Y Marks the Spot: The Old Man

 

Appropriately enough, the first time I wondered if I had gotten old happened because of MTV, an institution that is barely younger than I am.  On the night and early morning in question, I entered the scene feeling drunk and joyful, connected with the world from the backseat of my roommate’s truck as it wound into the sticks and to an acquaintance’s place.

I followed two of my roommates through a blacked out garage and into a living room that was only blacked out mentally.  While some cool mom hovered around them, a spatter of clearly underage kids splayed on a couch, blankly watching some Jackass-aping prank show on MTV2 featuring hosts who were trying waaaay too hard to act coked out and cool for the camera.  The surge of loathing I felt for the show and its audience was about equal in strength to the frightening question that popped into my head shortly afterwards.  Was I into such stupid crap when I was that age?  The answer is, of course, yes ‒ though I’ve since discovered and loved the MTV self-satire that permeates my beloved Beavis and Butt-head.

Unfortunately, that first question led to another uncomfortable one: had I been a stupid teenager?

This moment in the cool mom’s living room was the first time I remember feeling smarter than another person for no other reason than age, which likely makes it the first time I remember identifying with the people who thought I was an idiot when I was a programmed teen rebel consumer.  That’s kind of a scary moment.  It can lead to zealous, born again past-disowning and delusions of present-tense brilliance.  Gee, I was such a moron back then, but I’m a goddamn Socrates now!

We say these disclaimers in ignorance of the possibility that the versions of us ten years from now could look back and laugh about the so-called stupid people we are right now.

There’s a weird contradiction in this, being that people tend to venerate the past and anticipate the future at the expense of their present tenses.  Man, being sixteen years old was awesome!  Holy crap, I can’t wait until the new Frank Sinatra album comes out and I’m old enough to buy beer!  And yet when the future becomes the now, the anticipation tends not to yield equal parts fulfillment.  If time travel were possible, we’d probably be just as disappointed with a tangible past.  We tend to like living theoretically, but don’t we like to bitch about the actual process of existing.

Back to the cool kids and my old man dilemma.  I reacted to that moment of elderly paranoia well, deciding that the question of me being a stupid teenager was one of degrees, not absolutes.  Sure, I wasn’t as wise as I am now, but it’s not as though I’m complacently fully formed today.  In any event, my age fears became irrelevant when a group of us left the couch kids and cool mom to wander into the neighboring rock quarry and hurl ourselves from the tops of pebble mountains.  Very childish.  Very fun.

Still, this lingering worry that I had in fact gotten old stayed with me for months afterwards, further inflamed due to my living in the dining room of a house without a scrap of privacy and five roommates in their mid-20s.  Half of those people were in a band which practiced often and took the rest of us along whether we wanted to go or not.  Also, most of my roommates’ musical tastes weren’t like mine.  Again, I didn’t have an enclosed room of my own to filter that out.

What ended up happening was that I spent that year flat broke and doing little more than lying around that dining room, getting pissed at the noise of the band and the songs played ad nauseum in between those live practices.  And I began to feel very old.  It felt as though I’d have been more okay with loud noise and contrasting tastes if I was younger.  The phrase “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” swam through my head like a sanctimonious goldfish that year.

Those thoughts, of course, were bullshit.  Since moving into a place of my own and building up my own little sanctuary, I’ve been able to put everything into its proper theoretical, past-tense perspective.  The answer I’ve come up with to that second, uncomfortable question is this: if I am truly old, then I’ve always been old.  I’ve always needed privacy and space like a sanctimonious goldfish needs purified water.  I’ve always needed the ability to filter other people out.  And I’ve never liked the styles of music that my roommates were into, and it’s not as though they didn’t exist when I was a teenager.  Hell, I’ve always been annoyed by teenagers, even ‒ especially! ‒ when I was one.

In contrast, I’m pretty okay with getting older.  Aging has to me been a process of getting over unimportant shit and getting better at being myself.  I used to idealize the irresponsible life I had when I was sixteen; now I’d be hard pressed to take that life back for anything.  Worrying about fitting in?  Being horribly damaged by real and desired romance?  Waking up at 6:30 in the morning, five days a week?  The hell with that.

