Thursday, June 30, 2011

This is why we can't have nice things.

OK, even though it was very clearly stated NOT to take the personality test, two people asked me if they could take it. (Well, not so much “asked” as said “let’s take this and make her grade it!”) As they are both lovely people (but obviously cannot follow directions like the ones that stated don’t take this, it isn’t a real test) I agreed that I would accept and grade their answers. However, I gave them the caveat that I could not guarantee that their very, very scientific personality analysis would not end up on my blog. And as I am not a person who welshes on either a promise or a vague threat…

I’m going to give them both aliases, so they are anonymous. I am doing this for a couple of reasons: 1. Because, as a very serious scientific person, it would be unethical to do otherwise; and 2. Because what if I were to be sued? Damn, I don’t even have enough money for gas this week.

Analysis #1: “TDL”

TDL, from the yes or no portion of the quiz, I see that you have anger issues and pretend to care about very serious social issues. Perhaps you should try listening to soothing music, or joining a nice bonsai trimming class. Wouldn’t that be so calming? I mean, can you even think of anything more sincerely calming? Oh, wait, I’m looking at your answers more in-depth and I’m thinking that you shouldn’t have even the little scissors that come with those teeny trees, so the class is probably off the table now. But totally check out that music.

Also, Duckie was gay. He was just in denial. It’s ok to have had a crush on him, though. I did, too, a little.

And you get +1 for not getting the “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” reference. It’s from a Kelis song, which I think is about sex. Or dairy products, but with lyrics like “you want me to teach the techniques that freaks these boys” I think probably sex. Also, that grammar is terrible, but the rhyme scheme is kind of catchy.

From the multiple choice section, I see that you are actually a little more caring than the quiz was testing for. So probably you think you’re too good for my test, is that it? What, you think you’re better than my test? Fine. Just – no. Just, fine. A+, you’re the best. Happy now?

You redeemed yourself with the short-answer portion by arguing back with me. This showed spunk, and anyone as scientifically skilled as I am knows that means you are strong and capable. Or possibly a psychopath. But there’s always room for error in these quizzes. I wouldn’t go sharpening your machete or anything.

And finally, your answer to the essay portion was grammatically correct, so kudos.

Your analysis: You, TDL, are an Ambiguously Dissociative Kinesthetic. ADK’s, as they are known in very serious scientific circles, like hats with feathers in them, punching things, alphabet magnets, and furries. They are good in professions both working with and without people, and are only 14% more likely to go on a murder spree than the normal person. Huzzah!

Analysis #2: “A”

A, from the yes-or-no portion of the quiz, I can see you like using pretty colors, fonts and text effects. This indicates that you are proficient in Microsoft Word, and probably like Bill Gates a lot. What it indicates about you psychologically? Sheesh, way to bring me back to task. Fine. I see that in your answers, you answered much in the way I would have answered. This indicates to me that you are very, very psychologically disturbed, and should probably seek treatment immediately. I can’t really be held responsible for what happens if you don’t.

You get major points for noticing a typo I made: “douche falls” was not meant to be there, it was supposed to be “douchey falls” but apparently my spell check didn’t like the word “douchey.” I can’t imagine why. I have since gone back in and changed it. In typing this paragraph, my spell check has attempted to change this word twice more. Why are you trying to harsh my buzz, spell check? Dude.

Your interest in Ed Hardy shirts is troubling. I think there’s a support group for that.

Your answers to the multiple choice indicate that you like to fly in the face of convention. I note this because you wrote your own choices. I can only assume this is because the answers were not good enough for you? Both you and TDL think you are too good for my quiz. As a very scientific person all I can say is you are a poopyhead!

(Also, completely off the subject, you wrote a book? More information is required, please. And wow!)

Your answers to the short-answer section were also quite strong and innovative. This shows you to be brave, or possibly foolhardy. Not to be confused with Ed Hardy. I can’t get that out of my head. A! Really? Ed Hardy shirts? This is going to reflect badly in your final analysis.

And, finally, your essay answer. This worries me, A. I think perhaps it indicates that you have a split personality. Also, the grammar was atrocious. But points for using the names “Orangello” and “Lemonjello” because they are my favorite urban legend baby names ever.

Your analysis: You, A, are a Libidinous Perceptual Trichromatic. LPT’s, as they are known in very serious scientific circles, like the color periwinkle, pleather, tattoos of cartoon tigers, and small bags of marbles.  They are good in professions where money is not involved, as they will both steal and eat it, and are only 74% more likely to go on a murder spree than the normal person (this is due to the Ed Hardy portion of your results. I told you that would be important later.) Double huzzah!

Thank you both for your answers. Disclaimer: although I am a very serious scientific person who used the most up-to-date scoring mechanisms to score this test, I cannot be held responsible for what happens if you live your life by its principles. In other words, don’t be a dumbass, and take responsibility for your own shit (which, by the way, is really my life’s motto, and should be everyone’s.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

There Once Was a Girl From Nantucket...(no, this isn't going where you think it is)

When I arrived at college, I had grand plans. I was going to be a doctor! I was going to save the world! I’d done very well in high school math and science, so college would be a breeze!

In about a month, I realized the following things:

1.   Having friends means having a social life. Having a social life means less time to study (and, in my case, even go to classes, because daylight hours were prime sleeping time.)

2.   High school math and science weren’t difficult. College math and science were being taught in Swahili.

3.   I didn’t enjoy math and science courses half as much as my humanities courses, and if I continued on in my planned career path, I would end up being in school for approximately twelve years doing something I didn’t care that much for.

When it came time to declare my major, I chose theater and creative writing. Because if you want two completely marketable skills, those are the ones to choose!

My concentration in creative writing was poetry. I’d written quite a bit of poetry in high school and enjoyed the writing of it, and my stories weren’t anything I wanted to share with anyone (they’re still not – I write fiction like a third-grader. “I would like to go to the store,” Mom said. “The store?” I said. “Yes,” Mom said. We went to the store. We bought eggs. We came home. I like my puppy dog. He smiles with his tail.) (OK, before you’re all, “THAT LINE IS STOLEN AND YOU ARE A THIEF OF FUNNINESS!” I stole “My dog smiles with his tail” from one of the only two funny episodes of the television series Just Shoot Me, entitled “Slow Donnie.” So if you haven’t seen it, and are a fan of David Cross’s, go watch it, and when you’re gasping with laughter over “My pants are tight!” you can thank me. Now stop calling me a thief and continue reading, killjoy.) I believe journalism was also offered, but I think you have to be, oh, what’s the word, “serious” to write that? Or possibly “objective?” So that was a no. Poetry it was.

