Relics Part I: Happiness

I had mentioned in my last post that I was in the process of going through a box of things that I never actually took with me up north to college. It’s been a rather amusing exercise. One of my more treasured books I thought lost was returned to me (a copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods loaned to me by a high school chum and never returned), but the thing that most captured my attention was a CD that I had made some time in high school.

It was not uncommon for my friends Greg, Leon, and I to make mix CDs to play in Greg’s car during our various adventures in and around our home town. This one, however, is different. I distinctly remember making this one shortly after I got my first car, a 1993 green Ford Aerostar van around the time that I entered my senior year of high school

This van, dubbed by my main cadre of female friends as “The Sleepy Turtle” due to the overly cautious way I tended to drive, was the first thing that I actually considered to be mine. There was one key, and it was in my possession. It wasn’t in my name, mind you, taxes and all that, but I was the only one who drove it, and I loved it for all of the over 100,000 miles that I drove it until it broke down during Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year of college.

I loved that van, it became a part of my identity. People at school who didn’t know me knew my van. I made a CD at the time I did to commemorate a milestone of my high school career, cutting someone incredibly toxic out of my life.

I have a problem when it comes to letting things go. I hold on to trinkets, books, gifts, and what have you long past their point of usefulness. I have a folder of text documents with short stories, novel ideas, and various journals dating back to middle school. I have every non-spam email I have ever received on the same email address I have used since the sixth grade.

This is a problem I have with people, too. Not to say, of course, that a person can ever outlive their usefulness, I’m not so heartless as to suggest that. Rather, there are times where people in our lives are no longer worth keeping in them, I think we can all agree on that. People, I have found, are a lot harder to let go of than things or files. If I delete a short story or a set of horrific poetry, it doesn’t hurt because of it. If I donate a book to a thrift shop it’s feelings aren’t damaged. In fact, it could be argued that those items would find new life in the hands of someone else.

But people are able to react to our discarding. They hurt, they pine, and as someone who is dealing with the rather hefty discarding he was dealt almost two years ago, I don’t really like doing it to another person.

This person, whom I will call Wendy, was a different case. I may have referred to her as toxic previously, but in reality, I probably did more harm to her than she ever did to me, and by extension, hurting myself in the process. Regardless, that fact that we have not contacted each other in close to a decade is a good thing.

To punctuate the decision I made at the time, I made a mix CD simply titled Happiness. It was something I collected of songs that made me smile, and generally brought me up. I had long forgotten about this CD and gave it a full listen, and…

Well you may not remember this quote from one of my previous posts:

… I find that years later, I am only more justified in my tastes and aversions.

There is a certain truth to that still, but I would be lying if I said there were things on that CD that didn’t make me cringe a bit. What I’m going to do, for the remainder of this post, is post the full track listing of the CD with YouTube links where I can find them, and offering some commentary on the tracks, and just exactly where my head space was when I decided to add them to the list. If you’re not familiar with the tracks I post, I would highly suggest giving them a listen before reading the commentary. I know that this is a somewhat unreasonable request, everyone’s busy, I get that. But to get the full effect, I do recommend it. We have 29 tracks to get through here, let’s not waste any more time.

#1. Home movies theme, season 1 – brendon small

Not much to say about this one really. I love Brendon Small and pretty much all of his work. Home Movies still brings a smile to my face with its emphasis on dialogue over intricate animation. A simple tune that always makes me bob my head.

#2. dreams of above – maze master

I used to be a member of the now mostly irrelevant website, Newgrounds. This theme was the only song for a relatively simple Flash game called Avalanche. I would play this quite often during my downtime in high school. I fell in love with the song for its simple instrumentation and upbeat, almost adventurous feel. I have not listened to this song in almost 9 years, but I still remember every beat and note.

#3. Klaymen’s Theme – Terry Scott Taylor

I have a great admiration for the work of Doug TenNapel. Most would remember him from his work on Earthworm Jim, but for my money, he will always be the creator of The NeverhoOd, a point and click adventure game animated entirely in claymation. The music of Terry Scott Taylor only serves to punctuate the beauty of the game and the insidious supposed simplicity of its puzzles. Klaymen’s Theme is bouncy, jaunty, and just plain fun.

