Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricanes still suck

It's still so sad watching what's happening down South.

Can you imagine... an entire U.S. city basically wiped off the face of the Earth. Man, that just staggers the mind. To me, the scope of the disaster even dwarfs 9/11. And I don't mean that to take anything away from the tragedy of 9/11. But those couple of thousand lives were lost in a few buildings. This is an entire city, just destroyed. Horrifying. Tragic. Sickening.

I don't understand why people who could, didn't leave. I mean, if the mayor of Hillsborough told me to evacuate, there's a super-duper storm coming, I'd stuff my car full of clothes and toys and things, and I'd be on my way to Bloomsburg within the hour. So foolish. So sad.

At work today, two of my co-workers were saying how this was the first time they could ever remember the word "refugee" being applied to Americans.

And to think, when I was in New Orleans in February, we were getting drunk on "hurricanes." A pleasant memory becomes a bitter irony.

I keep thinking of the shotgirl at 711 Bourbon who was so nice to me that one night. I never even learned her name (well, I was probably just too drunk to remember). She was so cool. Young, and cute, and funny and friendly. She was engaged, I remember that, but she kept making me do shots out of various parts of her clothes anyway. I want to hang on to the good memories, and not think of the photos I keep seeing. I keep hoping she's OK, and she didn't lose everything. But I know she probably did. I just hope she didn't lose her life - she was so full of life, and I so badly needed to see that those days - or lose the guy who's lucky enough to have her. I hope they got out. Please, God.

I keep thinking of the people I met, and took pictures of, and smiled with, the shops I spent money in, the bars I drank in, just six months ago. The girl from LSU I danced with at 711. The folks in the shop that sold me my derby, down on the square, admission to my friend's Black Hat club. And all the people at the hotel and the restaurants who were so nice to me, even if I was some bead-throwing tourist schmuck.

I wasn't sure I'd ever want to go back for Mardi Gras, but I wanted to go back to the city, for the food, for the culture, for the fun. And now I will, when they rebuild. I promise, I'll go back, I'll drop my money and contribute to the local economy. Do my little part to help. We're Americans. We help each other, we bounce back. Like New York. I can't make anyone's pain any better, but I gave to the Red Cross and I'll hope and I'll pray, and someday, hopefully soon, I'll order up a bowl of that jambalaya and some BBQ oysters and raise a glass to that awesome city that once was and will be again.

And the worst part is, with Mother Nature, it's not like there's someone to blame. I told Kevin, one of those co-workers (who insisted I include him in my blog): At least with terrorism, you can bomb someone and feel better.

He said I'll be a Republican yet.

The Red Cross

Please donate to the relief efforts, even a little. I did. I went through Amazon and put it right on my debit card on file.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The most wonderful time of the year

So a couple of weeks ago was HorrorFind Weekend, down in Maryland, and it's always one of my favorite weekends of the year.

It's a horror movie and book convention, complete with screenings, celebrities signign autographs and authors reading from their work.

But really, the most fun part is kicking back with the crew from HorrorTalk and having a good time.

This year was the fourth straight year I've gone (out of five conventions) and the third at the maze that is the Hunt Valley Marriott. Who knows if they'll be back, though, since some yahoos set off the fire alarm not once, but twice, and vandalized the building. Stupid idiots always ruining things for others.

One letdown was that the Timewarp guys were hoping to be able to screen "Dead Hunt" this year, but it isn't done yet. Still, next year should be a good year, since it'll be out by then. Maybe I'll get to sign some autographs! Yay!

But that doesn't mean this year wasn't fun. In fact, it may have been the most fun ever, despite the fact that I thought the con was probably the weakest ever in terms of content in the vendor room. They did pack in the people, despite the world's biggest anime convention being the same weekend, in the same area.

So here's the tick-tock on my trip to the con.

I used to go down on Friday (the con starts Friday night and runs through Sunday afternoon) and stay over through Monday, but two years in a row, something major news-wise happened on Thursday. Two years ago, it was the major East Coast blackout, and last year, it was New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey coming out of the closet and resigning. So this year, I did the smart thing, and took Thursday off.