Those of us majoring in poetry – there weren’t many (I know! It’s surprising, right?) – were in the same core writing classes throughout the years. We were assigned a mentor, and she stayed with us and taught our writing classes and workshops. In these workshops, there would be some teaching, reading of major works, discussion of poetry, reading aloud of your own work, and discussion by your peers and the teacher of your work, in the hope of you re-writing it to improve it.

OK, first? I did not write rhyming poetry. I can't rhyme for shit. I've written a few rhyming poems in my day, and they're about as good as my fiction - not very. So don't ask me to write a poem for your Nana's 90th birthday, because it's not likely to happen, or if it does, I'm going to call you up at 3 a.m. asking you to help me rhyme "nursing home" or "adult diapers" and you're going to regret you asked.

How can I explain poetry class? Alright, there were some good poets in the class. Some poets that, when they read, I felt so daunted to read in front of them that I was afraid to read when it was my turn. (In their defense, they were all very nice. Surprisingly non-existent concentration of talented douchebags in my class.)

There were those of us (I include myself here, generously) that fell in the middle. We weren’t blowing anyone away with our talent, but we weren’t scaring anyone with our shananigans, or members of the class for the wrong reasons, either. We worked hard, we took the criticism to heart, we re-wrote, and we kept our heads down.

And then there was everyone else. Oh, my. No one really got turned away. There weren’t so many of us that they could afford to be choosy. The ones that stood out for me as being…um…note-worthy?

·    The metalhead who wrote lyrics for his “band” (I put this in quotes because when someone asked him if he had a band, he said no) as his poetry assignments; he also wrote very angry poems about the female anatomy of the members of the class who turned him down when he asked them out

·    The girl who couldn’t speak above a murmur, no matter how many times we asked her to speak up; we had trouble critiquing her work, because WE COULDN’T HEAR IT

·    The rabid feminist who only wrote poems about women – I’m sorry, “womyn” – and then, when that stopped being shocking, started spelling every word with an “en” with a “yn” in order to “regain the English language” – we got a lot of “childryn” and “downtroddyn” and “heavyn” and no one really had the heart to tell her (or the courage – she was ANGRY) that really the point of the “yn” was to take the word “man” out of female-centric words, not to replace the entire “en” letter cluster

·    The “sensitive” guy who was obviously there because he thought being a poet would get him laid (it didn’t) – he wrote a lot of “and then I gazed at her tender feminine beauty and was reminded of heaven’s gates” and would look up with bright eyes like “right, ladies? Right? So, you wanna come back to my dorm, see how tender I can be? Hmm? Anyone?”

Then there was our teacher. I’m not going to name names, because I’ve read her work, and at one point (and it wasn’t all that long ago), she was quite an excellent poet.  However, we’d gotten her late in life. Very late in life. Dementia-had-possibly-set-in late in life. In researching this, I’ve found out a lot about her, and admire her quite a bit – even more than I did then, knowing what I know now – and none of what I am about to say is an indictment against her talent, which is really quite prodigious.

Have you ever spent any time with poets? We’re an interesting bunch. If I could sum it up in one word, that would would be…eccentric. I don’t think any poet would argue that. I bet even Robert Frost, who was known to be salt-of-the-earth, had his eccentricities. I think it has something to do with forming your words into perfect phrases and shapes on the page. It does something to your mind, maybe.

Our teacher could not remember the time of our classes. Ever. We had many classes we ran ourselves, because honestly, we didn’t need her there to critique each other’s work. Names? Forget it. We were required to meet her once a week in her office for consultations senior year, so she could look over our senior portfolio. In that year, I was called Jamie (close), Amanda (not too far off), Autumn (same first letter, I guess), Janet (a number of times, I think perhaps I reminded her of someone with this name), Laura (I don’t know), and, a couple of times, her OWN first name, which would make her smile. She’d say, “Isn’t it funny how we have the same first name?” And what do you say to a 80-something-year-old woman who’s so pleased by this? I’d just laugh and nod. My first name was written on the cover of my portfolio, and she actually asked, “Who’s this? Why is this person’s name on here?” I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that without hurting her feelings (I used to care about these things a lot more than I do now – ah, youth, when people’s feelings mattered.) If I didn’t respond, though, I was pretty sure she’d think I was stealing someone’s senior portfolio. Then again, she’d probably forget it in the next twenty minutes. Or five seconds. Debatable.

She also sometimes would get incensed. About the environment, or politics, or something that we’d talk about in class. And she would erupt into a fury that was just something to see. If you’ve never seen a woman in her 80’s – a tiny little bird-boned woman with unnaturally colored hair and a lot of gauzy scarves – up on a classroom desk screaming that we were raping Mother Earth, well, you haven’t lived.

She also had stories about other famous poets. “I hate him,” she said once, in a light, musing tone, when a classmate mentioned another poet he admired, “because he murdered his wife. Oh, I know, I know, they say it was suicide. But I think we all know better, don’t we, ladies?” The “womyn” girl nodded sagely. She knew. She was convinced, evyn. I wasn’t so sure.

As for where my very prestigious degree in poetry has gotten me: I’ve been published. I have never been paid for it, but I’ve seen my writing in print. I’ve done two readings, in front of actual people (and, you’d think, as someone who acted on a regular basis for years, this wouldn’t be the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it was. It most definitely was. Imagine pouring your heart out in front of a room full of people with only you onstage – not singing, not acting, just you. And a mike. It’s kind of like being naked and having people judge you. However, when you’re done, you feel like you can conquer the world, so there’s that.)

I would recommend, however, to up-and-coming poets: DO NOT MAJOR IN POETRY. If you are a poet, you can be a poet without a degree. Take the classes, by all means. Get a minor. But major in something sensible, like Accounting, so when the real world finally smashes you around the face and neck with a battering ram and you realize, hey, I have to pay these student loans BACK? What the HELL? You can provide for yourself and write on the side.

