Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shameless self-promotion. Also, a cool t-shirt.

After seeing Captain America, I was sorely disappointed to discover that this didn't already exist as a t-shirt. So I made it. Buy one! Support freedom! Make me money!

Friday, May 6, 2011


Astute readers of the Fortress of Bloggitude will note that the Annals of Animal Antagonism started at #3.  That's because the original two Annals, until recently, were thought lost to history.  However, thanks the diligent work of a crack team of Action-Scientists, they have been recovered at great personal cost.  (Dont' despair, Agent Dillingham, wherever you are.  WE WILL GET YOU BACK!)

The original Annals, the one that started a lifetime of my own personal contentious struggle against the animal kingdom, is next.  For now, enjoy another story about, yep, bees.


So, Molly and I are puttering around Saturday, doing the "What do you wanna do?" "I dunno. What do _you_ wanna do?" routine, when I say, "Hey! The weather is perfect, we're in sunny California, we're young and romantic - let's go on a picnic!" Or words to that effect. We get all excited, pull out Molly's authentic never-been-used picnic basket, go buy some chicken and sides from Boston Market and set out in my convertible for this lovely little park we know by Lake Hollywood. Norman Rockwell, eetch'yer heart out.

"No, YOU eat your heart out, you son of a bitch!"
Man, Normal Rockwell is touchy.

We get to the park. Everything is lovely. People are running around playing with their dogs. Idyllic. A couple of dogs take a little more than casual interest in us - well, our basket, really - but they're friendly pooches and when their owners call them they leave us alone to spread our repast and blanket out in peace. We were just laying out the last of the food when it began.


Now, you should know that as a child I was deathly afraid of bees and wasps. I was never stung, because I was far too smart, not to mention fast, for that. I'd just run like a greyhound at the sight of a buzzing stinging insect. Then, during my second year of college, the phobia just, poof, went away. Not the *fear*, precisely, just the unreasoning terror of the little demons. I was still very nervous around them, a condition I still feel is perfectly rational, but could control myself and stay calm.

Or so I thought.

Even BATMAN is afraid of bees, okay?

One bee started flying around our picnic. I shooed him away. No big deal. Bees are pretty docile timid insects. But he wouldn't go away! He just kept buzzing back in. Molly and I are both waving our arms ineffectually at it. Then it dawns upon me that she's waving at a different bee than I am. Now there's three bees! "Quick! Let's move out of the grass over to that dirt spot over there!" But by the time I move the basket and some items over there and come back for the rest, there are bees crawling over the plates of food! And now they're following us to the new location. BEES!!!! THOUSANDS OF THEM, EVERYWHERE, BLOCKING MY VISION IN ALL DIRECTIONS!!! RUN! RUN TO THE CAR! SAVE YOURSELVES!!!

Hey, they could be KILLER BEES.  You don't know.

Well, we managed to get our stuff out of there by shoving the plates of food into a plastic bag and booking it for the car. Since we've both had about one bite each, we decide to try the picnic again in another locale. We drive up Mulholland to the spot you've all seen in a dozen movies - people parked looking down over the lights of LA - only this is daytime. There's no place to sit, so we spread out the picnic on the hood of my car and finally settle down to enjoy our meal. And enjoy it we do, for about fifteen minutes. And then it began.


The same damn progression as the first time. One bee. Two. Three. SWARM!!!! Only these beasts are more stubborn than the others. They won't shoo away! They're crawling on the food and they're just ignoring my waving arms. They're crawling into the basket! They're crawling into the plastic bags we're putting the food into!

Now, I want you to picture me, if you will - a staid, relatively calm, in control sort of guy - trying to do the simple task of moving a picnic basket and supplies from the hood of my car about three feet over to the back seat of my car. The convertible top is down. I don't even have to open a door. The problem is that my while my forebrain is saying "Pick up the basket. Ignore the three bees that flew into it. Place it in the back of the car," my lizard brain is saying, "Flying death from above! We're all going to die! Weapons are useless against them! RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN!!!!!"

Artist's rendition of my perceptions.

