« October 2013 | Main | December 2013 »

November 2013

For lack of things to say, holiday dinner planning, miscellanea

Here's some stuff I wrote down just now, to organize my thoughts a bit.

Green BEAN Delivery: produce (they always have good seasonal lineups prepared)
Jungle Jim's: turkey, bread for stuffing, wine
Kroger (posh:) flowers

also to buy:
aluminum foil
bourbon
butter
cake flour
shortening
frozen bread dough
maple syrup
sour cream

to make ahead:
orange marmalade
pie crusts
chicken stock
banana or apple bread
pumpkin pie filling

to do:
organize refrigerator
clean dining room floor
check up on Christmas ornaments
call for dishwasher repair

Whenever we've had dishwasher trouble, it's been at Thanksgiving. When our freezer died, it was Christmas Eve. It's just like that in my life, so I just factor it into my whole "doing things the hard way" system.

Because like, I usually buy orange marmalade for the turkey. And then I made a couple kinds of marmalade a few weeks ago, realized how shockingly easy that is, and thought, "why on earth have I been buying it?" I'm kind of a condiment junky, anyway. It makes better sense to just make enough to use, instead of adding yet another little jar to the collection.

I glaze the turkey with orange marmalade, but it's also basted with a sherry-orange juice butter. I forget who I got the original ideas from, which I just got to combining over the years to suit my tastes.

And there's a bit of orange zest in the cranberry sauce and the mashed sweet potatoes, so I am having oranges sent with the produce delivery this week.

Certain flavors always to be expected if you eat my Thanksgiving dinner: maple, and orange and almond. The green beans (and sometimes Brussels sprouts, but not, I think, this year, as it's a tinier group than usual,) are sauteed with garlic. In this manner, I prepare traditional American holiday foods with a hint of the Mediterranean ancestral memory built into my brain. 

The boys voted on cherry pie with the pumpkin pie for this year. I have cherries in the freezer, so that's a happy thing. Probably I will do the sour cream crust recipe I got from Bon Appetit for blueberry pie around 20 years ago. SourcreamcrustCake flour is made with a softer wheat and is a good thing to add to pie crusts containing butter. This is baked at 400º for 50 minutes with a filling made from 2 lbs of fruit.

And then they prefer the flaky shortening crust for pumpkin pie, rather than the buttery tart-style ones I tend to use otherwise. The cherry pie is flavored with almond extract, in reminiscence of my mother. She bought canned cherries (not the pie filling,) and cooked them to a rich thickness with almond extract, sugar, and flour. The scent wafting through the house was magical.

So I do much the same thing, but with frozen cherries instead of canned.

I miss my faraway daughters a lot right now. However, I like to make things as great as I can for my sons. It would be crummy of me to put in only half effort for half the family. Thanksgiving dinner has always been my special gift for them, and hopefully they'll all always have good memories of that.

It's a basic menu, but all fully homemade except the dinner rolls, and the bread for the dressing.

Orange-glazed turkey with sherry cream gravy
Sage and onion dressing
Orange-spiced cranberry sauce
Sauteed green beans
Maple mashed sweet potatoes
Raised dinner rolls
Pumpkin pie
Cherry pie


Waving my cane at "holiday" candy

I've always had a problem controlling my sugar intake. When I was old enough in childhood to walk to the store, I'd spend all my dimes on paper dots, lollipops, whatever new oddities were being introduced at the time, and there were a plethora of them, or I'd buy a Butterfinger or Heath bar. I loved Heath; it was so much better back then before Hershey bought it. Anyway.

Some treats were available only at certain times or in certain places, so they were more valuable, rare treasures to be sought after or longed for. Like movie candy. My favorite movie candies were Junior Mints and Cherry Dots. I liked regular mixed flavor Dots, but getting a box of nothing but cherry felt amazing. Well, back then, you almost never saw movie candy outside of the movie theater, and we didn't go all that often. Once in a great while, we'd see a box of cherry Dots, and Mom would get them for me. It felt like winning a prize in a drawing. I savored the first few, though, then crammed them in until the box was empty.

I had no discretion with holiday candy at all. I would gobble it all up, no matter how much I told myself to let it stretch out for awhile. I am pretty sure no one really thought this was wrong, as it was a happy treat, I ate my dinners pretty well, and was always extremely thin.