Also, watch out for men bearing bad poetry. I promise they just want to get in your pants. And once they're there? They don't know what they're doing. Because no one else has ever been stupid enough to fall for that "I'm a sensitive poet" bullshit so they have no experience. Trust me on this one, okay?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When the Cult of Personality Offers Koolaid, YOU DRINK IT.

I enjoy taking online personality tests when I have downtime. I assume a lot of people do – there are a lot of websites dedicated to them. Now, before you go judging me, I don’t mean the “What Twilight Character are You?” Facebook quizzes (because, obviously, the Twilight character I am is the one who stands up and says “REAL VAMPIRES DON’T SPARKLE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY” and that character wasn’t written into the book – obviously due to a major tween conspiracy.) I mean the real kind – your personality type, what psychological disorders you have, things like that. Because everyone wants to be more self-aware and/or scare the ever-loving shit out of themselves!

First, today, I took this one.  It’s the Myers-Briggs personality indicator You’re scored on four “dichotomies” – you either score higher as an extrovert or introvert, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling and judgment or perception. You get a four-letter code and with this code, you’re supposed to be able to figure out what job you’d be best at.

I got INFJ – I’m an introverted intuitive feeling judgementalist. Apparently, only 1-3% of society scores in this percentile (which makes me either the special snowflake I’ve always assumed I am and proves my detractors wrong over all these years, or maybe a psychopath, proving them oh-so-correct.) According to the internet, things this me:

Possibly psychic
Artistic and creative
“They are usually right, and they usually know it” (thank you, Internet! Wait, is that a jab?)
“experience health problems when under a lot of stress” (not so cool, Internet, back to the good stuff)
“stubbornness and tendency to ignore other people's opinions” (whoa, Internet! I refuse to accept this diagnosis! Wait! I am proving you correct! DAMN YOU INTERNET!)
INFJ’s either excel as counselors, artists, writers, or in service professions (so, either I can do something creative that probably doesn’t pay my rent, help people who are more screwed-up than me, or work at McDonald’s? Um, thanks?)
In summation: “Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ.” (INTERNET! You are DEAD to me right now!)

OK, fine. Now that I am thoroughly depressed and apparently an artistic psychic who is a stubborn, willful sickly one-of-a-kind and therefore lonely individual, let’s move onto something more entertaining and totally accurate.
TweetPsych! TweetPsych only works if you’re on Twitter, and active on Twitter. Put in your Twitter name and Tweetpsych analyzes all of your Tweets and tells you what you talk about more and less than the average Twitter user.
A sampling of things, per TweetPsych, I talk about much more than the average Twitter user:

Myself (I don’t know how you can’t do this on Twitter)
The past
Sex (I…don’t think I do, really? But according to TweetPsych, I talk about sex 58% more than the average user. Which makes me feel a little whorish. Sorry, everyone, for being such a Twitter slut. I’ll try to control myself from now on.)
Negative things
The future (apparently, I have no interest in the present)
Positive things (ugh, TweetPsych, you are giving me a mixed message here)
Anxiety (well, these personality tests aren’t helping)
Emotions (I do have a lot of these. And it’s entertaining to share them.)
The present (ok, TweetPsych, I like all frames of time reference more than the average Twitter user, touché to you)
Control (being in it? Out of it? Not sure)
Social (very vague)

And things I don’t talk about enough:

Dreams (I don’t sleep enough to dream. I’m extremely sleep-deprived. Thanks for the reminder, TweetPsych.)
Leisure (I should talk about my leisure activities more? Ugh, fine. I sat on my couch last night for an hour reading a book. Exciting!)
Constructive (this says I should talk about building and creating things more. Well, way to make me feel like an unproductive member of society.)
Learning (I been done with book-larnin’ fer years now. No more readin’ for me! It’s all loud TV and US Weekly from here on out!)
Work (listen, TweetPsych, I’m not talking about work, because THAT GETS YOU FIRED. Then I would be talking about UNEMPLOYMENT.)

So in summation of this report, I am self-absorbed, obsessed with sex and time frames in both the positive and negative sense, and a socially anxious control freak. Um…kind of yes.

After taking these, I decided there needed to be something more all-inclusive and infinitely more awesome. There hasn’t really been a test developed that gets to the heart of what makes people tick and helps best figure them out. I thought, I’m hip, I’m fairly self-aware, I could come up with one. Also, the test would be named after me, and then my fortune would be made.

The Lucy’s Football Totally Awesome Superstar Miss Kitty Fantastico Personality Test

(not a real test)
(please do not answer these questions and send them to me, I will not grade them)
(no, seriously, there is no answer key, and I don’t want to have to come up with one)
(fine, but if you do it, I’m going to make up a really, really negative personality type for you, like “Anal Monster Self-Hater” and then you’ll be sorry)

Yes or No Portion

I often find myself angry to the point of a throbbing headache at shitty drivers Y   N

I do not like green eggs and ham; I do not like them, Sam I Am   Y   N

I think my own problems far eclipse everyone else’s, although I pretend to care about theirs, because listen, what kind of psychopath doesn’t pretend to listen? A friendless one   Y    N

I feel bad for those less fortunate than me, but I don’t engage them in conversation, because once you show compassion, they start following you EVERYWHERE and then you can’t get any work done   Y    N

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, but my frozen yogurt makes them leave in disgust   Y    N

I often talk to people who aren’t there, because I am scintillatingly entertaining, even while alone, and you can’t turn this kind of charm off if you TRY   Y   N

I think that dark forces are working against me (or, when someone douchey falls and I get to see it, for me)    Y    N

I’d rather stay home and watch Ghost Hunters than go out and interact with my peers, unless there is cake, then all bets are off   Y     N

I’m the one people go to when they have a problem they need advice for, only they can’t find me because I hastily departed when I heard the rumor they were coming and I didn’t want to deal with their piddly whiny shit   Y     N

I was aware Duckie from Pretty in Pink was gay upon first viewing and confused that he didn’t seem aware of that fact, even as the credits rolled   Y    N

Multiple Choice (circle one)

You find $20 on the ground outside of the library. You:

a. Keep it
b. Bring it into the library and ask if anyone reported $20 missing
c. Keep it, but donate it to a good cause
d. Find the people who chose answers b or c and beat them with whatever awesome thing you bought with your free $20

Your car won’t start, and you will be late for an important meeting at work. You:

a. Call work, apologize, promise to get there as soon as you can, and call a cab
b. Call Triple A and start screaming “My job is ON THE LINE!!!”
c. Call Triple A, call work, and patiently wait for a tech to arrive
d. Say “free day off, mofos!” and kick back with reruns of “The A-Team”

Your younger sister comes to you. She’s pregnant and needs advice. You:

a. Listen to her, gently console her, and help her work through her options
b. Shun her for her sins and make her wear a scarlet letter throughout the land
c. Find the boy involved and beat his ass for not caring enough about your sister to use protection
d. High-five your sister for getting some, tell her, “tough break, kiddo,” and advise her to watch one of those teen mom-type shows on that the kids like nowadays for advice
e. Whatever. Don’t care. Still watching “The A-Team.”

