Mean Gene Okerlund

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Earlier this week, the wrestling world was saddened by the loss of Eugene Arthur Okerlund (1942-2019). Better known to wrestling fans worldwide as Mean Gene Okerlund, Mean Gene was one of a kind. He was one of my favorite personalities in the wacky world of professional wrestling. I have so many fond memories of him conducting interviews with guys like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and the list goes on and on. Hearing of his passing at age 76 was like losing a small part of my childhood. He meant a lot to me and millions of other fans who grew up on late ’80s and early ’90s WWF. To honor his legacy, I’ve transcribed his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech from 2006. Enjoy.

MEAN GENE OKERLUND
HALL OF FAME SPEECH
APRIL 1, 2006

Please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, Hulk Hogan!

Crowd goes crazy as I'm A Real American blares
Crowd goes crazy as Real American blares

When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside…
You gotta take a stand; it don’t help to hide!

IF YOU HURT MY FRIENDS THEN YOU HURT MY PRIDE. I GOTTA BE A MAN, I CAN'T LET IT SLIDE!
IF YOU HURT MY FRIENDS THEN YOU HURT MY PRIDE.
I GOTTA BE A MAN — I CAN’T LET IT SLIDE!
I'M A REAL AMERICAN. FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF EVERY MAN!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN.
FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF EVERY MAN!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN. FIGHT FOR WHAT'S RIGHT... FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN.
FIGHT FOR WHAT’S RIGHT — FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!
*Fans chanting HOGAN HOGAN HOGAN!*
*Fans chanting HOGAN HOGAN HOGAN!*
Alright! It's good to see you guys again
Alright! It’s good to see you guys again

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Um, it was really great to be in the back and come up to Gene Okerlund…

*pauses to look at rowdy fans*  You guys OK?
*pauses to look at rowdy fans*  You guys OK?
*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
“ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!”
*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
“ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!”

*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
[I think they want Hogan to have one more match -Ed.]
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Alright you guys. Um, it, it was really great to be in the back and shake Mean Gene’s hand and say hello to him…

*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
[I think they want Hogan and Austin to have a match -Ed.]
[I think they want Hogan and Austin to have a match -Ed.]
The Hulkster takes it all in
The Hulkster takes it all in
He strokes his beard as the ravenous fans continue on
He strokes his beard as the ravenous fans continue on
Crowd starts to jeer in good fun. Classic Hogan!
Crowd starts to jeer in good fun. Classic Hogan!

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Aw, aw stop it! I knew I’d get you guys to shut up. No, thank you very much.

You know what, that would be a good match someday
You know what, that would be a good match someday

*Crowd massively pops*

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You think uh, Austin could handle the power of HULKAMANIA?

*Crowd boos a bit*

I like that. Maybe I'll grow the black beard back in
I like that. Maybe I’ll grow the black beard back in

*Crowd pops*

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ANYWAY, tonight guys, it’s a great night because I finally got a chance to shake Mean Gene’s hand and give him a hug in the back. Because usually, we’re on the run. And for 20 years, whenever I see Mean Gene, it was always last minute running.

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Trying to put the headband on my bald head, slide in front of the microphone…

LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!!
LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!!

*Crowd goes bonkers*

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That’s how we usually hooked up. But tonight I’m here to uh, induct Mean Gene into the Hall of Fame.

And we go way back. Way back
And we go way back. Way back
Ric Flair, the McMahons and Triple H look on
Ric Flair, the McMahons and Triple H look on

And I’d love to tell you a bunch of stories, but I don’t think uh, it would be really appropriate for today’s day and age.

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But anyway, Mean Gene started in this business when he was 16 years old. He started uh, in radio. And soon after he started in radio in the Twin Cities he moved right on to TV. And uh, at that time I was just getting ready to get started in the business. Just thinking about being a wrestler and had no idea that Mean Gene and myself would become very, very close friends.

Fan screams "I LOVE YOU HOGAN!"
Fan screams “I LOVE YOU HOGAN!”
Thank you brother. You're not my type but I love you too
Thank you brother. You’re not my type but I love you too
Crowd bursts into laughter, if you wheel
Crowd bursts into laughter, if you wheel ;)

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Anyway, in 1980 I had a little run here in the WWE. I worked for Vince Senior, Vince’s dad, and had a great time here.

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And after my little run here, I went to the AWA. Mr. Verne Gagne promoted and ran that company.

The great Mr. Verne Gagne (R.I.P.) looks on
The great Mr. Verne Gagne (R.I.P.) looks on

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And that’s where Verne and Greg started dialing me in to what Hulkamania was all about. Teaching me how to work like Hulk Hogan and get it together in the ring.

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During that time I became very good friends with Mean Gene. I had no idea back then how close we would be today.

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We started running around the Twin Cities. I was single at the time. Mean Gene would show me where all the parties were. We would go to all the rock and roll clubs. Stay out til the wee hours in the mornings til the sun came up. And as the days went by, we became closer and closer friends.

The Big Show enjoying the Hulkster's old stories
The Big Show enjoying the Hulkster’s old stories

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Then I got a call from Vince McMahon, and I had a chance to come back to the WWE, and I begged Mean Gene Okerlund to come with me. And thank God he came. Because at that time, the WWE was going through a huge transition. It was basically going from a very small territorial wrestling company…

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… around New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts… to this huge conglomerate that covered the globe.

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And Mean Gene — a lot of you fans don’t understand — was like the FOUNDATION of this company.

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He was there for the interviews, he was there for the wrestlers like myself that at certain times wouldn’t know what to say or what direction to go in. And Gene Okerlund basically worked harder than the wrestlers, traveling and sometimes you know, spent a lot more time on the road and in different hotel rooms doing interviews, because we used to do interviews on a daily basis.

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I had an opportunity when I was in the Twin Cities actually to get Mean Gene in the ring with me. And I had no idea that as I was trying to get Mean Gene in the ring as my tag team partner, he was more popular than the wrestlers at that time because he had been in the Twin Cities and he basically was the face of professional wrestling.

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We had a chance when we came to the WWE to get things up and rolling, and Mean Gene became the VOICE of professional wrestling. Everywhere you turned, there was another wrestler standing there.

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And if Mean Gene wasn’t there conducting the interview, it kinda wasn’t the same.

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So not only was Gene like a life support for Hulkamania and myself — LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!! — everybody else such as Bret the Hitman Hart *crowd pops massively* and a lot of the guys in this room, they depended on Mean Gene to help them a lot in the interviews.

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He was a HUGE part of this transition… from the small wrestling era to the huge arena of sports entertainment. You guys take a look here and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

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It’s my honor to have Mean Gene as a friend, and now it’s a greater honor to induct Mean Gene to the Hall of Fame… Mean Gene!

Jim Ross and friends stand up to applaud Mean Gene
Jim Ross and friends stand up to applaud Mean Gene
Classic Okerlund. Always the showman
Classic Okerlund. Always the showman
The two longtime friends embrace
The two longtime friends embrace
And I do mean LONGTIME friends
And I do mean LONGTIME friends
IT'S STILL REAL TO HIM, DAMNIT
IT’S STILL REAL TO HIM, DAMNIT :P
Thank you very much. Wow. I like that a lot
Thank you very much. Wow. I like that a lot
This guy did tell me one fib...
This guy did tell me one fib…
In that tag team match that we had he said...
In that tag team match that we had, he said…

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All you’re gonna be is a prop in the corner, and you’re not even gonna have to get in the ring with George the Animal Steele or Mr. Fuji.

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Well he got in there, cleaned house, came over, gave me a hi-five.

The ref called it a TAG
The ref called it a TAG
And I ended up in the ring with those two clowns!
And I ended up in the ring with those two clowns!

MeanGeneClowns

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*Crowd laughs* But it was a lot of fun
*Crowd laughs* But it was a lot of fun

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And yes we did... we did make the circuit BIG TIME
And yes we did… we did make the circuit BIG TIME
Jesse Ventura gave me the moniker "Mean Gene"
Jesse Ventura gave me the moniker “Mean Gene”
BUT HERE'S THE GUY
BUT HERE’S THE GUY
THAT ETCHED IT IN GRANITE
THAT ETCHED IT IN GRANITE, HULK HOGAN!

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*Crowd cheers and claps*
*Crowd cheers and claps*
I want to tell you about the talent in professional wrestling
I want to tell you about the talent in professional wrestling

Each and every one of these guys, and gals, can stand out there and cut one hell of a promo. I can be there as a prop with a microphone and throw in a question now and then, but they know how to get the job done. And I’ve had some very unique experiences through the years… which I’d like to share with you.

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I think, uh, Bobby the Brain Heenan, we’ve gone through it all.

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AWA... yes... WWE, WCW...
AWA… yes… WWE, WCW…
*What's the Weasel up to?*
The Weasel’s up to something as Sherri cracks up
The two old friends shake hands
The two old friends shake hands
Heenan grabs Okerlund by the dome
Heenan grabs Okerlund by the dome
... and plants a big wet one. Awww
… and plants a big wet one as the crowd laughs

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Classic Bobby the Brain Heenan. Rest in Peace
Classic Bobby the Brain Heenan. Rest in Peace

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Taking a look at that hair… on that package we just saw, I’m glad I went bald! *Crowd laughs*

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Verne Gagne… Verne Gagne started me out in April of 1971.

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Verne, I learned a whole lot from you. Greg Gagne and the class of ’72, with Jim Brunzell and Brockwinkel and all of the great stars of the AWA.

Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas and SD Jones look on
Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas and SD Jones look on

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You deserve recognition — finally getting it — welcome to the Hall of Fame.

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Interviews back in the old days...
Interviews back in the old days…
... were kind of the LIFEBLOOD of the WWE
… were kind of the LIFEBLOOD of the WWE
And there was a gentleman by the name of the Iron Sheik...
And there was a gentleman by the name of the Iron Sheik…
Randy Orton and the crowd chuckle knowingly...
Randy Orton and the crowd chuckle knowingly…

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The Iron Sheik… who uh… you go to work and you’re entertained *crowd laughs*

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There was a promotion — I don’t know who came up with it — it’s called The Great Turkey Tournament. And it happened around Thanksgiving time, as usual. And all of a sudden, Howard Finkel got this turkey up in Groton, Connecticut. We were doing interviews in New Haven. He brought the turkey back in a cage. I did interviews with Paul Orndorff, Dusty Rhodes and everybody else.

But here all of a sudden comes the Iron Sheik...
But here all of a sudden comes the Iron Sheik…
He opens the cage
He opens the cage
Pulls the turkey out
Pulls the turkey out
and CHOKES IT
and CHOKES IT
And slams it back down while he's cutting a promo
And slams it back down while he’s cutting a promo
THE BIRD DIES
THE BIRD DIES
Of course we couldn't use it on the air
Of course we couldn’t use it on the air
Kurt Angle and the capacity crowd erupts in laughter
Kurt Angle and the capacity crowd erupts in laughter

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Howard had to send uh, one of the boys back up to Groton, Connecticut to the turkey farm to get another bird.

Howard Finkel twinkles at the (mis)adventures
Howard Finkel twinkles at the (mis)adventures

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AND SPEAKING OF BIRDS… what about that COCKAMAMIEGobbledy Gooker?!

Edge and the crowd chuckles
Edge and the crowd chuckles

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Patterson, I know it was your idea!
Patterson, I know it was your idea!
Pat Patterson and Torrie Wilson laugh
Pat Patterson and Torrie Wilson laugh

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No that uh, that was quite an evening. All of a sudden we touted this big, huge EGG up to Hartford, Connecticut for the Survivor Series.

Survivor Series 1990
Survivor Series 1990

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And when it finally cracked open, here comes a knockoff of the San Diego Chicken… the Gobbledy Gooker.

The fans revolted and booed it out of the building
*The fans revolted and booed it out of the building*
And, of course, my friend Roddy Piper says go to it...
And, of course, my friend Roddy Piper says go to it…
... put this guy over
… put this guy over
Hector, we had a lot of fun
Hector, we had a lot of fun
But ALL is forgotten *crowd chuckles*
But ALL is forgotten *crowd chuckles*
Héctor Guerrero was the man in the chicken suit
Héctor Guerrero (middle) was the Gobbledy Gooker
Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit...
Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken…

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Couple of guys by the name of Hillbilly Jim, Cousin Junior… OH, Uncle Elmer!

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Great, great interview here. I start the interview out with Hillbilly Jim. He gives us a little bit of his own music. And finally he turns it over to Uncle Elmer.

And he proceeds to hit me over the head with a COWBELL
And he proceeds to hit me over the head with a COWBELL
The good Sarge chuckles along with the crowd
The good Sarge chuckles along with the crowd

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Now I’m down on my knees. And he’s got a handkerchief on the back of his overalls which he’s had for two months.

Takes it out and wipes it all over my face *crowd groans*
Takes it out and wipes it all over my face
Trish Stratus laughs as the crowd groans a bit
Trish Stratus laughs as the crowd groans a bit
So you do pay the price
So you do pay the price

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Ric Flair…

*Crowd goes WOOOO!*

Ric… everybody’s talked about Ric Flair.

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Ric Flair I saw as a BOUNCER in a bar… not that I went to many bars

Ric Flair and Linda McMahon are amused
Ric Flair and Linda McMahon are amused

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But he was there with Kenny Patera… in the Twin Cities. Then of course uh, he went to Verne Gagne’s camp, and cranking it up. And that was the beginning of the Nature Boy.

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Finally ended up with a career in dancing… the robe, the bar.

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I’ve seen it coast to coast, and border to border and EVEN INTERNATIONALLY!

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Jake Roberts. Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts. Jake Roberts
*Crowd pops* Thank you. By God, he was a great one
*Crowd pops* Thank you. By God, he was a great one
John Cena, Mark Henry and the crowd claps approvingly
John Cena, Mark Henry and the fans clap approvingly
[One of the best on the mic of all time, bar none -Ed.]
[One of the best on the mic of all time, bar none -Ed.]
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS

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We were doing a market specific, which was an interview that would only air in Cleveland, Ohio.

And I, I said, Jake Roberts, come on in
And I, I said, Jake Roberts, come on in

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I can’t think of a better town. The great fans here. The Browns, the Cavaliers, at that time the Cleveland Barons. I mean THEY HAD IT ALL. And I said the people in Cleveland are fantastic.

He said, STOP RIGHT THERE
He said, STOP RIGHT THERE

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Those teams are all losers. The people here don’t have any personality. They’re all ugly. And uh, he says quite candidly, I CAN’T STAND THEM.

Jerry the King Lawler laughs along with the crowd
Jerry the King Lawler laughs along with the crowd
I said, you know, my mother-in-law is from Cleveland.
I said, you know, my mother-in-law is from Cleveland
He says, I didn't like her mustache either
He says, I didn’t like her mustache either
Crowd laughs and applauds. Dusty is tickled
Crowd laughs and applauds. Dusty is tickled

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I take a look back at the years that we’ve been active with this Hall of Fame.

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And I gotta tell ya, I’ve played golf with a guy by the name of Carlton Fisk of the baseball Hall of Fame, and this…*crowd pops*and this… this honor here tonight ABSOLUTELY THRILLS ME.

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This month I’ll be 35 years… in announcing professional wrestling… in one fashion or another.

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Last Monday I celebrated my 42nd... FORTY SECOND...
Last Monday I celebrated my 42nd… FORTY SECOND

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… wedding anniversary with my lovely wife, Jeanne… *crowd pops* down there somewhere.

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And this is a very, VERY elite fraternity that we have
And this is a very, VERY elite fraternity that we have
A great group of people, both the guys and the gals
A great group of people, both the guys and the gals

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The behind-the-scenes people. They are the LIFEBLOOD of this great entertainment mecca.

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And I will say this… I’ve been PROUD to be a part of the WWE and professional wrestling for 35 years. And I’m gonna do it for another 35if at all possible.

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Superstar Billy Graham, I encourage signing up for ORGAN DONATION.

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*Crowd cheers* Thank you. I got a couple of them here. That whiskey’s a little tough on them but…

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… you gotta get the right one from a trainer. You know what I’m saying?

And in closing, finally I'd like to say this...
And in closing, finally I’d like to say this
If one day I'm called... UP TO THE BIG HOUSE...
If one day I’m called… UP TO THE BIG HOUSE
If I'm called, they'll have a funeral
If I’m called, they’ll have a funeral
I want you to bury me face down
I want you to BURY ME FACE DOWN
AND THEN...
AND THEN…
.... ALL OF MY CRITICS CAN KISS MY ASS!!
…. ALL OF MY CRITICS CAN KISS MY ASS!!
Laughter erupts as Gene receives a standing ovation
Laughter erupts as Gene receives a standing ovation
Mean Gene Okerlund goes out in style
Mean Gene Okerlund goes out in style
Batista, AKA Drax the Destroyer, loves it
Batista, AKA Drax the Destroyer, loves it
Hogan and Mean Gene embrace again
Hulk Hogan and Mean Gene embrace once again
What a night, what a career, what a legacy
What a night, what a career and what a legacy

CLOSING THOUGHTS

GeneHogan

Mean Gene Okerlund will be missed but never forgotten. He left a lasting imprint on not just my childhood but countless others who grew up watching WWF in the late ’80s and early ’90s. A true legend in every sense of the word, they broke the mold when they made Gene Okerlund. There’ll never be another one, that’s for damn sure. A tip of the cap to you, Gene. Rest in Power and thanks for all the fun memories.

WrestleFe9

Halloween II

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Friday. August 5, 2016. One of the most memorable days of my life. It was the last week of my summer break and I had to end it with a bang. And that I did. I drove hundreds of miles to Alhambra, California, to visit my childhood best friend. Nelson and I go way back. We met in Kindergarten and were best friends through 7th grade, but then my family moved in 1996 and things were never quite the same. Yet despite it all, we remained in touch throughout the years. Nelly and I share a special bond. We may go weeks, months and sometimes even years without talking, but as soon as we get back in touch it’s like we never left. Those are the best! Little did I know when I left my house to go visit Nelson in LA that he only lived 3 miles away from many of the filming locations of the 1978 classic, Halloween.

"Haddonfield" in August 2016
“Haddonfield” in August 2016

The initial plan was just to reconnect with my childhood best friend and go to Disneyland to hang out with Mickey Mouse. How serendipitous it was, then, to find Michael Myers unexpectedly lurking in Nelly’s backyard! Nelson and I were literally running down the streets of “Haddonfield” (AKA South Pasadena) hunting the Boogeyman — we were not only chasing a piece of our past but we were living it up in the present while looking forward to the future. When all the cosmic forces in the universe magically collide like that, it makes for the absolute best memories.

We visited many of the filming locations that day
We visited many of the filming locations that day
Nearly 40 years of history!
Nearly 4 decades of history!
Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Myers house 2016
Myers house 2016
Obligatory "That's me!" shot
Obligatory “That’s me!” shot
One of the most iconic scenes in horror cinema!
One of the most iconic scenes in horror history
It was so surreal standing there. Gave me goosebumps
It was SO surreal standing there. Gave me goosebumps
Michael stalked these streets nearly 40 years ago
Michael stalked these very streets nearly 40 years ago…

Hunting the Boogeyman indeed! There Nelson and I sat admiring the sights and sounds of Haddonfield. We fondly reminisced about our childhood memories growing up watching the Halloween movies together and a more innocent time of our lives. It was just what the doctor ordered to end summer with a bang and look forward to what the next chapter of our lives would bring. It’s funny how that works, eh?

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Jump to October 2018. Fall break was fast approaching as was the release of the new Halloween movie, which was rapidly racking up rave reviews. Since I had the week off from teaching, I decided to capitalize on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark was doing a 40th Anniversary bus tour of Halloween. Sure, I had seen many of the locations just two years prior, but this was the 40th Anniversary! No way was I gonna miss that, especially with it perfectly landing during my 10 day fall break. This was all in addition to attending the 40th Anniversary Halloween Convention. Without further ado, here are some pictures and memories from that awesome weekend.

Not exactly paradise but it'll do
Not exactly a view from paradise but it’ll do

Going with Nelson would have been perfect but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. He left to Thailand for the month to visit some family and since I left on a Thursday (October 11, 2018), everyone else was working. So it was the first solo trip of my life. They say everyone should experience a solo vacation at least once in their lives. I don’t know if this qualifies per se, but I’ll take it. It was a blast and a weekend getaway that I will always cherish and remember. I slept at America’s Best Value Inn. It wasn’t the most lavish of places but it sufficed for a 2 night stay.

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I left Thursday morning and hit Pasadena around 5:30 PM. After unwinding for 10 minutes in my room, I went out to grab an early dinner. The long drive had me feeling hungry as a mofo.

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There were lots of cool Halloween decorations lighting up the darkening streets of South Pasadena.

Nothing like an awesome Halloween display
Nothing like an awesome Halloween display

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Back in 2016 when I visited Nelson, he took me to Shakey’s Pizza Palor and I have been craving it ever since. It’s just pizza, fried chicken and potato wedges but damn did it hit the spot 2 years ago. So I had to come back.

Half Firehouse half Rustic Garlic Chicken
Half Firehouse half Rustic Garlic Chicken

Mmm, so good. I wish there was a Shakey’s where I live. I ate a few slices and took the rest to go.

Made for a greasy yummy midnight snack ;)
Made for a greasy yummy midnight snack ;)

I then spent the better part of 3 hours texting a new lady friend before crashing for the evening…

Friday, October 12. Let's get the show on the road!
Friday, October 12. Let’s get the show on the road :D
Halloween promotion was off the charts in LA!
Halloween promotion was off the charts in LA!
My new friend next to me said Artse. I only saw ARSE
My new friend next to me said Artse. I only saw ARSE
The house from Nightmare on Elm Street
The house from Nightmare on Elm Street
Sean Clark was our tour guide. Super cool guy
Sean Clark was our tour guide. Super cool guy

Here we are getting ready to pass by the now defunct All American Burger from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Good times.

The Doyle House
The Doyle house 2018
The Doyle House 1978
The Doyle house 1978
The Wallace House 2018
The Wallace house 2018
The Wallace House 1978
The Wallace house 1978
Fans from all over flocked to celebrate 40 years
Fans from all over flocked to celebrate 40 years
More Halloween promotion
More Halloween promotion
The promotion was LEGIT
Halloween is BACK, baby
Love the sight of Michael Myers looming large over LA
Love the sight of Michael Myers looming over LA

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Here’s the infamous spot from Halloween II where Michael Myers bumped into the boombox guy. After hearing the news that Laurie Strode has been admitted to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, Michael Myers is once more on the move.

*cue sudden sharp sound effect*
*cue sudden sharp sound effect*
And here's where we see the bouncing guy
And here’s where we see the bouncing guy
Surreal standing there so many decades later
Surreal standing there so many decades later
We even visited the church from The Fog
We even visited the church from The Fog
Mrs. Elrod's house
Mrs. Elrod’s house
The Buccaneer from Halloween III
The Buccaneer from Halloween III
Shout out to Craig sitting there!
Shout out to Craig sitting there!

I took a seat at the bar and chatted with Craig. He asked what all the commotion was for. I told him it was a bus tour celebrating 40 years of Halloween. “Shit, it’s been 40 years already?” He took the rest of the work day off to start his weekend early to drink :P It was nice chatting with the locals.

Love the character this bar has
Love the character this bar has
Sean Clark takes us to the "Garbage Day" spot
Sean Clark takes us to the “Garbage Day” spot
From Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2
From Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2
"GARBAGE DAY?!?"  *BANG*
“GARBAGE DAY?!?” *BANG*
The infamous cemetery scene from Halloween
The infamous cemetery scene from Halloween
Pee Wee's House!
Pee Wee’s House!
Pee Wee's Big Adventure
From Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Another one of my favorite films, this was a nice bonus
Another one of my favorite films, this was a nice bonus
Ah, my childhood
Ah, my childhood
The line for the hedge was insane
The line for the hedge was insane
Looking at it from this angle, its pretty ridiculous :P
Looking at it from this angle, it’s pretty ridiculous :P

America… a precious land where dozens and dozens of horror movie fans can gather to take pictures standing half obscured by a 7 foot tall hedge. God bless America indeed.

The classic opening shot
The classic opening shot
Iconic
Iconic
The restaurant from Terminator
The restaurant from Terminator (1984)
The Night They Came Home
The Night Late Afternoon They Came Home
"I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HES NOT HUMAN!"
Just wish I was here at night…
"I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HE'S NOT HUMAN!"
“I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HE’S NOT HUMAN!”
It sure would be spooky standing there at night...
It sure would be spooky standing here at night…
Definitely not spooky in the daytime :P
It loses its effect a bit in the daytime :P
Standing where Donald Pleasence once stood
Standing where Donald Pleasence once stood
Dr. Loomis, if only yo ass turned around...
Dr. Loomis, if only yo ass turned around…
The Strode House
The Strode House
Nice
Nice
I just had to
C’mon, you knew I just had to
Inside the Myers House!
Inside the Myers House!
The same house 40 years ago
The same house 40 years ago
What an honor
What an honor :)
Thank you Sean Clark for a fun tour!
Thank you Sean Clark for a fun tour!
All of a sudden all the houses went DARK...
Reminds me of the creepy scene the lights go out
Off to my Friday night dinner... SHAKE SHACK!
Off to my Friday night dinner… SHAKE SHACK!

I’ve heard the hype for Shake Shack for years now, and finally I had a chance to try it out for myself.

Mmmm
Mmmm. That milkshake was legit
Nothing like meat hanging out over the tray
Nothing like hot meat hanging out over the tray :D
Went to Target to see their Halloween display
Nothing warms my heart like a Halloween display
Went to Target to pick up a few items
From that fancy hoity-toity store… Target
Hello Jack Skellington!
Hello Jack Skellington!
Love seeing the ghoulish sights of Halloween
Love seeing the ghoulish sights of Halloween
Yo bro, didnt I kill your ass in Resident Evil?
Yo bro, thought I killed your ass in Resident Evil
Had fun driving around LA at night blasting 80s songs
Driving around LA at night blasting ’80s songs :D

There’s something about driving around LA at night playing all the old hits. I blasted Jackson Browne’s Somebody’s Baby as I drove up and down West LA. It was so damn peaceful and beautiful. The cool night air smacking my face as I left all my worries behind. Really transported me back to the ’80s. I felt like I was going to see Damone at the next light!

Act like wherever you are is the place to be
“Act like wherever you are is the place to be” -Damone

So awesome blaring this while driving around LA
So awesome to play this while driving around LA

I eventually made my way back to the hotel and ended up texting a new lady friend for 4 hours before finally crashing…

Saturday, October 13. Halloween Convention
Saturday, October 13. Halloween Convention time!
Met a new friend. Heres my convention buddy, Crystal
Met a new friend. Here’s my convention buddy, Crystal

After parking and taking the elevator down, I ran into Crystal. She flew in from St. Louis and we became Convention buddies for the day :P Shout out to Crystal. It was fun walking around the Convention and hanging out!

