Thursday, August 28, 2008

Room 18

I'm adding this strange checklist thingie because I wouldn't be surprised that the bastards, i.e., the clinical psychologists who ruled my first thirteen years would have been doodling on such a card while they were watching my struggles. For three days a week, until May of 1972, I was in Room 18 at the Cook County Clinics, actually right next to the burn ward, which was pretty damned traumatic in itself. But on those three days I would learn to walk (when I was four), climb stairs, and did my best to use my right side. When I was older, I was put in a white room and timed while I performed dexterity experiments. Watched from behind one of those window/mirrors like you see on a cop show. They'd let the clock tick and watch me even after I cried from the pain. These memories come to mind because of a few articles I'll be writing for a book on psychology, similar to MacGill's. I'll be writing about the "Bobo doll experiment" where kids played with tinker toys as an adult hit an inflatable Bobo doll with a mallet, the same kids than being tested for aggression, and you can guess how. Then there's the "little Albert experiment," where a kid who was not yet 4 years old was kept on a table and tested for fear by such things as a white rat placed on him, then a sealskin coat draped over him, and at one point being startled by a lab assistant in a fake Santa mask with cotton balls glued to it. I might be doing an article (you kinda ask for them in order, and if no one else snags one, its yours)on Milligan. He's the bastard who had his test subjects decide how much voltage (though it was fake, and acted out by others) they would/could/did administer via the crank of a dial and a glance through a window at the fake victims. And these are examples, much like those of my early life, of why I despise clinical psychologists. I hope someone got an A+ off a paper they wrote about me...I remain, your chattel, Wayne

Story Tellers Unplugged 08/28/08

Into My Own Hands
Hey, everyone. I’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes trying to think of a title and gave up. I went to my list of unused story titles. Because at the very least the title needs to be catchy. I’m notorious for needing a title and the last line of a story in my head before I can go on and write the damn thing. This is the case with my Richard Matheson-esque story “The Night of The Two Moons.” Yes, I received another email last week reminding me–wrongly–about Mars being closest to the earth tonight, which started as an email back in 2003. Its a decent story yet I can’t end it with the right turn of the phrase. Its what I get for trying to emulate Matheson. Look for it before the turn of the decade. Along with my H.P. Lovecraft redneck story “The Sumbitch Horror.”

I turn 49 next week, which means I’m dangerously close to outliving Rod Serling. I’ve outlived David Janssen, The Fugitive himself, and Elvis. An aside here, just because its damn weird, there’s this thing you can look up on Wikipedia, “The WOW! Signal.” The only type of possible radio transmissions were recorded overnight at an observatory in Ohio. The guy who checked the printout in the morning saw the 72 seconds of activity–the length of the telescope arc– wrote WOW! and circled it. The date: August 16th, 1977. The day Elvis died. I postulate that he simply went home. My friend Harry Fassl put it quite succinctly, the radio waves were the sounds of a dinner bell. I never once thought about the fact that I’ll be 50 on 09/09/09. That’s the day that the new version of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE will hit theaters. One of Beth Massie’s old cronies, Lee Snavely, and I are planning a ridiculous YouTube called PLAN 9 FROM MySPACE. We’ll film it both here in Chicago and at Lee’s secret lab in Richmond, have one of the cops be a computer repairman instead, pretty much riff on the entire film. I think the flying saucers will be old Microsoft Word CDs. I may get my nieces’ corgi to be Bela Lugosi. We’ll see. (Lee and I were responsible for the FISHNETS FOR VIGODA “meme” in the hopes that we could get the phrase high up on the Googleometer,and we at least got it to New Zealand).

Yes, you read that correctly. I can make YouTubes now, I’m no longer on dial-up. I have Comcast, and the night after it was hooked up, I was relacing a light bulb in my closet, the bulb broke and I couldn’t help but touch the filament. Trying to balance myself, I then put my right hand on an old hard drive on my shelf. But I then was able to kick away the stool I was on and fall to the floor, the remainder of the bulb shattered and I lost all power for the next 40 hours. So, yes, I have high speed, when I’m not busy blowing up things. I’ll tell you, though, one of these days an accident will give me those super powers I’ve been wanting. Just what the world needs: Half-Century Man, the oldest hero alive.

So its the end of summer and I have no lessons to tell anyone, other than how NOT to change a light bulb, so I hope you’ll just let me ramble on like Laird Creiger in HANGOVER SQUARE, only its not a piano playing in the background, rather Sandy Nelson hitting the tubs in LET THERE BE DRUMS. I’ve been out looking for work again, and last week in the Loop I ran into Rockabilly Dave. Quite a few homeless people sell STREETWISE, and they keep half of every dollar issue they sell. Dave usually stands at the corner of Monroe and Clark, he has that early 60s look, the sideburns and thinning floptop, but his eyes are sunken and he is always pale. But back in the days I worked downtown, I’d spend half my lunch hour jawing with him about Sandy Nelson, Link Wray, Dave Brubeck, obscure bands like The Hondells and the Del-Rays, and all kinds of cool stuff. I’m at my best, writing and thinking creatively, when I’m on the train or writing in my commonplace book by the water filtration plant, Lake Michigan on three sides of me. I’m not the same me when I walk through the front door, maybe because I’m in the suburbs and the big, bad city is behind me and to the east. Dave will be MIA for days at a time because he gets day labor. He’s not into drink. I think he and I share the fact that we want the street running through our veins, the dankness of the subway tunnels clearing our sinuses (mine, at least). I applaud him for not expecting a handout by sitting in front of a boarded up storefront with a White Castle cup saying ‘gimme change’ every three seconds like an off-key bell in a church tower. Here’s to Dave for being happy, while I’m here trying to tie this up into something that will fit with the title I’ve posted.

Hrmm. Nope, I got nothing. I’ll keep going for the 1000 words if I can. I ACTUALLY am working on one of those stories-that-might-be-a-novella called “Into His Own Hands,” and deals with a few loose ends someone needs to take care of before he leaves town for a new job. So this weekend I’ll be spending the night at these fleabag called the Diplomat, which would pretty much be listed under Crack Houses in the city guide. Wire netting for ceilings, chairs with one arm, that’s all you need for shooting up. Razor blade marks on the top of the television. I know this because a friend from Canada stayed there one night in 2000 but I need to see it for myself. And its only four blocks from Wrigley Field. So if I go “into the erff” per street cop terminology, someone reading this can give a heads up, but I wouldn’t wait for any reward money to be posted. Whoever finds my body can finish the story, how’s that? Take the pen out of my cold, dead hands.