Apropos of the themes contained herein, mainly being of comics culture and nerdom, I wanted to include as a post this story I’ve told a few times…
Now y’all know I’m a comics geek. I want comics and comics-related issues to always occupy a big part of this blog. I mean, if ever you (a/the reader) want to discuss the ramifications The Green Lantern’s sexual orientation could have on Oa you can post that shit right up here. I will not block you.
Oh, and for all you “Regs” out there who don’t give a crap how Peter Parker produces his webbings, I’ll also write some posts about episodes of Modern Family I’ve seen.
Without further adieu…
“You wanted to tussle. We tussled.” —Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), Out Of Sight
If I got stabbed with a knife after an argument about Alan Moore’s Watchmen, I’d be the bad-ass geek envy of all my fanboy brethren.
If that same argument had led to a murder, it’d earn me a funeral pyre at Comic-Con.
Sadly, I did not get stabbed by a knife in an argument about Watchmen. Mainly because it was an argument about Watchmen. However, I did get annoyed by a knife in an argument about Watchmen, which makes a lot more sense given the context.
If you aren’t in “the mix” (and by “the mix” I mean, “you aren’t a total comics nerd”) I’ll tell you that there are “arguments about comic books” and there are “arguments about comic books.” And then there are arguments about comic books with Lynchian psychopaths who LIVE to have arguments about comic books.
Most or all of these are arguments about comic books I don’t wanna have.
Last summer, my wife and I spent a week vacation in Chicago. It was half of our “You Show Me Yours/I’ll Show You Mine” of couplehood city sojourns.
I spent my twenties on the mean streets of Lakeview, and someday soon she’ll take me to her Manhattan. So you get the drift.
She had never really spent any quality time in Chicago, save for a couple days during Sketch Fest many, many years ago, and I hadn’t been back to the city for a good, long time. So overall it was newish to us both.
The July heat blanket had ceremoniously lifted and the crowds were big but manageable, and we drank and we ate and we drank and we ate and we listened to some blues music at a couple scuzzy Loop clubs. We even took a River Tour and martini-lunched on “Top Of The ‘Cock.”
We also studied the condiment philosophy of the traditional Chicago hot dog. She didn’t understand it. Hell, I still don’t.
On our last night in town I booked a reading for a lit series I helped curate about ten years ago. We spent that afternoon poking around bakeries and bookstores on the North Side via L, and then in the evening we met an old grad school buddy of mine, Duff, at Sheffield’s Beer Garden (R.I.P. Ric).
It was wonderful. There was a small clutch of people I hadn’t seen in a minute who really celebrated me being back. Duff and I nursed a couple Highlifes and tossed back a couple Jamesons, and laughed and swore, just like proverbial “Old Times.”
I reveled in all of this homecoming, especially with my wife there to share it.
Plus, I killed.
The piece I read from was solid nerdom fare. A parody of classic sci-fi movie set pieces: alien space ship lands on Earth; alien emerges, promises peace; earthlings panic, mistake for invasion; war ensues. But in this iteration, I was said alien from the distant planet Hollywood, on an exploratory mission to the planet Chicago.
To be clear, as a native Midwesterner, I was definitely bending the piece in Chicago’s favor. DEFINITELY.
I mean, shit, it’s no secret Los Angeles is the sarlaac in America’s Great Pit of Carkoon, especially for those of us who live (read: suffer) here…
But it’s also no secret that the City of Big Shoulders has equally sizable chips. And when I wrapped up that night, I sensed maybe I’d rubbed a few of those big shoulders the wrong way.
One dude in particular had an unobtrusive problem.
But let me rewind —
At a quaint bookstore in Lincoln Square earlier in the day I had come across a book by an author whose name I recognized.
It was a collection of short stories about drugs and chicks, the kind typically written by writers who, in their youth, had done a lot of one of those things and very few of the others.
It took me a sec, but eventually I realized the writer was a bygone college classmate.
Frankly, I was surprised to see his name on something. Something that wasn’t a restraining order, anyway.
Well, strike that from the record, because it’s an unfair assessment. Truthfully, I had only known the guy in passing.
Also, by the way, his collection was self-published. Don’t get me wrong, that’s totally cool. I’m casting no judgements. Because I mean, shit, I haven’t written a book at all, let alone to self-publish. But just sit tight and wait until I finish the story. If you add up all the variables, even the layperson wouldn’t be able to deny this particular element as stigma.
What I mean is: good for this guy, sure. But also, hm…
Anyways, fast forward back to the story, present tense—
I see this very dude amid all the glorious fanfare for me and I put two and two together and take a moment to shake his hand and congratulate him on the book.
Also, yes, OK, maybe I lay The Hollywood Act on a little thick. Acting a few too few degrees removed. A little too network-y. A little Red Carpety (whilst having very little practical experience on any carpets, let alone red ones).