Tom Atkins from Halloween III was a big hit
Tom Atkins from Halloween III was a big hit
Best part was seeing a guy propose!
Best part was seeing a guy propose to his girlfriend!
Flanked by two Boogeymen!
Flanked by two Boogeymen!
Early Saturday evening I made the long drive back
Early Saturday evening I made the long drive back
I finally made it back super late and crashed like a mofo
I-5 is so damn spooky and eerie at night

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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I had a blast roaming around in LA hunting the Boogeyman once more. Although Nelson was out of the country and unable to make it, I still made the most of it. Met a bunch of cool Halloween fans and we just got to live out our fandom and toast to 40 friggin’ years. Not many movies carry with it such a legacy and fanbase as John Carpenter’s Halloween. Best of all, I’ll also remember this trip as the weekend I really hit it off with my new lady friend, who is now currently my girlfriend. We spent 7 hours texting Thursday and Friday night while I was in LA laying in my hotel bed. We had our first date on Sunday (the day I drove back from LA). The next week we went to see the new Halloween (fittingly so) and it just went from there. So yeah, I’ll always look back on that weekend fondly. It was well worth the long drive and expenses I paid to make it happen. What else can I say but thanks for all the memories and long live Halloween!

Hey, who’s that good looking guy at 1:32?! ;)

Halloween

Nothing like counting down the days to Halloween
Nothing like counting down the days to Halloween

October is quite possibly my favorite month of the year. Fall is one of my favorite seasons thanks to its darkening late afternoons, the soothing sound of leaves crunching beneath your sneakers and bundling up with horror movies galore. And my favorite horror movie of all time also happens to be one of my favorite holidays: HALLOWEEN. I have many fond memories of the holiday, but I’ve always wanted to write an article exclusively featuring the Halloween film franchise. What better night than tonight, Halloween 2018, to get that started once and for all? So light up your pumpkins, turn off the lights, grab a cold drink and kick back with me as we stroll down memory lane. But beware — the Boogeyman may be lurking right around that dark corner…

MY HALLOWEEN ORIGINS

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It all began innocently enough in 1989 when my uncle took me to a local mom and pop rental store. We frequented the small humble establishment of Video Mart on many nights, but this night proved to be one for the ages. The cover of Halloween immediately resonated with me. Despite the knife posing in a very volatile way, my 6 year old self imagined an epic movie about trick or treating. I was sold like a cheap hooker on a sordid Saturday night. Uncle Jimmy, being a super rad uncle and all, obliged and I spent the whole movie behind the couch watching bits and pieces of it with my hands covering my eyes. That very night I had a nightmare of Michael Myers stalking me. The door creaked open ever so slowly, revealing the ghastly sight of the Shape standing there in the doorway. That cold and blank mask burned a hole through my soul as I laid there in bed paralyzed. I became a fan for life from that point on. Go figure, right?

Michael and I have shared a bond for nearly 30 years
Michael and I have shared a bond for nearly 30 years

HALLOWEEN

October 25, 1978
October 25, 1978

A little over 40 years ago, John Carpenter and friends changed the entire horror genre when Halloween landed and became a smash success. Initially, it flopped as critics were harsh. But soon word of mouth spread and critics started giving it more favorable reviews. It took off like a speeding bullet and never looked back. So what made the original Halloween so damn captivating?

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The plot was simple and perfect. A masked maniac escapes a sanitarium the night before Halloween. He was admitted 15 years prior for brutally stabbing his sister to death when he was 6 years old in 1963 on a cold Halloween night. Now, exactly 15 years later in 1978, evil roams the streets once again. The Boogeyman began stalking and murdering babysitters on Halloween night in the sleepy suburbs of Haddonfield. It struck a chord with viewers because Haddonfield was essentially “Anytown, USA.” It felt like Halloween could happen on any street in America, including your very own. And there’s something very harrowing about that.

The Boogeyman could be lurking anywhere...
The Boogeyman could be lurking anywhere…

In Jaws, you’re not safe only when you’re in the water. In Friday the 13th, you’re not safe only when you visit Camp Crystal Lake. But in Halloween, you’re not safe anywhere… not even in your own backyard. It’s the idea that the Boogeyman could be hiding in the shadows as you take out the trash or that he may be lurking in that dark corner of your garage…

BoogeStairs

Michael Myers was a brilliant antagonist, and continues to stand the test of time 40 years later. A silent and swift killer, “The Shape” is a relentless force of nature. That William Shatner mask painted white is iconic and forever part of horror movie lore. For my money, Michael Myers is still the quintessential Boogeyman and the best villain the horror genre has ever produced. No one else comes close.

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Who could ever forget that classic opening shot with young Michael’s point of view? There was an eerie and uneasy feeling to this continuous tracking shot as viewers were put in the deranged shoes of Michael, stalking his sister and watching from the shadows, before ultimately stabbing her to a gruesome death.

"MICHAEL?"
“MICHAEL?”

The shot ends with Michael’s parents coming back to the house, lifting Michael’s clown mask off in the driveway and staring at him in utter disbelief. Young Michael’s blank and emotionless face added to the creepiness. It was as if a silent alarm went off in his head, triggering him to commit a most heinous act. The camera cranes back as the chilling piano theme playing in the background picks up its cadence, perfectly punctuating the moment. It was movie magic at its best. Halloween didn’t miss a single beat.

Every small town has that ONE house...
Every small town has that ONE house…

From that point on, the Myers house became the spook house. Growing up, it always felt like it was an urban legend that every little town has that one house where unspeakable horrors happen and kids are warned to stay far away from. Halloween hit on all these notes and did it better than any other horror movie.

The infamous theme was a huge key to its effectiveness. It resonates with audiences still to this day 40 years later.

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Halloween was full of classic scenes and masterfully crafted shots that represented John Carpenter’s finest work.

Oh hell no...
Oh hell no…

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And who could forget that iconic “chase scene” between Michael and Laurie Strode? Many horror movies have imitated it since in the past 4 decades, but there’s only one!

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The great thing about Michael was that he didn’t just appear at night. He shows up plenty in the middle of the day. It really gave off the feeling that danger was lurking behind every corner.

You weren't even safe at school...
You weren’t even safe at school…
Or your own backyard
Or your own backyard

Poor Laurie. For some unexplained reason, Michael set his sights on her and went on a relentless pursuit. Later sequels bogged things down by explaining how they were brother and sister, but the original did it best because the ambiguity made it effectively scary. After all, why do psychos go after the victims that they do? Nobody knows, sometimes not even the psychopaths themselves. And that’s what makes it so unsettling: it could happen to anyone. You could be going about your day innocently and innocuously enough when someone suddenly decides to make you their next target.

It's a lot scarier when it's completely random
It’s a lot scarier when it’s completely random
Michael's mannerisms were perfectly creepy
Michael’s mannerisms were perfectly creepy
"See anything you like?"
“See anything you like?”
Yes he does. Choking, in particular
Yes he does. Choking, in particular
Somehow I doubt he's ordering pizza
Somehow I doubt he’s ordering pizza
The moment you realize shit is fucked up
The moment you realize shit is fucked up
Get the hell out of there, Laurie!
Get the hell out of there, Laurie!
Props to Jamie Lee Curits who played Laurie great
Props to Jamie Lee Curtis who played Laurie great
One of the best shots in the franchise
One of the best shots in the franchise
No words to describe this
Iconic
The epic finale begins
And thus, the epic finale begins
Take that, bitch!
Take that, bitch!
"You cant kill the Boogeyman!"
“You can’t kill the Boogeyman!”
This scene scared me so much as a kid!
This scene scared me so much as a kid!
WATCH YO BACK GIRL!
WATCH YO BACK GIRL!
GAWD DAMN!
GAWD DAMN!
Wheres Doctor Loomis when you need him?
Where’s Doctor Loomis when you need him?
Ah, good old Donald Pleasence to the rescue
Ah, good old Donald Pleasence to the rescue
Often imitated, never duplicated
Often imitated, never duplicated

Halloween really is as close to being a perfect horror movie as one can get. It was really scary watching it as a kid and it has left an imprint on my soul, as it has to countless others. It’s somewhat of a slow burn — one that modern audiences watching it for the first time today may not quite get or appreciate — but that doesn’t take away from its greatness still. Michael Myers is the perfect villain and Jamie Lee Curtis played the perfect victim, bringing Laurie Strode to life. Donald Pleasence added further legitimacy to the film with his veteran acting chops in the fan favorite role of mad raving Dr. Loomis. John Carpenter’s classic Halloween theme was the icing on the cake. It’s one of the most iconic movie themes ever created. Back to the Future, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws… you can’t include such a list without Halloween firmly near if not at the very top. I give Halloween a perfect 10 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN II

October 30, 1981
October 30, 1981

I caught Halloween II not terribly long after first watching the original in 1989. It was maybe around 1990 or 1991 that once again my uncle rented me the sequel. It picks up right after the events of the first film.

Michael was shot six times and fell off a balcony
Michael was shot six times and fell off a balcony
Mere seconds later, Loomis peers over and hes gone...
Mere seconds later, Loomis peers over and he’s gone…

I love how Halloween II is a direct continuation of Halloween. We see a bewildered Dr. Loomis running out of the house. He stares at the bloody space where Michael’s body once laid. The blood dripping off his fingers indicates pure evil is on the loose. Then the next door neighbor pops out of his house and we get this memorable interaction:

Neighbor: What’s going on out here?
Loomis: Call the police! Tell the sheriff I shot him!
Neighbor: Who?
Loomis: Tell him, he’s still on the loose!
Neighbor: Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.
Loomis: [looks at the blood on his hand] You don’t know what death is!

*cue an updated frenetic Halloween theme*
*cue an updated frenetic Halloween theme*

It was such a banging intro! I get chills whenever I see it. The music continues to play as the wicked looking pumpkin cracks open slowly to reveal a skull. I always thought this movie had more of a Halloween seasonal feel than the first one.

There was something very sinister about Halloween II
There was something very sinister about Halloween II
The various POV shots were creepy as hell
The various POV shots were creepy as hell

Indeed, Halloween II was an unsettling watch. In some ways, as a kid at least, I found the sequel even scarier than the classic original. Michael creeps around in the shadows a lot here, and now knowing that he’s some kind of unstoppable Boogeyman made him more dangerous than ever before.

Look out, Mrs. Elrod!
Look out, Mrs. Elrod!
What a money shot
“He is now believed to be at large… in Haddonfield”

One of my favorite scenes from the entire franchise. That’s a money shot right there. The reporter’s haunting last line lingers in the air right as Michael picks up the kitchen knife. Great stuff.

Great job, Loomis. Dick
“IS IT HIM OR NOT?!?!”

Following on the heels of 1980’s Friday the 13th and a host of other slashers that proliferated the early ’80s, Halloween II ups the violence, body count and chaos. Not to mention the budget, which jumped from 325,000 in the original to 2.5 million in the sequel. As a result, more costly scenes were staged. Poor Ben Tramer. He just wanted to get home from the Halloween party. And what the hell was a police officer thinking going 40, 45 MPH in a residential neighborhood on Halloween of all nights?! The ’80s… what a time to be alive (or not).

HalloJLC8

Most of the movie takes place at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, which hands down ranks as the creepiest hospital in the history of movies. After hearing the news on the radio that Laurie Strode has been transferred to Haddonfield Memorial, Michael Myers makes a beeline for the hospital.

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There’s something naturally creepy about a dimly lit hospital with very few staff workers. Sure it’s not realistic in the least, but it made for one hell of a spooky setting.

Hospitals are unsettling in general. Add in Michael...
Hospitals are unsettling in general. Add in Michael…
And it becomes downright traumatizing!
And it becomes downright traumatizing!

Dark long hospital hallways, a lurking Boogeyman and a dreadful sense of isolation and despair made Halloween II a wonderfully atmospheric film.

Halloween II made me fear going to the hospital
Halloween II made me fear going to the hospital
Jamie Lee Curtis was out of it for the most part
Jamie Lee Curtis was out of sorts for the most part
Which made her more helpless
Which made her more helpless
This chase scene is almost as good as the original
This chase scene is almost as good as the original

The remixed chase theme makes my hair stand up on end…

I was freaking out as a kid watching it!
I was freaking out as a kid watching it!
It had multiple chase scenes, in fact
It had multiple chase scenes, in fact
This one was pretty good in its own right
This one was pretty good in its own right
Robo Myers was scary indeed
Robo Myers was scary indeed

GlassShatter

There was something frightening about the way he simply walked through the glass window without so much as flinching a single muscle. He was robotic and relentless — the perfect killing machine. I could barely watch it as a kid.

The mask isnt quite as good, though
Look at those eyes… or don’t, rather
Speaking of eyes
Speaking of eyes
Siiiick
Siiiick
Loomis and Michael go out in a blaze of glory
Loomis and Michael go out in a blaze of glory
Literally
Literally

CreepHosp

Far from a perfect sequel, Halloween II nevertheless is more than serviceable. It pairs well with the original Halloween since it picks up directly following the events of the first film, which means both movies make for a nice little Halloween marathon. Laurie Strode’s character has understandably been nerfed but I found myself sometimes wishing she was written a little better and had more to do. Halloween II fails to recapture the success and magic of the original, but it’s a solid sequel especially when you compare it to the other sequels to come. I give it a very respectable 7.5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

October 22, 1982
October 22, 1982

I remember my dad renting this from Hollywood Video circa 1994. The cover intrigued me, as I thought a wicked witch would be the film’s main villain. And the idea of a killer witch on the prowl on Halloween night really captured my imagination. The cover had three spooky looking trick or treaters and I loved the tagline: The Night No One Comes Home. Very clever play off the first film’s tagline: The Night He Came Home. The witch looming over the kids was super sinister looking as well, and I loved the way they used the red shade to give it a really ominous aura. But when I actually saw the movie, I got something completely different. Not bad different, just it wasn’t what I expected. And at the time, being around 10 or so, I didn’t like different. I wanted Michael Myers or at the very least, a killer witch. I know it would be cliché but it would have fit Halloween so perfectly.

Love this Goosebumps inspired creation!
Love this Goosebumps inspired creation!
Really wasn't a bad idea, and the masks were sick
Really wasn’t a bad idea, and the masks were sick

Halloween III: Season of the Witch marked a drastic change in the series. Michael Myers was nowhere to be found, other than a TV cameo, and the hope of the producers was to turn Halloween into an anthology series. It made sense on many levels but the critics killed it. No Michael, no mas.

If only it wasn't billed as Halloween III
If only it wasn’t billed as Halloween III

However, taken on its own, this isn’t a bad horror movie. In fact, it’s garnered a bit of a cult following in the past 15 years or so. I haven’t watched it in nearly 25 years though, so I can’t accurately give it a rating.

HALLOWEEN 4: RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

October 21, 1988
October 21, 1988

He’s baaaaaack. After a long grueling 7 year hiatus, and coming home in time for the 10 year anniversary, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was a nice return to basics. Haddonfield, Illinois. Sleepy suburbs. Halloween decorations. Dr. Loomis rambling and raving about evil. And of course, a certain deranged masked maniac.

Meet newcomer Danielle Harris
Meet newcomer Danielle Harris

Laurie Strode was written to have died in a car crash, and the new star of the show was her daughter, Jamie. Played by Danielle Harris, the movie revolves around her and Michael’s obsession to kill his niece.

What a creeper
What a creeper

H4Shot3

The mask was a little weird looking to me but it’s a pretty solid sequel. The best thing it’s got going for it is atmosphere.

Halloween 4 kicks off with a series of amazing shots
Halloween 4 kicks off with a series of amazing shots
It completely captures the autumn season
It completely captures the autumn season
Especially in the Midwest, where Haddonfield is
Especially in the Midwest, where Haddonfield lies
It totally sets the mood proper!
It totally sets the mood proper!
I just wish the rest of the film lived up to this
It just screams HALLOWEEN
Seeing the title loom over the farmland was amazing
Seeing the title loom over the farmland was perfect
Scene with Reverend Sayer was awesome
Scene with Reverend Sayer was awesome

Sayer: You’re huntin’ it, ain’t ya? Yeah, you’re huntin’ it all right. Just like me.
Loomis: What are you hunting, Mr. Sayer?
Sayer: Apocalypse, end of the world, Armageddon. It’s always got a face and a name. *pause for a swig* I’ve been huntin’ the bastard for 30 years, give or take. Come close a time or two… too damn close. *pause for self-reflection, with slight head shake* You can’t kill damnation, mister. It don’t die like a man dies.

H4Shot2

Michael was back to his lurking ways. The film is a little slow in spots, but there’s no denying it’s packed with atmosphere.

You can almost feel the chill in the air
You can almost feel the chill in the air

Rachel Carruthers was such a great character. She’s no Laurie Strode, but she made the absence of Jamie Lee Curtis a bit more bearable. Total girl next door vibe to Rachel and she was just cool as shit.

It was a nice comeback for the Boogeyman
It was a nice comeback for the Boogeyman
One of the creepiest endings ever in a horror film
One of the creepiest endings ever in a horror film

Halloween 4 ends ominously with Jamie pulling a 1963 Michael Myers. Dr. Loomis trying to shoot her at the bottom of the staircase as he screams “NOOO! NOOOO!!” was very unsettling to say the least. Halloween 4 has its share of blemishes but is a solid return to form, and many fans regard it as one of the better sequels in the franchise. I give Halloween 4 a 7 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN 5: REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

October 13, 1989
October 13, 1989

It’s fitting that Halloween 5 was released on a Friday the 13th. Less than a year removed from Halloween 4, Halloween 5 was rushed into production and theatres. Critics were very harsh on it and Michael would disappear for 6 years following this “debacle.” Of course, your mileage may vary.

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The dynamic duo of Jamie and Rachel return. Unfortunately, similar to her “mom” in Halloween II, Jamie is subdued and doesn’t talk for much in the film due to the trauma of last year’s events. I wish she wasn’t so limited. In another dumb decision, they killed off Rachel in the first act and the film heads downhill after that. Hey Rachel, Bryan Cranston from Godzilla says hi.

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The good doc also returned. Loomis is perhaps crazier than ever, even threatening to offer up Jamie as bait. He’s pretty much a caricature at this point, but a beloved caricature nonetheless.

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The film opens up with a hermit taking care of Michael… supposedly for the past year?! It’s a bit ridiculous, but I have to admit there’s a certain cheesy charm to it that I can appreciate. Of course, Halloween nears and the alarm in Michael’s deranged mind goes off. He grabs the mask…

Well, you know the rest
Well, you know the rest

Hallowe5

Speaking of the mask, there’s been a lot of hate on the mask here. But I actually kind of like it. I like it more than the Halloween 4 mask, that’s for sure. Sometimes referred to as the “long neck” mask, it’s got a certain creepiness to it.

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Speaking of masks, at one point Michael dons the “Brute” mask in a very chilling and effective scene. Though heavily flawed, Halloween 5 isn’t without some nice moments.

Michael unmasked from the original
Michael unmasked from the original
Michael unmasked from Halloween 5
Michael unmasked from Halloween 5

I remember the advertising for Halloween 5 being that audiences can now see Michael’s face. I always thought that funny since we sort of see his face back in the very first movie. Michael even cries in part 5. That’s just wrong.

Keep your mask on, Michael, even if some hate it
Keep your mask on, Michael, even if some hate it
Barn scenes were pretty spooky
Barn scenes were pretty spooky
Loved the fog
Loved the eerie fog
Ouch
Ouch
Damn, he didnt get to see the 90s did he
Damn. He didn’t get to see the ’90s, did he
Just you and me, Michael
Just you and me, Michael
To the gawd damn bitter end
To the gawd damn bitter end
Not even they were able to save things
Not even they were able to save this film
How most fans feel about Halloween 5
How most fans feel about Halloween 5

Truth be told, it’s a guilty pleasure for me. I know it isn’t good, and it certainly represents a down point in the series. In fact, Michael would go dormant for 6 years following this critical and commercial flop (it was the lowest grossing Halloween film at just 11.6 million dollars). But for me at least, there’s a certain charm to it that I sort of dig (and embrace). It’s got this European Gothic vibe to it and it’s pretty creepy in a few spots. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely one of the weaker entries in the franchise but I don’t find it nearly as unwatchable as many do. I give Halloween 5 a 5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN 6: CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

September 29, 1995
September 29, 1995

Halloween 6 has a messy backstory. It went through many script revisions and studio issues. The theatrical version is a plodding mess, but I quite liked the Producer’s Cut. Originally titled Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers, one day someone jokingly pitched The Curse of Michael Myers because the film felt cursed and was one big headache. The joke stuck and that became the subtitle of the film. Fun fact: Pink Panther and Halloween are the only franchises to have the subtitles of Return, Revenge and Curse. And why oh why the release date of September 29? Could they not have waited at least one more week if not two? I guess it’s fitting; it’s a sign that this movie was full of questionable choices.

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I do like certain parts of Halloween 6, though. Especially the Producer’s Cut. It’s full of Halloween atmosphere and it was just nice to see Michael again after a 6 year hiatus.

The remix theme is badass! I like how it has sort of this violent techno vibe to it. Really differentiates it from the other versions.

Still stalking after all these years
Still stalking after all these years
Never gets tired seeing him pop out of the shadows
Never gets old seeing him pop out of the shadows

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He clearly let himself go a bit, too
He clearly let himself go a bit
But his walk stalk game was still on point
But his walk stalk game was still on point
The red lighting made it even scarier
The mask looked vicious in certain shots
And looked a bit gentler in others. Fascinating
Yet looked a bit gentler in this scene…

A young Paul Rudd played Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original film. This was before his breakout performance in Clueless, which came out before Halloween 6 despite Halloween 6 being filmed first. Michael Myers vs. Ant-Man… an interesting thought indeed.

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This was Donald Pleasance’s final appearance in the Halloween franchise, as the 75 year old veteran actor died in February of 1995. There were a ton of reshoots that took place following his death. It’s sad that he had to go out in this way, but part of me feels perhaps he wouldn’t have it any other way: fighting Michael to the bitter end.

He was a vicious bastard in 6
He was a vicious bastard in 6

Halloween 6 was universally panned at the box office. Made on a budget of 6 million, it only grossed 15 million and we wouldn’t see Michael for another 3 years. I dislike the theatrical version but I am a fan of the Producer’s Cut, even if it is still somewhat of a jumbled mess. I was never keen on the whole Thorn mythology that parts 4, 5 and 6 adopted but I do like the Halloween atmosphere of part 6. I rate the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 a 7.5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN: H20

August 5, 1998
August 5, 1998

Other than its nonsensical release date, I’m a fan of Halloween: H20. This was the big 20th anniversary bash for Halloween and its original scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, was back in the fold. Sure, it’s a bit teeny boppy and it has some of that Scream spirit to it, but it was a fun sequel and a satisfying end to the series (until it wasn’t, of course).

Welcome back, Jamie
Welcome back, Jamie
Fun fact: I drew this for an art class I took in high school
Fun fact: I drew this for an art class I took in high school
I wanted to give him orange hair though :P
I wanted to give him orange hair though :P
Shout out to my art teacher from 2000!
Shout out to my art teacher from 2000!
The mask was weird, though
The mask was a bit weird
The random crappy CGI shots didnt help either
The random crappy CGI shots didn’t help either
Why, oh why?
Why, oh why? Is this Alien Michael Myers?!

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Featuring then teen heart throb Josh Harnett and Michelle Williams from the hit TV show Dawson’s Creek, it was clear which audience H20 was catering to.

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It also featured LL Cool J, who was the first African American in the series since Gloria Glifford portrayed Mrs. Alves, a no-nonsense charge nurse at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in Halloween II (way back in 1981). LL Cool J was a huge hip hop star and he did a great job as Ronnie, stealing each scene he was in.

H20 also featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
H20 also featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
And a returning Nancy Stephens!
And a returning Nancy Stephens!

NurseChamb

Nancy played Nurse Chambers in the first two Halloween films.

It was a lovely cameo that gave the film some history
It was a lovely cameo that gave the film some history
Speaking of history...
Speaking of history and cameos…

A really nice scene occurs when Janet Leigh shows up. She was Jamie Lee Curtis’ real life mom, and the star actress of Psycho (the original horror film many like to call it). She even throws in the clever line “If I may be maternal for a moment…” this was a nice wink and nod to the diehard fans out there.

What a reunion. 20 years in the making
What a reunion. 20 years in the making

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I love how Laurie Strode fights back and confronts her monster. She was a real badass in this one.

And thats the end of Michael and the series
And that’s the end of Michael Myers

H20Shot11

I remember catching H20 in theatres with my uncle and friend. I really liked it. Upon repeated viewings though, there are a few areas that could have used improvement. But overall, it’s a fun ride that’s well paced and gives us a mostly satisfying finale. It’s perhaps a bit too teeny boppy but it was nice to see Michael back in the limelight making a killing at the box office. H20 raked in a cool 55 million dollars. I rate Halloween: H20 a 7.5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION

July 12, 2002 Summer -- really?!
July 12, 2002 (Summer — really?!)

Halloween Resurrection is often considered as the worst entry of the franchise (when not counting the Rob Zombie versions). Jamie Lee Curtis returns for an awkward cameo where she apparently dies like nothing within the first 10 minutes or so. It was so jarring and somewhat negated the effectiveness of H20.

Why am I in this piece of shit movie???
Why am I in this piece of shit movie???

A product of its time, Halloween Resurrection played around with found footage and reality TV. It’s not without a few fleeting moments of mediocrity and it even grossed a very respectable 30 million dollars. But the critics and fans hated it alike, and Michael was buried for 5 more years until Rob Zombie came along…

HallRes2

The mask was just weird. And as any Halloween diehard fan will tell ya… Busta Rhymes going Bruce Lee on Michael Myers’ ass was just plain goofy and wrong.

HallRes3

It’s not unwatchable but it’s definitely my least watched Halloween movie of the first 8 films. It just strays too far away from what made the Halloween movies so effective and fun to watch. I give Halloween Resurrection a 4 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN (2007)

August 31, 2007
August 31, 2007

Rob Zombie’s reimagining of Halloween was a very polarizing film. There are parts I liked a lot and other parts I could have done without.

It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in the mix
It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in the mix

Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Strode in Halloween 4 and 5, returns to the series but as a different character. How’s that for bizarre and confusing?

"Laurie, whos the Boogeyman?"
“Laurie, who’s the Boogeyman?”
Michaels mask was sick
Michael’s mask was sick
Very sinister and evil looking
Very sinister and evil looking

The 1978 original is a million times better but I kind of like this one. Rob Zombie had some good ideas and it came together fairly well minus a few missteps. I give Halloween (2007) a 6 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN II (2009)

August 28, 2009
August 28, 2009

I hated this movie. The less said, the better. I give Halloween II (2009) a 1 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN (2018)

October 19, 2018
October 19, 2018

After being dormant for nearly a damn decade, Michael Myers exploded back on the scene with a bang. The highest grossing film of the franchise to date, Halloween was met with mostly positive reviews. I caught it with my girlfriend and we both liked it, but we also both agreed that it was missing that wow factor. It’s a well made film but there were a few uneven instances where the film never quite hit that next gear for me.