The combined result of these conflicting commands is that I do, indeed, manage to pick up the basket, blanket, etcetera and move it into the back of the car, but I do it in very jerky, Frankenstein's Monster sort of movements, while making sounds like, "Nnnghh!" and "Aaannyyghhh!"

We hightail it out of there as fast as the curvy deathtrap roads of the Hollywood Hills will let us. Meanwhile, I’m flinching at every sound I hear behind me because I KNOW, just KNOW that there are bees still inside of the basket and bags and probably crawling around the upholstery of the Celica waiting for just the right moment to spring on me.

This is Swarm.  He's a Nazi.  And he's made of bees.
I'm just sayin'.

Molly asks me where I want to go next and all I can croak out is a whimpering, sad, little, "Home."

We finished our picnic in our living room, basking in the glow of incandescent lighting and watching the loveliness of nature... on our television set.

And THAT'S the only way I'll ever have a picnic again.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


This was back when Molly and I were dating. I'd been working long hours on Star Trek IX (odd number = one of the crap ones) and we'd been seeing each other far too little, so we decided to take a long romantic weekend all to ourselves in Napa Valley. Because, frankly, that's sort of a rite of passage for anybody dating in California - a weekend at a bed & breakfast in Napa Valley is required. (Just like anyone dating in the northeast U.S. is required to go "upstate" at some point. Or governors of South Carolina must "hike the Appalachian Trail.")

Molly did the research on where to stay, on the theory that putting me in charge of finding a bed & breakfast would be like setting Molly in charge of hunting and killing a wildebeast - theoretically possible, but inadvisable. Using the Power of the Internet(!) she found us a place. For legal, don't-sue-us reasons, we will call it the "Back Porch Desert Garden Bed & Breakfast" 1

Now, on paper, the "Back Porch Desert Garden Bed & Breakfast" looked very nice. "Individual well-lit cabins," with "private fireplaces" and a "large selection of movies." All reasonably priced2. Molly set up the reservations over the phone with "Hilda,"3 the proprietor. The big weekend finally came and we left our workday stress behind us for the open road.

Insert creepy string music and ominous opening credits. Probably with dripping blood that wipes down to reveal a title like "Dead & Breakfast" or "Weekend Dead-Away".

Too late.

God's honest truth, there were storm clouds brewing overhead by the time we actually made the drive to the area in the evening. Yes, that's right...

It was a dark and stormy night when we arrived just outside of Napa Valley where our B&B was located. As we drove along the lonely highway, though, it was nowhere to be seen. We stopped at a gas station and Molly called the number she'd been given.

A male voice answered. "Yes?"

"Hi. We have reservations for this weekend, but we can't seem to find you. We're at a gas station in [redacted]."

"You've gone too far. We're five miles back, take a right turn and we're just off the highway."

Molly came back and told me the directions. "That can't be right," we both thought. "All that was back there was a sad looking mobile home..."


Welcome to the Sad Looking Mobile Home Bed & Breakfast.

By the time we arrived, night had fallen and a cold drizzle was just starting to fall. Our initial impression was skeptical, at best, but being a couple of plucky troopers, we were determined to have a fine time regardless. We trudged through the rain to the stoop and rang the doorbell.

The door opened.

(Insert bone-chilling organ chord.)

Now, I've heard the phrase "dead-eyed" in fiction many, many times. But until that night, I never truly understood what it meant. The man standing in that door way had the deadest eyes I'd ever seen before or since - they were devoid of any sense of human kindness or really any emotion at all. This man had never been angry or heartbroken or laughed with a baby or tickled a puppy. I literally recoiled half a step. "And the part of the serial killer," I thought to myself, "will be played by this man."

This came up when I put "scary dead eyes" into Google. 
For the record, Jack looked nothing like this.

It was a long moment before either of us thought to speak, and the whole time he just stood there, staring at us, saying nothing. "Hi, we're Hudson and Molly," we eventually stammered. "We talked to you on the phone a few minutes ago? We have reservations." (Oh boy, did we.)

"This way," he said without introduction and walked inside, leaving us to follow. Foolishly, we did so. He was standing behind a guest book. "Sign here," he said. Only when we had did he introduce himself.

