All shook up about childhood movie trauma

Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to take me to see Earthquake when I was 9 years old? And when did I start sounding like a grandmother who uses phrases like “who in their right mind”?

This must have been somewhere around the end of 1974 or early 1975. It’s hard to tell sometimes because my hometown had only one movie theatre, and first-run movies showed up only after they’d become second-run movies. I believe they’re just now showing Forrest Gump.

I remember this period well, however, because it seems to be when I first started seeing evening movies, as opposed to old Jerry Lewis reruns during Saturday matinees. (We had those.) I also watched Airport 1975 around the same time and The Return of the Pink Panther, the most sophisticated comedy I had ever seen – which kind of explains everything.

But it was Earthquake that truly left a lasting impression, and not in a good way, mostly having to do with one scene – a plummeting elevator. That’s terrifying in itself, but when the scene reached (or, in this case, hit) its inevitable climax, the screen FILLED WITH BLOOD! AHHHHH!

I’ve thought of that scene over and over for more than 40 years, usually while in elevators, naturally. I was 9 years old! Who in my family thought it would be a good idea to take a child to see a film about death and destruction? It’s not like the mayhem was a surprise; it was called Earthquake, not Bunnies Get Shook.

Around the same time, I remember seeing a trailer on television (I assume) for a kitschy horror-comedy called Arnold. I probably saw this ad just the one time, but I distinctly remember a scene of a couple making out in a shower stall, and then the shower walls close in on them! You don’t see anything but there’s screaming! My takeaways: a) I clearly had a fear of being smooshed; and b) you could show pretty much anything on TV in 1973.

I recently read a Twitter feed in which people were laughing at the film Jaws. “This was scary?” they scoffed. It sure was! People lost their minds over this film. And their lunches. (For the record, I was not allowed to see Jaws; I’m a bit upset about this, but also it was probably for the best because of all the smooshing.)

I wondered, though, whether young people still have the ability to be shocked and, more to the point, traumatized by film.

So I turned to some young people; I texted my kids.

“Are there shows/movies you watched as a child that either traumatized you or you think now ‘I was far too young to watch this’?”

“No,” Abby the youngest immediately typed back. Oh yes there are, I thought, thinking of her somewhat obsessive Austin Powers period – which kind of explains everything.

“Watching Jurassic Park in kindergarten with the class!” Emily the eldest replied. Yup. That would do it. I reminded her about taking her to see The Lion King when she was 3 and sitting in the near-empty theatre as she blubbered after the stampede scene, “Is he going to wake up? Why won’t he wake up…!” But that scene traumatized everyone.

Son James wrote back, “A Fish Called Wanda.” Yeah. My bad.

Then Katie chimed in: “ET, My Favorite Martian, The Dark Crystal, The Hobbit (cartoon one).” It explains why Katie used to refer to people as “humans.” Later, she revealed to us that she was convinced as a child that we were all aliens. At night, she would whisper to her sister, “Emily, if you were an alien, you’d tell me, right?”

We can laugh at these things now, and thanks to YouTube, I can revisit those scenes that scarred my childhood. The elevator crash special effect is cartoonishly absurd, and the Arnold trailer is pure cheese. But recognizing that doesn’t take away their impact. (Ha! Elevator! Impact!) You never know what will dig its way into a child’s psyche. Also: I was clearly a bit of a wuss.

Still, I wanted to get to the bottom of who took me to see Earthquake. I assumed it was my Dad. So I asked him. He couldn’t even recall the film. Besides, he had his own tremor trauma to deal with:

“I remember my mother taking me to see San Francisco and during the earthquake scenes hiding behind the seats.”

My Dad was 6 years old at the time. Way to go, Nana!