Good times with the GF
Good times with the GF

NewHallo2

It was nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis return for the 40 year reunion. She does a bang up job as usual. Unfortunately, the writing and direction was a little wonky. Laurie Strode made some questionable decisions that took me out of the moment. For example, for someone who was preparing for Michael for the last 40 years, why would she stand against the front door with glass knowing that Michael could easily break the glass and grab her? Little details like this disappointed and frustrated me. Jamie Lee Curtis did the most she could but a film is hampered when a script is written poorly.

Michael's a badass, for sure
Happy 40th anniversary, Boogeyman

I’m happy to see the success for this latest Halloween, knowing that Michael will stalk the streets of Haddonfield again. However, I was slightly underwhelmed by this movie, especially given all the hype and rave reviews. I still like it, but I didn’t love it. I give Halloween (2018) a 6.5 out of 10.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Halloween-posters

11 movies (10 of which he appeared in), multiple timelines and directors… yet through it all, Halloween continues to endure. It’s one of the most beloved horror franchises of all time. Despite a handful of questionable sequels of varying quality, the series continues to power through. It’s easily my favorite horror franchise of all time and that will never change.

MichaelStal

Michael Myers is timeless. An icon then, and an icon now. He is the quintessential Boogeyman. That stalker in the night that roams the dark streets and backyards, waiting patiently for his next victim. The mask, the mannerisms, the music… it all works like a perfect symphony to give Michael the life that has carried him through the different generations. He’ll always live, because pure evil can never die. More importantly, the fan support deems it so. Halloween will rage on, and Michael’s warpath will never truly end. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

MY PERSONAL RANKING

1. Halloween (1978)
2. Halloween: H20
3. Halloween II (1981)
4. Halloween 6 (Producer’s Cut)
5. Halloween 4
6. Halloween (2018)
7. Halloween 5
8. Halloween (2007)
9. Halloween Resurrection
10. Halloween II (2009)

Of Mastodons and Men

Ahhh -- childhood summer memories
I get by with a little help from my friends…

The Wonder Years. Sometimes dramatic… sometimes hilarious… always able to strike just the right emotional chord. Growing up, I loved The Wonder Years. I still do in fact; it’s my favorite TV show of all time. Launched in January of 1988, the show took its audience on a magical tour of suburban life in America in the late 1960s, viewed through the lens of teenager Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage). The first person narrative (voiced by Daniel Stern) enabled us to see the world through the eyes of young Kevin Arnold, who was coming of age in an age of turbulence and perpetual change. Like so many who watched the show, I was able to easily identify with Kevin — he was the prototypical everyday teenager. On a personal side note, the best compliment I’ve ever received in regards to my writing is that it evokes nostalgic memories of the infamous voice-over but I digress.

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Last month saw the 25th anniversary of the final Wonder Years episode, Independence Day, which aired on May 12, 1993. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since The Wonder Years went off the air, so continuing in the tradition of A Very Cutlip Christmas, I figure now is the perfect time to share yet another one of my favorite episodes from this seminal series.

This is a story of roots.

A story of relationships.

And a story of knowing yourself.

It’s a story…

OF MASTODONS AND MEN

"Primitive man. Warrior. Hunter. Tool maker."
“Primitive man. Warrior. Hunter. Tool maker.”
"Slayer of mastodons."
“Slayer of mastodons.”
"Armed with only his instincts and a spear... he roamed the earth in tribes."
“Armed with only his instincts and a spear…
he roamed the earth in tribes.”

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In a lot of ways, high school boys are a lot like primitive man.

They foraged for their food
They forage for their food
They fashioned cruel tools
They fashion cruel tools
And of course, they hang out in groups
And of course, they hang out in groups

In fact, about the only difference between my clan and neanderthal man was…

*ahem*  "Any questions?"
*ahem*  “Any questions?”
Neanderthals had bigger brains
Neanderthals had bigger brains

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“Hey, you guys wanna shoot some hoops after school?”

“Oh yeah, count me in.”

“Hey Kev, you playing?”

“Sure.”

The tribe. That year we were inseparable. We faced all the challenges.

“KEVIN!”

All but one, anyway. Women
All but one, anyway. Women
"Uh, look guys, I'm gonna hafta take a raincheck, k?"
“Uh, look guys, I’m gonna hafta take a raincheck…”

Julie Aidem. We been going out for 2 weeks. And to put it mildly…

"Carry my books?"   "Sure." "You don't mind?"  "Are you kidding!"
“Carry my books?”  “Sure.”
“You don’t mind?”  “Are you kidding!”

She appreciated the little things about me.

“You know, you have a really cute laugh.”

“Really? Hahahaha.”

She liked my laugh.

“I thought about you today, Kevin.”

“Yeah, I was thinking about you too.”

She thought about me… lots.

"I thought that you look REALLY good in stripes." "No kidding?"
“I thought that you look REALLY good in stripes.”
“No kidding?”

“Yeah, but with the collar up. You know, it really suits you.”

That was Julie. She watched over me. Took care of me. Civilized me.

"How's that?" "SO MUCH BETTER!" Let's face it. She was good for me
“How’s that?”  “SO MUCH BETTER!”
Let’s face it. She was good for me

And if that wasn’t enough.

“Hey Julie! Hey Kevin!”

She had a great dad, too.

"How's the car coming, Mr. Aidem?"
“How’s the car coming, Mr. Aidem?”

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Ben?”

“… Ben.”

“Well, finally got that problem solved. Now she’s ready for a little spin.”

I admired the guy. He had hobbies, he was funny. A real man’s man.

A man who was surrounded by women...
A man who was surrounded by women…

“Honey, did I hear you say you’re going to take the sports car out for a drive?”

“Thought so, yeah.”

“You remember our agreement: You ONLY drive the sports car on the weekends.”

“Heh, I don’t know what got into me!”

“He’d be off driving it DAY and NIGHT if I let him, wouldn’t you, Ben?”

Not that Julie’s mom wasn’t every bit as fun loving as her dad.

“Hey Kevin, why don’t you stay for dinner?”

“I’d love to, June!”

She was just more... civilized
She was just more… civilized
"I mean... Mrs. Aidem."
“I mean… Mrs. Aidem.”
After all, like mother...
After all, like mother…
... like daughter
… like daughter

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All in all, it was quite a household. Filled with doilies and laced curtains. And of course, Pupu.

“Quiet, Pupu! Quiet!”

“I don’t get it, Daddy. You’re the only one that Pupu barks at.”

“That’s because Pupu loves Daddy!”

"Oh Ben, the salad fork."
“Oh Ben, the salad fork.”

The Aidem family was a model of decorum. There may have been a reason for that.

The girls outnumbered the boys by a ratio of 4 to 1. 5 to 1 if you counted the pooch.
The girls outnumbered the boys by a ratio of 4 to 1.
5 to 1 if you counted the pooch.

“So Kev, who do you like for the World Series?”

“I don’t know. I think I like the Tigers, or maybe the Cubs.”

“Oakland’s gonna knock everyone else on their butts.”

“DAD-DY!”

“BEN!”

“Oh, sorry. NOT at the dinner table!”

Still, I had to admit, I liked it there. It was nice being in a civilized home
Still, I had to admit, I liked it there.
It was nice being in a civilized home
"Oh Ben, fix your collar."
“Oh Ben, fix your collar.”

A home where people actually said please, and used butter knives. As oppose to say…

The Arnold house
The Arnold house
We were a house of men
We were a house of men
A house of slobs
A house of slobs
"Milk and cookies?"   "Yeah, sure"
“Milk and cookies?”  “Yeah, sure.”

Yeah, this was the life. Catered to. Coddled. Taken care of.

"So, did you miss me?"  "... You just went upstairs to get some cookies..."
“So, did you miss me?”
“… You just went upstairs to get some cookies…”
"I MISSED you."
“I missed you.”
"... Well, yeah. Yeah! Of course I missed you."
“… Well, yeah. Yeah! Of course I missed you.”

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Still, at two and a half weeks into the relationship, it was beginning to occur to me that civilization was not without its discontents.

"What are you thinking?" She asked me that a lot
“What are you thinking?”
She asked me that a lot
"I'm thinking... these are great cookies!" "Well tomorrow I'll make brownies." Tomorrow? *Pupu barking*
“I’m thinking… these are great cookies!”
“Well tomorrow I’ll make brownies.”
Tomorrow?  *Pupu barking*
"Hello?" "Oh, daddy must be home." "Anyone down here?" "Hey Ben." "Hey Kev, how you doing? New muffler, check it out!"
“Hello?”  “Oh, daddy must be home.”
“Anyone down here?”  “Hey Ben.”
“Hey Kev, how you doing? New muffler, check it out!”

“Well that’s great, daddy….”

“… OH yeah, lemme get something outta my tool box and I’ll get out of your way.”

Hmmmm.

*Pupu continues barking at Ben*
*Pupu continues barking at Ben*

“Daddy! Look what you’re doing to Pupu! You’re hurting her feelings!”

“Oh, I don’t know what got into me!”

“I’ll go get her a biscuit.”

And suddenly, the thought struck me this guy might appreciate a little male bonding.

"So Ben, this is a great cell you got here."
“So Ben, this is a great cell you got here.”
"A few too many linens for my taste." "Oh, yeah, me too."
“A few too many linens for my taste.”
“Oh, yeah, me too.”
"Some dog."
“Some dog.”
"She's no Duke." "Duke?" *Julie returns* "I got the biscuit! Pupu, I love you so much."
“She’s no Duke.”  “Duke?”  *Julie returns*
“I got the biscuit! Pupu, I love you so much.”
"I'll tell you about Duke some other time."
“I’ll tell you about Duke some other time.”

And there ya had it.

“Did you miss me?”

So much for guy talk.

“Yeah, of course I missed you.”

The next day the guys were giving me a hard time about Julie.

“Look, I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to ask anyone! I’m playing football today after school, and that’s that!”

“Yeah sure Kev, whatever you say.”

“I’ll be there!”

But there was one little problem. Leaving the bathroom, I heard it…

"KEVIN! I missed you!"
“KEVIN! I missed you!”

Maybe that’s when I began to realize… the undeniable truth.

Julie Aidem had me on a very short leash
Julie Aidem had me on a very short leash
"Primitive man derived his power from the tribe."
“Primitive man derived his power from the tribe.”
"But occasionally, one of its members betrayed the rest."
“But occasionally, one of its members betrayed the rest.”
"Soon, this lone hunter was set adrift from the pack." "Shunned, and ostracized."
“Soon, this lone hunter was set adrift from the pack.
Shunned, and ostracized.”

“So Paul, you wanna play some football this afternoon?”

“You got it, Chuck.”

By the next day, one thing was clear.

“Hey guys, what time you playing?”

"You guys hear something?" In my tribe, my name was Mud
“You guys hear something?”
In my tribe, my name was Mud

*Bell rings*

Still, I had one skill primitive man did not: I could whine.

“C’mon guys!  I wanna play!”

“Look Kev, you bailed on us yesterday, and you didn’t even tell us.”

“I got tied up! It was an emergency!”

“It was JULIE, wasn’t it?”

“It was ONE time. I promise, it’ll never happen again. Please?”

And with that, I bared my soul
And with that, I bared my soul
Thrown myself on the mercy of the tribe
Thrown myself on the mercy of the tribe
And they, in turn, pronounced their verdict
And they, in turn, pronounced their verdict
"What the hell."
“What the hell.”
And so, that afternoon, I was reborn
And so, that afternoon, I was reborn

A few hours with the guys and I remembered who I was.

Kevin Arnold: Runner. Passer. Hunter. Warrior. AND IT FELT GOOD
Kevin Arnold: Runner. Passer. Hunter. WARRIOR.
AND IT FELT GOOD

Yep, by the time I came home I was a new man.

“Hi mom.”

“Kevin, you have a visitor.”

ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!
ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!
"Hi Kevin!"
“Hi Kevin!”

“… H-Hi. I wasn’t expecting you. So Julie, what’s going on?”

“Oh nothing. I thought you were coming over today.”

OK, it was clear we reached a critical juncture. It was time to set ground rules, here and now.

“Julie…”

“Yes, Kevin?”

“Every once in a while, guys gotta, you know, hang out with other guys.”

And there it was. Gentle but somehow, firm.

“I guess you forgot what today is!”

“Today?”

“It’s our 3 week anniversary!”

“It is?”

“I got you a gift!”

Awww geez.

“You did?”

“Open it!”

Made you wonder if they knew how to gift wrap crow.

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah! I- I love it, it’s great, it’s it’s…”

Striped.

“… striped!”

“You know Kevin, if you wanna be with the guys sometimes, I understand.”

“No, no, that’s not it. It’s just –“

"I wouldn't want you to feel like I'm smothering you." "No! Don't be ridiculous. You're not smothering me."
“I wouldn’t want you to feel like I’m smothering you.”
“No! Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not smothering me.”
"Because if you don't think we're right for each other..." "No Julie, I definitely think we're right for each other." "Oh that's what I think, Kevin!"
“Because if you don’t think we’re right for each other…”
“No Julie, I definitely think we’re right for each other.”
“Oh that’s what I think, Kevin!”

And right about then, something went wrong.

“So maybe it’s time we made more of a commitment.”

“Commitment?”

“Oh Kevin! This is so exciting! I can’t wait to tell everyone we’re going steady! But first we have to tell mommy and daddy at dinner.”

And suddenly, somehow, I was going steady
And suddenly, somehow, I was going steady

Not that I’d actually agreed to anything, you understand. Not technically, anyway.

OMAM61

Still, that night outside Julie’s house, I knew I didn’t have the courage to turn back.

"Hey Kev!"
“Hey Kev!”
"I hear there's gonna be a little announcement tonight."
“I hear there’s gonna be a little announcement tonight.”

Great, the whole family knew. And not only that, now we were gonna have the talk.

The father-of-the-bride speech.

About the birds.

About the bees.

"Duke loved nights like this."
“Duke loved nights like this.”

About… Duke?

"Was Duke your dog?" "Duke was a hell of a dog."
“Was Duke your dog?”
“Duke was a hell of a dog.”

“Duke was a black lab. Eighty pounds. He was so full of fun, and so full of spirit. He was a real man’s best friend kind of dog, you know. And Duke wasn’t afraid of anything.”

I could tell Duke was more than just a dog to this guy
I could tell Duke was more than just a dog to this guy

“What happened to him?”

“Ran away the day I proposed to June. I still think about him you know. Every now and then, at night…

... I SWEAR, I can still hear Duke's howl..." *Long silence except for the chirping of crickets*
I SWEAR, I can still hear Duke’s howl…”
*Long silence except for the chirping of crickets*

“BEN! Dinner!”

“… C’mon.”

That night I did my best to forestall the inevitable
That night I did my best to forestall the inevitable

“Kevin…”

“Uhh… terrific mash potatoes, Mrs. Aidem.”

“Thank you, Kevin.”

But then, I suppose they don’t call it the inevitable for nothing.

“Kevin, don’t you have an announcement to make?”

At least not around the Aidem household.

“Uhhhh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. I do…”

“Kevin, I think you should stand up.”

And so, it arrived. The last exit. The final whistle
And so, it arrived. The last exit. The final whistle

“Well…”

And that’s when it happened.

"Honey, fix your collar."
“Honey, fix your collar.”
It was... weird
It was… weird

OMAM72

"I thought Pupu only barked at you Daddy!"
“I thought Pupu only barked at you Daddy!”

It was horrible. It was amazing. Almost as if Pupu knew I was about to join the ranks of Aidem men.

And then, from out of nowhere, I SWEAR I HEARD IT
And then, from out of nowhere, I SWEAR I HEARD IT
OW-OOOOOOOOH!!! It was a clarion call. And I knew what I had to do. It was now or never
“OW-OOOOOOOOH!!!”  It was a clarion call.
And I knew what I had to do. IT WAS NOW OR NEVER
"NOOOOO!!!!"
“NOOOOO!!!!”

OMAM77

“Julie, I can’t do this. I just CAN’T! I like my collar down! And I HATE wearing striped shirts! And I don’t like cookies! And another thing, I don’t want to spend every minute with you. I like hanging out with the guys! I’m a HUNTER! And a WARRIOR!!

OMAM78

"AND WHAT ABOUT THE MASTODONS?!"
“AND WHAT ABOUT THE MASTODONS?!”

OMAM80

OMAM81

OK, maybe I got a little carried away about the mastodon thing, but I wasn’t just speaking for myself. I was speaking for all mankind. For Ben.

And even, for Duke, wherever he was
And even, for Duke, wherever he was

“I can’t do it, Julie. We can’t go steady.”

*Aidem girls run off crying*

And then, it was over. Except for one thing  "I think you better go, Kev." "... Good idea."
And then, it was over. Except for one thing
“I think you better go, Kev.”  “… Good idea.”
"Man. Fire maker. Tool maker. Thinker of complex thoughts."
“Man. Fire maker. Tool maker.
Thinker of complex thoughts.”
"Noble. Furious. Dignified."
“Noble. Furious. Dignified.”

OMAM86

Over the next few weeks I rejoined my tribe. And in a lot of ways, I was back where I belonged.

*honk honk*
*honk honk*

I guess I knew there was still some unfinished business.

Between Ben and me at least.

I guess I knew there was still some unfinished business Between Ben and me at least
“I’ll be right back, guys.”

“Hey Ben.”

“Hey Kevin. I thought that was you. You look pretty good out there.”

“Thanks. So… how’s Julie?”

“Oh she found a new guy. They’re going steady.”

“Huh, no kidding!”

“Yeah, he looks great in stripes.”

“I bet… hey! You got the car out on a Thursday huh!”

"Yeah, I thought I go a little crazy."
“Yeah, I thought I go a little crazy.”

And in a way, I couldn’t help thinking I had something to do with it.

"Well, it was nice seeing you again, Ben."
“Well, it was nice seeing you again, Ben.”
"Hey Kevin... one day you're gonna see."  "What's that?" "It's not that bad..."
“Hey Kevin, one day you’re gonna see.”  “What’s that?”
“It’s not that bad…”
"... having people who care for you, you know?"
“… having people who care for you, you know?”
I guess Ben understood something. Something I'd learn... in time. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."
I guess Ben understood something.
Something I would learn… in time.
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

OMAM94

But me, I was just a sixteen-year-old guy, and the way I saw it, there were still a lot of mastodons yet to be slayed.

*beep beep*
*beep beep*

OMAM96

OMAM97

OMAM98

"OW-OOOOOOOOH!!!!!"
“OW-OOOOOOOOH!!!!”

JULIE AIDEM, MEET SARAH FRANKLIN

Some say high school are some of the most critical years of your life. You made friends, enemies and memories. Sometimes you even broke hearts.

Looking back at my high school yearbook I see a lot of faces that pass through the years. Some I wonder how they’re doing and what they’re up to. Others, I wonder if they ever wonder about me. And then… there’s Sarah Franklin.

OMAM100

December 1999.

I was a junior in high school. Coincidentally, much like Kevin Arnold, my tale happened when I too was 16.

It was a language arts class, and we were watching a great film called Smoke Signals.

OMAM103

OMAM104

OMAM105

Amazing coming-of-age road trip movie
Amazing coming-of-age road trip movie

It seemed like an ordinary day, a day just like any other. Little did I know, it was anything but.

So I’m sitting there enjoying the movie when I started to notice Sarah giving me funny looks. I didn’t know why exactly, but I knew something was brewing.

And surprise surprise, something was.

THE NOTE

On my way out of class that day I felt a tap. When I turned around, Sarah Franklin shoved an envelope in my hands and dashed off. It happened so fast I almost couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to involve the guys with the matter, I kept silent about it throughout lunch. When I got home I ripped the envelope open.

Whatever was inside… I knew one thing… it was more than just a party invitation.

I found a 2-page letter, printed on yellow and green paper. Here’s the gist of what it said:

  • Hi Steven!

    I know we only see each other in English and Study Hall, but what I’m about to tell and ask you is HUGE. You see, my sister met a wonderful guy 10 months ago. They shared such a wonderful relationship and I’d never seen her any happier before than in those 10 months. Regrettably, good things never last, and his family ended up moving 10 months later. They knew a long distance relationship would never work, so they reluctantly broke up. My sister, ever since, has not been the same and as her big sis I’m looking for a great guy who is looking for a meaningful and loyal relationship. As I said, we don’t really know each other, but from what I know of you, you seem like a really great guy! It’s hard to find a good guy in this day and age who doesn’t use foul language or the like.

    So… what I’m getting at is… would you like to meet my sister over lunch? If you’re looking for a great girl who will love and be loyal to you, my sister is the one. Please call me later today between 4 and 9 PM. My number is 867-5309.

    -Sarah Franklin

    PS- If I seem weird tomorrow in English class it will be because you know why! :)

THE CALL

Wow. It’s not everyday you get a letter like that! But at the time I just wasn’t looking for a relationship. So much like Kevin Arnold did, I knew what I had to do.

To this day I can still vividly remember the enthusiasm and giddiness in her voice as she picked up the phone… but I’ll also never forget how I took the wind right out of her sail in the next few seconds. It was hard. I felt bad. But I knew I had to be honest.

“WHAT ABOUT THE MASTODONS?!?!”

I didn’t quite go berserk like how Kevin Arnold did. There was no talk about being a hunter, a warrior or slaying mastodons. Instead I opted for the classic American way: a quick courteous note followed by friendly rejection.

Like Kevin, I wasn’t ready. I too was sixteen-years-old, and the way I saw it, there too were mastodons yet to be slayed.

Looking back, am I sorry about what I did? In a way, a little bit. Maybe the least I could have done was have lunch with the poor girl. But you know, when you’re 16 you do “dumb” things. Sarah Franklin figured I was different from the other guys. After what happened, she probably hated my guts.

THE AFTERMATH

Senior Grad Night. All the seniors were living it up at Disneyland. On one ride, my eyes met Sarah Franklin’s. We exchanged a nod — an unspoken pact of forgiveness. A moment that signified her younger sister was doing dandy in the game of life and that bygones would be bygones.

At least, that’s what I’d like to tell you.

But no such Wonder Years ending.

I really don’t remember what happened to Sarah Franklin. In fact, I hardly recall seeing her around my senior year. We haven’t spoken to each other since that one fateful phone call. Then again, not like we ever did before, you understand.

IN CLOSING…

We’ve all broken someone’s heart. We didn’t mean to… it just happens. Lord knows we’ve been on the other end as well.

Yup, in high school we made friends, enemies and memories. Good and bad. And every now and then there are people you wonder about, and people you wonder if they ever wonder about you. And then there are the Sarah Franklin’s of the world. You don’t really want to remember the memories of the Sarah Franklin’s…

But you do.

Sarah, wherever you are, I hope you and your sister are doing well. I hope both of you have found the right guy (or girl) to share life’s ups and downs with. Cheers.

Nightcrawler

NightCraw

Growing up in the late ’80s to mid ’90s, cartoons were the best. Cartoons really hit their prime during that time as well. Whether it was G.I. Joe, ThunderCats, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duck Tales or Mighty Max, cartoons were as important to me as video games. One of my favorite cartoon shows was X-Men: The Animated Series. It just recently turned 25 years old. Wow. How time flies. Since Avengers: Infinity War came out recently and I just reviewed Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems, I can’t think of a better time to share my favorite episode from the X-Men Animated Series than now. It touches on some pretty deep topics that you just didn’t see being broached back in the day. It flew over my head as a kid but when I saw this episode later in my 20’s, it completely resonated with me. Let’s see… it’s got:

  • Faith
  • The danger of being ignorant
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • Accepting others who are different from us
  • Man’s struggle with whether or not there is a greater power

Originally aired nearly 23 years ago on May 13, 1995, RVGFanatic proudly presents…

Shout out to Len Uhley for making this great episode
Shout out to Len Uhley for making this great episode
A cold and stormy night somewhere near the Alps...
A cold and stormy night somewhere near the Alps…
"I saw the fiend!  It had fangs!  And claws!"
“I saw the fiend! It had fangs! And claws!”
"It was horrible! It haunts us!"
“It was horrible! It haunts us!”
"We must do something!  We shall destroy him!"
“We must do something! We shall destroy him!”
"DOWN WITH THE DEMON!  DOWN WITH THE DEMON!"
“DOWN WITH THE DEMON! DOWN WITH THE DEMON!”

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"AHHH!!  IT'S THE DEMON!!!  THE CURSED CREATURE!!"
“AHHH!! IT’S THE DEMON!!! THE CURSED CREATURE!!”
"Schieß!  Schieß! Get him!" "Destroy the demon! Shoot it now!"
“Schieß! Schieß! Get him!”
“Destroy the demon! Shoot it now!”
"Don't let it get away! Hurry!  What, it vanished into thin air!?"
“Don’t let it get away! What, it vanished into thin air!?”
"Heartless fools. They know not what they do..."
“Heartless fools. They know not what they do…”

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“I know, she say. Let’s take a trip, she say. It’d be fun, she say. Huh! Some fun.”

“After what we’ve been through lately, I figured we could use some time off.”

"But you didn't tell me we'd have a chaperone."
“But you didn’t tell me we’d have a chaperone.”
"Don't whine to me. This ain't my idea of a good time"
“Don’t whine to me. This ain’t my idea of a good time.”
"Hey, hoser, I thought you like to ski"
“Hey, hoser, I thought you like to ski.”
"Look at him. Who does he think he is, Hugh Jackman?"
“Look at him. Who does he think he is, Hugh Jackman?”

“This is sitting around drinking hot cocoa and getting funny looks from rich folk.”

"Yeah, well, next time, plan your own darn vacation!"
“Yeah, well, next time, plan your own darn vacation!”
"CHÈRE!  WAIT!"
“CHÈRE! WAIT!”
"Well, I hope you're happy"
“Well, I hope you’re happy.”
"Don't know the meaning of the word"
“Don’t know the meaning of the word.”

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“Come on, a demon? You must be kidding!”

“I heard it on the train. The whole town thinks they’ve been under attack by some dark creature for months. Must be some local yokel superstition.”

“TELL ME MORE.”

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“I’ll make it up to you. We’ll fly to Monte Carlo. We eat nice, lie on the beach…”

"Or you two could do something REALLY interesting." "Where are you going?" "Demon hunting. Interested?" "WHAT hunting?" "Gambit, a demon hunter? I'm gonna regret this, aren't I?"
“Or you two could do something REALLY interesting.”
“Where are you going?”
“Demon hunting. Interested?”
“WHAT hunting?”
“Gambit a demon hunter? I’m gona regret this aren’t I?”
"Exactly how far is this Neuherzl?" "A couple more miles. Why? You quitting, Gam?"
“Exactly how far is this Neuherzl?”
“A couple more miles. Why? You quitting, Gam?”
"It IS getting kind of late. Maybe I ought to fly us there." "What, and spoil Gumbo’s fun?"
“It IS getting kind of late. Maybe I ought to fly us there.”
“What, and spoil Gumbo’s fun?”
"Okay. So we don’t ski much on the bayou." *giggles* "You sure you don’t want help?"
“Okay. So we don’t ski much on the bayou.”
*giggles* “You sure you don’t want help?”
"Of course not. Gambit a natural athlete. … AHH!"
“Of course not. Gambit a natural athlete. … AHH!”
"Come on, Remy. Say something"
“Come on, Remy. Say something.”