"I'm Jack4. Hilda said Molly told her you worked on the new Star Trek movie.," he said without preamble. "I love Star Trek. I have all the episodes. And not just the original series, but Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I have all the movies."

"Okay." (Seriously, what am I supposed to say?)

There was a long pregnant pause, and finally Jack said, "Your cabin is this way." As he led us through the home, he gave us a short, perfunctory tour. Breakfast served here, back porch there, and... well, that was it, really. I mentioned it was a mobile home, right? Not exactly a lot of room for little nooks and crannies. "If you want any movies, come find me and I'll get them for you from the library," he said.

One thing was noticeably absent, though: Hilda. As far as we could tell, Jack was the only person there. Hmmm....

The cabins were prefab little affairs - pretty nice, actually - set up behind the main "building". There was a path around the mobile home to them, but we weren't allowed to park our car there; it had to be parked out in front. 5

Once we had unpacked the car and replaced it back in the front lot, Molly and I took stock. We were not filled with joy. The room was tidy, yes, but small and sterile, with an ancient rabbit-eared tv and the "fireplace" turned out to be a small grated gas furnace. Still determined to make the best of things, we opened up the book listing all of the "large collection of movies." And there were indeed quite a few - at least a hundred. Beside each movie was listed a tape number to ask for.

(Ah, for my younger readers, this was back before DVD's became ubiquitous, and movies were often recorded on "VHS tapes." Ask your parents.)

(For my even younger readers, DVD's are what came before downloaded digital movies. Ask your grandparents. It'll make them feel special.)

(For my readers who haven't been born yet, this was all before we had genetically engineered brain-wasps inject the movies directly into our cerebral cortex. Weren't we quaint?)

It had been a long drive and cuddling up and watching some movies sounded pretty nice. As we scanned the titles, though, we noticed that many of them referenced the same tape number. From which we deduced that they had been recorded off of TV onto tape, and judging from the number of movies on any given tape, at the lowest possible quality. Great.

Ah, what the heck, I'm no videophile. We were there to relax, not count pixels and scan lines. Who cared about the quality? We just wanted something to watch. So we made a little list of movies we wanted, and I went to find Jack while Molly stayed to "slip into something a little more comfortable." Ah, yeah. Boom chicka bow-bow. You know what I'm sayin'? That's right... What's that? Molly's parents and brother can read this blog? Oh. Ah, by "something more comfortable," I of course meant a sensible set of warm flannel pajamas. Right. Moving on.

The rain was really starting to come down as I made it to the main building and rapped on the back patio door. When Jack opened the door this time, I was better prepared - I don't think I cringed at all, and any whimpering I made was certainly inaudible. "Um," I said as he stood there saying nothing, "We have some movies we'd like to get." I held the list out.

He looked at my hand, then turned and walked away. "Follow me," he said, leading me to the main bedroom door.

Okay, it's necessary to verbally map this scene out for you just a bit. The bedroom door opened on a corner of the room. As I stood in the doorway, the room opened up to my left, and the wall on my right extended forward till it reached the far wall I was facing.The wall on my right - wall of movies. Floor to ceiling bookshelfs packed with an impressive selection of tapes, each hand-labeled.

Directly ahead of me? Wall of Penises.

You probably missed that - this post is pretty long and you're probably skimming by this point, so I'll repeat it.


The wall was covered with a collection of framed pencil sketches of penises. Penises in all states. Soft, flaccid, turgid, straight, bent. It was the Louvre of Penii. To this day, two have stuck in my mind particularly vividly. One was half-flaccid, being gripped by a hand around its base, with a single drop of fluid hanging down from the head. Yeah. The other? Some sort of alien penis-plant, with a large central penis-stalk, off of which extruded many smaller penis-branches. Well, Jack did say he was into science fiction, though I can't say I remember that particular episode of Star Trek.

All of this took me about one quarter of a second to take in, before I immediately and sharply pivoted on my right foot to face the wall o' movies from four inches away. I have never more completely targeted 100% of my attention as I did right then. That wall of VHS tapes became the entirety of my universe while Jack collected my movies.

