Back in March, I wrote about why I adore crows, and promised a part two. Hell-April then took me out at the knees, and kicked me in the mouth while I was down. On Thursday, I’ll be sharing a post detailing my experience of nitrous oxide, synethesia and time distortion, and revealing that I may really have some vampire blood in my ancestry. (Quick shout-out to Vampire Maman.)
Despite Hell-April’s malevolent efforts, I enjoyed my daughter’s visit AND made good progress on my manuscript. May has been kinder, even if spring refuses to … well, spring. My life (knock-wood / cross-fingers / drink-beer) is back to (para)normal. Today I resume regular posting with the long-overdue continuation of my crow stories. First, though, I should share a link to Ray Yanek’s blog. Ray was intrigued enough by my musings in March to address the subject of crows over at his place. Enjoy A Sleuth, An Unkindness, and A Murder… and poke around a bit. You’ll be glad you did.
We now know that it is wrong and illegal to capture or keep wild crows, but it was not always so. Keeping pet crows was once common practice – especially in rural areas of the mid-west in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many young birds were taken by a method that horrifies our modern sensibilities, but that exemplifies the cavalier attitude some folks had toward nature at the time: an old tree bearing a crow’s nest would be chopped down so that any fledglings surviving the fall could be taken and tamed.
At least that’s what I’ve been told by naturalists and conservation officers here in Minnesota. Though I believe this was a method employed by some, such was not the usual case in central Minnesota, in the 1920s – 1950s. I know, because my mother was born there in 1926, and she got to know several tame crows in her lifetime.
The first story is not a happy one, but then there are not many happy stories from my mother’s childhood. Her father, John, was born in Germany and immigrated to the US with a number of his kin when he was a child. The clan settled in Central Minnesota and homesteaded large farms. The community was mostly German and Scandinavian.
Though my mother has good memories of her grandparents and her uncles (many of whom were Lutheran ministers), her father was an unpredictable and cruel man. (Now that I have a better understanding of mental health, I have come to believe he was bipolar, but that’s a theory best saved for another post.) In a childhood dense with horror stories starring John, a few shining attempts at good parenting stand out.
When John’s first-born – a son named Arnold – was about five or six, John noticed a crow’s nest in a tree at the edge of one of his pastures. Apparently, Arnold was of nearly the same age John had been when he’d been given his first corvid*, back in Germany. John carefully observed the behavior of the nesting pair and figured out when the fledglings would be at an appropriate age for taming. He based his calculations on his knowledge of the birds of his youth. (*The German species was likely either a carrion crow or a common raven.)
On the predetermined day, there was a thunderstorm, but this did not deter John. He climbed into the tall tree, ignoring lightning and thunder. The wind was high and the boughs bent and twisted under his weight, but he was determined. When he finally reached the nest, he was soaked through and his hands were so cold they could hardly grasp the rain-slick branches on which he perched. As the parent-crows dive-bombed him, he realized the nestlings were younger than he would have liked. He had intended to take just one fledgling, but decided that he would take half the brood – in case they proved to be weak in their youth. He tucked three birds into his shirt and climbed down, eager to surprise his son.
Arnold hated the birds. He said they had evil, beady, black eyes. (In truth, baby crows have blue eyes, so I fear that my uncle never really looked at them closely. Or, perhaps, their eyes were not yet properly open.) I try not to blame my uncle for what happened next. He was so young himself that he was not equipped to tend to the babies’ intense needs. The birds, of course, were hungry … they screamed every hour, round the clock. I know that John considered his part of the job done. The task of feeding the crows – bread softened in milk – fell entirely on Arnold’s thin shoulders.
A short time later, John was at work in the fields. For his wife – Marie – and the children, it was washing day. Doing the laundry entailed boiling vats of water on the wood-stove, carting said water into the yard, scrubbing on a washboard, and hanging clothes out to dry. At some point in that day, Marie went back into the house to fetch more water and found three baby crows floating in the bubbling water in the copper vat on the stove. Arnold said he didn’t know what happened, and claimed the birds must have flown there themselves.
From that day forward, John told the story of the crows to illustrate the fact that his son was a lazy, worthless liar.
Years later, my mother married the son of a local farmer. Like her father, his name was John. Unlike her father – or his – this John was not a farmer. He was a construction worker who was away from home a lot. It was the first of five marriages for her, but there were a couple of good years at the beginning. When they married, John came with a crow. In the late 40s, the couple lived in a little house, in a small town, with their toddler daughter and Billy the Crow.
I wish I could share a photograph of my mother with Billy, but she wasn’t actually very fond of him and snapshots were not as common in those days as they are now. It’s a pity, because they would have made a striking pair. I’ll have to be content with posting the following photograph of my mother and Arnold, taken at about the same time.
John-the-Husband had captured Billy using the same method John-the-Father had – climbing up a tree to a dangerously high crow’s nest. He had been a teenager at the time, and crow-stealing was all the rage among his crew. Beer may have been involved, but even if not, taking a crow was a social event. A party of young men would mark a tree, wait for the right time, then dare each other to get on up there. Billy the Crow was not taken too young, because John and his friends had waited for appropriately-sized heads to pop up out of the nest.
By the time John married my mother, he’d already had Billy for a few years. The big concern, when they started their new life together, was whether the crow would adjust to his new surroundings. John built a coop, just like the one Billy had always been in, at the new house the couple rented. It was basically a big box mounted inside a garage window, attached to a chicken-wire-sided box on the outside of the window. At the front and the back of the construction, a door was hinged at the bottom and chained to create a stable platform when opened. In the fully-enclosed, interior box, a layer of straw covered the floor. A food and water dish were also provided.
When the couple first moved to the rental house, Billy was confined to this cage structure for just a couple of weeks, as my mother recollects. She remembers John being nervous about the first day that the exterior door was opened and Billy was allowed to fly free. He needn’t have worried. Billy spent most of his his first few days on the roof of the rental house, surveying his new territory and identifying his new enemies.
Though Mother was worried about what the neighbors would think, no one seemed to mind the black bird’s presence. Still, she was embarrassed. The existence of the pet crow, she thought, marked her and her husband as country-folk. It didn’t help that Billy vandalized the one item she had that made her feel ritzy – the elegant, faux-leather, baby buggy which her father had bought for her so she could walk with her child to the nearby downtown. Billy had taken one look at that shiny, black object, parked next to the house door, glinting in the sun, and become bent on destruction. Probably he was trying to steal one of the buttons from its collapsible, quilted sun bonnet, but he was enraptured by the white batting that appeared when he ripped at the fabric. In short, he shredded that thing. There was no money to replace it, so Mother had to push the torn-up buggy in public. She did not want to tell anyone that her husband’s crow had done the damage.
The first local residents to take exception to Billy’s presence were the neighborhood dogs. Mother remembers them coming into the yard and barking up at the roof for hours. This only lasted until Billy started to bark back. She tells me that, after a while, even John couldn’t tell if the barking was from the dogs or the bird.
This barking was a new addition to Billy’s vocabulary which, prior to town life, consisted of: Hello, Good Bye, Bill, and an uncanny reproduction of the sound of John laughing. John liked all those mimicries. He was chagrined by – and could not explain – Billy’s ability to also say, Don’t Come Back and Damn It!
The dogs seemed to amuse Billy more than anything, but he hated the cats. Mother had a fondness for cats and appreciated their ability to keep vermin like mice and snakes out of the yard, so she put food out for them – sometimes even expensive new-fangled kibble. Billy quickly developed a taste for this particular treat. In his quest to preserve such delicacies for himself, Billy taught himself to meow, hiss and spit just as they did. He also took delight in diving down on them when they came into the yard. This behavior irked Mother, but not as much as his wash day antics.
My mother’s laundry routine was easier than that of her mother’s – she had hot water and a ringer-washer – but she still had to hang her clothes out on a line to dry. Said line stretched from the corner of the garage to the house, and she used the kind of clothespins that people now use to make reindeer ornaments for Christmas trees. Billy thought those pins were awesome. Every week, he would pull the pins and drop her fresh laundry on the ground. She complained, but John thought it was harmless fun. Mother remembers deliberately doing the laundry on a Sunday, so that John could watch from the window as Billy started at his end of the line and worked all the way to the house, plucking each and every pin up and off, before giving it a good shake, then dropping it.
John left his bird locked up on washdays after that.
John ceded to Mother’s wash day wishes, but he seemed to take a weird pride in Billy’s thieving ways. John was an automotive tinkerer and had all the shiny tools and doo-dads to prove it. He spent his weekends putzing under the hood of the car. If ever he had to go into the house in the middle of a project, Billy was watching. When John would come back to find the nut or bolt he’d set aside missing, he would simply laugh and trace the most direct path to Billy’s hutch while kicking through the grass. Sometimes the bird would have managed to get the missing prize all the way into his food dish, but most often he dropped it somewhere between the car and the garage.
All the while, my mother says, “he would sit on a nearby perch, cock his head one way then another, look at John with his tricky-like-glass eyes, and smile.”
As time passed, Billy spent less time in the yard tormenting my mother and more time off in a nearby woods. She thinks that he maybe mated one year, but she can’t be sure. When Billy needed to die, however, she knows he came home. She remembers him sitting on the “porch” of his hutch, listless and droopy. He would take food from John’s hand, but otherwise seemed disinclined to eat. She says, “He lasted almost a week like that. Then one day he wasn’t sitting on the porch, and John ran out to check on him, and he was dead in his nest. John took the band off his leg and kept it. I saw him crying about it too.”
I’ve just read over what I’ve written, and I am freshly sad. That’s the nature of animal stories, I suppose. I think that’s only because we can see the whole saga unfold, though. Billy lived longer than most crows in the wild do, and his life was an adventure. Our companion animals – by their very nature – live their whole stories, from beginning to end, right in front of our eyes. It’s our job to learn what we can from those stories and move on to love other fellow creatures. As for me, I will always love crows, a species I know to be smart, beautiful, resourceful, adaptable and mischievous. I know I can’t walk my path with a crow companion of my own, but I’m grateful I got to meet Billy through the eyes of my mother.
When I’m working an interesting shift at the #paranormalhotel, I try to tweet a full and true account of events, but it’s hard to catch all the details while I’m in the midst of them unfolding. Fortunately, such nights make a deep impression on me so I remember even the things I don’t have time to type. Plus – you know – I’m a fiction writer, so I don’t have an ethical problem with tweaking any fuzzy recollections to smooth out the plot line.
The following is how my twitter should have read on Wednesday night. (The colored entries actually made it to my feed.) While writing it up for the blog, I stayed within the parameters of tweeting – it’s good practice and it distances me from the events a little.
4:00 at the #paranormalhotel: Arrive 1 hr early, as requested. Boss-wife is arguing with guests who say they were quoted a lower price.
4:03 at the #paranormalhotel: Boss-wife stands firm. Guests are stuck; they walked here and are tired. (And drunk?) Girl registers and pays.
4:30 at the #paranormalhotel: I’ve settled. Laundry not bad. Maid still working – 4 rms still dirty. No reservations. Likely a quiet night.
5:35 at the #paranormalhotel: Smoking. Young player I recognize as a regular visitor arrives in cab. Pays from an obscene wad of cash.
5:46 at the #paranormalhotel: Unregistered guy wants to pick up a package. No wallet. Shows me his name tattooed on his chest in lieu of ID.
5:52 at the #paranormalhotel: Guest called to say girl running and screaming in hallway. On my way up in elevator now.
5:55 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt2) Found girl crying in the stairwell. Scraped knee & missing sock. Gave standard “do you need help” spiel.
6:15 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt3) LSS – all just drama. Couple reunited in room. Warned against any further disturbance.
6:20 at the #paranormalhotel: Maid leaves. On her report, a room that was to be cleaned is instead marked it as a do-not-disturb, stay-over.
6:21 at the #paranormalhotel: Well that ain’t right. I’ll have to find out why this stay-over in room 340 isn’t reflected by the register.
6:22 at the #paranormalhotel: Getting laundry started, I transfer at least 4 calls, and provide hotel info to another 3-4 potential guests.
7:00 at the #paranormalhotel: Phone really busy. Reservations for upcoming summer concerts: Marilyn Manson, ICP, ZZ Top, etc.
7:03 at the #paranormalhotel: I check my schedule. I’ll be working most of those concerts. (Yay.)
7:15 at the #paranormalhotel: Mom of long-term guest sets up a monthly rent payment for him from her account. He’s disrespectful. Also 37.
7:25 at the #paranormalhotel: Autistic 4yo & her father are hanging out in lobby. He reminds me she’ll scream if he makes her go upstairs.
7:26 at the #paranormalhotel: Father of autistic child wants to chat. Tells me he knows the couple that Boss-wife was arguing with.
7:30 at the #paranormalhotel: Long-term, old-lady guest returns from outing. Asks for messages. None, as usual. Tells me she loves me again.
7:40 at the #paranormalhotel: Phone REALLY busy tonight, + lots of check-ins. Can’t stay in laundry room long enough to get anything done.
7:42 at the #paranormalhotel: Boss-mom interrupts a check-in. She needs me in the laundry room NOW. I apologize to guest and follow.