#4. Five o’clock world  – the vogues

I used the Drew Carrey Show video for this song because it’s where I originally heard it.

In high school, this song epitomized everything that I wanted in a relationship; a woman who, when around, could literally make my troubles melt away sheerly by the merit of being her. When I was with Julie, I would listen to this song as validation that I had found that. Now, it just makes me depressed, because I had that, and I lost it.

#5. Southern front porch whistler – terry scott taylor

Another NeverhoOd song. This one is calming for me, incredibly so. It perfectly evokes an old man sitting on his stoop and strumming a tune on his guitar.

#6. Lullaby of broadway – harry warren & al dublin

The Muppet Show and indeed The Muppets themselves were instrumental in forming who I would ultimately become. Granted, at the time of this writing I am hardly finished growing as a person, but I cannot foresee a future where The Muppets do not matter to me. Yes, there are better songs from The Muppet Show and even ones from the movies (one of which will make its appearance somewhere down the list), but I can remember this one being on my mind at the time. I couldn’t tell you why I picked this one, but it still works for me. Something about Camilla breaking character and actually singing a line was revolutionary for me as a child, and I still enjoy it, even if it goes against the previously established conventions.

#7. Hey julie – fountains of wayne

Another song I originally heard from a sitcom, Scrubs in this case. This one is incredibly similar to Five O’Clock World, the lyrics will tell you that much. This one isn’t as good as The Vogues number, but it always confounded me that this Fountains of Wayne song didn’t get more radio play than the absolutely dreadful Stacey’s Mom.

#8.  aye aye eyes

Can’t find the composer for this one from my cursory Google research.

I don’t so much like this one anymore. It has the camp of a Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? chase song, but not nearly as much of the fun. It I can’t rightly imagine what my reason was for putting this on the list rather than pure nostalgia.

#9. The Chillout Song – Ze Frank

I came to the Ze Frank party too late. The Show was already long gone, and I was unable to join the elite ranks of the Sports Racers. I did, however, binge the entire series over a long weekend, and latched onto this song for a very long time. Quiet, reflective, and made even better by the untrained voices of his viewers, The Chillout Song is what immediately pops into my head whenever I hear someone tell someone else to breathe. It still calms me down to this day.

#10. Rainbow road – kenta nagata

There are better Mario Kart 64 tracks out there. Hell, there are better Rainbow Road tracks out there. But this one always trips my nostalgia trigger. Mario Kart 64 was the game that my family played together most consistently. Even my father, who normally eschewed video games after I messed up his progress on the NES Willow, would join us. This was always a popular course, if not for its length, then for it’s lack of nonsense parts like you might find in Yoshi’s Valley or DK’s Jungle Parkway. When I put this track on the CD, I was thinking of my family. I still do.

#11. courage the cowardly dog – they might be giants

I love They Might Be Giants. They are my favorite band, and I own nearly every piece of music they’ve put out. This, however? This doesn’t have any of that TMBG fun or quirk, and it just doesn’t do anything for me anymore. Another nostalgia baited pick to pad out the CD’s running time.

#12. Don’t lose my number – phil collins

Greg was a huge Phil Collins fan, and that rubbed off on me. I made this CD before discovering the Genesis album Invisible Touch which blows Phil’s first solo effort out of the water. Revisiting this song made me feel uncomfortable. I haven’t really spoken with Greg much in recent years, and I feel bad about that. I know that he’s currently married and living in Washington State attending graduate school, but not much more than that. This song reminds me that it is easy to lose touch with people we hold dear, even if that’s not what the song is explicitly about.

#13. Moving right along – paul williams

The Muppets again. The Muppet Movie is, when you get right down to it, about following your dreams wherever they take you, making friends along the way, and not selling yourself short. I resonate a lot with this message, though I haven’t always followed it. As someone with lofty dreams for the future, I am hampered by a lethargy that tells me to stay inside my comfort zone. This is a habit that I’m desperately working on, but it’s easy to fall back into old habits.

#14.  Old fashioned lab song – paul williams

Paul Williams, I would learn about this time in my life, was an incredibly instrumental musical influence on my childhood. He wrote all of the songs for The Muppet Movie, was the guest star on the best episode of The Muppet Show’s first season, and wrote such pop classics as Rainy Days and Mondays and We’ve Only Just Begun. This is the only Cartoon Network song on this list that actually deserves to be here.

