Sunday, March 29, 2015

It snowed yesterday, and yes it's Spring, which made it downright awful.

So it was simply meant to be a lazy day, and I had the intense pleasure of laying around being lazy with one of my favorite people in the world, thus far.

And one of my favorite movies, The Shining, was on Cinemax.

Why, she asked, was this creepy, strange, nonsensical, and horrifying flick one of my favorites?

It didn't take me long to remember why.

It didn't take me long to be brought back to the Autumn of 2003, my freshman year at Shippensburg University in the gorgeous rolling farmland of south central Pennsylvania.


I had good parents, I was raised well. I always was resentful that I had a curfew, back in high school, but then again I am thankful for not being dead or in jail. Like some.

Sure I was told to come home by 11 pm, but besides being given a mere time to come home, I had it good.

I wasn't told to NOT not do many things. Besides being home when I was supposed to, a rule I indeed respected, they were liberal about many things.

Their style was, well, they brought me into this world, but I'm the one that has to live in it. And live and learn I did.

But there was one thing I was always told to never do, to never even think about doing.... it wasn't meth, or coke, or heroin, or sky diving.

All my life, the one thing that not only was frowned upon, but also swept under the rug like it didn't even exist, was the Ouija Board.

They both were adamant about nothing at all, except this one thing.

So obviously, at 19, the second I lived away from home and in the dorms far from any hint of authority, I made this choice.

I spent my free time, which was frequent, drinking, partying, and hanging out at my cousin's and his roommates' off campus residence.

Now before I get into this, before the moments my cousin and I sat across from each other around the coffee table in a dark living room, hands on the Ouija board's planchette, some context...

One of the most relevant conversations in the aforementioned movie is when head chef Dick Halloran is speaking to young Danny Torrance about what it means to "shine," or be psychic, or see ghosts, simply put. And that sometimes, it's not just people who shine, but places also.

This place, in the crisp Autumn of 2003, was a white non-descript single family residence dating back, structurally at least, to the 1600s. It stands along Shippensburg's King Street, aka Route 11. It was there when Civil War brigades passed by on their way to a fateful and bloody battle at Gettysburg.

Its front facade has witnessed American History, and God only knows what its interior walls have seen.

But I'm not ready to believe in haunted houses, or haunted people. I'm not willing to yet believe that things we can't explain, items being moved around, cold spots, bad vibes, etc are necessarily caused by spirits of dead people.

The power of human belief is beyond strong, and there is energy all around us, some of which not yet discovered.

Perhaps what transpired here at 431 E. King Street was a combination of all these factors.

And people, for better or for worse, can be bullshitters.

So before my cousin and I placed our hands down on the planchette, I came up with what I figured was an ingenious method of ensuring the utmost honesty on both our parts. I wanted this one experience to either prove this board game flawed, or prove it what it's advertised as, a gateway into another ominous dimension.

How though, would I know my cousin wasn't moving the planchette? How could he ever know if I was? We would need to test it, so I looked over into the kitchen, noticed a large value pack of bread slices from Giant, opened, with several slices missing, and came up with it.

I asked, with our hands on the planchette, both our eyes closed and intensely focused, how many slices of bread were in that pack over there? I'm sure we could estimate, maybe luckily guess, for it originally contained 36. But I figured an exact answer would be tough for either of us.

So we waited, and waited, and sure enough, eventually, there was slow movement. It was very obvious this thing was moving, whether he was doing it, well, who knows. But I damn sure wasn't.

It went to the number 1, then minutes later, over to 9. Ok, 19.

I quickly got up and ran over to the bread in the kitchen and counted. 27.

I grinned, pretty much relieved that it was wrong.

"Yep, it's bull shit," I declared, walking back into the dark living room.

"27 slices."

And just in that perfect moment, as I descended back down onto my knees on the living room floor in front of the coffee table, we both heard the sound of someone running down the stairs. Knowing full well that no one was home except us, I didn't even have time to look at my cousin's face in sheer terror. I shot up without thinking and ran full speed through the house, the kitchen, and outside.

My cousin was right behind.

The emotion was one part horror, and one part confusion, for someone just ran down the steps towards us, yet no one was in there.

My cousin called his roommate Chris, who was out at a party with the other 4 roommates, and they hurried home. Yep, all four accounted for. No one in the house. This didn't make sense.

They laughed at our story, but of course were intrigued. We went back in and cleared the house. No one, no thing, was in there.

This was the start of many things that happened in that house.

Lights turning on, stereo systems turning on, even the shower turning on, on one occasion. On another, the words "FEARE ME" spelled out in the shower mist on the bathroom mirror. According to my cousin's history professor, this misspelling may have been intentional, for fear was spelled with an "E" in Old English, in the 1600s.

The scariest part about that, though, was the shape of the phrase. Fingers would've left a certain width, yet these letters looked much thinner, like someone or something used a twig to spell it out. It didn't help when Jesse suggested it looked like skeleton fingers.

Although this was all terrifying, it did not keep me out of the house. Call it horrific fascination.

Many weird things transpired there, not the least of which this dark aura in the house. There was an uptick of dumb arguments, even fights, and this very strange feeling that something was in the attic. Hard to explain I know, but it was the same sense you'd feel if you knew there was a rodent trapped in the attic and you simply kept the door shut all the while knowing it was there.

This all culminated one day, when my cousin was on campus studying. Two roommates were at a concert, one was out of town at home, one was working all day. All had alibis.

That evening, John, after brushing his teeth, casually asked my cousin why we switched their beds around.

All of us looked at each other. My cousin knew that no one switched their beds, which were next to each other in a shared bed room. John's was a large metal frame, my cousin's, a heavy wood sleigh bed.

