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Now that have your attention, won't you please read my article?
(My old neighborhood)
(My new neighborhood)
When I was seven-years-old, my family packed up everything we owned and hauled it twelve hundred miles from the rain-soaked college town of Corvallis, Oregon to the sun baked 'big city' of Phoenix, Arizona. I found myself in the neighborhood pictured ABOVE when our dust covered moving truck pulled up to our new house in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix.
One of the first things I did was take a long walk around the block, it was an amazing experience I'll never forget. A few days earlier, I had never even seen a palm tree before, now they were everywhere. Instead of grass in people's yards it was dirt, rocks, or cacti. In the place of gray rain clouds were blue skies, and strangest of all was a blinding white ball of light high overhead the people down here referred to as the sun.
"Wow." I said, steam rising from my water logged pores. "I guess I'm not in Oregon anymore."
Back in Corvallis, my parents always allowed me a pretty long leash. I hate to spout a cliche, but things were different back then. Meaning that beginning when I was six, it wouldn't be unusual for me to spend an entire afternoon playing at a nearby park, until dusk, without any parental supervision what-so-ever.
However, there were two rules my parental units made me obey religiously:
#1 I had to tell a parental unit where I was going to be at all times.
#2 I couldn't cross any busy streets by myself- busy meaning four lanes or wider.
As long as I honored those two conditions, I could pretty much come and go as I pleased. The problem was that in Corvallis, my friends and I only had two places to hang out, the neighborhood park or our respective houses.
In Arizona, it was a different story altogether. I quickly discovered that without having to cross any busy streets, I had within three minutes walk (or a 1 minute bike ride) from my front door: an arcade, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a pizza joint, a toy store, a Taco Bell, a McDonald's, a 7/11, a huge empty field that was an ever evolving BMX track, and a even swimming pool! Had I died without knowing and gone to heaven?
When I look back, it blows me away the freedom I was granted. How many seven-year-olds can you name that could catch a matinee in a real movie theater, play a couple of games of Pac-Man, bowl a few frames, and grab a slice, an Enchirito, or a Big Mac all without any parental supervision? It was paradise plain and simple, what more could I have ever asked, hoped, or even dreamed for?
Living in a place with such luxuries wasn't cheap, and in order to make money I had to work pretty hard. For example, if I kept my room clean, and I do mean clean, and did all my schoolwork on time and correctly without being asked, I got fifty-cents a day or $3.50 per week for my troubles. Also, if I performed any of the following list chores I could collect an additional twenty-five cents: vacuuming the whole house, doing all the dishes after dinner, taking out the trash, or doing my own laundry. I don't think Mom ever had to vacuum or take out the garbage the whole time I was in elementary school.
To keep tabs on my chores, a sheet of paper hung from the refrigerator door and I marked an 'X' next to the particular duty performed. Every Friday when Mom came home from work, typically around 4:30pm, she'd take into account my labors and pay me my dividends. If she was in a good mood, which was often, and also if I hadn't gotten into too much trouble during the week, she'd let me take the two or three garbage bags full of soda cans she'd collected from her workplace to a bottle counting machine for the deposits.
Those bottles, and when I say bottles I mean the kind that were made out of glass... oh how I craved them! Occasionally, there would be so many that I'd have to make two trips to the bottle counting machine which was located underneath a little white shed, in the parking lot across from the arcade and movie theater, conveniently enough. All I had to do was dump my load into this big metal bin, then push the bottles into one hole and the cans into another. When finished, I pressed a little brown button and the money was automatically dispensed with a receipt. This little task alone could land me me an extra $5-$10! Believe me when I say that I made the trip from my house, to the bottle counting machine, and to the arcade so many times I wore a groove in the pavement.
So every Friday night, unless I got in trouble which did happen quite a bit, I typically had between $10-17 burning a hole in my pocket. Doesn't sound like much? Lemme tell you that was a princely sum in the early 80's. With the money I earned, I was at that theater so much it practically became my first home theater.
Who in my circumstance wouldn't have?
It was with these hard earned dollars that I bought a ticket for a 6:30 showing of Battle Beyond the Stars. It was the first time I saw a movie in an actual theater without my parents. As long as I had a friend with me, and my folks knew where I was, my curfew on weekend nights was around 9-9:30pm. Again, pretty awesome for a 7 year old.
The obligatory friend who always accompanied me during my cinematic adventures was named Scott. We met when we had gotten into a fight, which he won, and then I became so enraged I pushed him into this huge mud puddle when he bent over to pick something up. I had to run for my life back to my house afterward, making it just in the nick of time. A few days later I bumped into Scott again at the BMX track and we did some jumps together. He apologized for hitting me, and I did the same for pushing him into the puddle, after that we just sort of clicked. He was a couple of years older, being nine and in the third grade, and his mother was a single parent and a nurse by profession, so he stayed with us all the time when she had to work late.
