Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hickman Breaks Kayfabe!

Though a lot of folks will never understand why, professional wrestling is one of the joys of my life. I won't bother trying to explain about the morality play nature of it, or the pleasure from being part of "the work," or the fact that, for my son and I, it's always filled the slot that baseball or other sports might for other fathers/sons. The simple fact is, either you "get" wrestling, or you don't, and never the twain shall meet.

In my case, I like my wrestling as big and bold and goofy as possible. I know the trend in recent years has been for a more "real" type of character (a strange phrase when used to describe wrestling), but I've always been a fan of the BIG gimmick. Give me the wrestling fry cooks, the guys dressed in lobster costumes, the spacemen, the cowboys, the clowns.

Even I have to admit that sometimes it...well, it just ain't workin'. Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:

Mantaur - In early 1995, the WWF debuted what wrestling had needed for years: a half man, half bull. For the next year or so, he basically charged people in the ring, made bovine noises, and generally stunk up the ring even more than actual cowflop could have. Played by lifetime jobber Mike Hallick, Mantaur failed to catch on with the fans, partially because the WWF missed the boat on the obvious with his character: a feud with El Matador, Tito Santana. Moooooo!

T.L. Hopper - Using professions as wrestling gimmicks is a staple of the form, and over the years we've seen dentists (Isaac Yankem), tax collectors (Irwin R. Schyster, aka IRS), repo men (The Repo Man!), prison guards (the Big Boss Man), and just about anything else you can imagine. T.L. Hopper, however, had 'em all beat. He was a PLUMBER, coming to the ring to the sound of a flushing toilet, his faithful plunger Betsy in hand. Portrayed by Tony Anthony, who'd become something of an institution in the southern feds as "Dirty White Boy," Hopper would show a lot of butt crack, but not much else.

Aldo Montoya, the Portuguese Man O' War - Peter Polaco would go on to greater fame as Justin Credible in ECW, but from 1995-1997 he was forced to wear a jock strap on his head and become a glorified jobber in the WWF. It was a shame, as he's a talented guy and frankly, I always enjoy a masked wrestler. Well, when that mask doesn't require an anti-fungal cream.

Oz - We all know Kevin Nash from his days as Diesel, or in the NWO, or maybe even his movie career (TMNT 3, The Punisher, The Longest Yard, etc.), but for about eight months back in 1991, he was a silver-haired, caped wrestler with a gimmick based on...well, the Wizard of Oz. Ostensibly it was because Turner Broadcasting, which also owned the promotion, had recently bought the rights to show the classic 1939 film, and this was a bit of cross-promotion. Fellow wrestler Kevin Sullivan put on a mask as Oz's manager, Merlin the Wizard (because what character from the Wizard of Oz is more beloved than...Merlin???). There were a lot of special effects and a lot of monkeys flying out of Nash's butt, but it just didn't work.

Seven - It was the gimmick TOO successful to work. In 1999, WCW decided to take Dustin Rhodes, who had done quite well in the WWF as Goldust, and give him another face-painted alter-ego. They filmed a series of video vignettes to launch the character, and boy, were they effective. Unfortunately, the Seven character, who was supposed to be creepy, was shown watching over small children in their sleep as he whispered eerily, and the Standards and Practices folks at Turner thought it made him seem like a child molester. They shelved the gimmick before he'd seen a single match. Eventually he returned and broke kayfabe, talking about all the stupid characters they'd made him portray over the years. But I thought Seven had great potential (I can just see him now, sitting in a kitchen drinking sweet tea and hearing "I'm Chris Hanson...").

More later, 'cause they're endless!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Due to my advanced case of egomania, I regularly do web searches for my name, looking for reviews of things I've written, pinheads bathmouthing me, or embarrassing videos that might crop up (Chris Hanson, I swear I thought the goat was over 18!).

Sometimes the most interesting stuff can be found when you do an IMAGE search, though. Here are a few of the pics I found under my name:

This fella here is Troy Hickman, the mayor of Hayes, Kansas. I guess he's what I would be like had I gone into politics. I wonder what his party affiliation is. Is he a good mayor? Would I be treated like an honored guest if I went to Hayes, Kansas? The world may never know.