But really, candy to me was like beer to my dad. If it was there, I ate all of it until there wasn't anymore. It has taken many years for me to partly conquer that problem. The worst thing is those gelled spearmint leaves. If we're at the grocery store, my son can hold up a bag of those and I will literally start shaking. Yes, I said literally. I am physiologically changed at the sight, almost at the mere mention of them. Right now as I type, I am experiencing the sugary coating, the way a piece looks and feels as you bite into it, and the strange leafy aftertaste. I can smell them, though I haven't opened a package in years. So, I don't eat them. Ever. I know I could just eat one or two now, if someone else was holding the bag, but it would never satisfy me.

When I was 13, I was told I had hypoglycemia, and was immediately put on a no sugar, low carb diet. You should know that was in 1978, long before people got really confused about low fat, low carb, low sugar diets and the fake foods they wrought. I couldn't even have ketchup, because it had sugar in it. And this was before every food had high fructose corn syrup in it, but my doctor was already convinced that stuff was a menace. I mean, you can easily say that it is, in the sense that all kinds of foods were sweetened with it starting around that time; foods that were always strictly savory before. Mom and I had to read labels and work to avoid everything that ended in -ose. There were compromises; I could drink milk, but not eat grapes.

I had to eat special peanut butter and learned to enjoy it on apples. I couldn't have jam, or most of the breakfast cereal I liked, or even the same bread. I ate a lot of sunflower seeds. It was a tough diet, but I didn't cheat, even at school, where my daily lunch had formerly consisted of a chocolate frosty and a basket of french fries. (To this day, I'm not much of a french fry fan, because they aren't like the ones I had in junior high.) The diet began right before Easter, and I wasn't allowed to have a candy basket. And the thing I missed most of all was Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 9.10.00 AM

They weren't sold individually yet; they came six to a package, and were available only at Easter. Also, they were always sold out, so if they weren't bought early, that was too bad. One year, my mom bought several packages and secreted them away, giving them to me for my birthday in early June. Those I did try very hard to spread out, and for me, they lasted awhile, at least a couple of weeks. Because I knew I wouldn't have any again until the following spring.

They were better than regular peanut butter cups because of the superior chocolate to peanut butter ratio. Peanut butter cups were in fact a disappointment by comparison. But of course, those were available year-round.

I avoid peanut butter eggs now like I avoid spearmint leaves. I will buy them for my kids at holidays but not eat any myself. Five of my six kids can eat candy like a normal person. One of them seems to have the same inherent problem as me, but was at least taught from the beginning to work at being mindful of it.

I felt much better on that very strict diet, but it was extremely difficult and ultimately unsatisfying, which meant I never sustained it for long periods of time. But I still have the problem. I have to limit myself in ways I can manage, because I react poorly to sugar just as I did when I was younger, and as I'm no longer underweight, am yet more susceptible to diabetes. I must now work to never be overweight. These days, I rarely eat candy, or ice cream, I never drink sweetened soft drinks, and I can refuse dessert after a good meal. Sugar has just got to be purely a treat for me, and not part of continual intake. I still have more than I should, but far, far less than I used to.

Before the past twenty years or so, we all looked upon desserts and other highly sweetened foods as treats, and only a few people like me took unholy advantage of them. Before syrup-laden lattes, before foods crammed with sweeteners to make up for the misguided desire for "low fat," before everything was available everywhere all the time, and people didn't have food at their desks, sugary treats were a rewarding pleasure at special times or after a special meal.

Alcohol converts to sugar in the blood; I take rich pleasure in a cocktail I've crafted, but keep to a strict weekly limit. And a piece of cake and an Aviation on the same night would drain my energy for the next day. It's one or the other, and not every day. For many people, though, sugar has become a part of every meal and every snack in a day. It does no good to claim you're okay because you eat only fake sugar. Why must everything you eat or drink be sweetened in the first place? This limits your flavor palate so that you seek out other ways to make your vegetables and grains taste satisfying, like topping it all with cheese...and I would be willing to lay down money that people who consume a lot of fake sugar are also consuming a lot of starchy foods like pasta, tortillas, hamburger buns...

This Halloween I gave out Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins. They were the big hit, the first candy we ran out of. But they were sold individually at the grocery store beginning in August. And look what I saw when I was at Kroger this morning. 20131111_083749
The moment Christmas is over, the eggs will appear, for a three month "Easter season." That special treat once available for a few weeks each spring is now in the stores at least six months out of the year.

