Halloween Horror Date # 1

I’m a fan of All Hallows Eve. Scary Stories are music to my ears. Horry movies are my jam! Halloween Horror nights at local parks and haunted houses are favorite past time during the month of October.

Some years ago, I went to Knotts Halloween Nights. We went with friends and family. I arrived hungry for the scares in the mazes. The guy I’m with is a big guy – nearly six feet, but soft around the middle, cuddly – like a teddy bear.

Once inside the mazes, he gripped my hand, walking slightly in front of me, nearly pulling me along behind him. Every time a ghoul, ghost, or themed monster jumped out – he raised his fist to them. After the first few attempted scares, no more monsters spooked us. And my excited energy turned to boredom with the simple walk through set.

My family and friends deserted us, went their own way. I suggested he not raise his fist or hand, assuring him that the workers wouldn’t touch us or hurt us, and warning we could get thrown out. He brushed it off.

I assumed, and it was later confirmed by one of the workers, they had walkie-talkies or cameras and after he jumped back at the scarer with a flabby balled hand, the characters are to no longer interact. The actors are not paid to be punched. They are not there to be hit.

This ruined the fun of night. Why would a teddy bear turn into terror teddy, pulling me a long behind him, and threatening the very reason we came to the park? I assume he was afraid, more afraid than he wanted me to know. He’d never acted tough or aggressive before that night.

As far as after that night – I made like Halloween and ghosted him.

Blast from the Past: Read A True Halloween Creeper Story

Scary Fiction: $1.00 Stories and Eddy

The Importance of Running Away

Getting away, even if for a day or a weekend, is so important to refresh the creative spirit. Whether or not you actually work or write on this get away isn’t the valuable moment – it’s a temporary respite from the usual.

Research shows “blue space” and “green space” (the beach and the woods) do our minds and bodies good.

Having not taken a trip in the last 18 months has left my spirit in a state of desolation.

Therefore, I took a drive up the coast and landed in Cambria. Cambria is known, I think, as a beach town, but I stayed tucked away in a little cabin in the woods – I got my green space and my blue space. I didn’t write so much as I walked, explored, meandered – but it was enough. It was a gift to my pandemic weary spirit, a reset. Ending the old, beginning anew. It felt nearly normal again.

I returned refreshed, ready for the school year to begin, ready to finish another story.

Runaway. Runaway often. Near or far. Explore. Unplug.

I Love this “Weird” Review!

Gosh, it’s hard to get people to review a book. I get so many nice emails and notes, yet the same people have not written reviews.

This review, however, is hilarious!

After reading Harvey Levin Can’t Die, Alex K wrote:

Thank you, Alex K. I can agree, on some level, some of my stories are strange. It’s the way my mind works – just a little different than your average person. That’s probably why I’m a writer.

Harvey Levin Can’t Die tells the story of a how a slight change can affect society. Could we live without reality tv? What better time to read this story, when reality seems so harsh!

HEAT

Many years ago, when I was young and my children were younger, my husband left. I continued to go to school, certain it was the only thing keeping me from the nightmares of my youth. I had two kids, I entered two Master’s programs, and I worked two jobs (two part time jobs) fitting them in between the small spaces of my life.

One of those many years, I supported us on a total of twenty thousand dollars. I worried a lot. About bills. About the future. About my kids.

In my youth, with five children and two adults split between a three bedroom apartment, my mother had to occasionally pawn things in order to buy milk and cereal. My father nearly always had his thumb on the heat. I’m literally talking about the thermostat. The gas bills of an Ohio winter could wipe out whole paychecks.

There were stories of people freezing to death during those cold winters. That was before they passed the law that the Gas Company couldn’t cut people off for non-payment during freezing winter storms.

I woke up some mornings, my breath condensing before my eyes. My hamster went into hibernation. My father bought us sleeping bags, a cheaper alternative to turning up the heat.

Maybe that alone is what brought me to California (not really.) But there’s an incontrovertible trauma to spending your life shivering. And there’s an indisputable pleasure to being warm.

In the chilled California winters where it rarely drops below 32 degrees, I refused to deny my daughters heat. In the meager college years of single motherhood, I could not begrudge them food or space or gifts.

But I did cringe when the pink lined bill of the Southern California Gas Company came or the blue hem of the Water and Power warnings peeked over the rim of the mail box.

The one thing my father taught me was how to work hard and harder. I got through the tenuous times by believing hard work would pay off and we would, one day, be safe.

Fast forward to the Pandemic Years: I put my thumb on the heat tonight, having spent the day chilled, and nearly turned it down. Here in So Cal we don’t have the Ohio winters nor do we have the heating bills that could hinder a trip to the market for food. But every little bit will count – again.

Superman

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Mr. Rogers didn’t say anything, he acted.

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Just because someone isn’t doing what you think they should be doing, doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything.

Love.

 

Citizens

Imagine going to a therapist who works out of her home. She tells you to use the side entrance, through the gate. But the gate is locked, so you go to the front door and knock.

