THE NIGHTLY CHILL
By Steve Arviso
The Legend of Dead Ed, Part 4.
FIGHT THE DAWN!
As the sunlit sanity of the waking world burns the night to ash,
embrace the unbound madness of your wildest dreams,
laugh into the endless abyss of your darkest fantasies,
and rage against the coming dawn.
The Nightly Chill is the unstable experience of the mind and madness of Steve Arviso (@AmoralCrackpot). Mon-Fri. Ish.
- BETWEEN THE CRACKS
- THE GO-BLOOTS (A POEM)
- THE LEGEND OF DEAD ED, PART 4 (CONCLUSION)
- TRACK OF THE NIGHT
- @PAPERBAGCRITIC: MEAN CREEK (2004)
I struggle being the man I am while trying to be the man I want to be.
BETWEEN THE CRACKS
To whom it may concern,
Mind your business.
Liam A. Loan
THE GO-BLOOTS (A POEM)
I think I’m about to die
from complications of
matters of the heart,
this virus inside us
infecting every thought,
carving a hole in my gut
as it slithers and slides,
glides and grips,
bends and breaks and rips,
at my grey matter,
coiling around my neck
till I can’t breath,
nipping at the back of my mind
till I can’t feel nothing inside me,
till I’m screaming at the world
for another dose of morphine
to help me sleepwalk through my days
because this waking fear
of a phone that never rings
–late-night diagnosis, chart reads,
terminal case of mediocrity
from a fatal dose of inadequacy–
it’s keeping me up all night.
— The Go-Bloots, by Steve Arviso
THE LEGEND OF DEAD ED, PART 4 (CONCLUSION)
I applied on a weekend. I had an interview that Monday, followed by orientation on Thursday. I worked my first and only shift early Friday morning. That same night, my wife was confused as to why I didn’t just walk away from it all in the first fifteen minutes. And then, I quit (over the phone) Saturday morning.
“After my experience yesterday, I can’t continue to work there. I’m done,” I said over the phone.
“Okay,” Dead Ed shrugged on the other end. I could hear him shrugging.
And, that was it.
In the span of just four hours, I was asked to falsify my time-sheet; instructed to carelessly handle not-inexpensive merchandise; nearly lost a finger, hand, and teeth to broken equipment that nobody cared to repair or store properly; and nearly crushed by dangerously stacked boxes of merchandise. I experienced the most frightening existential crisis of my life, losing nearly two hours of my life in the blink of an eye. I took my fifteen minute break, then came back to stack and wrap more boxes atop broken shards of wood and rusty nails they called pallets. And then, I signed out, left, and never wanted to come back. At no point was I ever given proper direction, training, or safety equipment of any sort. I could have left (and came back) at any point without anyone noticing. The merchandise could have been stolen by anyone at any point during that shift, and it was most definitely left to soak in this or that puddle in this or that gutter. I could have been seriously injured, or witnessed any of my then-coworkers be injured by any of this same mess. I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue if I was even doing any of it right. Nobody cared if I was. Hell, nobody cared if any of us survived the experience.
I wish I had said something more to Dead Ed while I still had him on the phone. But his utter disinterest in the reasons why a new employee would quit after a single shift was a definitive, anti-climactic end to a definitively shitty job. So, I hung up and went about my day.
Oh, and the best part? California law mandates I be provided my final (only) paycheck within 72 hours. It’s been a week, and I’ve yet to receive anything other than the company’s newsletter in my e-mail.
Fuck Dead Ed.
TRACK OF THE NIGHT
Tarzan Boy (1985) by Baltimora
@PAPERBAGCRITIC: MEAN CREEK (2004)
Rory Culkin is Sam, the target of persistent bullying from a troubled classmate by the name of George (played by Josh Peck). But after Sam finds himself bullied one time too many, he and his friends plot their revenge…in Mean Creek.
Much like Rob Reiner’s classic Stand By Me, Mean Creek, from writer-director Jacob Estes, is a dark look at the trials and tribulations of childhood. However, Mean Creek is arguably not quite as memorable due to a more subdued tone and lack of a proper dramatic build-up to its various series of events.
That said. In a time in which bullying has gained such mainstream awareness, and rightfully so, I fully believe that Mean Creek deserves more attention now for its far more realistic portrayal of such things.
Mean Creek is not a film at all concerned with its characters fitting into binary campy roles, be it the plucky-but-troubled youths or the cool-but-evil older kids with obligatory butterfly knife and greased hair. No, instead it features a realistic group of friends that could have been taken from any small town in the US from the last five or six decades. And rather than a quick stand against their bullies at the film’s climax–one that represents their growth from frightened children into young, confident adults–the movie features a fairly disturbing, twisted act of justice by the children and deals with the emotional fallout of their actions.
This is where the film quickly differentiates itself from movies like Stand By Me. Despite starting off as a typical bully, lashing out at Sam for the slightest offense, George is shown to be a rather complex young man. He comes from a single-parent home with a less-than present single-mother. He excitedly accepts the invitation to spend time with kids he doesn’t really see as punching bags, but rather potential friends. He even goes so far as to purchase a gift for Sam, as he’s told this get-together is for Sam’s birthday. In fact, the movie opens up by showing us that George’s earlier attack on Sam was the result of Sam accidentally, yet carelessly knocking over George’s precious camcorder. So while he’s still somewhat emotionally unstable and a bit mean in his own way, George isn’t some cold, monstrous bully to be defeated but instead a troubled, lonely kid with a chip on his shoulder. And it’s this drastic shift from what we might normally expect from similar films that results in George becoming the sympathetic victim of what is really calculated torture at the hands of an entire group of children.
Now. If there is a major flaw in the way the film handles its own material, it’s how George is made to be perhaps a little too sympathetic. Because while Mean Creek mostly succeeds at presenting its characters as morally complex–more shades of grey than black and white–the way Sam and his friends respond to George’s actions at the beginning of the film comes across as incredibly cruel for what actually happens. A few bruises and welts from a kid who isn’t shown to ever be an active tormentor is nothing compared to abandoning a child in the middle of the wilderness, miles from home and without clothes or food. This isn’t a prank but willful and intentional endangerment. And while I completely understand the intent of this is to show how anyone, even children–even the victims of bullying–are fully capable of their own cruel acts, it is quite a stretch to believe that this would be considered by otherwise bright kids to be a fitting punishment for a schoolyard scuffle. Perhaps if George was shown to be a bit more troubled, lashing out more than this singular time (though he is hinted at having done such things before). Or if he were motivated by reasons beyond other kids carelessly damaging his expensive and treasured personal belongings, then Sam and company’s desire to leave the bully high and dry for several hours wouldn’t seem quite so far-fetched.
That said. Because the way the film improperly balances its nuanced characters and drama with a laughably cartoon-ish and out of place revenge ploy, Mean Creek can come across like an old “After School Special” instead of an endearing introspective look at a very real aspect of childhood that is far too often ignored, downplayed, or heavily dramatized.
For many, I’m almost certain this glaring juxtaposition will prove to be too much to overlook. But for those who can look past such faults, there is a more-than watchable film with engaging and endearing performances from its young cast– some that even rival those seen in Stand by Me. It’s not quite–nor will it ever be–on the same overall level as Stand by Me. But at the very least, it would be misguided to suggest that you do anything other than CHILL with Mean Creek.
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YOU ARE NOT ALONE
THE NIGHTLY CHILL