I made sweetened treats from fresh fruit this weekend. But the great thing I've learned about making them for myself is that they feel so special, I have only a little, only occasionally, making the most of what I created. One of my best personal rules, not a rule but a general pattern, is to not eat any pre-made sweet that I could make myself. It all has a much higher degree of value that way, and I'm finally grown up enough to treasure that, not be a glutton about it. 

It isn't possible to set the clock back to a less convenient time in order to monitor our food intake better. And actually, most of us have far more access to truly healthful foods than we once did. But more and more people are becoming diabetic, not because of an inherited family trait, but because their diets were bungled nearly from the beginning. I read an article recently that admonished parents not to tell kids to eat their vegetables "because they're good for you," because a kid will think good for you means "tastes bad." That bothered me a lot. I preferred Sesame Street's idea of calling sweets "sometimes" foods. I told my kids that dessert is a special thing you have sometimes after your tummy is satisfied with what it needs. I don't know if that really stuck. I don't know what will. But being bombarded with holiday candy year round surely doesn't help matters. If there are peanut butter flags next year for July 4, I won't be surprised.


Maya, Louis and the CSO (and Artie Shaw)

Last night I went to the first of four Cincinnati Symphony concerts for which I have tickets this season. It is the inaugural weekend for the new director of the symphony, Louis Langrée. When I bought the tickets several weeks ago, I called the ticket office directly and had someone lead me through the purchase and help me select seats. I could have paid more and sat lower or closer, but by choosing the gallery, I had a good combination of view and value, and it sounds great once people stop whispering and start letting the music take hold. So I'll be in the 3rd or 4th row of section Q this season, and that suits me just fine.

Don't you like knowing there are still a few places you can call without fear of tedium, long hold times, and short-tempered or nonsensical people at the other end? It always seems like such a toss of the dice, and I'm not much of a gambler.

If you haven't attended a performance at the Music Hall, or not recently, you should know that it is a thing well worth doing. It's safe and well-lit, and there are people everywhere who seem happy to help you enjoy the experience. As I recall from last season, the coat check situation could be improved, but I'll see how that goes later this month.

I had the GPS on my phone lead me right to the parking garage entrance, because I don't spend enough time in that area to remember one way navigation, especially after dark. When I got in, Dr. Maya Angelou was already on stage speaking, and I was immediately captivated by her voice, cadence of speech, and personality. She was wearing a lovely long white dress and sat in a wheelchair discussing her life and what she believes people can and ought to do for themselves. She's had a remarkable life; broad and rich and worthy of honor and emulation.

Oh, and then the orchestra began to filter in, taking their seats and warming up. This always thrills me, and makes me wish to be a part of it, because there is nothing like orchestral music that is surrounding you as you contribute to it. It isn't just the sound; there's energy and a sort of electricity that infuses you. At the same time, the auditorium seats were filling rapidly. Naturally, I was in front of a man who did not know how to keep still or tuck his feet beneath him, and his wife was a whisperer. Well, this happens. To me, a lot. Anyway.

After the concertmaster arrived, the brass section stood up and played a fanfare for the new director! It was very cool. And when he walked on stage, all stood and applauded his arrival. I felt it was odd at first, yet somehow fitting, that the first piece of music began with the amazing talent of eighth blackbird, an unusual and impressive group of musicians who played Jennifer Higdon's On A Wire. The orchestra joined in after a few minutes, and at one point, nearly every musician on stage was making a percussive sound with their instruments. It was fantastic.

The first time I heard a Jennifer Higdon piece, I wasn't sure I'd like it, because I'm never able to be pulled into what has been a too-long atonal trend in contemporary orchestral compositions. However, she uses a great deal of inventive technique that builds into what feels like an astonishing cohesiveness. Really, I'm hardly anything like an expert, but I think she's got real genius. I'm always leaning forward to take in more. She's going to be looked back on as an influence, and how great is it to be a tiny part of that? I mean, I think we haven't yet heard the best of what she can do; we're just building up to it.

