Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: The Girl With All The Gifts

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

The Girl With All The Gifts (Warner Bros. Pictures [UK] Saban Films [United States])

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-poster

Directed by Colm McCarthy

Written by M.R. Carey  Based on The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Starring Gemma ArtertonPaddy ConsidineGlenn Close & Sennia Nanua

This movie was annoying. The Girl With All The Gifts is one of those movies that I couldn’t help but yell at all the way through. It’s tense and it’s got some cool bits and some good performances and a clever twist on the zombie apocalypse. But as with all zombie stories there are big holes in logic. Especially when it comes to how to make zombie children. However, before you think I didn’t like the movie, I actually liked The Girl With All The Gifts in between the annoying parts, because it was cute and silly, even while it was being gross and scary. And that was a very clever combination.

Verdict: SPARED

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-melanie

The Girl With All The Gifts is a zombie children’s story. A nightmare told from the point of view of a zombie little girl. The girl is awesome and she is sweet and she is scary. And yes, she is hungry. Zombies in the movie aren’t called Zombies. The Z word is never spoken. No one wants to use the word anymore. Because all the Zombie comedies from the last couple of decades have ruined the moniker for more serious films.

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The Girl With All The Gifts is a serious film. Sure, it’s entirely from the child’s POV (just like the wonderful film Room) but this is a child that was raised in an institution that fears her and treats her like she’s a cross between a monster and a lab rat. It’s awful how they treat her. But that didn’t change the fact that every time someone turns their back on her, I thought she was going to try to eat them. I kind of hoped she would eat them actually. Like holding a bloody steak in front of the cutest little rabid dog and hoping for the best.

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The children in the lab are the offspring of turned women. The babies turn en utero and eat their way out. This is the biggest plot hole of the bunch and again I liked the movie. I really liked the movie. So I’m not going to go into how this is monumentally stupid and an awful premise. I have only one word for you. And that word is teeth. But that’s not the only hole in this awful premise. The one about the rending of uncooked flesh from the inside by a fetus without canine incisors… you know what. I just said that I wasn’t going to get into that.

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Pay no attention to that plot hole behind the curtain. The Girl With All The Gifts is an enjoyable fairy-tale of a zombie nightmare with some excellent performances from the four lead actors. Glenn Close is outstanding as the scientist in charge of the experiments to find a cure using these Zombie-hybrid children. Gemma Atherton is sufficiently annoying as the school teacher who keeps forgetting that her charges are human eating machines (and by human eating machines I mean they eat humans). Paddy Considine is fantastic as the sergeant who gradually learns to trust the young monster with his life. And “the girl” (played by Sennia Nanua) is amazing and she carries the entire movie (she’s in every scene) with astonishingly broad shoulders for such a little frame.

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The Girl With All The Gifts is a great film idea and story with a few major glitches here and there along the way. More than a few yell at the screen moments of stupidity and some clever, if maddeningly sloppy, film-making. I don’t know if you can tell that I liked it from this review. But I liked it. Even though it annoyed me, I liked it a lot. Go watch it. (though you may hate it, so for god’s sake don’t buy it without watching it first… that would be recklessly putting too much faith in my opinion)

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The Girl With All The Gifts is the sweetest little horror of a nightmarish monster of a zombie movie fairy-tale that you really shouldn’t turn your back on.

Watch it with the lights out.

– Mel

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To All My Friends (Who’ve Wondered Where I’ve Been)

I know I haven’t been around much lately. Too much anger. Didn’t really want to get it on you. I have a tendency to spew hate when I’m angry. I hate it when the bad guys win… I’ve been experiencing a what-the-fuck few weeks. The American election was hacked and I’m surrounded on all sides by people waiting for their chance to say “I told you so.”

“I told you so.” Among the bodies of the dead.

“I told you so.” Brought to you by the makers of Pepsi and Xanax.

“I told you so.” Translated from the original Russian. (actually, little known fact, it was in German before it was in Russian)

I’ve reached a point in my life where more people are younger than me than older. I’m surrounded on all sides by the children of the damned. Social media misfits more concerned with likes and dislikes. Trolls without bridges. History books unopened. But mouths that will not stay shut.

chinese-farmer

I haven’t been around much lately because I know me. The thoughts racing through my head should not be shared with anyone. My doctor doesn’t want to know. My lawyer doesn’t want to know. The fake twitter accounts of Russian trolls, who successfully influence the tired liberals into hopelessness and fits of screaming, don’t want to know.

For one misguided instant I considered self-immolation as a form of protest. Nothing else, it seems, can penetrate the walls of the corporate pay-to-play media and so-called social media’s cavernous, echo-amplifying, bottomless pits of ego and frustration. Setting myself on fire in front of some monument to our fallen democracy seemed like a good idea at the time… for like, literally, a second. For like one scary second.

So I’ve been away.

And I apologize. I figure there’s like 25 or 30 people who read my blog. And I love you guys. And I’m going to post some good stuff. Life goes on no matter how dire. I know my friend Alex misses my movie reviews. New shows, some of the best stuff I’ve seen on TV, came and went. Anybody watch Atlanta? That was amazing. Donald Glover is knocking it out of the park on the daily. Speaking of which, my list of the best albums from this year includes more genres than you can shake your rump at. Who knew I’d like Trap Music. OMG I like Trap Music.

Music, Movies, TV, the third chapter of my novel… but politics, fucking politics, pissed me off to such an extent that I couldn’t write but scream. I couldn’t think but scream. I could not talk because all the screaming made me lose my voice.

