Sunday, September 25, 2016

GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #210: ONCE UPON A TIME

I didn't have a lot of friends growing up. I'm fond of saying that of all the people I knew in high school, I'm still friends with the only people I cared about back then. Everyone else could go fuck themselves. But . . . well, that's not necessarily true. I believed it was true when I said it, but I was unconsciously wrong.* There are three people I have not had contact with since 1996, the year I graduated from high school, that I wish I still had in my life.


These three people were my first readers. They were the ones who read everything I wrote back then, and all of them read it before I started submitting to publishers. They were invaluable to me, and I feel like shit that I didn't follow them through the course of our lives.


One of them contacted me lately. I'm not naming anyone because I know I draw some weirdos, and I don't want to expose my old friends to them. But she was my favorite of them. The other two liked my work, but they joked about it a lot. She treated me seriously, and I greatly appreciated it.


I have changed a lot since then. When I wrote stories in high school I knew my mom was going to read them all. I kept myself in check a lot of times. I did not give my inner muse the car keys and let it ride, like Thad Beaumont suggests in the movie version of THE DARK HALF. I censored myself left and right. I didn't have the courage yet to turn loose the crazy shit living in my brain.


My friend contacted me asking if I was the guy she knew in high school who gave her the stories I wrote, and if not, sorry. I told her I was that guy. Maybe she's reading this now. If so, you had such an inspiration for my creative development, and I can't thank you enough.


But I don't know how to describe to you the drunken puddle of dick jokes I've become. I write horror primarily, but I've been on a bizarro jaunt of late, and most people know me as the guy who writes horrifying shit about dicks. I've written a novella about butts lately, which will be a part of an unannounced anthology right now, but most people know me as the dick guy. She knew me when I was writing juvenile stories about fucked up things.


A high school friend of mine told me that when he first read my work he thought it was utter shit. When he read my new work he was impressed by how much I'd improved. I wonder if her reaction would be the same.


I kind of want to know, but at the same time I'm embarrassed. She knew me at a different point of my life. The rest of you know me as the savage degenerate I am now. Back then I was different. I was shy. I was subdued. I hadn't learned to pour my heart out on the page yet. Because even when I'm talking about crazy dick shit, I have a purpose in mind. "Monster Cock," for all of its loony shit, is a feminist story.


It's weird. She wondered if I'd become an author, and I was proud to say that I did, but at the same time I'm nervous to find out what she thinks of my new work. I haven't seen her in literally 20 years. A lot can happen in that time. Back then I was still in Stephen King/Peter Straub/Franklin W. Dixon mode. I wasn't me yet.


Maybe I'll find out. If so, I'll let you know. Goodnight, beautiful people. I'm in Morris, IL, on Saturday at the library to sell some books. I hope to see those of you in the Chicago area there. I'll be the weirdo selling copies of POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN, among others. Say hi.

















































*There is actually one other person. Catherine H. H. might not actually be her last name anymore. She wasn't a reader of mine, but she was a good friend. I ran into her at the Elmhurst Public Library once shortly after college, and she told me she was working with one of my favorite authors, John Sandford (John Camp, but still, he did the Davenport and Flowers detective series that I love so much), at archaeological digs. I would love to find out what happened to her. If you know her, please let me know. Tell her that fucking weirdo John Bruni would like to find out where she is in life.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #209: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN




The new version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN came out this weekend. Last night and today were pretty rough for me. I needed to escape for a while, and I hoped that this film would do the trick. To be honest, when I first heard about the new remake, I had no interest. This story has been told so many times that I'm completely bored with it. But then I learned that Antoine Fuqua was directing it. That interested me a great deal. I got excited for it. He's a great filmmaker, and I knew he would bring something new and interesting to this old, used up story.


I'm a lifelong fan of westerns, but I came to this one late in life. I didn't see it until I was in college. When I finally saw it, I was blown away. I sought out SEVEN SAMURAI so I could see the original story, and that, too, is fucking awesome.


And then came the day that my local theater decided to play it on the big screen. The dean of my college was in charge of it. He wanted to do a talk after the film. You'd better believe that I got in on that action. The old westerns, like this one and Sergio Leone's work (I saw THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY on the big screen when the Music Box showed it, and that was amazing), are perfect for a theater showing. Sure, you can enjoy these films on your TV, but it just doesn't do the work justice. You've got to see it on those giant screens, the ones that show you every pore in the faces of the actors, pores big enough for you to fit your head in.