Your favorite book is:

a. Fear of Flying
b. Goodnight Moon
c. The Bible
d. Screw books – internet porn, baby!

You are given 24 hours to live. You spend your day:

a. With family and friends, reminiscing about days gone by
b. Doing something high-energy, like skydiving or bungee-jumping
c. In private meditation, preparing for things to come
d. 24 hours? Hookers and blow. Did you really ask that stupid question?

Short-answer portion – in one to three sentences, please answer the following questions:

1.       Please explain yourself.
2.       No, seriously. I can’t even begin to figure you out.
3.       I mean, who wears clothes like that? Those weren’t even in style when they were selling them.
4.       Oh, they’re “retro chic?” Yeah, I have a word for that. “Douchebaggy.”
5.       What do you mean, #2 wasn’t even a question, and #4 was kind of rhetorical? Who’s writing this, you or me?
6.       Fine, here’s a question for you: were you born this much of an asshat, or did you actually practice, and take classes, and study super-duper hard, and ace all the exams, and graduate Magna Cum Asshat?
7.       Oh, I’m “resorting to juvenile namecalling” now, am I? Fine. Well, you smell like poop, and trucker caps are stupid. Also I used all of the gas in your car yesterday and didn’t tell you so when you try to go to work tomorrow you won’t be able to get there.
8.       What do you mean, “How can I be so inconsiderate?” Did you ever think that maybe you would have gotten in an accident on your way to work today? That would make me a life-saver, now, wouldn’t it? You’re welcome.
9.       Where are you going?
10.   For a walk?
11.   Don’t expect you back anytime soon, or maybe ever?
12.   Fine. Fine. That’s so typical. Hurry, I think there’s a vintage t-shirt shop in Soho going out of business – someone else might buy up all of the ironic ones, and then where would that leave you?

Essay portion – grammar will be a factor, because I love it and it’s my goddamn test:

In one to infinity paragraphs, explain why I can’t finish a half-gallon of milk before it goes bad, even though nothing else in my fridge spoils before I get to it.

There you go, Internet! Remember, there are no wrong answers, only right ones and the ones that prove you’re going to spend the rest of your life forever alone and/or in a padded room.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Attraction Not Recommended for Those 8 and Under. Oh, and ME.

As much as I like horror movies and horror novels, I am a gigantic baby when it comes to actual, real-life haunted houses. I’m not referring to the real ones – although I’m a baby when it comes to those, too – but the ones that are set up for Halloween. You know the ones: sometimes they’re professional, and there’s a whole complex of buildings, sets, costumes, the whole nine yards; sometimes less-so, and they’re run by a church group, or something along those lines, as a fundraiser.

I tie this into my fear of things jumping out at me. I’m usually very practical and very level-headed. I can kill a mouse with a shoe (no jumping up on something and squealing for this woman!); I can bait my own hook, catch my own fish, remove it from the hook, clean it, cook it, and eat it, all on my own (so, as you can see, totally ready for the zombie apocalypse); I once watched as a doctor removed moles from my shoulder (much to her disgust; I’m fairly sure there’s a file out there somewhere that says “Keep an eye on this one; latent serial killer tendencies.”) However, I hate, hate, HATE things jumping out at me. Even worse: surprises, where you’re supposed to look pleased, that involve people jumping out at me.

When I was six, my mother planned an elaborate surprise party for me. My father took me on errands with him for the day, so she could organize the whole thing and so everyone could arrive. When we pulled up (why I didn’t notice all the cars in the yard? Give me a break, I was SIX) and went in, they all leaped out from behind things and screamed “SURPRISE!!!” at me. The photos of my face are really things of legend. They get brought up at family functions, sometimes. I was first scared shitless (I have a really overdeveloped fight-or-flight response, and wasn’t sure whether to punch someone or run out screaming; you can see this crossing my face); then I almost pissed myself (again, I was six); then I was FURIOUS. Every photo of me from that party was of me scowling like a young Winston Churchill. I remember asking when we could send everyone home, including my mother (who lives there), who I had named as the head betrayer. Everyone once and a while, my family jokingly says things like, “Hey, you have a milestone birthday coming up…maybe a surprise party is in order?” This is NOT FUNNY. I do not like people jumping out at me; I don’t like not being in on something; I don’t like people screaming in my face. Does anyone like this? If so, what the hell is wrong with you?

In grad school, a friend of mine invited me and another friend of ours to a haunted house his fraternity (fraternity in name only; please, like I’m close friends with too many fraternity brothers. I believe they were a grades-oriented fraternity. Or charitable works. Something like that) was putting on at the local Chuck E. Cheese knock-off. I wasn’t sure about this. “Will people touch me?” I asked. “No,” he said. “We’re not allowed to touch people. We’d get sued.” “Will things jump out and surprise me?” I then asked. He looked at me like I was special (which I am, but I mean that more in the special-needs way, not the sparkly-princess-unicorn way.) “Um, probably?” I love him – still do, he’s one of my favorite people in the world, and why he puts up with my insanity? Well, he’s very patient, and kind – so I said I’d be there.

(Before I start, I want to make this clear – I am well aware these people are actors. I work with actors. For some reason, this does nothing to make them less scary to me. Something is broken in my brain? Probably.)

