So, I’m Going Adventuring With Ghosts Soon

I fully intend to make moving to New York City a giant adventure. The thrill of culture shock will just provide so much creative ammunition, there’s no way I can pass certain things up.

It looks like I will most likely end up there around the end of September, making my wild rumpus due to begin in the month of October. My absolutely, hands down, most favoriteist month of the year.

Also, it happens to be the perfect month to start the adventures I’m currently planning. I have a mad desire to go soak in the atmosphere of some historical locations that also happen to be haunted. I want to go indulge my inner goth child who never grew up, hang out where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, and go see Poe’s haunted banister.

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I’ve loved listening to true ghost story podcasts and Stephen King’s Bag of Bones while working on this, little dark plot bunny shadows keep skittering off to the murky corners of my journal. The thought of walking this map in October is just dark chocolate icing on a pumpkin spice cupcake with bat sprinkles.

Another great thing about all these upcoming outings, I get to brush off my photography skills. My eyes suck, so I set photography aside as a serious pursuit long ago. I like my little free Craig’s list camera for family pictures and some nature treasure hunting, but now I’m throwing tourism into the mix with a decent budget, it’s time to brush off my skills and start researching cameras for the awesome upgrade.

So, I’m designing a couple of photo safaris for myself, some of them adventure related. Around the house, the thought of a straight up domestic set of photos bores me, so I’m going to think of ways to inspire stories with what I do. Like, I don’t know about staging a still life with fruit, but maybe a subtle implication of murder.

I’m not exactly sure how such a project will help me take better photos of haunted banisters and the Statue of Liberty’s toe, but I’m sure it will help me somehow in an important way and therefore it must be done.

I’m just so excited about all the possibilities coming up for getting out of the house, you don’t even understand. My old friends from high school would. They knew all about how I grew up a chronic runaway, and how even when I was happy I would still want to wander so badly that I frequently left parties for long walks until I drove the itchy impulses out of my legs. Sometimes they came with, but usually they didn’t because those slackers could never keep up.

I’ve lived in Tulsa for over a decade. I moved here in a state of crisis and poverty, and my main forms of transportation have been my feet and the public bus system. Going to the grocery store has been “getting out of the house” for years. Years of years, even. I feel like a minister’s daughter about to head off to a co-ed university in another state.

 

Jurassic Trilogy: In which I pay tens of thousands to enhance my movie-watching enjoyment.

Don’t worry, I know that middle aged is still an old fart, and younger audiences might not have seen some of the most epic movies in the world, so I’m going to talk in generalities and avoid spoilers.

I know you know I love dinosaurs,  and I remember looking for Jurassic Park on Netflix before, it’s been ages since I’ve seen it. I tried again and the whole trilogy was up there, so I had myself a little movie marathon.

It turns out that it’s been probably over a decade since I’ve seen it last. I’ve achieved an entire degree, and I graduated a handful of years ago, so it’s been forever. Especially when you consider that I took the meandering route, maxing out my financial aid and taking seven years to get a four-year degree because I had to grab every class that I thought looked interesting. I couldn’t stop myself.

I was a Psych major picking up Sustainable Ecology, International Film, Pulp Fiction, all kinds of fun stuff. At one point I realized I might be able to get an English minor with all my credits, but I was short one class that they didn’t offer online, and during the last couple of years, online was all I could do. That was fine with me, the extra education was just to add spice to life anyway.

Therefore, because it had been so long, and I’ve been thus educated, this time I got to see the trilogy with a completely different viewpoint. I remembered a movie full of fun action with some hints of a plot, but if you had asked me what it was about, I would have said man vs. nature with a message about not playing God, and the sub plots were to increase tension.

As I fired it up most recently, when Grant was scaring the piss out of the kid with the whole foreshadowing raptor claw thing, I remembered someone saying the real story of the movie was how he came to love kids, and sure enough there he is living in the shadow of his lie in the first scenes of the movie.

Next thing you know, he’s telling dad jokes with an electric fence. You know, right before the man-hero must protect the smallest and most vulnerable member of the entire movie.

This is quickly followed by a series of contrasts between relief and terror, and the fulfillment of the promise, “When you see it, it will already be too late.” Also, the ethical teaching of never leaving children unattended, they will be in danger if you do.

And naturally, it’s pulp so there’s the muscular hero and the wussy dude is the enemy. So are all people who show greed, cowardice, and disloyalty. Sometimes the greedy “mean well”, sometimes they are straight up villains (man I enjoy seeing Peter Stormare in all his beautiful, sexy, yet skeevy glory getting poetic comeuppance. We don’t like people who disrespect animals and nature here, Mr. Satan.)

Heroic altruism is rewarded, the hero is a glistening untarnished pure of heart dude. I particularly liked when Grant seemed to be behaving like a captain going down on a sinking ship, the last paleontologist standing fast against the decline of his life’s work, not jumping ship to the new empire based on monstrous advancements in Science over the ethical purity of Nature. Enemies unite under common threats, putting aside their differences, all that pulpy moralistic goodness.

