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All posts for the month October, 2012

On steak and eggs.

Published October 15, 2012 by mandileighbean

The other day, when I was running, I noticed the road kill had been removed and had been removed quite thoroughly.  Macabre as it may be, I looked intently at the previously gory scene for any kind of remnants, for any kind of tangible proof that the dead possum had been there in the first place.  There was no evidence – the pavement was stained, no organs had been absent-mindedly neglected, and there was absolutely nothing disturbed or out of place.  Admittedly, I was relieved that my eyes did not take in anything that would upset my stomach, but I was also somewhat saddened.  That poor creature had been wiped from existence.  It was no longer living and as far as I know, I am the only who knows and cares enough to write about it.  I understand that the possum was not a sentient being and was not a pet and that to some factions of thought its death is not a tragedy but a mere continuation of the pattern of existence we are all traveling along.  I can understand, acknowledge, and accept all of that and still be upset because I worry and fear that the same fate belongs to some human beings, some that I may even know.  I have already discussed how a wasted life is my greatest fear.

“Looper,” the new science fiction film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis tackles that same theme, in a manner of speaking.  It is about time travel and while that may set off some alarms, the story does not become mired down in hypotheticals and impossibilities and trivial aspects.  Rather, the story focuses on the passage of time as humans grow and age and learn and live.  Time spent on Earth means different things to different people and it even means different things to the same person at different times.  It also reviews and challenges the cyclical nature of time and goes so far as to hint, in my always humble opinion, that it is our responsibility to be cognizant of this cycle, and to sacrifice our own cycle of time to break a cycle in which a neighbor is suffering.  “Looper” was a remarkable film and without a doubt, it is a new favorite.

In the movie, both male leads order steak and eggs for breakfast at a diner.  I did the same today.  Yes, I ordered steak and eggs because I saw it in a movie once.  The eggs and hash browns and toast and coffee were great; the steak was okay.  It wasn’t the best cut as it was very fatty, so I’m going to try the order again at a different diner.  The diner experience was not ruined, however.  I talked with an older man about football and his father’s military service.  I thanked a table of enlisted men for their service.  I chatted with an elderly couple about the economy, employment and the weather.  When the female half of the couple observed me hunched over many sheets of lined paper with a pen clutched in my hand, she correctly assumed that I was an English teacher with papers to grade.  However, I was not grading papers; I was working – or trying to work – on my second novel.  Why didn’t I tell her that?  Why didn’t I explain that I was a young, up and coming author?  Why did I falter?

Maybe it’s because I do not have a physical copy of the book and as such, my dream has not truly been realized.  Maybe I’m afraid that if I say it out loud, it won’t come true because it is still only a wish, a desperate fantasy, a silly girl’s imagination running away.

Who knows?

On romanticizing roadkill.

Published October 11, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was not such a good day.  For the majority of it, I felt overwhelmed and underwhelming.  It was an awful, complicated contradiction in emotion where I was frantic for perfection but fell short of the mark every time, so in turn, I became angry and defensive.  During my prep period, I truly had a strong desire to sit by myself and cry – to just let it all out.  I behaved like an adult and held it together, but I am still on the fence as to whether or not I did myself any favors.

When I was running, I saw a possum lying in the road.  Clearly, the creature had been struck by an automobile and that happens time and time again so in all actuality, there was nothing remarkable about the scene.  However, I could not turn my eyes away.  It’s dark, beady eyes were still open, looking out at nothing and offering nothing.  Similarly, its mouth was still open and I could see sharp, tiny, pointed teeth, as if the poor beast had gone down fighting, teeth bared and snarling against the metal contraption hurtling towards it impossibly fast.  Are possums classified as sentient beings?  Would it have been horrified to see the headlights bearing down upon him, or would there have been just a moment of simple curiosity?  It made me sad to think like that, so I tried to alter my train of thought, but that became impossible when I saw the pavement stained red with blood and realized that somehow, by some scientific logic, the entrails of the animal had exited his frame from the back end and lay whole in the road.  It took a moment for my mind to comprehend precisely what it was that my eyes were viewing, but there was no denying the veins, the tissue and the matter that had once been a stomach or a kidney or something important, something that worked to keep the possum alive.  I felt nauseous and finally, I was able to look away.

