The Art of Eavesdropping

I keep a notebook on me at all times and I pull it out occasionally to write down whatever genius single sentence I may glean from someone else’s conversation. Strangers, friends, talking to me, not talking to me—doesn’t matter. I don’t add context, just the brilliant phrase. At the end of the year, I pull these together and use them for something. This year, I saw a lot of themes and decided to go with a poem.

Overheard, 2019

by Hope Madden

The porn star was first.

He’s the top Nathan.

He was the lead singer for a Led zeppelin cover band.

Wild rumpus is a great name for a band.

I profoundly love barbershop and always have.

It’s a disco party I can’t turn off.

Flashbacks of mace and urine and GWAR goo

Who bled on the couch?

I have 3 on menstruation.

My favorite book title: Will you please stop masturbating so I can euthanize you?

Hot girls in booty shorts who are covered in blood from feeding rapists to their cars

Extreme cinema means penises and buttholes.

Cat shit and banana peels

I think 1979 would have a banana seat.

You know my feelings on unannounced raisins.

I would egg my own house for that.

The word is out on me: full of beans.

We’d like to send them a biscuit mix.

Isn’t that just a hot donut?

This hot sour cream juice isn’t going to drink itself.

Meatboat is a good word.

Neck Tattoo really loaded me up on meat today.

She has big, meaty feet.

His teeth are not just UK bad. They’re workhouse bad.

Stop saying scabies.

I had ringworm once. I got it from a horse.

If alligators could fly I would never go outside.

Narwhals are fat murder pillows.

This is going to look so nice on my kaiju jacket.

You would make a great puppet.

Are you asking if Inspector Gadget fucked?

Tornado Warning Jim is my favorite. Glad he could show up today.

I’ve gotten mainly out of the habit of hating myself so now when self-loathing hits, it hurts more for lack of practice.

Make better decisions. Make Captain America decisions.

Dark Knights and Double Dates

The Dark Night

by Hope Madden

So many superhero movies right now! They put me in a nostalgic mood for that time, somewhat awkwardly and utterly unintentionally, I was a part of my son’s first double date.

I review movies, and Riley always enjoyed seeing the new blockbusters before his friends got to, which is why I knew without asking that he would go with me to screen The Dark Knight.

As I left for work the morning of the screening, I was under the impression that Riley and his buddy Nate, as well as my husband George, would join me at the Rave movie theater in Polaris at 6:30 for the screening. Halfway through the day, though, George decided he couldn’t back out of a softball game, so he’d have Nate’s parents drop the boys off.

But later I learned that I was going to become the fifth wheel of a double date.

This was a first.

It’s not as if things always have gone well when Riley and Nate saw movies with me. Years ago, at the Christmas with the Kranks screening, I left to hit the concession stand, only to return to find that the boys had given away my seat.

At another screening, maybe the second X-Men movie, Nate, Riley and I sat in the old Arena Grand Movie Theatre and tried to answer all the trivia questions during the pre-show entertainment. Because the boys were about 9 years old, I was kicking their butts.

Then came a question about which X-rated films had been nominated for Oscars. I mentioned Last Tango in Paris and Nate asked me about the film.

Ahem.

“Well,” I said, “it’s about a lonely older widower who develops a relationship with a much younger woman.”

I thought I heard Nate say, “That sounds like porn.”

“Oh, no,” I told him. “It’s not porn.”

A perplexed Nate responded, “I said it sounds boring.”

Long, awkward pause.

Then he said, “What’s porn?”

“Who wants popcorn, kids?!”

I’ve made other poor decisions when it comes to bringing youngsters with me to the movies. I once took my son’s entire Little League baseball team to the remake of The Bad News Bears. The problem, of course, was that the kids loved it; many have never forgiven me for my scathing review.

But the point is, I was used to hosting Riley and any number of his little friends. On the car ride home, there was usually some debate over how many stars a film should receive, which X-Man would be the best to have on your team (Mystique, duh!), and how much more grating the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants is when you’re subjected to it for 90 straight minutes.

This screening of The Dark Knight, though, would be different.

This time, Riley and Nate brought girls.

Things went well enough. Mainly because of Riley’s one rule: I may never speak to a girl.

I did have to listen, though, and I noted that Nate’s date does not like mashed potatoes. Maybe that’s not a deal breaker, but come on. What kind of sociopath doesn’t like mashed potatoes?

To be honest, given that the boy was 15-years-old at the time, I was lucky he was willing to be seen in public with me at all—caped crusader or no. And by the time the Christmas blockbusters came out that same year, there would be at least one licensed driver in this foursome who could get them to and from the movies without me.

But they were always late, so luckily they still needed me to save their seats.





Trivial Pursuits

by Hope Madden

It has been ten years since George and I packed our bags for a trip to Orlando to try out for VH1’s “World Series of Pop Culture”—a game show where teams battle each other for the title of biggest movie/music/TV trivia nerd.

My husband and I had watched the first season with our then-14-year-old son Riley and sought to impress him with our heady command of all things trivial. He was duly impressed and mounted an all-out campaign to persuade us to audition for season two.

He didn’t have to try too hard. We flattered ourselves that we easily could have trounced any team from season one—something I’m still hard-pressed to disbelieve. The champion missed questions about Caddyshack, Star Wars and Monty Python.

And you call yourself a nerd!

By comparison, between film reviews and George’s radio gig (a job he’s had since high school, by the way), we know movies and music.

But we did have one big weakness: George and I haven’t watched a TV show since The Sopranos went off the air.

It occurred to me that my friend Martha seems to watch every program on every channel at all times. I proposed the idea to her of joining our team and she nervously accepted.

One problem: my vanity. Martha is stunningly attractive and I realized I didn’t look forward to being the team frump.

Meanwhile, George had asked his friend Dan, who also watches no TV, to join the team. And though Dan’s strengths were basically the same as ours, he’s no prettier than I am. Excellent.

So, we kicked Martha to the curb and Shark Sandwich—named after the Spinal Tap album—was born.

