Tales from the Crypt (Except replace the word Crypt with RAV4)

Bare with me through this lengthy tale friends, and I’d like to believe that you won’t be disappointed. Of course, I also simultaneously believe that if you do take the time to read it in full, that you’ll be disturbed enough to possibly unfollow this blog, cancel your friendship with me via other social channels, and maybe even phone the authorities to have me taken away to a padded cell. I’ll take my chances in the name of keeping myself semi-relevant to you for another week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you likely saw a few pictures of the fantastic place I visited at the beginning of last week. A wonderfully desolate locale known as Alabama Hills. Three days there shooting what I hope we’ll be an amazing thirty second spectacle has left me with many fine tales, but it is the journey home that is the subject of this post. The roughly three or so hours spent mostly alone behind the illuminated wheel of what was formerly my mother-in-law’s RAV4, driving from Lone Pine back to Venice, on the heels of a 12 hour shoot day in the hot sun of a desert not far removed from Death Valley.

Why was I alone in the car with no co-pilot to help guide me or share the responsibility of staying awake to stay alive for one more day, despite having ample co-workers present on set with me? Simple. I had made it very clear that I’m a man who likes to drive at a reasonable speed–and a man who demands that any one driving him also mimics the cruising behaviors of a seventy-year old man. And thus, I was left to my own devices–mostly smokes, caffeine, and the earbuds snaking from my cellphone to the left and right of my brain–to keep me awake and alive on that dark journey back down CA-14.

Fifteen minutes into the trip back home, and despite my best efforts to keep up,  I’d already lost sight of the four souls in the Ford blazing the trail in front of me. “No worries,” I thought. “I’ll just ring Ariele and talk to her for awhile.” I spoke into my iPhone, demanded that Siri ring the Mrs., and believe it or not even my low grumble from time to time results in Siri’s obedience. The phone rang, but alas, Ariele was unavailable to pick up the phone. I left a message, recorded via her voice mail what I surmised might be my last known location on the map and pulled off to what I thought might be the last gas station for quite some time.

In my haste to grab a beverage from the station’s market, I left my phone on the passenger side seat of the RAV4. So when Ariele called me back, she did not find me on the other end either. But, at the moment, I was relieved–as I always am–to know that she was still alive. “I’ll phone her back in fifteen minutes or so,” I schemed. “After I’ve had a chance to drink this diet coke and burn a butt with the windows down.” And that’s precisely the plan I put into action. But, when I finally got around to phoning her again, repetitive rings followed by an almost unfamiliar recorded greeting left me unsure of exactly why we’d been unable to connect not once, not twice, but now thrice.

I didn’t bother with another message. I figured she’d not had the speed to grab the phone before it’s final ring, and was quite certain I’d be hearing back from her within minutes if not seconds. When I didn’t, I put my voice to use again and asked Siri to ring my mother. We spoke for some 40 minutes, and our conversation had certainly aided me in my quest to stay alert while not-quite-speeding down that moon-lit highway. But, in the back of my mind a kernel of concern regarding the whereabouts of my wife began to take hold. “Mom, I must let you go. I’ve got to phone Ariele.” I barked. “I’ll speak to you soon.”

I phoned Ariele again. No luck. I placed the phone back into the passenger seat and assured myself that she’d call me back as soon as she was able. “Perhaps a spot of traffic, perhaps she is consumed with playing with our cat, perhaps her phone died and she doens’t quite realize it yet.” Many logical possibilities were uttered nearly aloud by me, for me, to sooth the twisted mess of a mind that I knew might start piecing together far more heinous scenarios involving my lovely. But my efforts to keep that devious gray beast from betwixt my ears at bay were for not. And within mere moments of having finished the last drag of my umpteenth smoke the very brain that was working to keep me calm with rational thinking, began to paint three distinct possibilities–three scenarios, and only three–that with each passing mile became more and more concretely certain.

Fact: My masters had arranged an after-work cocktail shindig in at Gene Simmons’ joint in downtown El Segundo that evening. I knew this to be true, and I knew via a brief text exchange before I hit the road that Ariele had decided to go. It was a decision that had whole-heartedly delighted me prior to reaching the utterly creepy town of Mojave, CA, as I tend to take great comfort in knowing that Ari gets out and about when I’m not around. Riding into hour two of my now hypnotic journey though, that fact only served as fodder to construct those aforementioned fates.

1) Being the lightweight that she is, two drinks had been too many. (I have no idea why this woman who I know to only have typically one drink, all of the decided to have two, but dammit that’s what she’d had). And thusly, one her way back from El Segundo to the sublet we currently call home, she’d had an accident. Likely on the backroad home along the Pacific. Likely end result: She is no longer with us or horribly crippled.