When I actually do become an old man, I’m going to be amazing.  Unless I’m not.

Two additional points bear mentioning.  The first is that last weekend I went back to my old place, hung out with my old roommates, and enjoyed a night full of loud music and drunken frivolity.  I had a great time.  The ability to leave and not have to clean up, combined with the ability to afford to drink, both helped immensely.

The second thing is this: every time I tell somebody that I’m in my early thirties, they act incredibly surprised.  Apparently people think that I’m five.  Which I am.

Growing up and growing old are two different things.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

This picture pretty much sums up the whole movie.

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Starring: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Clu Gulager

Written by: David Chaskin

In discussions about the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this gem invariably gets brought up and described as the queer one.  That label is absolutely correct.  Even the creators of the film have gone on record to marvel at how they ended up making a gay Freddy movie.  I don’t know how all the blatant gay innuendo in Freddy’s Revenge got past them, though; there’s so much that the viewer starts seeing such metaphors and subtext that might not exist.  Look!  That clock on the stairway is rather phallic!  The teacher’s giving a lecture on the colon!  There’s a cardboard box in the guy’s closet that says Probe!  Uh huh huh huh huh.

Beyond all those grasping connections, however, is a lot of very real manly subtext.  Our hero Jesse has an awesome dance number to the sultry tune of “Touch Me (All Night Long)” in which he prances about in gold lightning bolt shades, closes a dresser drawer with his swiveling, supple ass, and gyrates around with some wooden popgun thing thrusting from his crotch.  He also ends up shirtless and sweaty a whole lot, with the film offering many loving shots of his bird chest and tighty whities.  He finds his best friend after the other doofus depantses him during a game of baseball and the two roll around the diamond locked in buttcrack mortal combat.

The issue of Jesse being possessed by a mass murdering child killer always seems to be mentioned in the most pervy ways possible.  “Something is trying to get inside my body,” our hero moans to his doofus buddy as he pleads for Doofus to watch over him as he sleeps.  Doofus, being obliviously awesome, responds: “Yeah, and she’s female, and she’s waiting for you in the cabana, and you wanna sleep with me.”  Said female, a Meryl Streep-looking ginger who serves as the film’s real hero, usually comes off as kind of a beard in the midst of all this machismo.

Yet the easiest thing to bring up is the sadistic gym teacher who hangs out at “queer s&m joints downtown” and operates as the Casey Affleck-meets-Mark Hamill-looking hero’s authority figure nemesis.  Oh, and the film makes it pretty clear that Teach plans to rape our hero as well.  Yeah.

He seemed like such a nice guy.

Following one of our hero’s midnight freakouts, he heads to the local queer bar in question ‒ which is really more of a punker bar for freaks of all orientations.  He’s looking for a beer but finds the leather-clad gym teacher, who busts him with an unwholesome gleam in his eye.  Teach drags Jesse to the gym in the dead of night and makes him run laps, after which our hero is pushed into a stack of folding chairs and told to hit the showers.  While Jesse is gamboling around naked and weepy in the dark, steamy shower room, our heroic gym teacher lurks in his office, amassing physical education paraphernalia by which he obviously plans to tie up our hero and have his way with him.

Unfortunately, Teach runs afoul of a Freddy Krueger poltergeist, who hurls all the balls in the office at his face (uh huh huh huh huh).  After this, Teach finds his bondage jump ropes turned against him, and he is dragged into the shower room and tied splaying to a pair of faucets.  After that, he’s stripped naked, and then the Freddy poltergeist grabs a towel and whips that gym teacher’s ass till it’s lobster red.  After all this degradation, the real Freddy emerges from the shower room steam and gives Teach a few razor-claw swipes, but at this point the quick death feels a bit anticlimactic.

Like most of the franchise films which followed the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy’s Revenge runs the risk of losing all its horror cred and becoming a campy, Adam West’s Batman sort of slasher film.  This flick is certainly in the running to be named the main offender of the bunch, but coupled with all the dude on dude silliness are some pretty sweet horror moments.

