Doug types too much...
November 30, 2019
In my opinion, one of the Beatles’ finest achievements was the vinyl side 2 of Abbey Road. It is considered to be a rock symphony of sorts. But the fab four would tell you that much of it is half-finished bits of songs they had hanging around that didn’t fit anywhere. But man, that stuff plays. It works because they figured out how to puzzle it together.
Abbey Road was the last time they recorded as a band. They wanted to go out swinging and they did. We just passed the 50th anniversary of the album’s release. I am not alone when I say you could put that out today and it would still knock people off their musical feet.
So this is my version of a side 2. Parts that didn’t fit anywhere else that I’ll attempt to puzzle together through the art of typing too much.
THE GENIUS WHO RUINED METROPOLIS
In my Air Force days in Germany in the early 1980s, I sat in an office for about 6 months with a guy named Willard. Willard was prematurely bald in his 20s, sporting Bozo ginger fringe that was orange in color. He had a large protruding forehead. Like his brain was too big.
Willard was different. But I don’t always mind that. I’ve been accused of being different. But Willard was that different guy that just annoyed the hell out of you.
Willard found out I was involved with the local German-American theater. He showed me a script he’d written. Sort of a half-play, half-movie script. I hated it. I mean, I really thought it was the biggest load of crap. And I should know. I’ve written large loads of crap.
Willard thought his piece was brilliant. That it deserved being produced on stage. He begged me to introduce him to the people who ran the theater. I broached the subject with the folks I knew. They told me to invite him to a planning meeting. I did. He came with his script which had been provided to management prior to the meeting.
Willard was already infamous for pissing off a group of German archivists. Willard was a huge fan of the 1922 silent film classic Metropolis. As are many. Fritz Lang’s masterpiece features some of the most iconic images in film history. Prints exist in various lengths and vary widely in condition.
Willard got wind a perfect print existed in a local German library, edited to the film’s original running time. Willard wanted to share his discovery.
Willard convinced the German archive to lend their precious 35mm pristine copy of Metropolis to an American base theater. The projectors did not line up precisely with the German sprockets. Which was kind of a surprise to everyone. End result: The film played beautifully for the special matinee Willard had borrowed it for. But as it projected, the American projectors notched every sprocket making the pristine reels no longer able to project. On any projector. So Willard already came with a track record of messing stuff up.
The meeting was run by a strong woman named Anne. She hated the script too. Told Willard no way in hell. Only in nicer terms.
He was furious. “You just don’t get it!”
One of the lines in his script was “You can take a snake and a razor blade and put them in the same room and they become each other’s universe.”
I think he was right. She just didn’t get it. But in Anne’s defense, none of us did.
Back at the office the following week, Willard was frosty to me. Like somehow I was responsible for other people hating his shit.
He shook a mad finger at me. “You get it, right? Put that snake and that razor blade in the same room and see what happens!”
I had no answer to that.
I’m still waiting to see what happens when they get together.
Apparently, I just haven’t gotten into the right room yet.
During my time in Germany, personnel were occasionally tapped to participate in “details.” Something outside of your assigned job. I got picked to be on commissary detail.
Not to be a Dougie-downer, but I knew an Air Force guy who got tapped to go to Guyana after the Jim Jones mass suicide thing. Bodies were draped in multiple layers where they’d fallen on top of each other, dead from drinking poison mixed with Flavor Aid. In the jungle. Days old bodies swollen in the sweltering heat. And this Air Force dude is flown there to bag corpses.
My point is there are worse details than being sent to the commissary.
My mission, which I had no option to accept or not, was to report to the large grocery store-ish military-run commissary to perform annual inventory.
We were separated into teams of 2 each. I was partnered with an Army guy who clearly was not the brightest bulb. There was no light in this cat’s eyes. We ended up working together for a week.
The first day, we were assigned to the “spice room.” This sealed door enclosure wasn’t particularly large. But they’d made use of the space. The room was stacked, crammed floor to ceiling with nothing but spices. All those things you buy in the spice aisle. When we opened the door to the room, we choked. Holy shit, man. The stench wafting out was overwhelming.
