Cage or Cave?

Sometimes, I’m not sure which of these Ni(c)ks is crazier.

Cage often seems like the more obvious choice. His penchant for screaming obscenities, screaming incoherently, and screaming in general has been well documented. As well as his kicking and punching of women, and his understandable fear of bees.

Then there’s Cave. This Australian singer/song writer likes to do a dance. He doesn’t care if it is a real dance or a strange religious rapture type of dance he just made up. He’ll dance all over your shit with his crazy. And he’ll make everybody else dance too…

In either case, both of these crazies are way more interesting to me than Charlie Sheen.

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Attn Government Agents: Quit Messin’ With This Man’s TV

I met Jacob about a month ago, except upon our first meeting, he didn’t tell me his name.

He didn’t tell me much of anything, as a matter of fact. All he really wanted to share about were the food contents in his plastic bag.

“Chicken and rice,” he exclaimed, with a toothy grin.

Never in my life had I met anyone so ecstatic over chicken and rice.

“That sounds delicious,” I said. “I hope you enjoy that.”

We were standing in the lane (that’s polite Savannah speech for the alley) outside of my house. He’d caught me on my way out the door.

“I live right over there,” he said, pointing in the direction of the old folks home. “I’m gonna go on home, heat this up, and have a real good night. You do the same, fella.”

What a friendly old man, I thought to myself. Crazy people come up and talk to me all the time. I’m a magnet for crazies on the street. But not this guy, I thought. He’s just a local character.

Well, I was right about that last part, anyway..

Last week I was walking down Bull Street, and somewhere outside the American Legion, he just appeared. Jacob is kind of a big guy, so I was rather surprised I didn’t see him. In a way, it seemed like he was expecting me.

Once more, he began by describing (and showing me) the contents in his bag of food.

“I’ve got avocado, baked cheese, peanut butter, and Happy Apple cookies. I’m gonna take this all home, mix it together, have me a real good time.”

A curious collection of stuff. But before I could inquire as to how he planned to combine all the foods in the bag (and how this led to a “real good time”) he was rambling on about another topic.

Namely, the government. They are all over this dude. 24:7.

“I can’t never get my TV workin right,” Jacob told me. “That’s because the government , they keep track of the channels I watch. If they see me watching something they don’t like, you know, like ‘rasslin? Off go the TV!”

According to Jacob, this issue with the TV has persisted ever since his friend from the Navy allowed him to listen in on some top secret radio frequency.

“We could hear the President, the State Department, everybody.”

“All at the same time?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s correct,” he said. “I listened three minutes to that frequency and now they track me wherever I go. I was underneath of the Talmadge Bridge the other night and there was a camera that snapped my picture. Smile! It’s the government.”

As I was soon to learn, there are actually a large number of government agents at points all throughout the sleepy grid town of Savannah. The agents are particularly concentrated at The Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, where they pose as panini-sandwich-serving baristas. On this count, Jacob has thoroughly convinced me. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before.

Of course, as the conversation progressed I took some pictures of Jacob. So now he surely knows that I’m with the government too.

Jacob shows me a secret signal for a secret service.

A Word With Jennifer Connelly’s Stalker

My guest today is the devilishly handsome Richie C_____.  He and I worked together at Borders Books in Chicago. He was the manager on duty when American film actress Jennifer Connelly came into the store as a customer. We’re here today to discuss that experience.  

Hello, Richie. Welcome to my blog.  

Is it okay if I sit near the window? I don’t like to sit near the door. It gives me anxiety. 

Sure. Anywhere you like.  

Thanks.  

Would you prefer I call you Rich, Richie, or something else?

Please call me Employee Number 003804022. It’s more professional. 

Employee Number 003804022, can you please describe how you heard that Jennifer Connelly was in the store? What was the first thought that entered your mind?

The Borders was a flagship store located in a touristy area, and lot of celebrities shopped there. Whenever one did, the staff would start whispering to one another. It only took seconds before every employee knew that a Hollywood personality was thumbing through our merchandise.

I remember the Connelly episode specifically. I was at my desk, working on sales audit paperwork. One of my co-workers stuck his head into my office and mentioned that the actress from G.I. Jane was in the store.