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“Man doesn’t break a sweat against Apocalypse or Magneto. So WHAT nails him? A pine tree. Wait… OH CRAP.”

 "AVALANCHE!!!"
“AVALANCHE!!!”

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"WHAT IN TARNATION?!"
“WHAT IN TARNATION?!”

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“Please, do not worry. This is home to twenty members of our order. We minister to many ski accident victims.”

"Logan! How is he?" "Gambit will hurt a while. But he’ll be okay"
“Logan! How is he?”
“Gambit will hurt a while. But he’ll be okay.”
"Praise be to God"
“Praise be to God.”
*sniffing* "Who's the snoop?"
*sniffing* “Who’s the snoop?”

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“Brother Reinhard. Please show our guests to the visitor accommodations.”

“Brother, is it wise to have strangers around at this terrible time? They’re not the usual travelers!”

“Those in need are always welcome, Brother Reinhard. Please have faith in our mission.”

"You all monks? So, I’m the only woman here."
“You all monks? So, I’m the only woman here.”

“Yeah. Therefore, would you be kind enough to accept something more appropriate to wear during your stay?”

“Don’t wanna make the natives restless…”

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“You should take care where you walk. Some doors on the upper levels open into thin air. The abbey was heavily damaged during the war.”

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“So, Johann, besides praying and ministering, what do you boys do all day?”

“Our mission is to give shelter and comfort to all travelers. And, of course, to offer a place to renew one’s relationship with the Lord.”

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“Being close to Heaven didn’t help us this afternoon, Father.”

“Are you sure, sir? Have you lost your faith? What is it that you seek?”

“Action. F’rinstance, I hear ya got a demon hanging around here.”

“You mean down in the town, in Neuherzl. Yes. An odd rumor, isn’t it? Personally, I have never myself met a demon…”

The word demon causes him to drop the plates
The word demon alone causes him to drop the plates

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"Pardon, Reverend, I didn’t expect… hey!  What are you doing?"
“Pardon, Reverend, I didn’t expect…
Hey! What are you doing?”

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*GASP* "Oh no! They must serve the demon!"
*GASP* “Oh no! They must serve the demon!”
"AHHHHHH!!!"
“AHHHHHH!!!”

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"There, you're safe now!" *Rogue gasps* "Please! You do not understand!"
“There, you’re safe now!”
*Rogue gasps*
“Please! You do not understand!”
"GAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!"
“GAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!”
"TRY HOPPING OVER THESE, PAL!"
“TRY HOPPING OVER THESE, PAL!”
"I do not wish to fight."
“I do not wish to fight.”
"You and me are through dancing, Mr. Demon!" "No! You mustn’t!" "WHY SHOULDN'T I?!"
“You and me are through dancing, Mr. Demon!”
“No! You mustn’t!”
“WHY SHOULDN’T I?!”
"BECAUSE..... HE IS MY BROTHER!"
“BECAUSE… HE IS MY BROTHER!”
"Brother? I don’t see the resemblance."
“Brother? I don’t see the resemblance.”

“Brother in the ecclesiastical sense — a member of our monastery.”

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“I’m sorry I startled you, Fräulein. I did not know you could fly.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t know you could do whatever that was you did.”

“Teleportation. I think of a place I’d rather be, look to it, and I am there.”

“Gambit rather be in Monte Carlo. Think you can work that out?”

"Enough small talk! Are you the guy who attacked Gambit?"
“Enough small talk! Did you attack Gambit?”
"Of course not! Brother Nightcrawler is a man of God."
“Of course not! Brother Nightcrawler is a man of God.”

“But, aren’t you the demon we heard about?”

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“In a manner of speaking, yes. Like yourselves, I am a mutant. But unlike most mutants, my condition was obvious from the moment I was born.”

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"AHH! IT'S A MONSTER! AN ABOMINATION OF GOD!"
“AHH! IT’S A MONSTER! AN ABOMINATION OF GOD!”

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“The villagers drove my mother away… for bearing such a freak.”

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“I never even knew her name. She could be anyone, really…”

"She abandoned me..."
“She abandoned me…”
"... but I did not die..."
“… but I did not die…”

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“Instead I was found by a family of traveling performers. I became Nightcrawler, the star attraction of their little circus. For their freakish world, I was perfect!”

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“But when the spotlight went out, I was still an outcast. Shunned and hated.”

"Guess there no peace for the wicked-looking."
“Guess there no peace for the wicked-looking.”
"GAMBIT!"
“GAMBIT!”

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“No, he’s right. Though all people are flawed and all struggle with the capacity for sin, none likes to be reminded of our shared human weakness. My appearance does not make it easy.”

"Don’t it make you crazy?!"
“Don’t it make you crazy?!”

“It did once. But then I found peace by devoting my life to God. He directed me to this place, where they value the character of my heart, not my appearance.”

"What are you talking about? We’re MUTANTS! God gave up on us a long time ago!"
“What are you talking about? We’re MUTANTS!
God gave up on us a long time ago!”

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“No, my friend. God does not give up on any of His children, be it human or mutant. He is there for us in our times of joy, and to help us when we are in pain… if we let Him.”

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“Don’t give me that easy answer garbage! I’ve tried! Don’t ya think I want that!! I don’t need a sermon from some circus boy preacher.”

"Looks like you touched a nerve." "I am sorry. I did not mean to upset him."
“Looks like you touched a nerve.”
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to upset him.”

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“Fine. Now Gambit got a question. If you’re not the guy who tried to put me out for good, who was?”

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“All people of Neuherzl! I can no longer allow such sacrilege! The beast you seek is there! In the monastery!”

“Are you mad? Those are men of God!”

"The EVIL ONE has defiled that holy place! It must be destroyed!"
“The EVIL ONE has defiled that holy place!
It must be destroyed!”

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"You are searching for me?"
“You are searching for me?”
"Nah, looking for a moment alone."
“Nah, looking for a moment alone.”

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“We are alike, you and I, angry at the world, and ourselves. My pain drove me to seek God. Yours drove you away.”

"Don’t tell me about God! What kind of God would let men do THIS to me?"
DON’T TELL ME ABOUT GOD!!
What kind of God would let men do THIS to me?”

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“Our ability to understand God’s purpose is limited, but we take comfort in the fact His love is limitless.”

*SCOFFS* "I used to buy into all that..."
*SCOFFS* “I used to buy into all that…”
"BUT I'VE LIVED TOO LONG!"
“BUT I’VE LIVED TOO LONG!”
"... and I've done too much..."
“… and I’ve done too much…”
"Life will ALWAYS be hard. I understand this better than most."
“Life will ALWAYS be hard.
I understand this better than most.”

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“Yet despite it all, people of every faith believe there is a God who loves them.”

"Can so many be wrong?"
“Can so many be wrong?”
"OPEN YOUR HEART, HERR LOGAN."
“OPEN YOUR HEART, HERR LOGAN.”

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“Would it hurt so much to see the world through different eyes?”

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“Brother! There is a mob headed up the road from Neuherzl. They must have discovered you are here.”

"And they want to rip you into little pieces. Tell me, preacher. What’s God’s purpose in that?"
“And they want to rip you into little pieces.
Tell me, preacher, what’s God’s purpose in that?”

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“Neuherzl is isolated. The people know nothing about mutants. Perhaps I am here to help open their hearts. I must leave so no one will be hurt.”

"Running away, preacher? What’s wrong -- lose your faith?"
“Running away, preacher?
What’s wrong — lose your faith?”
"Why? Why must they always hate me?"
“Why? Why must they always hate me?”

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"WE MUST STOP THE DEMON NO MATTER THE COST!"
“WE MUST STOP THE DEMON, NO MATTER THE COST!”

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“Remember, Logan. Those people aren’t bad. They’re just scared. Be careful.”

“Careful? Fifty against two?!”

"Trois, mes amis. Don’t you know Gambit’s ready for anything?"
“Trois, mes amis.
Don’t you know Gambit’s ready for anything?”
"You sure you’re up for this?" "Course, chére. Soon as the room stop spinning."
“You sure you’re up for this?”
“Course, chére. Soon as the room stop spinning.”
"LET'S BREAK THE DOOR DOWN!!"
“LET’S BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!!”
"Welcome Wagon's here."
“Welcome Wagon’s here.”
"DEVIL! DESTROY THE DEMON! OUT WITH YOU!!"
“DEVIL! DESTROY THE DEMON! OUT WITH YOU!!”

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"THE DEMON MUST DIE! WE MUST CLEANSE THIS PLACE!!"
“THE DEMON MUST DIE! WE MUST CLEANSE THIS PLACE!”
"FIRST, YOU'VE GOT TO GET PAST ME!"
“FIRST, YOU’VE GOT TO GET PAST ME!”

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"Okay, people, now settle down!"
“Okay, people, now settle down!”

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"DON'T TOUCH ME!"
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
"AHHHHHHHH!!"
“AHHHHH!!”
"Stop the demons! Our families! They want to hurt us! Kill them!"
“Stop the demons! Our families!
They want to hurt us! Kill them!”
"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!"
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”

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"I’m trying not to turn you bozos into hamburger. Now back off!"
“I’m trying not to turn you bozos into hamburger.
Now back off!”
"Bitte, Frau Kohler! You know us! Please listen to us!"
“Bitte, Frau Kohler! You know us! Please listen to us!”
"Nein! You are a pawn of the Evil One! Tell us where your monster is hiding!"
“Nein! You are a pawn of the Evil One!
Tell us where your monster is hiding!”
"I am not hiding."
“I am not hiding.”
*Villagers scream*
“What?! Where did they go?!”

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"The library? How did we get here?"
“The library? How did we get here?”
"Gambit not enjoying this vacation one bit." "Get him downstairs!"
“Gambit not enjoying this vacation one bit.”
“Get him downstairs!”
"What are you going to do?"
“What are you going to do?”

“I will surrender. It is the only way to prevent anyone else getting hurt.”

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"Brother Reinhard! STOP!"
“Brother Reinhard! STOP!”
"THIS IS THE END, DEMON!"
“THIS IS THE END, DEMON!”
"Be careful! The whole place is burning down!" "DEFILER!!!!"
“Be careful! The whole place is burning down!”
“DEFILER!!”
"The demon is attacking Brother Reinhard!"
“The demon is attacking Brother Reinhard!”
"I shall surrender!"
“I shall surrender!”
"YOU HAVE CORRUPTED THIS PLACE! I MUST PURIFY IT!"
“YOU HAVE CORRUPTED THIS PLACE! I MUST PURIFY IT!”
"LOOK! THE DEMON HAS GOT BROTHER REINHARD!"
“LOOK! THE DEMON HAS GOT BROTHER REINHARD!”

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"Go ahead demon, do your worst! … Why do you pause? I have betrayed you!"
“Go ahead demon, do your worst!
… Why do you pause? I have betrayed you!”
"It is not for me to judge you, Brother Reinhard."
“It is not for me to judge you, Brother Reinhard.”
"The question is... how will God judge you?"
“The question is… how will God judge you?”
"Look around you. This is the fruit of YOUR labors... ... Not mine!"
“Look around you. This is the fruit of YOUR labors…
Not mine!
*GASP*
*GASP*
"Lord help me! I was wrong! I have sinned! What have I done?"
“Lord help me! I was wrong!
I have sinned! What have I done?”

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"Thank you, my friends. Your presence here was a great blessing."
“Thank you, my friends.
Your presence here was a great blessing.”
"What do you mean, blessing?! Look at this place! We blew it!"
“What do you mean, blessing?!
Look at this place! We blew it!

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“I disagree. Brother Reinhard understands his tragic mistake and has repented.”

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“The townspeople no longer look at me with fear in their hearts.”

"There was no loss of life. All are reasons to be thankful."
“There was no loss of life.
All are reasons to be thankful.”
"What about the monastery?"
“What about the monastery?”
"A great tragedy. But it was only stone and mortar."
“A great tragedy. But it was only stone and mortar.”

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“The foundation God has built in our hearts can never be ruined.”

"Man, I don't get you."
“Man, I don’t get you.”
"Here, I’ve marked a few passages you may find rewarding."
“I’ve marked a few passages you may find rewarding.”

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"Remember, Herr Logan... DIFFERENT EYES..."
“Remember, Herr Logan… DIFFERENT EYES…”

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 *SIGH*  "Paris. Back in the civilized world."
*SIGH* “Paris. Back in the civilized world.”

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“I don’t know. Those quiet little monks were starting to grow on me.”

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“Face it, chére, those monks kid themselves. We on our own in this world. Life is random. Deal you a full house, or a busted flush.”

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"Something I said?"
“Something I said?”
"Ah well. Looks like more food for Gambit."
“Oh well. Looks like more food for Gambit.”
*SIGH* "What if he’s right? What if there’s nothing else?"
*SIGH* “What if he’s right? What if there’s nothing else?”

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“I will give thanks to you, oh Lord. For though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. I will trust and not be afraid.”

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

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I love how this episode centers around Logan’s struggle with faith in something larger than himself. TV shows back in the ’90s rarely touched upon such issues, much less cartoons. Nightcrawler’s pure faith, if not admirable and inspirational, is certainly understandable. Len Uhley, who wrote this landmark episode, didn’t shove religion down the viewer’s throat. Instead, he presented it in a way that more or less left it up to the individual to decipher. It didn’t beat you over the head but the message was just strong enough to make you think about things that perhaps may be outside of one’s comfort zone. Very few cartoon episodes have ever made me reflect on my own life and views as much as Nightcrawler did. Is there really a God who exists and cares for us all? Can we find true peace from God’s word? That’s up to each individual person. Nightcrawler did a great job of broaching the subject. Personally, I’m a believer. I became a Christian at 25 back in 2009. I got into it pretty hardcore, but I’m pretty casual nowadays with my faith. It’s more of a private thing these days for me, and that’s how I like to keep it.

Shout out to Len Uhley! What a fantastic episode
Shout out to Len Uhley!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my favorite faith-related story. Several summers ago, I organized a volunteering gig with some friends of mine. It was a foot washing and feeding event for the homeless. It was a humbling experience. I’ll never forget the first man whose feet I washed. He told me right off the bat, pardon the pun, that his name is Bruce Wayne and that he’s THE Batman. Naturally, part of me thought he was crazy. But as the foot washing went on, “Bruce” shared childhood stories of his father with me, his 29 years in the truck driving business, and shared his dreams growing up. Didn’t take long for me to realize he’s just like anyone else. At the end he thanked me for the foot washing and left.

No youre not. Oh wait, you are?!
No you’re not. Oh wait, you are?!

Not three minutes later, he walked back in to show me his identification card. SON OF A BITCH. Sure enough, there it was, clear as day. Name: BRUCE WAYNE. He wasn’t kidding, he really was Bruce Wayne. He gave me a grin and I returned the gesture as we nodded before he walked out. Later I spoke with the coordinator and she explained to me Bruce is a regular and how his Batman persona is his own personal way of coping with being homeless. Wow. It’s a little bit deeper than just “Oh, this dude’s a crazy homeless guy.” The experience reminded me not to be so quick judging others. Walk a mile in their shoes — or wash their feet — before you decide what their story is.

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Len Uhley reflects fondly on his Nightcrawler episode here.

Switched: How Nintendo Won Me Back

Nintendo made me a believer once more
Nintendo makes a believer out of me once more

In late 2016, Nintendo released a trailer highlighting their upcoming 7th console, the Nintendo Switch. To say that I was skeptical would have been a gross understatement. I had long lost faith in Nintendo, or at least in their current state. My brother and I grew up on the NES and the Super Nintendo. Both systems were amazing, giving us countless memories. The Nintendo 64 came along in 1996 and was a mixed bag. By the time the GameCube launched in late 2001, my brother and I stopped caring. Neither of the two Wii consoles were able to move the needle on my gaming meter. As for the PlayStation and XBox consoles, they surely had their share of gems but I honestly didn’t care enough to ever buy any of those systems. I was content with my SNES collection and assumed that my time buying games had long come to an end. That was, at least, until I finally played the Switch…

With the Switch, gaming has hit new heights
With the Switch, gaming has reached new heights

A NEW ERA — FINALLY

I thought I was done buying games. I was wrong...
I thought I was done buying games. I was wrong…

As it has been well documented here on RVGFanatic, I got back into the SNES scene nearly 12 years ago (January 2006). It’s been an incredible journey and I have played so many amazing games since then. I more or less finished my collection in 2012 and figured I was set for life. I had no interest in modern gaming. Not that I hated them but rather I just didn’t care enough to play them. That slowly began to change as I heard the rumblings for one, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The trailer, released in early 2017, was breathtaking. If any modern game can bring me back to the fold, Breath of the Wild might be it. For the first time in forever, I found myself salivating over a new game.

I was floored. It was the first time in nearly 12 years that I found myself thinking, “It might be time to buy another system.” I remember one night in March 2017 my bro sent me a funny picture of some guy on the internet declaring it was going to be an epic night. Sure looked like it!

Oh hell yeah!
Talk about living the good life

Seeing that pic made me remember all the epic gaming adventures I had long long ago. It was that little seed planted in my head. The Switch launched on March 3, 2017. I didn’t buy one but I remember telling myself maybe Black Friday. Maybe. But I found no deals on the Switch and thus, Black Friday came and went. My brother, on the other hand, struck a bit of gold…

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Despite not owning a Switch, he spotted Breath of the Wild on Walmart’s website for the incredibly low price of $29. He jumped on it because he knew I had interest in buying a Switch. Apparently it was a mistake on the website — it was supposed to be marked down to $49 but he made the purchase before the website could correct itself. They honored their end and shipped the game out to him. Coincidentally, I read this on Reddit a few days ago…

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My brother was one of the lucky few
My brother was one of the lucky few

[SATURDAY] DECEMBER 2, 2017

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After visiting my month old nephew, I hit up the local Target only to be greeted by the last Switch console. I couldn’t resist and pulled the trigger. Final damage following a flurry of gift cards: $267. I walked out of Target cradling the Switch against my chest as though it were Frankenstein’s very own heart! It was my first system purchase in nearly 12 years :D

Oh I'm answering the call. Don't have to tell me twice!
Oh I’m answering the call. Don’t have to tell me twice!

Breath of the Wild arrived at my brother’s place later that day. It was like it was meant to be. I picked it up, drove back home, popped it in and was immediately blown away. Honestly, I hadn’t played a 3D “modern” game in forever. These past 12 years I stuck mainly to the SNES. Well, Breath of the Wild has definitely made me rethink my gaming habits. Although I still love and play the SNES, it certainly won’t be the only system I play going forward. Nintendo had officially converted me. I have, pardon the pun, made the switch.

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Right away I was flung into the wide open world of Hyrule. It literally took my breath away. Immersive is a word that gets thrown around a lot in gaming circles but I can’t think of a better adjective to describe this game. Best of all, it looks and plays great even on the portable end. In fact, I’ve been playing it only in this format thus far.

The older I get, the less time I have to do this
The older I get, the less I have time to do this

As I get older and busier, I find I have less and less time to sit in front of a TV to play a game. The portability makes it perfect to play for 20 minutes while laying in bed before sleeping. It’s also ideal to play while having a TV show on in the background. It’s truly a game changer. The Switch is a versatile little sucker and it’s portable gaming the likes of which we have never seen before. We have come a long way since the Game Boy and Game Gear, haven’t we?

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I began going through the shrines and giggling like a little school girl on the inside. I could tell it was the beginning of an unforgettable gaming experience.

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Acquiring new skills and weapons is all part of the fun. Each new power gained opened up even more possibilities.

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Hunting for food or shooting enemies from afar became highly addicting.

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I’m only 12 hours in or so but already I feel like this is easily one of the top 10 (if not 5) best games I have ever played. Quite frankly, maybe even #1.

[MONDAY] DECEMBER 4, 2017

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But there was no rest for the weary. A few days later, I went to Best Buy to pick up Doom for $53 following my 20% discount. I haven’t been able to play Doom yet because I want to beat Zelda first. But rest assured, having missed the 2016 version of Doom and hearing what a competent amazing port the Switch version is, I cannot bloody wait to dig into this one!

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[WEDNESDAY] DECEMBER 6, 2017

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I honestly thought I would just have Breath of the Wild and Doom for now. But you know how these things work. There’s a snowball effect when something comes along and completely captures your imagination. A few days after picking up Doom, my brother told me GameStop was selling Rayman Legends for only $25.

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I have Rayman on the Sega Saturn and have always enjoyed it. Plus, the Switch version received rave reviews, so I decided to swing by the local GameStop after work to pick it up. Unfortunately, the GameStop I went to was sold out. But the clerk said there was another location nearby that had 3 copies left. That store happened to be at my childhood mall!

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I can’t count the number of times my mom took me to this mall when I was a kid. Every Friday after school we went. It was sort of a tradition of ours. Rain or shine. Seeing the tall Christmas tree there always brings back memories of the mall Santa back in the day. Although the mall has been renovated over the years, the core structure remains. It never fails to bring back a memory or two.

SwitStor9

Making the walk down this way was something of a spiritual experience, as sad as that may sound. I’ve walked that path thousands of time. It was always visit Suncoast first, followed by Software Etc., KB Toys, Walden Books and Cyberstation. Being here again brought back a ton of nostalgia for me, and reminded me of my early SNES hunting days back in 2006. The thrill and excitement hanging in the air. That feeling of knowing you were going to come away with a brand new game to add to the ole collection. Hopping around town snatching up games left and right like a mad man. It was more than just collecting games. It was reclaiming bits and pieces of my childhood in whole new ways.

How I remember thee, Suncoast
How I remember thee, Suncoast
This was THE place to be on a Saturday night back then
This was THE place to be on a Friday night back then

A montage of these classic childhood sights and sounds suddenly flashed in my mind as I entered GameStop and picked up Rayman Legends at the counter. It was now my 3rd Switch game in nearly as many days. Yep, I could feel it coming. And there was no stopping it. I had Switch fever!

SwitIm11

[SATURDAY] DECEMBER 9, 2017

SwiCov2

I visited Target the next day to pick up a few things. I had absolutely ZERO intentions of buying another Switch game but lo and behold, there I found Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 on sale for $39.99. Before I knew it, a 4th game was added to my rapidly growing Switch library.

SwitIm6

I texted my brother about my latest purchase and he said I had gone nuts. He was probably right. But damn was I having fun!

Switch collection ASSEMBLE! [Really? -Ed.]
Switch collection ASSEMBLE! [Really? -Ed.]

[SUNDAY] DECEMBER 10, 2017

SwiCov3

After buying Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, I thought to myself, “OK now I’m really done. For a while at least.” Well, a while turned out to be less than 24 hours later. The following day, my brother texted me that Toys R Us was selling Lego City Undercover for just $19.99. Lego in a GTA (Grand Theft Auto) setting? Count me in!

SwitIm

While Toys R Us was processing my online pickup order, I searched the web on my iPhone only to discover that Fry’s Electronics was selling Resident Evil Revelations Collection for only $29.99. And of course, there just happened to be a Fry’s down the road from Toys R Us. So I drove over to Fry’s to buy Resident Evil Revelations Collection. Then drove back to Toys R Us to pick up Lego City Undercover. I felt like an absolute mad man; I haven’t done this much game hunting in 10 years!

RERBox

SwitIm3

Quite an extreme contrast  between my two latest buys
Quite an extreme contrast between my two latest buys!

While at Fry’s hunting down Resident Evil Revelations Collection, I ran across Axiom Verge for $29.99. I was tempted to add it to my tab. Axiom Verge caught my eye a few years back and I was always curious about it. But a quick search revealed Toys R Us selling it for $29.99 plus a 15% discount. I was hoping to pick it up at the Toys R Us location I just bought Lego City Undercover from, but unfortunately they didn’t have one in stock. The closest pick up location was… *gasp*… the old Toys R Us store from my childhood!

Always wanted to play this. Now I finally can!
Always wanted to play this. Now I finally can!

[MONDAY] DECEMBER 11, 2017

Ah, the vintage train tracks of my childhood :)
Ah, the vintage train tracks of my childhood :)
Come on, let's go! I got a Switch game to pick up!
Come on, let’s go! I got a Switch game to pick up!

Going to my childhood Toys R Us meant passing through this old haunt. My cousins lived in the neighborhood nearby and I spent much of my youth visiting my cousins on the weekends back in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. Needless to say, that whole area is incredibly nostalgic to me. It’s also where I experienced the greatest Halloween of my life back in 1994. The infamous night I met “The Lady in the Haunted House” AKA Becky, who has gone on to become a lifelong friend. I actually just met up with Becky a few weeks ago. Going through the old neighborhood was just an added bonus to my jaunt for Axiom Verge.

SwitStor5

I stood there for a moment to just admire the scene. This was the same Toys R Us my parents took me and my brother to millions of times back in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. It was probably 10 years since I had last been there. At that point, it was one of the few relics from my past still standing in the same spot!

TRUGS

Who doesn’t remember the classic Toys R Us game slips back in the day? Seeing an aisle plastered with them was like a little slice of Heaven. Some of my fondest childhood memories came from simply strolling through the aisles drooling at the game covers all bug-eyed. Nothing topped the feeling of when your parents relented and bought you a game! Taking that slip out of its sleeve, only to discover it’s the LAST one, and taking it to the special game counter to claim your precious pixelated prize. Cue the Final Fantasy victory theme!

I remember seeing NES games like Dr. Chaos
I remember seeing NES game slips like Dr. Chaos
Chakan on the Genesis
As well as Chakan on the Genesis
And Battletoads in Battlemaniacs
And Battletoads in Battlemaniacs on SNES

Sadly, Toys R Us long stopped doing the game slips. Nonetheless, being there brought back the wave of memories. I also ran into two versions of Goldar from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: OG Goldie and that crappy looking version from the 2017 movie.

What is this mess?
What mess is this?!
Now thats what Im talking about
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about

Ah, Imaginext. In 2004 I ran across a bunch of their sets on clearance from the same Toys R Us location. Huge sets going for literally $5. I remember bringing home a bunch of the sets and my ex being bewildered!

I still have them unopened. Saving for my future son
I still have them unopened. Saving for my future son

After walking around the store for 15 minutes or so just taking it all in, I made my way to the pickup counter. I cannot wait to play Axiom Verge but first I have to beat Breath of the Wild :P

AxiomBox

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Not a bad deal at $27! It looks awesome.

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Before pulling out of the parking lot, I stood there to admire my childhood Toys R Us one last time. Even though the inside has long been gutted and rearranged, there were pockets in the store where I remember standing some 25, 30 years ago! R.I.P. Toys R Us.

CHRISTMAS 2017

SwiCov4

It’s been forever since I’ve played a newer Mario game. I know I’ve missed out on many great Mario games since 1991’s Super Mario World, so Super Mario Odyssey will certainly make up for some of that lost time.