So I’m stuck with stump guy as my partner. We have a clipboard to write down items and their current counts. My unwanted partner confesses he’s not very good at writing. He would rather do the counting than writing on the clipboard. Okay. Yeah. Sure. I’m fine with that.
Our very first item is a stack of 3 identical boxes. They are stacked 2 in the back with 1 in the front. A stair-step effect. The one in the front masks the bottom box behind it.
My cohort counts. “One, two. Two.”
“No, man, it’s three. You don’t see the one behind on the bottom?”
Okay, bad news. He didn’t. Geometry was not his thing.
Long story short. I ended up doing both duties. I let him count, but I had to be the second set of corrective eyes on every single tally.
In his defense, he would apologize.
He might say, “I see 7.”
I might answer, “No, dude, I see 9.”
He’d correct himself. “Oh, yeah, man, I see now. That’s me.”
Yeah, dude. You’re right. It’s you. But because of that, it’s me, too.
I will say he got a little better toward the end of our detail. We could laugh a little.
Still, no contact info was exchanged.
NATALIE THE HAIR STYLIST
In the late 80s, I was in southern California getting my hair cut by Natalie in one of those new-fangled places where people come to get spiked hair. Every woman cutting hair was borderline jailbait.
The first time Natalie cut my hair, she did a good job. That means when I rolled out of bed in the morning, I would almost not have to comb it. So I took a chance again.
Natalie had just returned from vacation. She was wearing a stretch piece of fabric that only went around her breasts. It kept riding up. She kept yanking it down. Natalie yanked a lot as she rattled on to me about her vacation.
Cutting my hair rapidly fell to the bottom of her list of priorities.
She’d been in the Bahamas and was on her way back to L.A. The plane had a layover in New Orleans. In New Orleans, the group Duran Duran got on and one of the band members struck up a conversation. One thing led to another and Natalie wound up sitting with them for the duration of the flight.
The next morning, she got a call at her apartment – the band wanted her to come to their hotel for brunch. Natalie’s boyfriend pitched a fit when she told him about the offer, so Natalie ditched her boyfriend right before she left for the hotel.
She had brunch with the band and then they asked her to come watch them record their latest song. At the studio, one of the engineers asked her if she could sing because they needed another background singer. Natalie obliged them.
Natalie went on to tell me that she was psychic and that when she idolized Duran Duran as a teeny-bopper, she always knew she would meet them someday.
Natalie pointed to the assortment of hair-care bottles on her shelf and said, “If I think about it hard enough, I can move that white bottle across the shelf with my mind.”
I didn’t encourage a demo. I just wanted to get my hair cut.
I never went to her again. Not because she was mentally gifted. I could handle the telekinesis. But she’d started to concentrate more on moving objects than cutting my hair. She’d lost her focus.
That’s when you cross the line with me.
THE PISSED OFF GUY BANGING ON MY DOOR
In the early 1990s, we lived for about 6 years on Turin Road in Rome, New York. We’d probably been in the house a couple of years when I, home alone, heard loud banging on our back door. WTF. Gun-less, I walked to the rear of the house and saw this hulking hairy thug fuming outside my door. Unibrow. This cat was Neanderthal.
Don’t ask me why, because in retrospect I ask myself why, but I chose to ignore potential danger and I opened the door. I faced off with my little spindly arms. Burly guy was seething.
“Where’s fuckin’ Steve?” he spit out.
I remained calm. I can’t imagine why I was fearless in that moment because this guy was clearly in a bad state. Let me recount. He’s bigger than me. I’m standing in an open doorway inviting physical confrontation.
But what he didn’t possess was a Doug Bari face with phasers set to kill. I locked in on 10.
“Dude, I have no idea who you’re talking about,” I deadpanned.
Pissed-off-guy upped it a notch. “Bullshit! I know he’s here! Where’s Steve?”
“Look, I don’t know who Steve is, but he doesn’t live here anymore.”
He was judging me. Something reflected in his eyes told me he thought I was truthful.
He almost backed off, but not quite.
“You’re lying. I know he lives here.”