I immediately relocated to our multimedia department.

This was a giant bookstore. What made you go to the multimedia section?

You know what? Can I move? I’m getting a draft from this window and it’s a little cold.

Sure. Why don’t you sit over there?

No. No. That spot’s even closer to the door than the first seat you gave me.

How about you and I just switch? I’ll take the window seat and you can sit at my desk.

Are you sure?

Yeah.

Okay. Thank you.

So… Back to the interview: What made you go to the multimedia section?

Now I feel bad. That was rude of me. I shouldn’t make you sit near the draft. You should go back to your desk. It’s your desk, after all.  I’ll sit near the door.

I thought that you said that you didn’t want to sit there.

I don’t. Doors freak me out. But I have Lorazepam in my bag. I’ll just take a few pills and I’ll be fine. I’m going to move over there.

Okay.

Go on with your questions. 

You’re okay?  You’re situated and everything?

Yeah. I’m good. I’m sorry. The pills take a few minutes to kick in. But I could handle it. Thanks.

No worries. So I was wondering why you looked for her in the multimedia section. That store was huge.

Yeah. It was a large store. Four flights of merchandise. 120 employees. That store was a monster.

Like Elmo.

For sure.

So, again, what made you go straight to the multimedia department? How did you know that’s where she’d be?

Because she’s an actress.Throughout my years at Borders, every actor or actress that walked into the store only looked at DVDs or Blu Ray movies. The sole exception was when Ron Howard bought a travel guide. But he’s more of a director than an actor anyway. I mean, he acts. But he’s primarily a director.

Anyway, so I went to the multimedia section, and there she was, just a few feet away from me: Jennifer Connelly.

Was she alone?

No. The blonde guy from the movie Legion was there. Some other equally unimportant man was there too, some dude wearing an ugly jacket.

Were either of the men “with” her?

I don’t think so.

Hypothetically… Do you think a girl like that would go for a guy like me?

Maybe. You have swag. Women like that. I’d just advise that you don’t mention your Hulk Hogan pillow until after the two of you “seal the deal.”

Noted. When you saw her, did you consciously try to hide yourself? Or was it more like shameless stalking? 

It was somewhere in-between. I did have actual work to do in the multimedia department, but I hadn’t planned to do it until much later in the day. When I heard that Connelly was in the store, I rearranged my task schedule so that I’d have an excuse to see her.

What was it like being in close distance to her?

I had used the word stunning to describe beautiful people before, but until I saw Connelly, I had never actually experienced it. I remember that I walked past the actress, glancing at her, trying to be cool and nonchalant. Then I made eye contact with her and my legs stopped. They just stopped. My body stopped moving I stared into her eyes, helpless. Her eyes were extraordinary. They were so beautiful. Larger than life. They almost seemed inhuman. In that brief moment, as our eyes connected, I felt like our souls spoke to one another. Mine saying, “I love you,” and hers responding, “Leave me alone, freak.”

You said her eyes were inhuman.  Do you think her eyes would fall into the animal category? Or was it more of an extra-terrestrial type of look? 

This doesn’t really answer your question, but I’m envious of animals that have nictitating membranes. How cool would it be to be able to see through your eyelids?

I so fucking wish that I was a shark sometimes.

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Why did you not walkie me to tell me that Jennifer Connelly was in the store? Was I not working? Or did you think I would try and expose myself to her? Its ok you can be honest.

Well, Max, after the Winona Ryder incident, I thought it’d be best to keep you in the dark.  

You just reminded me that I need to see if my probation officer could reschedule Thursday’s meeting. Don’t you think it would be cool if we had upside down escalators like the M.C. Escher looking staircases in the movie Labyrinth? I feel like Jennifer’s people should have let us know she was coming so we could install those.

I’m glad that they didn’t, honestly. I worked in a department store in Ohio that had those staircases. They were a bitch to vacuum.  

What was Jennifer Connelly purchasing?  Do you remember? 