2) Perhaps at some point in the three days I was away I’d said something that had been misinterpreted by her own brand of crazy as something spiteful, unappealing, or hurtful. The lives of couples frequently separated by the rigors of their profession are filled with phone conversations that walk the fine line of sadness and madness due to the additional strains of having to cope with the daily routine without your favorite companion. It was a possibility, though I could not recall any exchange that’d we’d had that had ended on a less than high note. Even so, option two had me surmising that perhaps some younger buck had wooed her, and they were off to do the devil’s business.

One and two, and they came in that order, seemed highly unlikely. And yet, I’d still received no phone call back. With these two options decidedly difficult to approve by even me, my brain focused on the third far more likely scenario.

3) Ariele had left El Segundo after not even a whole alcoholic beverage, had made it safely back to Venice, had put off calling me back while in the car as is required by the law, had parked a few feet down the road from the entrance to our cottage and while fumbling with the keys to enter the gate due to the extreme darkness of the street had been put to sleep by a chloroform soaked rag in the hand of an abduction van driving lunatic. After all, from the moment I checked into our sublet many weeks ago I was suspicious that the difficulty of working the key in the nearly faulty gate lock would allow for such a tragic event to eventually occur.

And so there it was: the most obvious ending to what come September would have been just over four years of our amazing journey together. Even as I assured myself that this was probably not at all the situation, I began to run through my own fate now that she was likely on her way to being forever tortured in a dark basement somewhere or, if I was lucky, found in a ditch a few months from now. A deep darkness descending upon my car. True, I was relived to know that there was no way that I could be blamed for foul play, with my being so very far removed from Venice that day, but with this knew knowledge I began to wonder what was next for the kid.

If I knew her to be dead, with one-hundred percent certainty, wouldn’t the next right thing be for me to intentionally drive the Rav-4 off the next available mountain cliff? And if I did, could I really be sure that the tumble the vehicle would take would end my own life instead of just leaving me permanently disfigured and facing many hardships ahead? What other options did I have? A life spent in search of my soul mate ala Kiefer Sutherland going after an almost unknown Sandra Bullock was certainly an option. Head spinning, lungs filling over and over again with the bizarre combination of my own poisonous smoke and the rush of clean desert air, it occurred to me that on the plus side–with me dead or living, the relationship we’d forged (our very existence together) might possibly be held up as legendary. Future errors and indiscretions, miscommunications and temporary set-backs were no-longer a possibility. The future, the one baking in my skull, would be filled with phrases like, “They were such an amazing pair, tragic–who knows what a love like theirs might have accomplished down the road? We can be sure of one thing, no man and woman on earth ever loved each other quite like they did–Princess Bride style love that was.”

This was the tarnished but still slightly silver lining to it all. Ironic yes, as I’d not just a few minutes early temporarily placed her with another, but I’d had to have had that thought in order to get to the truth! Before I could commit to anything brash, I decided one last text or two was necessary to remove all doubt. “Text Ariele,” I barked into the phone. After I voice texted one last request for some sort of response to relive my growing panic, I simply assumed the next text I’d receive would be from that maniac–something along the lines of, “I’ve got her. LOL.” Or maybe even, “MLOL” which would be some sort of text version of “Mooohoooohahahaha.”

A brilliantly dark curve loomed ahead–the clock was ticking, and the phone did ring. I picked up thinking, “Oh this psychopath is a brave one. Calling me back to deliver his news via his own voice. That’s some 80s type psycho-old-school shit there,” I thought just before Ariele’s voice rang out into my ear, “Hey babe. I’ve called you like four or five times. It went to voicemail, the one you’ve still not set-up, every time.”

And there it was. Ah, yes. The reality that I most often choose to forget: AT&T is shit.

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Beantown Bridge

As you may or may not know, I’ve moved to Boston. If you were/are trying to hunt me down to exact some horrific revenge, and weren’t aware of that already, well, I don’t suspect it’s in my best interest to increase your hatred for me with my telling you that you kinda stink at stalking. Regardless, now you know about my new locale, and knowing is half the battle–even if your battle is the demons of your ineptitude as it pertains to finding me to extinguish from this plane.

Just over a week in, I can tell you that moving to Boston from NYC has been beyond really swell. If you’ve ever been in and around Boston, I imagine you are already privy to the majority of reasons one might find it a refreshing change of pace from the sparkly rat-trap a few hours southwest via I-95. It’d also be easy for one to surmise that said refreshing change of pace might soften the armor of a guy whose life is built around semi-irrational hallucinatory fears.

