Fear & Loathing At TIFF 2013, Part 4: An American Werewolf In Toronto
My father has dropped me off at a hole in the wall road house out by the Toronto Pearson airport. This barely standing shack of an establishment is the only commercial business in sight. Right off from the Macdonald Cartier Freeway, the small parking lot rumbles from the planes taking off and landing a few short miles away.
This is the type of place where criminals meet to do business in William Friedkin movies. This is not the type of place that's going to attract any top celebrities from the film festival looking to buy overpriced weed.
I can't imagine why my father has brought me to this place. He tells me that we're about to score big, that this is the reason why we came here.
I seem to remember coming to Toronto for the film festival, hoping to strike the right connections for a change, and possibly land some type of paid gig in the film world.
But who the fuck am I kidding? It's already turned into another shit show, just like Cannes, like Yubari, like Sundance, and Philadelphia. More and more drama, and still no paid film work.
It's 7:30 p.m. My appointment is for 8. My father left me here a half hour early, so I kill time by pacing around outside in the parking lot, chain smoking my Newport 100s, and trying to calm my nerves.
I keep thinking back to the incident at the hotel earlier this afternoon. I keep thinking back to Gina, crazy gypsy Gina.
I think about the last thing she screamed at me before being carted away by the police.
"I curse you, Greg. I curse you and your father."
There could be serious ramifications to this. I can't even imagine what they might be, but I'm sure none of it is going to be fun or pleasant.
Everything around me is becoming a symbol, a red herring, an adumbration. I see the skeletal remains of some type of small animal lying at the edge of the lot, and there's a fucking owl perched at the top of the bar looking at me. What does it mean? What is this supposed to foreshadow?
And did I mention that the owl is positioned in front of the single broken letter in the bar's large neon sign?
The Terminal Bar, only the giant red T keeps flickering on and off creating a sort of hellish strobe effect.
I stub the cigarette out and make my way inside. The place is just as much of a dump as I expected.
There are a few pool tables, but I don't think they're in use anymore. The billiard cloth on the beds are all stained and torn. There are three empty cue racks with no cues in sight anywhere in the bar. I suspect the owner finally decided that having games wasn't worth the trouble that comes with providing free weapons to reckless drunks.
There are a dozen or so upright tables spread throughout the bar, but no seats. I guess they can't have anything around that's not bolted to the ground.
There are three small diner booths at the opposite side of the bar, and apart from the bartender, there's only four other people in here, all them seated at one of those booths. And they're all staring at me, staring at me hard.
Everything about this is making me feel uneasy. The entire place reeks of bleach and even that worries me. Was it used to clean vomit, or possibly something else?
Naturally, I order two shots of Jameson and a pint of the strongest IPA they have on tap. I down the two shots before chasing the burn with half a glass of the hoppy golden nectar.
I should be back in town; I should be blogging about all of the melodramatic American Oscar bait being premiered at a foreign film festival mostly funded with Canadian government tax dollars.
But instead, I'm about to get involved with a drug deal that is inevitably bound to go bad.
One of the men at the booth waves me over, and I immediately feel disappointed. I hate being right all the time.
As I approach the table, I realize that the man who signaled me to join them is wearing an eye patch. He looks like a character out of a comic book, but that's not the problem. The problem is that I recognize him. I can't quite place where, though. He reminds me of someone from a half-forgotten childhood memory. And that's the problem. It's a problem that I keep running into people that I know, people who I'd be better off not knowing.
I join the small group and notice that the man with the eye patch is intensely checking me out up and down. It seems as though he might recognize me as well.
Yeah, this is a problem.
The man with the eye patch extends his hand to introduce himself. He tells me that his name is Ralph.
A voice in the back of my mind is telling me to run, something is definitely very wrong here. I know that I know a Ralph who looks just like this guy. But I still can't place where.
We shake hands and I fuck up by giving him my real name.
"Hey, I'm Greg."
Ralph responds, "Why do I feel like I know you, Greg?"
