Apocalypse Now and Later

We faced a monumental decision two months ago. 

Do we suffer death across the globe the likes of which no one living has experienced outside of a pandemic fiction novel or do we stave off unprecedented global depression and keep the machine of industry going? Both choices were the size of horse pills and bitter as hell to swallow. Yet somehow, our collective brain trust managed to swallow both – thanks to a slow response and an even slower desire to repair the damage with cold, hard cash. 

Incomprehensible death? We got it. People suffering from unemployment and terrified of this dark future we’re barreling toward? Right here.

Way to go, humanity.

As an apocalyptic event, however, The Stand this is not. Sure people are chalking up sidewalks with messages of positivity (“together apart” or something just as insipid), which remind me of episodes of The Walking Dead rather than spunky cheer, but they’re still going to Walmart to buy that chalk. They’re still collecting Funko Pops at Target and, worse yet, making pukeworthy videos of their braless boredom dances on Tik Tok, which is likely where our true apocalypse resides. We’re making fashionable “Rona” masks to wear when we walk our hairless cats and bringing baked CBD products to our already-stoned parents. We’re posting sunshine memes that basically ask the question, “Can you believe this shit?”

In essence, we’re intellectually dissolving the same way we always have, just without shaking hands. And this end times event kinda sorta has an end date.

The 2020 Apocalypse is like a Now and Later, the 80s candy that tore through our teeth like a diabetic tornado. In a way it’s a sweet reward to stay home and pat ourselves on the back for making a vague difference, sharing barely fleshed out conspiracy theories designed to keep us up at night giggling with sinister intent, but later it begins to tug at the soul. Even introverts ache for the sound of another voice, even if that voice just wants to know if we want fries with that. Like the Now and Laters of my youth, it’s not bad now, but later your stomach begins to ache. 

Even Edgar Allan Poe, papa to the modern mystery, had to hit the cobbled streets every blue moon. He’d venture from his Baltimore writing desk to absorb the wisdom and energy of those living in his town, before hunkering down to quoth the raven once again. Even he, I believe, would have written a sequel to Masque of the Red Death by now entitled Can I Take off this Damn Masque Yet? He was famous for one act of self isolation the Poe Street literati still jabber about – that of his final days. Poe was discovered wet and incoherent on a cold, rainy October day in 1849. He was so out of sorts that he died without offering a single sensible clue as to what befell him. He’d been missing for almost a week when he died. Had he been kidnapped, had he been “cooped,” or had he uncorked a drunken binge? The answer is still anyone’s guess. Read more about it here. One thing’s for sure, he could isolate the hell out himself.

Another famed mystery scribe pulled something just as isolationist, though she vanished more than thirty years later. Agatha Christie melted into shadow for eleven days in December of 1926. The constabulary were quick to start a search for the missing writer, as she was a local sweetheart in Britain, and found her vehicle quickly, but the famed mystery author herself was nowhere to be found. While she was eventually located alive, checked into a hotel under the assumed name of her husband’s mistress, Christie offered no clues as to her disappearance, or refused to, and the explanation has never to this day been revealed. Read more here.

Both knew the art of mystery well and proved adept at using them to self isolate in style, or at least memorably, leaving us to wonder how well we’ll perform when forced to do it for months at a time. 

Not that we have to wonder. Lose the bra, lose the mind, and hop on the Tik Tok apocalypse. Just don’t forget the chewy sweetness of it all when you do. I’m sure Poe wouldn’t forget, though I don’t think Christie would smack down on Tik Tok. She’s more a Twitter girl.

And don’t forget to keep that apocalypse hair off social media.

Top 5 Haunted Monterey County – Surprises

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Soledad’s haunted Los Coches Adobe in the rain.

There’s definitely a top five when it comes to the most haunted spots in Monterey County, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Instead, I’m going to get a little personal. I’m going to delve into my thoughts on banging out my upcoming book, Haunted Monterey County (coming October 2019 from The History Press). A Top 5 Most Haunted Monterey County – Locations is coming, however, being that there are easily five that rise to the top – it’s just coming later.

Below are the top five things that surprised me while prepping for the book:

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    Did I pull off the authorly look at a rest stop? I damn well tried.

    Rest stops – If someone told me I’d be writing a book on ghosts and hauntings in the county, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I grew up hungry for Randall Reinstedt’s books. If someone told me that research would bring me to a rest stop outside of King City and that I would actually have fun going there, I would have spit out my coffee. Those who know me know I’m never without coffee. But as Han Solo once said, “All of it. It’s all true.” I did have a good time. It’s always fun to get out on a sunny Sunday for an adventure of the weird kind. You never know what can happen.

