Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jaws was my first scary movie, and not even all of Jaws--just the snatches of it I caught, peeking around the corner into the living room where the grownups were watching it on tv. I don't remember what it was that I saw of the movie, because the nightmares it gave me took up all available fear of sharks space in my brain.

My dreams that night were of a swimming pool bordered by a shark tank, a plexiglass wall like at Sea World separating them and a comical red button the trigger to raise the wall. My family was in the pool, swimming and chatting and splashing, until a hand reached over and hit the button. I never saw who was behind it because I was too busy screaming while the sharks swam in and started eating my family. I remember watching my grandfather pulled under by a leg, the water clouding pink and then red with blood. Some of them scrambled out of the pool and ran away, and that is when the sharks started to walk.

Even still that nightmare is near the top of the list of the scariest dreams I've ever had.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I finished Dracula last night, shockingly ahead of schedule thanks to an alarmingly persistent and vigorous cold that kept me couchbound for most of my long weekend. Those are some seriously boneheaded heroes Stoker gives us. (This is probably not a surprise to anyone who has seen any Dracula-related thing ever, but as we have talked about before, I am a big baby about scary things.) There's a vampire next door and you send the one woman among you off to bed because you don't want all the thinking to worry her? Whatever. You know what's going to hurt more than taxing her poor little brain? Being chewed on by Dracula.

This cold shows up like clockwork every year around the end of October. My immune system is really less of a system and more a loosely connected string of suggestions, and I'll probably end up felled by the first serious epidemic to walk down my street. If life were a disaster movie, I'd be gone after the first five minutes. The fact that I am still alive is proof that life is not actually a disaster movie, which is helpful because I wonder sometimes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another thing that shouldn't be as much of a surprise as it has been is how time consuming grad school really is. I'm all in now, going twice a week straight from work to school (and then usually to the bar), spending the spare time in between reading things that have nothing to do with vampires. I miss the days when the point of school was to read novels and write about them--reading about nonprofit tax structure and talking about it is a whole lot less interesting. If more interesting than I had anticipated.

Time is doing that annoying thing that it does where in some things it seems to be moving incredibly slowly and in other things just hurtling by, which frankly is a habit of time's that I just find annoying. So I'm taking an extra long weekend in order to glare at time until it agrees to shape up. (Also to write a paper and look at the trees and hopefully get some sewing done.) There's a lot coming up--Halloween and Orcas Island and Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would be a shame to miss any of it because it runs by too fast.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We drove out to the farm yesterday, tangled in the rental car like eager puppies, over roads lined with explosions of scarlet and gold. Somehow it was warm enough to leave our coats, somehow not raining, somehow just muddy enough for galoshes but not too muddy for the corn maze. We rustled through the eerie whispering throughways of corn, shouting at each landmark, pet goats and held kittens, wrapped our hands around cups of hot sweet cider. All of these goods things that feel like accidents and yet, somehow, aren't.

I like the onomatopoeia of this season, the whisk of leaves hitting the ground and the crunch of stepping on them two days later, the squelch of mud and the million voices of the rain. I like the feel of the soft curls of my hair brushing against my cheeks tingling in the chill air, the sharp smell of a fire under a chimney unused for months, the exact sheen of cold morning dew not quite ready to be frost.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In the time before everything on the Terra Nova expedition went so badly wrong, Dr. Wilson sketched the sunsets. Apsley Cherry-Garrard describes him sitting on a cold Antarctic hillside with only a few minutes before it would be too cold to have his hands exposed, penciling in the names of the colors to be filled in later. And then in the darker times, finishing them by memory.

The people in his landscapes, mostly, are insignificant, swallowed by the vast sweeps of ice, buffeted by the winds, dwarfed by the mountains and the alien world they stand on. There's no time there, or perhaps there's too much time. After a certain point there probably isn't much difference. It's easy to believe that this is the place that would swallow the explorers only miles from the hut that could save them.

I imagine that in the nights, under a cloud of thick blubber smoke, they dreamed of tall forests and close cities and clean lilac flowers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In high school we moved out of the trailer park I had grown up in and into the house my grandparents had just moved out of. I didn't want to switch schools, so we used the address of my grandparents condo, which was in the right school district. After school my grandma would pick me up from the bus stop with crackers and cream cheese, and I'd spend the rest of the afternoon with them. In one year I spent more time with my grandparents than most people get in their whole lives, and all of my years were like that.

I wish that it would rain. All of this cool dry air is doing terrible things to my skin and hair. I am itchy and staticy and neglecting my umbrella.