So I drove down Thursday afternoon, and after missing my exit, finally got there Thursday night. It's not far from where a lot of "Dead Hunt" was shot, so I knew most of the route by heart, but jotted down the last exit number wrong.

When I got there, Stewie was there, with the HorrorTalk Webmaster (Peter West, Danger Seeker) and Renaldo. I've roomed with Stewie the past three years now. We don't mind each other's snoring, and we're cheap enough to want to split the bill.

Stewie had rigged everything up so we and Renaldo had adjoining rooms, and both had patios next to the pool. This was cool, because it meant we could spend most of our time sitting outside at little tables, drinking beer. I got eaten alive by bugs, but that's not the point.

So Thursday night, we drank.

We started out in the bar, with all the cool con people, and then headed back to our patios.

There, Joe Ripple, the director of "Dead Hunt," stopped by, and that rocked. Joe ran security (no, the damn alarms weren't his fault) and I hadn't seen him or talked with him much since the end of the shoot (he's working and going back to school for nursing) so it was great to see him. Joe also gave me my very own TimeWarp Films shirt, and that may have been the highlight of the weekend. I put it on Saturday, and I don't think I took it off until I got home, except to sleep and shower.

Problem was, my Captain-and-Coke evening backfired, because the stupid sleep study I had Wednesday night gave me a raging nosebleed that just won't go away. So that night, it started again, and when I honked down the blood, I wound up puking my guts out. Yuck.

I've decided that while barfing is funny when other people do it, it's not so funny when I do it.

So Friday starts off with a bang because somewhere in our drunken wisdom the night before, we'd agreed to hit the big ol' breakfast buffet with Peter.

Yeah, like I could eat. I got a nice omelet and I wound up pretty much staring hungrily at three crispy strips of bacon that I was just too scared to eat. It's one thing to barf in the privacy of your room. It's another to do it in public.

So, no breakfast. Spent most of the afternoon screwing around, since the con didn't open until the evening, then hopped on line for my wristband and off we went!

I was finally feeling better by then, I might add. In case you were concerned.

My rule on vendor rooms is this: I make at least one lap of everything before I buy ANYTHING - that saves me money in the long run. Not that I didn't run out, but heck, I run out every year.

So I actually ended up buying virtually nothing on Friday. I did take a picture of Stewie with Sid Haig, star of Rob Zombie's two horror films. No, I have no idea how to post pictures on Blogger. Go to the HorrorTalk forum, and you can see it there. Stewie's the one with hair.

And Friday night, more drinking. Fnordboy and his lady arrived Friday (I think; between the booze and my usual forgetfulness, the days kind of run together). So that was more fun. That was before she got food poisoning.

Highlight of the night: Stewie and Renaldo grabbed some barricade posts that were nearby, blocked off our patio, and put up a sign that said something like "Private Party, Guests of HorrorTalk only, please." So these kids come by and ask us if we mind if they use the pool. Hah!

And then, after they'd hopped the fence and gotten caught, the manager or whoever made them hop the fence to get out (rather than letting them in the hotel-side entrance) and one of 'em just completely duffed it going back over. Clang! Thud! Ow!

This night, by the way, I'd recovered enough to drink this cool new flavor of Woodchuck cider I'd found at the liquor store while buying my contribution to the party. Dry and Dark. Yum, though I must say I like the Granny Smith better.

Saturday, we gave the buffet another shot. And the bacon was good!

And then off to the con. Bruce Campbell was the headline celebrity, and the line for him went around the freakin' hotel. Fortunately, the line for the guys I wanted was much shorter.

That was the cool part of the morning. Rob Long, the guy doing the "Dead Hunt" poster, did a very cool limited edition poster for "Phantasm," and mailed me a bunch of signed copies for the HT folks. So me, Stewie and Renaldo got in line for Don Coscarelli, the director, and Angus Scrimm, the star.

Oddly enough, I've worked with Coscarelli's niece for five years and never put two and two together. One of the other newsroom movie fans told me the day before I left.

