Best served warm

27 September 2012

This weekend, The Hippo and I begin watching Once Upon A Time.

Today is grey, cloudy and full of impending precipitation. Two women play tennis on the court next to my office. Soon their instructor arrives. He lobs a ball at one. She returns it. He lobs a ball at the other. She returns it. Thus, are professionals made.

I cannot stop myself from flipping off the Orrin Hatch billboard everyday. It irks me to no end. I want other motorists to know he is not worthy of office. I cannot let him stare smugly down, thinking we all adore him.

A Kansas City atheist group create a billboard calling for “Godless Government.” If only.

The god myth does much to ruin lives. Some persons say we should respect all religious beliefs, even ones disallowing women to wear pants or hold office or be of greater value than donkeys. I  cannot agree with this opinion. Oppression is oppression, no matter what cultist myth it hides behind. For me, tolerance for beliefs does not extend without question.

I meet a Libertarian who does not like either current US presidential candidate.

I eat a bean and cheese burrito from Smith’s Marketplace for lunch. My stomach begins protesting before I even swallow the first bite. I battle my way through, refusing to give up. (I’m sure this is what Winston Churchill had in mind.)

I also get a cookie with icing. The cookie has an icing spider web design with a plastic spider (which can be worn as a ring) at the top of the web.

I have eight minutes of lunch remaining.

I am getting sleepy.

I finish reading Grant Morrison’s Supergods. I think about technology, humanity and technologised humanity. I remember essays I read in graduate school calling modern humans cyborgs. We are part-human, part-machine, all superhero.

—–

Last night, the rain started. The Hippo says it woke her up at 4:00 AM. I hear it when I wake at 6. I feel calm. Rain is safety and childhood and comfort.

I, as always, want the rain and cloudiness to persist all day, all week, all year. I know this is impossible in the desert.

On the way to work, the car hydroplanes briefly in a puddle of water. A light on the car’s dashboard display indicates “Traction Active.” The Hippo tells me of the voice she hears when this light blinks into existence. She hears a soothing, slightly robotic Sigourney Weaver.

I see blue sky and my disappointment builds. I need to live in a grey, dark climate.

I step out for lunch into the cold air. I take it in like a friend who visits too rarely, but is always welcome. The sky is white with clouds like the sky levels in Super Mario Bros. games. The clouds are so low I imagine I will see one drifting beside me as I drive home on the interstate. I am alive. I live in a desert and I don’t know why.

I know exactly what to listen to on a day like this. I pick out Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief and King of Limbs and Richard Hawley’s Lady’s Bridge. I start with Mr. Hawley and find his smooth voice a perfect complement to the calm, still day.

I like dark, depressive music that explores sadness, hurt and tragedy and does not always come out the other side. I enjoy thinking about death and hurt because they feel so real and prevalent. They are to be welcomed and embraced, not ignored.

I continue reading where I left off in Foucault’s Discipline & Punish. Where Supergods was the story of getting outside of our bodies to become superhumans, Discipline & Punish is about getting beyond the body to break the human spirit instead – scars that are difficult to heal.

Instead of beating, quartering and hanging criminals, we prevent them from voting and driving and obtaining gainful employment. We judge their souls.

—–

Today, Memaw (my grandmother) has surgery to clean out her carotid artery. I talk to her yesterday and she is in good spirits. She says she loves me until the day she dies. And then, just as I think it, she says, “And beyond.”

I tell The Hippo as we walk to the elevator this morning. I lose composure.

Memaw comes through the surgery ok.

I buy krab salad from the Smith’s Marketplace deli. I ask the woman behind the counter if they will have the hot wings I like again. She has unbreaded wings that she will cook tomorrow. Now I must return.

I buy TownHouse crackers. The box has an Olympic promo and tells me to play a game called Throw For The Gold. From the box:

Rules

– What you need: 3+ players and a ball

– Pick 1 player to go first and give him/her the ball. Remaining players move to the opposite side of the yard.

– Player 1 tosses the ball toward the others and calls out a medal value for catching it. The values are Gold (3 points) Silver (2 points) Bronze (1 point)

The remaining players try to catch the ball before it touches the ground to win the medal. Player 1 continues making tosses until another player collects enough medals to add up to 10 points. They then become the new thrower, and the game starts over!

After reading the rules, I realise I only want to be the person keeping score as tossers lob balls at fools.