Martha, by the way, took it well since she was hoping the audition wouldn’t come to pass anyway.

Because we were especially weak when it came to reality TV, we hatched a strategy. Whenever we were asked about the subject, we would answer “Flavor Flav.” This was 2007, after all, and he was literally the only reality TV star we knew.

I found this strategy so amusing that I considered using it in everyday life.

Officer friendly: Do you know how fast you were driving, ma’am?

Me: Flavor Flav?

In Orlando, hundreds of teams were tested over three days. We’d already passed their online test, which is how we got the Orlando invite. Once there, Shark Sandwich and 39 other squads of wannabes were ushered into a hotel ballroom to take a 50-question exam.

We were given half an hour to complete it, and the top two point-getters would move on to the next round: a face-to-face interview with producers. The other 38 teams would go home and the next 40 teams would move into the ballroom.

My teammates were supremely confident, but I was nervous about the test. I signed a contract, so under penalty of law I cannot divulge any questions. Still, if you don’t know that, say, Keanu Reeves’s character in Point Break was Johnny Utah, former quarterback for The Ohio State University, go ahead and head home.

Shark Sandwich missed a total of three questions, making us one of the two teams to be invited to sit with the ridiculously young VH1 producers.

Again my teammates were supremely confident, and they probably should have been: They’re entertaining. Dan, longtime morning show producer and radio DJ, fronts the Dan Orr Project, a band famous locally for its clever parody songs. During our audition, he sang a bit of “Nights in White Castle” (to the tune of “Nights in White Satin”).

I think the twentysomething producers were amused, and that’s what they were looking for, right?

They wanted teams that would draw interest—love or hate—from an audience. Could the three of us elicit such passion?

Here’s where the beautiful Martha probably would have come in handy.

After our meeting, we were encouraged to wander around the area’s theme parks and wait for a call. If we passed, we’d be one of the eight teams in the local Orlando tournament, with a trip to the big TV tournament in New York on the line for the winning nerds.

We’d had a few cocktails by the time the producers phoned, which makes it all the more surprising that we didn’t unleash a profanity-laced tirade when they rejected us.

No reason was given, so we assumed it was because VH1 felt that America-at-large couldn’t root for a team whose members knew their stuff because of their jobs and not just for the love of trivia.

It was an easier philosophy to accept than many other options—too old, too boring, too drunk.

So we swallowed our pride and watched season two from home. Our main interest was seeing the team that came from our Orlando tryouts: They’re Real and They’re Spectacular. All right, maybe taking a team name from a Seinfeld line was clever, but whether or not they were real, they were far from spectacular.

They didn’t answer a single question correctly. Not one.

They’re Real and They’re Spectacular went out on a question from the TV show “Friends.”

Good lord. Even we knew Ross’s monkey was named Marcel.

Why did they say Flavor Flav?

OK, they didn’t really say that. But I would have respected them more if they had.





Donovan Riley happened…

by Hope Madden

I was not a pleasant pregnant person. There was no legitimate reason for my nastiness—I didn’t have a particularly problematic pregnancy. I wasn’t bed-ridden or diabetic, didn’t have kidney stones or anything. Two of my sisters and a niece-in-law all passed kidney stones while they were pregnant. Fuck! So I had no real reason to complain, but complain I did.

During the time that I was pregnant, I worked at a restaurant in the now-defunct City Center Mall called The Boulevard. There were several servers hired at one point or another during my pregnancy, and once Riley was born and I’d returned to work, one of them—Dawn—said to my friend Tori, “Wow! Motherhood’s had a big impact on Hope. She’s so nice now. She’s a completely different person now that she’s a mom.”

Tori responded: “No, she was a completely different person when she was pregnant. We just got her back.”

My dickishness was fairly legendary at the restaurant. At one point, while I was taking an order from one table, the man at the next table started pestering me.

“Excuse me. Miss! Excuse me! Excuse me!”

I asked my customers to give me just a second, turned my head toward the offending patron and barked.

I’m not saying that metaphorically I barked at a customer. I’m saying that I made a barking noise, loudly and as viciously as I could, toward this man. Who shut right up, by the way.

Why so grumpy? Well, first of all, people touch you when you’re pregnant. The minute they realize you’re pregnant, it’s as if that misanthropic asshole they’ve known all their lives has disappeared and in its place is a polite woman who invites you to put your grubby hands on her belly.

As if!

Also, when you do express your frustrations, they make excuses for you. “It’s just the hormones…”

Hey, buddy, fuck you. Acknowledge and accept my seething anger or risk being pushed down those stairs like that last idiot who underestimated my bloodlust.

Mainly, though, I felt claustrophobic in my own body, like I was trapped inside my ribcage or something. Plus, the smell of anything made me vomit—not just for the first few weeks, but for the entire pregnancy. All 9 ½ months of it.

That’s correct. He was two weeks late. Imagine how pleased I was. I would walk up and down the stairs, jump up and down, curse out neighbors—any of those tried and true methods of encouraging the baby to just come out already.

None of it worked, until March 12. We were facing a very late blizzard and the boy decided it was time.

Not, like, immediately. I was to face hours and hours of lies as George—eating from a basket of candy that, I still feel confident, was meant for me—would join in the doctor’s chorus of, “Just one more push!”

Liars!

Oh, the string of expletives that would follow such deceit. So bad that I won’t repeat them here, and I’ve already said fuck at least twice. That’s how bad.

I will share one anecdote that you don’t want to hear. The head of my bed faced one side of the room and the foot of my bed faced the door.

That, friends, is just bad geography. As the door opened and closed, opened and closed while nurses and technicians came and went, I got—impatient is not the word, but it’s in the area code.

“Do you think we could keep the door closed?” I asked politely in between screams of pain. “It may be just a birth canal to you, but I’d rather not share it with passersby.”

I’d have smacked somebody if I could have, but that’s the other real drawback of pregnancy—immobility.

Anyway, sometime after 11, after George had eaten all the good candies from my basket and Married with Children reruns were on the wall-hanging TV, Donovan Riley joined us.

