During the summer of 1986, at the tender age of 15, I stared death in the face for 6 straight hours. I miraculously lived to tell the tale. So tell the tale I shall.
It was a hot, humid New England summer day. The kind of day that makes you long for winter so you could bitch about how cold it is and wish it was summertime.. We were hanging down at the pond. Not the, “hey it’s too hot out, let’s go skinny-dipping at the local swimming hole” type of pond. It was more of the, “hey it’s too hot out, too cold out, just right out, let’s drink some beers and smash the bottles on the rocks in the water and run if you see the cops” kind of pond.
Somebody suggested trying out some of this marijuana stuff that Nancy Reagan was encouraging all the kids to smoke, by telling them not to smoke it. She was very adamant that children of all ages do at least 2 bong rips everyday before school, or not, even going so far as to D.A.R.E them to. I loves me a good dare. We figured it would behoove us to acquire some first-hand knowledge of the delicious epidemic facing the youth of the day, then we could help spread the word to other teenagers who hadn’t been fortunate enough to acquire a pinner for a finner from the neighborhood tough guy. While also appearing cooler and more mature than them. She was right, it was awesome. Good lookin’ out, ghost of Nancy Reagan.
After wandering around giggling in the woods for a while we decided that we should go watch a movie, so we wound up at the local video store. For any of you who are too young to remember, video stores were establishments which dealt in the sale and/or renting of video tapes. A videotape was designed to be played in a Video Cassette Recorder, or VCR. A video cassette recorder or VCR was a machine designed to eat video tapes. A videotape cost approximately one million American dollars.
So there we were, standing in the 12′ x 12′ room that was known as Hometown Video faced with a serious dilemma: What movie should we rent? That was the question. The very same question teenagers have pondered since first emerging from Gods vagina.
Better Off Dead? Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie? Kentucky Fried Movie? ? Caddyshack ? This is Spinal Tap? The Outsiders? C’mon guys, let’s get The Outsiders! We’re total outsiders ourselves, look at us, all high and shit, wearing jean jackets and what not!…. I got dibs on Ponyboy….No way, I wanna be Ponyboy….Too late I already called it. Besides dude, you’re a total Soc! …..Ooooh, faced!!! Cue uncontrollable laughter and high-fiving… We bantered good-naturedly as boys were prone to do back in the day. Not like today where every Johnny on the block has a switch blade tucked in their Uggs and a set of brass knuckles or a blackjack in the glove compartment of the Mini-Cooper they borrowed from their stepmother, out cruisin’ for bruisin’s.
Then we saw it on the shelf. It was called Faces Of Death and it billed itself as 2 hours of real video footage of actual deaths, compiled for your enjoyment. Holy shit, we need to rent this!! Wait a minute, they have Faces of Death II and Faces of Death III here too. Let’s rent them all and watch them consecutively….What’s consecutively mean?…In a row….Why can’t you just say in a row, why you gotta get all wordy on us for, you fucking show off?… Linguistics are my passion….Fuck you, Sodapop.
We haggled with the proprietor for 15 minutes about letting us rent the FOD (not Funny or Die) trilogy because none of us was 18 yet. He wasn’t about to contribute to the delinquency of a minor, and risk losing his license to rent videos, if that is actually a thing that could happen. But he finally relented when we gave him some weed. It truly does make the world go ’round. We left the video store and went to my house filled with youthful enthusiasm for the marathon of death we were about to embark on. It was gonna be sweet.
But it wasn’t sweet at all, it was fucking horrible. I sat through six plus hours of death. Suicide, Homicide, Car Crashes, Guy On Fire, Elephant Tramples Midget, etc. All set to a creepy upbeat soundtrack, or at least that’s how I remember it. After an hour I didn’t want to watch anymore but we did just spend six whole dollars renting them, so watch I did. By the end of the last tape I was not the same adorable boy who started this journey. I had grown into an adorable man. I also had trouble sleeping and was semi-nauseous for a couple of weeks, while still retaining a high level of adorableness. The trauma of this experience follows me to this day. I still can’t go into a restaurant, order a live monkey, bash its head in with a mallet and eat his brain without cringing just a little bit.
In retrospect, I wish we had just rented The Outsiders again. We should have done it for Johnny.
Because he sure as shit would have done it for us.