Did I Ever Tell You About The Time I Almost Got Raped By Jack The Ripper?

Basically it was like this but with a pillow over my face.

True story.

Last October, I went to a haunted house on a whim.  Why?  Don’t know, hadn’t been to one since I was in junior high.  But it was close to Halloween and it was a gorgeous fall night and I had nothing else to do, so when the option was offered, I figured why not?  I love Halloween anyway.  October is my favorite month of the year.  The weather, the trees turning, the overabundance of unhealthy food, football and b-movie marathons on TV.  Yeah, there is no better month than October.

This haunted house was on the southside of Indianapolis.  In German Park, actually.  Unassumingly, it was called The Asylum House.  We got there around sunset and I almost wondered, getting out of the car, if it would be worth the drive.  It looked small.  Really small.  I couldn’t help but think back to Pigeon Forge and wondered if I’d just been suckered into some twenty-dollar tourist trap.  But, whatever, we’d made the drive, so we paid and entered the line.

Now, again, I hadn’t been to a haunted house since junior high.  All my impressions of haunted houses were firmly rooted in the days of frosted tips.  So when the gatekeeper or whatever at the entrance to the house told us that the house was interactive and we could be touched, I thought…yeah, right.  They’ll say boo and tap your shoulder.  Right?  Right?

Well, of course not.  There wouldn’t be  a story if that was the case.  Apparently, I’d ended up at Indiana’s only interactive haunted house.   What were the odds?  CALCULATED! That’s what the odds were.

So the whole affair begins with a leisurely stroll through the ol’ graveyard.  Some guy in a cape and John Lennon glasses is playing an oversized church organ and I can’t tell if he’s a real person or a robot.  These guys, I immediately assess, are dedicated.  This job isn’t fun for them.  It’s business.  But at that point, they’re largely unarmed, so my boots aren’t shaking too hard.

The graveyard romp ends, after a few jump scares, at the stairs to a crypt.  The Crypt of Elysium, they call it.  I have a new name for it after we enter: The Endless Walk Through Pitch-Black Nothingness.  That’s pretty much the idea: no light, just a maze.  In complete darkness.  Occasionally, someone bangs against a wall and makes you jump, or suddenly flicks on a flashlight and steps out at you, immediately appearing from nowhere.  Now, I’m not claustrophobic and I’m not much afraid of the dark, but getting separated from the group was one of the more panic-inducing moments of my life.  I mean, I couldn’t go on without them.  It would defeat the whole purpose.  And I couldn’t find them in the darkness, calling out to no one in particular and running into strangers.  So that was a disaster, but, you know, I totally cheated.

Cell phone backlight, yo.

I eventually found my way to where I needed to go, much to the chagrin of the costumed characters, who I swear to God shocked me as I was fumbling my way toward the exit.  I was jolted.  That’s all I know.  And I don’t think it was on accident.

Now, my second indication that these guys mean business is at a later junction, when I’m stuck in a stockyard, squinting into a strobe lights as I’m surrounded by clowns.  I’d elaborate evil clowns but really, that’s redundant.  All clowns are evil.  These ones enjoy poking my nose and making throat-slash gestures at me.  Okay, I think.  Funny.  Time to move on.  No, they step in front of me.  Don’t let me keep moving.  One picks up a wooden stake, sharpened at the tip, and leans in toward my ear, clownspeak cutting through crooked teeth:

“I’ll give you a five-second head start.  Go.”

Again, funny.  I laugh.  Clown does not.  He just starts counting down from five, which gets me walking a little fast, grooves of my sneakers kicking up gravel.  And then — and this is where their immersion becomes Crystal Lake clear — the dude raises the stake and starts charging at me.  Not walking menacingly.  Not jogging.  Not galloping.  Charging.

I think back to the house rules.  They can touch you.  I think back to being shocked and not knowing the difference between a pianist and a puppet.  I think about the fact I’m on the southside.  Suddenly, I’m not sure there’s a safety net anymore.  So I run, of course, because it turns out in the countless years of human evolution, the natural instinct is still to run like hell when a clown is charging at you with a splintering stake.

