I Saw the Movie
I watched the movie Along Came Polly, and it was not half as horrible as I anticipated it would be. Yes, it had Ben Stiller and the obligatory blind Ferret. Ferrets were in for a while in the United States, and it seemed that everybody had to have a cute, fuzzy, ferret, until of course they mauled the furniture or the baby, and then it was into the toilet with them, along with last year's gold fish.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was the only real actor of note in this movie and he played the part of Sandy Lyle. Sandy is a former child actor who never grew up. It was good to see Hoffman play the role of the extroverted Lyle, especially when juxtaposed against his role in the much more interesting film Happiness. In Happiness, Hoffman played the overweight everyman loser who lives down the hall from Lara Flynn Boyle. He-of course-lusts after her, and makes the predictable obscene phone calls to her, while unhappily masturbating. She, in true Hollywood fashion, wants to meet him. To her, he sounds like a guy who is a true Iron John. She envisions him taking her quickly, harshly, and with violence. As is the case with all masturbators, once they do meet, he is afraid to touch her. He acts so strangely (who would have guessed that he might be a bit strange) that she ends the encounter prematurely and tells him to leave. He acquiesces to her demands, and leaves, humiliated.
His portrayal of the fat, screwed up, and very unsocialized masturbator brings to mind an acquaintance of mine-namely, one Craig Clarke. Clarke was a skinny, geeky kid at the University of New Brunswick. Majoring in Anthropology as a way of finding his true self, and he was sickened to discover that he should have stuck with botany.
Upon the occasion of visiting Grannie Annie, Clarke was both puzzled and disheartened when he was mistaken for a girl.
"Who's that girl?" Grannie Annie asked behind her spectacles and cataracts. Clarke's long and golden locks of hair may have deceived Annie that day. But it should be noted that she was well into her 80's at that time and not in possession of all that many faculties. You see, Granny was forced to move in with her daughter-in-law, Frances, when it was deemed she was too old not to. It has been said that on many occasions Annie could be heard begging for food from her apartment in the loft. The stories grew as time went on, while Annie became more and more emaciated. Annie was continually soiled, had filthy hair, rat bites, and had nine-inch fingernails. But these tales were always preceded by the story of Annie's son Doug. Doug loved a women who was considered a woman of flooze. Of course in those days any woman who dared speak her mind or in any way went against the grain planted in Nick Nack soil, was considered a whore. So Annie, playing the role of controlling mother, burned the letters of his first true love while Douglas wept. Where is Norman Bates when he is truly needed?
"Why Ma, Why?" Douglas is said to have yelled as the letters burned. He then tipped over a chair and ran out of the house, slamming the door and rattling china. "I hate you," Doug was heard screaming, "I hate you all!"
Six months later, he married Frances Claire. A woman some called crazy as a bag of hammers, but at least she never had a mind to speak of. These are the people who snicker at the stories about how Frances treated Annie in her last and dying years. The justice of the poets, they called it. What really went on in that house only Frances really knows for sure. Annie took her secrets to the grave.
So Clarke goes back to college, with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. And this should have been the end of the Clarke saga. It should have been left as a funny little story you tell over drinks and crepes at the dinner table, but that was not to be.
Six months later, I took a trip to the good old U.S. of A. to visit cousin Eddie. Now Eddie was not old and he was not all that crazy. He had his high school diploma and everything. His eyes were sharp and he was able to obtain a drivers permit without wearing glasses.
"Is that there your wife?" Eddie guffawed as he looked at a picture of me and Clarke holding each other in a warm embrace. And this was what set into motion a serious and life changing set of events. First Clarke got angry; he got very very angry. Then he started studying up on what it takes to be a man. Let me just interject here that there has been talk of a third incident, one that Clarke will never talk about. It happened at the Zeta P.S.I. Delta Kappa fraternity of U.N.B. The facts as they are known speak for themselves. It is known that Clarke was there on Friday night, January 16. It is known that he returned home at six on Saturday morning, January 17-sans hair. I don't mean just his beautiful head of golden locks, but all of his body hair also. It is also known that Clarke did immediately go straight to the shower room. Many in the neighbourhood still speak of hearing the great and mighty sobs that escaped from his bloody and bruised body that morning. His soiled underwear were hung out on the line and he was sent to his sickbed.
So, Clarke's searched all of Fredericton to find out what it takes to be man. He soon realized that one place that was filled with real men was Bob's Big Boy, family restaurant. Many people believe that the reason he chose Big Bob's was because of the Bob's Big Boy Big Bobber contest. It was well known in that town that any paying customer who could eat 16 of their Big Boy Big Bobber chilli dogs in under three hours would get his name placed on a special plaque on the Big Bob wall. No names were on the wall when Clarke decided that his would be the first.
