Being Afraid of the Dark as a Child

the-darkI know I shouldn’t have been terrified of the dark as a child. I lived in an exceedingly safe and cloistered community. My parents were loving and topnotch caregivers. There were no catalyzing experiences of terror, no intruders, or spooking events witnessed. But until well into my tenth year, I was absolutely petrified of the dark.

I would sleep with the lights on, or at a minimum a night light until I was seven. Then, I would sleep with the hall light on and the door ajar for the next several years. I would take a flash light with me to the bathroom after hours, and seldom venture outside past sundown. I never could make it through a whole episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark, and never once finished a Goosebumps book. Would I tell any of my friends at the time? Hells no.

But looking back, it seems all so very logical. The unknown and unflinching fathom in front is oblivion staring down the young mind. It is the callow realization of limitations on apperception, the stripping back of the expanding world of youth; and the germ that grows with age to the gradual realization that life can cease. Philip Larkin wrote:

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

As a child, it was the dark of night that was this first intimation of that flash of dread, the first confrontation with nothingness. Archibald MacLeish described this terror as being held stricken by the “…starless dark the poise, the hover,/ There with vast wings across the canceled skies,/ There in the sudden blackness that black pall/ Of nothing, nothing, nothing – nothing at all.”

Or maybe The Never Ending Story left a much greater impact on my nascent psyche than I am willing to admit.

Jeff

Double Bagging My Groceries

Paper or Plastic? Why not both...

I ask to have my groceries put in paper bag when I checkout. I then request that paper bag nestled into a plastic bag – I like the handles, and don’t want my food ever touching the sidewalk as result of ripped bag. (I barely can stomach the fact that my shoes have to come in contact with NYC sidewalks.) And at this everyone in the checkout, the cashier included, glares at me like I asked for my purchases to be stuffed in baby-carcasses, or said some negative word about Paul Krugman.

But I demur. Robert Oppenheimer was convinced that “It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so.” It seems to me that almost every problem that plaques us today is the result of the technological miracles of yesteryear.

So, I’m going to keep on getting paper-in-plastic at the checkout. If this damns the world to a global-warming induced hell, so be it. I cannot picture a scenario where anyone’s bagging preference is going help one damn thing in the in grand scheme of it all. The only consequences I see are the fermentation of upper-class guilt and petty animosity amongst neighbors. Anyhow, I’m going to listen to the man that invented the atomic bomb before the glowering yuppie pushing the designer stroller behind me in line.

If you really want to help the environment, don’t have kids. The carbon foot print of adding another person to a Western country is far and away the largest single carbon act you will ever commit.

My advice for every green enthusiast out there: have your tubes tied/ get a vasectomy. Of course, what is the point of saving the world if there is no one left to inherit it? Which gets back to Oppenheimer – the only chance that humanity has at a future is to stop trying to prevent the world from going to hell. As George Orwell reconmended, we all “should crawl into the whale.”

Jeff

Feeling Sorry For the AIG Guys

Get A Life

I know I shouldn’t feel sorry for the executives at AIG. I admit to getting a great deal of Schadenfreude out of this recession. But enough is enough people. Death threats!? Are we becoming 18th century France? These are the same variety of people that America venerated for the last half century. Where was this populist outcry before the current troubles? The same people starting the lynch mobs today made Donald Trump a celebrity and the women of The Real Housewives of Orange County famous.

And in the greater scheme of things the amount the public is demanding back is such a trifling amount that to cavil about it makes about as much sense as complaining that someone removed a bucket of water from your swimming pool. The $165 million in bonuses is less than one-fifth of one-percent of the bailout money given to AIG so far. Extrapolate to the entire cost of this bailout, and the fraction becomes soridiculously small, that I will not even bother typing it. If you want a cause to rail against, it is that we have a capitalistic system that has allowed certain corporations to become to big to fail. But to come after a small groups of executives who played by the rules, signed contracts, and made a glut of money is absurd. Every journalist doing a hatchet-job on the AIG employees should be ashamed.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Jeff

Westboro Baptist Church

westboro-baptist-church-protest

Let me start by saying that I agree with NOTHING that the Westboro Baptist Church stands for. I think their “protests” of funerals should be outlawed and that their children should be taken away from them. I am a left leaning agnostic that supports a litany of liberal social causes, from gay marriage to stem cell research. I believe that the members of the WBC are ill-informed, hate-filled troglodytes. But after watching them make fools of themselves on the campus of my alma mater last week, I could not help but think: what motives this roving pack of myopic provocateurs?