I loved it. It enhanced my experience. And the dean had an interesting talk about the film afterwards. He told us that when he was a kid his father woke him up in the middle of the night. The old man said not to tell his mom, but he absolutely had to show his son THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. And that sounds like the best set of circumstances to watch such a film. If my dad had woken me up in the middle of the night to watch this movie? That would have been a magical experience.





And then I finally got to see the new version at the very same theater, on the very same screen. When I'd first seen the original the screen was #2, the one in the middle. The one that has an organ in there for opening nights, when they want to give the viewers an old fashioned theater experience. They've expanded since then, and now #2 is #5, which is where I saw the new version.


My friends, this might be the greatest remake ever made. The beginning is crazy. The violence is so swift and out of control it made me nervous. Peter Sarsgaard is a vile villain. I'm pretty sure that if it would make him money, he'd set a baby on fire and punt it into an alligator's mouth.


And then we meet the new Seven. This is Denzel Washington's best role since GLORY. I don't know how to explain it, but he's got this weird Jack Elam thing going on. There isn't a wandering eye, but I couldn't help but think of Elam every moment I saw Washington on the screen.


I love every minute of this movie. No, it's not as good as the original, but it's really fucking good. I think it has a lot of social relevance, especially since they changed the nature of the bad guy. In the original it was Mexican bandits led by Eli Wallach. In the new version it's a land baron, the very embodiment of capitalism. That says a lot, and I like that.


There is so much violence in this movie. If it does well at the box office, I'm sure there will be a hundred "think pieces" on cinematic violence and how it's wrong. Fuck the Wild Bunch; this new Seven kills maybe--POSSIBLY--everyone in the West. It's an overwhelming orgy of western violence. I think Washington alone killed about 3,000 people. The end is a crazy, super-violent action sequence filled with uncomfortable deaths. When members of the Seven get killed, it's shockingly painful. Fuqua isn't one to back down or flinch; he jumps in with a mad grin, both fists swinging.


Outlaw Vern has a great philosophy of badass cinema. This should be in the top ten badass movies of all time. There are so many great moments, too. My favorite is when one of the Seven keeps shooting this one asshole until he falls dead . . . into a coffin at the undertaker's shop. Fuqua also doesn't over-explain things. I hate when people do that. He gives you a detail, and then it comes to fruition down the line. It's incredibly satisfying.


Remember when I saw THE H8FUL EIGHT for the first time? This one had nearly the same effect on me. The new Seven isn't as good as Tarantino's masterpiece, but it's really fucking good. I felt like a kid again. It made me so happy that for two hours and thirteen minutes I completely forgot about some horrible shit that's happening in my life right now. That's happening to a dear friend of mine.


If you're anything like me, go see the new version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It's fucking amazing. It might even bring the western back to life. We'll see. I hope that happens.

Friday, September 23, 2016

GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #208: MY SHIT TOOTH (REVISITED)

For those of you who have known me a while I've been having problems with my Shit Tooth for years. It all began when I started getting monstrously evil headaches, and I had no idea what caused them. I couldn't do anything about them at work, but when I got home I pounded whiskey to the point where I was downing 3/4 of a handle every night just to kill the pain. It was the only thing that worked. I went to several doctors, and none of them were able to solve the mystery until one of them came up with the brilliant plan to see a dentist.


I'd gone through most of my adult life without dental insurance. The last checkup I'd gotten was when I was getting into freshman year of high school. After that my grandparents, who raised me, lost their insurance plans. In 2007 I got a job that gave me benefits. (Just so you have a point of reference, I got into freshman year in 1992.) By that time I figured my teeth were fucked, and I didn't bother getting them checked out. To this day my mouth gives people The Fear.


I caved and went to the dentist. Apparently the tooth which would eventually be dubbed the Shit Tooth had a deep chip in it, which had exposed the nerve. The dentist put a giant filling on it, and everything went back to normal. Cool.


Fast forward a year. The Shit Tooth is killing me again. My alcohol use increased again. My dentist did a root canal and put a crown on the chip of tooth I had left back there.


