Friday, December 9, 2011

Jimbo's 2011 Christmas Special!

A Very Special Holiday Episode...


Every now and then, you just have to look at yourself, and what you’re doing with your free time, and ask yourself some deep questions about where exactly you are in life.

For example, the night before final exams, do you find yourself a.) studying, as any rational human being would be, or b.) driving 200 miles round trip to see a dude dressed up like a tooth skate down a hundred feet of pavement?

The answer, I believe, is self-evident. I’ve taken about 60 final exams over the last four years, but when’s the next time I’ll get a chance to visit Alexander City, Alabama in this lifetime? And because I have no one in my life willing to censure me and my asinine, cockamamie ideas, I think it’s pretty apparent which one won out in this argument.

I suppose the first question one would ask me is why exactly I felt the need to visit an obscure, backwater Alabama town this time of year. Well, the stated answer is because I wanted to witness their annual Christmas parade, but the real answer is because of this man. . .

If you don’t know who this guy is, just give up on life altogether. To some, he’s known as George W. Hardy, but to my culture, he is a God among men, a living legend amongst mere mortals. Alike a real-life Batman, he may appear to be just the local dentist, but he actually has a deeper, darker, and twenty bazillion times more awesome secret persona that his neighbors are most likely unaware of. You see, before he became a family dentist, Mr. Hardy was an aspiring actor that, in the early ‘90s, made an appearance in a film that has since become one of the most beloved and cherished cinematic offerings of my generation.

Yes, “Troll 2”, as in “Troll 2,“ The 1990 horror classic directed by the same guy that gave us a movie about Alice Cooper fightingwerewolves in Italy. In the film - a movie so popular amongst my cohorts and peers that it led to a 2009 documentary film about the social phenomenon behind it - Mr. Hardy played the role of a father whose family was being torn internally apart by external conflict, a la “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Ordinary People.”  Of course, in “Troll 2,” that external conflict primarily came in the form of vegetarian hobgoblins in burlap sacks trying to get a family to drink poison milk, but really, we all know it’s a metaphor for the dissolution of the upper middle class home, don’t we?

Due to his stellar performance in the film, Mr. Hardy has garnered a legion of fans the world over. And when you watch a guy deliver a line like this so effortlessly, it’s easy to see why his fan base is so sizeable

All right, so what does all of this have to do with me visiting a Christmas parade in the heart of Alabama again? Well, as mentioned above, Mr. Hardy is now a dentist in Alexander City, and every year, he performs a roller skating stunt during the town’s annual Yuletide gala. Seeing as how such an event would be my best opportunity to meet this mythical icon, I decided why shouldn’t I trek across two time zones just to see him streak down an alley for half a minute?

And so, the adventure was on. I guess there really isn’t too much to say about the Alabama countryside - outside the fact that they have a lot of Jack's Restaurants, which for some reason or another, we Atlanta folks don’t have in our neck of the woods.

Alexander City itself is just about as Rockwellian a town as you can imagine. All of the architecture has this last ‘60s, early ‘70s vibe to it, and two train tracks run parallel and through the little burgh - so yeah, it’s basically one of those Christmas village sets you see at Michaels and Hobby Lobby , only in full scale

The parade itself kicked off a little after 6 p.m., and I waited anxiously for the man among men to make his presence felt. After about a half hour of waiting, he finally showed up, and it was GLORIOUS. 

That right there was worth trekking a hundred miles for, but as respectable multimedia journalist, I just HAD to go a step further. Seeing George Hardy was one thing, but getting the opportunity to interview him? That’s the kind of stuff people win Pulitzer Prizes for. And as Mr. Hardy sped off into the deep, Alabama night, I did what any reasonable adult would. . .I started chasing him.

Glory be, I have seen the light!
Although I never caught up with his truck - which was pretty easily identifiable, since it had a cardboard sign with the word SMILE written on it in neon red lights - by an act of absolute dumb luck, I found myself stationed right outside his dentistry office. There was a pretty large crowd there, which I assumed to be his friends and family. As I watched my generation’s greatest thespian pull up (sans the giant tooth sandwich board he was wearing earlier), I had to fight with all I could muster to keep from running up to him and just hugging him for the gifts he has given us as an artiste. Then, I remembered that thing about “criminal trespassing” from my Media Law course earlier this year, and decided that, maybe, it wasn’t the best idea in the world to just run up to a B-movie hero - on his own private property, no less - with a flashy black thing in my hand. As Mr. Hardy walked into his office, my heart sank - this Christmas, there would apparently be no joy in the Nilbog of my soul.