So I’m chased out of the stockyard and I could get into countless similar incidents here: a hillbilly with hedgeclippers, camoflauged children crawling around on the floor and clutching to my ankles (is this a haunted house or Wal-Mart?)  But I really want to get into the whole rape thing.  You know, because it’s in the post title.  So I’m somewhat obligated.

The whole rape thing comes into play when we enter a room mocked up to look like a doctor’s office.  Some portly, unkempt gentleman with half-moon spectacles and a brown bowling hat is standing in the room and starts speaking in a terrible British accent.  I’m not really paying attention; I’m laughing at something.  I guess he was talking to me and I didn’t answer.  So, like any good Ripper impersonator, ol’ Jack grabs me by my collar and swings me toward a bed.  I’m a bit caught off guard by the roughness of the whole act, but still, I smile.  It’s all for jokes, right?  Well, yes.

Until he hurls me onto the bed.

Even before he grabs a pillow and pressed it down on my face, I’m thinking that this is crossing a line somehow.  That this is beyond “interactive.”  But there I am, sprawled out on a bed with a 200-pound Jack the Ripper impersonator on top of me, one hand smothering me with a pillow, the other drawing a blade against my neck.  At that point, I’m just praying it’s fake and I’m about 50-50 on that.

Get out! he yells to everyone else in the room, who slowly slink off into the rest of house.  Great, I think.  I’m alone in a room, splayed out on a bed with a knife against my throat and a seasonal serial killer sitting on top of me, knees digging into my chest.  No way that ends bad.  Cue the banjos.

At the expense of anti-climax, yes, I was eventually released.  But don’t think, every time I saw a costumed character the rest of the way, I wasn’t supremely suspicious of their intentions.

So, kids, should you ever come across a haunted house employee pretending to be Jack the Ripper, be warned.  He will throw you on a bed.  He will smother you.  And it’s very possible that he will violate you as well.

With a terrible British accent!


They Told Me I Would Be A Priest

One time, I was standing in a line in my kindergarten classroom. I don’t remember why. I do remember that I said the word “pussycat” and some girl told on me and I wasn’t sure what I’d said wrong. Oh, NOW I get it! Innocence probably never had a chance.

There was a bully who used to hide my shoes on top of a cabinet I couldn’t reach. I remember his name was Michael and he was far too tall for Tonka trucks. I’m guessing the alphabet wasn’t his strong suit.  I wonder if he ever learned to stop stealing shoes, because he was the only one who wasn’t invited to Nick’s birthday party.  And Nick’s birthday party, mind you, was at at Chuck E Cheese.

I got in trouble for dancing during the Pledge of Allegiance once. I don’t know why I did it. I’m just glad I didn’t do it during a Super Bowl.  Sometimes, you just gotta get down.  Sometimes, it’s at the expense of honoring our nation, because you’re six years old and what could you possibly be pledging allegiance to except some vague notion of a nation that gave proof through the night that The Flintstones were still there?

We used to get some sort of currency every Friday based on how well we’d behaved and how we’d performed on spelling and reading tests. They came in $100 increments. A Tootsie Roll was $100, a cheap framed plastic picture of Jesus was $500. That was the market established by Christian Pre-K. I bought the Jesus picture once instead of candy because I thought it would help my chances of booking my flight to heaven. I hope, at the end of all things, that act remains remembered.

They told me I would be a priest. That’s what they voted me, the Oaklandon Christian Church graduating kindergarten class of 1994: most likely to be a priest. Somewhere I fell short of that prophecy. I look alright in black but I don’t work Sundays. No sir.  Also I’m thinking my multitheological existential cooperation model might have gotten in the way of a few Bible tales.  We can all aspire to the same goodness and common betterment of mankind, but of course I can only say that if it’s the version sold in our shop.  You don’t know what you’re getting anywhere else.  Besides eternal damnation!

Dead Island

A firm middle finger to the “videogames can’t be art” contingent. Wow.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts…

Thank you, Friday Night Lights.

The best series that no one ever saw just concluded in its fifth season, leaving me wondering just how in the hell it is that so few of my friends have ever seen an episode.  How the little-show-that-could continually fought cancellation only to be thrown a lifeline by DirecTV’s Channel 101 because NBC decided it would rather air such television classics during non-summer viewing seasons as I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and Undercovers.