By the time I came back to our bungalow, Molly had slipped into the aforementioned "something more comfortable." I burst through the door and completely ignored her and her attire (you know, warm flannel pajamas) as I went around the room making sure all doors and windows were closed, covered and securely locked. "Darling," I said, taking her hand, "you are NEVER to be alone with Jack. Ever. For any length of time at all. Pinky swear on it."

"Room service!"

After a bit6, we finally settled in to watch one of the movies I'd grabbed, "The Man with Two Brains" with Steve Martin. (I needed a laugh.) I think Molly may have tried to kindle some romance, but right then, Gandhi would have looked like the last of the red hot lovers compared to me.

Then we discovered that not only had the movie been recorded off of tv...
1) it had been recorded off of network tv, with all of the commercials left in...
2) but all of the language and dirty jokes taken out.

Molly looked at me and said, "What're you thinking?" she asked.

"Nothing good," I replied.

"What do you want to do?"

I thought for a second. "Leave," I said.

We repacked our bags and stacked them by the door. Then, in the pouring rain, we tiptoed through the moonless night to our car. As quietly as we could, we got inside and, without turning on the lights, drove it past the main trailer to our cabin. Then, half-convinced Jack would appear with a bloody cleaver at any moment, we jumped out of the car, threw open the door and flung our bags into the back seat. Then we jumped back into the car and peeled out, blasting Weird Al Yankovich from the CD player (on the theory that no one is ever horribly murdered listening to Weird Al).

It's true. I checked.

"Yes!," we shouted to no one at all. "We survived! We checked out of the Bates Motel! We're smarter than people in horror movies!" (Then we realized that we were speeding through the dark down a mountain road in the rain. Luckily, we slowed down before we killed *ourselves*. Irony is a harsh mistress.)

In the nearest town, we found an actual honest-to-goodness Bed & Breakfast that was willing to take us in the middle of the night after hearing our adventure. We spent the rest of the weekend in a big, beautiful house with wonderful food and pleasant, non-terrifying, non-batshit-insane people.

When the mysterious Hilda (who, come on, we're all pretty sure by now is actually just Jack, right?) called us later to find out what happened, we explained our strict "no penis art" policy. When she became a bit defensive, we further explained that recording movies off of tv and then using them in her advertisements for her B&B is just a tiny bit illegal. We received a full refund of our deposit.

So, when all was said and done, we had to actually be grateful to the Back Porch Desert Garden Bed & Breakfast for being so pants-soilingly frightening and awful. Because it was, we left and eventually had a wonderful weekend. If it had been just a little bit less terrible, we probably would have stayed and toughed it out, had a miserable time, and, of course, have been brutally murdered. So, a win-win all around.

Thanks, Hilda and Jack! I hope we never see or talk to either of you ever again!

1 I want to be perfectly clear here - while I can totally understand and excuse the instinct to regard anything out of my mouth as the nonsensical ramblings of a madman (a devilishly handsome and charming madman), this story is 100%, swear-on-my-mother's-grave-and-she-isn't-even-dead true.

2 "Reasonable" - bwah ha ha ha ha!!! "The Back Porch Desert Garden B&B, where reason is beaten senseless and sanity is a gimp we keep in the basement." Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself.

3 Another name change, I'm afraid. Look, I feel guilty that I'm taking the coward's way out and not actually giving the your information necessary to avoid this place. On the upside, though, if you do end up there, it's highly unlikely you'll survive to be able to blame me for not warning you. Well, it's an upside for me.

4 Yeah, yeah, not his name, either. Listen, it's a harsh world out there. If you get killed in a bed & breakfast by an emotionless serial killer, well, that's life, okay? I can't be responsible for warning every person away from every psychopath I've encountered! Jeez.

5 Designed to slow down escape routes, no doubt. It's nice to see a serial killer who takes the time to plan ahead. Too many psychopaths just do things in a slapdash manner, no pride in their work.