Running clears my mind.  It helps me to think and it helps me to be creative.  I know I can describe the scene in more detail, and that will most likely be my assignment for the next few days.  I want to be a horror writer.  I want to be able to create lasting and almost tangible images using only words.  The sight of a possum lying dead in the read is not extraordinary or uncommon, but how can it become grotesque so that a reader can perfectly see it to the point of becoming physically uncomfortable?  That is what I long to discover, and I suppose that will come in time with patience and practice.

Maybe the devil really is in the details.

On feeling beautiful and being random.

Published October 10, 2012 by mandileighbean

The following link is to an interesting article on the Huffington Post, which is an interview with author R.L. Stine.  I read nearly everything he wrote from the time I was in elementary school and until the last years of high school, and it makes me really happy to discover he is still writing and broadening his audience.  I will most definitely check out his adult thriller when it is finished.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/rl-stine-goosebumps_n_1937109.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmaing9%7Cdl22%7Csec3_lnk1&pLid=217209&utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

 

I have been perusing J.K. Rowling’s newest novel, The Casual Vacancy.  I have not read enough to make any kind of decision, but I will say this: I miss Harry Potter.

 

I have one class of essays left to grade and it is literally taking me forever.  I guess that means I really do not want to grade.  I can knock out most of them during my prep period and then whatever is left, I will definitely finish tomorrow evening.

 

I would love to have some kind of musical talent.  In an ideal world, I would be equal parts Florence + The Machine and Amanda Palmer.  I do not listen to either artist enough.

 

I ran in the rain today.  It really does provide one with a feeling of accomplishment.

 

I’ve decided I am going to be Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty” for Halloween.  I am completely excited.

 

I can count the times I have honestly felt beautiful on one hand.  Luckily, today was one of them.  I purchased a dress for an upcoming wedding and I absolutely love it.  It is scarlet and lace, and it makes me feel wild, romantic and beautiful.

 

We are all beautiful.

 

Rainy days call for random thoughts; I hope you have enjoyed these.

On squirrel crossings.

Published October 9, 2012 by mandileighbean

The other day, when I was driving home from Sussex, I saw a squirrel dash across the Garden State Parkway – across five lanes of speeding traffic – to the other side.  He scurried amongst leaves and shrubs safely and smile spread across my face.  I wish I had that kind of daring and tenacity.

Sometimes, in the morning when I am driving to the high school, I scan through the radio stations.  Inevitably, the dial lands on Bible Thumper radio, which features men who sound impossibly old, who gasp out sermons of fire and brimstone, demanding that we all repent.  I like to leave the station on for a minute or two because I like the eeriness that fills the front of my car.  The streets are usually deserted, my dying, dim headlights lighting on nothing but pavement and painted white lines.  The change that lies discarded in one of two cup holders and clangs irritatingly around in the space as I drive is the only other sound.  It is not comforting; it is unsettling, but I enjoy it all the time.  I suppose that makes me weird.

More and more, I am realizing that the more things change, the more they truly do stay the same.  My belief – or faith? – in a common human thread is affirmed on a daily basis.  Human beings may age physically; hair may grey, joints may weaken, and lines may form, but emotionally, they can be as childish and as whimsical and romantic at seventeen as they can be at ninety-seven.  That knowledge, that possibility, gives me hope and makes me smile time and time again.

Lately, I am becoming more and more obsessed with romance.   I worry that this could be dangerous; dangerous to myself, to those around me, and to my writing endeavors.  To make this obsession more of a contagious disease, enjoy the following passages from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Also, please note that I have booked a hotel room for Salem, Massachusetts.  At least I make good on some promises.

 

“’Because,’ he said, ‘I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.  As for you—you’d forget me.’”

 

“’I tell you I must go!’ I retorted, roused to something like passion.  ‘Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal—as we are!”

On Sleepy Hollow.