That’s when I strapped on a pair. And believe me, at heart, I am not the person you normally invite to the hammer-throwing contest. Because I’m not consistently reliable. I never know when the pair will get strapped on. I’m even surprised sometimes when my light switch comes on. But this time it did.
“Dude. You need to back off. I don’t know who you’re talking about, but I’m ready to call 911.”
He bristled and puffed up again.
I wasn’t having it. I puffed up too. “No, shut up, man. I don’t know who the hell you’re talking about and you need to get the hell way from my door now!”
And then. He left. Walked away without saying a word. I looked down at my spindly arms like I sported Popeye arms.
In 1999, we’d arranged a “premiere” of one of our first films at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Without going into the gory details, it was a minor miracle we got to show our movie at all.
When we first approached the college about a screening, they were all over it. That’s because they didn’t know what was in the movie, both language-wise and subject matter-wise. However, once some of the faculty members got a preview, the word got out. The college backed off. Didn’t want to show it at all. We were nixed.
But one professor stood up. An older gent from the English department. He was slender, with 3 distinct identical dents that formed a triangle in the left frontal area of his balding forehead. He was a quiet, determined man with dents in his head who stood up for us.
The school warily agreed to show our movie, but because of the content, they refused to give us any publicity. Not only that, we weren’t allowed to do any of our own. They would allow us to screen in one of their auditoriums, but we couldn’t tell anybody about it.
We basically premiered our movie for the people involved in making the movie. Actors. Crew. Musicians who had let us use their music on the soundtrack. And the English professor was there.
The movie went over well because everyone there had a vested interest. After the show, I had a conversation with the professor. I thanked him for helping us. He wished me luck in future endeavors.
Ever since I’d met the prof, I’d been curious about the 3-dent triangle on his forehead. Each dent was circular, with a quarter-sized footprint. The indentations were identical in depth – about a half-inch deep.
Sometimes I speak without filters and I am often amazed at what spills out of my mouth. I am often equally amazed at the responses I get.
“Do you mind me asking you about the dents in your forehead?”
God, did I just ask him that?
Yeah, I did.
He didn’t blink. He was matter-of-fact.
“Home invasion. They tried to kill me with a hammer and left me for dead.”
He went on to tell me about how they’d meshed his head back together in the places he was missing circular pieces of skull.
I tried to imagine the recovery process. The surgeries. Just the sheer amount of pain involved, especially with a traumatized bleeding brain. And then you end up with dents in your head that set off metal detectors. It’s bad when your house being robbed turns out to be the least of your problems.
After he told me what had happened, I dangled. Didn’t know what to say.
He pointed to his healed wounds and chuckled.
“They call me hammerhead.”
I stood in admiration.
I still do.
I’m always in admiration of someone who can steal a punch-line and make me look good in the process.
Circa 2000, I was temporarily working at plant for months in California while Judy and Ivan and Caesar stayed back at our home in South Carolina. While in California, it made sense for me to find someplace where I could split the rent with someone. A realtor friend of ours hooked me up with a woman named Vickie.
“Are you okay with it being a woman for a roommate?” my realtor friend asked.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. “As long as she’s cool with having a guy for a roommate.”
We both thought we’d be okay with each other.
Vickie and I were immediately night and day. Oil and water. Not in an abusive way, but we clearly shared virtually zero interests.
My part of the rent gave me my own bedroom and bathroom. Shared dining room and kitchen. And I had access to her washer and dryer.
The day I moved in, I had clothes to wash. Vickie warned me that the washer was fine, but the dryer was another story. Her experience was you had to dry clothes multiple times before they were done.
I opened the dryer and my eyes went right to the lint catcher. It was completely white, like a swath of woolen fabric. At first, I thought it was a large-sized white gym sock, but it wasn’t. It was literally 2 inches of lint that had never been removed – compacted into what looked like a lint catcher stuffed with athletic socks. When I peeled it away, it came out as one thick pad.
I turned on the dryer and that thing cooked.
Vickie was in awe. Mouth gaping. “How did you fix that?”
I stopped the dryer and pulled out the cleaned lint catcher. I held it up.
“What’s that?” she asked innocently.
