[Originally published July 4, 2016]
BJ Blazcowicz is a god-fearin’, red-blooded, down-home country boy. He is the epitome of ‘America’, but he’s also the saddest man. His internal monologue in Wolfenstein: The New Order is comicallydepressing. This man is so very very sad that his every thought is about how things usedto suck, but at least they didn’t suck as bad as they do now. Well, that and killing Nazis. His monologue cracked me up, and it was also one of the few things in the game that consistently clicked for me – largely because of the game’s tone. In any other situation, BJ Blazcowicz is a man whose bottomless emotional agony spills out into an inescapable, stinking pool of discomfort and social awkwardness. A situation like, say, a family cookout.
For this fourth of July, celebrate our nation’s independence with the most American American around – the Beejer.
This is a story of love, and loss, and – actually – not love. Not even a little bit. It is called:
BJ Blazcowicz Ruins Your Family Cookout.
Chapter 1: Birth
Everybody hears the car arrive. The sound of Bruce Springsteen creeps over the backyard fence like a steady, inevitable menace. To your family, Bruce has come to represent something akin to the heat death of our sun. Everybody knows what it signifies. Everybody knows it’s coming. They just choose not to think about it, because it makes them forget how fragile their little existence is for just a tiny bit longer.
The volume reaches peak intensity, then cuts out altogether. Two car doors open, then close – one of them slams. Everybody in the backyard exchanges a fearful glance, and then looks away, as though embarrassed of their collective anxiety. The gate swings open, and there he stands. BJ Blazcowicz. The man himself. He’s sporting a big ol’ shit-eating grin, of course. A predator doesn’t feel guilty about killing its prey. It doesn’t understand things like morality or not getting too drunk at a barbecue, it just does what it does because it’s always done it, and ‘it’ will never, ever change.
A smaller, slighter figure follows behind. It’s his wife – Anya. She does nothave a smile on her face. More of a grimace, really – an expression of guilt and apology. It is a death mask, fastened tight.
The sun is here. It’s name is BJ Blazcowicz. And it is expanding rapidly.
Chapter 2: Entropy
I don’t know about the cookouts you’ve been to, but I was raised Irish Catholic, and our cookouts weren’t just dangerous – they were full-on lethal. Take an extended family of about 40 people, liquor them up, and let them handle propane and open flames. The chances that someone would accidentally get burned, stabbed, and/or meat/liquor sick were astronomical. International terroristswould’ve felt uncomfortable around my family. In this situation, however, you are the terrorists, and BJ is my family. You see the non-drinkers amongst your ranks begin to crack a brewski to calm their nerves a bit. They do not take tiny sips – they gulp down their elixir as though the sky has cracked in twain and their Lord Almighty has ordered them to do so. Everyone is drinking in a desperate attempt to liven things up – to save themselves from the inevitable.
They have merely poured gasoline on an open flame.
BJ sees everybody drinking, and he decides to knock back a Bud himself. Then he has another. And one more. He’s a big beefer-boy – he can handle his alcohol – but we all know where this is going.
You see him begin to walk towards your cluster of relatives, and you all tense up like some great, unified muscle. Your time has come, you’re sure of it, and then…
Your executioner turns. Your neck is spared from the blade that is BJ. You breathe a sigh of relief.
Chapter 3: Heat
Blazcowicz sits down across-and-to-the-left of you with a full plate and his fourth beer. You can see those next to him holding their food as close to their mouths as possible, so as to minimize their chances of having to engage BJ in conversation.
He turns his head to the side and shouts at the cook,
“GREAT BURG’, RHONDA!”
A piece of chewed up, spit-and-ketchup-saturated hamburger rockets out of BJ’s mouth, and whileyou see it land squarely in his neighbor’s eye, BJ does not. The victim of BJ’s meat artillery chooses to blink this medium-rare warhead out of his cornea with mute, aggressive purpose.
The cook’s name is not Rhonda. In fact, nobody here is named Rhonda. Where the hell did he get ‘Rhonda’ from? No one dares to ask.
You look away for a brief moment, and then back again – for BJ is a disaster that you cannot tear your gaze from. He is a certain rap icon writing a rock song; he is a clown fighting another clown in a Denny’s; he is a waiter spilling an entire platter of buffalo wings onto a baby. His plate is now empty – as is his beer, which he picks up and crushes against his forehead. He brings it back down, and looks at it for about 5 seconds.