I’m admittedly a bit of a TV snob.  Yes, I judge you for watching terrible reality shows.  No, your DVR shouldn’t be overflowing with MTV programs.  And it’s true, Glee is just an Old Navy commercial with a larger budget and slightly more-intelligible script.  I’ve seen all the “great” series, all the universally-revered, best-of-the-decade programs.  But few, if any, maintained the same integrity and grace over their duration as Peter Berg’s based-on-Bissinger brainchild.

Of course, like any series, there were flaws.  The second season was largely forgettable, to the point where I told my parents to skip it entirely when they began watching the series.  Normally an entire terrible season would register as a series-killer, but as the writer’s strike completely screwed over the show and threatened future seasons, I really just write it off as an unfortunate block of dead-end stories that can be easily ignored by jumping to season three.  There were also unlikable characters at times, or at least unlikable in certain seasons.  I’m thinking of season four Becky in particular.

But it still strikes me how graceful this show was, how well it knew its characters.  So many series, even ones I like, are guilty of out-of-character moments.  Dexter is practically a 300-level course in these incidents.  But FNL was always true to its characters.  It knew them.  We knew them.  They stayed true to themselves and the series.  And there’s a certain grace in that, you know?  A certain respect for the audience and the story being told.  It was never, season two excluded, about cheap plot tricks or shortcuts in advancing the story, it was always driven by the characters through success and failure, through joy and pain, loss and gain and something else that rhymes here.

I had a rare feeling I’d only really remembered sensing previously with The Wire: wow, the writers actually respect me as a viewer and I respect their tireless dedication to their craft as a result.

FNL was never cheap and always did more with less, which might qualify as its most impressive feat.  It turned a bunch of no-name or fringe actors into rising stars.  It gave us five seasons of flawless performances from Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, both of whom should share an Emmy and/or Golden Globe on accomplishment alone, honestly (but after seeing a certain Baltimore bureaucratic system study strike out, don’t be surprised if it’s instead bested by a certain cardboard-cutout FOX musical scripted by the guy who managed to take Nip/Tuck from top 10 to butthole of television in less than two years.)

There was also always a certain dignity in FNL’s simplicity, its refusal (again, second season excluded) to stray from its picture of Dillon and bombard us with images irrelevant to the story being told.  There were no explosions and gunshots were minimal.  There were no car chases or cheap twists or throwaway kill-offs.  There was just Dillon, Texas forever.  For this reason, I would put FNL up with the previously-mentioned Wire and Deadwood as my top three favorite series of all-time (though Breaking Bad might have something to stay about that before all is said and done.)  What do all three of those shows have in common?  They’re about a wide cast of characters, all deep, all with unique personalities and struggles and goals within the context of their own world, in FNL’s case in the context of living in Dillon, and that’s it.  The story compliments the characters and the setting, it doesn’t exist for its own sake, for purposes of shocking or manipulating the audience.  The characters have depth.  The setting is tangible.  We know and love these characters and this place because, over time, we grow to appreciate those things.  We take that journey with them, and thus are introduced and invested within the story naturally, not artificially.

FNL was always an underdog.  The networks always said it couldn’t make it, that nobody would care about a high school football drama.  But as critics slowly discovered, it was so much more than that.  Football was just the catalyst, the common bond between characters that suited up and characters that could not plan their exit from Texas fast enough.  NBC always pushed it back, eventually agreeing to air it in the dreaded summer viewing season, and as a result, America largely forgot about the show after the first season.

That’s a damn shame.

What America missed, while it was so busy digesting retread reality shows and canned sitcoms, was one of the finest series in television history.  Now that it’s over, I fully appreciate just how good it was and comparably how bad most television is, which is why I mostly only watch live sports on TV…there are only a handful of truly worthwhile series on right now.  It’s too bad that America mostly missed out on one of the most quintessentially-American shows to have ever been aired, a case study of an average American town and the complications of the average people living within.

FNL’s mantra was always clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.  And now it all makes sense.  That formula birthed a series that had too much integrity and heart to ever lose, no matter what the networks said.

