Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I've been preoccupied with working on my new novel and also getting short stories out to various zines and literary mags, so I haven't had time to devote to the blog like I'd like to. And, truthfully, the novel is a piece of survival horror/science fiction and it's not put me in a funny sort of mood. As such, I don't want to break the creative energy I'm devoting to that work. BUT - -I've also promised myself that I would try to contribute something...anything... to this blog as a means of self-discipline. That said - - I've decided to post up a piece of creative nonfiction I wrote a few years back to deal with the loss of a family friend. I pulled it out recently to submit to some literary magazines and done some brush up work on it. So, here it is...

John was my father’s best friend. My earliest memories of him are inextricably linked with that of my father. Almost like an old snapshot, my memory of them is sepia-toned and dog-eared. They were these larger than life figures in blue uniforms with black leather belts, shiny badges, and big black guns that hung high on their waists.

John was my father’s partner and they rode together for fifteen years. Eventually, my dad quit the force and accepted the idea that it was impossible to raise two children on the criminally low salary that they paid cops in the seventies and eighties. My father took a job as the Service Director in my hometown and John went on to become a sergeant with another local police department.

“Everything I know about being a good sergeant and a cop, I learned from your dad,” he told me once while we sat around a campfire at deer camp, sharing a beer and a quiet moment. The ground was covered with a crunchy, gravel-like snow and it was about twenty numbing degrees outside.

John was a short, thick-chested man. He had an intensity about him that served him well in his job. I most remember his smile. He had tiny, white teeth and a smile that was impossibly large. It could go from warm and friendly to shark-like and predatory in an instant. When he smiled at a joke, you couldn’t help smiling with him. Often his jokes would be about people he had met as a cop, and he would grin devilishly as he would relate a story about an exceptionally dumb criminal. He could be a prick to someone he busted, but fiercely loyal to those he cared about personally.

One of the first things you were struck with, when meeting him, was his right hand. His middle finger was short, amputated at the first knuckle. Weirder still, his index finger was permanently stiff at the same knuckle and slightly bent.

One night, while camping, he pulled out his service 9mm and we took turns emptying magazines at empty cans in the hills of southern Ohio. The deformity never caused him any trouble. That same night, I asked him how he hurt his hand. My father, sitting nearby, groaned as John’s face lit with his famous smile.

“Ask your dad,” he said, throwing a stone at my father across the crackling and jumping campfire.

“Why?” Dad said, “You’ll only contradict me and twist it around, you degenerate.”

John laughed and flexed his ruined hand, “We got a call late one night and responded with lights to a domestic. It was raining and had been a really slow night when the call came in. Your dad jumped on it and we tore off. Thing is, neither of us knew where the place was. So, I’m trying to get directions off the dispatcher, and your dad’s bombing through the night. I had my hand outside the window, holding the top of the door frame.”

John lifted up his hand to demonstrate - the image of someone resting their arm on the door frame and grasping the top of a car door where it met the roof. He went on, “So, we came to the street and I told him, ‘This is it, Sarge,’. Well, your dad never touched the brakes. He let off the gas and wrenched the wheel. We hydroplaned and the cruiser slid to the far side of the road, hitting a ditch at about forty-five miles per hour. The cruiser rolled three times, twice on my hand.”

John held up his hand again, “They never found the tip of my ‘Fuck you!’ finger, and I still have a steel pin in my shooting finger. All because your dad can’t drive.”

He laughed uproariously and my father gave him a murderous look.

“Isn’t that when you broke your jaw?” I asked my father. I vaguely remember my father once coming home from work in a sling and with his jaw wired shut. He had had to eat through a straw for three weeks and lost thirty-five pounds.

“Yeah,” Dad said, grabbing another beer from the cooler, “and I’m not the moron who had to ride with his hand out the window.”

Growing up, John had spent every fall and winter of his life in the woods. He and my father passed this love of the outdoors to me. He taught me how to stalk game, how to track a wounded animal, and - most importantly - how to gauge the weather and decide if the game is going to cooperate or if it’s time to call it a day and go get a beer. This was more than an uncle’s tutelage. His own son never wanted to hunt or spend time with his old man; so I became the willing and open pitcher into which John and my father poured their accumulative backwoods knowledge.
Take something so simple as shooting a rifle. I remember looking through the scope of my first .22 with John standing behind me and my father looking on. I was ten and it was a crisp, sunny autumn day.

