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.

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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.”

Aurora, Colorado on my Mind

I try my best to keep the chronicling of my paranoia lighthearted–no easy task, when most of the twisted thoughts I endure revolve around death, pain, and horrible possibilites. Part of this effort has always involved the conscious decision to not riff on the tragic real-world events that occur to others. My paranoia is as responsible for this as is my belief in decency and decorum in regards to not exploiting the daily disturbing mishaps that, too often, are accompanied by the nearly unimaginable grief of real people, families, sons, daughters, brothers and mothers. Fear sells stuff–papers, books, shows, blogs, politicians, products of all kinds.

I want to believe that even as I seek to enlighten people about the improbable, albeit possible, and disturbing consequences of simply putting yourself out into the world daily, that I can do so in a manner that injects some sense of relief, positivity, and well-being into that same world, through my special brand of dark humor. I’m not sure that’s what this blog has been doing. I’m only certain that it is my intent, and as such, it takes a good deal of self-restraint in order to not turn it into something too heavy, exploitive, laced with facts, figures, and the haphazard citing of present-day tragedies in order to prove a point.

As usual, I’ve spent far too long setting up my head space, rather than diving into the meat and potatoes of this post. I offer many apologies for the all-too-frequent ramblings that proceed my point, too often found here.

Last night I was able to attend an advanced screening of The Dark Knight Rises. My excitement about that opportunity could easily be rated a ten of ten, and I made no secret of it either. Half-jokingly, I had referred to this gift as, “possibly the best thing to happen to me as a result of working in advertising,” and said so repeatedly to my co-workers and friends. I was grateful for the opportunity to see it, and even a bit tickled to be able and rub my good fortune in the faces of some of my closer friends who I knew could withstand the ribbing.

Whether or not the movie lived up to my expectations is irrelevant, and the fact that I enjoyed the experience held at the Ziegfeld Theater last night has little to do with my feelings about the film itself. It was just fun to be out with co-workers, my wife, and scores of other hard-working human beings, doing something semi-unique as a group–something that also didn’t involve hard-drinking at that–a rarity in this business when it comes to large gatherings. It was nearly as perfect as that type of outing can be, and was remained on my mind this morning when I awoke.

Years ago, right after 9-11, I spent a great deal of time going to the movies. I was freelancing (read mostly unemployed), separating from my then-wife-at-the-time, contemplating career and locale changes–and taking in movies that fall was an ideal way to remove myself from real-life in order to gain an additional hour or two of sanity each day. How much sanity was derived from those treks is debatable. In those darkened cathedrals of mostly Hollywood drivel, my mind often wandered to notions revolving around the ease of mass-killings that those places could afford. No metal detectors, no sky marshalls, and not even much light for the early exposing and detection of someone packing any kind of instrument of death. The film Scream 2, had already planted the seed of movie-theaters-as-killing-zones, and coupling that with the what-ifs inspired by the attacks on the twin towers has left me always, at least once during a theater going experience, wondering what dreadful things could happen in a cineplex if a psychopath put his or her mind to it.

I never stopped going to movies, but after an opening-weekend Inception incident at Union Square, involving my wife and a patron who seemed intent on stabbing us both to death amidst a small verbal squabble,  I’ve refrained from joining the masses to celebrate the latest releases communally on opening weekends. Too much discomfort, too much friction, flared tempers and, of course, always in the back of my head: the very real possibility that some lunatic would decide to exact all manner of justifiable-only-to-him massacres there.

The latest Batman film, had I not been gifted the advanced screening thanks to Unilever, would have most definitely marked the first film since Inception worthy of definitely breaking my no-opening-weekend-viewings rule, and smack dab in the middle of whatever chaos you might find amidst all the revelry you yourself may be a part of today, tonight, and this weekend.

Facebook has been many things to me, and more and more often it is the proverbial messenger of bad-tidings. This morning it was via a friend that I learned of the last night’s incident in which a gunman killed 12 at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. I didn’t want to believe it, I don’t want to believe it now. It is no more tragic than the last tragedy, but it will be fresh on our collective minds and will re-open wounds that for many had probably never healed.

I’m not here to soap-box, list the pros and cons on anything related to guns, violence, and public safety, nor do I wish to join the countless conspiracy-hacks that will try to bend this story into something that furthers their own agendas of fear-for-profit. Good luck with that Alex, it’s worked for you before, I’m sure you’ll make a few bucks with it this weekend and next week as well. But, this is the second time in a week, that a not-even-remotely-close-to-random act of violence has left me deeply concerned for the human race, the general mood of a planet, and the near complete disregard for “live and let live.” Both, and they aren’t the first two, have left me asking myself, “Is a blog that dwells in potential tragedy, even one done humorously, the best use of my time?”

The answer today, as it has always been, is I think so. I hope so. I do know that as soon as I press the publish button, there will be a part of me that feels a bit of relief for having put words on digital paper for some people to see. I don’t have to understand why this works for me, I only have to let it work for me until it doesn’t anymore.