Really high on the list of things I never want to hear again is my grandma asking in her sick thin voice if I could help with her decision. I can't. She needs a surgery that might buy her some more time and then again might not. Maybe in that time science will have a breakthrough in making bionic grandmas. It's been nearly a year since my granddad left us and I still have trouble realizing that this is a world without him in it, and I'm not ready for both of them to be gone. But that's selfish, and there's this awful world of pain and dependence that she's stuck in.
Either way, it's only a matter of time until the whole universe shifts again.

Friday, October 09, 2009

It probably shouldn't be as much of a surprise as it has been, but Dracula is scary.

I sort of gave up on scary books after I left R. L. Stein behind. Sometimes I'll read a suspense thriller that my mom has passed along--and I'm always rereading that Dean Koontz book Watchers, but only the parts about the dog--but between The Shining and that terrifying face-eating moth in Phantoms I had to accept that I just can't stomach them. Part of that is because when you're reading a scary book you're giving yourself permission to revel in the fact that people are horrible, and most of the time I feel like life is bad enough without inviting all of that torture in. (This is part of the reason I also do not watch scary movies.) The other part of it is just that I am a giant baby who hates being scared.

But Dracula is scary in a sneaky way, the way any good Gothic novel is. (Except The Castle of Otranto, which is scary in the way that having giant body parts drop on you is, and which is secretly one of my favorite things.) Unsurprisingly, I'm a little behind the reading schedule, but Dracula gave me nightmares before they had even gotten to the big no-reflection reveal. Jonathan Harker never seems concerned that all of the townspeople are practically willing to kidnap him in order to make him not go to Dracula's house--he only finds it a little strange that they're all worked up and making crucifixes for him. But the thought of him wending his way through that countryside, surrounded by wolves, unaware of the baby-eating ladies and captivity ahead of got to me.

And now there's all of this anticipation. Mina is pining for her fiancee who is trapped in the Castle Dracula, Renfield is eating sparrows, Dracula is apparently on the just know that this is going to end with me renting Coppola's movie and pacing nervously around my apartment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A while ago they found plesiosaur bones on the bottom of the ocean covered in bite marks and leftover teeth. Sharks are often moved to frenzy when they feed, but the amount of focus it must have taken to bring down something as big as a plesiosaur is remarkable. The scientists think that the creature was probably already dying when the sharks found it and started to bite, sinking slowly deeper into all kinds of darkness. It rested at the bottom and slowly became a mystery, and the sharks, satisfied with their power, stayed the way they were then all the way through to now.

Walking home in a dark and chilly fall evening, happy and surrounded by the smell of fires on hearths in the houses around me, I find myself thinking about that plesiosaur. I wonder if the Loch Ness Monster remembers where it comes from as it swims slowly through its own dark waters. Do sea monsters find themselves wistful on cool fall evenings, distracted by history and speculation? I think that these ancient creatures and I have more in common than either of us might like to admit.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The main trouble with all the cooking that I do is that I'm not very good at it. It's a shame, too, because I love food and sharing meals with people, but I have too much respect for the people I like to want to subject them to that.

My trouble is enthusiasm, which counts for nothing in cooking. In itself that's kind of amazing, since following a recipe is just going through with a plan, and I love plans almost as much as I love food. But I get excited about all of the things that would sound delicious in addition to the things already in the recipe, and it always messes things up. I like eating things too much to continue consuming not so hot concoctions simply because throwing them out would be wasteful, so I'm cooking deliberately from now on. Slowing down, paying attention, and strictly following the directions. It'll be good for me.

I'm learning all kinds of things about being deliberate from James Bond. Who knew Sean Connery could teach me so much?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I don't sleep anyway, right, so why not go ahead and decide to read Dracula during October? It's not like I'm already working full time and taking two classes and writing things in places and keeping up my drinking, or anything. I'm sure there are a couple of free minutes somewhere that I can devote to vampires.

I had actually planned to spend the fall with Carver and Chekhov and Berger (because that's how far I got in the bookstore before I realized I had to stop), but I'm interested in the idea of reading the same thing at the same time as other people unrelated to any schooling. I'm not interested in Infinite Jest and I'm really not interested in Twilight, and I have always wanted to read Dracula. So, here's an excuse.

You should probably pity all of the people who are around me on a regular basis, though, as I'm already jumping at shadows and seeing the undead everywhere as it is. So I'm sure I'll be a real peach to be around for the next few weeks. A screechy, nervous, pitiful peach.