The Time Is…

Anyone remember POP-CORN?

I grew up in California, as most of you know. When I was young, we had a service called "Time." Time was a specific phone number you could call to get the current time in ten second intervals. A nice lady read the numbers off to you so you could set your clocks and watches, and have a friendly voice to talk to when you’re lonely. It didn’t cost anything — back in those days, all calls were local, which will give you an idea of what time period I’m talking about here — but later, when things weren’t so local anymore, they had different area code numbers for Time.

I don’t remember when I first heard the term "POP-CORN" for it. I don’t know whether I had emigrated to the Midwest yet or not, but I do remember being confused about it until someone showed me the number. It was Time, complete with the same lady’s friendly and familiar voice, but the phone number translated to the alpha-characters P-O-P-C-O-R-N. So, whatever area code you lived in, you could dial POP-CORN and get the time and date.

I guess the advent of cell phones and time synchronization via Internet, satellite and even atomic clock has made POP-CORN obsolete. Our phones update their times automatically now, and even update for Daylight Saving Time. Our computers do the same, so long as we have an open Internet connection available for them. And we generally use those to set our other devices which aren’t smart enough to do so automatically, like coffee makers and (oddly) alarm clocks. And what’s up with wrist watches that can’t do that by themselves? If a tiny cell phone can house the computing power it does and still do the updates automatically, I don’t see why a tiny transceiver for satellite can’t be built into a wrist watch for such a purpose.

No matter what, though, I’ll remember fondly the days of POP-CORN and the warm, friendly lady’s voice who told me tirelessly what the current time was in ten second increments. Another piece of my youth which has passed into the twilight of memory.

Kind of like my flat stomach and 29 inch waist.

Have a good weekend, y’all.




On Friday I sat beside my seven year-old daughter and watched a movie some ten years older than she is. Maybe you’d seen it flop on its way to the cheap DVD bin in Walmart – it was called Bad Moon and starred Michael Pare and Mariel Hemingway. Remember them? Yeah, almost nobody does.

So, I perused the likes of Netflix and Vudu for movies to watch. I’ve been hankering for a good movie of the horror variety and decided I was willing to pay for it. So I went through and spent a lot of hours on both services to come out with a handful of movies. I chose this one because, well…I really like werewolves, and I really don’t like zombies or vampires anymore. That’s a post for a different day, but for now, zombies and vampires are tired and hackneyed.

So I popped in a werewolf movie and watched my daughter’s face to make sure she wasn’t too frightened by it.

I find it intriguing that I reach for werewolf movies first. They’re my favorite horror/monster movies. And there’s no logical explanation for that on Earth. I shouldn’t like them at all.

As a boy, and I mean a small child now, I used to watch monster movies with my father. I spent countless Saturday afternoons with him watching corny Creature Feature movies on some independent or UHF-band TV station. (If you’re too young to know what those things mean, sorry; I’m not going into those explanations right now). He usually nodded off while I watched. But as a very small boy, I couldn’t get through one type of horror movie.

Werewolf movies.

Somehow, seeing Lon Chaney tiptoe around on canine feet with fur all over his face and those wiry-haired hands sent me into weeping terror. I cried, I cowered, I sought the solace of my parents to tuck myself beneath them. For some reason, the music seemed to trigger it for me. I could watch a movie if my mother held her hand over my ear while I laid in her lap. Maybe it was just laying in my mother’s lap with her hand over me that made me feel safe, I don’t know.

Once, I came home from school in horror and frightened, depressed. When my mom queried about it, I pulled up my sleeve to show her the newly-discovered arm hairs which surely meant I was bound to turn when the moon rose. She of course dispelled my fears with reminders of the length, weight and amount of hair on my father’s arms, and he wasn’t a wolfman, so I had nothing to fear. It worked. I was greatly relieved, and my mother still fondly tries to embarrass me with this story (even though I was only five or so at the time, and it’s really not embarrassing).

