Happy hump day, friends! And happy Halloween week. Are you ready for Friday? I am more than ready. Every night this week I have committed to watching a horror movie leading up to All Hallow’s Eve and so far it has been quite entertaining — beginning with the “unrated” version of Paranormal Activity 4 on Monday night and “Rosemary’s baby” last night.
I had seen Paranormal Activity 4 in theaters (obviously the rated version), so I knew what to expect from this flick. But I had never seen Rosemary’s Baby before last night and…well…Mia Farrow, you and your baby terrify me. And owe me the four hours of sleep I lost because of you.
Seriously, this film will take the number three or four spot on scariest movies of all time for me. I can’t believe I had never seen it before last night. (I didn’t fall asleep until 2:45 a.m. because of it either, that’s how you know I’m spooked, and it takes a lot).
In other news, I debuted my costume last night for a work party and wanted to share it with you lovely people here. (Please disregard the redundancy if you follow me on Instagram/ Facebook/ Twitter and have already seen these pictures).
Without further ado, I present my costume for Halloween 2014:
Here I am as “Half-Dead.”
This costume was what any good Halloween costume is when you’re a grown-up: easy, cheap, and fun. I had a delightful time doing my make-up for this and cutting holes in my dress with scissors on purpose — there was something really therapeutic about the process. Playing pretend tends to have that effect.
This week has and will be a busy one for me with three Halloween parties to dress up for and attend, work, and freelance assignments, but it’s the last week of my most favorite month of the year so I am going to try and relish it despite the busy-ness. Tonight I’ve got a date with Hocus Pocus, however, and in honor of the beloved Sanderson sisters, I have some facts to share about the movie that I bet you probably didn’t know. Ready?
Enjoy: (via Buzzfeed).
– Leonardo Dicaprio was offered “more money than [he] ever dreamed of” to play Max Dennison, but he instead decided to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
– There were about nine cats who played Thackery Binx. Each had a different skill — one swatted, one slept, etc.
– Real flies were used in the scene where Billy (zombie raised from the dead in graveyard scene) cuts his stitches open. They used a dental dam–like device to keep them from going down his throat.
– “Come Little Children” was written by James Horner, who co-wrote (and won an Oscar for) “My Heart Will Go On.”
– During filming, Bette Midler had two people running around behind her with dictionaries of old curse words.
– According to makeup artist Tony Gardner, they had to tone down some of the makeup after Disney deemed it too scary in early tests.
– The cast took a trip to Salem, which fell on the 300th anniversary of the witch trials.
– “Satan” and his wife are played by brother and sister Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall.
– The funny baby commercial Mary watches at “Satan’s” house is a real DuPont Stainmaster commercial from 1991.
– Charles Rocket, who played Max’s dad, Dave Dennison, achieved Jenny Slate-like notoriety when he said “f*ck” during the final moments of a 1981 episode of Saturday Night Live. There’s an in-joke referring to the moment in Hocus Pocus: When he asks Max how school was, Max says, “It sucked,” and Dave tells Max, “Watch your language!”
– Rosie O’Donnell was offered the role of Mary Sanderson, but she felt “uneasy” about playing a character who kills children.
– In many other countries, Hocus Pocus is called Abracadabra.
And before I sign off, who would I be to not share Drunk Uncle’s SNL season debut with you? A bad friend and blogger, that’s who.
Here you are. Until next time…
Lately all I crave are instant mashed potatoes, grilled cheese, and those big, soft, extra moist sugar cookies with sprinkles that are sold individually in the grocery store bakery department. I tend to get weird food cravings when the season’s change and when the summer turns to fall those cravings are typically for comfort foods that contain an ample amount of fat and carbohydrates and tastes that bring me back to my childhood. This would make more sense if for any winter of my adult life I had lived in a place where it snowed or dropped below twenty degrees. But I have been spoiled by the sunshine and sandy beaches of Florida and California most of my life so I am not quite sure where these cravings come from other than from my general love of food, particularly those that I ate to no end as a kid like grilled cheese sandwiches and the instant mashed potatoes my mom used to make me with dinner. I miss the way she used to make them — with just a little extra butter and milk and a few pours of pepper.
Lately I have learned that I feel most at peace when my phone’s screen is black with nothingness. The sky and the air have more life when they’re observed and experienced without the pull of a handheld device that too often distracts my attention more than it directs it. An hour of “airplane mode,” can really do wonders for the mind.
