I became the odd little kid who's in love with monsters. There's one in every neighborhood. My favorite book was The Three Little Pigs because of that wolf peeking from just outside the window of the brick house. I loaded up on books about vampires and werewolves at the school library. The grisly woodcuts of creatures loping through the medieval fields and lunching on peasants would keep me awake all night. In the morning, I'd take the books back, promise myself I would never read them again, and check them back out the very next week.
(Paul Bibeau, Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead)
"Please take your seats everyone, this meeting of Goths Anonymous is about to start," said a frail-looking individual in front of the room. He fidgeted with the lace on his shirt cuffs when no one paid attention to him. "We can't get started until everyone takes a seat," he implored.
"Will you please sit down," I told Zombos. He looked at me with a questioning glance as he pulled out an iPod earbud from one ear. "I said you really need to sit down. The meeting is about to start."
Zombos shut off his iPod. "I really do not know why you dragged me to this so-called meeting. I see nothing wrong with listening to Midnight Syndicate."
"You've been listening to them non-stop." I said. "And even when you aren't listening to them, you're humming Cemetery Gates or Mansion in the Mist ad nauseam. In sum, you're driving me, Zimba, your son, and Chef Machiavelli bonkers. Oh, lord, is that Paul Bibeau?"
Zombos turned around to look. "Why yes, I think it is. He is wearing that same black ensemble he used to prowl the Renfield Country club circuit for his book. My word, how does he manage to walk in those tight pants. I bet his voice has gone up a pitch or two since he put those things on. Paul! Paul! Over here!," waved Zombos.
"No! Don't call him over! I haven't reviewed his book, Sundays With Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead yet. He'll be asking me about it and I won't know what to say," I pleaded, but it was too late. Paul saw Zombos and headed over to us.
"You have not reviewed his book yet? What in Hades are you waiting for, man, it has been over a year," said Zombos, folding his arms. I hate when he folds his arms like that.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I really must ask you to sit down so we can start this meeting," said the frail-looking individual again. He fidgeted with the microphone on the podium. An older man, dressed in a violet shirt emblazoned with a group shot of The Flesh Eaters, and a streak of hot pink running through his white hair, stood up and turned to the room full of black, green, dark red, and blue Gothic magpies. He motioned with his arms for everyone to sit down.
"Hello," said Paul Bibeau, shaking Zombos' hand. Cat-eye eyeliner accentuated his eyes, giving him an almost sinister look. He saw me. "Oh, hi, Zoc, I didn't see you there. How's that review for my book Sundays with Vlad coming along? Any chance of seeing it before Halloween? I mean, this year?"
"Why, yes," I replied. "Actually I'm almost finished with it." His eyes bored into me, accusing me, taunting me.
Zombos cleared his throat. He folded his arms even tighter. I hate when he folds his arms tighter.
"Well, if there is anything I can help with, just let me know. Hey, they put out the donuts! I better grab one before the stampede. Nice seeing you." Paul flew to the table.
"Now what is all this nonsense about you not finishing that review?"
"Well, it's difficult you know. The man's style is wickedly cheeky. And there's so many Sundays to talk about. One minute he's in Transylvania looking for the real Dracula's castle, the next he's in Walmart sizing up our Halloween culture, or walking in a parade dressed as a big garlic bulb, or living La Vida Gothic to find out what moves some of us to wear fangs, or playing games with LARPERs."
"LARP?" asked Zombos.
"Live action role playing," I replied.
"I see. Okay, then, what stands out in your mind? Surely within the wealth of personal experiences he's shared in his book, some of those adventures must--"
"Many of them do. That's the rub. He's very good at walking you through his mind and creating an over the shoulder experience, that it's hard to review just one thing or two, or a few." I said.
"Then pick one first," suggested Zombos
"But which one? They are all--"
"Then, if that's the case, anyone will do, right?"
"Hmmm...good point." I thought for a minute, then said, "Wildwood, New Jersey: Castle Dracula, a closed-down, fire-gutted haunted house amusement in Wildwood, New Jersey, years ago, off the boardwalk. I like dark attractions. They help keep us sane with their absurdity. He writes about the history surrounding the amusement. He makes you smell the piss and salt in the air, and gives you a good sense of how Dracula's historical image has blurred into his pop culture one."
I thought some more. "Paul next journeys into vampires on celluloid, beginning with his marathon viewing of vampire films starting with Kindred: the Embraced. He continues to watch movie after movie, with his morbidly obese cat, Pungo, dozing on the ottoman. He notes that Bram Stoker's Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola is "subtly bad." He also points out an important reason why many horror movies today basically suck, but not in a good way."
And at the end, Dracula changes to a human and heavenly light bathes everything, and he says, "Give me peace," and when Winnona stakes him, all is forgiven. Because we no longer have movies where the bad guys are just bad guys. Now every villain has to have a back-story and a childhood trauma and a need for redemption, like some washed-up heavy-metal rocker talking about his nightmare descent into booze and pills on a Behind the Music show.
"More vampire films flicker the night away, but his assessment of Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, gives homage to a great, but flawed, film, recognizing that its huge success was due in large part to Lugosi's consuming passion for the role of the nocturnal count. Sadly, Universal repaid him by using his iconic portrayal of the finely-tailored vampire about town to their commercial success, leaving Lugosi's son, Bela G. Lugosi, a lawyer, with the impetus to help pass the Celebrities Rights Act, which protects the name, pictures, and other aspects of an actor's persona as a valuable commodity after his death."
"Will those people still standing at the donut table please take your seats. C'mon people, we've got to get this meeting started. What? Yes, yes, I know the coffee is not as strong as you like it, but we've had to switch suppliers due to the budget. Okay, people. The Bloggers Anonymous group is getting concerned we won't finish up in time, so please, everyone, take your seats and we can get started.
"Go on," said Zombos. "What else can you think of?"
"There's so much in the book. His odd honeymoon in Bucharest, the night filled with baying dogs. His sister who scared him with glow-in-the-dark fangs, coming out of a drawer built into the attic wall. God, I'd love to have grown up in that house. Then there's the return to Transylvania, to find the real Dracula Castle, not the tourist stop. He does an hilarious riff on funnel cake, too."
"Funnel cake?" asked Zombos.
"Yes. It promises so much, but after the first bite, you realize the promise is gone. His journalistic style of combining short sentences with long insight, and long sentences with humor is like a jazz ensemble. He's never maudlin, but when he describes the return to Transylvania, you sense a bit of sadness, then consternation, then sadness again. You can't nail down the lid, but it's there all the same. He leaves you wishing you knew a kid like him growing up."
"So if you had to tally it all up?" asked Zombos.
"Reading Paul's book, one sees the thirst that cannot be quenched by blood or a good cup of coffee. He manages to capture all our Halloweens, all of our pop culture thirst for safe passage through the dark moors of our psyches, and our undying hunger for the unusual that brings us together in Gothic catacombs or in the costume-choked aisles of Walmart or Target. Paul is a monsterkid who defiantly looks under the bed late at night with a dim flashlight, who brazenly opens the creaking closet door during a thunderstorm, and who, quite simply, quite unabashedly, revels in the fun of it all. In short, he is one of us."
Thank you for the kind words. I am in debt to Zombos and his patient valet. See you guys at the next meeting! I hope Trent Reznor doesn't show up again. Ugh, that guy is such a downer. Blah, blah I've made leather outfits for my kittens. Yadda, yadda, this PVC makes my butt look fat.
Posted by: Paul Bibeau | September 30, 2008 at 06:32 AM