I had an aunt who’s only about 6 years older than me. She, of course, got me to sit in the dark and watch Rod Serling’s Night Gallery at my grandmother’s house. And then she’d sneak away while I was held in thrall by the show and would startle me or leave me calling into the long, terrible, dark hallway of my grandmother’s narrow, long house. Hiding behind either my grandmother’s recliner or behind one of the separating walls was a favorite tactic of hers. I remember shaking with butterflies flopping in my stomach, heart palpitating rabbit-quick in my chest, anticipating the start, but couldn’t stop from jumping and crying out when she did. Then the choruses of “Sissy!” and “Oh, don’t be such a baby!” would follow and I had to fight for a scrap of dignity.

But for werewolf movies, I couldn’t hold up. I just… couldn’t. I buckled under the weight of the adrenaline and horror, unable to rip my eyes away and yet covering my face with my hands to prevent myself from having to watch. Or I’d cover my ears to shut out the horrible sound effects and blood-chilling music. And then my aunt, seeing me that way, would slip away to startle me. Again.

I don’t know when that changed, but somewhere along the way, I began to have a real love affair with werewolves. By the time I saw classics (for my generation) like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and the misleading Wolfen, which I hated, I loved werewolves. Couldn’t get enough of ‘em. Still can’t. I sit in anticipation and tingle and get a giddy excitement when I think I’ve found a winner.

There were lots of them through the 90s, too, not the least of which is big-ticket Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. And, among those peeking through in the 90s, came Bad Moon. And of course, I saw it. Not in theaters, naturally – I’ve not been a fan of that experience because of the a$$holitude of people for many years – but when they rolled around on cable and On Demand services. Or I’d rent them at places like Blockbuster and those Mom-‘n’-Pop video rental shops. Remember those?

One of my favorite movies of the genre stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenburg as siblings who turn. It’s called Cursed, from back in 2005. It started me on the road of respect for Christina Ricci as an actress, who showed me she’s much more than Wednesday Addams. And later, I saw Ginger Snaps 2 and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (though I still haven’t seen the original, which I’d not heard of even though it’s a cult favorite from 2000). I sat through jokes like Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman during his brief stint as an action hero, and of course beautiful Kate Beckinsdale’s Underworld. I waited with glee for Benicio del Toro’s The Wolfman, with Anthony Hopkins, which stank by the way, and have seen a few others as well. But nothing set my heart hammering and my adrenaline racing, which always puts a smile on my face.

I guess you really can’t go back.

In the end, I guess it might have been werewolf movies which made it possible for me to do away with the ability to suspend disbelief and sit captured by the imaginative world of a movie. I have people like my aunt to thank, who taught me how unwise it is to trust myself to a movie’s world and story too far. After all, it’s hard to slip fully back into reality and not jump when someone pounces from around a corner with a shout and hooked-claw fingers.

But I’ll always love werewolves, I think.

Maybe I’ll write a story of my own.



Poor Stevie. He didn’t know what hit him.

Matthew was a freaky little guy with a weird, loud-mouthed mother, and no one knows more about weird, loud-mouthed mothers than me, and a reclusive and overweight father, another topic of which I know much. So we had a lot in common. You could say we were peas in a very messed up pod.

He lived on one corner of Olympia Drive and Olympia Circle, and I lived on the other. We knew each other for a long time, and our friendship sort of waxed and waned depending on who we were hanging out with that week/month/school year, and who was available to hang out with. I guess we were hanging out together that time.

We fumbled around in the patches of yellow clay and weeds between the sidewalks and the curb, where nothing seemed to grow successfully no matter how many times you tried. Eventually, folks gave up and tried sodding it like the rest of their lawn, but the hot, dry summers usually got the best of it.

The parched Earth would break into huge cracks and form large, dehydrated clods. This particular day, Matthew and I pulled up a particularly huge hunk of dirt. It was flat on the top, and formed a dome on the underside, and the weight hefted in our hands sound and sturdy.

We stared at it, and turned it over and over in our hands, passing it back and forth between us. In those days, we didn’t notice how hot it was. We’re kids, we don’t get hot. Besides, the dirt clod was interesting enough to keep us distracted. But what to do with it? We can’t just let it go to waste.

Matthew said we should drop it on some army men. You know, those little plastic soldiers and their molded guns and bases you got in packages of 100 from the grocery store. I said that wouldn’t be much fun. No, we should break it over someone’s head! Yeah, Matthew agreed, it’s so perfect for that!