So we're in line, and poor Angus - who's not as young as he used to be - had to use the men's room, so they tell us two of us can get signatures and stuff, then he's going to "take five for a minute." Stewie wanted to get to this reading downstairs, so he switched with Renaldo (I was first of the three of us, somehow) and the two of us got our pics and autographs. Both were very cool. Angus Scrimm was a real gentleman, possibly the only person at the con in a blazer and tie. And even moreso considering he had to take a leak. Coscarelli was great, too, and me and Stewie both got our pictures taken with them before hustling off to catch Reggie Bannister, one of the other "Phantasm" stars, and wait for Renaldo.

We got Reggie's autograph and were listening to Renaldo whine about how he didn't get Angus' on his poster, when Joe comes running up asking if we'd seen Angus. Seems he had a senior moment after his return from the men's room and, depending on who you ask, either wandered away from the table or made a break for the exit.

(They found him soon enough. I don't even think he made it out of the room. God bless him, he was a great guy, very nice. I don't mean to make him sound senile, it was just kind of funny. They were so nice to him, walking him to the bathroom and all, and he just BOLTED.)

So after that, we went to a reading by Brian Keene, the author of the drop-dead-cool "The Rising" and plenty more - who named a character after Stewie in an upcoming book, and Stewie swore to us Keene would be reading the excerpt the character's in.

But no, he didn't. Still, it was a great reading - Keene's a terrific reader, and not all great authors are, believe me. He really gets into it. And getting gifts of whiskey from the audience probably doesn't hurt. Watch for "Earthworm Gods," or whatever it's going to be called, coming soon. Sounds great, and Stewie's in there somewhere, just not in the part he read.

Then I bought some books - there's a new genre out there called "bizarro," and I thought I'd give it a shot. As a headline writer, if there's one thing I can appreciate in a book, it's a catchy title. I mean, "City of the Dead" (the sequel to "The Rising") is a cool title, but pretty self-explanatory.

"Dead Bitch Army," on the other hand, virtually demands you buy it to see what's what. And frankly, three books for $20 is a gamble I'll take any day. I wound up leaving with about ten books for less than $100.

And that's without Cemetery Dance, one of my new favorite horror publishers, being there. Another publisher wasn't there, either, but for the life of me, I can't remember what they're called. Which is unfortunate, because I wanted to buy a book from them that I caught at a reading last year, but I can't remember the author - I knew what table was selling the book, but they'd closed up by the time I got down there, and they weren't there this year. Bummer.

Then, Saturday afternoon, I did my first "DH"-related interview. A company called Video Kitchen is doing a documentary on Timewarp producer Don Dohler, and they asked me to do a formal interview with them. That was cool, since I hadn't seen them since "DH" wrapped, either. Good guys and gal. So I hope they don't make me look like an idiot. I tried to be both eloquent and funny, and I hope it worked. They asked me some tough questions, which surprised me. On the upside, I got to wear my cool shirt, too.

Then it was off to dinner with indie horror film director Kevin Kangas ("Fear of Clowns") and his buddies. Fun. I had something called "sour beef," and it was much better than it sounds.

Anyway, Saturday night was our big drinking party. Everybody who was everybody was there, including Kangas and a trio of friends, the awesome actor J.P. Barry ("FOC," plus two Timewarp films, including "DH"), the aforementioned HT members, retired reviewer Supernova, plus forum ladies Freakmagnet and Meatyhook.

The highlight of that evening was the skinny-dipper. Somebody spotted this girl swimming (again, after hours) and so I nudged J.P., who had been working security at the show, and asked him, "So what do you carry that cool flashlight for, if not for moments like this?"

And he lit her up. Like the sun.

And she responded with a moon. God bless the exhibitionists.

Did I mention Kangas brought Coronas?

So Sunday dawned with another go-round at the buffet, where I found the guys eating with Keene and fellow author J.F. Gonzalez. So after chatting a bit with him about writing and work and such, it was back down to the con for some more books. But first, I hung out with the Video Kitchen crew a bit, and saw Joe and his "future ex-Mrs. Ripple," his saintly wife.