And what about THIS guy? Is he another Troy Hickman? I hope not. He seems pretty grim. I'm imagining him as someone working in a warehouse, and then one day he comes home and finds the missus is cheating on him with their son's school crossing guard, so he blows them both away, then swallows the barrel of the shotgun himself, but he messes it up, and lives the rest of his life with half a head...a medical miracle of sorts, if it weren't so @#$% disgusting...

What about THIS poindexter? People think I'm a nerd now; imagine if I'd grown up to be this guy. He's probably a State Farm Insurance agent who also serves as the treasurer of his church (United Methodist, more than likely; this guy has tasted more than his share of casseroles). Is he another Troy Hickman? I somehow get the feeling he's more of a Kenneth Maxwell, though his wife calls him "Kenny" when she's feeling frisky and wants to feel the fury of "Li'l Kenny."

This comic panel would bother me tremendously if I didn't know it was from Tyim Court's terrific Narcoleptic Man (featuring "May I Take Your Disorder?" by yours truly). I wouldn't want people to think it was a sequential art depiction of my lovelife or something.

This creeptastic fellow is apparently from some sort of sex offender registry, though thankfully his name is NOT Troy Hickman. It makes me wonder why his pic showed up under my name, though. Maybe he took advantage of me when I was just a wee nipper, and I've been suppressing it all these years? Cool beans! I'm officially f-ed up, which means I can blame all my actions on my troubled past, and maybe even get a handicapped sticker for my car! Man, this guy might as well have "sex offender" tattooed on his damned forehead. He has "Hanson-bait" written all over him.

And who the hell are THESE people? Are they all named Troy Hickman? Has some sort of club formed somewhere? Am I the only one who pictures these folks having a wild orgy after the office closes at 5:00pm? Come on, admit it; you're imagining each of these ladies giving some dutch door action to the two uber-studs on the left and right.

I guess when it comes down to it, the important thing to remember is that I am the one, the only, the original Troy Hickman, master of all he surveys. Amen. Hallelujah. Sweet sassy molassey.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mrs. Hickman, Troy's Playing With Himself Again!

Some of my favorite childhood toys:

Rudy the Robot - Rudy was my bud. He could walk by himself, and when he'd bump into a wall or furniture, he'd turn himself around and keep going. You kids keep your Robosapiens and such. I'll take this bright orange and yellow powerhouse any day.

Major Matt Mason - He was "Mattel's Man in Space" (you may not remember it, but in the 1960s, NASA's biggest competitors were the toy companies; Hasbro practically beat us to the moon). I loved anything to do with astronauts, and I loved Matt Mason and his pals. I had four of the figures and various vehicles and such. I used to play with them with a couple of these guys:

The Colorforms Aliens - The same rubber-over-wire style bodies as Major Matt (that tended to eventually break and leave you with amputees), these guys were tops. I had the two on the left here, Xodiac from Saturn, and Orbiron from...yikes...Uranus. Orbiron is obviously an "homage" (cough cough) to the mutant from This Island Earth. They worked perfectly with my other spacey toys.

Aurora Monster Models - I had most of these, and I spent countless hours putting them together with my dad. In those days, I was gonzo for anything that glowed in the dark (and even today, I like to pour uranium in my housepaint).

Hot Wheels! - Numerous generations have played with these little guys, but I'm not sure anyone loved 'em more than we did in the 60s/70s. I had a whole carrying case full, and then some, plus a lot of that groovy orange track, which I use to clamp to our pool table and create a steep hill down to the floor so they could get up momentum. And must like all my other toys, when I played with Hot Wheels cars, they all had SUPERPOWERS.
Lincoln Logs - As a kid, I never had Legos (though I love playing with them these days), but I had Tinkertoys and these babies right here. There was a solidness to Lincoln Logs, a hearty quality, that I really respected. I'll bet we could thwart the Taliban with 'em now.