Ha. Have you been on the antiquated land connecting structure that is referred to around here as a bridge by the name of Tobin? Bridges–I hate ’em. Since I’m nearly 40 years old, and still alive, I guess I can’t say bridges hate me too. How deeply do I despise these elevated sheeple motor movers in the sky? Almost enough to plan most of my daily living around them.

“That bridge isn’t going anywhere, Rosch!” You say?

Who said anything about falling bridges? I’ve always been infinitely more concerned about taming the odd desire to swerve the car wickedly fast into the barrier to see if it’s possible to go over it. Am I alone on this similar to feeling-like-you-might-not-be-able-to-control-yourself-from-jumping-from-tall-buildings sensation? Perhaps. And yes, I’m aware that most bridges provide adequate barriers to prevent cars from just toppling over the sides. That said, I’ve seen a story or two about the odd car that made it over the side of a bridge unexpectedly. Oh, it happens–it happens–it just takes commitment to the cause. A commitment that, thankfully, I’ve not had the desire to keep.

*It’s worth noting that my fear of bridges might stem from–surprise, surprise-my mother, who always insisted we roll the windows down when we crossed one just in case we tumbled over. The thinking being, we’d stand a better chance of escaping the murky depths without having to navigate the pressure pushing against a sealed door. She’s a smart one that mother of mine–crazy as all get out–but one step ahead just the same.

My Little White Room

Every so often, I am treated to a lovely dream by my frenemy, my brain, in which I find myself awaking in a little white room upon a very sterile white twin bed, tucked under spotless white covers–tightly, and unable to move, even though there are no signs of restraints being used to prevent me from lifting myself from the bed to investigate past what my eyes can see: a small white table next to the bed, a glass with what appears to be water, and a window not much bigger than two foot by two foot on the wall to my left that might have the outside world on the other side, but the sun is so bright that everything is blown-out, and thus, not discernable.

Sometimes a human–possibly a doctor, researcher, agent, or any other manifestation of authority–enters the room to check on me. I try to speak, but I can’t. They do no speaking themselves, and reveal nothing as to the nature of my detainment. Usually this person hovers over me, staring at me, saying nothing and performing no examination or other molestation–just delivers a grin that rides the line between sympathetic and pleased. When he or she is gone, I’m left there to ponder what events might have taken place prior to my awakening, what are the circumstances surrounding my detainment. But there is never any true recollection–just speculation and the construction of numerous possibilites that might explain how I landed there. This is usually followed by a temporary bout of panic that either grows to the degree necessary to awaken me in the reality we call reality, or is just enough to seemingly reset the dream–and have me find myself in that same little white room again, for what feels like the very first time. And repeat.

Some might refer to this as a reoccurring dream, but it doesn’t happen with enough frequency for me to classify it as such–unlike say, the dream I often have where I know I’ve only a few days until a long prison term, and I spend much of it trying to figure out how to prevent a destiny I know I’ve already cemented for myself, despite not knowing what actions did the cementing.

I tend not to read too much into dreams–at least not my dreams–and these two narratives in particular are probably only a three on a ten scale that measures a dream’s disturbing-factor, ten being the most twisted ones that leave me not wanting to ever go back to sleep. But maybe, like so many things I think and imagine, that which is disturbing to you–a ten on your own scale–has become commonplace for me, my darker thinking routine enough to no longer see the spectacle of it all. Often the first thing that comes to my mind regarding the outcomes of a situation revolves around a twisted little nugget of a possibility that my friends and family might not have hypothesized if even given a day to dwell on potential scenarios.

Ugh. It almost sounds like I’m bragging, and maybe I am, but I certainly hope you won’t hold it against me–let it feed whatever insecurities you might have just enough to consider, and then put into action, a plan that finds you abducting me and reconstructing my Little-White-Room dream in order to get back at me. On the off chance that you do go forward with this very complicated form of retribution, please note: the bedside table is on the left of me, as is the viewless window, and the door to the room, which has no knob, should be placed to the right of my bed and in the farthest corner from me in what I can only guess is about a 12 x 12 foot room. Thanks!