Enter Stevie. He lived at the bottom of Olympia circle with his brother Bill. Their dad used to put boxing gloves on them and let them go at it in their front yard, coaching each of them. Yes, he encouraged his sons to beat the crap out of each other. He also got them into Scouts, and taught them other stuff I’d later envy.

Stevie, the younger of the two, had a ready smile, a flat head, and a funny speech impediment. He sounded like a foreign national. Just a fun loving kid, minding his own business, on his way who knows where to do who knows what.

So Matthew and I hatched a plan. A genius plan.

As Stevie came up the sidewalk, we called him over. A streetlamp offered us a convenient place to have him stand, his back to the wooden pole under the sodium vapor lamp and the draped electrical wires, while I hid on the other side of it. In those days, I could hide behind a lamp post with a dirt clod the size of a jigsaw puzzle in my hands.

Matthew waved his hands, Svengali on Olympia Drive, and crooned something stupid to Stevie, who of course closed his eyes, playing along.

And then, I came out of hiding and brought the dirt clod down over the top of his flat head.

The dirt clod was supposed to snap in two. In our minds, it snapped in two, every time we did it. And we did it more than once, let me tell you.

But the dirt clod didn’t snap in two. It exploded into tiny grains of yellow sand and grit, and showered everywhere. I felt Stevie’s head snap down from the force of the blow. The sickening thump rang with a hollow cantaloupe sound, and his face went slack first, then twisted into a mask of pain as the crumbs of dirt rained down his nose and cheeks.

I ran. I ran as only cowards can run. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! It wasn’t supposed to hurt! It was only supposed to break in half!

My weird, loud-mouthed mother asked me why I wasn’t playing outside that day. I stared out the window at the bright day as it waned and waited for Stevie’s old man to come up and yell at me. Or to go to Matthew’s house, where I’d hear his mother screaming and whining at him, and then I’d know I was next.

He never came though.

A few days later, I saw Stevie again. I wasn’t with Matthew this time. I told him I was sorry for what I did, and I hoped he wasn’t hurt too much. He shrugged it off with his ready smile and said it was just a tender bump on his head.

I don’t know whatever became of Stevie. But I hope he really did forgive me and has no memory of this horrible thing I did.

For some reason, I can’t ever forget.

Copyright DarcKnyt 2012, All Rights Reserved


Sometimes I wonder what happened to him.

I must have been about six, or maybe less, when my best friend was Paul. He had a much older brother, and of course, the older brother seemed so cool to me. Paul and I went to different classrooms or started hanging out with different people or whatever other forces move children apart in their relationships came into play, and I didn’t spend so much time (any) with Paul. But I never forget a face. Never.

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M_tricksterSometimes I miss the days when I was young and strong. I had control over my emotions. I was icy and cold. I could withstand an emotional battering. Physically, I was intimidating. I could deal out a great deal of punishment and knew how to stop a lot of it from coming my way. In a lot of ways, I felt very superhuman, invincible, indestructible and eternal. I would go on forever.

Along with a body capable of many astounding physical feats, my brain was slog. I didn’t use it as much then. And that’s the part I don’t miss so much about youth. The parts where I made so many mistakes, and trusted the wrong people, and depended too much on the winds of chance. Poor decisions, poor alliances, poor options and finally just poor. I don’t miss those aspects at all. I don’t miss the parts where I didn’t get it and maybe still don’t.

I’m fuller now. My body stays on the ground much easier than it did before. Earth and I pull at each other much harder than we used to. We don’t like each other as much, gravity and I, but I know in the end he’ll have his way with me. He already has in many areas.

I see people now, so young and full of life, with so much in front of them. And I know they don’t get it, because to them, they’re eternal and indestructible and immortal. They’re foolish to think they’re going to be this way forever, but they remain blissfully ignorant of the years besetting them, of the insidiousness of time and its cloying deception of forever. It’s a mirage, but you won’t know that until you realize you’ve been pursuing it through the deserts of life without closing the gap. Instead, the spine is bent and the arches of the feet flattened, the head hung lower and the skin looser than before, the muscles less taut and sinuous. We discover the trick of time much too late in life, and experience, the harshest teacher of all, gives the test first and the lesson is taught after.

Copyright 2011, Darcknyt. All rights reserved.