WEIRD STUFF :: 408 Kimball Street

If they do it right, parents can create an impenetrable veneer of a safe, idealistic world for their children, where wishes came true, Santa Claus was real, and there were no monsters under the bed. This was the environment my parents presented to me; we were a family who lived within our means, but I was spoiled with love and a mutual trust.

On October 30th, 1991, the night before Halloween, my parents - and my sister - informed me with a blunt nonchalance that ghosts were, in fact, real. And after regaling me with stories of firsthand accounts built upon that established trust, I had no reason not to believe them.
I was in the third grade; my biggest concerns were stranger danger, Freddy Krueger, and long division - but those were all manageable. Now I had this to contend with.

The story - or stories - was that the apartment building they lived in from 1975 to 1986 (and that I actually lived in for the first three years of my life, which gave me discomfort) was haunted, and they each had their own unique, vivid, and admittedly cool experiences to share.
And share they did!

The next day at school I felt a heightened sense of reality, seeing through other dimensions. I felt entitled - I had a secret that I enjoyed keeping to myself. And I did! I kept the safety on that weapon most of my life, until every once in a while I'd find myself in a conversation about the afterlife or the existence of the paranormal, and those were the times when I'd lock 'n load.

About the Video

This movie was produced in the fall of 2002. The original intention was to find & shoot something interesting about the City of Fitchburg, Massachusetts - but the only interesting thing I knew about Fitchburg were the spooks of Kimball Street. So I pitched the stories I knew to our producer, who promptly sought out the current owner of the building and ultimately facilitated the entire production (like any strictly competent producer should do). Our editor/videographer went out capturing b-roll (including aerial footage from a plane!), and I assembled the cast of interviewees (which was easy 'cause I was living with some of them at the time).

The premise was to get all the previous tenants back into the haunted dwelling & tell their stories on camera. Following that, we were to research the history of the house in the hopes of finding some morbid or mystical explanation as to why it was the way it was.
This idea and setup was my contribution, which got me a Director credit. But in the end, the final cut has a different look and vibe than what you may be used to from Bennett Media (though I did choose the music). Also, note our original handle, "Blue Sky Productions," before Disney acquired it (as they do with everything).

At the very least, we're left with documented accounts of a few of those unbelievably believable stories to tell in the dark that had haunted me since I was 8.

- Paul


Bennett Media's TASTES OF SUMMER

Spring's been a cold, grey bastard that lasted us the rest of our lives: waterboarded by rain, dressing in fucking layers.
No longer will we wait - Summer starts now, here, on my authority! Nobody trusts anybody and we're all very tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting to dive into the punk rock movies and disco metal music we've deprived of ourselves for what feels like a year on Neptune. So, Bennett Media's TASTES OF SUMMER is already in progress, and we're gonna push it real good to October 1st - cuz that's how it goddamn should be.
All site and facebook posts should keep you up to date on what's hot & heavy, and all the different ways we're going about worshipping the Sun God. There'll be new stuff, reused stuff, rude stuff, & nude stuff, and no thunder clouds or creepy crawlies are gonna delay this ballgame anymore.
So kick your air conditioner in its stupid balls and taste us all Summer long. Roll it!



   Hey girls and boys! We have some delicious treats for you! Go to Yellow Lemon Collages and buy my original works of art direct from my very fingers. Everything is one of a kind and created while listening to music or watching a movie.

   After your purchase, feel free to take a picture of yourself with it, and email it to us with your thoughts on the piece. We will post it on the blog.

- Babes


MY POSTER PAST :: part 5

It started to be kind of a drag trying to categorize my youth into structured little genres, connecting the dots that're barely there, defining a cohesive thread from one poster to the next... What pretentious crap.
For the most part, I was never seeking out a 'theme' for my walls (Beatles project aside) - prints just kinda came at me, and my interests and obsessions were sprawling enough to accommodate a steady consumption of wall art - resulting in a chaotic collage where the only connection was me.
This is actually kinda freeing & I wish I could apply this level of relaxed discipline to all my lists and stories: Here are 10 random posters from my past.

- Paul

Reservoir Dogs

I'd never waited so anxiously for something to come in the mail (which is a mega statement). I got this in '95 - right at the height of my 15 minute Dogs obsession - a time when merchandise from an ultra-low budget indie was pretty scarce; it was special.
However... It does have a good look; the cheapness of the production and the gritty subject matter kinda match the idea of what looks like black spray paint on a cardboard box. But what the hell, why is Chris Penn suited up like the rest of them (which is who I assumed this photoshopped, disembodied head belonged to). It's dumb, though not nearly as upsetting and frustrating as when I was 12. And don't even get me started on the dickheaded tagline...


