C.C. Back in the mid-90s, UPS had passenger seats available on certain flights, I didn't have to suck in my belly in order to see my penis, and Chris Cataan was the Prince of Darkness on SNL. If you remember, the character was a Goth-like Satanic cult leader that lived in and produced a low-budget TV show from his mom's basement, referring to himself repeatedly as "The Prince of Darkness.” He did so with an odd pitch of voice Cass and I found hilarious, and it became our pet slogan for some time. A friend of mine happened to have an uncle who spent many years in service to the U.S. since joining the Marines during Vietnam. At some point, he went off the grid to find some peace on a volcanic beach on the coast of Costa Rica. When my friend extended an invitation to join him on a trip to visit his uncle, I jumped at the chance. This was an especially exciting prospect for me as I had only been abroad once (to Canada, which is not nearly as nauseating, but just about as exciting as watching a Nicholas Cage movie not named Raising Arizona). I wasn't exactly making a fortune at the time, so the reasonably priced UPS passenger seats added to the joy of my first trip to another country. We soon hopped a flight from Louisville to San Jose. It was an exciting time to travel. By this point, I had been travelling extensively within the U.S. for work and was used to being away from family. Cass had been gone from home, off to start her new career in Indiana. This relegated our communication to the telephone for several years. And, so, after 4 days in a remote area of this Central American paradise, I decided I better call my Sis and say hello from a foreign land. "Operator, how can I assist you?" "Yes, sir, I'd like to make a collect call to the U.S." There were no international cell phones in our world at the time, so a collect call to a landline was my only option. I gave the operator Cass's phone number, some disturbing Indiana 317 area code, and the die was cast. You may not be aware, but a rivalry exists between the Hoosiers and the Kentuckians. They see us as shoeless, toothless, ignorant hillbillies and we see them as Yankees whose sole purpose in life is to drive in our left-hand lanes and not let us pass on the right when we finally get tired of watching them mindlessly clog up traffic by cruising without cruise control in the passing lane. We probably both have a point. But I digress. "Alright, sir. I'm dialing now. Who can I say is calling collect?" "The Prince of Darkness." "Excuse me?" "Just tell her it's the Prince of Darkness. She knows who I am and what I'm capable of." "Oh. Um, OK. Please hold." When the call connected, all I could hear was Cass laughing. Surely, she'd tell the man she would accept the charges. The joke alone was worth the price of the call. We laughed for twenty minutes, which was expensive at the time. I still haven't paid the bitch back for the collect call. Cass I remember this phone call like it was yesterday, when it was actually 18 years ago. I can't believe it's been that long, and that C.C.'s still alive. It was a Saturday morning. It was early. I was 22 years old and I did not get up early on Saturdays for anything. When the phone rang, I immediately thought something was wrong, like maybe C.C.'s plane had crashed. Or he was kidnapped by guerillas and they wanted a ransom—as if we would pay. Several crazy ideas flitted in and out of my mind as I reached for the phone. It was late enough for the sun to be up. I remember because I was pissed when I opened my eyes and the room was too bright. Tequila is not your friend. The last thing I expected was the international operator to be on the phone. But I must say, that man is a gift to the collect-calling world. I'm assuming the person placing the collect call doesn't always hear what the operator says to the receiver of the phone call. Either that or C.C.'s senile. Here's what happened on my end, when the phone rang at butt o'clock in the morning on a Saturday: “Hello?” I croaked. “Yes, I have a collect call from Costa Rica. It's from, well … it's from the Prince of Darkness.” Now wide awake and laughing my ass off, I did my best to compose myself. It wasn't my father calling to tell me about someone's untimely demise. It was just my dumbass brother racking up charges to my phone bill. “Will you accept the charges?” he asked. “Yes.” “Ma'am, are you sure you want to do that?” I could hear the concern in the operator's voice. It made the moment all the more special. “Yes,” I repeated. “But, it's the Prince of Darkness,” the operator said as if I was out of my mind for even considering taking a collect call from the spawn of Satan. “Ah, yes. He's my brother.” “The Prince of Darkness is your brother?” “Yes.” “Well, okay, then. Best of luck to you, ma'am.” I chuckled, appreciating that the man was concerned for my welfare. Best collect call, ever.
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