6 This doesn't really fit into the main narrative, but around this time I had to use the restroom. As I was sitting on the toilet, I looked down and saw a silverfish on the ground. It's existence didn't bother me - the room was actually quite clean, and there's always a few insects anywhere you go. No, what bothered me was that it was walking in a one-inch circle in the middle of the floor. Over and over and over and over and over.... "Shit," I thought, "I'm not just stuck in a horror movie, but it's apparently directed by David Lynch."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011



One car slammed into the rear end of another just 30 yards away from the three of us - Buck, the doctor, and myself - minutes after we had run ourselves frazzled trying to help an absolutely uncooperative stroke victim.  With a shrug and incredulous laugh, we ran over to help.  I dialed 911 on the way, but was immediately stuck on hold.

In just the few seconds it took us to react and get over there, the entire situation had gone to hell.  A college-age girl had crashed her car in to the one ahead of her, and was wracked with hysterical sobs over her steering wheel.  The car in front was driven by an elderly man who was sitting unmoving in his seat, while his incredibly ancient mother had got out of the car and was wandering in the street.  When I approached her, she told me, "I think my son is hurt."


I called to the doctor and asked her to check on the elderly driver.  I turned to Buck and said, "Make sure the girl in the back car is okay and doesn't go anywhere."   I had the most important job: get the eleventy-year-old woman to stop wandering in the middle of the street.

So, Buck talked the college girl out of her hysterics, explaining to her that this was simply a case of two insurance companies talking to each other and swapping checks, and that the police would not be taking her away to live in indentured servitude.  I explained to the mother that the nice lady over there was a doctor and that we were calling an ambulance and the police, but in the meantime would she like to wait over on the curb, and not in the center lane of a busy street?  Lastly, the driver of the other car told the doctor that he felt like he wrenched his neck when he was hit, so she told him to stay still till an ambulance arrived. 

Speaking of the ambulance, I was getting very frustrated with 911 when an operator finally picked up.  I explained the whole situation, especially the driver with the hurt neck, and she said they would dispatch an ambulance immediately.

At which point, a garage door on the small, unobtrusive building right next to us rolled up, an ambulance emerged, drove all of 100 feet to us and stopped.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," I said to no one at all.

At this point, I was actively looking for the hidden cameras, which was the only possible explanation for how mind-bendingly bizarre this day had become.  I'm still fairly certain we all unwittingly starred in a reality practical-joke show for which we were never compensated.

In any case, the paramedics put the injured man in the ambulance, his mother went with him, police showed up and took information, and eventually everything was sorted out and all of the players had left the stage, except for our little trio.

"Well, it's been interesting," we said.  "Have a nice day.  Bye."  We all froze, muscles tensed, slightly crouched, waiting for the next goddamn bizarre-ass ridicu-fucking-lous thing that was going to happen!  


And without another word, we all just turned away and never saw each other again.

The End.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Buck and I were on an early afternoon run, because being a pulp action crime fighter means staying in peak physical condition - crime is a heavyweight opponent, and it hits below the belt!  We expected a little relaxing exercise - little did we know we were about to be drawn into a web of chaos and confusion, with not one, not two, but FOUR lives hanging in the balance!

We were running south on Coldwater Canyon towards Ventura, and up ahead of us we could see two women on the sidewalk.  Suddenly, and without warning, one of the women collapsed!  As she crumpled, she fell off of the curb and sprawled into the street.  Naturally, we sprang into action and were there in a flash.

Both women were in their 50's or 60's, of "solid" Slavic/Russian/Armenian heritage.  We quickly found out that neither woman spoke English beyond the most basic level.  Their English was better than my Russian or Armenian, but, nevertheless, our communication was simplistic, at best.

When we arrived, the woman who fell was trying feebly to get back up to no avail, and her friend was just as ineffectual in trying to help.  Buck and I each grabbed an elbow and with a mighty heave, hoisted her back on her feet.  However, it was clear she was depending on us to stay upright and would collapse again without our support.  As we tried to get her off the street, she could not lift her left foot to step onto the curb, nor would it support her weight so she can step with her right.  Again, we had to physically lift her off the street and onto the curb.  Her speech was slurred, and she was having difficulty with her left arm.