In 1990, Prints Plus, a nationwide chain (I think) that sold just posters and art prints, opened in my mall.
"Finally! My kinda store!" Even my parents were impressed - we all went down the first day they lifted the gate, and we all managed to find something for ourselves: mine being the most important.
I made a bit of a life decision that day: after years of collecting all the figures and wearing various apparel adorning all four characters, these standalone publicity shots backed me into a corner that I'd already been kinda standing in. My decision had already been made, and without hesitation, I came out publicly regarding which of these Turtle boys was my favorite.

The Blair Witch Project

Cut to ten years later, and Prints Plus is having their "Going Out of Business Sale."
It was sad, but it was okay: my interest in posters started to fall outside of the parameters of Dawson's Creek pinups and what-if depictions of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe hanging out with each other. In other words, the mainstream market had dried up.
Just for the sake of making one last (dirt-cheap) purchase, I found at least one print that was relevant to me. It's not the ugliest thing in the world, but it felt good to represent a flick I loved that everyone else seemed to be against at the time.

Terminator 2

I had the classic, more popular image of Arnie on the bike with "I'M BACK" in big red sans serif font. Even still, I had to have this goofy bit of business too because it was the closest thing to having an Endoskeleton poster that was available -- and that's what I really wanted.

Visitors Map Guide to Jurassic Park

This movie had a series of five or six posters available in stores - like all the best movies did. I'm not sure how many I had, but I sure had to have this one, because it was the only one to feature the Dilophosaurus, who was the coolest character in the film.
The best thing about these posters is that they're just cheap-looking and ugly enough that you could imagine them being for sale in the actual Jurassic Park gift shop. And if I know Steven like you know Steven, that was probably intentional.


Suncoast Video Store was loud, claustrophobic, and overpriced - they still had some cool shit from time to time though.
I broke my own rule and picked this up without having seen (this version of) the movie. (Truth be told, I didn't see it until October 2018). But this was during the early 90s when Universal Monsters were all taking over the 80s video slasher slots, and I was wicked caught up in it. So anything having to do with any iteration was a must.
It's also one of the absolute few on this continuing list that's still on my wall today.

Beavis and Butt-Head's Room

I'm not sure they were ever as funny as I wanted them to be, and at the time, being surrounded by 5th graders everyday, incessantly peeling off bad impressions forever, didn't help. Still, it felt hip to watch it, and once in a while it could be a lotta fun. I also liked the artwork & they were easy to draw, which made them perfect for poster form.
And while this was not at all a representation of the condition in which I kept my own room, I'd always had fun picking out & studying all the details like a Highlights magazine.

Batman Returns

Ah, here's another monumental series of posters in which I ensconced myself - (it's a fucking Batman movie). Having all of them (except the lone portrait of the Dark Knight himself - I was infinitely more interested in the villains), they created a dark, glossy, gothic contrast across my room that gave me more joy than most other art ever had (or has) given me.


The freedom to purchase and display risqué pinups in my bedroom at age 11 admittedly prompted some laughable overkill - which, in turn, spiraled into less discriminating taste: eventually I was just buying what they had. To be totally honest, this poster didn't accurately represent my taste in women (or posters). It's colorful and Summery and timely, but it was a bit of a throwaway.
Though, had I known at the time that these young ladies were real-deal XXX stars, I probably woulda thought it was more badass.

Independence Day

Someday I'm going to discuss in great detail my own complex feelings about this lame duck movie (which is something I'm dying to do). And without a rigid frame of reference, it's hard to talk about exactly why I bought this print, or the feelings it gave me as I gazed upon it in my room. But what it grinds down to is that it's a striking image; it was impressive in the movie, and it makes an impressive poster. And I look at it now with the same thought I had then: I wish the image were from a different, better film.


Prologue or Epilogue : You Decide

   "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us"
 - Joseph Campbell 

   After slipping into the longest and deepest depression of my life, I'm back from it. I'm almost me again. I can see the sun rise.

   While I've been maintaining a sort of catatonic mundane existence for years on the outside, my insides have been burning with demons from my past. It became harder and harder to move past something that was my whole life before my new life began. Ignoring it didn't work anymore the moment my son was born.

   I was immediately forced to look at the woman I had become and I realized that I had become a mirror image of myself. All basic physical characteristics and general principals remained, but the true essence of what made me was somewhere deeply hidden inside.

