Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Combating Irrational Fears, One Graveyard at a Time

I do believe in confronting one's irrational fears. With this belief, I try to combat my fear of the undead, mentioned in my previous post, by going into graveyards to take photos. I go alone. I still find myself avoiding the areas right around headstones and such, just in case.

Personally, I have no interest in being buried. My request, once dead, of course, and, one which will not be granted by any of my loved ones due to its unseemliness, is to be driven out to an outer lying wooded area and left. Not buried, not covered or encased in an expensive box, just left, en plein aire. Why not? It's economical and adventurous. This is not, I repeat, not how my mother saw it when I suggested it to her during one of our “you are going on vacation and therefore, it is possible, that you may die and I need to know what to do with you and everything you own before you leave” conversations. I love my mother. She plans for everything.

After the last big snow storm in Chicago, I ventured out to Graceland Cemetery. The cemetery is beautiful and old. It has a charm that most “newer” cemeteries do not (is there really a “newer” cemetery? Haven’t they all been around forever?). This is the cemetery where Burnham and Sullivan were buried- Remember the stories of the White City? Yes, this cemetery.

I still find most of the monuments and mausoleums eerie. The same holds true for the ultra serene landscape found while promenading through the rows and rows of dead.

Because on this visit there was snow on the ground, I found myself hopping through the snow drifts trying to get close enough to the shrouded statues and angelic marble guardians of the dead all the while trying to avoid stepping too long in any one place- one must move quickly where there are dead below. Each remained quiet, undisturbed by my gazelle like movements across the smaller headstones buried under winter’s icy blanket. Each protecting their safely tucked away booty, six feet underground or so- many of them peacefully slumbering away the century.

Many of the names found here caused me a moment of pause- men of great importance resting forever there. Pullman, McCormick, Palmer, Field, Armour- each man having left lasting legacies- each creating this Chicago. And me, the closest I will ever be to the historical great of this city- standing amongst their places of internment. Still, not wanting them to reemerge from their resting places and so, I moved on, in my own jerky jumpy fashion through the snow, across the layers of earth separating the dead from the living. Maybe I am the one I fear to see "unfresh" and roaming the cemetery grounds in slow jittery movements searching for brains. If anything, the brains sought, would not be of the living, but of those below.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Zombie and fear of the Undead from the Zombie Maker

Zombies and the undead. These are things that one, as an adult, a rational normal adult, no longer fears, or at least should not fear. I am not a normal rational adult. I still harbor thoughts of zombies coming out of the ground whilst I am passing graveyards to suck my life from me… or maybe just my brains. I realize this fear is silly and unwarranted. I know that I have never come across an account of someone experiencing death in this way. I have never passed a graveyard where I found someone, not quite so “fresh” in appearance roaming the grounds in slow jittery movements searching for brains. These things have never happened to me, but I still fear these things.

I am not allowed to watch scary movies. At all. Not even the commercials for scary movies. The titles of some movies are enough to conjure up all sorts of fearful images which lead to many nights of “sleeping” with the lights on and jumping into bed from across the room to avoid the hands that may reach out and grab me from below. The Exorcism of Emily Rose... typing it gives me shutters...or walks upon my grave, shall we say...

These fumbling brain snatcher images are not conjured up by the movies at the time of watching. No, that would be too easy. Instead, only when the images have had a chance to marinate and my warped imagination jumbles and massages the images, twisting them into something truly horrible, perfected to my own personal horrifying hell that it keeps me, and those that are silly enough to sleep around, me awake.

One time, arriving home earlier than I was to be expected, I sat down and joined an “other” for the last part of The Ring. Not Ringu, the really freaky Japanese version, just The Ring. I was fine. We went on to have dinner, chat about the day, normal everyday things. Then came the time to go to bed- the girl, the TV and the water all flooded into my psyche creating all sorts of maniacal fun.

Each unidentified sound was something coming to get me. Shadows cast their sinister selves upon the walls and danced their devil dances. Something was going to get me, I was certain. My cats weren’t allowed to make noise for fear that they would cover the scratching, dragging sounds of the dead coming to offer certain ritual torture before they dragged me off to the nether regions, never to be seen again. The lights remained on and showering was only completed while being guarded by the “other.” There were no moments of his casually walking away to check on something in the kitchen, absolutely not. I must be spoken to as well during all of this so as to be certain that the “other” was indeed himself, not secretly taken over by one of these foul creatures.

The “other” was not pleased. He didn’t sleep. He wasn’t allowed to- for what if these miserable monsters came around? I needed protection. When I did doze off amidst the protective milky light force emanating from the nightstand- glaring nosily into our broken sleep, I had nightmares. Upon waking, I demanded to be held and protected from that which there is no real protection, my own imagination.