SwitIm23

[SATURDAY] DECEMBER 23, 2017

Thanks Cindy!
Jackpot! What a great Christmas present :)

SwiTarget

Earlier in the day I was able to price match Puyo Puyo Tetris and Ninjago at Target. Both were going for $39.99 but Toys R Us was selling both for $19.99. Thanks Toys R Us!

Gotta love that Target price match
Gotta love that Target price match!

SwiEx2

[SATURDAY] JANUARY 13, 2018

SkyrimSwi

I received a $25 gift card for Amazon and used it on Skyrim, a game I’ve never played before but can’t wait to dig into. It ended up costing only $35.99.

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[SUNDAY] JANUARY 14, 2018

I had been wanting to buy this game badly...
I had been wanting to buy this game badly…

I spent the weekend out of town with my girlfriend. I was browsing Nintendo Switch Deals on Reddit (shout out!) on a lazy Sunday morning when I came across this promising post…

SwiEx4

Lady Luck was on my side as my girlfriend’s town happened to be one of the 63 stores closing down! I was cautiously optimistic but I figured the game I wanted most (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) would be long sold out. Eh, it can’t hurt to try, right…

SwiEx3

After waiting in line (just to enter the store) for some odd 30 minutes, we were finally in. I made a beeline for the electronics section. Lo and behold, I spotted the last copy sitting before my eyes! I bought Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms.

SwiArms

I was so happy that I was able to get the last copy of Mario Kart. The rush of adrenaline as we snagged the final copy (and picked up Arms as well) lasted all the way on the drive home. A most serendipitous Sunday!

SamClu

Thanks for taking care of me, Jennifer!

NoireSwi

Later  that same night, I dropped by Target to buy L.A. Noire. I had a gift card and paid $38.

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Taking place in Los Angeles in the late ’40s, L.A. Noire is another “modern” game I missed out on but can now play thanks to my Switch.

(e)SHOP ‘TIL YA DROP

Ah, my first two eShop purchases
Ah, my first two eShop purchases

On Christmas morning 2017, the floodgates were opened when I made my very first eShop purchase. Here are my 34 digital games in order of purchase.

Stardew Valley (Harvest Moon fans unite!)
Stardew Valley (Harvest Moon fans unite!)
Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon
Oxenfree
Oxenfree
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Volgarr the Viking
Volgarr the Viking
Oceanhorn
Oceanhorn
The Mummy Demastered
The Mummy Demastered
Butcher
Butcher
Shock Troopers
Shock Troopers
Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad
Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad
Top Hunter: Roddy and Cathy
Top Hunter: Roddy and Cathy
Spinmaster
Spinmaster
Double Dragon IV
Double Dragon IV
The Count Lucanor
The Count Lucanor
Street Hoop
Street Hoop
Metal Slug
Metal Slug
Pulstar
Pulstar
Blazing Star
Blazing Star
Last Resort
Last Resort
World Heroes
World Heroes
Mutation Nation
Mutation Nation
Robo Army
Robo Army
Rocket League
Rocket League
Steamworld Dig 2
SteamWorld Dig 2
Retro City Rampage
Retro City Rampage
Blaster Master Zero
Blaster Master Zero
Mighty Gunvolt Burst
Mighty Gunvolt Burst
Caveman Warriors
Caveman Warriors
King of the Monsters
King of the Monsters
Double Dragon
Double Dragon
World Heroes 2
World Heroes 2
Celeste
Celeste
Samurai Shodown II
Samurai Shodown II
Magician Lord
Magician Lord

SOME GAMES I’LL BUY IN 2018

Wolfenstein II
Wolfenstein II
Mega Man 11
Mega Man 11
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection

Holy shit!

Yoshi
Yoshi
Shin Megami Tensei V
Shin Megami Tensei V
Dragon Warrior XI
Dragon Warrior XI
Metal Slug 2 (or X)
Metal Slug X
Metal Slug 3
Metal Slug 3
Fatal Fury Special
Fatal Fury Special
Sonic Mania
Sonic Mania
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Golf Story
Golf Story
Mr. Shifty
Mr. Shifty

And so much more. The Switch’s future is bright and the possibilities are endless. Welcome back to my heart, Nintendo. Welcome back!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

ZelBotW4

It’s hard for me to believe that I would ever feel so invested in a system not named Super Nintendo, especially in the year 2017. But the Switch has made a believer out of me. Being able to play all these amazing games on the go as well as on the big screen TV is a brilliant stroke of ingenuity. Its versatility caters to your lifestyle, as it should, rather than you catering to a system’s limitations. As much as I still love my SNES, I’ll admit there are times where I’m just not in the mood to sit by my TV to play. There are times where I wish I could just play it in bed or during a show. The Switch allows you to do so. Nintendo has something big on its hands here, as evident by the Switch recently surpassing the 10 million units sold mark. This is truly the future wave of gaming.

ZelBotW9

If you’ve been teetering on the fence with the Switch, it’s time to hop over. It has the same impeccable Nintendo magic that I remember the NES and SNES having back in the ’80s and ’90s. Hell, over time I can even possibly see the Switch overtaking the SNES as my favorite system of all time. Never in a million years did I ever think I would say that. If Nintendo eventually releases some of their SNES classics on the Switch eShop going forward then all bets are off. The Switch is poised for unprecedented success, merging gamers from all generations. Its legacy as one of the coolest systems ever is quickly being etched in stone by the day. Don’t miss out! Nintendo is BACK baby and damnit, they might be better than ever.

Adventures in Africa

It was the adventure of a lifetime
It was the adventure of a lifetime

Today is September 21, 2017. It marks the last day of summer 2017. Tomorrow officially marks the first day of fall. I can’t think of anything more fitting to write about now than the summer adventure I had in Kenya, Africa seven years ago. I found myself at a missions meeting at my local church in May of 2010. I felt a tugging on my heart strings when they spoke about the Africa trip. GO, the inner voice proclaimed as clear as day. It’s kind of like the “voice” from Field of Dreams, except you don’t actually hear it audibly. You hear it in your spirit. And that day I knew beyond a shadow of doubt, by the grace of God, I would be serving the good folks of Kenya later that summer.

"Go to Kenya" said the voice. Or the MC at least
“Go to Kenya” said the voice. Or the speaker anyhow

May, June and July were crazy months indeed. We had a team of a dozen and we spent those three months in the States getting to know each other. After all, we were going to be stuck together for two weeks in close proximity 24/7. We sent out support letters to friends and family, hosted many fundraisers, got our necessary shots (big fun that was) and we prepared our hearts and minds for the exciting journey ahead. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Violence and protests broke out in Kenya a couple months prior to our arrival date. The US Embassy even urged us NOT to go during the dates we had targeted. That’s crazy now that I think back on it! We had a few members step down from the trip due to the warning and political unrest. It was a decision that each of us had to make on our own accord. I forged ahead and am so thankful I did.

Happy 27th to me!
Happy 27th to me!

Late July 2010. The day we boarded our flight was actually my 27th birthday. It also marked the first time I would be leaving the good ol’ US of A. Yup, Kenya was my first trip outside the US. I’m not much of a traveler as you can see, but I appreciated the love they gave me (champagne on the house).

Finally, we were there!
Finally, we were there!

I’ll never forget landing after a long 24 hour flight (including layovers). I was sitting next to a Kenyan and we had been talking the final half hour of the flight. He was visiting his family from his new home, Chicago. “You’re going to love Kenya,” he said. “The people here are very friendly and we love to just talk. It’s not like how it is in America, you know. In Kenya, people can sit and talk for the whole day. Try that in America and see how far you get!” We wished one another well as we exited the plane. I remember thinking to myself if everyone in Kenya is like this then what an awesome trip it’ll be. As we waited for our Kenyan hosts to pick us up, we converted our US dollars to the Kenyan currency (shillings). Then we waited outside in the cool of the night, at around roughly 11 PM, anticipating our hosts.

Making memories right off the bat
Making memories right off the bat

It wasn’t long before a big bus pulled up and a whole bunch of friendly Kenyans jumped out eager to shake our hands and embrace us with a big ole hug. They were our hosts. We climbed aboard and each team member sat next to a Kenyan. I sat next to Jeff who reminded me of a dear old college friend back in the States. You know how you instantly bond with certain people? That was the case for me and Jeff. As we passed by the busy roads, Jeff shared with me that we were going to pass by his ex girlfriend’s house coming up soon. “I was ready to propose to her,” he reminisced. “But I kid you not, the day before, she dumped me. It burned in my heart for a long time.” And then, there it was. In the dead calm still of the night, I spotted Jeff’s ex’s house. An idea flashed excitedly through my mind. “Hey Jeff tell you what. YOU. ME. A BAG OF EGGS. THAT HOUSE. 3 AM TONIGHT.” It was met with the greatest and loudest laugh I’d ever heard. James, sitting three rows back, yelled “PARTY UP IN STEVE’S ROW!”

I'll never forget that first night in Kenya...
I’ll never forget that first night in Kenya…

A pastor that my church back home partners with hosted us in his lovely home. The goal of our trip? Work with the orphans of Kenya and spread the love of Christ through Bible stories and worship over the course of the next two weeks. We unloaded our things and met our host family. The pastor, his lovely wife and three children — two high school boys and a girl about to enter high school. We took bucket showers which was a major adjustment, but it wasn’t too bad once you got used to it. The guys slept in one room while the girls slept in another.

KenyaBeds

I’ll never forget lying in bed that night alongside four other team members. Our flat single beds were on the ground next to each other in a cramped little room. It was 1 AM. Everyone was dead tired and had already crashed, but I was wide awake. And that’s when I heard it. A cacophony of various wild animals howling and hollering. Dogs barking, roosters crowing (Kenya roosters’ clocks are all messed up), cats screeching, maybe even wild coyotes. It sounded like bloody murder out there. And for the first time, it REALLY hit me… Toto, we’re not  in Kansas anymore! I closed my eyes and fell off into a deep sound sleep. Early the next morning, we woke up at the butt crack of dawn. One by one, we shuffled off into the restroom like zombies. We all had jet lag but there was a quiet sense of excitement in the air. We gathered at the breakfast table where the pastor spoke to us. On the agenda? Trek out to the local schools, introduce ourselves to the children, and advertise that we’d be working with them throughout the next two weeks.

School #1
School #1

The 12 of us, along with three Kenyan guides, walked to the first school. It was about two miles away from Pastor’s house. Instead of riding the bus, we wanted to take in the sights and sounds. It was a long dirt path. Along the way we saw Kenyans out and about, and everyone waved to us. I’ll never forget turning the corner and seeing all the children jumping and cheering for us on cue. They treated us like we were rock stars! They even sang a song to us in Swahili. They didn’t know us but they treated us like we were kings and queens. It was a timely reminder of how lucky I was. We introduced ourselves, advertised our program and performed musical skits for them. They watched on with great interest and clapped loudly whenever one of us spoke. It was pretty surreal. They treated us like we were movie stars!

Everywhere we went we had adoring fans
Everywhere we went we had adoring fans
School #2
School #2

It didn’t take long before the whole room was filled! More songs and musical skits ensued, much to the delight of the children. They were crammed in there like sardines. Yet they all seemed so joyful. It reminded me of the many things we sometimes complain about that aren’t really that big a deal.

School #3
School #3

The next school we visited was easily the most affluent of the lot. The little children were all dressed warmly and the school was the nicest looking one.

They sang a song for us and we returned the favor
They sang a song for us and we returned the favor
Gotta love the kid with the glasses
Gotta love the kid with the glasses

I loved the looks on their little faces as we performed our various musical skits advertising our program in the weeks to come.

School #4 (gotta love the yellow jacket rebel there)
School #4

The next school was much smaller. They wore lovely red uniforms, except for that one badass rebel there! :D

Shouting it loud and proud
Shouting it loud and proud

These kids stepped up one at a time to declare their future aspirations. Answers of doctors, teachers and nurses filled the air. The session ended with all of us dancing with the children. It was a great time! Then, my two team leaders were called to be at another school at the same time our 5th school visit was scheduled, so they needed a proxy. They appointed me. I was set to be the MC for the next school visit. Wow. I felt anxious and apprehensive, despite having a public speaking and theatrical background. One thing’s for sure… I will never forget that 5th school visit…

School #5
School #5

It’s been said that the Lord has a sense of humor. So of course the 5th school, the one I was responsible for MC’ing, had to be the rowdiest of the day!

The calm AFTER the storm
The calm AFTER the storm

From sheer chaos to a nice calm scene. We finally had room to exhale. Our day of work had concluded and it was back to Pastor’s house for dinner preparation and more planning for the following day. I took a moment to take in this scene before heading back to our team bus. To remember the madness that filled this area not five short minutes ago, and how peaceful it now was.

Samosa

After heading back to Pastor’s house, we hung out in the living room. The two main facilitators were still out on business, so I led the debriefing session. It was a great, crazy day for all of us. Then some of us headed into the kitchen to help Joy, Pastor’s wife, with making the samosa. Man, I love me some samosa!

Their home cooked meals were SO good
Their home cooked meals were SO good

This was a typical meal during our stay. Joy is a mean cook, believe that! Although we craved American food, I can’t complain and we always got seconds!

PASTOR LEE: ENTER THE PIMP

Oh Pastor Lee, what a character you are...
Oh Pastor Lee, what a character you are…

After dinner, one of our dear Kenyan host friends, Pastor Lee, called all 12 of us over. It was a classic scene. He sat there in the middle of the living room, in this single person desk (rather random and a bit peculiar right off the bat). He briskly signaled for us to come over. We all thought he had something serious to share. Maybe something deeply spiritual. Maybe he just wanted to pump us up for tomorrow. We all waited for what seemed like forever as he just stared at each of us silently, caught in deep thought, his mouth agape. And then, the most unforgettable line came hurling out of his mouth… “How do you turn girls on?”

We all paused and looked at each other like, “Whoa, did he JUST say what I think he just said? No he dih-ent!”

“How do you turn girls on?” he asked once again, like a child asking for a cookie. In his little desk no less, which looked slightly too uncomfortable for a man of his size to be sitting in…

After the initial shock wore off, one of the girls fielded his inquiry. “We love a man with confidence. That, a sense of humor and poise is very big to us. It says a lot about the guy.”

“Pastor Lee, what do YOU think turns girls on?” one of the guys asked, playing along.

“Well, I use this…” he fumbled around in his pocket and for a second there we all kind of gave each other a funny look like what shenanigans will this be. Lee isn’t a small guy and he barely fit in the desk. His face strained as he reached deep into his pocket. It was quite comical. Finally he pulled out a pen and held it high in the air with a grin plastered from ear to ear, like a knight in shining armor upholding his mighty sword after slaying the vicious dragon.

“That’s your great trick?!” everyone asked.

“Not a trick my friends but a deadly weapon indeed when wielded in the right hands… it is the mighty pen.”

I wish I could find the words to describe the following moments justice. It’s one of those “you just had to be there” scenarios. All of us were looking like “what the hell is happening right now?!” or as the cool kids supposedly say, “Is this real life?!” What a funny, strange man! His verbiage and mannerisms are classic. Add in his Kenyan accent and it’s like Night at the Comedy Club with Lee :P

“You see,” he continued. “When I have this, this pen I’m holding right here, yes, this one… when I have this, when I am wielding this pen you see here, it is not merely an ordinary pen. Suddenly… it becomes… something entirely more… than just… a regular pen… you see?”

He is what you would call a grade-A classic character. He shared his legendary pickup line: “Hi m’am. Do you have one second? I’d like to show you this cool new pen I have… or perhaps I could entertain you in letting you borrow it?”

Ironically saw this when I got home. Lee lives!
Ironically saw this back home a week after Kenya :D

He had us rolling in stitches! The girls tried to give him a few pointers in the right direction but Lee was adamant on keeping his pen routine. He claimed it yields him great success all throughout the land of Kenya. It was hard to tell whether this was part of his shtick, whether he was dead serious, or if he was just plain crazy. I guess that’s what makes Lee so special and endearing. You never knew what he’d say but whatever it was, you could be sure of one thing. You’ll be laughing. Sometimes with him, but most often, at him. And I think, that’s the whole point ;)

The best part though was when Lee left and we asked Pastor a burning question…

“Pastor, is Lee a pastor?”

“Lee?! Oh no. Good grief, NO.”

“Oh? We’ve been calling him Pastor Lee all night, and he never once said anything…”

“Of course not. Lee just likes having that title, and he’ll take it from anyone who gives it to him.”

We all looked at each other like “MAN! Bamboozled, by THAT fool?! F*cking Lee!”

The trip was sure to be memorable before Lee. After meeting Lee, I knew I would surely never forget these next two weeks…

Say hi, Lee! The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Say hi, Lee! The Man, The Myth, The Legend

BACK TO SERVING

These kids arrived even earlier than we did!
These kids arrived even earlier than we did!

Early the next morning we headed to a local church to work with the children there. They looked up to us as though we were rock stars. It was very humbling.

A tour of the place
A tour of the place

Walking through these cramped bare hallways reminded me quickly of how good I have it back home. And the small stuff I sometimes find myself bitching about? It’s nothing in the grand scheme of things.

A peek at one of the rooms we'll be teaching in
A peek at one of the rooms we’ll be teaching in
Reminded me of how much I take for granted at home
Reminded me of how much I take for granted at home
The slums of Kenya
The slums of Kenya

Our Kenyan helpers then took us to the rooftop where we saw the slums stretch out before our very eyes. It was a crazy sight! Later that day we visited the slums and sat in one to speak with one of the ladies. It was maybe 10×10 with no electricity. She lives with her five children all jammed up in there. Insane. The craziest part was when I spotted a baby crawling around in the mud on the road with no parent in sight. Being there in the slums really shifts your perspective. It just reminded me not to take things for granted and not to bitch over the small stuff too much as we humans sometimes have a proclivity to do.

Something a picture just doesn't fully capture
Something a picture just doesn’t fully capture

I’ll never forget sitting in one of those slum shacks. We were squeezed in like sardines. I was only there for 15 minutes. I can’t imagine living there. It was a good reminder that the next time I feel like complaining about little inconveniences (i.e. lack of parking spots, light just turning red, etc.) I really should think twice and be GRATEFUL instead. You see this stuff on TV but it doesn’t hit you until you walk through it in your own two shoes.

Love that kid's Michael Jordan impersonation!
Love that kid’s Michael Jordan impersonation!

While we were taking photos, some of the kids below spotted us and played to the camera!

Bless their little hearts. "WHAT UP LITTLE MAN?!"
Bless their little hearts. “WHAT UP LITTLE MAN?!”

They were so happy to see us. We were greeted and (in some cases) mobbed everywhere we went, like we were the Second Coming. It was nuts.

It's story time!
It’s story time!

It wasn’t long before our room filled up with kids. Manning this station was me, Jeff and Theresa. Our station was the Bible story telling hour. The kids were so well behaved and eager to hear us talk. We shared Acts 12:1-19 with them and acted out the story. I played Peter, Theresa played the angel and Jeff, bless that Kenyan’s good heart, played Rhoda the female servant, complete with girly voice and all. Needless to say, it was a big hit with the kids!

Jeff's quite the little thespian!
Jeff’s quite the little thespian!

The story tells us that Peter was in prison. Back home his people were praying for his safe return. When he actually did, Rhoda answered the door and was so excited that she ran back to let everyone know of Peter’s miraculous return. They told her she was out of her mind. You have to love the irony…

TAKE A CHILL PILL

Party riding back to Pastor's house
Party riding back to Pastor’s house

On the car ride home I sat in the back of the bus with one of our Kenyan friends. I love this dude. We called him E and he’s got the greatest laugh — well alright, it’s tied with Jeff. I just love how Kenyans have this fire and zest for life and laughing. So, E and I were just chilling in the back of the bus. We ended up sharing our testimonies to each other on the ride back to Pastor’s house. The topic moved to girls and E was sharing his angst (at age 20) to get a girlfriend.

“Yeah Steve, I can’t help it man. It’s been on my mind 24/7. I just want a girlfriend. Right now!”

“Man, just chill. You be alright. I tell ya, what I wouldn’t give to be 20 again. You got your whole life ahead of you… you’ll be just fine. In the meantime, trust me, take a chill pill on the ladies.”

“Good points there. I like you Steve. I like you a whole LOTS! *laughs his big laugh* Say, by chance do you have a chill pill?”

I pretended to dump a chill pill in his outstretched hand. “Need some water?” I added.

Right on cue, James, who sat one row ahead of us, offered E his water bottle without looking back. Amazing comedic timing! E and I burst out in laughter and one of the leaders up front said, “Sounds like they’re having a PARTY back there!” Good times.

SWITCHING IT UP

Spending the night at a new place
Spending the night at a new place

Later that night our team split up and slept in different places. We were working with different churches the next morning so pockets of us left to different locales that evening. It was just me, James, E and Isaiah who stayed at this other pastor’s house. It was a rainy night. This new house was much smaller and unlike the previous Pastor’s house we stayed at, this one was void of any electricity. We had to use flashlights to navigate our way around the house after dark. I really felt homesick that night. Nearly all of my team members were somewhere else and I had gotten used to the first Pastor’s house. This new place felt like we had stepped back into the Dark Ages. Before we headed off to bed, all six of us sat in the pastor’s living room area. We were cloaked predominantly in darkness outside the flickering of a few candles. Heavy rain whipped outside. It set quite the mood! I sat across from Isaiah and he started to share his testimony with all of us. I’ll never forget this. Isaiah is one of those guys who has a booming, commanding voice. He’s a big guy, too. The type that people naturally stop and listen to whenever he talks. I couldn’t see his face in the dark, but his booming voice reached out to all of us as we sat in that small dark living room.

Isaiah began sharing his testimony with us
Isaiah began sharing his testimony with us

“About three years back, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. I was doing things I shouldn’t have done. Smoking things I shouldn’t have smoked. Taking things I shouldn’t have taken. One day my friends and I got into a fight with a rival group. Before I knew it, the silver glint of a 9mm gun blinded my eyes. Then I found my legs carrying me. I heard shots being fired off. They zipped right past my ear. I heard my friends crying out and the sickening THUD of their bodies hitting the floor. But there was nothing I could do. Nothing except run. I don’t know how I managed to escape with my life that day, except by the grace of God. At that moment, I knew God kept me alive because He still has plans for me to carry out. I gave my life over to Christ and made it my mission to work with the youth, help show them the right way from the wrong way. I know that’s the calling God has placed on my life and I’ve been happily living it out these past three years.”

Wow. Quite a powerful story. The heavy rain lashing against the windows, darkness all around us, it all enhanced the atmosphere. I could only just hear his booming voice. We’re so bombarded with visuals and technology. It was actually nice to just sit in the darkness and hear Isaiah share his story. It felt like I had stepped into a time machine as it did not feel like 2010. I no longer felt homesick after hearing his moving story. It’s amazing how a little light can brighten up even the darkest of rooms…

Nothing like the smell of  a brand new early morning :)
Nothing like the smell of a brand new early morning :)

The very next morning proved to be damp and moist thanks to the heavy rain throughout the night. It felt surreal just standing in the middle of the road, in this country, so far away from the comforts of home. On today’s agenda: we’ll be heading over to the local church to help hand craft some items for the kids to take home with them. We made thousands of them.

Each one was stuffed with cotton. Super mini-pillow!
Each one was stuffed with cotton. Super mini pillow!

EVERY TRIP NEEDS A LITTLE DRAMA…

Hello there, Rocksteady
Hello there, Rocksteady

During our two week trip we had one day off for pure sightseeing. We went to the museum, the zoo and we even did some shopping for family and friends back home. This was another crazy day because later that night during our daily share time before bed, one of the girls voiced her displeasure that we “wasted” a day where we should have been working with the kids to “make a difference.” I guess no trip is complete without a little drama and internal strife. It was dead silence in Pastor’s living room that night after she shared. After the initial shock of the raw comment wore off, we all shared our thoughts and it was actually quite the breakthrough. We were one week into our trip at that point, with one week left to go, and that night proved to be the catalyst for us bonding like a real team should. Something happened that night. And we realized we really needed to band together as a team to finish what we’d started.

One day sightseeing. Too much?
Sometimes you just need a day off to recharge

Later that night, in the privacy of guys’ room, James, the male team leader and I stayed up til 3 AM talking about it. The other guys had already passed out. James, T and I just laid there on our beds talking in the dark. James and I encouraged our leader, who was under extreme duress. The next morning an amazing thing happened. Around the breakfast table we were all laughing and talking excitedly about the day ahead. Not once was a word mentioned of the previous night. It was an unspoken catalyst that drew our team closer together. After all, if you can’t be honest with the folks in your fox hole, then who the hell can you be honest with?

FINISHING OUR MISSION STRONG

Compassion abounds in Kenya
Compassion abounds in Kenya

Our trip ended with a bang. One of my favorite memories was our last day working with the kids. In this story telling hour we reenacted Acts 3:1-10 where Peter heals a lame beggar in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It was awesome because we had one of the boys volunteer to be the beggar. He sat there shaking and begging. But the best part of it all? The kids began coming up to him to offer whatever they had. That was NOT in the script! It showed the abundance of compassion these kids possess and how truly big their hearts are. Gotta love the little boy there looking on with a concerned look ready to lend a helping hand. I’m not ashamed to admit that witnessing this gave me goosebumps!

Farewell my friends! Until next time
Farewell my friends! Until next time

Our last day in Kenya was a bittersweet day. At the end we just played with the kids, did Red Rover and danced. I felt like I was 10 years old all over again. Before we piled into the team bus, they all tried to prolong the day. Some even asked if they could come back to the States with us. I’ll never forget their joyful faces and unabashed spirits. It’s an image that’s stuck with me ever since.

Each team member wrote appreciation notes for all
Eat your heart out, Shaolin Soccer

The night before we left Kenya we made envelopes for each other and taped them to the wall. Here we could write little notes of appreciation to one another. I felt like a six year old kid on Christmas Eve. That night we all sat around in Pastor’s living room, our last night together, writing our appreciation notes to one another. The only rule was you couldn’t read them until you were on the airplane. One of the girls drew this up for me, because well, I developed a certain reputation on the team. One day I was playing soccer with the Kenyan kids and I scored the winning goal with a mid-air karate kick. Didn’t mean to! I saw the ball flying in the air and I instinctively leaped, karate kicking the ball into the opposing net for the victory. Everyone was cracking up and the soccer karate kick stuck. Hey, I can think of worst things!

Good ol' James! Good dude
Good ol’ James! Good dude
You kick ass, James
You kick ass, James

SteveNote3

From James sister
From James’ sister
The female team leader
The female team leader
Theresa, my fellow story teller station buddy
Theresa, my fellow story teller station buddy

SteveNote4A

From one of the guys, Cool Joe
From one of the guys, Cool Joe
The male team leader
The male team leader
From Little Miss Dancer, Sharon
From Little Miss Dancer, Sharon
Ha! Classic Tim!
Ha! Classic Tim! :D

SteveNote6

From my dear sweet friend. Lee loved you didnt he?
From my dear sweet friend. Lee loved you didn’t he?
He sure did :P
He sure did :P
Thanks for the love, Lee. No, I dont need your pen!
Thanks for the love, Lee. No, I don’t need your pen!

