Home Sweet Zombie Proof Home

Full disclosure: I’ve been known to use words and the turn of a phrase in the descriptions and depictions of the content I create in order to get the eyeballs of a confused and attention deficit disordered nation to take a gander at my sweet, sweet prose. Some are more offensive than others I suppose, and I’d probably not have given it much thought had My Dead Friend Sarah  not received more than a few snipes related to that indiscretion. I suppose a bunch of freeloaders downloaded my novel on the few days I’ve made it available gratis expecting it to be some sort of horror story involving the otherworldly spirit of a woman who was someone’s friend. Double full disclosure: I surmised that some people might pick it up for that very reason and hoped that once they’d engaged with a few chapters it’d have won them over nonetheless, but alas, the world wants a description that leaves no surprises as has been evidenced by two decades worth of countless movie trailers that leave little story untold in the hopes of grabbing another man’s eight to sixteen bucks dependent on their locale. It’s a sad world that way, and I’ve probably already lost many readers by this sentence–those who didn’t give me a chance to come back to some  semblance of what this post’s title suggests you’ll be reading about. It’s that kind of world, and you can choose to manipulate it at your own peril–which in previous instances has been the aforementioned reception of an ugly string of words put together to critique a book after a reader felt jilted for having spent a few precious hours diving into something deeper than a ghost story. I’ll wrap up this paragraph with no apology for those who snatched my book from the internets for free, and with only a nod to the possibility that my next book’s title might be more explicit.

For quite a few years now Ariele and I have judged our homes by the Zombie Proof method. In casual conversations had with friends and strangers over those same few years, it’s become apparent that we aren’t the only souls who do so.

First things first then: For me that two-word combination is really just slang for, “Is this a home that will be too difficult to breach by an actual living evil person who is intent on binding and torturing us in the middle of the night?” That’s the reality of my irrationality, and that’s my chief fear–waking with duct tape across my mouth, hands rendered useless, face already stinging from punches to the face gone undefended and a vision of the Mrs. in a similar situation seated across from me through the tears and blur of my pain-soaked eyes. Zombies may one day be as real as we all seemingly want them to be, but until then the more relevant threat is the one, two or three sadistic beings who just happen to decide your time is up.

While any effort to research those types of home invasions will prove that it can happen in just about any kind of dwelling you call home, it is hard not to argue that the condo and apartment style living of Brooklyn that I engaged in for nearly seventeen years dramatically decreased the odds of it ever happening to me. Floors high up in the sky, multiple locked doors between the psycho and you, numerous other inhabitants of the same building on the look out for something suspicious thanks to the TSA, and, in my case, more than a few units that required numerous steps up steep sets of stairs–only the most fit gang of miscreants would dare think about lugging their utensils and tools of destruction up four or five flights of stairs. So in more ways than a few, one of the most dangerous cities in the country (at least as it perceived by anyone who’s never bothered to live there) always afforded me what same might deem a false-sense of security–especially in those sickly ticks of the clock that denote the witching hours of midnight to four. (I’ve no idea what the witching hours actually are, but for me they are the four hours of the evening that I’m most likely deep deep asleep and therefore unable to put to use what little mixed martial arts I’ve learned from the following films: Karate Kid, Kill Bill, and perhaps The Bourne Identity).

In roughly three weeks, I’ll have spent a full year away from the city living that metaphorically for me was like a warm blanket or two wrapped around the just-shy-of-new-born so snuggly stuck in the womb. And I’ll have done so without incident–and while I can appreciate the fabulous design of multiple deck doors and the light they afford, or relish in the ability to re-enter my home from its delightful backyard via this thing normal people call a backdoor, or even wonder if I could ever enjoy sleeping without the cool breeze that flows through our new bedroom during the evening hours thanks to the insane vortex of winds born from easily entered windows and bedroom deck doors–I simply can not, will not, certify this new home as Zombie Proof.

At least not until we go out and get us ourselves some suburban landmines for that there pretty yard we got now.

This Man I Call Leonard

There are two things, two odd things, that define this man I call Leonard. The first is obvious. It’s something his friends find both frustrating and commendable on some level. Leonard won’t go to any restaurant that serves Pepsi products. If you agree to meet him for dinner, you can be sure that when he arrives at the eatery, his very first question will be, “Do you serve Diet Coke?” If the answer is no, then you will go to the next restaurant, closest to the first, and will repeat that journey until the answer is a definitive yes.

Sometimes Leonard already knows the answer, but he agrees to meet you there in the hopes that the lamebrains, his word, will have made the right, his word, decision to offer Coke products instead. Had he not had that very thing happen just one time, perhaps the collective efforts of all parties involved in those moments before the act of actually eating would be a touch less tense. But alas, just one time, and never again since, one of the restaurants he so desperately wanted to try did, in fact, replace their Pepsi products with Coke products, and so he theorizes – and he has the right to do so – that despite the overwhelming odds of it ever happening again, that it could occur another time. So, don’t try and get Leonard to pick a restaurant based off previous visits to any joint he’s already queried, or by trusting his nagging suspicion that they will most likely still be serving the beverage he refuses to drink.