   I was a new Mom and everyone was looking at me -- at how I was doing. I could feel criticism on their worried faces. I spiraled out of control and felt like I was going to explode -- not into a million tiny glowing stars as I imaged as a child, but grotesque like putrid boiling septic juice. I was going to melt everyone around me into a vile stink of shame and misfortune if I didn't get my shit together. I have so few people in my life that I truly love and care about that preserving these relationships became as important as maintaining my sanity.

   I had to quit my job. Going to work and dealing with people was like traveling through the worst layers of hell. I was overdosing on prescription anti-anxiety medications and my co-workers were starting to notice that something wasn't right with good ol' Jess. Staying home with my son was a blessing in disguise. Waking up every day to his big beautiful blue eyes and his no-cares smile kept me from drowning in the bathtub. His sweetness and love pierced right through my existential crisis.

   Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough. As wonderful and amazing as he is, there was real work that was going to have to be done to save my poor soul. I started therapy with a kindly woman who travels on the same offbeat wavelength as I. I'm grateful every day that I found her. I learned very quickly from her that, even though there are things in this universe that may be unexplainable, that doesn't make them any less real. It's helping.

  And in the grand gesture of the beginning of this happy ending, I have a monumental statement to all. I close the book on you. No longer am I going to go back and read different passages and be emotionally invested. The hurting is done. The images are all gone. And if I don't want to, I never have to revisit you again.

The End.



My Favorite Childhood "Toys"

When I was 2 years old, I'd cue up our pirated copy of The Right Stuff and lay (or is it lie?) upon the coffee table with some couch cushions supporting my astro-boots and a walkman to supply direct radio communication to mission control. And these were the only elements I required to be a full-blown astronaut in the Mercury Space Program (with maybe some Bill Conti background music.)

You ever seen a child open a gift and then end up playing with the box while ignoring the toy inside, and some grownup will quip, "Hey you coulda just got 'em the box without blowin' money on the toy!" That's sorta the jelly of this compilation; there may be nothing as lo-fi as a box on this list, but these are some of the items that held great importance to me that were A) not utilized by me for their intended function, or B) simply weren't a toy with a capital "T".
I could pay homage to the indomitable efforts of Milton Bradley and Kenner with a solid list of Batman-this and Dick Tracy-that (and perhaps I will one day) but this is a collection steeped in aesthetic taste and pure imagination.... (which is partly made up of lighter fluid and some suggestive cleavage).

- Paul

Fisher-Price Fried Egg

The peas and the mashed potatoes were pretty good. The chicken leg had nice coloring, but the texture was all fucked up. But man, nothing ever came close to that elegant, geometric purity of the fried egg. It seemed so wholesome and hearty enough to even make me hungry for a food prepared in a way that I had otherwise not been interested.
But out of context, its bright orange yolk centralized in its clean, white surrounding felt less like a child's plaything and more like an art piece depicting the greatest achievement in nature... and modern plastic.

Chocolate Monster Coins

To me, they held a higher value than actual legal currency.
Like so many toys, action figures, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, and trading cards, I'd leave certain candy unopened simply because I was enamored with the packaging.
And in the case of these seemingly generic chocolate tender discs (today you can purchase them as "Monster Munny" by Palmer), there were more than one 'package' to collect (not that it was a challenge - they usually came in a bag of dozens), and once I'd assembled the whole 'set', I'd either keep them displayed somewhere in my room, or store them in my off-hours backpack that I'd fill will various tools and magical items - like Link!

As usual, I digress. Anything depicting classic monsters was anything that demanded attention, and these soft, 1980s iterations felt characteristic of the pop colors of Basil Gogos. I'd only wished they came as framed prints.

Wonder Woman Flashlight

When I was 4 or 5, my grandparents would take me in their Winnebago up to Seabrook Racetrack to bet on dogs. During one of these surreal visits, I started arbitrarily picking winners - much to the delight of my family, sure, but also to the crowd of Vinnys and Frankies seated around us that began to anxiously await my next choice.
I'll never know how much cash I won for these crusty sleazebags, since giving me any kinda cut would've only compounded what was already bending a bucketful of laws. However, as compensation, a gentleman stranger presented me with a yellow Wonder Woman flashlight -- and I will say, no greasy wad of cash could've competed with this battery-operated pop art eroticism. Quite frankly, it'd been one of the sexiest things I'd ever seen (after Lea Thompson's "Enchantment Under the Sea" dress and the mud wrestling scene in Stripes).
DC's 1980s depiction of the female form wrapped in wavy black hair and red & blue stripes spoke formative volumes to me and all but guaranteed my heterosexuality (and a mild proclivity for wearing such nylons and a bustier from time to time).