Every Friday and Saturday night we'd go see a flick together. Back then, a children's evening movie ticket cost $2.75 and a 22oz Coke was a $1, as was a decent sized bag of popcorn with butter. A whole night at the movies, with accoutrements, for less than five bucks. I remember it cost this much because I usually spent the quarter I had left over at the arcade... or sometimes on a twenty-five cent ice cream cone from McDonald's. Man, do I feel old when I think about this, but now hopefully you understand how far ten bucks could go.
After the movie, if we had extra time, we'd stop by the arcade where the black-lights were on and Blondie or Kool and the Gang blasted through hi-fi speakers mounted on the walls. After dropping a few quarters in Moon Cresta and Galaxian, we'd grab a slice of pizza or cruise to Taco Bell for a to-go order of twenty-five cent tacos, re-fried beans, and maybe even a Taco Bell Grande if we were really hungry. Our last destination before heading home was always 7/11, we'd take the extra trouble of cutting across the parking lot to get there because we wouldn't want the cherry Slurpees and ice cream sandwiches we bought for later to melt.
When we got back to my house, my parents almost always went straight to bed because they'd have to work so early in the morning. Once they were down for the count, we'd consume our pseudo-Mexican/Italian feast while watching dirty movies on HBO in almost complete darkness.
Any wonder why I'm so nostalgic when I think of these days?
It was during this epoch in my life, while Scott and I were watching The Incredible Shrinking Woman for the seventh or eighth time, no exaggeration, at our little theater when we first laid eyes upon the greatness that is Heavy Metal in a preview.
Scott whispered with awe, "Dude, did you see that?"
"Nudity and blood in a cartoon?" I spoke as loudly as I could risk without getting shushed by the other theater goers. "No way!"
After the movie, Scott spent the night at my house, like always, and all we could talk about for hours was the preview for this dirty cartoon.
"A cartoon with naked women, who would have thought such a thing possible? It's going to be so cool!" Then suddenly Scott got serious, "We have to make a pact, we have to promise that we will see this movie together or not at all. Swear?" He spit in his hand and held it out for me to shake.
I spit into my own hand before taking his, "Swear."
Soon the night and the magic of the moment were all but forgotten, that is until a few months later when we saw the Heavy Metal poster underneath the Coming Soon marquee.
"That's right!" It all suddenly came flooding back.
Scott was as excited as I was, "When's it coming?"
"We're there dude."
The instant we discovered that HM was coming, time came to an utter standstill the way it can only in childhood or if you're a vampire. Three entire weeks! But even that seemingly insurmountable period must eventually give way to progress. Thus the day finally came when Heavy Metal arrived, of course it was a Friday night.
"At last. Tonight?" I said with an almost post orgasmic relief.
"Of course." Scott confirmed on the other end of the phone line.
Getting my allowance as per usual and taking the bottles back beforehand, I was flush with cash when I met Scott in front of the theater. "Ready?"
"Ready." he replied while pulling out a wad of ones that could have choked a Shetland pony. I never did learn exactly how he seemed to always have more money than me.
With three George Washingtons proudly displayed in my fist, I approached the ticket counter, "One for Heavy Metal please."
"Um. I don't see any adult or legal guardian around here." the Usher made no attempt to hide the snarkiness in his tone. "Heavy Metal is rated R little boys, so unless your parents are coming, either go home or choose something else."
With money still in hand I asked, "What do you mean?"
The Usher just sighed and rolled his eyes, "What I mean, little boy, is that you're too young. You have to be eighteen to see it. The both of you combined don't look like you'd be old enough to buy a ticket."
He was right. Scott was 9, I was 7. Even if you added our ages together, we still needed two more years before we could get in. In our haste, we had been blinded by the fact that Heavy Metal was a cartoon, but it was also a rated 'R' movie with all that it entails.
The dollar bills in my hand wilted along with my hopes. "But..."
"There are no buts!" raising his voice the Usher showed his impatience. "Now if you can't buy a ticket then you'll have to leave."
Having no other choice or anymore words to say I turned away, defeated, but not broken.
"What are we going to do?" Scott asked while we walked out of the theater together. "Any ideas?"
"No, not yet. But I bet we'll think of something in the arcade."
"Mom. Mom. Mom. You're so beautiful, you know that? And you know how much I love you right?" I said these words through my most adorable smile, #13b. "When was the last time I said that... no no, don't answer yet. Let me explain, I know I don't appreciate you enough, with all that you do around here, working everyday just so I can have a decent roof over my head and food to eat. So I just want to say, I love you Mom, very VERY much. I also want to thank you for being such a great Mom. And as a humble token of my appreciation, I would like to invite you to come see a movie, with me and Scott. We'd pay, with our own money... that you gave me yesterday."