My keen analytical mind, the product of a billion years of evolution and a lifetime of intense training, reached one inescapable conclusion: "Stroke!"  I pulled out my phone, intending to call 911.  Buck and I may be pulp science-heroes extraordinaire, but our skills are more suited for punching Nazis and leaping chasms.  Providing medical treatment for foreign stroke victims was a little out of our wheelhouse.

Fast as adder, though, the woman snapped out her hand (her good hand), and grabbed my wrist.  "No hospital!" she said, panicky.  "No hospital!  I fine!"  She was so insistent that I relented and put the phone away temporarily.  With some difficulty, Buck and I determined that the women were walking to the Sportmen's Lodge, just a half block away.  The woman who collapsed was regaining some slight strength in her leg, but we volunteered to accompany them there just to make sure she was okay.

As we started on our way, another woman came running up.  She was younger, blonde, attractive and most importantly, a doctor!  "I was driving by when I saw the woman collapse," she explained.  "I parked and got here as fast as I could."  Fantastic!  I explained our situation and the woman's symptoms as best I could, and she concurred that a stroke was the most likely explanation.  But she had no more luck than we at convincing her to go to a hospital, to which the woman remained adamantly opposed.  So she decided to join our little band of citizen do-gooders as we took the two women to their destination.

There was a party or some sort of event at the Sportsmen's Lodge, populated by many other people of the women's nationality - all of whom spoke even less English than our charges.  We set about trying to find someone there who would look after the woman, but with no luck at all. Out of this entire crowd of people, with all three of us asking for help, not one person would step up and help an old woman obviously in need of looking after.1

I turned to the woman she was with...  Gone.  Disappeared into the building as soon as we got there.

I appealed to the few people around outside.  "Can someone look after her?  Make sure she gets home at least?"  No one would step forward to help.  "Can I get a wheelchair for her?" I asked of the person in charge of the event, who spoke the best English.

"We can't give her a wheelchair inside.  If she gets hurt, we could get in trouble."  Weasel.

Standing outside the front door, I made one more appeal to the woman to let us call her an ambulance.  "No!  I fine!"

"You're not fine," I explained.  "You've had a stroke.  You can barely walk."

"No stroke!  I walk fine," she said, lurching forward like a drunken Frankenstein's monster.2 She stopped her forward momentum by gracefully crashing into a wall.

"What about your arm and hand?" we argued.

"Hand fine," she said, holding up her right hand and waving her fingers dexterously.

"Your left hand!"  I was torn between weeping and laughter at this point, from frustration and the hilarious ludicrousness of the whole situation.

"Left hand fine," she said, flailing her arm up and smacking herself in the head.  That did it.  Farce had won out over tragedy.  The three of us - Buck, the doctor and I - admitted defeat.  We had done our best, but even ace crime fighting skills and twelve years of medical school are no match for obstinate human apathy.  We shrugged our shoulders and walked away.  Maybe, hopefully, she would find support from her own people once we left.

We staggered exhaustedly back to Coldwater and shook hands.  "You guys are heroes," the doctor said.

"Thank you, but it's nothing any honest citizen wouldn't have done," we said, posing with our hands on our hips, staring, chin up, towards the horizon.  "It's doctors like you who are the real heroes."

"...Okay.  Whatever," she said.  "So, goodbye, I guess.  Have a nice morning."

"You, too," I replied...

...as two cars crashed into each other 30 feet away from us.

At no point in my life have I ever more felt like I was in a 70's action television show.  We all looked at each other, laughed and shrugged, and started running towards the car.  Freeze frame.  Roll credits.

But, of course, we we weren't on tv, and the new adventure was just beginning.

Part Two to come

1 I will admit that due to this debacle, along with a few other unfortunate encounters (that I will chronicle at another time), I have become quite biased - the sound of a Slavic accent still puts my hackles up and I'm inclined to start assuming the worst.

2No offense to Frankenstein's monster intended. He's a wonderful creature. He just can't hold his liquor.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


So, I'm driving around Las Vegas with my dad, when I see this...