So I went away. Started meditating again. Got back to temple. Working out. Stopped doing the few remaining vices I’d allowed myself over the past decade. Pizza, Beer, Porn, Masturbation. It’s about time I stopped living like a 13 year boy without adult supervision. I’m gonna be 50 next year. And the US president is going to be Donald J. Tr… I can’t even say it.

The pounds flew off since I stopped eating garbage. It’s amazing how much more money I have in my budget since I stopped drinking. And the energy. The sexual energy. The mental energy. The spiritual energy… it’s through the roof. And now being channeled into less selfish endeavors.

thats-great-maybe

Doing yoga everyday. Getting to the temple at least three times a week. Working on my compassion and my mindfulness and my body. I will require these things to make it through the next few weeks. Let alone the next few years of protests and civil (and uncivil) disobedience. Gotta build my stamina for all the marching and demonstrating. Because, as you know, Donald J. Tr… I still can’t say it.

I’ll never be able to say it.

What is the true nature of reality? We see things as we want them or don’t want them to be. Sometimes a fantasy. And sometimes as our worst fears realized. We label situations and phenomena as good or bad. As helpful or unhelpful. As progress and advancement or… as the… the nightmarish, back-sliding, hateful, racist hell-scape that I can’t seem to wake up from. Somebody please wake me up.

WAKE ME UP!!!

I meditate to find love for the seemingly unlovable. I meditate to find focus amidst the din of unchecked voices (un-fact-checked and un-verified). I meditate to find the me that can help and not just criticize. That can pull his weight and not just pull his dick. That can be a calm in the storm and not just more destruction and distraction.

Because it’s looking more and more like we’re going to have to violently overthrow the US government. And I don’t say that lightly. People are going to die. People are going to die because they’ve lost their healthcare and can’t afford their treatments. Because they’ve lost their government jobs as the agencies that protect us, from emotionless and compassion-less corporations, are shuttered one after another. People are going to die because they’ve lost their minds after too many deployments in some foreign distraction called another war. People are going to die.

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And we can’t just sit around waiting for a miracle. Like that one time that one guy resigned from being pope because he realized he was too evil and stuff to be pope so he let the cool guy be pope. We can’t wait for that. We can’t wait for lightning to strike his ostentatiously disgusting jet plane as it floats on a cloud of ego or one of his fucking hotels to collapse under the weight of his hubris. We can’t wait for that. And we can’t sit around watching our neighbors die from treatable diseases or complications from dangerous pregnancies or malnutrition. Fucking malnutrition in the 21st century.

So yeah. We need to violently overthrow the US government… but with love. Out of compassion for our fellow human beings these people have to go… on both sides. I will not be governed by hate. And also I will not be governed by hate. So that really no one has to die for idiotic and preventable reasons.

We’ve been hacked. Our election. Our government. Hacked.

And respectfully, the only course of action, after you’ve been hacked, after they infiltrated your system, installed their malware, their trojans, their porn, the only course of action is to unplug the damn computer, and reinstall the operating system.

I went away.

But I’m back.

I’m going to see Rogue One tomorrow. So I’ll let you guys know how I like it. I’m going to post all my reviews and stuff over the holiday season. There’s a lot. You know I didn’t even realize it was the holidays. This is usually my least favorite time of year (except for the Doctor Who special). Because I’m alone and everything about this time is geared toward family and friends and stuff. But ever since I’ve rediscovered my faith, going to temple and Dharma classes and meditation, I don’t feel so alone.

I feel great actually. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. The healthiest I’ve been mentally, spiritually and physically. The best.

And to think, I owe it all to the rigged, hacked, fraudulent and fucked up election of Donald J. Tr… you know what, I still can’t say it.

You guys thank him for me.

See ya tomorrow after Rogue One (unless I’m too hyped to post anything but OMG OMG OMG OMG then I’ll post on Saturday after Dharma class)

Now watch this 2 minute video.

– Mel

7 Times A Movie Saved My Life

Under the heading of Things That Make Me Happy:

On this blog I like to talk about movies, list the things that I like, and talk about myself & my life in embarrassing detail. This is one of those posts.

Typewriter

I was thinking about movies that represented important times in my life. That not just reminded me of those times, but that affected, informed, reflected and transformed those times into some of my life’s most important moments.

These are movies that (figuratively) saved my life.

To the list…

Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Firstly, the movies were an escape:

To escape.

I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark EVERY DAY for several months. Two, sometimes three times a night. After school, instead of going home, I stayed at the movie theater and watched Indiana Jones take on the Nazis over and over again. Sometimes I paid, sometimes I didn’t pay at all. Those days you could hang out near the exit and walk in as people walked out. But I wasn’t about to go home.

Where doesn't it hurt?

“Dammit, Mel where doesn’t it hurt?”

I knew every word.

I hid at the theater, the way Indy hides on that cargo ship.

“There’s a place for you in the hold. Go my friend. Go.”

Indy

Fear is a horrible thing.

“WHAT ABOUT JONES?”

“Jones is dead. I killed him. Herr Colonel, that cargo you’ve taken, if it’s your gold, go in peace with it but leave us the girl. She will reduce our loss on this trip.”

“Savages! We will take what we want and then decide whether or not to blow your ship from the water.”

Top Men

We’re just gonna store this one away and forget about it.

Seriously though, I know every word, every sound, every note. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my happy place. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Top Secret (1984)

Top Secret

To get over a bad break-up.

Val Kilmer in an over-the-top Airplane style comedy. Several jokes per second. Pure silliness. Insanely funny. But more than that. My first break-up.