7:43 at the #paranormalhotel: Boss-mom has added a mountain of new shower curtains. Language barrier requires miming of wash instructions.
7:50 at the #paranormalhotel: ASAP, I return to waiting and irritated guest. A short line has formed while I was playing charades.
7:59 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt4) Girl from earlier storms through lobby, out into the rain. Guy chases, barefoot.
8p at the #paranormalhotel: (pt4.5) Girl crosses busy street, flipping guy off over shoulder. He yells, follows. They disappear into woods.
8:10 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt5) They return. She’s covered in mud. She’s still calling him sweetheart. I tell them they must leave.
8:13 at the #paranormal hotel: (pt6) I escort them to clean out room. He’s MAD. I’m waiting. Must take a call & relate rates and amenities.
8:18 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt7): Still waiting. Transfer 5-6th call of the evening to rm 340. Pretty sure caller hears guy yelling at me.
8:20 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt8) 4 cops arrive. They push guy against the hall wall. Tell him to turn face left, rather than look at me.
8:22 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt8.5) Girl washing off mud. Phone ripped out. 2 discarded, empty vodka pints. Clothes, garbage everywhere.
8:25 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt9) Cops question me briefly, then dismiss me. Don’t say who called them. I return to desk to wait.
8:40 at the #paranormalhotel: Waiting for cops; transfer ANOTHER call to 340. Hold up … that’s the unpaid stay-over, right?
8:42 at the #paranormalhotel: Confirmed – no record of payment for 340. I call. Guest says he thought girlfriend paid before leaving in a.m.
8:43 at the #paranormalhotel: I tell 340 he must pay or leave. He says he doesn’t have any $. Needs to arrange a ride. I give him until 9p.
8:55 at the #paranormalhotel: Checking register, I stumble on (censored to protect guest identity) this | ow.ly/x/xxxxx
8:56 at the #paranormalhotel: Hmm. Turns out this guest has been staying in in one of our rooms for weeks. Never seen him. Nice to know.
8:59 at the #paranormalhotel: 340 appears, reeks of pot. Ride will arrive in 2 1/2 hours. Wants to wait in his room. Lobby will have to do.
9p at the #paranormalhotel: (pt10) Cops take in guy AND girl. They don’t talk to me. As usual, will never know the whole story.
9:05 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt10.5) I check evicted girl out of her room, flag her as a bad guest.
9:10 at the #paranormalhotel: Long-term, old-lady guest calls - needs a plunger: she ate ice cream. (Eww.) New check-in enters. (Damn.) BRB
9:15 at the #paranormalhotel: Hunted up a plunger. delivered it to guest. She doesn’t know how to use it. (Argg.) BRB
9:17 at the #paranormalhotel: Run down stairs (It’s faster.) Check-in guest.
9:22 at the #paranormalhotel: Run back up. Father of autistic child is plunging toilet. (?!?) Child is leaping from bed to chair & back.
9:23 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt11) Plunging, he asks about couple & cops. I demur. He shakes head. Says, “They were just in the paper.”
9:30 at the #paranormalhotel: Back at desk. More calls. More arrivals. Assorted guests need assorted things. 340 is hanging out in lobby.
9:45 at the #paranormalhotel: 340′s girlfriend appears. Laughs at him. Reminds him she left $ in the car to pay for room. They pay. (Phew.)
10:05 at the #paranormalhotel: Player from earlier comes to desk. Left key in room, needs one. I call & quiz registered guest to confirm.
10:05 at the #paranormalhotel: Due diligence done, I make key – then ask if I can photo his roll of $ for blog. He laughs. | ow.ly/i/24vxj
10:07 at the #paranormalhotel: This kid is maybe 20. I have never held that much cash at one time. I am 45.
10:10 at the #paranormalhotel: Smoking. Find this on top of trash can. Any idea what it is? ow.ly/x/xxxxx
10:30 at the #paranormalhotel: I write summary of night’s events for my boss. I have to tape multiple sticky notes together.
11p at the #paranormalhotel: I tackle the laundry, now that it’s quiet. Going to be leaving a lot for the overnight guy, I’m afraid.
11:30 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt12) On laundry room monitor, I see cop enter lobby. I go to desk. He says, “Good, you’re still here.”
11:50 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt13) Cop interviewed me, took my contact info. He’s not sure If I’ll need to do an official statement.
midnight at the #paranormalhotel: My replacement arrives. I apologize for laundry. He scans my note to boss and says, “Not a problem.”
12:15 at home: (pt14) Internet investigation turns up newspaper stories, mug shots and this | ow.ly/x/xxxxx
12:16 at home: (pt15) Both are on parole for severe child neglect. Both have multiple DUIs. He also has multiple assaults.
12:30 at home: I am haunted by how many times I stepped between them to protect her. Either one could have turned on me.
12:50 at home: I call the night guy to tell him to enter and flag the guy-half of this train-wreak couple.
1a at home: I crawl into bed with my husband. I don’t know when I actually slept.
Before the age of 16, I saw two – maybe three – films in a theater. At home, I watched movies when I could, but my choices were limited to the offerings of the available four networks. (ABC, CBS, NBC & PBS) I didn’t much care for the made-for-TV stuff that was popular (except for Columbo) so I had to content myself with the great old black and white flicks that played late at night.
If I lacked film experience, I made up for it by watching a lot of television – and much of what I liked was on PBS. I’d come home from school, make a snack, go to my dad’s room, turn on his small TV and do my homework while waiting for something good to come on. Sneak Previews was often the soundtrack that accompanied my math worksheets.
This was apparently recorded in 1982, a couple of years after my time in grade school. The clip captures my memories really well though … except I saw it on a b&w TV.
In high school I went on a few movie dates, of course, but I remember those outings now as an excuse to hold hands in the dark. That’s not to say I didn’t care about film when I was a teenager – it was the mid-80s, after all, about the same time that video stores sprouted up everywhere.
At first, I rented only horror shows – terrible dreck like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left - to watch with friends in someone’s basement rec room. Then I realized I could lay my hands on classics like Psycho and The Bride of Frankenstein and Rosemary’s Baby, in versions that were neither diced into segments to fit between commercial breaks nor sanitized into acceptably innocuous broadcast fodder. I sped through all the movies that I knew about. Eventually, I started to notice and understand that I had access to what felt like ALL THE FILMS, and I became overwhelmed. That’s when I hunted down Siskel & Ebert who, by then, were on At the Movies in syndication.
For the first time, I paid attention to what the familiar voices were actually saying. When the two critics disagreed, I usually sided with Siskel.
After my daughter was born, I spent more than a year mostly cuddled up with her in front of the TV. Two or three times a week, I’d put her in the stroller and walk downtown to return the movies I had, and rent five more. I carried a notebook filled with obscure references that had been made on At the Movies.
Within a few years my life enlarged. I had a license, a job, a new set of friends, and a preschooler. The VCR was busy playing stuff that would entertain my daughter. There was little time for grown-up movies, and no need for film critics.
It wasn’t until I started dating The Ogre that films really came back into my life. He took me to at least a movie a week. Mostly we saw whatever was popular, but he also introduced me to more challenging fare. We went to mega-plexes and art houses and drive-ins. He taught me to get there early in order to obtain the prime seats and to stay through the credits. I learned that his favorite critic was Roger Ebert, and realized I could live with that.
We married in 1991 and, thanks to him, there was soon enough time for me to start my studies of writing, the paranormal, and the horror genre. As I explored my interests, I again found myself needing guidance from all sorts of experts, including film critics. The internet made it possible for me to access all the info I wanted, but I wasn’t sure who I could trust. I turned to the familiar.
Roger Ebert: “We’re instinctively afraid of natural things (snakes, barking dogs, the dark) but have to be taught to fear walking into traffic or touching an electrical wire. Horror films that tap into our hard-wired instinctive fears probe a deeper place than movies with more sophisticated threats. A villain is only an actor, but a shark is more than a shark.” (Read the rest of Ebert’s review of The Blair Witch Project at RogerEbert.com.)
Reviews like those made me come around to the Ebert/Ogre way of thinking.
In 1995, our son came along. A shortage of both time and money forced us to become selective about what movies to watch. We started watching Siskel & Ebert together on Sunday mornings and planning our viewing based on what they said.
In 1999, we were saddened by the death of Gene Siskel. But we stuck with Roger in the subsequent incarnations of the show … all the way through Ebert Presents: At The Movies, in which Ebert contributed only a review voiced by someone else in a brief segment called “Roger’s Office”.
When he no longer appeared on television, we started following him on twitter and at his blog.
On April 2nd – just two days before he died – Roger Ebert wrote his last blog post. He closed with this: “So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”
Yes he will.
Movies matter in this household. So does Roger Ebert. I know I will continue to reference his body of work for years to come – both for the content and for the style of his writing. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn how to think about movies from one of the greats.
A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, until I got an email invitation to participate. The atmosphere for camp events appears more relaxed than November’s nano. You can set your own word count goals.You can continue an existing manuscript. You can revise and/or edit, as long as you can come up with a fair equation for comparing such work to raw prose generation.
At the time, I was thinking, “Hey. My work schedule has mostly settled down to 3 nights a week. The boy seems to have a handle on school. Ogre likes his new job. The days are getting longer … yep, it’s time to settle down and do this.” I carefully examined my available time and set an ambitious but manageable goal: to spend the month of April editing the complete Lizzy novel. I figured the pass I intended to make would require between 80 – 90 hours. (This goal, btw, required me to actually finish writing the ending to Lizzy’s novel in March.) I set to work with a will.
In the last year, I’ve been counting on one of the two effective strategies for generating content: slow, steady, consistant work. I managed to get 50,000 words down in Novemeber 2012 by carving slots of time from my schedule so that I could put my butt in the chair every day for a set period of time. I planned to schedule my way through editing the Lizzy novel too.
Then my boss called to tell me he’s going out of town … three times in March and April. Consequently, I will be back to working more than full-time for three of the next six weeks. And a lot of it is bad: Seven days in a row. Nine days in a row. Working until midnight, then back at the desk by 9:00a the next day. My available time was obliterated.
Then I had a melt down, which I didn’t post.
Then I made a decision to suck it up, which I did post.
Then – the good news – my daughter (of recent button-making fame) called to tell me she is coming home from North Carolina for her friend’s wedding. And she’ll be staying with us for 16 days. I was ecstatic until I remembered the insanity of my work schedule in April. I checked the calendar and discovered that most of her visit does not overlap with my boss’s trips.
Then I called my boss. I explained the situation and told him I would abide by the schedule he’d made for the weeks he was going to be gone, BUT that I wanted a total of four days off on the other weeks. He balked at first, but I held my ground. It’s complicated, but I will only have to work five of the sixteen days she’ll be here. (He’s still pestering me about one Saturday, but I will not yield. What’s he gonna do? Fire me?)
Then I sat down with the calendar again, and recalculated the month. This time, instead of looking for available writing slots, I assessed the big picture.
Spring is coming. My family will be together. My mood is likely to be positive. I figure, maybe it’s time to return to my old ways … to the OTHER effective strategy for making prose happen … getting caught up in the story and succumbing to the muse. (Am I the only one who thinks “the muse” is just a romantic way to describe the hypomanic state?) In my schedule, I blocked out additional space for sunshine, exercise, flirtations, adventures, nutritious and delectable foods, and copious amounts of caffeine, chocolate and liquor.
So now, I have decided not to drop out of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I have revised my goal so I won’t go insane. I will not likely finish a complete editing pass in April, but I can make a big dent.
I’m heading out for the gym. Then I’m going to have a date with my husband. Then I’m going to stay up late and write.
Let’s see if this works.
“If people wore feathers and wings, very few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
– Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century preacher/writer
A while back, The Ogre and I went looking for a murder of crows. I wrote a post about it. In the comments, my friend Mark (from Mark My Words) told me he hates crows. Mystified, I challenged him to write a post about why and – in exchange – promised to clarify why I love them. The time has come for those posts to go up. His is here: When Jerry Met Harry (but about half-way down.)
Random reasons behind my love of these birds -
2) Edgar Allen Poe. The Raven is still the only poem that I have (at least partially) memorized. (I know crows and ravens are not the same thing, but this post is about what ignited my passion, right? Besides, I do not live in the Great North Woods of Minnesota, and there are few if any raven in the central part of the state. Love the one you’re with, I say.)
3) Back in the day, when Tripod pages were everywhere and there was no such thing as a “blog”, I created a sprawling *website called Lizzy Crowe – A Witch Takes Flight.
Aside: I’ll be honest – I’m sort of a religion-dabbler. I started life as a baptized Lutheran, but we never practiced while I was growing up. In my late teens, I became involved in my friends’ youth group and eventually formally converted to Catholicism. In my 20′s, after a brief marriage and subsequent divorce, I became a witch. Now I’m a Lutheran-Catholic-Wiccan-Unitarian-Universalist, but I guess you could say I’m just spiritually inclined.