As always, I’m exceedingly grateful for your having put your peepers to my words. Thanks.

Which of the Seven Circles of Hell?

“I don’t think I should have to work overtime to convince anyone that I deserve future kudos. But, this is the world I live in. Anyone who doesn’t religiously talk-up their own bullshit, no matter the validity of its purpose, the enjoyment it provides others, or the sincerity of its intent on the betterment of life or mankind, is left sitting amongst the also-rans. Barnum couldn’t have foreseen the utterly egomaniacal nature and ease of future communications when he said, ‘Without promotion something terrible happens: nothing.’ It is no longer enough to be fantastic. You have to be fantastic at letting people know just how fantastic you are, and I hate it.”    – Elisa Hardwick, from my forthcoming novel But I Love You.

To quote one of my own characters from a book I’ve not even finished might just be the epitome of the very type of behavior the quote itself references. But alas, I’m a man who enjoys having people read what he writes–and to some extent it matters very little whether they enjoyed having read it, or found what I had written loathsome, dull, or unrealistic. In the latter instances perhaps I get the tiniest bit of satisfaction in knowing that I’ve managed to trick them into wasting some of their day on me. It’s a dark part of my personality that I currently work very hard at squashing with a trained professional on a comfy couch on the Upper East Side. I’ll get there.

To shout about the things I put out into the world goes against everything my sobriety and my leanings towards Buddhist practices would have me do. Indeed, my own preference would be to put content in the form of books, music, musings, ads, and the like out into the world for it to be found naturally, on its own time, and because others made the discovery of it serendipitously and then shouted about it themselves. But, I’m not perfect. I don’t aspire to be perfect, and perhaps I’d be labelled a fool by most to not use what life throws at me in order to give my other pursuits their best possible shot at an existence beyond simply existing. I try not to let what others might think of me dictate my actions, but I do let it inform them.

So, is it wrong to post the commercial I wrote for AXE, here on my blog, because it is garnering so much attention and in theory could lead to a few people finding and purchasing my novel? Maybe. Maybe not. For those of you who share my disgust in regards to self-indulgent, self-congratulatory postings, tweets, and the like (Yes, I do it. A lot of it, but it doesn’t mean I care for it) perhaps you can take some solace in knowing that so far my triumphs in the realm of advertising, present and past, have not meant squat to the readers of fiction. Even fiction that is based in the complex realities of who I used to be.

But, maybe it’s only because they haven’t been exposed to it yet. I am still surprised when people who I consider close friends reveal that they only just found out that I wrote a book. And so, at the risk of having perhaps only myself condemn me for all eternity, I have decided to embed the Susan Glenn commercial here as well–tag the fuck out of it–and maybe earn a few more followers of my regularly scheduled programming. It’s worth a shot, no? It’s also important that any readers of this post know this: I do not consider myself solely responsible for the creation of this branded film. It was only through the rigorous efforts of many people, both agency and client, that a film the likes of this one could ever make it out into the world. And so I thank them all, and last, but most definitely not least, I thank the brain of my good friend and partner, Nate Able, for co-creating the idea from scratch with me. It was our baby, and it’s nice to see it doing so well so early in the world.

Enjoy, and if you feel so inclined, why not take a chance on my book. Good day. I said, Good day.

The Person You Most Suspect

I have been sitting on a particular subject for a post for quite some time now. I guess when you are really postive that a certain someone is quietly observing you and everything you do–which would only naturally include punching your name into a Google search box in order to inform themselves about you–the idea of blogging about them and what you think they are up to as it pertains to you, could have dire consequences. The most probable consequence might be nothing more than their hurt feelings, though I might suggest hurt feelings can be the impetus to a whole slew of scenarios that unravel because  you’ve mischaracterized some soul who wasn’t up to anything close to what you’d been surmising–other than the part about plugging your name into that big-brother search box. On the other hand, maybe you make the post, as I am now, and that person reads it and decides to put their plan to enslave you, own you, torture you, and finally eat you into supersonic hyperdrive.

Yes, if you read that carefully, you could distill this episode down to one simple paranoid thought: Is this person basically Hannibal, and is he or she currently engaged in the time-honored sociopath’s orgasmic ritual of allowing me to go on living.

You see, the thrill isn’t just in the capture, the pain, and the kill–no, if what I’ve read about some of history’s best and brightest regarding serial killers is true–then a big part of the plan for you (or in this case me) is them watching you go about living your life like normal, all the while delightfully relishing in the not-so-misguided belief that it is they who are ultimately allowing you to keep doing just that. Sick as that sounds, if they are committed to their cause, then ultimately it isn’t really untrue is it? If someone is actually sitting around, debating the date they will put operation extinguish-your-existence into effect–well, unless you yourself have identified the individual and are making preparations to combat them on that fateful day, it would seem to me that they do, in fact, deserve to feel like they hold all the power.