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots - Oh, you loved them too. We all did. They were robots, and you could control them, and they'd knock each others blocks off. And yeah, after a while one of their necks would loosen up, and his head with shoot up into the air with no provocation (much like me!). But pound for pound, some of the greatest fun a kid could have in the days before video games.

Captain Action - The king of 1960s action figures. Cap had many different outfits in which you could dress him, and turn him into your favorite superhero! But the hell with that. I only had him in his original suit, and he was more than enough hero for me. Later as an adult I bought him some other duds (but kept the same old lovable Cap figure), and even bought an Action Boy and Dr. Evil to go along with it. If you ever get the chance, check out DC's Captain Action comic, too. It's a gasser.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Inside El Cerebro de Hickman

Some random thoughts:

* So now Sally Field is an expert on middle eastern diplomacy? Oh, wait, I forgot. She was in Gidget, so knows all about sand-covered areas. And she was The Flying Nun, so she has inside knowledge of aviation. And of course, she was in Smokey and the Bandit 1 and 2, so she understands...uh...torture techniques. Next up, Jessica "Invisible Woman" Alba discusses stealth bomber technology...

* So today is supposedly Pirate Day, and the hallways of my college are filled with dopey-looking 20 year-olds in three-cornered hats with plastic parrots on their shoulders muttering "Arrr this" and "matey that." Am I the only one who thinks this was originally a PR strategy by the fine folks at Disney, Inc.? And why just Pirate Day? Why not Cowboy Day, when we all call everyone "pardner" and walk bow-legged? What about "English Chimney Sweep Day" when we all smudge ourselves up and say "Can I clean your smokestack, gov'na?" (and still sound more realistic than Dick Van Dyke)? If we really want to seem like pirates, we should all dress up like the CEOs of breakfast cereal companies...

* Speaking of breakfast cereals, I was thinking the other day about Freakies, a cereal I loved as a kid. Well, ok, the cereal was average, but the Freakies characters were fantastic. At the time, my friends and I were desperate to get a complete
collection of the Freakies figurines that came as premiums in the box, but none of us ever did. I've checked Ebay for 'em from time to time, but I've never found a set for less than $50 or so and...well...Mr. Hickman is one cheap SOB. Like most other collectors and fanboys, though, I dream of that one perfect garage sale...

* A shout-out to my baby at work, who might be reading this. I love you, and I'm thinking about you. Now get back to explaining to ESL students why they can't use their debit card to check out books from the public libary...

*I like soup. It's ostensibly a simple food, but damned it's hearty, especially if you combine it with a hunk of grainy bread. I wish I had a big bowl of soup right now...maybe thick, creamy potato soup...or clam chowder...or a ham & bean...that'd be good. Gabriel's a big soup fan, too. Maybe we should have soup for dinner. Lea's not so much a soup person...though I'll bet she'd like some nice meaty beef stew. Mmmmm, soup...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Your Phalanx, and the Rest Will Follow

Unlike some of the writers who worked on the City of Heroes comic book, I was not just a "hired gun" with no history in the game. Truth be told, I LOVE City of Heroes. Love it. I play whenever I get the chance, and I must have at least 80-90 characters on the various servers. Here are a handful of 'em:

Christmas N. July
- Santa's most "free-thinking" elf, she wears almost nothing but a Christmas hat
Luchadoris Day - A former actress turned Mexican wrestler turned crimefighter!
Hypothetical Cretin - Someone on the CoH boards said that unless you crafted your characters by the "numbers" rather than by a good character concept, you were a hypothetical cretin. So I came up with this character, who has one of the "worst" builds in CoH history, but is a hell of a lot of fun.
Kiltdozer - Giant earth-powered Scotsman (name inspired by the classic TV movie Killdozer, obviously)
Major Feminine Itching - Female army mastermind who uses poisons and such, and gets assistance from her minions Massengil and Guy Nalotrimin
Blastafarian - A ganja-smoking crimefighter with spiritual powers and an assault rifle

