Monday, October 31, 2005

Monster Movie Mon - Some Series and Unfortunate Events

First of all, in honor of this most Eeeeeevil of holidays, I've posted the latest installment of "The Many Faces of Eeeeeevil."

And now, to wrap up my Monster Movie series, I'll talk about, well, monster movie series. Plus, my Top 10 Movies I Couldn't Really Fit In The Other Categories. So, have a read, and then get prepared for a barrage of rugruts banging on your door demanding free candy.

Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts

For some reason horror movies seem to lend themselves more to long-running series more than just about any other genre; many times, the sequels will get more and more self-referential and self-parodying as time wears on. Of course, they also seem to lend themselves to really, really crappy sequels as well. The following are the series which, when taken as a whole, maintain the highest level of entertainment value.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: A prime example of the shifting in tone over the course of a series. The first Nightmare was an atmospheric, creepy, scary film, and the only horror movie my dad ever refused to let me watch when he rented it because he was afraid it would freak me out too much. But as the sequels progressed, Freddy's penchant for one-liners became more like an obsession; by the time of the fourth film the death scenes were crafted to give him as many bad puns as possible to say. Still, there were enough interesting and entertaining sequences throughout even the later, lesser installments to keep this series at the top of my favorites list. While the first one is probably the best straight-horror film of them all, I'll always have a special place in my heart for pt.3, Dream Warriors, which had not yet succumbed to total tongue-in-cheek, but which was, at the same time, really really cheesy. But, it had some cool effects, some nice death sequences, and one of my favorite movie lines ever: "He's the bastard son of a 1,000 maniacs." Now that's quality stuff right there! And I can't mention this film without talking about the so-bad-she's-funny actress who played the character Taryn; just watching her own special brand of over-acting makes the movie worthwhile. At one point one of the other actors accidentally calls her "Turn," a scene which Rebel Monkey and I reran several times one night trying to make sure we heard what we thought we heard. A few weeks later, when the Core 4 went to see the local production of Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical, we both noticed one particularly strikingly scenery-chewer, prompting us to look at each other and exclaim "It's Turn!" So you see, the Nightmare movies have enriched my life on many levels.

Phantasm: I'm a little bummed; there was a deal on the table for the creator of the series to do a new trilogy of these, but it's fallen through. Hope he finds another backer, because I'm looking forward to seeing the story play out. Right now, though, my biggest regret is that the majority of this series is not yet available on DVD. The storyline is a little hard to encapsulate; there's a mortician, referred to as The Tall Man, who takes corpses, reanimates them in a process that turns them into Jawa-lookalikes, and sends them through some sort of portal to another world. Aiding him in his quest for corpses are a bunch of flying silver orbs, which like to plunge into people's heads and drill right through. I haven't seen the sequels in forever, so I can't recall all of the twists and turns that come out later, but man, does it get freaky.

Evil Dead: An interesting case, since each movie in the trilogy each substantially different in tone than the one before, and yet the changes are kind of organic, with the slapstick and highly stylized action becoming more pronounced with each installment. The first one is still my favorite; despite the low budget (or maybe partially because of it), it remains one of the creepiest films I've ever seen. The third installment, Army of Darkness, is my least favorite of the three; I still like it, but it is more of a horror-comedy movie than a horror-with-some-comedy movie.

Friday the 13th: The mother of all never-ending horror series. I must confess, I still have not seen pts. 6-8 (a.k.a. Jason Lives, New Blood and Jason Takes Manhattan); I keep meaning to have a big ol' F13 film-fest, but never have gotten around to it. The first few films in this series hold a special place in my heart, since I can remember having to break into my own house in order to get to see the first two . . . I was probably 7 or 8 at the time. My parents were out on the town on one Friday the 13th evening, and my uncle was taking care of me. This was during the brief period of time that we actually had a cable channel that was willing to go that far outside of town, and since It (the capital I is no mistake, the name of the channel was It) was showing the first two films in the series that night, my uncle decided to take my two slightly older cousins and myself over to my house to watch them. Of course, the house was locked, and I was too young to have a key (although, to be honest, by the time the house burned down before my junior year of college I still didn't have a key), and so we were forced to find a way to open the never-used door to my bedroom just enough for scrawny me to slip in and unlock the back door. We got that TV on just in time to find out who the killer was in pt.1 and were halfway through pt.2 when mom and dad got home. Good times.

The Howling: There were quite a few series vying for inclusion on this list, but the werewolf series The Howling beat the others out for one reason, and one reason only: The Howling III: The Marsupials. That's right, The Marsupials. A movie about a band of reclusive, Australian marsupial werewolves. If that doesn't merit inclusion on some sort of list, I don't know what does. The first film is pretty entertaining as well, as is the direct-to-video pt.6, The Freaks which features a carnival sideshow filled with actual monsters. Most of the series is pretty cheesy, but in an enjoyable way if you like that sort of thing. Plus, c'mon: marsupial werewolves!

Quite a Menagerie of Monstrosities

So, while coming up with all of the different categories for my Halloween horror movie tribute, I came across several movies that didn't want to easily fit into any of the categories I created, so after trying desperately to come up with themes to accommodate them and not finding any that were really satisfactory, and definitely none that could support more than two or three of each, I finally said "screw it" and just lumped them all together into one, final, "catch as catch can" category; the ability to do this is why my OCD is only borderline. Due to the special nature of this category, we have double the number of movies.

Dagon: Probably my favorite Lovecraft adaptation. Yes, there are some borderline-slapstick sequences that make me cringe, but overall I've never seen any film capture the atmosphere of Lovecraft's Elder God stories quite so well. Some very creepy moments. Another example of a film whose commentary increased my enjoyment of the overall film.

Frailty: This one is sort of borderline horror; it might be better classed as "supernatural thriller." But this tale of a family man suddenly convinced he can see demons is well worth a watch, no matter how you categorize it.

Hellraiser: While a couple of the sequels had some interesting ideas and scenes, none of them can compare to the original. It's really amazing just how big of a horror icon Pinhead became after this first film, since he's really such a small part of the overall plot of the film; the power of having such a strong visual design, I suppose. The rebirth of the evil brother scenes are gross, but cool; the final execution of the evil brother, though, is mainly just gross; I know when I first watched it at Ol' Vick's house when we were kids, I couldn't watch it, the hooks through the flesh wigged me out. Have seen this one many, many times, still love it.

Relic: One of the few one-time-viewing movies on this list. On one level I was disappointed in the way the movie adapted the book, with its insane compression of the time frame and its butchering of character arcs. At the same time, the creature design was one of the coolest, most original designs I've seen in ages, and the action and FX were enough to get me to forgive the film for its divergence from its source material.

Jeepers Creepers: I know some folks were disappointed by the big reveal of the Creeper's real nature, but it didn't bother me. Granted, I enjoyed the earlier parts of the film when he was undercover, so to speak, much more; that one shot when the sibling drive by him at his house gave me chills. Very creepy. Overall, the fun dialogue and great chemistry between the siblings made this one of my favorite horror flicks. I also liked the sequel quite a bit, even though it's a totally different style of horror film; personally, I liked the fact that they decided to do more than just copy the first one.

Final Destination: I really liked the conceit of this film, and the fact that Death is a nebulous, invisible force was a nice touch; on the commentary they mentioned that at one point there were plans to create a CGI "face" for Death, I'm so glad they didn't. Again, I liked the sequel, which had a lot of fun with the Rube Goldberg death scenes, but the first one remains the superior film in my books.

Needful Things: I remember watching this at the Satellite Twin $1 theater in Stillwater during the Parker days; I also remember Coronela's roomie at the time getting up and leaving in the middle because she couldn't stand watching people being so awful to each other; I also also remember G'ovich's roomie at the time turning to me and making a joke about the Baptist minister getting beat up by the Catholic priest, to which I replied that it was obviously only because he wasn't a Southern Baptist. Oh, yeah, and the movie was good, too; one of the better film adaptations of King's work.

Pumpkinhead: One of those films that I went into with extremely low expectations, and was subsequently very impressed when it turned out not to suck. This tale of supernatural revenge was actually pretty well thought out, acted, and executed; the same can not be said of the sequel.

Children of the Corn: Okay, ignoring the horrible, Don King-esque hairdo of the possessed Isaac at the end, this is actually a pretty well done pseudo-slasher film. The homicidal children are creepy, and the sense of menace they project is believable. Even most of the stuff with He Who Walks Behind The Rows is pretty good, again, ignoring the awful Isaac make-up at the end. Good grief, what was the director thinking? Avoid the first sequel at all costs, since it decides to blame all of the events of the first film on toxic corn; this after a scene where some cops are killed by stalks of corn being hurled through the windshield during a windstorm, which in light of the removal of any supernatural overtones made no sense whatsoever. The third installment was a bit of an improvement, going back to the He Who Walks Behind The Rows idea, but I haven't seen any of the later ones, although I am curious about Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return just to see if they've decided to stick with the ridiculous make-up job or not.

Creepshow: The only portmanteau film on my list, and it's only a borderline portmanteau at that; for those too lazy to go to Google, a portmanteau horror film is basically an anthology film with some sort of through-line connecting the stories. For example, Cat's Eye is a portmanteau film connected by the cat who travels through each story; Asylum is connected by the story of the new psychiatrist who is doing his rounds, hearing each story; in this case, the connection is the comic book which houses each of the stories. What makes this only borderline portmanteau is that there's no real storyline involving the comic itself, as opposed to the sequel in which the comic book is part of an animated storyline. But I digress . . . I love the way the film serves as an homage to the classic EC horror comics, and incorporates the comic book panels into its design scheme. Probably my favorite stories are the one with the demanding wife and killer beast, and the one featuring Stephen King himself as the white trash victim of a strange meteor. I also enjoyed 2/3 of the sequel; the raft sequence was pretty disturbing, and the undead hit-and-run victim ceaselessly chanting "Thanks for the ride, lady" to his murderer has been burned into my brain forever.