We hurried upstairs, and in dumb disbelief, saw it for ourselves. This would've been a process, disassembling each bed, re assembling both on the opposite side of the room. This would've taken time, lots of effort, and more than one person.

We were all once again terrified and confused, for no one, none of us moved these two beds, yet someone apparently did.

And this is where it ended.

After this, nothing odd ever happened there. The house was quiet once again. A sense of normalcy restored.

But none of us will ever forget this experience.

It was one of those events in your life that changes things, that puts things in perspective.

That makes you believe in something.

Do I believe in ghosts, or spirits, or The Shining?

Well, I don't really know.

But now it's sure hard not to.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The antics of Corey Matthews and Shawn Hunter were always subdued and brought back to reason by Principal Mr. Feeney, and occasionally teacher Mr. Turner.

If you don't know, I'm talking about four characters in a popular sitcom that took place in Philadelphia, PA, in a Philadelphia school, in a Philadelphia neighborhood.

Except No, and No, and Not At All.

The show, "Boy Meets World," was a great show.

I watched it, back in the Mid to Late 90s. But even as a 9-year old, I could see past the BS. I could see that not only was this show not even filmed anywhere near Philly, but also that the producers couldn't care less about even pretending they knew anything about My City.

By sheer observance, I deduce that popular culture excludes authenticity. Trust me, I know, as does any other 80s baby born and raised in Philly, or Cleveland, or East St. Louis.

Then we get this network tv series Boy Meets World, about a Philadelphia kid, except it's not actually in Philly. There is no accent, or dialect, or reference to anything in My City. Even the outdoor shot of the house made it clear: this show is about two children growing up, and arbitrarily, we chose the 5th most populous city in the US as the backdrop.

The real backdrop? Well, a studio in Burbank, California or NYC, obviously.

You see, Philly gets no love.

Even when we do, it's not accurate. Even the Netflix series "House of Cards" bungled it, and they have arguably much more leeway than even HBO. Really? A Congressman named Peter Russo, who has not even a hint of a Philly accent, even though he's from South Philly? And his union boy constituents sound more like they're from Brooklyn. And the outside scenes of his Philadelphia homecoming are literally filmed in Baltimore.

But hey, I'm used to all this.

Like weathermen and...weatherwomen, who are told to lose everything they hold sacred, up to and including especially the way they talk so that everyone in this country can feel comfortable hearing a person whether black or white or Asian tell them about the tornado about the wipe out their entire town or the sleet that may inconvenience them in their morning commute in a dialect that's...COMFORTABLE?

Enter The Wire. HBO. 2002.

Sure it takes place in Baltimore, Maryland, missing My City by about 90 miles give or take, but for once we get honesty. On tv.

For once we get a show ABOUT the Outliers, and FOR the Outliers, instead of business as usual...Shows, broadcasts, podcasts, dramas, comedies, documentaries, mockumentaries, movies, about the INSIDERS FOR THE INSIDERS.

David Simon took a huge gamble with this. This concept, of writing for and about a small sliver of the American Experiment, in the hopes that the Mainstream would and could eventually catch on, had never been done before.

And rarely has been done since.

Until, that is, Breaking Bad, and its genius little brother Better Call Saul.

My litmus test for good tv is when you are not only watching actors play characters, but also when the Setting becomes a character in itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tune in to AMC, Mondays at 10p.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


The term, in quotes, is literally the extreme opposite of the before picture.

US President Warren G. Harding invented it, literally, out of thin air, in a campaign speech back in 1920.

My only thought is, how wasn't there an adjective for decency, simplicity, NORMALNESS, until 19 F'N 20!!!???

Meanwhile, a couple of hours ago, 47 US Senators, all of whom GOP (obviously), sent a letter to Iran, you know, our arch Nemesis, stating that essentially no matter what kinda nuclear deal is reached with our country, well it won't matter.

Because YOU, Iran, are forever our enemy, and we, well, our politics are very complicated. For any sort of deal met with the Obama administration could easily be derailed down the road because, you know, CONGRESS.

Even though you, IRAN, believe in science, and progress, and not burning people alive, and not beheading innocent people, and having political boundaries, and a relevant governmental state, and rejecting the idea that these times we live in aren't End Times and therefore maybe also believing in the fact that people in general just want to wake up tomorrow, eat breakfast, go to work, and have consensual sex.

Sure you adhere to Shia Islam, and no doubt stomaching the idea of Israel is difficult for you, but atleast you aren't trying to hold Civilization hostage by brutally slaughtering innocent people and instilling fear by posting disgusting atrocities on YouTube so that you can secure an unofficial state around modern day Dabiq, Syria solely because you pick and choose an obscure passage from the Qur'an in the hopes of inciting a Holy War to occur that you think will provoke the Prophet to come down and conduct Judgement Day when in reality you will just get your asses kicked with no help from any Prophet.

Wait, why are we still enemies, again?

I'm talking to you too, Russia, and China. Venezuela, and Cuba.

AT LEAST y'all reside in the realm of Normalcy.

Let's put aside our petty economic, political, and other stupid idelogical differences so we can unite to fight off and beat back the ABNORMALCY.

We are not living in End Times people! This is not a Holy War.

It is simply one of the World's many battles, it isn't the first, and it sure as hell won't be the last.

But it has never been clearer who the Good Guys and the Bad Guys are...

Personally, I usually adhere to the whole Grey Areas Theory of life, but this is one thing that has got to be Black and White.

It is Normal VS Abnormal.

Whose side are you on?

I'll make it easy: who do you sympathize with in the picture? The masked man in literally a black robe slicing the throat of a a chained unarmed man in orange, or, the man in......

Well you get the picture.

Pun intended.