It’s clear that the creators of this film didn’t quite have the Freddy Krueger formula down yet.  Besides looking like more of a shadowy, melting Hindu instead of the stock bright burned hawk he’d later become, Freddy isn’t his usual wisecracking ghost of the subconscious who murders people in their dreams.  In fact, he doesn’t kill anyone who isn’t fully awake, and he’s not much for quips here.  Instead, he becomes a rampaging real-world monster who has real-world supernatural powers, and when he Caesarian Sections himself out of Jesse and busts up a pool party with claws and fire, he actually gets pretty terrifying.

There was one moment, however, which makes no sense.  Bookending the rest of the film are two scenes featuring Jesse on a haunted schoolbus that goes off the rails.  Watching the film, I blankly accepted these scenes, but my girlfriend saw the flaw in the logic.  “Doesn’t he drive a car?” she asked.  “Why would he be on a bus?”  Why, indeed; our hero drives a beaten up old clunker known as the Deadly Dinosaur, rendering mass transit unnecessary.  Sure, you don’t know that at the beginning of the film, but you do at the end.  Maybe Freddy’s just an idiot.

The Designer’s Drugs: Resident Evil: Revelations

 

Medium: Game ‒ Nintendo 3DS

Stimulus: Resident Evil: Revelations

 

 

Resident Evil 4 was the last time I remember feeling unadulterated joy toward a video game.  The action was fantastic, the enemies were intelligent, and the role playing and treasure hunting elements made for a lot of replay value.  I positively beamed the first night I played it.  For me it was easily the best game of the past decade.  As such, it serves as the measuring stick by which I’ve judged the Resident Evil games that followed, and like its fellow 3DS game The Mercenaries 3D, Revelations doesn’t measure up.  It’s an okay game on its own merits, but I expected a portable version of Resident Evil 4, and this isn’t it.

The biggest issue I have with Revelations is that there are two, count em, two zombie-type creatures in the entire game ‒ and they’re easily the best adversaries.  For a series that has built its entire reputation on zombie hunting ‒ to say nothing about the awesomeness found as the series progressed and the infected became intelligent ‒ this is unacceptable.  Instead, the player fights clawed, shambling, dumb sea humanoids that seem like they’d belong more in Dead Space than here.  There’s even a big hulking hellbeast with a functioning chainsaw arm with functioning chainsaw sounds, which made me wonder how it keeps its gas tank filled.  More annoying, these twitchy inhumans shudder around like mental patients and always seem to twist out of the way of the player’s shots at just the right moment.  There’s a rifle in this game for long distance shots, but considering these jerky movements and the fact that the monsters rarely show up until they’re right in your face, using it is pretty pointless.

The point is that I really, really missed smart zombies.

There are two game modes: a story mode and a stripped down, more minigame version of the story mode called Raid Mode.  The weird thing is that Raid mode feels more fleshed out than the main campaign, which switches perspectives far too much, forcing the player to operate as different characters instead of advancing the abilities of a single one.  Campaign Mode also forces the player to run around with a scanner separate from one’s weapons, scanning all surroundings with it to find extra items and secrets, Metroid Prime-style, while one hopes not to run into any monsters while so unarmed.  This is really clunky and annoying.  In contrast, Raid Mode features actual character levels and offers far more weapon customization.  The scanner doesn’t even make an appearance.  Campaign Mode feels like something to be endured; Raid Mode feels like something to be enjoyed.

The 3DS Resident Evil games have been the only 3DS games I’ve played so far which made me question the technical limits of the system.  In The Mercenaries, the glitches were limited to shaky movements of far-off enemies; in Revelations, the limitations seem to result in a very stripped-down world where you’re herded from Point A to Point B, which is just as well because it’s not that much fun to explore anyway.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there are swimming stages in Revelations, the bane of all video gamers’ existences!  Joy.

Yeah, I’m bitter that Revelations isn’t as good as Resident Evil 4, but you know what?  That game is, what, eight years old now?  Why shouldn’t this game have been able to blow that one out of the water instead of being a half-hearted clone?