Mom was always the suspicious one. "What's it rated?"
"Uh... it's a cartoon."
"What's it called?"
"Heavy Metal?" She said the words as if they tasted rotten. "Like that obnoxious music on the Mtv with the spandex and devil worshiping?"
"Well... not exactly like on the Mtv. It's uh... a cartoon, like I said. I'm not too sure what it's about, but it looks cool, like all magical and uh... stuff."
"Is it a Disney Movie? How come I've never heard of it?"
"I dunno. And no, I don't think it was made by Disney."
"And you're doing this to thank me?"
"Of course. Why else?"
"Hmmm... What time does it start?"
"In about an hour. I'll call Scott."
"You are aware, madam, that this is an R rated film." It was that same damnable Usher who wouldn't take my allowance money the previous night.
Mom shot me a look so hard it would have stopped a stampeding heard of wildebeests dead in their tracks. "Did you know anything about this?"
The Usher said while pointing, "The poster's right over there. The ratings information is quite clearly visible. These two apparently didn't notice, and tried to buy a ticket from me last night. Of course it's a rated R film, so I told them they needed an adult to accompany them if they wanted to see it."
Thanks for being so helpful dickwad. Quick sorry face #2f. "Mom..."
"Shhhhd!" She snapped her fingers and pointed like she does when she wants absolute silence. Then she calmly walked over to the poster and took a long, long look. Once her eyes had thoroughly examined every square millimeter, she just sort of looked away.
"Shhhhd!" Again, silence my only choice or risk an explosion. After an eternity... "This is the film you'd take your mother to go see to thank her for her hard work?"
"Shhhhd!" If she didn't want me to say anything then why'd she ask?
After a long pause Mom continued, "This film, this piece of garbage, is how you would like to repay me? What were you thinking? What did you think would happen when it started?"
Did she want me to say something this time?
Guess so. "I uh... I dunno. I thought maybe you might like it... or leave." I said though the best smile I could bring to my face.
"Leave?! That's what do you have to say for yourself?!"
"I uh..." is all I could manage.
"That's what I thought. Let me explain the situation to you then. First, you lied to me, to my face, about wanting to thank me so you and your friend could sneak into an R rated movie that you tried to get into last night. Sound about right?"
That had pretty much been the plan, but when she said it like that... "I'm sorry."
"Sorry huh? Sorry doesn't cut it, mister. You know, I'm not even mad. Just hurt. I feel like I want to cry." Mom always was one for melodramatics.
"Shhhd! Don't say it. Not now. I'm going home. If I were you I would find something to do away from the house until dinner. I've got to think for a while and decide if I'm going to tell your Dad about this little stunt."
And with that, she was gone. Scott and I looked at each other like whoa.
Then when I turned around, I saw the Usher shaking his head and chuckling, "Nice try."
I could've killed him at that moment.
"Two for Song of the South, please." A couple of weeks had passed since I tried to trick Mom. Now it was Friday night again and Scott and I, being sure all that messiness earlier had been forgotten about, were about to hatch our new scheme.
Basically what we had in mind was a ruse where we bought tickets for the 7pm showing of Song of the South, and then when Heavy Metal started at 7:15 two screens away, we'd bounce from the kiddy toons and go to where the real He-Men were, Heavy freakin Metal!
Once the lights went down for Song of the South Scott explained, "Alright. Let's leave when my watch says 7:21."
"What!" I blurted too loudly, prompting a couple of people to shush us. "I want to see the previews. It's an R rated movie, there might be boobs!"
"Well, it's up to you. You can see the boobs in the previews, and get caught, or see them all in Heavy Metal. We have to make sure the lights are completely out and things settled before we make our move. Besides, you know how they always start the movies late here."
"Yeah. Alright. Seven twenty-one and not one second later."
"It happened on one 'dem zippity-do-da days. Now dats the kinda day when you kaint open your mouf without a song jump riiiiight out ub it. Zippity doo-dah! Zippity-ay! My-oh-my what a wonderful day..."
I was impatient, "Is it time to go yet? I can't take it anymore."
"Hold on, Thirty-two more seconds."
We both counted down as Scott's liquid crystal Casio calculator watch ticked away the final seconds.
"Okay, let's do this."
With that, we got out of our seats and crept up the aisle to the door which lead out into the lobby and concession stands.
Scott suggested, "Here, let's just crack the door open a little and see what's going on."
So we did. The only people who could see us were the guys working the concessions, and they had their hands full since some film named Time Bandits had really been packing them in. From the looks of the long lines, it appeared it was about to start.
