you could have dinner with us: the texas chainsaw massacre (1974)

Dear Miss Sally Hardesty,

You ruined a perfectly quiet afternoon.  Before you and your friends burst into my home, I had been enjoying a peaceful day alone.  We have lived there for generations, and that has never happened to us before.  What you did was rude, presumptuous, and simply inexcusable.

When the first man walked in, I was furious.  He had no right invading our private space like that.  Frankly, I was shocked.  In retrospect, I admit that I may have overreacted.  Again, I stress, this had never happened before, so I was in alien territory.  Usually, the way it works is that we go out to hunt down prey or my (late) brother lures y’all in.

You are not supposed to make yourselves available like that.  That is not how it works.

When the woman barged in looking for her friend, I was blind with rage.  How else was I to react?  I had no alternative at that point.  I had to make an example out of her.  And for that, I offer no apologies.  She got what was coming to her.  She had to be taught a lesson.  A severe one, sure.  But if anything, she got off easy.  Normally, I would have tortured her before killing her off.  I should have tortured her!  I was so angry that I could not get her on the meat hook fast enough.  Some would argue that was torture, as she did not die quickly and was very much alive when I shoved her into the freezer.  So perhaps I should be grateful for that.  Due to the amateurish way all of that happened, though, I cannot in all honesty say that it was enjoyable.  Afterward, because things were so rashly handled, I sat in front of the window fretting about the whole thing.  In all honesty, I was scared and upset.  What next?  How many more idiotic teenagers were going to impose on my otherwise tranquil afternoon?

Well, as things clearly played out, there was more trouble to come.  That second man, the one who screamed like a little girl before I delivered the killing blow, was a damn fool.  At least, I know he suffered a bit.  I can only imagine the terror he must have felt when he found the woman in the freezer.  It must have felt like a lifetime.  Good.  After that one, the blood was definitely up and I was ready to murder the whole world.

When night came, I prowled our property ready to plug the hole.  Considering how many of you had already stupidly home invaded us, I was expecting some sort of church group gathering near us.  Maybe your bus had broken down or something.  Greedy wish fulfillment, I know.  A man can want!  Instead, I found only you and your half-wit crippled brother.  How you suffered through his moaning and groaning and complaining all those years, I will never know.  You certainly were not hard to find in the field, even in the dark.  Your brother—Franklin?—sure did jibber-jabber.  I sincerely do believe I did you and your family a favor killing him off.  Again, however, perhaps I should have prolonged his suffering a bit more.  Maybe you secretly think the same?

It had to be you.  I know that many people love the Billie Holiday version, as well as the Frank Sinatra one (of course!), but I have always secretly loved John Travolta’s cover.  Greatly underrated!  I guess my secret is out.  He really could have had a career as a singer, I think, if he had pursued it.  What?  You do not know of the Travolta version?  Check it out sometime… it is really something.

I digress, though.

Sally, I guess you have a way of getting a man sidetracked.  No doubt, I am telling you nothing you already do not know.  When we first met, I have to admit not really finding you that attractive.  How wrong I was.  Now, I realize that we do not usually go into the mushy stuff when taking care of our victims.  We are prideful yet utilitarian about the work we do—outside of the torture thing—and we like to have as much free time making furniture, cookin’ up delicious BBQ, and then I like to make my art.  During the tourist season, people flock to our little patch of heaven and buy up the “folk art” like crazy.  It never fails to amuse me, but I would also be a liar if I said I did not enjoy making it.

But there was something special about you that I saw in the short time that we were together.  You just had that spark.  Hard to notice, I know, with all of the hysteria going on.  May I at this point add how embarrassed I still am over grandfather’s gauche behavior that night?  The entire family idolizes that man, but he really was rude not treating you with the proper respect.  Then again, he is old and the indignities of aging will visit us all in the end… if we are lucky to live that long.  And let us not even get into how that old fool from the gas station treated you.  He thinks he is the boss because he handles all of our financial matters and takes care of the BBQ.  But he is just a cook!  Nothing more.  And my brother, the hitchhiker y’all picked up, is was a really good person deep down.  He just had one too many bad acid trips and his all meat diet did not help matters either.  I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive him.  Bless his heart.  He is in a better place, however, and no longer has to endure the hardships of living in poverty like the rest of us.

I digress again.

I really do miss you, Sally, and would very much like to see you again.  I was just so mad at your friends and it really put me in a bad mood.

Our parting was so sudden.  One minute we were all having such a great time and the next thing I know, you were out the window.  Quite a shock!  Then there was the whole thing out on the highway.  The truck driver—the black man–who stopped for you must have been surprised.  I sometimes think back on it and can see the humor of it.  Now.  At the time, though, it was a little jarring and unpleasant, especially since I injured myself with the chainsaw.  First time for everything!  I wonder what happened to him?  For a fat guy he sure did move fast.  But who am I to talk?  I am pretty agile on my feet too, no?  I did lose weight after that day—25 pounds!—but I have now gained it back.  Sad but true.

