By Maxine Lapiduss
far back as I can remember I've been afraid of the dark. Once the
sun sets, I'm filled with a gnawing anxiety, which turns to doom
as the hours tick by and the TV airwaves fill with back-to-back
infomercials. I'm 43, but I still can't sleep alone in my own house.
Anything could happen. Some sicko ax murderer could break in and
hack me to bits, or worse, a demon could enter my soul and who'd
be there to save me?
Consequently, I've had sex and forged intimate relationships with
men and women I would NEVER have looked at twice, and worse, often
STAYED in those "What were you thinking?" horrific couplings
WAY longer than I should have. But, hey, what I was thinking was,
"You fuck inappropriate people and do what you have to do to
avoid spiritual possession!"
The sad truth is I wouldn't be in this emotional boat if it weren't
for The Blob.
When I was three and a half, my dad, Saul, took me to see it. What
possessed my very rational dad to think that The Blob was
somehow an appropriate film for an impressionable pre-schooler --
let alone a delicate flower like myself -- to see, I couldn't tell
'ya. I mean, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Winnie The Pooh
For those of you not familiar with the plot, a short synopsis: Upon
finding a meteorite in the woods in the middle of the night, an
old guy (Olin Howlin for you students of the cinema,) does what
any of us would do if we stumbled upon a steaming meteorite from
outer space. He pokes it with a stick. It pops open, revealing a
Cherry Jell-O-like ooze, which attaches itself to the octogenarian's
stick, then climbs up his hand and devours it as he screams
Meanwhile Steve McQueen, who plays this Rebel-Without-a-Causey-high-school-thug-in-a-windbreaker
(even though he had to have been on the wrong side of 30 at the
time), is smooching his well-endowed girlfriend in a parked car.
Steve and his boob-alicious girl engage in some backwards drag racing
with some other juvies and get pestered by the cops to, "Cool
it." The cops split, then Steve hears the old guy's cries.
He sees what's left of the octogenarian's blob-damaged arm and rushes
him to the town Doc. Steve then tries endlessly to warn the town
folk that a monster is lurking in their midst, but they don't believe
him. So it's up to Steve-a-rino, and his drag racing buds, to stop
Meantime, that mean mo' fo' Blob is on the loose swallowing up everything
in sight. It oozes under walls and through cracks and, as it rolls
up the street toward the town movie theatre, I -- a three-and-a-half
year-old child sitting on Saul's lap inside the Manor Theatre in
Pittsburgh, Pa. -- begin to get panicky. The audience members in
the onscreen movie theatre begin to shriek and flee as the Blob
swallows them whole. I see this and, not being able to differentiate
pretend from reality at that point, become completely hysterical,
knowing that any minute that damn Blob is gonna burst through the
double doors, ooze under our seats and devour me, Saul, and half
the Jewish teens in Squirrel Hill. It was exactly 3:12 PM. The end
of my previously trouble-free childhood.
By 3:13, I was screaming bloody murder. By 3:14 Saul could not get
me to stop wailing and realized he'd made a fatal mistake. By 3:25
I was at home on the couch in hysterics and needed to be seriously
sedated. My mother forced a baby aspirin down me. Baby aspirin?
Ha! Barely a blip on my nervous system. When that didn't work, Esther
crowed, "Mackie, drink this up, " and handed me a tumbler
of scotch and milk.
I was sure the Blob was heading up Shady Avenue at this point and
would be rounding our corner any second.
The big guns were called in. Within minutes Dr. Schwartz, my pediatrician
who smelled like a combination of Vicks VapoRub and Sucrets, appeared
at the door. He looked like Dick Tracy. This terrified me more,
and my screams reached a new decibel level as he entered my bedroom.
After that, I was so hoarse and exhausted I had no voice left and
could only make the Edvar Munch "The Scream" puss, followed
by a sputtering cough or choke.
By the time Schwartz wrote out the prescription, I was on suicide
watch. I was seeing the Blob bubble up under the carpet, coming
through the closet doors, seeping through the cracks in the windowpane
and levitating my twin bed. I wouldn't sit on the toilet because
I knew the second I did the Blob would get my cheeks. My mother
had to sit on the seat first, then while I'd go, keep watch with
a flashlight pointed in the bowl. Saul was dispatched to the Pharmacy.
my terror of being alone stems from this incident. Makes sense,
right? But now that I think of it, it could also have to do with
the fact that I was unwanted and my mother had meant to abort me.
And if it hadn't been for her best friend, my Aunt Mae, she would
Esther, my shop-a-holic, passive-aggressive, overly grandiose mother,
loves to recount this story at least four or five times a year and
always with great relish on my day of birth! Preferably in front
of 40 of my closest friends. Odd, this tradition of celebrating
your loving child's birthday by reinforcing the fact that they were
an unwanted and a horrible mistake that kept you from becoming a
thereby implying that they were the root of all that was
evil and all that had fucked up your entire life.
Did I mention "grandiose?"
But God bless Es -- this is how my mother operates. The mixed message,
passive-aggressive thing is her specialty, woven seamlessly throughout
our everyday lives. Take Yom Kipper. We were the only Yids who'd
go to services on the holiest of fast days then IMMEDIATELY head
to Weinstein's for lox and bagels.
"Sin-shmin!" my mother would say. "It's the one day
a year we don't have to wait for a table!"
Es was 42 when she found out she was pregnant. This was back in
the day -- way before it was trendy or status-y to give birth as
you're heading into menopause.
The story goes that when Esther found out she was knocked up, she
franticly called Mae who ran over to console her. Esther wailed,
"I'm too old to have another baby."
But Mae pooh-poohed. "What kind of talk is that? You have one
already -- so now you'll have two. Big deal!"
And with that, Esther swallowed her dream of leaving Pittsburgh
for New York and stardom, resigned herself to her fate, and me to
By the way, the line, "You already have one, so now you'll
have two. Big deal!" is the same line I used 30 years later
to coerce my lover into getting another dog.
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