#15. [redacted] – [redacted]

Too embarrassing, moving on.

#16. Bloody Tears – Kenichi Matsubara

This isn’t the version that’s on the CD. I couldn’t find it.

Bloody Tears is a meaningful song to me because Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is the first video game that I remember playing. Yes, I never beat the game as a kid because the game is so incredibly obtuse, but I still remember it fondly. Some people will rock out to thrash or death metal in their cars. I get the same feeling from this song.

#17. The Ballad of jimmy durante – the blanks

Another sitcom song! Well, sort of. The Blanks is a legitimate acapella group made up of actors who occasionally showed up on Scrubs. This song. This song! If you’re just casually reading through the list and not listening, I get that I really do, I’m asking a lot here, but please, put this song in your ears right now. I don’t know much about Jimmy Durante other than his famous catchphrase, but this song. I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard for me to write about this song. Just listen to it, and if you don’t get some kind of feeling from it, than I just don’t know.

#18.  cough drops – terry scott taylor

Yep, another NeverhoOd song. Last one I promise, and this is easily the weakest of this sampling. I’m not sure, but it actually kind of annoys me now. Maybe I was reveling in the context of where it appeared in the game, but I honestly can’t remember it.

#19. Candy Mountain Song

The rise of the viral video around YouTube’s inception in 2005 was a fascinating time for web content creation. My first and favorite Youth Pastor, Cameron (a Texas native who looked like a Hawaiian Elvis) would spend time showing us some of the more classic videos; Fear of Girls, some of the more notable screamer videos, and of course Charlie The Unicorn. This song, while just a cover of The Clarinet Polka with lyrics added in. It’s kinetic, it’s fun, and I spent a lot of time memorizing all of the lyrics. I can still recite them.

#20. Trust yourself – Brendon Small

Another Home Movies song. Don’t read too deeply into this one, I just think it’s funny.

#21. You are a pirate – Máni Svavarsson

LazyTown was a show that Greg, Leon, and I glommed onto. At it’s heart, it’s a show about getting kids active with a type of Scandinavian charm that you get from Aqua. This song was on every mix CD that we made once we discovered it. It’s the perfect song to drive over a bridge to, and it still brings a smile to my face.

#22. My Best friend plank

Ugh.

#23. Incredible Shrinking Day – Garrett Freireich

You might think that I liked Cartoon Network or something. This one isn’t so bad as the previous entry, it’s not ostensibly about the series, just an okay song with the series as a backdrop. But that’s all it is. Okay.

#24. Dreaming of you – The Coral

Another song from a sitcom, Scrubs again. This one, I’m honestly at a loss. It’s an incredibly sad song that has no place on this list. Good song, mind you, but it doesn’t belong anywhere near a CD called Happiness.

#25. Walrus cove – david wise

I put this song on the CD to mess with Greg. He hated this song for how catchy it was and it was a reliable earworm that world get him screaming the tune while we were off trying to find the last remaining Bennigan’s. I like the song well enough, but it’s not nearly as good as Haunted Woods or Hot Top Volcano.

#26. Cars – Gary Numan

Turns out I had some pretty awful tastes in high school. I immediately skipped over this song while revisiting this CD. This song is dull, pointless, joyless, and the only mercy is that its horrific lyrics end around the halfway mark.

#27 duke nukem theme – lee jackson

This song is great. Move along.

#28. Brooklyn – Creaky Boards

In an attempt to expand my musical horizons in high school, I stumbled across the 2008 Coldplay album Viva la Vida. I loved the title track, but when searching for information on it, I found that another, much less notable band, called Creaky Boards was claiming that Coldplay had plagiarized their song coincidentally called The Songs That I Didn’t Write. I never put too much stock into it, though I would learn while doing research for this post that Creaky Boards would later issue a retraction. I became enthralled with this song, however, when the controversy was at its height. I love brass instruments in rock songs, and the Boards’ style reminded me of more serious They Might Be Giants. Were I to remake this CD, I’d probably keep the song on, it’s incredibly mellow and satisfying, even if the lyrics are a little blunt force trauma.