Published October 7, 2012 by mandileighbean

This weekend was enjoyable, productive, and – most of all – much needed.  Yesterday, I ventured to Sleepy Hollow with my good friends Dom and Raina, and Raina’s parents, and Raina’s parents friends.  I met everyone at Raina’s house, which was an adventure in and of itself.  I was pulled over on the parkway by a State Trooper for speeding, but he was understanding, and patient, and because my driving record is close to impeccable, he cut me a huge break.  Still, the experience was somewhat nerve-rattling because I had never been pulled over before and I was anxious just to get to Raina’s house and out from behind the wheel.  The issuing of the ticket made me late, as did generally leaving my house later than I would have liked, but I did arrive.  Dom showed up after I did, so my lateness was forgiven, and then the seven of us piled into two cars and hit the road.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful.  The leaves were all different shades of flaming red, burning orange, and resilient green and the mountains and hills we passed were covered in trees and seemed to go on for miles.  Dom frequently mentioned that it had been quite some time since he had smelled grass and he swore the sky was different in that part of the country.  We rode over bridges that provided safe travel over beautiful, dark water.  Dom, Raina and I caught up, shared snacks and were anticipating spending the evening in a historically creepy geographical location such as Sleepy Hollow, New York. 

The town caught us all by surprise.  We thought it would be … well, sleepier.  It was a “blue collar” town that was diverse in population as far as wealth and ethnicity.  We parked at Phillipsburg Manor, but traveled into the heart of Sleepy Hollow for dinner.  The meal was good and we survived the perilous task of parallel parking, and the gift shop had several interesting items for purchase.  I bought two books (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter) and a witch hat with a celestial theme.  I enjoyed hot chocolate and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the company and the scenery.  The walking path from the parking lots to the manor was lit by candles encased in glass lanterns.  It would have been romantic had we not been able to hear the blood-curdling screams of tourists venturing through “Horseman’s Hollow,” the very attraction we had purchased tickets for.

Dom has a talent for conversation; he is one of the most eloquent people I have ever had the distinct, intellectual pleasure of meeting.  When we were waiting for our turn to line up for the haunted walk, he engaged one of the security guards in conversation and we learned interesting tidbits about the history of the town, the attractions, and the origin of the commercialism surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its legend penned by Irving.  He mentioned Irving’s estate, named Sunnyside, and I made a mental note to visit it as soon as possible.  I also hope to make it to the cemetery, which is purported to be an entertaining, interesting tourist trap.  Dom also engaged the young man checking tickets at the entrance and he was a writer, working on a fantasy/adventure piece for about six years – since he was in high school.  For the first time in a few months, I introduced myself as a writer instead of as a teacher and it felt right.  I felt fulfilled and – for lack of a better term – cool.

The walk itself was definitely creepy and I did scream through most of it and maintain a quickened pace.  The costumed and makeup were remarkable, nearly everything seemed authentic, and we laughed as much as we shrieked.  Our biggest disappointment was that there was not more to do; we had hoped the town would fully and enthusiastically embrace its place in spooky folklore but as it turns out, this is only the third year they had done something to recognize Sleepy Hollow and its legend on a grand scale.  In particular, Dom had wanted to be immersed in history and after talking about that, we decided to make a try for Salem, Massachusetts.  The festivities there do have a historical authenticity and the three of us have yet to travel there and have yet to hear someone speak ill of Salem around Halloween (except for some strangers behind us on line, who claimed Sleepy Hollow was more entertaining than Salem, and that surprised us).

I really hope Salem works out, but I do not want to miss my cousin Cory’s visit.  One day last week, he quit his job because his boss was unkind.  He walked right off the job and embarked on one hell of a road trip.  He has kept me updated through messages, pictures, and Facebook statuses, and I am incredibly jealous.  I would love to be able to just leave, to shirk all responsibility and do exactly what I want.  I would love to get behind the wheel and see the country.  Cory explained that he only has one life and he will not waste it, will not let days go by without having seen and experienced “cool shit.”  I could not agree with him more.  I am so glad I went to Sleepy Hollow.

It was not just for the Halloween fun and atmosphere; it was to travel with friends.  Dom, Raina and I ended up at the Bridge View Tavern at the end of Beekman Avenue.  While the restaurant was all out of appetizers, the view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge was breathtaking.  The beer and wine were cold and tasty and the fries hit the spot.  We talked of people we know, some we still know and others we wish we could forget.  We were appreciative of the gorgeous night and the seasonal radiance particular to fall in October.

