I’ve lost count of how many times i’ve gone on a hunt for kung fu flicks, filled with the anticipation of finding that discarded or discounted secret stash of classics gathering dust and grime in the corner of some shitty, smelly hole in the wall video store….only to come home sullen and empty-handed to watch my worn out VHS copy of Shaolin Vs. Wutang for the three-hundreth time.
The first-and best-stash of kung fu films i found was in my early twenties.
I Used to buy weed from this guy who I knew from the punk scene as a teenager. He was kind of a weird guy, so when I went to his house I would try to be in and out pretty quick. He was always trying to get me to hang out with him, but he had this really obnoxious, high energy personality that I just couldn’t handle so I was always making excuses to get the hell outta there.
He lived in his parents old house in a working class suburb. The first floor looked like a frat house: Pool table in the dining room, kitchen stacked high with filthy dishes, a living room sparsely decorated with old smelly furniture and the remnants of last months raging kegger. And it reeked of cats.
“It’s upstairs, you gotta come upstairs.”
Upstairs was this rickety spiral staircase that creaked as we went up. “sticky icky icky” he mumbled as we went up the stairs. He was always spouting off about how he had the “sticky icky icky” like it was some sort of point of pride. He would get this possessed look in his eyes when he was weighing it out. “You see this shit right here? You fuckin’ see this?” he would proclaim. “This shit? This shit right heeeeeere…” he’d make you wait for it… “This is that sticky icky ICKY!”
Then he’d stare at you with this crazy look on his face waiting for what he must’ve expected would be a bro-down and a high five or something. It was really wierd.
So I follow him up these stairs and he had this crazy home theatre set up with a huge TV mounted in the wall (this was pre flat screen, so that was pretty impressive at the time) couches with subwoofers in them, a mini fridge filled with soda and beer…
“I don’t usually let my customers come up here…” he said as he pulled out a huge bag of weed and started portioning it out.
I flopped onto the couch and noticed a couple of dvd’s on the coffee table.
Now keep in mind, around this time I didn’t know ANYBODY who was into kung fu films, other than myself. People used to make fun of me for watching them. So when I noticed that he had a couple of old Jet Li movies, I put aside my rational desire to not start a conversation so I could get on my way as quickly as possible and blurted out:
“Man, Shaolin Temple! I have like all this guy’s movies at home!”
He stopped in his tracks and that got that “sticky icky icky” face again.
“Nash!” he yelled. “You’re fuckin into the kung fu!? You like that shit!?”
“ummmm, yeah i…” i started to say, but he abruptly cuts me off,
“Yeaaaaaaah you love that kung fu shit….check this out…”
he motions for me to get up and opens the door to a secret room behind the TV wall.
Inside are shelves upon shelves of classic kung fu films. All the films I had searched for but never found. The films I had heard about, but never seen. Puffy box VHS tapes by the hundreds, all the Shaw Brothers films. DVD’s and tapes littered the floor. He had a fucking WASHING MACHINE box filled with tapes. This was the mother of all kung fu collections.
Over the next two weeks we spent hour upon hour smoking bong hits and watching an all you can eat buffet of kung fu classics. He even let me take a few choice titles from the secret room when i’d come by.
“But if you ever don’t bring one back, i’ll fuckin kung fu YOU!” he’d say with that sticky icky face.
The last time I went there, I went up the creaky spiral staircase. He just convinced me to do an Aqualung he built out of an old water jug. This thing was huge and I did three hits so I was not just regular high, I was like on the verge of getting the fear high. Upstairs, it was a different mood than usual.
“you gotta hang out here for at least half an hour, the cops are watching me”
Then it comes out that two of the guys in the room are ex-cons who of course can’t wait to tell you what they did to go to jail.
“yeah it was uhhh…statutory rape and um, assault. I fucked this girl and her dad got mad. wanted to fight me. So I said fuck it, and i whooped his ass…then ”
then this guy who sitting in the corner with a hood over his eyes for the last twenty minutes suddenly wakes up…
“No, but you fucked her in the aaaaaass dude…haha, that was her fuckin DAD man!”
Then he gets a call from another “potential client” who he instructs to just leave the money in the mailbox while he drops the drugs from a second story window.
“just get it out of the flowerbed under the window….I can’t come outside the cops are watching the house.”
At this point, i’m high as shit and i’m starting to piece this scenario together in my head where this guy shows up and then the SWAT team smashes in with guns drawn and arrests all of us and I get tossed in jail with these scumbags. I’ll be honest, I was freaking out a little. I grabbed my weed, dropped the money on the table and pretty much bolted out of there as fast as I could. I could hear him behind me, “Man! Where you going? Nash!” and something about “he got that sticky icky icky, ha ha ha” as the door shut behind me.
When the door shut behind me, I paused. If the cops were watching, they’re totally going to pull me over the second I get into my car to drive away.
So I casually walked down the street to the end of the block and headed down a back lane. At least if they bust me here, they’ll just take away my weed, my car won’t get impounded and I won’t get arrested for driving whilst high.
But nothing happened. No sirens, no cop cars.
I doubled back to my car, cutting through someones back yard just in case. I carefully slipped into my car and took off into the night.
Goes to show, you never know where you’ll find a hidden stash of kung fu films, or where the search will take you. I never went back there after that, but I still have his old copy of “Ten Tigers of Kwantung”. Years later it serves as a souvenir, a relic, my last remaining link to “The Collection…”