I post the link only to prove my point.
I got the first one of these (look at the pic of this room) ages ago it seems like, and since then, people have been forwarding these fuckers around like the goddamn frogblender when joecartoon first hit the scene. Now c'mon, I understand it being amusing the first time. I cracked a grin. But this link I got forwarded from a coworker who has now emailed me three separate instantiations of the same gag.
When I was a kid, I (or we, as you will come to understand) tried the classic trick or treat ploy. I was responsible for lawn care at my house, so I collected two weeks worth of dog poop in a large paper bag, set said bag on the neighborhood ogre's front porch...
The neighborhood ogre. Guess I should offer some insight. Physically, most people would probably nominate my dad for that title. My dad was a nice guy to other kids though, offering to help, never really minding an extra mouth or two at the dinner table, generally friendly (except for the time that a kid down the street from his place threw a rock at his windshield, and that kid has never done that again, I grantee). Not ogre material in any way but size and shape. The true neighborhood ogre was, in fact, a retired county sanitations worker who lived about three blocks from where I grew up. He lived for his garden, which was in the front of his front yard, right by the street. I once made the mistake of picking up a broken piece of bamboo from a pile of sticks in front of this garden (I missed the fact that the ogre was tying up tomato plants within the green rows of his personal Amazon) the summer before the Halloween which sprouted this tale. I held it up admiringly, like an astronaut holding up an alien plant stalk he had seen pictures of before his mission, but had never come in firsthand contact with. I had read about bamboo, seen forests of it on TV, even seen it grown as a cane break in the Bronx Zoo, but I had never held a piece in my hand. It was neat, it was rare, and it pissed off the ogre.
The man must have stood up from his tying, and seen some kid holding a stick from his pile; raiding his personal horde of tomato stakes. He let out the cliché roar of "Hey you! Kid!" as he fetched up a nearby rake, and actually jumped over the outer fence of the garden to confront me, rake in hand. Everyone who has a garden seems to put a fence around it, and this one was about three and a half feet tall. Not a high jump for someone in good shape. I have not lived a long life, but I have had a lot of experiences... I have _never_ at any other time seen a 60+ man vault a fence with a rake. He was a scary mass of frown, wrinkle, and old trash-carrying muscle. He smelled like manure, and oozed sweat and dirt through the ill-used wife beater he wore with a bedraggled pair of county-issued workpants (how many he must have accumulated in his years of service never dawned on me until just now, writing all this down). His boots were old clodhoppers, caked with muddy earth, and more of the manure which patterned the wife beater. His vault-to-menace maneuver must have taken a second or two, but to my young mind, it was like an eternity... all these details remain locked away like little shards of glass... I never really see the whole image again until I put them all together with the lead sodder, and I always end up with a new perspective on the whole stained glass piece when I'm done.
At any rate, between the visual, audio, and olfactory onslaught the ogre-with-rake provided, and my innate fear of being caught doing anything wrong (and thus facing the ultimate disciplinarian, in the form of the man most-likely-to-be-nominated-ogre-based-o
If I had stopped running, he probably would have swatted me with the rake... He looked that furious in the split second when I was turning to build momentum... I saw the dangerous gleam in his eyes as the anger curtains dropped over his irises, and cast their shade over the rest of his face. You must understand, I was a pretty round lil kid. I had a weight problem in serious proportions from the time I was five until well into my teens. I'm surprised he didn't stop chasing me to laugh at the rolly polly bundle of pudge packed into too tight sweatpants, and a tight tee-shirt, running for his life down a tree-banked street. I had nowhere to run but down the pavement, to the crossroads of the next block, where I could lose him by dipping into the woods at a bike path. Grownups, for whatever reason distain the woods, I never once had one follow me in. I have made a conscious effort to fight this stereotype as I got older, but I have found that now tall, and far less energetic, that the woods hold far less promise than they once did. Its not that I don't like them, I just don't love them as I once did. I imagine in a decade, I'll avoid them out of habit, for the pangs of nostalgia they'll bring to the crust of my memory, dredging gods know what along with them.
