Saturday, April 16, 2011


A decent man tries to be objective about everything, including himself. To this end I’m often self-critical and do my best to not only see my own flaws, but to try to correct them, when possible. I have a tendency to say the first thing that comes to mind when in conversation. I lack a degree of diplomacy and sometimes exhibit a total lack of tact. Some form of Asperger’s Syndrome? I couldn’t say.

But that’s an unintentional faux pas. I’m not generally out to be a total jackass when these things occur. It’s just the unfortunate complications of unadorned honesty.

However, there was a particular moment of complete assholery when I was a young man. It was a moment of being a total jackass. It went like this:

As I recall there were three of us. The brothers Robert and Scott McGregor, and myself. At the time, the McGregor Brothers were my best pals. I was a tad older than they were—I was 19, Robert 17, and Scott 16. We tended to not get into a great amount of trouble, but we did try hard and were obviously quite lucky that nothing really unfortunate befell us.

I’m pretty sure we were already drunk when we entered the theater. Brunswick Georgia had one primitive shopping mall in those days—I can’t recall the anchor stores, but toward one end there was a movie theater with a single screen. Somehow all of us had missed seeing THE EXCORCIST and the film was completing its initial run and there was only one more day to catch it before it vanished. Recall that this was in the days before widely available TV movie networks and the first VHS machines were in only a handful of homes. Video tape machines were far too expensive for me to afford and I didn’t know anyone who owned one. So if we wanted to see this movie, this was our last chance.

Since we wanted the maximum movie-going experience, we stopped by the liquor store and bought some cheap rum. Not the cheapest on the shelf, but pretty cheap. I feel certain we got a couple of bottles of Bacardi and I walked into the theater with a large bottle under my windbreaker and Scott staggered in with a smaller bottle in his sock. It was no trouble at all.

In short order we bought some king-sized cokes, took our seats down front, and waited for the film to begin. Because this was the last showing of a popular film, there was a fair audience for this late night showing, but the theater was hardly crowded, since it was a week-night. Still, a couple of dozen of my fellow Brunswick citizens had wanted to catch this last chance to see THE EXORCIST. Unfortunately, they had no way of knowing that they were going to have to put up with a trio of total fucking assholes.

Did I mention that we were already drunk by the time we reached the mall? Well, we were. When we got there, the place was rather bleak—the town’s economy even in the best of times was never great, and late in the evening on a week night the place was really winding down. I doubt if anyone at all noticed that we three had already caught an alcoholic buzz as we wandered toward the mall cinema and purchased our tickets.

After we’d paid to get in and nabbed our sodas, we went into the theater and found good seats and began to consume the rum and Cokes, getting progressively more drunk as the previews unwound on the flickering screen, the audience around us muttering and, I’m sure, beginning to wonder if the three morons sitting front and center were going to be troublemakers.

We were.

In short order the film began. Recall again that this was in simpler days when one did not have to sit through half an hour (or more) of commercials to see the feature film. We saw some previews of coming attractions and then THE EXORCIST started. Everyone else had come to see a good horror movie and to be entertained and thrilled and chilled. Robert, Scott, and I had come to make utter pests of ourselves. We wasted no time at all in laughing at everything that seemed even remotely funny to us. For Robert’s part, he was just drunk. Scott and I were both adamant atheists and we found the mythology and people’s reaction to it to be humorous. We laughed at every moment when other people tended to be shocked.

We were loud.

We were obnoxious.

We were, after half an hour, totally blitzed, screaming obscenities at the screen and commenting endlessly about the silliness of the movie. Here the rest of the folk had come to steal one last chance to see a good film, and they had to sit through the hideous screeching of a trio of drunken apes.

“Those boys have liquor,” I heard one woman exclaim.

Why we were not at least removed from the theater is a mystery to me. Why we were not asked to leave proves that the rest of the audience was either very patient or just frightened of us. I suspect the latter. By the time the movie ended we wandered out of the cinema, allowing everyone else to precede us into the now vacant halls of the mall. No one waited behind corners to bash our heads in or shoot us dead. We certainly deserved some sort of retribution to descend on us.

Weeks later I happened to meet the cousin of one of my best friends. The subject of THE EXORCIST came up. He thought that it was a truly effective horror movie. I related to him how I went with pals to see it while very drunk and laughed my way through the whole film. He looked at me in utter shock.

“That was YOU?!” He actually pointed at me. “I took my sister and her best friend to see that movie because they hadn’t seen it and it was our last chance before it left town. You guys RUINED the movie for us!”

I shrugged. I don’t recall that I apologized or even felt the need to do so.

What an asshole.


Irrational Athiest said...

I've been there, done that, and now I'm the guy who will confront guys like that in the theater.

HemlockMan said...

I feel horrible about it all now, of course. But at the time I was just a very stupid kid with no guidance at all.