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Netflix “Originals”

Netflix’s ‘Russian Doll’: A Darker, Druggier ‘Groundhog Day’ – The Daily Beast, Feb. 1, 2019
‘Bird Box’ Is The Netflix Version Of ‘A Quiet Place’- Zimbio, Dec. 27, 2018
The ‘Stranger Things’ Secret? It’s Basically an 8-Hour Spielberg Movie – Wired, Aug. 12, 2016

What a Wacky Wednesday!
Succumbing to an ancient gypsy curse combined with a mixup in Google Calendar settings, a mother and her teenage daughter swap dietary restrictions for the day. Gastric shenanigans ensue. A hilarious, heartwarming story of family love, domestic tolerance and lactose intolerance.

Shoe Box
In the not-so-distant future (Monday), civilization has been devastated by a plague that turns people into mouth-breathing zombies whenever they think about celebrity gossip. A mother and (of course) her two children have taken sanctuary in an abandoned Nike factory when they are joined by Alyssa Milano (as herself), who convinces the family that she is no longer merely a beloved former child star but a political activist. Is this the loophole that’s the key to Earth’s salvation, or is she a “Dancing With The Stars” Trojan horse of doom? And will Jennifer Anniston ever find true love?

Does This Seem Strange to You?
In a small town where dancing is highly frowned upon if not outright discouraged, the citizens are terrorized by a killer in a Max Headroom mask who preys on girls being ignored on their sixteenth birthday. The town’s only hope is a plucky gang of pre-teens who are really good at Trivial Pursuit. Together, they travel back to the past on flying bicycles in order to find the killer before he listens to Wham! and becomes psychotic. A nostalgic horror that references films set in the 80s that reference films set in the 80s.

Sandler’s List
Adam Sandler stars as a mild-mannered Nazi accountant and single dad who helps rescue Jewish prisoners from a concentration camp by distracting the guards with a series of his funniest comedy bits. (Running time: 13 minutes)

Jazz Hands
An aspiring hand model, Anna, falls in love with Shep, a gifted choreographer determined to revive the Charleston craze. But can their love survive their competing ambitions and the fact that Shep is clearly gay? No.

Part man, part tuna, but mostly tuna, Oxyfish is a hero for our times (2:30 and 4:32). Though raised in the ocean, Oxyfish can survive on land and has the ability to communicate with human creatures through emails, though sometimes these go unanswered for days, hindering his efforts to battle villains and overwhelming special effects. It’s an upstream battle, really. But Oxyfish always tips the fish-scales of justice! In this action-adventure, Oxyfish embarks on a quest to discover who or what is heating the atmosphere, resulting in too many fat men in Speedos trying to cool off in the ocean and bringing down seaside property values. But will Oxyfish have the moral strength to do the right thing? Or will he go bad? Stay tuna-ed! Rated PG: Puns Galore

Family-fun animation based on the building-block toys you loved, except not quite the brand you know, the one we’re legally not allowed to mention, though it rhymes with “keggos.”

Quick as a Bunny
A gang of international jewel thieves and part-time podiatrists race against time in their souped-up Volkswagen Rabbits in order to capture the priceless Teal Toe Ring before it falls into the hands (and feet) of Russian bad guy Dattis Kwitennoff, their arch-nemesis with the fallen arches. What ensues is a series of implausible stunts, high-speed chases and one gratuitous butt shot. They’re the fast and the piqued! Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in every role.

The Disgusting Case of Zachary Zippers
The story of a man whose entire digestive track is backwards, and we mean entire! It’s pretty gross, actually. Starring Adam Sandler.

A Star is Born
We just made it again.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Message to the buyer of my childhood home

Dear occupant,

Congratulations on purchasing the home I grew up in, the only home of my childhood, the one with the Ross Murray commemorative plaque out front, assuming my parents have followed my instructions. I thought I might get to Nova Scotia to help with the move, but I recently had surgery, and even light shoveling causes significant discomfort. Who knew the groin did so much of the heavy lifting! Who knew I’d have such a great excuse not to shovel!

Anyway, now that I’ve got you picturing my groin, I’d like to take a minute to point out some other special places, namely those things you might not have noticed around Ross Murray’s house. Don’t worry: people will stop referring to it as Ross Murray’s house in a generation or two.