  2. The GooglesGoogle may not know I’m working on a book, but the Googles helped me locate many of the sites and forums where Central Coast-specific ghost stories are shared. This means, from now until the Googles is goggled (or the end of time), I will get alerts about ghosts. This isn’t a bad thing really, since I’ve already come across creepy stories I’ve never heard before – usually from places on the east coast. Why the hell is that? I still get alerts about Bakugan too, though it’s been years since my son wanted one.
  3. Excitement and some of the opposite – I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I’d get when news of this new addition to Monterey County’s ghost book collection broke, but the level of interest has given me a little bit of a pre-publishing high. Thank you to everyone who made that happen. There’s the opposite too, some who are less than thrilled to see another book on haunts summoned out of the Netherworld. I appreciate the curmudgeons! I am one. My hope is the book will appeal to them as well. There are stories in it that have appeared nowhere else. There’s history as well, plenty of it, which is why I enjoyed taking on this project. If the curmudgeons come away entertained, I’ll get even more high.
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    A glimpse of Paul’s work on my office laptop.

    Paul’s talent – Just doing the ghost book, and paying tribute to Mr. Reinstedt, was enough, but then the idea came along to get some art in it. There are photos, quite a few taken when I visited the haunted sites (like the rest stop), but having one of California’s top talents on board made it even cooler. Paul Van de Carr is an incredible artist as you’ll see in the pages of the book.

  5. The believers – I’m the first to admit I’ve never had a paranormal experience that I can recall. It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s just I don’t have the eyes for it. I can’t decorate my house in a fashionable way either. Don’t have the eyes for it. But there are plenty who do have the sight. They’ve seen a lot over the years too. While writing this book, I was (and still am) surprised at just how many people have stories, tales of that time they experienced something they just couldn’t explain. This book tells their stories, just as it tells history’s story.

In Curmudgeon Writing Style

 

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Boris paintings

When asked what I mean when I write “In Curmudgeon” for a particular story, I usually say something about how too many writers, bloggers, social media scribes, etc., focus on the positive and very rarely rant on about a problem. To me, that’s a problem. No one has a perfect life, and pretending you do is problematic. By using “In Curmudgeon” at the beginning of a story, I am signaling that the writing takes a different approach. Life isn’t always a Rumi quote. Below is something of an artist’s statement on the process as I fleshed it out in my head.
The method isn’t anything terribly new, though I believe it can be applied to any writing style, be it prose, non-fiction, poetry; and can work in art as well. My series of Boris paintings would be a good example. Existentialism, brilliantly developed by Simone de Beauvoir, and gynocriticism, with a nod to Elaine Showalter, paved the way for new thoughts, while Poe’s style of gothic prose and Kerouac’s spontaneous prose, further charted a course for the development of narrative techniques. It helped me develop the in curmudgeon style, which I distilled and simplified over the last several years.

Intent: To bring awareness to depression, bad moods, dark thoughts and other forms of negative energy, and illustrate that it is neither odd nor uncommon to feel this way. To stop the common practice of pretending everything is okay all the time. To embrace what is, for some, a natural bend to see the worst in the world, and to put this style in the public eye. Rather than hide negative thoughts, complaints, and rants, even replace them with intentions of beauty and peace; In Curmudgeon takes the honesty back, highlighting what is wrong in the hopes humanity might grow by exposure to it.

Description: Writing in curmudgeon takes the philosophy in narrative writing that not everything is meant to be, not everything ends happily, and not everyone finds joy in simple things. It doesn’t pretend or lie to the reader. It’s about honesty and raw truth, which isn’t always available – thanks to a world that idolizes positivity, often at the expense of a grim reality. For some observers this constant form of positivity makes one feel like there is something wrong with them for looking darkly at the world, for not trusting the world. There are positives in this life, which can be reflected in curmudgeon, but celebrating the honesty in humanity is essential. Rather than face a world of increasing positivity, where popularity is measured by the appearance of success and social bragging, in curmudgeon is a place for those sick of hearing the lies.

Chapter Doodles

We all love stick figures – to the point our hearts will explode in our chests and kill us. So I doodled a few to illustrate each chapter in my upcoming collection of rants, In Curmudgeon (taken from my blog posts over the years), and wanted to share them here. The Saint offered up the best stick figures. Simon Templar’s little halo always looked just right. Mine are just like that. Only worse.INC

How to avoid spoilers (in curmudgeon)

Like blondes, spoiler alerts have more fun. They’re also stupid.

PS –blondes aren’t really dumb, but I don’t feel like scrounging up a different analogy. And the opening sentence slipped deep inside my head while I was driving, so I wrapped my brain around it. Why waste a good driving thought?

Being an American nerd is easy. These days it’s practically synonymous with just being an American. There are movies, television shows, Youtubers, video games, card games, print books, comic books, t-shirts, mugs, USB drives, bloggers, dumb window decals, letter openers, “collectible” toys, underwear, lunch boxes, trade paperback comic collections, television shows, Netflix shows and much more. Being a jock, which used to be easy, is probably the new “geek,” but nerds are still easier targets for bullying because of their lack of muscles. And these days the jocks wear Star Wars shirts, which to this day stirs up a weird gag reflex in me.

