May 12, 2023, 06:29AM

Rooster Sneaks Into Heat

New York, January 1996: RQ loses track of his friends and ends up in a Michael Mann epic.

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Monica and I got so caught up in our conversation that we didn’t notice the teenagers had split sometime before the movie ended. She started pecking and spur-clawing me and as soon as I started drawing blood I got up and left. Some things just aren’t worth fighting for. I hopped out of my seat and hid in the otherwise empty theater while my wife screamed my name as the end credits of Grumpier Old Men unspooled in Theater 7 of the UA Union Square 14. “GET DOWN HERE NOW, ROOSTER! YOU MADE ME LOSE TRACK OF THEM! I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO GO TO A FUCKING SMASHING PUMPKINS CONCERT!” She destroyed a seat before a brave employee tried to remove her, but he was mincemeat and ran away with her. Monica charged outside while I followed the young employee into the bathroom, coming up behind him with a washcloth and rubbing alcohol (always travel prepared).

In the shock of being attacked by a “chicken” in a movie theater, this guy didn’t seem to care or notice that I too was a bird, and he didn’t mind when I pulled gauze out of my avian fanny pack and started applying pressure to his dozens and dozens of cuts. He was losing a lot of blood, but I just needed to cauterize and constrict everywhere I could: our spur claws are only lethal weapons when used many, many times. One, two, even 10 cuts from a rooster or a hen’s spur claw won’t kill you. But 30 will. This young man, Clay if I’m remembering correctly, started crying just like Peter the Wolf. “Nobody care me…” In his shock, his grammar was regressing. “I just wanna see movie…” I started getting freaked out by the baby talk and as soon as he was safely bandaged up and I knew I wasn’t liable, I jetted out of there and into the nearest theater.

Auditorium 1—one of two screens in the UA Union Square with a balcony—was playing Michael Mann’s 1995 classic Heat, none of which I knew when I ran in there desperate not to be found by management, my wife, or Clay. I sat through what I later found out was the middle of the movie, the centerpiece scene between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, in a much less crowded theater than Grumpier Old Men. Even in a blizzard, there were still people gripped by this three-hour crime movie. De Niro was mumbling something about “moving on when you feel the heat around the corner,” I don’t know, I think it was more dramatic than that. Pacino was stone-faced, a cop taunting this career criminal every bit his shadow self. Me and Bennington? No. Monica? Absolutely not. Paul and Meredith? Why was I following them?

Pacino started screaming about Hank Azaria’s wife’s “GREAT ASS” and I left, hunting the kids down. But I can’t remember why… it wasn’t that far, Toys ‘R’ Us a couple of blocks away, I saw Monica, ditched her in the park with the junkies, and booked it for the video game section, where I was positive I saw Paul. Nope. Then I went a few blocks over to Virgin Megastore, where sure enough, Paul was standing in front of a big cardboard cutout display of the angel girl masturbating in the star on the cover of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, gesticulating wildly to a stone-faced Meredith. I don’t think she was buying whatever he was selling. As I inched my way inside, past the metal detectors, I could hear their conversation, still in progress: “…it’s not a rock opera, it’s not Tommy, it doesn’t have a literal story or a plot but an emotional arc… it’s everything in life: life is sad, life is happy, life is cruel, life is joyous, life is pain, frustration, excitement, lust, ecstasy… Billy Corgan is the poet of our generation. This is the most ambitious and masterful record by a rock band since The White Album.”

I ran down into the video section as Meredith laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I watched them continue their conversation—this time, with her in the lead—somewhere in the “S” section, right around the Smashing—

“Have you ever heard of Elliott Smith?”

Paul shook his head. I headed up the escalator as I saw Meredith talking wildly and louder than ever before, her voice echoing through the mostly empty store. “I saw him at the Knitting Factory last fall, and at Maxwell’s in Hoboken last summer—” Paul jumped in. “Did you see the Pumpkins when they played there in June 1991?” Meredith was silent and simply said “no” and continued extolling the virtues of Elliott Smith’s unbearably depressing music as I walked away and looked for the latest Prodigy CD in the Electronic section, one night in New York City, January 1996.

—Follow Rooster Quibbits on Twitter: @RoosterQuibbits


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