I remember there used to be women who read my column. I won’t say their names but there was a nice gal from the newsgroups who was an early supporter of my works. Nother one from the web sight for the director of Running Time, that Bruce Campbell movie all done up in one shot like Rope. She used to write me all the time, very encouraging, very supportive.
I haven’t heard from any women in a while, and I wonder if I’m scaring them away with all this man talk. All this Badass Cinema, all this Bruce and Clint and breaking people’s legs and bending punks over and smoking motherfuckers. Balls and dicks. Man stuff.
Well I hope some day my sensitive side will return, I’ll lay off of the macho for a little while and I’ll get a little more genderifical diversity in my readership. I mean who the fuck knows, even Clint Eastwood directed The Bridges of Madison County one time.
Sorry though ladies, this is not that column. Because today I’ve been pondering a question that only a fucking man would ever wonder about. The question is:
What does it mean to be a man?
Seriously people, don’t laugh. There are alot of reasons I ask this question. One reason is the pair of TV specials that were on last week, that honored two icons of Badass Cinema from two different generations, Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood. I look at a guy like Bruce, and especially a guy like Clint, and I have to wonder – what is it that I see in this guy that I want to see in myself? Why are these two actors such models of manhood to me? That’s one of the reasons why I ask this question, what does it mean to be a man? The main reason I ask is because of how, earlier today, I got double penetrated.
So uh, this column isn’t gonna be pretty folks. I hope you’re sitting down. I hope you’re not eating. You’re really gonna wish you didn’t read this one.
I guess I really started thinking it around 10:30 this morning. Sitting in a waiting room at the urology clinic, watching the sick people stumble up and down the hallway with breathing masks or wheelchairs they didn’t know how to use. Everyone else is as nervous as me. Who knows what they’re waiting for.
Over the intercom they say “MRS. CORA BELL PLEASE RETURN TO BLOOD DROP! CORA BELL, RETURN TO BLOOD DROP!” Sounding a little panicked.
I look around. Nobody else looks freaked out. Maybe they know what it means. I’m thinking, what the fuck is a blood drop? And where the hell did Cora wander off to? What kind of crazy shit is going on in this building?
I’m thinking any second now, Cora’s gonna come running down the hall with no blood in her. “Come back Mrs. Bell! We didn’t put the blood in yet!”
And I’m thinking about the paper they gave me when they signed me up for this caper.
1. Try to report for your evaluation with a comfortably full bladder. If you empty your bladder just prior to your appointment it may delay your test.
Okay, so it WAS comfortably full… when I came in for my 10:00 appointment. Now it’s 10:30. It’s uncomfortable. I’m staring at the restroom signs. Don’t think of pissing. Don’t think of pissing.
A guy goes into the bathroom holding a folded up shirt. He’s got jeans and cowboy boots on but he’s wearing a polka dotted nightgown on top.
They gonna make me wear a fucking nightgown?
Don’t think of pissing.
Goes into the bathroom, comes out wearing the shirt and dangling the gown from two fingers like it’s a dead rat he has to get out of the attic. What kind of psychological shit is this, putting polka dots on a man’s hospital gown? Like boot camp or something. You have to break him down mentally, destroy his self image, humiliate him. Then you can operate. Whatever they did to him in that nightgown, he probaly didn’t enjoy it. He’s disgusted at even being associated with this gown.
I don’t know what they did to him. But I know what they’re planning to do to me.
You remember how a month ago I said it was good news, it wasn’t chlamydia? Well, turns out it wasn’t good news. If it was chlamydia, they woulda given me medicine. It would be over by now. I wouldn’t have had to come in this morning for the urodynamic evaluation. This exam can cost up to $1500.00. Thank christ I have insurance. The CPT codes for this procedure are as follows:
51795–Voiding pressure studies
51797–Intra-Abdominal Voiding pressure
51785–EMG Urethral Spincter
It’s gonna be okay Vern. Think about something else. Think about something tough.
Outlaw Josey Whales.
Josey and the Pussycats.
DESCRIPTION OF URODYNAMIC EVALUATION
Urodynamics is an in depth evaluation of the lower urinary tract (bladder and bladder outlet or urethra). These studies are important in diagnosing problems of loss of urinary control or urinary retention (inability to pass urine) or frequency of urination. This evaluation involves placing small tubes through the urethra into the bladder to measure the pressure inside the bladder.
Oh yeah, and a small tube inside the rectum to measure the pressure in the abdomen. Occasionally x-rays may be taken during the study. A complete evaluation may take up to 1 1/2 hours. You know, the length of a movie, with a tube up your ass, and one in your dick. No big deal. Ask if you have questions.
When I first read that, I was like, holy fucking jesus. Now it’s a month later, and I was starting to get used to the idea. Well, it’s gonna happen. Might as well get it over with. Might as well go in and get DP’d. Not sure how it works exactly, sticking a tube in my dick. Not sure I want to know how it works. Holy fucking jesus.
Steve McQueen. Sam Peckinpah. The Getaway.
