut gallery. Jimmy begins playing the piano to enhance the mood of the story. Suddenly, although it's coming from an entirely different room, you can hear Hulka's voice on tape, clear as a bell. "REMUS! GET YOUR ASS IN HERE!" For a few moments, you can only hear Jimmy and Charlie whispering to each other. Then, in the most shit-eating, smug, childish, sing-songy voice you can imagine: "Jiiiiimm-myyyyyyyy, he's mad at YOOOO-OOOUUUUUU!" and then immediately, "REMUS! GET YOUR ASS BACK IN HERE!!"

For once, for fucking once, it actually was Jimmy who pissed off Hulka. It wasn't me spazzing out and making noise early in the morning. It WAS Jimmy! This never fucking happened, it was a one-time shot! I felt so goddamn vindicated when I went in there the first time for a tongue-lashing and could legitimately insist that I was innocent, and it was Jimmy who was to blame. Jimmy, who never got in trouble while Charlie (sometimes) and I (nearly always) took the fall (usually deservedly). I just couldn't contain my satisfaction at this stunning upset, and ruined it all by being a smug little shit. There's a moral in here somewhere. I flew far too close to the sun on wings of wax, my friends. Pride goeth before a fall.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Formative Years Fiction - The Crazy War

I don't remember what year it was. It was definitely 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade. I wish I could recall more clearly the year, but alas, no luck. I also am a little hazy on exactly the nature of the assignment. It may have been to choose a book and write our own version of it, or maybe it had to specifically be a Dr. Seuss book, or maybe it had to specifically be The Butter Battle Book. I'm not sure. All I have record of is the result.

Also, as I've warned in the past, I'm probably going to wind up cursing at some point in here. The disclaimer is getting redundant, but you never know who might be reading.

Unlike the other childhood works I've shared here and will share here in the future, this one was a collaboration. My friend Mike Palazzo and I worked together on this one, and I have to give him half of the credit (blame?) for the story you're about to read. Let me preface, though, by talking a little bit about The Butter Battle Book. This Dr. Seuss classic is a send-up of the Cold War. Two nations, the Yooks and the Zooks, who differ only in their preference of which side to butter their bread on, are locked in perpetual conflict. They have an arms race of wacky Dr. Seuss weaponry that culminates in the simultaneous development of two tiny, horrifically destructive red bombs. The book ends on a cliffhanger, with both sides ready to detonate their bombs, waiting to see what the other will do. Mutually assured destruction.

Mike and I, well, didn't quite get the allusion. This is not Dr. Seuss's fault, he basically beat us over the head with the message with the subtlety of a sledgehammer (but the charm and style of a renowned children's author). No, this was just a case of the minds of children caring more about what would be AWESOME than what makes for a poignant story with a moral. Without further ado, let's take a look at The Crazy War. As always, click the pictures to see them embiggened, much like a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.

I guess we actually did use some symbolism, although unintentionally. I'm pretty sure the grandson is representative of our non-existent attention spans. You'll see. Also, FYI? We never once see another member of this "army" besides a guy in a window and a dog. Read on if you don't believe me.

The grandson is just as bored with exposition as Mike and I are. Poor Gen. Grandpa. He looks spry for a grandparent though, doesn't he?

"What should we draw?" "What does this page say?" "Well, it says something about eating toast with the butter-side up." "OK, draw that. Draw him eating toast."

Man, that wall does not look good. Also, the general grew a beard for this page. Also, the text on this page is really as close as we're going to get to the actual message of the original Butter Battle Book. The general would prefer not to fight, because the war is silly. So he claims.

OK, so last page, the general didn't want to fight a silly war. Now as soon as he sees Van Itch in the distance, it's switchin' time. Whatever that means. WAY TO STICK TO YOUR PRINCIPLES, ASSHAT!

How convenient, the wall collapsed. Also, poor grandkid, he is totally the punching bag of the story. Have fun in a pile of rocks, junior. How did they ALL fall on him, no matter how far along the wall they were?

"What about this page, what should I draw here?" "Again, what does the page say?" "Umm, we put in some stupid rhyme about singing a terrible song to make the rhyme we needed." "Draw it." At least it's accurate, that song sounds terrible even on paper.

Child humor logic precept #28: Things that are oversized are funnier. Check the enormous slingshot rock (the laws of physics would prevent it from even firing!) and the enormous lump on the kid's head. Also, nice reaction time, shorty. You started getting conked on the dome-piece like three pages ago and you just say "OUCH!" now?

Ah, inside the military base. With bizarrely close doors, weird stairs, a table and... wait. What the? On the table, all the way to the right, the purple thing. Is that... what the fuck is a bong doing in this story? Seriously, I'm pretty sure neither Mike nor I knew what a bong was at that age. Oh purple mystery bong, you are a metaphor for this entire ridiculous story.


Well doesn't that figure. Why the general decided to bring the dog along for a ride in the Bomberoo is beyond me. Except maybe Child Humor Logic Precept #8 got invoked: Misfortune is funnier if animals are responsible.

Wait, what's that? Is that any point whatsoever this story might have had exploding in your face? We really went the opposite direction from Dr. Seuss's intentional non-ending here, instead opting for absolute sudden closure. Yooks win, because they had a bomb. Kids are fascists. Also, don't go hating on the erroneous spelling of Alpha Centauri. And yes, it's a star, not a planet. Whatever, asshole, it's not like we had Wikipedia in 1993.

Now, something this book was lacking was a cover. I mean, it had a cover in that our teacher had us bind our books in like, oak tag and wallpaper or something, but it didn't have cover art. So, here for your viewing pleasure is a present-day mock-up of a cover for the epic team-up of Remus Thirty and Mike Palazzo. That was a lot of hyphens in that last sentence.

That's all folks! See ya next time!