In Boozo Veritas #65 by Teege Braune
Adventures in Halloweening: Part 4
The season of Samhain is upon us. This is my last In Boozo Veritas before the thirty-first and final entry into this year’s Adventures in Halloweening. Though my pinky is still broken, I haven’t let the injury prevent me from cavorting with witches and tangling amongst ghouls. This might be my last blog of the season, but we have nearly a full week before the fateful night, and many more adventures to pursue.
Read the short story “The Gutter Sees the Light That Never Shines” by Alistair Rennie. In this fantastic piece of dark-fantasy, Rennie moves a collection of imaginatively nasty characters around The City of Thrills like chess pieces as they encounter each other in increasingly gruesome and visceral conflicts. No sane reader will have a clear sense of whom to root for, but an unexpected full-circle twist of vengeance makes for a devilishly well-crafted climax worthy of Chan-wook Park. The violence, both relished by the characters and presented in loving technicolor by Rennie, is not however the most disturbing aspect of the story. Instead, I found the frightening implications of the dangerous yet captivating world that Rennie creates to be more unsettling. This story is part of a series of tales about the Meta-Warriors, described as “a troupe of ultra-violent, habitually transgressive misfits” on their creator’s website, and I look forward to delving deeper into their horrible adventures.
Watched John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. A thoroughly entertaining movie, there are plenty of reasons why it has never become a classic.
Teetering between schlock, weird fiction, and meta-horror, it follows Sam Neill’s John Trent, an insurance claims investigator attempting to discover the whereabout of missing horror novelist Sutter Cane. As Trent delves deeper into the mystery, the world around him becomes unquantifiably stranger and his accent wavers precariously between American and Australian. The film takes most of its cues from Lovecraft: many of the allusions (Pickman’s Hotel) are direct references to names within Lovecraft’s universe and the notion that otherworldly creatures are attempting to enter and destroy civilization will be no doubt familiar to Lovecraft’s readers, the central plot devise that reading a supernatural text, in this case Cane’s latest novel, can lead to delirium, paranoia, and eventually insanity has its antecedent in Robert Chambers King in Yellow cycle.
Chambers stories, which bridge the gap between nineteenth century decadence and twentieth century horror have been dubbed proto-weird, yet remain as fresh, eerie, and modern as the work of Lovecraft among others that he influenced. He enjoyed a posthumous resurgence in popularity, The King in Yellow actually jumping to number one, due to references in HBO’s True Detective, despite the show’s failure to contribute anything new to the mythos or even utilize it in any interesting way. This week I read Chambers “The Yellow Sign” for the first time and can easily see why it has continued to appeal to horror fans throughout the last hundred years. As it accounts the burgeoning and arguably inappropriate relationship between an artist, the narrator, and his young nude model, the pair are simultaneously tormented by the wide, pale face of a mysteriously repulsive doorman who seems to always be glaring into the artist’s studio and finally infiltrating their dreams. The confluence of events that leads to the protagonists’ horrifying conclusion and the details surrounding the doorman’s grotesque countenance are indeed unnerving, but I was left most undone by the dramatic shift in tone the story takes after the characters read the damning text, a play itself entitled The King in Yellow, a playfulness that becomes a dark, hopeless, ethereal pondering that almost seems to nihilistically accept the gruesome fate awaiting the victims.
Back in Orlando local author and journalist Bob Kealing had an exciting week. On Tuesday he realized a personal dream when the Kerouac House, which has for several years hosted a writing fellowship, became an official historical landmark, the first time Orlando has awarded the distinction to a location with literary significance.
The lovely and well attended ceremony in the front yard was drier than Kerouac or I would have preferred, but featured pepper jack cheese, a mutual favorite for both the spokesman for the Beat Generation and myself. Keeling’s contribution, both discovering the house’s connection to Kerouac and writing a fantastic book called Kerouac in Florida: Where the Road Ends, were rightfully recognized. Yesterday he gave a presentation at East End Market on his latest book Tupperware Unsealed: Brownie Wise, Earl Tupper, and the Home Party Pioneers, the film rights of which have recently been optioned with Sandra Bullock expressing interest in the role of Brownie Wise. Kealing’s knowledge, story-telling, and obvious enthusiasm for the subject were so absorbing that those of us in the audience who had never before pondered the history of Tupperware found ourselves, nevertheless, captivated.
Despite the southern gothic charm of the hanging moss over the Kerouac house, I must admit neither event had much of a Halloween connection, but sharing a sangria with Pat Greene yesterday at the market, I did enjoy an oddly spooky twist. I had casually mentioned to Pat that I kept running into a guy dressed in a hat and trench coat with the most life-like and disgusting zombie make-up I had ever seen.
“Actually, I haven’t seen him this week, but it seems like every Halloween reading or event I go to the guy is lurking around in the same make-up even when no one else is dressed up,” I said.
“Oh yeah? It kind of reminds me of Nat Orel,” laughed Pat who is kind of a local historian in his own right.
“Who the hell is Nat Orel?” I asked.
“You never heard of Nat Orel? He was a petty thug around Winter Park and Orlando back in the late sixties and seventies, more of a small time crook and a bully than an actual criminal. Everybody knew him even though no one liked him. He had been in and out of jail a bunch of times, and finally he crossed a line, and this time he’s going to go away for a while. I think he shot a guy while he was knocking off a gas station or something, but the cops can’t seem to nab him. They keep getting tips that he’s at this bar or that bar, but by the time they get there he’s ducked out. This is Halloween in ’78 or ’79, I think. Then the next morning the find his body all mangled up. They think somebody had tied him to the back of a car and dragged up and down Winter Park road, but nobody ever reported anything suspicious, and they never arrested anybody for killing him. I don’t think they looked very hard because everybody kind of figured whoever did it did the city a favor,” Pat guffawed at this as though it were the punchline to a really great joke.
“Anyway, there used to be a local legend that Nat would lurk around Orlando before Halloween in a trench coat and a fedora, and if anyone looked at his face, he’d drag you to hell, but nobody really talks about it anymore,” Pat concluded.
It looks like either the strange zombie I’ve been seeing everywhere either has an equally odd knowledge of obscure and morbid local history, or else Nat Orel has chosen me as this year’s victim. In the meantime, tonight there will be a great reading once again hosted by Bookmark It at the East End Market featuring a smattering of local publishing house Beating Windward’s more macabre authors including Nathan Holic, Keith Gouveia, Jon Binkowski, and of course, Karen Best whose collection A Floating World features thirteen wonderfully unnerving and creepy stories and has established Karen as central Florida’s literary face of Halloween.
Friday night, of course, is my favorite day of the entire year. Jenn and I are planning on going to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the Enzian at midnight, but surrounding that we will hit up as many Halloween parties as possible. Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping a wary eye open for old, undead Nat for the preservation of my mortal soul. See you all on Halloween!
Teege Braune (episode 72, episode 75, episode 77, episode 90, episode 102, episode 122) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.