How to Survive a Haunted House — Revisited

So in time for Halloween, I thought I would re-run an entry from January 26, 2014 that hopefully will save everyone a lot of heartache should they ever find themselves living with a less than friendly spirit.  You’re welcome. 


Everybody already knows, and I am not ashamed to admit, that I love horror movies. Always have and always will.  The only other film genre that has a chance at being my #1 is this new (and much appreciated) wave of comic book inspired extravaganzas that have been inundating the screens for the past decade or so.  While I have a deep passion for horror movies it’s been quite a while since I’ve been truly creeped out by one. Outside of the original The Exorcist I honestly can’t recall a film that has sent that delicious chill up my spine, made my heart race, or gotten the hairs on my arms to stand on end.

Instead of true thrills and chills, it seems like the horror movies nowadays depend solely on what I call the “surprise factor” to scare their audiences.  As in, something suddenly jumps into or out of the scene or a door slams or a piece of furniture falls over with a loud bang. To me that’s a cheap scare. I much prefer the slow creepy build-up and truly “scary” maneuvers of the masters of horror.

I’m not complaining because I still do find the latest movies entertaining in their own right, just never truly hitting the mark as far as making me have to sleep with the lights on.  What does tend to happen though is that instead of getting goose bumps I end up shaking my head at the rampant stupidity that many of the main characters always seem to exhibit. Paranormal Activity is a perfect example of moronicness (yes, I’m aware that is not a real word) gone awry.

(Side note: I do understand that the creators of these movies have to put the characters in certain situations to make the action move forward and sometimes not acting like an idiot would be boring, but please allow me to remain on my soapbox a little bit longer.)

So, Paranormal Activity. Decent movie, a little dated I know, but I liked it – I just don’t get the logic behind it. If you think ghosts are hunkered down in your spot, why the hell would you go around the house trying to piss them off? It makes no sense. I can barely get a mouse to leave my kitchen. What chance does someone have of driving away a spirit from another dimension? Most people are terrified at the idea of living in a haunted house (a big reason why these movies are so successful, it’s a universal feeling), but think about it; as long as you just did your normal stuff, make breakfast, tidy up, mow the lawn, you’d probably be alright. Think of the ghost as a roommate. You might not like him or her, but suck it up.

I fully understand the natural instinct to guard your space. If I moved into a new place and found out it was haunted, I probably wouldn’t just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that these things just sort of happen sometimes.  I’d freak out some.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d have a ball.  But in a freaked out sort of way.  It’s totally justifiable to have a meltdown upon learning the news you’ve been duped into a haunted abode…at least for a little while.  Sure, you could take the righteous indignation attitude, as you would with any intruder, and stomp around with a baseball bat, yelling insults at Mr. or Mrs. Ghost to get them to show themselves.  Although seriously….WHY would you want them to show themselves!? I mean think about it!  That never ends well.  So just know that if and when this happens, chances are the ghost is going to be slightly upset at such disrespect and retaliation is to be expected.  In fact, what other reaction would you really expect to achieve?

I don’t have much face-to-face experience with an angry ghost but I can only assume whatever it has in mind to do, it’s going to be something I’m clearly and gloriously unprepared to handle. Which is what I want the characters in these movies to consider when they’re throwing their “show yourself” tantrums. It might be better just to let the ghost win right off the bat.  Let them have the house.  But if you do decide to stick around and share the place with Casper or say….a demon from Hell, just don’t take any tips from the Paranormal Activity’s resident genius Micah. The rule is simple: Don’t piss off the ghost. If you do, well, have fun in in the afterlife.


Halloween is coming around and this special holiday has me thinking about the kooky, scary people you see. No, I’m not talking about the mummies and monsters roaming the streets, but the special neighbors sitting out on their porch who see this night as chance to evangelize.

Let me sketch out a typical scenario I’ve seen and you can tell me if this happens in your neighborhood too: You send your kids out in their cute little Batman or Cinderella costumes, cheerfully chanting “Trick or Treat” throughout the neighborhood like little undercover Oliver Twists begging “Can I have some more?”

They return home with their plastic pumpkin pails full to the brim with mini Snickers and Kit Kat bars. Occasionally, instead of some nugget of processed sugar that will rot their teeth, they get an apple handed out by one of the more health conscious neighbors. But along with that ripe reminder of earth’s own abundant candy, your kids also receive two or three religious pamphlets that explain that, oh by the way, they’re all going to Hell (with a capital H) because they’re Trick-or-Treating for free candy. Does this happen to you? Apparently—at least in my neighborhood—much like, oh, murder, incest, thievery, sacrilege, and rape, celebrating Halloween is a hell worthy offense too. Why? Because these people believe it’s some widespread form of devil worship, which is laughable to say the least.