"You're not alone, Ralph. I'm getting a bit of déjà vu here too. "
I can see that Ralph's three friends all look uncomfortable as well. They're all squirming in their seats and I'm concerned that I can't see their hands and where they might be. They're repositioning themselves as if they're either trying to hide an embarrassing erection, or getting their fingers around a gun tucked into their pants. I'm not really pleased with the prospect of either.
I look back over to the bartender, wondering if it's kosher to put the goods on the table. And as if Ralph can read my mind, he assures me, "Don't worry about Bobby over there, he's cool. If you've got something to show us, go ahead."
With that, I remove my messenger bag, place it on the table, open it, and retrieve a zip lock bag with five whole ounces of cannabis.
The moment I open the bag, the smell hits everyone's noses. It's that potent. Also, I have a lot of it, and there's not much I can do about it. Five ounces is a pretty large amount of weed to be carrying around.
Ralph sniffs it in. He closes his eyes and savors the aroma in the same manner that a wine connoisseur might inspect a glass of 40-year-old Shiraz.
When he opens his eyes, it becomes apparent that he's not pleased.
Almost as an accusation, he tells me, "I know this weed."
I can only shrug my shoulders. I don't know what this means.
He asks me, "Where you from, boy?"
Too scared to lie, I answer, "Philly."
In exactly six seconds flat, all four men are on their feet with four different guns all aimed at my kisser.
Ralph has his hands wrapped around a full sized 9mm Glock. And for whatever reason, I know that it's police issued. And I know that he's not Canadian because I've already noticed that
Canadian cops don't carry Glocks, the Americans do. And in this instant, I also realize who Ralph is. He was a friend of my father's; he was a cop with Upper Darby. I remember him coming to my home when I was a just a kid. He used to give me all sorts of toys that he'd confiscated off other kids, toys like switchblades, butterfly knives, brass knuckles, and other highly illegal white trash weapons.
Ralph is now yelling at me, his voice has dropped a few baritones. He's trying to intimidate me but I'm not scared.
Gina scares me, not some middle-aged, overweight Upper Darby pig who doesn't even know how to properly hold his gun. From the way that he's pointing his heater at me, I know that he'll miss and hit one of his friends if his trigger finger happens to slip. This guy is an asshole and an idiot.
But that doesn't mean I'm not pissed off. I am coming to the realization that Neumann and Emmy weren't the only two people to set me up today. My own fucking father has thrown me under the bus and fed me to the wolves. There's more going on here than I know and I can already hear Operation Ivy's Knowledge playing in my head.
All I know is that I don't know nothing.
And of the few things that I do know, this is now one of them. I've been set up again.
Ralph is yelling, "Greg? I know you, Greg! You're Riley's son! Is he here right now? Huh?! You here with that motherfucker?!"
I keep my hands raised in the air and play ignorant, which isn't much of a challenge seeing how I am completely ignorant as to what's happening.
And in this same moment, my father comes walking through the bar's front door, the giant Smith and Wesson revolver raised in his hand.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
My father fires four rounds, one for each of the four men surrounding me. All of his shots reach their intended targets.
In only four seconds, all four men are dead.
Shoot outs are rarely as fun and as exciting as they are in John Woo flicks. This was short and terrifying, and the stink of morbid discharge was already starting to settle in, overpowering the weed.
My father approaches me, an oddly satisfied look on his face. He places his gun on the booth table next to the bag of weed and reaches for one of the half drunk pint glasses left behind by Ralph and his crew.
My father drinks the dead man's beer while remaining silent.
Outside, the sun is going down. Somewhere on the other side of town, actors and filmmakers are drinking at high end bars, patting themselves on the back and congratulating each other for being so privileged while critics and bloggers rush back to their hotel rooms, writing up the copy before tomorrow morning's early deadline.
But here, at The Terminal Bar, a schlubby middle aged bar tender is now aiming a sawed off shotgun at my father and I.
I forgot about him.
My dad doesn't realize his presence either until the man pumps the gun. I think to myself that it was awfully considerate of him to give us this warning. After what just happened, he really should've fired while he still had the chance.