Next up was Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. (Read lots about it here.) I love Copland. I'll write about why sometime. Three screens were lowered to show old photographs while the music played; images of battlefields, slaves, Abraham Lincoln, slave trade announcements, and civil rights demonstrations. Dr. Angelou was brought on stage and helped into a seat which allowed her to speak from a semi-standing position. She had changed into a gorgeous black evening gown. The music plays for quite awhile before the recitation of quotes from Lincoln, and about Lincoln and his life are spoken. She made it thrilling. One thing Copland did that I always admire when it's used well is to repeat the opening lines poetically. And it suits her particular oratory style perfectly. When the piece was finished, there was thunderous applause. I have been to some great symphonic concerts and some truly memorable rock concerts, but never have I wanted to stand with a crowd and applaud like it would somehow become some solid and lasting thing to give and to carry away. You know, manifesting it into being.

After the intermission, Langrée set Beethoven's Fifth Symphony off like a rocket. At first I thought it was going to gallop too frenetically for me, even in Beethoven terms, but then I realized that it wasn't galloping, it was rolling. I hadn't heard it played quite like this before, and I began to enjoy it. The Fifth is by no means a favorite of mine, but we played the final movement in high school (I've been trying to figure that out for awhile, I don't know,) and I do love that. It still marches through my head frequently. What I liked about last night's performance was that near the end of the scherzo, the third movement, there was this sense of almost running out of breath, and then the fourth took off again like the first. It was palpable. It's…well, it's sensual. There could be a metaphor in it. It wasn't a deep performance, but it was pleasurable.

The final ovations were enthusiastic and sincere, and I liked that. It was a great night and it's going to be a great season.

Okay, I wanted to share that on the trip to the Music Hall, which is 18 miles for me, I was listening to this goofy 90s playlist I made recently. Just as I hit downtown, Kid Rock's "Bawitaba" began. I found this hilarious for some reason. On the way home, I thought Beethoven in my head would be enough, but it took a billion minutes to get past the casino and back to 471-south, and by then I wanted external sound. Classical isn't really good in my car, and who knows what would turn up next on that playlist? The Spice Girls? So I turned on Artie Shaw, and that was a good decision. He was a gigantically egotistical ass, but he was a real musician. 

 


Saturday Morning TV

When I woke up awhile ago, I felt lazy, and for a lark, turned on the TV instead of getting out of bed to dress. On the screen were some cowboys and a woman, trying to keep a dinosaur calm, but he broke from his ropes and then sort of gnawed another dinosaur to death. Then it chased the people, and some rocks fell on it and knocked it out. One of the people was James Franciscus, who got a new rope around it and then they made a procession with it to a Mexican town, but before they got there, a witch and a little person told them the dinosaur was evil and would destroy them.

In the Mexican town, the woman has dollar signs in her eyes, thinking of world tours with the dinosaur. This upsets a British professor who apparently found the thing, and James Franciscus, who was in it only for enough money for a ranch in Wyoming. And love. He will not have both, it seems. Then a show begins in a large arena, and there is an elephant, and the little person works to sabotage the show, as the dinosaur is about to be released, apparently to gnaw the elephant to death.

But when the curtain is opened, the dinosaur is gnawing the little person, and then accidentally tails its giant cage open. Mexicans are hysterical and running from the arena. The bandleader tries to keep the music playing, but not for long.

Church bells are tolling, and as Mexicans run for safety, knocking over vegetable and flower stands, and Franciscus is thrown from his horse as he attempts to fire on the beast with his shotgun. He fails, throws the gun, and runs inside a massive cathedral with the townspeople. They force the great doors closed against him, but his tail of menace defeats them. As everyone runs out the back, James Franciscus attempts to trap the creature within the walls. But the woman and a cheeky boy are still inside. Franciscus yells at the dinosaur and throws things at it, taunting it. Then he engages it in a battle of wits with a red flag. He falls back against the pipes of a tremendous organ, which enrages the creature, and then he jabs the flag in its ear. Then he runs to see the boy and woman to safety, grabbing a torch along the way to throw at the dinosaur just as it reaches a highly flammable section of flooring. The fire quickly surrounds it and in its terror and confusion, it howls in agony. Some men push the back door of the cathedral open, those inside escape, and the cathedral begins to collapse, a fire consuming its floor too much for the structure to stand. The townspeople watching in awe as the dinosaur succumbs to its fate.

The End.

No, really. That was how it ended. I feel a little cheated, to be honest. The Valley of Gwangi.