#29. just one person – larry grossman

I have a bad habit of finding out my heroes have been after I discover their work. I didn’t know that Groucho Marx was dead until I was 12 (though the revelation that his mustache was just shoe polish was much more heartbreaking), Kurt Vonnegut died the day before I picked up my first copy of Slaughterhouse Five, and Jim Henson was dead just a few months before I was born. I actually have very few living heroes, the most important among them being Weird Al Yankovic (which makes it all the more odd that his work appears nowhere on this CD).

This song is not happy. Hopeful, maybe, but certainly not happy.

Perhaps that’s wrong. This is an incredibly happy song. Just not in this context.

This rendition in this context reminds me that the man who created the characters that I wanted to be like, the man whose work I admire more than any other person’s is dead. You might be asking (and well you should) why I included this track on the CD that was supposed to be all about things that make me happy.

I included this track on the CD because at the time (and still a bit to this day) I don’t believe that I deserve to be happy. I’m terrified of joy, I don’t trust it. If I’m miserable, there isn’t anyone who wants to take it away from me. People are content to let someone be miserable because they can’t get anything from it. I don’t trust people, not inherently. I do believe that people are generally good, mind you, but I don’t trust that goodness. I don’t believe that people’s inherent goodness is something that they embrace on a day-to-day basis. I know I don’t. I have the ability to revel in anger, distrust, and above all, cynicism.

Cynicism is a trap that I fall into constantly. It’s one of my less desirable traits, I know that.

I’m working on it.

But at the time, when I was 17 years old, this song served as a denouement to the joy that these songs brought me. It was a way to remind me that happiness is fleeting, and that there will always be something to brutally pull you back down to reality when you’re flying to close to the sun on wings of wax.

But like I said, I’m working on it.

If there’s any takeaway I got from listening to this CD again, it’s this; I still don’t trust myself to be happy. I know now that I deserve it, hell we all do (within means of course, if one’s definition of happiness is harming people then they can piss right off). But I just don’t trust it. Even in my more naive days as a teenager I was incapable of putting together a list of things that make me happy without including something that will make me deeply, horribly depressed.

I don’t think I’ll be popping this CD in my car any time soon. There are too many things on here that I just don’t like anymore, probably because I don’t like who I was back then.

If you made it this far through this sprawling nearly 3,500 word post, then thank you. I know that I ate up quite a bit of your certainly valuable time when it’s sometimes hard to devote any amount of it to anything that doesn’t meet our baser survival needs. If you got any sense of enjoyment out of this, found a new song that you like, or fulfilled some kind of voyeuristic need to peek into the mind of someone else, then I’m glad.

This CD is one of a group of Relics that I’m slowly collecting from my past that I plan to do a series about. This blog has long since outlived my original intention. I’m not saying that I won’t return to movies at some point, but this is the creative wave that I’m riding right now.

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Interlude II

I feel that I must make an apology.

I originally started this blog as a way to work through the feelings surrounding the biggest heartbreak I had suffered up to that point. My love of film seemed like a good way to express that, and I was initially happy with the response that I got, small as it was. Granted, not much has changed, to be honest. Though there have been several smaller incidents since Julie left me, some more hurtful in new and interesting ways, nothing has topped it in sheer scale. I suppose that’s comforting in a way, that I haven’t allowed myself to be hurt in quite the same way, but it’s sad for other, more innumerable reasons.

I gave up on this project fairly quickly, not seeing the immediate catharsis that I was looking for, much in the same way that someone trying to lose weight gives up after a few weeks of jogging after only losing a few pounds. It isn’t until nearly two years later that I finally recognize the inherent worth that I was getting out of this. So for that, I must apologize. To you, you may ask, dear reader? Hardly. I did not anticipate this to find any sort of audience. Any enjoyment you have gotten out of this experiment was purely coincidental, and it isn’t as if there are those breaking down my door to get more of my work.

I must apologize to myself.

Apology is the first step to forgiveness, and if any of my revelations over the past year have taught me anything, it’s that I have not forgiven myself for the failures I feel led to my and Julie’s departure from each other’s lives. Friends, mainly my writing partner Ramsey and one of my oldest friends, Richard have tried to drill into my head that I am not responsible for what happened. There were extenuating circumstances that she was unable to cope with, they might tell me. They might say that I did the best I could with the information that I had, or that we just weren’t meant to work out. While not untrue, I haven’t been able to convince myself of these things.