My father doesn't pick up his gun, though; something in him has changed. Something looks wrong. And again, I don't know what.
Suddenly, he throws up and I don't think it's from a guilty conscience, it's something else. His entire body goes into violent spasms. He's shaking and convulsing and tearing at his own clothes. His skin goes red and he starts to frantically remove everything that he's wearing.
The bartender looks bewildered, as he should be. He doesn't know what to make of this.
Neither of us do.
My father drops to his knees, now naked with his hands clawing at his face. I already knew my dad was a hairy man. So am I. But he looks even hairier than normal. And I realize, it's getting longer. It's growing further out of his skin, covering his flesh.
He falls to the ground completely and goes into a full seizure while vomiting blood and flailing his arms. I hear his muscles stretching and bones breaking all while I remain frozen in place, sitting at the booth.
If this past year wasn't so goddamn crazy, I'd probably be far more shocked that my father has just turned into a werewolf.
He's back up on his two feet, if you can even call them feet anymore. He's transformed into a giant monstrous beast.
The bartender doesn't want to play the waiting game anymore to see what happens next and he fires the shotgun at my father.
He hits the monster's arm, but it seems unfazed. The bartender fires again, hitting the lycanthrope's chest, but that does no more damage than the first round.
My father leaps at the bartender and in the blink of an eye has pulled both of the man's arms straight out from their sockets. He tosses the dismembered limbs over his back, both landing a foot away from me. He proceeds to gut his assailant with his claw-like hands.
The poor bastard's innards spill out onto the floor and I nearly lose my lunch. Again, just like the shooting, this violence is nothing like the movies. It's not really very visceral. There are no arterial sprays, or aesthetically pleasing gore. But there is plenty of shit. When you tear a man's digestive system open, it's not pink fleshly guts that come seeping out, it's the half digested remains within his bowels.
And the smell, it hits hurt your nose almost immediately, it's like a construction yard port o john after the contractor's team had a Mexican luncheon on a mid-July afternoon.
This time, I do throw up.
And when I see my werewolf father gnawing at the dead man's intestines, I throw up some more.
It seems like a good idea to grab the 44' magnum that my father left on the table, and then it seems like an even better idea to drink the remaining beer in the other three glasses around it.
There's two rounds left in the cylinder, but after seeing what little the shotgun had done, the revolver isn't instilling any sense of confidence that it'll protect me.
But there are not many other options available, so I pull the hammer back on the hand cannon and sit tight while my werewolf father continues to feast on the bartender.
The monster's ears suddenly perk up like a dog that's heard something us humans can't.
The creature jumps back up, looks at me for a moment, and then darts out the front door, leaving me alone with five corpses, an uneasy stomach, and a cheap beer drunk.
It takes another twenty seconds for me to hear what my father had heard. It takes another half minute for me to recognize the faint sounds of police sirens in the distance.
I tuck the gun into my pants and run out the door. I see the same owl perched next to the neon sign as when I entered and I give it the finger and call it a motherfucker. I'm not sure why I want to turn it into some scapegoat, but I'm not really sure who or what is to blame for all of this.
Sure, I know that Gina's to blame, or at least, as far as turning my father into a werewolf and all. But my father is to be blamed for setting me up, and I'm sure Ralph did something that led my father to what just happened. But in the end, it still all comes back on me. Me and my poor decisions and worse life choices. Follow the path of carnage and destruction in my life and I'll always still be at the end of it.
But I'm exhausted from the constant parade of self-loathing panic attacks and I really need something else to blame this time.
So for now, I'm going to blame this stupid owl. Fuck you, owl!
I thank the god that I don't even believe in when I find my Buick Century parked at the edge of the small lot.
And then I thank the son of the god that I don't believe in when I see that the keys are waiting for me in the ignition. I start the engine and peel off into the night.
CHAPTER 10: WELL, ISN'T ALL OF THIS JUST SO FUCKING CONVENIENT?
I'm sitting at the Nine Star Bar and Grille on Friday afternoon. The weather is cooling down at a rapid pace. It feels like fall outside. It's only 2 p.m. but I'm already on my way to a five beer drunk. In between every pint, I go outside to smoke a Newport and enjoy the cool brisk autumn air.