The therapist, who specializes in trauma, whips open the door and screams in your face “GET AWAY FROM MY HOUSE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY YARD?”

If you’re seeking a therapist with a specialty in trauma counseling, it’s because you’ve experienced trauma.

How do you react?

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Maybe part of that trauma is that you’ve been ignored your whole life, described as a criminal, pulled over and searched for no particular reason. When you walk by, people pull their purses a little closer. People say things to you that seem aggressive, yet they smile while they do it.

If you haven’t experienced these traumas, then perhaps you react. Ask the woman what her problem is? Ask her if she speaks to all her patients like this? Maybe you curse her out. And I’m definitely guessing, you don’t go in and pay her exorbitant fees.

But if you have experienced microaggressions and this is maybe just the third one that day, and it’s still early, you go in.

It’s not one black man who was brutalized by cops that hurts and angers large sections of our population. It’s the thousand little microaggressions that happen on a daily basis and it’s repeated brutality by those who should be setting an example in our society which makes it seem okay to other parts of our population. Further, it is those in charge who seem to shrug and say, oops, as if a cop didn’t just kill someone by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, but rather ran a stop sign or some other insignificant infraction.

Claudia Rankine describes hundreds of microaggressions perpetrated by colleagues, “friends,” strangers, and society. Citizen: An American Lyric is a book of poetry. I saw it enacted as a play at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles some time ago – and it made and left an impression.

I’ve used it in nearly every literature class since. It is a work of art.

Articles, excerpts, and videos:

New Yorker

An Excerpt from the book Poets.Org

The New York Times

You are In the Dark

From Granta 

Stop and Frisk – video

More from Youtube

 

You might be a racist…

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One of the discussions we have in my classes on a regular basis is about cross cultural communications. I have a few rules in class about discussions. The first of which is you don’t have to agree with anyone, but you should know how to respectfully disagree. And two – if you feel someone says something inappropriate, including me, say something.

I don’t claim to be an expert. I listen. We discuss.

If you’ve ever uttered lines such as:

  • “He’s good looking for a black guy.”
  • “She’s a nice black girl.”
  • Any version of, “Some of my best friends are black,” or “I have black friends.”
  • “All lives matter.”
  • Told a black joke to your black friend (and you’re not black).
  • Quoted statistics of white people killed by cops.

You’ve either came across as ignorant or racist.

These are insensitive and can be interpreted as hateful. Learning to communicate effectively takes time and practice.

If you hear others say these things and feel safe, let them know these things are inappropriate.

If you’re uncertain what you or others have said is inappropriate, ask someone – and understand the reasoning.

Check out these articles.

“Some of My Best Friends Are Black”

Why You Should Stop Saying All Lives Matter”

“Don’t Understand the Protests?”

“27 Things White People Should Never Say…”

 

To understand how to better communicate across cultures:

52 Activities for Improving Cross Cultural Communication

 

It is not my intention to label or call names. I am asking that you be aware of what you’re saying and how you sound.

We all need to be more sensitive in the way we speak to and think of one another. We share a planet. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all beautiful human beings.

Silent, Not Silent

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I was going to say I’ve been largely silent in the last weeks, a post here and there, but I don’t want my lack of posting to be confused with silence about what is happening in the world these days.

I am left speechless at the horror of this year, of this last month, of these last days. But not silent. Not neutral.

To compound the coronavirus horrors, my only refuge – as with all of you – my house was invaded, my dog got skunked and brought the smell into the house.

Stay with me here….¬† this grows.

If you are unfamiliar with the smell save for passing a kill on a country road, the smell leaches into everything in a matter of moments. It’s not a matter of opening the windows to release the odor. The smell is thick, it has claws. It sticks around. Even with fans going, windows open, it lingers in corners.

The spray is an oil type substance that is embedded into my dog’s fur. The skunking is meant to do harm; therefore, it causes burning of the eyes, rash on the skin, nausea. And it is not easily scrubbed out.

I don’t only mean the dog. I was sick for days.

Now, let’s add to that a passing of a friend.

Layer that with the death of George Floyd. This hurts me because it hurts my friends, my students, my family. The brutality Floyd experienced is the brutality people of color experience EVERY DAY!

Top it with the protests, which would have been peaceful except for the agitators who want to use the protests as a front, to cause problems, and commit crimes.

So add looting and violence, the armed national guards, police, and curfews.

Do not take my silence as a neutral position. I am horrified.

Racism is that skunking. It is meant to do harm. It is an odor not released by opening a window. Racism is a stink that has claws, it has bite. It is a sickening, stinging, lingering presence. And it needs to be scrubbed out of the system entirely.

And the scrubbing needs to begin at the top.

 

I am an educator. I teach. One of the classes I have taught is The History of African American Literature. For the next few weeks, my posts will center around what I have learned and what I teach my students about communication, history, and growth.

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Sending loving and healing thoughts to all.