But I suppose that’s a large part of forgiveness, isn’t it?

If we were only to forgive people who had perfectly reasonable and logical reasons for doing what they did, the world would be in quite the sorry state. This blog post originally started as a letter that I wrote to myself late at night with the din of New Year’s fireworks outside my wall.

Presented now, is a slightly edited version of this letter.

Jeff,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I haven’t allowed you to move on. I’m sorry that you have spent the past 20 months hopping in and out of romantic entanglements desperately searching for someone that can fill the hole that Julie left. I’m sorry that your life has been an unfortunate quagmire of your own making. Moreover, I’m sorry that you are not happy. I know that there was a time when you were so cynical and deluded in your unhappiness that you believed that there was no such thing as happiness. I’m glad you broke free of that.

But I know, however, that it was Julie that broke you out of that.

It is far too easy to fall back into that trap again. If you’re standing in a dark room, and suddenly a light turns on, it’s easy to get attached to that light source. You revel in it, you appreciate it, and you begin to rely on it. You do not, however, need to go looking for the same light again once the bulb goes out.

The light wasn’t unique to Julie.

You don’t need to continue stepping foot-first into quicksand and later wondering why you lost your boot. You are no longer required to drink yourself to unconsciousness after looking through old photos, reading old text messages, or checking her Facebook profile for the twelfth goddamn time that week. You are are allowed to move on. You are allowed to be happy.

She doesn’t love you and she doesn’t need you.

And that’s okay.

Warmest regards,

– Jeff (you)

This blog has always been an extremely personal work, and I’m hoping that it can continue on as such. Rereading my past few posts taught me that I have something here, and that I shouldn’t give up on it too quickly. I hope to have something else up soon. I was rummaging through a box of items I packed up and never took to college. It’s been kind of fascinating actually, a mini time capsule of sorts that transported my back to summer of 2009. I have a few things in mind.

I’m also thinking of changing up the theme a bit, yeah? Too dark, currently.

The Watching Cure In Retrospect: The Godfather

Note: I know that I haven’t written in a while. It’s not that I haven’t seen any movies recently, quite to the contrary; I haven’t written because of a general malaise that had prevented me from caring about this project at all. A combination of not getting any hip shot revelations from the endless slew of Summer blockbusters I’ve been consuming, and involving myself too closely in my own sadness have prevented me from wanting to share anything with anyone, much less on this (admittedly non-traffic generating) public forum.  

Oh, and another brief note, I’m not using people’s real names going forward. This would have been included in a footnote, but I couldn’t get the superscript code to work properly.

I work for a collection agency, in a building too large for the number of employees housed there. My job is to take all of the correspondence that we receive, sort it into different piles, and then heft those piles into a scanner for digital storage and retrieval purposes. It’s a relatively simple job that allows me to work at paces I deem to be productive, ignore all of my coworkers, and listen to music. Well, not music, not really. The majority of my listening is devoted to the numerous podcasts I follow, stand-up comedy, and the endless string of audio books I use to drown out my reality by suffering through the pain of someone else’s. Yes, I occasionally break through the abundance of spoken word to venture to my comfort artists, Moxy Früvous, They Might Be Giants, The Arrogant Worms, et al.

One book I keep returning to, both in print and audio formats is Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. I have listened to the audio book version of this work more than a dozen times, and read it nearly as many. One of the consequences of my consistent audience of this book is that in the rare moments of silence, when I don’t have the opportunity to drown out the dreary formulaic nature of my work, I begin narrating my own memoirs of life-defining experiences  that I’m certain someone, somewhere down the line will read and listen to as furtively as I do to Oswalt’s work. That there will be a similarly minded 20-something man or woman, going through their first genuine adult heartbreak, seeking the consul of a writer who cannot answer their queries about life and how to live it, but believing earnestly, that somewhere in the lines between words and the gaps of silence in spoken word, there is someone who understands, commiserates, and relates.

For the next few posts, I’m going to be relating my experiences with certain movies and how they shaped my adolescence.