Magilla Oblongata - Giant ape with an exposed brain and mental powers
Insexxx - Radioactive alien bombshell here on earth looking to repopulate
Baby Gherkins - Infant with a big gun
Macin' Dixon - 9' southern boy with a magical club
Weed Witchards - Skeptical scientist who one day found himself with magical power over plants
Hugh Hephaestus - Publisher of risque magazines turned fire-powered crimefighter
Arrowspace - NASA-based archer
Shock Cousteau - Oceanographer trapped in a storm at sea gets lightning powers
Li'l Dead Riding Hood - Fairy tale based villainess, along with her zombie minions Rumplekillskin and the Gingerdead Man
Steel Cherry - Hardcore female wrestler with super strength
Auntie Up - Gravity-controlling baker of cookies!
Egg Fu Jung - Dark-powered martial artist who uses his knowledge of psychology

Evil Brawn - Formerly Hitler's mistress, now 8' of muscle and pulchritude!
Phantom of the Opry - Country singer who died and came back to fight evil
Caba-Rage - Torch singer who throws a mean spike
Clawed Reigns - Blade-handed martial artist who specializes in invisibility
Teleporter Wagoner - Phantom of the Opry's younger brother
Sweet Sassy Molassey - My homage to blaxploitation women
Old Yeller - Senior citizen with sonic powers
Crystal Blue Abrasion - Azure woman with a mace and icy powers
Sexcalibur - Kind of a joke based on the issues of Witchblade I wrote...hell of a fun character, though.
Fright Attendant - Undead stewardess on United 93 who came back for vengeance
Viva Zzzzzzzapata - Mexican revolutionary with electrical blasts
Bananas Froster - Half man/half chimp with cryogenic cold powers
Desolation Angel - Based not on Kerouac, but on the Bad Company album. A rocker with wings.
Hallow-Juan - Sort of an orange and black version of Viva Zzzzzzzapata I did for the holidays
Third Degree Byrne - A hot-headed comic book writer/artist
Milky Magnesium - Albino with explosive fire powers
Amperage Alaska - Arctic scientist who wears a special suit, giving him ice and electrical powers

NightNurse - My highest level hero (32). Big-time empath.
John DeConqueroo - Evil zombie-controller. His minions include Baba O'Reilly, Pompitus O'Love, and Rott the Hoople
Greco-Robot - Wrestling automaton
Disturbing Grandma - Senior citizen whose hot flashes became REALLY hot flashes.

I also have a number of Hickman-based heroes that I use when folks ask me to appear at their in-game events (weddings, anniversaries, talk shows, holiday events, etc.), including:

Hickman, USA-Hole - Patriotic version of me.
Hoosier Daddy - A fan submitted this to a contest I ran. He's an evil me, with mind/energy powers.
Troy's Pants - A mannequin animated by my mind-controlling pants!
Hickman, God of Pun-der - "I'm Thor." "Well, try using talcum powder, thilly."
Midwestern Sort - Earth/weather controller based on Wizard magazine's description of me as an "amiable, midwestern sort."
Hickmanimal - He's me, if I were scaly and hairy and...oh, wait...
Hickman in Spaaaaace - Kind of like Adam Strange, but even stranger

I know a number of you fine folks play CoH, so if you happen to see any of the above, give me a yell, or global me at CommonGrounds.

And now, I think I'll go put together a Frostfire PUG...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

By All That's Holy, Don't Be This Guy

Y'know, I love comic book conventions. There are few places where I feel more genuinely at home. I love the people there (MY people), and the general atmosphere makes me almost giddy at times.

HOWEVER, over the course of a three day convention (Wizard World Chicago, let's say), there are about twelve times that THIS conversation happens:

TROY: Hey, how's it going?

COMIC GUY: Great! So you do this Common Grounds comic?

TROY: Yep, that's one of mine.

COMIC GUY: That's so cool. I think I might have heard of it or something. Hey, how does a person go about getting their stuff published?

TROY: Well, that's---

COMIC GUY: 'Cause I have this fantastic idea for a new comic. If I could just get it published, I KNOW it'd be the hottest thing on the shelves!