We took a long gander, just to be safe. Satisfied, I finally insisted, "C'mon! They'll never see us with all those people around. Let's go for it!"
We slipped through the door into the lobby. Not having very far to go, only a couple of doors down, we walked as fast as we could without going too fast. In no time we were in front of the screening room where Heavy Metal was playing, and without slowing down, we opened the door and quickly snuck inside.
On the other side of the door, it was dark and the Columbia Pictures logo was just coming on-screen.
Perfect! I thought... but then just as the door slowly shut behind us, I heard someone from the lobby yell- "Hey you two! Stop!"
Scott and I both looked each other, and even in the darkness his expression told me what mine must have told him, 'Did you hear that?'
He was the first to answer our silent question, "Quick! Lets sit with that group of people over there."
Grabbing a couple of seats in the middle of a row near the back end of the theater as fast as we could, we snatched off our hats and sat as low as possible.
"Maybe they weren't yelling at us, maybe it was just a coincidence." Or so I hoped.
No sooner had the words come out of my mouth, the aisle-way door opened and closed behind us, allowing a long shaft of light to briefly appear.
"Uh-oh. Who was that?" I asked.
Scott was as nervous as I was, "I dunno. You look."
We both watched as someone wearing a red theater uniform walked past our row of seats and continued all the way up the main central aisle until they were standing next to the screen. Then the theater attendant turned around and started closely examining all people sitting in the seats.
"Oh no! They must've seen us slip inside! What're we going to do now?" I asked as we both dropped as low as possible in our own seats.
"Well, he walked right past us and it's pretty big and dark in here, and we're far back. Hopefully they'll just give up. The movie's already started right? What can they do?"
Then, just as the Corvette hit the dirt onscreen, every single one of the lights in the theater suddenly came on at once!
"Oh no!" Scott and I said in unison as we reflexively hit the dirt.
The other people watching the movie were understandably upset, they started to boo and hiss.
"I can't believe they turned on all the lights while the movie's playing! What are we going to do?" I asked the question while lying on my stomach on the small spit of floor that exists between rows of seats.
Before Scott could answer- this burly tattooed guy sitting in the row behind us yelled, "Hey! Are you looking for two little kids? They're hiding right here in front of us on the floor! Now turn out the lights, asshole! You're killing my buzz."
To say I was severely pissed off and embarrassed at that particular moment would have been an understatement, but the guy who ratted us out was almost as big and scary as my Dad, so neither of us dared to say anything.
"You guys again!" I couldn't believe my eyes, it was the same Usher who had refused my money and embarrassed me in front of my Mom.
He waved his hand, and the lights instantly went out as quickly as they had come on. Shaking his head he said, "You little boys need to come with me. You're in a lot of trouble."
As the green orb dissolved the astronaut dad, the Usher, Scott and myself all walked back up the aisle and back out into the lobby.
"So you bought tickets for Song of the South but then snuck into Heavy Metal which is a rated R film?" the fat, greasy haired theater Manager said from behind a thick wooden desk which dominated the tiny, windowless office. Scott and I were seated in front of that desk while the Usher stood silently behind us.
We'd been caught red handed, no lie was going to get us out of this predicament this time. "Yes."
The Manager continued his interrogation, "Do you know what would happen if the MPAA ever found out that two minors had seen a rated R adults only film in my theater?"
"They would fine me a lot of money. Ten-thousand dollars for each one of you! Do you know how much ten thousand times two is?"
"Twenty-thousand." Scott replied with his superior 3rd grade math skills.
"Well give mister smarty britches here a gold fucking star. Yes, that's right. Twenty-thousand dollars. That's a lot of money isn't it?"
All Scott and I could do was nod.
"Well then, you know how serious our current situation is, don't you? I'm going to have to call your parents. Gimme your number, now." he asked the question to me first.
"We're a very poor family and don't have a phone."
"Cut the crap kid, I'm not messing around here. You either tell me your phone number or I call the cops. You broke the law, so they'll be more than happy to come pick you both up, then they will call your parents, got it? So what's it going to be? You've got three seconds before I pick up the phone. Either I dial your house or the police. It's up to you. Three... Two... One..."
During that time I thought of my Dad and how nuclear he would go just having to pick us up at the theater. If he had to go to the police station it would have been a ten-million megaton meltdown, dead as a triple cheeseburger type situation.
What else could I do? I gave him my number.
If you took the age of the universe and measured that incredible amount of time in billions of years, then take that number and multiply it by the billions of years our sun has been fusing hydrogen, then to that staggering sum multiply the collective number of years that has been lived by every organism that has ever existed on earth beginning when the first cell divided itself, then to this mind blowing quantity add an exponent of a googolplex, and still, even with that infinite amount of time, it would not have seemed as long as the period beginning when the Manager hung up the phone and ending, after an eternity, when my Dad knocked on the office door a few minutes later.
