RODNEY DANGERFIELD LIKED TO SAY, "I ONCE READ, TO AVOID BULGARIES THAT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA WHEN YOU'RE NOT HOME AT NIGHT, TO KEEP YOUR LIGHTS ON. THE FIRST TIME I DID THAT...MY HOUSE WAS BROKEN INTO AND THE THIEVES LEFT A LOVELY NOTE SAYING, 'THANKS FOR KEEPING YOUR LIGHTS ON, IT MADE IT MUCH EASIER TO FIND YOUR GOOD STUFF.'"
My friends and I had a monthly poker that lasted nineteen years. Slowly, many of the charter members left town.
AUGUST 6, 2009, AT MY HOUSE. NOW SCATTERED TO MARYLAND, NEVADA, CALIFORNIA AND FLORIDA, THIS WAS THE LAST TIME THE CORE POKER BUDDIES WERE TOGETHER.
Three years ago, these gatherings ended. Now, all I have to cling to is the warm glow of the great memories. To honor the upcoming celebration of Halloween, I want to share with you perhaps the strangest of those memories. Coincidentally, this incident also happened just before Halloween and oddly, didn't involve actually playing cards.
We used a rotating host system so the game shifted to different people's houses. Mid-October 2000, marked the first time STAGE39 had us over. I drove SHMEE and KURUDAVE twenty miles north, into the Pine Barrens affectionately known to us city slickers as, the bowels of rural New Jersey.
I exited the Garden State Parkway in New Gretna (Exit 50). After a series of turns, I found myself on a dark stretch of road.A couple of miles later Kuru said, "It's weird, there's no people, houses or businesses out here." I said, "No cars from the either direction " Shmee cut-in, "It's crazy, there's no street signs and for that matter, no signs of life."
Kuru had been to STAGE's house (during the day) and insisted we were going right. These were the days before GPS's, so buoyed by his confidence we plowed on. In the inkiness, up ahead, I saw a fork in the road. Kuru read from the directions, "I think we bear right?" Seconds after following his uncertain direction, it looked like the pavement was ending. I slammed on the brakes until I realized that where the blacktop ended was not a dirt road but a light-colored, paved surface without any painted lines on it.
Before I accelerated, I took a deep cleansing breath. Our journey became eerier as we ventured deeper into the nothingness. Shmee nailed exactly how we all felt when he joked about the "BLAIR WITCH PROJECT" and said, "The three of them were never seen or heard from again." I said, "Which one of us would be the girl?" Shmee said, "I've seen Kuru in a little black dress and va-va-va-BOOM!" After some guarded laughter Kuru said, "I should've brought my phone " Shee said, "Why? Are you so spooked you want to call 911." Kuru said, "No genius, I wanted to call Stage39 to make sure we're not lost." Shmee said, "I have my phone "
Over the phone, Stage laughed about our Blair Witch reference. He assured Shmee that his was the first house and we were a minute away. From out of the blackest forest, Stage's house was isolated but a short distance beyond it, we were able to see civilization.
FROM 1999, "THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT" WAS FRESH IN OUR MIND. TO ADD REALISM TO THE HI-JINX, THE FILM MAKERS USED THE "FOUND FOOTAGE" METHOD WHICH SUPPOSEDLY MEANT THAT THEY WERE ALL KILLED AND ONLY THEIR FILM SURVIVED TO TELL THIS HIGHLY POPULAR,LOW-BUDGET TALE THAT GROSSED $248 MILLION.
Stage's family was elsewhere so in no time, we had a party house going. The music was blasting and a keg, along with a barbeque was set up on the deck, off his kitchen. Like an observation platform, this raised deck stood over the edge of the mysterious backwoods. A floodlight that attracted a gazillion moths illuminated the outside area. The set-up reminded me of "JURASSIC PARK," as I kept expecting a T-Rex to burst through brambles below.
Inside, while chowing down, I thought it was curious that Stage made no attempt to close his sliding screen door. Even worse, he was oblivious to the flying nuisances that he had "invited" in, (this would NEVER happen for one second at my house).
When all seven players had arrived, the dealer's choice poker game started. Twenty minutes later, we were playing, "Deuces, Jacks, the Man with the Ax" when a moth the size of a '48 Buick fluttered around the chandelier.