We showed up, and listen, this wasn’t anything fancy. They’d closed off half of the place and draped it in garbage bags, so it was like one long tunnel, and set up little scenarios inside. It was for children, not adults. I need to reiterate this. It was for children, not adults. The tour guide brought my friend and me in and then all hell broke loose.

I don’t remember a lot of what was in there. Scenarios, like people dressed up with Halloween masks and a lot of fake blood, I think. But apparently, they had all been tipped off I was coming, so they were all whispering, “Amy….Ammmmyyyyy…” as I walked along. But I couldn’t SEE them whispering it. It was coming from NOWHERE. I tried to rush the tour guide but she was NOT HAVING IT. (I think because if we went too fast, the wind from our wake would knock down the garbage-bag tunnels. Did I mention – this was for children? Not adults? Because it was.) The children on the tour with us were laughing and pointing and I could not understand this. This was not funny. Did they not hear the creepy whispering? The people in the scenarios would reach out at us and I almost trampled the children pulling away from them. I could not get out of there soon enough.

We got to the end – oh, the friend I was with thought this was all very funny, because, as I mentioned, normally I pretty much have it all together – and I could see the light (literally!) at the end of the tunnel. I booked it to the end.


Seriously. A wolfman grabbed me from behind and stopped me from exiting. A wolfman put his paws on me around my waist and was eerily silent and would not let me go. So, as I think anyone would do, I elbowed the wolfman in the solar plexus and, when he bent over in pain and let go, turned around and punched him really hard around the face and neck. I faced the wolfman, triumphant. No wolfman was grabbing me! No sir!

And then the wolfman said, “Jesus, Amy, really?” and took off his K-Mart mask and it was really my friend whose fraternity had set the whole thing up. Listen, I still, years later, think I was within my rights. A wolfman was attacking me. I think I actually thought fast and acted appropriately. I mean, what would you have done, just sat there whining “Oh, no, wolfman, please, don’t eat my face?” Yeah, that’s what I thought. I clobbered that wolfman. (Also, the wolfman had FAIR WARNING I did not like being surprised or touched, so the wolfman might have gotten what was coming to him. Just saying.)

After that (and I can tell you, I never really lived that down – it’s hard to keep your reputation as a bad-ass when the story of you weeping and wailing like a baby at a child’s haunted house gets out) I didn’t go back to haunted houses. Obviously, they were out to get me and I didn’t have the psychological tools necessary to fight them. Until a couple of years ago, when not one, but two haunted houses reared their broken windows and cobwebby halls at me. I had to take the challenge. I had to regain my womanhood.

The first was a haunted house for a children’s charity at a local house of history. I was interested to see the house. Plus, there was the promise of a petting zoo. You could tell me, “Listen, you’re going to have to do about five hours of work in 90 degree sun, then you’ll get beaten by a couple of Russian wrestlers until you pass out, but there will be pygmy goats” and I’d be there. My friend, her sister who was visiting from out of town, and I went. I was prepared. I knew what I was up against. I kept asking, “This won’t be that bad, right? This is for kids, right?” and kept getting, “Yes, it’s for kids.” “No, it won’t be that bad.” “Were you accidentally dropped as a child?” (That was from the visiting sister. She didn’t really get that I’m pleasantly neurotic and not just looney tunes.)

We were in a group with about ten kindergarteners and the three of us. I thought, “The haunted house can’t kill us. Look at all of these adorable kiddos!” much as you do when there are babies on your plane and you reason it won’t go down because the powers that be wouldn’t be that cruel, would they? (They would. They are.) The children, the ladies, and I followed our ghostly-dressed tour guide into the house.

It was a wonderful old house. But I don’t know if you’re aware, but old houses are creepy on their own. They creak. The floors are crooked. Add some cobwebs and people dressed up like escaped mental patients grabbing at you and JUMPING OUT FROM BEHIND DOORS (this happened) and it’s like a recipe for disaster.

I started hiding behind my two friends when I realized that this house was even worse than the haunted garbage bag tunnel. I just grabbed onto their sleeves and put my head between their shoulderblades and followed them. The children in our group thought this was hysterical, as did my two friends (I think they might have also found it annoying, because it was like a lamprey had attached itself to them and wouldn’t let go. Made it hard to walk easily.) We got to the last room, and, as in my first experience, I could see the outdoors. Pygmy goats! And a mini-horse! And (for some reason) chickens! The petting zoo, my reward for braving the haunted house (and, let’s face it, losing!)

The last room was set up like a butcher’s shop, only people were being butchered, and for some reason, the butcher decided he was going to scream, to the top of his lungs, “Get out of my HOUSE! Get out of my HOUSE! Get out of my HOUSE!” However, in his infinite wisdom, he was blocking the only door out of the room. So you couldn’t “get out of his HOUSE!” because he was blocking the exit. And he was waving around a bloody cleaver. I tried to get out, and he kept blocking me, while bellowing for me to get out. After trying to get out and pet some goats to calm down about three times, I had had enough.


The children, my friends, and the butcher all got very silent. The children took this opportunity to sneak past him to the exit and raid the cider doughnut table. The butcher and I were facing each other, both furious. My friends were in hysterics. Like, holding each other up, in tears, their sides aching for days with laughter hysterics. I had screamed at an actor in the children’s charity haunted house. This was the best Halloween ever.

The butcher sized me up and finally moved aside enough that I could pass. I had conquered the butcher! (Or he heard the next tour group coming and realized I was a weirdo and it was time to let me out.) Whatever the reason, I escaped with my life! I frantically petted the animals in the petting zoo for the rest of the afternoon to get over my trauma. (There were also rabbits, by the way. RABBITS. And I had acted like I was in Of Mice and Men, so it was appropriate that I got to continue to do so.)

Finally, there was the coup de grace, the Headless Horseman Hayride. This thing gets voted scariest in the state. How I got talked into this? I’m not 100% sure about that. I thought it would be fun? My friends thought it would be funny? This isn’t a haunted house. It’s a COMPLEX of haunted houses. First you take a hayride (this is – oh, I could be nice, but why – kind of lame, like “let’s put on a skit!” lame, only the skit didn’t make a lot of sense. Although there were pyrotechnics, and things jumped out of the woods and followed the hay wagon, and that was kind of funny.) I entertained myself by snarking at the storyline (something about an escaped mental patient, only it didn’t all tie together very well) only inside I was quite aware what was next – 5 haunted houses, one after the other, and a haunted corn maze. I couldn’t handle a children’s haunted house and this had an AGE LIMIT ON IT. You had to be AT LEAST THIRTEEN to even buy a ticket to this thing.