When the Manager opened that door and saw my Dad, he had the same reaction everyone does when they see him for the first time; utter astonishment.
You see, this is my Dad. Would you want him mad at you?
"Uh... Hello, sir..." Yeah, look whose squirming now, butthead. "Uh you see our situation and uh..."
"Yeah. I know what the situation is." Pops was never one to mince words, his bulk took up most of leftover space in that cramped office. "Scott!"
Although I can't confirm it, I'm 99.023% convinced that poor Scott soiled himself at that exact moment. "Y-y-y-es, sir?
"Go home. We called your mom at the hospital, she's working until ten-thirty. You're to go straight to your house and wait until she gets off work. I'll be by later to check on you. Understand?"
"Okay. I'll go right home, I promise. Can I go now? Please."
My Dad nodded and Scott was outta that office faster than http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1039/ was off the Front Page!
The strength of Atlas himself wouldn't have been able to lift my chin off my chest at that moment.
"Come with me."
Without looking up I stood and got in line, "Yes, sir."
"Sorry about the trouble. Won't happen again." Dad promised.
That Manager was so pale it was as if an invisible vampire had sucked him dry, "Uh, I can see that it won't."
"Let's go, son."
With that we walked out the door.
As we left the theater, I looked behind at the Usher who followed us out, genuine sympathy in his eyes once he had seen my fate.
My Mom still laughs when she thinks about the time she saw Dad escorting me back home by holding the back of my shirt so hard and high that my feet couldn't touch the ground. I dangled in his mighty grip literally like a sack of potatoes.
Once Dad had dropped me off in my room, he left in his car for parts unknown, never saying a word.
"You can ground him for as long as you want, but you're not going to beat him! I won't let you!" It was Mom who was in full warpath mode and standing between Dad and me.
You see when Dad had left, he had driven out into the desert outside of Phoenix. His mission was to seek out a particular kind of tree which grows in abundance among the cacti and tumbleweeds. What makes this tree so special is that when the needles are stripped off of the short branches, their elasticity and strength make them the perfect tool for beating ass. Hard. Like the way Grandpa did to him.
Now in my room, he had two such branches in his hand, each stripped and thirsting for my behind. The only thing keeping them from burying into my soft buttock flesh was Mom, who at only half his size, is still far scarier than Dad and all of his bulk.
Dad was furious! He yelled while pointing, "You're lucky you got your Mom! So I'm gonna give you a choice. You can either be grounded to your room, for three weeks, like a pussy. No friends. No telephone. No toys. No nothing. Or you can take an ass beating like a man right here and now and be free to do what you want next weekend."
Dad is 6' 2" (almost 2m), and at this point in time, could bench-press more than 460 lbs (210 kg). If I had let him run wild with those fearsome tree-whips, he might have accidentally carved me out a second butt-crack. Call me a pussy if you want to, I took the time and was happy to do it. I was seven and might have weighed 60 lbs. (27 kg) sopping wet.
You do the math.
I was able to get out of my grounding in less than two weeks for good behavior, and also because even Dad wasn't so heartless as to keep me locked up during Spring Break.
I remember it was a Friday night when he finally sprung me from my bedroom confinement. I still couldn't leave the house, but I could watch TV and have Scott come over. Mom even gave me a partial allowance and said she'd let me have two weeks worth of bottles, once Dad finally let me out into the daylight again.
Scott was happy to be back, "Man, it seems like forever since I was here last time."
Yeah buddy, you have no idea.
A few days later, Scott and I were headed to the arcade when we took a short detour to see what was movies were playing. What we saw when we got there was the 'Final Day' notice hanging over the Heavy Metal poster.
I was so disappointed it actually hurt, "Awe man, we're going to miss it."
"Yeah, but we can't chance it again, if your Dad ever found out..." Scott let the words hang.
"But we got to see it. Remember, we made a pact?"
"I dunno." Then an epiphany... "What if we asked someone to be our adult guardian?"
"But the guys at the theater know who we are, and besides they probably won't buy it."
"We can always try. It's not like we'd be breaking the law this time. They just won't sell us a ticket is all. Plus, we'd be outside so if they try and drag us back into that fat Manager's office, we'll just run as fast as we can and not come back for a while."
Scott only halfheartedly agreed, "Alright."
We sat outside the theater for the better part of the afternoon, asking everyone we could what movie they were going to see. No one wanted to see Heavy Metal.
Just as it seemed all hope was lost, three teenage boys happened to walk by.
"What movie are you guys going to?" I asked, more out of reflex than anything.