She bought something like three DVDs, but I don’t remember the titles. I do remember that she did not get a Borders Rewards card, the loyalty card that the company was relying on to support its business. Two years after she refused to get the Borders Rewards card, the company filed for Chapter 11. I’m not saying that it was Jennifer Connelly’s fault that Borders went bankrupt, but… you know… there is a correlation.  

Can I have a glass of water? These pills made my throat scratchy.

No. I got what I need. This interview is over.  

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David Peak’s Remarkable Chimp Tattoo

My friend David Michael Peak is a fuzzy, bearded genius from Michigan. He is the author of The Rocket’s Red Glare (Leucrota Press), a book of poems called Surface Tension (BlazeVOX Books) and a chapbook called Museum of Fucked. Right now David lives in New York, in a neighborhood near to Queens. An intense individual, he keeps a different knife in each room of his apartment (all three of them) so he can stab an intruder wherever a break in occurs.

Usually when David and I hang out, we end up watching hours upon hours of Dario Argento movies. Argento is a horror director most known for his contributions to the giallo (Italian murder thriller) genre, as well as the European art house sensibility he brought to Italian horror throughout the 1970s and 80s. Here is a picture of David I took recently towards the end of one of our Argento marathons. Note the world weary look upon his furry face. This face is the true essence of Peak.

Of course, when these Argento-thons occur, there’s nothing we like more than screening the movie Phenomena. Made in 1985, it is one of Argento’s most surreal and dream like films, which stars a young Jennifer Conelly in the role of “Jennifer,” a girl who possesses a unique ability to communicate with insects. She uses this talent to catch the serial killer who is murdering girls at the Richard Wagner Institute in Switzerland, where she attends boarding school. Think that’s a strange enough concept? You don’t know the half of it. The movie also features first person vision from the eyes of a lady bug, coked out music scoring from Claudio Simonetti (of the Italian prog rock band, Goblin), costumes by Giorgio Armani, and occasional bursts of power metal from the likes of Iron Maiden and Motorhead.

Oh yeah, there’s also Donald Pleasence (think Dr. Loomis in Halloween) in his part as the kindly old professor. And his pet monkey. The pet monkey who really knows how to wield a razor blade. To my knowledge, this is the only time a scene like this has ever appeared in a movie. If you don’t think this is pretty cool, then you must have some kind of monkey phobia.

Its the monkey that David decided to immortalize on his arm this past month. With the razor blade in its hand and the face of the victim (along with “screw the past,” a famous Jennifer Conelley quote from the film, wrapped around a banner), this piece of ink definitely captures the randomness of Phenomena. Crafted by Chicago tattoo artist Wendell Frazier of Insight Studios, Peak’s new tatt will forever confuse the shit out people, much in the spirit of this great Italian classic.

Of his new ink, David had the following to say, in his best Italian accent.

“Chimps have ten times the upper body strength of a human man. That’s a lot of power. I want that power. So I got a tattoo of a chimp.”

“The words, “screw the past,” symbolize the hatred of things that have happened to me in my life. So I’m like, screw all that.”

Indeed, not only has Mr. Peak thoroughly screwed the past with his shoulder piece, he’s also screwed the chance of any twenty something year old from ever having a cooler  tatt than the one he’s got. I’m eager to see what it looks like once the color is filled in.

Here’s a last look. (Once your done gazing at Peak’s pecs, notice that the monkey’s bloodied razor is raised above it’s head.)

Hulka-Hipster-Mania

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To wrap up all this posting I’ve been doing about Wrestlemania, I thought I’d call attention to a certain “vintage” item I happen to have in my possession.

The 1980s Tonka Plush Wrestling Buddy. The more I say that out loud, the more it sounds like some kind of creepy sex doll. Anyway, I digress…

This soft, pillowy pal of mine, along with the Hasboro WWF action figures of the late eighties and early nineties, is now on the wrestling memorabilia endangered species list.

So with that in mind, you can probably imagine the nostalgic joy I felt, one sunny spring afternoon in the year 2004, when I happened upon this sunken treasure of Hulkamania in a thrift store in the Clarke and Belmont area of Chicago.

You know, a thrift store. One of those neat places with a name like “Blast from the Past” or “Gems ‘n’ Junk” where skinny guys in tweed coats and girls with arm pit hair sell you unwashed clothes that might look cool if you wear them with a pair of giant sunglasses.