I was warned to not turn the flashlight on in the camper during the nighttime drive home as to not distract the grandfather at the wheel - as though I gave a shit about its functionality as an illumination device; I just wanted to get married to the picture on the handle.

My Gold Zippo

Between 1994 and 1996, the Zippo lighter kept sparking its way into every teenage boy movie that I'd been consuming at the time: The Professional, The Usual Suspects, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, etc. So in the absence of obtaining a working handgun or inviting Natalie Portman to be my best friend, this lighter seemed to be the movie prop that one would need to play-act any of these hardboiled bastards.
I wasn't exactly Ralphie Parker in trying to procure one - I never really considered the possibility that my overly protective folks would go out of their way to purchase a pricey firestarter for their prepubescent son - but any time we'd watch one of these movies, I'd always point out, "Hey, there's that lighter again..."
Cut to my 13th birthday and I anticipate nothing specific. And as the presents dwindle, I unwrap a bottle of Ronsonol lighter fluid, which even still doesn't clue me in to the contents of that final, palm-sized gift: a gold Zippo with the letters "VV" engraved on it (for Vincent Vega, of course).
Now, my initial snotty teenage reaction was that Travolta's lighter was silver, not gold, and he didn't have his name on it like a vinyl Batman Halloween costume. Of course, I didn't say any of this ungrateful bile -- I mean, they had it custom fucking made, and it was the real-deal name brand! Sure it came with some stern warnings re. "responsibility" and "ground rules" and shit like that, but they came through in a big way and got me what was arguably the best toy any teenager could ask for.

California Raisins Wallet

I don't think we've ever discussed the Raisins on Bennett Media before - and for a paralyzing fear of a chance that we may not get to ever again, let's dive deep into the sour, chewy content of my crush before we discuss my greatest monument to it.
Apparently, they had a short-lived Saturday morning show that I musta slept through. And as far as I know, there was no comic book series, and sadly, the Nintendo game never made it to stores (which was unfair, considering McDonald's and Domino's both got the 8-bit treatment). And yet, even without a standard childhood lineup of propaganda, they found a way into my life - through some more unconventional outlets.
I think the formal introduction was a claymation TV commercial - Raisin Bran I think - during which they 'performed' their 'hit' song, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." They also had a pretty well-known assortment of plastic and rubber toys, as well as a sticker series called "The California Raisins World Tour" with illustrations depicting different Raisins at famous global landmarks. I engaged in all of these treasures as they contributed to this peripheral obsession. I even attended some sorta "California Raisins On Ice" show (which is the only kinda "capade" I've ever been to) - very little of which I remember, but the swag I amassed from it lasted me my youth.
I also had pajamas, Colorforms, plates & napkins at my birthday... No joke, this shit was real.

And after all this, it never occurred to me to ask, "Who the hell are these dried, singing fruits?" They were clearly merchandise, but linked to whom or what? Did it matter? Only as an adult did I find it mildly puzzling... But I do know the answer is 'no' - no, it didn't matter, and I guess it still doesn't, because what attracted me to these figures who: had no discernible personalities from one Raisin to the next, didn't do karate, couldn't kill you in your dreams, and didn't wield lightsabers, was really nothing more than their color. To this day, that particular shade of reddish/brownish/purplish maroon is my favorite color, and the only other icon of the 80s that could pull off that hue was Beetlejuice. Of course, the toys, the claymation, and the giant foam ice skaters never really got the color right. Only when they were illustrated onto something were my rods & cones satisfied. Which - if you're even still with me here - brings me to the wallet.

I was at a family Christmas party in a house I'd never been in before with relatives I'd never met before: (childhood is full of these scenarios). Still though, in this crowd of strangers, someone knew me well enough to gift me with a puffy vinyl yellow wallet adorning a lineup of a few nameless, more indistinguishable characters (I suppose they're supposed to be like The Pips). Upon receiving it, a few of these adults started a trend of giving me singles - you know, new money for my new wallet - which escalated to the point that I was actually approaching nameless people who hadn't paid up and soliciting what I was led to believe what I was owed.
Not sure how much bank I accumulated (and I'd probably trade the possessions I own today for whatever I bought with it), but the wallet was the thing. It's what I brought my milk money to school in, it's what I brought my candy & trading card money to the corner store in, it's what I kept my bizarre collection of novelty credit cards in. If a man's wallet defines him (which, I don't even know if that's something people say), then I was clearly defined.
And, like 60% of the items on this list, it's lost to time.
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