After much merriment and creative hoopla, Out of Body Adventures was released as a quarterly tape. At that time, it was the practice of TMI to give out special productions for the membership who donated to the non profit.
For me, it was back to H+. At this point there weren’t many left to do, having diligently pecked away at the project throughout the nine months since I first got the fateful phone phone message saying “Call Bob Monroe”.
Despite Scooter’s and Dave’s best efforts, Bob was in no mood to redo the Guidelines program tapes. It appeared that my time at TMI was coming to a close.
One day, when arriving at the lab to find out which “function to all of me” was on the docket, I found another one of Scooters colorful invites lying on the recording console. This time it was to the company Christmas party, which featured a white elephant gift giving session. Up till that time, I had never heard of this ritual. In case you haven’t either, let me clue you in.
The object is that everyone is to gift wrap something that they wish to give away to no one in particular. That “something” can be something cool or something hideous, like the sweater your aunt gave you for a birthday present five years ago that you’ve never worn. If memory serves, each person is given a number at the beginning of the ritual, and they choose a present from the pile of gifts in numerical. They open it, and everyone in the usual Christmas gift giving tradition, is supposed to Ooooh, Aaaah or Eeeeeww!
The next person now is faced with a choice. Take the present that was just opened by the preceeding person (or any preceeding person), or choose from the pile. In the case of the former, the person whose gift was stolen would now have to open another present, or steal from someone other than the person who stole from them. As the cache of unwrapped gifts diminishes and the number of recipients increase, it becomes an interesting study in human nature. It was also a lot of fun.
I thought about what I would offer as a gift. I couldn’t think of anything I deemed useless to me, as I’ve always made it a practice to give all my “useless items” to the local Goodwill. One mans trash is another’s treasure, especially when there are so many in need. But I came up with an idea. This idea, was actually inspired by Bob’s Out of Body Adventure’s. I decided to make a parody of H+.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think the series is extremely useful and I mean no disrespect. By that time however, the shear repetition of the production was getting to me. Being a wise ass from NY, I sometimes express my discomfort through sarcastic wit, in order to relieve myself of it. It’s a trait that I have had to work to tone down, in the presence of many southerners who just don’t find NY sarcasm amusing. But at that age, I was still able to let it rip without regard. After all, I had only been in the south for five years by that time, and it took me a life time perfect being a smart ass. This gift idea was a bit risky perhaps. I didn’t want to offend Bob in anyway. I was banking on our shared sense of humor given he too was an ex-New Yorker. I did an internal debate and decided that it would be fun to do. I could always pull the plug if it became too offensive.
The creative process took hold as I began to decided how to parody H+. There were the obvious elements. There was the F# intro chord with the arpeggio that made my teeth chatter every time I heard it. There was the airplane noise, and don’t forget the cricket! I mulled it over as I continued to mix the last of the H+ series. After a few days, I came up with an idea that to my mind was shear comic brilliance!
Since I was a child, I have had a gift for mimicry. It was actually part of my smart ass sarcastic repertoire growing up. Being of Italian descent and a lover of the Godfather movies, I had Marlon Brando’s cotton stuffed mouth voice for Don Vito Corleone down pat. The answer was simple. I would have Vito Corleone narrate the H+ exercise to all of you! I immediately wrote a script.
The parody production went like this. First the music swelled. Naturally it would be the theme of the Godfather, emulated buy my fancy new midi equipment. This would be a full orchestra mind you. The theme would then segue into the music they used to use in cartoons and old comedy movies when ever someone died. I don’t know the name of the piece, but it was morose, monotoned and cliche. I knew Bob would recognize it instantly. From there, I overdubbed a very exaggerated pink noise. There would be no wave phase two for this production. Vito would then come in and say “This is your H+ function exercise to learn how to ….lighten up.” It got even more corny from there.
Vito parodied the relaxation sequence. This relaxation was interrupted by the sound of a very annoying cricket chirping away. Vito shoots the annoying cricket before finishing the count to ten. The sound of an actual jet liner recorded in stereo (courtesy of a pre recorded sound fx library), opened the access channel. Vito then informs the listener, that if you don’t learn this H+ function, “It’s gonna be a big problem for you”.
The whole thing turned out well and I thought it was pretty funny albeit a bit risky. My Italian family laughed when I sent a cassette copy to them. Even Dave gave it his approval when I played it for him making sure it wouldn’t offend. With this form of comic relief, I felt satisfied that the memory of H+ wouldn’t haunt me for the rest of my life. It was very cathartic.
Everyone was in attendance at the Christmas party. It was the first time I met Nancy Monroe. I need to take a moment to paint a picture of Nancy. It was once said of Nancy in a biography of Bob’s life, that “She never met a stranger”. I would say that’s a very accurate description of her wonderful and warm personality. She embodied southern grace and elegance. She treated everyone on first meeting them, as if they were long time friends. She was a beautiful woman who’s passing was very deeply felt by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.
Bob had on his holiday vest, and seemed in very good spirits. The evening started off with Scooter and Bob expressing appreciations to the staff for a job well done. After all the speeches were made, I asked if I could say a few words. I added my appreciation for the invite to the party and for the time I was allowed to spend with everyone. These people really were a very nice bunch. I ended my speech with a short introduction about the production that they were about to hear. I cue’d the tape recording and retreated to a corner.
The laughs in the room grew in intensity as the tape played on. I was relieved to see that everyone got my warped sense of humor. Scanning the room, I noticed that Bob had disappeared. “Oh Oh” I thought, “I may have crossed a line.”
When the tape ended, I took my bow and went looking for Bob who had obviously left the building. I guessed that an apology would be in order when I next saw him, and felt bad about having offended him. I guessed that his work had never been parodied before, and he didn’t take to the idea. Just then Nancy Monroe tapped me on the shoulder with a huge smile on her face. I was about to apologize to her when she said “Mark. Thank you so much for making that tape. I have never seen Bob laugh so hard. He was laughing so hard he had to leave the room. He doesn’t really like showing that much emotion in public.” I was relieved. Apparently Bob also shared my warped sense of humor, and could take a joke. Little did I know, the joke was really on me.