I'm out on Dufflin Street although that detail is probably obtuse and unnecessary. It would better serve this story to say that I'm out in the middle of fucking nowhere in the outer suburban regions of Toronto.
I couldn't tell you if I'm North, South, East, or West of center city. My only gauge of distance is that it was a $120 cab ride to get here from my hotel, which I haven't been back to since Tuesday.
It's been three days since I've watched my father kill four men before turning into a werewolf and then eating another.
I went back to my hotel room that night, grabbed all of my cash and clothes, ditched my car, and got the fuck out of dodge.
I've shaved my head and bleached my mustache blonde, and have been wandering around the outskirts of town wearing thrift store clothes, trying to formulate a plan.
The local newspapers have been abuzz with stories of violent animal attacks throughout town, although I know better. I know the truth.
I've been getting drunk and trying to figure out the physics of gypsy curses that turn men into werewolves. The night that my father turned, it was indeed, a full moon, just like the movies.
And it's remained a full moon for the last three days, or at least, enough for it to look like a full moon to the naked eye. Using my second rate droid phone, I've been Googling all sorts of information on Astronomy and Astrology. Technically, full moons only last for a few minutes to an hour. But as far as we can see from Earth, the moon will remain 99.999999% to 97.998837% full for four nights. By the fifth night, the moon will only be 95% full before dropping more significantly on the sixth and seventh nights.
With a drunken geek boy's rationale, I've decided that the moon has to be more than 95% full for its effects to work on my father. And with that same stupid rationale, I know that I have to find him and stop him tonight before it's too late.
So I took a cab out to the burbs because that's where the only gun shop in Toronto is located. While private ownership of firearms is legal in Canada, the tight restrictions and regulations on the specifics of said gun ownership are enough that you don't come across many places that actually sell them.
I still have my father's revolver on me, so I didn't come out here for a pistol or a rifle, not that I could buy one as a foreign tourist anyway. No, I came out to see if the shop's resident gunsmith can melt down the sterling silver necklace I got back from Emmy and shape it into some 44 magnum rounds.
I'm pleased to find out that it is possible The gunsmith working at Al Flaherty's Outdoor store was certainly perplexed by my request, but I fed him some bullshit story that I'm a film producer in town who's screening a werewolf movie at the festival, and that I want to craft some silver bullets and commemorative souvenirs for the director and lead stars to celebrate
our big premiere.
The gunsmith told me there's just enough silver in the necklace to only make two or three bullets and wouldn't agreed to do so until I offered him four hundred dollars cash.
So now I'm drinking at yet another greasy spoon across the street, waiting for my custom magnum rounds to be made while also waiting for my editor to show up.
I need help but I don't know who to trust. I have no idea if the police are looking for me, or if there's any evidence that will eventually tie me to the shooting at the Terminal Bar three nights ago.
I need a friend, an ally, a confidant. So I texted my editor and asked him to meet me at the Nine Star Bar and Grill for lunch.
When he arrives, I can immediately tell that he's concerned. He looks worried, although I'm not sure if it's for me or him.
I order him a drink and test the waters by asking him trivial questions about the festival. He's acting nervous around me, and it doesn't escape me that he keeps turning his head to look out the window towards the gun shop across the street.
Am I that predictable that he's already assuming that this is why I'm all the way out here?
After a few minutes of awkward conversation, it's my editor who finally points out the elephant in the room, or at least, one of the few dozen sitting between us.
"Greg, people are talking about you, and your father, and Neumann, and the other woman who was with him."
"Yeah? What are they saying?"
"A lot, and trust me, none of it is good. I have to be honest here. I'm scared for you, hell, I'm scared for myself. I don't know why I agreed to come out here."
"C'mon, it isn't that bad. You're going to end up with some great material for the site when this is all through."
"So you're admitting it?"
"When this is all through? That you have been dealing marijuana at the festival with your father, that there was some type of confrontation with you and Neumann and the police?"