And, that pretty much wraps up my horror movie coverage for now. I'm sure there are several "classic" films that I omitted (Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Manos Hands of Fate), but I stand by my Favorites list . . . for the most part. Because I'm also sure that there are some awesome films that somehow slipped my mind, and which would bump some of these others out of the list faster than you can say "Candyman Candyman Candyman!"


Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.12 - Letters! I Wrote Letters! I Wrote Sacks and Sacks of Letters!

Well, despite my best efforts, the time stream still resists my efforts to reshape it to meet my whims, so I suppose I'll just go ahead with the next chapter. I'm as ready as all of you are to get past this incredibly long and neurotic section of my history, so I plowed full-steam ahead for this one; makes yourselves comfortable, this is going to be a long’un. As I mentioned last time, during the Year of the Flunky I had started to slip into my old patterns again when I was over at Dr. G'ovich's house for Poker night, which then began to bleed into all of our other interactions. After a mini-breakdown which turned into a mini-epiphany, I finally decided upon writing him The Letter.

Now, I know that Flunky was aware of the letter at some point; whether I told him about it before or after, I don't recall; if I did tell him about it before, he apparently didn't try to talk me out of it. In retrospect I wish that I had had him look at it first, so that he could have very patiently explained to me that giving that particular behemoth to the Doc was going to be a very, very silly move.

I still think that the idea of writing a letter was probably my best chance of getting out exactly what I wanted to say; unfortunately, there was whole heck of a lot that I wanted to say, and, I, in case it might have, somehow, someway, escaped your, I'm sure, incredibly astute powers of observation, have a tendency, nay, let us say a compulsion, even, to be, for want of a better term, overly verbose. So, there I was, overflowing with issues, overflowing with wordiness, and unencumbered with any sort of editorial guidance; I wound up with a three page, single-spaced letter, the first two pages of which were just set-up. I basically did a much more succinct version of the Secret Origin for him, and then laid out the following:

I’ve really been wondering about for the past few years, but have been either too chicken or too stubborn to ask. Which one of your lists am I on now, [G'ovich]? I know I sure as hell got knocked of the respect list a long time back. Am I just the guy you called when you started needing a fifth for poker? Am I the guy you feel obligated to invite because you hang out with my roommate? Am I the guy you once had something in common with, but now can’t remember quite what? Or, am I possibly the guy who, up until you got this letter, you thought everything was A-OK with? This is the question that has been bothering me for way too long now, and it’s a question I would really like to have answered.
And just think, there was still half a page worth after that.

One of the problems with The Letter, other than my aversion to brevity, was the odd tone; I was trying to talk about something serious, but I didn't want it to be too serious; I tried to add some levity to it so I wouldn't come across as too psycho, but re-reading it now, that need to joke around strikes me as so pathetic, so needy that it makes me cringe. I think it probably would have been better to just slip this note to him:Yup, that probably would have worked out a whole lot better.

Anyway, I printed off the lever, and headed over to G'ovich residence; I'm not sure what I had planned on doing if they had been home. But they weren't, so I left it in their mailbox and waited for a response. Any response. Even a "You're a *$#&@ nutjob and we've got a *$#&@ restraining order, so stay the *$#&@ away from us and our kids" would have been acceptable at that point. But no response was forthcoming. I'm not sure how many days I waited in nervous anticipation; surely not as many as it felt like. When I saw the Doc was online I kept waiting for some message at least acknowledging the letter, but got none; I finally caved in and sent him a message asking if he had got it. His response was, yes, he had, but he was swamped with school stuff, and needed time to think about his response. Which was fine; however, several more days passed, and still nothing; again, my will-power was unequal to the challenge, and I soon asked about it again. This time, the response was basically that he didn't really have anything to say about it, and he didn't think he treated me any differently than he did anyone else. And, well, that was it.

I was, to say the least, nonplussed. I had poured out all of my fears and insecurities and neuroses onto the page, and all I got back was a brief answer little better than "No comment," an answer that felt like pulling teeth to get. I mean, if he had instantly replied with that answer, it might not have bothered me so much; bothered, yes, but not to such a degree. But to have what I'm sure was at least a week go by and to finally have to be browbeaten into replying; it was too much for me. At that point I was ready to wash my hands of him.

Now, to be fair to G'ovich, he pretty much did do what The Letter asked him to do; he answered the question of whether I was unwanted or not; I suppose I should have included a "Please explain why, in a minimum of 200 words" clause. But while the general "it's all in your head, now leave me alone" tone bugged me a bit, it was nothing compared to what I would feel about a week later, following a particularly ugly volleyball game involving the Doc, Flunky, and myself, which led to an interesting yet infuriating ICQ conversation, which led to yet another letter. Yes, that's right, I never learn. As to the volleyball game, let's just pull a direct quote from the 2nd letter:
I was tired, frustrated, and wound up beyond belief from the events of the previous week, so I was even more sensitive than usual. So, when you started yelling “Play it” after I had already let the ball go, I didn’t hear any joking tones, I just heard disgust that I didn’t go for it. Later, when you said “Play everything, [Cap'n], the line lies,” I knew you were trying to kid around, but I had fallen too far into my black mood by that point. When I asked for you to just tell me if I was doing something wrong, it was my attempt to try and get things back on track. When you set the ball and called my name, I started to go for it, then saw it was going more toward [Flunky], who was running for it, so I stopped. Of course, then he stopped too. I was pissed, but at myself for not going for it, not at you. But then you were defensive about it, which made matters even worse, since I knew I’d just blown my one chance to patch things up between us. Afterwards, [Flunky] informed me that you and I were both being overly touchy. Well, I can’t speak for you, but I know I sure as hell was.
Following this lovely incident, I struck up an ICQ conversation with him the next day, trying to apologize for being such an overly-sensitive jerk. He then proceeded to tell me this was why he never joked around with me, because I took everything too seriously; he griped about the fact that I was so self-deprecating, but then bit off the head of anyone who put me down even slightly; and then he made the now infamous "If you keep this up, you won't have any friends left" comment.

May I take a brief moment before relating the rest of the conversation to comment on just how infuriating it was to me that, after giving me the "I have nothing to say, I don't treat you any differently" answer a week or so earlier, he was now unloading this bit of "here's all the stuff you do that tick me off and make me want to not be around you anymore" information on me. I find it very hard to believe that this pattern of unbearably obnoxious behavior had developed in the span of a week; the fact that he had waited till that moment to relay this info angered and confused me; now, back to the conversation at hand

So, I don't know, maybe I'm the only one, but if someone has just told you that you're in danger of running off all of your friends because of your horrible actions, wouldn't your first response be to question the speaker to see if he had hard proof to back this up, examples of your other, apparently soon to vanish, friends expressing their dismay over your thoroughly unpleasant behavior? Or is it just me? When I asked him if someone else had said something, his response was "It's not like we sit around talking about you all day."

Let's stop to ponder that response for a second, shall we?

"It's not like we sit around talking about you all day."

Where to begin?

First of all, that's obviously patently untrue; we all know that I, Cap'n Neurotic, with no disrespect intended towards Cap'n Disaster, am the center of the universe, and that all words, deeds, and actions exist only to somehow further my status as such; of course all conversations held in my absence are designed only to humiliate and inconvenience me. Second of all, even assuming, for a moment, if you can stretch your incredulity that far, that the whole world does not revolve around me (I know, it seem impossible, but bear with me for a second); even assuming that improbable theorem were true, couldn't he have picked a less flippant and insulting way of communicating it? I mean, I had just been accused of being such a gigantic and colossal ass that I was in danger of driving away everyone who was close to me forever, was I crazy to feel like the crack was a slap in the face to my concern? Or was it just a case of me being overly-sensitive and not being able to take a joke? Or, as G'ovich put it, in what has to be one of my all-time favorite G'ovichisms: "Cap'n N., you have trouble separating G'ovich from reality."

While the accusation of my unbearable behavior hurt, I couldn't deny that there was some truth to it; however, after much thought (not to mention a seeking of reassurances from some of my other friends that I hadn't yet come close to driving them away), I decided that, for the most part, all of my problems revolved around G'ovich.

Raise your hand if you're surprised.

And so, the second letter was written, this one only a little over two pages long; this time I expressed my ideas that the only person who set off my temper seemed to be him; I related the "You realize you aren't hurting me" story and explained how most of his trash talk and jabs served to trigger a flashback to that time for me; I tried to get across that, yes, I had trouble separating G'ovich from reality, and yes, I would strive not to take everything he said so seriously; but I also urged him to realize that so much of the time when he saw the pissed off look on my face to realize that it was more myself I was angry with, and not anybody else. Finally, I ended this letter with an assurance that I was expecting no response on this one; I had said my piece, and I would strive to change my pattern of behavior, and that was that; if he wanted to comment, fine, but I wouldn't stay up nights wondering if he would. And, of course, he didn't, which surprised me not at all.

So, what was the immediate result of all of this letter writing? Well, let me answer that with a couple of quotes from some much more laid back letters I wrote to Flunky after he moved out
I know what you’re waiting for now. The latest blow-up between G'ovich and me, or at least the latest catalog of uncomfortable silences. But, true to my word, I’m not letting anything G'ovich says (or doesn’t say for that matter) upset me. Well, he still bugs me (he wouldn’t be G'ovich if he didn’t) but nothing that the new, incredibly stable Cap'n Neurotic can’t handle. Not that we’re best buds or anything, but I’ve found that not giving a crap about what he says has made poker night much more enjoyable. Why didn’t I think of this before?
Well, it’s been, what, three months since G'ovich and I had our last little blow-up? Yes, I believe it has. And guess what? The meter’s still running. That’s right, G'ovich and I haven’t really ticked each other off since you left town. And we’ve actually been able to talk a hang out a bit the last month or so without having huge, awkward silences as the prevailing mood. In fact, I hardly even worry about that stuff around him anymore. It’s only at moments like this that I stop and think, “Wow, we haven’t killed each other yet!” Here’s hoping we can keep the civility up at least until one of us moves off, which might not be too far off.

