So, my scared stupid moment is super on-brand and I apologize. I can’t help it, okay? This state really is goddamn weird. I wake up and there’s a marching band dancing down my street and every member of the band is dressed like a classic Universal Monster monster. I go the grocery store and there’s a guy in pirate garb with a real parrot on his shoulder. The parrot and the pirate scream in cockney accents at the customers, “Gimme yer fuckin fruity pebbles!” Bee tee dubs, I know this sounds terrifying but all of the patrons were into it and laughing and dancing and chucking boxes of cereal at him. Not sure why this was happening. Not sure why the monster marching band was happening either. This thing happens to me all the time in which I show up in medias res and there’s never any context to be had. Speaking of zero context and chucking things and Florida and weirdness and this state always being on my mind and therefore intruding upon every one of my writing projects, just yesterday I saw this lady driving erratically and chucking Florida-shaped magnets out of her window at pedestrians while screaming, “Magnets!!!” Most Florida weirdness incidents involve costumes and magnets. I think this state has lead poisoning and I think the symptoms of lead poisoning listed right under aggression are the overwhelming urge to wear a costume and magnets. Anyway, there’s no way my state could not always be on my mind and it’s hard to not write about it. Anyway, I’m being toooooo on-brand right now and digressing to hell. Digression over.
My scared stupid pop culture moment is from that episode of The X-Files that takes place in Florida. Humbug is the name of the episode. The setting is this little town outside of Tampa called Gibsonton. This is where a lot of the area’s carnival performers live. I’m going to digress again (Sorry!) to say FUCK the stigma against carnival performers. Florida carnival performers are some of the coolest, smartest, most creative, most talented, and most progressive people I have ever met. They’re communal as hell and love the Earth and are very open and accepting. They’re like if hippies practiced what they preached but instead of being annoying and preachy and proselytizing, carnival people do their thing like Steve Buscemi quietly helping out the fire department on September 11th. Holy fuck, what the shit is wrong with me… I put a Steve Buscemi 9/11 reference in this story… Jesus Christ. We’re showpeople and entertainers. We’re into flash and pranks (old school good pranks in which everyone is in on the joke). We love schlock and exaggeration and jazz hands. Digression over.
So, the year is 1995, I’m hanging out with Grandma one night and we’re watching TV but there’s nothing on. We’re bored with it. What the hell are we going to watch? We’re watching the TV guide channel scroll by (Remember when you used to have to wait for the scroll and if you missed a showtime or channel number you’d have to wait for the TV guide to roll all the way back around? Which was the style at the time *said like Grandpa Simpson*) and she sees X-FILES in big bold TV guide font and she says, “I heard that’s a good show and I heard tonight’s episode takes place in Gibsonton. I don’t think they filmed in Gibsonton. I think they filmed in Canada. What a shame.” Bee tee dubs, that’s all she knows about X-Files…that it’s a good show…she doesn’t know about aliens or conspiracy theories or anything else…she’s a gentle soul who doesn’t do wierd or violent media…she’s into Touched By An Angel and Dr. Quinn The Medicine Woman. So, she flips the channel to Fox and BAM there’s a funeral and a guy erupting from the Earth and he whips out a hammer and spike and he gives a speech and then hammers the spike into his chest and his torso is covered in blood. And he screams, “Ooooh! I think I hit my left ventricle!” Grandma and I scream and she changes the channel back to the safe haven of the TV guide scroll. She says, “Good show, my ass.” And I say, “What the hell was that?” Goddamn, that hammer-spike moment freaked me out! I couldn’t sleep that night. Or the next night. Or the night after that. It fucked me up. I was one hundred percent positive some lunatic was going to bust through my bedroom floor and say, “Hey kid! Watch me drive a spike through my chest!” I had this irrational fear for years afterward. I was convinced. Convinced I tells ya! Some asshole was definitely going to pop out of the ground and force me to watch him fuck up his left ventricle! It was traumatic! Don’t you judge me! It was my first super scary pop culture moment.
That moment wasn’t just Grandma’s first XF moment. It was my first XF moment too. I knew the show was about aliens and conspiracy theories, but that’s all I knew. Back then I knew Cartoon Network and Nick At Night. Ren And Stimpy was as dark as my TV got. In retrospect, Ren And Stimpy is a lot darker than X-Files and I shouldn’t have been watching those two animals lose their goddamn minds every night before bed. Anyway, all of my friends were allowed to watch XF and they were always talking about it. I wanted to fit in so I used to lie and tell my friends that I too had seen every episode but since I only knew that one thirty-second hammer-spike moment I brought it up every single time XF was brought up, “Remember the XF episode in which that guy hammers a spike into his chest? That show is hardcore.” After giving the hammer-spike spiel for the hundredth time my best friend finally called me out on my bullshit and said, “Dude, I know you’ve only seen that one thirty-second hammer-spike moment from that Florida episode. That moment wasn’t even real. Well, no TV is real. Not even Cops. The news is real. Sometimes. But the news is mostly about what my mom calls the bleeding doing the leading which makes the corporate press the most amount of money. Anyway, I digress. What I mean is that that hammer-spike character was a carnival performer. I think he was a carnival performer outside of the show but he was also playing a carnival performer and his character was pulling a prank at a funeral.”