Saturday, March 19, 2011

1/6th Sized Sidekick in a Bear Suit

Days Remaining to Next Beer: 361

And so maybe now is a good time to explain my mascot, my 12 inch proxy, my one sixth scale surrogate that appears in so many pictures like a stunt double or some sick toy boy obsession manifest.

See, eons ago when I was somewhere between ninth and tenth grade I began to spend unnatural amounts of time with a latch-key cat called Steve whom I remain respectfully pals with to the day today. Dude’s father worked here and there jet setting for the fashion world representing the interests of Ocean Pacific to and for the hungry, surf savvy or suds savant masses, all the more importantly at lease all retailers peddling to same.

Steve somehow craftily wrangled a deal with his pops to get a parental approval authorization signature on file at a local video store back when video stores were something or a new and privileged occurrence, meaning Betamax still had a presence in the home video market, and Blockbuster’s sanitizing of all mature matter manifesto hadn’t happened yet, Lloyd Kaufman still had his safe haven intact. This meant we had cart blanche powers of rental in that video shop, anything shy of the porn section, back when most shops had them. Blood Sucking Freaks? No problem, though we were wholly and utterly unprepared for that majestic beast of expositionist grind house bliss. Midget and a guillotine, really? OMG...

Blood Sucking Freaks was a film we shouldn’t have seen until we were old enough to have a contemplative smoke after, which despite being in Kentucky, we weren’t smoking yet. I didn’t smoke even though my folks did, and despite many years earlier having worked helping to shuck and sort tobacco leaves from their stalks for pocket change to buy Whacky Packages sticker trading cards from Topps, braving the stinging caterpillars feasting on the undersides of the leaves since all the gloves were too big for my 10 year old hands, enjoying the strange tingly sensations I left with from the sticky tar the undersides of the leaves left on my fingers.

We were tight like bros, and many as in almost every Friday night we’d convene at his den of debauchery to watch a stack of rented videos while consuming 30 minutes or it’s free fresh Domino's pepperoni pizza so molten the grease spatter of the red disks of meaty hate would scald a layer of skin off the roof of our eager, willing mouths.

And the night of rude awakening, of level up was the night we watched Friday the 13th installments 1 through 4. Yes, we sealed the deal with Corey Feldman’s installment. While most of the violence was so out of our context (we hadn’t seen the midget in Blood Sucking Freaks yet) the irony or comedy or context of it went largely over our heads, and as I was considerably less world-savvy than my compatriot, I lay awake on my pal’s guest cot wondering if this Jason guy was a vigilante for puritanical beliefs, of which I’d been well indoctrinated through Catholic School and Washington College Academy. Or was he just pissed off about having to resort to violence all the time after failing to fit in socially or develop any degree of public persona. He wasn’t scoring with the girls, his appearance didn’t garner affection, and his station in life had left to acts of gross neglect. Woefully unpopular, knowing only his mother’s love, he was drowning for attention, quite literally, and emerged like Chuck Norris from Crystal Lake after years of missing in action to wreak mass havoc among campers and councilors alike. And this made more sense to me, I empathized, an ugly duckling no one bothered to care about or understand or invite out for reindeer games. Subsequently a ticking time bomb even the kid in the wheel chair couldn’t escape.

And when I woke up that night after ingesting four installments of the highly profitable series, roof of my mouth blistered and peeling from lava meat pizza, bladder full to bursting from complimentary pop, and found Jason standing at the end of the guest cot regarding me evenly, cocking his head to one side as though waiting to see if I were afraid or on board, his eyes at most the glints of Tinkerbelle farts inside the duplicity of the abysmal eye-sockets of his vintage hockey mask.

Perhaps I connected all the more to Jason because of a short story in an issue of Heavy Metal I’d procured from a Walden Books employee that didn’t give rat’s ass about age restrictions in the mall, a short story about a James Dean clone becoming suicidal after running afoul of pink uniformed Nazi cops with vintage hockey masks I decided were fun to draw with zero understanding of the steam trunk’s worth of cultural baggage the story set sail with. Perhaps those same pink uniforms were my gateway socialization to adoring most incarnations of Project Runway. Who knows?

A couple weeks later my friend and I took advantage of the rare Kentucky snow day and trudged through knee deep snow to sneak into a showing of Nightmare on Elm Street, opening day for the film and birth of a whole new horror franchise. Friday the 13th faded into memory as new monstrosities snatched and grabbed and clawed at our imaginations, yet the iconography, and that empathy, that feeling of a bond with a monster that could have been a gentle giant if given half a chance, that feeling never went away.

