Don’t Fear the Reaper

“Baby, I’m your man.”

Nothing ends well. I hate to be the one to tell you, but if you didn’t already know, romantic endings are for Hollywood. Real life is dull with a shit ending. I’ve never watched someone die, and my hands carry the softness of a man with intellectual savvy- I’ve never known hard labor, and this is something I appreciate. After I scrub diligently for twenty-seconds and dry thoroughly, I enjoy the soft touch of my fingertips on my reasonably ageless face. People are shocked that I’m forty- and with a baseball cap turned just slightly askew, I can still fuck reasonably young women.

But this isn’t going anywhere. The joke is that once you hammer out the formula, in your Henry Frankenstein fuck laboratory, you’re already halfway bored by the results. They say the journey is more satisfying than the destination, but once you slipped into the realm of hindsight, you wonder if that’s just another bit of Hollywood bullshit.

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Adventureland

“If you’re gonna scream, scream with me. Moments like these never last.”

I ended up with the plaid button-down because I needed a nice shirt to go on dates– I was single again and recently set up a new OkCupid profile. I had found success on that platform in the past, although it felt like a thousand lifetimes ago when I was dating the daughter of a colleague in my English department while screwing her best friend on the side. All through the magic of online dating, but stay in a lecherous, testosterone sapping relationship long enough and all you’ve learned gets lost to time- too many diet Cokes in BPA laden plastic cups at Friday’s, too much time in front of network television, an unwilling prisoner of your girlfriend’s viewing habits. Why are women obsessed with TV? Modern relationships are inherently toxic.

Women like preppy men, a friends girlfriend had told me. Read their profiles and find something you have in common. “Mutual interests.” Perhaps our values will coalesce. Women in their thirties are different, she told me- you can’t talk to them like everything is just sex. They want a caring, intelligent man. They’re over their asshole phase.

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Adolescence and “1979” (1995)

“Faster than the speed of sound. Faster than we thought we’d go, beneath the sound of hope.”

For the bulk of the past year, I enjoyed getting to work an hour before everyone else. Often, I’d be the first in the building- the motion lights of the hallways clicking to life upon my arrival. It felt important to settle into work. Wake myself up fully from the shit sleep I had gotten the night before. As I age, my brain seems to take longer and longer to heat up- like one of those old IBM computers, with the turbo button on the yellowing plastic shell, that would only display green type on a black screen. Back when computers held mysteries and nerds were the only priestly caste who could access them. Now computers are vehicles for advertisements and nerds are the consumers happiest about it.

I enjoyed getting to work early because the roads were empty and I could speed. The highway I’d choose was wonderfully twisted, lined with trees, and toward the end of the school year my backdrop would become a gorgeous sunrise. It felt like playing Outrun, and just the idea that a wrong move could flip my Honda Accord (I chose the “sports model”) and send it bouncing across the road made me feel alive.

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Cannibalism and “Joker” (2019)

Reality struck Matt Kennedy Gould in a flash as every cast member of the show created for his destruction revealed themselves as an actor hired to manipulate him. Every cast member but one, Brian Keith Etheridge- cast as Gould’s best friend, tasked with staying close to him throughout filming and becoming his confidant- remained cautiously silent.

When Gould turns to him, able to digest that the rest of the cast were maybe a lot of Hollywood phonies, out of work actors lowering the bar for a reality gig, he asks Etheridge, with genuine hope, if he’s as much of a liar as the rest.

And you’ll never find a more genuine moment of terror on reality television than the look on Brian Etheridge’s face, as he struggles to explain to his new best friend that he’s just as full of shit as anyone else- that he’s of the elite, Hollywood caste getting paid to make poor, working class Matt look pathetic.

This is where the Joker would pull out a gun and shoot Etheridge in the head- something Etheridge, with emotions and adrenaline running high, feared was possible.

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