So, anyway, back on topic. When I chose the web as a receptacle for my personal grimoire, it seemed wisest to not use my real name on the great big, scary internet AND it was common practice for a new-age witch to take a magickal name. I chose ‘Lizzy’ because of the song Lizzy and the Rainmaker and ‘Crowe’ for no other reason than it felt and sounded right.
4) Several months into my obsessive study of the craft, and after I had named myself and my website, I was driving around in the middle of the night. (I did that a lot back then.) I came across a young crow hopping about in the puddle of light from a street lamp. I knew it was weird, and was at first concerned that he was sick or injured. I pulled over and cautiously approached him. He fluttered his wings a little and tilted his head at me … until I got too near. Then he hopped just out of my reach. I sat quietly, to see if he’d come close to me. He did, but never quite close enough for me to touch.
He was a beautiful bird – glossy, well-plumed, sturdy-looking and large. His eyes were sapphire blue. (I later learned that crows are hatched with blue eyes which eventually turn black.) We spent the better part of an hour on that deserted street, flirting with each other. I was able to see there was nothing wrong with him, and decided he was merely newly fledged and confused. I assume he came to the same conclusions about me.
As if I haven’t confessed enough in this post already, I will admit that I still regret not trying harder to catch him and bring him home. If I had carried back then what I carry now – leather gloves and a big towel – I might still have a crow companion now. (They can live more than 15 years in captivity.)
But that would have been definitely illegal, and probably wrong, so it’s a good thing this happened before I trained as a raptor / wildlife rescuer.
As it was, I lost my nerve whenever I thought about the quick and potentially damaging lunge I would have to make in order to grab him. (The impressive length of his beak as it glinted in the dim light was a little off-putting too.) Eventually, I bid him a frustrated and reluctant farewell and drove away.
I went back, about an hour later – determined to try again, but he was gone.
I have at least one more crow story to tell, but it’s 2:00 in the morning, I’m tired, and I have to work later today. So let’s pretend I was planning a two-parter all along, ‘kay?
*Dark Touchstones was created as an off-shoot of Lizzy Crowe. I brought that content here, and it can be found among my tabs. If you’re bored one day, and in a paranormal mood, have a look. There are lots of fun links to follow.
I’ve been busy in the last few days, ever since I logged into my Google reader and was efficiently warned that my window into your worlds is going to be demolished in a couple of months. Now, I’m a Google junkie. I was an early adopter of Google Search, Gmail and Google Calendar. I prefer Google Maps to any alternative. Chrome is my browser of choice. I loved my iGoogle start page (until they killed it.) I was a paid user at Picnik, the online photo editing service (until they killed that too.) I have dabbled in Picassa. I used Blogger for a while. I use Google Docs to work on collaborative projects. And I bought an Android phone.
Once I find a brand that I like and trust, I am fiercely loyal, BUT, once a brand “improves” its way to dysfunction (Chrome) or breaks my trust, I hold a grudge. I didn’t even look at Currents.
When my shock and dismay wore off, I embarked on a quest that quickly – and productively – spiraled completely out of control. (More on that another day.) After reading some suggestions for Reader replacements, and sampling a few products, I made my choice.
Turns out, NetVibes will not only do an admirable job replacing Reader, it also gives me a start page similar to iGoogle!
I guess, sometimes, forcible change is good for a blogger.
Everything I’ve mentioned is free. There is a paid version, for heavy-duty brand managers, that looks interesting too – but it’s pricey. As I was working to get things set up, I got a notice apologizing for any lag on the site. Apparently, they are experiencing a large volumn of incoming new users. Imagine that.
I want to post a big ol’ rant proclaiming my new and different direction. In fact, I started a writing a piece to that effect yesterday. The problem is, it’s full of what I’m GOING to do because THIS part of my life is shitty. Boring stuff, really – though there were some bits of writing in it that I pulled because I liked them:
“One should enjoy whine in moderation, and I’m already hung-over from excessive indulgence.”
“Which brings me to the writing. I am keenly aware that I am coming up on 46 years old and I have not yet completed a novel, even though I’ve been self-identifying as a writer since I was 14. At this point there are only two options left for me: 1) Die a published novelist or 2) Die a failed novelist.
Cheery, no? No.
I stopped working on that post sometime around 3a. It was at 896 words and only half-done. I figured I’d finish it today. Or pretend I never wrote it.
I slept. I got up. I took my son to school. Then I headed over to White Bear Lake so I could drive along the lakeshore. A particular view struck me. I stopped in the middle of the (empty) road, jumped out and snapped the picture:
When I got home, instead of finishing my angsty rant, I wrote and posted the third installment of Keeping Score. Only then, did I read through the work from the night before. I decided to neither share it in it’s entirety, nor ignore it. Instead I’ll spare you by summing it up this way:
I had some ambitious plans, (because I’m suffering from my 3rd or 4th mid-life crisis,) which got screwed up, because now I have a job and sometimes the demands of that job are unreasonable, but I’m not going to quit, so I’ll have to get through it somehow, and my idea for doing that is to do what I have to do (for any number of reasons) without minimizing my (admittedly voracious) need for meaning and pleasure nor pushing it to the end of the list.
Once that decision had been made, I found myself yearning for summer, so I could go to a patio, have a beer and write until – a couple of hours later – a friend would join me and we would talk and laugh into the evening. (I have many good memories of afternoons spent in just such a way.) Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen – what the sub-freezing temps and the 6 inches of snow on the ground – so I improvised. I opted for an early afternoon outing with my dog, because he is horribly bored.
It is ridiculously cold & slippery outside so I didn’t want to go with the first alternative that occurred to me, a long walk. I think I was driving to the coffee shop – where we could sit outside and watch people walk by – when I saw the sign for a local bar, which I suddenly remembered is dog-friendly. He was welcomed inside with treats. He had fun meeting folks, sniffing all the corners and laying on the wide ledge meant for my feet.
He enjoyed the fenced patio too.
So I didn’t get to write al fresco, and I didn’t get to visit with a human friend, but I did have a beer and a little fun.
Now I’m writing this. Which will neither be long, nor elegant. In a few minutes, I’ll leave for work. There’s still a big part of me that want to detail my complaints and make a dramatic proclamation about how everything is going to change right now. In truth, though, I can’t guarantee anyone – including myself – that it’s all going to be better, especially not just because I say so.
What I can do is concentrate on this day and this moment. Today I got some work done and I had some fun. And that’s good enough for now.
Yesterday, I spent the day out and about with the Ogre. We hoped to photograph a murder of crows. Our local news did a story in January about the Hitchcockian numbers of birds gathering in the city, but didn’t specify exactly where they were flocking. It took me a while to puzzle out the location, then it turned bitterly cold, then my mother got sick, then I got sick, then POOF! It was March. When Ogre and I ventured out Sunday, we knew we might fail to find an impressive flock – because the season for big murders is coming to an end – but a raging spring fever forced us off the sofa and out the door toward Loring Park, in Minneapolis.
This is the ONE photograph I took there:
We saw not a single crow anywhere near the park. In hindsight, that makes perfect sense. I believe that the birds go to the city for the same reasons young humans do:
- to stay up late (in the perpetual gloaming of the city lights)
- to be loud and rowdy with others of their own kind
- and, most importantly, to hook up with a hot crow of the opposite sex.
Obviously, then, the party probably wouldn’t really get rolling until late-day.
I like to think the crows were out scavenging junk-food when we went looking for them. According to crows.net, the birds enjoy any food that a teenage boy would enjoy. Think of all the pizza and fried food scraps in dumpsters and garbage cans throughout in the city! (Plus, they like dog and cat kibble, which is good for the omnivorous birds. Of course I will now start carrying a container of kibble with me, because I adore crows, and the idea of sitting on a park bench, surrounded by the glossy black creatures is impossibly appealing.) Perhaps the murder has already broken up and abandoned the park, now that the time to find nesting sites in the suburbs is nigh.
In any case, there were no crows for us to see, feed or photograph. Luckily, a local bird authority – The Birdchick – has a piece up here, which documents the phenomenon, along with some good pictures.
Aaaand life is freakishly weird.
I was just reading random pages at the Birdchick blog and discovered that this particular birder has a personal relationship with Neil-F-’ng-Gaiman. Apparently she watches birds in his yard. And she didn’t know who he was when she met him.
I wasn’t going to post the only other picture I took yesterday, but tonight’s post has taken a turn for the surreal, so I may as well. Before Ogre and I left for our photographic safari, I walked the dog along the front of our apartment building. We came to this:
It was a good four or five inches long, including tail fins. There was no other aquarium detritus near. I’m still trying to figure out the story that ends with a dead goldfish in the snow.
I’ve been stricken with the flu since Saturday, but I’m feeling much better. Tonight, I return to work at the paranormal hotel. I’ll work tomorrow too, and maybe venture back to the gym for a nice gentle treadmill walk.
If you follow @RRudeParanormal, you already know that my first trip to our brand new health club on Friday evening delayed my realization that I had the flu. The confusion was compounded by my decision to spend all of Friday night writing … and consuming far too much coffee and too many cigarettes. When I woke Saturday morning, feeling awful, I thought I knew what was going on. I “cleverly” tweeted: Gave myself pseudo-flu. First made body aches @ gym. Then stayed up all night smoking. Voila: fatigue, burning eyes, sore throat & cough.
Having thus appropriately mocked myself, I went about my day.
Halfway through my regular shift at the hotel that night, I found myself sprawled on the floor in the office annex, out of sight of any cameras or guests. It was a long, surreal night. (I don’t do fevers well.) And it’s been a long week. Somewhere in that time, there was a trip to a nice doctor who gave me a miraculous slip of paper that said I shouldn’t go to work, or be near anyone. Mostly I’ve been sleeping (and aching and coughing and sneezing and taking dangerously hot baths) but I did put the finishing touches on the following video.
Back in January, my husband and I spent a few hours practicing our paranormal investigation skills in room 217 at the old hotel. We made many mistakes, forgot to do half of what we intended, and had a great time together.
Right now, I’m working on the EVP session that begins just as this video ends. I’ve been shocked to see that no one is posting the kind of EVP video that I want to see – the kind that shows the waveform / sonograph of the suspected EVP right in the video. Turns out, that isn’t as easy to do as I assumed it would be. I’ll figure it out, but it’s going to take a little time and tech. Though it would be easy to spend more hours tweaking part one, It’s time to move on. Before I become immersed in part two, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned so far:
- Practice using your intended investigation tools more than you think you need to – they will be uncooperative when it’s dark, and there’s a camera recording your every hesitation.
- Don’t think you can ad-lib your way through missing props or non-functional tools. Have a backup plan.
- Don’t forget the tripod.
- Wear contacts if you have to. Glasses are distracting in night vision.
- If you’re over 40, try to avoid profile shots.
- Wear dark, matte clothing. The glowing shirt I’m wearing is just a pastel, cotton, button-up.
- Expect that EVERYTHING you record could end up in the final cut – “orbs” don’t wait for you to be ready.
We’re planning a trip to the infamous Palmer House this April. Maybe, by then, I’ll be ready.
Today – Friday – was a good day. I’m feeling refreshed and upbeat again. I’d kinda like to write about the awesome asteroid that exploded over Russia today, BUT a couple of days ago, I committed to telling the tale that sent me into a tailspin for most of the week, and inspired me to kickstart my daughter’s business. (If you missed that post, feel free to catch up via this link. More importantly, go “like” the Pooka Creations facebook page.)
Tuesday was a terrible day.
On Monday afternoon, my boss asked me to work Tuesday from 10a to 9p, instead of my regular 5p – 1a shift. I said, “sure, no problem.” Then I stayed up until nearly four in the morning. Of course, I slept through the alarm. I slept through at least two phone calls from my increasingly irritated boss. I woke in a panic at 10:38a, called my boss, threw on some clothes, and grabbed the few cans of soda I had in the fridge and my nearly empty pack of smokes. There was no time to eat. I made it to work just before 11a.
Everything went okay for a while – as could be expected on a Tuesday in the off season. By 11:15, all the regular pay-by-the-day guests had taken care of their bills. By 11:30, I knew that the cash drawer was exactly where it were supposed to be. By 11:45, the laundry was well underway.
I turned my attention to confirming that all the guests who were supposed to be checked out had actually vacated their rooms. The first stage of that task is to call the rooms. One guest picked up, and told me she’d be out by noon. Another guest told me he had decided to extend his stay. All my other calls went unanswered. I folded a load of sheets, then embarked on stage two of the clearing process – physically checking the rooms against the checkout list. As usual, the first floor rooms were not only empty, but already turned. (Our housekeepers are efficient.) As I ascended the building, I came next to rooms that had been stripped, but not yet cleaned. By the time I hit the third floor, I was finding rooms that no one but me had yet looked in on. At that point, I’m always careful to knock, WAIT, knock again, then let myself into the room. (It’s amazing how many folks can sleep through a ringing phone.)
Imagine my surprise when I unlocked room 339, pushed, then came up hard against an engaged security latch. Before the door bounced back at me, I saw that the room was dark. I pulled the house phone from my back pocket and dialed the room number. Though the call went through and I could hear a phone ringing through the receiver, no corresponding sound came from beyond the door. I knocked some more. After a minute or two, someone finally came to the door and cracked it open without releasing the security latch. A deep voice mumbled at me, but I couldn’t make out the words.