"Heavy Metal." The largest of the boys had a shock of red hair and a sneer to his tone. "What's it to you twerp?"
Suddenly my heart swelled! "Please please please please say your our adult guardian and let us come with you. You could be my older brother."
This stopped them in their tracks, the kid with the red hair asked, "What's in it for us?" .
Scott offered, "We can buy one of your tickets."
"But there are three of us?"
Scott pointed out, "But with our two tickets we only have enough left over to buy one more ticket."
"How about this, you give us all your money and we'll let you in through the back. Take it or leave it kid." That red haired kid is probably a lawyer now the way he negotiates.
Scott whispered behind my ear, "I dunno, I don't trust him."
"How do we know you'll let us in once we give you our money?" I asked suspiciously.
The red haired kid offered a Cheshire grin, "I'll let you in. I promise."
Neither Scott nor I was buying any of this, but our desire to see HM had made us slaves.
Since their tickets were more expensive than ours, we had to fork over all the money we had in the world, nine dollars and a few coins between us.
Just before the teens had bought their tickets with our money, Scott and I had poked our heads inside the front door to see which theater Heavy Metal was playing in. Once we knew which screen, we ran around to the back of the theater and waited by the emergency exit. And waited... and waited...
"They're not going to let us in." Scott said for the millionth time.
I wasn't in the mood for games, "Shut up, they'll be here."
"I'm telling you we gave them all our money for nothing. Now we can't go to the arcade, get Taco Bell, Slurpees, nothing."
"Shut up. They'll be here."
"It's been like twenty minutes already, the movie is about to start..."
Then suddenly the back door opened a few inches and the same red headed kid poked his head out, "Hurry up, we had to wait until the lights were out."
As Scott and I strolled in and took out seats, I can still remember the preview they were showing was for some flick called Chapter 2.
When Scott and I sat down we high fived, "I can't believe we're finally here. I told you those guys would come through."
However, once the previews ended something strange happened, or didn't happen rather. The movie never started. After the last preview everything just stopped, the lights were still off, and everything was ready to go, but there was just a blank screen. After a few minutes the natives started to get restless, but then just like before, all of the lights suddenly turned on.
Scott and I looked at each other like opossums in headlights, "Oh no..."
Then our worst fears came true, that same damned Usher who had refused my money, embarrassed me in front of my Mom, and caught us sneaking into HM, came strolling down the aisle.
"Oh man. We're so dead." I told Scott, my all-to-brief seven years of life flashing before my eyes.
However, the Usher paid us no mind as he kept going up the the aisle. Then once he was standing in front of the screen he cleared his throat, "Everyone, can I have you're attention please! I regret to inform you that the film stock for Heavy Metal has broken and we won't be able to show the movie today. If you take your tickets to the counter you will receive a full refund and a voucher for a free movie on us. All of us here offer our sincerest apologies."
"What are you little boys doing here?" The Usher asked when he noticed Scott and I sneaking out.
"Hey look, we came with my older brother and his friends. They just walked out and they're over eighteen. We were going out the back way because they're going to some girl's house and we're going home." I was gobsmacked at Scott's brilliant lie, before this moment I never knew he had it in him.
"Where are your tickets?" We're so dead.
"My brother bought the tickets and is going to return them and keep his money." Go Scott go!
I still recall my heart pounding as the Usher just rubbed his chin for a long moment, finally he shrugged his shoulders and said something like-
"Nah, it's alright. I saw you're Dad." He nodded towards me. "I know you wouldn't want to piss him off again. But I don't believe for a second any of those kids was your brother. Did you have someone buy your tickets?"
Scott and I said nothing.
"It's alright if you did, as long as you had some kind of accompanying and willing adult there is nothing I can do. I used to do the same trick before I was eighteen. Man, you guys really were determined to see this movie huh?"
"Yeah, sure." Scott and I were out of there faster than http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1039/ with an attached trans-warp drive!
I don't know who that Usher was, but I'm grateful for giving me a break that day. I think he let us off the hook because Dad can make quite an impression, but I'll never know for sure...
If you're out there Mr. Usher, then you'll probably remember me and some of this story. I never did say thanks. However, you should know that you actually would've done me a favor if you had called my Dad after all...
Once outside, I was livid at the thought of being cheated, "Lets go get our money back!"
We caught up to the teenagers just as they were getting into a crappy, old, turd brown Toyota Corolla.
I yelled at the top of my lungs, "Hey jerks! Give us our money!"
The kid with the red hair slowly turned around, "Get lost twinkie. We let you in, it's not my fault the film broke. We're keeping that money and the free tickets!"
When you have a Dad like mine, everyone else seems tame somehow, so I wasn't scared a bit, "No! You took back the tickets that we payed for, so give us our money!"