First of all, you’ll have no doubt seen the shrubs lining the walkway up to the house. These are picky bushes. Their botanical name is Scratchyitchia Ouchedendra. Buy you can just call them picky bushes. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone push you into the picky bushes. And make sure you trim during shorts season. The bush, I mean. The picky bush! You know what? Just use the back door.

The front porch is a good place for sitting and looking cool. In the summertime, you might want to drag a stereo speaker to the door so that the neighbours can not only see how cool you are but hear how cool you are. Might I suggest a little Bob Seger?

Right inside and to the left are the stairs. There’s a wooden banister that runs about three-quarters up. You can slide down the banister, although I hope you’re under three feet tall, otherwise this may be less fun for you than I’m implying.

This also makes for adorable photos of your children peeking over the banister in chronological order. This is just as adorable when your children are between 50 and 60, although there is less peeking and more creaking.

To the right is the living room. This is a good spot for practicing piano or violin lessons given by your father. (Maybe not your father but a father; see if you can find a father. Totally worth it.) If you have a poodle, she may howl at the violin in either agony or ecstasy (it’s hard to tell with poodles), but this is known as “ambience” or “the weirdest violin lessons ever.”

Between the living room and the dining room is a half wall topped by a planter containing a grape ivy that has been there for 55 years. I recommend you alert all the scientists because HOW IS THAT THING STILL ALIVE!!!

Undoubtedly you’ve already been sold on the highlight of the kitchen: the counter with the built-in flour bins! How cool are they? And not just for holding flour. You can store marshmallows in there. Why marshmallows? Because that’s where the poodle knows they’re stored, that’s why. What a silly question.

Upstairs, you’ll find a furnace grate in the middle of the hallway. This is a perfect spot to stand on chilly mornings while waiting for siblings to get out of the one bathroom for six people, or to just sit there reading a book and hogging all the heat. Also, furnace heat up the pyjama pant leg: intriguing.

By planting your feet and hands against the facing walls of the hallway, you can scale your way up to the ceiling. Again, I hope you are under three feet to maximize your enjoyment.

Bedroom, bedroom, bedroom… (Oh, in that bedroom, you can climb onto the front porch roof to achieve – ahem! – “next-level” coolness.)

Now, here we have my bedroom. It belonged to my brother and me at first but really it’s mine. He can just get over it. With the lighting, the intimate space and its overall remoteness, this is a great room for making out. In theory.

Also, I’m reminded now that I had a poster on the ceiling above my bed, as fantasizing pubescent boys are wont to do. Man… That Star Wars was quite the movie!

Finally, the bathroom, where I highly recommend studying for exams in the tub. No water. Just lying in the bathtub. Trust me, it works.

That’s about it. I know you’re going to love the house and discover so many things yourself. My parents made a wonderful home here, and I’m sure you will too. There’s a myth in my family that I don’t like change. Not so. Moving to a smaller place, that’s a good change for my parents. Just don’t change that plaque on the front lawn, okay?

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Who has 2 thumbs, 0 prostate and no signs of cancer?


Last week, I learned from my doctor that my PSA count, five weeks after prostatectomy, was a big fat zero, which is exactly what we wanted to hear. Well, I wanted to hear it. Maybe my doctor harbours a deep-seated resentment towards me. Because of my cool hats. But I don’t think so because he gave me some party favours on my way out: Viagra — as he put it, “to keep the machine working.” Gross.

I’ll continue with blood tests every three months or so, tapering off over time. Even thought my prostate is gone, it’s important to make sure that none of those Krazy Cells got away. It can happen. But, as my friendly doctor put it, “You live with the results you get,” and right now my results tell me I’m cancer-free.

Obviously, I’m thrilled. In fact, I surprised myself at how relieved I was. I had been telling myself I was resigned to accept bad news if it came, only to feel a wave of emotion wash over me when the doctor shared the results. The mind does not always tell the truth. For instance, its opinion about that hat.