Sun Tan

This one’s simple. I was 17. I’d just broken up with my first real girlfriend. I’d never felt such pain in my life. No, wait. That’s not true. I had felt pain like that. But it was when I was a kid. I didn’t know what caused it. Non-physical pain hardly really registers with children. Because there’s nothing physical to blame. No fall. No sprain. I couldn’t blame anything for that heavy, empty feeling in my heart. That crushing feeling is a mystery pain to a child.

So, with the first girl, the first hand, the first time someone reached into my chest, pulled my heart out and broke it in front of me, it wasn’t just that very pain. And that very cause. It wasn’t just her. No. Getting my heart-broken finally helped me to realize that it had been feeling like that all along. It was the rejection. That’s what that was. The feeling you get when someone you love treats you like something they scraped off the bottom of their shoes. Finally I was able to identify the feeling I was feeling.

Hello

It was a lot to put on one girl. I should have thanked her for opening my mind to the realization of all the pain I’ve ever felt. I didn’t realize I’d been in pain the entire time. And it destroyed my image of the world like the crumpled photograph of the forgotten lover. I couldn’t breathe and a part of me didn’t want to anymore.

So, as I do, I went walking.

This is a recurring theme. I walk when I’m in pain. Like running away from my problems but slower. I’m a walker. This one time I walked to the multiplex – a theater with six or more tiny theaters contained within – and I bought a ticket for Top Secret. I loved Airplane and The Kentucky Fried Movie. I love that silly stuff. I sat there in the theater crying through the coming attractions… in the dark.

Boots

By the middle of the film I was crying on the floor with laughter. Laughing my ass off so hard my sides hurt more than my heart. It is one of the silliest movies ever made. So many visual jokes. So much zany. So much funny.

There’s a point during pain when you think it may never cease. No matter how many times pain has come and gone away. THIS time… This time it’s moving in for good. But then a movie (or a song) just blows that theory out of the water. You’re singing. You’re dancing. You’re still inside the pain but the laughter has shoved it over to the side and made room for pleasure. Room to smile again.

How Silly

I can’t say Top Secret is one of my favorite movies but it is a movie that saved my life.

“How silly can you get?”

Barton Fink (1991)

Barton Fink

To make the writey things BLAH

Speaking of things that feel like they will never end. Writer’s block is one of those “Oh my god. This isn’t going away” type things. One of my worst bouts was after getting notes from a severely demanding “producer” (I use that term loosely) and then getting to a point where I couldn’t see the words. They weren’t even words. They were just shapes on a page. Have you ever felt like that? Like words aren’t words just letters. And it’s all just shapes on a page that make no sense. That these so called words are in a language that you do not understand. Only to come to the realization that you also think in that stupid language. Your thoughts are also in that same alien gibberish that you don’t understand. And communication no good think fuck words… WALK.

The Fink Feel

So I walk. I find myself on the street. Walking it out. Walking it out. I lived down in the village at this time. I use the term lived loosely. I went through several homeless phases in my life. From homeless teen to homeless artist to homeless drug addict to chronic homeless to homeless mental patient. This was the artist phase. (I use that term loosely) They put me up in a hotel with a typewriter and nothing else. And I drank. And I wrote.

I made something I was proud of until… More producers. More notes. More changes. More stress. I walked. I walked past the Cinema Village Theater; an artsy multiplex on 11th or 12th street. I said to myself, “I will see the next movie starting.”

Barton

It was Barton Fink. I wouldn’t lie to you. I didn’t even know what that was. Didn’t know the Coen Brothers. I’d seen Raising Arizona but that’s it. At least with Top Secret I knew what I was getting into. I loved Airplane. I knew it was a comedy. I knew that it was just what I needed. But this one, I walked into blind. I didn’t know a damn thing about it. Nothing.

And it too was just what I needed. Barton Fink is a movie about writer’s block. The main character suffers from it. Everyone in his world has a debilitating frustration with communication… and it is marvelous. You have to love the universe’s sense of humor.

Barton Fink Hotel Room

Some turn to drink. Some turn to murder. Some put their names on other people’s work. Each character deals with it a different way. Not being able to find the right words is maddening. And not just for writers but salespeople, professionals, professors, executives, executors, etc., etc.

Fink

Barton Fink was the first time I saw the genius of the Coen Brothers. A film written by two of my favorite screenwriters when they were blocked while writing another of my favorite films; Miller’s Crossing. They used it as a way to work out of their… their own… what’s the word? (the word is BLAH).

I do this thing now that I’m pretty pleased with. When I can’t find the word I’m looking for in a reasonable amount of time, I put BLAH (all caps) in its place and move on. I don’t even think about it. When I go over what I’ve written an hour or two later, the word I wanted is immediately apparent. It hasn’t failed me yet. (Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to reopen a file and it’s going to read blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah. Serves me right for jinxing it)

Life of the mind

Barton Fink is one of my all-time favorite movies. Not just because it helped me out of a sticky situation and I left that theater and went back to my tiny hotel room and re-wrote the best thing I’d ever re-written in my life into something barely recognizable as my own. But I still pull that movie off the shelf when I’m having trouble with the letter thingies. The little letter thingies. Because it’s also a really good movie. Really really really really good.

“I’ll show you the life of the mind!”

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Reservoir Dogs

To work out my post-incarceration aggression

It was the first thing I did when I got out of jail. I went to the movies. It’s what I do. I couldn’t walk. I was too angry. I had to rest my sore leg on the back of the seat in front of me. The theater was crowded but nobody said shit to me. Reservoir Dogs was playing. And I laughed through the entire thing. Especially the torture scene (think De Niro in Cape Fear). It was exactly what I needed. Exactly. what. I. needed.