Remember when he gets up and starts cooking a big pan of eggs for breakfast? Ever since I saw that I’ve always thought cooking eggs was manly.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Rabbits jumping out of the trunk.
Fist Full of Dollars. The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Once Upon a Time in the West.
I told the doctor wait a minute, you don’t understand. That’s a dick. You can’t stick a tube up a dick, can you?
Okay, you can think about pissing.
So I keep looking at those restroom signs. The international sign of the man. A little man with a circle for a head, and rounded off nubs for hands and feet. His ladyfriend is identical, except her arms are splayed out to accomodate her triangle shaped dress.
Think about pissing.
Rounded off nubs.
Think about pissing.
What does it mean to be a man?
The nurse, or medical assitant or whatever comes out. Tough lady, like a gym teacher. “Vern?”
I look over my shoulder. It’s not too late. I could make a run for it.
“Here,” I say, getting up, my voice cracking.
* * *
No, I’m not making this one up, boys. They really did a number on ol’ Vern. First they had me piss in this thing with a big whirring motor inside. Took care of the uncomfortably full bladder right away.
“Go back in there and wait for Dr. Mayo.”
Dr. Mayo comes in and asks me a few questions about pissing. “Did they have you urinate already?”
He peeks in the door, checks out the whirring thing.
“Oh yes, they did,” he says, with a very elegant English accent. “It looks very nice, very nice.”
They didn’t let me keep my pants on, like the bathroom guy. But I had the polka dotted nightgowns on. Two of them. And little paper booties on my feet. In the examination room there was a big machine to sit in, with stirrups. And you sit your bare ass on cold metal, with a gap in the middle.
Maybe that wasn’t a scene in The Exorcist I was remembering. Maybe this is what I was thinking of. This is worse though. I walked in, my little paper booties pitter pattering on the floor. I’m not sure why, but there’s a big yellow piss stain in one spot on the floor. Like piss has dripped there so many times there’s no way to scrub it off anymore. Fucking urology, man.
There’s alot of psychological shit they do to help you get through this, and they’re good at that. They make conversation, and little jokes.
“Did you get my message?” the gym teacher asks.
Message? No. What did it say?
“That we had an intimate date today.”
She delivers the jokes good, like they’re spontaneous. I wonder if she always uses the same ones. Like a wedding DJ who every day plays the Rocky theme when the best man comes up for a toast, and every day people laugh.
She dims the lights. “Mood lighting,” she jokes. I give a little fake laugh, trying to play along, because I want it to work.
I didn’t even see anyone turn it on, but suddenly I notice this portable stereo on a table on the other side of a room, and it starts playing gentle music to calm me down. And I realize after a little bit that it’s Elton John.
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Swear to fucking christ.
First they stick a tube in your dick, then they pull it out. Then a different one. The lady says, “Yep, we have all sorts of catheters.” Gallows humor. Next is the one in your ass.
And let me say this. No offense. But I don’t know WHAT you gay guys are thinking! Same goes for the girls that let their boyfriends assfuck them. Or the straight guys who like a dildo up their ass. Yeah, I saw you on Real Couples. I know what you’re into.
I’ll never think of The Lion King the same way again.
Oh lord, please forgive me for all that business in prison. I was young and reckless then. It was a mistake. I know about karma and all that but fer chrissakes, I’m a changed man. Please consider my case. No more of these catheters, ever again. Fer cryin out loud I’ll give up Cinema if I have to. I’ll burn my dvds and drown my computer. I’ll travel to hollywood to piss on Clint and Bruce’s stars. I’ll curse Steve McQueen and call Bruce Lee a shrimp and give Michael Bay a blow job. Just never ever let them stick a tube in my ass again.
“It’s a leaded room. It’s okay to scream.”
“You’re doing good. You can wipe the tears from your eyes if you want.”
I cried? Ha ha, I didn’t notice.
“We make men cry. That’s our job.”
* * *
You don’t know what to think about yourself after something like that. I’m a pathetic old man who’s dripping piss. So pathetic they had to do THAT to me.
No, I’m a tough motherfucker, so tough I let them do THAT to me.
Maybe that’s how I’ll feel tomorrow. But today I still feel fragile. Have you ever farted from your dick? I guess there was some air trapped in there. And it burns a little when I piss. It’s hard to forget a feeling like that, a tube up your dick. And then they make you piss through it. I still don’t know how it works, exactly. I probaly shouldn’t have mentioned this in the column. Well, I’m too old to be dating anyway.
What does it mean to be a man? In Hollywood Salutes Bruce Willis, it means LOOKING tough, but being a nice guy at heart. The American Cinemateque was giving an award to Bruce Willis, so it was kind of like The Bruce Willis Awards. Typical corny awards show, lots of celebrity presenters, but only Bruce Willis wins.
And Bruce sat there, his head shaved bald, not knowing how to react. What expression should you have on your face when you’re the guest of honor for something like this? Sometimes he smiled, laughed at the jokes made at his expense. Then they’d start talking about how he bought ice cream for an entire neighborhood while shooting The Sixth Sense, or how he bought Michael Clarke Duncan the book The Green Mile and told him to read it over and over and start studying and I’m gonna make a few phone calls and this is gonna change your life.