I’m sharing this news because so many of you out there in blogland have been so kind and supportive. Thank you all. I also wanted to point out that, as has been noted often, prostate cancer is treatable, especially when caught early. Nonetheless, I count myself lucky in so many ways.

I would also like to point out that this post is now particularly ironic.

Take care, everyone.


Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , | 62 Comments

Finding Inner Peace By Not Giving A Flying Fig About Professional Sports

This should have been illegal because the player’s ego was overinflated. (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

Hello, brother. I couldn’t help but overhear you on this beautiful morning yelling at that squirrel about NFL officiating. If you would stop kicking gravel at the pigeons for a moment, I feel I can help you. Come, sit with me on this bench. Let me move my half-eaten Reuben sandwich. Mind the dill…

You see, brother, I was once like you. I too invested considerable emotional energy in professional sports teams I had no real affinity with other than, at best, a shared area code. I built my identity and an inordinate amount of fashion choices around these teams. Their wins were my wins, their losses my losses, their trades my detailed analyses on sports-radio call-in shows.

Then I hit rock bottom. For you see, my friend, I was a 1986 Red Sox fan. That was not merely a ball that dribbled through Bill Buckner’s legs but my very soul. My sanity. My mortgage I had inadvisably wagered. The following decade was a blur of me angrily confronting vendors at sports card expos, binging on Gatorade and lightly stalking Wayne Gretzky.

But one day, while out of my mind on Rub A535 and muttering about Pete Rose, a man approached me and told me about Finding Inner Peace By Not Giving A Flying Fig About Professional Sports.

Don’t jump so, my friend! You have disrupted the kraut in my Reuben! Sit. Let me share with you the wonders of FIPBNGAFFAPS. For I can see that you are troubled by the results of sporting contests that have no bearing on your life other than the odd digestive matter. Am I also safe in assuming you use “LeBron” as a verb? As I suspected. Here: cradle my pickle while I tell you about my Monday morning.

I awakened gently with the sun and greeted the day with reverence. “Thank you, Giver of Life, for all good things: mattress covers that don’t get all bunchy; itches that can be easily reached; pastrami.” Then I ate my breakfast, showered my teeth and made my way to the bus stop.

It was there that I heard men speaking about a football event in tones normally reserved for long-simmering family grievances. I knew nothing of this match between the Los Angeles Boy Goats and the Swell Guys From New Orleans. I did not catch all their conversation – the referee failed to penalize the quarterback for illegally soaking his hands in Palmolive, or some such; the rules have changed so since I last paid attention. The names they spoke were just sounds to me. I continued to wait for my bus in bliss. And rubber boots.

No, no, I don’t need to hear what actually happened. I’m sure it seems a tragedy of Greek proportions and it is no doubt unjust. But because I do not Give A Flying Fig About Professional Sports, I would be able to offer no more emotional support than if you were to recount a dream in which Ed Asner was rummaging through your chest freezer in search of his spats.

You see, brother, FIPBNGAFFAPS renders all professional sports meaningless. It does not deny the existence of professional sports, for player salaries in the millions prove it must be so. Instead, FIPBNGAFFAPS transcends you to a state wherein professional sport is not an entity in itself but a part of all creation, no greater or lesser than all things – except the New York Knicks who are consistently lesser.

I see you are coming to an understanding. Oh, you’re just eyeing my Reuben. Help yourself. For it is only half a sandwich, still satisfying though not the whole, just as you can eventually watch an occasional sporting event without investing your “whole” self in it. Merely enjoy the spectacle without truly giving a flying fig about the outcome. And this pickle? It’s a Beyonce halftime show. Actually, green and bumpy? It’s more of a Paul McCartney.

