As a teenager, my music preferences were mainly alternative rock, but in the early 90’s gangsta rap hit the scene and we were dropping names like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Ice-T and other rappers from south central L.A. Middle class suburban kids pumped Un-Godly sums of money into the rap game. Urban lingo became part of teenage vernacular across the US, in spite of the fact that middle class white kids sounded ridiculous using it. We didn’t care. We knew how ridiculous we sounded; that was the fun. When it comes to movies, I was always more of a drama fan than horror. However, I do like a good suspense plot. With suspense you could go either way, drama or horror. A third option would be the horror spoof comedy like the movie my buddy Brian Shaw would make a few years later on VHS about a evil, stuffed, cursed, cock a slasher spoof where a taxidermed chicken animates and begins dispatching housemates one by one, leading up to a showdown with the head “house dude” at the end. But I wouldn’t see “Foul Game” until college and this story takes place a couple years before that which means, my horror movie experience consists of only the pop culture films of the seventies, eighties and nineties, you know, before the push for realism makes the horror genre really disturbing.
Yep, I’m definitely more for camp horror than ultra-realistic, truly scary, pushing the envelop faire. One of the great things about horror movies is that you can heckle your friends that hide their eyes and scream at the “scary” parts. In the 12th grade my friends and I met up on a Friday night and rented the horror film “Candy Man”. There were about ten or twelve of us, both guys and girls. At the time, this was supposed to be a pretty scary movie. It’s a take on the Bloody Mary plot where you say the ghost’s name over and over in the mirror and they come back from the dead and kill you. In this reboot of a classic, the Candy Man was the son of a former slave who had an affair with an affluent man’s daughter and was brutally murdered for it. Saying “Candy Man” in the mirror five times would summon his angry spirit and you’d be sorry. After the first act, I wasn’t really into the movie but the girls in the room were and, as would be expected, they were pretty freaked out since the first murder had already happened. At some point in the second act, I announced that I was going out to get a pack of cigarettes. My buddy Kevin offered to drive and we were off. The legal age for buying cigarettes was 18 and just before leaving to meet the crew, I had gotten my new license in the mail which, in Texas shows your face looking straight ahead instead of in profile designating that you’re no longer a minor. I really wanted to try it out. On the way to the corner store, Kevin was pumping some hip-hop with lots of bass…I think it was Ice Cube. When we get to the gas station, there’s a long line (all adults) that I have to stand in which of course makes for an uneventful traffic jam holding up my right of passage on this landmark Friday night. That and the lack of excitement found in your average convenience store makes me even more impatient. East Texas has a reputation for being stodgy and ultra-conservative but that’s only true some of the time. Tyler, TX was established the same year we joined the union. It’s fairly urban for a population of 90 to 100k and so you have all types…even liberals (they fly under the radar but they’re there). When I finally get to the front, the line is still long from a steady stream of customers filing through the door. With much anticipation, I put in my order with enough volume so that all can hear, “a pack of Marlboro lights please.” The clerk dutifully asks for my I.D. (as I knew she would), a request for which I’m locked and loaded. My raised arm snaps down releasing the card like an ace in the hole on poker night. As my crisp new plastic totem of independence smacks the counter, I exclaim, “TA DOWWWWW!” It sounds cliché now but at the time it was fresh, ironic, and hilarious. The clerk, though startled, begins laughing heartily as do all of my new fellow grown-ups standing in line. With a triumphant smile on my face I pay the lady, take my smokes and exit victorious.
Back in the truck, Kevin had cycled the cd changer onto some Snoop Dog, “Gin and Juice”, and we headed back to the party where all the girls were by now surely jumpy enough to be an easy target for a prank (and being a typical teenager, I was always looking for an opportunity). Now…there are those times when a plan just comes off perfect. It’s not all the time. It’s not even most of the time. Some of the time, you even fall flat, right into a pile of embarrassment. But, if you don’t ever take risks, then you’ll never have a story to tell where all the planets align and you get to be a hero. This day is one of those days where it all pans out so well that I won’t even try to take all the credit. There were no cell phones, so I couldn’t call anyone inside to find out when a scary scene was coming up. No matter. When you don’t have enough information, you’re going off your gut, and the universe comes alongside and shows you the way. And that makes success smell all the more sweet. I had a plan, so we turn off the music a couple blocks away and pull up one house down so as to stay incognito. I sneek up to the front door, not knowing that inside on the TV, another summoning of the Candy Man is under way. Right as the fifth “Candy Man” is uttered by the soon-to-be new victim, I turn the knob, put my shoulder into the door, quickly throw it open, and burst into a dark living room while screaming at the top of my lungs. As I get a few steps in, I stumble and fall to the floor, roll over onto my back and fake a seizure while clutching my chest with both hands. By the time I hit the floor and start to twitch, my lower pitched scream is displaced by five or six higher pitched and much louder ones. When the dust and laughter settle, I celebrate my second win of the first day of the rest of my life as I revel in the exasperation of my fairer friends as they accost me with “the nerve” to induce a mass heart attack.
I said it once and I’ll say it again.