I said, “I’m afraid it is after noon. Check out time is eleven. Are you planning to extend your stay?”
From the room’s interior, a woman’s voice called out. “We’re sorry. Can you give us a minute? We need to decide what we’re gonna do.”
I finished my rounds, returned to the front desk and called 339. Again, there was no answer.
Fast forward to 3p. I have repeatedly called the room. I have gone up and knocked several times. Twice, the door has been opened, apologies have been proffered, promises have been made. By this time I’ve seen both guests. They are young. In their 20s. He is well over six feet tall. He has long hair, done in small, tight braids that lie close to his head. He is thin but the muscles in his arms are defined cords. He’s wearing low-slung running pants and a sleeveless white tee so tight that I can see the ridges of his six-pack. She is blond and naked except for the bedspread she has wrapped around herself. I don’t know how tall she is, because she has been on the bed, at the far side of the room, every time I’ve seen her. I have the impression that she’s slim and pretty. She’s the one who has been making excuses to me.
At 3:00, I am in the laundry room folding some sheets. I have two flats left to do before the load is done, then I intend to take a bathroom break and have a smoke. I’m keeping a close eye on the monitor that shows the front desk to see if the stubborn young couple appears. From somewhere upstairs, the housekeeper sends a bundle of linens down the chute. It whomps into the waiting bin. She calls down, “Renae?” Her voice is distorted by distance; I figure she must be on the top floor.
“Yes. I’m here.”
“Those people in that room …”
“Are they still in there?”
“Ok. I’ll be right up.”
The time has come to actually escort them out of the building. If they refuse to cooperate, I’ll have to call the police.
As soon as the elevator door opens on the third floor, I hear shouting. I hustle down the hallway. Standing outside room 339, I can hear the girl crying. I start pounding on the door and I don’t stop until the man opens it. I look past him toward the girl who is now standing close enough that I can see her face. It is tear-streaked, scratched and bruised. In a heartbeat,I know everything I need to know.
I insist that the man come out into the hall. Right. Now. He complies, but is agitated. He sidles a few steps away from me, toward the stairwell exit. He’s asking how much the late-checkout fee will be. I tell him there will be no charge if he just leaves now. He visibly considers. I slip into the room, shut the door, and flip all the locks. I turn to look down into the eyes of the girl who is still wearing nothing but a cheap-looking, gold and brown bedspread. She’s maybe 5’1″.
“Do you want me to call the police to give you a safe escort out of the building?”
In that moment, I realize I don’t know the non-emergency number for the police department. It does not occur to me to call 911.
“Okay. Get dressed-”
“He put my clothes – my shoes – in the bathtub. He wants to take my money.” She’s stretches her hand toward me and uncurls her fingers to reveal a crumple of bills.
“Okay. I’m going to make sure he leaves. I want you to lock the door behind me and don’t open it until I come back, unless it’s the police. Ok? Will you do that?”
“He cut the phone cord.”
“Okay. I’m going to go downstairs to call the police. Try to find something to wear.”
I open the door onto an empty hall. Outside, I wait until I hear she’s locked the door. I go downstairs, call the police, and explain the situation; the dispatcher says she’ll send a unit right away. It seems very important that I find the housekeeper, to let her know what’s going on. I find her on the 5th floor. Before I leave her, I tell her to be watchful. I head back down to the lobby, to meet the police, but I punch the button for the 3rd floor as well, just so I can make sure that door is still closed.
When I stick my head out to check, I see an entirely different young man – this one shorter and beefier – standing outside room 339. He’s slouching toward the door, with his hands pressed flat against the wood and his head cocked to the side. It looks like he’s trying to talk the girl into opening up for him. I step off the elevator, walk over and tell him there’s been an incident, the police are on the way to respond, and he needs to leave. He accompanies me to the elevator and rides down with me. On the way, he wants me to explain what’s going on. I tell him I don’t know.
When the door slides open I see my boss’s wife – with her two children – coming in from the side entrance. My boss’s wife tells me there’s a police car pulling into the parking lot. I avoid using any scary words as I relate what’s happening. She herds the kids back out of the building. My elevator companion has melted away.
By the time I get to the lobby, the bruised girl from upstairs is standing in front of the desk talking to a solid-looking, middle-aged cop. (I do not understand how that can be. I finally puzzle out that she must have taken the stairs.) I assume my post behind the desk, trying to be available but non-obtrusive. The cop takes pictures of her face and looks at her arms, which are unmarked. She asks me to use the hotel phone because she wants to call her sister. He questions her about what happened and the man’s identity. She provides what sounds like complete information. In a lull, I offer her the phone. The cop asks if the room has been trashed. I don’t know if he’s talking to me or to her.
“He ripped the phone out last night, and he threw a lamp at me,” she says.
“So the room is trashed then?”
“No, the lamp was at his mother’s house-”
“Where is his mother’s house?”
She tells him. He shrugs and says that location isn’t in his jurisdiction. He only wants to know what happened here, at the hotel. That seems to throw her. I think she is confused about what happened where.
“What about drugs?” The cop asks.
The cop has his neck bent, looking down at a small IPad-like device. He raises only his eyes and looks at her through his eyebrows.
She sputters, “I mean, I smoke a little pot, once in a while but nothing like meth-”
“I meant is he on drugs.” he says. “He’s on meth then?”
“Oh, yeah. Meth and lots of other drugs too.”
The cop nods and keys more information into his device. He wants her to fill out a form and suggests that she do it in the room upstairs. She hasn’t yet contacted her sister, though she’s made several calls and left messages. She hesitates, shows him the receiver she’s holding. I offer to bring a working phone up to the room. She is placated. They leave.
I can’t find a spare phone, so I have to steal one from another room. When I get to 339, the cop and the girl are waiting for me in the hallway. Her key doesn’t work. Oh yeah, I deactivated that hours ago. I let them in. I connect the phone. I look around and tell the cop the room looks fine. He dismisses me.
Not knowing what else to do, I decide to go outside and have a cigarette. On the way, I realize I still need to pee. I duck into the public restroom in the lobby. A minute later, I step outside and suck in a lungful of cold, fresh air as I squint against the bright glare of the winter sun. Everything around me – the snow, the cement, the building itself – is white. I feel dazzled and unsteady. I light up and pace in my customary circles as I smoke. The next thing I know, the cop is coming out of the building. I ask how the girl is doing.
“She took off. She looked up. Saw a woman in the hall. Then she ran.”
He shrugs. “I think it was the sister.” His tone is matter-of-fact but also somehow insinuates that the girl’s flight was something he’d expected all along. He pulls out his tablet. “Are you the one that called this in?”
“Yes. I’m the desk clerk.”
“And your name is?”
He collected all my contact information. We returned to the front desk because he wanted the data from the couple’s check-in. He hefted a case up onto the counter … it looked like an extremely rugged laptop. While he set up his machine, he shared his opinion that the girl was a professional, and informed me that there were several hotels in the area – including mine – that are hotbeds of drugs and prostitution. He pulled up a digital photograph and asked me if it was the man I’d seen in the room. It was. He tapped a few more keys and summoned a picture of the girl. He said, “Ummhmm. I see.” He turned the screen so I could see it better. “Here’s what’s going on-”
At that moment a woman burst into the lobby. She came immediately to the desk and spoke directly to me, ignoring the cop. “My sister thinks she left her wallet in her room. Can we go check for it?”
The cop stepped in front of the woman. “Where is your sister now?”
The woman blinked several times. “I, ah, took her to the hospital.”
The cop snapped his computer shut. “Ill head over there then.” Then he was gone.
I went with the woman up to 339. We did not find a wallet, but the girl’s coat was in the bottom of the tub, soaked through. As the woman retraced the path her sister had taken when she fled the hotel, the coat released a steady stream of water onto the stairs and the carpet. Before she gave up and left, I found a plastic bag for her to carry it in.
By 4:45p it was over.
It’s unlikely that there will ever be any remotely satisfying ending to this story I’ve written. But now, maybe, I can put it behind me and get back to thinking about the kind of horror that doesn’t leave me sick to my stomach – the kind where the bad guy gets vanquished and the survivors are wiser and stronger for what they’ve been through.
*paranormal hotel -
I’ve taken to tweeting some lately. Whenever I tweet about events at work, I try to hashtag it with #paranormalhotel. Even though the place hasn’t shown much sign of being haunted, I think it’s a great descriptor. Remember that paranormal literally means:
Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.”
normal / nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”
If that doesn’t describe my hotel / rooming house / snake pit perfectly, I don’t know what does.
P.S. I don’t work at the Tower Hotel. I just like this photograph of a hotel sign.
Thanks to dire warnings from the weather prognosticators (who were probably giddy from watching Nemo advance on the East Coast) we battened down the hatches and settled in for a home-bound day or two. It’s a snowy Sunday here in Minnesota, but not as bad as predictions indicated. Still, it was a good afternoon to stay in, hang out with each other and watch some TV. (Maybe we were just warming up for the really good stuff that will come later this evening: Downton Abby and The Walking Dead.) We surfed around, looking for an interesting historical or scientific show. Nothing we found appealed. One thing led to another, and we ended up doing a survey of the programs being broadcast on several of our old favorite channels – Science, TLC and History.
I crafted a quick document in which I could categorize and count the hours of all the programming in a one-week period. The Ogre assumed his hunting position on the sofa, armed with the remote. Here’s what we discovered before disappointment and disgust ended our research:
NOTE: Program names are followed by the number of hours shown in the course of the week, including repeats.
The History Channel lineup – 3p FEB 10 through 2:59p FEB 17
- America Unearthed
TOTAL = 2 hours
- Fire in the Sky = 2
- Comets: Prophets of Doom = 2
- How the Earth was Made = 1
- Mega Disasters = 1
- The Universe = 4
TOTAL = 10 hours
- Modern Marvels
TOTAL = 13 hours
- Tuskegee Airmen = 1
- The Real West = 1
- Civil War Journal = 1
- Save Our History = 1
- Lost Magic Decoded = 2
- Stories from the Road = 4
- America’s Book of Secrets = 1
- Secret Access = 3
- Beltway Unbuckled = 2
- It’s Good to be President = 1
TOTAL = 17 hours
TOTAL = 20 hours
- Pawn Stars = 26
- Axe men = 4
- American Pickers = 26
- Top Gear = 4
- Swamp People = 38
- Big Rig Bounty Hunters = 2
- Sold = 3
- American Restoration = 5
- Only in America (with Larry the Cable Guy) = 2
TOTAL = 106 hours
Yes. The History Channel dedicated more of its programming schedule to BOTH Pawn Stars and American Pickers than it did to all the shows that could be considered historically significant and accurate combined. And that pales in comparison to the THIRTY-EIGHT hours it devoted to Swamp People. One entire day – from the end of one night’s infomercials to the beginning of the next night’s set – is going to be given over to a marathon of a show about people who hunt alligators in the Atchafalaya River Basin swamp in Louisiana.
Just let that set on your heart for a minute.
History 2 – home to my beloved Ancient Aliens – fares surprisingly better. Let’s have a look:
The H2 Channel lineup – 3p FEB 10 through 2:59p FEB 17
- Chasing Mummies (We are basing this categorization on the show’s description, because we haven’t actually watched an episode.)
Total = 6
Total = 17 hours
- Modern Marvels
Total = 18 hours
- Predator X = 2
- Mega Disasters = 6
- How the Earth Was Made = 2
- The Universe = 8
- Comets: Prophets of Doom = 4
- Underwater Universe = 2
- Siberian Apocalypse = 1
Total = 25 hours
- Ancient Aliens = 18
- America Unearthed = 16
- Conspiracy = 4 (Really more pseudo-history, but still.)
- MonsterQuest = 4
Total = 42 hours
- Barbarians 2 = 8
- Breaking Vegas = 4
- Planet Egypt = 8
- The Real Robinhood = 4
- Who Really Discovered America = 4
- Pirate Island = 4
- Strange Rituals = 4
- Last Stand of the 300 = 4
- Cities of the Underworld = 2
- Battles BC = 4
- Third Reich: = 4
- Mankind: Story of All of Us = 4
- Mankind Decoded = 2
- Shootout = 2
- Blood Diamonds = 2
- Kennedy Assassination = 2
- 10 Things You Don’t know About = 1
Total = 63 hours
We were pleasantly surprised to see the The Science Channel is still home to almost entirely science-y shows, though many could be categorized as more techy. The exceptions are: Survivorman, Oddities and An Idiot Abroad. Sadly, we’ve seen most of the episodes of most of the science shows. We have some hope, however, for Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking, which is new to the channel.
As an extra-special bonus, our research revealed that NEXT Sunday, the 17th, The Science Channel will be marathoning Firefly, starting at 8a. It’s may not be science, but it IS great science fiction – I can live with that.
Winter is wearing on me. I didn’t intentionally save this post for January – in truth I forgot about it in the frenzy of Halloweentime – but I’m glad I have this opportunity to bring a shot of much-needed color into the month. Back in October, I wrote about Manitou Island in a post titled Islands of Immortality. (‘Cuz I’m artistic that way, and stuff.) Go have a read so you can really appreciate what I’m about to show you. I’ll wait.
