Monday, October 29, 2012

Horrible Happenings in Halloween History

Inspired by Friend of the Blog Dave Nichols' posts: Happy Leap Year and The Late Unpleasantness in Salem, I am presenting my dear Readers with My Top Three Horrible Happening in Halloween History.  Enjoy!

1.) 1793 Execution of Girondins in Paris: During the French Revolution, the Girondins were a political faction within the Legislative Assembly and National Convention which supported the end of monarchy, but, opposed the spiraling and violent momentum of the Revolution.  In other words, Girondists were all like "Calm it down, Guys, "while their friends wanted to chop EVERYBODY'S heads off.  Now everyone knows what happens when you try to insert a little sanity into bloody thirsty madness: HOMICIDE! That's right eventually the poor Girondins came into conflict with the violent and radical Montaganards.  AND on Halloween of 1793 our Sweet Girondists were executed, thus, beginning the Reign of TERROR.  Mauahahahaha.  Are you scared yet?  If not read on.

2.) 1846 Donner party unable to cross the Donner Pass sets up their winter camp: The Donner Party was a group of 87 pioneers who set off in a wagon train from Missouri in May of 1846, got bored with the long trip, and attempted to take a shortcut to California.  BAD IDEA.  Unfortunately for all those involved, the so called "shortcut" was not meant for wagon travel and proved fatal for some and disturbing for all.  What happened?  Well, long story short, the Donner Party ended up stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains as winter set in.   As temperatures plummeted and food ran out, some members of the party eventually succumbed to cold and starvation while their friends and neighbors survived by munching on their dead flesh.  Yep, Cannibalism.  They ATE each other.  Om Nom Nom.  What another helping?  Sure you do! 

3.) 1922 Il Duce, Benito Mussolini becomes premiere of Italy: Between 1925 and 1927, Old Benito dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power in Italy, thereby building a police state.  Just consider that a law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini's formal title from "president of the Council of Ministers" to "head of the government". Thus, Mussolini was no longer responsible to Parliament.  And did Benny use his power wisely?  Of course not! Who does?  Given unlimited power, Benny Boy laid siege to towns, tortured his citizens, and held women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods of persuasion earned him the nickname of "Iron Prefect".  (Makes Dick Cheney almost seem tolerable, huh?... Nah)  But not to worry Folks, Mussolini got his in the end.  In 1945, his own citizens shot, stoned, and burned his body.  What goes around comes around. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Splendor in the Grass

"Spoiled?  No, Mom, I'm not spoiled.  I'm not spoiled, Mom.  I'm a good little, good little, good little girl!  I'm fresh and virginal." (Deanie, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS)  I'm not spoiled...  Gawd, that's a loaded sentence.  What does it even mean to be spoiled?: Sexually, Mentally, Intellectually?  Damned if I know, but its one of the most famous line's from Elia Kazan's SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, a personal favorite.  The film's narrative is about young woman named Deanie (Natalie Wood) and how her relationship with her boyfriend Bud (Warren Beatty) and her possessive mother, pushes her so far over the edge that she attempts suicide and lands in a mental institution.  In the hospital, Deanie learns to accept who she is and meets a gentle and kind doctor also suffering from a nervous breakdown whom she marries.  When she leaves the hospital, Deanie's relationship with Bud is a thing of the past.  The film ends with Deanie thinking of a William Wordsworth quote: "Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower, we will grieve not; rather find strength in what remains."

Now when I was young and naive, I thought the ending of SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS was sad.  My rather warped mind believed Bud's somewhat abusive treatment was something to valued, and, thus, longed to see Deanie and Bud together.  Now, years later, time, experience, and a whole lot of hard knocks have changed my opinion about the film.  The Splendor in the Grass quote to me is not about a pinnacle moment with Bud.  Its about our childhood.  Its about who we were before we understood how the world works.  Before the Bud's of the world took us apart.  Our lives are full of Splendor in the Grass moments.  Moments of beauty and peace or at least I hope they are (I'm due, People!!)  We do not weep when the moments pass.  Instead, we glory in the fact we had them at all and allow them to give us strength for the future.  The Good Little Girl who once longed see Deanie with Bud, now revels in the fact Deanie ends up with the doctor.  The one who understands her and she him.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nothing is Written: An Exodus Story

Raise my hands,
Paint my spirit gold,
Bow my head,
Keep my hearts slow,
Cause I will wait, I will will for you.
Mumford and Sons "Nothing is Written"

"I meant to write about death, only life came breaking through." (Virginia Woolf)  