And yes, we were able to keep the civility up until Clan G'ovich joined the great Parkerite Exodus. However, at that point I fell out of contact with them; on the rare occasions when I would happen to see them, the old awkwardness between the Doc and I had somehow managed to resurface; it felt like we were tiptoeing around each other again; there hadn't been any snapping at each other or anything; that would have required us to be able to carry on a conversation of more than three or four words between us. It was bizarre; if there was some precipitating event, it's lost to my memory, if I ever knew it at all. I eventually just chalked it up to us growing up and growing apart, somehow losing whatever we had in common when we were no longer around each other constantly.

When I eventually moved to Denton, I had hopes that things might get better, but honestly, for the first year or so I was here I talked and saw the Parkerites less now that I lived 45 minutes away than I did when I lived almost 4 hours away. I would do things with Clan Stoneheart, and later Clan Berzerkr, who eventually moved to Plano from Colorado, but Clan G'ovich and I had next to no contact. I admit it bothered me a bit; not at old uber-neurotic "nobody likes me everybody hates me" levels, of course; I really was a much more stable, self-confident person by this point in time. But even if this distance between us bothered me, I didn't know how to rectify the situation; it made me so uncomfortable that I began to dread being around the Doc, because the lack of conversational compatibility was like a huge honking elephant in the room; I even remember one occasion when Pooh-bear asked me to call the Doc to find something out and I balked because I had visions of a disturbingly awkward phone call filled with long pauses and miscommunications; look, I know I said I was a much more stable person, but you have to remember just how unstable I was to begin with; the fact that I wasn't staying awake all night trying to figure out what I had done to cause this latest breakdown in our relationship was a huge step forward for me.

So, this strange awkwardness is where I shall leave us for now; the worst is behind us, my blog monkeys, so now we shall backtrack to the days of the Book Monkeys and travel through the time of The Singles, before eventually reaching the resumption of not-quite-so-awkward-as-before dealings with Dr. G'ovich.

What was that? Did I just hear a near-infinite number of blog monkeys letting out a huge sigh of "finally, no more G'ovich talk!" relief? I believe I did. But don't get too comfortable my dear blog monkeys.

You know the best villains always come back.


Movie Mon. - I Hope Giant Killer Rabbits Like Cheese

Watched quite a few movies this week, but very little to really recommend other than Saw II, which I've already talked about. But while I might not be able to recommend most of the following that doesn't mean I have nothing to say about them. Read on to see what the best bad movie I saw this week was!

House of Wax: I'm disappointed; Paris Hilton was nowhere near as hilariously bad as I had hoped. And I felt bad for Jared Padalecki having to say such clunky lines as "It is wax. Like, literally!" And almost an hour went by before we got any of the old ultra-violence. But man, was the face-peeling scene ever freaky! And the final sequence with the destruction of the house was pretty cool. Probably would have been an okay film on the big screen in a dark theater; I think most horror flicks are enhanced when viewed that way. But only half-watching it while reading through my old journal entries kind of cut down on my ability to totally get into it.

Night of the Lepus: Oh, if only I had seen this before I did my Giant Animal post; think this would have ranked pretty highly just for unintentional comedy alone. I mean, a movie about giant killer rabbits? Priceless. I loved how to the local police the phrase "horribly mutilated" equals "lying around with a couple of tears in the jeans and some red paint splattered around." And the fact that the first rabbit victim's screams were higher-pitched than the little girl in the film had me rolling. I thought that the giant bunny FX were going to be the funniest thing in the film, until I saw the scenes featuring stunt-men in bunny suits; high comedy, my blog monkeys, high comedy. Best bad movie of the week.

Dracula 1972: The first 20 minutes or so of the film which were focused on the wild and crazy bohemian hippie types was highly entertaining; everything after they resurrected Dracula, much less so.

Nothing: Not even close to what I expected. I mean, I'm not sure what I expected a movie about a couple of misfits who suddenly wish the world away and find themselves in a vast expanse of nothingness, but whatever it was, this wasn't it. And now, I'm still not sure how I would rate the film. On the one hand, some of the slapstick stuff turned me off; on the other, there were some really interesting uses of the guys' ability to "hate away stuff": my favorite was when the agorophobe made his fear of failure disappear, so he was suddenly able to do all sorts of stuff he couldn't before because of fear, like beating his overbearing roomie at video games. Not sure why that sequence appealed to me so much . . .

Demon Seed: This was one creepifying flick, I tell you what, even if the robot arm in a wheelchair is one of the hokiest looking things ever put on film. And what's up with the "I can't touch you like a man can touch you, but I can show you an overlong computer animation show reminiscent of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey" sequence? I may have missed the explanation for this while doing something else, but I'm also still questioning the logic of why the professor had this enormous mechanized Rubik's Snake in his basement. With Proteus' obsession with doing what was necessary to create its child, I kept thinking of Mia in the last few Dark Tower books; kept expecting it to start referring to the child as "my chap."

Lifeboat: Well done Hitchcock film, but I'm afraid I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it while I was watching it; too antsy to give it my full attention.

The Fog: Cap'n Disaster and I went to see this Friday night. To my great surprise, Maggie Grace (a.k.a. Shannon on Lost) did not provide my biggest annoyance during the film; no, that distinction belongs to the two girls sitting behind us who felt the need to make some form of noise throughout most of the film, everything from endless high volume giggling, to catcalls whenever Tom Welling would take off his shirt, to chanting "dun-dun-DUN" whenever something mysterious happened, to shouting out goodbye to everyone who left the theater, to (my personal favorite) resounding back to an on-screen crack about a certain game show with an indignant "I like Jeopardy!"

Now, as for the movie itself: yet another remake that proves that it's usually best to leave well enough alone. The film had a little bit of promise, here and there, but most of it was drowned out by its horrible, horrible script. I felt sorry for Tom Welling, who was forced to move from playing a young Superman on Smallville to having to play Captain Overly-Obvious Exposition in this crapfest. He gets on a boat; turns the ignition key; the engine starts; he turns to romantic interest and says "The engine works." Gee, thanks, never would have guessed that. And that ending; that horrible, horrible, pointless ending. It's been ages since I've seen the original, but I'm pretty sure its ending was nowhere as mind-numbingly idiotic as this one.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.11 - I'll See Your "Awkward Silence" and Raise You a "Self-Conscious Dork"

Glancing back over the last several entries, I can see how, in my fevered rush to plow through this dark and disturbing time in my history, I may have accidentally omitted some key ideas or put forth some apparent contradictions, both of which could cause confusion to my faithful blog monkeys, both those who did and didn't live though that time with me. So, we'll start by addressing one of those things which may well have been puzzling some of you, and which will lead into the next chapter in the seemingly never-ending saga of my neurotic life.

There are two types of people in this world: those who like to make sweeping generalizations, and those who don't. Three guesses as to which camp I fall under. It goes hand in hand with my dramatic and hyperbolic tendencies; saying "I hate all shows where people do stupid things for no reason" is a nice, dramatic sweeping statement that I've used quite often; of course, then I run into one of the G'oviches of the world who calls me on the overly simplistic basis of my statement. Leave it up to the Doc and his kind to ruin a perfectly good overly-dramatic bit of hyperbole with silly old "logic" and "reason."

So, what does this have to do with the price of tea in China, I hear you grumble impatiently? Absolutely nothing, you silly blog monkeys, and what an odd question to ask. I mean, why would this have anything to do with either tea or China? I just don't understand you monkeys sometimes, honestly, I don't.

Now, if you had asked what that had to do with my promise to address a possible bit of confusion in previous entries, then my answer would be: very little, but I've been wanting to work the sweeping generalities thing into a post for a while now.

But seriously, folks, this tendency towards sweeping generalities isn't just a form of communication for me; after thinking in those terms for long enough, they start to become a part of my reality, and it's only when I step back and take a good hard look at the situation in question that I can start to see the shades of grey.

Now, I'm sure that throughout my posts there have been many such statements that don't reflect the true reality of my life at the time; when possible I've tried to note them as such. But one which has really jumped out at me recently is the idea that, after the debacle that was our rooming together, G'ovich and I weren't really on the greatest of terms. And yet, as readers of the last Secret Origins entry will have noticed, during my year rooming with The Old Man, I spent more time hanging out with G'ovich than I did Flunky; in fact, I would continue to spend time around G'ovich pretty consistently up until the time that he and Rocket became part of the Great Parkerite Exodus to Plano a few years later. So, what's with up with my "not on great terms" way of thinking? It’s all relative.

One thing you have to understand about G'ovich; when he wants to be, he can be quite charismatic. He's a fun guy, a funny guy, an entertaining guy; if things were clicking just right, all of the negative stuff would just vanish right out of my head as I was caught up in his Eeeeeeeeevil spell. This was especially true if we were in a group, rather than just one-on-one, since in a group I could just sit back and enjoy the floor-show, rather than getting caught up in the drama of "why can't we carry on a conversation like normal people?" Or at least, it was true for a while; but over time, our one-on-one hanging out sessions began to color my perception of the big group outings, as my wonderfully paranoid little brain began to worry at that question: why couldn't we carry on a conversation like normal people? It was during The Year of the Flunky that I really began to obsess over the fact that I saw G'ovich treating everyone else differently than he did me; this was probably due to the fact that it was during this year that I finally became part of the Doc's regular Poker night.