So thank you, FNL.  I can only hope your courage and ability to stay true to yourself inspires some other underdog out there to ignore the networks and strive for something even half as great.

The Now What

I like to refer to the period of my life I’m currently stuck in as The Now What and, yes, I feel fully entitled to Zach Braff about it.  I say Zach Braff about it, of course, but I might mean Jesse Eisenberg about it.  I’m not sure who the celebrity poster boy for post-graduate lament is these days, but Braff has  a better ring because I can totally use the word “braff” as a verb whereas Eisenberg is a bit too bergy to stand on its lonesome.

See what I did that?  I braffed.  I braffed hard on a berg.

Now, I probably forfeit some right to raise my fist here because, in a lot of ways, I am fortunate.  I realize this.  Nobody wants to hear a 22-year-old middle-class white male who grew up in a suburban setting and got his bachelor’s bemoan all the unfortunate circumstances that have befallen his largely-sheltered, largely-secure life.  I’m not on a street corner.  I don’t have a radio voice.  My story won’t make the ten o’clock news until I draw my pistols and shoot at the moon (crater-faced bastard had it coming, though, if you ask me.)

Nobody wants to hear the same ol’ angst-laced diatribes about that transition between backpacks and business cards.  And really, I’m not here to do that.  That’s not my aim.  That’s not the focus of The Now What.

The Now What, instead, centers around a generation of self-entitlement.  I’ve been conditioned to think the same, so I hardly applaud my distance from the pack.  It seems that we were all raised to think we were special.  Spelling tests and geography bees, we were always the smartest.  Bright, so bright.  So much potential.  And they always told us all the same and we took it to heart: we were special.  All those a-pluses, all the papers returned with beaming comments and paintings displayed outside the cafeteria, we were all so special.

Until we weren’t.

I have this feeling, based on no substantive proof whatsoever, that the generation before us found compliments much harder to come by.  Asskickery was far more commonplace.  For that generation, everyone wasn’t special.  Most were completely average.  Mentors were less complimentary.  They were reserved in their praise, in their penchant to deem one as different from the rest, as trending toward greatness.

Now, a macaroni painting goes for six thousand self-esteem points on the open market and even the glue-eaters with their untied shoes and pennyrich nostrils find themselves showered with verbal sunshine.  Copper-mining has never been more glorified.

While this was happening, we were all informed that college would save us all.  Everything was toward college.  You had to pass all your fourth-grader recorder and kazoo tests to get into the gifted classes in middle school, which completely determined your high school curriculum, which could make or break your ability to get accepted into a good university.  You didn’t want to be a trashman after all.  Those little games we played, where the paper was folded in seemingly seven million pieces and each revealed a different fate?  Nobody ever wanted to be the trashman.

Somewhere along the line, we associated trade school with failure, with dropouts and delinquents, the kids who just didn’t care.  We said that building engines was for the dullards, we said that welding metal was for the weak, for those that never could quite navigate differential equations.  We spat on the blue collar because it conflicted with everything we were told: higher education would save us all, and anyone choosing to claim otherwise was doomed to drive a garbage truck.

But what happened?  We all went to school.  We were all special there too.  Professors couldn’t hand back papers fast enough, all boasting brilliance.

And then we graduated.

Hey, maybe we weren’t so special after all.

I really think that somewhere along this line of educational advancement, some sense of self-entitlement filtered through.  Like we were supposed to be better than because that’s what society told us.  And it’s obviously not the case for every one, but it’s a prevalent mentality, and an extremely damaging one at that.  Beyond the threat to the integrity of America’s infrastructure, which cannot be adequately maintained when blue collar jobs are denigrated in favor of promoting the bachelors-plus rat race, I fear there is bound to be some extreme damage to the psyche of the American post-grad, who believes employers should be bidding on his/her greatness upon exiting academia.

I can say, in my case, I wish I had done things differently.  I was never really the type to be able to afford an unpaid internship — always had to make money — but I wish I’d done one in retrospect because it would have really helped with my current pursuit.  I also wish I’d worked harder on a backup plan if my field failed me, because right now, with things less than rosy, it’s seriously all I can do to get out of bed and go to a job entirely unrelated to anything that captures my interest or inspires any sense of self-worth in my 9-to-5 being.  It keeps me up at night, the stress, the anxiety, the thoughts of going in tomorrow and tomorrow being the rest of my life, rational or not.  I toss and turn all night with these thoughts flooding my head.