"You're welcome."

“You’re welcome.”

During one of my homeless stints, I carried my belongings in a backpack. This time out it was mostly books. But I had one of those packs that distributed the weight from your shoulders to your waist. It was still quite a workout. I read books on writing. Books on Buddhism. Books I loved. I would read them and I would sell them. During the day I would go to the illegal flea market and set up a store to sell my books while I played my guitar.

Mr Blonde

It was not illegal to sell books (something to do with the first amendment). So whenever the cops would come and close us down, I would calmly pack up my books and leave. But for some reason, this last time, an officer decided to walk over to my “store” and stand on top of my books so that I couldn’t pick them up. I tried to work around his boots until; finally I said politely, “Excuse me sir you’re standing on my books?”

Well that did it. How dare I be polite. He grabbed me and slammed me to the pavement. Yelling at me to stop struggling (I wasn’t). To stop fighting him ( I wasn’t) Soon there were five officers on my back. Twisting my arms. My neck. But the last one; A female officer who was standing and watching and being admonished for not joining into the abuse. She had to prove herself I suppose. She grabbed one of my legs and twisted it until my patella snapped and I screamed bloody murder. And they all laughed. They had destroyed my knee. Two surgeries later, it has never fully healed. And they laughed. And arrested me.

Tortore Scene

I was complying. I was leaving. Selling books isn’t illegal. And I asked the officer politely to not stand on my books so that I could remove them. Judge said that when I called them MY books it was an admission of guilt. Guilty of what you might ask? Guilty of placing books on the sidewalk. They beat me. Destroyed my knee. Arrested me. And stole my beautiful backpack… basically my home. They handed me back my books in a plastic bag after a weekend in jail. They treated me like I was subhuman and I could do nothing.

I got out of jail and went to a theater. What else? I went to see Reservoir Dogs.

Harvey Keitel

“You shoot anybody?”
“Just cops.”
“So, no REAL people?”

It was cathartic. Even the torture scene. I left the theater singing…

“Don’t know why I came here tonight.”

I know exactly why.

I had never been more in the mood for violence. It was dangerous. Reservoir Dogs helped me through that. Sometimes you just have to see cops being tortured and shot to feel like a human being again after being treated like an animal.

Cop

I don’t hate cops. I hate the way that when one of them is a menace, and shouldn’t be wearing a badge, the others have to join in with the abuse of authority because that’s their code. I don’t hate the woman who destroyed my knee. I wish she were stronger and more able to resist her peer’s pressure. Or at least I wish she would have stopped before… before the crunch. She was aiming for that crunch by the way. She had set out to do what she did. Destroy my knee. She was trying to impress her peers. “You think you can abuse this guy. I’m gonna make him limp for the rest of his life.” I don’t even hate the cop who walked on my books… not much anyway. He probably got shot in the head years ago… after having his ear cut off and doused in lighter fluid (a fella can dream, can’t he?).

Stuck in the middle with you

“Yes I’m… stuck in the middle with you.”

Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull

To confront my violent temper.

Don’t be alarmed. I’m still going in chronological order. When I saw Raging Bull for the first time it was in re-release. Sometime in the nineties. There was a girl that I worked with. Not really, but I worked with her boyfriend. He was a fucktard (in the traditional sense). He would verbally abuse her in public. And she was the sweetest little waif. Pretty. Smart. Completely out of his league. And he knew it. But he kept up this steady stream of abuse.

Raging Jake

Once I saw her flinch when he raised his hand. Something I had seen first hand… second-hand… third hand. I’ve been a bully and I’ve been bullied and I’ve seen people I care about be bullied. And this was an angel. I was secretly in love with her and this… fucktard was frightening and belittling her. But like I said, I am in no position to judge.

She once said in passing that she didn’t need anyone to fight her battles for her. That the thought that she needed saving was a sexist one. She wasn’t talking about herself when she said this. But I knew she was talking about herself. We both knew. But I had never thought about it that way. I had always believed that when a woman had a problem the right thing to do was to solve it. To play the hero. But if I’m the hero, what does that make her? Why can’t she be the hero of her own story? I can be the side kick, The wise teacher. Comic relief. As long as I’m in the fucking movie I’m good. Changed my whole way of thinking. I love it when people do that.

Raging Bull De Niro

I would chat with her while she waited for him. (we worked long nights at a book store uptown) and it was she that recommended I go see Raging Bull. I was a movie fan. I was a Marty fan. I had never seen Raging Bull. I think she saw the way I looked at her. Admiration, Lust, Pity. She knew about my anger issues and that me and her boyfriend had bumped heads a few times. (I could have easily pummeled him into the ground if I didn’t already know that wasn’t what she wanted). There was a little art house theater that I’d never been. And for the record, she wasn’t asking me out. She was just telling me to go see Raging Bull. And I am nothing if not good at following orders.

Robert De Niro

I went on my day off. And I saw, not a bio pic about an aging fighter, but a movie about a slave to violence. About an aging bully. I saw people I’ve known in Scorsese & De Niro’s Jake Lamotta. I saw my tormentors in him. Bullies and Stepmonsters. But worse, I saw myself in him and I was disgusted and ashamed. (I’ve broken my pinkie punching a wall so often that my other fingers have disowned it). But all I could really think about was her. As I cried at the end and as the credits rolled, I looked over to my right and there she was. Across the aisle a couple rows back. I didn’t even know she was there. I didn’t say anything to her. Her face was soaked. She must have been crying the entire time as well.