THE TERM, "AS BIG AS A '48 BUICK," SYMBOLIZES ANYTHING OVER-SIZED.
Everyone was distracted except Stage. When he was asked about it he said, "If I were you guys, I'd worry more about what's in those woods." ML said, "Like what?" Stage said, "We've seen coyotes, raccoons, skunks " Shmee got up, closed the glass slider, and the floodlight and said, "I'm not sharing my burger with Boo-Boo and Yogi." Stage said, "Oh yeah, around here, we also get Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil and Mothman."
A STATUE OF MOTHMAN IN WEST VIRGINIA?ITS ONLY BEEN "AROUND" SINCE 1966.
ML said, "Ah, a Mothman reference. How about the chupacobra?You must be a fan of Art Bell." The sound of the ubiquitous crickets was deafening.
CHUPACABRA IS THE SPANISH WORD FOR GOAT SUCKER.IT PERTAINS TO AN INVENTED MONSTER THAT WAS HOPED TO BOOST TOURISM AND MERCHANDIZING.THE GIMMICK IS, THIS COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE FEEDS ON THE BLOOD OF LIVESTOCK, PRIMARILY GOATS.
On the way home, Kuru was up front with me, Shmee was in the back seat and behind us, ML followed in his car. The conversation concentrated on the paranormal. Kuru pandering to our strange night said, "Stage was kidding when he mentioned Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil and Mothman? But they are real." In unison Shmee and I said, "No." He responded, "Like the Loch Ness Monster, they are animals whose existence can't be proven. I think it's an authentic science but the so-called experts are afraid to say it's all bullshit...just in case...so they threw it all into the category of a pseudoscience and labeled it, cryptozoology."
IN DEFENSE OF KURU, THE DINOSAUR AND SHARKS BY TODAY'S STANDARDS WOULD HAVE BEEN PUT UNDER THE HEADING OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY.CONTEMPORARY ANIMALS THAT WERE FOUND TO BE REAL WERE THE GIANT SQUID AND THE OKAPI (above).IN THE CONGO (1901) THE OKAPI WAS FIRST SPOTTED.IT WAS CONSIDERED A SUPERSTITION FOR DECADES.IN 2000, I PAID A SEPARATE ADMISSION FOR MY SON ANDREW AND I, TO SEE ONE, AT THE BRONX ZOO.
Kuru said that he's fascinated by TV shows about crop circles and animal mutilations. But his favorite topic is the unexplained creatures like sasquatch, the thunder bird and the chupacabra.
MOST BIGFOOT, SASQUATCH, YETI AND ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN SIGHTING WIND-UP BEING A PAID ACTOR IN AN APE SUIT, A MISIDENTIFICATION OR A HOAX
I said, "Maybe.Because it's too bad we didn't have a camera."
WHEN IT COMES TO PHOTO EVIDENCE LIKE THE THUNDERBIRD (above) WHICH IS SAID TO HAVE LIZARD FEATURES AND RESEMBLE A PRE-HISTORIC PTEROSAUUS OR THE CHUPACABRA (THE GOAT SUCKER) MOST HAVE BEEN PHOTO-SHOPPED TO DISGUISE DAMNING DETAILS OR TAKE THE SIZE OUT OF PROPER PROPORTION.
Then I told him and Shmee about the weird animal I saw (1991) in Cape Hatteras North Carolina. Nobody I ever spoke to, even people who live there had no idea what animal I was talking about most didn't believe me, (I wrote a blog about that experience on December 14, 2009 .called, "EDELBLUM MYSTERY THEATER, MANBEARPIG)."
THE INSPIRATION TO CALL MY CAPE HATTERAS CRITTER "MANBEARPIG," CAME FROM THE "SOUTH PARK" EPISODE FROM SEPTEMBER 10, 2007
We were still driving through the Pine Barrens when I remarked that we were approaching the spot where the blank, light-colored pavement changed back to the blacktop with the standard lines painted on it. In the instant that we crossed that distinctive line, I saw a deer up ahead. In the instance it took to put on my high beams, it disappeared disappeared as in vanished. My eye never left this rascal and I'm telling you it DID NOT run away. I gasped, "Holy shit." At the same time Kuru said, "Did you see that?" Shmee cried out, "What the fuck?"