Back? Ok. Not long after my courage failed me that day, I was out driving with my 16 year old son. When we got down near the lake, he expressed some interest in the arched wooden bridge that crosses a channel next to Motoska Park. I told him what I knew about Manitou Island and confided my failed attempt to explore it with Kris.
He just looked at me. (You know the look – the one that only a teenager who is disappointed in you can deliver.)
I had no alternative – we rumbled across the bridge.
After crossing the bridge and descending a hill, the road split in two. We took the right fork. The island is heavily treed and the autumn foliage was at peak. The sun shone through the canopy, which danced in a steady but mild breeze. The resulting dappled shade from the trees, and the fallen leaves we displaced as we drove, made it seem like the pavement itself was in motion. To our left, we saw a park surrounding a central, well-kept tennis court. Along our right side, multi-storied colonial-style homes, on immaculately groomed lawns, dotted the landscape. After the park, the roads that flank it merge and continue toward the island’s point.
There are, perhaps, 30 homes arranged on the island. This one is at the point:
There is a strip of semi-wild scrub between most of the manicured lawns.
Traffic on the island was light, and consisted mostly of delivery and service vehicles. We didn’t see anyone in any of the yards. We didn’t see any security personel either. Even so, we didn’t push our luck. We stayed only long enough to take a few photographs.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. I can’t imagine the island ever being more beautiful than it was that afternoon.
If I ever have to retrieve my son (and, perhaps a pretty girl) from the local police station, though, I’ll be especially understanding – It’s the least I can do for a kid who loaned me a little youthful courage on such a perfect autumn day.
I’ve been curating the following list of ghost stories for months, ever since the idea of Courting Creepy occurred to me. In case it’s somehow possible for you to not know it, this is my favorite sub-genre of horror. Herein are the movies that most effectively creep-me-right-the-hell-out.
This is the genre that takes its time with me, the one that subtly builds eerie, evocative worlds, then populates those worlds with unforgettable characters. I remember the sly little thrills that glimmer in the corners of these films far longer than I remember the pulse-pounding chases of other sub-genres. (I am particularly vulnerable to a figure glimpsed in a mirror, or skulking through the frame, or simply manifesting quietly behind the main action.) I love the intimate scale of ghost stories. An entire tale can unfold in the space of a single room, on a single night, for a single person.
This genre’s slow and gentle approach seduces me into believing it all, even if only for a few moments. I am addicted to the escalating sense of dread provided by these films and I’m eager to share the best of the best with you.
You’ll see I’ve departed from my strict 13-best formula a little, I had to – there are just too many gems I would have had to discard if I’d remained faithful to format. It is also likely that you’ve seen many or most of the movies on the top 13 list. (Good ghost stories tend to do well at the box office.) I expanded the selection of recommendations here so there is somewhere to go after you’ve seen the blockbusters. As with all my Courting Creepy posts, I will update as I find even more great examples.
As always: Please let me know if I’m hitting my targets squarely, and feel free (even compelled) to make suggestions for inclusion.
The 13 most haunting films, for ghost story lovers:
The Innocents (1961)
- Though the actual ghosts in this story are eerie, it’s the living who will unsettle you – especially the child Miles and the governess, Miss Giddens (played by a gorgeous Deborah Kerr.) That said, there is at least one chilling manifestation, near the lake, that will stay with you for a long time. It was watching this movie, back in October of 2011, that set me on the path toward Courting Creepy, though I didn’t know exactly what I planned to do at the time.
The Haunting (1963)
- Special acknowledgement for being the movie most likely to make one think twice about holding hands with someone in the dark. If it weren’t for The Changling (below) I might list The Haunting as the best of the best. This is a classic for so many reasons. Be prepared for a leisurely pace and subtle effects.
Dementia 13 (1963)
- The inciting story here is a bit trite and forgettable but – thanks to the much more interesting backstory about an estate’s pond – there are some killer visuals in this movie. ‘Probably most famous for being Francis Ford Coppola’s first Director credit.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
- Special acknowledgement for most successful warp-age of a harmless farm-animal into a terrifying demon-creature: Jody the Pig. Not the best writing, not the best acting. But those windows! That hip-shaped roof! This film is replete with so many images and ideas that have become horror tropes that it’s a must see.
The Changling (1980)
- Best. Ghost. Movie. Ever.
This film’s effectiveness comes from the fact that the haunted protagonist is a smart, pragmatic, mature, manly man – John Russell – who is played beautifully by the great George C. Scott. If that’s not enough for you, there’s that creepy wheelchair too.
The Shining (1980)
- Special acknowledgment for implanting into my mind the ghosts that I’m most likely to hallucinate when I patrol the ever-so-long halls of the hotel, when I’m on the night-shift: The Grady Girls. Despite Kubrick’s emphasis on Jack’s mental disintegration (rather than the haunts of the Overlook Hotel) the effectiveness of the ghosts themselves is not diminished. Stephen King wrote creepy ghosts, period. The key, I think is in the mysterious nature of some of the dead – one finishes the movie wanting to know more details about why the spirits roam the Overlook.
- Like The Amityville Horror, this movie makes the list mostly because it has become canon. Toby Hooper and Stephen Spielberg teamed up to give us a ghost movie extravaganza of special effects – which is cool, if you enjoy that sort of thing. As for me, though, I have nightmares about those damned kitchen chairs.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
- Is there anyone alive who hasn’t seen The Sixth Sense? There’s still some fun to be had if you view it again with the intention of pin-pointing the exact moment when you SHOULD have figured out what was going on. Better yet, find a young relative who isn’t a movie buff and watch him/her experience it for the first time. (They are easier to find than you think they’d be – my son watches no television and few movies. It’s all about gaming and the internet these days … says the old woman.)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
- I know, I know. Once a movie has been parodied as much as The Blair Witch Project has, it’s hard to take it seriously. Scoff all you like, then tell me where you’re taking your summer camping trip. I’ll be sure to drop by and leave a little arts & craft project dangling from a nearby branch. We’ll see how silly this film is then. Shaky-cam be damned – this is a scary film.
The Others (2001)
- Nicole Kidman. Elegant. Understated. Refined. Creepy as hell. And the movie is too.
The Ring (USA, 2002)
- I preferred The Ring over the Japanese original, Ringu. The centerpiece of both films is a videotape, and it is the American version of this movie inside the movie that gets me.
The Orphanage (2007)
- By the time I saw this film (on DVD, in September 2012) I’d all but given up on contemporary horror and taken refuge in older movies. After watching The Orphanage, I gushed about it here. This is the film that made me realize that great horror is still being created, it’s just that you might have to look a little harder and further afield for it than you did in the past. (This film is in Spanish.)
The Pact (2012)
- Special acknowledgement for the most kickass, yet entirely believable, female lead in a ghost story: Annie, played by Caity Lotz. Unlike so many films, where you find yourself thinking “what kind of idiot would actually go down those stairs,” it’s hard to fault Annie for her decisions and actions.
Bonus ghost movies:
The Uninvited (1944)
- This is a much-beloved movie that reliably shows up on other best horror lists. Frankly, I don’t get it. It’s not even quite bad enough to make it to the campy list below.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
- A soundtrack consisting almost entirely of pipe organ music makes me crazy, but the uncanniness of Mary’s life after she survives a car wreak, takes a job in a new town, becomes obsessed with an abandoned theme park, deals with a smarmy fellow-roomer and repeatedly encounters a mysterious, threatening stranger, is strangely compelling.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
- Special acknowledgement for most perverse ghost: Emeric Belasco. Richard Matheson adapted, and toned down, his own novel for the screenplay. Another reason to watch it: Roddy McDowell.
The Sentinel (1977)
- Because the beginning scenes in this movie are so wooden – so reminiscent of 70s porn – my finger had half-pushed the make-it-stop button … then Burgess Meredith showed up with a cat. I set the remote aside. Several intense elements stand out in this otherwise mediocre film: the introductions of the weirdly interesting and disturbing neighbors, a quick visit from a truly terrifying apparition, and a freaky crowd scene near the end. All that said, I do like the plot of this movie – I just wish it had been made better.
Ghost Story (1981)
- John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Fred Astaire, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. – This film is worth watching if only to marvel at the ridiculously appealing cast of aged leading men. They make the young actors in the film almost invisible, even despite the full frontal nudity.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
- This movie stars two actors I like: Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. It’s directed by Robert Zemeckis. I remember seeing it in the theater. I’ve just read the IMdB synopsis and watched the trailer. Yet I still can’t say that it made much of an impression on me.
Session 9 (2001)
- I added this film to the list upon the suggestion of a reader. I’m still not entirely certain it belongs here, but you’ll have to decide for yourself. The question, of course, is: Does a ghost haunt this abandoned mental institution? This is an eerie, unsettling movie, and well worth watching.
Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
- I had a terrible time following the plot of this time-shifting movie, but I didn’t care – because the visual scares were just brilliant. Wonderful use of mirrors and peripheral vision shots. I can’t tell you my favorite scene of all without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but I will tell you that it involves a bed and the direction of attack. I have not seen the American remake, The Grudge.
- A ghost movie with the star power of Halle Barry, Robert Downy Jr., Penélope Cruz and Charles S. Dutton. Very smooth and professional treatment. Both pretty and scary, but not particularly memorable.
- Special acknowledgement for creepiest ghost that we also feel sorry for: The Mechanical Girl.
The Skeleton Key (2005)
- A voodoo ghost story, set in a decaying plantation house, in the bayou outside New Orleans. This movie was made for me. (I have a thing about New Orleans.) The stand-out in this film is Gena Rowlands as the eccentric and unpredictable plantation owner. She deftly switches from charming to menacing and back again throughout the movie.
White Noise (2005)
- Not a great movie for me to watch this month as I prepare to do my first EVP recordings at the old hotel, in rooms 107 & 217. This is a decent movie – though probably not as scary for some as it was for me. The EVPs heard in the opening credits are purportedly genuine.
- The axe Jack Nicholson used in The Shining has a cameo in this movie. John Cusack stars in this film which is based on a Stephen King short story. You’d think I’d adore it, but it’s a little too special effects-heavy for my taste. I love reality bending in books, but it’s hard to portray it well on film. There is much to know about this film though – after you’ve seen it, read through the IMDb trivia page for lots of fun stuff.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
- This movie has some flaws, including characters that are hard to identify with or even like, and some well-parodied special effects. (Ouija board.) Despite that, I still get the willies when Katie watches Micah sleep.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
- I have dreams in which I find rooms I didn’t know existed attached to my home. In this movie, there is a locked room in the basement that reminds me of my dreams. The Haunting In Connecticut brims with make-you-jump-out-of-your-skin moments, but I have a little trouble suspending my disbelief long enough to really enjoy it – I can’t help but wonder what good mother would allow her sick, vulnerable son to choose the creepy basement room for his own when there are several perfectly good bedrooms upstairs. (Maybe there is an element, too, of being a bit freaked out, in a not-good way, by a ghost story that shows a teenage boy being tormented. My son is 17.)
- A great all-around thriller with an involving plot, spoiled slightly by the bizarre decision to go with a Darth Maul-like makeup. Like Annie, from The Pact, this family tries to do the sensible thing when things go wonky, which makes one want to root for them.
The Woman in Black (2012)
- I found the last third of this film to be a bit of a let down, but that’s only because there was so much to love in the first two-thirds. Lots of wonderful atmospheric stuff, beautifully shot.
13 Ghosts (1960)
- Another William Castle production. This one was screened with special glasses that allowed a theater-goer to “see” the actual ghosts.
The Fog (1980)
- Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh. Oh my.
Best ghost movie ever: The Changling.
Contenders I have yet to see, but that are on my list:
Back in late November, I made the following excited post to my personal Facebook page:
I found the haunted room here at the new hotel!!!
Yes, there were three exclamation points. You’d think I would have immediately come here to the blog to share the story, but I was otherwise monopolized. At the time, I was deeply embroiled in my quest to complete 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. When that was done, I was ensnared by my life – or rather the lives of my menfolk. I’ve been helping my husband get pysched up for starting his new job (which he begins tomorrow – praise all the saints) and helping my son get calmed down for his first *college-level finals (and his first real date – oh-my-God, how old am I?)
* Remember, he’s only just turned 17, I’ve still got some mothering to do.
For the last two days, I’ve been concentrating on preparing myself for the next phase of this new life we’re creating. I’ve organized & disciplined the HELL out of my calendar and my planner. (When I listen carefully, I can hear them still whimpering faintly.) I’ve set new goals and recommitted to old ones. I’ve tidied up some of the pages around the blog and updated these:
- My 101 Things in 1001 Days list can be viewed anytime by clicking the ‘By July 22,2014′ tab at the top of the blog’s main page. Updating the list was a great way to reengage with the goals I had to put on hold for the last 10 months or so.There’s still one available slot to fill. I’m open to suggestions. Just know this: I have no desire to jump out of a plane in the next in the next year and a half … or ever.