Summer Sanders is on the back of the box hawking her “Super Red Pepper Spread.” She is called a “Gold Medal Mom,” but I have no idea what qualifies her. Any fuck can make a vegetable spread.

A box of gourmet mini cinnamon rolls claims “Best Served Warm.” I initially want to have the job of testing this claim, but I think of other foods that may need to be tested as well – coffee, butter, pork. (“Pork is best served warm on account of I died when I ate it cold.” – Former-food tester.)

I have a sudden urge to pretend to be Mormon to get a job.

-JPR

Starved for attention

23 March 2012

Earlier today, I used Twitter to share my desire not to see the film version of The Hunger Games. In case you missed it, here are the tweets in their entirety.

[Begin transmission]

11: 00 AM – To say I enjoyed the #HungerGames novels is an extreme understatement. I read all three in two days.

11:01 AM – However, I will not be going to see the movie version of @TheHungerGames

11:02 AM – So, please enjoy my series of things I will be doing while not watching the #HungerGames

11:03 AM – 1. Listening to Dance Hall Crashers while drinking a Mountain Dew – not watching the #HungerGames

11:04 AM – 2. Walking through Ogden, UT and looking at Mormons on lawns – not watching the #HungerGames

11:05 AM – 3. Watching The Page Master on VHS – not watching the #HungerGames

11:06 AM – 4. Playing Jenga with some friends who are cool – not watching the #HungerGames

11:07 AM – 5. Interviewing disenfranchised Cheetahs unable to vote in latest feline recall elections – not watching the #HungerGames

11:08 AM – 6. Doing my homework so I can be caught up on the contributions of Neils Bohr – not watching the #HungerGames

11:09 AM – 7. Checking which oven setting is optimal for cooking a Toaster Strudel, starting at 100 – not watching the #HungerGames

11:10 AM – Thus endeth the list of things I will be doing instead of seeing the movie version of the #HungerGames

[End transmission]

Follow @mentalmacguyver on Twitter for future reasons I am not participating in certain aspects of popular culture.

Reading Pet Sematary: Day Three (the finale)

16 March 2012

[Warning: While I do not intend to reveal any specific plot points or twists in this series of blogs, I may do so from time to time. I will also comment on the pacing of the novel. If you do not care to have any plot points or pacing revealed to you, please read no further until you read Pet Sematary for yourself. – JPR]

I begin reading alone in the kitchen at 11:07 AM (MDT).

I am on the verge of tears for the characters in the story as part two begins.

I also continue to laugh out loud at various points in the book thanks to Louis Creed’s insanely prosaic inner dialogue.

The characters are at a viewing and funeral for the deceased.

I remember the viewing for and funeral of my stepfather. I stood with my mother and younger brother as friends and strangers came to shake our hands, hug us and offer sympathy and “reassuring” words. I played the part of the adult. I was just about to graduate from college and I was getting practice in one of the most reliable parts of adulthood: death.

I am sitting in the front pew of McIntyre Baptist Church with my mom, brother and Memaw. We are watching a video montage of photographs of my now-dead stepfather. The montage is set to music. We are clasping one another and crying. I am doing my best to take in the moment as soberly as possible. Remembering him with his hairdo that made him look eerily like fitness guru Richard Simmons. There are no pictures of him bloated and out of his mind from the fluid building up in his body and distending his abdomen as his liver slowly failed. I think the montage is meant to be a reassuring remembrance.

I am hugging two friends and crying uncontrollably as a mechanical wench lowers the casket into the ground. I do not really visit his grave, but I do think of him from time to time, usually when hearing an Elvis Presley or Reba McEntire song on the radio.

He died the morning of my college graduation. I am trying to smile in the photographs, but can’t quite manage it.

A few years later, I am in a heated argument with my mom—the kind of argument in which you think, “Well, that’s it. We will never speak again and the next time we will be in the same place will be at a funeral.” I tell her I do not believe in god, sin, hell or heaven. Tears are in her eyes as she drives her Chevrolet van down Highway 441 past the C & S auto mechanic shop. I assume we are driving back from Milledgeville (the antebellum capital) to Irwinton via McIntyre. She asks me where I think my stepdad is, if I don’t believe in heaven. I don’t remember answering.

On page 436 of the novel, I make a new prediction. I later learn my prediction was wrong.

Manic, hysterical desperation. What drives us over the edge?

I make another prediction on page 451. This prediction is also wrong.

“Something is trying to keep me away from him.” (p. 501)

The characters in this book deal with forces beyond their control. Forces that manipulate and even murder them.