All giant head and tiny body and furrowed brow, he looked very worried. And he should have been because we were all about to be tossed out in a blizzard since we had no insurance or earthly way of paying for a night’s stay at a hospital.

Or maybe he was worried about the cluelessness that wafted like a fog off his parents.

Oh my God, we were parents.

And maybe we didn’t suck at it because here it is, 25 years later, and he is the very best, bravest, loveliest person we have ever known.

Happy Birthday, baby bunny!





Exchange Students, Potato Chips and those Red Wings Fans!

by Hope Madden
It’s Blue Jacket season, which always makes me a little nostalgic for Brazil. Not that I’ve ever been there, but watching early Jackets’ history through the eyes of our Brazilian exchange student gave the whole experience more energy and excitement.

Edinardo – or Edodido, as my mother-in-law cheerily, loudly called him for no reason I can think of – moved in with us November of 2000, just in time for the Jackets’ inaugural season. He’d never seen a hockey game before, being more of a baseball guy, but he turned out to be a Yankee fan, so we decided to focus on hockey.

Edinardo came to us sort of by accident. My husband George had read his woeful tale in the Tri-Village News. He’d been mistakenly placed with a family planning a move to Peru.

That’s totally outside Grandview City School district.

The service had found another family to host Edinardo in Kentucky, but he’d made friends at Grandview Heights High and hoped to stay.

We’d never tackled the challenges of parenting a teen before. Since then, we’ve not only tackled those challenges, but we’ve actually tackled teens. Knocked them right to the ground.

But back in ’00, our son Riley was about to turn seven, we were still optimistic about the upcoming election, and the whole world seemed gentler.

Plus, we had two unused bedrooms, so we took him in.

We were interviewed, of course, to ensure we were fit to assume responsibility for the boy. The woman from the agency asked us what our policy was toward dating. I told her we weren’t allowed to (bada-bing!). It was all pretty silly, but they let us have him anyway.

There were ups and downs. He more or less refused to speak more than severely fragmented English, which was certainly the down part. He poured full bags of Lays Sour Cream and Onion potato chips on top of every meal I cooked. In his room at night, when he talked for hours on the phone with the friends he missed from back home, he sounded exactly like a roomful of 12-year-old girls.

I don’t know how he did it, but you’d swear we had a Brazilian middle school cheerleading squad stomping around and squealing up there.

He pronounced George with the most gorgeous accent, but called me Rope and referred to Riley as Big Baby, which came out sounding like Pig Baby – a nickname that stuck for a while, actually.

But once it got beyond the “let’s be on a first name or close to it basis” we didn’t really gel as a group until hockey.

Although our first game didn’t go as well as it might have.

We decided at the last minute one night to give hockey a try as a newly-extended family. George was going to meet us at Nationwide Arena, and I planned to scalp four tickets in the meantime. (It’s not illegal; it’s just frowned upon. And in 2000, it was harder than you realize.)

The guy wanted $35 apiece.

“Dude, there’s no way. We’re just looking for cheap seats,” I explained.

“I can give them to you for twenty each,” he countered.

I can see the scene from his point of view: a wholesome enough hockey mom, an apple cheeked 7-year-old attached to one hand, an exchange student eager for new cultural experiences behind. I countered back:

“That would be all the money I have. The boys are going to need a hot dog, at least, once we’re in there.”

“Fifteen bucks.”

“Sold.”

As I dug around for the sixty bucks, Edinardo decided he wanted to treat and pulled out a hundred dollar bill.

Well, it’s not like I wanted to strike up a long term friendship with the scalper.

Plus, it was a good opportunity to explain some of the nuances of American sports culture.

Edinardo loved the game so much that he began going on his own as often as he could. His best day in the US came during a Jackets’ home stand against the hated Red Wings.

The Jackets got behind. A Red Wings fan – a particularly belligerent one I like to imagine wearing a mullett – shouted to Edinardo as his team went ahead, “Hey, loser, why don’t you go home?”

I hate that part of the story. Edinardo, alone in a sea of drunken hockey fans, harassed and intimidated. But his tale improved.

The Blue Jackets went on to an amazing come-from-behind win. The screaming crowd was on its feet. It was the most excitement Edinardo had been part of since coming to our country. Full of team pride, he turned around to the Red Wings fan.

“Now maybe you go home.”

God bless America.





The Pileup

by Hope Madden

Damn, it is cold out. Cold enough for me to be oh so happy I no longer make that commute every day from Grandview to Crosswoods—easily the nastiest drive in Columbus.

In fact, I don’t have to drive anywhere, which means I don’t have to warm up my car, don’t have to scrape off the windshield. Truth be told, I don’t have to shower.

I mean, I do. Often enough.

But I did drive to Crosswoods last week to return a laptop and meet my friends for lunch and it was stupid-cold and it reminded me of that time I totaled my car.

Among the many casualties of the winter of 2011 was my Toyota Matrix. I’m not nearly over the loss.

This was the first new car George and I had ever purchased. It replaced our beloved, if ridiculous, 1993 Ford Festiva.

We got our new driving machine for a song. Columbus had recently fallen victim to another ludicrous weather patch—the great hailstorm of April 20, 2003—and Tansky Toyota had some damaged vehicles to move.

A bit romantic about our first new car purchase, we thought about going with an undimpled-by-hail version, until we remembered that we don’t have a garage. We could very well have paid an extra two grand for a car that would, by morning, have hail damage, depending on the zany Ohio weather. So we embraced the tiny divots.

That’s the voice of reason at work right there.

Dimples or no, the Matrix was a good car. It required almost no maintenance in the seven years we owned it. It got great gas mileage. It was paid off.

And yet, Mother Nature called it home.

Perhaps your morning commute was delayed one day that January because of three accidents on Rt. 315 north near the hospital curve. Mine was similarly delayed, as I was in one of the accidents.

Yes, if you waded through the metal carnage that morning, I was in the gold Matrix on the left berm—the only one of the six cars involved not to make it home on its own four wheels. Awesome.

