Ideals of the Past

Over the past year, I’ve been reviewing the world through gold-rimmed glasses.  You know, the kind that rest on the back of your head and coat the world you’ve left behind in gilded shades of light to the point that all your youth might appear a continuous Christmas, filled with joy, beauty and adventure.  Over the past year and a half, I’ve been coping with this new  phase of my life and the responsibilities that accompany ‘adulthood,’ or whatever life at 34 is called.  The transition has not proven especially kind to me: anxiety, panic attacks, self-doubt, ephemeral goals, and an influx of nieces and nephews, who remind constantly that I am no longer a thirteen-year-old playing at ‘adulthood’ by babysitting his siblings, but simply an thirty-four year old trying to reconnect with his youthfulness.

Mostly, I’ve found myself idealizing the past: gazing at my college years and post-college interim at NIH with a fondness, which I never felt in the midst of it all.  I spent so many years begging, searching, fretting over finding myself a job, and now that I’ve found it, the sensation leaves much to be desired.  Thus, my mind idealizes those past moments, when the freedom to choose still lay before me, when life felt infinite and unexpected.

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Conned: Episode 0

SDCC boundThree accounts.  Three computers.  If I thought it would improve my chances to heft some of the house’s scattered PCs — outdated, abandoned, or consumed by spiderwebs — down to my room, I might have risked electric shock and wolf spider bites to heave the towers into my room.  But I had three accounts, thus only three computers.

The other members of my party were working across the street at Katie’s new house, knocking down trees and feeding the sap-soaked limbs into the chipper, giving Mother Nature the ol’ Fargo-special (as I call it).  Thus, the task of procuring tickets to the  Comicon fell to me.

Now, we’ve attended comic book conventions in the past here in Baltimore and DC.  These are typically low-key affairs, occupying a single floor at the Baltimore convention center, which — to quote the Hulk — is puny in comparison to its counterparts in DC and Boston.  Still it manages to stock the panels with some pretty awesome writers and artists: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Don Rosa, and Neil Adams to name a few that I’ve seen (Batman and Uncle Scrooge fanatic that I am).
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Who we pretend to be . . .

It seems all my most recent posts come equipped with an italicized prologue/apology.  My writing schedule of late (see previous post) allows  only for penning randomized thoughts rather than focused diatribes. 

Fisch wrote to me a few months back, citing his concerns over a former classmate’s downward spiral due to World of Warcraft.  “Back in high school, Larry could have kicked major ass, dude.  Samurai sword in hand — you know he has five or six replicas from Highlander — he could have . . . have . . . I don’t know, vied with the rich and powerful.  Made a difference in the world.  Tried to conquer it, and crush all lacrosse-playing douche-bags beneath his thumbs.  Instead, he’s teaching Spanish at a local college and hosting Magic tournaments at the local comic shop every Friday.  It’s unhealthy, man.”  

Fisch by nature is an idealist — he also cares little for lacrosse or the brainless bullies the sport occasionally empowers.  His mother has planned his presidential campaign since his thirteenth birthday.  A mind for politics, law, and changing the world has little to no use for fantasy or the MMORPG scene.  Building digital characters and hunting pixelated loot has no worth since it carries no currency in the real world.  This may be true, but still I wonder about his ‘self-evident’ conclusions of WoW, not to mention our private fantasies and self-identity. . .  This is my reply:

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Let it go

Hi!  My name is Ivan, and I like hot chocolate!  And cigars!

Hi! My name is Ivan, and I like hot chocolate! And cigars!

“Hey Murph, do ya wanna build a snowmaaan . . ?

It’s no secret around the Murphey household that the sibs and I adored Disney’s latest film Frozen.  Over the last two weeks, Kevin, Bree and I have managed to coerce, beguile and flat out bribe the rest of our family to the local theater just to watch the film again — mostly because the holiday season is all about swapping stories with those you love but also because a grown man attending an animated film alone is inviting sidelong glances from concerned parents and mall security.

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We’re decorating intensely for Katie’s wedding next week. Normally, the front yard would be filled with giant inflatable snow-globes and mechanical snowmen tipping their hats. Mom vetoed this approach in favor of a ‘country Christmas’ appearance.

As I mentioned elsewhere on this blog, stories enrich our lives, bestowing understanding, empathy, and wisdom.  They also help to chase away boredom and offer the social American a talking point during Christmas parties before the spiked nog disengages the brain.   The prevalence of stories and storytelling in all facets of our lives (entertainment, history, religion, politics, relationships) has always intrigued me to the point that I’ve often argued (usually after three Red-Solos of nog) that storytelling is the center of all human life: to create, discover, and retell tales.  Of course, most listeners simply shrug off these notions as drunken rants (which many were; the nog is strong in my family) and shrug unimpressed “We communicate.  All animals do it.”