I'm not sure how long Poker night had been going on before I became involved; I'm not even sure exactly what prompted them to finally invite me. I do know what kept me from being a regular part of it from the beginning: it was an activity with high Eskimo-involvement. I have a suspicion that my rooming with Flunky again was a big part of my being drawn into the fold; also, I had been trying very hard to get over my irrational dislike of The Eskimo, and had by this point whittled it down from "can't stand" to "kind of ambivalent," which might have had some impact. The general poker gang consisted of old Parker residents G'ovich, Flunky, and GMC, and some of The Eskimo's pals, including The Squatch. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in the Poker setting; I was familiar with the basic rules of what beats what, but unfamiliar with the strategies of the game, making me very self-conscious; plus, as a late addition to this group dynamic, I went into instant Outsider mode. But even though those first several months of Poker night made me incredibly uncomfortable and I barely enjoyed myself at all, I wasn't about to opt out of it; I had finally seen a chance to get into the big group again, and didn't want to let it slip by. Of course, I would eventually burn this bridge, but does that really surprise anyone at this point?

It was during the course of these Poker nights and other Poker-gang related activities that I began to notice the difference in how G'ovich related to me, and how he related to everyone else. From my perspective, I would get there early, ask him a question, and get a noncommittal grunt; 5 minutes later Flunky or The Eskimo or any other member of the gang could come in, ask the same freaking question, and get a 15 minute comedy routine on the subject. And, of course, with the way my mind works, after the first time I noticed it happen, I then saw examples of this double standard everywhere I looked; I began to slip into the "what am I doing wrong" state of mind again, barely opening my mouth for fear that I was going to say something that would make everyone like me even less than they already did; this led to the Poker games to be even less enjoyable than before, and for my one-on-one time with the Doc to become even more awkward and painful. Do you see the irony, my book monkeys? While I was excluded from the activities, I had regained a bit of stability; now that I was included, I had started to lose my mind again.

About the only time things felt at all normal was when it was when it was just the two of us and Flunky hanging out; something about the combination of the three of us helped make things feel more comfortable, more safe; by that point Flunky and I had had a lot of talks about the previous few years, and had gotten our friendship back on track; you don't know just how grateful I am that he needed a roomie that year because, to be honest, if he hadn't I don't know if we would have stayed in touch at all afterwards. Not that we stayed in that great of touch anyway, since the [expletive deleted] can't seem to figure out how to use the reply button on his email . . . sorry, haven't taken a really cheap shot at him for a while, was long overdue. I fell better now. Moving on.

One day G'ovich and I had made plans to go do something, and when I called to see if he was ready I got a pretty brusque brush-off; I was ticked for a couple of minutes, and ranted and raved to myself about how typical it was, how I was such a meaningless blip that he couldn't even take the time to call and let me know he couldn't make it, etc. etc. It wound up being a brief explosion, actually, and I was back under control when he called back within an hour to see if I wanted to come over and hang out. But later on, after spending yet another bit of awkward time at his place, I started to fixate on the idea that my explosion of temper was a symptom of something deeper that was bothering me; I could see myself going down that same path that had led to so many problems a few years earlier, and I didn’t want to go through all of that again; the only option was to talk things out with G’ovich.

Except, of course, that that wasn’t really an option. Our conversations about this sort of thing didn’t usually pan out to my satisfaction at the best of times; I would start out with my well-rehearsed dialogue, he would throw out something completely random and totally off-book, and I would be sent floundering around trying to bring everything back to my mental script, but was never able to; flustered, I would never be able to communicate 2/3 of what I wanted to. My quest began to figure out how I could communicate everything I wanted to without being thrown off balance. So after much soul searching, and pondering, and only one sleepless night, I finally hit upon a solution; I would write him a letter. Which brings us to the next break in our story, as I try to figure out a way to travel back in time and slap some sense into my younger letter-writing self before it’s too late. Wish me luck, although if you’re reading this, then that means this timeline is intact and my efforts didn’t work.



Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.10 - Shock and Awe

We're starting to come into the home stretch here, people! Honest, the deep psychological scarring is almost done. Almost. If my calculations are correct, we should have the bulk of my neurosis all dealt with within the next two or three Secret Origin posts; but I have been known to be wrong before.

Hark, is that a light at the end of the tunnel I see? I'm shocked!

In the year I roomed with The Old Man I reconnected a bit with Coronela (who was our next door neighbor) and the Stonehearts (who had by that point gotten married). I also hung out with Dr. G'ovich a bit; not being cooped up in the same house had eased, if not totally erased, many of the frictions between us. Of The Old Man I saw little, as he spent the majority of his time at his fiancĂ©’s place. I hung out quite a bit with one of my co-workers from the public library and his wife; yes, the same ones I had begged off of doing stuff with back when I was obsessed with recapturing the glory days of the Golden Year.

I suppose that marks the biggest difference in my attitude during this time period; I had stopped hopelessly pining for the close-knit camaraderie of the Golden Year. Did I miss it still? Of course I did; but at the same time, I had finally resigned myself to the fact that too much had happened for things to return to the way they were in the good ol' days. But while this resignation helped me to crawl out of the mental pit I had dug for myself the past two years, it also carried with it something else: a tinge of bitterness.

Bitterness towards whom, you may ask, although by this point you're probably conditioned to say "Dr. G'ovich" automatically. And, if you are, then I've done my job well; there was indeed some resentment harbored towards the good Doctor and towards Flunky as well. Was the resentment well-deserved? More than likely not, but it kind of made things easier to bear; I had finally decided to go the route of "self-pity" over "self-loathing," no longer trying to figure out where I had gone wrong to drive everyone away, but instead compiling a list of all the ways I was being let down. Still not exactly the picture of mental health, and not really living up to that whole spirit of forgiveness thing, but at least I was able to sleep most nights.

Now, what sort of things was I resenting? Well, I'll refer you back to this post at CoIM's spin-off site; again, I'll caution you that many of these grievances were colored by my more-than-slightly out-of-whack P.O.V. at the time. Although G'ovich and I were communicating slightly better, that overly-sensitive aspect of my personality was still pretty active, causing a flare up now and then. Probably the biggest thing to bug me about the Doc over the next year or so was an off-shoot of the Cap'n Cellophane effect; the biggest difference now was that it was not a case of him forgetting about me when plans were made; no, at this point plans would be made, but he would then forget about them or, at the least, forget to tell me that they had been cancelled. For me, it all smacked of disrespect; I knew G'ovich had a lot going on at that point, and I like to think that I would have been understanding if plans had to change due to family commitments; but all too often I would wind up structuring my activities to accommodate plans which would never come to fruition. I don't think I ever adequately communicated to him at the time exactly why I was so ticked; it probably came across as more of my old clingy, needy behavior, rather than the brand new font of bitterness it really was.

And what of Flunky? Well, as mentioned last time, during most of this time I hardly ever saw the boy outside of an occasional gathering at Doc and Rocket's place; again, I was feeling abandoned, unwanted, yada yada yada; hence, the bitterness. I remember when I got a call from him one evening to see if I wanted to go see Starship Troopers with him; I was shocked as all get-out. And, if I'm not mistaken, that was also the evening where he let slip that he had gone to some sort of activity earlier that day with G’ovich, GMC, and some others, but didn't ask me to come along because it was organized by The Eskimo, and he knew I didn't like The Eskimo; apparently, according to Flunky, everyone knew this.

Now, this was not the first time something like this had happened to me; back when we were all still in the house, Doc and Rocket broke up for a time, and I had multiple people make the comment to me that I was probably happy, what with me not being able to stand her and all. I couldn't believe my ears; if I ever did express any such dislike, I honestly have absolutely no recollection of it. While it was true that Rocket and I weren't the best of buds at the time, it wasn't a question of dislike or detestation; it was more a question of us never really having found much of a common ground at that point. And now, here it was a couple of years later, and I was once again being told that everyone knew I couldn't stand someone else in the group. Once again, I was shocked; only this time, instead of a "where did that come from" reaction, the shock was of a "holy crap, am I that obvious?" variety.

So, yes, I admit it: at the time, I did not care for The Eskimo. I can chalk that up to a couple of things. The first was of the first impression variety; in early encounters with him he struck me as cocky and condescending, and I had a hard time getting past that initial mindset; everything he said or did seemed to reinforce that image in my mind. But probably the biggest source of my dislike for The Eskimo was that green-eyed monster, jealousy. Jealousy of what, you may ask? Well, let me put it this way: back when I was suddenly feeling excluded from all of my roomies' activities, three guesses as to who was G’ovich’s new constant companion? Yes, that's right, I didn't like The Eskimo because I felt like he was stealing my friends from me. In my defense, remember that I was psychologically unsound at the time.

I remember at one point G'ovich said "You know what I like about The Eskimo? It's that if I say 'This is how we do it' he'll respond {singing} 'This is how we do it'." That would be a reference to a popular song of the time, for those of you who were wondering; of course, upon hearing this statement my first thought was a firm certainty that, if I had responded in a similar manner, as my songbursty nature made me apt to do, I would have just gotten a dirty look and been mocked relentlessly. I guess it just felt like I was being discarded, that old "disposable friend" fear showing up again; here was someone cooler than me who could actually play basketball and volleyball without being a complete embarrassment to his teammates, so of course I was being shoved to the sidelines. So, instead of trying to fit into the new dynamic, I became resentful and sullen; and apparently, didn’t hide the resentment and sullenness nearly as well as I thought I had. Heaven knows how much stuff I got excluded from over the years because of it; and of course, now that I knew that my attitude was transparent to everyone, I was doubly self-conscious in Eskimo-related situations.