Lest you mistake the morning’s escapade for a six-car pileup (how exciting!), it actually was three separate accidents within eyeshot of one another. Maybe less exciting, but certainly odd.

My own misadventure was caused by a slowdown of all lanes of traffic, causing me to veer from the center lane into the far left one. That maneuver allowed me the most stopping distance. It seemed like a smart move since the roads didn’t look bad in the slightest.

Yet, when I applied the brakes, my car continued moving forward at the same speed.

I turned the wheel, deciding it made more sense to hit the median than that black pickup ahead of me. But my vehicle still moved in the same direction.

The culprit? Black ice. Aaarrrgh!

I don’t know why, but the phrase “black ice” makes me want to talk like a pirate.

So I did hit that poor guy in the black pickup, which, unfortunately for me, came out victorious in that battle.

Jeff, the awfully nice man whose vehicle I hit, pulled his truck into the berm and then helped me push mine over. Then we wondered what exactly one does at this point. Call AAA? Contact the police? Notify our insurance agents? Surely all, but in which order?

We decided he’d call the police while I phoned AAA. As it turns out, either of us knew how to call the police except by dialing 911, which seemed like an exaggeration of our predicament, but that’s what he did.

Meanwhile, I forgot what my responsibility was so I got ahold of George.

Jeff never got through to the police via their emergency line, but a cruiser showed up nonetheless. The officer asked whether we’d called AAA, which reminded me to call AAA.

Somewhat obviously, it turned out I had a concussion. My poor car, though, suffered unfixable injuries. No amount of anti-inflammatories or ball bearings or whatever fixes cars would help.

Concussed as I was, car shopping took a backseat to trying to understand the words coming out of George’s mouth for a couple of weeks. And then the nasty winter weather goaded us into putting off the task for a few more weeks; we limped along sharing and bumming rides from friends.

And once springlike weather arrived, we claimed an altogether revolutionary idea—one that proves I learned shockingly little from the horrific weather we’d survived.

We bought a motorcycle.

Maybe I’ll blame the concussion. Anyone living in Central Ohio who buys a motorcycle can’t possibly be in their right mind.





So Many Movies Happened

Hey! What did you guys do last year? Did you watch some great TV shows, binge some fabulous whatnot from Netflix? Maybe have a life? Not us! No, sir, we watched 352 movies. And you know what? It was awesome!

Here it is – MaddWolf’s year in movies.