SteveNote8-A

Wow, her note really touched me. Much love!
Wow, her note really touched me. Much love!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Kenya was awesome. Loved the kids!
Kenya was awesome. Loved the kids!

The missions trip to Kenya back in the summer of 2010 was one of the best adventures of my lifetime, bar none. I was amazed by the sense of tight knit community the Kenyans have over there. They don’t have much technology but what they DO have is a tremendous amount of unwavering faith and love for one another. I was also insanely humbled by their hospitality and affection. They were so good to us and I like to think they taught us more than we taught them.

They love God and each other so much
This kid is working it!

This picture in some ways captures the essence of Kenya to me. They love God and each other so much. Their faith is inspirational. Take this little boy for example. He’s jotting down notes about a Bible lesson and he’s taking it all in. I was blown away. If you’ve never been on a mission trip before but have always considered it, or maybe you’ve been on the fence, then I hope this story inspires you to push through. And even if you don’t have any interest to go on one, I hope this story touched you in some way. I’m a big believer of paying it forward. Acts of random kindness makes this world such a better place for all involved. Be blessed, stay blessed and bless others! Cheers.

Thanks. And everyone else too :)
Thanks. And everyone else too :)

This song was all the rage at the time of our Kenya trip. It’s stuck in my head to this day and whenever I hear it still, I can’t help but think back to my times in Kenya over seven summers ago…

Hunting the Boogeyman (Adventures With My Best Friend, Nelson)

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There’s something special about having a best friend growing up. Someone you can truly call a best friend unequivocally. A best pal who sticks with you through thick and thin, good and bad, highs and lows. Nothing completes a healthy childhood like having a best buddy. And if you were lucky like me, you had one growing up. This is a tribute to my childhood best friend, Nelson. The greatest times we shared, the coming-of-age adventures of our youth, the falling out, the reconciliation and the most recent events that transpired between us not long ago…

SEPTEMBER 1988: DAY OF RECKONING

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In a second, streams of sunshine. I heard a muffled voice that rose like a crescendo.

FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN!"
FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN!”
Time to say good-bye to the good old days
Time to say good-bye to the good old days

Great. Armageddon had finally come. The inevitable, as it were. No longer was I a free man. No more watching cartoons all day long. No more playing in the backyard with my brother’s Lego toys while he toiled along at school. I would wave good-bye to my brother and watch him disappear down the block before making a mad dash for his precious Lego stash (which he rarely let me touch in his presence). The sleek black spaceship called THE INVADER had more planets to conquer and it needed me to help it do that. Was I ready to give all of that up? Hell no. But you know what they say about Armageddon — it’s always got a face and a name. And now, a date as well.

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Somehow, my mom managed to drag me to Room 1 by eight sharp. I sat in the corner, arms crossed with a scowl carved on my face. And it was then that I noticed a chubby boy sitting in the opposite corner who looked like he wanted to be there even less than I did. By the end of that week, the two of us became friends. Best friends. Nelly and I.

THE EARLY ’90S

Ah, the bliss of ignorance
Ah, the bliss of ignorance

Nelson and I had so much in common. We both loved monsters, ghosts, video games, wrestling, cartoons, TGIF, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and the list goes on and on. We lived only two blocks away from each other. On my way to school each morning, I would stop by to pick him up. After school, if he wasn’t at my house, I was at his. My mom often took us to the library. Nelly and I used to borrow all the monster books we could find. My local library had a small monster section that we often raided as though we owned it. And maybe we did. To this day I still vividly remember borrowing the Godzilla book and others from that classic Ian Thorne series. I also remember us believing in those infamous Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot photos that we found in the library.

Good times
NESSIE!
We borrowed this book a dozen time
We borrowed this book a dozen times
Anyone else remember this series?
Anyone else remember this series?
The covers were classic
The covers were classic
They haunt me to this day
They haunt me to this day
I didn't see this book much
I didn’t see this book much
[I C WAT U DID DERE -Ed.]
[I C WAT U DID DERE -Ed.]
Our great white whale
Our great white whale

We watched all of the Showa era Godzilla movies together except for one: Destroy All Monsters. We read in a monster book somewhere about how Destroy All Monsters featured “all the TOHO monsters in it.” It then became an obsession of ours to track down a VHS copy, but at the time it proved very difficult to find. It’s not like today where with the power of the internet almost any obscure movie can be resurrected from the ashes. Oh no, back then it was the Wild, Wild West. We never did manage to track down a copy of DAM. I remember the author’s comment on DAM to this day. Nelly and I were flabbergasted when we read, “The movie is sadly not as good as one might hope.”

How could a movie on this scale be disappointing??
How could a movie on this scale be disappointing?

Nelson and I grew livid and defensive. “No freaking way! ALL the monsters are in it! It CAN’T BE ANYTHING BUT AWESOME! YOU BLIND JERK!”

We were angrier than Burning Godzilla!
We were angrier than Burning Godzilla!

Many years later I finally caught DAM when it was released on a larger scale. I have to say I agree with that author after all. So buddy, if you’re reading this somehow, I take it all back. On a side note, Nelson and I caught the opening night showing of Godzilla (2014) and it was glorious. Can’t wait for the 2019 sequel.

Gotta love the Big Guy
Gotta love the Big Guy

THE BURIED NOTE

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Sometime in 1991, Nelson and I had the idea of burying a “Best Friends Forever” pledge in my backyard. We printed our names in blood (or at least, a sharp #2 pencil anyhow) and truly believed that in doing so we would remain best friends ’til the end of time. Ahhhh, the innocence of being eight. As we were preparing to dig a hole in my backyard, a booming voice rang. It was big bro. As big brothers often do, he spoiled our plans. The note, sadly, was never buried.

Would have been fun revisiting it decades later
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be…

THE LEGEND OF THE MASKED MANIAC!

THE MASKED MANIAC LIVES!
THE MASKED MANIAC LIVES!

Back in 1992, Nelson told me a story that haunted me for weeks. In our hometown, according to him you understand, there was a maniac on the loose. On the prowl. Believed to be… at large. Again, according to Nelson, mind you. He wore a white hockey mask and wielded a horrific chainsaw. He was… THE MASKED MANIAC. Of course, a part of me knew my best friend was just spewing crap, but a small part of me grabbed and held on to the story. So imagine our shock and delight when we first saw Stanley Decker the following year in Zombies Ate My Neighbors. HOLY CRAP! It was Nelson’s MASKED MANIAC come to life!

Of course, Stanley Decker was inspired by Jason
Of course, Stanley Decker was inspired by Jason
And Leatherface (which is what inspired Nelson too)
And Leatherface (which is what inspired Nelson too)

The Masked Maniac became our little in-joke as the years went by, and I still believe The Masked Maniac is the world’s greatest slasher movie yet to be made.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF FIGHTING GAMES

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The Street Fighter II craze hit the nation in 1991. Nelson and I fell in line but it was really World Heroes in 1992 that we truly adored. We both knew Street Fighter II was by far the superior game, but we sort of adopted the lesser touted World Heroes as one of our own. While the lines for the Street Fighter II cab went out the door, Nelson and I were perfectly content playing World Heroes with little fanfare. Nelson bought the SNES port in the fall of 1993 and we played it to death.

World Heroes was our jam
World Heroes was our jam

One of my favorite gaming memories came in late 1993 when both Super Street Fighter II and World Heroes 2 were jousting for arcade supremacy. On a rainy as hell Saturday morning, my dad dropped Nelson and me off at this gigantic jack-of-all-trades hobby store. I’ll never forget how my dad stopped the car right in front of the store, how Nelly and I streaked out of the back seats and to the safety of the store’s awning but not before the downpour managed to soak our jackets. Upon entering the humongous hobby shop, we wiped our feet and were immediately greeted by the soft Norwegian tunes of Erik’s stage from World Heroes 2. It’s just one of those simple little moments that stick with you forever. One of those magical childhood moments that even now as an adult you can still see vividly happening in third person.

Whenever I see this stage, it always brings me back
Whenever I see this stage, it always brings me back
We spent hours down at the local CYBERSTATION
We spent hours down at the local CYBERSTATION
And of course, Chuck E. Cheeeses
And of course, Chuck E. Cheese’s

THE FALL OUT

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A lot changed in September 1992. I was a 4th grader in a 3-4 combo class that school year. Meanwhile, Nelson was in a standard 4th grade classroom. For the first time ever, we were separated. I met Timmy and Jerome, two third graders in my combo class, and we became good friends right away. At lunch I didn’t know whether to hang out with Nelson and Manny, or my new friends, Jerome and Timmy. I ended up hanging out with Jerome and Timmy more. Not surprisingly, this drove a riff in my relationship with Nelson. The line in the sand was drawn. It’s possible we had a fight prior to this which led to me picking Timmy and Jerome over Nelson and Manny, but I can’t quite remember the finer details.

Later that school year, things began to sour between me and Timmy. Somehow, we went from good pals to bitter rivals. This divided Jerome and our little three man clique disbanded as quickly as it formed.

THE FIGHT

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Around December 1992, my teacher had each of us make a shoe box diorama. The box had to be decorated with things you liked. I chose my family and wanted to depict a typical lazy Sunday afternoon. My mom cooking in the kitchen, my dad reading the paper in the den, and my bro and I playing Street Fighter II on the SNES in our living room. Doesn’t sound bad on paper… until you factor in the cheap cut-out paper I used to represent everything in my shoe box. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do my best on that one…

Gotta admit, my effort fell a little... flat *cough*
My effort fell a little… flat *cough*

Timmy, on the other hand, used grand 3D models: small dinosaur toys littered his diorama along with a pleasant looking volcano perfectly situated in the middle. Trees, even! It was a lush depiction of the Jurassic period, no doubt about it. He earned an A while Ms. Holly was kind enough to give me a C. Timmy’s shoe box sure bested mine, but it was what he did later that day that made me snap.

Timmys diorama kind of looked like this
Timmy’s diorama kind of looked like this

“What grade did you give Steve?” he asked Ms. Holly annoyingly.

“Timmy, that’s inappropriate to ask.”

“Did you fail him? Did you?”

“Timmy! What did I just say?”

I sat there and watched as Timmy grinned his stupid fat grin.

Just wait til I wipe that stupid smirk off yer lousy face!
Just wait ’til I wipe that stupid smirk off yer lousy face

I glared at his scrawny ass from my seat. I saw the stupid bastard grinning like a Cheshire cat as he continued to pester Ms. Holly to spill the beans. He came up to me at the end of the day with his usual smug expression looking all arrogant and cocky.

Timmy had a way of getting under your skin
Timmy had a way of getting under your skin

“Steve, you know what, actually, your shoe box isn’t THAT bad… I mean, you really did justice to your family… after all, they’re all so… lifeless!”

Enough was enough. I couldnt take it anymore
Enough was enough. I couldn’t take it any more

And that’s when I snapped.

Timmy had crossed a line he could not return from. But since we were still in class, I had to restrain myself well enough not to kill him then and there. Instead, I sat quietly in my seat with the rage festering inside. My eyes were glued to the clock counting down until the end of the day… just a few more minutes…

Finally…

*BELL RINGS*

As soon as Ms. Holly excused my table, I bounced out of my seat like I was sitting on a spring. Storming out to where Timmy already was, he turned around, saw the intense look in my eyes and he knew IT WAS ON. He flinched right before I sprinted after him. He zipped through the school courtyard like a little jack rabbit, but I was right on his tail.

Down the 3rd grade sector we ran. No one attempted to stop us. Hell, I didn’t even see anyone around as everything suddenly became a blur and Timmy was the only concrete image I could make out. It was one of those out-of-body experiences. Not before long I managed to grab his shirt. I felt the life being sucked out of his puny body as I pinned him against the wall. Peering deeply into his eyes, I saw the resignation in it. He didn’t struggle, didn’t whimper.

It was the look of the lamb… right before the slaughter.

“Don’t you ever — EVER — insult my family again!”

... the look of the lamb
Before I knew it, I socked him in the face

I let his limp little body go. He held his left cheek as he walked off with his tail tucked between his legs. Timmy never messed with me or my family again following that.

I’m not saying violence solves issues, but at the time it just felt right. I defended the honor of my family’s name. The second half of that school year, Timmy kept his distance and I went back to being best friends with Nelson and Manny — the guys I should have stuck with all along. I guess at some point, every relationship has to go through the fire. Then, and perhaps only then, do you know what’s what.

BACK IN BUSINESS

Nelly and I were back, and we had the two hottest girls
We were back, and now we had the two hottest girls

The very next year saw a reunion — Nelson and I were in the same 5th grade classroom together. The band was back, baby! 1994 turned out to be the best year of my childhood. Nelly and I were ten, and ten is a funny age, you know. Some days you feel like you’re five, and other days you feel like you’re 15. It’s a time to relish the twilight years of your childhood, as well as a time to look forward to all the teenage turmoil to come. Not only were we reunited but we also had the two prettiest girls in the whole school in our class: Jennifer and Elaine. Elaine was the “Prom Queen” type. Jennifer was more like the classic Girl Next Door. She was my version of Winnie Cooper growing up.

There was magic in the air that day...
There was magic in the air that day…

One spring day after school somehow, the four of us found ourselves walking home together. We never did this before and we never did it again, but there was magic in the air that day. All our friends shot us jealous and stunned looks as they watched me and Nelson escort the two cutest girls home. I remember us walking through the school’s huge baseball field just taking it all in, enjoying the sunshine beating down on us and shooting the shit with the two hottest girls in the entire school.

We didnt hold hands but it was one of those idyllic days
It was one of those idyllic days you never wanted to end

LAST MAN STANDING

The darkening afternoon clouds set an ominous tone
Darkening afternoon clouds set an ominous tone…

Nelson and I were surrounded by a cast of characters. We were good friends with Manny and Jonathan but Manny and Jonathan didn’t get along. Jonathan was the new cocky kid in town. Manny didn’t appreciate that. For weeks we felt their budding rivalry build until finally, one fateful dreary day it came to a head.

During that lunch period, we were eating our Lunchables and drinking our Capri Sun pouches when the fireworks started AGAIN between Manny and Jonathan. Manny then challenged Jonathan to a game he deemed “LAST MAN STANDING.” It was the challenge to end all challenges. Manny and Jonathan would take turns doing something crazy and then the other had to copy. Whoever fails to do so first loses. The LAST MAN STANDING wins. Manny started it off by sliding down the slide head first. Jonathan followed suit. I winced as his head landed awkwardly on the tanbarks. But in typical cocky Jonathan fashion, he brushed the dust off and asked Manny, “Is that all you got, tough guy?”

The crazy view these crazy boys had going down...
The nutty view those crazy boys had going down…

It was Jonathan’s turn now. He stood there on the tanbarks, bent his knees and fell backward. He landed awkwardly and got up gingerly, rubbing his back. He grimaced and grinned at the same time. “Try that!” he yelled at Manny. Manny then placed both arms on his shoulders, crisscross style, and did a full on trust fall. No bent knees. No cheapies. It was the real deal. He shot back up like nothing happened. The dude was Wolverine. Now it was his turn. But not before Jonathan could shout, “LET’S SEE WHAT YOU GOT!”

Nelson and I gave each other the "uh oh" look
Nelson and I gave each other the “uh oh” look

Rookie mistake. Jonathan didn’t know Manny like we did. And that’s when Manny went for the kill.

Leave it to Manny to think of the craziest stunts
Leave it to Manny to think of the craziest stunts

Jonathan, Nelson and I found ourselves standing at the base of the first tetherball set. There were a total of six tetherball poles in all, each separated by 10 feet. Like a man possessed, Manny sprinted to the opposite end. We stood there staring on in bewilderment wondering what he had in mind. I’ll never forget what I saw next. Manny began charging 200 miles per hour with his right arm fully extended. You could hear the sickening SMACK of steel on bone as Manny streaked past all six metal poles. The sight of his arm jerking backward at a 75 degree angle following each pole made me cringe. After Manny was done, he stood there beaming not five feet away from us. He gestured to the end of the first tetherball set as to say, “You’re next.”

Your turn, hotshot
Your turn, hotshot. Mwahahaha…

Exasperated, Jonathan threw his arms in the air and yelled, “You crazy son of a bitch!” Nelson and I watched as he walked off. There was only one thing left to do: we raised Manny’s arms in the air and declared him the undisputed champion.

I can never see another tetherball set the same again
I’ll never see a tetherball set the same ever again

HALLOWEEN HORROR

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Nelson and I share a passion for all things Halloween (both the movie franchise and the actual day). Anything that had to do with monsters, ghosts or ghouls, we were there.

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Every October Nelly and I cranked up our year-round monster love to the max. Telling ghost stories in our rooms, watching horror movies, reading the latest FANGORIA issues — it was such a great time to be 10 years old and have a like-minded best friend.

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We entered a phase where we were obsessed with collecting as many horror cassettes as we could. I’ll never forget this one in particular — “Sounds of Halloween.” That cover was epic!

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We bought these tapes thinking they were taboo. We’d sit in Nelly’s room, close the blinds and listen to them while swapping ghost stories. I also loved the cheesy warning labels. Looking back on it all, these tapes weren’t that great, truth be told, but it was a time capsule. A sign of the times and days of innocence.

GOOSEBUMPS

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Speaking of things that go bump in the night, we were obsessed with Goosebumps. It was kind of the Harry Potter of the ’90s before Harry Potter.

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Nelson’s favorite was The Haunted Mask.

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And this was mine.

Goose-B4

From that point on, I was hooked. Nelson and I had a friendly competition where each month we’d see who could read the latest Goosebumps edition first. Made for some fun times. Half of the fun was discussing it with your best friend afterward.

FearStreeta

I remember seeing these at the local library with Nelson. We always psyched ourselves out and made these books scarier than what they really were. It was all part of the fun.

FearStreet

It was just a magical time. You’d go to the arcade with your best friend to play all the latest fighting games. Then you’d swing by the local book store to peruse the latest EGM and GameFan issue before making your way to the back of the store where they had R.L. Stine’s latest and greatest. Whether you were into Goosebumps or Fear Street, it always made for a good time with your best pal.

We even saw the 2015 movie together. Fun times
We even saw the 2015 movie together. Fun times

THE SUMMER OF IMPORTS

ImpGH

In my hometown growing up, Game Hunter was widely revered. It carried nothing but video games and anime (hell, even a few arcade cabs). Everything from handhelds to Neo Geo, you name it, they had it. Best of all, they even carried import games. Japanese versions of games you couldn’t wait to play that would not be released in North America until weeks or even months later! Game Hunter was legendary :)

3SFC3

Seeing Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Saturday Night Slam Masters (Muscle Bomber) sitting next to each other atop the highest shelf that fateful June Saturday afternoon of 1994 is a story for the ages. And of course, it all happened with good ol’ Nelson by my side.

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Nelson rented Fighter’s History and I chose King of the Monsters 2. Their North American versions were still weeks away. I remember thinking that Nelly and I were the two luckiest kids in the whole town that weekend. Needless to say, we were glued to the TV like a pair of zombies that epic weekend. Great times.

There are some gaming images you can never forget
There are some gaming images you can never forget

Whenever I see Lee’s bucolic stage, with those damn ducks, the fisherman dipping his line lazily in the water and those moss-covered hills, I can’t help but be instantly transported back to Nelson’s living room on a hot Saturday afternoon of June 1994.

TWO WEEKS LATER — EGM SCORE!

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My brother slept at a family friend’s house two hours away. For me and Nelson, this meant only one thing: UNRESTRICTED AND UNLIMITED ACCESS TO MY BROTHER’S EGM STASH! That very first day Kevin was gone, Nelson rode his bike over in record time. I’ll never forget the image of Nelson opening my brother’s drawer and seeing him pull out with both hands a HUGE stack of EGM issues. He looked like a man possessed!

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EGM in 1994 was God-like. We didn’t have internet or YouTube back then so EGM was our source of news, rumors, reviews and previews. There’s something inexplicably awesome about flipping through an EGM issue with your best friend back in those days. You could literally spend hours lost in those magical pages…

GRADUATION — JUNE 1995

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They say all good things must come to an end. In June of 1995, Nelson and I were facing our final days together in elementary school. We had a hell of a run, but it was nearing time to enter the hollowed halls of junior high. On Friday, June 9, 1995, Nelson, some other friends and I walked to the local theatre to see the opening of Congo. I remember it was our first time walking over by ourselves and we felt like such a big deal. We came late though so we had to sit in the front row and crane our necks for the entire showing. The movie kind of sucked, too, but that was besides the point. We were on the verge of a brand new chapter in our lives, but we were going to hopefully stick together through it all.

Dancefloor

Later that night, it was our school’s End of the Year Dance. We all attended but not before we all fished for reasons and excuses not to. Hey, we were 11 and it’s what 11 year old boys do. But in the end we knew we’d regret it if we didn’t. Seeing Jennifer and Elaine there and interacting with all our friends for the final time made it worth it. I remember a lot of multi-colored dots dancing around the cafeteria and drinking a lot of fruit punch. Talking with my friends and enjoying our final days in grade school together. The following week we graduated and I knew deep down that life would never be the same…

THE MOVE — JANUARY 1996

Good-bye, old hometown
Good-bye, old hometown

Halfway through my 7th grade year, I had to move. Even though Nelson and I would only be separated by about 20 minutes, I knew things were going to be different. Neither of us could drive and it just isn’t the same as when you live within walking distance. We slowly but surely fell out of touch.

FRIDAY: SEPTEMBER 12, 2003

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Now a junior in college, it was my tradition every Friday after my final class to hit the gym on campus and play pickup ball. I became obsessed with basketball (see Coach Butler and 9/11 for more). It was on this fateful Friday late afternoon walking out of the gym that I noticed a local news station on campus. Before I knew what was happening, they approached me to ask if I had any thoughts on a hot topic related to my campus. I spoke to the camera for about 15 seconds and afterward they told me I’d be on the 5 o’clock news. I raced over to my cousin’s house in my old hometown to record my 15 seconds of fame. My little cousins were screaming when they saw their cousin on TV. I felt like a rock star. Feeling like I could move mountains, I decided to break the silence and reach out to my old best friend, Nelson.

I made the drive over like a man possessed
I made the drive over like a man on a mission

It had been two years since we last spoke. Hell, I had no idea if he even still lived at the same place. We were 20 now so there’s a good chance he had already moved out of his parents’ place. Only one way to find out for sure, though.

And so, it was around 5:45 on a cool early Friday evening that I swung by the old haunt. Butterflies were swooning in my stomach as I parked in Nelson’s old driveway. I rung the doorbell and waited anxiously.

Is Nelson's family even still here, I thought to myself...
Is Nelson’s family even still here, I thought to myself…

“Steven?!”

It was his mom.

“Yes! Hi, does he still live here?”

“He sure does, but I’m afraid he’s out.”

“Oh,” my voice couldn’t help hide the disappointment.

“I know it’s been a while… he’d be so thrilled to see you again.”

“Likewise. Please tell him I stopped by.”

She invited me in for a drink but I told her I should get going. That ol’ road beckons me home. As I started walking back to my car, a huge black Toyota truck came roaring into the driveway. We both stared at each other stunned for a second.

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“STEVEN!? Holy shit, how long’s it been?!”

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We went to his backyard, the same one where Nelson and I spent many hours of our youth during the dog days of summer, and we caught up on the past couple years of our lives. The skyline was beautiful. The sun was just dipping over the horizon with a light September breeze gently greeting us every few seconds. That evening Nelson and I talked. About the good old days. About Elaine and Jennifer. About college. We talked about LIFE.

It wasn’t all rosy, though. I found out that evening that Nelson had dropped out of college. He felt directionless. He also took up smoking and not just cigarettes. He told me he was trying real hard to quit but it’s just that — real hard. Part of me had difficulty processing the ‘new’ Nelson. I never envisioned him in a million years as someone who would use drugs or drop out of school. But I guess that’s life. Things change and shit happens. On the bright side, Nelson was working as a part-time mechanic and making some money at least.

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We ended up shooting the breeze for a couple hours straight as it was soon nightfall. It felt surreal to be back in the same backyard I used to patrol some odd ten years ago. Except now we were no longer 10 year old kids. No longer children of innocence. Now we were 20 and young adults. My life was on track while Nelson’s was a bit more uncertain. And despite the long disconnect and “growing apart,” that evening we found out we would always be friends at the very least. No matter what happens, or where life takes us, Nelly and I’ll always share an unbreakable bond.

FRIDAY: MAY 23, 2008

It was our umpteenth reunion
It was our umpteenth reunion

Nelson and I always have our mini-reunions after x-months of not seeing one another. On this day we decided to catch up over dinner with two other mutual friends. They were a couple — the guy lived next door to Nelson growing up and I used to have a crush on the girl back in college and possibly vice versa. Quite the interesting evening it turned out to be. The four of us shared a lovely dinner at a steak house. Afterward Nelson and I drove to the theatre to catch the new Indiana Jones movie.

A lot of truth came out on that drive...
A lot of deep truth came out on that drive…

On the drive over, Nelson shared some very deep issues with me. He talked about how our friend Jake possessed such natural charisma speaking to the waitress serving us, and how much Nelson wishes he had the same ability. I encouraged him with a little pep talk and told him to keep his head up.

“Wow Steve… no one has ever believed in me like that before. My whole family’s kind of written me off a little bit y’know… it’s nice to see you have my back and believe in me.”

I know, it was a sappy little moment, but I tell ya, Nelson is my guy. I’ll always believe in him and want the best for him. It’s not easy to be real like that, to open up and be so vulnerable to another person. We all have our shortcomings and having support is key. It takes a lot of guts to share something so personal.

MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR

"AW C'MON!"
“AW C’MON!”

That spring 2008 semester I student taught at my childhood elementary school. Yup, the very same one where Nelson and I met and became best friends. My dream was always to return home, teach there and give back to the community. It was a blast coming back to the old digs. One day after school I went to my car and found in my haste earlier that morning I’d accidentally locked the keys in the car. D’OH! Fortunately, one of the back windows was opened about two inches. There was *JUST* enough space for a clothes hanger to maybe prop the lock open.

"SON OF A MOTHER!!!"
“SON OF A MOTHER!!!”

Luckily, my grandmother happened to live just half a block from where I parked my car. I walked over and she loaned me an old wire hanger. Much to my chagrin, the wire proved too weak to get the job done.

Then I called Nelson, who still lived in that same house about a block or two away from our old elementary school. After describing the embarrassing situation to him, he was on his way.

There came Nelson riding on his bike to come save me
Nelson came riding on his bike to come save me

Next thing I know, as I’m standing there on the sidewalk by my car, in the far distance I could make out Nelly coming around the corner on his bicycle! The scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin immediately flashed in my mind, complete with the cheesy ’80s song “Heat of the Moment” blaring in my overactive mind.

I never meant to be so bad to you...
I never meant to be so bad to you…

Nelson brought one of those back scratchers, and this was the result:

Are you kidding me?!
Are you kidding me?!

