Thursday, October 28, 2010

Old Psychos Never Die...They Just End Up on Facebook

It's hard to forget the certifiable screwballs who have come in and out of our lives. That is, the men and women we would have nominated as the most likely to appear on a 48 Hours segment, or be oft-mentioned by the dulcet-toned Bill Kurtis on American Justice.

Recently, a personal favorite of mine emerged from the memory graveyard and showed his mug on Facebook. This is the definitely the darkest side of social networking. I’ll call him "Wayne," after John Wayne Gacy, because it wouldn’t really surprise me if he’s got a few bodies buried in his suburban Tarrytown, New York backyard. Wayne’s wall is open to the public, and I live in perpetual fear that this crackpot might one day friend me. You see, I got to know this Wayne character for a brief spell in my college years, but I never considered him a friend and, I know, he didn’t consider me one. But none of this matters in the Facebook universe.

It’s kind of hard to explain Wayne to those who have never met the guy. However, for those who have had the distinct pleasure, they will appreciate what I am about to say. Born and raised in the Bronx, Wayne gushed and gushed some more, which was unusual in and of itself. He also uttered a mother lode of “golly gees” and “oh geezes,” which were regionally way out in left field. In fact, it was this faux folksiness that initially clued me in that something was rotten in the State of New York. That is, when starkly contrasted with Wayne's periodic eruptions of rage and foaming-at-the-mouth tirades against virtually everyone who didn't look or think like him.

“There’s nothing like a cold one!” I heard Wayne say on more than one occasion. He could be the king of clich├ęs and unctuous corn in one breath, and a blithering loon in another, particularly after having had one cold one too many, which was often. Merely seeing this man’s visage a quarter of a century later, courtesy of his profile photo and picture album, is unsettling. Foremost, let me pay old Wayne a compliment: He’s aged remarkably well over the years. He looks not far removed from the madman I remember so well with his red drinking face and 1970s mustache. Go figure: This very strange man has a wife and three kids now, and is holding down a bureaucratic accountant's job.

Wayne’s derangement once found him threatening me with bodily harm because his kid sister was dating an Italian guy, and I was therefore responsible for making off with, and making out with, all of his kind's young women. Apparently, he also didn’t approve of the size and shape of my nose (way, way too big and pointed), believing that I must therefore be a secret member of the local temple and, of course, have a controlling hand in both the media and, yes, total world domination.

Wayne's bizarre antics are actually quite legendary. He’s perversely touched countless lives in the old neighborhood. Virtually everybody who knew the guy back when has a Wayne story or two (or three or four) to recount. Reminded of that Wayne character from the old neighborhood and its bar scene, one woman summed him up rather succinctly. “He was scary!” she said. Indeed he was. And now the man’s back in a twenty-first century guise, and untold people are cowering in fear of his possible friend requests and, worse still, ending up in his Tarrytown backyard commingling with the earthworms should they refuse.

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