At least the sexist message in the first movie was remedied by the gymnastic attack in the second. The children also grew more heroic as the trilogy progressed, to the point of straight up rewarding Grant’s acceptance of their kind with a heroic rescue for himself.

I mean, the first time I saw it, I was all “wow, this new CGI technology is really cool!”, but with education, now all the things that all the people have told me went and did what they are supposed to do. They shaped my experience into the next level of enjoyment, pulling out meaning and hidden messages like a kid with a plot decoder ring. Awesome.

P.S. – After writing this, I went on to update my profile because it’s about due. I wrote about wanting to camp in spooky places (and all that other profile stuff), then went on to reward the day’s hard work with a movie picked for me by Netflix. I hit play without bothering to read the description (it’s the little adventures that make life bearable). Turns out that it’s about camping somewhere, and I just bet it’s going to be a bad idea. Hello synchronicity, I’ll take you as a good omen.

How Saturday Morning Cartoons Caused My Family More Than Their Share of Grief

Once upon a time I ran away to live in the woods. I was caught. I was brought back home where I was watched closely, until I wasn’t, and then I ran away again. This continued for quite some time.

My grandma said that it started when I was six, and that I came up to her and said, “Grandma, did you know you can live in the woods and get what you need there, and you never need to go to a grocery store, ever?”

Well, that’s when I started talking about the woods anyway. I started being the little escape artist way before that. Once when I was visiting Grandma they caught me in her neighbor’s back yard playing with their poodles at 3 am.

Those poor people hadn’t met me yet, so they had no idea where I came from. I told them I didn’t know where my dad lived, and my Mom lived in another state. I had climbed out my window, pushed my tricycle up to the six-foot fence and stood on it to reach the latch. From that point on, padlocks and bars on the window kept me indoors at night, until I was old enough to figure out how to move through the house silently.

I couldn’t figure out where I came up with the knowledge you could live off the woods entirely though, we thought maybe something I saw on a cartoon. I didn’t read Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain until I was around nine (man, that set my “live in the woods” desire aflame), so it was hard to pin down.

Recently though, I remembered that my Mom and I once had a major miscommunication. You need to understand that my mom is an avid talker, and hates to be interrupted. She also has a bit of an old school “children should be seen and not heard” streak going on that made it difficult for 6-year-old me to communicate with her, she was intimidating.

So, when she caught me out of bed at 3 am cleaning the windows and she asked me what I was doing, I told her I wanted to be a brownie. I didn’t correct her when she thought I wanted to be a junior girl scout.

You see, I had heard that the household fairies get milk and cookies left out for them in exchange for doing chores while the rest of the house slept, and I thought it would be cool to be a helpful little version of Santa Claus. I think the Saturday morning cartoon “The Littles” (based off of a book I remember reading very young) had some influence on this. I was always looking through the house and garden for little people. I had no desire to be a girl scout though.
Poor Mom blew some money on a uniform and handbook, happy that she was giving me something she thought I wanted very badly. I don’t remember clearly, but she may have tried to become a troop leader. I tried to be enthusiastic, but we stopped going after a couple of troop meetings. I remember she kind of resented that she wasted some money, but I don’t remember if I told her what it was I really wanted.

It’s a shame that I didn’t stick with it, because I think it was the Brownie handbook that ended up shaping my excitement about nature and the dream of living in the woods. Or, maybe someone I talked to at a meeting. I’m not sure. But I think those couple of weekends ended up being some of the most influential events of my life, because that’s the age when I started talking about the woods.

There’s a kind of tension between Mom and I sometimes, I’m sure you can tell from above. We’ve gone through some rough patches. As I said, she’s intimidating. Now that I’m all grown up though, the strangest thing has happened. I can stand up to her now. Confused the fuck out of her when it started happening, but I’m pretty sure that she knows to take me seriously now.

Know what that means? I can stand up to anyone. Well, almost. I’m not stupid and picking fights or anything, but there are a large amount of people who mistake my laid-back attitude for that of a doormat, until they get to know me a little better. If I hadn’t practiced on Mom, I probably would be a doormat.

My relationship with her has led to something else too. I am not seriously attached to the material aspects of life. Simple suits me just fine.

She was so mad at me for the Brownie thing, because she spent so much money and she was convinced that I would be into it. I think she was looking forward to bonding with me, but that’s not what she talked about. She talked about the money. How much money she spent on stuff that I didn’t want, and she blamed me for it.

I was in so much trouble, but all I really wanted was to feel safe to speak my mind. I understood she was trying to bond, but then she made me feel bad over money.

Mom is not a happy person, I think. But she works very hard so that she has money for nice things. A lot of nice things. I grew up with a maid and went to private schools, for a little while. I had the nicest, softest stuffed animals to hold and comfort me, but my mother wouldn’t.