But before you can get to that point, my Swiss-cheese-loving benchmate, you must turn away from all sporting events. At first you will Wonder Anxiously About Professional Sports, then you will Participate Halfheartedly in Conversations About Professional Sports. As you free yourself, soon you will Stop Posting Aggressive Memes About Professional Sports, before moving on to Not Knowing Who Was Traded Where in Professional Sport. Finally, with dedication and Monday nights reading a damn book for once, you will Find Inner Peace By Not Giving a Flying Fig About Professional Sports!

The Oscars, on the other hand, that’s a big deal.

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

I have cloned an army of viral gymnast Katelyn Ohashi to save humankind

Photo: Richard Quinton / UCLA

They say I’m a madman. They say the risks of cloning an army of viral gymnast Katelyn Ohashi are too high. But I believe more strongly than I have ever believed anything in my life that the last, best hope to rescue civilization is the exuberant, breathtakingly athletic routine of Katelyn Ohashi multiplied ten-thousand-fold and accompanied by a medley of Motown hits.

The procedure for cloning Katelyn Ohashi is not important. I will say only that it involved a DNA swab, a purloined unitard and falsified security clearance at the November 2018 SoCal Boing-A-Palooza.

After that, the cloning process was easy, though containing an army of Katelyn Ohashi clones is problematic. Given that a single Katelyn Ohashi can power an average American household for three straight days, imagine the incredible volatility of 10,000 Kateyln Ohashis in one place. Not to mention that staring directly at the Katelyn Ohashis can cause permanent blindness and overstimulation of the feels. Thus, the need to enclose my army of Katelyn Ohashi clones in a lead-lined concrete facility. But rest assured that the Katelyn Ohashis are humanely treated with access to unlimited Netflix and all-you-can-eat Starbursts.

They are ready. They are sassy. They are glittery. Soon, very soon, I will unleash my Katelyn Ohashi army upon the world.

In war zones, Katelyn Ohashi clones will descend from helicopters, landing (perfectly!) in the midst of conflicts to flip, shimmy, bounce-split-spin-sproing with an athleticism that will leave the warring factions so awed by human potential they will put down their arms and cry, “Again, Katelyn Ohashi clones, again!” And the Katelyn Ohashis will perform over and over and over, for they never tire. And if they do, there are plenty more Katelyn Ohashis where those came from.

In the cities, my Katelyn Ohashi army will patrol the streets, unleashing gasp-inducing floor routines to vanquish gun violence, systematic racism, body shaming and unpaid internships.

Wherever douchebag teenage pro-lifers gather in a mob to taunt a peaceful Native protestor, Katelyn Ohashi will be there, summersaulting through the throng, leaping skyward and coming to rest on the shoulders of their leader, the douchiest of all the bags, who will think briefly to himself, “This is kind of hot,” before Katelyn Ohashi crushes his skull with her mighty thighs while winking at the Catholic boys in their MAGA hats, who will flee in terror to dedicate their remaining days to dismantling the patriarchy.

With my army of Katelyn Ohashi clones, governments perpetuating economic privilege and social inequality will have no choice but to cede the floor to the girl in the sequined jumpsuit. Overwhelmed by hip-shaking self-empowerment, the legislators will declare as one: “We are of the old ways, but we must make room for a new way, a vibrant, spangly way.”

Imagine the glorious consequences: Mitch McConnell has a fatal stroke. Lindsey Graham reveals that he has been wearing a glittering leotard the whole time! Sarah Huckabee Sanders recalls the last time she felt emotion (age 9). Alexandra Ocasio Cortez becomes best friends with all the Katelyn Ohashis but is still too young to run for president. It will be glorious and flexy!

Globally, border security will be turned over to Katelyn Ohashi clones, stretching (spectacularly!) for thousands of miles along frontiers, in constant motion, impassible, fabulous, costing nothing to taxpayers but their love and respect and the occasional seamstress fees.

With political and social strife becalmed, a million Katelyn Ohashis will be dispatched to coastlines around the world, where the precision whipping of two million arms and two million legs will cool the oceans, reverse global warming and teach nearby fishermen to love again.