I said, "Where did that deer go?" Shmee said, "That was no deer, that was a silver ghost or something that vaporized straight up through the trees " Kuru said, "No, it was like, like, like a phosphorescent green pixie or woodland spite running across the road." I said, "What I saw was a solid deer. Three legs were on this side of the yellow line and I can tell you the exact angle of his head." We pulled over and asked ML. He said, "I remember when you put on your brights. But I saw nothing. You guys only have bees in your bonnet because of all that "ART BELL" (radio show) jibber-jabber." Kuru said, "We saw " ML interrupted, "You all saw something completely different it's the cheap beer talking and your imagination going wild. You're all nuts!"
I started listening to Art Bell on my way home from work, (several years ago he retired. The show is now called, "COAST TO COAST," hosted by George Noury). The material centers on the para-normal. The best shows feature legitimate authors and scientists. But I also find the odd-ball subjects like UFO abductions, ancient aliens building the great pyramids and a multidimensional presence that can justify any crazy claim. But mostly I get a kick out of the cryptozoology.
When the crackpots call in, I feel bad that people are so lonely or have such low self-esteem that they need their ten seconds of fame. And because so many "believe," a whole industry was developed to cater to their whimsy and monetarily take advantage of their naivete, (as P. T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute." So within certain limits, I think it's okay to give the masses what they want).
I feel it's all nonsense because the mind plays tricks on all of us. In my case, countless times something has whizzed by in my peripheral vision. I get an uncontrollable vision in my mind of what it was. But I don't act on it because I'm well-adjusted enough to know that ethereal beings like "shadow people," "hags" and "the Illuminati" aren't coming to my house to haunt or harm me.
Still, seemingly rational people swear usually after an experience in the dark...that what's upsetting them couldn't possibly be a simple impulse of light from a quiet, passing car that squeezed through their blinds, bounced off a mirror, reflected onto a glass coffee table and presented a picture in their mind of a vicious Manbearpig no, I'm cereal.
Those with a weaker personality can blow an event like that out of proportion and send their mind reeling and their cell-phones to the 911 dispatcher. I believe this to be true because of what happened on the road coming back from Stage's house. Plus, last week, something similar happened when I would have sworn my dog Roxy came in the room while I was blogging. When I turned to greet her, the room was empty.
For those who build-up these unearthly animalistic circumstances to capitalize on fame or fortune, we give rise to things like cryptozoology.
Last night, it happened again. I keep telling my wife that it's a bad idea to keep the outside light on. First, as Rodney Dangerfield would attest, it's a beacon to thieves that you aren't home. Secondly, the light attracts bugs, particularly moths.
At 4:30AM, I ran in the house and shut the outside light. In the dark, I went into the kitchen. Before I turned on the light, by the glow of a distant neighbor's floodlight, a fluttery impulse buzzed by the right corner of my vision. I was afraid that a bat was dive-bombing my head in the hope of building a nest in my hair, (or just landing on my head). I turned on the lights and began a futile search of the ghostly, malevolent spirit. I imagined a young thunderbird crapping pounds of baby bird turds all over the place. I was hoping that I was just over-tired and was getting psyched-out by nothing. But as I entered the darkened family-room my suspicions were verified by another glimpse of the IUFO, (interior unidentified flying object).
I turned on the light and shreiked by what I perceived out if the corner of my eye as, the colossal Mothman. Upon a closer look, it wasn't bigger than me.But it was a gigantic moth like the one at Stage's poker game, (the size of a '48 Buick).I saw it fly under the lamp shade. This bugger was bigger than a monarch butterfly on steroids. I was in no mood to capture the beast and try to rehabilitate him I got the GALLOWAY CURRENT, (community newspaper) flushed the bastard out the top with my hand and smooshed the fleeing devil against the wall.
A weaker indivual would have sent the Galloway Current this story for publication complete with the physical remains of the giant moth crushed into their newspaper but I'm too secure in myself to do that.However, when my wife Sue reads this blog, she'll notice the one infinitesimal dot of moth goop that I couldn't scrape off the wall. If she gives me a hard time, I'll tell her to expect collateral damage if she keeps the outside light on...the last thing we need is an exterminator to rid our house of a chupacabra.