She was working too hard to be able to afford the stuffed animals, nice schools, two-hundred-dollar hair-cuts, and a bunch of other things she stores in carefully labeled boxes that she pays expensive storage fees for, and only touches once ever ten years or so. I on the other hand, have found sources of happiness and comfort in being grateful for what I have, and I see rough times as a form of adventure, making me capable of enjoying very simple things that have nothing to do with money.

Mabey I did become a brownie. Happily delighting in a modest domestic environment, content to reward myself with simple pleasures like an occasional cookie and a quiet book.

P.S. I’ve already told Joe I’m with him to steal his last name.

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The Entomologist: In Which I Set Three Dead Bodies On Fire.

Holidays with fireworks suuuuuck when you have a toddler. As I sit here, it’s 12:18 am and I’m finally sitting down to relax. The exciting noises started this afternoon, made her nap late, and the pop-bang ruckus will likely go on for a couple of hours. I can’t go to bed yet because she’s still not fully asleep. Sigh.

It was a great day, I loved seeing her wave her hands in the air in joy over fireworks, but I’m so stressed out from dealing with an excited adventure monkey that I doubt I’ll be able to sleep for hours.

I was hoping to clean and pack tomorrow. Looks like I’m only going to be worth playing video games until the son wakes up and we can resume the Dr. Who marathon we started today. I’m so glad my story is ready for a final edit and I won’t have to think much to keep my self-imposed general deadline of “Thursday”.

Anyway, here’s a quickie that kept bugging me through four different creative exercise prompts. It’s not that it’s an earth shattering story, but it really wanted to be told. I guess I’ll take the pictures and share this in the morning, she’s gone and woken up.

P.S. – When you take a shower at 3am and you have to turn off the water because was that noise the baby? Was that a dog barking because someone was walking by the trailer? And you’re standing there dripping wet combing shampoo through your waist length hair listening to every sound while your manly protector is half a continent away, it’s delightfully creepy.

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The Entomologist

“Oh, she is beautiful. I bet Dr. Fairweather will notice you for this one. You might even get more than just the grant out of him.” She winked.

“Excuse me?” I could never remember this one’s name. Grad students are so temporary lately.

“Was that too forward?” She smiled. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Anyway, she should help you get that grant for sure. I know you’ve certainly been working hard enough to deserve it.”

“It’s not about me. It’s not even about my work, but she does bring me some hope.” I couldn’t help the smile I felt rising to my face as I put her in the specimen jar.

“I don’t understand, what do you mean the funds aren’t available?” No, no, I needed this grant.

“I’m afraid the last of it went to Dr. Aemulus.” Fairweather wouldn’t even look me in the eye, shuffling through papers on his desk instead.

“But it was promised to me, you told me you would make sure of it.”

“Well, to be frank, she has an amazingly persuasive argument for her cause.”

“Does that argument have anything to do with the weekend you spent together?”

A deep flush spread up to his face from the over starched collar of his shirt. “Don’t be petty.”

The whole campus was abuzz with excitement.

I sipped at the champagne and wished it was mead. I like mead, the child in me enjoys sipping nectar like a bee. Dr. Aemulus came in on Fairweather’s arm and everybody clapped. The grad student said, “This should have been your event.” Incubo. That was her name. Something Incubo.

“Don’t be petty,” I sighed.

“Wait, that’s mine. That’s all mine. What are you doing with my things? That’s delicate equipment, what are you doing?”

Fairweather the betrayer came in, holding his hands up as if to physically restrain me if need be. “Calm down, we need this space for Dr. Aemulus to run her experiments. Your equipment will go down to storage where it will be safe until it’s needed again.”

“Calm down? How do men always think saying that will help?”

“Just be reasonable. The money from forensic research will be far more valuable than conservation efforts. Why are you letting some grad student put a bug in your ear anyway?”

“What grad student? How can you think I’m angry because of a grad student? You’re insane!”

I shouldn’t have to do this. I am a good person. I deserve loyalty. But no, here I am covered in fucking blood up to my arms in these stupid beetles. Necessary forensic research, my ass. This “research” has all been done before, it solves nothing. Nothing.

Out of pure spite, I crumpled his stupid starched collar before dumping more of the flesh consuming beetles over the pair of them. I patted Aemulus’s hair. “Feed your children well,” I whispered.

Fire grew in my heart. Fire grew in my eyes.

Incubo was right. Sometimes, fire is good for the forest, even if some pollinators die. I was wrong to stop the controlled burn the farmers wanted last fall. Sometimes, burning it all to the ground gives room for renewal, for the new, the strong, the helpful, to flourish and grow.

The heat tingles my skin, flush from being so near, the smoke billows to the sky and blows through my hair. I feel so alive. What an absolutely beautiful day.

They found her bones in the ashes. Her grad student stood quietly with the other onlookers as the bodies were carried away.

With a sad smile, Incubo said, “it looks like I will need a job soon. What about you? I hear you’ve been busy, but they haven’t given you the help you need,” the muse of jealousy continued, “Personally, I think you’ve been underappreciated.”

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