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.