A few weeks later I was eating pizza. Suddenly I took a bite and something seemed off. Something was missing. Holy shit, my tooth was gone! I have very little money. Crowns cost a lot even if you're insured. What did I do? I sifted through my shit for days looking for that crown. Hence, the Shit Tooth.


I never did find it, by the way. Not that it matters. It turns out the very little piece of tooth I had left had cracked. The dentist wouldn't have been able to put the crown back on.


This time he put a screw in my mouth to support the three centimeters of tooth I had left. It worked wonderfully after the crown got put on.


Fast forward to this year. My Shit Tooth acted up again. This time the dentist told me that there was decay built up under the crown. He sent me to another dentist out of hopes that it could be saved. The two options: remove the crown and drill out the decay, or cut into the gumline to drill out the decay. The other dentist said there was too much built up. The tooth had to go.


I've been through the process of an implant before. It sucks and it's expensive. I didn't want to do it. But I was told that if I didn't get it I would lose more of my teeth because the Shit Tooth took on a heavy burden in my under-bite.


I was going to go to another dentist to get the Shit Tooth pulled and to get an implant, but then SURPRISE! I got fired and lost my insurance. When I finally got a new job it took forever for my insurance to kick in. When it did I took a half-day to get a consultation. This was the day before I was going to go on a road trip with Kevin Strange to be on The Horror Show with Brian Keene. I thought the dentist was just going to take a look at it and schedule surgery for maybe two weeks later.


SURPRISE! It looked so bad that I was told it would crack out of my mouth over the weekend. The image of being interviewed by Brian Keene as I spat out my Shit Tooth horrified me, so I decided to do the emergency surgery then and there.


I should not have done that.


While the Shit Tooth is finally gone, it is still haunting me. Even now I have horrible pain in my mouth. The Orajel helps. The painkillers help, but they make me woozy. The whiskey is the best solution.


You know the phenomenon of phantom limbs? I have a phantom ghost tooth in my head right now, and it's killing me. (It doesn't help that I also have cadaver bone in my mouth to help make an implant possible. I don't know the guy or gal who donated it, but I do know that I've given Mike Lombardo a tickle in his tooth.) I've shoved a bunch of whiskey down my throat tonight, and it's only helping a little. I need this to go away. It would be so awesome to have just one day where I wake up and don't feel any pain in my mouth. I need that to happen tomorrow.


Goodnight, you wonderful people. Thanks for listening to me rant about this garbage.

KEVIN STRANGE AND JOHN BRUNI ON THE HORROR SHOW WITH BRIAN KEENE!

Check it out here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #207: THE MUTTER MUSEUM

For years I've heard about the Mutter Museum. For some backwards reason I thought it was in Germany or possibly Amsterdam. As most of you know I spent the weekend under Mike Lombardo's roof. I don't remember how the subject came up, but he surprised me by telling me that the Mutter was in Philadelphia. We decided to go there the next day.


There were four of us: Kevin Strange, Mike Lombardo, Lex Quinn and myself. I hate driving through cities, and Philly was no exception, but when we approached the Mutter I was in awe. It was totally worth it.


Inside the very first thing we saw was Einstein's brain. I didn't know what I was looking at at first, but someone mentioned it, and I thought HOLY SHIT. This is the brain of the person who is thought to be the smartest person who had ever lived. Already the museum was worth the price of admission.


But there was so much more. I saw a wall of skulls, and many of them had the nationality of who each one belonged to in life. Sometimes it even had the cause of death. Every once in a while there was a name. They have a save-a-skull thing: if you donate enough money you can save one of the skulls and have your name in the Mutter Museum. If I had the cash, I would totally do that. If *you* have the money, click on the link and help out.


There's more. You can see deformities caused by STDs, for example. If you've ever wanted to see a skull altered by syphilis, you can find it here. For some people being surrounded by such imagery of death can be overwhelming. For me it was fascinating. I have no illusions about what happens to us when we die, and to be surrounded by so many examples stimulated me (my brain, that is; get your head out of the gutter).