- I started up the Writer’s Monthly Progress Challenge page for December, and defined my own goals for the month on The Paranormalist’s WriMoProg page. (Both of these pages are also available via the tabs.) Does anyone care to join me in the challenge, in reckless defiance of this month’s other demands? I’ll make a really cool winner’s badge if anyone does.
I’m feeling organized, confident and hopeful. I know what I need to do next, and what I need to do after that. Soon I’m going to go get cozy, on this wintry night, with a horror movie. (We’re having the first snow storm of the season here in Minnesota.) There’s a little time now, though, to tell you my mini-ghost story.
In room 566:
Deep in the night, on a mid-week shift at the new hotel, I realized a particular room - which had never before been available – was marked as rent-able. I had noted it on the list before, because it is labeled as a king suite. As far as I knew at the time, the hotel did not have any suites. When I had asked about it, I was told that I didn’t have to worry about it because a long term guest was in residence there.
Curious now that it was unoccupied, I set the back-in-five-minutes sign on the counter and went to have a look. I took the elevator to the top floor, then walked about half-way along the hall until I came to the correct door. I knocked – like I always do – waited, then let myself into the room. I located a single switch to my left, and flipped it on. A dim light from one wall-mounted lamp oozed out to fill the room, but it was weak, and it left soft shadows in the corners. Directly in front of me there was a living area furnished with a slightly shabby sofa, two matching side chairs, a scarred coffee table and a large television encased in an open armoire that stood against the right hand wall. In the middle of the big room, a writing desk pressed up to the back of the sofa. Beyond that, against the far left wall, a low king sized bed crouched between two night stands.
I stepped into the space and let the door shut behind me. To my left there was a small kitchenette, separated from the rest of the room by a wall of its own and narrow breakfast bar. I ran my fingers along the bar top as I crossed toward the desk. I was wondering where the bathroom was, and if it was any larger or grander than those in our regular rooms. I stood next to the desk’s bench for a moment, until I figured out that the bathroom was next to the kitchenette, and that it didn’t look like it could be very spacious.
It was then, when I was standing in the middle of the room, facing the bed, that the television behind me came to life.
I spun around, thinking someone had followed me into the the room and turned it on. There was no one near the television, except for the white-haired news anchor displayed on the screen. For a few seconds, I stood frozen, then I turned in a slow circle, scanning the room for any possible spot that could conceal a person. (I have a fear of letting myself into an occupied room. It’s been haunting me ever since the unexpected occupant in room 217 spooked me badly.) Finally, I thought to check the bathroom. It, too, was empty. Even though, by then, I was convinced that I was truly alone in the suite, I looked for the room’s remote control. It was resting on one of the night stands.
One part of my mind was scrambling for a rational explanation, but it was having some trouble because another part was busy screaming, “Appliances that turn themselves on and off are classic signs of a haunting!”
At last my rational brain deduced a plausible answer: the television had to be plugged into a socket that was powered by the switch I had flipped upon entering the room. Without realizing it, I’d provided power to a television that had been left on. There had been a delay simply because some TVs take a little time to warm up. (Later, of course, I realized that some TVs from the 70′s required warm-up time, but I wasn’t thinking about how old or new the set was in that moment.)
Since I had figured out the probable explanation, one thing remained to do: I went back and turned off the only switch I had touched since entering the room.
The room instantly went dark … except for the flickering, bluish light the television continued to pour out. I had to cross the suite to fetch the remote in order to kill it.
So what do you think? Faulty wiring maybe? Or some kind of reverse sleep timer?
11:58p, Thursday, November 29th, 46,889.
I’m done for the night. I wrote just over 7,000 words today. I have 3,000 left to go to hit 50,000, and I have until midnight Friday to do it. I’m not worried. I will dance a victory dance and marvel at the fact that I’ve done something that I thought was impossible, at least for me.
[NOVEMBER 30th UPDATE]
But that’s not really the end of it, obviously. I mean, no one thinks they have a viable manuscript – as is – upon reaching the magic number. (Some folks, however, do seem alarming inclined to think they are close to finished though. I don’t want to be one of those people.)
After all my years of dissecting novels and studying the craft, I know different. I know that a salable novel in my chosen genre is somewhere between 80,000 – 120,000 words long. For this project I settled on a goal of 90,000 – 94,000 for the finished version. In a manuscript of that length, there should be roughly 72 distinct “sections,” divided between the viewpoints of 4 major characters, and including at least one separate but related subplot. (A section is pretty much what you think of when someone says “scene,” but there are few more guidelines that apply.)
Did you know that the books you read had such equations hidden within them? They do. I’ve checked. Even when the author doesn’t know the math, he or she ends up mirroring this classic structure. Apparently it’s as old as literature. Even avant-garde lit works both within and against these particular rules.
I started this project, on November 1st, knowing only the math. (isn’t THAT ironic?) … Well, To be truthful, I knew that, and the fact that it was going to be set in the hotel where I work.
Because I came in pretty much cold, I’ve been working up a section map, otherwise known as an outline, as I go. (The current word count on that, by the way, is 3,200 words.) Thanks to a couple of hours of intense figuring and brainstorming early on, I realized I could devote about 800 words to any given section before I had to move on, so that I’d get somewhere near the end of the story by the time the deadline came.
Of course that means I’m merely making a sketch of what will be included in the final section, but the process does three important things:
- gets the cliches out of the way
- builds the bones for the story
- occasionally results in a startlingly good shred of flesh to wrap around those bones.
I will hit the 50,000 mark somewhere within the 62nd section. The ending will be in motion, but I’ll still have 10 more sections to go before I can type ‘THE END (of draft one).’
So. Right now I’m trying to decide if I should push for that tomorrow, or if I should just enjoy the accomplishment of committing 50,000 words in 30 days to (virtual) paper.
I’m thrilled and proud that I know I’m going to do this thing, but I’m also sobered. This is what writing is. And, sometimes, I don’t know why I do it.
Do you have any idea how viciously I’m kicking myself for not doing this when I wasn’t working a full-time job?
I’ve been trying to stay on top of my blog reading, even though I haven’t been commenting much this month. Yesterday I was over at Jonathan Janz’s blog and came across this: Every Post Doesn’t Have to Be Epic. (If you’re going to pop over there, though, you really ought to read this one: Born in Halloween, which is epic. It made me fall in love with his writing.)
Anyway, this is about me, not him, right? ;D
I realized I’ve been quiet on the blogging front for too long, and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be anything substantial going up in the next few days, so an update seems in order.
Most important news:
My husband got a job offer!! It’s a good job too – one that he’s excited about doing AND one that comes with a good salary and benefits. Of course, like any good pessimist, I won’t be able to really believe in this almost-Christmas miracle until he starts going to work in the mornings. Check back with me in mid-December.
Granted, my husband’s charm, experience and persistence have something to do with this development, but I have to give some credit to Mark Petruska over at Mark My Words too. He recently wrote a post (Cashing in on Karma) in which he revealed the secret to obtaining a job offer after an interview: dine at Buffalo Wild Wings. Because my Beloved had just interviewed for a couple of positions, I dragged him out and forced him to eat wings. Three days later? Voila!
I’ve done far better than I thought I would with this project. The writing itself is terrible, but I’ve never plotted a book so fast in my life and it has good bones. I think the process is teaching me that most of my past approach to writing was just dead wrong. I’m starting to think hot, hurried and horrible-if-necessary is the way to go for a first draft. I’ll guess we’ll see when I go back to flesh it out.
I’m behind on word count, but not so far that I don’t think I can catch up. It will be close, but I think I can do this thing! I’m at my job right now, stealing a few minutes to get this composed and posted. I’ll get as many words as possible tomorrow in the early afternoon, then I’ll be back here at the hotel until 1am. The situation absolutely guarantees that I’ll be doing the stereotypical wild-eyed, sleep-deprived, coffee-swilling, nano-writer thing come Thursday and Friday … because I have both days off. I believe this will both amuse and terrify my loved ones.
Expressions of encouragement would be much appreciated, even though I’m not likely to respond until I either win or lose at 12:01a on the 1st.
Now I need a wee bit of epic … how about this:
Click the pic to go check out the fascinating photostream which documents this art. From the stream: “«Human Writes» is a performative installation that reflects the history of human rights and the continuing obstacles to their full implementation.”
I’ve delayed writing about an experience I had in the old hotel for too long. Already, some of the details of the event are slipping away. I can’t remember what night of the week it was, for example, or what the weather was like. I have no recollection of what else was going on my life at the time. I can’t forget, however, exactly what I saw, and heard, inside room 217.
I know that I was working the overnight shift. The hotel was nearly full. It was late. A sixty-something gentleman came in, wanting a non-smoking room for two nights. This presented me with a dilemma. We did have one available non-smoking room, but I knew it was reserved for the following night. Hotel management would frown on me splitting the guest’s two-night stay into two different rooms.
(The hospitality industry hates to accommodate a guest’s consecutive-nights stay using more than one room because doing so raises housekeeping costs. When housekeeping cleans a room from start to finish, it takes about a half hour. When they do a stay-over, it takes about ten minutes.)
So, I lied. I told the gentleman we had only smoking rooms remaining. I also told him that the intensity of the smoke smell in any given room depends largely on how recently the carpets had been cleaned and how heavily the latest guest smoked. I suggested we go have a look at – or rather a sniff of – one of the available rooms, to see if it would work for him. He agreed to my suggestion. When I checked the computer for an empty smoking room, 215 came up.
While the gentleman and I climbed the stairs and walked along the hallway, he told me he was taking a road trip on his Harley, which he was enjoying immensely, but that he was missing his boxer dog. Already inclined to like this polite prospective guest, I warmed to the conversation. As I was telling him about my own dog, I kept an eye out for the room I wanted to show him. Still describing the boxery features of my cross-breed, I stopped in front of room 217. I rapped on the door – because hotel clerks are taught they must ALWAYS knock – then unlocked and opened it. I stepped into the room and reached for the light switch. My hand froze in mid-air.
All the lamps in the room were off, but – because the security light in the parking lot was glowing through the drapes – I could clearly see the bed closest to the window … and what I saw was not the smooth, made-up bed I expected. Instead, I saw the silhouette of a man who had just thrown back the covers. The room was shadowy enough that I couldn’t make out many details of his appearance. The figure was male, I determined, because its shoulders were broad and its hair was close-cropped. I remember thinking, Either his pajamas are awfully snug or he’s naked. In the instant I saw him, he was sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to me, but he was using his arms to push himself up and off the mattress.
I gasped and stumbled backward, into the chest of the gentleman who was trying to follow me into the room. “Oh my God! I’m so sorry,” I said to the figure on the bed. I spun and pushed the prospective guest into the hallway. I pulled the door shut behind me, stopping just short of slamming it. My heart was hammering. I looked up into the surprised eyes of the gentleman and said, “There’s someone in there. I just walked in on a sleeping guest at two-thirty in the morning.”
I must have looked as panicky as I felt because he lightly grasped my arm and guided me away from the door. We stopped in front of room 215. “I thought you said we were going to room 215, but then I thought maybe I was miss-remembering when you walked past it,” he said. “I should have spoken up when I saw the sign on 217 that says it’s non-smoking.”
I believe I responded with, “I am so fired.”
“Maybe it won’t be so bad,” he said gently. “Maybe we didn’t even wake him up.”
“He was getting out of the bed. He must have heard the knock, and was coming to the door.”
“Well, he’s not coming out–” His words were cut off by the distinct sound of the guest in room 217 flipping the security lock to the engaged position. We both stood silently, staring at the door. After a few seconds, he resumed speaking. “See? He’s just going to go back to bed. Maybe he thinks he dreamed us coming in.”
I wanted, more than anything, to run downstairs to see who was in 217. I was hoping it was occupied by one of the construction crew guys. I imagined one of them would be most likely to forgive me, and to not complain to management. I still had to deal with the guest in front of me, however, so – after knocking and waiting a long time to ensure 215 was empty – I showed him the room. He found the scent inside acceptable and agreed to rent it. We headed toward the front desk.
When we came to the end of the hallway, I looked down into the lobby. A fully uniformed police officer was standing at the foot of the stairs. Of course, I immediately assumed the guest in room 217 had called the cops; I was only surprised by his quick response time. On shaky legs, I descended.
The cop nodded at the gentleman and me, then gestured toward the sofa in the lobby, where a young man was trying to sit up straight. “We can wait until you’re done,” he said.
As quickly as possible, I checked the gentleman into the hotel. The last thing he said to me, before heading upstairs was, “I’m sure it will be okay.”
The police officer beckoned the unsteady young man to the desk. He explained he’d found him passed out in the middle of a local bar’s parking lot. Because the young man had not attempted to drive – and seemed to have resources with which he could pay for lodging – the cop didn’t want to haul him all the way over to the drunk tank in the next town. He asked me if I minded renting him a room. I didn’t. Under the cop’s watchful eye, I guided the young man through the process of checking in. The officer then told me he’d escort the young man to the room, and see to it that he got settled in.
