Friday, July 18, 2008

Last night at the beach

It is, it is, and for me that is always a melancholy time. I'm not at all happy to be going back to the real world. I could stay here a very long time, or so I think while I'm here--but that's in part because here I don't have a job, I don't worry about calories, and my responsibilities are few. I just have to fund it, which I do by saving each month.

The reasons don't matter a lot, though; the place is magic.

We sat on the exterior balcony tonight and watched the moon slowly rise above the clouds that blanketed the horizon. The moon isn't full, but it's close enough that you can believe it is if you want to, as I did tonight. The waves, still visible in the oncoming night, pounded against the shore, and in the distance rain was falling on the ocean.

This house and this beach drip with personal history. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of one of the best men I've ever known, my stepfather, Edmund D. Livingston, Jr. He died in this very beach house quite a few years ago; I'm embarrassed that I don't remember how many. My kids have played here for most of their lives. We were the last house on the island for many years, and now the row of houses stretches away from us. I've shared a great many wonderful memories with friends and family and extended family here. I hope I get to do so for many, many, many two-week stretches to come.

I love this place.

All Ron Perlman, all the time

Yesterday, we went to see HellBoy II. Visually stunning and full of the inventiveness one would expect from director Guillermo del Toro, the movie was a fun time, and we all enjoyed it. That said, the plot doesn't stand up to much thought, and despite its overt attention to emotions the film often felt hollow. On balance, I recommend it to those who enjoyed its predecessor and also to anyone who simply loves amazing visuals.

As I type this, the late-night, beach-house movie crew (which tonight numbered six, then five, then four) is watching another movie with Ron Perlman, the truly dumb In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Jason Statham manages to keep a straight face as he pulls up turnips, fights armed beast soldiers, encounters the tough women of the forest, and on and on. It's silly enough to provide occasional fun, but this one deserves the resounding thud it made at the box office.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Strange moments

So we're watching Diary of the Dead late last night, "we" being Kyle, Sarah, and me. We're crowded on the sofa in the darkened living room hoping for at least a tolerable trip down zombie lane in this, the fifth installment of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead trilogy. Though the movie as a whole was weak and frequently annoying--we would have paid extra for a version without the voice-over--it had two scenes that are worth the cost of the DVD.

I don't want to spoil the first for you, but let me just say that when you combine a deaf Amish dude, a chalkboard, a trio of zombies, and some lost college students, then mix in a little dynamite and a scythe, well, the result is movie magic.

I'm going to tell you about the second scene because even knowing what happens will not detract from its great amusement. A PC is playing a video, one we are to believe has been uploaded to the Web by innocent victims. A child's birthday party is taking place on a house's deck. Onto the deck from the house steps a clown. We three exclaim in hopeful unison, "Zombie clown?!?" The dad points out the clown to the birthday kid, then goes over to the clown and tweaks his nose. The nose comes off in the dad's hand. The clown then bites the dad on the neck.

It was a beautiful thing.

On the non-zombie front, a friend from high school, Lynn, had contacted me a few weeks ago. She asked me if I would sign some books if she sent them to me, and I said, sure. Lynn is a great person, but I'll sign books for anyone who sends them to me and includes a return envelope with postage. Because Lynn was a friend, I ate the postage and envelope costs, a gesture that figures prominently in the story below.

She sent the books, I signed them, and today I struck out to the island Post Office to mail them. I first needed to buy something to put them in, but, hey, the USPS sells this sort of stuff, so how hard can it be?

Here at the beach, pretty hard.

The Post Office here occupies half of the second floor of a small house. The following is what happened once I was inside this tiny space.


Me: I'd like to mail these books, but I first need to buy something to put them in. I'll take anything that works.

Clerk (insert your favorite female southern accent here): You could use one of these here boxes. (She points to a stack of them.)

Me: Okay, I'll take one.

Clerk: But they won't fit in it.

Me (from here on, picture me getting angrier and angrier as I struggle to maintain a calm and polite facade): Do you have anything they will fit in?

Clerk: One of these Priority Mail envelopes should do the trick.

Me: I'll take one.

Clerk: You'll want to put some stuff in it to stop them from knocking around.

Me: Okay, I'll buy some of that, too.

Clerk: Oh, we don't have any of that stuff.

Me: I'll send them as they are and take my chances. (I stuff the books and address the envelope.) How much do I owe you?

Clerk: We have to send them Priority Mail because we used that envelope.

Me: Fine. How much do I owe you?

Clerk: Well, I'll have to look that up. (Rifles through book and studies multiple pages.) It could be this one here (points) or that one there; I'm not sure which. Do you know?

