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The Monster

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Posted on Nov 1, 2011
Mr. Fish

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?
A: Being raped.

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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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, November 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm Link to this comment

The jury seems to be in Mr. Fish…

You are either a monster or some sort of tragic hero.

I thought it was a pretty good column and I liked the jokes.

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By USS Minnow, November 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keep re-visioning all people in the world restored to innocence, freedom, and robust health.  Everyone just popping up like magic and saying “Everything’s great!  Have an orange!”  It works for me.

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By Jane, November 3, 2011 at 4:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Insightful.  But it is tragic when children have to suffer through experiences like Mr. Fish did.  Childhood cruelty stays with us forever; if we get help and investigate it, we may not always allow it to affect our own behaviors—but the remembrance, the knowledge of these monsters will never be forgotten.

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By ardee, November 2, 2011 at 6:02 am Link to this comment

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.
When you look long into the abyss the abyss also looks into you.”  Frederich Nietzche

It takes much courage to do as Mr. Fish has done here and I applaud him for doing so.

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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, November 2, 2011 at 1:32 am Link to this comment

I also learned disrespect for authority as a child.  Experiencing an authority figure as a villian when you are a child, can wise you up for a lifetime of un-hero worship because the reality is (and you learned it at a tender age)... that people basically suck.

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By rumblingspire, November 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

goodness! what a horror filled image.  in the back seat of a car driven by a monster.

i recently watched the old TV show from the BBC called Survivors.  1970s.  in one memorable episode a priest tells his accidental executioner that the one true miracle is to show kindness when angry.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment

What an intense remembrance. I once heard a psychologist who studies sociopathic behaviour say that if you want to truly see the darkness of the human spirit, just gaze into a mirror…..take a good hard look…...

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By John Poole, November 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Seeking to watch video of Qaddafi’s last few minutes as well as other gruesome
footage available of other ghastly events seems very unhealthy- sort of a sado
masochistic voyeurism in my opinion.  Is Mr. Fish a guy who would stop and get
out of his car to study the tragic carnage aftermath of a fatal auto accident?  Why
the interest in watching gruesome video Mr. Fish? None of my family or friends
checks out death and mayhem on the internet. We have no need for the thought
alone is saddening and our imaginations have already filled us in.

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By gerard, November 1, 2011 at 5:15 pm Link to this comment

Profoundly agonizing.

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