  1. Camera Person
  2. Anomalisa
  3. Sing Street
  4. Weiner
  5. Bright Lights
  6. Live by Night
  7. Gozu
  8. The Autopsy of Jane Doe
  9. Patriot’s Day
  10. Silence
  11. Detour
  12. Trespass Against Us
  13. Split
  14. Don’t Knock Twice
  15. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
  16. Founder
  17. A Dog’s Purpose
  18. Soul Survivors
  19. Comedian
  20. Resident Evil: Extinction
  21. Reckoning
  22. The Abominable Dr. Phibes
  23. Salesman
  24. Neruda
  25. Saving Banksy
  26. Rings
  27. The Space Between Us
  28. Hidden Figures
  29. La La Land
  30. House of Wax
  31. Monster squad
  32. Hell or High Water
  33. John Wick 2
  34. Oscar-nominated Documentary Shorts
  35. Oscar-nominated Live Shorts
  36. The Red Turtle
  37. The Last Horror Movie
  38. Sorcerer
  39. I Am Not Your Negro
  40. Theater of Blood
  41. Masque of the Red Death
  42. Love, Dance
  43. The Fall of the House of Usher
  44. Fist Fight
  45. Great Wall
  46. The Cure for Wellness
  47. Last Man on Earth
  48. House on Haunted Hill
  49. Dark Night
  50. The Girl with All the Gifts
  51. Get Out
  52. Collide
  53. A United Kingdom
  54. Socially Relevant Shorts
  55. Wolverine
  56. The Shack
  57. Logan
  58. Kong: Skull Island
  59. Stitches
  60. The Ottoman Lieutenant
  61. Staying Vertical
  62. The Lure
  63. Kedi
  64. My Scientology Movie
  65. Beauty and the Beast
  66. The Arcadian
  67. The Belko Experiment
  68. The Street Where We Live
  69. Hollow Child
  70. Two Trains Runnin’
  71. Capture, Kill, Release
  72. Trainspotting 2
  73. Power Rangers
  74. Chips
  75. Devil’s Candy
  76. Blackcoat’s Daughter
  77. I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House
  78. Boss Baby
  79. Dutchman
  80. Ghost in the Shell (anime)
  81. The Unwilling
  82. Ghost in the Shell (live action)
  83. Raw
  84. Endor
  85. A Closer Walk with Thee
  86. Phobia
  87. Frantz
  88. Queen of the Desert
  89. Gifted
  90. Aftermath
  91. Going in Style
  92. Prevenge
  93. The Void
  94. Demons Don’t Knock
  95. Mission Control
  96. Rupture
  97. F8 of the Furious
  98. We Are What We Are
  99. Free Fire
  100. Personal Shopper
  101. The Devils
  102. Born in China
  103. Hounds of Love
  104. Colossal
  105. Eraserhead
  106. Three Dead Trick or Treaters
  107. Dry Blood
  108. Three Dead Trick or Treaters
  109. You’re Next
  110. Graduation
  111. Below Her Mouth
  112. The Transfiguration
  113. Sleight
  114. The Circle
  115. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  116. Norman
  117. The Dinner
  118. Titticut Follies
  119. The Haunt
  120. Murder Made Easy
  121. King Arthur
  122. Antichrist
  123. Snatched
  124. The Wall
  125. Hounds of Love
  126. David Lynch: The Art Life
  127. Lovers
  128. Everything, Everything
  129. Bay Watch
  130. Alien: Covenant
  131. Chuck
  132. The Survivalist
  133. Pirates of the Caribbean 5
  134. Berlin Syndrome
  135. Violet
  136. Wakefield
  137. Wonder Woman
  138. Mulholland Drive
  139. It Comes at Night
  140. The Mummy
  141. Cousin Rachel
  142. Megan Leavy
  143. The 9th Configuration
  144. Lunacy
  145. Stonehearst Asylum
  146. Things Fall Apart
  147. House Sitters
  148. Hell of a Night
  149. Cars 3
  150. 47 Meters Down
  151. They Look Like People
  152. Free to Ride
  153. The Bad Batch
  154. All Eyez on Me
  155. Glass Coffin
  156. Rough Night
  157. The Beguiled (1971)
  158. Memory of a Murder
  159. Among the Living
  160. Transformers: The Last Knight
  161. War for the Planet of the Apes
  162. Baby Driver
  163. The Beguiled (2017)
  164. Beatriz at Dinner
  165. Okja
  166. Happy Hunting
  167. Found Footage 3D
  168. Despicable Me 3
  169. Spiderman: Homecoming
  170. The House
  171. Romeo’s Distress
  172. Two Pigeons
  173. Samurai Rauni
  174. Unnuyayuk
  175. The Hero
  176. American Valhalla
  177. The Big Sick
  178. Tony
  179. Killing Ground
  180. Easter Sunday
  181. After Image
  182.  I Saw the Devil
  183. Wish Upon
  184. Maudie
  185. It Stains the Sands Red
  186. Dunkirk
  187. Defiant Ones
  188. Dawson City
  189. Girls Trip
  190. A Ghost Story
  191. First Kill
  192. Valerian
  193. Little Hours
  194. Gracefield Incident
  195. The Code
  196. Atomic Blonde
  197. Landline
  198. The Emoji Movie
  199. Creature from the Black Lagoon
  200. Down Terrace
  201. Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers
  202. An Inconvenient Sequel
  203. Detroit
  204. Dark Tower
  205. Kidnap
  206. Detroit
  207. Midnight Son
  208. Ice Cream Truck
  209. Big Lebowski
  210. Annabelle: Creation
  211. The Reflecting Skin
  212. A Ghost Story
  213. The Glass Castle
  214. Nut Job 2
  215. Good Time
  216. The Ghoul
  217. Hitman’s Bodyguard
  218. Whose Streets?
  219. Dave Made a Maze
  220. Wind River
  221. Logan Lucky
  222. 2001
  223. Nosferatu the Vampyre
  224. Bushwick
  225. Thale
  226. Dance of the Dead
  227. Lemon
  228. Leap!
  229. Ingrid Goes West
  230. Patti Cake$
  231. Logan Lucky
  232. The Trip to Spain
  233. The Oath
  234. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  235. Salem’s Lot
  236. Beside Bowie
  237. Charismata
  238. Megan is Missing
  239. It
  240. Crown Heights
  241. Home Again
  242. Mothman of Point Pleasant
  243. Twins of Evil
  244. Devil Rides Out
  245. Brides of Dracula
  246. Columbus
  247. Dracula: Prince of Darkness
  248. Vampire Lovers
  249. Red Christmas
  250. Menashe
  251. Frankenstein Created Woman
  252. Ginger Snaps
  253. mother!
  254. The Spawning
  255. Loon
  256. The Muse
  257. Hostile
  258. Torment
  259. She Was So Pretty 2
  260. Nightmare
  261. Woodshock
  262. Battle of the Sexes
  263. Super Dark Times
  264. Nothing Bad Can Happen
  265. American Made
  266. Rabies
  267. Feed
  268. Blade Runner
  269. Gerald’s Game
  270. Blade Runner 2049
  271. Dead Alive
  272. Le Accelerator
  273. The Mountain Between Us
  274. New Nightmare
  275. Rock, Paper, Dead
  276. Flesh of the Void
  277. Tragedy Girls
  278. Greasy Strangler
  279. Marshall
  280. Happy Death Day
  281. The Foreigner
  282. Professor Martsen and the Wonder Women
  283. Hellions
  284. Brawl in Cellblock 99
  285. Spielberg
  286. Blade Runner 2049
  287. Capture, Kill, Release
  288. Jungle
  289. Only The Brave
  290. Mark Felt
  291. Snowman
  292. Same Kind of Different as Me
  293. The Florida Project
  294. Suburbicon
  295. Thor: Ragnarok
  296. Bad Mom’s Christmas
  297. Wonderstruck
  298. Blade of the Immortal
  299. Killing of a Sacred Deer
  300. Jigsaw
  301. Goodbye Christopher Robin
  302. LBJ
  303. Thor: Ragnarok
  304. El Topo
  305. Daddy’s Home 2
  306. Murder on the Orient Express
  307. Big Bad Wolves
  308. Mayhem
  309. Poor Alice
  310. Hex
  311. The Square
  312. Lady Bird
  313. Justice League
  314. Wonder
  315. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  316. Strange Frequency
  317. Deadtime Stories
  318. From a Whisper to a Scream
  319. Creepshow
  320. The Man Who Invented Christmas
  321. Who Is Lydia Loveless?
  322. The Disaster Artist
  323. Coco
  324. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
  325. The Post
  326. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamar Story
  327. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  328. Lady Bird
  329. BPM
  330. Sweet Virginia
  331. Downsizing
  332. Last Flag Flying
  333. Thelma
  334. The Big Sick
  335. I, Tonya
  336. Wonder Wheel
  337. War for the Planet of the Apes
  338. Shape of Water
  339. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  340. Jane
  341. Frailty
  342. Ferdinand
  343. Call Me By Your Name
  344. Loving Vincent
  345. Darkest Hour
  346. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
  347. Pitch Perfect 3
  348. All the Money in the World
  349. The Greatest Showman
  350. Molly’s Game
  351. Mudbound
  352. Mom and Dad





Space Race

by Hope Madden

About three days a week you can find my family glutting ourselves on beans and rice at the Chipotle on the corner of Northwest Boulevard and Fifth Avenue near Grandview, Ohio. Oh, how we love Chipotle. Well, I love it. George indulges me.