The night is kind of a blur. Like when you’re in a car accident and you look back and remember arriving, and leaving, but not the terror in between. I think, at some point during the night, my brain shut off. Because I started chatting with the ghosts. The ghosts, who can apparently, in some other-worldly way, sense fear, locked onto me like I was a tractor beam. (Oh, and also, they told me as I was coming in, “The ghosts are going to love you.” I’d worn a light-colored shirt. The ghosts working the park can’t see that well in the dark, but they can see you in a light-colored shirt. Blast you, fashion sense! So if you want to be left alone at the Haunted Hayride, wear black.) Once the ghosts started following me (they couldn’t touch, but they could get very, very close) I mentally shut down, and started a monologue to them under my breath. “Oh. Hi. Another ghost. Right nearby. Awesome. No, really. So cool. Are you going to eat my brain? Because that would be great. IS IT STILL FOLLOWING ME?” (Here my friends, laughing like lunatics, would scream, “YES!”) “Oh. Well, good. Hi, then. Were you going to kill me? Is there someone else you’d like to follow? Oh, you’re leaving that’s great WHY IS ANOTHER GHOST COMING?” (They did this tag-team thing where one would peel off into the night and another one would glom onto me. I was like ghost Velcro.)

I also agreed with them a lot. It seemed to shut them up faster than screaming or trying to run. When one would scream, “You’re going to die tonight!” I would say, “I know. It’s the worst.” “You’re one of us now!” “Yes, yes, I saw the movie ‘Freaks’ too. One of us. One of us. I know.” This made my friend’s boyfriend laugh until he had to brave the haunted port-a-potties. (I came back from them with a haunted piece of toilet paper trailing me from the sole of my shoe. Ghostly fun!) When we were driving home, he kept saying, “And Amy agreeing with the ghosts was the best. No matter what they said, she just agreed with them.” Apparently, he has never watched the millions of kidnapping Lifetime movies I’ve watched. You APPEASE killers. This makes them KILL YOU LESS FAST.

This Halloween, there’s a Haunted Capitol tour in Albany. I want to go. Thing is, I’m fairly sure my antics (which I would like to emphasize, are not under my control) would get me on a terrorist watchlist. And who needs that, really?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Land of Both Shadow and Substance, of Things and Ideas

The fourth season of True Blood starts tonight. I’ve been looking forward to this for almost a year, ever since season three ended. I’m a big fan of this show. Well, let’s get this out up front: I’m a fantasy/horror whore. (Whoo, say that three times fast.) Sci-fi and I are on friendly enough terms, but fantasy and horror and I have been going steady since we were introduced in junior high.

I have my last babysitter to thank for this. At the end of sixth grade, my mother went back to work, and decided that I was one year away from being old enough to be a latchkey kid, especially one with her younger brother as a ward. (To be fair, we didn’t get along, and it was a very serious concern that she would come home and find one or the other of us murdered in a creative way.) She found a local girl willing to watch us for the summer. It must have been a decent enough gig: I was twelve and didn’t want to do anything but read, and my brother was eight and I believe spent the entire summer riding up and down our street on his bike. She was a big reader, too. One day, I picked up one of her books.  No cover – she got them from garage sales, usually. I was looking for something new to start. “Can I read this?” I asked. She thought about it, and then acquiesced. “Yes, but if there’s anything in there you don’t think your mother would approve of you reading about – well, don’t tell her about it, ok?” she said.

It was Stephen King’s The Stand. I have had small affairs ever since, but horror and I are very, very serious about each other. Fantasy joined us a few years later. We’re very happy with one another. That summer, and for the next year or so, I burned through Stephen King books like a desert castaway coming upon an oasis. I still love Mr. King. I know he has his detractors, but I’ll read anything and everything he puts out, for the rest of his career. I’m not so blindly devoted I can’t see which of his books I like more than others (It and The Stand are my all-time favorites; not as big of a fan of Duma Key or Lisey’s Story; The Dark Tower series is in a class of its own for sheer depth and breadth and brilliance) but reading his work is always like coming home to an old friend. You know their voice and you love them, even if they’ve changed since last you met.

If there’s a horror or fantasy series on television, I will watch it. I’ll at least give it a chance. Sometimes I’ll give up – they’re not always good (coughKingdomHospitalcough) – but they’re usually something I’m interested enough in to watch.

I thought today, in honor of it being True Blood day, I’d list my top 10 favorite horror/fantasy/sci-fi series of all time.

There may be spoilers here. Probably not too recent; to be honest, I am approximately 7 months behind on almost all of the programs I watch right now, so you will probably be safe. But if you want to be sure you remain completely spoiler-free, you should stop reading now. Also – yes, I know A Game of Thrones is not on here, and a lot of you are going to be saying, it is the best thing ever, how can it have been left off? I haven’t seen it yet. I’m finishing the book first. There are a lot of things I had to leave off because I liked these ten best, as well.

#10         Fringe   This show didn’t wow me immediately. To be honest, I started watching it for Joshua Jackson. Yes, I have a Pacey thing. Be honest with yourself – you don’t know a lot of women who don’t. (And in real life, he’s educated, well-spoken, and seems kind. Bonus!) But once I got into it, I stayed. John Noble is a big part of that. His performance as Walter Bishop, and as his own doppelganger – has been nothing short of brilliant over the years. Give the man a Golden Globe, already. (Also, did I mention Pacey is in it? Because he is.)

#9           Supernatural     Hot boys with daddy issues fight supernatural creatures. I know. It sounds teeny-bopper stupid. It’s actually very intelligent; it’s got heart; it’s well-written; and ok, fine, Jensen Ackles is one of the most attractive men to ever grace a television screen, but that’s beside the point, really. The show is wonderful.

#8           Lost        This would have scored higher if I wasn’t one of the people who hated the ending. I know, I know, it was deep, and maybe I was too stupid to get it. Thing is, they promised everything would tie together at the end – and it didn’t. There’s nothing I hate more than making a promise, then not carrying through. That being said, when this show was good, it was brilliant. It had some of the best cliffhangers and season premieres in television history. And it turned everyone into armchair geeks the next morning, discussing theories, which I loved.

