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10 December 2015 @ 03:22 pm
because kevin murphy says so  
the spring i worked at borders a customer came in looking for the eighth mystery science theater 3000 boxed set with monster a go-go in it because he had a decent coupon and it was his favorite episode. back when it originally aired, he’d fallen bad on some ice, he explained, and needed to stay with a friend for part of his recovery. to boost morale, the friend put on MST3K, which the customer had never seen before.

“i was weeping on his couch,” he told me. “tears, pouring down my face, heaving, not able to catch my breath, not making a sound. my friend looked at me and panicked. he was just, ‘oh my god, are you okay? are you hurting? do you need a doctor?’ and i just looked at him and pointed at the television. my friend asked if i liked it, and all i could get out was ‘so funny so funny i’m gonna die.’” friend went to turn off the television and my customer yelled, “no!” because he had his priorities straight, yes he did.

i thought of that customer the first time we watched santa’s village of madness, three short films harvested from an amusement park chain scattered in lake arrowhead, california; scott’s valley, california; and, intuitively, dundee, illinois.

i arguably grew up with the thrills and chills of the dundee park, though most of my chills were a little closer to chilling blood initiations than they maybe should’ve been. i last visited at fifteen and remember having grave, if not visit-halting, concerns about the continuing safety of the ski-lift ride dad put me on alone with my brother at his squirmy scrawny six but-i-saw-hotdogs-over-there worst. “alex! alex! alex, no. we can get hotdogs later. alex, i’m going to play this game with you, okay? and the game is your big sister emits a low whining sound while she clutches you to her side and you hold on to the lap bar as tightly as you can. and then after we get off the ride your sister collapses to press her forehead to the sacred pavement and sob uncontrollably in gratitude for our mutual survival. no, alex, i promise, it’s a very fun game. one that i think you will want to play a lot of times, today. and then we can maybe get hotdogs.”

brother's on the spectrum and, back in the day, primarily obsessed with protecting us from candle, substance, and weather related dangers; mechanical failure or heights, he could take or leave, so long as he had enough 101 dalmatian quotes to keep him going (and, oh yes, he did.) that was clearly a day of leave, though my father had put us together in case it was not. historically, i’ve been a very calming influence on brother, you see? and while my parents may have abused this resource to some extent, i mean, it got me out of a lot of sister-wrangling scenarios so no hard feelings.

later in the day, i encountered this extremely elaborate octopus sort of ride. honestly? from a post-apocalyptic perspective, it was a thing of beauty, and i was heavily into post-apocalyptic that summer. flat-black metal with the occasional wail of rust. medusa’s coils, twinning and braiding over themselves. an inequitable exchange of launching and returning amusement seekers. you know the drill.

“i want to go on that,” i told dad. dad looked at the ride, looked at me, looked at my brother, looked at the ride again and seemed to think, my daughter, she must learn about the world eventually, and indicated that my brother would be waiting for me if i finished. maybe he'd have hotdogs. brother was not nearly “this high,” sister looked at the thing and cried, and dad was a significantly more important member of our household. so i went on the octopus ride alone, as had been my plan. to sacrifice my life. for roughly fifteen minutes. without a single cruella deville quotation or hotdog request. i’ve been way more shameless than that in the procurement of alone time. ask me about high school bff.

the ride had several tentacles with multiple cars on them. the cars spun. a little. sometimes. sometimes a lot. it wasn't consistent. little seemed consistent on the ride. this was part of its charm. each arm was loaded individually, while the others stopped with the cars in whatever position they had been been in - sideways, backways, upside-down. i don't actually remember the moving part of the ride, just the stopping part. i feel like that ride went on for several weeks. deep down in my heart of hearts, i occasionally find myself wondering if this ride is still occurring. for one of my last stops, i was angled downward, face-to-pavement, my feet jammed as hard as i could jam them into the front of the car to keep me from sliding any further forward. reflecting upon my brief and soon-to-be violently concluded life, i clutched the lap bar and listened to INXS' “suicide blonde” on a transistor radio somewhere in the vicinity and wondered that this should be the last song i ever heard. at the very least, i would've thought, U2. though i could no longer see him, i knew the ride attendant was goofy dancing instead of quickly unloading and loading his current tentacle, as would have been my personal preference. the ride attendant seemed popular. girls clustered all around him, giggling with the sort of unbridled, cute-boy-maybe-likes-me triggered exuberance of youth i could no longer anticipate enjoying within my own life, as there was so little of it left.