“This is so awesome,” I remarked to the clerk, as I placed my Hulk buddy on the check out counter. “I bet this is probably worth a lot of money.”

The tight-panted, checkered shirted, Buddy Holly spectacled clerk just glared at me. He was squinting at me with such menace, I thought the rolled cigarette above his ear was going to jump off of his head.

“It’s sixteen dollars,” he said.

I was merely a freshman in art school and right then I realized I had broken a cardinal rule. I had alluded to the coolness (and actually attached value) to an object in a hipster run thrift store. As a new comer to the big city, what I hadn’t realized was that things I actually liked growing up, like Iron Maiden t-shirts, for example, had now become objects of quasi-religious non-reverence in an age of post-irony. To suggest that the wrestling doll had any worth besides the junk pile status assigned to it basically made me a total jerk off in this guy’s eyes.

Even though he was dressed like a twink lumberjack with a haircut like Uncle Jesse from Full House.

Anyway, in the interest of fairness, I probably did, in my nerdiness, assign too much worth to the doll . On ebay, it appears they are going for anywhere from thirty three to one hundred dollars. Not necessarily “a lot” of money, but not peanuts either.

Recently though, when I worked for Borders, I met Hogan at a book signing he gave at our store. After everyone had left, he gladly scrawled his name on his pillow padded likeness. This may increase the net worth of my wrestling buddy, at least to some degree.

I also wonder if an interest in Hogan wrestling buddy dolls will spike on account of his recent sex tape scandal, but I don’t wish to speculate any more about that for the time being.


Nuggets from Nash

I’ll never forget the first time Aaron told me to “Kevin Nash that shit.”

We were at the Bedford subway stop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and my subway card wouldn’t work. We weren’t particularly sober, and we were in a big rush to get down town for a Cirque du Soleil performance at Radio City Music Hall. There really wasn’t time to wait in the enormous line for a new card, and in the crowded station, there was a unique opportunity to overstep a small gate and over to the other side.

“Just Kevin Nash that shit,” Aaron called to me from where the paying subway riders were. And that’s exactly what I did. I put my leg up just like the six foot ten superstar would do and I stepped right over the gate.

To say that Kevin Nash is a big guy would be a grand understatement. He’s among the biggest and tallest to have ever stepped in a wrestling ring. So big in fact, that in 1991, he played the part of super-sized villain, Super Shredder, in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.” There was no CGI necessary to enhance his image for the part. The guy is simply a giant.

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Nash never removed the mask as Super Shredder, the only way I found out it was really him in that costume was by seeing his name credited at the end of the movie. This was before the days of wikipedia and imdb, when people actually watched things like movie credits in order to obtain information about the cast.

The reason I mention that is to illustrate the fact that Nash is definitely a star of the 90’s. His popularity as a wrestler never really eclipsed those years. His presence today at events like Wrestlemania is a reminder of a different time in pro wrestling, when tattooed monsters dominated the industry and the world of “sports entertainment” had a very bad reputation. Not that wrestling is perceived a whole lot better now…but they have done a lot to try and clean up the image.

When we met Nash in south beach, he was very candid (and very drunk).  There were a lot of things he told us that I’ve never heard him say in interviews, and as these quotes will demonstrate, the jolly giant had a great sense of humor about how things have changed.

“My son came to the other day and said to me, “Dad, I think they need to put the steroids back into wrestling.” And I think I get where he’s coming from, you know? The wrestlers today, they all look like a bunch of pretty boy Abercrombie & Fitch models.”

“I’ll never forget walkin back into the locker room in the nineties. Man, I thought I was in prison at Sing-Sing. All the guys were ugly, hairy and covered in tattoos. And it wasn’t an act. Most of them had done time!”

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The best Nashism of the night accompanied this image, though.

When I was taking the picture, Aaron requested that big Kev join him in making the hand sign seen above. This particular hand thing Nash’s trademark thing back in the real hey day of his career, when he was a part of the New World Order (NWO), the heel faction responsible for turning Hulk Hogan to the dark side, now another vintage aspect of pop culture/wrestling history.