The instruction booklet that arrives with your microwave communicates, but when was the last time anyone has actually read it.  Mostly we avoid the words entirely, gazing at the diagrams and attempting to divine a message like a back-alley fortune teller staring at the bumps on your head for the night’s Mega-millions numbers.  You add a sparkly vampire with predilection for vapid teenage repair-women and 90% of teenage girls become electrical engineers overnight.  No, I’d argue that communication is a subset of storytelling, simply a really boring example of the craft, shorn of all metaphors, characters and sparkle-vampires — for that reason alone I’m willing to be more forgiving.

To me, stories nourish my soul and sustain my willpower through the work week like oxygen through the suit of an orbit-bound astronaut.  Yet very few tales really satisfy your expectations: e.g. Mockingjay, Green Lantern, The Black Cauldron . . . Disney, you could have done so much better.  Of the numerous books, movies, and TV shows that I immerse myself, only a handful of these truly manages the detailed world-building, charming characters, and multi-layered epics, which are near and dear to my heart.  Still, this absence motivated me to write my own short stories.
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RE: furbish

Work in progress

Work in progress

Over the past several months, my folks have undertaken a massive home renovation project.  We plan on taking our small undersized kitchen and expanding it into a culinary workshop that would make Gordan Ramsey sit up and beg.  ‘How?’ you may ask?

Mostly, it seems by totally rearranging the whole damn house into a lifesize Escher painting.   Currently, I have little to no knowledge of the location of cereal, forks, television remotes, the Lazyboy, salsa, chips, pots, soap dispenser, can opener, or the front door.  All are lost or currently buried beneath bins, boxes and furniture.

You see for years, our current kitchen has abutted next to the ‘good’ or unused dining room. Nearly every home has one, a well-polished table adorned with silver candlesticks and untouched silverware, relics which mothers maintain in mint quality as if the queen might stop by one day unannounced for tea. Our own dining room was an ersatz museum collection of fine china, dark ebony tables, Polish tea cups, Belleek vases, and grinning Hummel figurines. Needless to say, if the queen did stop by for a cup of Earl Grey, digestion would prove difficult with hundreds of small frozen children exchanging blood-red posies, laughing maniacally in their small ceramic wheelbarrows from dust-caked bookcases. Teaching before a room of bleary-eyed kids and . . . well, it’s no wonder I’m so anxious. Anyway, we rarely ate or drank anything in this dining room, even just to spite Mom, who despite our professed phobias screamed bloody murder at any sign of drink or beverage on her ‘nice wood floors.’

Fear them . . .

Fear them . . .

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The End of a Beginning

The tassel hung from my cap like a fly trap in my grandfather’s barn.  Every breath dislocated the strings clinging to my ears, eyes, and nostrils and scattering the pieces into another equally obnoxious location.  It was like being hugged by a miniature octopus in heat: annoying and mildly disturbing.  The rest of the academic staff appeared nonplussed by the attire.  We marched into the bowels of the cathedral between rows of parents and relatives wielding telescopic cameras and palm-sized smart phones.  Within a second the whole procession would be circulating around the web, complete with tags of the students favorite (and most hated) teachers, so I tried to appear as dignified as possible, suppressing the urge to hurl both cap and gown in the air and  blast skeet-style with a shotgun — or not owning a gun, hit it really really hard with my car keys.  Pew.  Pew.

We approached the altar of the cathedral and bowed, then the procession turned to the side and filtered into our seats adjacent to a small electric organ.  Once parked in our pews, we turned to smile on a crowd of white gowned seniors, eager and excited for the evening parties, college and summer vacation.   My many-fingered yarned beast choose the moment to slap me in the face repeatedly.

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A Few Good Lines

It’s nearly quarter to 1AM and the boys are arguing in the other room about what late night game to play: Call of Duty or the Zombie game within Call of Duty. A four-player limit finds me the fifth wheel, and I bow out to play some Starcraft.  Kevin is sleeping behind me, having passed out hours earlier.  Every half-hour he mumbles incoherent curses in his sleep, a sign my roommate’s sleeping peaceful (the boy is never happy unless he’s not), rousing himself as Ryan begins his recital in the other room.  I do not know what prompts it, perhaps the excitement for digital battle, the click of electronic triggers, the tinkling of bullets on 3-D landscapes.  His voice begins low, gradually crescendo-ing into a rebel shout, a call to arms for humans against the inhuman, a love-letter to the battle-borne and bullet-ridden:

“Good evening,” he begins. ” In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation.”

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