We sat there in silence during the credits… separately. We left at the same time… separately. She never said a word to me so I never said a word to her. I just knew I didn’t want to be a slave to my anger anymore. I didn’t want to be that guy. And I wanted to thank her for the movie even while it hurt so much to see an angel cry.

Cathy Moriarty

I heard she broke up with that fucktard soon after. Or maybe it was even that night. Weeks later he told the bosses that I was stealing and that the address I had given them wasn’t a real one. (It was a church that let me pick up my mail there). So, only the second part of his complaint was true. But that was enough for them to fire me.

I never saw her again.

Henry V (1989)

Henry V

To finally declare war on my addiction

When I battled drug addiction (It was crack and cocaine) I would promise myself that I was quit the very moment the drugs and the money ran out… it was over. I was done. Then I would forget my promise as soon as I could afford to. I would regularly check into Detox. And the entire time, while most of the addicts were having sex (yes, Detox is a mad fuck fest), I would be plotting the course from the front door to the drug spot. And by the time my time was up, I knew the route by heart. I would head from the hospital to the dealer. I wouldn’t even bother to remove the tags.

"You disgusts me."

“You disgust me.”

Tell me about it.

But the very last time I went through detox, instead of heading to the drug spot, I took a walk down to my favorite theater. The good old Cinema Village Theater: Revivals, First-runs, Cult Classics. I swear to you, every single movie they play there is amazing. I said to myself, I said, “Mel, you’re going to see the next movie playing and it’s going to help you out of this cycle.” It was Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. Again I knew nothing about it. I had the Complete Works of William Shakespeare growing up. A book I could not read when I was 7 but by the time I was 12 I had read cover to cover. No that’s a lie. I had read the Comedies and the Tragedies. I hate to admit this, but I skipped the Histories altogether.

Kenneth Branagh

So I entered the theater knowing nothing about the play or the movie or the history for that matter. Needless to say, it was just what I needed. Cinema Village comes through again.

This fight was going to be an epic battle. I was completely outgunned, a superior force that had taken down better men than me, better men, was mocking me with little affordable vials of extremely addictive crap. But I would learn to outsmart it. I was determined to win.

War

They like to tell addicts to “take it one day at a time” but that was never working for me. I was always a few steps ahead myself. So what I was going to have to do was take on my addiction – the NEXT day at a time. I would do everything I could TODAY, anything and everything I could think to do THAT DAY, in order to make sure that I would not and could not do drugs TOMORROW.

For me it was money and access. (It’s different for everyone) For me I was always able to stop when the money ran out. For a lot of folks, that does not stop them. And the other thing is that I could never truly claim victory. Because as soon as I started feeling proud of myself, that was the moment when I let down my guard.

Henry V

“You’re doing it, boy. You did it. You beat it. Good job.” “You, sir, are the man. Now how about we go celebrate with some crack? You’ve earned it.”

I mean, the only way to claim true victory is to die never having done it again. Which is why certain folks can’t visit me on my deathbed. (I’m looking at you, crack dealer)

But when I feel like I’m going to let myself down I start humming the tune from the movie. “Dominay. Do-minay. Dom-in-ay. Oh, Dominay. Domi-i-naaaay.”

That’s my battle song, baby.

Better Men Than Me

And I can tell you this with complete honesty and confidence; I will not be smoking crack tomorrow. And after more than a decade & a half totally crack and cocaine free, that’s the most I will allow myself to say. Because for all you people who think addiction isn’t real, even after all this time, I still wake up some nights sucking air. Trying to get that hit. The one from my dream. It’s an awful feeling.

Better men than me…

Spider-man (2002)

Spider-Man Poster

To stop running away from my demons and move back to New York

“I am so high, I can hear heaven.”

You know, this one was not so much about the movie but the song from the movie. It’s a Nickleback song (I know) or more accurately a Chad Kroeger song (same thing I suppose). I was living on the road back then. Travelling from city to city. Either sleeping in my car or on a friend’s couch. It was the best way for me to stay ahead of my addiction. Never staying in one place long enough to know where the drug spot was. Plus I got to see a lot of the country that way. Never got all the way to Seattle but I wanted to.

Mary Jane and Spidey

From 98 to 02, I was just running. I’d stop in a city. Get a job. Stay there for about a year or until I found out where the drugs were and started thinking about them. And then I was back on the road. Then this song comes on the radio.

“…and they say that a hero will save us…”

You know, the one from Spider-man. The first one with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. From the first trilogy. The Sam Raimi one. The good one.

Peter Parker

It wasn’t really the song but the ad for the movie. And I’ve always loved Spider-man. Spider-man reminds me of when I was a kid. When I had dreams. When I had promise. When I had confidence coming out of my ass. I was gonna see the movie anyway. But listening to that song made me realize that the only place to see it was back home.

“I’m not gonna stand here and waaaaaaaa-it…”

The Hero

I sang that song the entire way. I didn’t own the single. I didn’t even know the words. I just sang the part from the commercial and from the trailer. I pulled into Manhattan after driving for hours and hours cross-country. I drove directly to the movie theater, parked my car with all of my belongings and walked in to see the movie.

Mary J and Spidey

Just wanting to see the movie at home was all the motivation I needed to stop running. I’ve been back in New York ever since.

Dorothy was right.

There’s no place like it.

“I’ll hold on to the wings of the eagles. And watch as we all fly away….”