Prom, and Promises Kept

My high school years were largely spent between two distinct groups of friends. The first, a collection of band members held together by a love of snark, movies, and Dungeons and Dragons. The second, two friends I met on the first day of sixth grade. Ours was a friendship of symbiosis, in the way that C.S. Lewis described;

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. ”

While I certainly enjoyed spending time with either Greg or Leon, there was a certain paradigm that can only be brought on by having all of us together. The majority of my time, when not working in my school’s theater or arguing about grappling rules and initiative order, was spent with Greg and Leon. Greg’s mother was an eminent domain lawyer for the state; a position that kept her away for hours long after school let out. His parent’s long-divorced and his only sibling far past the age of moving out, Greg’s house was our sanctuary, a shield from the real and imagined slights and faults of the world that our peers and  school  lay down on us. Why venture into the outside world and deal with the annoyances of other people when there was cable TV, Mortal Kombat, and an endless supply of frozen snacks his mother kept stocked for us?

A furious cynicism  and hatred for the happy-go-lucky facade of the people I encountered came to a boiling point during the nadir of my high school career when it came to plan for Senior Prom. I despise dancing, at least, I despised (and still do) what some people deign to call dancing. Growing up on a steady diet of The Muppet Show, Marx Brothers movies (thank you, Mom) and classic movie musicals instilled in me an appreciation of the elegant and formal ballroom-style dancing of days gone by. This left me with a squinting tolerance of the shuffling awkward slow dancing and a spitting, resentfulness of the fast dancing  popular in clubs. Dancing of this variety seemed like an artless logic problem, where the ‘correct’ combination of movement and gesture was rewarded with dry humping.

Many writers reflect back on their suppositions during their adolescence with a shrugging “That’s High School!” attitude, but I find that years later, I am only more justified in my tastes and aversions. Whether this is an arrogance that I’ve never shaken (and I could point to more than a few people who would corroborate this concept) or a surety of who I am that I was able to discern early in life, I can’t be sure.

I had vaguely implied by not outright refusing, that I might attend my senior prom. I was in the middle of a sloppy non-relationship at the time which would ultimately doom my interactions with many a woman for years to come, so I had no date. I was in no short supply though, of friends who would ever so kindly remind me that if I didn’t go to Prom I would regret it for the rest of my life, and it’s going to be some much fun, and we’re all going to get fondue beforehand, and even if you don’t a date you can still dance and have a good time, and did you know they’re going to have a chocolate fountain?!

I couldn’t have been less interested in Prom, and was never planning to go, regardless of my parents offering to pay or my friends  constantly hounding me for a response. I never said this, of course, but made the guarantee that if I was asked one more time if I was going or not, I wouldn’t. Part of me knew that I would be asked, guaranteeing that I would have a reason to not go without seeming a complete contrarian. I was, of course, but as long as I didn’t have to go, and had reasonable deniability to do what I wanted, I was happy.

We’re Going to Mattresses

Prom night was spent at Greg’s house (Leon was absent, some vague family commitment), with Greg, and our mutual friends Bob and Gunther. Bob was a short-ish bespectacled classmate I knew primarily from band classes. He glommed onto my friendship with Greg and Leon in an admirable fashion, fitting well (if not incompletely) with our dynamic. Bob currently works at a restaurant. Gunther was an all knees and elbows type ginger with dreams of rack stardom. He currently works IT in Austin, Texas, and starred in a musical about the evolution of rock-n-roll playing Sid Vicious.

Our Prom night was spent eating cheese fries (footnote!) and watching The Godfather Part I. If you don’t know whether this movie is good or not, you either haven’t seen it (in which case, go and watch it now) or you’re undecided (in which case, you are not deserving of the bandwidth that allows you to read this blog). There isn’t much that I can bring to the discussion of this film more than 40 years past its release, except for one phrase which has stuck with me from that night and forever since.

“We’re going to mattresses.”

This was a phrase that indicated that the Corleone family was going to war with its enemies, filling up a safe house with mattresses so their soldiers could rest while constantly being on the alert in case their enemies came-a-knockin’. We watched the movie, and Greg drove me home declaring vendetta on every mailbox and lawn gnome that we passed.