And certainly the trashman laughs when he wakes me up the next morning.  Though I guess now, it’s the trash robot.

The Now What, for me, is more frustrating than I could have ever envisioned.  It’s supposed to be temporary but it feels like the only reality I’ll ever know.  It’s debilitating at times, which further frustrates me because I probably shouldn’t let it get to me as much as I do, shouldn’t let it decide whether I go out or not or allow myself to enjoy the little things in lieu of spending another second worrying about the wear of the waiting room.

Because personally, I want to be significant.  I want to contribute something that matters.  I want to do what I love.  And, hey, take a number.  Right.  I get it.  Hardly unique thoughts.  But still, it’s such a struggle to force my way through banal tasks thinking about all the ways in which I’m not contributing anything, in which I’m doing nothing for myself or anyone else.  Yet still, it feels like such a selfish thought process because there are far less fortunate out there and they would walk the wrong way down a four-lane highway to perform the same meaningless tasks in order to make a living.  Much as some might scoff at the image, I’d commend it.

It just seems a little more condemning to a 22-year-old with no real worldly sense or life direction thus far.  I’ve got a lot to learn and I always concede that.

I know that next stop is soon, and that’s what frustrates me the most, still being on this train.  All the flickering fluorescence and top 40 tunes escaping out of my seatmate’s headphones just remind me that I’m still on the train, still seated on that faded fabric.  It’s not that I’m above the commute, it’s just that my stop is next, you know?  And surely it’s around the next bend, the next switch junction or whatever.  I’ve seen the rats scampering along the side, minding the killer rail.  They’re running toward something, aren’t they?

I just feel like, when I’m out of The Now What, I’ll be so much more sure, or at least as sure as a stupid young person can be.  I’ll be sure of what I want in my life and who I want it with, and where I want it all to be.  Right now, there are all still masked by hypothetical-thick mist.  Like, counter-intuitive as it may be, I don’t want to try until I’m off the train and on a relatively-certain path.  I don’t want to express interest or invest energy at this stage of the ride.  And that’s really stupid sometimes and I need to be reminded of that.  Still, it’s true.  Right now, it just feels hard to commit to anything no matter where it falls on the scale of significance.

I hope, in retrospect, my $50,000 worth of college prepared me for something after The Now What and doesn’t simply prove to be an ego massage I’ll spend the next two decades paying off.  Muybridge, Aristotle, DuBois…where are you now?

Anyway, I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, but The Now What does suck and I feel completely entitled to write it.  Hopefully I find something soon, something that gives me more purpose, more confidence, more direction and generally just allows me to sleep well again.

Because right now, I’m totally braffing my life away.


Generation Y Did I Go To College

Generation Y Did I Go To College

(c) This IU Grad, 2010

CLICK TO MAKE BIG!  And funky, funky fresh.  But mostly big.

PROTIP: CTRL + – makes the image zoom out.  The initial resolution is way big so that the text is readable, but CTRL – that sucka until it’s formatted to fit your screen.  And then lament all the effort it took to do that just to see mediocre artwork and the soul-sucking reality of indentured clerkitude.

Yes, I realize my artistic skills were lacking, but this is what I spent 3am-530am doing, thank you very much. Too bad I don’t have a scanner.  This would have been a lot easier.  Who has a scanner?  People who scan things, that’s who.  I just have an Android.  Phone.  Not cybernetic organism.

Oh also, true story.  All of it.

Hell On Earth

This was just the start to a comic I began about two years ago but never finished.  Obviously, I don’t own a scanner.  I do, however, now own an Evo.

I kinda wished I’d finished this.  I had some ideas and if it were a bit more patient I had some neat design ideas for some of the artwork.

Also these pages were placed on top of my sophomore year high school yearbook as the photos were snapped, which makes my high school reunion post condemning holding onto high school now semi-ironic.

Only semi, though.