Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Dog Has Fleas

There is something very interesting about picking up a musical instrument. Some you can simply pluck a string, or tap a key, and a sound comes out that might be pleasing, might be ghastly, or might just be a noise. Some instruments come alive in your hand, while others lay there, waiting for you to DO something. Like so many of you, I'm sure, I have often picked up instruments and had no idea what to really do with them. I can strum a guitar, I can bang away on piano or keyboard keys, and I can even blow into a horn of some kind. But make music with it? Hardly.

Things have changed, these days. I was given an ukulele as a birthday gift, and fell in love with the simplicity of the instrument... 4 strings are easier to make chords on than 6, and the ease of fingering the frets is much more inviting than a guitar of any kind that I've ever played around with. I strum. I pick. I make music with a few chords that I learned, and I am happy with what I am hearing. For the first time in my life, seeing the fretboard is not intimidating. Actually being able to play along with others, once told what chords to play, is fairly simple, and honestly - it's not hard to fake.  I can't read music, never could, but I can play chords, and I can see the relationships between some of them now... and that makes me happy, too. I can sit under the shade of the porch, listening to the world go by while I strum a few chords into a simple little melody. I can make music. It's not like I'm any good at it, but I think if I stick with it, I could be.

We'll see.

But music, well... it makes me happy to be able to play. And I play everywhere. In airports, in the park, hell, I even play in my car when stuck in traffic.   When all else fails, I just strum a finger down those lovely strings...


And if that doesn't work, it's C Am Dm G... Because YMCA is a hell of a lot of fun to play.

I wonder how many people I can get to sing that in a bar?

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I held your hand as you picked your way 
          through the sand in your high heels
You stumbled and smiled
And we were free for a while
Our laughter like thunder in peals

That loving glow grew fast and deep 
Your eyes bright upon your face
No matter how often I drive past that sign
I'll always remember our place

For where we've been. 
And where we want to go. 

I love you. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bump in the Night

Here's a little piece of my soul.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1976-1978, my wonderful parents took the family to the Lonsdale Drive-In movie theater. We were there often enough during the summer, and it was just another weekend. I don't have much recollection of the first film, but the second was a real winner originally from 1974 called "It's Alive".  This was a film about a killer baby.

Yes. A killer BABY.

Now, allow me to point my finger back at the year (okay, range of years...).  I was 6 or 7 or 8.
'Great Moments in Parenting', are you listening?

I'm not sure how big a box office hit this movie was, but it was no award-winner.  Of course, I watched most of it hiding on the front seat floor.  Laughable or not, I was scared. Really scared. The kind of scared that makes you run up the cellar stairs, hoping that the long fingers won't catch your ankles. Yes.  THAT scared.

I spent too many nights in my parents' bed after that, and for years after, I would never sleep unless I had the blankets wrapped around my ears, protecting me from the monster baby. I was a mess.  Daytime was fine, but when the sun went down, and I had to start thinking about ... you know... sleeping, well... yeah, I'll pass, thanks.

Fast forward to 1979. Oh, what a great year. I turned 9 that year (for those of you keeping track...) and was still scared of the night. I remember very distinctly going with my parents to see the movie "Prophecy" at the beautiful Four Seasons movie theater. Another great move, Mom and Dad.  Just fabulous. I managed to be terrified enough to watch most of this film through the porthole in the door to the theater. From the Lobby. Alone.  Shaking.  Get the picture?

So now I was afraid of (wait for it...) Killer Babies and Mutant Bears.

Laugh. You know you want to.

Go on. I'll wait.


So, done?
Moving the story along...

Great Moments in Parenting  leads my mother and father to take the family back to the drive in... this time to see that great family film by Ridley Scott... you know... Alien.  Compared to killer babies and mutant bears, this movie is pretty tame. Except for the part where the astronaut fucking explodes from an alien in his chest... that sort of stuff.

So I wrestled with sleep as a kid. I wrestled a LOT.

One day, I decided to get the hell over all of this. I decided that I would no longer be that afraid ever again, and vowed to myself that I would find out how it was all done on film.  I started to read magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland, Fangoria, and Starlog. I took makeup books out of the library.  I read a lot, and experimented where I could. In the end, I learned way more than I ever thought. I debunked the mystery of the darkness that gripped my soul. I learned so many secrets that there is still little wonder in film for me.

I mastered my fear, and finally let myself sleep. I found a way through, and I stripped a little magic from the world while I was at it. All those movies no longer held any power over me, at least not in a way that was really meaningful. The flip side was that I was now no longer scared of any movie. None of them. I could watch anything and point and laugh and say, "This is how that is done..."

There is something to be said for fear. There is something to be said for not knowing how the lady gets sawn in half... cinematically or right there on stage in front of the magician. There is something to be said for sitting back and just watching the film. And that was something I traded away for being able to sleep.

As I grew older, I found myself able to actually DO makeup effects for things like haunted houses and really gross costumes. I was that guy, and it made me kinda cool in the right circles, but I think I would have traded some of that for being able to have a better time at a movie, you know? So I learned that there must be a fine line between being terrified by a movie and being terrified by what the movie represented to me.

The killer baby? Well, come on. I was like 6. I was scared of my own shadow at this age, and killer babies don't help.  I'm sure it influenced my life in ways I simply cannot realize, but you know... that's life.
 The mutant bear? That was a part of my fear of what's out there... in the wilderness, waiting to eat us. It could have been a normal bear, all pissed off and running after campers and it still would have had the same sort of effect on me, I think.  Alien? Ridley Scott is a genius. The pacing of that film still feels perfect. It's a long, slow march to a startling finale. My hat will always be off to him for this beautiful piece of cinematic fear.

But all of these events also helped shape me. It rewarded my curious nature with mastery of my fear. It taught me to continue to dig deep into my own soul even after I felt I found answers. It proved to me that I could overcome fear with knowledge. I am who I am today partly because of these images of horror and dread. I love that my parents brought me to see these films. To this day I am a fan of the genre, and I do believe that I have an appreciation for what goes in to a great horror film because of my thirst to know what was under that hood.

 I love what others fear.
And I am happy to be this way.

How about you? What scares you when the lights go out?