Then we entered a room that thoroughly impressed me. It described Civil War field amputations. They even have an interactive thing where you can stand in one place and see an animated arm attached to you where your real arm should be. You get shot in the war, and it shows you what would happen. Not too far away from there is a display about Walt Whitman. I know a fair amount about him, but I had no idea that he was a nurse during the war. He'd sit at the bedsides of wounded soldiers, trying to comfort them, and when they died he would write letters of consolation to their families. Very touching.


And then there's the Soap Lady. I'm not going to say much about her. You just need to see her in person. All right, I'll say something. She's a mummy, but she looks like she died in sheer agony. But she didn't. According to science, that's just the way of her natural decomposition. Interestingly enough, they sell Soap Lady soap in the gift shop.

There's a wall of pickled fetuses. There are more than one display for conjoined twins. If you've ever wanted to know what organs look like you'll find displays for them all. I found a gall bladder, which I no longer have my own. And I saw gall stones. Interesting. There is even a colon on display. And yes, I found a hard dick. I usually do. There was a scrotum next to it. Next to that was a preserved vagina.


I was pretty worn out by everything. Not that I was grossed out. No, I was more fascinated than Spock ever was. But walking around that place is pretty wearying for a flop sweater like myself. I had to sit down and rest for a bit. I got to watch everyone's reactions to the displays in that room (which included a boulder of an ovarian cyst). Not a single person was grossed out. I'm proud of them. Their reaction was a healthy interest.


But my favorite display? The one that fascinated me the most? Shit. Photography is prohibited there. Yet I'm sure they know who their most popular attraction is. Upstairs they have a banner of this guy:





Meet the Mutter Giant. Isn't he a sinister looking bastard? That's just the banner. I got to see the real bones, and he's ten times more scary. In life he was seven-six, if memory serves. I'm six-one. The regular skeleton they had next to him was more my height. He also has a dwarf skeleton in there next to him, just for comparison. But the Giant? I cannot describe to you how menacing he is in death. His hands hang by his knees like a gorilla's. Look in his eyes and you see pure malice. He towers over me. Like one of my favorite actors, Rondo Hatton (the Creeper from the old Universal pictures), the Giant had acromegaly. He did not live very long. I'm sure he was a nice guy, but seeing him so many years after his death genuinely creeped me out.


There is so much more at the Mutter. You all need to see it for yourselves. Just don't go down to see the Giant on your own. Something tells me this guy walks around at night after everyone else is gone. Planning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #206: THINGS FROM MY CHILDHOOD THAT I HAVEN'T THOUGHT ABOUT MUCH UNTIL NOW

It's kind of weird. I remembered something from my childhood that I haven't thought about for years, and it's made me think more, deeper, until I remembered other things from my past.


The thing that started this was seeing a kid the other day waving to the engineer of a train. It's slipped my mind, but I remember doing the exact same thing when I was a kid. Every time I saw a train, I waved to the engineer. He always waved back.


I also remember putting pennies on the train tracks, not to derail the trains like some of my more sadistic friends, but to flatten them. And it always worked.


I remember when my grandfather used to pick me up to bring me to elementary school. He had this weird thing that he did that I don't think he even remembers now. First he would hold up a thumbs up. Then he'd stick out his index finger like a finger gun. And then he'd open the rest of his hand. I would do the same thing back to him, and he'd smile and clap me on the shoulder.


Gramps also used to do a, I guess it's a human pyramid, with me and my cousin. He'd be on the bottom. As the oldest I'd be on his back. My cousin was the youngest at the time, so he was the top.


The time that my stepfather was dragging me to a grocery store, and we were at a street corner where we had to wait for the cars to go by. I put my thumb out like I'd seen in movies, not realizing that it was the universal sign of hitchhiking. My stepfather slapped the shit out of me for that, and I've never done it again.


My cousin and I watching the trucks go by just outside our grandparents' backyard. We were impressed by the passing of these things on the expressway. And then a wooden wall was constructed between us and the trucks, and we were depressed.


My grandmother tells me a story about the time, back in the 'Sixties, when there was no wall, and there was a horrible storm. A family abandoned their car on the expressway and eventually wandered into the backyard seeking aid and succor. They got it, too. Different times.


Behind my elementary school there were train tracks and a tiny bridge we could go under to avoid them. But there was a yellow line we had to stand behind if there was a train going through. We didn't pay much attention. It was thrilling to be in the underpass while a train thundered overhead.