After a while, the con petered out, we said our goodbyes, packed our stuff, and for me and Steve and the VK folks, it was off to Don's house to see some footage of "DH." The movie's about halfway done with editing, and it's freakin' TIGHT. Y'all are gonna love it. Trust me, it's just rockin'.

So that was a kick-ass end to the weekend - I was going to stay over at Chez Stewie on Sunday night and go home Monday, but it was still early when we were done at Don's, and Stewie's is the wrong way, plus he had to roll out early (or so he thought). And so I just drove on home, and got what amounted to a free day off to sort my loot Monday.

Besides the books, I picked up three DVDs - I'm working on a review of one - plus another DVD arrived in the mail while I was gone. Working on that review, too.

Now I just have to get that killer poster framed.

It was a blast. Can't you tell?

HorrorFind Weekend, the bestest con ever
HorrorTalk, the reason I go
TimeWarp Films, Joe and Don's company
Marauder Productions, Kangas' company
The Video Kitchen gang
J.P. Barry, the other half of the "DH" Asian Invasion
"Phantasm," a horror classic
Brian Keene, awesome horror author
Eraserhead Press, publishers of "Dead Bitch Army" and more
Die Monster Die!, publishers of "The Dead Walk!" and more

This weekend was brought to you by:
Captain Morgan spiced rum
Woodchuck Draft Cider
Corona, with or without lime

And, by the way, Stewie already covered most of this in his blog. I'm just a little slow to report in.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wet 'n' wild...

Just wanted to wish good luck to any of y'all down South in the path of that hurricane.

It's scary to see what that bitch Mother Nature can do when she wants.

I was down in New Orleans at Mardi Gras time and I met a lot of really great people in a lot of really fun places, and it makes me heartsick to think any of them are in the path of this and could lose their homes, or worse, their lives.

It was a beautiful city, and I hope it will be again. Life's really not fair sometimes.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oh, for a muse of fire...

You may recall from one of my earlier (earliest!) posts that my friend Blakeslee, a folk-rock singer of some small note and no small talent, owed me an EP...

Well, I got it in the mail the other day, at last. The new version of "The Ballad of Anna Mae," my favorite Blakeslee song, is faster and yet more personal. It loses some of the haunting feel of the original, but makes up for it by being a complete change of pace - a nice complement to the other piece.

But more interesting, at least for me, was the note enclosed that was a sort of apology to the recipients of the EP for the delay in the sending. And part of it remarked on how some personal issues had affected Blake's musical career, from the standpoint of losing one's way and finding it again.

Now, by virtue of my semi-regular correspondance with her, I know some little bit of what happened in her life and while I don't feel it's appropriate to share, suffice it to say I can understand something of what she went through, with personal troubles affecting one's creative spirit for the worse, or possibly better.

When I went off to college, I fancied myself a poet, as so many angst-ridden teenagers do. I had received some notice in high school for my abilities in both fiction and poetry, and in fact chose my college based on its offering a major in creative writing, which I was determined to study against the advice of my parents, who as I think I've established, are always right. (Dammit!)

And in college, I fell in love. In that innocent way you only get to do once. And Michelle became my muse, in many ways.

My poetry themes changed from self-doubt and loss to love and defiance, strength to conquer all found in green eyes and a whirl of auburn hair.

I wasn't a very good poet, and my grades probably reflected it. I got B's in poetry, mixed A's and B's in fiction and pulled fairly steady A's in screenwriting. But there was a certain joy in a quick love poem, dashed off on an e-mail to the girl I loved.

Stuff probably fit for Hallmark cards or Rod McKuen, but that's not the point. The point is, I believed in it.

And then, one day, she was gone from life. And with it went my poetry.

I was trading poems with a co-worker a while back, discussing our mutual interest in writing, the variances of our style, and so forth, and I realized, I've written no poetry since college. None, or at least none completed. Meanwhile, mind you, I've written a few short fiction pieces, two complete horror movies and countless reviews, columns and other more traditionally journalistic endeavors.

But all I could muster up in the way of poetry was stuff from college, mostly raw and unrevised.

Then, one day, on a vacation, a poem came to mind. So I wrote it down - try doing this while driving in a rainstorm, not easy! - and actually thought it was pretty good. But I was back to angst, and loss, and then the moment was gone. I've written no poetry since.

