Entries points

26 March 2012

One of my current projects is typing most of my journal entries to develop into longer stories.

While I’m going through my journals (including ones from my days as a Christian at Georgia College & State University) I’ll be sure to post any entries that I particularly enjoy. I’ll start with this one.

11 July 2011

At IAD (Dulles) with GF’s brother. The entire airport smells like fried food (chicken or shrimp?).

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.)

Abortion restrictions amount to legislated religion

Today, the Virginia Senate passed HB 462, which mandates that any woman having an abortion must first undergo an ultrasound, even against medical opinion. The bill passed 21-19 as two Democratic senators (Charles Colgan, Prince William, and Phil Puckett, Russell) opposed to abortion access voted for the mandate. (It is worth noting that Senator John Watkins, R-Powhatan, bucked the line and voted against the measure.) Following the vote, Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria, told The Rachel Maddow Blog he believes the amended bill will pass the House and be signed by Governor Bob McDonnell.

With the high likelihood that the bill will become law, Virginia’s elected officials join their colleagues across the country in a repressive, single-minded effort to force all women to carry each pregnancy to term. No matter what.

As Laura Bassett notes in the Huffington Post, the debate includes a dispute on the role of government and government overreach. (Bassett deftly juxtaposes the mandatory ultrasound decision with the attempt to repeal Virginia’s HPV vaccine mandate.)

Virginia’s latest obstacle to abortion access does indeed raise the issue of government mandates and government overreach. Anti-abortion measures (like mandatory ultrasound, forced waiting periods, bans on financial assistance, etc.) amount to nothing less than government sanctioned religion.

In the United States, one of the greatest influences on our view of morality is our tendency to be religious. Many legislators see abortion as a moral issue. (Sadly, too many see it as the moral issue above all others.) As moral and religious individuals, our elected officials wrongly proselytize through policy, legislating their (primarily) Christian view of right and wrong.

When we accept bills that stand in the way of women obtaining safe, legal and affordable abortion, we tacitly accept that the Christian perspective has supreme value and power in our lives—even for individuals (and there are many to be sure) who are either not Christian or have no religious leanings.

Everyone in our country has the absolute right to believe anything (and everything should they choose). However, no one should have the right to legislate a religious view of life through policymaking. (In fact, because of the flawed views of religiously guided and mean-spirited legislators, if you live in Virginia and are a piece of metal designed to kill and injure people you have more rights than a woman.)

In the matters of medicine, the personal beliefs of presumptuous, sanctimonious lawmakers have no place. (Quick reminder: Despite all beliefs to the contrary, abortion is and will remain a medical procedure just as any other surgery is a medical procedure.) We should have a simple test for abortion-related measures: Is the proposed regulation medically necessary or does it represent the limited, wrongheaded belief of a few individuals who proclaim themselves spokespeople of a deity they invented? I’d prefer to have my medical decisions made based on medicine, not delusion.

-Joseph Patrick Richards @mentalmacguyver

Five Iron Frenzied

Earlier today, I don’t even remember how, I learned that Five Iron Frenzy have reformed.

Holy fucking fuck.

Five Iron Frenzy’s first album came out in 1996, when I was deep into my evangelical period. (I knew I was rabidly Christian, but my best friend recently applied the “evangelical” descriptor to my behavior. I have no doubt that was accurate.) At some point before I found their music I found a renewed faith in that old scoundrel, Jesus. I decided I was going to purge evil music out of my ears (Metallica, Danzig, Megadeth, Tom Jones – although I did feel justified keeping Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life and U2’s The Joshua Tree.) So I dove into Christian rap, punk (what?) and ska. When I finally came upon Five Iron Frenzy’s Upbeats And Beatdowns I thought my heart was going to fucking blow up right out of my chest. I could barely drive away from the Christian bookstore (which was in Dublin, GA – home of the Redneck Games – and was probably called The Olive Branch or something of the sort) in my 1997 Pontiac Sunfire (four-door). I was bouncing in my car from the first yelp from Reese Roper’s throat. (Have no doubt that I tried to sing and dress exactly like Mr. Roper, especially in their video for “A Flowery Song.”)

Over the years I zealously purchased each Five Iron Frenzy album, saw them in concert several times (including during their tour of US roller rinks) and even had their bass player, Keith Hoerig, eat my french fries (that sounds dirty) at a Christian music festival in Stone Mountain, GA. I was in love with them. I wanted to be each one of them and I wanted to marry their saxophonist, Leanor “Jeff The Girl” Ortega.

Even when I walked away from Christianity, I still clung to Five Iron Frenzy. They were the music I got to keep when I broke up with Jesus.

In 2003, Five Iron Frenzy broke up. Occasionally, they still popped up when I was shuffling through music on my computer. Most people I met after high school had no idea of my complete devotion to and obsession with this Christian ska band from the 1990s.

Now they have returned and their new single, “It Was A Dark And Stormy Night,” jolts me to the past. I am back in that car, in that roller rink, near that smelly tent jumping like a fucking lunatic and screaming every lyric and skanking every limb. I no longer connect to their Christian message, but their music still gets to me.