TROY: Really? Well, I---

COMIC GUY: Let me tell you about it. It's about this girl named Gabrielle Ravenstorm, and she's a stripper. But what she doesn't know is that she's also the daughter of both a demon and an archangel, see, and she gets mixed up with this evil coven of witches, but when she crosses them, they end up using her as a human sacrifice. So because of her heritage, her soul is unable to fully enter either Heaven or Hell, see, and so she's taken in by this mysterious being known only as The Other, right, and he trains her in every form of fighting arts, and he gives her this mystical sword, and if she strikes you with the sword, you end up going either to heaven or hell, depending on how it judges your soul...cause, see, the sword has it's own mentality and everything...and so The Other sends her out into the world to send souls on to their final destination...but what she doesn't know is that her father, the demon from Hell, hates her because of the angelic side of her nature, and so he keeps sending his hellspawn after her to bring her to Hell, see, and the only help she gets is from her boyfriend, Jake Blue, who's also a detective with the NYPD, but who doesn't know that he himself is also a fallen angel who has been charged, subconsciously, with protecting Gabrielle. Oh, and her sword can also teleport her anywhere on earth and it tells her when people are lying. And she has these big angel wings and can fly. Now, let me tell you what her first sixteen issues are like...that's all I've outlined so far...

TROY: I, uh, I've been sitting here for a good six hours now. I'd better hit the bathroom.

COMIC GUY: That's ok, I'll tell you about it on the way...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Eastman: A Turtle, a Legend

Today's column is dedicated to our beloved turtle Eastman. He's a red-eared slider, and frankly, one of the great joys of our life. We've had the little guy for something like sixteen years now, and he's about as much a part of the family as any dog, cat, or grandma could be. Let me tell you just a few of my favorite Eastman moments:

* We used to keep his aquarium under the stand our stereo was on, and I had a habit of putting quarters for the washing machine (we had pay machines in our apartment complex them) on that shelf. Well, one day I went to clean out Eastman's aquarium, and I realized that under the rocks were $1.75 in quarters. I liked to imagine our little turtle nudging his aquarium against the stand until the quarters fell in, and then him hiding them in anticipation of an eventual vacation he was planning (probably to Phila-Shell-phia, the City of Turtley Love).

* Y'know, we put a couple of plastic turtles in with Eastman to keep him company, and one day I noticed him standing nose to nose with one of the faux turtles, fluttering the sides of his little clawed hands against its plastic noggin. I assumed that this was probably a warning that turtles give, a way of saying "hey, beat it, this is my territory, buddy." And then I did some reading on the subject. As it turns out, it's a mating dance. The male turtles swims backwards facing the female and flutters his little claws (turned inside out as to not scratch her face). And here was poor Eastman, working his mojo on the least receptive female he was ever going to find. I notice him doing it a lot now (sometimes he even tries to follow it up with a futile mounting gesture), and it breaks my heart. I'd kinda like to hire a turtle "escort" for him, just to ease all that tension, but he's a turtle; I'd have to rent the female for a week and a half just for one session of turtle in flagrante (which sounds delicious).

*Any time he gets a grape. We discovered a few years ago that Eastman is a grape-aholic, and he will literally LEAP out of the water to take the blessed fruit from my hand. It's really an amazing thing to see as he first revs up for it, his legs churning up a froth and spinning like the Tasmanian Devil in a Warner Bros. cartoon. And then this leap into the air that makes Michael Jordan look like Stephen Hawking. It's something to behold.

*The day Lea fed Eastman a grape, and he got her thumb instead. The sight of our little buddy hanging five inches above the water, latched onto Lea's appendage with a grip that would make Paul Reubens proud. I don't think his little mouth/beak could do Lea much damage, but man, did she let out a combination shriek/giggle. The only problem that he's tasted human flesh, he looks at me funny...

Anyway, here's to you, Eastman. You are the biggest name in turtles since Gamera.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Troy Hickman's America

OK, so the voting is in, and apparently the majority of you folks, at least those that took the time to vote, would prefer me as El Presidente. Coming in second was Fred Thompson, and the man with the most politically-unfortunate middle name in the world, Barack Hussein Obama.