Reading Blake's note, thinking of how her own loss shook the world of her songwriting, made me think I'm not alone in this.

They say all great artists must have suffered in their lives... but I wonder why. My suffering didn't improve my art, at least as far as poetry is concerned. If anything, it ended that art. Maybe that speaks to my lack of greatness. But what I know is, my inspiration for my poetry left with Michelle. Maybe she was my muse, as least for that part of my life. Maybe someday, I'll find another one, and like Blake, resume where I left off, no one the wiser unless I tell them so.

Funny thing is, one of the best poets I knew in college had suffered. (Her mother had died young.) And her suffering shaped her art. And her art was great. So I guess it works both ways.

But I have no desire to write poetry. Not that the world will miss it. I just think it's funny that it's gone. I still write - I'm tinkering with a short play, at least in my head - and with "Dead Hunt" (obligatory shilling: coming this fall on DVD from Timewarp Films!) I've certainly achieved, or at least am I on the verge of achieving, my greatest commercial success as a writer. But I guess I miss the poetry. My co-worker has a wife and two adorable daughters. He has his muses.

I guess I have none.

And I guess it doesn't matter. Blake is back, and that's good. And I'm a better screenwriter than poet anyway. No great loss to the world. Just to me, I guess. And I'll get over it. I think.

Blakeslee's site, including MP3s of both "Anna Mae" tracks
CD Baby, where you can buy her CDs (Go buy some - some asshole stole her car, so she needs the money!)
Carnegie Mellon's creative writing center

I should point out I do actually write a little bit of what technically is poetry, as I have been dubbed the poet laureate of my department at the newspaper (the editor who won a poetry contest is probably the poet laureate for the paper, but I didn't much like his stuff from what I read). But most of what I do now is just business-oriented limericks and haiku, most regrettably too obscene to use as drop-heds on stories. I made my reputation that time a big Jersey company held its annual meeting on Nantucket, if you get my drift.

There once was a blogger on Taurus
who surrendered to his inner chorus,
tried to write verse,
each word worse and worse,
'til his audience cried out, "You bore us!"

The screenwriter bumped off his starlet,
since he'd already killed hero and harlot.
Wrote a chase through the mud,
left her covered in blood...
After all, that's why he named her Scarlett.

Try to write haiku.
Can't remember the format.
Thank God for Google.

No obscene words yet.
No truth in advertising?
No rhyme for "asswipe."

This is what I do with my $100,000 degree. I told you my parents are always right. Hopefully the movie will make up for this.

Random historical trivia

As I continue to wade my way through David Eicher's "The Longest Night: A military history of the Civil War," I'm approaching Sherman's Georgia campaign, which was followed by his infamous "March to the Sea."

One of the upcoming battles is the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, a footnote in history. It's one of those random events that probably sounds familiar to many people, who can't figure out why.

That's because it may best be recognized for a connection that has little to do with the war.

As Chairman Kaga would say, "If memory serves me correctly..."

At the battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, a soldier named Landis was grievously wounded. And he vowed to the Powers That Be that, if he should survive, he would name his child for the place he fought.

Sure enough, he survived. And some 56 years later, in 1920, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, first commissioner of Major League Baseball, banned the Chicago "Black Sox" for throwing the 1919 World Series.

The battle of Kennesaw Mountain
Kenesaw Mountain Landis, misspelling and all
The Black Sox scandal
Author David Eicher, who fit every Civil War battle into 800 pages

Look for that HorrorFind Weekend post sometime soon, honest! I spent the afternoon drafting my yearly Fantasy Football team. This year looks like a good one, but time will tell...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Things you shouldn't laugh at, but do

OK, expect a nice long post on my adventures at HorrorFind Weekend sometime soon. Just not tonight.

Tonight, I want to post something a little shorter, since I'm a bit busy playing catch-up on all the stuff I didn't do while drinking and spending myself stupid at HF. After all, one of the things I'm way behind on is writing in my blog.

So here's the post:

You know how you shouldn't laugh at certain things, but do anyway? You know, like videos of guys accidentally getting hit in the crotch?