Me: No. I'll pay anything that will get them to their destination.

Clerk: (Studies more book pages.) Yup, this is it.


Though I think I aged two years trying to mail the books, at least, as Kyle noted, I got a blog entry out of it.

Remind me next time, though, to drive back to Raleigh and send my mail from there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On intensity

Most people who know me at some point or another tell me I'm intense. I rarely feel it. Instead, I feel like I'm a slug, accomplishing little, not pushing myself enough, holding back my emotions so I won't upset others, and generally bottling it all up inside. Apparently, I'm doing a bad job of bottling.

I have mixed feelings on this topic. On the one hand, at least for me intensity is necessary and even desirable, because I want to be passionate about life. On the other hand, making everyone around you uncomfortable is not a good thing.

As with so many things, these mixed feelings translate into internal struggles, angst that makes it hard for me to fall asleep and wakes me multiple times during the night.

I've deliberately kept this rant short and controlled, but if you catch me in person and want to talk about it, we can have a very different kind of conversation. In the meantime, I'll keep trying to hold onto my intensity while not showing so much of it to others, a lifetime battle I'm sure I shall never win.

Monday, July 14, 2008

One up, one down

So far today, we've watched two DVDs. You can tell the beach house life is a stressful one. I've also eaten lunch, walked, splashed in the pool, and written a small but good (I think) chunk of the book. I could get used to this, except for that business about needing to pay my bills.

Anyway, let me encourage you to save money and to spend money.

Save your money on Meet the Spartans. I frankly doubt anyone else is dumb enough to blow their hard-earned cash on this turd of a film, but if you're considering doing so, back away from the shelf. Aside from a fairly entertaining though deeply dumb first five minutes, this thing has nothing to commend it.

Spend your money on Delirious, an art-house movie that will both entertain and occasionally surprise you. You'll see most of it coming, but probably not all. It's also worth watching simply because it's not your typical film.

I was going to write about my inability to be satisfied, but I'll save that for another time; right now, we're going to watch a third movie, eat some ice cream, and quite possibly explode from stomach pressure.

On a lighter note

We've been watching a lot of DVDs, and we also went to the theater today to see WALL*E, so I thought I'd give you some quick mini-reviews that might save you some time and money.

I'll start with WALL*E, which we actually went out to watch. Go see it. It's sentimental, and the ending would never work (if you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you, but gravity is the problem), but it's still a fun ride and a sweet one.

Charlie Wilson's War: Buy the DVD. It's fun, it's about material most folks don't know, and all the performances are good. The extras are also worthwhile, particularly because the real Charlie Wilson is better looking, bigger, and more interesting than Tom Hanks makes him; usually in such pictures, it's the other way around.

Day of the Dead (the 2007 version): Maybe the title is cursed. The original, which is Romero's fault, was one of the worst zombie movies I've ever seen (and I've watched a lot of them). This one is way worse, easily the worst zombie movie of my life. Save your time and your money.

Joe Rogan: From the Belly of the Beast: The DVD of Rogan's stand-up that was available last year was hit and miss, but he had enough good material to cause me to buy this video of an earlier (2001) performance in Austin. Mistake. The material begins rascist, is often repetitive, and just flat isn't funny enough. To be fair, Rogan delivers some laughs, but not enough to warrant the investment of your dough or your attention.

Kyle and I are on the only ones on the late crew tonight (last night, we started with four folks, but the others left), so we're going to try The Signal. Perhaps I'll report on it tomorrow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In memoriam

A young woman died today. I know that happens somewhere in the world probably every second of every day, but this young woman was a friend of my daughter's and someone I'd met multiple times, most recently at our fireworks party. In an accident in which another car hit the car in which this young woman was a passenger, she lost her life. Police suspect the driver of the car that caused the accident was driving under the influence.

What a waste.

I'm not going to link to a news story about this poor young woman or even name her; I don't feel I have that right.

I am, though, profoundly angry and sad at this stupid loss. I barely know her family, but what I know of them is good, and thirteen days ago I watched their son play frisbee with mine. I watched them watch their children, and the love in their eyes was a beacon that could light the night.

This young woman was beautiful, creative, and smart. I heard this young woman talk, and I heard her read bits of her writing, and I enjoyed both experiences. I watched her treat my daughter with honor, respect, and love, and I know my daughter felt the same way about her. I cannot imagine her family's grief at her death. I don't have to imagine my daughter's; I watched it.

Cling tight to those you love. Hug them with sincerity. If you have children, protect them as best you can; they won't be children for all that long, and you can't protect them from everything.

I'm so sorry this young woman is gone.


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