Again, my memory of exact sequences of events is a bit hazy; after the movie night, I think some of the ice thawed between Flunky and me; when he told me that he and Flunky Lover were going to get married in Houston he seemed shocked when I expressed an interest in attending, and even more shocked when so did Coronela and the Stonehearts. How shocked? This shocked:Yes, that's a young shocked FlunkyBut even though we were on better terms than we'd been for a while, we still weren't quite back to the best-buds level; that's why I was pretty shocked when Dr. G'ovich told me that Flunky had asked him if he thought I would be open to rooming with him the next year. Now, you might be shocked as well, what with him being married and all, but Flunky Lover was graduating a year before he was, and already had a job set up in Texas, so they were going to be doing the long distance thing while he finished up his degree.

I have to admit, I was sort of dreading Flunky actually asking me himself, because I wasn't sure how I was going to respond. On the one hand, yes, things had been better between us recently, so it wouldn’t be totally awkward; on the other hand, I had experienced an instant flash of "oh, sure, never hear from him unless he needs something" when I first heard the idea, which was a big red flashing neon warning sign that maybe some of those old neurotic tendencies were still pretty active; but the gripping hand was, despite all of my petty resentments and weird hang-ups, even though we hardly spoke and he was so unsure of our standing that he had to ask The Doc, of all people, about how I might react; despite all of this, on some level I still considered him my best friend. The chance to mend the tears in our friendship was too valuable an opportunity to pass up and, besides, even if I hadn't been a 100% certain about the move, I probably would have said yes anyway; a friend in need, and all that rot.

That next year rooming with Flunky really set the stage for the new, more stable Cap'n Neurotic, although not without a few bumps, bruises, and blowups along the way.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.9 - Are You Gaslighting Me?

Still hanging in there, my blog monkeys? Weathering my psychological storms all right? Well, we’re moving into the heart of darkness now, my friends, so batten down the hatches and prepare to find out all you never wanted to know about the mental breakdown of young Cap’n Neurotic.

Since my class journal ends on a hopeful note, I don't have any hard record of just when things began to go really, really sour between my roomies and me; I know part of it began over that summer; I have very unpleasant memories of awkward silences and snappish behavior between G'ovich and myself when I was in Stillwater for a few days in May before our rental house opened up. The weirdness between us was already there, but I think that was the first time it dawned on me that there was something fundamentally changed in how we dealt with each other.

Again, so much of that time period is a blur; I have tons of memories, both good and bad, clamoring for my attention, but putting them in any sort of meaningful order is next to impossible. About the only thing I can say for certain is that, at some point during my two years in that house, I started to lose my mind.

Your first impulse may be to chalk that up to my usual hyperbole, but let me tell you: I'm dead serious. Something inside of me snapped; I lost all emotional control. There had already been some signs of this back in the dorm; I can think of at least two instances in that last semester where in a fit of anger and frustration I lashed out physically at my friends; not my proudest moments. But in that house . . . I was Cap'n Mood-swing. My life was a constant roller-coaster, zipping between lows of depression to highs of self-righteous anger; careening between self-pity and self-loathing; plunging into the dark pit of confusion, and hurt, and frustration; running on an endless cycle of insomniac self-recriminations. All of my emotions boiled right under the surface; there was no lag-time between experiencing a stab of hurt, or jealously, or anger and spewing it forth; no censor in place to keep it in check. The slightest insult or oversight would send me into paroxysms of rage. All in all, not that pleasant a fellow to be around, I'm sure. I honestly considered seeking a therapist several times those years; if I had, I'd probably have been popping Prozac like Pez.

So, what caused this mini-break-down of mine, this short-circuit in my ability to keep from lashing out at my closest friends? It's pretty much a chicken or the egg situation; I can think of so many things that contributed to it, that helped feed the fire of my psychotic tendencies, but how many of those things were caused by my behavior in the first place? The phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" has long been an apt one to describe my life. I know of at least one contributing factor: the BSU Drama Team. Now, I know that by this point the Drama Team had often been a distraction to me during my quest to maintain my Parkerite friendships, but I was still determined to keep plugging away at it. So, when the semester started, I tried out for the team just as I had the previous two years; only, this time, I didn’t make the cut. Nothing helps to bolster the self-esteem than being cut from a team, huh? When I checked the posted list and saw that my name was nowhere on it, I was devastated. There went my last link to the BSU; my new job at the Public Library became a convenient excuse to miss the Thursday night services, and without having found a church I really liked in town, I was without any sort of spiritual guidance for the first time in my life. At the time I made no connection between the lack of church and the onset of my mental breakdown, but looking back I’m sure it played a huge part.

The base root of the breakdown was probably this: in the dorm I had finally lowered my guard, finally allowed myself to open up to others, finally stopped distancing myself as a preemptive measure; but, because of my self-imposed ostracization during my formative years, I wasn’t really prepared for how to react when the road got bumpy; with every slight or insult I found myself turning myself inside out, trying to figure out what I had done wrong, what I could change about myself, to get things back to normal. I was unable to sleep at night, endlessly composing speeches and dialogues in my head that I wanted to have with my friends, but which I was generally too fearful to follow through on; what if they reacted negatively? Since my problems were derived from being unable to reconcile the cognitive dissonance surrounding the actions of people close to me, it should be no wonder that the main foci of my issues were the two people I felt closest to; the two people I had opened up to the most in the previous years, and from whom I had previously felt so much support: Dr. G'ovich and St. Flunky.

Warning! All of the following observations are to be considered highly suspect, in light of the Cap'n's unstable mental state at the time the observations were first formed; take the descriptions of the subject’s actions at face value at your own risk

My issues with St. Flunky started when he began spending all of his time at Flunky Lover's place; no, the issue wasn't that he wasn't around as much; it was that, when he did make an appearance, it seemed like it was only because he wanted something. I would help if I could, but it became increasingly grudging on my part. Of course, I'd never say anything to his face; I was far too passive aggressive for that. I would, however, fume and stew after he left, occasionally ranting to whoever would listen; regret #5,972 in my life: collect them all! At the end of that first year in the house he moved out; I can probably count on two hands the number of times just he and I hung out that year; the following year, I could probably count it on two fingers. My Outsider Mode was in full swing by that point which, coupled with my damnable stubborn streak, prevented me from reaching out to him; I'm sure my piss-poor attitude did nothing to encourage him to make any steps in my direction either.

My issues with G'ovich . . . oh, man, I think I'd need a whole other post to catalog my issues with G'ovich. Heck, I might even need a whole other blog. Y'know, actually, that's not a bad idea . . .

One other unfortunate aspect of this time frame: I fell out of touch with Zinger and Pooh for a spell for some reason; it was a gradual thing, and I wasn’t really aware of it happening until I found out that she had finished up her Bachelor’s early several months after the fact, which served as a bit of a wake-up call to me.

Now, once again I feel the need to stress that, despite my horribly self-destructive behavior and chronically depressed frame of mind, my time in the house was not constant torture; I never really had any major issues with Wrath teh Berzerkr or The Old Man, and there were still times when the old dynamic between St. Flunky, Dr. G’ovich and myself resurfaced; sadly, though, those good times between us would be overshadowed in my memory at the first sign of a new insult or oversight.

Wrath moved out of the house during our Senior year, deciding to try living in the ATO house; by the time the Spring semester rolled around, however, G’ovich had moved in with Rocket, and Wrath had moved back in his place. By the end of the Spring Doc and Rocket were married with a kid, and Wrath got married and moved to Colorado. The Old Man and I moved into an apartment right next door to Coronela. The year rooming with The Old Man would encompass my final semester of school and my search for a full time job. The very worst of my breakdown passed along with this move, but I was still not back to the nearly-stable version of myself from The Golden Year.


Friday, October 28, 2005

It Be Official!

After over a month of waiting I finally got official confirmation today: I passed the Capstone exam, and will be bestowed with my Masters in Library Science in December. I expect to be called Master Neurotic by all of you from now on; it's an agreement I made with Papa Lightbulb, who should be Master Lightbulb in the not too distant future.

No, I will not be participating in the graduation ceremony. My folks won't be able to make it down, and honestly they would be the only reason I would go through it; I've done Junior High, High School, and Undergrad ceremonies, and it's just much more exciting if you're one of the ones giving a speech, especially if you can make people cry; that was fun. Yes, being hooded is nice, but been there, done that, mom has the photo framed, so I can skip that no problem. I know very few of my fellow SLIS graduates, and about the only one I know and like works out here at the Annex, so it's not like that will be my only chance to see her.

But while I won't be participating in actual University sponsored activities, I am open to any and all blog-monkey driven graduation festivities, events, and/or gifts. Especially the gifts.


Seen Saw? See Saw 2 Too!

My last post was a bit heavy, wasn't it? I apologize to all of those who come here looking for the happy-go-lucky side of Cap'n Multiple Personaity Disorder (who really should change his name to the new label, Cap'n Dissociative Identity Disorder, but nobody knows what that means); I'm afraid this Secret Origins series has crossed the border into full-blown self-indulgence, a fact that the dearth of comments seems to back up; either that, or people are following one of The Mag's favorite precepts: Do Not Antagonize the Psycopath.

Anyway, after unloading such a heavy bundle of psychologically scarring baggage, I did what any sane, rational individual would do: took off a couple of hours from work to got see a movie about a serial killer who plays games with his victims.

I won't say much about Saw II, since much of the enjoyment stems from the unexpected twists, but I will say this: if you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one; if not, then you probably won't. This one did take a little bit longer to draw me in than the first one did, but once it got going, it was worth it. Probably the freakiest thing in the movie to me happened in the first five minutes; I always get fidgety watching the injury-to-the-eye motif. *shudder*

I liked the added backstory of Jigsaw, which made his mission seem to make a bit more sense than just "I'm dying, time to kill some folks."