Fuck, I admit it. It was douche behavior. Guilty.
Whatever the case, when I take this moment to wish this dude well, he looks into my eyes with a very pointed menace. Then when I offer my hand, he takes it, and he shakes it. He shakes it in the way someone might shake your hand when they mean to shake your hand. Get me?…
(i.e. when is a handshake not just a handshake?) When you’re getting your Last Rights from a Corleone.
After the reading Duff and another of my old friends, JJ, split with me and my wife to another significant watering hole of my youth, Higgin’s Tavern. We four sought it out to escape some of the asskissery, but mostly so we could just moreso catch up proper, and so Duff and JJ could get to know me and my Missus five-plus years removed from our college heydays.
All of it was going so cool. I was cool. The wife was cool. Duff and JJ were cool. Everything was cool…
Except for two despicable hangers-on we had attracted en route.
And who were these leachers?
There were that very fucking dude, from before. With the blah. And the book. And the handshake…
And trotting along at his side was his, I assume, girlfriend? And also, I assume, Indigo Girl…?
This insufferable fucking couple had apparently mistaken JJ’s goodwill for invitation, and so had followed us out. He and his barely legal [ barely single chromosome] companion, who, I noticed later, contributed nothing to the natural world but the mindless nodding affirmation to his every stupid word, like ad hoc for the Manson Family.
And they would proceed to co-opt our reunion by compulsively hijacking conversation not theirs to ruin.
But, shame on us, because not one of us had the compassionless candor or the good sense to tell them to fuck off.
Before I continue, however, allow me an opportunity to more paint this Urban American Gothic, here —
HE… is mid-thirties. At the very, pock-marked least. Also, he’s maybe hairlipped. Or just fat-lipped. I don’t know, I had to avert my eyes so as not to turn to stone. Also, he is low-browed. Yes, like a caveman. He even looks a little like he might be post-op lobotomy, and at his best, has a serious Mark David Chapman thing going on.
HER… his child-bride, is pixie-faced but bulldyke-hairdoed. She has a tapered-leg sexlessness to her that is the clearly the result of either runoff adolescent ignorance or early onset adulthood arrogance. I couldn’t figure out which, and didn’t care to try.
Heretofore in this story, I’ll refer to each of them as Leatherface and Lesbian Tinkerbell. Respectively…
And there they both were. Among us. Like body-snatchers. Hovering.
Leatherface stood near to me, behind me, as peripheral as I could vaguely remember him, a grown adult man with a backpack on.
At a bar.
His demi-glaze stare into the middle distance must have been the result of psychotropics or psychopathy, so I could maybe peg him for a sex offender, but I didn’t wanna be right about it. Then again, I didn’t wanna be wrong, either.
For as young as she was, Tinkerball had a lot of candor in the way she talked to us. People she neither knew well, nor had more age or experience than. She was like an antagonist character from a Liz Lemon elementary school flashback. All her scorned sexually-frusterated prom date sensibilities were made manifest by a chronic case of diarrhea-of-the-mouth, and everything she said I imagined in a suicide poem in blood-red calligraphy pen on the back cover of a labia-skin diary.
The bottom line, and the source of my intolerance for them, was that they were both not totally oblivious to their social limitations, but compensated for it by trying to dominate all subsequent social interactions. Therefore, while Duff and my wife had to run interference with possessed idiot-savant Chatty Kathy, Tinkerbell, JJ and I found ourselves in a plain sight hostage situation with Leatherface, weilding an argument about comic books.
(*Please review what’s I’ve said before about comic book arguments, then cross-reference with my description of Leatherface)
Since living in L.A., I admit I have developed a few sub-standard standards.
But I lived in Chicago once, and maybe at that time harbored a deeper adoration for discerning tastes… And maybe, at that time, nothing was good enough for me, too. Maybe I had the bare brass to reference purism. Maybe I had the gaul to narrowly value my own opinion, thinking that it means something to anyone else…
Or maybe Leatherface was just a pretentious fucking asshole.
Everything out of this guy’s mouth, per our entire conversation, was equally obtuse and absolute, and profoundly uninformed and unintelligible.
Whatever that case might be, that night, that fucking jackass made me love L.A. so much more for the wide net we cast here when it comes to acceptable art.
ANYWAY. Somehow the three of us found ourselves on the topic of the Watchmen movie…
Of course, Leatherface hated that movie. So he yammered on and on about how much he hated it, and why he hated it:
”That movie blah blah blah and what a piece of shit blah blah blah and Zack Snyder should go back to directing music videos blah blah blah and the studio should’ve known better blah blah blah…”
And just on and on and on about how bad that bad movie that, sorry, arguably, was not that bad, was “so so so so so bad.”