But then we applied a little force, pushing the stick down. It slid down and we managed to prop the lock open!

What a tease :P
What a tease :P

My ’92 Honda had been through the wars and the back right window stopped working a while back, so it was opened an inch or two permanently. I covered it with some tape… it all looked very tacky as you can see. But this defect allowed me to skip calling AAA which I didn’t have at the time. At first the stick wouldn’t go in but a couple clever angle squeezes and it just barely made it through.

"Ha yeah... those sure were some good times, man"
“Ha, yeah… those sure were some good times, man…”

I treated Nelson to lunch afterward where we laughed about this incident and just talked about life, carrying on our conversation from a few weeks ago. There’s something about connecting with someone who knows your history as well as you yourself do. There’s something very special about that.

FRIDAY: MARCH 26, 2010

It was the biggest opening night of my acting life
It was the biggest opening night of my acting life

While I studied to earn my teaching credential in college, I minored in Theatre Arts. I’ve always been fascinated by acting, and I love the camaraderie that it naturally builds. Rehearsing late nights, even past midnight, has a funny way of bonding people. Well, on this night I was playing a Roman soldier and we opened to a house of 2,000 people. Among the two in that audience of 2,000? Nelson and yes, my childhood crush, my Winnie Cooper… Jennifer. It meant so much to me that they both showed up. It was a great night.

SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2015

Bucket list item, check!
Bucket list item, check!

Fast forward five years. Nelson and I crossed a major item off our bucket list: attend a freaking WRESTLEMANIA. WrestleMania 31 was one of the greatest live events I’ve ever been to. We had pretty decent seats and it was a childhood dream come true. Hell, we got to witness Sting’s first and only WrestleMania match!

FRIDAY: AUGUST 5, 2016

Weekend at Nellys!
Weekend at Nelly’s!

Nelson and I share a special bond where we may go months without contact but whenever one of us gets in touch it’s like we never left. Precisely one year ago, as I write this, I decided to visit Nelson’s new place in Southern California. We set out to visit Disneyland since it was about 30 minutes away from his apartment.

As I was about three miles away from his place, I passed through a neighborhood that I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. That’s funny. How can it be familiar if I’ve never been here before?

It suddenly dawned on me. Was it? Could it be? No way. I passed a few traffic lights before finally pulling over. I had to quench my curiosity before heading to Nelson’s. Busted out my phone and typed into Google:

“HALLOWEEN 1978 FILMING LOCATIONS”

A website came up and an address in South Pasadena was given. My hands were shaking as I punched said address into Google Maps.

“1.8 miles away”

HO-LEE SHIT.

I had just driven by one of the iconic Halloween filming locations! HADDONFIELD IN THE FLESH! The Halloween super geek in me was coming out big time. What were the odds that my childhood best friend (who also loved the Halloween franchise) would live three miles away from Haddonfield?! It was a moment of true serendipity. I texted Nelson to tell him I’d be coming 30 minutes late. I had no doubt we would return later but for now it was a personal pilgrimage I simply had to brave for myself first. And this is what I recorded on that serendipitous day:

One of the most iconic scenes in horror cinema!
One of the most iconic scenes in horror cinema!
Standing at the scene of the crime nearly 40 years later!
Standing at the scene of the crime nearly 40 years later!

Following this, I drove the three miles over to Nelson’s. I showed him the pictures and video I took. He couldn’t believe it! He moved to L.A. about seven months ago but had no idea he lived just three miles away from “Haddonfield.” Next thing you know, we found ourselves on an impromptu trip down memory lane. What initially began as a trip to chill with Mickey turned into a trip of HUNTING THE BOOGEYMAN. We ended up driving all over South Pasadena that late afternoon looking for a ton of Halloween nostalgia live in the flesh. This is what we found that day…

HUNTING THE BOOGEYMAN

Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Myers house in 1978 (and 2016 below)

MyersHouse1

Michael’s house was demolished and moved to a new location. It now serves as an office. Despite the disappointment of that, Nelson and I still sat there in awe. Reminiscing and laughing about the good old days, that’s when we noticed a DirecTv satellite dish on the side of the house. We also could hear the loud humming of an air conditioner. It was a hot August day in Haddonfield… the dog days of summer indeed. That’s when the line of the day was uttered by yours truly. “What the hell, Michael Myers watching Game of Thrones with the AC on? DUDE IS GETTING SOFT!” Nelson added, “What’s Michael Myers doing browsing PornHub!?”

Michael Myers finally went soft, eh?
Michael Myers finally went soft, eh?

We laughed hard for what felt like minutes. We laughed so hard we both had tears in our eyes. Man, I hadn’t laugh that good in quite a while. A mere hour prior to this, we both just assumed we’d catch up a bit and find Mickey. Little did we know! Instead, we found ourselves reconnecting and hunting a boogeyman who has haunted us both since childhood. Suddenly, we were chasing a ghost from our past. A ghost with no face. “And the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.” Rest in Peace, Donald Pleasence.

Here I am in front of the Myers' house
Here I am in front of the Myers’ house

Each filming location foray brought me and Nelson closer to the edge of a bygone era. An age we both thought had all but disappeared. It was like slipping through the back door of a time machine. Suddenly, we were wide-eyed kids again. Completely unjaded and uncorrupted by the foul orders of life and the cruelties of growing up.

The classic intro shot
The classic intro shot

LANelly2

Wow. Standing there taking this picture sent goosebumps up and down my spine.

The school in the film
The school in the film
Creepy Michael doing his thing
Creepy Michael doing his thing

LANelly4

Next on the list was the old elementary school featured in the 1978 film. It still looked pretty much the same. It was crazy thinking it had been almost 40 years since Michael stalked Tommy here.

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Here Nelson and I sat in his car on a street used in the filming of Halloween. We shot this quick video below:

Michael stalked these streets nearly 40 years ago
Michael stalked these very streets nearly 40 years ago…

After this, Nelson and I decided to drive around L.A. randomly and then get some dinner.

LANelly5

You can’t go to L.A. and not take a shot of those beautiful palm trees.

LANelly6

What else would two guys in L.A. do on a Saturday night but break out the good stuff? Nelly and I hit up the local laundry mat so he could have some fresh clothes for Disneyland tomorrow.

LANelly7

The laundry mat had a Neo Geo cab! How cool is that? That led to some natural reminiscing about World Heroes and the like.

Shakeys

Nelson took me to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor for dinner. It was the ultimate haven for comfort food. We ordered a large piping hot pepperoni pizza, some chicken and potato wedges. I probably consumed like 2,500 calories alone but it was damn worth it. Totally hit the spot! :D

MeNelly1

After dinner Nelson drove us through a fancy part of town. We drove up to the top of this hill and it overlooked the city. It was nice to get away and just shoot the shit with my old best friend. Every once in a while it’s nice to drive far away and get away from it all for a bit. Nelson smoked a cigarette as we talked. I stared at all the tiny houses below, and wondered what was going on in that house with all the lights turned on. Nelly and I just stood there reminiscing for a bit before talking about current life. My teaching career. His new life in L.A. It was a good night to be alive. Hanging out with your old best friend. Then Nelson asked me if I had seen Stranger Things. I laughed. That’s exactly the show we would have watched as kids. We drove back to Nelly’s apartment and watched Halloween to end the evening. After everything that went down earlier that day, it was the only proper way to close out that night.

You can't stop the boogeyman...
You can’t stop the boogeyman…

CLOSING THOUGHTS

MeNelly

Nelson and I went to Disneyland the next day and we had a blast. We left the park around 9 PM because his back started to flare up. He took me to this local Chinese joint that he said was legit. We spent the rest of that night eating some of the best Kung Pao chicken I ever had and reflecting back on the highs of our little two day adventure. It was truly a magical weekend — the kind that stays with you for life. Hunting Michael and Mickey with your childhood best friend all within 24 hours? Can’t top that.

Friends for life
Friends for life

It’s crazy that Nelson and I have known each other now for nearly 30 years. I always have a great time with Nelson. It doesn’t matter how long we go without communication. The second either one of us reaches out, it’s like we never left. Those friendships are the best. Maybe we’re no longer best friends, but I’m grateful we still keep in touch and that we still know how to have a good time together. No matter what happens going forward or where life takes us, there will always be a special place in my heart for Nelson. My childhood wouldn’t have been as awesome without him, and the memories we have forged over the years — all the ups and downs — have played a role in who I am today. That’s priceless and I’ll always cherish the experiences we had. Here’s a toast to Nelson and all the best friends out there. Cheers!

Bret “The Hitman” Hart

Happy 60th Birthday, Hitman!
Happy 60th Birthday, Hitman!

Earlier this week, on July 2nd to be precise, Bret “The Hitman” Hart turned the big 6-0. That’s right. If you grew up as a wrestling fan of the late ’80s/early ’90s then you know Bret Hart was one of the key figures of the industry and remains highly regarded as one of the best wrestlers to ever lace a pair of boots. Born on July 2, 1957, Bret came from the Hart family. One of the most famous families in pro wrestling history, Bret developed his craft at a young age in the infamous Hart Dungeon where his father, Stu Hart, and his 87 brothers applied various stretch holds on the poor lad. My uncle Jimmy introduced me to wrestling in 1987 and I’ve been a fan ever since. I fell in love with the action and larger than life characters. I became a Bret Hart fan early on. It was evident that he was born to be a wrestler. They didn’t call him the EXCELLENCE OF EXECUTION for nothing!

Who could forget the Anvil's trademark laughter?
Who could forget the Anvil’s trademark laughter?

Bret began his WWF career tagging with his brother-in-law, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Together they formed one of the most memorable and successful tag teams in the World Wrestling Federation. Bret’s impeccable wrestling acumen was sharply complemented by Jim’s sheer brute force. Managed by “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, the Hart Foundation ruled the tag scene and soon became fan favorites.

Tag team wrestling in the '80s was so good
Tag team wrestling in the ’80s was so good

My brother and I loved Demolition, we loved the Rockers… but DAMN DID WE LOVE the Hart Foundation. I remember the highs and I remember the lows. They won the tag titles twice and we cheered. However, their shocking defeat to the Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania VII left a very sour taste in my mouth. I remember Jimmy Hart, who was then managing the Nasty Boys, gave his megaphone to Knobbs or Saggs, and they bloody took off Anvil’s head to win the tag titles. It was a dark day for Hart Foundation fans everywhere. The team split up after that when the WWF realized Bret’s potential as a major singles star. He went on to win the WWF Championship five times, before leaving the company after the infamous 1997 Survivor Series screwjob in Montreal.

Welcome home, Bret
Welcome home, Bret

In the wrestling business there’s a famous saying… NEVER SAY NEVER. After nearly 10 years of not being a part of the WWE in any fashion, Bret Hart was announced to headline the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. It was a huge moment in the industry and for all Bret Hart fans. This was his big homecoming. ONE NIGHT ONLY. April 1, 2006. It was one of my favorite Hall of Fame speeches ever. Tonight we relive the memories of that unforgettable evening.

BRET HART’S INDUCTION VIDEO INTRO

BretHartHoF4

Alright, and now to induct Bret “The Hitman” Hart… there are some people who need no introduction. But if you don’t give this next guy one, he’ll open up a can of whup ass on y’all and I don’t want that to happen here tonight. I’d like to say a lot of nice things about this guy but… I rather be honest. He’s… [WHAT! -Audience] he is NOT a nice man [WHAT!]. As a matter of fact, [WHAT!] he is the meanest [WHAT!], he is the toughest [WHAT!] son of a bitch in the WWE… STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN!

*CROWD POPS*

But not everyone's glad to see the Rattlesnake...
But not everyone’s glad to see the Rattlesnake…
Austin walks right past Hogan, no selling it all
Austin walks right past Hogan, no selling it all
*AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!*
AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!

You know, I was going through my bag in the back and…

*AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!*
AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!
AUSTIN-HOGAN!   *CLAP CLAP*   AUSTIN-HOGAN!
AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!
AUSTIN-HOGAN!   *CLAP CLAP*   AUSTIN-HOGAN!
AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!
*AUSTIN-HOGAN!  *CLAP CLAP*  AUSTIN-HOGAN!*
*AUSTIN-HOGAN! *CLAP CLAP* AUSTIN-HOGAN!*

Call it a hunch but I think the crowd wants a Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan dream match :P. The great Mean Gene Okerlund has seen and heard it all in this great business, but even he is taken aback by this rabid fan response. The crowd is absolutely LIT here in Chicago tonight.

BretHartHoF12

You know it’s funny… I was uh, I was going through my bag in the back and I couldn’t find something. I lost something. I went in the back looking through my bag and uh, I found a can of WHUP ASS and it had Hulk Hogan’s name on it.

*CROWD POPS LIKE CRAZY*

"YOU DAMN RIGHT!"
“YOU DAMN RIGHT!”

BretHartHoF14

It’s a good night to be up here today with all these legends and uh, it’s fun for me. And it’s a great honor and I know everybody’s been saying that but I really mean it, because I ain’t the most humble sumbitch in the world.

*Crowd chuckles*

BretHartHoF15

You got the Blackjacks over here. The black trunks, the black boots, the black vests, bad attitude. If I coulda ridden down the road with you guys, it woulda been great.

BretHartHoF16

I never told Sherri this but I’ve always been in love with her. I just thought she was sexy, gorgeous and just a tremendous work — I just loved everything she did.

Sherri soaks in the adulation
Sherri soaks in the adulation

You were talking about the blondes a little bit earlier in the evening — I just love everything you did.

BretHartHoF18

A lot of people don’t know this but I traveled up and down the road with Tony Atlas. And uh, where’s that cheapskate Mick Foley, because he traveled with us.

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF19

And everybody knows that Tony was a great bodybuilder, and he’s a great powerlifter, and a great wrestler too, but he’s also a great beer drinker.

*Crowd chuckles*

BretHartHoF20

And we’d ride up and down the road… he was good but he couldn’t drink as much as Stone Cold could, I’ll tell you that much right now. But we’d drink beer until the late hours of the night, and then me and Tony would go to the gym. I’d be working chest, bench pressing about 225 for about four, five reps, and Tony would be over there bouncing 500 off his chest about 10, 15 times. IT REALLY PISSED ME OFF!

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF21

So it’s good to be here tonight. And uh, you know, I’m here to talk about a guy that I’ve always respected before I even knew him. And you know, I’ve always had a deep respect for the great workers in the business, the great technicians, and the great storytellers. And uh, Bret “The Hitman” Hart never was the biggest guy in the business. And Bret never was the flashiest guy in the business. But I always had an unbelievable chemistry in the ring with him. I knew that any time the bell rang there was a trust and there was a level of respect in there between us and just, good things always seem to happen. And I remember one time I was laying at the house on my couch and I was watching Monday Night Raw. Of all things I had a busted knee. And I’m listening to the announcing — this was back when Vince McMahon used to do the announcing — and it was Wrestlemania 13 right here in Chicago at the Rosemont. My favorite building to wrestle in… it’s just a magic environment. And I hear Vince go, “Yeah, and in a submission match it’ll be Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin!” And that was news to me, because I was watching the broadcast and I didn’t know a DAMN thing about it.

*Crowd chuckles*

BretHartHoF22

And it got me kinda hot because I’m not a submission wrestler. You probably know that from watching me; I only got about three offensive moves.

*Crowd laughs*

Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon laugh
Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon laughing

BretHartHoF24

So when I showed up to Chicago that night, I remember I needed to get in shape for the match, but I had a busted knee. So I stopped drinking for about 17 days. And uh, Lanza commented on how good I looked. And I remember going to the match that night and I was thinking it was at a point in my career where I needed something big to happen. The King of the Ring had already happened, I cut a promo which kind of put me on the map, and this was kind of put up or shut up time. It was a semi-main event that night, a submission style match and I just knew that we were gonna go out there in my favorite town to work and my favorite building and completely stink the joint out. What we did was go out there and, things happened, and it was the greatest match of my career.

*Crowd claps respectfully*

16 time champion "Nature Boy" Ric Flair shows love
16 time champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair shows love

BretHartHoF26

I’ve had a lot of great matches after that but Jack Lanza came up to me and he said, “You’ll probably never have a match like that again.” And he kinda was right, we never really achieved anything like that again. But any time I stepped into the ring with Bret, whether it was overseas or here in the States somewhere, I’ve wrestled him a million times, and Bret was a guy that always showed up. He didn’t miss his shot, now he always showed up LATE, but he never missed his shot. So I’m proud to induct him into the Hall of Fame tonight. He’s a guy that’s always called himself the excellence of execution. He lives that, he breathes that, and he truly believes it in his heart. And that’s why he was so good. He’s the best there is, he’s the best there was, he’s the best there ever will be, he’s Bret “The Hitman” Hart!

Wrestlers and fans alike stand up to cheer on Bret
Wrestlers and fans alike stand up to cheer on Bret
It was euphoric and cathartic. Nearly 10 years!
It was euphoric and cathartic. Nearly 10 years!
*THANK YOU BRET!  THANK YOU BRET!*
THANK YOU BRET!  THANK YOU BRET!
THANK YOU BRET!  THANK YOU BRET!
THANK YOU BRET!  THANK YOU BRET!
THANK YOU!
THANK YOU!
THANK YOU BRET!  THANK YOU BRET!
THANK YOU BRET!  THANK YOU BRET!

BretHartHoF33

Thank you! I just wanna say um… it’s an honor to be here and it’s an honor to be up here with so many uh great legends like everybody said. And uh… you know, nobody’s more surprised and more amazed to be here than I am. But uh, this is a big night for me.

BretHartHoF34

And despite what anyone thinks, many years ago when I had my fallout with Vince McMahon at the 1997 Survivor Series and all that, I made a promise to myself THAT DAY, that if they ever asked me to do the Hall of Fame I would be here.

Bret receives a rousing ovation
Bret receives a rousing ovation

BretHartHoF36

I wanna say that while I’ll never forget what the WWE took away from me, I also wanna say that I’ll never forget all the great things that they gave to me. And I’ve had a great great life and I’ve had a great career here. And first of all I want to thank the McMahons, especially Vince, for giving me the chance to work on his canvas.

*Fans jeer at the mention of Vince*

The McMahons, minus Vince (backstage), look on
The McMahons, minus Vince (backstage), look on

Every night that I went out years ago when I first started, I uh, I was just honored to be in the ring and wrestle for the WWE.

BretHartHoF38

You know when I think back years and years ago, when I was about uh, well three years old I think, I was watching my first wrestling matches on TV and I was watching Killer Kowalski. And uh, I think in my family everybody just became ingrained from the very start to love this business and love the circus life. My family growing up, I mean, everybody loved wrestling and we always been grateful for all the funny adventures and stories that we’ve had through this great business.

BretHartHoF39

I want everyone to know that I came here to celebrate my career, not to mourn over it. And uh, I had a fortune cookie today that said uh, “You’re welcomed at any gathering,” on my Chinese fortune cookie today.

*Crowd cheers*

The Nature Boy looks on
The Nature Boy looks on

BretHartHoF41

I want to go back to when I was a little kid. I remember going to the wrestling matches for the very first time, and I’d be riding in the car down to the wrestling matches with my brothers, and right from the very start I can remember I’d be riding in the car and my dad would pull up to the hotel and uh, I remember when I was real young they picked up the midgets.

*Crowd chuckles*

The lovely Trish Stratus
The lovely Trish Stratus

BretHartHoF43

And uh, I remember I thought “Cool, finally I got some wrestlers that I can play around with,” you know. And it was uh, I remember Sky Low Low and Little Beaver and that whole bunch, they just all get in the backseat.

Sky Low Low and Little Beaver
Sky Low Low and Little Beaver

My dad had a big stretch limo with four different rows of seats, just enough for all us Hart kids and uh, he let the midgets climb in there and they get in the back and I can remember I thought, “Great.” And I remember trying to headlock them and stuff like that.

The Sarge chuckles along with the crowd
The Sarge chuckles along with the crowd

BretHartHoF45

And if you ever uh, if you knew midget wrestlers you know that you don’t want to be headlocking them — they don’t appreciate that too much.

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF46

But anyway, wrestling’s always been part of my life. I can remember my first experiences with wrestling. I was about uh, 10, 12 years old and I’d go down to the basement, and my dad had all these huge wrestlers. And I remember you were kind of safe when you were about that age — 12 you’re OK you know — you could sit down there and as long as you didn’t say anything. And it was pretty interesting to watch my dad put these guys into all these holds and they’d be screaming for their lives down there. I think my mom sometimes, I don’t know what she thought, I think she sometimes phoned the police. She was worried someone’s getting killed down there.

*Crowd chuckles*

BretHartHoF47

My dad was an amazing character and I want to say first that… I owe everything I am today to my dad. And uh, the man I always longed to be was the one I first thought my father was. He was a one of a kind guy in this business. And I can remember when I first got in, I always introduced myself around the dressing room as Bret Hart, Stu Hart’s kid, and this was always my passage to safety. Everybody I know who really understood him and got to know him loved him. He was everything that was good about the wrestling business. I know he’d be really proud of me standing here today.

*Crowd applauds respectfully*

BretHartHoF48

I uh… got all kinds of funny stories and memories. I’ll try to not go too long here. It would only be right for me to tell a few funny stories about my brother, Owen.

*Crowd cheers*

My brother Owen was uh… he was a hilarious guy.

BretHartHoF49

*Crowd chants O-WEN! O-WEN! O-WEN!*

BretHartHoF50

I remember being on the road getting a call from somebody telling me that someone from delivery service was giving me a free pizza. I think I already eaten… but they would sell me on it. It was free and bringing it up and it’s on the house. And I was like OK. And the next thing you know I would be arguing with the guy about how he wanted me to pick my toppings — what kind of toppings I wanted. And it was like OK. So I started going through the toppings and then he starts pushing more toppings on you. Then finally he tells you after all that he’s going to charge you for the toppings. And you go through this charade… anyway, that was Owen.

*Crowd laughs and cheers*

Booker T splits a side cracking up
Booker T splits a side cracking up

One time we were checking into a hotel in Dayton, Ohio. All the wrestlers were walking in and uh, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan [HOOOOO! -Crowd] was there with his wife, and he went to his room.

"HOOOOOOOO!!!"
“HOOOOOOOO!”

We were all standing around the front desk signing in. Duggan phoned down and asked the guy at the front desk, “Where’s the gym?” The guy puts his hand over the phone and he goes, “Anyone know where the gym is?”

BretHartHoF52

And Owen goes, you know, “Give it to me.” So he hands the phone over to Owen and Owen gets on the phone and of course, Jim, Hacksaw just thinks it’s somebody at the front desk. Anyway, Owen tells Hacksaw, “Why don’t you look it up yourself, YOU LAZY BASTARD.”

Mark Henry laughs so hard he has to wipe away a tear
Mark Henry laughs so hard he has to wipe away a tear

BretHartHoF54

So Hacksaw got all worked up and Owen tells him, “If you wanna do something about it, come down here and I’ll kick your ass.”

Triple H laughs along with the crowd
Triple H laughs along with the crowd

BretHartHoF56

Hacksaw couldn’t believe it. So then Hacksaw, you know, he’s getting dressed to come down to the lobby to straighten out this front desk guy. And I remember Owen just hands the phone back to him and the guy goes, “Don’t do this to me!

Big laughs from Big Show, Sarge and Dusty Rhodes
Big laughs from Big Show, Sarge and Dusty Rhodes

BretHartHoF58

Owen goes, “Don’t worry, just tell him it’s me… Jim Powers.”

*Crowd erupts in laughter*

Batista, Lashley and Tatanka cracking up
Batista, Bobby Lashley and Tatanka cracking up

Hacksaw comes down to the lobby and the guy goes, “Hey, it wasn’t me! It was Jim Powers.”

*Crowd erupts again*

Most definitely NOT Owen Hart
Most definitely NOT Owen Hart

I remember that night in the dressing room, Hacksaw came up to Jim Powers and uh… well, that was funny anyway.

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF60

If you knew Owen, I’m sure he pulled a joke on you somewhere.

The crowd cheers for Owen and a great story shared
The crowd cheers for Owen and a great story shared

BretHartHoF62

I remember in the beginning of my career I had a chance to uh… I got called and they said they needed me to take the Dynamite Kid’s place. He was going to wrestle in Madison Square Garden against the great Tatsumi Fujinami from Japan. Anyway, Dynamite Kid couldn’t get across the border and I was called up at the last minute.

BretHartHoF63

I remember I got to the building — this was such a big thing for me… I was only about 20, 21 — and I remember I was walking through the lobby getting ready for that big walk over to Madison Square Garden and I kept thinking to myself, “One day I get to tell my kids that I wrestled in Madison Square Garden.”

*Crowd claps respectfully*

BretHartHoF64

Anyway, they met me, the Japanese guys that brought me in for this. They stopped me in the lobby and they said, “We have to take you off the card. You don’t have a big enough name to wrestle in Madison Square Garden.” And I remember that in the beginning of my career…

BretHartHoF65

When I first got to the WWE in 1984, I was fortunate and lucky enough to be a part of this new surge in wrestling thanks to Hulk Hogan, Vince and the whole team of wrestlers that took wrestling to a whole new level.

*Crowd claps*

BretHartHoF66

Back in those days wrestling was pretty tough. I worked 304 days my first year and I think I worked pretty much close to that for the next six years that I was in the WWE. Double shots. It was a tough life. But I want to say I would never have made it through those years if it hadn’t been for my tag team partner, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.

*Crowd pops for The Anvil*

Good ol Jim Neidhart
Good ol’ Jim Neidhart

BretHartHoF67

Jim Neidhart was you know, he was just the greatest character. I got a little pug over in Italy right now that I keep just because I think he reminds me of Jim. He’s got those sad puppy dog eyes you know, and he always wants you to have one more round.

BretHartHoF68

I got so many funny memories and stories of Jim Neidhart, but I’ll just tell one. I remember Owen had just flown in; I think he was getting a new start with WWE back in 1991, maybe. We just did one night in Texas — I worked with a guy named Skinner. Anyway, all the wrestlers were kind of celebrating and I took Owen to a strip bar in San Antonio…

*Some fans scream YEEEEAAAAH!!*

BretHartHoF69

Owen wasn’t really prone to those kind of places but I managed to talk him into it because it was a big night for him. He was starting back in WWE and he’d flown in from Germany. And it was a crazy night, that night in Texas, I’ll tell you that much. We were all drinking in the bar and everyone’s kind of talking and stuff…

Next thing you know I see Vince walking in...
Next thing you know I see Vince coming in…

*Crowd laughs*

Sarge remembers that night all too well
Sarge remembers that night all too well

And Vince had a few soda pops somewhere else. He was primed and ready that night. I bet Sergeant Slaughter remembers this — he was driving, thank God.

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF72

But anyway, I remember just kind of hanging out in the bar with Owen. And Hulk, you know, he could always stir up shit, you know.

*Crowd laughs*

Hulk Hogan looking GUILTY AS HELL
Hulk Hogan looking on GUILTY AS ALL HELL
Animal from Legion of Doom reminisces along
Animal from Legion of Doom reminisces along

He was stirring up the Legion of Doom. Hulk got them all worked up. And I remember Hawk and Animal were talking about how they were going to do their finisher on Vince.