Though the food is great, the parking lot is a disaster. It’s like an experiment in Darwinism: kill or be killed. Once we make it through the carnage outside, we eat in—no takeout for us. If we’ve survived the parking lot conquest, we’re not about to turn right around and surrender our prize. And though we know as well as anyone that you take your life in your hands trying to find a space during busier hours, that’s really not an excuse to use one of their two handicap spaces.

Sometimes as we eat we watch out the window and marvel at the number of people who pull into the handicap spot closest to the door and walk in to order. It’s like a revolving door for parking law violators: The minute one pulls out, someone else pulls in.

And then one day we witnessed a magical event, a marvelous comeuppance. A driver with a handicap plate pulled in directly behind the illegally parked car, blocking its exit. Our new hero just shut off the engine and came in to order dinner.

We were hoping for a show. What would the first driver do? Come back in and ask, table by tale, who had illegally parked behind his car that was illegally parked? Or would he just sit and contemplate his actions while he waited for the other driver to leave?

We didn’t get to see the outcome, but the mom in me hoped for the latter.

I do have some empathy for those Chipotle lawbreakers, though. I’ve done it myself. Not intentionally, but, in retrospect, how did I not realize that the space at Metro Fitness was designed for handicap parking? Sure, the paint on the blacktop had faded, but how often is it just a coincidence that the spot closest to the door is always open?

At one point a patron asked me if I realized I was parked in a handicap spot. This was when the illogic of the situation hit me, and I moved my car—and haven’t made the mistake again.

But still, it can be a mistake—unless there’s a big metal sign advertising the handicap space. For instance, not long after the Chipotle incident, we pulled into a BP so George could get air in his tires. Our son Riley and I sat bored in the truck while George went into the convenience store to get the hose turned on.

As he walked past a car parked illegally, he made accusatory eye contact with the passenger.

These handicap-space thieves at BP are particularly objectionable because they can’t possibly be doing it by accident. A metal sign stares right into the windshield. There’s really no missing it. In fact, the sign is so obvious that George—subtle as ever—had no trouble finding it to smack it with his hand as he stared again into the illegally parked car on his way back to the air hose.

At this point, it was on. The passenger jumped out of the car and yelled, “What, because you’re a man you think you’re better than me?”

Yikes. Riley and I rolled the windows down so we wouldn’t miss anything.

“Not at all,” George called over his shoulder as he headed toward our car. “I think I’m better than you because I don’t take up handicapped spaces.”

The scene was awkward, which seemed to bother George and this parking violator not one iota. They traded jabs awhile longer and, eventually, the woman got into the driver’s seat and moved the car to a more appropriate space. Situation resolved, mercifully, until the driver came out.

She looked perplexed at her friend, who got out of the car and explained, “Captain Penis over there made me move the car.”

I swear to God, that’s what she said.

Maybe it was his cape.

They drove off in a peculiar huff, but I was just glad it didn’t come to blows. George would never hit a chick, which means it would have fallen on me to handle the situation. I may have principles, but no traffic issue means enough to me to take a punch.





The Plumber

by Christie Robb

It’s entirely possible that I should not be allowed to own a home.

Perhaps my husband and I should have purchased a relatively easy starter home in the suburbs—something built this century. Instead, we bought a house that is nearly 100 years old with all the associated wear and tear that comes with age, and with a few bonus quirks courtesy of previous owners that were into DIY projects.

One of these quirks is the bathroom floor. For some reason, it sits nearly two inches higher than every other floor on that story. The bathroom is located on the second floor, directly across from the stairs, making for the occasional moment of terror when you get up to pee in the middle of the night and exit the bathroom forgetting about the extra two inches, stumble, and nearly pitch yourself down the stairs.

The house is also located in an older neighborhood, which is great in terms of walking destinations: coffee shop, taco place, single-screen movie theatre/bar. But the neighborhood also experiences a little bit of petty crime.

My husband’s car, for example, has been broken into several times, despite the booty being limited to (at best) a window scraper and (at worst) his used, sweaty gym clothes. The least lucrative theft was our City of Columbus-provided trashcan. It was exactly the same as every other un-stolen trashcan on our block, except for the gaping hole in the lid.

Which made it the worst trashcan on the block.

I guess there is no accounting for the thought process of petty thieves.

Recently my mother noticed that the toilet in our one and only bathroom was a bit wobblier than normal. She began a campaign of nagging me to call a plumber lest the wax ring seal around the base degrade and a whole mess of sewage infiltrate the floor of the bathroom and become a shit fountain into the kitchen sink directly below.

She had a point.

I called Bob the plumber and asked if he could check out the wobbly toilet and also deal with a slow drain in the kitchen sink that had stopped responding to my liberal application of liquid drain un-clogger.

Bob agreed and provided a window of time during which he’d come over. Anytime from noon until five PM.

Sigh. Even the cable guy thought this was poor scheduling.

That day it was bitter cold and had started to snow in the early afternoon. As I was home waiting, I felt compelled to shovel the walkway. But I convinced myself that as soon as I started to do so, the plumber would call to give me the half-hour heads up that he was coming and in my bundled up state I’d miss the call.

I failed to shovel the snow. Instead, I puttered around cleaning up the house, figuring that if I seemed to respect and care for my home, the plumber invited into it would respect it as well.

Bob pursed his lips at the sight of the two-inch elevation of the bathroom floor.

“How long have you owned this house?” he asked.

I reassured him that, although I have had the house for eight years, most of its quirks were due to the previous owner. I just haven’t bothered to fix them.

He plunked some dye into the toilet tank and suggested we check out the kitchen sink to give the dye a chance to potentially bleed out all over the floor and alert us to a leaking sewage issue.

I uttered a brief internal prayer and led Bob downstairs.

Standing over the kitchen sink, Bob used his cell phone as a flashlight and looked down the drain. He asked me how I used the garbage disposal.

I blinked.

It’s a garbage disposal. I reassured him that I used it for the usual disposal of the stray kitchen scraps that aren’t easily scraped off a plate.