I have faced “real” demons before. Perhaps that is why I am not completely drawn in to the mystical part of this novel. One period of my Christian phase can be called The Wesley House Period. This time centers on my involvement with the Methodist campus ministry at my undergraduate alma mater, Georgia College & State University. (Go, Bobcats!)

This period allowed for full-fledged demon battling. The time the minister, Bill, was afflicted with a demon on his side of the house. (The house was divided, fittingly enough. One side was the public, student side where I played bass in the praise band and ate pizza rolls and played Crazy Taxi on some gaming system and began forming the most influential romantic relationship of my life up to this point. The other was where the pastor and his family lived. His family consisted of his wife Amy, his daughter Charlotte and his son Jay.)  A group of us bold Christians prayed in a room with dim lighting, possibly candles, and placed “holy” water on doorjambs.

One night, I drive home in my red Pontiac Sunfire, tingling with fear the entire 20-minute drive. My girlfriend, Bevan, has a feeling that something sinister is in the air and I should not look back on the drive to my mother’s house. I did look back in the rearview mirror on the dark, lonely drive and swore I saw a shadowy presence distinct from the shadows of the road behind.

I am on pins-and-needles as the book draws to a close and inevitable conclusions that have been building for 500 pages are reached. I hold the book farther from my face hoping that will prevent something malevolent from jumping off the pages and startling me (or worse).

“Fuck yes,” I say as I begin part three. “This is some damn good storytelling.”

The suspense grows. I turn my back to the basement stairs like some plant drawn to the sun outside. The dog’s nails click-clack on the plastic mat behind me, giving me a start. I turn so my back is to the TV and not the stairs to prevent unexpected surprises.

I finish the book.

My first trip into the basement afterwards finds me unsettled. I do have a background fear that the resurrected evil will be waiting for me downstairs in the laundry room, turning the Tide of my life. I purposely walk down the stairs as calmly as possible, forcing myself not to rush. I am sure I look like my own revivified creature with little control of my limbs.

The book lingers, but I am not experiencing the paralyzing fear I expected or that I would have had for certain had I seen the film.

Thus endeth Day Three and the reading of Pet Sematary.

(Feel free to go back and read day one and day two of my journey as well.)

Reading Pet Sematary: Day Two

15 March 2012

[Warning: While I do not intend to reveal any specific plot points or twists in this series of blogs, I may do so from time to time. I will also comment on the pacing of the novel. If you do not care to have any plot points or pacing revealed to you, please read no further until you read Pet Sematary for yourself. – JPR]

I made it through part one of the book without the expected desire to run and hide in a panic room.

Yet.

I keep feeling something is coming. The pacing currently mimics the way real (imagined) horrors seep into the brain over time.

In yesterday’s post I forgot to mention my talisman to stave off fear. I am using a Dr. Doofenshmirtz bookmark to hold my place in Pet Sematary.

During the first day of reading, I only read as long as the sun was up. The sun goes down, the book goes shut and I try to leave it behind until the shadows are again powerless to daylight rationality.

The second day of reading sees me turning the pages until nearly midnight.

I feel I am missing the true horror. I can’t bring myself to believe in ghosts or resurrection. I feel I should be more frightened in certain scenes. Perhaps I am purposely detaching.

That said, I must admit a feeling of dis-ease and discomfort and anxiety for Louis Creed, especially the times when he is alone and in the dark. I can imagine what his mind must be thinking, how he is trying to make sense of nonsensical happenings. In fact, his rationalizations mirror my own. His protestations that certain events must be imagined or dreamt and his logical explications are intimately familiar.

The description of the woods reminds me of forest mysteries that were a constant of my life growing up in the South. Woods surrounded the houses where we slept, ate, argued and stayed awake thinking the foil in the vent above our bed was shaped exactly like Freddy Krueger.

I remember being out in the woods with two different groups of people—once we were trying to imagine frightful spirits and sounds by being quiet and turning off our flashlights (torches for our UK audience), the other time we were listening to the stillness and imagining Jesus and god and the holy spirit around us, which is an equally disquieting notion.

The pacing makes me uneasy. I am waiting for, what I’m sure is the big reveal of the horror. The sun goes down and I continue to read. I already know I will read This Is A Book By Demetri Martin after I read Pet Sematary.

Chapter 25 – Things are about to get interesting. GF is watching What A Girl Wants while I read.