The great thing about reading about the Civil War is the little, incongruous moments authors highlight because they're just plain strange - and inevitably, I laugh, even though it was probably very tragic and traumatic at the time.

Now, I've never been to war, but I've seen enough war movies touted as "realistic" to figure that not only is there a lot of danger, but in modern times, your chances of being blown to bits by something are pretty good - possibly to the point that it's almost commonplace in major engagements. Land mines, RPGs, hand grenades, and so on, are probably more than capable of making mincemeat out of some poor soldier just trying to do his duty for God and country.

But when it comes to the sheer ridiculousness of military death, I think Civil War solid shot takes the cake. Imagine, basically, getting hit with a bowling ball going 100 miles per hour. Ow.

So tonight, reading my latest opus (the military history of the Civil War, battle by battle), I found myself laughing out loud because, for the second time since I became addicted to the 1860s, a guy got knocked silly by a flying decapitated head.

A head.


On the ground wondering what the hell happened.

Tell me you're not laughing, too. It just sounds so damn ridiculous. Not the decapitation, that sounds painful. The fact that not only did the head go flying, it hit someone in the face and knocked them out.

Sounds like something that would happen to Eric Lindros. ("Tonight, at the Air Canada Centre, it's Eric Lindros Bobblehead Night!" A dozen years in the NHL and he still crosses the blue line with his head down. Some people never learn. But I digress.)

Civil War artillery; and if you can catch the artillery tour at Antietam, do - it's excellent!
Yes, a link about decapitation
And the Leafs sign Lindros

Completely off topic, my dog got sick over the weekend, my parents tell me, and wound up with congestive heart failure. This is apparently something they can fix, and did. Poor puppy. But he must be fine, because he apparently wagged his tail through the whole thing. Still, I worry. I told my folks they should get him a get-well card and let him eat it. He'd like that.

Bonus link: Congestive heart failure in dogs; and you wonder why I worry...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Free the munkees!

A co-worker sent me a news article on a professor who got shut down for mistreating the monkeys in her studies.

The story came with a very sad link to the Primate Freedom Project, so I checked out their Web site. And as a result, I've decided to take a stand, right here in my blog.

I say, free the munkees! End the torture of munkees now!

Because, after all, scientific testing is why God invented rodents.

The news article
The Primate Freedom Project, which wants to build a museum like the Holocaust Memorial (their words, not mine) on munkee research... right between two animal testing centers. Props for balls, if nothing else.

Remember, "Save a munkee. Club a seal."

Friday, August 12, 2005

Advice for the lovelorn

In another moment of blatant shilling for HorrorTalk, I should mention the administrators, in all their tongue-in-cheek wisdom, have gifted me with my very own forum:

The online dating forum.

Now, as you may recall from earlier posts, I managed to get some dates from some online dating sites, and I made the tactical error of mentioning this as part of a discussion (not started by me) on whether or not another member should try online dating.

So, unlike the time I lived in the same area as a lawyer with the same name, and yet never got the opportunity (via wrong phone number) to dispense any free legal advice, I have begun giving advice for the lovelorn.

My qualifications include an ex-fiancee (bet you don't have one of those!), a creative writing degree and goes-without-saying ability to bullshit, and one very strange sexual experience that is best not discussed on a site read by both my parents and some co-workers.

And, at last, the shilling:

Got a question about love, relationships or sex that needs to be answered? Ask the Hitman!

In the spirit of the Flyers' home, the former "F.U. Center," I've dubbed it the OD Forum. Want to see it? Join HorrorTalk, and talk some horror!

HorrorTalk, home of the bestest forum ever!
The Wachovia Complex, home of the Wachovia Center, which was the First Union (F.U.!) Center and before that was the Corestates Center.

Witty repartee, such as that I often insert here, can be very attractive to women, many of whom say, or at least lie, that a sense of humor is most important to them.

Yes, that's the kind of advice/information I'm dispensing. Make of it what you will.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A lesson from history

In the course of my Civil War readings, I've decided one of the better nickname stories belongs to Union Gen. Edwin Sumner. Sumner, usually referred to as "Bull," is actually nicknamed "Bull Head," though apparently not to his face.