While I'm thrilled and honored, ya know why more folks voted for me than the others? Three reasons:

(1) It's my blog.
(2) You couldn't bring yourself to vote for men like Al Gore or Hillary Clinton.

(3) You don't know much about my politics. And that's the true reason. It's what we like to call the "Colin Powell Factor." You don't know much about my beliefs, just like Thompson and Obama, because we haven't gotten down the nitty-gritty of the campaign and real debates yet. The most attractive candidate is always the one most nebulous, as it allows you to impose whatever values you want on him. Sort of a "devil you don't know over the one you do" deal.

But I can put an end to that right now, by telling you a little about what Troy Hickman's America looks like, and it goes a li'l sumpin' like dis:

* Street musicians will no longer be able to simply panhandle, and will instead have to supply sexual gratification before anyone will give them so much as a dime. Then we'll take the money-donator out and shoot him, because Troy Hickman's America doesn't need anyone who would allow some filthy folksinger to #$%& his %$#&.

* Actors will no longer be allowed to spout off about political issues when they know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about them, and instead will have to get back to doing what they do best: reading the lines that someone else wrote for them, and lying professionally.

* If someone is caught ending an argument with "whatever," he/she will have a steel rod inserted in their poopchute, and famed puppeteer Shari Lewis will make them do an interpretive dance entitled "Oh, God, This Hurts Like A Bastard!"

* We'll be putting an end to this Global Warming scam, and instead will focus on a true problem: Global Tomfoolery! There will be no more horseplay in the hallways of America, young man!

* Mount Rushmore will be altered to show the faces of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and strangely, Teddy Roosevelt.

* Anyone involved with dogfighting will have their genitals gnawed off by a rabid, mange-covered, flea-and-tick-infested Barbra Streisand.
More later as new and innovative
ideas come to me, most of them involving carnival food.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who Knew Hickman Had a Heart?

Y'know, some writers have a rule about mentioning their "significant others" in print, based on the fact that if they ever break up with that person, their feelings from that earlier, happier time will live on to haunt them.

I, of course, think this is a steaming pile of Al Jaffee. Who the hell lives their life that way? It's like a more passive-aggressive form of a pre-nup agreement or something. Wasn't it Nicholas Cage as Ghost Rider who said you can't live your life in fear?

More importantly, what the @#$% is wrong with me that I'm quoting Nicholas Cage as Ghost Rider?

Anyway, I feel like talking about my sweetie Lea today. I just want to mention a few of the things that put a big smile on my face every time I'm around her:

* Without a doubt the funniest woman I've ever met. And no, I don't just say that because she laughs at my jokes (or because she may be the only other living human who appreciates the "orange for a head" joke as much as I do). Her timing, sense of irony, wordplay, everything...just perfect.

* She has this adorable little space between her two front teeth, like Lauren Hutton or something. The first time she smiled at me, I melted faster than the nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

* Her crazy Canadian pronun-skiation. Like when she goes into the fruits and vegetables section of Safeway, and refers to the assembled as "prah-dyoos." Conversely, it's kind of cute when she makes fun of the way I say words like "Chilliwack" and "Saskatchewan."

* She GETS me. I don't have to explain myself when I make some off-hand comment about Marty Allen or Anita Gillette. Even though we grew up two thousand miles apart, we seem to share most of the same cultural references. And believe me folks, you don't know how much that can mean. If you doubt me, try dating someone from Calcutta or someone twenty years younger than you sometime. You'll end up wanting to eat your own damned head.

*She likes driving. Or more accurately, she likes sitting in the car while I drive. And that's fine by me. Few things make me happier than tooling down the highway, radio playing something spiffy, with someone I love by my side (especially in the wee hours of the night).

*She cooks like nobody's business. Pancakes, muffins, roasts, salads, steaks, smoothies, you name it. And she really APPRECIATES good food, too.

