Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Special Talent

I have a very special talent. Perhaps a few examples will explain.

I was watching the movie The Breaks this weekend with my wife, who said the guy playing the character "Chris" was "somebody from another show, but I don't know who." After but a few minutes' thought, I said, "That's the guy who played Cockroach in The Cosby Show." His name is Carl Anthony Payne II. Google it if ye doubt the claim.

OK, maybe that isn't such a big deal. But bear with me. Later in the same movie, the main characters get thrown in jail where they share a holding cell with various gangbangers and eccentrics. One of the prisoners is a dreadlocked guy in a wheelchair who can't talk. In no time flat, I ID'd the actor as the guy who played Lamar Latrell in Revenge of the Nerds. Mind you this was a non-speaking part, and the two movies were made 15 years apart. But it was him. The gentleman's name is Larry B. Scott, and contrary to a rumor of the late 1980s, he did not die of AIDS.

Larry B. Scott as Lamar Latrell in Revenge of the Nerds, about to throw the special aerodynamic javelin designed specially for his limp-wristed throwing motion. By the way, I noticed immediately that Kevin Costner's brother in Field of Dreams was "Poindexter" (Timothy Busfield)  from this very same movie. 

But even that pales next to my greatest feat. Last week we were watching The Rockford Files and a railway porter briefly spoke to Jim Rockford. The actor portraying the porter? I don't know his name, but it's the guy who played the crazy uncle who put A-1 steak sauce on his hamburger in the old commercials. May God strike me dead if it isn't the same guy. I don't think he appeared in the credits on the Rockford Files episode, and he isn't listed on the IMDB page for the episode, but it is him. If you have Netflix you can see for yourself. It's Season 1, Episode 5, "Tall Woman in Red Wagon."

"What's hamburger, chopped ham? No, it's chopped steak!"

I'd enjoy it if I could somehow profit from this ability. Funny thing is, I'm terrible with faces in real life. Unless a person has a really distinctive appearance, I need to see him/her four or five times before it sinks in. Also, within a single movie, I often confuse two of the main characters because I can't tell them apart by appearance. I'm the person who's always saying, "Why is he trying to kill them? I thought he was on their side."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Invention of Cheese

The sun has just gone down and a cave man is gnawing on a bone. Another cave man enters.

CAVE MAN #1: Geez, I'm starving. I thought I was gonna run down that wildebeest, but lost him when I tripped over that tree we felled last year to appease the rain god. So all I've got is this leftover from yesterday. It's still got a little gristle on it.

CAVE MAN #2: Dude, you want to try something new? (Takes out cheese.)

CAVE MAN #1: What kind of meat is that?

CAVE MAN #2: It's not meat. It's something I've been working on for the past few months.

CAVE MAN #1: Is it a fruit? You know fruit tears me up. Ever since I ate those green fruits, I avoid the stuff like poison.

CAVE MAN #2: It's not a fruit. In fact, I don't really know what it is. But I'll tell you how I made it. You know those furry animals with horns that live up on the mountain?

CAVE MAN #1: You mean the ones that smell bad and butt you in the stomach if you get too close?

CAVE MAN #2: The same. I noticed these sort of nozzle thingies hanging down under them. Only about half of them have the nozzles. Not sure what's up with that. Anyhow, I snuck up to this one animal and started yanking on those nozzle things.

CAVE MAN #1: Why?

CAVE MAN #2: No reason, just wanted to see what would happen. Get this: some white fluid started squirting out.

CAVE MAN #1: White fluid? You mean, like milk that comes out of women?

CAVE MAN #2: I don't know whether it's milk, or some kind of sap, or what. But anyway, I collected some of this white stuff in the skin I use to carry water from the stream. I was real thirsty, so I tried drinking some of it, and it's not too bad.

CAVE MAN #1: Your soul has surely been possessed by the demon god of fermented grains.

CAVE MAN #2: I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me. I stored some of this white liquid in a hollow rock in the back cave; you know, the one that's too damp to sleep in. I forgot about it for three new moons, but then ran across it when I was looking for the red war paint last week before we went into battle against the desert tribe. So as I was sayin', I found this stuff and it had literally solidified. There was some kind of blue fuzz growing on it, which I brushed off. Here, try some!

CAVE MAN #1: Christ, it stinks! It smells like the droppings of the wild boar. Get it out of here!

I don't know how to end this story other than to say that I really like cheese. But the more I think about it, the less I like it.    

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Crime and Punishment

I'm enough of a grownup to realize that almost everyone in prison is guilty as charged, and that the guilty go unpunished many times more often than the innocent are convicted. It's the natural result of a system set up to protect the rights of the accused from the arbitrary judgments of authorities.

Yet, when I see someone in trouble with the law saying, innocently, "Who, me?" I admit some sympathy. It's because of an experience I had when I was about 13.

I used to stay the night at a friend's house about once a month. We would eat pizza, build model airplanes and ride around his neighborhood on his minibike and snowmobile. Once, a scruffy older kid I hadn't seen before was hanging around his house: his older sister Janice's new "boyfriend," Ken. Ken was 16 and had just gotten his driver's license. He went to a rival school in the next town.

Ken had the great idea that we should go for a ride in his little 1970s wood-paneled station wagon. (It must have been his parents' car.) So me, my friend, and a friend of Janice's squeezed into the back seat, and with Ken and Janice in front, away we went. Later I found out that both Janice and her friend, a sturdy brunette who played French horn in the marching band, had a big crush on me, but that has nothing to do with this story.

Ken drove us into the downtown area of our little town. It was about 10 pm and all was dark. Ken spotted a couple of kids walking up the road. He turned his headlights off, coasted quietly up behind them, and when we were within about 10 feet he put the car in neutral, hit the lights and gunned the engine. They yelled in fright and ran off. Ha!

We then tooled around a little until we came upon our high school. Ken said, "Your school sucks," and drove across the parking lot and onto the front lawn of the school. He proceeded to "turf" the entire front lawn of the school, with us bouncing around in the back seat. I don't know whether turfing is a well-known term, but it means to vandalize a lawn using the tires of a car. He even did a couple of donuts, right in the lawn. After he was through, he drove us back to my friend's house.

A turfed lawn

The next Monday morning when my bus drove past the high school, I could see tire tracks and skids all over the lawn. They were there until the janitor rolled them down and seeded them the next spring.

Since that night, the following alternate history has often played out in my mind:

Cop car arrives at the high school just as Ken completes his last donut, jumps out of the car and runs off into the night.

OFFICER: You in the back. Yes, you, the chubby kid with the bad haircut. What the hell do you think you were doing just then?

ME: I don't know! Some other kid was driving! I never saw him before in my life! I didn't know he was going to do this!

OFFICER: Right. Get in the cruiser.

And then my juvenile criminal record prevents me from getting accepted to the college of my choice.