Animals In The Know

Dear owner of the dog downstairs,

No need to apologize for your dog’s dislike of me. Oh wait, you didn’t apologize, nor have you ever apologized. Like your dog, you seemingly have zero respect for the rest of the world and the personal space of its other inhabitants. Even so, there really is no need to apologize. Your dog gets it. I hate him, and I hate you. Hard to hide that kind of negative energy from some of nature’s special little critters. And so, in a weird way, even as I loathe your beast, there is also a growing respect for his ability to see through my mask of ambivalence–so, don’t get too bent out of shape about it. You might be thinking, “Gee neighbor, you must hate dogs.” I have used the word “gee” for a reason, I believe it helps me paint you as the lumbering moron I believe you to be for my readers. Anyway, I don’t hate dogs–anymore than I hate people. Some dogs suck, like yours, and some people suck, like you. Part of me should be fearful that you might come upon this blog post, do some quick math via google, and ultimately decide to unleash the filthy mutt (bad choice of words, since I’ve never seen it on a leash) to feast upon my flesh. I’m pretty sure you don’t do much reading though, call it a hunch. Well, until next time, I’ll be honing my ability to trick your dog into thinking everything’s cool. “Keep your enemies closer,” and what not, right? Enjoy the rest of the day that I almost allowed you to let me ruin for myself.

Sincerely,

The dude upstairs who hates your dog, but respects the keen sense of energy fields it, unlike you, possesses

Puts You In The Grave

This Level 9 Paranoia Children's Song (the first of what I hope might be many) and accompanying video is exactly what happens when a guy–a guy with more than just a few issues–gets up at three-thirty in the morning one too many days in a row while his wife is out of town. That said, I think it might be the best thing I have ever done. Amir, I'm ecstatic. Take me away boys.

Sunny Central Park Stroll With My Demon

As I’ve mentioned before, a good deal of my brain activity in any given day is put against speculation of what dark deeds other people around me are scheming or engaged in at that moment. Typically, I don’t have to work very hard to fabricate exactly how their actions are going to impact me, directly or indirectly. These individuals aren’t always out to get me specifically, on occasion I’m sure I am only fated to be the collateral damage of whatever plans they have for someone else that day. It isn’t always about me, but as of late, I find myself wondering more and more if maybe I shouldn’t turn additional attention towards myself. What things am I doing daily that serve to destroy me?

I’m a big believer in the Shadow Self. Carl Jung defined the Shadow Self as “that which we think we are not.” To shed a touch more light on the concept let me just plagiarize a bit with this little nugget from the interwebs: You may believe that you are not like your neighbor who does this or that bad thing, but if those negative qualities you judge, were not also a part of you, then they would not trigger your emotions. You might be nodding in agreement, you might also be nodding the other direction in disgust or boredom–wondering how come your gracious author isn’t just talking, per usual, about something like, how he thinks the recent uptick in the number of hangover cures, morning-after recovery kits and beverages, is actually all part of a big brother style black-ops operation to slowly rid the world the chronically underachieving. Perhaps I’ll post proper about that little gem over the coming weekend, and so if you aren’t into a more meta post right now, I encourage you to come back in a few days for something only seemingly more disturbing that what follows here.

Part of any proper recovering addict’s or alcoholic’s Shadow Self, would be the disease of addiction itself. AA oldtimers are big fans of the saying, “While I’m in a meeting, my disease is out in the parking lot doing push-ups.” My knee-jerk reaction to the utterance of that phrase is usually something along the lines of the silent version of this sound, “Pffffft.” Most likely because the disease itself wants me to believe I’ve been cured. One need not look any farther than Zelda Rubinstein’s declaration, “This house is clean” to understand that if you’ve had demons, those suckers aren’t really ever leaving for good. And if you don’t keep making smart decisions (for example, in the case of the family from Poltergeist, moving out of the house immediately after that supposed victory) the spiteful little bastards will speak to you from time to time, coaxing you back into the very hell you left, with promises of renewed, consequence-less good times. They, or in my case, the other me, is shrewd. And I’ll be damned, because yet again, those cutesy bull-shit-phrases that litter the walls of the rooms of recovery are wickedly on point.

My life is a sensational dream; I couldn’t ask for more than I have, and my gratitude for all of it is through the roof. And yet, as recently as yesterday, just mere moments after finding near peace with everything going on in and around me thanks to an hour on an Upper Eastside couch, the voice of my demon was as loud as it had ever been. Wondering–almost aloud–as we strolled through Central Park on such a lovely day, “What would it be like if we made an effort to throw it all away? Wouldn’t that be quite the experience? To go deeper down the rabbit hole of madness and filth than ever before, if only to see if we could resurrect ourselves yet again.” My Shadow Self knows the way to my heart; my disease knows I’m always up for a challenge, and as twisted as its coaxing might sound to the average Joe, I found myself drawn to the idea. To destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to create, just to rebuild it again–from scratch, heck, without even scratch to get started. That’d be something.

