Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wicker Spook

Halloween is here. But spooky moments do their work on other days. In the mood of this holiday, I'd like to recount an experience left unexplained.

In 2004, I was roommates with my good friend and now Wood Sugars collaborator, Donny Rodriguez. We lived in a basement in Wicker Park; cheap rent, drafty, rat infested. On one occasion in the dead of winter we were both at a friend's party. Donny decided to leave before me, he said he was either going to his girlfriend's or to the apartment. He wasn't sure. I said okay, see ya later man. 

When I got home and unlocked the door, I couldn't open it. I double checked that I had indeed unlocked it. I had. The door handle rotated. As far as the deadbolt, I had in fact turned the key away from the door frame. I heard it click. It still wouldn't open. Thinking maybe he had returned to our apartment, I knocked. No one came to the door. I knocked on his window, to the right of the front door. No answer. I called him. It went to voice mail. Panicked, it was cold out, I threw my body against the door a few times until it gave way.

I found that there was a third lock in place. We had a metal latch similar to what you'd use to close a bathroom stall, where a bolt shaped rod dips into a hole in the door frame, and you rotate the rod up and back, clasping the thumbtack shaped handle into a gap in the metal to hold it in place.  We had never, ever used it.  A deep gouge had marked the door frame where it had ripped along after I had body checked the door in. I called out to Donny, checked in his room, he wasn't there. If he had in fact come home and locked it, he couldn't have left. We had bars lining across our windows. In the rear of the unit we had a storage room with a little door out from there to a backyard. But there was an accordion style iron grate locked via combination lock from the inside

Whatever locked that clasp had to have done it from the inside. And no person visible was inside. 

Later that summer I was watching a movie during a hot, humid afternoon. We didn't have air conditioning. But I felt a quick cold chill run through my body. Then the kitchen light went out. I got up and checked it out. The light switch had physically been lowered. I was able to turn it back on, it wasn't a burn out situation. 

As I mentioned, it was a rat infested shit hole. Quite a few rats had lost their lives in traps. Maybe their rodent spirits never left. Or, this Donny character we're all friends with is indeed a specter still fucking with us. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Post Production, Pressure and a Partisan Viewing Party

We've been idle on the short film front Wood Sugars-wise so we decided to do the 72 Hour National Film Challenge. The procedure was: Friday night we were assigned a genre, a prop, a character name and a line of dialogue. Then we had the weekend to write, shoot, edit, and send our DVD entry post marked by the end of the day Monday. You'll see the particulars of our assigned components soon enough, hopefully we'll be selected in the top 15 to be hosted on their website, in which case you'll get to vote for the best. If not, we'll release it somewhere. We're proud of it. It's our most action packed piece yet. 

I wish I could tell you some crazy filmic horror story that would put us on par with Hearts of Darkness: The Making of Apocalypse Now but it was a smooth production. Actually, I don't wish that. The stress of that would not be good for something I'm going to talk about here in a minute. But ideas were flowing well Friday night in our Wood Sugars pitch/writing meeting. When we sat down to write, words and beats flowed. And Saturday we found a beautifully weird patch of woods along the Chicago river accessible by a running trail to shoot an "outskirts" scene. The Original Mother's Bar was very nice to accommodate us with use of their bar before opening, and their offices. Cast and crew members were on time, quick to learn lines, and deliver. As a result, we all had a blast, and we were able to create something cohesive without any arguments or meltdowns. We all got a little sleep too. Much credit goes to Eliaz Rodriguez, who has really set out to develop himself as a freelance videographer, so his experience organizing other shoots and pumping out concise edits in a short amount of time has grown extraordinarily. And because of his reserve in staying up late to stitch the piece together and make everyone look good, I was able to show up, write a little bit, act a little bit, and do some minimal production stuff. To really dig in and play a part in a scene without the mental balance being tipped toward other production tidbits was quite cathartic. 

The most stressful scenario for me was when we shot a train track fight sequence, we had to hop the fence and shoot along the Metra. There were of course some signs saying "No Trespassing." When a passing Metra sounded its mega horn, Donny and I were fearful of us being called into "authorities" and I kept thinking "a fine for trespassing is not what my finances need right now." But we got it done without hassle. And it's a swell sequence.

After work on Monday a co-worker and I went to an event at this space in Chicago called 1871, which is this rad place on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, basically a shared office space where small digital start ups can pay a small monthly membership and have a slick work space, and access to a community of other like-minded entrepreneurial folks. We've been to some lively events there before, but with the final presidential debate and the Bears game, it was a thin crowd. There was this machine there that calculates blood pressure, body mass index, etc. So I tried it, and it told me I have High blood pressure, 153/101. When I looked it up later, I saw that my score is pretty damn close to Stage Two Hypertension. I'm realizing that maybe I need to fucking watch it. My health that is. Who knows, the machine might have been fucked up, I did have about 5 glasses of wine beforehand. But, I wouldn't be surprised if it was dead on. I do stress easy. I'm a worry wort. I let little things get to me, sweat the small stuff. 