Her house could have burned down. She was 47 at the time and had never seen a lint catcher.
For the most part, we didn’t interface much at all. I’m not saying she was unpleasant. She wasn’t. We just had absolutely nothing in common. She hung out in the living room a lot raking through her sand Zen garden that had been converted from a large coffee table. Sometimes when I’d come back from work, she’d be raking and I’d have to linger and talk to her on my way to my room.
On one pass through, she stopped me. She needed my help. A friend had given her a gift of a sound system that included a CD player and a tape recorder/player. She had no idea how to set it up, let alone command the buttons.
The setup was easy. Literally plugged in like 4 simple cords.
The person who gifted her told Vickie she would be able to record CD songs to her tape deck for playing in her car’s tape player. Vickie wanted to know if I knew how to do that.
I put in a CD. I put in a blank cassette tape. I queued up the CD and hit the record button on the cassette deck.
The CD played. The deck was recording.
“See? It’s that easy. All you have to do is hit those 2 buttons and you’re recording.”
Vickie held a silencing index finger to her lips. “Quiet,” she whispered. “Your voice will come out on the tape.”
I explained to Vickie that the recording was internal and didn’t pick up room noise.
She had no idea what I was talking about and whispered again that I should be quiet.
I can only help so much.
In the 1990s, I was driving a not gently-used vehicle to work every day. Getting it inspected was dicey for the several years I owned it. I was steered to a gear head named Bob. I was told up front he was “different,” but if anyone would pass my crummy car, Bob would. And he did.
I went to see him on a lunch hour. He oversaw a garage with a large open bay.
Bob was leather-faced with a shock of closely cropped, but not recently trimmed white hair. I could tell by the look in his eye that Bob was a little off.
After checking everything else on the inspection list, he went into the pit under my car and rattled the exhaust pipe assembly. Loose. He shook it more than he should have while I stood there helplessly wondering if it was going to come apart in his hands.
Bob came up out of the pit frowning. He walked silently to his junkyard desk to write out the paperwork. I had no idea if I’d passed or failed.
Bob paused writing and turned to me. “You know, it’s never my intention to not pass someone, Rick.”
It was funny that he called me Rick. Especially since he was sitting there with my Doug-stamped paperwork in front of him. Coincidentally, he was one of two people in my life who knew my name was Doug, but called me Rick.
Bob got a mad twinkle in his eye.
“Found somethin’ wrong with your car.”
He held up a bent nail.
“Found this in your right front tire.”
Was he going to fail me for that? He answered my question without me asking.
For some odd reason, he offered the nail up to me.
“You want it?”
I shook my head. “No, that’s okay.”
Before I even got the words out, Bob turned to a nearby wastebasket and slam-dunked the nail into it. Hard.
“Didn’t think so.”
Bob picked up an inspection sticker from his desk and stood up. He walked to my car and reached inside. He applied the sticker and squared off with me.
I looked him in the eye. “So. We all set?
Bob didn’t answer right away. He leaned his back against the side of my car. Reached into a pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He extracted one and placed it in his mouth. Pulled out a Zippo lighter and flicked it open, firing up his smoke.
He exhaled. Squinted. Stared past me at something unseen. Snapped his lighter shut. Pocketed it.
And this is where the conversation got strange as young Ben in The Graduate might say.
Bob lectured me.
“It’s a messed up world, my friend. And I’m a peaceful man by nature. We need more a that. Live and let live.”
Then he got animated to a point where I felt a little threatened. He got live wire on me.
“I swear to Christ, if some sorry sonofabitch ever tries to break into my house or do harm to me and my family?”
He was snarling at this point.
“They are fuckin’ dead on arrival! I will blow their fuckin’ brains out. Shoot first, ask questions later.”
He took a huge shaking drag off his cigarette and twitched. He struggled to get control of himself.
His demeanor shifted to a peaceful place. He smiled at me and said, “You have a blessed day now. Time to make a change, Rick. Make the world a better place.”
Make the world a better place.
Remind me to work on that.
Like I said, I went back several times.
I needed him to pass my car.
Bob never went off on me again.
And he never called me Doug.
I was always Rick.
End of side 2.