After they departed, I had a moment to check to see who was in room 217. I flipped through the file of room cards. The slot for room 217 was empty. I checked the computer. The register showed that room 217 was unoccupied and available for rent, but reserved for the following night. I realized, with shock, it was the same room that I’d lied about, the one I’d said we didn’t have. Incredibly, it took another moment for me to really parse that it was most definitely supposed to be vacant.
More than an hour passed before I summoned the courage to go back upstairs to check the room. The door yielded to my keycard. the room was empty. Both beds were immaculately made up. There was no sign anyone had been in it since it had last been cleaned.
I spent the rest of my shift trying to figure out what had happened. I contemplated the possibility that my own guilty conscience had betrayed me. I told myself I’d led the gentleman to that room because I’d felt bad about not offering it to him. I’d imagined a figure in the room because some part of my unconscious mind realized that I had been about to reveal my lie. I considered my own nature. I call myself the paranormalist, for God’s sake – It’s obvious that I want to see a ghost. Probably I’d just conjured one in my mind. Even after rationalizing the sighting, however, I couldn’t convince myself that the thing I saw was imaginary. It had been solid and it had acted realistically. At the time of the sighting, a paranormal entity couldn’t have been further from my mind. Most persuasively, I knew that I had not imagined the sharp, unambiguous sound of the security lock being engaged.
Days passed. I confessed what had happened to a coworker. I asked her if there were any stories associated with room 217. She said there were not – at least none to her knowledge – but that everyone got the creeps when they passed the weird stairwell that was directly across the hall from its door.
Finally, on a day off, I convinced my husband to come to the hotel with me, so that I could take the photographs you see in this post. Nothing strange showed up in any of the pictures.
By that time, I’d come around to believing I’d imagined the sighting. In order to convince myself, all I needed to do was replicate the sound of the security lock without actually engaging it. We tried to force the door to make the sound the gentleman and I had heard while we stood in the hallway that night. Repeatedly, we left the door just slightly unlatched, so that it might click into place under its own weight.
It didn’t work. The only way we could duplicate the noise was to have my husband stand inside the room with the door closed then flip the security lock.
It wasn’t long after that I was transferred to my new hotel. I haven’t had the chance to pick up a shift at the old place, but I intend to. Some winter’s night, when the hotel is all but empty, I want to unpack my ghost chasing tools and investigate room 217. As long as I’m at it, I’ll go after room 107 too.
I’ll let you know what happens.
WriMoProg: 12 +30 = 42/80 (updated – I’m at almost 10,000 words now)
Hi gang! I’ve had a day that came off the rails. I thought I’d be spending this Monday catching up on NaNoWriMo but, instead, I ended up helping my son register for too many credits at the community college, then going to work, even though it was supposed to be a day off. It wasn’t a bad day … just not what I expected. Consequently – and somewhat surprisingly – I’m now drinking my third beer, and I have to admit I’m feeling a little squirrely. That’s your warning that I’m feeling informal and chatty. Stay or go as you desire.
First, let me share a couple of personal pictures. (Because I just posted them on my real-life FB, and they are cute.)
This is my husband. In the last 18 months or so, he’s lost a LOT of weight (because he decided it was time to do so.) Now he looks pretty much the way he did when I married him. I sometimes wonder if he’s not secretly some kind of immortal. Otherwise, how could he still look so young? I haven’t yet decided if he’s vampire or were.
This is my son, who let me make him up as a version of my hypnotist clown for Halloween. He’s REALLY didn’t like me messing with his eyes – and he was kinda squirmy in general – so I couldn’t get the clean lines I wanted, but it didn’t turn out too bad.
And this is my goofy dog, in his customary chair, but not in his customary position.
There. With that out of the way, I can settle in and share the bits ‘o news I have.
WriMoProg / NaNoWriMo
A couple of nights ago, I updated my home-grown writing challenge / tracker page (WriMoProg) with this month’s goals which – for this one month only – pretty much equate to NaNoWriMo. I detailed my plans there, but the gist is that I’m joining in on the insanity for the first time. I’m behind at the moment, but I have 3000 words done. The intention is to catch up tomorrow (now that I’ve thrown my hands up for this one evening and commenced to screwing around.)
We had a pretty good holiday, though not nearly enough trick or treaters came to our elaborately decorated apartment door.
Do you see those brown paper boxes stacked up behind the treat-filled book? Those were filled with a set of construction cards that my son had outgrown. Our intention was to give this special prize to the first witch or wizard who came to the door. My boy was pretty excited about the whole handing out treats thing … he had never had the chance to do it before, because we lived so far out in the country.
We got a basketball player, a firefly, a girl in an orange shirt, a generic super-hero, an Arabian princess and a bug. Then there were no more.
Once we thought the festivities were over, my son and I decided to tour the building to see if anyone else had gone all out. (Nope.) When we were returning to the apartment, however, we were delighted to hear “I can’t believe I got the special prize!” We rounded the corner and saw a 12-13 year old girl, in full Hogwart’s regalia, showing the boxes to her mom. My beloved had awarded her the cards. She was thrilled. And so were we.
On his Facebook page, my son later posted, “Getting trick or treaters might be the best thing ever.”
By 10p, we had disassembled all of our decorations and packed them away. I carved two more Jack-o-lanterns, just because I could.
Then Halloween was over.
Except, it’s never really over, is it?
The must-see horror movie list
I’ve been making some progress on my required viewing. Thanks to a tip from Hunter, I settled in with The Cabin in the Woods a few nights ago. It will absolutely go onto a list of the best, I just haven’t yet figured out which one. I’ve also seen The Mist (which was pretty good, then pretty awful, then mind-blowingly amazing) and Repulsion (which was a challenging but rewarding slog, and destined to go onto the psychosexual horror list that I STILL don’t have enough entries for.) I’ll be puttering and updating the lists when I’m done here.
Sometimes I think I should make a whole new blog just for detailing the goings on at the hotel. Right now I’ll settle for one quick update, for those who are following along. Remember the guy that told me cleaning elevators wasn’t my strong suit? Yeah. He completely lost it. Within a couple of days of my post (on October 17th) he had alienated every resident and staff member at the hotel. He checked out. Then he came back and claimed that he’d left valuables in his room: a pair of shoes and a box full of winning scratch off tickets – hundreds of dollars worth of scratch off tickets. He was convinced the housekeeping staff had rejoiced at their good fortune and absconded with his property. Then he made some racial slurs to back up his theory. He wanted to call the police into the situation.
It came to a head on a day I didn’t work. My boss acquiesced and phoned the cops. The officer, I was told, attempted to make peace by suggesting that the guest (Joe) be given one free night’s lodging, in exchange for refraining from haranguing hotel staff while other guests waited. After that, we thought it was over.
Except, it wasn’t.
He showed up a few night’s later, while I was working. He seemed to be back to his old self. Calm. Competent. Sane. He rented a room for just one night, at full price, with no argument. I should have known that wasn’t a good sign.
Several hours later, I was approached by a set of three parents who wanted me to help find their underage children, whom them knew were in the hotel somewhere. They were sure there was drinking, and possible drug use, going on. While they were talking to me, one young boy made the mistake of visiting the snack machine. He was recognized by the parents and questioned about the room in which the party was taking place. He lied repeatedly, offering up a variety of random room numbers (which did not actually exist in the hotel.) When he’d rattle off a room number, I would subtly shake my head, and the questioning would continue. When he said they were in the room Joe had rented earlier, I shook my head again. Tired, worn down, he insisted that was really the correct room. The father in the group of parents went up with him as the boy proved his claim.
Even after the father returned, it didn’t work in my head. I had to go up there myself. Four girls – by appearance, none of them older than 15 – were still in the room. I gently questioned them about the adult that had rented the room for them. They described Joe to the smallest detail. Apparently, they had approached an “old man who was hanging out in the parking lot.” He’d agreed to rent the room for them.
Epilogue: Two days later – when I was working again – Joe strolled into the lobby, bold as brass. He came to the desk, greeted me, then asked, “Is it true that I’m no longer allowed to rent a room here?”
With some satisfaction – because I don’t like to be told I am not good at cleaning anything – I said, “Yes. That’s true. I’m not to rent to you again.”
He was outraged. He wanted to know why we had harassed his guests.
I looked at him for a few seconds, then said, ” Because they were underage maybe?”
He insisted I call the police. Which I did, happily. He sat in the lobby for about ten minutes. Eventually he stood up and exclaimed, “I don’t have time to wait around for the useless cops to show up. I’ll be back. With my lawyer.”
I haven’t seen him since.
Plans for the blog
Now that I’m dedicating most of my time to generating fiction, I expect to update here a couple of times a week. Currently, I’m drafting the telling of what I saw in room 217 of the old hotel, and its companion ghost story movie list.
And that’s it, a long, rambling post on a Monday night. Please forgive me and try to remember that this is about as close to a weekend as I get.
As I create these Courting Creepy lists, I repeatedly discover gaps in my viewed-films list. My knowledge of zombie movies, for example, was so thin that I had to ask a guest blogger to construct a 13 crucial zombie films list for me. Each time I write a supposedly definitive list, I receive suggestions from readers for additions and replacements. Though I stand by my choices, I must also admit that I haven’t seen everything and, consequently, I could be missing a great film. I’ve been trying to keep the list of must-see movies in my head, and/or on random scraps of paper. It just occurred to me, that this is a better way to keep track. Duh.
As with all the lists, feel free (even compelled) to make suggestions and recommendations!
13 creepy movies I most want to see next:
II. Candyman (1992)
III. The Descent (2005) - repeatedly recommended for sheer creepiness
V. Sleepy Hollow (1999) - beautiful films candidate
VI. Lake Mungo (2008) - Australian
VII. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973) - PG rated zombie movie
VIII. Twixt (2011) - writer list candidate
IX. Communion (1989)
X. The Howling (1981) - classic, think I’ve seen it, don’t remember well
XII. Case 39 (2009)
XIII. Trick ‘r Treat (2007) - recommended as best Halloween movie ever
Films to be moved up, as needed:
Peeping Tom (1959) - rough going, I’ve heard
The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Final Destination (2000)
Gothika (2003) - think I’ve seen it, don’t remember well
The Company of Wolves (1984)
The Gift (2000) - think I’ve seen it, don’t remember well
The Desperate Hours (1955)
The Blob (1958)
They Live (1988)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Lady in White (1988)
Al Final del Espectro (2006)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) - read an intriguing review at IPC
The ones I’ve bagged:
The Pact (2012)
The Sentinel (1977)
DECEMBER 2012 ^
Kill Baby, Kill [Operazione paura] (Italy, 1966)
Burnt Offerings (1986)
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
NOVEMBER 2012 ^
The Mist (2007)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Wake Wood (2011)
OCTOBER 2012 ^
Tonight, as promised, I bring you a new Courting Creepy list. As soon as I agreed to participate in the recent Blogger Virtual Zombie Walk, I knew I needed to craft a zombie movie list, so I’ve been thinking about it since late September. I racked my memories. I watched new-to-me films … which I didn’t much like. In the end, I was able to come up with only nine solid recommendations. That’s a shame, because I genuinely respect the genre. Some of the best horror movies I know are zombie films. (But then, so are some of the worst.) Eventually, I had to admit that most zombie films are just a bit too bloody and violent for me. In desperation, I reached out to my daughter’s beau, Jason, who has a particular affection for zombies. He agreed to write up a list, using my existing lists as an example of format.
Please feel free to let him know that he should have a blog of his very own
Jason’s take on zombie movies:
If horror movies were liquor, then zombie movies would be vodka. You can add just about anything to vodka and get a palatable drink. The same can be said for zombie movies. Granted, you have your top-shelf zombie movies and your cheap b-list zombie movies. Beyond that, you have your flavors: zombie comedies, zombie action flicks, zombie science fiction … the variety is overwhelming, but all of it works in some way. It’s the various permutations of these films that ensure you are going to like some kind of zombie movie, you’ve just got to find the right variety.
Let’s start by talking about pure zombies. This includes George Romero’s “of the Dead” series, most of the remakes of them, and a handful of other examples, like 28 Days Later and (especially) the TV series Walking Dead. These are what I consider the top-shelf zombie movies. They stay true to the plots that started the genre. All other types of zombie movies are spinoffs of elements within these movies.
In these top-shelf movies, the horror comes from the setting. A zombie, by itself, isn’t that scary. These zombies are (usually) slow-moving and easily outsmarted. The real threat is in the fact that the entire world is overrun with them; there are millions of them out there and they will always be after you. Still-human characters have to find a way to live in the resulting world, and that is where the real drama of the movie comes from. Without normal societal norms, the characters revert to survival mode and you see just how bad human nature can become in the name of survival.
These movies inspire the viewer to ask questions of themselves. What would you do in a situation like this? Would you isolate your family? Would you murder other people who try to get into your supplies? What would you promise your squad of soldiers to keep them from killing each other? Maybe you’d just try to be the last civilized person on the planet, holding true to what you can remember of the law and order that once was, at least for a time. These questions also apply to the oldest story ever told: Man vs Man vs Nature. We live in this world with such questions in the deep, dark back of our minds, and we’ll leave the world (if we’re lucky) not knowing the answers.