But what did I do right after? My co-worker and I thought it would be interesting to go to the bar English where the Young Republicans of Chicago get together to watch the debates, to check it out, for shits and giggles. A good idea for a man with high blood pressure? It wasn't as rowdy as I expected, although they were quick to clap for Romney and guffaw at Obama. It had the same fervor of a football game, and ho, behold, on a TV screen right next to one casting the debate, was the Bears/Lions game. A different form of two on two. If the debate footage was turned off and the viewers kept their same reactions, it would be fitting that perhaps they were just watching the football game. I do get the gut sensation that national partisan politics is just one big fucking sporting match-up. 

There was a Black man in the corner by the pool table watching it all. He wore a full Cubs uniform, in fact I think he might some guy who does that often, that's his thing, wearing a Cubs uniform around town, I feel like I've met him at a bar before. He clapped after Obama's closing remarks. And I wanted to join him. But I didn't have the courage, not at a place like the gathering of Chicago's Young Republicans. So I winked at him, like thinking I was letting him in a little secret, that I was an Obama supporter too infiltrating this little meetup, but I don't think he saw my wink. I think he just saw me look over at him, like I was a little partisan dick shooting him a glance to stop his enthusiasm for the current administration. 

I finished my beer and left, thinking about how I might put into motion the lowering of my blood pressure.

I've begun eating oatmeal every morning, and am starting to do deep breathing exercises throughout the day. And I've stopped drinking coffee after lunch. My 5 or so cups a day might be what's egging the high score on. I've switched to tea. Update: I feel a little calmer. But I also feel more depressed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Back pain caught up to me throughout the week; a combination of sitting at a desk most of the day with negligent posture, and an accumulation of items in my man bag (books, sweater, hat, Chicago Readers) weighing down on my shoulder during my commuter trot. By Friday it was a distraction. So I distracted myself with a hot shower, lathered up my back with an herbal alternative to Icy Hot, and then sat in my lazy boy recliner with my massaging heat pad I got last Christmas. It put me in a trance. I kind of sat there all catatonic, with my mouth open, just looking at things, for possibly a couple of hours. 

I then decided to fill the void in my sedated brain with hours of videos on YouTube about conspiracies surrounding The Secret Space Program. I was kind of hoping when I'd drift off to sleep that I'd get to lucid dream explore old structures on the Moon left behind by the ancients. There's this one video on YouTube called Aliens Come From Hell that showed pretty convincing footage of an Apollo Space crew exploring some Moon ruins. Supposedly top secret leaked footage. My catatonic Friday energy suspended my disbelief for the evening and so I sauntered around outside for a few minutes hoping to look at the Moon in awe and think about that place haunted by aliens but it was cloudy. 

I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore and went to bed but I didn't have these trippy Moon dreams. I think I dreamed I was in a traveling theatre troupe stopping off in my mom's town of Lexington, MI and my dream's super-objective was getting my mom to cook some very heavy feast. And I think she did, which put me into a mini coma in the dream and I didn't remember any other dreams after that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thought, Character, and Crises

Two big causes of economic problems seem to be rooted in: 1) lack of understanding of finance (both personal and business). 2) lack of ethics. Many lack one or the other or both. Those who lack number 2 often use it against those who lack number 1. These people are mixed in the workings of both the public sector and private sector. So to say either or knows best without acknowledging this perpetuates a back and forth war of ideology. And doesn't remedy any roots of problems. Perhaps a step toward giving future generations a leg up is to actually incorporate addressing these roots as required courses in public school. I know in my K-12 experience I was never taught anything about loans, credit, retirement savings, insurance, etc. I was lucky to learn this from my family, and through their advice when suddenly having to deal with it. Many aren't so lucky as to have family to fill in this gap. And schools may teach manners and basic citizenship, but what about an in-depth study of ethics, and situations in the history of the market place, where disregard of ethics caused serious, harmful consequences? We can try whatever quick fixes political parties want to fight for to boost the economy. But if these elements of thought and character aren't developed further, harsh crises will always be ingrained in cyclical, moody monetary swings.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Votary Nerves - released!

My latest novel, Votary Nerves, is now available. The soft launch has rolled forth. You can order it in paperback and for the Kindle. I might be biased here, but you should totally buy a copy. It's nutty, it's strange, it's personal. And it would mean a lot to me if you read it, maybe dog eared a page or two.

From Votary Nerves:

My dreams that night did not condone rest. Ever see a man with translucent skin? I did. I have dreamt of him many times before. Bright images ticked and shined through his epidermis. And he was loud. Static danced and burned my eyes and I wanted nothing to do with him. He was the terrorist I liked to call Televisor. He was apt to pin people down and force them to watch his heartbeat the images of Nagasaki in repeat. He desired to do this until everyone resigned to go live in a world built from television scraps that grew from the Earth by copper vines. I blamed the dreams on my dad for thinking it necessary to collect televisions that bulged our retinas.