No, you should go and let it play out. You should support this man named Leonard, because if you analyze his behavior, as closely as I have, you will see: he is optimistic and he sticks to his guns. These are desirable qualities, are they not? He doesn’t like Pepsi, life is short, and it’s something he can control – no experience should be sullied by a second rate cola, and that’s fine. In all honesty you don’t have to eat with him if you don’t like, or if you want to join him, you can try and make arrangements before hand to dine where they do pour Coca-Cola products, and go from there. The fact that he gives every owner of every establishment the benefit of the doubt, as he continues to believe they might turn the corner, reassess their beverage offering, and join the winners of the world – his phrase, not mine – will make this difficult. You can tell him to get over it, try to explain that it isn’t really a big deal, make a suggestion that he have water just this one time – but in the end, you will lose.

Ultimately you will dine somewhere just as nice, where you’ll probably have an alcoholic beverage to take the edge the whole process has bestowed upon you, clean off. Then maybe you can try to determine what exactly is this other thing I’ve previously mentioned about him that supposedly defines him. You will try, but you’ll never succeed – because unlike that first particular defect, if you choose to see it as one, the other is something only Leonard and myself know about.

I think sometimes we share something with someone, especially when we consider it vile or strange, only in the hopes that by doing so we can wash our souls a touch by having other people in on it. I know for me, the more disturbing the image or story, the more I want to release it so that I’ve not sole ownership of something that turns my stomach so. Perhaps that is why I’ve decided to out Leonard in this particular fashion, maybe I believe the more people who know about it, the less likely what he does will inhabit the forefront of my brain so very many times a day.

Twice a month, on the first and fifteenth, like most people, Leonard is paid for performing his job. Unlike most people, at least most people in today’s modern world, he does not use direct deposit. When I asked him why, he quickly replied, “I’ve tired it, but it simply doesn’t work for me.” I surmised it must relate to a distrust of banks or even our own HR department – I’m sure there are plenty of folks who don’t use direct deposit, having never really been able to completely turn over their banking and bill paying lives to computers and all the ones and zeros required for successful convenience.

Two weeks passed after this very short conversation in which I learned about Leonard’s dislike of direct deposit. I hadn’t given it another thought, but I guess he had. “I need you to know, to understand, why I don’t use direct deposit.” He said to me on what otherwise might have been another boring day crunching numbers. I found his desire to educate me about it only slightly odd, since I was already privy to his refusal to dine places that served Pepsi’s portfolio of beverages. He invited me to join him privately in a conference room – even offered to spring for afternoon snacks from the vending machine – and I followed him without hesitation, I like snacks.

I left that conference room about fifteen minutes later, with the following knowledge: This man I call Leonard meant what he said – direct deposit does not work for him. He confided to me that some years ago – decades i guess – he noticed that when he received his paycheck those two days of the month, he immediately became aroused, and consequently, quite erect. His words, not mine. And over time, like Pavlov’s Dogs, the presentation of that bi-monthly check became the only thing that could or would ever get him off. And, over that same time, as he went from one job to another, he realized it was all about the check, and he couldn’t even tag the happening of it all to the original HR cutie who first delivered the check to him when and where it all begun.

Simply seeing money appear in his bank account didn’t work, and so after trying direct deposit at the behest of an overzealous human resources manager who had practically begged him to give it a shot, he went right back to live paper checks. And twice a month, almost immediately after someone puts that check in his hand, he heads straight to the men’s bathroom here at the office. Not the one in the front, too many folks coming in and out, so he walks steadfast with the paycheck in its sealed envelope to the smaller, far less frequently used bathroom in the way back of the office. He locks himself inside the stall, slowly opens that envelope, stares at the numbers and the buying power it represents, and then proceeds with the unseemly business he so predictably refers to as ‘rubbing one out.’

Sensing my unease, he informed me that he had tried taking his paycheck home at the end of the day to perform this act, but with zero success. If he didn’t take care of business within the first ten minutes of receiving it, all was lost – his words, not mine. Since our discussion, I do my best to completely avoid this man I call Leonard on those two days of the month. And until now I’d not told a soul – mostly because I have what I believe to be a true sense of empathy for the man. The days in between payday have always seemed incredibly long to me, and given Leonard’s predicament, I can only surmise those nearly two week dry spells in between visits to the office bathroom in the way back are infinitely more tortoise-like in their passing.

As I said, I’ve only decided to share it here in the hopes that the reader’s knowing of the situation alleviates the shame I have for just knowing about it. Oh, and I do suggest, that despite these two odd quirks, that should you ever determine who this man I call Leonard is, you’ll still consider dining out with him. He isn’t a bad man, and I’ve seen him take care of the entire bill on more than one occasion – even a party of six. One might try, as i have, to connect these large acts of generosity to the aforementioned situation – brand them as acts that only serve in shedding some guilt he might possess related to his dirty little secret. But, I’m sure you have your own. Don’t we all?