Amazingly enough, it only took a few of these hellish episodes for the “other” to realize that maybe, just maybe, horror films were something to watch alone without the happenstance of me popping in to create my  own zombies looking helplessly for brains.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Une Petite Poeme

Chaque jour
Chaque moment
Je me souviens
J'ai tout oublié

J. Smith (2011)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Don't Invite the Pinata

This photo is completely unrelated to the story... just a picture of Earwax Cafe...
When I was a child I somehow got it in my head that I must have a piñata at my birthday party. How could I go wrong? Whack at a cardboard vessel crammed with toys, pennies and, best of all, candy until it exploded and showered the guests with these fine gifts… and you even got to eat the candy? This sounded like a great idea. I was wholly invested in the "piñata scenario."

After some serious pestering, my mother agreed to the addition of the piñata to my up coming birthday. I couldn’t wait. I played and replayed the images in my mind. The anticipation, the senseless whacking at something with a stick without getting in trouble, and, then, for the grand finale, the explosion of pieces of everything you ever wanted pouring down from above. And… I would be the one supplying the excitement. Yes, me! I would be remembered with godlike awe as that girl with the piñata.

At the party, everything was going smoothly. Food, cake, and little girl chatter. Finally, the time arrived. We all headed up to the attic where the jewel of the evening was hanging from the ceiling like an angel. The anticipation sat heavy as all the little girls clamored to the top of the stairs beholding the donkey piñata in all its glory. We stood around twitching with excitement.

Blindfold the contestant, spin her around a couple times and hand her a long wooden stick. Sounds safe, doesn’t it? Some missed the mark completely, some made contact. A few sprinkles of candies showered upon us. But then, to my horror, something else occurred. There was a slight groan in the rope and the freed cardboard donkey made its final decent. It landed with a muffled thud. The fallen angel.

Laying there bloated, limp and exposed, the donkey waited for something to happen. It didn’t take long for the other birthday guests to circle their prey. The tearing and pounding of this helpless cardboard donkey was more than I could bear. It was one thing to beat it with a stick, dizzy and blindfolded while it hung in the air, but this savagery was just too much. I tried to stop it. Tried to hold back the pack of wild hyenas that moments before were docile friends of mine, but no, it was too late. I pleaded with them to allow the donkey to be restrung and place back on high. My pleas fell silently upon the foaming at the mouth hyena children. There was no saving the donkey from this level of brutality. I fled.

This episode brought to light my character flaw of needing to follow the rules. There are certain rules the must be obeyed. The piñata is supposed to go down in a blaze of candy glory, not torn to bits by wild children. There are rules. They were not followed and I knew it. I knew that they had been broken and I wanted no part of it.

Finding myself a nice safe hiding place behind an oversized chair in our living room, I waited. The hyenas would not get me after they finished cleaning out the donkey’s innards. I was protected. As the beating of the cardboard donkey was the last planned activity of my birthday party, I remained hidden until the final guest turned savage left my home, booty in hand. Once it was certain everyone had left, my mother coaxed me out of my hiding place, dried my tears and made a vow to never allow another cardboard donkey make an appearance at any festive gathering.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Sometimes the cracks get deeper

Sometimes the pieces are disjointed
Sometimes they move further apart
Sometimes there is a sea of water
Sometimes it fills the cracks
Sometimes it drowns the pieces
Sometimes while submerged it appears to be whole
Sometimes it is
Sometimes it isn’t
Sometimes isn’t forever.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Spring. I find this time of year to be difficult- the holidays are over, the snows still come and go and I am ready to be outside unbundled. A few lovely days pop up here and there, teasing those of us in the Midwest. Then, quickly thereafter, we are again ridiculed by Mother Nature as she sprinkles her icy fairy dust upon the earth, which yearns to see the sun kissed days. I am yearning for those days as well.

Recently, driving home late at night I was startled by a robin spotlighted by the headlights of my car. He was sitting waiting for something in the middle of the deserted road. I hit the breaks and watched the little bird meander away back into the dark of the night. Why the little bird was out so late was beyond my comprehension, but it reminded me of how Spring, like the robin, seems to appear out of nowhere. One day it’s 20 degrees and gloomy and I am covered in enough layers to make a mummy blush. Then, the next, the birds are out, the sun is shining, and the trees are in bloom- my layers are shed and I begin to assess the damage the cold weather has had on my physical being. The transition is missed. This is okay with me. Sometimes we are too busy doing other things to really notice the subtle changes occurring around us. Sometimes we get caught up in our dramas and struggles and forget to breathe.

This time, I am ready for the Spring. I am vigilantly watching and waiting. This time I’m the little bird patiently sitting waiting in the night for the first sign of Spring to reveal herself. Hopefully she brings some cookies.