… And that’s my list of 7 movies that saved my life.

There are other films that I throw on when I need them: Casablanca, Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, and New York Stories (particularly Scorsese’s Life Lessons) are my go to break up movies. Each with its own way of making me feel better about how bad I am at relationships.

And when I need inspiration there are a bunch of action films that get me pumped. I’ve mentioned most of them. They are all over my blog.

But as for when I need a laugh? There was a time when I would throw on some Monty Python or Mel Brooks, (Flying Circus, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein) but these days I can just go to social media and in a few moments I’m laughing hysterically.

Social Media

You people make me happy.

These days, it’s almost too easy.

– Mel

What She Said

What she said
Was said to hurt me
But it didn’t
Much as hurt
As make me sad

It would have hurt me more
If the words were fat and ugly
And that doesn’t hurt me at all
(well maybe a little)
Hell no

It would have hurt me more
If the words were small and inadequate
And that wouldn’t hurt me
Even if it’s true
(It’s not true right?)
Hell no

Know
What she said
Said more about her
Than what she thought of me
no?

Know
What she said
Said more about how she was raised
Than how my ego would be felled
no?

no
no
Know what’s coming out
Of your fucking mouth
Before it opens
(sorry)
And we all know what she said

She said
She didn’t know history
She said
She didn’t respect culture
She said
She didn’t understand this country’s violent past
Or its struggles with equality
She said

She said she didn’t know me at all
She didn’t respect me at all
Not my family
My friends
My heroes
My heroes

My heroes
Who died cold and alone at the bottom
Who died flayed and exposed in fields
Flaming
From ropes
Flaming
Out on corners
Flaming in their cells
Flaming in their bodies
Flaming throughout history
She said

She said it all
With just two words

And it surprised
The fuck out of me
Because I didn’t know
What I’d not known for years
Didn’t know
She had
Those words
In her arsenal

And it only hurt me
Because she thought it would hurt me
Like it was some kind of insult
To me

And it only hurt me
Because she used them to hurt me
Like they were some sort of WMD

I’ve heard the words
I’ve said the words
I’ve written the words
And hated the words
Words that mean
Many different things
To many different people

Sometimes said in jest
Sometimes said in sex
But mostly said in anger
Followed by violence and death
Yet the way she said them
Only made me sad

Because it meant I didn’t know her
And she thought we weren’t equals
And she probably was a bigot
Even though she liked to fuck me
Now and then I think about it
And it makes me want to vomit
’cause she thought I’d be embarrassed
Maybe even get me angry
And her friends would say we told you
Not to get involved with faggots
’cause they’re mostly good for nothing
‘cept for fucking and for shopping
And her ex would say I told you
Not to get involved with niggers
’cause they’re mostly good for nothing
‘cept for fucking and for dancing
Then the screeching of my mother
In my mind just like a banshee
Saying something about whitey
Even worse about my gender

and
I
can not
hear her
shit
right
now!

What she said
Simply
Was that I’d lost a friend

She said I’d lost a friend

She said there is no way we two could be friends
And she said it
With just two words

– Mel

The Littlest Psychopath

(a sob story)

This is the story of a boy called Melvin. And before you think he is me… he is not me. We sort of share a name but he is not me. He is somebody else. A little boy who grew up in a house full of psychotic people. And everyone knows that psychos prey on the weakest. And he was the weakest. He was the littlest psychopath.

Let me see… There was Violent Psycho, Trust-Me Psycho, Grandma Psycho, Rapey Psycho, Uncle Psycho and a half-brother he called monster, that we’ll call Half-Monster Psycho.

And before you feel too bad for little Melvin. He was not alone in this house full of demented psychos. He had a friend; A teddy bear, he named Teddy Beam. This was his companion and protector… that doubled as a football on its day off. Its name was Theodore Melvin Beam.

Its first name was Theodore because Melvin was only five years old when he found it and failed to realize that this was an awful name for a teddy bear. He chose Melvin as its middle because HE was Melvin, so shouldn’t his bear be named Melvin too. And its last name was Beam because… Well, because it doubled as a football. Teddy Beam was a good football.

And I know he sounds like me, but little Melvin was not me. He was not. He was somebody else.

At five years old, Melvin wanted to be an actor when he grew up.

Grandma Psycho was an elderly heroin addict whose habit had outgrown her income. Melvin loved her for her stories and for her butter and maple syrup sandwiches. Heroin addicts sure love their sugar he never thought, because he was only five and had no idea.

When she baby-sat for him, they would read tarot in the kitchen and eat their sticky sweet sandwiches and laugh at the ghosts and demons that came to mess with them. Grandma Psycho would stay with him until the money was gone and the drugs wore off and there were no more suckers, who only wanted to hear what they already knew told to them by an old soul dealing out cards while an even older one stared blankly at their dead relatives or lost friends and grasped his little teddy bear for dear life.

But once the drugs wore off and there was nothing left in the house to steal, she would rent little Melvin to the local pedophiles for money. That’s right. Grown men would pay her money. Not a lot of money. Just enough for her to get good. Money to spend time with a little boy.

“Grandma needs her fix.” she said “And grown men need their hugs. She’ll just be in the next room getting high on these here drugs.”

Theodore Melvin Beam was a tan classic bear. One of his eyes was brown while the other was a black button. He had been someone else’s bear before Melvin and they had apparently let things happen to him. Bad things. But Teddy Beam wants you all to know that he’s safe now. He’s good.

At six years old, Melvin wanted to be a comic book artist when he grew up.