Admittedly, it was a pretty lugubrious ride home. Two hundred miles and six hours of my life gone, all for thirty three seconds of high definition video footage. As a mild downpour fell from the Alabama sky - which I swear, is about twice as dark as any Georgia night I’ve ever seen - I wondered exactly where I was headed in life. I mean, really, where?

Well, as soon as I said that, the cosmos threw me an answer - in the form of an escaped cow that pretty much totaled my vehicle.

At first, I thought I had ran over a chupacabra or something. By the time the windshield exploded in my face - thanks a lot, nonfunctioning Toyota airbags - I thought that maybe I had just bagged my first Sasquatch of the season.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever collided with a barnyard animal that weighs upwards of 400 pounds before, but let me tell you this - it will royally eff up your car. The passenger tire exploded on impact, and the engine was basically turned into an Erector set. And there I was, a pro-choice, pro-gun-control, non-SEC football fan, stuck in the wet, frigid netherworld of Cleburne County, Ala. This, in a word, sucked.

After a few moments of inspection, the owner of the cow came out to greet me. After exchanging pleasantries (oddly enough, I’m not really sure how to start off a conversation about a sedan colliding with a bull), the owner decided that he needed to put his cow “out of misery” - which entailed him grabbing a rifle and sending the KO’d bovine to that Great Pasture in the Sky. Well, that, or expediting the process of his reincarnation as a hamburger, anyway.

So there I was, a good 80 miles away from an NFL city, waiting for the state troopers to show up, while a guy with a thick accent, holding a loaded shotgun with cattle brains on his loafers, offered to give me refuge from the rainstorm in his farmhouse. Seeing as how that was the basic premise of about eight thousand bad horror movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s, I took my chances with the wilderness.

I ended up waiting about an hour in the back of a squad van for a wrecker to show up. At first, all I could think about was the insane irony that if the cow had leaned its head one way, I, one of those shameless vegetarian people, would’ve likely been gored by a high-speed steak. “Nobody’s ever had the car destroyed by a wayfaring cabbage,” I thought aloud. And then, something downright Wonder Years-ish happened: it dawned on me that, holy cow, I really COULD have been killed right then.

I crane my neck, and realize that, much more importantly, the person I was riding with could have been hurt, too. As crappy as the scenario was, we were both safe, and really, that was the only thing that mattered.

It’s kind of funny how you don’t have the really good epiphanies until it’s late at night, you’re mildly scraped up by shards of Plexiglas, and you’re eating a pepperoni pizza (hey, I was so pissed off at the animal kingdom in general that eve that I would have eaten a bald eagle if it was offered to me) at a convenience store at the Alabama/Georgia state line. Or, uh, maybe just that first part, I guess.

That Mountain Dew Game Fuel beverage I had shortly thereafter was one of the most delectable liquids I’ve ever had trickle down my throat. The gleam of the second “H” on the closed Huddle House next door shined like the halo of Gabriel, while the sweet, sweet sound of a nacho cheese machine hummed with the velvety richness of Roy Orbison. I wasn’t just thankful, I was downright appreciative of everything that was around me - the myriad Mountain Dew offerings, the 24 hour diners that dot the landscape, even the fact that Gary Bettman can just realign the NHL however he wishes - all of it was downright marvelous, because I knew just how easily all of it could have been taken away from me.

Forget all of that Santa and Jesus stuff, to me, that’s what Christmas is really supposed to be about - appreciation of what you’ve got. That’s not the same thing as being thankful, mind you, because being thankful is just the acknowledgement that things in your life could be suckier than they are now. Appreciation - the true reason for the season, if you ask me - is about truly cherishing and embracing the people, things and ideas that you really care about, and the people, things and ideas that really care about you.

That evening, I learned a valuable holiday lesson, one that none of us ought to forget: you have to appreciate what you’ve got, because you’ve got a lot more to appreciate than you think.

And don’t even think about pissing on that, because I won’t allow it, either.



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