Poppin’, Lockin’, Breakin’ My Neck

It happens pretty frequently here in Los Angeles. There’s someone whose work you admire, and then someone immediately tells you why you have to hate that person. Many times you can blow it off as rumor, but when one of your stand-up friends says without provocation, “Oh, I can’t watch Last Comic Standing. Ralphie May? Such an asshole.” And then proceeds to tell you from whom he stole his jokes, and you know the comic that got robbed… it takes all of the fun out of television. There is no mystery anymore to celebrities. Eventually it comes out that they all have drug problems, or throw staplers at their assistants’ heads, or have children they ignore, or fired a friend of yours, or whatever. It gets a little depressing. There are no heroes in this town.

I was on the phone yesterday, having a meeting, when I sat down at the kitchen table to take a few notes. Cal, who was resting on the table, loves nothing more than company. He instantly began biting the end of my pen.

I tried to get the pen out of Cal’s mouth, which is when he bit down on my finger.

Doesn’t that sound cute? Wrestling a little pen out of a cat’s mouth, and he accidentally chews on your finger like a baby tiger with a baby bottle.

Cal chomped and it made a crunching noise. Because, you see, Cal bit through my fingernail. At the base of my right fingernail, right on the half-moon over the cuticle, Cal bit through to the nailbed. There’s a hole in my fingernail.

The pain was so intense that I was nauseous. And because I was on a phone call, all I could do was silently howl, holding my hand and squeezing my eyes shut. I grabbed an ice cube, and paced around the house for a good fifteen minutes, unable to do anything other than feel incredible pain. It’s my important typing finger, too. And it’s purple and hideous and I have meetings today that are in person and I can’t decide if I should tell people my cat bit me or if I should say I slammed my finger in a car door. Which one elicits more sympathy? Maybe it’s the killer cat.

I’ll never forget that crunching sound for as long as I live, that pop when Cal’s fang broke through my nail and into my finger.

Our first 80’s question:

Pray tell, what the heck is an “Electric Boogaloo”, and why was it so popular as to be appendaged onto many fake sequel names these days? I was an 80’s child, but I was a nerdy 80’s child. I knew nobody who watched breakdance videos, and I never heard of this. I saw “Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo” mentioned on fast-rewind.com and am still going “Huh?” Did EVERYONE see this for one week and not tell me?

Turbo, Kelly and Ozone were more than just part of our childhood. They were the part of our childhood that was on the early days of HBO every other hour. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo has the distinction of being the best named sequel of all time, and that explains why it’s incorporated in every other joke, including 4.76% of the jokes we tell at Television Without Pity. I must admit I was more of a fan of the original Breakin’, I do believe I saw this sequel in the movie theater, which means I must have really, really, really wanted to see it, and somehow convinced my parents to drop my nine-year old ass off at a movie theater. That can’t be. I must have gone with someone’s older sibling.

As for the title, well, Michael Chambers’ B-Boy name was “Boogaloo Shrimp.”

I’m not one of those people who miss the Eighties. On the contrary, I think it was a spectacularly embarrassing period in our history, and the pop culture, as wonderfully campy and cheesy as it was, might have been the only thing worth saving.

Well, and computers.

But here’s my Embarrassing Eighties Fact concerning Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

I lived in Palm Springs, California, at the height of the breakdancing craze, and although there was not a soul poppin’ and lockin’ on Palm Canyon Drive, we were close enough to Los Angeles that some of the culture spilled over to my elementary school. And I watched MTV more hours in a day than I went to school. Thus: I had a breakdancing book. A how-to book.

Because I’m a nerd.

I knew I wasn’t ever going to meet someone who would teach me the ways, like Kelly, the classically trained dancer, was tutored by Ozone and Turbo. I was never going to have a montage where my clothes slowly became cool, my hair became teased and ratted and a headband was slapped across my forehead as I kicked in the air and someone nodded in approval. I was gonna have to make it on my own.

I tore up an old moving box I had found in the garage and placed it on my kitchen floor. I figured I’d start with a simple backspin and learn a few freezes — you know, when you finish by holding onto your ankles and posing with your neck strained under your shoulders?

If I remember correctly, the book told you to start walking in a circle, quickly tightening it to a smaller circle until you crouch to the ground, kick your feet out from under you, land on your back and use the centrifugal force you’ve built up from running in a circle to propel yourself into a counter-clockwise spin. It’s based on a rule of physics usually reserved for Tom and Jerry cartoons, I know, but it’s actually what the book said, and I was prepared to follow it.

I just remembered that my first lesson was with that ripped-up box… in our backyard… on concrete. My mom saw my first drop-spin from the kitchen window, and she freaked the hell out, y’all.

“What are you doing? You’re going to snap your spine!”

I remember her words now, but at the time I couldn’t hear anything she had just said. Because I had just snapped my spine. I was on my back, trying to get my breath back, my arms holding my knees tight to my chest, my backbone on fire. I had also slammed my skull into the concrete. I had not moved an inch with the built-up centrifugal force.

I practiced a few freeze moves, mostly to stretch out my sore back and keep my shattered tailbone from hitting the ground again. Then I eased myself up and practiced some arm moves.

I wasn’t ready to give up, and waited until my mom was out of the house one afternoon before dragging my box stage over to the kitchen floor.

I was determined to try a head-spin, the coolest of breakdancing moves, the one that proved you were a breakdancer, and everyone had to stand back and clap when you turned on your ghetto blaster.

I got on my knees, head on the ground, hands on either side of my face, and waited.

I waited to stop being scared shitless. I only saw myself spinning one way, my head the other, my neck making a horrible crack as I died an instant death on my mother’s kitchen floor.

As I felt the blood pooling up behind my eyes, I wondered how I was going to prove to anybody that I could do a headspin. Once I was an accomplished breakdancer, where was I going to go? Breakdancing Academy? Those Breakin’ kids didn’t seem to even have homes, much less go to school. My little sister wasn’t going to be impressed. My parents could never find out my true talent until I had mastered the art and found a gang to dance with in parks.

What’s a nine-year old to do when she’s stuck in a Palm Springs kitchen with just an opened-out box and a dream?

I stood up and started easing into the backspin maneuver once again. I ran in a circle, faster and faster, hearing both “Eye of the Tiger” and “Rocket” in my head. I wiggled my butt and kept my hands in tight fists at my chest. I bent my knees a bit more, and skipped in a crouch around my box, around and around, lower and lower to the ground, until I finally summoned up enough courage. I closed my eyes tight, kicked out my feet, flung onto my back with a WHAP! and then spun a good six inches counter-clockwise before slamming my head into the oven.

And that ended my breakdancing career.

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