Lately Billie Holiday’s voice has been an auditory feast for my ears. There’s something in her voice that pairs perfectly well with the cooler air and fiery colors of fall’s beginning. “I’ll be seeing you” makes me miss and think sweetly upon my dad’s mom, grandma Mary, who passed away one year ago. I could bathe in the melody of this song for hours.
Lately the idea of loving my enemy has seemed impossible and stupid. How can I love someone with a vendetta against me? How can I love someone who gleans pleasure from my pain? How can I love someone who does nothing to show love in return? I don’t know. But just because it seems impossible and stupid, doesn’t mean it isn’t noble or worth my while. I once thought the idea of “running” for fitness was an impossible and stupid idea for me, too. But then I did it and realized quickly that while it was hard at first, it would ultimately reap many lasting fruits and rewards, both physical and mental. The same can be said of love, I think. It is a discipline. And it’s worth the practice.
Lately I have been struck by the reality that I am just as guilty of anyone of pursuing things that ultimately do not matter. Status, wealth, the distraction of accomplishments that divert my gaze from the health of my soul, and empty affirmations and praise. These things make me feel powerful and in control and impressive for a moment, only to leave me in the dust once the high wears off and I am left feeling empty and like I must do and be more than I am when all is stripped away .
Lately I find myself noticing the details more than ever. The way the homeless guy who holds up his “Hungry Vet. Will Work. God Bless,” cardboard sign on the street off of the freeway I take home from work wears a big smile and soiled blue jeans and the same frayed plaid button-up everyday yet somehow appears happier begging for change than most people I interact with daily who have every provision they could ask for. A beautiful, organic illustration of what it means to have little or nothing and yet live life as someone who can see a little light in even the most depressing and despairing sort of darkness.
Lately I have learned that wonder does not come at a cheap cost for those of us who choose to live and move by the compass of curiosity. Wonder begs exploration and exploration requires time and patience and work, which demand that which is often hardest for us to surrender or give freely: our time. I want to invest more of myself and my time into my sense of wonder and the things that make me ask “why?”
Lately I fantasize about doing improv comedy. It’s too bad that I would most definitely wet myself were I ever expected to make a room full of people laugh while standing on a stage. All the more reason to try, perhaps?
Lately life has shown me the gains to be had by being able and willing to sit with my pain and feel, touch, and interact with it, rather than running away from it. Pain has a lot to teach those of us who are brave enough to be it’s students. It can change our perceptions and the whole of our lives. This, I will always believe.
And as for right now, I am thankful for small moments of grace like yesterday when I took my car in to the shop after noting a peculiar noise under the hood. I feared the worst and expected to be told there was something wrong with my car that had to be fixed right away and that it would cost me every penny of my savings. Two hours passed and I got a call from the mechanic who informed me that the noise was just the splash-guard and it was an easy fix. He charged me for an oil change and sent me on my way. Some would call this luck, but I call it a wink from the Divine . Though I have done nothing to deserve it, that is what makes grace the beautiful thing that it is: unearned, undeserved, and invaluable in it’s capacity to change us.
Until next time, dear friends.
“The truth is that you will never be absolutely safe. All things change constantly, even what is most precious. You know that you and those you love will die, but not when or how. This is the angst of life, the price of being a conscious human being. It is not a flaw, although many people cannot let loose of seeing it in such a manner. It is just the way life is constructed. When your awareness of this vulnerability is triggered, you can be swept into panic, collapse into depression, or desperately try to distract yourself. One of the values of spiritual practice is that you are able to come to terms with this anxiety in a conscious manner. Your life becomes more integrated because you are no longer trying to deny or avoid what is true.” – Phillip Moffitt
*Annie Clarkson is a fictional name that I will use to tell this story for confidentiality purposes. All other information is accurate and is being published here with the subject’s permission.
It’s three o’clock on a Thursday and I am stopped behind a red light next to a busy bus-stop. I look over at a couple of people hunched over on the bench with ear buds plugged into their phones and others who chit-chat in small groups on either side of the seated commuters and those who keep to themselves as they watch the parade of cars stalled at the busy intersection. I notice a woman with a thick head of hair tied up with a faded blue bandanna and dressed in a baggy, black Stevie Wonder tee-shirt and stained jeans. She carries a large brown plastic tote bag and fidgets with a flip-phone before tucking it into her back pocket and setting her bag down beside a trash can. I watch curiously as she removes the lid of the trash and dips her hands inside and begins to rummage through the refuse. When the light changes to green I pull over across the street to observe her. She fishes out two plastic water bottles and stuffs them in her bag. Seconds later I see her pull out a large glass whiskey bottle twist off the cap and places it to her nose. To anyone passerbys, she would appear to be homeless and unkempt, or by the looks of this particular scene, like an alcoholic looking for sips of booze in the trash.