#7           The Walking Dead          This has only been on for one very short season, and it’s already an instant favorite. This show pulls no punches. It shows everything, no matter how gory. But it’s not just about gore. The writing and acting are top-notch; the cinematography is beautiful and desolate; and the stakes are so high you both imagine what you’d do in the same situation and thank your lucky stars you aren’t in that situation (yet! Mu-ha-ha.)

#6           Firefly   Heads up, I’m a huge Joss junkie. (Angel and Dollhouse almost made the cut, but not quite.) I didn’t watch this show when it aired – didn’t think I’d like it, because at the time, I didn’t think I liked sci-fi or westerns enough to like it. I should have trusted Joss. It’s a space western. You love each and every member of the crew. And it being cancelled after one season is one of the biggest travesties on television today. I can’t single out any one crew member as being my favorite, because I love them all, like the dysfunctional family you make for yourself out of friends, you know? And it has one of the best theme songs of all time.

#5           True Blood          I like the books; I’m obsessed with the series. Alan Ball gave it legs and let it develop on its own, and it’s wonderful. He listened to the fans and kept characters around that were murdered in the books because they were beloved. He made (thank you, Mr. Ball!) Eric more three-dimensional and a lot more interesting. (And gave him a haircut. And women around the world squeed.) And tying in vampires coming out with homosexuality in America was a brilliant touch. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

#4           Quantum Leap  I was young when this aired, but it remains one of the first shows I became truly invested in. I wanted Sam to find his way home. I cheered for him. I wept for him. And that last episode, and that final line of text, right before the credits – did anyone see this? Is it still spoiling, if the show went off the air like twenty years ago? “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” Oh my word. Shows today wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. So ahead of its time. Brilliant.

#3           The Twilight Zone            I think it’s a testament to this show that I am glued to the television when the marathons of this air every fourth of July and New Year’s. I even re-watch the episodes I’ve already seen. But the one I always re-watch, no matter what I’m doing, the one I plan my holiday around, is “Time Enough at Last” with Burgess Meredith. Best moment in Twilight Zone history, hands down, the last minute of that episode. It makes me cry just thinking about it, because I am a bookworm, and I wear glasses, and I know if I were the last person on Earth, reading would be all I would want to do. The first time I watched that I was wrecked. I walked around like the survivor of a natural disaster. I’d break into tears at the drop of a hat. That is lasting television and brilliance and just storytelling and imagination at its finest.

#2           The X-Files          Pretend this show ended before the shenanigans at the end occurred, with new agents, and Mulder and Scully having a kid, and Mulder missing, and less Scully. Wipe the slate clean of that. Now imagine “Home,” or “Humbug” (Mulder standing on the steps of the trailer, in profile, reviled by the circus geek as one of the “norms”) or “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” This show was brilliant, back when it was brilliant. Mulder and Scully’s chemistry was equaled by none; the stories were crisp and heart-rending and heart-racing; and sometimes people you loved died. It was true, and it was a show about finding what was true, and when it was good, it was better than good. It was goddamn regal.

#1           Buffy the Vampire Slayer             No show will ever live up to my gold-standard, my Buffy. I knew the characters. I lived their lives with them. I celebrated and cried with them. I hurt with them. I fell in love and fell out of love and was hurt with them. “The Body” remains, and will always remain, one of the most affecting hours of television ever aired. “Hush” managed brilliance without more than a couple of words for an entire hour. “Once More, with Feeling” was a freaking musical episode, back before everyone was doing those. I’ve seen the episodes so many times I can usually watch a few minutes of one and tell you its name and season its from. I see Buffy alumnae in other shows (even Buffy writers in other shows) and I melt a little. So, to you, Buffy, I give you the title: Best. Show. Ever.

I know, I know. I left off Star Trek. (Never watched it.) Same with Dr. Who. (Sorry. I’m a heathen.) But this is my top ten. And what’s great is, I could revisit this a year from now and it might be completely different.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? I’m curious, what would you have put on/left off?

Enjoy True Blood tonight – I’ll be the one quietly ogling Eric from my couch.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All of This Greatness, and It Being Constantly Thrust Upon Me, is Exhausting

Here are two important things about me: I love animals more than a normal person (three places I’ve worked in my life: pet store, vet clinic, humane society) and fire scares me more than anything. Well, except clowns. Clowns with razor-sharp teeth.

When you were a kid, did they ever make you watch that “be careful because you are about to lose everything and everyone you love in a fire” video (well, filmstrip, I’m old) at school? It scared the SHIT out of me. I BEGGED my parents for one of those ladders that folded up under your window. I slept with all of my favorite toys within grabbing distance in case we had to evacuate. It taught you that fire was insidious. In the filmstrip, a smoker put out his cigarette on the arm of a chair (why did he do this? Fire probably told him to. Evil, evil fire!), and three days LATER that chair burst into flame. No one in my house smoked, but what if someone who visited us had an ash in their pantleg they were unaware of? Stowaway fire! This was a very major concern of my childhood. Fire would kill and eat everyone you loved, leaving you a sad, dirty-faced orphan who smelled like woodstoves, like the poor kid that sat next to me once and then he disappeared and they said he moved, but I was never quite sure about that. That’s what I took away from that filmstrip.

A few years ago, we had a severe thunderstorm on my way home from work. I got home and settled in with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and some HBO. You know, as you do. It was summer. The smell of barbecue grills was wafting gently through my open windows. (“It’s curtains for you, Dr. Horrible. Lacy, gently wafting curtains.” No? Fine. Go watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, you heathens.) It was a lovely post-storm afternoon. Then someone started banging on my door. I went downstairs to the door, grumbling about my ice cream melting and wondering exactly how many people were barbecuing, because the smell of smoke was really getting strong.

My neighbor, who never knocked on my door. Odd. He said “Fire,” and pointed at my bedroom window. He had a very thick accent, and I wasn’t sure what he was saying. He repeated himself. “Fire!” and pointed again. I looked – and smoke was pouring out of the roof right over my apartment window. The neighbors were all leaving the building. My building was on fire. (I found out later that it had been hit by lightning right before I got home.)