Years later, a toy man through and through, I procured one of Sideshow’s 1/6th scale replicas of Jason from one of the later installments of the series. The mask is spot on, the costume a bit spattered but largely nondescript. The dolls armature had been somewhat articulated for posing; though strangely not his burly neck, which meant he always had this sort of head cock that seemed like someone had just called his name while he hustled down the street running late for a meeting, and who doesn’t enjoy having their name called while they charge headlong through a crowd?

Right around then I received an invitation for a round of golf, a game I passing by barely understand how to play, and without a second thought I brought my 12 inch (technically he’s 13 inches, the extra inch is for the ladies) Jason along. Perhaps unconsciously I viewed him some sort of patron saint for outsiders, for disadvantaged, for a desperate need of comedy to fill the void when actually skill or competence can’t. Dunno.

Do know that I’m glad I also brought a camera, because my little doll that could did hold some great posses and inspire some creative choreography while the big boys played their man’s game and I awaited the beers to bewilder them as much as the ninth hole had bewildered me.

Since then Jason has been a staple of my travel photos, one part gnome, one part bemusement, many parts an excuse to capture people and places and predicaments from a different perspective, that of the diminutive scale, the underdog, the little man easily missed in a crowd, the one behind a mask because he’s afraid of being seen, of being scrutinized, because if he is, no one would like him, or take him seriously, or make room for him, or give him an invitation to all their tomorrow’s parties. The ones he’d have to crash to attend.

Like a Mélanie Pain song wilting through an afternoon soul, lilting against a heaven of promise when no one is looking, I have slowly accumulated a veritable army of 1/6th scale emissaries and actors for my outward expression, on line and on the desk at work, 8 inch as well like the Toy Biz Falcon that’s a humble replacement for the Mego one I horribly managed to leave behind safely tucked into the seats on a public bus in Florida when I didn’t understand the bus that would take us home after we’d seen Wizards would be a different bus, and that I would never see my Falcon figure again, the one I had second-hand from the family my Mom house cleaned for. A strange acceptance of charity when my Mom also worked in a diner and was too wonderfully proud to let me have the fire truck her colleague waitresses wanted to give me for some reason I can't recall.

I do remember my Mom's friend in Florida. He was a kindly guy that worked for an oil company and got to the grocery store by boat and recommended peanuts that were boiled and you had to eat fast or they’d blow out of the bottom of the paper sack you held clutched close to chest. The details of their relationship remains fuzzy to me, however I vividly recall the two of them talking to all the bus drivers in the queue outside the mall where the theater was, trying to console this crying child, a dozen of more grown men scouring their chariots trying to find this toy that all of them probably thought odd once they’d heard it described, what is a little white boy doing crying over a black superhero toy? Men that’d probably watched hoses turned on MLK supporters on the television, maybe they saw the future, black and white, playing together. I have a fucking dream.

After sensing something therapeutic about snapping pix while traveling with 12 inch Jason, I began to worry that I needed to detach the character from his origins while preserving what I empathized with. I don’t like Jason as a homicidal maniac, or as a mentally challenged mama’s boy, though that might resonate a little if I were incidentally in a bitter mood. I needed to add some absurdity and reclaim my incarnation of Jason as something else, something unique, something loaded with a potential for destruction that’s chosen instead to shrug things off and instead enjoy what life has to offer. I trolled EBay for a spell and arrived upon a dealer representing a group out of Hong Kong making custom heads and outfits for 1/6th scale figures. And moments later I’d dropped dime for a costume teddy bear suit, and a cow suit replete with udders. Sadly the dealer never delivered the cow suit, but the bear suit has been better traveled around the globe than most members of my extended family.

12 inch bear suit Jason and 8 inch surrogate Falcon and all the rest of the ranks of toys I cart around on occasion and pose pretty for pictures have some emotional connection for me, some vague projected commiseration, admittedly contrived and utterly at my convenience. And sometimes, when no one is available to crop up to have a pint with, amusing diminutive pose-able pals can be enough, catalysts each for whimsical introspective extrapolations.

And now that I have a son, a child to inspire and encourage, I hope he’ll tolerate my plastic pals, my 12 inch titans, my goofy cadre of culprits, because as I’ve discovered tonight, every toy has some story to tell, and when they run out, where they leave off, is where I hope Otis will pick up, fill in, and continue sally forth.


  1. Alluringly colorful writing (love that lava-meat), marvelously funny photos. Can't wait for the next installment!

    At one point, I was reminded of a quirky grammar/style "rule" picked up somewhere along the way: "never use a preposition to end a sentence with..." :) ~ tc

  2. I'll need to look up what a preposition is so I can try to bear that rule in mind, thanks for the tip! :)

  3. Ah, so that's a preposition:

    Yup, I violate that rule all the time. At least not I'll know better and only do so consciously. I'm horrible about using passive voice as well.


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  5. Violating prepositions is part of your charm, my dear!