Uncle Psycho was Melvin’s least favorite uncle. He would take Melvin down the block to watch him and his friends drink cheap wine and get into fights. Sometimes there was blood and they would have to run. Or down to the bar or to the brothel until it got dark and Melvin couldn’t wake him because he was too drunk. Or until Melvin was forgotten somewhere along the way, like that jacket you’re always leaving everywhere, the one your mother tells you that you’re going to lose one day.

And the whores would kiss Melvin’s fat little cheeks and pretend to care about him in between giving blow jobs to patrons and it got too dark and he’d have to find his own way back in that dark and the six-year-old boy, older than his years, his cheeks stained cherry red, would head for the door to walk home in the dark.

“You’ve forgotten your jacket sweetie.” a working girl might say. “Can you make it back alone?”

“I got it. I ain’t scared at all.” In fact, it’s scarier at home.

Theodore Melvin Beam always smelled of wine, whiskey and spirits. Jack Daniels was his favorite. He could drink with the best of them. He was the most interesting bear in the world. Then Teddy Beam turned to the camera and said, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

At seven years old, Melvin wanted to be a professional photographer when he grew up.

Violent Psycho and Trust-Me Psycho were a couple. They were in love. He bought her things and made her feel pretty and wanted. Trust-Me’s mother, Melvin called her Grandma, was fond of telling her that no one would ever want her and she believed it. So when a violent psychopath brought her flowers, she overlooked that he’d been abusing her seven-year old son so badly that he’d been hospitalized twice.

Melvin had a scar over his eye where the doctors had to cut it open so that it wouldn’t go blind. This was before the time when “I fell on the swing” or “I bumped into the door” was questioned. No one cared and no one came.

Melvin was Violent Psycho’s whipping boy. VP had a long oak staff that… (Oh do you guys mind if I call him VP? It’s just so much easier) Well, he had a bo staff. And it was that he used to beat the hell out of little Melvin. In the morning. The afternoon. At night. He was a martial arts instructor, militant radical and an overall sadistic human being. Your basic violent psychopath.

At dinnertime, Melvin was his favorite little plaything. He would make Melvin stand beside the table with his arms held out at his sides parallel to the ground. If they dropped at any point, if Melvin got tired or lost his focus, VP would snatch up his bo staff and whack Melvin across the thighs with it or across the back or on the head.

While the rest of the psychos ate dinner in silence, Melvin had to stand there like a statue straining against gravity until everyone was finished with the meal. Or until Melvin had gotten angry enough or tired enough to drop his arms in defiance and take the beating. The savage beating that had hospitalized him twice. Some days he added books to his hands.

And before we go much further I can tell you think he’s me. He is not me. He’s somebody else. I say this honestly.

One day VP thought it would be amusing to juice Melvin’s most hated vegetable and force him to guzzle a large glass of beet juice in one go.

It got messy.

Little Melvin tried his best to keep it down. But it came back up violently and so Melvin ran into the bathroom to escape the beating. He would beat Melvin even when he wasn’t mad. Just for fun. So an angry beating was always particularly brutal.

The bathroom was the only room in the house with a lock. It wasn’t actually a lock but a hook and eye. It was a wall, a moat with alligators, a tower with sentries, an impenetrable force field with a thousand-year power source. It was a little piece of metal with a bracket screwed into the door frame. It was a place of solace.

Violent Psycho huffed and hollered. He banged on the door. He could have easily smashed it in but he enjoyed the game. Even angry, he enjoyed the terror he created.

Then there was the sweetest little knock. It was Trust-Me Psycho’s sweet little knock on the bathroom door. So he unhooked the eye and let her in. She smiled.

“He’s not angry anymore. Breathe. You can stay here if you like.” And then she shoved him out the door. I even think she whispered, “Psych!”

Theodore Melvin Beam was just a stuffed animal and did not feel pain. This came in handy when he was dropped from a great height. He was often dropped from great heights but he never complained. Teddy Beam was always cool like that. He was very cool.

At ten years old, Melvin wanted to be a rock star when he grew up.

Trust-me Psycho was fond of saying I love you when dropping Melvin off with strangers. “Out of sight, out of mind.” she used to say. She said a lot of things. “I love you.” “I’ll kill you.” “Who are you? Why are you trying to hurt me?” “What happened to my spaceship?” OR “God hates me.” Were some of her favorite things to say, to the wall, the door and anyone and no one in particular.

She met a man at school who lived with a mute boy. They were not related. Just a mute little boy who lived in his house. (Sounds legit, right?) She would drop little Melvin off at this house and leave him there so the boys could play.

I’m going to call the man RP for short. It stands for Rapey Psycho because his house was a full on pedo-trap. He had coins on his floor. Dimes and nickels that were easily pocketed when he wasn’t looking. And candy dishes near the sofa. Kids would come over to play and leave with almost a dollars worth of change and a pocket full of candy.

But on the table, where he sat and watched the children, he kept dollar bills, just out of reach. This one time Melvin took a chance and sat down with him at the table where the bills were. Melvin had gotten greedy for money and that’s when he served Melvin the Kool-aid, the Kool-aid with the quaaludes in it, or whatever, that knocked him right out cold.

And when Melvin opened his eyes he found himself on RP’s large creepy water-bed. The little mute boy, the little mute boy who was not the man’s relative, still played on the carpet. Who leaves their child in the house of a man with a large creepy water-bed and a boy who is not his own?

So when the man suggested a sleep-over, a chill ran up Melvin’s spine. Trust-Me Psycho gave him the choice. He could sleep over the pedophiles house or come back home where Violent Psycho had something special ready for him. It was his choice.