What if we wanted to bring the dead back to life? What are the consequences? How would they be?

The plot is thickening. As Louis is stumbling in the dark, I am in that situation with him, fearful of the damn cat scraping across my leg.

Page 225 – I make two predictions. We shall see if either comes true.

I let the family dog out into the still, silent Utah night. As I do, I ask him not to frighten me and to protect me from the cat as I am reading a book about a creepy, reincarnated cat. No lights are on in the neighbors’ house across the street. The dog patrols the lawn and shits on the ground.

I make another prediction about the book. I don’t know what page I am on.

I am waiting for the minor murders to turn into an outright bloodbath.

What secrets do we all hide? What do we try to bury that comes back and gnaws at our insignificant edges? We ignore the gnawing and its return and our responsibility and then it destroys the most central parts of our lives.

Chapter 35 – This is the last good day, apparently. The events are foreshadowed as being only seven weeks away. I begin feeling more anxious, boiling like a soup slowly starting to bubble on a heated burner.

End of part one. Just learned of an impending death and actually smiled and chuckled because I had predicted the death. Did I laugh out of crazy fear? To hide my horror? Who knows.

The book is darkly comic. I find myself laughing like Louis Creed during particularly macabre moments.

I will not take the book downstairs into the basement where I sleep. I also frequently put a notebook or magazine over the cover of the creepy, green-eyed cat when I am not reading the book.

I went to bed near on 2 AM and had trouble sleeping. The sense of disharmony was heavy on my brain as I sought to absorb the 200-hundred odd pages I read during the day. Fortunately, I did not lie awake fearing every sound. I did lie awake having to pee and not wanting to step into the darkened corridor and walk up the stairs. I fell asleep and woke again sweaty and still needing to pee. When I heard footsteps upstairs, I seized the moment and walked up to the bathroom. I saw GF’s dad and knew I was not alone in the world, the only person awake in the stillness of the early morning. A time when every light on the highway is startling and overwhelming and makes me wonder what business any other human would have on the road at this time of day. Yes, someone else was awake and I was not alone.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the same for Louis Creed.

Thus endeth Day Two.

King me

13 March 2012

I have always enjoyed reading. From an early age, I was consuming every word on cereal boxes. (At this point in life I should consider myself an expert on the ideal potassium and sodium levels, based on a 2000-calorie diet, one gains from Cookie Crisp, Trix and Lucky Charms.) From the days of cardboard literature, I have read loads of books. This year alone, I have made my way through several works:

  • The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  • Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  • Improvise: Scene From The Inside Out by Mick Napier
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • How To Be Death by Amber Benson
  • god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Mark Of The Demon by Diana Rowland
  • Seize The Day by Saul Bellow
  • Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

It may then come as a surprise that I have never read a Stephen King novel.

My friend, Clay Foster, always seemed to be reading a King novel during middle and high school. Clay seemed to have no trouble reading the books. I, however, could never bring myself to read one. My basic constitution can be summed up as easily startled and easily frightened. I never watch horror movies because (a) loud bumps and noises, especially during periods of suspenseful silence, always make me jump and (b) the disturbing images stay with me, indelible marks of fear on my brain. I watched The Exorcist before moving to Colorado for graduate school. Big mistake. I would lie in my bed on the top floor of the duplex near the corner of Cherry and Meldrum with the tangible fear that some demon from hell or demonically-possessed human would come to my windowsill. In that same room I swore I heard Frank, the rabbit from Donnie Darko, on the street below calling my name.

It is with intense and understandable (I hope) trepidation that I will read my first Stephen King novel.

Due to some part of my nature I do not fully understand I want to start with the scariest of his novels. I shared my thoughts with GF’s family and they began working to feed my fear. I walked upstairs one morning to find a pile of Stephen King books on the kitchen table. GF’s family informed me the most frightening of King’s novels is either The Shining or Pet Sematary. I got chills as soon as I picked up the latter. Reading the author’s introduction confirmed that this is the book to read if I want to be disturbed and scared “shitless” as they say.

In an attempt to temper what I am sure will be many nights of tiptoeing around shadows and running through darkened hallways to jump under covers, I will blog my journey of reading the book. I fully expect to lay awake thinking every sound is sadistic and every movement malevolent. And I’m taking you with me.

Quick note: I could have started reading the book nearly a week ago, but have been reading other books to forestall the fright fest. Now I have no reason to not read the book. I cannot promise I won’t stall again. Whatever happens, you will know.