“It’s all about the little things,” John said, “Little things like taking a deep breath when you look through the scope. You put the cross hairs where you want them, take a breath, and let it out slowly. When you have nothing left to inhale, you focus and wait. The cross hairs will stop moving and you’ll reach a point of stillness where you can almost feel your heartbeat. That’s when you slowly squeeze the trigger. Never jerk it, or pull it. It should be a slow, steady, gentle squeeze until the trigger clicks.”

He looked me in the eyes and spoke as confidently and as calmly as a man who had studied Zen, “It’ll be like a tube of glass breaking and, if you’ve done it right, you’ll hear the firing pin hit before the explosive roar of the gun barks out. That’s the key to never, ever missing. It’s all in that split second when you hear the click of the firing pin.”

John had a bad marriage. His wife was a petty, manipulative, controlling woman who John, unfortunately, loved too much. I didn’t realize this until I was older.

She hated hunting. Perhaps because it was something he loved so much, or something in which he could find joy independent from her. Inevitably, the day came when she gave out an ultimatum; it was her, or hunting. For her sake, and for the sake of his marriage, he gave in to her demands. The same sense of right and wrong that made him a good cop dictated his sense of ‘doing right’ by his marriage, so he relinquished time spent with his friends and his brothers.
As the seasons changed, and the air grew crisper and colder, John’s presence at the annual deer trip was sorely missed.

“Do you think John’ll divorce her, Dad?” I asked.

“I don’t know, son. He should have, years ago. But, love makes you do stupid things.”

I received the call the day after Memorial Day. I was at work and my mother called, saying my father was too upset to call himself.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, alarmed. Never in my life had I ever seen or heard my Dad cry.

“It’s John,” Mom said, too grieved to soften the blow, “He ate his gun. The funeral’s this week.”
I couldn’t have been more shocked if my mother had told me my own father had killed himself.

It is very hard to observe a cop’s funeral. At all times there is a police officer, his badge covered with black tape, standing guard at the edge of the coffin. The fallen officer’s brethren will take turns throughout the night, standing watch in this fashion. Later, at the church, the eerie silence as the coffin passed the hundreds of assembled police officers was absolute. My father was a pallbearer, the only one not in a uniform but accepted by all of the other cops there as John’s ex-partner.

Oddly, the weather was beautiful when they buried John. In the movies, it always seems that these sort of affairs are portrayed as taking place under dark, raining skies. The dreary weather serves as a meteorological metaphor; the weeping skies symbolizing the accumulative sorrow of the assembled mourners. It seems an incongruity to be in a cemetery, on a warm, beautiful, and sunny spring day.

This contradiction went on. A bagpipe played Amazing Grace as swans and geese floated lazily on a nearby pond. In another part of the cemetery, a groundskeeper was cutting the lawn and I remember the fresh cut grass irritating my allergies above and beyond the itchy, snuffling result of my own tears. Then there was the vision of policemen - men I’d grown up around and always admired for their strength and self-assuredness - inconsolable in their very public grief. Cops, as a culture, are supposed to be stoic and always strong. Not so at a funeral for one of their own.
Beyond my own grief, there is one moment that stands out above everything else. Before they lowered John into the ground, his widow wailed in grief and kissed the top of the casket.
I’ve never hated someone so much in my life.

We’ll never really know what transpired in that last day of John’s life. We do know that he and his wife had spent Memorial Day Weekend arguing. His new partner, closer to the situation than my father or I, speculated that John had reached the breaking point because she had told him she had been seeing someone else, that she wanted a divorce. That was too much for John. He had gone back to their bedroom, gotten his service pistol, walked back out, and put it into his mouth. He pulled the trigger without another word.

Like my father said, love makes you do strange things.

A few days after the funeral, my father and I went back to the cemetery. We stood over John’s grave and split half a bottle of whiskey, pouring the other half on John’s grave. I’d like to say that I’ve come to some understanding of what happened or that maybe I’d found some sort of closure. But, I’d be lying. To this day, I don’t know why he did it. It was such a stupid, tragic, and selfish thing to do. I do know that it must take big balls to put the black, cold barrel of a Beretta 9mm into your mouth and pull the trigger. Bigger balls than I have, certainly. It’s not something I could do.