Because in an earlier battle, he got shot in the head - and the ball bounced off his skull. Infer what you will. All the historians do. Especially after Antietam, when Sumner (one of the oldest generals in the Union army), marched his troops into one of those unfortunate instances of bad luck that would best be termed an ambush if it had only been intentional.

'Twas a massacre for the boys in blue, led by the division of my favorite general, John ("They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!") Sedgwick.

So "Bull" Sumner was an apt nickname for a general who was loved by his troops, not too creative, and believed in leading from the front, full speed ahead. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

I bring up the late Gen. Sumner (who died of illness before the war ended) because I was thinking about being bull-headed tonight.

Somebody mentioned a girl I know and wondered why we weren't an item, since we seemed perfect for each other. There's plenty of reasons why we're not, but that's not the point of the post.

The point is, it got me thinking about relationships, and life and philosophy in general. All on my drive home. This is a dangerous thing, folks.

I started thinking about the two lost loves of my life, Michelle and Stephanie, and what they had in common. (Neurosis, that's what. This, Auburn hair and a love for ice hockey. Again, not the point.) One of the things they had in common was that both had a real dream for what they wanted to do with their lives, and at some point, both gave it up, or at least put it on hold. (Neither, by the way, had anything to do with me.)

We all have crazy dreams we never really do anything with. I want to be an astronaut. But both their goals were attainable at some point in their lives. And whatever they lacked, courage, opportunity, confidence, I don't know, but they wrote them off.

What does this have to do with me, you ask? Well, I was sort of thinking how I'm "unlucky in love," as they say, and that got me thinking that love is one of the places where my way of life just doesn't fit.

See, for whatever reason, I've never shaken the hockey player's mentality that I can succeed in whatever I want, if only I'm tough enough, strong enough, fierce enough and willing to sacrifice enough, willing to take enough pain and shed enough blood. That, I always believed growing up, was the measure of a man. Now that I'm older, and maybe at least a little wiser, I kind of think that's naivete. But I still can't change, not really.

But love isn't about being strong and fierce and brave. It's about something else. I don't know what, but I know it's not that.

My life is littered with underachievement, with failures in the clutch, with things undone and things unsaid, and said things that never should have been.

But through it all, for 30 years, when the proverbial going gets tough, and I've had something I want within reach, I've fought with all I had to get it, and once gotten, keep it. Not always with success.

Maybe I'm a closet masochist. I don't know.

Can man truly change his nature? You know the story of the scorpion and the frog, right? The scorpion asks the turtle for a ride across the river, and the frog says "No, you'll sting me if I let you on my back, and I'll die." And the scorpion says "No, I won't, I promise. After all, if I sting you while we're on the river, I'll die, too." So the frog takes the scorpion on his back, and halfway across the river, he stings the frog, and the frog, paralyzed, sinks into the water. And as he's sinking, he says to the scorpion, "Why did you do that? Now we'll both die!" And the scorpion can only say, "It's in my nature."

And I've begun to suspect my nature, like Edwin Sumner's, is to act first and think later, to grit my teeth and fight to the last, for better or worse. But I wonder if, like Sumner, that's "Bull Head" stubbornness and not "Bull" strength. I wonder if, like Sumner, my very strength is also my very weakness.

On one hand, I've gotten very far. I have a good job at a major-league place where I'm well thought of. I have all the amenities of home, all the trappings of success, from sports car to credit-card debt. My freelance career could only be better if I got paid more. My dream of writing a horror movie is coming true (42 minutes of edited film and counting!).

I don't quit on dreams. I can't. They're what keep me going. The thought of the dreams Michelle shared with me that she hadn't achieved makes my heart ache, this day, years after she walked out of my life. And that has less to do with her than with the fear that this could be me. That's what I was thinking about tonight. If I am sound and fury enough, will I succeed? Or simply set myself up for the disappointment of someone who gave his all and got nothing in return? I've been there. It's not that fun. Nobody cares who loses the championship game. Is it better to never have played?