The ogre chased me all the way to the crossroads of that next block... I could hear the thomping of his boots over the pounding of my heart. My breath came in sharp gasps when I finally plunged through the tree bank towards the Saw Mill River... and it felt like a puffer fish was trying to bluff its way out of my chest. This was the summer before I started to ride a bike... I had just enough stamina to get up and down the stairs. A two block sprint was far beyond what my body saw as reasonable at that juncture in time.
I still can't believe that bastard chased me. For what? A broken piece of bamboo. He had several others in the pile of sticks (which I guess he was using as plant props). To a kid with a fascination with the orient at the age of nine, this was a treasure find... To him, it was something to keep the tomatoes out of the manure, and, as I said he bloody well had others. It is not like I trespassed into his Eden and stole the fruits of his tree; I was on the street for chrissakes, yet he decided that it was ok to chase a kid with a rake for picking a neat looking stick up off the ground.
After evading certain death at the hands of a winded old man with a rake, I doubled back over the Saw Mill (which is named a river, but is little more than a stream, or a deep creek at worst). Interesting story about the Saw Mill, it actually saved many a life in the Revolutionary war. The maps that went back to the motherland from British explorers detailed the Saw Mill the same way they detailed the Hudson, a crude squiggle running across a grand stretch of geography, with no real estimation of width, or depth. The British, seeing this as a potential major artery, similar to the Hudson as far as controlling the inland areas of their upstart colonies, sent an additional four naval vessels, and a team of engineers to establish a naval base at the top of the Saw Mill, rather than an extra few boatfuls of redcoats or mercenaries. Needless to say, this was a fruitless endeavor, but by the time the news traveled back and fourth to the motherland, and the person who made the mistake was court martialed, the war was nearly over.
Where was I? Ah, yes, the Saw Mill... after braving its rushing trickle and puddlesome depths, I went off to tell my two friends on my street about my exploits. As I shared the tale with them, a look of understanding lit in their eyes. Pete and Sean both had stories about the old man. He hated kids apparently, and would chase off any who came near his little patch of green. He had caught Sean once, who had actually had the balls to attempt to snatch a length of rope for a fort building endeavor the ogre had kept wrapped around one of the inner posts to the entrance to Eden. He confirmed my then-fresh suspicions of double damnation, for apparently the man had beaten Sean with a broom handle, then held him until his mother came to pick him up, and then his mother had redoubled the bruising effort. Times were so different then; and when I think of how much easier I had it than my father did, or his father's father for that matter, it brings to frightening clarity the little statistic I heard about my generation being the first which had a majority which made it to adulthood sans broken bones...
Anyway, Sean, Pete and myself traded war stories for almost an hour in the grassy backyard of Pete's parents house. Sean and Pete (both being local school kids, with far more friends than I would even number before I was 16) told tales of other peoples run ins and exploits concerning the ogre. Somewhere deep in the unseeded manure rich furrows of my brain that day, was planted the root of a revenge which will live in my memory, and the memory of two other people (both of whom have confided that fact to me) forever.
So, Lawn care, dogpoop, paper bag. We've all heard about this prank, but how many of you out there have actually done it? I had a plan by the time October rolled around, and Pete and Sean actually agreed to ditch their crew of friends for the evening (an unprecedented event, since packs smaller than 10 were generally beset upon by mobs of pixie-stick crazed, shaving cream armed kids, who beat and robbed you mercilessly of you evening's booty, then left you for dead covered in facial foam) to try for this plan, which I concocted.
Costume planning was crucial. I saved up for a ninja outfit (which would actually fit me), and bought one for Pete as well (to get him in on my scheme). Sean went as a ghost. Not very original you think? Well, my mother was a crazed lunatic about safety on Halloween. age 9 was the first year I flew solo, and she practically wanted to wrap me from head to toe in reflective tape, and carry a lantern. Needless to say, if I was going to be a ninja, it was going to be a fluorescent orange one. Instead, I played a double-back. I had my mother buy me a rather obnoxious pirate outfit, complete with booty bag. In that, I ended up stashing my implements of destruction. I only had a half-hour between check-ins (a fact which was not sprung on me until I was practically walking out the door in full yo-ho gear) which greatly increased the pressure of my plans.
