Saturday is my brother Ed's birthday. He would have been 55 this year. Double nickels. Riding the AARP train. Eligible for the senior discount. Eating the early bird special.
But it didn't work out that way. He'll have been gone two years come June. Not a week goes by when there isn't something that happens (or something ridiculous I see on TV) and I think, "Oh, man - gotta call Ed and tell him about that."
And then, I remember.
Can't do it. No more phone calls.
So, I store away whatever that tidbit is, hoping there's someone else who will appreciate it at some point.
Ed had a messed up sense of humor. When I was a kid, he was the one who enjoyed terrifying the living shit out of me, hiding in the dark under the stairs, waiting to grab an ankle, or bellowing outside my bedroom window at three in the morning in a demented basso-profundo, like some demonic opera singer, straight from the seventh level of Hell. He also enjoyed just the plain old weird shit this world offered us.
Like the spongmonkeys.
Remember the spongmonkeys?
Sure you do. You may have tried to block them from your memory - they were freaky-looking things. Creatures that looked genetically wrong and sang in raspy falsettos and wore silly hats.
Originally, the spongmonkeys were the totally random and messed up creation of Joel Veitch, an English animator. The world may never know why, but Joel crafted these things and had them sing a song called "We Like the Moon." If you missed it, here it is, in all its inexplicable glory:
Kinda f'ed up, huh?
But much, much, much more f'ed up is that a restaurant chain - Quiznos - actually made the conscious decision to use these vastly unappetizing critters to advertise their fast food. Now, I love Quiznos (they make a yummy tuna salad sandwich), but I would like to know just how much blond Lebanese hash had to be consumed by their marketing team before they all said, "Hell, yeah! The mutant furry baked potato animals with human mouths! Yes! They just say 'mmmmm, tasty!' America will LOVE them! LET'S DO IT!"
Judge for yourself. Here's the ad:
Now, most of America fell into two camps: the people who were totally creeped out by the Quiznos spongmonkey ad and people without TVs.
Then, there was me and my brother Ed. We thought this ad was freaking hilarious. In fact, in finding that clip on YouTube, I managed to laugh myself into a coughing fit. It's the words "THEY GOT A PEPPER BAR!" that makes me laugh like a moron. And it had the same effect on my brother. In fact, he used to call me and leave messages on my answering machine simply saying, "THEY GOT A PEPPER BAR!" That was it. Just that. Click. I would double over laughing. It was so ridiculous, and yet so damn funny.
After a week of these calls, I phoned my brother back and did my best spongmonkey impression for him. Now, the thing is, my brother was very ill already at this point, so he was almost always at home when I called. No answering machine, just my brother, struggling to breathe on the other end of the line. And this time was no exception. God help me, I could not resist it, even though I could hear he was struggling with his weak lungs and failing heart. I just went for it. I didn't even say "Hello" - I just started singing in this hideous high rasp. And, omigod, did my brother ever laugh his ass off. That's right - I tortured a dying man with laughter and a commercial jingle, screaming, "WE LOVE THE SUBS CUZ THEY ARE GOOD TO US!" until I could only hear him wheezing and gasping through giggles. By the time I got to "THEY GOT A PEPPER BAR!" he was begging me to stop, but laughing all the time.
"Oh my god, I can't breathe!" Ed wheezed and coughed. "Oh jesus, stop, please!" But through it all he was laughing so hard he was in tears. I stopped, thinking, "Holy shit, I think he's dying. Now, this is going to be hard to explain to the family..." But then he said, gulping in precious air, "Do it again!"
"THEY GOT A PEPPER BAR!!"
Ed struggled for air and gurgled and howled and said, "Oh shit, that's funny."
I hadn't heard him laugh like that in years. After that, I periodically called him and just yelled about that damn pepper bar and he would laugh and laugh. In time, his laughter became more faint, as he couldn't even find the energy to respond. Once he told me that, indeed, I had almost killed him with my manic spongmonkey call. You know, the truth is, I think Ed would have loved going out that way, giggling like a fool over a really messed up TV commercial. Hell, we should all go out laughing.
Silly though it may be, I think of Ed every time I go into a Quiznos. I see the pepper bar and have to smile.
Thank you, wee spongmonkeys, you twisted little bastards. You were a damn demented way to advertise a sandwich, but, bless you - you made my brother happy.
Happy birthday, Ed.