Next, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is on. I can't say much about that except Tony Randall was a champ. It's good in the sense that...it's put together well and mostly interesting and stuff. And Barbara Eden has brown hair, which is nice. But I have things to do now, I guess.

Watch this part and thank me later:  

Pictures unrelated, of Rock Hudson with Richard Long, and Doug McClure with Clint Eastwood. Longhudson
Longhudson


Something like Amen, I guess.

I've been struggling with NaNoWriMo for a couple of days for various reasons. The latest one is that a huge revelation occurred that I don't know how to process. It's so huge, yet so personal, no one else can appreciate its bigness. (If my parents were alive, I could just tell them about it, and that would probably resolve the whole thing. They would be glad for an answer to my biggest lifelong puzzle.) I thought, "Oh, I'll write down what this has been like." But it seems to be like forcing a huge amount of air through asthmatic bronchial tubes. I thought I might just record it all aloud, but l think I would start crying, not from sadness, but from being overwhelmed. I have already cried twice since my discovery. It has been many years since I was the sort of girl who cried at the drop of a hat.

And nothing you're about to read will sound the least bit overwhelming to you; I feel it as I write it, so it comes out thin and watered-down. But I have to, so I can get back to the thing.

Once a few years ago, I was walking through some woods in New Jersey (let's be perfectly clear; outside the largest urban areas, and west of the shoreline, New Jersey is made of woods. It's not at all what you think you know) and I came to this beautiful clearing. I sat on a fallen tree for awhile and contemplated things. As one does. A sort of vision came to mind that was so clear and real and detailed, I thought it must have been something I actually saw before. But I had this impression it was in Virginia or North Carolina back when it was also Virginia, where my dad's family settled when they arrived from Britain at the end of the 17th century. There was a cabin in the clearing and it was on fire, and a girl was laughing at a woman who could not rise from her four-postered curtained bed.

And the clearing looked just like where I was sitting. It felt like some sort of epiphany. I was connected to that experience. Every year after that, until I moved to Ohio in 2011, I went to the woods in August, found a clearing, and waited for it to wash over me again. Popping up or over to the woods in Southwestern Ohio isn't really a thing, so for the past two years, August has just been a month to be in.  I had this idea for awhile that something in the mystery and magic of physics caused me to be connected to the girl at the cabin who watched her sister or mother burn. I had a brief notion I could be the woman who burned, but I don't really believe life and death work quite so directly.

Plus, in the dreams I had nearly nightly from age 3 or 4 to age 17, I was never in harm's way. Particularly scary dreams about fire would follow a day in which I saw smoke in the sky, or a fire on TV, or having been away from home, uncertain it would be there when I returned. A fire drill at school would trigger a bad one. But most of them were fairly inert. In all the dreams, fire burned unchecked but never seemed to actually consume anything. (In one dream, the fire wasn't unchecked; it remained a tiny flame on the hearth which never grew, and frightened me as I watched to see what would happen.) The scariest part was waking up from them, light from a window making me wonder if the trees were on fire, noises from the heater or the electricity in the walls making me wonder if something was shorting out, soon to burn throughout the house. If I was too warm, I felt the door once I worked up the nerve to get out of bed, checked for smoke coming in at the bottom before opening it. But for years, I didn't have that nerve and just had to call out to my parents, too quietly at first, then louder in panic that they might not wake to hear me.

No one did much about you if you were weird back in the 70s unless you were violent or used only the red crayon. You'd grow out of it in time. There are a couple things I'd have maybe been diagnosed with if I was a kid 30-40 years later than I was, but back then, no one was particularly curious about or patient with a weirdo. It was mostly, "How about you stop being like that now? It makes people uncomfortable." The school counselor I was made to see for a few weeks in third grade gave up fairly quickly on our Monday meetings. I have a feeling he just thought I was lame, and too smart not to stop being so. But I'll stop digressing; this isn't about the fire dreams, it's merely and probably the bigger solution to why an event triggered something that would not ever fully end, even after I was an adult and could manage it for myself. We'll get back to that.

Once, just down the street, a magnificent old house that had fallen on hard times began smoking early in the morning. I mean that quite literally. It smoked itself to destruction. I came downstairs and saw my mom on the phone, looking through the front door. A neighbor had called, worried I'd see it and freak out. I went to school thinking about that house all day, and afterwards, of course walked over to have a look at it.

