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Cactus Jack
Cactus Jack

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Cactus Jack

Growing Up Freaky

In 1967 my mother introduced me to a soap-opera called Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows was different than most soaps on TV back in those days (different than most soaps on TV these days, if the truth must be told). Werewolves, ghosts and witches populated the streets of Collinsport, the setting of the show. A vampire stalked the women of Collinsport -- Maggie Evans, the comely barmaid of the Blue Whale Tavern, Carolyn Stoddard, the irresponsible heiress, Victoria Winters, the governess with a mysterious background... even as a seven-year-old boy I recognized that there was more to this neck-biting thing than just blood-drinking. His nature tortured Barnabas Collins, the vampire, but I could never understand why it bothered him. To be immortal and spend every night sucking on the neck of a good-looking woman... what's wrong with that?

Eventually, I discovered late night weekend TV. Creature Features. A hokey horror show host and some genuinely great movies. Bela Lugosi's Dracula introduced me to another kind of vampire. Dracula didn't regret his nature -- he reveled in it. His enemies hated him, but what did that matter?

His enemies feared him as well.

I could appreciate that.

By now my schoolmates called me weirdo. I knew just a little bit too much about monsters. I was different.

Different in Middle America is not a good thing.

Different in Middle America marks you as a freak to be slapped around and mocked.

Different in Middle America teaches you about rage and hatred and fear.

That much hasn't changed in Middle America from the sixties and seventies when I was growing up in Colorado and now.

Ask Klebold and Harris.

Oh... you can't. They learned the lessons of rage and hatred and fear too well, and they killed and died in their rage.

After what they did I heard analysts on TV talk about the culture of violence that created them. Marilyn Manson was to blame.. so was The Matrix... so were comic books... and television and video games and...

It wasn't any of those things.... It was growing up freaky in Middle America, a place where difference is hated and feared.


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