I tried to reach around to the red haired kid's back pocket to snag his wallet, but he was three times my size so all I got for my trouble was shoved onto the pavement, hard. I was dazed for a second, but then I remember looking at my left arm, blood streamed down my elbow from a new wound.
When I saw my own blood I snapped.
I got off the ground and ran as fast as I could, crashing into that stupid kid with everything my seven year old might would allow. It was hard enough so that I knocked him back into his car where we landed on the diver's side seat, me on top of him. Scott told me later that as he fell inside, he hit his so hard on the edge of the door jam that it made a loud cracking sound.
For a few seconds I fought with as much fury as I could muster. I know I punched him in the face twice, and when he tried to push my head away I bit his fingers so hard it made him scream like a girl. However, that marked the high point for me in this battle because after his shrieking, I don't remember much. Several hands that were all much stronger than I was, pulled me out of the car, and threw me down on the pavement again.
What followed was the first real ass beating I ever received. All I can recall is lying on the ground, covering up as best I could, as I got stomped from all directions at once. I don't know how long they wailed on me for, but it seemed like waiting for my Dad to come to the theater times the number of times I've seen Star Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn on HBO, believe me that's a pretty big number. If you've ever taken a good beating then you'll know what I'm talking about.
Once they were either tired or satisfied (I don't know which) they finally stopped, but before they left, the kid with the red hair kicked me once in the ribs as hard as he could as a final blow. The force of his foot crushed the air from my lungs and I couldn't refill them. I was more scared then I had ever had been because I couldn't breath. Finally, air exploded back into my lungs, along with a sharp pain from where his foot had made contact with the left side of my ribcage.
After the kick, the red haired kid jumped into his car and yelled something I couldn't understand, then he and his cronies took off in his Toyota P.O.S.
My first though was that, "I'm alive, and it's over." Still, I just laid on the parking lot asphalt, bleeding from my nose, and in more pain than I had ever before experienced.
After a long time, when I had regained my senses, Scott, who had wisely been silent the whole time I was getting pounded, helped me get to my feet.
As he grabbed my arm and pulled me up I still recall his exact words, "Dude, that was awesome!"
Not wanting to go home and have my parents see me in this condition, Scott and I slowly limped back to his place where there would be no adults. I wanted to cry, but Dad had always instilled my me that 'men don't cry.' So I didn't. Barely.
Although I never said anything to my parents, looking back I think that red haired kid cracked one of my ribs when he kicked me that last time. I couldn't run or take a deep breath without sharp pains coming from that exact spot for more than a month afterward.
When we finally made it back to Scott's, I saw my condition for the first time in the mirror in his bathroom. My upper lip was twice it's normal size, and my right eye was so swollen it was almost completely shut. My clothes were torn and my face was covered in blood from profuse nose bleeding. Worst of all I could still feel that kick in my chest.
I took a long shower, and Scott let me borrow some of his clothes before I went home.
When my Mom saw me her words were, "Oh... my... god! What happened to you?"
Although I looked and felt a lot better then when I had first gone to Scott's, my eye and lip were still very much swollen and discolored, and every breath I took reminded me of that kick.
Scott had helped me come up with an explanation back at his place, something that had actually happened to me a few months earlier, so it was believable. "Nothing Mom. I tried to do this big jump on a bike I borrowed in the back field. Some kids dug a deep pit and laid a board across the mound of dirt they had created, making a ramp to jump across the hole they had dug. Like I said, I borrowed some kid's bike, but I didn't make it far enough and my front wheel hit the far edge of the hole and caused me to crash hard in the ground. My face hit first. I went to Scott's first since it was closer to clean up, but I'm okay."
Mom was frantic, "You look terrible, are you okay? Do you need to go to the doctor's?"
"No. I'm alright. Just tired. I'm going to go lay down now."
It took forever but I finally placated Mom. Alone at last, I laid in my bed and cried for a long time before I went to sleep.
Although I wouldn't realize it until years later, I never feared my Dad's spankings as much after this incident. I think I knew that no matter how furious he might become, he would never hurt me like those teenagers did in the parking lot.
A few months later after my wounds had healed and the whole fight in the parking lot was just a bad memory, Dad sat me down on the couch like he always does when he has something serious to say.
"Son." he said, the weight of the world in his tone. "I've got my old job back in Oregon. We're moving back in a month..."
A few days before we were to leave, my Mom had gathered up a bunch of my cousins, who lived nearby, and we all headed out to the drive-in theater to see Ringo Starr and newcomers Shelly Long and Dennis Quaid in Caveman. Of course Scott came with us.
