Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ed Wood Extra! The arrival of Lots #3028 and #3043

Here I am with my new Ed Wood poster, bathed in the greeny fluorescent glow of my small kitchen.

"And, for an example, let's take the recent unpleasantness."
-Mr. Turkentine (David Battley) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

This poster caused me so much grief.
Chalk up one more thing Ed Wood and I have in common. Eddie suffered for his (much-maligned, often-mocked) art. And I, too, have suffered for Ed Wood's art, though not for the reasons you might be imagining. While making my way through, let's say, the '70s softcore romps Eddie wrote for Steve Apostolof involved a certain amount of tedium, I cannot say that Wood's work has inspired in me the same kind of theatrical agony it seems to have caused other observers. No, my suffering has been of a different stripe. Since Ed Wood Wednesdays began back in July 2013, I have essentially been an indentured servant to a man who died nearly 40 years ago. In my quest to catalog the life and career of Edward Davis Wood, Jr., I have frequently forsaken such niceties as fresh air, exercise, and sleep. The sun may shine and the birds may chirp, after all, but this DVD of The Undergraduate isn't going to review itself! Like Mark Borchardt said in American Movie: "I have to adhere to this keyboard." Conservatively, I'd estimate I've put on 15 to 20 pounds in the time I've been writing Ed Wood Wednesdays. I chalk it up to all those hours I've spent hunched over my laptop computer, keeping my energy up with a steady intake of frozen dinners and prepackaged snacks. Hey, Eddie got a little doughy near the end, too. That's yet another thing we have in common, except his weight gain came from booze while mine came from gummi worms and microwaved pizza.

And sometimes, my lovelies, this project has inconvenienced me in such silly ways that all I can do is laugh. Take today, for instance. You'll remember, a few weeks ago, that there was a massive auction of Ed Wood memorabilia. I chickened out on the big ticket items, including a suitcase and two trunks owned by Eddie himself, but I wanted to get something out of the auction so I bid on a few of the smaller items. I wound up winning two of these: a vintage one-sheet poster for Glen or Glenda? under the alternate title I Led 2 Lives (Lot #3028) and a set of eight Mexican lobby cards for Plan 9 from Outer Space (Lot #3043). Today, they are in my possession at last, and getting them into my apartment was a Sisyphean ordeal. It should have been easy. FedEx was scheduled to deliver them yesterday, but I knew I'd be at work when they arrived so I arranged to have Patricia, the lovely lady who manages the office of the apartment complex where I live, sign for them in my absence. My apartment, I should say, is literally next door to this office. We share a wall. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men. My landlady happened to be dropping by the office when the FedEx guy arrived, and she prevented Patricia from signing for the package, reasoning that if they performed this simple kindness for me, a loyal rent-payer for 12 years, they'd have to do the same for everyone. My landlady, I can say from experience, is not someone with whom you can bargain... or reason. Through that thin wall we have in common, I have often heard her screaming at the maintenance crew. She's a fearsome woman. I just hope I didn't get Patricia into any trouble.

One of my nifty new lobby cards.
Meanwhile, of course, my package could not be delivered as instructed. So back to the FedEx pickup center it went. Luckily, this is less than a quarter-mile from my home, since I live in a busy commercial district dominated by strip malls, chain stores, and gas stations. The clerk there was only too happy to turn over my Ed Wood poster and lobby cards to me. But here is where the story turns into a Buster Keaton comedy. RR Auction sent these items in one large, flat cardboard box, and there was no way of fitting this into my cramped 2002 Chevy Cavalier. I tried every configuration I could imagine. Seats all the way forward. Seats all the way back. Passenger seat tilted as flat as it would go. Windows open. Trunk open. Nothing, and I mean nothing, worked. Here I was, stranded in the FedEx parking lot just a few minutes away from my apartment. I thought of temporarily ditching the car and just walking the damned thing back home. But, again, this is a busy commercial district, and my story was happening during rush hour traffic. How was I ever going to get across those busy, dangerous streets with this ridiculous cardboard box? If I held it in front of me, I couldn't even see the traffic coming. In desperation, I dragged the package back into the FedEx place and asked if I could just open it there and take the contents out. The lady behind the desk said fine, so I borrowed her scissors and cut into the package. And what tumbled out? More styrofoam packing peanuts than I have ever seen in my life. Dozens and dozens of the goddamned things accumulated at my feet. Mortified, I spent a good (read: bad) 10 to 15 minutes crawling around the floor of the FedEx pickup center in a frantic effort to retrieve every last one of those peanuts. The place looked nicer than my apartment, after all, and I didn't want to muck it up.

Eventually, though, I did manage to extract my purchases and get them into my battered, grungy old car. The Glen or Glenda? poster was swaddled in about eight miles of bubble wrap, so it was still quite a large item even outside of its cardboard cocoon. But at least it was now flexible enough to be (barely) wedged into the nearly-nonexistent back seat of my vehicle. I couldn't see a damned thing out the rear window, but then again, I didn't have far to drive. It wasn't 100% safe, but it was safe enough. Once I got back home, I had a devil of a time chasing after all the additional styrofoam peanuts which were falling everywhere. I'm kind of a zealot about littering, especially in my own neighborhood, so I didn't want to just leave a trail of those tell-tale peanuts outside the apartment complex where I live. It was a windy day, though, so this was tricky to say the least. I'm sure I lost a few soldiers today.

And now? Well, now the poster and the lobby cards are safely ensconced in my apartment. And you know what else? They're really lovely. I have no idea what I'm going to do with them, but they're lovely nonetheless. The Glenda poster is larger than I was imagining, the size of a small (admittedly very wide and flat) child, and still a satisfying shade of fire-engine red. Right now, still wrapped in plastic, it's leaning against the wall of my kitchen. I'll probably have it framed soon, but I think the kitchen is a good place for it. Much of Glen or Glenda? takes place in kitchens. Even Lugosi's lab where he creates life is a kind of kitchen. Every morning when I have my bowl of cereal, I can look up at Eddie smooching with Dolores Fuller, forever preserved in their 1953 glory. That's a nice thought. The lobby cards came in a thick, heavy binder of their own. I might just leave them that way. To be honest, I haven't given much thought to the items themselves. I've barely even looked at 'em. For now, I'm just happy they're home.

POSTSCRIPT: In my Clouseau-esque struggles to get the uncooperative poster and lobby cards into my vehicle on Wednesday, I somehow managed to injure my left leg rather badly. By Thursday, that leg was noticeably bruised and achy, making it difficult to walk. For the last two days, then, I have been limping to and from work. Now that I am at last in repose, attempting to recuperate over the weekend, the medicinal smell of a cheap, over-the-counter topical ointment is stinging my nostrils. So when I say I have suffered for Ed Wood's art, I mean it quite literally.

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