Then, invariably, we started talking about the Watchmen novel…
And, of course, Leatherface loved that graphic novel. So he yammered on and on about how much he loved it, and why he loved it:
“The graphic novel blah blah blah literary art blah blah blah and it’s not just a comic book blah blah blah and Time Magazine says blah blah blah and U.S. literary registry blah blah blah!…”
And just on and on and on about how good that good novel that, sorry, arguably, was not that good, was “so so so so so good.”
Then we get around to the Watchmen creator, Alan Moore…
And, of course, Leatherface loves Alan Moore… And so he yammered on and on all about how much he loves Alan Moore…
You see where I’m going with this?
Me? I don’t care. I don’t care about Alan Moore. No. At. All.
But the Jameson I was drinking hated Alan Moore, and it did not allow me to keep my mouth shut…
So, I tussled.
That was my first trip back to Chicago. In years. On top of that, it was my first vacation with the woman I love to show her the groundwork of who I am as an adult person…
On top of that, it was my inaugural reuniting with friends I hadn’t seen since I was young enough to smoke Menthol Cigarettes and think that was OK…
And it had to come to this:
An argument about Watchmen with a shitty shit-mouth shitheaded shit-for-brains.
So, OK. Fine. Leahterface wants to argue about Alan Moore? I’ll argue about Alan Moore:
"Alan Moore is a filthy perverted old shut-in who dresses like a wizard, worships a snake god, and hates America for no other reason than it’s not England. Fuck that guy.”
What happened next?
Leatherface became so infuriated by the shit I talked about Alan Moore that, apparently in Alan Moore’s defense, he pulled a switchblade from his pants pocket and held it to my face.
And he glared. Like he wanted to stab my soul with it. In the name of Alan Moore, of course.
And I go, “What?”
JJ goes, “Whoa.”
My wife goes, “What the FUCK is going on?”
And we all stared at this grown man in a backpack in a bar on a Tuesday night with a knife. And we stared at him like he was a fucking lunatic…
Because that’s what a grown man in a backpack in a bar on a Tuesday night holding a knife is.
Immediately, he knew he was in the wrong. I saw it on his half-retarded face. He looked at the knife, then at me, then at them, then down at the floor. Then, he sheepishly tucked the knife back into his pleated khaki slacks, which is exactly where a knife belongs, you idiot.
But, hold up, now. Because also, I get it. I admit that I totally carried a knife around in my pocket for years, praying for the moment when I’d get to use it…
I’d ride the subway lines uptown and downtown, concocting complicated hero fantasies with gangbangers and college cheerleader, and the knife always figured into these scenarios prominently…
Humming Eye Of The Tiger quietly. To myself…
Except I was twenty years old then. But I grew up. I grew up, and knew better, because nobody in their right mind will ever pat you on the back for defending an opinion with a knife.
See, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has opinions. And every asshole has a knife.
When the moment had finally passed, and only the awkwardness was left, Leatherface was practically begging us all not to keep staring at him like he was the drunk deebag who’d just done what he’d done. But, obviously, we couldn’t, because none of us wanted to sit with their back to him…
And, you know what, ultimately, he’s lucky I didn’t knock his teeth out. Or that my wife didn’t knock his teeth out. Or that the bartender remained unawares. And didn’t knock his teeth out.
He’s just lucky.
There came a point where we were all just so exhausted by the fact that he and Tinkerbell hadn’t hung their heads in shame and skulked out of the bar and back to their wormhole and become nothing more than pathetic drunken memories, that everybody just stopped saying anything at all. To anybody.
That’s when Leatherface offered to buy me a shot. Because, you know…
“You a Jack guy? Jameson? C’mon. I’ll buy.”
I refused. Because, duh. Dude. We’re too old for this shit.
So, in hindsight to this little ordeal, I want to offer the following advice to Leatherface, and all of the little Leatherfaces out there, in the form of this brief, but keenly-worded, letter:
To my cleft-palated assailant,
If you’ve logged off YouPorn long enough, and you’re reading this, I have something to say to you that I think will hope you in how you conduct yourself with other read adult people in other real adult situations:
WE ARE NOT IN DEADWOOD.
OK? Does that make sense?
Realize that you pulled a knife out because of an argument about a comic book. In Higgin’s Tavern. Wrigleyville. U.S.A.
You’re lucky it was just me.
Because there may come a time in your life when it will seem like a good idea to you to pull that knife out again, but that time, it might be on the wrong guy, because of the wrong argument, in the wrong bar, Fuckyouville, U.S. MOTHERFUCKING A.
And that guy, in that argument, in that bar, I promise you, will make you use that knife for real.
I hope that makes sense. I am only saying it, against my better judgement, to prolong your survival in this world.
Lovingly, thoughtful, sincerely,