Bruce is looking tougher at this age. More damaged. And when they said all this nice stuff about him, he didn’t smile. He looked real serious. Maybe he’s gonna cry though. Like I did when they stuck a tube up my dick.
Sorry about that.
Some of it was kind of embarrassing. Ol’ Bruce has done alot of shitty movies. And when you line them all up next to each other it starts to get embarrassing. North. Armageddon. Blind Date. etc.
But then you look at the good stuff. Die Hard. Die Hard 2. Die Hard With a Vengeance. Pulp Fiction. The Sixth Sense.
I liked Fifth Element, and so did alot of folks on the Badass ballot. He was pretty cool in Last Man Standing, even if it’s no Yojimbo or Fist Full of Dollars. He was always funny on Moonlighting and you fucking know it. And he does those dramatic roles that are supposed to be good, but I’ve never seen them. In Country. Nobody’s Fool.
He’s not just doing the same shit all the time. Even in the bad movies, he gives it his all. He looks tough in Armageddon, it’s just the movie surrounding him that sucks. And he’s got longevity. He doesn’t have to keep trying for comebacks. He’s not making an ass of himself like “Fats” Stallone doing that Get Carter remake. Look at that fucking jackass in that bad suit.
But then, he IS a man. In the bad sense of the word. In the sense that he does make his Armageddons, and he wants to be the movie star, he wants to own the Planet Hollywoods. And he wants to be a rock star.
There was a whole section on Return of Bruno. Ouch.
And that’s why Clint Eastwood is so great. He doesn’t want to be a rock star. He just plays jazz piano, on occasion. Real good, but only on occasion. It’s my theory of the Badass juxtaposition. It’s gotta be something sensitive, something emotional, or something cute if it’s gonna amplify the Badass quality.
Jumping around doing “Under the Boardwalk” karaoke doesn’t work. Sitting quietly playing jazz does.
Clint is jazz. Everybody else is karaoke.
Out of the Shadows – Clint Eastwood: An American Masters Special is a 90 minute overview of Clint’s career, skipping through time for interviews with Janet Maslin, Walter Mosley, Sergio Leone, Don Siegel, even Clint’s mom Ruth Wood. It shows how Clint went from a little boy who loved jazz to a bit player in b-movies; from the star of Rawhide to the man with no name, to an American icon, to a director.
More than anything it shows how Clint is a shy man, a quiet man, and the more he doesn’t say, the more he tells about himself. It’s how he tells you how he’s gonna kick your ass. It’s also how he tells you he has a soul.
My favorite parts in the special are when they show him actually directing. He doesn’t say “Cut” or “Action!” He just says hey man, let’s try this. Okay, that’s good.
And then there’s the part where he is honored. Not by Amanda Peet and the cast of Friends introducing clips of his recent movies. By a jazz concert.
Can you imagine that? A jazz concert, honoring you. And then he comes up on stage at the end. “My name is Clint Eastwood, and I love jazz.” And he sits down and briefly grabs the spotlight, playing the piano. Out of the shadows. And then quietly he goes back in, and we don’t hear much from him, except occasionally he releases a movie.
Maybe that’s what it means to be a man. To let your manhood speak for itself. You don’t have to prove yourself. Yourself proves itself. They talk about how Clint has the physical strength to stand still and be menacing. To not say anything with his mouth, but say volumes with his eyes. To lay it all out by holding it all back.
People will know you’re a tough motherfucker. You don’t have to explain the whole tube in the dick deal, why it makes you tough and not old. In my opinion.
By the way, maybe you guys shouldn’t mention this to anybody else, you know.
* * *
Paying for the parking garage took a long fucking time. Two long lines, they started out about the same length, but I chose the wrong one. The cashier must’ve been new, typing all kinds of weird shit into the computer, taking five minutes for each transaction. Coming up with weird prices like $4, when it’s supposed to be $3 a day. Everybody in line, straight from hearing bad news or getting shots or getting tubes stuck up their dick (me), is starting to get pissed. Swearing under their breath or making those loud sighs of annoyance.
Then this young couple comes up, gets in the other line, gets through it long before I get through mine. They looked like they were in their mid-20s. Fashionably dressed. Lacking in sleep. Holding hands. The woman was whiter then I must’ve been earlier, when they thought I was gonna faint. She was skinny and her hair was mostly shaved off, growing back haphazardly in little blond patches.
What the fuck am I complaining about, getting sodomized in novel new ways. I bet this gal WISHES she had a dick to stick a tube up, rather than this. That dude would LOVE to get the urodynamic evaluation, rather than have to deal with this. It would be a fucking birthday party to him.
Part of his mind, the devious man part, I bet it’s looking for a way out. Get her to do something wrong, find some reason to break up, to save himself the emotional damage of loving a girl that’s probaly gonna die.
But he stands there and holds her hand, and goes on with life.
Maybe THAT’S what it means to be a man. Even if he doesn’t play piano. You just have to find your own definition.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.