The drive-in movie theaters in Phoenix were like no other I had ever seen before or since. There were so many screens, and everything was spotlessly clean! They had a playground, and the concessions had all kinds of stuff: ice cream, burgers, even an arcade. Our family used to go there often, as it was a relatively cheap way to have fun, they charged by the car, not by how many individuals were contained within the car. The screens were huge, the nights warm, and in order to hear the movies we had to tune to an FM station at the end of the dial. We always brought two or three extra radios for a 'surround sound' effect.
Great times at that drive in, and Caveman was no exception. I remember laughing a lot and spilling a huge bucket of popcorn over everyone. Best of all was that movies would show all night until dawn, which meant up to four different films could be seen on a single screen during the night.
After Caveman, Scott and I were hanging out in the concessions playing Space Invaders when he noticed the Heavy Metal poster!
"Dude! Look at this!" he pointed out. "It starts on screen three at 1 a.m. That's in..." he looked at his Casio watch, "...twenty minutes!"
I abandoned my game of Space Invaders as Scott and I raced back to my parent's car!
"Can we watch Flash Gordon over on screen seven? Pleaaase?"
"What? You don't want to see Chariots of Fire with us?"
"As tempting as that is, we want to see Flash again."
"But you've already seen it a million times already."
"I know, but we love Flash, and this might be our last movie together. So pleeeeease?!"
With that, Scott and I grabbed a big blue blanket, half a giant tub of popcorn, a box of Juji Fruits, a large Sprite, a couple of lawn chairs, and our best radio, a boom-box with 10" woofers, dual cassettes, and detachable speakers.
"Come right back when Flash is finished okay. I don't want to have to come looking for you."
It was a real hassle carrying all that stuff across the entire drive-in by ourselves, but once we settled into our spot close up by the screen it was worth it.
We placed our lawn chairs close together, put the boom box in front of us, and munched on popcorn while we watched the first preview I ever saw for Conan the Barbarian.
Under those desert stars, just Scott and I alone, was the first time I ever got to see Heavy Metal.
Neither of us were disappointed.
"You were a good friend." Those were the last words I ever spoke to Scott, and I said them a few days after our drive-in adventure. I had tears in my eyes that couldn't be held back as I turned around and got into the moving truck.
He had tears in his eyes too, and looked like he had just lost his best friend, which indeed he had.
I'll never forget his expression as we drove away.
I never saw or heard from Scott after we left him standing on the side of the road. I don't know why I didn't get his phone number, I guess it seemed kind of pointless since he would be in Arizona and I would be back in Oregon 1200 miles away.
I've thought about him a lot over the years, wondered where his life's trails have led. I don't know his last name so I can't look him up on Facebook, odds are we'll ever see each other again. We didn't know each other for very long, less than a year, but the times we had at that theater, especially HM, are some of the best memories of my childhood.
For years afterward, I didn't get to see HM as there were licensing issues which prevented the film's release on VHS. Then when I was twenty three, and working at a bike shop, a customer came in bragging about bootlegged copies of Heavy Metal which he had for sale. I paid him $40 on the spot, he handed me a black VHS cover with a crappy black and white photocopy of the film's poster glued crookedly onto it.
When I got home and put it in my VCR, I found the picture a little grainy, but the overall condition was pretty good, considering what the outside cover had looked like. After a few seconds, as the Loc Nar crossed the screen for the first time, I became convinced that this was the real deal, and stopped the movie immediately. I put it in a dresser drawer to view on a 'special occasion.'
That day came about a year later, after I saw a short clip play on TBS and the urge to see it became overwhelming. Alone and twenty-four, I watched Heavy Metal for the second time. All of those memories, all the pain I had to endure to see this film came flooding back like a tsunami spilling out of my Magnavox.
Again I wasn't disappointed, especially with the soundtrack.
To date I've watched Heavy Metal exactly five times (one of those times writing this article), only breaking it out on occasion when I want to remember my lost friend from so long ago.
Scott, if your out there, sorry about pushing you into that cactus. Thank god your mom worked at the hospital.
P.S. A huge honkin' thanks to Cosgrove for acting as a phenomenal 2nd pair of eyes, and also for taking the considerable time to write out all those 'comma spiders'. Awesome job man!!! Zits, TS6B, and T.T.F.B. forever!
P.P.S. To the author of article #1039, it was nothing personal, it's just that it's the lowest rated article on the site, nothing more. Hope you're in on the joke. Just so you know I really did give you a thumbs up (#-49).
If your reading this it means that you're a smart motherfucker. Real smart. Yeah, that's right. I said it. And I'll say it again. M-O-T-H-E-R F-U-C-K-E-R!!!! HA!
I'll also tell you my real name... which is Shay. Please don't tell the dumber people here. If you get this message, send me a Private Message!
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