The "Where Do I Know Him/Her From" award goes to Emmanuelle Vaugier as Addison; she seemed familiar me all through the film, but it took IMDB to make me realize that she was Lex's ex Helen on Smallville and the uber-psycho Nikki on One Tree Hill. It was also nice to see Dina Meyer reprise and expand her role from the first film, since she was little more than a cameo there.

All in all, definitely worth the matinee price. Now, if only it hadn't made finishing out the rest of the day at work move so slooooooooowly.


Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.8 - Beginning of the end

This is it; this is the one I've been dreading; or, more accurately, the first of several I’ve been dreading. Trust me, there’s been a lot of dread floating around out there. Re-reading my journal for this time-period you can't imagine how many times I've wished I could travel back in time and slap the #*$@# out of my younger self; please try not to think less of me as you read the next few entries in my Secret Origin.

Thanks to my journal for Honors Comp. II, I can pinpoint the exact date that everything went to Hades in a hand basket: February 8, 1995. Things weren't exactly perfect before that; there's one entry from several days earlier chronicling friction between G'ovich and myself; it was apparently the beginning of the psychological torture phase of our friendship, where everything I said was contradicted or shot down by him in a way that made me feel like the dumbest man alive. But it was the events of Feb. 8 that proved that all of the progress that I had made in the previous year was only held together by spit and scotch tape; the least push was enough to bring it crashing down around my ears.

The incident revolved around the preponderance of couples in my group of friends; by this point Clans G'ovich, Stoneheart, and Flunky were all headed down the path that would lead to wedded bliss. I didn't begrudge them their couple status, but I had started to feel that I was being edged out of everything due to my single status; I was suddenly not only a third wheel in my friendship with the Doc and St. Flunky, but also a third, fifth, or seventh wheel, depending on how many of the couples were around. On this particular day I was sitting in the Parker Living Room with the G'ovichs and Stonehearts when I noticed the Doc lean down and whisper something to Rocket, who then called Pooh over and said something to her; Pooh in turn walked over to Zinger, whispered something to him, and then all four of them disappeared. Such a small thing, but as I sat there, suddenly alone without even a word of goodbye from any of them, the thought manifested itself: I'd just been ditched. Even then I knew how ridiculous it was to let it bother me, but that voice in my head wouldn't stop; I headed up to my room to do some reading, but couldn't focus; I would head downstairs every so often to see if someone had reappeared, but the Living Room was deserted. Until, that is, right after curfew, the magical time when members of the opposite sex were no longer allowed on the 2nd-5th floors, at which point I ventured downstairs and saw several couples sitting around the tables. My inner voice of doom did a silent cheer at being proven right; they were obviously all avoiding me until forced out of their rooms by the curfew.

Yes, I know how insane that sounds; believe me I wish more than anything that I hadn't been capable of such thoughts. But the sad truth is, I was; the situation wasn't helped by St. Flunky being the only one to say hi when I came in, adding to my feeling of being unwanted. I sat down, and stared into space vacantly, trying to quiet the gloating paranoia in my head, so I'm sure my demeanor wasn't conducive to others trying to talk to me, not that that fact could have registered to me at the time. Gradually, everyone ventured off to bed, until it was only Doc, Rocket, and me; it may as well have just been Doc and Rocket, since they weren't really acknowledging my existence. I sat there for a while, in my patented passive aggressive manner, before finally deciding I should just head upstairs. As I got up and headed towards the elevators, The Doc finally spoke: "Todd, are you going to bed?"

Now, in a perfect world, I would have replied in a civil tone; in a perfect world, I might have even rethought my decision to go upstairs and lied through my teeth, saying I was just heading to the water fountain, and then come back and tried to strike up a conversation instead of just sitting there like a lump, waiting to be noticed; in a perfect world, I might have done a lot of things differently.

But, this is far from a perfect world, and I was far, far, far from a perfect person; instead, that voice inside my head was screaming at me: "Disposable friend! Only good when nobody else is around! They'll drop you like a hot potato as soon as someone else shows up!" And so, brainwashed by my own doubts and insecurities, my only response was to reply in a very regrettable tone "Why not?" and slink up to my bedroom. Of course, as soon as I got to my room I was overwhelmed with remorse and guilt at how I had responded, and wanted to rush back downstairs before they left to try and explain myself; but how could I? How in the world could I explain how such a simple series of events had reduced me to a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Y'know, I shouldn't even say "man"; I was still a boy at that point. A scared, nervous boy who had thought he had finally found a place where he belonged, and now was convinced that it was all slipping away from him. And the more I tried to grab onto these things, the more I tried to analyze my actions and see what I was doing to drive everyone away, the more self-conscious and defensive I became.

In the long run, that evening wouldn't be much more than a single drop in the ocean of my neurosis; if it wasn't for my journal, I don't think I would have been able to place exactly where in the grand scheme of things the event occurred. In my mind, it's just one of a series of slights, real or imagined, that contributed to my downward spiral; it's only by viewing its description in context of its surroundings that I can see that it was the first in a series of escalating freak-outs on my part. The Outsider Complex had returned with a vengeance.

As I was reading through the journal, I found myself constantly wanting to scream in frustration at my younger, idiotic self. Every neurotic entry ends the same way: "If this happens again, I'll have to talk to so-and-so, and let them know how much such-and-such bothers me." But of course, I never did; or, rather, I would occasionally talk to somebody, but I would never reveal the true extent of my inner turmoil; every entry about my discussing a problem with G'ovich or St. Flunky would include something along the lines of, "but I didn't tell him how much it had really bothered me, or for how long; he doesn't really need to know just how messed up I am." Always scared to let down the guard, always worried what they might think, always doing exactly what I promised myself I’d never do again. Makes me want to puke.

Once again, despite my rampant paranoia, things were not all bad that semester; there were many good times as well, with most of my delusions meeting some sort of resolution of one sort or another, and by the end of the school year I had somehow managed to not totally alienate everyone and wound up renting a house with St. Flunky, Dr. G'ovich, Wrath teh Berzerkr, and The Old Man. I don't recall exactly how that all came about; I do remember G'ovich being a little put out at one point because he felt like he wasn't being fully included in the process, which I found highly ironic at the time.. So, I moved into the house with my four friends, never thinking that there's a world of difference between living in the same dorm with someone and living in a house with them. More fool I.

I think the worst part about all of this is realizing just how much that journal helped me sort my thoughts out that semester; if not for it, the self-destructive behavior might have taken over much earlier. But after moving into the house, I was too distracted by a new job and new classes and new paranoia to keep up the journaling process. If only I had kept the journal out to remind myself of all of the resolutions I had made to change my behavior; if only I had used it as a guide to reinforce my positive thoughts and not my negative ones; if only I had memorized those sections where I recorded conversations with St. Flunky where he persuaded me that I didn't have anything to prove to him or anybody, or the conversation I had with G'ovich where he told me that he counted me among his real friends; if only, if only, if only. Regrets are worthless, dwelling on them even more so. And yet . . . do you know how much it hurt to read that last thing? To know that I had there, in black and white, confirmation that once upon a time G'ovich considered me a real friend, and yet I allowed all of my issues to wreck it; to wreck it so badly that about five years later during a Parkerite gathering we were located in the same house for roughly 3 or 4 hours and only words exchanged between us were “hello”; how messed up is that?

Of course, even trying to remind myself of our former bond probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference; the issue wasn't so much that I thought we were never really friends; no, it was much more insidious and hard to dispel than that.


Very well: Eeeeeeeeevil It Is!

Well, it's Friday, which means it's time to wrap up our last poll and put up a new one. The final results of the G'ovich poll are as follows:

Eeeeeeeeevil (6)
Victim of Cap'n Neurotic's Neurosis (5)
Agent of Chaos (3)
Master Manipulator (2)
Convenient Scapegoat (1)
Anti-hero (0)

It looks like G'ovich got his wish, and is now crowned as the most Eeeeeeeeevil man on CoIM. Now, it may look like this option barely beat out his status as a victim, but I think if you add up the votes for Agent of Chaos and Master Manipulator, both of which fall into the villainous category in my book, his Eeeeeeeeevilness has a pretty strong backing; plus, at least two people told me that they wanted to change their votes after reading his post earlier this week. So, congratulations, G'ovich: everyone seems to agree that you're a rotten, despicable, disagreeable bastard. Well done!

While we're still on the topic of the Doctor's Eeeeeeeeevil status, let me recount this conversation we had the other day:

Cap'n N: Dang I forgot to add my editorial comment to your list: "Warning: G'ovich's claims about mothers liking him does not apply to Cap'n Neurotic's mother."
Dr. G. Your mom doesn't like me? Has she ALWAYS not liked me, or did you turn her?
Cap'n N: Well, after a few years of me venting, you have to expect some degree of grudge-holding towards the man who tormeted her poor defenseless child
Dr. G.: Well, the problem is obvious. She hasn't seen me since what? That one Christmas trip? She forgets how charming I am.

Classic G’ovich, that is. I'm still disappointed that none of the other Parkerites have shared their Eeeeeeeeevil G’ovich stories; afraid of his diabolical retaliations, huh?

Now that you've gotten a chance to meet most of The Parkerites in my Secret Origins series, I thought I'd take your pulse on which of the more prominent Parkerites you'd like to see a special spotlight post on. So, be sure to vote for who you'd most like to see placed under the microscope next. Then, join me later this afternoon for the next, frightening installment of The Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic, where you'll learn that I should have been locked up in the loony bin where my dad works years ago.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.7 - New Blood and Tarnished Gold

In preparation for the next few Secret Origin entries, I’ve been reading through my old journal entries and letters; while reading one journal entry I came across a reference to a conversation that I had apparently had at some point about how weird things were that first semester of my Sophomore year and how much people had changed over the summer; for the life of me, I have no idea who or what this referred to. Darn my eyes for not being more precise!

But oh, if only that were my only regret from those years . . .

