On the 120th Anniversary of Dracula, an Update on My Take

I’m a day late on this. Still getting adjusted to having a day job and a schedule. May 26 was the 120th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” If you haven’t read the book yet, you can get it for free on a variety of platforms here. If you’re like me and prefer reading books in print, Barnes & Noble typically has a copy of “Dracula” floating around along with their reprints of other classic books. (Of course, I rather you buy the thing from your local, independent, bookstore, but those are becoming harder and harder to find these days.)


“Dracula” starts slow, but if you stick with it, the pacing of it picks up dramatically and it becomes a bit more of an action-adventure novel. There’s also a lot of (unintentionally?) funny moments in it. It’s those funny moments I want to talk about.


Almost 10 years ago I started work on a parody of “Dracula.” It was originally called “Dracula and Kittens” but then later became “Cold Hilarious Fate” after the kitten subplot mostly got cut from the manuscript. (And yes, the new title is a reference to the often underappreciated “King of the Hill” cartoon.) The book was created just before books like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” became huge hits but never quite got off the ground. Putting parts of the manuscript online did get me a book agent, and that lead to the creation of “Social Media Is Bullshit,” but for years “Cold Hilarious Fate” languished.


A big part of the book was highlighting the odd moments of humor found within “Dracula” and completely amping them up. Dracula, standing at the doorway of his castle and unable to move until Harker agrees to enter plays as weird in the original book, but in “Cold Hilarious Fate” is a moment for Dracula, who is an asshole, to further mess with Harker.


I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the book. It seems like I revisit it every few years and then abandon it when other stuff comes up. So, don’t hold your breath, is what I’m saying. But that said, if you want to know what the book would be like, you can check out the first chapter of it for free.

Chapter 1. Crime Knows No Color

(From “Cold Hilarious Fate” written by Bram Stoker and B.J. Mendelson)

I’m on my way to Romania to do some work for Carlin, Prior and Hicks. It’s my first big assignment outside the office and only the second trip abroad for the firm since “The Happy Loman Incident.”  Since the firm was footing the bill, I decided to take a minor detour through Germany and spend a few days here. My grandmother’s family had been wiped out in the Holocaust, and  I wanted to see the place where anti-Semitism is made.


My detour took me to Munich and the Hotel Munchen Palace. In further proof that Yelp can never completely be trusted, the hotel was great, but they still used Yugos to transport their guests around the German countryside. Noticing the hotel manager,  I walked to my Yugo as quickly as I could. I had hoped he didn’t notice me, but Mr. Jonathan P. Heidenreich saw everything. He emerged from the hotel drenched in Coppertone and stared at my ride with a look similar to what the Nazis must have given Poland just before invading it.


Heidenreich was a bit of an odd character. Portly, bald, and disheveled he seemed to enjoy sharing his poetry unsolicited with all of the hotel guests. Each night during my stay here, I heard Heidenreich roam the halls, knocking on each door under the guise of asking his guests about their stay, but then saying in perfect English, “May I read you this poem I have just written? It is about my cat, Ilsa.” When I saw him making his way toward our vehicle,  I rolled up my window and said to the driver, who had introduced himself as “Johan,” “I hope he’s not going to read us more of his fucking poetry.” Johan did not respond in any discernable way. Typical German. No sense of humor. Smiling I guess is also prohibited within the confines of this horrible vehicle. Although truthfully, if I owned a Yugo, I wouldn’t be smiling either.


Instead of molesting our ears, Heidenreich curtly wished me a pleasant trip, perhaps indicating he, in fact, knew what was done to his lobby bathroom, and then he said to Johan, “Show our amazing American Bavaria’s beauty but be back before early evening. You know what nasty night it is.” Johan, not impressed at all with needless alliteration, or life itself, answered Heidenreich with an emphatic, “Ja.” Johan Schulz: Man of many words. On his days off, Johan offers rides to tourists around the Bavarian countryside. Heidenreich had introduced us when I checked in a week ago, but it was a brief encounter. Johan simply took out his hand, I shook it, and then he walked away without saying anything further. Johan was certainly a model for cold, emotionless, German efficiency. I bet he would have made a great Nazi.


As the Yugo’s “powerful” engine came to life, I asked Johan what was happening tonight. Johan simply crossed himself as he answered laconically: “Walpurgis nacht.” “What THE fuck does that mean?” Johan snorted in response to my inquiry and looked at his watch. It was a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a Volkswagen. His eyebrows gathered together as he gave me an impatient shrug. I realized this was him being passive aggressive. Had I consumed a proper German breakfast this morning, I would have replied to his passive aggressive behavior by farting at him and showing him the terrible vengeance I have brought upon his country during my trip abroad. But as an American in Europe, I am obligated to act classy at all times when within the presence of a European, least they think of me as one of “those people.” You know the ones I’m talking about. The Americans who visit Germany for the first time. Fat, out of shape, ignorant, wearing jean shorts, and constantly asking anyone who even remotely looks German, “Where do you keep the Jew Gold?”