needless to say, i do not feel the ride attendant had his priorities in order, but all is fair in love and octopus rides. i wondered: would my father remember to collect my octopus-flung remains from the far corners of santa’s village? or might he be so distracted by alex's latest hotdog finding mission he forgets, leaving santa's elves to re-purpose them for the coming holiday season? i strained my neck to see if my family was still waiting outside the line queue, witnessing me in my final moments. i wanted to assure myself that there were still people who loved and cared about me out in the world, but i couldn’t see beyond the line. yes, there was a line. a fairly substantial line. of people. who could see exactly what was happening. to the rest of us. who were currently on this ride. and they were still waiting. to get on this ride. themselves. they must have really been jonesing for some private time, i’ll tell you what. either that or they were also in love with the ride attendant. i’m sorry, folks, but he really wasn’t all that.

upsettingly, when i moved my head, my butt slipped forward on the vinyl upholstery of my seat, so i quickly re-established my prior position and sent my immortal soul up into the loving arms of jesus. our lord was away from his desk, so i got his personal assistant, bob? i left a message but he never got back to me. probably i wasn't convincing. i definitely wasn't calling from the most sincere pumpkin patch. meanwhiles, from the sound of it, the couple on the car ahead of/above me had achieved third base. which not only seemed like a meaningful way to snatch hot life from the close and gleaming jaws of death, but a productive use of their time. i wondered if they were upside down. also, i worried that i might be in their fluids stream. because, good for them. "i lost my virginity on the santa's village octo-deathtrap" is up there, as far as prestigious bone brags go, but really. remember, people. your actions have consequences on others.

what i’m getting at is my relationship with santa’s village had been somewhat strained by my incredibly dark final visit (which may still be unfolding) but the good folks at rifftrax gave it back to me, and they did so by almost ripping open my recently glued thyroidectomy scar. because santa’s village of madness? not only does it provide some very weird nostalgia in an incredibly weird way (the snowball ride! my cousins made my mother barf on that snowball ride! those mushrooms! i cannot tell you how my memory unfolded at the sight of those mushrooms!) but it is funny. it is very, very funny. it is “so funny so funny i’m gonna die” funny. internal injury funny. blinded with tears funny. and if there’s anything i’m getting about the specific challenges of this year that is 2015, that we’re all going to need some funny-to-the-full-extent-of-the-law over the next few weeks. i wish i could buy it for every last one of my readers, i know you’d both really like it, but i’ve got too many doctors to feed. so, instead, let’s embed the trailer:

and the good people at rifftrax still anticipate their marketing demographic to include a livejournal button among their "share options," so there's that. enjoy.
music: julia holter - celebration
(Anonymous) on December 11th, 2015 03:28 am (UTC)
Criminally funny and oh so easy to relate
I rode that octopus once and did a very credible imitation of Linda Blair. The occupants downwind not so amused
selva oscura: sevenanonymousblack on December 12th, 2015 02:15 am (UTC)
​so you, too, walk among the octo-wounded! except part of me thinks it might have been a spider.

​i can't say i used the full extent of my freelance honed research capacities, but i was unable to find any pictures of this beast or, indeed, reference to its existence online. which leaves one cultivating some mighty conspiracies. like, how many did it kill. did it kill us. is it still somewhere out there in the dundee wilderness... waiting. for that next time i'm in earshot of "suicide blonde" in the region. anyway, they did some very interesting redecorating with the remnants of your vomit spray, i saw. so much more interesting than the franz west action going on with the mushrooms.

you had to of at least heard mention of this TAL segment at one point or another, right?
(Anonymous) on December 12th, 2015 03:05 am (UTC)
Sweet Baby Jesus in velvet pants I think Mike Birbiglia has been reading my mail
I never had the pleasure to leave my vomit trail in Dundee as I was a wee lad on the high plains and the rides I rode had to be broken down every 2 or 3 weeks and trucked to the next water hole. The octopus/spider lent itself well to said trucking as it came apart in 8 legs and 8 pods on the ends where you got lap barred in.
Its a wonder anyone survives childhood. Its still out there
I have driven past suburban malls late night and seen it over by the Hammer pulsing colored lights legs rotating around up and down waiting
selva oscura: don't tell me i laced upanonymousblack on December 12th, 2015 09:07 pm (UTC)
yeah, he does that whole uncanny universal insight thing really well. the first piece we heard from him was "kill or be killed" (aka "celebrity golf") on the way home from maine in 2010 (and they don't appear to have it archived on their site, possibly because it was part of birbiglia's "my secret public journal" album. highly recommended, by the way.)

in the years since, he's really worked his way into my daily vocabulary. "batter up" has become a sort of apology for when i blurt out something stupid (but not offensive) to my partner, though only because we've been working on my life-long tendency to apologize when it is not remotely appropriate for me to apologize. "it is regrettable" is being exchanged for "i'm sorry" in situational disappointments, like the stove broke because of the mice colony inside of it.

childhood is a fatal disease.