At the risk of drawing the fearsome ire of Kevin Smith fanboys, I need to say before we begin this entry that my favorite Kevin Smith movie is “Clerks II.” It really encapsulates the entire View Askewniverse for me. It’s raunchy as hell, endlessly quotable (just ask Scofield) and sweet, sweet, sweet to its horribly man-tear-inducing romantic core. I can watch any Kevin Smith movie anytime it is on. I will watch “Clerks II” whenever I can. Whatever I am doing gets shunted aside like a shin-humping dog and I watch that goddamned movie. I do love it so.
And while this is not a blog specifically about Kevin Smith, it does involve “Clerks II” and how it literally changed my outlook on life. Having seen “Clerks II” will make this much easier on you. Go rent it. It’s a dollar at Blockbuster, for fuck’s sake. Better yet, go buy it. Put some real money in Kevin’s pocket (insert Weinstein here).
But if you haven’t seen it, bear with me. This will all come together. Promise.
Since our plans for going to the beach had to be modified somewhat, I have decided to take my Beloved, Cootiebug, to Hot Springs, NC.
I have been there many times before. And let me tell you, it is some kind of granola awesome. At the Hot Springs resort, natural carbonated mineral water comes up out of the ground and it can be as hot as muriatic acid (which may be why they named the place Hot Springs, you reckon?) The waters are purported to have healing properties. I don’t know about all that, but I do know they leave my scrotum soft as a baby’s bottom.
There was probably a better simile for that.
Anyway, they pipe the natural hot water up into fiberglass hot tubs that are in little private wooden gazebos. Some of them even overlook the French Broad River. But they’re private, so that means one thing to you, Dear Reader.
Hell fuck yeah.
I remember the first time I went. I was with my last girlfriend. Yes, the one I mentioned in my last blog post. This was towards the beginning of our relationship, when it was still a miracle just to see her boobs. I loved her and she loved me and it was December. We were overlooking the river, and the edges had just the thinnest sheen of ice towards the shore. I was amazed at how fucking cold it was outside but how warm it was inside the tub. I dreaded getting out and drying off because of the shrinkage and the instinctive dancing to retain body heat that would ensue. I caught a snapshot of her that day which I no longer have, and it’s better that I don’t, of her getting out of the tub naked. And it’s not the fact that she was naked. It was her smile. It was the first and last time I actually got a picture of her with a genuine smile on her face, a smile that wasn’t forced, a smile that didn’t have her looking at me out of the corner of her eye wondering what kind of shit-train she had hitched her star to.
I ended up at Hot Springs with her lots of times after that. Sometimes just the two of us, sometimes her entire family, sometimes her entire family and strangers they had picked up a long the way. Of course, it was never the same.
How could it be?
By that time, the weird kind of Northern neuroses that afflict large families from the Ohio/Pennsylvania region were manifest and I, as a Kentucky Southern Gentleman, was made to realize more and more how much I just did not fit in. Don’t misunderstand me, Friends. I am not saying that all Northerners are two Solo cups shy of a pony keg. But having seen how Southern families work, with the overlying sheen of politeness and grace that suffocates the pure sexual and religious repression that seethes just below the surface, I like Southern families better.
We’re all fucked up. Northerners are just more blunt about it. I will dance around the subject, thank you very much, and draw my own conclusions later.
Anyway. Summarizing so far: I went to Hot Springs a lot with her and her family. I had fun once. The rest of it leaves scars like blood gutters, where I was constantly reminded that I was “not of us,” made to feel like my idea of fun was their idea of the Spanish Inquisition and that I was not really welcome amongst them. Which is why I spent a lot of time in Hot Springs drunk to the point of vomiting, thanks to the cheap pitchers of Yuengling at the Paddler’s Pub, and avoiding any direct eye contact. Because then, as now, if I go unchecked with people like that, I just go off. And Katie, bar the door. It is not a pretty sight once I get rolling.
It’s the lunch rush at Mooby’s. While waiting on an African-American couple, Randal Graves lets loose with the term, “porch monkey.” The couple are immediately offended and Randal has no idea why. “My grandmother used to call me a porch monkey,” he says. He legitimately has no clue that it is a racist term. In fact, he decides that it is not a racist term and, if it is, he’s going to “take it back.” Randal is going to make the phrase, “porch monkey,” once again suitable for general usage. He uses reflective duct tape to spell out the sentence, “Porch monkey 4 life” on the back of his Mooby’s uniform shirt. When the next kid, who happens to be white, walks up to the counter, he asks the child, “What can I get ya, you little porch monkey?” When his mother recoils with politically correct shock, Randal says, “Oh, it’s okay! I’m taking it back!”
Let’s take this concept into a little wider release.
Every relationship builds its own sets of connotations and denotations. They are the things you automatically associate with that person, that coupleness, that time in your life. And when a relationship ends, you’re left with this space where that thing that used to be yours was. Maybe it’s a song. Maybe it’s a restaurant. There’s no end to the potential definition list.
It’s time, people.
It’s time to take it back.
Why am I taking Cootiebug to Hot Springs? Because I like it there, above and beyond whatever connection it has to that past relationship. It’s pretty there. It’s fun. And I can get naked outside and nobody says a fucking word. What’s not to like? What kind of person would I be if I were to deny not only myself that pleasure, but to deny the Love of my Life that pleasure… and because of what? A memory?
Bad memories are ghosts that we ourselves keep from going into the light.
It’s time, people. Let them go.
Take it back.
I’m going to build some new memories. Some new, happy memories at a place where some really bad memories happened. I’m going to tear down those bad emotions and build something new and wonderful on top of them. I am going to get some closure. I am going to achieve some wholeness.
I’m taking Cootie to Hot Springs and I’m taking it back.
I’m taking back Foo Fighters. I fucking love Foo Fighters. They are the most consistently good hard rock band of the century thus far. My second marriage threatened to destroy my love for that band, particularly the “One by One” album. Fuck that. I own it. I’m taking it back.
I’m taking back Naples. I had a lot of good meals with the ex-girlfriend there. I also had a lot of awkward family meetings there, meetings that further reinforced the fact that I did not belong. I know a girl who loves good lasagna and I know where the best lasagna in town is, besides the lasagna I make myself. We’re going to Naples. I’m taking it back.
I get to keep Stone Temple Pilots. I get to keep Pearl Jam and Soul Asylum. I definitely get to keep Alice in Chains. I’m taking back “LOST” and “The X-Files” and Asian horror movies and Crosby, Stills, Nash and motherfucking Young.
And I am taking back my self-esteem. My sexual self confidence? I’m taking it back. My belief that I am a funny guy? My ability to show emotions besides rage, disgust and an over-compensatory snobbery? My idea of myself as vital and compassionate? My ability to hold up my end of a relationship? My thinking that I may be a cool guy after all? My small glimmer of hope that I am worthy of being loved?
I’m taking it back. I’m taking it all back. I will do the Randal on the goddamned countertop as a sign to you that I am taking it all back. Porch monkey 4 life.
And what about you, Reader? My friends? What have you let others steal from you that you want back? Don’t sit around and pine for it like a nancy-boy. Do the Randal and take it back. I will help you if you want it… and if you ask.
Get your life back. Get your heart back.
Reclaim your soul.
Be a porch monkey with me.