What nobody might suspect, however, is that underneath her blue bandanna and below her skull, there are pieces of bullet in her brain. I know this because I know this woman. I eat lunch with her 3-4 times a week.
Her name is Annie Clarkson* and twenty-four years ago she was herded into a walk-in freezer with nine employees and two customers at a diner where she worked in Los Angeles to be shot execution-style by two armed men.
Annie was one of four who survived the massacre. The others were murdered in cold blood as they stood toward the freezer wall while the shooters emptied every bullet of their guns into their backs. And though Annie walked out alive that night, her life would never be the same. She suffered permanent brain damage from the shots that were fired directly into her head.
Prior to this, Annie, like many in the “city of Angels,” was an aspiring model trying to make ends meet by waiting tables at a popular 24-hour diner as she struggled to fulfill her dreams of glamour and fame. Knowing her story and the injustice committed against her begs the question, what would her life look like today had she not been working the overnight shift that fateful evening in L.A.? Would she have graced the pages of Vogue or the runways of New York’s fashion week or settled down and had a family and a pretty house in the suburbs, maybe modeling on the side to preserve her dream? No one will ever know.
As a result of the bullets she took to the head, Annie required surgery to have a part of her brain removed. For compensation, she was given the option of settling for a large, lump sum of money or lifetime coverage for all medical and rehabilitation expenses. She chose the lifetime coverage. And that is how she came into my life, or rather, how I came into hers.
When I took a job as a case manager for an independent living program for adults with physical and developmental disabilities five years ago, I was introduced to Annie and immediately became fascinated with her story. Her case was given to me three years ago and I have worked closely with her ever since. I spend most of my lunch-breaks with her because the building where I work is where Annie is employed as a janitor – disinfecting toilets and mopping floors and scrubbing bathroom stalls. She’s in her fifties now and doesn’t complain about the work though it is not what she envisioned for her life. At twenty-three years old, the last thing Annie imagined was that her life would be forever changed and derailed to the detriment of her physical and neurological health because of the barrel of a gun that was pointed at and shot into her head. But that’s what happened. And she will live the rest of her life with the consequences.
Obsessive hoarding is one of these consequences. Annie has stacks of phone books and sales ads and magazines that are over a decade old cluttering the corners of her living room and make-up and hair products she’s hoarded since the early 1980′s. It is hard for her to understand why hoarding is not healthy — even at times when she has almost lost her apartment and subsidized housing voucher from the government because of the condition of her home and the fire-hazard of having hundreds of stuffed animals and empty shampoo bottles and containers of clothes in disarray through most of the walkways.
A large part of my work with Annie is centered around helping her manage and control her hoarding and intervening when her injury causes her to make potentially harmful choices. I am Annie’s advocate. I am her case worker and teacher, but many days, I learn more from her than she probably does from me.
In all of the time I have known Annie she has never once complained about her brain injury. Or her job. Or her quality of life. This humbles me, to say the least. For even on my worst days, I have so much more than Annie ever will in the ways of independence, health, and ability. And while I sometimes complain about early morning meetings or congested traffic and frustrating commutes, Annie’s day begins every morning at 5 a.m. when she wakes up to catch the bus to work – a commute that by car would take around thirty minutes but by city bus can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. Her workday starts at 8:30 a.m. as she loads chemicals and cleaning supplies into her janitor’s cart and wraps a protective plastic apron over her body. She works for six hours and then catches the 2:45 p.m. bus home which can take up to two hours depending on how busy the buses are on any given day. I can not imagine having to take public transportation to and from work five days a week, or working as a janitor, knowing that the dreams of my youth were taken unfairly from me and there’s nothing I can do about it. But Annie doesn’t walk around with a scowl on her face. In fact, most days she is happy and wears a big, bright smile behind her janitor’s cart. Another thing about her that inspires me – Annie is one of the funniest people I know.
If I forget or misplace something around her, I can almost always bank on her to say something along the lines of: “you’re losing your mind Jamie, and you don’t even have a brain injury like me!” or “you sure you don’t have a bullet in your head too, Jamie?”
It makes me laugh every time.
I have seen Annie’s modeling head-shots from decades ago and they are stunning. And though the pull of age and the daily plight of living with a traumatic brain injury has worn on her over the years, the profile of the twenty-three year old waitress and aspiring model can still be seen in the soft lines of her face and in her big, sparkly, coffee-bean brown eyes.