But, in terms of selfishness, I guess I’m just as guilty. When I received that call from my Mom, my first thought was for my newborn son, whom John had never met. He would grow up, never having the opportunity to hunt with John, like I did. Or love the man as an uncle. Or get drunk on whiskey and laugh around a campfire. The only way he would ever know John would be in what I had learned from John and will pass on to him. That was the most tragic part of the sorry mess.

Of course my second thought upon learning of John’s death was much more morbid. I still have nightmares about it and I’m certain I will spend the rest of my life wondering. I wonder about that final instant, in that pregnant moment of absolute stillness when he looked at his wife and made his choice. In that millisecond before the explosion - did he hear the click of the firing pin?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nothing in Particular...

I am constantly amazed at how old I’ve gotten. I frequently find myself having to look things up that I’m certain many of my fellow bloggers probably know because they are, quite simply, more current on these sort of things than myself. What can I say, I’m an aging goth dinosaur who likes to think he’s young. The truth is, I’m not as in touch as I’d like to be, and I find I have those occasional ‘what the fuck…?’ moments more and more often.

For example, I’ve been hearing the word ‘emo’ quite a bit recently. Now, I had an understanding of the term ‘emo’ from my misspent youth. It was mostly applied to a branch of punk/ska music from the east coast. The main emo band out there was Fugazi. (Who, by the way, was on the bill at my first punk concert way back in the mid 80’s. It was Fugazi, Knifedance, Soundgarden, and Einsturzende Neubaten at the Phantasy Nightclub in Lakewood OH. I was 15 going on 16, and I fell in love with raw, pounding punk/alternative music right then. It probably helped that I met and made out with a 19 year old girl who had six-inch liberty mohawk. Ahhhh, teen lust and positive reinforcement… And, btw, yes it was THAT Soundgarden – about 8 to 10 years before they became ‘just another grunge band from Seattle’.)

So, I’d seen the term thrown around a few times on the internet and on other blogs, so I was confused. I did a wikipedia search and found that, in fact, the term did initially apply to the music I was referring to. However,the terms usage has changed considerably over the years and is now considered derogatory. It refers to bands that have a mainstream corporate alternative sound (Jimmy Eat World, or any of the other endless corporate alterna rock bands), or the people who subscribe to this same form of evil. That and the way they dress. Who’d a thunk that something I thought meant one thing, could mean something completely different now. Essentially - emo means sellout or fag, depending on the situation.

It sucks growing old! Especially considering that I share some of those fashion preferences. My excuse is that I was dressing like a skater and a punk before many of these high school kids were born. These kids today...

Other things I’ve recently seen that I had no idea about:

Find Sarah Connor – I’ve mentioned this before, but I still love it. Skynet will go on line soon, and then it’ll be time to run from the Terminator units. Seriously.

Goatse – I found this wonderful example of human depravity quite by accident. If you’ve never heard the term – boy are you in for a surprise! I saw Goatse mentioned in a forum, with the warning that it was absolutely not work safe - under any circumstances. So, a quick search turned up what the Goatse picture was. Apparently it’s been around the internet for years. I will not post a link to it, because a few quick clicks through a search engine will take you to the picture itself and, truthfully, searching for it is half the fun. Warning: This is one of the foulest, filthiest pictures you will EVER see. Considering the endless acts of perversion and depravity that internet porn is capable of – this picture surpasses them all and goes to new, unexplored, and unplumbed depths. I know I’m setting the bar pretty high (or pretty low – however you choose to look at it), but believe me when I say that this is a whole different planet of human perversion and degradation. Ick.

Some other links I felt I needed to share

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a Joss Whedon fan. I can’t help it - - it comes with being a nerd. And, besides the fact that I’d like to do filthy, unimaginable things to Allison Hannigan; there was always another actress on the show who caught my eye – Charisma Carpenter. She played Cordelia; first on Buffy, and then on Angel. I have a weak spot for brunettes and this woman is damn near perfect. You can imagine my delight when I found out that she wants to play Wonder Woman in an upcoming movie. She’d be perfect in the role. And, BTW - Linda Carter IS the reason I like brunettes. I remember being 8 or 9 and getting my first tingly twinges in my naughty bits watching her run around in her red, white, and blue underwear. I’m thinking – after Mrs. Zombie divorces me because of my childishness, and after I’ve stalked Kate Beckinsale for a sufficient period of time, I’m going to have to pay Charisma Carpenter a visit. Mmmm…. Cordelia….