About an hour into our trip, I saw a road that looked little traveled, and which seemed to dip through a small, winding valley. It looked so inviting that I asked Johan to stop his plodding Yugo. He did with a heavy sigh and a cross look. I momentarily reconsidered farting at him. I then told Johan I would like him to drive us down that road, which prompted a seemingly endless barrage of excuses delivered in broken English, many of which were followed by Johan crossing himself at the conclusion of each statement. His reluctance to make a simple left turn piqued my curiosity. We hadn’t stuck to any sort of course on this trip, going wherever I wanted, and now we came across a seemingly harmless road and he won’t go down it? Fuck that. I have Johan as my driver for another few hours still. Something was up. I started to ask him various questions. He answered fencingly, and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest as he did. Frustrated, I then told Johan I wanted to get out of the car. But before I could even take off my seat belt, he had opened his door and raced out in front of mine, blocking it with his enormous Aryan frame. I didn’t think a German could move that quickly unless he was taking something that didn’t belong to him. Johan towered over me by at least a foot and had about 200 pounds of muscle to my 145 pounds of lank. He made an impressive road block. If I was in a more joking mood, I would have said something witty to break the tension, like “With speed like that, the Aryan Barbarian will capture the world wrestling federation title in no time.” But I wasn’t feeling very funny. I was kind of pissed off at his odd behavior. Even the monsters don’t act like this. Well, except the one that ripped off Happy Loman’s arms and beat him to death with them.


There was an awkward moment that followed between Johan and I. I, in the car looking up at Johan, the Aryan Barbarian. Him, peering down at me with all the menace you’d expect from an angered German. It crossed my mind to inform him that my mother was Jewish, just to see if he’d flip out, enter Beast Mode, and put his fist through the window in an effort to hoist me over his shoulder and shake me to see if any hidden “Jew Gold” came loose, but I thought better of it. Instead, I rolled down the window and informed him that I wanted to exit the vehicle. There was another pause before he finally sighed and took a step back. I am pleased to inform my readers that, yet again, a German surrendered to an American.


Once I finally got out of the Yugo, Johan implored me not to go down the road. He seemed always just about to tell me something–the very idea of which must have frightened him; as each time he would cut himself off, cross himself and say mysteriously, ‘Walpurgis-Nacht!’ Each time I would reply to him by saying, “I still don’t know what the fuck that means.” I tried to argue further with Johan, but it’s difficult to argue with a man whose native tongue is German. Even the nicest things said in that language sound like a chainsaw cutting through rusted metal in the midst of thrashing guitars, thunderous drums, and some kind words about Jesus. This was Germany after all, and aside from murdering millions of innocent people, they’re also known for their uplifting brand of heavy metal music that focuses on positivity and peace. The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone.


A couple of horses from a nearby farm had apparently heard our argument and had moved closer to us. At one point standing mere several inches away, separated only by the farm’s odd, white picket fence. You would think the German owners would have gone with cold steel and misery, but apparently, that wasn’t the order of the day when they built that fence. At one point, Secretariat and Barbaro had started to queerly sniff the air. At this sight, Johan grew pale and looked around in a frightened way that didn’t befit his murderous German heritage. Whatever was going on, the next thing I knew Johan had picked me up over his shoulder, which prompted me to immediately inform him that I did not possess any sort of “Jew Gold” on my person. Johan swiftly opened the passenger door, and then threw me into the car as if I were a feather pillow. He then got in and drove a few feet down the road to get away from the horses. “Johan, I know one of those horses appeared to have taken a dump during our conversation, perhaps indicating their agreement with my position, but I feel you’re overreacting!” He said nothing. When I asked again for an explanation, he again crossed himself and pointed to the spot we had left. “’Buried him–him what killed themselves.”


“Jesus. Again with your strange and mysterious German shit! Do you mean he killed himself, Johan?  A suicide? You know, the thing your former dickhead leader did instead of manning up and letting the Russians play soccer with his skull, which they probably did anyway? You people still bury your suicides on the side of the road? What the fuck is wrong with you people? I mean seriously. Have the people of Germany ever stopped, looked themselves in the mirror and went, “Wow. We’re pretty fucked up. We’re like the neighbor who molested Punky Brewster on one of those very special episodes.” As Johan was about to respond, we heard a sort of sound that straddled the sonic line between a belch and a roar. Johan, for the second time in a short period, again went pale and said simply, “A drunk bear.” I asked, “You have wild bears in Bavaria?” I didn’t realize there were still bears in Bavaria. Especially after the Germans had taken it on themselves to kill what was apparently a peaceful one named Bruno a few years earlier for no other reason other than that he was adorable. Classic Germany.


