Watching that roach trapped in a cassette tape box, I've been observing the wonder/horror of nature — the thorny spikes on its legs, pincher-things by its mouth, whatever sticky stuff lets it stay in the same spot when I turn the cassette box upside-down, and the way it feeds itself with its grotesque feeler/grabber. (Yeah, I've given it some tuna.)

And I've learned what roachshit looks like, as the see-through box now contains four tiny black wads of it. 

Not ten minutes ago I splattered its brother roach on the wall when it climbed out from behind the typewriter, but that was an instant death — I saw it, picked up my Information Please Almanac, and boom, it was flattened. The slow, deliberate death of a captive cockroach, however, may be more cruel than I am, so amnesty is being considered. When my vacation is over, maybe I'll take the cartridge to work and shake the roach out onto my boss's desk. Those two were made for each other.

Meanwhile, I've transferred the prisoner to a new, more luxurious jail in an empty pickle jar. Washed the label off the front so I could see, and left some pickle bits and pickle juice inside, and it's eating it up.

♦ ♦ ♦

Slept late for the second day in a row, and the permanent bags under my eyes might be starting to fade. My mood is top of the world, Ma, even though Mom called this morning to invite me to come home for Christmas. 

I am home for Christmas, Mom. This rez hotel is my home.

Last time I did Christmas with the family was 1986, and that will be the last time. My family is fine, really. I love 'em all, and they're not the kind of family that gets drunk and has screaming arguments and punches are thrown. It's just that I'm not a people person, and they're all people. I'd enjoy seeing any of them, but being around all of them all at once for a day or a week, oy. My head hurts just typing it.

They'd never understand that, though. Especially Mom, so when I call back I'll tell her I can't afford the trip, which is true, and that my job offers no paid vacation, which obviously isn't true. I'm on vacation right now. If I told my Mom that, though, she'd probably fly down and be here this evening, which — love you, Mom, but — isn't my idea of an enjoyable vacation.

♦ ♦ ♦

I took a pleasant walk among all the important people in the Financial District, belching loudly and scratching myself as thousands of suits walked by, each carrying a copy of The Wall Street Journal

Wanted everyone to be as happy as me, so I de-ticketed two cars illegally parked on Ellis Street, on my way back home.

Here at the rez hotel, I wrote all the above, and masturbated twice by noon. Life is more leisurely and lots more pleasant while the cancerous tumor of work has been temporarily sliced away.

♦ ♦ ♦

At the Roxie, they screened three movies by Tod Browning, all without Lon Chaney.

The Mystic (1925) is about con artists holding fake seances to fleece the recently bereaved, and what happens when one of the suckers sees a ghost the con-men didn't conjure up. The first half of the flick, about how they work the con, is very effective and entertaining, but after that it sorta drags.

A massive mood swing might've colored my judgment, though. I was all smiles as I bought my ticket and sat down, but midway through the movie some idiot started (and never stopped) crinkling something in a loud plastic bag.

He was two rows behind me so I couldn't see it, but it sounded like a family-sized sack of potato chips — loud. Maybe I should add, if he was reaching into the bag for a few chips every few minutes, I'd tolerate that and say nothing, but he was feeling up that bag like it was Claudia Schiffer. Thirty seconds of crinkling, five seconds of silence, then another thirty seconds of loud crinkling, on and on and on.

If you want to provoke my homicidal side, make noise during a movie — that'll do it, even at a silent movie. First I turned around and glared, to no effect. Then I shushed him, loudly. Then I turned around and shushed him again, louder and with eye contact. Finally I turned around and said, louder than Mr Vaughn playing the organ, "Whatever's in the bag, do you almost have it out?" And for that, two or three people in the auditorium shushed me.

The crinkler stopped crinkling for a few minutes, but then he started again, and I gave up. I resolved to corner him and make an embarrassing scene between the movies, not during the movie, so hell if I know whether The Mystic was any good. 

Never got to yell at him, though. He left during the movie's last scene. I heard him crinkling up the aisle and into the lobby. Maybe he came back and found a different seat, but he made no further crinkles. Guess he'd eaten all his potato chips.

Do I need to make a public service announcement? In a theater, when the lights dim, shut the hell up or you're a bleeding hemorrhoid on the butthole of humanity.

Freaks (1932) is one of a kind, an uncomfortable melodrama of doublecross and vengeance backstage at a carnival. With a cast of midgets, pinheads, bearded ladies, Siamese twins, the deformed, the just plain funny-looking, and a hermaphrodite I found attractive, there's plenty to see here. It's the second time I'd seen it, and I'd see it again.

Maybe you're thinking: Is Freaks insulting to the handicapped? Yeah, I suppose it is, but not nearly as insulting as old westerns always were to the natives, or Hollywood movies usually have been to blacks. The story has the circus freaks demanding some dignity, and the movie is sympathetic to that, so I'd say Freaks is amazingly progressive for the 1930s. 

The Show (1928) is also set in a carnival, but it's not so appealingly appalling. Here, all the attractions are illusions — the mermaid, the spider/woman, and the daily headchoppings are all fakes. The story is about an arrogant young man who's adored by two women, and as often happens in real life I can't imagine why — he's just a jerk. And it's not even subtle; the character's name is Cock. "Starring John Gilbert as Cock."

It's neither boring nor memorable, with a notable exception only an old-movie enthusiast could care about: I'd thought "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" in Gone with the Wind was the first profanity in the movies, but in The Show, Gilbert shouts, "Christ!" (via intertitles, of course) in a non-worshipful context.

♦ ♦ ♦

On my way home I bought egg nog, one of the few true pleasures of the Christmas season. Lemme tell you, egg nog and popcorn is an explosive combination.

♦ ♦ ♦

But enough about me. Let's talk about you!

From Pathetic Life #6
Wednesday, November 30, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2021 — In the original, on-paper zine, retards were included between midgets and pinheads in Freaks, but I've removed the retards. In the '90s it was just a word, and I've already used 'retard' twice in these re-typed entries, but these days it's considered rude and I'm uncomfortable with it. All future retards from Pathetic Life will be mentally challenged instead.

Also, I grew curious and spent ten minutes Googling to find the earliest profanity on film. Most people still say it's "Damn" in Gone with the Wind, but that's bogus. I'm now pretty sure it's The Big Parade (1925), where the internet tells me that John Gilbert — today's pottymouth again — said "Bitches!" and "God damn it!" during a fierce battle scene.

Pathetic Life   

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  1. Tod Browning was a genius. Freaks is a gawking *and* compassionate masterpiece. Great double feature with the original Nightmare Alley.

    My favorite, though, might be The Unknown. Incredible performance from all, esp Chaney.

    1. It's awful, actually, that Freaks is so widely un-watched, considered repulsive, when actually, at least as I remember it, it treats its freaks with great respect.

      And every time you mention a movie, I doublecheck -- have I seen that one? And if not, I will.


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