* She gives a rat's ass about me. Yeah, I know what you're saying. "Shouldn't that be a given, Troy?" Well, maybe it should, but it isn't always. With Lea, though, I feel like she genuinely wants the best for me. She tries to get me to eat well and exercise, she urges me to get more of my writing published, she goes out of her way to make me happy, and all of it because she wants me to feel successful and content. And THAT, ladies and gents, is a sure sign of love, more so than such flashy accoutremon as personalized tattoos or edible undies...

* She sticks with it. We've been together for several years now, and it hasn't always been easy. The distance and other issues have really torn at us from time to time, but she's still here. Lesser folks might've given it up by now, but she's one tough cookie when it comes to stuff like this. And thank god she is.

So anyway, unwritten rules of writing be damned. I love Lea with all my heart.
We now return you to the non-mushy portion of this blog...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Troy Hickman's Nocturnal Admissions

So, occasionally I need to sleep. And when I do, it greatly helps me fall into that state if I have something soothing running through a perpetual loop on the DVD player. By soothing, however, I don't mean pastoral scenes or something with a soundtrack by Brahms. No, I fall asleep best when accompanied by movies and TV shows that I know by rote, things that don't require me to keep my massive brain working, but rather allow it to blissfully turn itself off. Here, then, in no particular order, are the Top Five Things That Allow Me to Sleep:

* The Andy Griffith Show. TAGS (as we call it in the AG Rerun Watchers Club) is my favorite sitcom of all time, and probably nothing makes for a more restful sleep. Not only can I quote every line of dialogue verbatim, but what could be more soothing than having Mayberry gently piped into your dreams? Bear in mind, of course, that only episodes featuring Don Knotts will do the trick (first five seasons; a good rule of thumb is black & white episodes). Andy Griffith post-Knotts is watchable, I guess (if nothing else is available), but I think it would give me nightmares. Keep your Emmett the Fix-It Man and Sam Jones and cranky Andy and focus on Aunt Bee and (especially) Jack Burns as Warren. I'll take simple, slow-moving, black & white Mayberry from 1960-1965. That's what does the trick for me.

* The Beverly Hillbillies. I have a real love for CBS' "rural comedies" of the 60s, and the most soothing of them is BH. Again, I know the material like the back of my hand (oh my god, I never saw that wart before!!!), and there's something so restful about the country humor, and Buddy Ebsen's voice, and the incidental music. The other shows in the Paul Henning rural trilogy, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, are also great shows, but while I've seen all the episodes of each, I don't know the lines quite as well (and I must say, Green Acres had some of the most clever and out-and-out funny writing of its time). The Hillbillies assure me a deep, pleasant sleep, however, and the chance to wake up with a head full of possum fat.

* Any Frank Capra film. I know Capra's work like I wrote it myself, and his uplifting tales are the perfect way to ease into slumber. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is my all-time favorite film, and I've drifted off to it probably 400 times. Coming in a close second as Morpheus-bait aree Meet John Doe or Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. And, of course, It's a Wonderful Life is the perfect sleep aid around Christmas time (and I used to love it when it was considered public domain and at any moment during December you could find a station showing it). Not as easy to sleep to are things like You Can't Take It With You or It Happened One Night, though they're sure as hell worth watching in the light of day.

* Other "old" movies. One great one is John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath. Yeah, I know theoretically it should make me dream of dust storms and Hoovervilles, but there's something very comforting about riding along with the Joad family as they make their way to...well, probably eventual starvation, but let's not think about that. Another fave is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of Elia Kazan's best, in my opinion.

Again, some might argue that it would have me REMing about turn of the century tenement life
and poverty, but I find myself pacified by Francie and her family's struggles to get by. Other good movies for sleeping, at least to me, are the Over The Hill Gang films, anything with Ma and Pa Kettle, and, strangely, In Cold Blood.

* To Catch a Predator. Yeah, I know it's weird, but there's just something about hearing "I'm Chris Hanson" and knowing that one more perve is being busted that helps me get to sleep. There are actually very few episodes of this show (and given the controversy lately, there may not be any more produced), so I've ended up pretty much memorizing all the "dialogue." I wish they'd run a comprehensive marathon of the show so I could consolidate all of 'em on to one disk.

So I guess, in conclusion, I'd have to say that...that......zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz