written for, but not published in, Desert Exposure Magazine
As we make our way into the coming presidential election, I can't help but remember something unexplainable that happened to me on Halloween of 2008.
On that night, I saw the scariest movie I've ever seen. No, I'm not talking about my old wedding videos. It was something way scarier than that. Even scarier than the Kardashians without make-up.
It was close to midnight on All Hallows Eve. I was walking by myself in the Downtown section of the city I was born and raised in. Heading nowhere in particular, I found myself by the old movie theater where I used to watch horror double-features for thirty-five cents when I was a kid. Years later, it became an adult theater and began showing movies that were horrifying in a different way altogether. Eventually, the theater went out of business. Authorities chained the two front doors shut and put up a sign that said: "Beat It."
Someone told me the old theater had been torn down to make room for a Downtown revitalization that never took place, but apparently that person was wrong, because, as I stood before it, the theater looked like it must have looked when it first opened almost a hundred years ago.
I bought my ticket from a woman in an old-fashioned ticket booth at the front of the theater. She was so ancient and vile-looking, I first mistook her for one of my ex-wives.
"Thank you, ma'am," I told the old crone.
She bent a withered finger at me.
"Redrum," she hissed.
A shiver went down my spine, but you know how much she charged me for my ticket? Thirty-five cents!
I felt like a kid again.
I went inside. The audience looked vacant-eyed, much like the adult audiences of the dying theater's last years (not that I would know anything about that). Paul Reuben was there, but he was already on his way out. He and Fred Willard were both being lead out of the theater in handcuffs.
I don't know what I just missed, but I'm glad I missed it.
Congressman Anthony Weiner must have mistook my standing there for something other than what it was, because he tilted his head confidentially my way and said, "If you're looking for Senator Larry Craig, he's in the bathroom."
"Who's Larry Craig?" I asked, but he didn't answer. He was too obsessed with sending a picture via his cell phone of an angry Yul Brynner standing at attention. At least that's what it looked like to me, but I can't be sure. I didn't have my glasses on. Maybe it was just as well that I didn't.
In the back of the theater, INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence, Kung Fu actor David Carradine, and comedian Robin Williams were just hanging around. Near them was a little girl sitting by herself. She looked to be about twelve.
"Are you alone, little girl?" I asked her. "This is a really scary movie."
"Your mother sews socks that smell!" she spat, shooting out some pea soup my way.
Well, I never.
Okay, maybe once.
Still, the girl had a point. I found an empty seat and minded my own business in it. I was here to watch a movie, not engage in social engineering.
The movie was about a cabal of vampires who hid their true natures by becoming politicians. Chauffeured around in black limosines with windows tinted so dark they were protected from the sun's rays and angry constituents.
The hero of the movie gets elected to office, discovers their terrifying secret, and then spends the rest of the movie trying not to become one of them. The vampire politicians create zombie slaves who are kept subservient with free government cheese. It's a symbiotic relationship. The vampires can't live without the zombie's votes, and the zombies can't live without their "free" entitlements from the government. Each creature's hunger causing the other's to grow.
"We are the nosferatu," the leader of the vampires, Count Barackula, proclaims. "The undead. As long as you keep voting us back into office, we'll never die."
The hero tries to lead a voter revolution to get them out of office, but fails miserably.
"We vote straight ticket," the zombie voters eerily cry as one, "because the vampires give us more."
"Don't you understand?" the hero was desperate. "They have to take from you before they can give to you."
But it was no use. The zombies wouldn't listen.
"More free cheese!" they chanted. "More free cheese!"
Finally, the hero succumbs to the vampires... and votes himself a big, fat pay raise.
What a great movie. It was filmed in a 3D so realistic you could practically feel Count Barackula's hand reaching down from the screen and into your wallet.
When the movie was over, I left the theater, disappointed that I wasn't able to see the second half of the double feature, Barackenstein.
As I walked away, I thought about our then upcoming presidential election. Mainly, how was I going to vote? Up until then, I had been torn. Confused. I had to wonder, would I continue to vote the same people back into office?
Same people, same problems.
I looked back at the movie theater, hoping for a sign......but it was no longer there.