When I moved back into Parker the beginning of my Sophomore year, there were already a few changes in motion before the new blood moved in. Several of my old crowd, including Dr. G'ovich, Rocket, and my fellow Brain Trustees, had moved out; St. Flunky, who had been elected 3rd Floor President, moved into the room directly across from mine; Wrath teh Berzerkr, who was now Hall President, moved into the room right next door to me, which became a de facto hangout for the guys in our group, since he owned both a Super-Nintendo and a computer (many's the night Wrath would go to bed while the game-obsessed St. Flunky sat glued to the computer screen); Pooh, Coronela, Wrath, and I were all also now sans roommates.

I haven't really mentioned my Freshman roommate, have I? Not a whole lot to say about Bubbles, the Barney-loving Pantene Wussie Boy (I had little to do with most of those nicknames, other than helping popularize them). We got along fine for the most part, not the best of friends but didn't exactly want to kill each other, either. He was one of several 1st generation Parker residents who joined a newly revived chapter of Alpha Tau Omega; other members included Captain Ego and the OKC Daytripper Brain Trustee (really need to come up with a shorter moniker for him). Wrath would also eventually join the ATOs, but not until the end of Sophomore year.

I had volunteered to help out during Alpha, which was the Freshman orientation event at OSU, so I got to be there when most of the newbies moved in. The atmosphere in Parker was quite a bit different this time around; before, the dorm had been filled with people who were unsure of themselves and searching for their place at a new school; but now, there was a pretty large number of returning faces who were old hats at this stuff by now; while there was a little bit of shifting among the newbies as they tried to decide if they wanted to graft onto an existing group of form their own, the massive all-nighters of my Freshman year were a thing of the past, a fact that wouldn't dawn on me until the next semester.

The fallout from the dissolution of The Clique was felt pretty early on; for at least a couple of weeks Coronela wouldn't go to meals if St. Flunky was going to be along. That would eventually die down, but the dynamic of the group was permanently skewed. It wasn't long before newcomer Zinger insinuated his deceptively quiet self into the quartet, keeping the male/female ratio even; the biggest difference was that this time the relationship that developed was between him and Pooh, and this time it stuck. It wasn’t long before Coronela became a fixture at the ATO house, cutting down on the amount of time we saw her for a while. Out of all the newbies that semester, Zinger made the biggest impact on my circle; I wouldn't get to really know GMC or Little Man Stud until later, and The Old Man was another mid-year move in like St. Flunky had been. Even though G'ovich was no longer a Parker resident, he still spent the majority of his free time hanging out there. At the time the semester began, G’ovich and St. Flunky didn’t really hang out with each other much; G’ovich made some passing comment once about how he didn’t think they had that much in common. This kind of bummed me out, since they were my two best friends. But I knew better than to try to talk G’ovich into changing his mind on this sort of topic, so I just let it go.

This was the semester that the push to get me to stop being such a out-of-shape couch potato began in earnest; while never completely successful for numerous reasons, for the first time in my life I was taking part in athletic activities that weren’t required for a grade; pretty big step for me.

I was still involved with the BSU Drama Team, and still unable to make any connections there beyond that. I was also starting to become more and more reluctant to partake in any BSU activities, since I was starting to feel like every time I did so I was missing out on something at Parker. This feeling would intensify after I returned from an overnight trip to find that, in my absence, G’ovich and St. Flunky had, in a night filled with pranks involving face-paint, finally discovered that they had something in common after all; things would never be quite the same again.

Now, you might think that having my two best friends hanging out with other was a good thing; I know I had. Be careful what you wish for . . . Here's what you need to understand: Flunky and G'ovich: athletic, fearless, adventurous. Me: not so much. So, when G'ovich would get one of his random "wouldn't it be cool?" ideas, Flunky would dive right in, while I'd hesitate and then get left in the dust; instant third wheel syndrome. The two of them clicked on a whole different level than I did, feeding off of each others’ ideas and energy in a way that I was completely unable to emulate. It seemed like every time I turned around there was a new inside joke, a new story I had missed out on, a new reason for my supposedly vanquished paranoia to rear its newly resurrected head.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad; that semester the fun times definitely outweighed the paranoid ones. G’ovich even invited me to go with him to San Diego over Christmas break; of course, he then invited St. Flunky as well, which was cool, but he got so caught up in the idea that his first impulse was to completely rework the plans to accommodate St. Flunky in a way that made it obvious that I had slipped his mind. *sigh* Cellophane, Cap’n Cellophane . . .He quickly realized his mistake and apologized, but the seeds of a depressing idea had been planted: when push came to shove, Cap’n Cellophane was going to be second choice, at best. This relentlessly depressing idea would haunt me for a long time.

In the end, there were four of us on the trip; G’ovich came down to Wyandotte for a few days after Christmas; we then went to Tulsa and picked up Wrath, before heading on to Texas to pick up St. Flunky. I’ll talk about the actual trip some other time; it was a good time overall, but there were two or three things that happened that woke up the dark passenger in my mind; the paranoid monster had clawed its way back to the surface and no matter how much I tried, it would be far too long before I managed to shove it back down again.

The Golden Year was now tarnished; the Neurotic Roller Coaster Ride had just begun.


Bloggin' 2: Eclectic Boogaloo

My last post was much shorter than I had originally intended it to be, since most of the things I had originally thought I’d talk about in it were lost in the sea of head-pounding. But, after sleeping in a bit this morning, I’m feeling slightly more coherent, and have therefore tried to capture some of those wayward thoughts in another metablog post.

Something I meant to cover in my earlier metablogging post, but forgot due to the imminent loss of cranial integrity, was how so many of the things I remember distinctly from the old days are just blurs to the other people involved, and vice versa. I guess it all just depends on our individual personalities as to what stands out the most in our minds.

Take for example, my entry on The Clique. After posting it I got a message from Pooh saying that she had forgotten about almost all of it; she didn't even remember who the fourth member of our OKC trip was. But for me, most of that day is clear as crystal, I think largely due to the randomness and oddity of it all: the four OKC daytrippers who had never done anything as a group before or after that day; the anti-social behavior leading to the six-foot corncob incident; the substitution of one random group member for another, only this sub became permanent; this sort of stuff only happens in real life. If I were to sell my story to Hollywood (and you know they're just falling over themselves trying to buy the rights to this non-stop action-fest), they would be compelled to replace my fellow Brain Trustee with St. Flunky for the OKC trip, since it would seem more logical to have the bonding take place over an entire day's time; they'd also probably try to make the St. Flunky/Coronela relationship the focus, and turn the corncob incident into a fatal knife fight between St. Flunky and one of Coronela's jealous admirers, which would result in us all having to flee the country to avoid capture, which would result in a massive chase scene/shootout/explosive extravaganza, which would result in me, having been relegated to comic relief as the hapless, hopeless nerd, dying a tragic death, but nobody in the audience would really care because, to be honest, he was sort of obnoxious, anyway. But, that's Hollywood for ya, they never know when enough is enough.

So, yeah, I think it was the non-traditional way in which events played out that day that have helped it stick in my mind. Which might explain why my memories of my friendship with G'ovich and Wrath from that semester are hazy; we were just some guys hanging out, having a good time. Now, granted, at that point in time that wasn't exactly par for the course for me, but it was a much more natural progression than just a one-time all-nighter instant bonding session. The only moments that are really distinct to me are the faux break-dancing troupe incident which G’ovich mentioned in his catalog of sins (and yes, I was complicit in that act of mischief, as was Wrath) and the last day of Freshman year, when G’ovich and I were basically the last ones in our group still in the dorm. The former sticks out because it was just such a random series of circumstances leading up to the break-dancing incident (which, incidentally, was also the source of the Electric Toad and Dr. G’ovich monikers); the latter sticks out because it was just G’ovich and me, staying up all night talking, cleaning out our rooms, and prank-calling G’ovich’s next-door neighbor who he despised. Okay, so G’ovich prank-called him, I just sat back and watched the hilarity ensue as his half-dressed and fully-enraged neighbor stormed downstairs looking for the culprit. Y’know, it always seemed a lot funnier when it wasn’t my buttons he was pushing . . . Anyway, in my mind, that night was the point in which I began to think of G'ovich as one of my best friends; whether I really came to that point earlier or later in our friendship, I honestly don't know, but it makes a much more Hollywood story if it's true.

I really wish I'd kept some sort of journal during those early days; even when I have clear pictures in my mind of certain events, there are usually some gaps in recall, or uncertainty as to context: I remember distinctly who the four OKC daytrippers were, but for the life of me can't recall how it came to be that way; I remember the clothes I was wearing the first time I got talked into joining a pick-up game of basketball at the Colvin Center following some intramural sporting event, but can't remember which semester that was; I remember having other examples of this phenomenon before I sat down to type this up, but now can’t recall a blasted one of them.

Now, I do have a journal for an English class from the second semester of my Sophomore year which, if you've done the math, you might realize is the semester after The Golden Year had ended. Yes, there on paper is a chronicle of the beginnings of the roller coaster journey which would eventually result in my nearly transforming from an outsider in my head to an outsider for real. Good times, man, good times.

I guess that this blog stands as a sort of de facto journal, but at the same time it's far too public to be an effective one. If I was going through all of the crap today that I went through 10 years ago, I couldn't even begin to put it all out there for everyone to see; it would be too fresh, too immediate, too personal; I'd be afraid of alienating the people involved even more, or of making myself look like an even bigger freak, if possible. Even as it is, I worry about upsetting folks; no matter how much G'ovich may try to convince me not to censor myself, I can't bring myself to be brutally honest. Well, except of course when it comes to talking about the Eeeeeeeevil one, but it's not like I haven't already said all of it to him before. Or, to be more accurate, it’s not like I haven’t conveyed these thoughts to him through ICQ, email, and letters in an effort to get out everything I wanted to say without falling victim to the Doc’s patented mental whammy.