You're wondering about the "of course," unless you grew up in a small town with no real system of operations and the worst volunteer fire department known to have ever existed. The house just smoked all day, and later on, there'd be a flame you could see, but it never erupted into flames until many hours later. I went over to look at it with someone, and had this vague sense that it ought to be dealt with, but didn't quite realize it was destroying itself and no one would stop it. I think later I was told "kids were playing with matches," something like that. And eventually it did burn, and some men came and sort of aimed water at it, but by morning it was a charred hull that we were no longer allowed to go near. I don't remember what I dreamed that night, but I know I did.

It probably wasn't the most recurring dream, which featured a canopy bed much like my own, but in a larger, older room, with a woman laughing as someone burned, and I wasn't either the woman or the someone; but I'd wake up hot, anyway.

What the grownups didn't know was that I was never truly afraid of a fire I could see someone start or that I could start myself. It was when it was something outside my control that I felt scared. We had a huge fireplace in our house and I enjoyed sitting by it very much. But then I worried in the middle of the night that it hadn't been extinguished properly.

At some point, I began asking questions about my dreams. Apparently, they started farther back than I was ever able to remember them, but my parents did. I asked if I'd ever seen anything like some of what I described, but no one thought so. I thought maybe they'd started after we moved when I was five, because the house we lived in before that was burned down (by actual teenagers, I was told,) shortly after the county claimed eminent domain over the property, which sits above Blue River Road in South Kansas City, on the Grandview side. But it seems they started a year or two before that. I don't remember, even now.

I imagine people grew bored of my fire dreams. As I grew too old to call out for my parents and to crawl into bed with them, I just had to lie there night after night, convincing myself nothing was wrong, and if I looked out my center window, the trees would not be on fire. If we were driving back home from the city and I saw smoke on the horizon, I had to reassure myself it would not be from the charred remains of my house.

We moved again when I was 16. The dreams were less frequent, but no less difficult to handle or understand. One evening, about a year or so later, my mom got another phone call about a house burning that was being featured on the news. It was the house I'd grown up in. A fire had started in the garage and was so badly bungled by the fire department, it spread through the house, which was by then over 120 years old, and destroyed it. The only photograph I have of the house is a terrible snapshot that looks just like something which never quite existed. Okay, there are two. This one shows just part of the house with Mom and I nice and blurry in front of it.
Scan_Pic0004I both love and am saddened by how terrible this photo is.

There's a lot I don't remember. I remember how it all felt because I can still feel it. For the whole rest of my life, though the dreams have been less frequent, they've included most often one which is set in that house, or along that street, and nothing is as it should be. Sometimes the whole thing is hollowed out by fire, or just fallen apart, or very, very messy. And I'm always so relieved to wake up, but still a little afraid to go back to sleep. The sense of dread never fully departs, though logic and reason allow me to bank it back down to a tolerable level.

I only just saw The Towering Inferno last year, because I didn't know how I'd feel about it. But I need as much William Holden in my life as I can have, so I finally sat through it and that was perfectly all right. Plus I enjoy setting fires, anyway; in the fireplace or the grill, candles, etc. They're a great part of life, after all, providing both warmth and cleansing. But I have spent a lot of time over the years trying to pin down why I have been oppressed by these dreams. The epiphany in the woods brought back a lot of memories to sort, and I drilled it all down to something I thought I must have seen on TV, like on Night Gallery or One Step Beyond. So for the past 5 years or so, whenever I thought of it, I'd do a web search for a description of what I thought I might have seen, but none of it was quite the thing until I was watching Sleepy Hollow with my son on Monday night.

In the episode, there was a reference to someone called a Sin Eater. I had a laugh, telling my son about the most scary thing I could remember seeing on TV as a child; a Night Gallery episode wherein Richard Thomas has to eat food off someone's body in order to take their sins before they are buried. (That's all I'm saying, because, go watch it on Hulu. Second segment. Seriously. You will never think about butter again without seeing him lick his fingers.) But when I Googled the episode, I learned it was on TV shortly before I turned seven years old! My parents were so irresponsible about that kind of thing. Who brings their kid to see The French Connection at that age, as well? And The Poseidon Adventure? I still see that poor captain's face sometimes. But I digress.