...and I make the admittedly snobby comment that I'm uncomfortable living in a world where Carrot Top gets to headline at a major Vegas casino.  It's an offhand snide comment, and I figure at best I'll get a chuckle out of him.  Instead, he says, "Ah, Scotty's a good kid."

Hudson's Trivia Corner:  Did you know that Carrot Top's real name is Scott Thompson? Neither did I.
"Scotty's a good kid," he says.  "He knows he's just a prop comic who got lucky, but what's he gonna do?  Tell 'em not to pay him millions of dollars?  But he's got enormous respect for the 'real' comedians, and he treats his writers great, which is more than a lot of guys in this town can say.  He's a really nice kid."

I'm just stunned during this whole speech.  My whole world has been rocked.  I just can't wrap my head around the idea that my father - cynical hater of all hack comedy - is friends with Carrot Top.  Friends.  With.  Carrot.  Top.

We drive in silence for a minute while I process this before I can speak again.

"Can I still hate Pauly Shore?" I ask.

"Yeah.  He's a prick."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ireland Stories #2: A Toast to Me


Molly and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon, after persuasive argument on my part.  ("Let's go to Ireland!  Please?  Please?  I love Ireland.  I've always wanted to go!  Please?!?!")  As befits a country devoted to poets and writers, many stories were born out of that trip.  A certain creepy story was one, and here's another:

We had just finished our ordeal with Aer Lingus (a story for later) and had made it into Dublin and the hotel at which we'd be spending our first two nights.  We got a nap, showered, got ourselves all spiffied up, and decided to hit the town.

Which was dead.  Turns out it was a "bank holiday," a phrase I'd never heard in the U.S., but in Ireland, at least, means "all businesses are closed and people stay off the streets like the alien invasion had been announced."  It was actually "October Holiday," in which everyone is given the last Monday of October off because, um, October?

So we wandered the empty streets, waiting for the zombies to wander out of the alleys or something, until we saw a pub.  Oh, yeah, remember when I said all businesses were closed?  That obviously doesn't include pubs, because, come on, Ireland.

Even this place was barely populated, just a scattering of people.  I think every other pub we entered for the rest of the trip was crammed to capacity.  Ireland has a population of 4 million (at the time, at least), which means that the population of Ireland's pubs on a Friday night is 4 million.

There was one man at the bar, and we sat a couple of stools down from him.  Within a few minutes, he started talking to us.  This was a pattern we would find over and over again.  If you want to have a conversation in Ireland, just stop moving for a few minutes - someone will introduce themselves.

Obviously he knew we were American, and I told him we were on our honeymoon.

"So what made you decide to come to Ireland for yer honeymoon?  Are you Irish, then?" he asked me.

"You know," I replied, "I've always loved Ireland since I was a kid.  Every movie, every story, I couldn't get enough of it.  But my family never kept records of where we came from.  We were the typical all-American mutt.  So finally, I decided to check out my family history, and you know what I found?"

I paused for effect.  "I'm not Irish at all," I said.  "I'm everything else.  English, Russian, German, god knows what else.  But no Irish.  I was crushed.  I'm Irish in my soul, I guess, but that's all."

There was a brief moment, and then he picked up his beer, turned and faced the room and smiled.

"I'd like to buy a drink," he said loudly to the house, hoisting his beer, "to the first American I've ever met... who isn't fuckin' Irish!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I didn't know my father at all growing up. My parents had split up in Australia when I was very very young, and my mom came back to Oklahoma to raise me with her side of the family, which was the only family I knew. And for the next fifteen years, he was nonexistent in my life. I could have walked by him on the street and never known.

The best thing my mom did for me, though, was that she was completely honest about him. She didn't bad-mouth him, but she didn't whitewash him, either. "Your dad?  Oh, he was a thief and a con man. You couldn't trust him as far as you could throw him.  But he was charming, and a lot of fun. I wasn't an idiot - I knew he wasn't the stay-around type. But I got you out of it, and that made it all worth it." Shucks, mom, you're makin' me blush here! I love you, too.