The effectiveness of films like those above gave birth to the sub-genres of zombie films. Dawn of the Dead (both the original and the remake) shows us how much fun it can be to be the last man alive, for example. It introduces a light tone into the genre. That led us to Shaun of the Dead, a comedy which shows us the only people equipped to deal with the zombie apocalypse are video game playing slackers in their mid-twenties. The characters from Shaun, however – with their devising of zombie killing strategies and their indulging in zombie killing sprees – gave rise to the action zombie films.
An important thing to remember about these films is that they are gory. Wait, don’t turn your nose up at that! A lot of people think gory = not scary but gross, but gore does have a place in horror. It’s how you validate your fears. Think of this…. If I were to tell you, “Hey, the Titanic sank,” how would you feel? You probably wouldn’t collapse in tears, even though it was a tragedy. But, if you were to watch the Titanic movie – and actually see the stories of the doomed passengers, then see them die – suddenly the tragedy hits home, it has emotional impact. The same idea applies to zombies, When a movie tells you, Hey, zombies eat people,” you aren’t going to be scared if the camera turns away. But, if you watch a gory zombie movie – and actually see a zombie tear the throat out of someone, then disembowel that same someone right before your eyes – suddenly it strikes home that “Zombies EAT people!”
If it helps those of you who are squeamish, just go into it with the intention of admiring some of the best special effect makeup ever done.
13 crucial movies – for zombie lovers – at Halloween (or anytime.) By Jason.
First, honorable mention to the TV series The Walking Dead. I know it’s not a movie, but if you want the best example of a great zombie story, go to that.
Dawn of the Dead (1978, original)
- One of the best and most influential movies of the genre. Special acknowledgement for best performance by a mall in film.
Zombie aka Zombi 2 (1979)
- Best of the foreign zombie films. Special acknowledgement for best fight scene: Shark vs Zombie!
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
- Splatstick comedy. Historically significant; the movie that started zombies saying “Brains!”
Day of the Dead (1985, original)
- Sequel to the much-loved Dawn of the Dead. A military bunker is the safest place in the world of the dead, but can the civilian population get along with the military leaders?
Night of the Living Dead (1990, remake)
- An updated and more action oriented version of the original that started it all. Special acknowledgement for best change of an ending.
Wild Zero (1999)
- Not going to make a list without putting a movie on it you’ve never heard of. Japanese zombie film starring a rock band that battles zombies using the power of rock. DVD comes with a built in drinking game, drink when: a head explodes, fire shoots out of something, someone says Rock N Roll, someone combs their hair, and many more.
28 Days Later (2002)
- Best zombie movies with no zombies in it.
Dawn of the Dead (2004, remake)
- Same premise, but different direction, than the original. Strong movie that stands side by side with the original, not in front or behind.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
- British comedy that is a lovesong for the genre.
Land of the Dead (2005)
- Interesting premise that falls apart with cliché characters and action sequences. Still stands up better than many other movies.
The Zombie Diaries (2006)
- A shaky-cam documentary-style take on the zombie apocalypse. Surprisingly good, better than Romero’s Diary of the Dead.
Planet Terror (2007)
- A modern homage to the cult films of yore. Extra gore, extra cult.
- Survival comedy that walks the line between homage and parody. Good entry movie for the genre, though it may make earlier films less scary.
Best for Halloween night: Night of the Living Dead (1968).
In the last week, my life has been very, very simple. I have worked at the hotel, come home and watched some TV (until my brain relaxed enough to allow me to drift off,) slept for many hours, awakened, tended to basic needs (like eating food I couldn’t taste and taking long, hot baths that my husband had to supervise so that I would neither scald myself nor drown,) then headed back to work.
It was nothing serious, just a cold from hell (stacked on top of a down-swing in my mood.) I still don’t feel 100%, but I can breathe again. I am fully dressed. And, for the first time in a few weeks, I am getting started on a full two-day weekend that does not include working.
My plan is to aggressively re-engage with Halloween, the blog and life in these last few days of October.
This weekend, my son and I plan to go to Pinehaven Farm in Wyoming, MN. It’s a petting zoo and pumpkin farm we have been visiting faithfully for more than ten years. They also have a Dead End Hayride in the evenings. Right now we’re thinking we’ll go to that on Monday. As for Halloween night itself, we were pleased to find out that our building allows trick-or-treating. Our intention is to create a haunted treat station – complete with fog machine and spooky music – just inside our door. I’m tempted to buy a cheap set of basic makeup too, so that we can cobble together some spooky characters for handing out treats. Beyond that, I have a couple of pumpkins to carve and some traditional movies to watch.
Here at the blog:
Getting back on the blogging horse always feels awkward, but I have the advantage of (too) many planned topics to choose from. The Courting Creepy movie lists have been popular and I have a couple that I really want to get up before Halloween. Tonight or tomorrow I will pick up where I left off – with zombies. My daughter’s beau agreed to construct the list, because I just had to concede that I am no zombie expert. Jason, on the other hand, is a connoisseur. All I have to do is format his work, which will be an easy task. It makes for a smooth transition into getting my head back in the game. (Thanks, Jason.)
When it comes to ghost stories, I feel fully qualified to make recommendations, so expect that list soon too – and it will be escorted by the long-delayed telling of what I saw in room 217, at the old hotel.
Obviously, I failed NaBloPoMo miserably. (Literally.) Still, I feel good about what I achieved, and I’m eager to continue a consistent - if less demanding – posting schedule.
And for those that worry about my bipolarity:
As the mad month of October winds down, I know I have to turn my attention to surviving the winter. Even though things haven’t settled as much as I’d hoped, and nothing big has been resolved, I have to establish some healthier routines. I need regular sleep, decent food, sunlight, exercise, social time and music. (Right now I’m listening to an old playlist. Yes, I’ve caught myself dancing in the chair as I write. It feels good. How dated – and ridiculously appropriate – is it that the current song is Wheel in the Sky by Journey?)
Perhaps more important than all those things, though, is writing – especially returning to writing fiction. I am contemplating a run at NaNoWriMo. Considering the experiences I’ve had at the hotels, I think that getting 50,000 words down, of an entirely new story, might be possible. Lately, while folding sheets, I’ve been putting together a straight-forward story in my head. Historically I’ve worked best with a detailed outline, but maybe something crazy like this would be an invigorating change. Or maybe it’s just insane. I’ve got a few days to think about it.
Who amoung you are thinking about plunging in? Are any of you veterans with advice to share?
I suppose it was growing up in Anoka, that warped me into a horror writer. For that, I am grateful. I don’t live there anymore, and I’m happy in my adopted home of White Bear Lake, MN, but I will always carry a certain affection for Anoka. It pleases my little dark heart to be able to post this tribute to the newest event to spawn from my hometown’s creepy cradle: Anoka’s First Annual Walking Dead Pub Crawl – October 13th, 2012.
Halloween has always been a big deal in Anoka, MN – the official Halloween Capital of the World. (In 1937, the town persuaded the United States Congress to award the title.) In the last few years, though, I’ve noticed a certain tameness creeping in to the season – the disgustingly healthy Gray Ghost 5K run comes to mind. This year, celebrations took a decidedly gruesome turn … finally!
As a creature of habit, I have always tended to patronize the older bars, the bars more familiar to me, like: Billy’s Bar and Grill, Serum’s Good Time Emporium, and the ever-changing, latest incarnation of the bar where I used to work (which was called Patty’s Pub back then and is currently known as as Beer Belly’s.) The official host bar for the crawl, however, was River City Saloon, a place I had never visited.
My Beloved and I weren’t sure which bar to choose as our base of operations, so we called some friends who still live in Anoka. They were kind enough to scout out the scene and find a table before we arrived. We met them at about 5:30p.
By the time we got there, my friend – Trish – who had been watching the zombies come out, was wishing she had dressed up for the event. After some discussion, I convinced her that I could do a quick makeup on her for less than $20 – if she was willing to to walk over to Party Papers with me.
The total came to $19.25. We could have skipped the putty/wax, which would have brought the total under $15.00. We bought the basics for a passable zombie and settled in to a corner of a hallway. Fifteen minutes later, we had done this:
I think we should have bought the next size up of the bottled blood. One of my favorite memories of the night involved standing on the sidewalk outside Party Papers, with me throwing handfuls of blood at her … as the Ghosts of Anoka Tour was guided past us. (I wish I had a photograph of that, but I was afraid to touch the camera long enough to hand it off to someone.)
In her simplicity, I think this was my favorite zombie of the night. She was just a little thing, and she absolutely invoked the mood of 1968′s Night of the Living Dead.
The Zombie-killer half of this duo is Jenny Johnson, creator of the event. I touched base with her a couple of times through the night. She was, by turns, excited, hopeful, overwhelmed and pleased by the success of her brainchild. (She also participated in the Thriller-dance flash mob that happened at 9p.)
A Ghost-Buster style wagon drew crowds wherever it parked. I liked the way the walking dead all streamed away from it at the same time in this shot.
Just a good ole boy and his woman. Some of the sweetest folks I met all night.
CONTINUE YOUR ZOMBIE CRAWL:
The Southern Northerner
Jenny’s House of Horrors
herding cats & burning soup
Author Sherry Soule Blog
Paranormal research Group Blog
Adult Urban Fantasy by Sherry Soule
Moonlight Publishing Blog
Ghost Hunting Theories
Above the Norm
A Dust Bunny In The Wind
Zombob’s Zombie News & Movie Reviews
Flesh From The Morgue
The Living Dark
Some One Else’s Cook
Forget About TV, Grab a Book
Zombie Dating Guide
The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Random Game Crafts
Carmen Jenner Author
Sarasota Zombie Pub Crawl
Not Now…Mommy’s Reading
Love is a Many Flavored Thing
Its On Random
Horror Shock LoliPOP
The Spooky Vegan
The Story In…
DarkSide Detectives Blog
Something wicKED this way comes….
Julie Jansen: science fiction and horror writer
Author/screenwriter James Schannep
The Zombie Lab
Sharing Links and Wisdom
This Blog Has A.D.D.
Shiny paranormally pictures here:
Not so shiny bipolary naval-gazing here:
I try not to write too much about my mood swings here at the blog. Still, my tagline does include Finessing bipolarity, so I’ll allow myself a post on the topic.Tonight I find myself unable to work up any enthusiasm for a paranormal- or Halloween-themed post, which is a little weird, because I did have plans in place, and I do have (just enough) time to craft something. I simply don’t want to.
That attitude has been creeping up on me, I think, over the last couple of days. Remember that night I didn’t manage to post until after midnight? That really took the wind out of my sails. Or it was an early warning sign that the wind was dying. I don’t think I’ve been manic in these last weeks. (My energy levels haven’t been that high; the writing hasn’t been coming to me easily, the way it does when I’m up.) I am concerned, however, because today’s crash does feel like the coming-down-from-manic stage.
I think my mood has been even (“normal”) for weeks. I’ve had a few awfully happy days – mostly when I’m out and about and taking pictures, but I’ve settled down as soon as my day off was done. I’ve had a few days where I felt tired and/or under the weather, but I’ve bounced back. (Sometimes a depressive skid pretends to be an illness, so I watch that sort of thing carefully.) Perhaps today will be like that. The problem is that I don’t have any physical complaints. I just feel … mentally tired. Also, my anxiety is eager to rise up, if I give it half a chance. (I’ve had a couple of long drives lately, and that seems to enable surges of anxiety. Drives gives me time to think about the legitimate stressors in my life.) Rising anxiety is a clear indicator of an impending depression for me.
Tonight I am mentally sorting through the factors that have been known to trigger sudden mood shifts. Alcohol is supposed to be a depressant, but I had barely a beer last night when we went out. I’d be surprised if that’s enough to mess me up. The weather has turned cold, and a little gray, but it hasn’t been terrible. Weather must remain a contender though, because I tend to be very sensitive to it. In fact this might be more about sliding toward the dreaded winter season than the actual temperature. There’s no way to deny that fall is past its peak now, here in Minnesota.
Maybe I am just depleted. My husband, who is a classic introvert, seems to think that I’m a natural extrovert, but I know better. Last night, at the zombie pub crawl we attended, I had to approach strangers to ask for permission to take their photographs and for them to sign a publishing release. (I’m paranoid about getting sued someday.) Everyone was friendly and receptive and cooperative, but each encounter took more out of me than anyone knows. As for other energy sappers, we all know I’ve been working a lot, and I’m only just now starting to feel competent at the new hotel. In the last months, there’s been an awful lot of me stepping out of my comfort zone and a lot of being on my best behavior … for readers, for guests at the hotels, for coworkers, for my bosses, even for my friends and family, who don’t need to have me falling apart during this 9+ month time of stress for us.
So, it’s really no mystery what’s going on – I just have to figure out what to do about it. For now, tonight, I’ll give myself this break from being “on”, as well as permission to see what happens tomorrow. I almost didn’t post at all tonight, but I don’t want to lose the pretty-darn-good streak of daily blogging I’m on if this is just a bad day. There’s nothing that keeps me even and grounded like achieving something I set out to do.