I worked my way quickly to Pete's, the sun having barely set, and the deep of twilight having just set in. He suited up, and together we collected candy as Sean held us up late. I decided, given recent time restrictions, to float towards my parent's house, putting us in line with their rendezvous, and keeping my pirate gear in appearance. After hitting my parents place (and accumulating a nice mass of candy, barely avoiding my mother plastering Pete's black ninja suit in reflective tape) we then dashed back towards Pete's house, where Sean was waiting for us. Sean had obtained the crucial part of the variation of the evening's ploy... a large bundle of firecrackers, and a butane lighter (which was unheard of technology to a bunch of kids who had single digits for ages, and had to sneak matches from the house). He stole them from his older brother, who over the years proved to be an invaluable well of information and larcenous goods, especially as his pot habit grew worse, complimented by his beer habit, and his leaving his room unattended passed out downstairs habit (Scott, why you never locked your footlocker is beyond me, but I thank you, from the depths of my sub-cockles region). While I gasped like a one-lunged coal miner, changing into my ninja outfit, Sean prepared his "costume", which was, in fact, little more than several white plastic garbage bags masking taped together, and a specially made paper bag mask-coated in carefully stapled white garbage bag seal. The engineering marvels kids can accomplish with plastic, paint, tape, and flame should never be underestimated by an adult at any time. My children (should they ever come to exist) will be raised in a wood-button Velcro world, for they may someday learn to make tools fashioned from sharpened zipper teeth, if I were to provide them with the materials.
The ogre, as we all knew, would be defending his property with the hose that evening. It was common knowledge, even among the parents to avoid his corner manse (there really were no other houses near his stakeout at the driveway entrance to his property, which is why I think the parents tolerated his gleeful soaking of children) that he would wait in the shadows of the huge elms on his end of the street, and woes be to any below 5' who dared venture towards his lit door looking for treats. The man was all about tricks... cold, watery, high velocity, ruin your costume and the rest of your night tricks.
Armed with our implements of destruction, Pete and I crept along the elm-trench along the darkened side of the road, while Sean walked right down the middle of the street. The ogre's house was dark. There was a streetlight across the street from it, which did little to illuminate the multiple layers of shadow and gloom that the heavy foliage created. Sean looked like a grain of rice on the surface of a freshly tarred roof, as Pete and I crept along in our nijaesque fashion (sorry to all the true ninja out there).
The ogre, as I mentioned, was rather reputable in both his dislike of, and methods of dealing with trick or treaters. For that reason, I imagine it had been several years since he heard what Sean hollered out in a singsong voice as he b-lined towards the bottom of the driveway:
"Triiiiiiick or treeeeeat!"
The response, as expected, was rapid and furious. The ogre popped out of the gloom, wordlessly, and hit Sean with a heavy jet of water so cold, he later claimed it blasted the breath from him. However, our engineering marvel held up to the abuse, and through a miracle of fate, Sean managed to keep his feed, despite being pushed back a step or two. He began to madly jeer and gyrate beneath the deluge of hose water. Pete and I made a break for the porch.
Kids don't generally curse loudly enough when there are adults around to be heard. Occasionally one will slip up, and the situation is sometimes drastically corrected. As Pete and I stole across a darkened section of driveway, and then across a midnight patch of lawn, the stream of profanities issuing from Sean's mouth as he was shot again and again with jets of water from the ogres hose seemed almost physical. I imagined them in my minds eye, as we snuck up the stairs, taking on Phantasmal from, much like the wights and specters of Fantasia's "Night non Lonely Mountain". The ogre must have a greed, for as I turned to deposit the payload, I saw him fumbling with the hose (which was wrapped about one of his garden stakes) attempting to get a better angle to blast Sean, who was parading around in a strut which would have made Pee Wee Herman proud. He was like an albino matador, enraging his prey to a fury, only to take advantage of the inevitable mistake.