“Okay, Ms. Annie what do we need to do today?” I ask her one afternoon as she sits down across from my desk with a ham and cheese sandwich.
“We gotta pay my electric bill ’cause it’s due tomorrow, remember?” Annie reminds me.
“Oh yeah, we talked about that yesterday didn’t we?” I reply.
“We sure did. You forgot? Looks like you’ve been hanging around me too much,” Annie laughs.
“I guess you’re rubbing off on me, aren’t you?” I chuckle.
I lift up a burrito to my lips and take a bite while Annie tells me about her day. I watch her talk and remind myself, as I often do, that this is a woman who was born into the world with a healthy body and brain, and hopes and dreams for her future who took a job as a waitress to make rent while chasing her passion in a big, bustling city full of spotlights and promise, only to have the actions of someone else derail and nearly destroy her life. Yet here she sits, munching on a ham and cheese sandwich with a smile bigger than any other smile I’ve seen on this day, and not a care in the world.
Annie’s story is a reminder that there is life after trauma, and hope and happiness, too. I’ve never endured a bullet to the brain but I have endured the trauma of childhood abuse and losing a parent. Some days I wonder “why me?” and resent the fact that someone else is responsible for the way my brain is wired now as an adult. But then I talk with Annie and she makes me laugh and I am reminded that while we can’t control what happens to us in life, we can control how we choose to live it. And for Annie, that means working hard, staying positive, and always looking for a good punchline. These are the things most people can’t tell from her appearance when she’s rummaging through trash at the bus stop. But they are the things that will always be there in the soft lines of her face and chocolate-colored eyes that tell the story of a budding, young model in L.A. who almost lost her life in a restaurant freezer over two decades ago, but came out on the other side of it. Her story proves there is life after trauma. And that how we choose to live this one and only life we’ve been given matters more than the events that occur and the scars they leave behind.
This past Friday night I decided to buy a bottle of vodka. I was in the mood to enjoy a drink while watching a spooky movie in the spirit of Halloween. Friday the 13th was the film of choice, and for me, horror movies are more fun for me with a drink in hand.
I do not like to buy booze at the grocery store, though. The whole process frustrates me because some small, stupid detail always goes wrong during the purchase like when I forget my I.D. and feel like a college freshman caught in the process of trying to be cool while I dig through my purse for my license and simultaneously explaining/ begging that “I know it’s here, it’s buried at the bottom, can I just tell you my birthday?” Or when I remember I have nothing to mix the liquor with when the cashier tells me my total and I either have to hold up a line of people to run and grab a 2-liter of Sprite or cancel my order to save holding the line up and start all over again. Plus, I’m not a big drinker. I do happen to enjoy the occasional weeknight cocktail like many hard-working adults, however.
Now, allow me to properly set the scene: the time is about 6:45 p.m. and after coming home from work I throw on a paint-stained pair of old running shorts and a “Dodgers” tee-shirt that I bought on a whim because it was soft and I like blue, not because I like the Dodgers. Or baseball. I wrapped my hair into a bun that didn’t stay put for long before unraveling into a disheveled mess of a ponytail and my mascara was smeared and faded. Basically, I looked like I had just returned from Burning Man and needed a shower. But I was just running to the store so who cares?
Once I neared the alcohol section of the supermarket, I encountered an end-cap stocked with “pumpkin spice” Oreos which, if you know me, I had to try. I snatched up a package and right as I did so, my phone buzzed. It was one of my best friends and they were going on a date and wanted some advice. While we chatted I perused the store to kill a few minutes. And I decided I wanted to buy popcorn and shampoo so, by the time I got back around to the vodka, my arms were semi-full. I knelt down to the bottom shelf where the cheap, off-brand liquor is displayed and wrapped my fingers around the glass neck of a big bottle with a sale price of $5.29.
“I’m buying a handle of vodka for the same price as a foot-long from Subway. I’ve never even heard of the brand. Don’t judge me…” I told my friend.
This was the moment when I should have done the responsible thing and grabbed a cart. But I didn’t because I am one of those shoppers who will carry eight things around the store in my arms until I can’t carry anymore before getting a shopping cart.
With my cell phone propped up to my ear by my right shoulder so I could use both hands, I found a spot in a check-out line behind a middle-aged man. A minute later I heard a child behind me and peeked over my shoulder to find a young mom with beach-y blonde hair with her toddler and son who looked to be around six years old.
The man in front of me took his receipt and bags and I took that as my cue to relieve my hands and load my stuff onto the conveyor belt. My friend was talking about their plans for the night and as I tried to listen, I lifted up the bottle of vodka to place on the belt.