Or not, because as it turns out, that's the point. I forgive them, bless their souls. However, at some point in the late 60s, I saw something on TV that so messed with my head, I've spent the last 45 years dealing with it and trying to figure it out. After seeing the sin eater episode description, I started typing in other keywords with "Night Gallery," and this is what I saw that led me to the answer.
Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 11.12.31 AM

I found the title at IMDb, and nearly fainted. Actually, I think I shouted, which is sort of the opposite of fainting. I read the synopsis at TCM, and looked at Google Images. It was like staring Memory directly in its mad, mad face. That's when I started crying the first time.

Let me stop and point out that I totally get why this is actually hilarious, seen from above and beyond. THE DEAD WOMAN IN MY DREAMS WAS ZSA ZSA GABOR. It basically scarred me for life, so I have mixed feelings about your laughter. But here's a funny review of how the movie got made so you can laugh some more.

I cried because it was right there in B-movie purgatory this whole time, and because it was so overwhelming to discover and because I can't tell my parents the mystery has been solved, or even sort of yell at them for the tortured memories I have of film violence, which is probably why I'd hit the classic screwball comedy medication hard by the time I turned ten, and I texted someone I thought would understand how I felt but got a lame not-at-all-getting-it answer in return. Which, okay, fair enough. 

So now what? Nothing, really. I just go on, same as before. How annoying, right? It isn't the end of the rainbow, or Willy Wonka's glass elevator (another movie that scarred me,) or a lottery ticket or a suddenly happy and warm life. Yet it is absolutely the answer to why this happened to me. Well, partly. I think it's safe to say most people would not have had this experience of literally thousands of nightmares about the same thing based on a movie they saw as a toddler. It's ironic that I spent so many years sleeping in a canopy bed, or else my mother knew all along and it was her secret plot to torment me, but probably not. It's ironic that the childhood homes I remember (there was one more, where I was just a baby,) both burned down shortly after I moved out. And it's true that I was such a weirdly sensitive kid that I had to shut parts of myself off to the outside in order to not continually fall apart around negative energy.

But I'm just me here now, 48 years old, and I can still feel it all yet be withdrawn from it, as I choose. So here's a thing you should watch, which is about all you need to take from this long essay or from the movie that spawned it. You need some introduction to it, though. It's a 25 minute long video review of Picture Mommy Dead, aka The Movie that Tormented My Childhood, by this guy who...is a sort of explosion of gay and nerd and self-consciousness. Mostly I want him not to sit in a chair with arms, and maybe be somewhat less arch in presentation, not project so much, however, I like how the thing is put together, and it's really worth watching just to see how drunk Wendell Corey can be and still appear on an ABC Monday Night Movie in 1966.

 

And so. And so, and so, and so, and so, and so.


NaNoWriMo writing space and a short prologue

20131101_122458
    Aaron stood at the edge of the water, his back to the emerging morning sun, and stared across the dark cold surface just beginning to reflect daylight. He liked to imagine if he squinted just a certain way, he could see Chicago on the other side. It was at least sixty miles across the water, but knowing the city so well, his mind's eye could fill in the space beyond the murky horizon, with buildings, bustling crowds, early traffic, and the scents of food carts as miniature kitchens were fired up in anticipation of mid-morning customers.
    He shuddered and pulled the flaps of his winter cap down more firmly over his ears, rubbing his hands together to warm them, keep them from stiffening up. Twenty-odd years ago, when Aaron migrated to the city from his rural family home, he'd believed it held the key to answers he desperately needed. He'd learned a great deal about himself and the world at-large during his half dozen years there, one of the most important being that he was a simple small town man at heart, no matter how little he fit into the world in which he was raised.
20131101_110856
    Lake Michigan in mid-Autumn is best seen with a painter's eye. To most people, it merely looks cold, gray, barely moving, and is prettiest in the afternoon as the sun sets over the western horizon, sending sharp yellow rays across the surface. But Aaron could see, in the barely perceptible daylight, all the possibility gray actually holds. It's never really just some value of black mixed with some value of white, not even in the middle of the night. There's always blue, green, pink, gold, red, depending on the time of day and the clarity of the sky overhead. Just before dawn, the water was an inky purple, slowly, lazily waking to a new day. And all at once, at an almost immeasurably small moment, it began to soften into a hazy violet, shimmering as the sun caught its attention. Thus, Aaron and the great inland sea greeted the day together, and he walked back toward town to open the pie shop, in the world he now considered home.
20131101_122533