"Can you think of your experience as an Exodus story?  Last fall and winter, you were broken and tired, but you came through on the other side as a new creation."  That's what I heard in counseling...a new creation, well, huh.  If you want the truth, I simultaneously like this idea and am terrified by thought of it.  Oh, its not that I think I am losing the old Jennifer.  No, she still exists.  She loves the same people.  Wants the same things.  Dreams the same dreams.  That Jennifer is still here.  She's just getting saner.  No, what scares me is the hope that comes with believing.  Believing that the darkness has past.  Believing I won't end up hurt again.  Believing something amazing might happen.  Believing leads to hoping and hoping is oh so dangerous, my Darlings.   Hope makes you bet against the odds.  Hope tells you to hold on when common sense says let go.  Hope might break your heart.  Yet, despite all the risks, I keep hoping, praying, and waiting.  Maybe this IS an Exodus story.  Maybe my Promise Land is closer than I Bow my head, keep my heart slow, because I will wait for you."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Unquiet Mind

"There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness...Humor and absorption on friends' faces are replaced by fear and concern." ~Kay Refield Jamison, AN UNQUIET MIND

"Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone.  But these experiences carry with them feelings.  Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable.  It is also tiresome.  People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed.  They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough.  You're frightened, you and frightening, and you're "not at all like yourself but will be soon," but you know you won't." ~Kay Refield Jamison, AN UNQUIET MIND

You are "tedious beyond belief" and "no reassurance is ever enough."  I am.  Right now I am frightened, paranoid, humorless, demanding, and pretty damn sure a heaping helping of happiness with a steaming side of sanity isn't waiting for me just around the bend.  Instead its all darkness and doom.  Just when I thought my life couldn't possibly get more complicated low and behold it did.  Peachy.  I keep trying to pick up the pieces of my existence and put things back together, but its hard.  Each day is a struggle.  Can I get out of bed?  And when I do will I accomplish anything?  Can I leave my apartment? Small tasks are frightening.  What if I have to grade assignments AND do the dishes?  It might not happen.  Let's face it, Folks, at this point, I'm damaged goods, a rickety, creaking, squeaking old piece of machinery that's seen her better days.  And gawd, aren't I self indulgent tonight?  <Says while swiping away tears>  Maybe I just need a little hope.  Hope that things might fall into place for a time.  That this darkness will not endure.  After all, "love, like life, is much stranger and far more complicated than one is brought up to believe."

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ghosts That We Knew and a Wrecking Crew

You saw my pain, washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart
But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we'll live a long life

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold just as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright.

"The Ghosts that We Knew" featured on Mumford and Sons latest album (lyrics above) is a new personal favorite.  You wanna know why?  Sure, you do.  And if you don't, than I suggest you stop reading now.  ANYWAY...back on topic here: I enjoy this particular song because I'm completely crazy.  No really, I'm severely OCD (along with a lot of other crap with icky labels).  The Ghosts that I knew have been following me around since I was no less than 6 years old.  That's a lot of hang ups, Folks.  What I find beautiful about the song is that it suggests two people, both haunted by their painful pasts can pull close to one another, and live a long and happy life.  I want to believe that.  Truthfully, I still struggle to find hope.  Before I became ill, I was jaded.  Now, as I am recovering, I find myself open again and vulnerable.  As if mental illness stripped away all my armor and left me fragile and without defense.  I'm terrified.  Dear God, what if its all a trap, a joke, a miscommunication?  What if nothing ever falls into place?  I'm tired and, to be honest, I don't have any fight left.  If another wrecking crew comes after me, I'm down for the count, Guys.  Maybe that's really why I love the lyrics above.  Those words, like the rainbow I saw last Sunday, gives a little something to hold onto and believe in.  "So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light.  Cause oh they gave me such a fright.  But I will hold on as long you like.  Just promise me we'll be alright."    

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An Ode to the 80s

Top Ten Things I Miss from the 80s in No Particular Order

1.) Fraggle Rock: "Dance your cares away.  Worries for another day.  Let the music play.  Down in Fraggle Rock!"  The theme song to this Jim Henson created television series was the background music to my childhood, and when it was cancelled in 1987 a little piece of my soul died.  Okay, I'm being melodramatic, but Fraggle Rock was awesome so check it out.

2.) Rainbow Brite: These brightly colored toys were the Coolest Dolls EVER made or at least I think they were.  My parents sold all of mine in a yard sale when I six so perhaps I have yet another unnatural attachment because I'd sell my soul to get my Rainbow Brite stuff back.

3.) Belinda Carlisle's Heaven Is a Place On Earth: "Ooo, baby, do you know what its worth?  You make heaven a place on earth.  They say in heaven love comes first.  You make Heaven a place on earth."  Are you singing along, my Darlings?  You can't help yourself, can you?  You are singing along because Belinda Carlisle was awesome and that's why she is in my 80s Top Ten.

4.) Side Ponytails: No, this is not me, but in grade school my hair looked exactly like this.  Honestly, I don't know a gal with naturally curly hair that doesn't wish for the 80s.  It was a freer time. When big hair was celebrated with hairspray and high bangs.  All those chicks with straight hair getting perms in order to duplicate what nature had given us Curly Girls.  Those were the days, my Friends.  Those were the days.