On the other side of Central Park, we could get started. We still knew a few bars there from our first six years in New York City. We’d be well on our way into this new journey before lunch, and any of the various paths it might lead us down would only serve to strengthen our own understanding of what is at first hedonistic and sinfully enjoyable, until it also further educates us on what it truly means to be without hope, scratching from dark corners, without so much as a dime and not a friend left. With rapt attention, I listend to my disease, the demon within, as he held me close, shielding me from the beauty of the park and twisting the reality of what I have, while feeding me truths about many of the world’s injustices, the worst in people, reading me the troubling and sensationalistic headlines from the discarded rags that pass as news that we occasionally found underfoot. He had my curiosity, he had my attention, he had everything but my smart phone–which buzzed in my palm, only to tell me that someone had hearted the picture of my cat that I had posted on Instagram earlier that morning.

The Demon, smart SOB that he is, didn’t curse me out, didn’t continue trying to talk me into something other than heading to the subway to make a beeline to work, and didn’t let out some twisted tortured yelp as though I’d vanquished him once and for all–nope, he simply wished me a good rest of the day, and right before he left said, as casually as my very best friend might, “I’ll see you around, Rosch.”

Beep, Beep. She’s Dead.

I run to clear my mind. That makes me one of millions who do it for the very same reason. Just how much crazy can actually be removed during a run of three or four miles is debatable. Most days, if I’m blaring my music loud enough and mimicking the structure of what the guitar player in each track is doing with his hands, with my own left and right hand, I can put a good deal of my lunacy off for the duration of the run itself. But, somedays–like yesterday morning–no amount of music, pounding, increase in speed, or anything else will remove the thoughts I’d rather not have. And, again like yesterday, too often the impetus of something disturbing only occurs to me because I am out there running in the first place.

I’ll admit, yesterday morning I had the music down pretty low. I was already feeling a bit skittish about the possibilites of either vehicular manslaughter or early morning muggery. So, let’s call the volume of my iPod Shuffle a four out of ten. My wife was out running as well, which is also the norm, but had left sometime after my own start–so I had no visual on her, and due to our recent return from vacation (cat burglars, you missed your chance. our cat is still here by the way) Ariele’s house keys were still at the sitter’s. Girl is always on my mind, but knowing I’d have to keep a keen ear out for her return to our abode was the thought leading the majority of the crazy parade marching within my skull. Would I be showering? Would I be on the roof? Is the buzzer broken, and how long would she be locked out? Basic stuff.

As I crossed an intersection, with the light, a lone black SUV with tinted windows sat awaiting the green indication that would allow its driver to proceed to their destination. For no particular reason that I can figure, the driver honked his horn–beep, beep. There wasn’t anyone else around at that ungodly hour, this is Williamsburg, Brooklyn after all and hipsters–even the ones who jog, and many do–don’t usually patrol the street prior to seven AM. After a quick scan for the intended recipient of those devilish toots, I made a quick spin to see if the driver was trying to flag me down for directions, or if it was even someone I knew using their horn to say, “good morning.”

Couldn’t make anyone out, there were no additional honks, and so I continued on my way. So did the SUV, making a right turn at that intersection and fading off into the distance behind me. Panic set in, and in less than two seconds my brain decided it knew exactly why the SUV’s driver had made those honks. Clearly the driver had Ariele bound and gagged in the back, and either she had managed to scream my name or, and far more likely, her abductor had been tailing us for sometime and already knew that I was her husband. Being the sick twist that is an entry level requirement for purveyors of such misdeeds, he had decided to take the game up a notch–in his head, his own thinking was, “I’ll give this guy a sporting chance. I’ll honk the horn, if he has either the courtesy or balls to come over to the SUV to see if I need something, I’ll release his wife and never bug them again. And if he doesn’t, well, then what happens to his wife is meant to be–I gave him a chance, one last chance to save his bonnie lass (he’s a Depp fan apparently) and he blew it.”

I didn’t bother spinning around to chase the SUV to at least get a plate number, something I might have done a decade ago. Nor did I spin around and attempt to immediately find my wife out there, to verify her safety–zig zagging up and down every block at double speed in the hopes of catching at least a glimpse of her to reassure myself that my brain simply hates me and gets a kick out of making the rest of my body perform ridiculous tasks. Ohhhh… if I didn’t need that brain for other things, I’d give it a good punching for certain (shake of head to self).

Ariele made it home of course, which was a real relief to our cat, because in the time between my safe arrival home and hers, I had informed our cat that it was possible her mother wasn’t coming home that day. Laying the ground work for the kitty version of the seven stages of grief–after all, they are like twenty stages in human stages.