My part of the delivery completed, I stood spellbound as the ogre slipped in the puddle of mud he had created with his own hose, and fell to the ground, dropping the hose, and grunting loudly enough to be heard over Sean's obscene jeering. I had heard cursing before; I had HBO, and my father made Eddie Murphy's RAW seem tame at times, but Sean was like a bezerk schop... plucking curse-kennings from his quiver, and shooting them directly into the ass of the now, prone ogre. As the ogre started to rise, I heard Pete pound down the few steps behind me, and perform the act that probably saved Sean's life. Given the quivering anger I saw in the dimly lit form of the ogre as he found his feet, I truly believe he would have probably killed Sean, given the opportunity, if he caught him. Pete yelling "TRICK OR TREAT" at the top of his lungs as he dashed down the driveway, however, caused the bull to turn. I must have been standing in the right place, because the ogre never even saw me. Perhaps it was the cherry pumpkin glow of the flaming bag behind me, causing his eyes to dilate incorrectly that kept me out of view in my silly ninja outfit. All I remember is that when he bent down for his hose, I went after Pete like a shot, heading towards Sean, who had regrouped at the bottom of the driveway.
The ogre, after shouting "Fuck so loudly it echoed off the nearby stand of trees across the street, grabbed his hose and started running towards the door, at the same time bellowing at the top of his lungs "ISABELLA! CALL THE FUCKING COPS!!!" The double bagged deposit of dogshit, now really burning well, began throwing off a thick plume of smoke which threw a shadow across the suddenly well illuminated porch of the ogre. Apparently, the living room was right near the front door, and Isabella, who none of us even knew existed, much less had seen in person, was sitting in the dark waiting for the return of her husband. Perhaps she played some sort of psychological support role, maybe she liked to watch her husbands work, I don't honestly know, or want to...whatever the case, she decided to investigate her husbands hollering.
Isabella stepped opened the front door, and stood there like a silhouette from "Close Encounters". I guess she was unsure of what to make of the large flaming object a few feet from her floral-woven "Welcome" mat". The ogre, now done bellowing, took on a Yul Brenner western pose, and raised both arms and started drenching like a Ghostbuster throws a proton pack.
Pete, Sean and I had talked this plan over very carefully, It was Sean actually, who brought up the possibility of the hose coming to play. It was I who came up with the idea, doing some library research on waterproof fire sources. One part shoe polish, One part Crisco, one part kerosene. Applied liberally to a paper bag full of dog poop, then re-bagged so as not to spread homemade napalm over everything, and to slow down the burn a little. Either way what happened next is the ultimate series of good luck events I could possibly ever hope for in a long life of planning in an uncaring world where Murphy rules the day. The ogre, still on the backyard level, was actually pushing the bag towards his wife more than putting the fire out with the water. The water, reacting with my home-made burning gel, began to spread the fire onto the doormat and porch floor. Isabella, standing there in a bathrobe, began to gag as the path of the shit-smoke swung in her direction, perhaps as part of the back draft from the heat escaping from the house... I'll never know. The ogre took the stairs to the porch, still applying pressure with the hose, two at a time, and was practically right on top of it, fire nearly out, when the firecrackers went off.
Now, you may ask yourself how much your average nine year old knows about ballistics, fire, gunpowder, and arson. If they were exposed to fireworks at an early age, grew up in a hunting household, and read as many books as I did, put them away. I knew my dad would never miss a shotgun shell from his arsenal in his cabinet. The guns were always secured away from us, but there was too much ammo to do the same... besides what good is ammo without a gun? To a kid with an imagination, a scrounged junkyard vice, and a hammer and nail, its a do-it-yourself shooting range. Obviously shotgun shells were not suited for this purpose, but 9mm rounds make nice holes in things when you get the technique down just right (some people ask me why I assume I am going to die young, I assume its just because I burned up all my luck before I was 17). At any rate, butchers twine soaked in candle wax, then gunpowder from filched shotgun shells make excellent flash fire wicks, especially when coated with homemade napalm.