Then it happened.
The black security cap that the cashier has to take off when you buy certain kinds of alcohol snapped and I lost my grip on the glass. I jumped back, unknowingly almost knocking down the six year old behind me and screamed as my heart dropped into my gut and the bottle fell fast and hard onto the hard, scuffed-up floor.
Shards of glass and vodka everywhere. And then I hear “MOMMY HELP!” I turn around and the little boy has vodka on his pants.
“OHMYGOSH I’M SORRY, I’M SO SORRY, PLEASE LET ME HELP YOU, I’M SO SO SORRY!”
The kid’s mother had the look of a woman who was ready to throw a punch. I guess I didn’t totally blame her.
“WHAT ARE YOU STUPID?!” She yelled.
I knelt down and picked up the largest slices of glass and apologized about twelve more times.
The woman rushed away with her kids as I attempted to clean up the mess.
“Uh, miss, I’m getting someone to come clean that up,” the cashier – an old, bitter-looking woman, said dryly.
I used to work in a grocery store and would encounter people who dropped things on accident while in line and I remember feeling like it was a part of my job to calm them and make sure they understood it’s okay and they’re not in trouble and it happens to us all sometimes.
This cashier, however, didn’t bother trying to make me feel like I wasn’t the worst human on the planet.
“Don’t touch the glass and let me ring the rest of your stuff up,” she said.
“Okay, I’m so sorry, I have never had this happen before,” I explained, self-pity and shame dripping from my words.
The cashier looked at me and said nothing.
A teenage boy came up to mop up the vodka.
“You did this!? You’re not allowed to come back ever again!” He laughed as he placed bright yellow “Caution: Wet Floor,” signs around the puddle of liquor and glass.
I took the opportunity for the much-needed comic relief and giggled. The cashier looked at me like I was the village idiot which maybe, wasn’t entirely not the case. But what I needed in that moment wasn’t the grimace of a grumpy check-out clerk, but the vindication of a store employee to make me feel like everything would be okay. The kid mopping up the mess did a better job of that than the woman who handed me my receipt.
“It happens, don’t feel bad,” the boy said with a smile.
“I know, this has just never happened to me. I swear I’m not drunk!” I chuckled. The boy laughed but the cashier continued to stare at me, emotionless.
I finally strolled away and elected to not grab another bottle before going home. I was over it.
Half-way to my car, I saw a mini-van pass by and peering from the backseat was the face of the little kid of whom the vodka had splashed onto. He pointed at me and the mother turned her head in the driver’s seat and rolled down her window.
“People like you shouldn’t be allowed in public! You drunk!” She shouted.
What the what? Was this all really happening?
Before I could articulate a response she sped away.
What is the take away here?
This: for every mistake and mishap we make as adults there is typically a ludicrous and humorous side to the story that is worth being remembered. You must find the irony and lunacy in your circumstances and choose to make it comic rather than tragic, despite how great your urge to go home and hide in the dark, curled up in fetal position.
This is a part of adulthood – small, stupid little details in life will turn sour or go badly and you might end up standing in front a small child calling on their mom for help after breaking a bottle of booze in front of them. Moments such as this are not spelled out or forewarned about in an instruction manual for life. We must take them as they come. And try not to beat ourselves up over things we can’t control and maybe try harder to work on what we can. As for me and this incident of the broken vodka bottle, I couldn’t control who was standing behind me or that the plastic security cap would come loose and the cashier would glare at me like a ghoul. But what I can do is make sure the next time I go to the store for alcohol, I get a cart just in case. Even if I swear I am only buying two things — I will get a shopping cart.
And I won’t be on my cell phone in the check-out line while trying to load an armful of stuff onto the conveyor belt.
“What happened? You ok?’ My friend texted me later.
“Yes. Except that I dropped and broke a bottle of vodka in line and a child was involved and I looked like a crazy person,” I replied.
“Lol! What?! Did that really happen?” He asked.
“Yep,” I texted back.
“Your life is like a TV show sometimes, a really funny one…”
I sat back on my couch and popped an Oreo into my mouth.
“I know. Believe me, I know,” I replied.
It is moments such as the one I just described that ultimately do make me thankful that in life even a trip to the grocery store can turn out to be not what we expected. Because being alive would be much less fun and more difficult to laugh about if things always went smoothly and we didn’t, on occasion, piss off a mom at the store by getting vodka on her child’s clothes by accident and then eliciting dirty looks from the cashier and being branded as a drunk.
Take my word for it.
A cautionary tale.