The Katelyn Ohashi army will eliminate typos in books from major publishers and invent motion-sensor faucets that actually work.

The Katelyn Ohashi army will negotiate a new season of “Arrested Development,” but a good one this time.

The Katelyn Ohashi will refuse all photo ops with the president.

The joyful, sinewy dawn of the Katelyn Ohashi clone army is upon us. Prepare for a bouncy new era!

Although if this doesn’t pan out, I’m also working on a Cirque du Soleil militia.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

Listen to your heart and other body parts

When I was initially recovering from prostate surgery, the common advice I got from people was, “Listen to your body.” This was not, of course, in a literal sense, although that could be fun too. (“Hey, kids, come here and listen to my body!”) Instead, it was about allowing my body to dictate what I should be doing. So I took that advice, and in those first days following surgery, what I mostly heard my body saying was, “I don’t like this.”

Since then I’ve gotten stronger, and the messages from my body have become more nuanced. In fact, it’s not my body as a whole I listen to but the individual parts, although there seems to be a general plea to eat chocolate and watch Netflix. But most of the time, there’s a whole cocktail party of discussions going on. Come: let’s listen to my body together!

My feet
What I’m hearing from my feet is that I don’t appreciate how much of the weight they carry around here. They’re always there for me, they say, when I need to walk or kick a ball or boot a cat off the bed. “We do nothing but consistently toe the line,” they say, “and what do we get? Nail trimmings twice, maybe three times a year.” So I asked my feet, what do you want? It turns out they want one of those spa treatments where little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. “Seriously?” I said. “All that complaining was just so you could guilt me into sticking my feet into a glorified fish tank?” My feet are the worst. Seriously, my feet stink.

My knees
Two nights ago, my knees woke me up doing a vaudeville routine. My right knee was singing, “On Moonlight Bay” while my left knee was pulling rabbits out of a hat. (That’s my trick knee.) “Shut up, knees,” I yelled, “I’m trying to sleep!” But they just broke into a rendition of “Swanee” that went on for 20 minutes! Oh, but they paid for it the next morning. As I got out of bed, all they could sing was vintage breakfast cereal jingles: snap, crackle, pop.

So, no, I don’t listen to my knees.

My groin-ial area
What can I tell you? Since the surgery, my groin-ial area’s not happy. In fact, it’s cranky. Crotchety. I know I said I would share what my body was telling me, but in this case, those conversations are just too personal; they’re privates.

What I can tell you is that my groin-ial area really feels like it took one for the team. Made the hard choice. Rose to the occasion one last time. And for that, I salute you, groin-ial area, for you can salute no more.

True, it’s been through a lot, my groin-ial area, and it has a lot to say these days, trust me. (Oh those walks down memory lane…) But frankly, since my prostate was removed, it’s been a bit of a drip.

My gut
There’s a reason they say “listen to your gut,” because your gut is actually very, very smart. For example, a few days after surgery, my gut told me that one daily portion of Lax-a-Day is exactly half a daily portion too much. Thanks, gut! I can always count on you to send me useful information, though I must admit sometimes it’s a lot to digest.

My entire upper body
I have to tell you, I’m getting a little sick of listening to my upper body. At first after the surgery I was mindful of what it had to say: “Hmmm, we’d like to help bring in the groceries but we don’t want to overdo it. Sutures, swelling, etcetera, you know? We’ll just lie here and heal. Can someone bring us a blanket? And that box of chocolates over there? And the remote.”

So I listened to my upper body. But now I have a feeling my upper body is taking advantage of the situation. “Oh, we’re not sure we should bring up the laundry basket. Scooping the kitty litter? Gee, that’s a lot of bending and stretching, isn’t it?” It’s been two months! Meanwhile, my upper body has become as soft as a fresh bagel and my arms look like stocks of wilted celery. In other words, I look like I normally do, but I feel terrible! I need to stop listening to my upper body.

Also, could someone get me a bagel and some celery? I’m a bit sore…


Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , | 36 Comments