“Sorry to make you get all old school nineties, here,” said Aaron.

“That’s ok,” said Nash. “That shit paid for my beach house!”

Wrestlemania Weekend Part 3: Taker Takes All

Finally, the big day arrived. Sunday, April 1st. The Superbowl of wrestling. Wrestlemania, itself.

The event was held in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, and with the sun setting in the cool evening sky over our heads, the name of the arena couldn’t have seemed more appropriate.

Then once the sun went down, and darkness fell, we knew it was time. My favorite wrestler since early childhood, the Undertaker versus his nemesis Triple H, inside of the giant steel structure known as the ‘Hell in the Cell.’

If you’ve never seen the Undertaker make his ring entrance live, its truly something to behold. The entrance ramp is flooded with purple smoke, and then, while funeral music plays, the lord of darkness, standing in his black robe at six foot ten and a half, makes his slow, Frankenstein walk to the ring.

In the case of Wrestlemania, the biggest show of them all, there are also pyrotechnics. Lots of pyrotechnics.

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See, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this thing about the Undertaker. In my world outlook of dark, theatrical horror, he is the only professional athlete I admire. In fact, he’s probably the closest thing I have to a super hero. Like all of his ‘creatures of the night,’ I derive power from his presence. At the risk of sounding like I possess zero irony, I have to say that I think of this guy as much more than just a wrestler. He is more like a force, or a ‘phenom,’ as they often call him.

Yet alas, the man from the dark side is getting old, and the WWE keep torturing us with the notion that he may lose his long standing undefeated streak at Wrestlemania, which he’s managed to hold onto since the 1980s. They really started pushing this business about the streak during Wrestlemania 25 in Houston, where the Undertaker defeated “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels.

Having just won a giant city-wide story telling contest in Chicago called the Windy City Story Slam, I was thrilled to be there with Aaron to cheer him on. As soon as we arrived in Houston that year, we saw a big truck with the Undertaker’s face plastered across the side. I had Aaron take a picture of me in front of it, holding the story slam championship belt I’d just received as a prize. It is probably my favorite picture I’ve ever taken.

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So, with that in mind, of course I understand that the outcome of all the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania matches are predetermined. But does that make them any more predictable for me?

No. Absolutely not.

In fact, each year, when it comes time for the Undertaker to defend his winning streak, I bite my nails in suspense. That’s because I’ve come to view this whole situation with the Undertaker as some kind of extended metaphor for my life. So long as he’s winning at Wrestlemania, then I feel like I too am winning, and everything is right with the world. If the creative team at WWE ever decide to have the Undertaker lose his streak, then I am really going to feel screwed.

This was the weight I carried on my shoulders into this match at Mania 28. The one that was being touted as “the end of an era,” in which Triple H would attempt to end the Undertaker’s streak forever, as well as his career. Shawn Michaels was the special guest referee. Still miffed that he couldn’t beat the Undertaker, himself, there was already speculation he wouldn’t call the match fair. But when Michaels decided to super kick the Undertaker, setting him up for Triple H’s finisher, the pedigree, everyone in Sun Life went crazy. I almost had to cover my eyes, because I didn’t want what might be my last opportunity to see the Undertaker live to end in this way.

True to form though, Undertaker rose from the grave and withstood all the abuse Triple H had to give in that cage. After giving Trip a little love tap with a sledgehammer and throwing him in his patented Tombstone Piledriver, the Undertaker emerged victorious at Wrestlemania yet again, bumping his famous winning streak up to 20-0. A win that was celebrated, with still more pyrotechnics.

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Some other historic things happened that night at Mania 28. For one thing, there was THE ROCK, who returned to his home town of Miami with a reception fit for the Scorpion King. After a joint introduction from P-Diddy and Flo Rida, he wiped the floor with John Cena, by laying the smack down, much in the way I anticipated he would do when I tweeted at him.

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Like I said though, my real reason for being there was to stalk the Undertaker. As a creature of the night, I definitely left Mania with a smile on my face. At least for now, the streak continues.

Still not sure how I felt about this new buzz cut/MMA look for him though…

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