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Posted on Nov 1, 2011
By Mr. Fish
I stopped believing in monsters on Thanksgiving Day in 1976, when my stepfather came downstairs for dinner wearing black dress pants, a white collared shirt, a pair of freshly polished black leather shoes and only one sock. Had we been at my parents’ house, I probably would’ve put down my Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and left the room at the sight of him, but this was my maternal grandparents’ house and he wasn’t stumbling around with his shirt off and there wasn’t the stench of Jack Daniels and stomach acid filling the room like turpentine. So I stayed, sprawled in my grandfather’s Barcalounger like Jesus in the Pietà, and settled back into my magazine, allowing my eye to track backward through the pictorial sequence of Lon Chaney Jr. changing into the Wolf Man, watching as his lower canines receded back into his jaw and his bloodlust softened into the tortured mediocrity of a man made average.
On the same day that Moammar Gadhafi was yanked from a drainpipe in Surt and killed by Libyan rebels, I was in Harlem participating in a multi-author book event at a small independent bookstore called Hue-Man. Having spent the afternoon watching and re-watching the frenetic cellphone footage of the deposed dictator being manhandled onto the hood of a utility truck, where he sat wiping blood out of his eyes, his wedding ring and bare feet and Richard Simmons hairdo making him appear exactly as fiendish and dangerous as a confused senior citizen having just been pulled violently from a Demerol drip and commanded to remember beneath a blazing hot sun where he’d left the TV remote, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy. The scene made me think of the 1931 Fritz Lang classic, “M,” starring Peter Lorre as a murderer of children who, at the film’s climax, finds himself surrounded by an angry sea of other criminals—pickpockets, arsonists and the murderers of grown-ups—in an abandoned distillery somewhere in pre-Hitler Berlin. The mob is planning to execute Lorre for, essentially, the crime of poor choice, and he is demanding that he be handed over to the police. The request, of course, is met with great peals of laughter from the lynch mob, and Lorre is suddenly made to appear as small and terrified and defenseless as a child just before being devoured by a pack of wild animals.
Q: How many kids with ADD does it take to change a light bulb?
Gadhafi was stripped and shot and punched and kicked and spat on and sodomized with a sharp stick before he was killed by a crowd that was laughing and dancing while flashing peace signs and crowing about the virtues of justice and how great and merciful God was.
Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.” That’s the quote that gave me my focus for the two-minute talk I was asked to give in promotion of my new book at the Harlem bookstore event, although I never cited it. What I like to think Wittgenstein meant was that humor quite often derives much of its potency from simple truth-telling, its comedic snap coming from the shock that the average person, who typically experiences life through any number of political and religious and cultural filters, experiences when confronted with sheer honesty.
Q: What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?
What will always make a monster appear even more monstrous is his ability to be magnanimous, even lovable, toward those most often targeted by his abuse. The unpredictability of such behavior prevents a victim from ever being able to recognize any part of the outside world as safe or sure. Then there is the world of make-believe.
If you really want to upset your parents and you are not brave enough to be gay, go into the arts.
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