And being an American nerd is big business, as the merchandise description above indicates. So of course people with an inclination to write are tripping over each other’s wireless keyboards to produce millennial-friendly content we will all want to click. That race can mean more demanding, sexier content too. Roughly translated: “Let’s ruin the plot of every film and TV show months before you actually see it.” Let’s overkill it all in the shallowest way possible. Let’s make a big deal of something that’s not a big deal (much like this post).

Salivating as we do for every fresh nugget from the set of the new Avengers, Star Wars, or Game of Thrones; we click on it, thinking it won’t salt the wound. But it does. It hurts. If the film is fresh air, spoilers are pollution. And these days, spoilers are everywhere. In the rush to make us click their article over someone else’s, those spoilers are starting to surface in the headlines – often mere hours after the film or television show has gone public. And we read them because we love the nerd stuff.

I devoured those articles, thinking it wouldn’t kill my thrill, but I learned the opposite occurs. I watched Game of Thrones and Captain America: Civil War, as well as others, and came away hardly amused. They were okay, I thought. Then I realized I would have gotten way more excited had I not known everything that was going to happen before it happened. I’m such an idiot.

Rather than me saying, “Please take it easy on spilling big reveals when you write about things. Write like you work for Starlog or something,” and getting nothing but trolled as a response, I figured out a better way. I simply don’t read the articles anymore.

Stay off social media until you’ve seen it, hide or unfriend the entertainment sites you once frequented, and you may find you’ll enjoy the experience of the nerd much more. It’s an easy fix and may cause writers and entertainment sites to rethink how they deliver the goods, rather like training an algorithm.

Being like a blonde, it took me WAY too long to figure that out.

And maybe, but not likely, I’ll read more New York Times instead of Cinema Blend.

An open letter on open letters (in curmudgeon)

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Dear Open Letter Writer,

We all care so much about your opinion. We want your open letter so bad.  Please write it as long as possible, as passionately as possible, and tell us all how you feel. Of course we know you have no real connection to the topic, no stake, but don’t let that get in the way of adding to the conversation.

It’s an important topic, so make it noisy. Blur the lines of discussion, add your own story to the mix whether it’s only partially similar to the topic, whether anyone asked for you to chime in or not. We promise to hang on every word of your open letter as if we needed only your voice to make the discussion saltier.

Your open letter isn’t going to make us think you’re riding on the coattails of a trending topic. It’s going to make us want to know more about you. It might make us sad for you. It might make us nod our heads in approval, and if your instincts are right, it might even make us want to share it. So write it. Please write it. Your experience is just what we need right now while the discussion is slow, but do it before the news cycles on to the next trend. There’s nothing worse than starting an open letter and abandoning it in favor of a different open letter.

Every random thought and unimportant detail, written by way of abusive and uninformed language, should be in there. We know you know how to write like that. We all do, at least those of us on social media know. Share your personal story and school us on how it’s similar to the trending political topic of the day. Explain how your court experience, your arrest, and your violent crime is just like the one in the news. Make it seem like there are no differences. Make it seem like you know those involved in the topic intimately and we will believe every word. Do whatever it takes. It might be difficult since you aren’t involved, and your opinion wasn’t solicited, but we don’t care. We so don’t care.

We need your opinion. It makes all the difference. Really.

Lulled by the lullaby

So lovely. So soft. Fuzzy. Warm.

On Effexor, paranoia is spread out like peanut butter on white bread. It’s diffused, all concentration gone. It’s less important. That’s what happens when the salmon-colored tablets pole dance down my throat. It brings my humanity back to a bearable point and whispers to my mind that it’s been wrong all this time. But who is right? Should I be paranoid? Isn’t there a truly dark and terrible reason for my depression? Or is Effexor right? There is no reason for the depression. There isn’t really anything to be paranoid about.  And if there is a reason, who cares?

Romanticizing authors for their love of alcohol is why many are as popular as they are, or at least one of the reasons they’re adored. Everyone loves to think someone so messed up can create something so loved. And there are a ton of messed up authors. Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Poe; the list (15 top drunks here) is pretty endless. All the cool writerly types get hammered when getting fat at their keyboard. At least they used to.

Now they’re on Effexor.

Effexor is why I can listen to Linkin Park’s Meteora album while driving (at the speed limit) in my Volvo without feeling like people will think I’m old. I was already old when the album came out.  It’s why writers don’t need to drink. It’s a lullaby for an anxious existence. It’s Wyeth-Ayerst Lab’s gift of sublime “synapsical” serotonin. Thanks you guys. I can alter my existence without throwing up now. Only I can’t leave your drug. It won’t let me.

The mid 90s came with turbulence. Bad relationships, new homes, mortgages, higher incomes, 3-D puzzles, Voltron, Princess Diana, Mike Tyson’s ear eating, and then came Effexor. It’s been a smooth ride since, like sitting in the backseat of your grandpa’s Buick Park Avenue.

Only he was a drunk.