5.) The Bangles: "Close your eyes.  Give me your hand.  Do you feel my heart beating.  Do you understand.  Do you feel the same?  Am I only dreaming?  Or is this burning an eternal flame?"  On most Saturday afternoons when I was a kid you could find me with my cassette player belting out tunes by this all girl band.   In fact, the only other band that came close to approaching my love for the Bangles was Wilson Phillips, but that's another story for another blog post.

6.) L.A. Gear High Tops: These shoes rocked.  No really, just stop and look at them.  The over use of the color white.  The thick laces.  The snazzy velcro at the top.  All fashion statements from the 80s I dearly miss.  Not to mention, for those of us with weak ankles, high stops were the bomb.

7.) Tee Shirt Clips: My parents rarely allowed me to wear Tee Shirt Clips, and for that reasons every single day of my life, I wake up and wish I could wad up my blouse and tie a knot in its side.  Why did we lose Tee Shirt Clips?  What was wrong with them?  Someone answer me that.  You add big bangs, a side ponytail, and some high tops and you're stylin' my Friend.

8.) Cool Toys in Happy Meals: In my day, McDonalds Happy Meals came with Fraggle Rock figurines, French Fry Transformers, Looney Toons Characters, and Muppet Babies Stuffed Animals.  That's why you buy a Happy Meal people.  Its for the kickass toy.  Children today are so freakin' confused with their meals of apples and white milk.  NO!  A kickass toy, a coke, fries, and hamburger.  That's a Happy Meal.  Go sell you New Age Granola Hippy Philosophy someplace else.  I'm not buying.

9.) The California Raisins: Listen People the California Raisins were awesome for three reasons.  1.) Claymation Rocks 2.) They're SINGING Raisins  3.) They allowed an entire generation to go Trick or Treating wearing nothing more than a garbage bag (i.e., a California Raisin).  Boom!

10.) Jellies: Okay I'll admit I'm not sure anyone misses Jellies but me.  My mother had an absurd phobia concerning this Sparkly Shoes and refused to buy me a pair.  She cited falling down a hill in flip flops as a child as a valid reason for denying me even the smallest of luxuries (i.e, my fucking jellies).  To this day, I search shoe stores for a pair jellies in hopes that these tacky rubber shoes will heal my scarred psyche.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'm Right Up the Road

You always loved short story form
The signs behind it, the hidden bars
You live for flaming, the attractions new
The leather's pulled from a secret room
Closed eyes stare into morning sun
When the darts formed into connections
If I'm honest you come to mind, but baby I'm not
If I'm honest you come to mind, but baby I'm not
"My Shepherd" ~The New Pornographers

Perhaps because I work in field bounded by the written word, when it comes to music the songs I find the most appealing are the ones I view as poetry with complex themes that speak to both pain and confusion, like the one above.  That being said, however, as much as I love songs about unresolved feelings (because I experience them so often), I think maybe what some of us need in our Oh So Confusing Existences is a good dose of Bill Withers "Somebody to Lean On".  Maybe that's what we're waiting for...someone to say "I'm right up the road.  I'll share your load if you just call me" because is life more of mournful lament than a reassuring Wither's tune.  How many times have we called out and heard nothing in the darkness?  Its easier to be quiet than to cry out and hear only the silence.

Dear, You Speak From My Heart

"Jana sokhan az zabane ama migooi" (Dear, you speak from my heart): The previous quote is taken from Gohar Homayounpour's Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran.   In her book, the author argues that "pain is pain everywhere", and rather than othering the people of Iran, we westerners ought to search for basic commonalities between us and our eastern neighbors.  Personally, I think Homayounpour's sentiment is a beautiful one.  Pain is pain everywhere.  We spend so much of our existence picking out the differences between ourselves and everyone else.  Thus, when we're finally ready to draw close to another person, we remember our past rejections, search for the differences between ourselves and the ones we love, and turn away in hopes of avoiding devastation.  The voices in our heads repeat: "You're kidding yourself."  "Eventually, your inadequacies will show."  "Turn back now."  "The way shut.  It was made by those who are Dead and the Dead keep it.  The way is shut."  (Maybe that last one is just me) I say all of those things to myself on a regular basis.  But it's an unhealthy cycle, and perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I don't want more pain and loss so this time around rather than running away, I'll speak from my heart.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Word Fitly Spoken

“I need someone. I need to hold somebody close. And I need more than this holding. I need someone to understand how I feel at a time like now. And the understanding must be part of the holding.” (Betty SmithA Tree Grows in Brooklyn")  Sometimes, the Universe presents us with more challenges than we planned on.  Your car breaks down.  Your meds don't work.  Your mouth breaks.  In those moments, when our lives are falling apart and we're swiping away tears, we, like Francie, ache to be held and understood.  However, as we all know, those precious intangibles, holding and understanding, are rare, indeed.  Rather than comfort, Life enjoys serving us up heaping plates of indifference, and because of that fact, when we hurt, often times, indifference is what we expect.  But down deep, despite our expectations, we long to hear "all will be well."  Because when the right person assures you of that, you believe it.  In spite of everything Life's taught you, you believe and you see a light in the darkness.  Once in a great while, my Friends, "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11).