If I am to be perfectly honest, the ride home was my favorite part of the night.  Raina drove and to help keep her awake, Dom and I took turns reading from The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.  The short stories were disturbing and entrancing, but I think the coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts takes the most credit for keeping us up.  Although, when we returned to Raina’s house, we all stayed up to hear the end of the longer story and I cannot even begin to express what that meant and still means to me.  Picture it; three twenty-somethings lounged on couches, attentively listening to a story being read aloud.  The television was not on.  We were not wearing ear buds to hear iPods.  There was an occasional perusal of the iPhone, but for the most part, we were totally engaged by the written word.  That is how I want every night to end.

On trepidations and self-imposed writer’s block.

Published October 6, 2012 by mandileighbean

“Nobody said it was easy.  No one ever said it would be this hard.”

– Coldplay

 

I am powerless against pasta.  Nothing makes me happier than slurping strands so that it sounds like a quick, childish kiss as sauce splashes around my lips and covers my mouth in tomato red.  Last night, Mom added sausage, chicken and shrimp to the sauce.  How could I resist?  It was unfair of me to even ask myself to say no.  If pasta is my kryptonite, then I wonder what my super power is?

I have newly discovered tea with orange honey and I absolutely love it.

Today, my friend Raina and I are going to Sleepy Hollow.  I cannot wait to hit the road and am elated to be celebrating Halloween.  As an avid horror fan, I thoroughly enjoy and become involved the October holiday festivities.  Last year, just after Halloween, I traveled with my little brother’s Boy Scout troop to where “Friday the 13th” was filmed and even stayed in the same cabin the final fight scene was shot in.  Last night, I watched the “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” with my mom.  It was not terrifying, but was unnerving and certainly creepy.  I was in awe of the dialogue and Hitchcock’s ability to turn what should be cheap and easy into something artful and masterful.  To transform a somewhat simple and clichéd plot into a piece of film that makes the audience cringe and want to turn away is a talent I admire, respect and covet.

I suspect that is why my latest writing endeavor is not capturing my interest the way Her Beautiful Monster did.  I am trying my literary (and I use that term loosely) hand at romance – a much older, married man striking up a relationship with a much younger girl to try and stave off aging and death.  To add complexity to that storyline, I made the much older man a famous musician and I made the much younger girl a fan.  I wanted to explore what it means to be an adult and the power death has over us from the very moment we take our first breaths.  I also just wanted to be romantic and passionate – imagining scenes between the two to fill some kind of loneliness and ache within me, which is a tool I most certainly employed throughout Her Beautiful Monster and if it worked once, why not use it again?

But I felt the plot was lacking in suspense, which I believe to be my forte.  I decided to develop the much older man’s wife into a fuller character and in a desperate fit of revenge, she would claim a younger lover of her own.  But this young boy toy would prove more dangerous than anything else, as I envisioned him becoming more and more obsessed and less and less emotionally stable.  For the ending, I had decided the young girl would die in an ironic twist of fate, since she was always accusing the much older man of using her to feel young and invincible.  I wanted the obsessed lover to be responsible, figuring in some kind of car crash scenario a la The Great Gatsby.  Clearly, I am still working out the mechanics and logistics in my cluttered, tired mind.

I have a few other ideas that seem promising, but I am reluctant to give up on the much older musician.  I was working on beginning to write near the end of the summer and was shocked when I pumped out twenty handwritten pages, front and back.  I am a big believer in fate, so I do not believe it is an accident that I was able to do so.  This story is within me and wants to be released, and so I will.  I think I am hesitant and unsure because I have a full-time job now and more adult responsibilities than I did when I wrote Her Beautiful Monster and for some weird reason, that scares me.  But writers write; so if I want to be a writer, I have to write.

I have to stop over analyzing every blessed thing and just do it.  Hopefully, this inspires some of you to take one last deep breath and dive in to whatever it is you wish.  And if you do, know that I am cheering from the stands and wholly and completely on your side.