Finally, I found a great new comic that I will be checking on a regular basis. Check it out. And, Lest I run the risk of over paraphrasing Homer Simpsons – Mmmm…Zombie hunter chick…

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In The Darkness of Night...

"Easy is the descent to hell; Death's dark door stand open day and night..." Virgil

So, for most of my life, I’ve suffered from various sleep disorders. When I was a kid, my parents used to have to tie me to the bed because I would sleepwalk so badly. It got so bad that I once awoke on a tree lawn four streets away from my house. It was especially freaky because, growing up in the ‘burbs like I did, all of the streets in my neighborhood had identical, post war bungalows. I woke up, scared and in my underwear with no idea where I was. I had to walk to the end of the street, onto the main business district drag, to find a street sign to figure out where I was.

The sleep walking still sometimes happens, but the real fun began when I turned 10 or 11. That’s when the night terrors started. If you’ve never had night terrors, you can’t understand how bad they can really be. Imagine your worst nightmare. And I mean the absolutely most terrifying, wake up in cold sweats and don’t move because the monsters might see you nightmare. Now multiply it by a hundred. True night terrors are so terrifying that you blank them out. You wake up in mortal terror and your mind, to cope with the horror, represses the memory of the dream. All you know is that you have just been through the most terrifying, panic inducing dream you’ve ever had - - until the next one.

The thing with my night terrors is that I can feel them coming. I know that they are triggered by outside things, like stress or anxiety. But often they just come in cycles. I can tell they’re coming because I start to have nightmares. The nightmares build and build, getting worse and worse, until I’m not having normal dreams at all. Just nightmares. Heartstopping, agonizingly horrible nightmares. So, I become sleep deprived, my stress levels go through the roof, and they get worse and worse until they shift into full blown night terrors.

When I was in college, I would sleep in my car because my roommates threatened to throw me out if I woke them up with my screaming again. I used to try self medicating. That and drinking a lot of liquor when I knew the night terrors were coming. The only problem with that was that I would sometimes fall so deeply asleep I couldn’t wake up and I’d descend deeper and deeper into the twisted darkness that is my dreamworld.

My nightmares and night terrors are compounded by a rare disorder that makes them that much more jolly. I inherited it from my mother, who suffers as much as I do. You see, I have a rare form of epilepsy that is directly connected to my sleep disorders.

I'll tryto explain. When you're in deep REM sleep, the nerves and receptors in your eyes vibrate at a certain pitch. What happens is that, when your mind is dreaming, your eyes and optic nerve are still working as though they’re seeing what your mind is projecting. That’s why your eyes bob around in REM. Makes sense, right?

So, when you come out of REM, your eyes shift into normal sight mode and you go on with your waking life.

Not so in my case.

What happens is, the nightmares and night terrors cause an overload of this function and they cause a small seizure in my nerves and receptors. Hence, when I wake up, my eyes don’t shift into 'normal mode'; they stay in REM. This results in a juxtaposition of my dream world with my waking world.

Let me give you an example. Say you, the average person, has a nightmare where you are being chased by a serial killer with a stereotypically sharp and pointy instrument of death. The nightmare awakens you and you sit up; gasping for air, terrified, and covered in a cold sweat. After a few seconds you realize that you’re awake and it was only a dream. You calm down and eventually fall back to sleep. That’s how it works for most people. For me, though, it goes to a whole different level. I wake up from the same dream, screaming and in terror. Unfortunately at this point, my condition kicks in and my eyes stay in REM sleep. So where you might wake up to a darkened room; I wake up and my mind superimposes my dream.

I wake to find a serial killer standing at the end of my bed.

So why am I telling you all of this? No reason, other than I can feel my night terrors coming on. I’ve had some really bad dreams lately and they’re getting worse. Soooo, I may be doing some late night posting because I’ve found that not going to sleep is sometimes the easier way to go. Sleep deprivation and the resultant loss of sanity is better than the ghastly hell that is my own mind.