The little mute boy said, “Stay.” Not mute after all. Just scared and lonely. Melvin chose the gentler of the two options. He chose to stay.

“Giving your child to pedophiles seems like the family trade. But you’re doing this for nothing, bitch. At least Grandma was getting paid.”

Theodore Melvin Beam sleeps in a bed. He is hugged for comfort and not for pleasure. He chases away the demons with his softness. But the years have hardened his material. He is still soft on the inside but his outside is course and hard. Don’t judge him by his exterior. He has feelings, you know.

At fifteen years old, Melvin wanted to be a filmmaker when he grew up.

He was not alone. Melvin was not alone. There was someone watching from the corner of the room. There was someone with him. There was someone there at every turn. A monster in the corner delighting from his pain. Melvin had a half-brother. A half-monster. Three years older and dumb as a bag of bricks. He was friendly one moment and a complete monster the next. His half-brother must have hated Melvin like something out of a fairy tale to watch all that abuse and say nothing. He watched years of torture and torment that his little brother endured.

But at nicer times, they would play catch. During the down times, Teddy would fly through the air like a beam of light. He was a pretty cool football, that Teddy Beam.

His brother was not a football. He was a smiling witness. He was there to pour salt on the wounds because the psycho rolls downhill. He was glad he was no longer the youngest, the weakest, the littlest psychopath. And that smile of relief for not being the center of abuse never left this half-monster’s face.

He left home when he turned eighteen and never looked back. He asked Melvin to come with him. Melvin had a girlfriend. Melvin was in High School. Melvin was fifteen and moving across the country with a half-monster just didn’t seem like the right decision. The devil you know. Plus by this time all the other psychos were dead or in jail. Except for Trust-Me Psycho, who Melvin desperately wanted to trust. So, he chose to stay.

“I saw them beat, saw them rape you.” he said. “Put you in the hospital twice. But I don’t think it was that bad. It was actually kind of nice.”

And then he left.

Theodore Melvin Beam had been through the wars. Through the fire. Through the mill. And had passed every test. He was a good…

“And you don’t need a teddy bear.” his brother said, as Melvin complained in earnest, then he ripped it from his arms and then he threw it in the furnace.

Melvin stood and stared in horror as Theodore Melvin burned.

“Now you have nothing!” The monster slammed the door, never to return.

Theodore Melvin Beam had been through the wars. Through the fire. Through the mill. And had passed every test. He was a good friend. He was a good companion. He was even a good football. And he will be missed. R.I.P.

At seventeen years old Melvin didn’t know what he wanted to be if he ever got to grow up. It really wasn’t that important anymore.

He was left alone… with HER.

Trust-Me Psycho was in rare form. She was talking to herself and redecorating her life as if she lived by herself. But there was someone breathing in the next room. There was Melvin; Her son. She couldn’t drop him off with relatives; They were all dead, or pawn him off on psychos who were all in jail.

And the boy was a handful. He had anger issues and personality problems. He had beaten up those boys at camp and bullied kids at school. He had yelled and screamed at his grandmother and never visited on her deathbed. He had threatened the lives of her boyfriends and set fire to their things. He punctured that man’s water-bed and flooded his house. He had chased his uncle with a knife when he tried to touch him. He had no respect for his elders. No respect for his mother. The screaming. The fighting with his brother. The temper tantrums. She couldn’t take anymore of this… this… little psychopath. He was a psychopath and she just couldn’t.

“What do you want from me?” she asked. “Stop looking at me.” she ordered. “Are you telling your friends that I’m a bad mother?” She was all over the place. But then suddenly calm.

She said, “I love you, little Melvin. Of that there is no doubt.” and then she swung open the front door and screamed. “Get out. Get out! GET OUT!!!!”

Melvin, after seventeen years, had finally found himself psychopath free… and homeless. Homeless and psychopath free. Well… there was one more left; Melvin himself.

He had survived Grandma, Uncle, Violent, Rapey, Trust-Me and Half-Monster Psychos. And even lost his imaginary friend along the way (a psycho in his own right and one hell of a football). But there was one more psychopath to go. And this would be the trickiest one to get rid of.

He decided to decide that he did not want to live with Melvin anymore. He did not want to BE Melvin anymore. Melvin was a victim. Melvin was a sad-sack. Melvin was a whipping boy.

He would change his name and become someone else. Someone else entirely. Someone who didn’t have the same skeletons as Melvin, the same psychos in his past.

He would change his last name from that old man’s name to something given to him by someone he liked.

He would shorten his first name to something he wanted to be called. Something better.
Something that wasn’t short for anything. And he would just move on.

But this was not a fairytale. It does not have a happy ending. He tried to finish High School but didn’t graduate with his class, mostly because of attendance but also because his life-long straight A’s became straight D’s overnight.

And he would always have trust issues and relationship problems that had deep roots. And though he’d exhausted the hospitality of his friends, after three years of night school (while sleeping on the subway), he finally got his diploma. And would start his new life. Freeing himself from his old one.

It is not a fairytale. But the one thing he learned was how to survive. This new man was a survivor. The memory of old Teddy Beam still comforted him though it had been replaced by a psycho kitty. A cat, which is a better companion for a grown man than a teddy bear.

And I know what you’re thinking; That last part definitely sounds a lot like me. And I’ll give you that much.

“We may share the same scars and our state of mental health.” he said again. “but this story is not about me. It’s about somebody else.”

Okay?

The End

Injured Teddy

For Teddy Beam