*Crowd erupts in laughter*

Doomsday Device is no joke!
Doomsday Device is no joke!

BretHartHoF75

And I remember watching it and I’m thinking, “No way. They’re not gonna do it. Nobody would do their finisher on Vince.”

WWE CEO, Vincent Kennedy McMahon
WWE CEO, Vincent Kennedy McMahon

And um, next thing I know I see Hawk saying he’s not kidding and Animal’s kind of going along with it. Quite a few of the wrestlers were starting to mark out over this, and see if it’s gonna actually happen.

*Crowd laughs*

Jim's pulling on the beard  *crowd laughs*
Jim’s pulling on the beard  *Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF76b

BretHartHoF77

Anyway, next I see Animal come up behind Vince. And like I said, Vince was already in a pretty good state of mind. So Animal came up from behind and he hoisted Vince up. I look and there’s Hawk right there on the little table with the poles.

*Crowd laughs*

The Road Warriors, AKA Legion of Doom
Hawk and Animal (Road Warriors AKA Legion of Doom)

And uh, I’m waiting. I’m watching. I’m thinking, “Here it is… they’re gonna take Vince’s head off.”

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF78

Hawk came off the table with a little powder puff clothesline and I remember Hulk, Beefcake and everybody kind of caught Vince and set him down. I think they even gave a little golf clap.

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF79

And I remember I had a beer in my hand. I think I had a shot of Jack Daniels. And I can see Jim pulling on his beard. He goes…

"HART FOUNDATION WOULD HAVE DONE IT!"
“HART FOUNDATION WOULD HAVE DONE IT!”

*Crowd laughs and cheers loudly*

Shelton Benjamin busts up
Shelton Benjamin busts up

BretHartHoF81

I remember thinking, “I better get the hell out of here.” I couldn’t set my drinks down fast enough. I told Owen, “Listen, I gotta get out of here RIGHT NOW.” Next thing you know, Jim’s got Vince up in the bear hug position…

Set up for the Hart Attack
Set up for the Hart Attack

*Crowd laughs*

I remember Hulk looking at me like, “So… what’s gonna happen here?”

*Crowd chuckles*

The Hulkster cracks a grin while reminiscing along
The Hulkster cracks a grin while reminiscing along
Was Bret really going to take the boss' head off?
Would Bret really do it?
Anyway, I took Vince's head off
Anyway… I TOOK VINCE’S HEAD OFF

*Crowd erupts*

Hart Attack to Vince!
Hart Attack to Vince!
Ric Flair dies laughing. Thankfully, not literally
Ric Flair dies laughing. Thankfully, not literally

BretHartHoF85

Jim Neidhart… I remember so many funny stories about him. I can’t resist telling this one. Whenever we stayed at a hotel we would always forget to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob. We’d be lying there in bed and I can hear the maid fumbling with the key to come into the room. I’d be sound asleep and I remember just sort of hearing Jim pull the whole blanket off, and just be lying there like a big old starfish.

Drax the Destroyer and his lady enjoy a good chuckle
Drax the Destroyer and his lady enjoy a good chuckle

BretHartHoF87

And then you see the maid come in. I mean, we went through this quite a few times. It was standard Hart Foundation. You hear them scream and run out of the room as fast as they could. Over a period of time I think we could do it in stereo, you know. Anyway, I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.

BretHartHoF85b

*Laughter and applause*

BretHartHoF88

There’s a lot of wrestlers I wanna take the time to thank. In my early days, I’ll never forget Cowboy Bob Orton, Roddy Piper, Don Muraco, Mr. Fuji, Iron Sheik and so many others that uh, every night, they were my family. And uh, I love those guys. I had some uh… *Fan interjects, “ONE MORE MATCH!*

Huh, we'll see
Huh, we’ll see…  *Crowd pops*

“ONE MORE MATCH!
ONE MORE MATCH!
ONE MORE MATCH!”

BretHartHoF90

I wish. I wish I could have one more match. I wanna take the time to uh, think about and remember some of my great matches and great experiences I had. I’ll never forget the matches I had with Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig.

*MASSIVE POP*

BretHartHoF92

He was uh, he was just the greatest guy to work with every night. I never looked at working with him as work. It was a night off. He was just the greatest guy to work with every night. He was just so much fun and he was so safe and so careful. And I miss him.

BretHartHoF91

I remember wrestling Curt Hennig in Anchorage, Alaska. It was sold out and I remember it was a big crowd. Andre was working in those days with Warrior, and they were going about 25 seconds every night.

*Crowd laughs*

Not exactly workhorses...
Not exactly workhorses, these two…
Austin laughs along with the sold out crowd
Austin laughs along with the sold out crowd

BretHartHoF94

So they needed some extra time, you know, for someone to do the work out there. I was working with Curt that night, and I don’t think I ever had a bad match with him, but I remember that night we uh, we just had such a beautiful match that I’ll never forget it.

*Respectful applause*

Legendary IC title bout at Summer Slam 1991
Bret Hart’s epic coming out party (SummerSlam 1991)
Their King of the Ring 1993 match was great, too
King of the Ring 1993 match was great, too

BretHartHoF95

Another guy I wanna tell you a story about is Earthquake.

*Crowd cheers*

Earthquake, you’re in my prayers.

Wherever you are out there I hope you’re doing OK.

*Crowd applauds*

He sadly passed two months after Bret's speech
Sadly, he died two months after Bret’s speech

BretHartHoF97

I remember we were flying from Columbus up to Seattle or something, and we had about a six in the morning flight. I remember we got delayed for hours and everyone was sleeping on the floor near the gate. It took hours and hours. And everyone was really tired and really cranky. We finally got off and we’re in the air on our way to Seattle. Poor Earthquake, he was in the very last seat in the airplane. You know, he was a big guy so he was against the wall sleeping with his head down. I remember going to the back of the plane to use the bathroom, but someone was already in there. And uh, Jimmy Hart was across from Earthquake, and I was talking to Jimmy.

BretHartHoF98

Anyway, this little black kid came up and he was about four or five years old. He wanted my autograph and I remember I signed it for him, and then he asked Jimmy to sign it. And then he looked over at Earthquake and he goes, “Should I wake this guy up?”

*Crowd laughs*

BretHartHoF99

Jimmy Hart goes, “Yeah go ahead.” I say, “Yeah, he’s a pussycat.” But Earthquake had a long day, you know, he had about enough. I remember this kid pulling on his coat like “Hey hey!”

BretHartHoF100

And I remember Earthquake just looked up, and his eyes were like red holes. He yelled at the little kid and told him to GET OUT. So then he put his head back down…

I remember the little kid looked around like this...
I remember the little kid looked around like this…

BretHartHoF102

… and he just leaned back and I couldn’t believe it, he just slapped Earthquake as hard as he could right on the forehead.

*Laughter and gasps ensue*

*OH NO HE DIH-ENT!*
*OH NO HE DIH-ENT!*

BretHartHoF104

And I remember Earthquake, good thing he had a seat belt on, he tried to explode out of that seat. And I remember Jimmy Hart was trying to find a place to hide and I remember I kept praying whoever’s in the bathroom better come out, you know.

*Crowd laughs*

Jimmy Hart recollects that memory as well
Jimmy Hart recollects that memory as well

Anyway, as you can tell I had a life filled with all kinds of characters, and great stories and memories… and uh…

*Fan shouts, THANK YOU BRET!*

You’re welcome.

*Applause*

BretHartHoF106

I wanna say that everything I did and accomplished in wrestling I did it for my kids. Everyday, you know, you get up and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to go out there all the time and entertain everyone else’s kids. It seemed like birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, you’re just always entertaining somebody else’s kids, and you’re always packing your bags. Your kids pay the ultimate sacrifice. I just want them to know that everything I did, I did it for them.

*Respectful applause*

Bret's kids (and Nattie Neidhart) look on
Bret’s kids (and Nattie Neidhart) look on

BretHartHoF108

I remember a few months before “THE SCREWJOB”

*Fans boo vehemently*

The Montreal Screwjob
The Montreal Screwjob (1997)

I uh, I was trying to put my youngest son, Blade, to bed. It was in the summer time. I ordered him to go to bed and he went up. I remember he got really mad, and he’s got a pretty bad temper anyway.

"Yo dad, quit throwing shade on me will ya?"
“Yo dad, quit throwing shade on me, will ya?”

BretHartHoF110

He was slamming doors and making quite a fuss. I remember finally putting him in his room. I went back downstairs and I was sitting in my kitchen. Like half an hour later, all of a sudden I see Blade come down. And he’s got on Shawn’s t-shirt.

*Collective gasp*

Shawn's hat  *GASP*
Shawn’s hat…  *GASP*

BretHartHoF112

And he’s got the Shawn glove and he’s looking at me like this and he’s opening his hand.

*OOOOOOH!!!*

I said, "So, what are you supposed to be?"
I said, “So, what are you supposed to be?”
He looks at me and he goes, "I'M IN THE CLIQUE"
He looks at me and he goes, “I’M IN THE CLIQUE.”
*Crowd laughs along with Blade*
*Crowd laughs along with Blade*
The Clique: Shawn, Triple H, Nash, Hall and Kid
The Clique: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Nash, Hall and Kid

BretHartHoF116

I still put him to bed. I remember telling Shawn that story. But uh, you know, when I think back to those days of the Hart Foundation… with um, Brian Pillman…

*MASSIVE POP for Pillman*

BretHartHoF117

Jim Neidhart, The British Bulldog, Owen…

*Crowd pops*

Those were the happiest days of my life.

And I uh, I always look back on those days with a real deep fondness.

The Good Old Days
R.I.P. Pillman, Owen and Bulldog

BretHartHoF118

And I was lucky — I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the great fans I’ve got all around the world. If I could give any advice to all the young wrestlers out there: never forsake your fans. Never forget them. Because if he’s a fan of yours, you’ll want to hold on to them for as long as they’ll take ya.

*Applause*

I wanna say that I was a real world’s champion. I traveled around the world, and uh, I was really proud to be a world champion. I wrestled in India, Israel, South Africa, the Philippines. I wrestled in so many places. And Germany, I wanna say a special thank you to all the fans I had in Germany. I remember they knocked down the barricades just to come up and give me a big hug before my match, or after my match. It was a beautiful experience that I’ll never forget. They were probably the most loyal and devoted fans I ever had. Canada, you know… I was always a Canadian first. I never ever forgot where I came from.

BretHartHoF119

People always say why would you wear pink? Pink was a very special color for me. If you mix a little red and white together, you get pink. Sometimes I thought maybe I should have had a better color throughout my career. Maybe black and gold or something would have been a little nicer. But you know, there was something very neutral about pink as a color. I always said it took a real man to wear pink. Pink can be whatever you want it to be. And I uh, I love the color pink.

*Crowd chuckles*

BretHartHoF120

I’m getting ready to close but I wanna say that uh… to the wrestlers… you need to pace yourselves for the long haul. And it’s not so much about hurting one another. It’s about respecting the art.

*Applause*

I wrestled for 23 years, and it’s not easy to go out there every night and describe yourself as the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. But I wrestled 23 years and I never once injured one wrestler ever. That I know of, anyway. And I was a pretty physical wrestler. And the whole business is about trust and respect. And there’s a deep meaning behind the words, “Doing the honors.”

BretHartHoF121

I wanna thank every wrestler that I ever worked with anywhere around the world. And in closing, um, I want to thank my wife in Italy. When I had my stroke a couple years ago, I remember I got emails and letters from fans all around the world saying they were praying for me. And they must have been praying good because I was lucky and fortunate enough to have been blessed with a great recovery. And I’m standing here today.

*Applause*

BretHartHoF122

If I didn’t have the recovery that I had, then I would never have met the sweet angel that saved me over in Italy. She’s over in Italy now with my pug and I just wanna say hi to her. Cinzia, thank you for being my angel.

And uh, I wanna thank everybody for all the great memories. Wembley Stadium, all my fans in England…

BretHartHoF123

That was my favorite match that I ever had, and I’m happy to tell you that. And I wouldn’t change that minute, that moment for anything.

SummerSlam 1992 saw an epic Bret-Bulldog match
Wembley Stadium was the site of SummerSlam 1992
Bret and Bulldog put on a clinic
Bret and Bulldog put on a masterful clinic

BretHartHoF124

I guess I’m gonna wrap up here but I just wanna say that uh, to all the wrestlers and everyone around the world, if I could give only one message to them it would be this. “The best chance you have if you want to rise to the top is to give yourself up the loneliness. Fear nothing, and work hard. One thing you’ll discover is that life is based less than you think on what you’ve learned and much more than you think on what you have inside you right from the very beginning.”

BretHartHoF125

And I’m happy to say that uh, you don’t have to worry about me anymore. I’m good, I’m happy to be alive, I’m glad to be here. And I thank each of you for coming out here tonight. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Bret Hart receives a rousing send-off
Bret Hart receives a rousing send-off

BretHartHoF127

You can go home again, after all
You can go home again, after all

CLOSING THOUGHTS

BretHartHoF129

The pink and black attack.

The excellence of execution.

The best there is.

The best there was.

The best there ever will be.

WWF50

Whatever you want to call Bret, he was a wrestler for the ages. His Hall of Fame speech still gives me goosebumps to this very day. Although I was never in the wrestling business, there is a strange nostalgic bond I have with these crazy larger than life characters. Even though they don’t know me, I feel like I somehow know them. They almost feel like distant uncles you only see every other Christmas. I guess that’s why I still follow wrestling today. Not as religiously as I once did, mind you, but I’ll always follow the product and be a fan for life. Always looking for that chance to jump out of my chair and mark out like I’m five years old again watching Hulkamania reign supreme. The WWF (now WWE) has given me many fond memories over the years. Whether you like or dislike pro wrestling, there exists a special brotherhood and fraternity within wrestling circles. You see it clear as day through Bret’s stories. Every week these guys and gals go on the road, traveling thousands of miles, sacrificing their bodies, their families and more. To all the wrestlers out there, and especially to Bret “The Hitman” Hart, thank you for everything. Through all the ups and downs I will forever be a fan.

For life!
For life!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Nintendo Man

HomecomingPoster

Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theatres tomorrow on July 7, 2017. The masked superhero has a famous saying: “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” It’s a perfect time to share a Nintendo story from my youth. It’s a story that’s going to be featured in Jeffrey Wittenhagen’s upcoming Nintendo book. Thank you Jeff for allowing me the honor to be a small part of another one of your great books. To all my readers here on RVGFanatic, here’s my story in full below! :)

Chilling right before the feature presentation :D
Chilling right before the feature presentation :D

YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD NINTENDO MAN

NESFamily

I’m instantly bombarded by a tidal wave of memories whenever I think about the 8-bit Nintendo. Like so many others, I grew up on the NES in the late ‘80s. Born in 1983, I was just old enough to appreciate the NES when it started hitting its stride in North America circa 1987. I have fond memories of all those lazy carefree Sunday mornings spent playing the likes of Contra, Mega Man 2 and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! just to name a few. Nintendo help made my childhood fun and memorable. Back then gaming was a brand new experience to me. There were no fancy 3D graphics, no complex controller layouts and no lengthy 10 minute tutorials to sit through. The NES gave you two buttons; all you had to do was press start and you were good to go. Sometimes simplicity can’t be beat. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles — the NES is proof that a game doesn’t have to be overly fancy or complicated in order to be great.

Contra
Contra
Mega Man 2
Mega Man 2
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

My uncle bought a Nintendo for me and my brother in 1987. I still remember the humble collection we managed to amass through the years…

Double Dragon
Double Dragon
Double Dragon II
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Duck Hunt
Duck Hunt
Dynowarz
Dynowarz
Gotcha!
Gotcha!
Karnov
Karnov
Kung Fu
Kung Fu
Legendary Wings
Legendary Wings
Mighty Bomb Jack
Mighty Bomb Jack
Robo Warrior
Robo Warrior
Solomon's Key
Solomon’s Key
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario Bros. 3
Tag Team Pro Wrestling
Tag Team Pro Wrestling
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
WWF WrestleMania
WWF WrestleMania

My childhood is filled with fond memories of myself, Uncle Jimmy and my brother Kevin switching off for hours on end as we sat glued to our television set playing the latest NES titles. Hell, the NES was the ORIGINAL Nintendo “Switch.” After all, those halcyon days were all about switching off with my brother and uncle on Contra as we attempted to save the universe on a nightly basis back in the summer of 1989. Hanging out with my uncle and brother blasting alien scum to Kingdom Come was some of the greatest times of my childhood.

Gotta kill 'em all!
Gotta kill ‘em all!

Another fond memory I carry with me were all the rental stores that populated my area. There had to be a good 10 video stores all within a 30 mile radius back in the late ‘80s where I lived. From the established titans of the industry (Blockbuster) to all the little quirky mom and pop shops, it was an entertainment mecca with more goodies than you could watch or play to cover the span of ten lifetimes.

My actual childhood Hollywood Video!
My actual childhood Hollywood Video!

My favorite store of the lot hands down was Evergreen Video. I blame Evergreen Video and its owner, Tom, just a common man working hard for the American dream, as the source that corrupted me. One day in the late ’80s my dad was driving me and my brother around. We spotted Evergreen Video by chance when we made a pit stop in a small plaza to pick up a few items. I had never seen Evergreen Video before but on that day there it stood. Its big bold green letters silently called out to me and my brother, beckoning us over. We found ourselves breaking into a brisk stroll as we made a beeline for the store, our legs suddenly on a mission of their own.

The renting craze began that fateful day
The renting craze began on that fateful day

I can still hear the little chime that rung each time someone entered the store. It was a quaint shop with lots of family videos. You were immediately greeted upon entry by four tall wooden shelves that began near the entrance and ended close to the register counter, which sat roughly 60-70 feet straight ahead. Two columns of towering tan shelves rested on each side of the store, freeing the middle aisle for a clear walk to the counter and a good look at the man who owned the store, Tom. Rocking brown rimmed spectacles and a beard like it was 2014, Tom became something of an uncle figure to me and Kevin. You would often find Tom invariably sporting a flannel shirt of one kind or another. In fact, he was the spitting image of Al Borland (played by Richard Karn) from the ‘90s TV sitcom, Home Improvement, only with glasses.

Tom looked a lot like Richard Karn with glasses
Tom looked a lot like Richard Karn (with glasses)

Up front and to the right sat a small wooden shelf. There Tom kept his collection of 30-40 NES games. Tucked away in a corner, it was this little heavenly nook that my brother and I always made a mad scramble for every Saturday afternoon. The smell of the oak wood shelves permeates to this day. If there was ever a quintessential mom and pop rental store, Evergreen Video surely was it.

Evergreen's NES selection was quaint but inviting
Evergreen’s NES selection was quaint but inviting

Tom worked there every Saturday afternoon, rain or shine. And no matter what, we could always count on seeing his big smile greeting us behind the register counter whenever he saw us trampling in. I still remember some of the games I rented from Evergreen Video…

Beetlejuice
Beetlejuice
TMNT II: The Arcade Game
TMNT II: The Arcade Game
Totally Rad
Totally Rad
Werewolf
Werewolf: The Last Warrior

… just to name some. Back then there was no YouTube or anything to really scope these games out. You basically rented them on a whim based on the cover art and how cool the back of the box looked. It made for hit and miss rentals and some crazy times. You just never knew what you were going to get. In some regard it was almost like the Wild Wild West back then!

Some boxes look great but the game, not so much
Some boxes look great but the game, not so much
I was a sucker for them bright yellow covers!
I was a sucker for them bright yellow covers!

There was a certain purity to those days that I miss. The same can be said for the purity that courses through the 8-bit veins of the NES itself. Timing is everything in life — the Nintendo and the late ’80s simply went hand in hand and everything else that came along with it, including mom and pop shops.

NESSystem

Tom was so good to us; he even held games for me and Kevin. My brother would call and ask for a game and if Tom had said game then he would hold it for us. I remember him telling us once, with a big smile, “Only for you guys.” Maybe he said that to every kid customer of his, but damnit I like to think he meant what he said. And I don’t doubt that he did because that’s just the kind of guy Tom was.

He always served with a smile
He always served with a smile

There’s one story in particular that I’ll never forget. One time we came in to pick up TMNT II: The Arcade Game. We met Tom’s son that day. He was playing the game on the small TV that sat behind the register counter. I felt so bad when he was forced to turn the game off just so we could rent it. He was on the snowfield level battling the wolf boss, Tora. I remember Tora flashing and blinking red as Tom told his very own flesh and blood, “Sorry but these boys need to rent the game now.” I’ll never forget the poor kid looking absolutely crushed, wanting to carry on like any TMNT loving kid would, but he respected his dad far too much to disobey. I always felt guilty about that! Tom had this incredible knack of making me and Kevin feel like we were part of his family. It was top-notch service the likes of which you can’t buy. The kind of genuine service you can only find at a mom and pop shop.

Man I still feel guilty about it!
Man I still feel guilty about this!

Being huge fans of Double Dragon II, Kevin and I couldn’t wait for Double Dragon III. When it finally arrived in early 1991, my dad took us to Evergreen Video to rent a copy. The drive home was filled with visions of spinning roundhouse kicks and crazy throws galore, but alas, when we popped the game in it refused to play for some reason. My dad promptly called Evergreen Video to inform Tom about the situation and Tom told us to come back for a no-frills exchange. We ended up picking Battletoads as a replacement rental. While we were disappointed that we couldn’t play the eagerly anticipated Double Dragon III, we made the most out of that weekend. More importantly, Tom’s great customer service and integrity once again shined like a thousand stars shimmering in the night sky.

Good times. Hard times too
Battletoads kept us entertained

But here’s the part that blows my mind. A few weeks later we made our usual Saturday afternoon trek to Evergreen Video. Tom surprised us when he revealed a brand new copy of Double Dragon III — reserved just for us! He said he was waiting on us to come by because he knew how disappointed we were that his previous copy didn’t work. He wanted to make things right, but he already did that with the Battletoads exchange. It exemplifies the kind of upstanding man Tom was. He always went above and beyond the call of duty. If Yelp existed back in 1991, Evergreen Video would have gotten 5 stars all day! As for Double Dragon III, let’s just say some sequels disappoint.

Bittersweet memories...
Bittersweet memories…

Early 1992 was an interesting time. There was a changing of the guard. You could feel the shift in the winds, and you could see the writing on the wall. The 8-bit NES was being phased out for the brand new 16-bit Super Nintendo. And with it, Evergreen Video. Business wasn’t booming for Tom in early 1992 as it was in the late ’80s. When the Super Nintendo came to the US in late 1991, Tom bought some SNES games to keep up with the times. I rented Ultraman and sadly that was the last game I would ever rent from Evergreen Video. The beginning of one era (the SNES) marked the ending for another (Evergreen Video).

The end of an era
The infamous last game I rented

One innocuous Saturday afternoon in early 1992 my dad took me and Kevin to Evergreen Video to return Ultraman. Unfortunately, that trip proved to be our last. Tom told us he and the family were moving on. But because I was so young I didn’t really grasp his heartfelt admission. I just assumed he would still be there next Saturday and the Saturday after that. Because it’s Tom. And that’s what Tom does. After all, he’s your friendly neighborhood Nintendo man.

EGVUM

But reality crushed me when my mom took me shopping in that same plaza a week later. I stole a glance inside the remains of Evergreen Video. What was once a simple but lovely store that provided me with so many good memories was now a broken, fragmented shell of its former glory. A part of me expected to still see the wooden shelves and Tom’s friendly mug situated behind the register counter. Instead, what I found that day was an empty store torn down in shambles, the floor littered with debris. I felt like crying as I peered in through the glass pane. I lost a little bit of innocence that day. From that moment on I forever realized that things don’t last forever, no matter how much you want them to.

A harrowing sight indeed
A harrowing sight indeed

The last time I visited that plaza was June 2008. I had just graduated from college with a teaching credential. My cousins wanted to celebrate the occasion by eating at a Chinese restaurant. Of all the places they could have chosen, of course it had to be at a restaurant in that small plaza near the defunct remains of Evergreen Video. But of course. It was a surreal night. I just graduated from college and was looking forward to the future. But returning to that childhood plaza for the first time in what had to be over a decade got me far more emotional than I thought possible. After dinner my cousins declared a movie night at their place. But having unfinished business, I told them I would drop by later. As they drove off I stood outside the restaurant all by my lonesome. I slowly turned my gaze to the classic spot where Evergreen Video once proudly stood ages ago. My heart started racing as I knew what stood before me: I was on the verge of facing a huge part of my childhood for quite possibly the last time ever. I knew what I had to do…

"Man, where does the time go, Doc?"
It was a surreal night. Unbelievably surreal

The building was vacant. I peered inside as memories came flooding back. I saw a montage in my own mind playing. Rushing in, pushing the door open, hearing the chime of the bell and being greeted by Tom’s friendly smile. Making a beeline for the NES games, admiring the art on the boxes and hoping you would pick a good game to play for that weekend. All those images flashed in my mind one after the other. And then I was snapped back to reality. I said a quick silent thank you to Tom. Turning my back to the store, I stood there for a minute to take in the cool early evening air.

Taking it all in
Taking it all in… one last final time

I reminisced about the past while also eagerly anticipating the future. I had just graduated and was on my way to achieving my childhood dream of having my own classroom, my own students to teach and to be a positive male influence in their lives. Not unlike how Tom was to me all those years ago in his own unique way. Alas, as the final shards of sunlight pierced the storefront, I decided that was enough reflection for one night. Placing my childhood memories back in the box, I texted my cousins that I was heading over and made my way to my car. I stole one last glance at the place where Evergreen Video once stood tall and proud. I gave Evergreen Video one final knowing nod as the engine roared. The night was still young… and so was I.

There was an eerie stillness to the night
Farewell, Evergreen Video. Thanks for the memories

That fateful June evening of 2008 was the last time I visited that small plaza where Evergreen Video once stood. It’s crazy that it’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve been back to that area. I’ve since gone on to fulfill my dreams of becoming a teacher. I like to think Tom, wherever he is, would be proud of me. To this day I have no idea where he is or even what he’s up to. I never knew his last name. It’s been over 25 years since I last saw the man. It’s sad to think there’s even a chance he may no longer be alive. But wherever he is, in whatever state or space, I hope he’s doing well and at peace.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"... well, it was nice meeting ya"
Happy trails, Tom

Tom was a uncle figure to me and Kevin growing up, and Evergreen Video became much more than a mom and pop video store. It was a connection and bond held between strangers turned family. A bond that formed much like the bond that video games can help forge between people from different walks of life. And the NES certainly did that. Whenever I think back to my childhood, I invariably think about the NES, Tom and Evergreen Video. It was a different era. A simpler time. I’m grateful that I got to experience gaming’s golden age growing up. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Long live Nintendo, and long live the memories of Tom and Evergreen Video.

Check out Jeff's book for even more NES stories!
Check out Jeff’s book for even more NES stories!