I've often said this, about Michelle back when, about my life, about my dreams:

I've realized it's better to reach for the stars, and miss, and fall - and I'm so afraid to fall - than stand on the ground, looking up at the sky and wondering what might have been.

Is it true? Or is it just the excuse to justify hauling myself off the canvas one last time in a losing fight, for pride and honor, against all common sense?

I have no answers. Say what you will about the fact that I continue to search.

Maj. Gen. Edwin Vose "Bull" Sumner, U.S.A.
The battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg

Be wary of sporadic updates for the next couple of weeks. I've got the HorrorFind convention coming up, and a lot of stuff I have to get done before then.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Somehow, I lost my title for this post

I almost got run off the road today by a guy driving an oil truck.

I've got nothing against truckers, commercial drivers and so forth. Well, maybe limo drivers. After spending four years drag-racing with limo drivers on I-78, well, I can see why Jayson Williams shot his.

But the thing is, I don't mind truckers. Or at least the ones who realize they're driving large, road-clogging lethal weapons - and handle themselves with the appropriate amount of care. I'm not going to begrudge someone doing his job, and an important one at that, so long as they don't jeopardize others doing it.

But this idiot - who wasn't even in a rig - was just a menace. I was driving uphill, toward the highway, behind him. That was fine, albeit slow. But then, I got to a part where the lanes widened, and I could pass him (on the left, legally), and instead, he suddenly veered into the left lane - no signal or anything.

Turns out he was trying to pass a dump truck that was going even slower.

So when he gets past the dump truck, he signals to pull right, and then does. So I signal and start passing him again.

Which is when he veered into my lane again. He was running right down the middle of the dotted line, occupying both lines and forcing me to jam on the brakes.

Mind you, there's oncoming traffic on the other side of the road.

When he finally gets back to the right, and I go to pass him (all of this is along about a 150-yard stretch of road), he veers back over the dotted line again. At this point, I'm already halfway by, so I've got to swerve, then jam on the gas to get around him and a) get out of the way of oncoming cars and b) get to my on-ramp.

It wasn't like I flipped him off or anything - this isn't "Duel" we're talking about. I was just passing him, legally, in a good spot. I didn't even hit the horn until he forced me to swerve.

Freakin' idiot. I hate drivers like that, especially the ones in rigs or (most often) moving vans either don't know how wide their vehicle is, or just can't keep it in the lane.

Maybe he didn't see me. It hasn't been my week for cars, and I'm driving around a little POS Hyundai that's on loan from my dealer. My car failed inspection, needed a repair anyway, and waaaaaaaaay too much money later, I'll get my car back Friday. Or Saturday. But after 136,000 miles, I guess my baby's entitled to a little TLC. Still, it's costing me a fortune and it's a pain in the ass. Went to get the car today, and the dealer forgot to call to tell me it wasn't ready. But while I was there, conveniently, I could approve a big ol' repair needed to pass the inspection. Great.

And I got pulled over the other day, but I got away without a ticket because it wasn't really my fault. Kind of a Catch-22. I pulled out of a store right near my house into the turning lane of 206, when I realized the car coming up behind me was coming up really fast, so rather than pulling into the right (driving) lane, I waited for him to go by, tooling along up the middle lane in the meanwhile. Only he never passed me, and then my turn came up (it's only maybe 100 yards up 206), so I turned.

Then I realized why he had been zipping along so fast, and then slowed down behind me: Cop. But he was a local guy, knew I was about a block from home, and when I told him what happened he let me go because he realized I was right - I was waiting for him to go by, and he wasn't going by because he was waiting for me to pull in front of him. Still have never gotten a ticket, and when I do, I'd sure like it to be for something more than driving in the turning lane.

And hopefully it won't be in this stupid Hyundai loaner car, either. That's what I pay all this money to keep my sports car running hot for.

Heating oil futures
Global Auto Mall, where my car is sitting
Mitsubishi Motors
Hyundai of America
The Hillsborough Township PD

We were discussing Karl Rove at work the other day, so I'm thinking of writing a post about him. Well, not really about him, but about political movers and shakers like him. Stay tuned.