I’ve been struggling to get through the Parker years of the Secret Origin, because there’s just so much stuff that keeps popping into my mind, and I have a hard time gauging what stuff is really pertinent to shaping me into who I am today, and what stuff is just an amusing anecdote to share some other time. Although, I suppose if I use the litmus test of “if it’s amusing, it’s an anecdote; if it’s psychologically scarring, it’s an origin story” I’ll keep on track.

Speaking of psychologically scarring experiences, I’ve been reading through the aforementioned journal and letters; wish I’d saved those old ICQ histories, bet they were filled with some gems; I know that’s where G’ovich’s “If you keep acting like this you won’t have any friends left” comment came from. Good times, good times. Anyway, the letters have actually proven to be a nice reminder of some of the post-college years, highlighting some stuff that I had forgotten about. I even came across a series of letters I wrote to St. Flunky right after he graduated and headed into the Army full-time, in which I was keeping a running total of how long it had been since G’ovich and I had had a blow-up or meltdown or any other destructive euphemism for stupid fights over stupid stuff.

The whole Secret Origins thing is proving to be a positive experience for me, but it’s also served to stir up a lot of stuff I’ve tried not to think about for a while. Remembering how things were during The Golden Year, how messed up they were afterwards, and how much of it could have been so easily prevented: it’s tough. I’m overwhelmed by nostalgia and melancholy; I have a feeling that going through all of this has been a big contributor to my recent insomnia. But, I have to plow ahead, for myself if for nobody else; my borderline OCD demands it!



Well, my fine furry blog monkeys, recently your Cap'n Neurotic has been pulling double duty as Cap'n Sleep Deprivation. And not the fun, "stay up all night long and feel goofy the whole next day" sort of sleep deprivation that I experienced all too often in the Parker days; oh, no, this is the "good grief, why can't I sleep through the entire night just once, and please, please, please make the pounding in my head go away!" type. Makes it hard to focus on much of anything. "But Cap'n Neurotic," I imagine your melodic monkey voices screeching out at me, trying to drown out the overwhelming tumult in my head, "if'n it's so danged hard for youse to make with the word writin' and all, whyfore ain't you just lyin' down and restin' a spell, 'stead of workin' on this here post-type thingy?" Because I couldn't bear to let my loyal blog monkeys down, that's why. Pain, shmain, I gots me some monkeys to entertain! So, if the post should just stop mid-sentence, pay no never mind, it’s just because my head’s exploded like that scene in Scanners. Man, Scanners, what a great, cheesy SF series that was. I wonder why they haven’t made any since Scanner Cop II: Volkin’s Revenge? I mean, c’mon, that was some good stuff, man! Psychics going around, making folks’ heads explode and stuff. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Boy, that train of thought really jumped its original track, huh? Let’s try to get this post back towards its original destination, okay?

One of the things I've enjoyed the most about doing this blog so far has been just witnessing the different reactions from friends, family, co-workers, and the occasional anonymous poster. I enjoy seeing who feels compelled to make funny comments, who likes to make serious comments, who tries to pass it on to people I've never met, who likes to coerce me into changing the blog to meet his own Eeeeeeeeeeevil whims . . . you know, things like that.

Speaking of the Eeeeeeeeevil one, it looks like his impassioned post earned him at least one of the votes that he wanted, edging Eeeeeeeeevil an inch past hapless victim, although at least one post-post vote went towards master manipulator. The votes are still pretty well distributed amongst all the choices; either G'ovich is perceived as a much more complex person than his post indicates, or else my descriptions of him have been incredibly muddled. From some of the conversations I've had with folks about my posts, I'm leaning towards the latter. I've been surprised several times by the messages that people pull out of my ramblings. That's part of the problem with trying to write about stuff that's been living inside my head for over a decade; I'm so close to it that it all makes sense to me, but I don't always get all of the connective tissue put down to make sure that others see what I see. Then again, most of the “Where the heck did you get that from what I wrote?” moments came from discussions with G’ovich, and I think we all know what that means: He’s messing with my mind!!!!!!!!!

After the Doc began his campaign to be the capital-v Villain of CoIM, I began to ponder if I should oblige him in his wish or not. Should I really cater to the desires of one so despicable that he would give fake directions to tourists? Should I not instead strive to thwart his desire for infamy? But then I thought, what if that's what he really wants? What if, in his infinitely devious mind, he knew that I would shy away from giving full confirmation to his Eeeeeevilness, thus humanizing him, thus making sure that others who deal with him were caught unawares by his devilish ways? Or is there yet another layer to this campaign that I'm not yet able to see?

Curse you, G'ovich! As if my head wasn't hurting enough already!

But if I could be sorta-serious and semi-sappy for a minute: thanks for all the feedback, y’all. Knowing there are literally more-than-one blog monkeys out there faithfully skimming these posts and acting like they like this stuff does this paranoid, delusional, rambling neurotic’s heart good.

Yesterday, Zinger sent me an email from the Dilbert newsletter about the new Dilbert blog, so I thought I’d end this blog post about blog posts with Scott Adams' thoughts on the blogging phenomenon:

People who are trying to decide whether to create a blog or not go through a thought process much like this:
1. The world sure needs more of ME.
2. Maybe I'll shout more often so that people nearby can experience the joy of knowing my thoughts.
3. No, wait, shouting looks too crazy.
4. I know. I'll write down my daily thoughts and badger people to read them.
5. If only there was a description for this process that doesn't involve the words egomaniac or unnecessary.
6. What? It's called a blog? I'm there!
The blogger's philosophy goes something like this:
Everything that I think about is more fascinating than the crap in your head.
The beauty of blogging, as compared to writing a book, is that no editor will be interfering with my random spelling and grammar, my complete disregard for the facts, and my wandering sentences that seem to go on and on and never end so that you feel like you need to take a breath and clear your head before you can even consider making it to the end of the sentence that probably didn't need to be written anyhoo.

How’s that for padding my post? And now, my Ibuprofen is wearing off, so I suppose I should sign off before experience actual head implosion.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.6 - On-stage and Off at the BSU

Before moving on to my Sophomore year, I'd like to take a quick detour to cover a few of the other things going on in my life during those first two semesters. First up: my involvement with the OSU Baptist Student Union.

Coming to OSU fresh off of my mini-breakthrough with my Youth Group, I thought that the BSU would prove to be my main source of friends and activities.

I was sorely mistaken.

In an earlier post I mentioned in passing the distinction between looking like a fool on purpose and on accident. I have no problem getting up in front of large groups of people and giving a speech, or acting, or singing and dancing and generally being a total goofball; doesn’t faze me at all. But get me off the stage, and force me to strike up a conversation with a total stranger, or fit into a group of people who already know each other well: instant deer-in-headlights. This on-stage/off-stage dichotomy would pretty much define my time at the BSU.

I think my social paralysis is one of those rare neurotic tendencies that actually has a bit of validation behind it: many’s the time my attempts at small talk or ice-breaking humor have been met with blank, uncomprehending stares. There was a former co-worker who never was able to tell when I was joking; I would make a sarcastic comment, and she would respond in a tired, world-weary tone “No, Todd,” and then proceed to patiently explain just why the comment I had just made could never happen. And lest you (quite justifiably) think this is just my paranoia, I have Book Monkey witnesses to back me up on this one. Anyhow, this sort of reaction caused me to keep my sense of humor under wraps until I was sure it would get a reaction other than stupefied glances or condescension.

How did I ever manage to overcome this neurotic behavior to make friends? Well, in Parker I was around my dorm-mates almost constantly, and so was able to gradually suss out what parts of my personality would and wouldn't fly; at the BSU, where the socialization time was much more limited, I floundered a bit. Of course, it also helped that the odds of someone in Parker recognizing a reference to Monty Python, Robert Jordan, or the X-Men were much higher than at the BSU. One Sunday, I was invited to lunch after church by a couple of upperclassmen. It was a nice gesture on their part, but I have rarely had meals as uncomfortable as that one. Outside of church, I was unable to find anything in common with them; the closest I came was noticing that there was a book on the making of Jurassic Park on their coffee table. I tried to use that as a springboard for conversation, but the idea died quickly when I mentioned I had read the book, and they both acted like that was one of craziest things they'd ever heard; almost as if the task of reading a Michael Crichton novel was tantamount to having read Moby Dick for fun. Needless to say, I was not invited back.

Now, the BSU did set all of the Freshman up in "family groups," with two upperclassmen acting as our "mom and dad"; the groups would meet for Bible study and fellowship an hour before the Thursday night service, which in theory would have been a good tool for socialization, right? Well, my fellow family group freshman consisted of two Stillwater residents who had known Ma and Pa for years thanks to attending the same church; P.A.L., another Parker resident who was at least as big an introvert in those settings as I was; and two or three random folks who only showed up once in a blue moon. So, the family group, not that big of a help; outside of bonding with P.A.L. over the uncomfortable situation of seeing Ma, Pa, and our two Stillwater sister get along like gangbusters, I didn’t gain much from the group. Of course, that was still a function of my neurosis; I remember one week when Wrath decided to come to the BSU with me and sat in on the family group, he was more comfortable and chatty with my group after 5 minutes than I had been after a full semester.

The one aspect of the BSU where I felt comfortable was the Drama Team. Basically, the DT would do skits at various churches in the state, sometimes for Youth groups, sometimes for a church service. When I was practicing, traveling, and performing with them, I felt comfortable; when I wasn't, I had a hard time translating that camaraderie into a wider range of friendships. I attended most of the BSU services and functions, but the pull between hanging out at Parker where people seemed to finally get me and attending the BSU where I was slipping back into full-on Outsider mode started to wear me down, and it would only get worse as the Golden Year began to run down.