Recently, I’ve found myself going to mattresses, guarding against some unknown threat, feeling that there is something working against me. Everything could be an existential boogeyman hiding in a corner, a monster under the bed. Every shadow looks like it might cause some undue harm, and  a mistake that have seemed benign in the past can become a legitimate a worry. Standing watch against true danger is one thing, but conceiving  a wrong that has not happened yet is different entirely.

At the end of the day, things are either problems or they aren’t.

Footnote!

Okay, the proper way to make cheese fries at home is to pre-cook the fries (either through frying or baking) first, add your cheese and cooked bacon bits, and then making your own dipping sauces. Baking your cheese at the same time as your fries will only lead to disaster.

Interlude I

This morning, I woke up screaming.

I had been fortunate enough to not remember my dreams over the past 11 nights, until last night. I wouldn’t describe it as a nightmare, however, there was no imaginary monster chasing me through a landscape of my untethered yet minutely focused imagination. Instead, I stood as an observer, staring through a cracked mirror of regret watching the day when she left. The events played out a little bit differently this time, with me being a bit more aggressive in my defense of our relationship, but it ended the same. I woke up with a short, labored exhale that managed to eek out enough sound to qualify itself as a scream in the same way that a pile of pennies can still technically be called a dollar.

After the initial shock wore off, and the light in the room became apparent, I groan, realizing that it was much, much later than I had intended to wake up. Checking my phone, I see that I had never taken my phone off of silent, causing me to wake up closer to when I was supposed to leave for work than when I meant to wake up. And even with the threat of being late for a job that I have had for less than four weeks looming over my head like a guillotine of negligence, I turned up the volume on my phone and set my alarm for five minutes in the future. I try desperately to squeeze out a few more twinkling moments of unconsciousness; maybe to shut my brain down for just a little while longer before I have to face a work day I have only the basest level of motivation to go to, maybe to get a glimpse of her that will stay with me more positively than my dream had.  I haven’t decided.

Three attempts at just five more minutes of sleep later, I get up and get ready for work. I end up being late anyway, due to a flipped car on the road a few exits behind where I enter the freeway.The drive to work is gruelingly slow. I can’t stand drive-time shows and the few passable music stations seem to pump out the same stream of songs that they think encapsulates whatever genre they claim to be representing. But eventually, about 25 minutes into what should be a 10 minute drive, salvation. Allowing my car’s radio to scan through stations for me so I can focus on all of the not driving I’m doing, I land on the ‘Alternative’ station during station identification. I’m about to let this one go, when Blind Melon’s No Rain starts playing.

In that moment, when Roger Stevens’ (who I am now imagining as a Captain America analogue from Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle) looping whining guitar started, I got the feeling that everything was okay. For the next three minutes and thirty-seven seconds, I smiled softly and narrowed my eyelids in a expression that, to an outside observer, I might have looked like a man dying a comfortable, floating death, with no contempt or regret, someone who was told of this very moment long ago, and had lived his life in the best ways he knew; ever aware that death was slowly catching up to him.

No Rain is a song about a listless man who spends his day reading, sleeping in too late, and yearning  for someone to wake up next to and who finds his cheeks wet without the aid of rain. To me, in that particular two-hundred seventeen seconds, it described a man who found the secret to make the world stop. He had gained an ability that only the likes of Zack Morris and Adam Sandler had hoped to utilize. And for those moments, the world did stop. Everyone was put on a temporary pause, giving him time to deal with what he needed to work through.

That’s when people started honking.

During my moment of contentment, the world had started again, and the traffic jam was gone. I shake the calm off of me and get to work, just shy of twenty minutes late. My manager is understanding, and I set into work, uncomfortably aware that the world is still spinning.

The Watching Cure: Muppets Most Wanted

When I was in high school, there was a phrase I would parrot ad nauseam, a little personal oath that acted as my email signature, more than a few yearbook scribbles, and would have been my senior quote had I elected to show up for picture day; ‘Love sucks, go watch a movie.’ This quip of mine boiled down to my dismay for my adolescent non-relationship status, and a disdain for the sappy relationships of my classmates. Recently, this has taken on a much more relatable context.

This past Friday, my relationship of nearly two years ended.