NASA would have spent 400 million dollars, used a staff of seventy, and sixteen test runs trying to pull off what we three kids did with dumb luck and a little sneak. When I consider it now, the odds of this prank working again are pretty damn slim, shit, the fact that it worked at all is why I'm writing all this down...
At any rate, a torrent of waterlogged shit, wet paper bag, bag ash, shoepolish-criscko-kerosene began to firecracker stucco the ogre, the ogre's wife, the porch, the walls, the door, and I think perhaps a little of the hallway beyond Isabella (an item hotly debated over the months to come). Then, as a cherry on top of a nuclear Sundae, Isabella let go of her mouth, and proceeded to projectile vomit all over her husband, now half crouched over, clutching his knees, trying not to yak himself. I don't know if he succeeded or not. The entire prank, start to finish, could not have possibly taken more than a minute. Sean stood there dripping from his bag-ghost costume, and Pete and I in our ninja outfits, spellbound by its unraveling once we set the ball in motion. At the first whuphing gag of Isabella however, the spell was shattered, and terror o'ertook our morbid curiosity. We ran. I ran faster and harder than I can ever remember running in my life. We made it to Pete's house, then all collapsed in breathless laughter. We could not move for almost 10 minutes we laughed so hard. To date, it is the closest I have ever come to wetting myself laughing.
We never spoke of it again, to anyone, until a year ago, when i found out the ogre went to a home, after Isabella had passed away. I happened to run into Pete at the grocery store, random happenstance. His mom still kept in touch with the neighborhood gossip circles, and actually had mentioned it out of hand when Pete had spoken to her most recently. He figured noone would care anymore. I guess I still do.
I thought of this all shortly after deleting the email which forwarded the link above in anger, trying to hold my tongue against someone who shares the same office space as I.
See, what we did was an original take on an old idea. Flaming bags of shit had been around since as long as paper bags, I imagine. We were not just trying to repackage an old product and claim credit for it. Five years after the ogre night, I worked as a camp counselor in the same lil town I grew up in, and heard a very inaccurate firsthand account of how the whole incident went down from one of my coworkers (who was the same age as I). He didn't even live on my side of town, yet he claimed credit as being a part of it, being there, for coming up with the idea of putting an M-80 in the bag, to try and blow hole in the ogre's porch. His retelling made me sick rather than proud. I didn't care that Pete, Sean and I had become some sort of small-town urban legend... I hated that he was claiming credit for what I saw, even then, as a pretty good innovation. This was an inspiration worthy of Data (a la Goonies), Inspector Gadget, or perhpas even that guy who invented stuff for 007, not some cheap tiwanese toy to pawn off on kids for 1/100ths the cost of the real deal.
Which brings me back to these lameass scare-scream forwards. The first one was a great idea. A totally different take on the classic "boo" scare. Every other dumb motherfucker that followed in that line (many pilfering the embedded flash sound of the woman screaming, or the zombiesque face which flashes suddenly) is not proving anything but their ability to replicate. They are the product of a generation of cartoon-movies, sitcom movies, classic re-releases, classic remakes, and the endless sequels. Innovation makes for new ideas, replication with a different delivery method does not. It stagnates the mind, and kills off creativity, as surely as the autumn frost that October of the ogre killed off all his late leeks and basil.
Fucking cut the bullshit people. Either pass on the original, or come up with your own fucking ideas and innovations, don't gut the soul out of a good gimmick, throw it in a new clay shell, and call it your own.
Somewhere between the nostalgia and the nauseousness at pop culture, my point was muddied... I apologize for that, but what else is new? I guess the point is, be nice to kids, they know more than you think they do; and keep going back to the woods, so you never loose that part of yourself that knew, when you were treated like shit on the assumption that you couldn't know anything.