Childish Fears

The Gonzo Journals

January 25th, 2023

Once more, I’m writing my second Gonzo Journals entry of the day rather than just a single offering. This is how I’m managing to keep the literary pump primed between projects. No rules, just write. Fuck the biz. Just create. I have a couple of contracted projects coming due in the next few months, I’m just procrastinating. It’s an outlet, really. What am I supposed to do? Keep the voices in my head bottled up? That’s how you go insane, folks. Don’t do that. Release the beast!

It’s amazing how some of the smallest things in life can trigger deep seeded memories from our earliest years atop this cursed rock we call a planet. A song on a Spotify playlist can bring you back to sweaty evenings parked by the lake or the scent of honeysuckle unlocks that time your cousin blackmailed you into playing swords. Am I being specific? Not to myself, but possibly some of you. I mean, we didn’t have smartphones in the eighties. Statistically, some of you were into swordplay at the family reunion. I do live in Texas, after all…

Last night, I watched a seven-year-old take his first journey into horror films. It wasn’t anything too crazy, but a PG-13 science fiction dark comedy with horror elements. Upon the first scene displaying any sense of tension, he informed me it was time to turn the movie off. This morning, he asked if we could continue. Absolutely, dude. We’ll take it as far as you’re willing to go, within reason. Half of the Star Wars saga is rated PG-13 and he’s seen all of them. They’re waaaaaaaaaaaay more violent than the film he was watching.

Seeing him react to the film reminded me of how timid I was when I was seven years old. I remember when HBO only aired at night and most of that time was spent playing Jaws on repeat. Shit, why not? That’s a great movie! The memory I associate with it is quite odd, however.

I was sitting there on my grandmother’s sofa eating a tuna sandwich with mayonnaise and pickle relish. I took a bite right when the severed head comes floating out of the hole in the boat midway through the film. From that moment on, I have flashes of that movie playing in my head whenever I eat something with mayo and dill relish. The human brain, man. It’s the world’s most fucked up computer, yet we know hardly anything about it! Humanity is squandering its resources in the wrong sectors!

Recently, I began playing a retro reboot of an old eighties arcade game which reminded me of a horrible moment from my youth. The newer game is called Wizard of Walls. Here is a trailer:

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Not quite. It’s very ominous. One of the things I promised myself when I became a writer was that I would treat myself to a couple of classic eighties arcade cabinets if I ever managed to make any money. Now I have two of them placed strategically between my living room and writing studio. I stopped and played for five minutes on my way upstairs to write this very offering! I can officially quit writing now if I genuinely want. I’ve reached my goal.

Anyway, this game is based on the 1980 arcade game Wizard of Wor. Here is a video for that. Don’t worry, this is all going somewhere.

Dude. That voice. That fucking computerized voice! I’d forgotten.

I was seven years old. My grandmother had taken me along with her to a store in my hometown of Greenville, Texas – cue the banjos – known as TG&Y. I’m not sure what the abbreviation was for, but we jokingly referred to it as ‘Toys, Girdles, & Yo Yo’s’. I still remember how the store smelled. Bleach water and lower Wesley Street funk. All the stores down there smell that way. I think it was because they were all built on the edge of Longbranch Creek. The poop water just managed to seep into the cervices of everything in that area, giving it a unique scent. You never realize it until you move away and revisit.

Every store in the eighties seemed to have an arcade corner resembling the one I have now in my living room. Videogames were still new back then, and the older generations cursed them for being all we, as children, seemed to care about. For twenty-five cents at a time, we could be whisked away into another world, fighting monsters and saving girls who just couldn’t seem to step outside of their front doors without being kidnapped. Those were amazing times.

Wizard of Wor was unique among everything I’d seen up to that point. It had a computerized voice which would taunt and threaten you as you played. I’d never heard anything like it before.

So, I’m sitting there in the store’s arcade corner with a load full of shit on deck trying to decide whether to ‘insert coin’ as the eerie voice requested. I was one of those kids who couldn’t go to the bathroom in public, so I was holding on to that treasure until I reached the sanctity of my own toilet. Oddly enough, I stayed that way into my adult life until joining the military. You don’t have a choice then. You either take a dump in a fifty-year-old outhouse in the field or you cramp all night in your frozen fox hole. Those are your choices.

I just remember being so terribly frightened of the computerized voice coming from the arcade cabinet. I’d never heard such sounds in real life at that point, and I was certain whatever creature lived within would break out at any time to devour me. I still recall the heat from the cabinet and the burned-in images of the maze upon the dust covered screen. I frantically searched the store for the safety of my grandmother’s shopping cart. I may or may not have shit my pants in the process. Fucking wizard.

It’s been forty-two years since I’ve heard that voice, yet it somehow feels like yesterday. My chili bowl haircut wearing, buck front teeth displaying, poop pants self came back into play the moment I heard that computerized demon requesting my quarters. Now, he lives in my goddamn living room, and I love him for it. Being scared is fun, isn’t it? Our house has two bathrooms. I’m good.

The kid wants to pick up where he left off in the movie when he gets home from school this afternoon. Let’s see how far he can make it without turning it off. There’s hope for him yet…


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