On fast food and slow-acting poisons.

Published October 4, 2012 by mandileighbean

“That if I lived ’til I could no longer climb my stairs, I just don’t think that I’ll ever get over you.”

– Colin Hay

The title of this blog entry should seem completely appropriate based on the content of the previous entry.  However, the content of this particular blog entry should also seem completely contradictory based on the content of the previous entry.  I am a terrible mess of contradictions but I suppose that, at some level, is what makes me human.  So, speaking of fast food, I was sitting in my idling car in the drive-thru lane of the local McDonald’s.  I had not eaten anything but already felt nauseous from guilt.  I could have stopped at Wawa and purchased a salad with low-fat dressing.  I should have done that, especially after publically berating myself for my laziness and weakness on the internet.  I rationalized my poor decision with the complaint of having no time and having a real need for “fast food.”  It was a rainy Tuesday and I had to be at home instruction in about twenty minutes.  I was pressed for time, but that was still no reason to gorge myself on fats and oils.  I was feeling awful, and hating myself, when he walked by.

He is the reason I simultaneously loathed and loved being fifteen years old.  He is the reason I place monumental importance on all of my friendships and relationships, particularly with those of the opposite sex.  He is the reason I wanted to die and the reason I woke in the morning.  He is the reason I believe in love, the reason I chase after it, and the reason I do not believe I will ever catch it.  He is the greatest thing about my past and the worst thing about my past.  He is everything to me and a part of me that aches and throbs every day.  It does not matter that I have not spoken a word to him in nearly a decade.  Every boy I have met since him, I have compared to him.  I have a terrible suspicion that on my wedding day, as my heels tread softly along a red aisle runner and my eyes do their best to peer through a lacy veil, I will be disappointed that he is not waiting for me at my journey’s conclusion.

I never dated him.  Truth be told, I have only been on about five dates in my entire life.  Romance has eluded me, but I came close with him.  It was my sophomore year of high school and he was a senior.  He was intelligent and kind and paid attention to me.  I made him laugh.  He passed me food in the hallways.  We sat together at lunch.  I knew with every fiber of my being that he loved me in the insane and impossible way I thought I loved him.  The fact that he had a girlfriend seemed inconsequential until that lone fact sparked a mini, melodramatic war that tainted the way others viewed me and forever changed the way I saw myself.  When push came to shove, he stood beside her instead of me, as he should have.  I was young and dumb, but devastated nonetheless.  I have been chasing after him, or at least the idea of him, ever since.  On Tuesday, I caught up with him.

As I said, I was idling in the drive-thru lane.  He exited McDonald’s and walked directly in front of my car.  I looked up at the passerby, assuming it would be a random stranger as it always is and satisfying the curiosity which tends to lead me to “people watching.”  It took me a moment or two to realize just who it was I was staring it, and I gawked for another moment or two before completely diverting my gaze.  It was too late, though; we had made eye contact.  I figured he had to traverse only five feet or so before he escaped my windshield, so I tried to count the paces in my befuddled brain.  When I looked up again, he was walking beside a girl to an incredibly expensive and incredibly stylish looking car, painted a dark blue.  My heart was pounding fit to split and the color had drained from my face to pool in my hands, which suddenly felt swollen and numb.  And in that moment, when I was most defeated and vulnerable, he looked back like he wanted to make sure it was me.

I sent my gaze screaming to my lap, pleading to God that my food would be ready and I could take it and flee, tires squealing as I whipped out of the drive-thru lane.  I did not look to see if he was talking to his female companion; I would then assume (or hope?) that he would be telling her all about our sordid history that never was.  It was bad enough I had seen him, let alone witnessed him try to chance a second glance.  This will consume me for the next one hundred years or so, as will the unresolved wonderings of a creative mind such as mine.

Should I have said hello?  Should I have waved?  Should I have left the safety of the car to strike up a conversation?  Had he spoken to me, I think I would have died.  If I want to converse with him, then I should, right?  I mean, after all, I only have this one life and I am forever rambling on about and passionately preaching against wasted time and missed opportunities, but isn’t that what this chance encounter was?  Am I wrong for thinking it was the perfect time to reconnect?

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