And here’s the best thing. My neighbors? Were setting up lawn chairs to have a front-row seat to the fire. One of them brought out a cooler and started passing around popsicles. Apparently, this was their fourth of July; my apartment was the fireworks. Lawn chairs. Freaking LAWN CHAIRS. And they were jostling for the best sightlines like it was the Kentucky goddamn Derby.

He gestured for me to leave, and I almost did, but then – well, not that I wish intense situations on any of you, but have you ever been in a situation where your brain just kind of takes over and breaks down a task and you’re in the zone? Oh, what’s that you say? Sports? I know nothing of this “sports” of which you speak. I’m talking about disaster, people. I was about to leave and I realized two things, one of which had three parts: a. my purse, with my apartment keys, was upstairs, and the door would lock automatically behind me if I closed it and walked away right now; and b. my two cats and my roommate’s one cat were upstairs. And the smoke was really starting to billow. Oh, and there were no barbecues. In case you didn’t figure that out yet. (I was foreshadowing. Fancy, right? I know! I went to college for that!)

The cats were upstairs and there was a good chance the apartment was going to go up in a cinder and our three cats were upstairs. And my roommate didn’t get home from work for another half an hour. And fire was insidious. I had seen the filmstrip!

I ran back upstairs, pulling the door shut after me. The neighbor was yelling something after me. In the zone. I was in the ZONE. I saw the cats, two napping peacefully on the couch, one on my roommate’s bed. I grabbed the cat carriers from the closet. I whirled around.

No cats. Not one. Cat desert. Tumbleweeds blowing by. (Also, smoke. All the smoke. Coming in the open window.) See, the cats even see a carrier, and their cat brains light up with “Carrier. Vet. Shots. SHOTS! OWIES! RECTAL EXAM AND OWIES!” And they are in the wind. We used to put the carriers out a week before the vet visits so they’d think they were new kicky decorating choices and forget about their impending doom, just so we could get near them on vet day.

Someone was banging on my door. Firetrucks, alarms clanging, were pulling up outside. And where were the ever-loving cats?

I found one under the bed. With the strength of a mother whose child was trapped under an Explorer, I grabbed her and threw her in a carrier. (The claw marks I had in me, later, were kind of epic. Didn’t feel them at the time.)

The second cat – well, he’s dumb. There’s no other way to explain him. He’s mentally challenged. He’s a polydactyl with more toes than brains; he’s got a stub tail that the vet thinks is a congenital deformity (and when he gets excited, it splits at the tip like little devil horns), and he’s slightly walleyed. When he hides, he does the ostrich thing. He only hides his head. “I cannot see her,” he “reasons” (he cannot reason, he is dumb, hence the sarcastic quotes), “so therefore, she cannot see me!” And then when I grab him, he always looks at me like I am a goddess and a finder of lost things. I “found” him with his head half under the couch. Bam. Carrier.

“Ma’am? This is the fire department? And you’re going to need to come out, as your apartment is on fire?” Bang, bang, bang. One more cat! One more cat! Where is the last cat? The apartment! It is on fire! I DO NOT HAVE ONE OF THOSE LITTLE HANDY UNDER-WINDOW LADDERS!

(Have you forgotten about my ice cream? It melted. I had to throw it away. I know. Ben & Jerry’s isn’t cheap. And “act of God” doesn’t cover ice cream in your renter’s policy. Keep that in mind when purchasing insurance. It’s apparently “not an item of value.” Tell that to my TASTE BUDS, insurance adjustor.)

The last cat was under the loveseat. Whenever I tried to reach her, she scooted away. She was not having this. There was a carrier. There was probably a vet visit coming up. And I was acting weird.

I threw the loveseat (no, seriously, that bad boy went over like the Titanic, we found it in the middle of the living room when we were allowed back in and my roommate was all, “Whaaa?” and I was like, “Those firemen! Man! Take care of personal heirlooms, guys, am I right? RUDE” but it was me and my super-adrenalized and possibly ice-cream fueled strength) and grabbed her, more scratches, and ran downstairs, throwing my purse over one shoulder, cat carriers in each hand, two in one carrier, one in the other. Flung open the door. Fireman standing there, his hand up ready to bang again.

“Had to get the cats,” I said. He was not amused by me. At all.

“Ma’am, you never, never run back into a burning building, didn’t anyone ever teach you that?” he said (YES I WATCHED THE FILMSTRIP DAMN), and then, “Last apartment’s clear,” and I walked the cats to my car, crashing, exhausted, my neighbors watching me with their little avid eyes from their lawnchairs (LAWNCHAIRS! at a FIRE!) and put the cats in the car and waited for my roommate to come home. When she did – running across the lawn, petrified because the fire department had put someone at the end of our street telling everyone that if they lived in building 11, they couldn’t go home, it was on fire – we met like lovers at the airport.

“Did you –the..” she said, tears in her eyes.

“They’re fine. They’re in my car,” I said, and we hugged, because I was a huge hero. A parade? Yes. It wasn’t too much to expect. Maybe a small, tasteful piece in the paper. A monument in our local park. I had braved the flames, people, and I had won. Without a little ladder. The insidious flames, they had not gotten me OR my furry kiddos.

Hubbub! Hubbub! What was going on?

The lawnchairs started getting up and going in. The excitement was past. What? Why, you ask? Because – get this, are you ready? – the apartment wasn’t really on fire. No. Seriously. Well, there was a fire. A tiny one. More smoke than anything. It would probably have gone out on its own. We were allowed back in. The fireman had gone through our apartment to put out the gigantic conflagration (tiny smoldering baby fireling) and left it a mess. (And of course there was the mess I’d left, “rescuing” the cats from a danger they weren’t even in.)

Please, let me reiterate.

I saved the cats from a NONEXISTANT FIRE.

Whatever, shut up, I’m still super-brave. I’m sure the firemen weren’t laughing at me when they drove off; they saw something humorous in my general direction.

Well-played, fire. I was not prepared for just how insidious you are. I’ll be ready next time, though. I’m getting TWO of those little ladders. One for me, one for the cats. BAM.

(Note - in looking for a title for this post I found that there is an album by Cat Stevens entitled "Teaser and the Firecat". That - well, that is kind of the most awesome and terrible and also awesome.)