It wasn’t messy, there was no infidelity, and it finished with only a minimal amount of yelling (mine). We proceeded to the stage of divvying up belongings for my subsequent moving out. There were a lot of phone calls and messages to friends and family, finding boxes, and listlessness. As someone who has grown accustomed to a constant din of background noise in his life, it became all the more imperative that I find something to distract me.  To paraphrase Kevin Smith; ‘Movies and other entertainment exist solely to distract you from the fact that one day you’re gonna die.’.

FUN FACT: That quote got removed from my Film Degree’s Senior Thesis paper by all three of my committee members.

I started  taking this to heart over the past few days. Not in the morbid sense that Smith meant it, mind you, but in the sense that any worthwhile form of entertainment, music, movies, books, or video games can pull you into a world that isn’t the one you’re in right now. And that’s what life has been about for the past three days; distraction. Not wanting to deal with the problems head-on, I sought out anything that might serve to distract me. Now I’m what you might call a repeat watcher. There are movies and shows that I’ve been upwards of a dozen times, and I will often turn them on instead of something new when I’m looking for background noise; something I can listen to and occasionally glance at while working on a project or web-browsing.

And here’s where the problems started. I tried watching Kids in the Hall, Back to the Future, hell, even the Holy Mother of all 80s comedies Ghostbusters couldn’t hold my attention long enough before I would start drifting back to a place I really didn’t want to be.

I’m sorry Dr. Venkman. I’m so sorry.

Being in the house that we shared for so long made the distractions less distracting. The keys jangled over my head held little allure anymore. I had to get out of the house, and be with people who would be so uncomfortable discussing my relationship woes that I would have no choice but to move my mind away from my problems, at least for a few hours.

Naturally I turned to my Dungeons & Dragons group and The Muppets.

The Muppets were the felt cornerstone of my childhood. The Muppets were my first comedic influence, they ingrained in me a love of song and comedy, an appreciation for showmanship, and taught me that a group of entertainers are closer to a family than anything else. I’m not being facetious when I say that without The Muppets, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. The Muppets had disappeared from the public consciousness for a long time, and attempting to make them relevant again would be a tall order for anyone. Thankfully, with James Bobin at the helm, Jason Segal and Nick Stoller writing, and The Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie writing and composing songs (McKenzie won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for Man or Muppet) 2011 saw a proper return for the Muppets, in a 103 minute (thanks, IMDB!) spectacle that kept my eyes wide and mouth agape in childlike wonder well past the ending credits.

Saturday afternoon, I decided to see Muppets Most Wanted with my friends, and that’s where I decided to start this blog. Writing is incredibly therapeutic, and any excuse I can get to see more movies is one I’m willing to snatch up.

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted takes place immediately after the end of The Muppets, with their comeback finished and the film wrapped, the Muppets wonder what they should do next. A period of malaise follows, before the Muppets meet sleazy manager Dominick Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who convinces them to go on a world tour to bank on their revitalized image. The central conflict comes when Kermit look-a-like Constantine, “The World’s Most Dangerous Frog” disguises himself as Kermit, and sends the Muppets emcee to a Siberian gulag, run by Nadya (Tina Fey). Constantine starts a crime spree across Europe using the Muppets as cover with the aid of Dominick as his Number 2. Hot on their trail is Interpol Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and CIA agent Sam the Eagle.

I really enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted. While not as effective as The Muppets it is a very worthy sequel. McKenzie’s music is just as enthralling and catchy, the story is well paced and easy to follow despite being split between three focuses for most of the movie. Not all of the jokes land, but when they do land, they land hard. The human characters act as a perfect compliment to the Muppet performers, never outshining them, but still managing to be entertaining and memorable in their own right. There’s a wonderful bevy of cameos from recognizable actors and singers of many generations. If you liked The Muppets, just enjoy the characters and their history, see the movie while it’s in theaters. The only real problem I have with the movie are the downright terrifying CGI Muppet Fireworks during the end credits.

A lot of this movie hit really close to home; themes of not knowing what to do next, displacement, and love that isn’t what you thought it was rang too true for comfort. For something that was supposed to get me out of my head, I found myself drifting back internally. The movie may have not been what I wanted, but it was certainly what I needed.