"Well, Neumann wasn't there. He only called the cops on me and then skipped off to leave his girlfriend to deal with the consequences. Pretty typical of him, really, when you think about it."
My editor sighs and finally takes a large sip from the untouched pint of IPA that I bought him before telling me, "Neumann and his girlfriend are now missing. "
The implications of this statement are lost to me at first.
My editor grips his beer and looks me hard in the eye when he asks, "You wouldn't know where they are, would you?"
"No, I've quite literally been homeless the last few nights. I have no idea what's going on."
"I can see that, you look like shit, you smell like shit, and you're really fucking scary looking right now. This isn't cute or funny, this isn't like the other times."
"Really? This is somehow worse than the terrorist conspiracy at Sundance, or you know, the whole Mike Dugal debacle. How is this worse?"
My editor sighs and takes a deep breath. "Please don't tell me that you have a gun on you right now."
I lie and tell him that I don't. Somehow, he believes me.
"Thank god for that at least."
I try to brighten the mood; I try to explain to him that Vice magazine might be interested in publishing the novel that I've been serializing for ScreenAnarchy for the last year, that some good is going to come of this yet.
He's not looking at me when speaks anymore. His eyes have moved to the floor when he says, "That's not going to happen, Greg. Trust me. Your satirical writing days are coming to an end. You need to face reality; you need to give yourself to the authorities. You can still fix some of this."
I'm taken aback for a moment. I know that I'm not going to like what I hear next.
"Greg, I can't publish these articles anymore. This is too heavy. This isn't just an angry email from a pissed off media relations secretary, or some silly cease and desist letter from Michael Cera's attorney. I have to distance myself form this. I think it's time for the Boozie Movies and Fear and Loathing to come to an end."
My hand begins to tremble. I feel a rage boiling up within me. I squeeze my beer glass tight enough that it shatters in my hand, the broken shards tearing large cuts into my palm.
I don't say anything, but my bleeding hand is enough to send my editor packing.
As he exits the small restaurant where his cab is still waiting for him outside, he pleads with me, "Do the right thing, Greg."
And then he's gone.
The more I will think about this, the angrier I will get. I know that I'm only a short time away from having a full on panic attack, and when that happens, I'll black out with an uncontrollable anger and there's no telling what I might do.
While I still have some semblance of control, I exit the small bar and cross the street to pick up my silver bullets.
CHAPTER 11: WELCOME TO FUCK TOWN
It's now 6 p.m. and I'm back in downtown Toronto and I've hit rock bottom. I'm stumbling around King Street by the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The street is lined with trendy bars and restaurants, all full to the brim with well-dressed pretty people here for the festival.
I can barely stand upright; I'm wandering around with an open bottle of Jack Daniels with one hand while blood continues to leak out from the bandages on the other.
I'm now out of control. I'm belligerent and punch drunk. I'm cursing at random people, spitting at everyone I see in a tux or wearing a VIP festival badge.
I intentionally rub up on the fanciest, most expensive looking cars I see on the street, secretly keying the side of them as I pass by.
I make my way down an isolated alley where I don't see anyone else. I vomit behind a dumpster and spot a Mercedes parked nearby. I smash the driver's side windows open with my elbow. It's the first time I've ever done that.
It's remarkably easy.
Or maybe I'm too drunk to feel it, maybe I just fucked my arm up and don't know it yet. But it only took one attempt to render the glass a pile of sparkling fragments.
When the car alarm goes off, I break into a run, tossing the bottle of whiskey over my shoulder, hitting the hood of the car for good measure.
I can't believe that I haven't been spotted and taken into custody by the cops yet. I can't believe no one is trying to stop me. Then again, I think all the well-dressed pretty people gawking at me as I run past them screaming obscenities are too scared to attempt to do anything.
A 2009 Prius pulls up beside me, the driver is honking the horn at me.
I turn my head and face the moving vehicle. My father is behind the wheel. He's waving at me to get in.
He brings the car to a stop and, like usual, I do what I'm told.
I get in the car.
TO BE CONCLUDED! WITH MORE COMIC BOOKS!