The funny thing is, people always ask me why I’m the way I am when they find out about my dreams. And it does seem counter intuitive that I’m such a horror movie and gore hound, especially considering the obvious effect they have on my psyche and dreams. Short answer; I dunno…

Maybe I’ll start a short dream journal and give some glimpses into the dark corners of Doctor Zombie’s mind. I’ll share the wealth so to speak…

Truly unpleasant dreams, dear friends…

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Dogs of the Living Dead Pt2

So as a follow up to last week's post, I decided to put up some pictures of the zombie dogs. I did a quick check through our digital camera to see what we had, but I quickly found that I had more pictures of Charlie than Nicky. There's probably two reasons for this. The first is that I'm absolutely fascinated with the stupid beagle and what he looks like when he sleeps. The second is that, when you try to take a picture of my toy fox terrier Nicky, he growls and snarls like a demon dog...

This first picture is a picture of the cranky old man, Nicky. Very soon after I snapped this picture, he went crazy, jumped up, tore out my throat, and then violated my unconscious, bleeding body as it lay on the dining room floor...

This is a typical beagle action shot of Charlie. Wait for it...

And another beagle action shot. In this picture, he fell asleep while playing with his baby (a toy alligator that must always be within reaching distance.) This is what his day consists of. Sleep on a chair, sleep on the bed, sleep on the floor, eat, poop, sleep some more. And here comes the money shot...

TA-DA! This picture cracks my shit up!!!

And here's a final shot of the two hounds of hell together. Surprisingly, Charlie was awake for this one. That chair, by the way, is known as the Command Post. It is from here that the two morons spend their free time surveying their kingdom - mainly the front yard. If there is any movement - and I mean ANY movement - they will start a cacophony of yips (in Nick's case) or bays (in Charlie's case). Woe to anybody who walks by THEIR house! They will bark at people, cars, birds, squirrels, cats, or even errant leaves that blow across the yard. If its especially windy, they will spend the day barking at the swaying branches of a Japanese maple I planted in the yard. Retards.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Big Love

So I've been watching the new HBO series - Big Love. (It's about a family practicing polygamy in Utah.)

I find myself liking it, despite myself. My initial thought about it was that it was some gay chick show. I only watched it because a) my wife was excited about it and I was hoping that, by being supportive of her chick shows, I'd subsequently get laid, and b) Because Bill Paxton's in it. I don't know about you, but I think he's one of the best actors out there. I mean he was Chet from Wierd Science, Severen from Near Dark, and - my personal favorite - Hudson from Aliens. ("Game over, man! Game over! Why don't we put HER in charge, man!")

Turns out the show is really good. There's a lot of intrigue and drama between Bill Paxton's character and the leader of their particular Mormon sect, played by the incomparable Harry Dean Stanton.

Plus, all three of Bill's wives are hot in their own unique way.

The thing is, watching this show got me thinking about the whole idea of polygamy. I mean, I can understand it, but I'm not sure how well it works in practice. How do you not have jealousy? And (showing my liberalism here) how is this beneficial to the women in the relationship? I mean, it seems to me to be all about the man, and his needs. Now granted, the show may not be indicative of how the real polygamist community works; and I suspect that it's not - it is dramatized television after all. But it seems to me it's about the guy being able to have multiple partners, while the women can only sit by and watch the husband bang someone else whenever the mood takes him.

So the inevitable question arises; could I, Doctor Zombie, be in a polygamist relationship?

My long answer: Probably not. I'm a one woman zombie and I have to expect that it is not healthy for any of those involved. I've said as much about the idea of open relationships as well. And polygamy is different than an open relationship. An open relationship is about varying degrees of affection. ("I LOVE you and you alone, but I just have sex with someone else for gratification"). Polygamy implies the SAME LEVEL of committment to more than one woman. I don't know how to seperate that. And, the final consideration - and this is borne out in the show - is what about the kids? I mean it would be great to have three women at my beck and call to satisfy my needs. The whole "I've got a headache", or the "I've got to work in the morning", or the "You want to put what where?!?" arguments are effectively nullified when I can say, "All right, on to wife number two's bed then, honey!"; but I still think that there's not enough benefit in that to justify the emotional turmoil and confusion.


My short Answer: Are you fucking kidding me? Like I don't have enough stress from ONE woman nagging at me...

I've been meaning to pick up Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. It addresses many of these questions. Now I really do because I've been thinking about it more because of this show...