Oh, my… how loquacious I can get.

We still talk about you.  And in the dark, when I am alone, I think of you… remembering what it felt like to be so close to you.  I sometimes think I can still taste your tears.  Do you think of me that way?  At night, do you imagine what it would have been like if you had never left?  Do you regret fleeing?

I hope so.

Yours… forever,

Leatherface

P.S.  I think you left your shoes here.

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and it’s a battered old suitcase…

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Living abroad, basically out of a backpack, prevents one from maintaining the lifestyle of a pack rat. Before splitting from Portland for European lands, my comrade in mischief and I sold off hundreds of books to Powell’s Books. And what they wouldn’t take, we gave away. Although we started packing and getting rid of items a month in advance, the pressure to clear out our cluttered yet pleasantly comfortable apartment was cranked up pretty high those last two weeks. So plenty of books and VHS tapes went to neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers. What we chose to keep–still a good, solid library–got packed up and is supposedly safe and sound in some climate controlled wonderland waiting for us to return one day. My DVDs all went to a friend for safe keeping. No doubt they will be put to good use.

But some of my discs managed to escape being orphaned and are currently accompanying me on my journeys. In the past, when I had traveled “close to the ground,” the thought of having immediate access to films was absurd. And though I would occasionally dream of having films at my disposal, the idea was completely within the realm of science fiction. In the early 1990s, during my first lengthy trip to Europe, I was basically living in a cave. No, seriously. Well, it was a small, unheated one room flat with stone walls and only a wood stove to heat the place. I craved movies, but I craved heat even more. The last time that I was overseas for an extended period of time was 1996, DVDs were still a year away from entering the forum of mainstream acceptability, and therefore the idea of packing a bunch of them with me was ridiculous. I might as well have had access to a jet pack.

Not that I would want to take a traveling case of discs with me anyhow. Traveling, at least the way I’ve always done it, has been about surrendering the comforts of home, relinquishing the familiar, and attempting to reconnect with the alleyways of life.

Anyway, books were more transportable.

Things are different now. Because of work, I have to have access to films, or at least access to the machine that can bring them to life: a laptop. So I brought some with me and it ended up being a perfect opportunity to test out the “desert island” theory of film watching. You’re on a desert island and you can only bring twenty-five films. What films do you bring?

I stowed away a fair bit. Films that would inspire, would sharpen the intellectual batteries, would amuse, would withstand the repeat factor, and would continue to charge the imagination when nothing else would. There was also “homework” to consider, so a few of those ended up with me as well, though most of the required viewing is still back in Oregon awaiting orders to re-enlist for duty.

So what did make the cut? Obvious favorites, to be sure: Seven Samurai, Blade Runner (in all its permutations), Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Le Samurai, Heart of Glass, The Conformist, Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon, Suspiria, the Sergio Leone westerns, Bad Timing, The Thin Red Line, The Searchers and some other Ford/Wayne westerns, The Wild Bunch, a whole lot of Mario Bava and other European horror films from the 1960s, Barry Lyndon, some Godard, some Truffaut, a couple of Japanese horror films, a couple of samurai films, all of the Val Lewton films, and Lifeforce. Yes, Lifeforce, the craptacular 1985 Tobe Hooper movie. I also tossed in Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise because I’ve never seen it (an embarrassing admission) and what better time to watch it than when abroad and more likely to have a little time to spare for a 190 minute masterpiece. I’d received the Criterion Collection disc for a review that never panned out and was always waiting for that appropriate rainy day. Well, it took a few years and me having to leave my abode to do it, but I plan on watching it soon.

When planning my exile, I’d expected to watch plenty of films. I purchased a good, compact traveling case and stuffed it with digital goodies. Much to my surprise, my old ways have sort of kicked in again. I haven’t watched much. The first month we were too much on the go, getting acclimated to traveling again. But this last month we’ve been stationary, so we managed to watch The Devil’s Backbone, The Wicker Man (the original 1973 Robin Hardy film not the LaBute/Cage carnival of guffaws) and a couple of nights ago I settled into the Lewton/Robson film The Ghost Ship. More about that last one in a near-future post.

This new, more accommodating style of traveling is weird. I’m not complaining, mind you. But it’s still weird to have the luxury of being seemingly so far from “home,” so far from the familiar and yet be so connected. It’s not exactly like I’m in some mountain retreat at the moment, so I’m not too worked up about it. But it does make me wonder that if I was on a real desert island, I think watching a movie would be the last thing on my “to-do” list.