Here at Cracked, it's our unspoken mission to ply you with useful knowledge to optimize your chances of getting laid as often as humanly possible. (Note to our under-18 readership: Ignore that prior sentence. Stay in school/out of pool halls.)
Jot Powers/Wikimedia Commons
But monster truck rallies? They're cool.
That said, today's column addresses a topic that will furnish you with zero facts to help you convert cocktail party banter into heavy petting. This topic is my dead grandparents and their bungalow of frights. (I also talk about 9/11 toward the end.) So if somehow you're able to get to second base using anecdotes about a 12-years-dead French grandmother, there's nothing more our website can teach you, because you are the earthly incarnation of Eros and have a library card to Mount Olympus.
Anyway, from the 1960s to the 1990s, my grandparents lived in a modest two-story home in Rhode Island. They were lovely people, but that house made me understand why H.P. Lovecraft wrote up New England as the edge of sanity but with shittier winters.
#5. The Stabbing Sofa
My grandparents moved to Rhode Island when my mom was 9. Before that, they'd bounced from Georgia (the one with peaches, not immortal yogurt eaters) to France to Queens. My grandfather couldn't land a job, despite being a World War II vet with a Harvard doctorate. (Back in the '50s, being a Russian kid from Boston who decided to check out a few communist youth group meetings in the '30s because girls was less useful for your employment prospects than being named Dr. Gay Hitler.)
"Many fine old homes can trace their ancestry to the Hitlers who built them when [Ohio's] Pickaway County was young. Hitler School served our youngsters until its sale in 1920." -reality, just plain fucking with us.
Eventually my grandfather got hired to teach at a college outside Providence. My grandpa was a good guy; everyone liked him. No, seriously -- here's proof from the student newspaper:
Bryant College Digital Commons
As you can see, it was the most exciting news day in Rhode Island history.
But what God gave my grandfather in affability he denied him in handyman skills. The guy (alav ha-shalom) sucked ass at home repairs. For 40 years, my grandparents' house was held together by a latticework of yellowing duct tape. Windows, bannisters, chairs ... you name it. My grandfather was a dipsomaniac man-spider.
As my grandparents got more wizened, they'd spend most of the day in two Lay-Z-Boys. This didn't give them much impetus to buy new chairs for the rest of us. Around 1993, you had four options, listed here in order of attractiveness: a) stand, b) the floor, c) two chairs that would spontaneously combust if you sat in them too hard (these were reserved for my parents), or d) the stabbing sofa (below -- I'm center).
Back then, our favored pastime was gatherin' 'round an itchy hound.
The stabbing sofa was a yellow Victorian sofa that my mom insists to this day was "a wonderful antique." Anybody junior enough to be sequestered to the damn thing knew the truth: that some colonial demonologist used the forbidden arts he learned in far Rangoon to build a Burmese tiger trap inside a loveseat.
This couch had a huge, hidden, rusty spring that could gore you square in the asshole if you sat on it wrong. My grandparents' solution was to toss a minor landfill's worth of decorative throws over it, which only goaded the coil to weave its way through the crochet like some butt-loving kraken tangled in a fisherman's seine. My siblings and I never complained because we were children and knew fuck-all about everything except the names of the Little Rascals.
#4. The Hell Tub
My grandfather died in 1995, but I hadn't really known him since '90. A string of strokes had left him somnolescent on good days. (On bad days, he mistook you for the Artful Dodger or some other celebrated urchin.) Maybe my last memory of him being entirely lucid was '89, when he hauled us jabbering grandkids to see Ghostbusters 2. This was also one of the worst days of my life, because everything was a documentary back then.
We'd have been less scarred if he'd abandoned us at a pile of dead dogs for 90 minutes.
The main reason Ghostbusters 2 destroyed us was that scene where a possessed bathtub tries to eat Sigourney Weaver. You know, this one:
Baths were already a dicey proposition, but that scene only confirmed our suspicions that my grandparents' old tub -- with its four-clawed feet, like the dread progeny of a lion and a bucket or the griffin's backwoods cousin -- was Baba Yaga's industrial child blender.
Yannick Trottier/Wikimedia Commons
This is not my grandparents' tub. That tub turned invisible in photographs.
Now, have any of you ever actually been in the presence of a claw-foot tub? It's Halloween every time you sit on the john. Now imagine you're literate as a bird, coordinated as a glue-addled gnome, and convinced you saw a National Geographic special about Ernie Hudson and the magic painting. Given that skill set, you'd be forgiven for assuming that bathing was a conspiracy drummed up by a cabal of Dracula and every shark on planet Earth. I smelled like garbage that summer.
#3. Death, Just Goddamn Everywhere
Prior to those family trips to Rhode Island, my understanding of dying came primarily from an episode of Sesame Street where Ernie and Bert go to an Egyptian tomb and meet their mummy doppelgangers.
PBS/Children's Television Workshop
It didn't explain where Mr. Hooper went, though.
But after that? Rhode Island was oblivion. Outside of the Ocean State, everybody lived forever in the Muppet pyramid. But once Mystic, Connecticut, faded in the rearview mirror, the specter of death blackened the Eastern horizon, a sickle in one ossified mitt, a glass of Autocrat brand coffee milk in the other.
How bad was it? Every time we visited, a new old dog was dead. Three of their four deaf cats were undone by a feline addiction to sleeping inside minivan wheel wells. As a toddler, my cousin jumped off their roof for laughs (he survived and is now a lawyer). My grandparents lived down the street from a cemetery, so the siblings and I often held chariot races using my grandparents' old wheelchairs, surrounded by corpses who voted Whig.
I already mentioned that my grandfather died in '95. But my grandmother? She kicked it over and over again, like Prometheus chained to the rock, eternally resurrected and consumed by a wake of vultures.
Theodoor Rombouts/Wikimedia Commons
For the metaphor's sake, please imagine that vulture's name is "Mr. Diabetes."
My mom's lost count of the number of heart attacks and strokes my grandmother had. (It was definitely over a dozen. None affected her mind.) One Christmas, she had a coronary at the dinner table but denied it because "everybody's having such a nice time." By the time she received an 11th-hour cancer diagnosis in '01, she and mom had no choice but to laugh their asses off.