“Huh,” he grunts, his eyes wild. He continues to look at it in silence for another 5 seconds, and then begins to laugh at literally nothing. He stands up, still laughing, still looking, and goes to pick up another. He drops the crushed can beside the cooler.
BJ Blazcowicz is drunk. It is the beginning of the end.
Chapter 4: Death
This is when people start to act out of fearful desperation. They can feel the danger emanating from the atmosphere. What once gave life now brings death. Anya has disappeared. She does not wish to see the ensuing carnage. Your mother and father have crept into a corner, and are clearly judging how-soon-is-too-soon to leave. These are the familial politics of a cookout. Those who would rather run than weather the storm are cowards and pariahs, but those who stay too late are lunatic animals that cavort with the likes of BJ.
Then, it happens.
The cook-who’s-not-named-Rhonda approaches BJ and his 6th beer-in-an-hour-and-a-half.
“Excuse me,” she says.
You see Cousin Lou make a break for it. He’ll pay, come Thanksgiving.
“I’m glad you enjoyed my ‘burg,’ but my name’s not Rhonda, it’s -“
He cuts her off.
“Rhonda’s such a pretty name,” he says. Though his voice is barely above a whisper, the entire backyard can hear him.
“I knew a girl named Rhonda. Pretty young thing. Her hair was a dull, dreary blonde. Not as dull and dreary as this cookout though.”
His voice cracks, as though he is about to weep.
“We ate burgers on the 4th of July once. They were cold and stale, but not as cold and stale as YOUR burgers, Rhonda.”
Not-Rhonda remains unmoved, unphased, un-Rhonda’d. BJ turns away from her. You see his eyes have glazed over with a glimmering sheen of haunted-but-slightly-forced tears. He looks oddly like Coldplay’s Chris Martin, you think to yourself.
“I HAD FAMILY GATHERINGS ONCE, RHONDA,” he bellows. “THEY WERE BLOATED AND DEAD. BUT NOT AS BLOATED AND DEAD AS THESE GATHERINGS, RHONDA.”
He turns around. Not-Rhonda is gone. Not-Ronda took her leave at the first ‘bloated and dead.’ She has paid her penance, and made her exit. Blazcowicz looks around, confused – an actor without an audience. He continues to raise his voice, still addressing the now-absent Not-Rhonda.
“THEY HAD HOMEMADE MUSTARD AT THOSE GATHERINGS TOO, RHONDA. IT WAS CHUNKY AND SWEATY, BUT NOT AS CHUNKY AND SWEATY AS THIS MUSTARD, RHONDA!”
BJ has crossed the volume threshold necessary for relatives to begin filing out, guilt-free. You see your hosts enter their house, and begin to watch silently from the bedroom window, imbibing from a handle of Evan Williams. They are drinking straight from the bottle.
“I DRANK BEER AT THESE FAMILY GATHERINGS, RHONDA! IT WAS COLD AND FLAVORLESS, BUT NOT AS COLD AND FLAVORLESS AS THIS BEER!!”
Blazcowicz is a teenager’s live journal – a melodramatic chronicle of every minor, irrelevant slight he could possibly invoke in order to heighten his paradoxical love of misery.
Your family quietly motions to you, making desperate, pleading eye contact. The time has come to vacate the premises. As you step outside the fence, just beyond the reach of the supernova occurring inside its picket walls, you see BJ’s car. Anya is inside, doing her very best to avoid eye contact with one and all. The windows are cracked, her earplugs are in, and she is reading a People Magazine – her face contorted in that never-ending grimace.
You can hear, as you step into your family minivan, the roar from the now-empty backyard – just as loud as it would be had you remained there.
“I PLAYED WITH A FOOTBALL AT A COOKOUT. IT WAS FLAT AND MISSHAPEN, BUT NOT AS-”
The car door shuts, muffling Blazcowicz. The engine starts, stifling him further. You drive away, leaving him to his impotent, misguided angst. You look out the back window just in time to see BJ-Beer #6 sail over the fence and hit his own car, spraying it with warm Bud Light Lime-A-Rita and setting off the alarm.
Happy 4th of July, y’all.