Or The Death Of The American Video Clerk: The Modern Day John Henry Versus The Redbox Rental Steam Engine
I was once the greatest. I mean, sure I’m still good and everything. Maybe even bordering on greatness in several categories, ladies. But I used to be the unquestionable greatest at something. And how many times in your life do you get to say that? Not enough. And when you do, boy howdy do you need to hold on to it.
America, I have drunk deep of your star spangled teat of sadness and found its black milk no longer nourishing.
I used to be the world’s greatest video store clerk.
Seriously it’s been quantified, if video clerkary was music I was the fucking Beatles and Beethoven. If helping people rent videos were wrestling I was a Hulk Hogan/Ric Flair sandwich with Ultimate Warrior sauce on the side. If being the guy behind the register at a video shack was movies I’d be the criterion collection edition of Terminator 2: Judgment Day making sex with Reservoir Dogs while Godfather Part 2, Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now touched themselves ferociously off in the corner. And the whole Caligulaesque cocktail party is filmed by Dr. Strangelove. I was the greatest video store clerk there ever was, and unfortunately ever will be.
Because the video stores, as we all know, are dying.
Actually they’re basically dead. The few remaining Blockbusters and Ma and Pa operations left standing are the last bastions of a soon to be forgotten era. Like the last defiant dinosaur to snarl underneath the shadow of a massive meteor. Like Steve McQueen in the face of whatever killed him. (I did a little research, turns out it was the same dickhead space meteor that did in the dinos also got ‘ol Steveo). And who killed them? The Redbox? Internet downloads, legal and not so much? Come on, haven’t you ever seen a movie? Or read a book? When Luke Skywalker was tripping balls off hallucinogenic Dagobah mushrooms with the homeless muppet Yoda in Empire Strikes Back (psychotropic intake off screen) what did Luke see when the lopped off Vader fever dream head rolled to his feet? His own face. It’s always reflection, the greatest enemy, nay the only enemy is within. We killed the video store. All of us. The ides rolled around and we packed a dagger with our Capri Suns before we headed to work that morning. And you know why we did it?
Because we always kill what we love.
And when you lop off the head of the anti-Vader (in case you’re wondering he’s in a full shimmering white robo suit, bespectacled with glitter accents. Also he wields a rainbow lightsaber, so you know; recognize) guess what you find? Yep, our face again. Because we always kill what we love and we love ourselves a whole hell of a lot.
I didn’t really consider the seven years I spent at Blockbuster video my halcyon days while I was actually there working. I started working there when I was seventeen and got out right before I turned twenty-four. I gave my boyhood to that corporate meat plow and like most who relinquish their virtue I resented the abandoning of my maidenhead. Or whatever the dude version is. But now in the clarity of my autumn years (age 30) I can now see what a good time I had. More importantly I can see how important going down to your local moving picture mausoleum is. Sure, it’s convenient as all get out to just click download then watch. But there’s really something to be said about going to the shop, perusing the aisles, talking to some nerds who love this stuff and finding something you might not have if you didn’t. Besides, you could use the exercise. But enough about how the death of the video store is affecting you, let’s talk about how this thing is messing it up for me and all other artsy fartsy work shirkers and general malingers of every stripe.
Being a video clerk is the perfect job for the creative type before they make it big. Or don’t, as is probably the case sadly. You sit there, talk it up with your coworkers or the clientele. You pontificate on the merits of all types of disposable, imaginary and wholly subjective trivial but fun art and entertainment. Of the utmost importance, you get to watch movies for free. I remember with rosy-rimmed glasses entire shifts passed by spent with my coworkers and cooler customers inventing porno parody titles for movies we had on the shelf.
So a reputable film like Big Trouble In Little China became Big Trouble in Little Vagina.
Poondock Skanks. Poondock Taints. Teenage Mutant Nympho Turtles. Teenage Mutant Nympho Turtles 2:Secret Of The Ooze.
One Blew Over The Cuckoo’s Chest, Bi Hard 2:Bi Harder. No Cuntry For Old Men.
The NeverEnding Orgy.
That one in particular really grabbed the imagination of everyone. The cusinarting of a beloved childhood masterpiece and filthy sex romp does that to people. We even devised character names for it. Falcwhore and I-train-you. Yes, highbrows apply here. Beyond droll wordplay and upper echelon humor that only 33rd degree members of the intelligentsia illuminati would understand I miss the people.
Yeah, the people who frequent your typical video store. The strange archetypes. The mid fortyish couple renting soft-core skin flicks like Red Shoe Diaries or Emmanuelle In Space, trying sort of adorably to give their vanilla coffin fodder sex life a few more sparks. The guy who just discovered…fill in the blank. Whether it be Kurosowa or David Lynch he has to rent as many titles as he can get his paws on. And he wants to talk to you oh enlightened video demagogue. And he wants to do so ad nauseam. The young woman who loves trashy awesome horror flicks.
The kid who wants to know if you’ll let him rent Robocop when his parents aren’t there.
And you will. Because it’s Robocop and if he doesn’t rent it there with you he’ll rent it somewhere on the streets with strangers. Even the late fee disputes, I miss those too. The shoplifters. My old boss was a maniac and I loved him for it. I’ve seen the man personally trade blows with two different thieves in our store who were trying to make off with product.
One time my boss and a guy were punching each other in the middle of the store in broad daylight.
My boss knocked the meth wraith’s dentures out. Trying getting that online or at a Red Box. I tackled or put the arm lock on at least six different perps. Sure, it was against company policy and maybe against the law,
but it was gangsta as fuck and you know it.
And being gangsta as fuck is great, and that’s what I used to be. But as Roland Deschain would say, “The world has moved on.”
So I tell you this:
You will suffer for allowing the great American tradition of the video store to die out.
Not just because you’ll have no place to congregate and talk about movies and everything that makes them awesome. You will suffer because your streets will be flooded with wave after wave of snarky, overly opinionated, highly otherwise unemployable pop culture vampires with nowhere else to hold up till their screenplays get optioned. There are only so many comic book shops; they can’t employ us all. We are out there and we want to tell you why your favorite movie is garbage and why John Carpenter’s The Thing is better. And that’s only our 13th favorite movie off all time. But it looks like the battle is already lost. You’ve spoken and you don’t want us or our shops. You’d rather stay inside. Snug in the outside sensory stimulation averting embryonic entertainment sacks you call your homes. But ask yourself, if you’re wrong and you come to your senses and decide in a few years you miss the video store and the video clerk;
who’ll be around to wave your late fees if we’re already all gone?