“No. Circus. Abandoned not long ago. Now roaming freely” Johan added. “And they’re drunk?” “Circus rum.” I immediately got out of the car, informing Johan, “I have got to see this.” Upon exiting the car, in the event Johan attempted to again hoist me over his shoulder, I took from the seat my solid oak walking stick — which I always carry in the event I needed to fuck up a mugger — and closed the door. Johan again followed me out of the vehicle, but this time nowhere near as fast as he had previously. Perhaps with my stinging Punky Brewster remark and wooden weapon of choice, he had decided it would be for the best if a drunken circus bear devours me. At the very least he’d return with a good story, and one the fucked up people of Germany will all probably blog and brag about to their weirdo friends in Switzerland.


I noticed at this point that dark clouds had started to swirl across the sky. The sunshine passed, and a breath of cold wind seemed to drift past us, sort of like that creepy feeling you get when you’re talking about someone who died and all of a sudden the room gets cold. It was only a brief breath, however, and honestly, it felt more like a warning than anything else as the sun soon came out brightly again. If it was a warning for what’s to come on my Eastern European adventure, I’d like to take a moment here and put God on notice: Nothing can stop my mighty mugger stick! Johan, tall enough to be blinded by the sun, looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and said: “The storm of snow, she comes.” Then he looked at his watch again and straight away got back into the car. This time, I didn’t join him.


This lead to yet another awkward moment. One more of these and we would have pretty much guaranteed that we would have our own BBC series together. Although this time it was I who was now towering over my monstrous German friend as he rolled down his window. “Where does this road go Johan?” Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer, before he answered, “Unholy.” ‘”What is unholy?’” “The store.” Curious, I asked, “ You guys have a Costco down there?” Apparently annoyed by my nonchalant retorts and eagerness to walk down this road, Johan burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not understand everything, but I did gather a few things:


-There was a popular pet store down this road many years ago. I didn’t catch the name. Something, obviously, had happened at that store.


-The employees were all from Romania, and the store exclusively carried kittens.


-The German government turned the area into a sort of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This road marked the entrance to that area, and it is completely restricted. Nobody goes in, and apparently, nobody comes out.


Johan was evidently afraid to speak those last words. Unfortunately, as he proceeded with his narration, he grew increasingly excited and began to speak entirely in German. So whatever he was saying was completely lost on me. I can speak in tongues. Even some Aramaic for that one time Jesus wanted to sue Mel Gibson. But German? Forget it. I never learned the language out of spite. I doubt it would have done me much good here as he was babbling endlessly, apparently going pale and then trembling with fear to boot. Never saw a German do that. I didn’t think it was something they did as a people, aside from the ones my grandfather-in-law saw just a moment before flattening them with his tank. Johan was looking around wildly now as if expecting some drunken circus bear would manifest itself right then and there and maul him while wearing a silly hat. Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried: ‘Walpurgis nacht!’ and started the car. I could only take so much of Johan and his “rumpus night” crap. I am an American. Nobody tells me what to do in a foreign country! “For someone of your size and heritage, you should be ashamed of yourself Johan. You are afraid my friend. In America, we’d call you a pussy, but I think right now that’d be an insult to pussies. So do me a favor and go home. “Rumpus Room” doesn’t concern Americans. None of your fruity Euro-bullshit does!”


Johan excitedly implored me not to do anything foolish. I pitied the fuck, he was deeply in earnest; but all the same, I could not help but laugh at his apparent nervous breakdown. What had happened to the calm and efficient killing machine that I began this trip with? Feeling slightly guilty about that, I turned and walked away as he continued to jabber on German. With a despairing gesture, which I promptly replied to by flipping him a little something I like to call “the bird,” Johan crawled off toward Munich in his busted ass vehicle. I leaned on my mighty mugger stick and looked as he drove off. He went slowly along the road for a while until there came over the crest of the hill a tall and husky man. He appeared to be black, which in America would necessitate a subconscious tightening of my grip thanks to years being brainwashed by the evening news, but I could only see so much of him in the distance. When the man drew near the horses, they began to jump and kick about, then scream as if farmer Bill had arrived to send them to the glue factory. Johan must have heard the commotion as his shitbox from hell roared, making the jump to hyperspace and leaving my view entirely. I looked at the horses and then back for the stranger, but found that he too was gone.


I was now alone, left with nothing but guilt for my display of mild racism and my mockery of Johan’s fear. What was he trying to warn me about?


– John Harker


P.S. My grandmother, who originally owned the mighty mugger stick, had a completely racist name for it. My father, when he gave me the stick, tried to justify his mother’s use of a racist word in place of “mugger” by saying, “Well in her day things were different.” I once admonished her about the name of the stick saying, “Grandma, crime knows no color!” Funny enough, her racism later would vanish when she was mugged on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue by a bunch of white guys. Serves her right.