The snake that attacked my one and only friend in first grade. He showed me the slashes in his elbow. There were only supposed to be garter snakes back there. Maybe not that one time, though.


Then there was the moment I met my best friend in third grade. We fell in together because he could fold his eyelids back. Everyone else found it gross, but I thought it was cool as shit.


My cousin and I used to hang out in the rec room of our grandparents' place, and when we had to take a piss we'd just do it through the screen door. We got away with it for a long time, too.


There was also a scary crawlspace there.


It's surprising all of the things I forgot when I was a kid. Back when I was let loose in the world when I was done with school, no parental supervision, just so long as I was back for the six o'clock siren. If I was late, I was fucked.


What do you remember from when you were a kid that you haven't thought about in ages?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #205: MY GOOD DEED FOR THE DAY PT. 2

Remember a while ago when I did a good deed and it felt great? You can read about it here. It feels pretty good doing good deeds. It's kind of addictive because of the dopamine release you get in your head when you see positive results. It's kind of like when you see that your Facebook post got 100 likes. Or maybe President Obama responds to your Tweet. And so on.


A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a position to do another good deed. But it started out from a horrible thing I did.


Not last Saturday, but the Saturday before I went to Skippy's for a burger. They've got a great burger, even though it's only a charburger. Anyway, I could have sworn they were open until ten on the weekends. I arrived at the drive thru and made my order. Only then did I see the sign that says they close at nine on every night except Sunday (8 pm). I looked at the clock. It was 8:59 pm.


Oh fuck. I just became *that* guy. You should never EVER show up to a restaurant at literally the last minute and order something that takes more than a minute to prepare. It takes them five minutes to make a burger. Oh goddam, I felt like such a heel. If I'd seen that sign before making the order I would have gone somewhere else. I could only imagine the cook cursing my name--if they knew my name, that is.


I paid at the window, and I felt like an utter asshole. Then I awkwardly sat in my car, waiting, feeling like shit.


Out of the corner of my eye I saw a skunk starting to pick around a car parked behind the building. Something scared it, and it backed away with its tail in the air. I thought for a moment it was going to spray, and I was in the direct line. I did not like the idea of my car smelling like skunk. I can control skunks, but I can only use simple commands. They might not listen to me if I said more than STOP. And GO AWAY. I wrote a Goodnight, Fuckers about it near the beginning of the run, but I can't find it, and I'm too lazy to dig that deep. If you have a better discipline, check it out. It's there somewhere.


The skunk came back to the car and poked around more. It pawed the wheels. It sniffed around the back. And then I saw it go under the car. Whoever owned this car obviously worked at the restaurant, due to the parking place. I was horrified at the idea that the owner would come out after their shift, not knowing there was a skunk under their car. I kept seeing them getting squirted and spending the next few days trying to get away from the stench.


The guy at the drive thru gave me my burger. I asked him, "Do you know who owns that car?"


"Uh, yeah, I know who owns it." He said it nervously, like maybe he thought someone had damaged it. Or maybe someone was going to sue the owner. I felt I had to immediately allay his fears.


"I just saw a skunk go under the car. I'd appreciate it if you'd warn whoever owns it so they don't get sprayed tonight." Imagine working at your shitty day job, and when you're finally ready to go home to some relaxation you get sprayed by a skunk. It's ugly, man. UGLY.


He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key fob. He pressed a button, and the car turned on. It took me a moment to realize that he was the owner. I said, "Oh! Uh, in that case, be careful, man."


"Hopefully the sound of the car drove it off. Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Can I get you a drink? We have Pepsi products."


I already had my drink, but I thanked him anyway.


"You really saved me, man. Thanks for warning me."


No problem. I drove off kind of giddy from doing the right thing. It felt amazing. It felt so good that I was halfway home before I realized that this thing had started with an asshole move on my part.


I vaguely believe that the universe balances out. I don't think there's a force behind that, or a god, or whatever. But I do think that for every shitty thing you do, you do a good thing, even if it's an accident.


I do a lot more good deeds than I mention, but that one felt the best. I felt like I made up for driving the cook a little crazy with my last minute burger. (The cook was, after all, the guy I saved from a spraying. He wasn't just the guy at the drive thru window.)


Do good deeds. It feels really fucking good. You'll see.