So, let’s say you are near one-hundred percent positive that an individual, who in some social sense you “know,” is mapping out the remaining days of your life in their own-blood-ink onto the pages of a diary wrapped in the human skin of some, but not all, of their previous victims. Hold that thought for a second, and then answer this question: what are you prepared to do about it? (Not sure what movie that is from, but Morgan Freeman’s voice comes to mind).

If you are me–and thankfully for you, you are most definitely not me–you walk the line of believing your gut and dismissing it as just another one of your schizo internal ramblings; a fabrication based on bad films, nicotine, and the over-consumption of chocolates and aspartame infused beverages. And nearly every single day you lean in favor of the seemingly logical notion that anything so perverse couldn’t be true of anyone, and that your imagination is simply getting the better of you. Thus, you do very little about it. You ignore the gut feeling that nature gave you in order to sense impending doom so that you may run as far away from it as possible. You write a blog post about it instead, believing that airing that particular scenario to the world will somehow fortify the more sane notions in your skull that suggest that anything your gut might be telling you can’t be believed–and that your life is not a movie, and fiction, despite what they say, is still stranger than the truth.

And maybe, just maybe, you sit back and hit the publish button on your blog–in the hopes that admitting to all of the above will be seen by said person, and that he or she will become disillusioned with you now that they know that you know and thus some of the thrill of the sport of it all has been diminished for them.

After all, would you still eat a pig if right before you went to slaughter him, it said, “I knew you were going to eat me all along.” If your answer is yes, then perhaps you are the very person my post served to foil, though apparently most miserably.

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.

Improbable vs. Probable, and the role of Preparation

Full Disclosure: I’m out for blood. In this particular instance blood in the form of restitution. I am not writing this post solely to achieve this goal, I’ve got to write about something, and the gift of Level 9 Paranoia is unapologetic about its ability to infuse itself into nearly any inane occurrence I might experience out there in my world. So, do I want to rave on like a lunatic about how disappointed I am to have arisen this morning to find that Jet Blue didn’t make good on its promise to deliver our luggage yesterday evening? Of course I do. There’s not much of value in that one bag that my wife and I had co-packed with just enough possessions to cover our four day journey to Austin to see our family and a few friends. Also, I am far from cranky about it. I’m super appreciative that we made it to our destination in one piece. And, if I have been informed correctly, since it has been twenty-four hours since we arrived, and we still don’t have our stuff, we can and will submit our receipts (up to sixty dollars) to Jet Blue in order to cover the items we deemed essential to not losing a whole day to the incompetence of someone, somewhere-who made sure our bag took a trip from John F. Kennedy Airport to Seattle, via Long Beach, and then back.

Since the minute my wife delivered the news about our missing bag to me while I stood in a long rental car line, I’ve been wearing a pretty shiny optimism hat about the whole thing. And while I’m a little saddened that no one from Jet Blue bothered to phone us last night to tell us our worldlies still weren’t on the way, and actually hadn’t even left the airport yet, I’m living the advice I had tattooed on my arm five or six years ago and surrendering to however this plays out. And in the mean time, we’ve been having a sick-good time out at LBJ. It’s hard to be upset when you are surrounded by so much love, beauty, and are saddled atop a bright yellow crotch rocket (sans wheels) skimming across the lake while taking in the smiles of family and strangers. I’ll live without this bag, and live well-and if you’ve stayed with me this far, I’ll be grateful that this more than probable scenario and inconvenience is all that came to pass. Because, on the 3rd of July and a few of the days prior, I had an infinite amount of less-than-probable situations playing out in my head that revolved around one of my favorite things to do: travel via flying machines and deal with all that entails.

The LAST thing I’d given any significant thought to was having Jet Blue lose our bag, even as I am aware that it happens to people every day. I don’t care why it happens, it just happens, and no amount of uprising against the airlines and their inability to make absolutely sure your bag makes the same journey you do, is going to completely remove the chance of it happening from the travel-equation. Will I check luggage again? Yes. I’ll roll the dice again, confident that lightning does, indeed, strike twice-but dammit, I like my liquids and gels, and I also enjoy the illusion of roaming freedom that I experience when my hands are free of any handles, cups, bags, satchels, and the like. It’s a physiological feeling that works a psychological number on me in airports and even out in the world-for me, no matter where I am headed, having my hands free of any responsibility leaves me feeling really really swell about dealing with all the other improbabilities my conjuring mind might claim to foresee.

I’m not going to bore you with every little twist I dreamed up before getting on what hopefully won’t be our last successful flight. For one thing, my laptop’s charger is in that cursed but well-traveled piece of luggage. And, if you’ve been paying attention to me here, than you should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of things I had prepared for, and then you can laugh extra hard at me for having given zero thought to the most obvious of them all.