"Only a real man could eat 16 of those things," Clarke was overheard saying on more than one occasion.
Basically your average Big Bob's Big Bobber chilli dog is a 10" hot dog covered with chilli, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, relish, onions, and topped off with ample amounts of guacamole and sour cream. Clarke gets up early and goes straight to Bob's. Without even looking at the menu he asks for three Big Bobber's. Big Bob looked up in surprise at such a request and naturally he asked just who was going to eat these monsters? When Clarke, in his high pitched and stammering voice answered, "jjjust me!" all of Bob's 300 pounds shook with laughter. But seeing it was just eight in the morning and business was slow, he served up the order to the young man.
Clarke had no problem eating the first dog, although he had to drink a whole glass of soda in order to wash it down. It was the second chilli dog that gave him trouble. He was only half way through it when his stomach began to rumble and his bowels began to complain. Soon he found himself in the bathroom, sitting on the porcelain throne, smelling up the place like some grimacing irritable bowel syndrome victim. By the time he got out of the bathroom, it was 10 am. Clarke could not even look at the plate of unfinished dogs nor could he look at Big Bob, who was in the corner snickering and pointing, acting rather childish, Clarke thought. Clarke paid and left, and then began walking, hoping to walk off some dogs before lunch.
He was back at noon, fighting for a table amongst the rough lunch crowd. Bob's catered mainly to the working people of Fredericton. The longshore workers, day labourers, axe handlers and ditch diggers. College boys rarely ventured into Bob's.
It took Clarke a full hour to get the attention of the waiter and the only reason he was allowed to place his order was due to good graces of Mighty Martha. Martha was a woman who was built for power. Some said she got those strong arms, powerful hips, and huge calves by many years of working as a day labourer. Lifting containers weighing eighty pounds, digging ditches for hours, and hauling in heavy nets filled with tuna, all can create a certain amount of muscle. But if you looked closely at Martha you could tell it was much more than that. She had the full and heavy body of a Slovakian peasant. You don't get those cankles by lifting bales of hay, some would comment when out of Martha's earshot. Martha instantly took a liking to Clarke and his golden locks.
"Serve this poor boy up some food," Martha yelled above the din.
Clarke ordered another three dogs. Although Martha was supposed to be moving two hundred containers of pickles before five o'clock she wanted to stay and see this boy handle three of those humongous chilli dog's. Again Clarke was able to eat the first dog without any problem, it was the second dog that slowed him down. But with Martha sitting there watching and Bob over in the corner snickering, he couldn't just up and quit. He went slowly, but even so, his stomach became more and more distended. He did manage to swallow the second dog before his stomach erupted. He spewed used dog over the counter, the floor, and even over Mighty Martha. After jumping up and throwing her chair, Martha came right up to the embarrassed and fearful Clarke.
"Man o Man, you sure are a hoot boy," she laughed as she smacked Clarke on his back. Clarke could only smile in return.
Clarke was stubborn if he was anything, and he came back day after day to Bob's Big Boy and every day he was able to eat more and more dogs. Clarke and Martha talked daily during lunch hour-Martha ever prepared to jump out of the way-and they found they had quite a lot in common. Martha even got Clarke a job down at the docks. Of course she had to do the heavy lifting for him, but he didn't mind this a bit. Martha even talked the boss into keeping Clarke on long enough to get his ten weeks and they both applied at the unemployment office together.
"I can always get you your weeks, my boy, don't worry about that at all," Martha told Clarke one day over chilli dog's. This made Clarke feel good inside, even while his bowels screamed out their displeasure at the daily chilli dog abuse.
Something else made Clarke smile. He had an unexpected benefit from eating daily at Bob's. In the past nine months he had gained over one hundred pounds and most of his hair fell out. Must be something in the guacamole, he surmised. But nobody mistook him for a girl anymore. His pregnant stomach strained his shirt, his four chins wobbled as he talked, and his waist size matched his height. Yes, Clarke was a real man and he didn't have to win that chilli dog contest to prove it.
At the wedding Martha's friends did chortle a bit at Clarke's expense, but nobody mistook anybody for a woman. And this made Clarke smile.
The first movie that Clarke and the Mighty Martha went to see was Along Came Polly. They both gave it three chilli dogs.
Richard Bissell is a part time author and full time health care practitioner who lives and works outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He has three children who are all the same age but are not triplets. For more information about his unique lifestyle please visit him at www.bissells.com