Then, at 19, I heard that he had become a stand-up comedian, and a pretty successful one at that. A while later, I saw him for the first time - on tv. He was a guest comedian on the Tonight Show. It was an emotion that I'm pretty sure most people haven't had the opportunity to experience - that of seeing your long-lost father for the first time, on national tv, talking about van seats. (I bet there's a word for it in German.  Those guys have a word for everything.)

In retrospect, my response was fairly subdued. As best I can remember, my reaction was, "Huh.  So that's what he looks like. Well, gotta get to class." Yeah, I'm a drama queen.

But even though I was neither ecstatic nor distraught, I was intensely *curious* about this mystery person from my past. It never occurred to me to seek him out, but I spent a lot of time speculating about him. He was, by far, the most interesting person "in" my life - traveling salesman, con man, thief, seducer of women, world traveller, and now he was a comedian on tv? Who the hell did this guy think he was?

He was who I secretly wanted to be myself. My childhood fictional heroes were rogues and scoundrels, from Harold Hill in The Music Man to Robert Heinlein's rebels and explorers on the fringes of society. And all of sudden, the closest thing to those "heroes" I'd ever heard of in real life had turned up, and he was my father? I think that's why my reaction was so muted - it was all just too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

Still, when I saw with surprise my dad's name on the marquee of Joker's Comedy Club in Oklahoma City, announcing he would be headlining in a couple of weeks, I was *damn* well going to go.

I showed up that night with a couple of friends. I was only 20, but I managed to talk the doorman into letting us in, mostly on the strength of a driver's license with the same name as the headliner. He sat us at a table in the front row, just right of center stage. We were all of about 10 feet away from the microphone. Best seats in the house.

A couple of opening acts came and went, and then, finally, my dad comes out. I was pleased to find that my dad is a *very* good comedian.  He was rocking the house, and I was laughing with the rest of them. I forgot about being there to "meet my father," and had become just another laughing audience member.

And then the Universe handed me the greatest straight line anyone has received in the History of Ever...

My dad started talking about his name. "My last name really is Shock," he said. "Everyone thinks it's a stage name. It's not. I didn't make it up, I was born with it. Shock is my real name."

See, it's a lead-in to a joke about all the crap he's gotten for his name, but how he knew a guy with an even worse name in the Army. He was cut off, though, because just then, some guy waaaay in the back of the club yells out, "Yeah!"

When you're on stage, you can't see the crowd. The stage lights blind you and everything beyond the first row of tables is just darkness. My dad stared out into the shadows of the club and asked, "Do we have another Shock in the audience?"

"Yeah!" the voice came back. (You know, after 20+ years, it just occurred to me: who was that guy?)

Remember that straight line I mentioned? Drum roll, please.

My dad says - I shit you not - "I hear I have a son around here somewhere. Maybe you're him."

And from that table just right of center stage, that he can just *barely* see, a voice just loud enough for him to hear says, "No.  No, he's not."

That may be the only time I've gotten the punchline in on my dad. Rimshot. Ba-dum dum.

My dad turned toward my voice and stared past the lights at my table. I just smiled and waved, with a smirk and a raised eyebrow. He took a half-second to process it, and *click*. He turned 180, put his back to the audience. walked to the back wall... and laughed. And laughed and laughed for I don't know how long, in his loud distinctive way, each "Ha!" clearly and sharply articulated.

The audience had no idea what was going on. They had neither heard nor seen our interaction. To their eyes, he had just dead stopped in the middle of the act and gone into hysterics.

It felt like forever, but it was probably only 30 seconds. Just as quickly as he'd started laughing, he stopped. He turned back to the audience, took the microphone, and said, "...but let me tell you about a guy in the Army who had an even worse name." The joke was back in play. He finished out the rest of his set as if nothing had ever happened, not a word of explanation to the audience.

After his act, the audience stood in line to shake his hand, tell him they were big fans, that they'd seen him once in Texas, all the usual things. I waited my turn in line patiently, and eventually there we were, face to face at long last.

He leaned in, stared closely at me, and said slowly, "Hudson?"

I smiled and stuck out my hand, "Hi, Dad.  It's been a long time.  How've you been?"

And with that, my dad decided he liked me. Eventually, I decided I liked him, too, and we've been good friends ever since.