Pig Newtons and How All This Shit Happened
It's very easy to find movie nerds on the Internet now — folks you can banter back and forth with about our nation's real national pastime. But back in the late '80s and early '90s, before the dawn of dial-up, if you weren't attending a comic convention in a big city, you had to stumble across fellow geeks in real life. And back then, geekdom of any kind, even for movies, was not as commonplace as it is now. Contrary to what Huey Lewis and the News told us, it was most certainly not hip to be square. When you wanted to find like-minded cineasts in the suburbs, it was more akin to cruising public restrooms: lots of sidelong glances at the urinals and foot-tapping under the stalls, hoping someone would get what you were after.
The first true film geek I ever met was Vincent Pereira, and ironically, we'd meet on what would eventually become a movie set: the same Quick Stop convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey, where we'd one day shoot Clerks. Vinny was a local high school kid the Quick Stop owners paid to stock the milk and mop the floors at night, but he was also waaaaay into film — so much so that he planned on being a filmmaker one day.
But I wouldn't know any of this for the first few months we'd work together because the guy rarely spoke. That changed the night he came in to stock the milk and found me watching an episode of Twin Peaks I'd taped from ABC the night before.
Normally, when Vincent came in at nine, he'd head right to the cooler, saying very little. That night, he paused briefly near the counter, recognizing the show and smiling slightly. He disappeared into the cooler as usual, but then reemerged and joined me at the register.
"You like David Lynch?" he asked.
"Oh, yeah," I said. "Blue Velvet is one of my favorite films."
In those days, you couldn't reference Blue Velvet without launching into a bad impression of Dennis Hopper uttering his immortal line "I'll fuck anything that mooooves!" (indeed, I had the Jay character bellow it in Clerks). Vincent was polite about how terrible the impression was and immediately launched into a discussion of Ronnie Rocket and One Saliva Bubble — two unproduced Lynch flicks he'd read about in a laser disc zine (if you're too young to remember either of those media-conveyance devices, laser discs were precursors of DVDs, Blu-rays, and digital, and zines were homemade publications and the precursors to blogs).
Vincent spoke passionately about film — about wanting to be a director. Before meeting him, I'd never heard anyone say they wanted to make movies. Nowadays, you can throw a rock and hit a film school kid. But back then? If they were talking about it anywhere, it wasn't in the central Jersey burbs. For Vincent, it was religion. I thought I was way into movies, but Vinny was into film and would teach me the subtle distinctions between the two (Vincent was a film snob long before there was an Internet). He'd teach me about aspect ratios, which were a new concept to a full-screen VHS culture. I used to complain about the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen cutting off half the picture until Vinny explained cropping and scope to me. Every week, we'd pore over the lone copy of The Village Voice Quick Stop carried, marveling at the cool cinematic shit happening merely a bridge or tunnel away.
From Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good by Kevin Smith. Copyright 2012 by Kevin Smith. Excerpted by permission of Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA).