My father loved Western, War, Action and Sci-Fi movies and among his favorite directors was John Carpenter. He directed notables like Escape from New York, They Live, Big Trouble in Little China, the original 1978 Halloween and The Thing. If you've seen any of these you know that they are outlandish and stunning films that linger in the mind. Often set in bleak surroundings with sarcastic characters and brooding even haunting scores. Of those I mentioned his favorite by far was The Thing (1982).
Based on an earlier and much more campy movie named The Thing from Another World and released in 1951 that version was a red scare metaphor. There was something about the John Carpenter version that really spoke to my father. It was a suspenseful thriller that saw play in our house nearly every week. Surprisingly he started the movie more than he finished it. This often played out with him returning home at the end of the day plopping in the VHS tape (later the DVD) and sitting down only to drift off to sleep somewhere in the middle. (Only my dad could use a horror movie as a sleep aid.) My step-mom once told me that she would constantly finish the movie only to realize he was asleep. She got into the habit of checking on him throughout the film and when she discovered him asleep she'd swap it out for something she wanted to watch without ever moving him or waking him.
I always loved the movie myself (and Kurt Russell for that matter). I picked up the board game version of it first chance I got and love getting it on the table when I have at least 5 willing participants. They remade the movie again in 2011 but the trailer didn't really draw me in so I've never seen it.
When I was 17 I wanted to get my father something for his birthday (or was it Father's Day?) and went to eBay to look for options. After some aimless searching I eventually landed on a reasonably priced blue t-shirt featuring the iconic cover of his favorite John Carpenter flick. It arrived and I stashed it in my room with a gift bag and some tissue paper then promptly forgot about it. The day of the event came and I scrambled to assemble my present but looking at it laying there on my bed it felt so small and unimpressive. In a moment of panic I said to myself, "this would be a lot cooler if it was autographed". Without hesitation I grabbed a sharpie and forged the name "John Carpenter" on it.
Now panic really set in. It was very clearly in my handwriting style, I had no idea what his signature really looked like and now the shirt very clearly was marked with this low quality forgery. Now I can't say I am proud of any of this but I had witnessed my father pull off so many cons that I choose to just bag it up as is and give it to him. We gathered around him to open presents and when he got to mine he lifted the shirt partially out of the bag and saw the image. He smiled and commented on how cool it was then unfurrowed it to reveal the signature. As confidently as I could I announced it was autographed. He looked at Trish and she wrinkled her brow before picking it up to inspect it.
He thanked me and they quickly moved on. We never spoke of it and I never saw him wear the shirt. For the longest time (actually to this day) I was so embarrassed by how that played out and reflecting back on it realize that he would have been happily satisfied with the shirt alone. I felt the need to impress him and reach these incredible expectations that were partially from how he raised me and partly an expectation I had placed upon myself. I try to remember that experience when I feel like I could do more in my endeavors as an adult. What they say really is true, it's the thought that counts.