It’s not like I used it to get rid of the bodies or anything.

He looked at me with suspicion and launched into a lecture about how you should really never use your garbage disposal for anything and if you do to make sure you run hot water through it for like solid ten minutes after. Then he opened the cabinet door under the sink and showed me a rusty connection where the garbage disposal motor meets the drain pipe.

“Yeah, this is about to become shrapnel,” he said, poking at the rust. “One day you are going to turn this baby on and the coupling will break and fly out into the kitchen.”

“Oh good,” I mumbled, imagining rusted metal shearing into my toddler’s face. She’s basically the perfect height.

I directed the plumber to the other side of the sink. The one with the problem.

He turned on the water and waited for it to slowly drain, then peered at it with his flashlight to reveal some brownish sludge. Bob told me I could have just dealt with it myself with a five-dollar plastic thing they have at the hardware store.

I could feel myself turning red. As he poked around in the drain with the five-dollar plastic thing that he had taken out of his pocket, I tried to explain that the slow drain wasn’t something I normally would call a plumber about, but that since he was already coming out and as I have a toddler and wasn’t planning a trip to the hardware store anytime soon…

Bob interrupted. “Did you know this basket strainer isn’t right?”

I attempted to assess how important it was for me to know what a “basket strainer” is and what constitutes a correct one. I figured Bob was describing the plastic thing that sits in the drain on that side and attempts to prevent food from washing down the non-garbage disposal side of the sink.

“What, like the weave of the mesh is too large or something? The other day a chunk of potato fell down that side and I really don’t think that should have been able to—“

Bob interrupted and pointed at the strainer. “No. It’s for a completely different sink.”

I peered at it. Now that he mentioned it, the color of the sink and the color of the strainer didn’t exactly seem to match.

“Huh,” I muttered. “Previous owners, I guess.”

Bob launched into a series of stories about hapless homeowners of older houses. At first, this seemed designed to reassure me. Like, all older homes have their issues and it’s ok. Then Bob started telling me about a lady who never drained her water heater and ended up with it falling apart due to it being filled up with layers of sediment.

I, never having heard of draining one’s water heater, gulped. Bob read my face and said that after we were done with the toilet, he would check out my water heater. My heart rate accelerated as I pictured my basement. The place where we had shoved all the breakable lamps to baby proof the house and stashed all the furniture to make room for the baby accessories and dumped all the baby accessories to make room for the toddler kitchen sets and bookshelves.

Plus there’s all that cat shit on the floor.

We went upstairs to look at the toilet. Thankfully the floor wasn’t dyed blue, so it seemed the toilet hadn’t been leaking, at least not that badly. Bob leaned over the toilet, placed a hand on each side of the seat and jostled it back and forth.

“It shouldn’t move this much,” he said.

Duh.

“Is this your master bathroom?” he asked.

I replied that it was the only bathroom. Bob looked at me. I think he was trying to mask his pity, but he wasn’t putting a lot of effort into it.

Bob told me that if he removed the toilet he might find something unpleasant, like rotten subflooring, that might require a lot of fixing. And he hit the tile with his foot, pointing out the series of cracks in it that have only gotten worse in the eight years since we’ve owned the house.

“And I don’t trust this floor.”

I reassured him that I didn’t either, that I had always wondered why it was two inches higher than all the other floor, but that I really wanted the toilet fixed to avoid a shit fountain.

“Try to fix the toilet,” I said. “We’ll deal with what we find.”

I began simultaneously brainstorming how to fashion a makeshift toilet out of an empty bucket of cat litter and furtively googling whether “draining the water heater” is actually a thing people do or something the plumber was trying to upsell me on.

I tried not to think about what would happen financially if my husband and I found out that we’d need to gut the bathroom immediately instead of in a few years when we’d saved up the money.

I’m too old and uncoordinated to earn extra money on the pole.

Bob removed the toilet. “Actually it’s not as bad as I thought,” Bob started.

“Oh, wait.”

Moving the toilet itself off to the side, he shined the cellphone flashlight into the hole over which the toilet once stood.

“Look at this,” he directed in a derisive tone.

I looked and narrowed my eyes in concern. I had no idea what I was looking at. I wished my husband was home. Not because he knows anything more about plumbing than I do, but just for moral support and an extra memory to recall what terms we need to google later.

I still don’t know what was actually wrong. Something about flanges, diameter of holes, plaster and screws that were supposed to secure things that ended up being purely decorative.

Bob tutted and suggested various creative solutions for dealing with whatever the problems were. For the next hour or so he walked back and forth to his van, getting parts, trying them out, failing, going to get a different part, repeat, leaving the front door open every time with just the screen door closed.

I’ve got the type of screen door that has a glass cover I can pull up over the screen in the winter. Except it’s a little bit broken and we can’t pull up the glass to cover the top two inches of screen. So every time Bob left, frigid air would blow into the house.

After about the seventh time he came in, Bob noticed and said, “Your screen door is broken.”

I bowed my head in shame.

“Oh, and I’ve nearly fallen down your front stairs every time I’ve gone out. You should probably shovel.”

Eventually, Bob decided that the best plan would be to replace the wax ring and glue the toilet directly to the floor. “This isn’t a permanent solution,” he hastened to inform.

“Do it.”

Bob started work and I retreated to the living room to send out texts to all my home-owning friends and family to ask if they’d ever had their hot water heater drained and to google what a “flange” and a “gasket” were.

Hours pass. The husband and daughter come home. We have dinner. The plumber goes on a shopping trip to the hardware store.

I’ve not had a lot of water to drink, but I’m at the point where I’m starting to consider crafting the makeshift toilet out of the cat litter bucket.

It’s almost the daughter’s bedtime and there are still drilling sounds from the bathroom. We throw on another episode of Curious George. Plumber asks for some extra towels and a box fan.

I throw on another episode of Curious George, pray that my tired daughter doesn’t have a meltdown, and cross my legs.

Another episode past bedtime, Bob says he’s done. He lurches down the stairs carrying a large trash bag and sets it on the floor.

I whip out the checkbook I use once every two years and ask for the damage report.

Bob says that since it’s so late he’s going to charge me just for the toilet job and write out an estimate for the other stuff, which is great as I never agreed to actually pay him to fix the other stuff. He mumbles about a new basket strainer and coupling for the garbage disposal.

I mention the water heater.

Bob’s face lit up.

“I forgot about that! Let’s go look at that now.”

And he immediately turned toward the basement door.

I followed behind muttering excuses about how messy it is. My heart sank when I reached the bottom of the stairs to see that the cat had, once again, pooped all over the floor.

I pointed, defeated, to the water heater.

Bob gracefully stepped over the poop and inspected the tank. I peered at the basement as if looking at it for the first time.

Hoarders, I thought to myself.

Bob turned and asked where the main shutoff for the house is located. I looked around my basement at various knobs. I knew this. At one point.

I remembered attending our home inspection, and the inspector making a big deal out of the main shutoff. Maybe it’s this one knob, I thought, looking at a blue one. But then, in my peripheral vision, I noticed a red knob. I recalled the red knob having some sort of significance. Maybe I was wrong about the blue knob.

It was something that in normal circumstances I would have likely confirmed, either by asking my husband if he remembered, or by looking up my notes from the home inspection. But at this point I was tired, wanted Bob out of my house, was and doing a pee dance, so I pointed at the red knob.

I chose poorly.

Bob informed me that the red knob was actually the shutoff for the exterior water. He twisted the knob and lectured me about how it was freezing outside and I really should turn the exterior water line off.

I squirmed, shifting my weight to the left and right.

Bob asked me if I knew where my water meter was. Now, this I do actually know, but by this point, the inside of my head was filled with static and a high-pitched whine and I was minutes from wetting myself. I just said it was outside in an attempt to lure Bob out of the house so I could go pee in my newly glued-to-the-floor toilet.

Bob turned around and pointed to the clearly visible, somewhat enormous water meter. “This is your water meter,” he said.

I nodded and wished I had done more Kegels.

Kicking the cat shit out of my way, I led Bob back upstairs. I filled out the check while hopping casually.

Bob picked up his trash bag and asked where the outside trash was. He’d just throw the bag away on his way out.

“Actually,” I said, clearing my throat and summoning the shreds of my dignity, “I don’t have a trashcan.”

I pointed at the corner of the kitchen where I’d stored several stinky bags containing kitchen scraps and disposable training pants.

Bob lowered his contractor bag to the top of the pile, releasing the smell of rotten chicken parts, and fled toward the un-shoveled front steps.

He only slipped a little bit.





The Gimpy Groupie

by Hope Madden

My husband George has lived through several Duran Duran concerts during our marriage—one in 2005 at Vets Memorial, the other a few years later at the Schott. In both cases, he made a valiant attempt to get me backstage to meet the objects of my absolutely rabid adolescent ardor.

George, who works in radio, culled favors from everywhere he could think of: other radio people, record reps, anyone. No dice. I know why he was unsuccessful. Every living female between the ages of 40 and 55 loves Duran Duran.

Seriously, it’s a documented fact.

Still, it was a failure that haunted him until he made good on his wish one weekend in Chicago at the House of Blues.

Having a gimp for a wife didn’t hurt.

Saddled with a walking boot from the foot surgery I’d had three weeks earlier, I approached the concert hall with crutches and a pin protruding from one toe.

It’s a great look.

The folks at the Houe of Blues couldn’t have been nicer, especially when their elevator broke down and I had to take three flights of steps to get to the standing room only concert. That was a lot of fun.

To make up for it, a security guard escorted George and me to a bar at the back of the room where a private party was happening.

Nearby, we saw a line of people making their way up a back staircase. George knows how to sniff out a meet-and-greet, so he began to investigate. He felt sure that, atop those stairs, we’d find Duran Duran.

But how to get there?

I was hardly in any condition to be stealthy or to outrun security.

George politely questioned several people as they made their way down the stairs. Some shunned him, but he persevered and determined that, yes, the line led to a backstage meeting. And I gleaned from conversations around me that some folks at the private party had paid $500 apiece for the honor of meeting the band.

It may sound excessive to you, but not to me. Or at least the part of me that still remembers being 13 years old and willing to sell a kidney—perhaps even my own—to meet Duran Duran.

Finally, George approached a woman who will forever be known as My New Best Friend. She saw my pitiful condition and lent George her pass to see the band.

Score!

I hobbled up the stairs. No one stopped me. Indeed, people felt merciful over my trudging around crippled and offered me a chair.

I could see Roger Taylor from where I sat in the hallway, injured foot tucked safely behind crutches.

For those of you outside the precious D2 demographic, Roger is the drummer and second cutest bandmate.

His spiky brunette locks and playful pout adorned my closet door.

It hung just below my most beloved John Taylor (bass player, born Nigel John Taylor, 6/20/60 to Jean and Jack Taylor in the Birmingham, England suburb of Hollywood).

I was the band’s last photo op, and I overheard their dismay when they learned the news, “Just one more.”

“One more,” Roger near-groaned as he walked toward the door. Then he eyeballed the gimp in the hall and realized the special circumstances of which I was so gleefully taking advantage.

“Oh, hon, what happened to you?” he asked me.

Mr. Roger Taylor just spoke to me. My brain began forming words. The 14-year-old Hope thought: My poster is talking right now. The fully grown adult brain began pulling together a response. My brain said, “I just had foot surgery.”

My mouth, on the other hand, let out a string of sounds bearing no relation whatsoever to the English language.

He winced in knowing embarrassment for me.

I assume I’m not the first female wearing a Duran Duran tee shirt who’s been unable to respond properly to a polite query from Roger Taylor.

Simon (singer) put his arm around me.

Nick (keyboardist with heavy lipstick) hoped I’d heal soon.

John steered clear, smiling from a safe distance.

Still: Best Day Ever.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my arm in a sling and research some Cory Hart concert dates.

Never surrender!