The best that I can come up with is that in their small and malnourished brains they must truly believe that the entire world has gone mad, and that they are the last bastion of Godliness and the only remaining bulwark left for salvation. Are they wrong? Yes. But in some twisted way, all the hate they spew, and all the unnecessary suffering they spread, is done in a terribly misguided attempt to help us; to save us from the eternal fires of Hell. They are professed to a strict code of non-violence, and seem to have no regard of public opinion. All of this is to say that despite the almost instantaneous urge they cull within me of wanting to punch each and every one of them in the face, I am also left with an uneasy sense of guarded respect. Maybe I am looking for humanity in the wrong place, but I cannot get over the horrible truth that these detestable bigots are motivated not out of malice, but rather out of some tough love sense of propriety. They think we are all going to eternal Hell, and are not willing to stand by and let that happen. They do not care that every thinking person in the world abhors them. They perceive a world on fire, and dare to put it out.

Or maybe I am jealous of anyone that can be that  impassioned about anything.

Jeff

Author’s note: After reading through this post I realize that it is decidedly unfunny, and likely too glib. Sorry. I’ll get back to hackneyed social criticism on Wednesday.

The Smell of Bacon (and Other Fried Meats)

bacon

I am a hypocritical vegetarian. I hate cucumbers. I hate lettuce. I fucking hate vegans. But there is one thing that I love: the smell of bacon frying.

I would think that this should repulse me. I’ve been committed to vegetarianism for the past six years. I can’t lick a chicken wing without getting sick. But damn, do they smell good.

As a college student, I had a two-year gig looking after a couple of kids back in Chicago. During my mornings with them, I would enjoy cooking bacon for their breakfasts simply because I loved the way the kitchen smelled as I sat with them, sipping coffee and reading the Trib. Sure, I had to call my mom to ask how to make it (“So…I don’t grease the pan first?”), but I eventually got the hang of it. Always crispy, never burnt.

And I didn’t feel guilty in the slightest. Growing kids gotta eat.

Andrea

For more bacon information, visit All Things Bacon, the bacon blog.

No Longer Listening to Bands When They Become Popular

delete-songs-ipod-editjpg

Dear Bands,

I know I supported you when you were obscure. And I told all my friends about your first EP. I even dragged people to that cramped backspace in Brooklyn to hear you play much too loudly for such a small room. All of this was fantastic. I was even OK when that Sundance Film used your song in their trailer. And I didn’t mind when Pitchfork called your first album promising, but derivative. I was still your biggest fan.

Things started to sour when that shoe company sampled your song in an ad. Don’t fret, I’d still play your music at parties – I’d just not put it on till people had a few. And yes, I was little peeved when you shorten your name to make it more marketable. That was part of your charm. Even when you had the nerve to have concert tickets that cost more than $15, I still listened. But what finally led to you being relocated to the nether regions of my iPod was that night I was in bar and heard your song play on the radio. Fuck, what were you thinking? The radio! How am I supposed to like anything on the radio? What’s next, a review of your new album in Billboard? This simply will not work.

So, I am terribly sorry. I know I shouldn’t stop listening to your music – in all honesty it still sounds the same to me, maybe even a little better – but I have an image to uphold.

Remember me fondly,

Jeff

Ordering In

ordering-in

We’re in a recession. It’s not like I can afford it. Plus, I’m a damn good cook. There are so many reasons not to order in. But when have I ever succumb to reason?

Anyone who knows me also knows that I don’t eat a lot. In fact, that seems to be one of the main themes of this blog. I justify my order-in Sunday tradition with some excuse that I saved on food during the week (though I probably spent it on booze).

This, of course, is completely absurd. I am saving up for many things (summer vacation, grad school). If a middle-class upbringing has taught me anything, it’s that every little bit helps.

But I’m really no good at cooking Thai food.

Andrea