Quick History lesson: Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve, was never a Satanic holiday to begin with.  Oh, it may have been usurped as such by some misguided delinquents in recent years and certainly it’s been high-jacked by horror movies as prime fodder for scaring the bejeesus out of us, but the truth of the matter is that Halloween originated with paying homage to the dead (i.e., paying respects to relatives who have passed on).  Some believed the holiday was a time when the “veil between the worlds is thin,” (if you believe in that sort of thing) and therefore it is a night to pay your respects to your ancestors since the ability for you to communicate with them is at its strongest. Long story short, Halloween was meant to be a time of RESPECT.

Going back to the origins of Halloween, the Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the start of winter– though I seriously doubt it was exactly on October 31st.  Roughly around that time they harvested their fields and killed animals (cattle) to fill their larders and cull their herds for the coming winter. Of course, nowadays that equates to a sacrificial frenzy that involved people bathing in blood and killing off their friends and neighbors in bizarre Satanic rituals (which is surprisingly hard to do when you don’t believe in Satan).

While I don’t know the Bible cover to cover, I don’t believe Halloween is even mentioned in any of the gospels. So the info in the pamphlets my kids have brought home is sort of suspect right off the top. Of course religious zealots (emphasis on zealots) have twisted the whole “evil” thing to their advantage since Halloween is basically a pagan idea.  And as we all know Christians = good and Pagans = bad.  You know, all that willy-nilly sacrificial stuff.

Sadly, just like Christmas, Halloween has been so commercialized that it barely resembles what it used to be anyway. Now, of course, it’s treated just as a time for kids to go out and “beg” for candy, and very few kids will “trick” (as in, TP a house) if they don’t get any. So it’s really just “give me candy” aka “treating.” No threat of a “trick” at all to the candy giver any more. Sad how the world has changed.

But back to the pamphlets— even those individuals who adhere to the origins of the holiday (which I can’t emphasize enough is paying respects to deceased ancestors, NOT sacrificing first-born infant sons to a winged beast of the netherworld), don’t push their beliefs on others by handing out pamphlets telling the costumed critters they’re going somewhere awful just because they’re not home lighting a candle to remember Grandma in the great beyond.

So why do other religious folk feel the need to tell young children that they’re going to go to Hell simply for dressing up as their favorite cartoon character and begging for a few Starburst? I’ve never understood the folks who are so narrow-minded and so holier-than-thou that they would spoil an innocent kid’s holiday with religious dogma. If you don’t want to give out candy to the little mites, just don’t answer the door.  Do the universal “leave me alone, I’m not giving out candy” thing: turn off your porch light and leave it at that.

Childhood is a time of innocence, at least for a short while. Let the buggers beg for candy in peace for goodness sake.




True Love

The infamous “they” claim that romance novels have destroyed any sense of realistic views of love for women. They say guys don’t really stand a chance because they could never live up to the hype of the romantic characters in books and movies. I can understand that. But the problem for me is I hate romance novels and there are very few “chick flicks” that maintain my interest.

I’m a Marvel Comics, Red, Sin City, No one Lives, action/thriller/horror kind of a gal. I want the kind of love you see in those kinds of movies…for example, when the hero or anti-hero’s girl gets kidnapped, everyone in the audience (AND eventually the person who did the kidnapping) all say “Oh shit, he’s gonna pay for that when so and so finds out.”  And they’re right.

Well then. You can imagine how disappointing it can be to live and love in the “real world.”

It’s not that I hate the idea of my man showing up with a bouquet of field-picked flowers or learning origami just so he can fold me a paper figurine of my favorite bird. That’s all well and good, but what really spoils my idea of love and romance are the love stories shown in the action films, even when they don’t mean to be love stories.

Dance of the Dead (Masters of Horror series, not the movie): When anti-hero Jak and heroine Peggy are face-to-face with the bad guy in a dismal and dangerous post-apocalyptic world, Jak steps in front of Peggy to protect her from getting shot. The great thing is that it wasn’t one of those dramatic thrusts where he flies through the air, arms flailing, to intercept the bullet. It’s the ease in which he does it. There’s no fanfare but also no hesitation. He just smoothly steps in front of her and into the line of fire as soon as he sees the gun come out. Slick as anything. And better than flowers and romance any day.

Dance of the Dead

Dance of the Dead — Jak and Peggy

Iron Man 3: (Potential minor spoiler) Tony Stark’s house is getting blown into confetti by a flurry of missiles. Yet even with so much chaos and panic and fire and noise, his first thought is to protect Pepper. As he’s being blown through the air by the explosion, Stark immediately sends the very cool Iron Man suit to cover her and protect her from the debris while he bears the brunt of the attack himself. It’s not so much the act, but rather that it was his first, involuntary thought. He didn’t think, “I could use the suit, but nah, I’ll give it to Pepper. That’s what a good boyfriend does.” The choice didn’t exist in his mind. His thought process went immediately from “Danger” to “Protect Pepper” without any steps in between. That’s love.

Iron Man 3 — love in the Marvel Universe

The Crazies: Timothy Olyphant’s character couldn’t flee the infected zombie like people because his wife was somewhere in the town.  Oh he could’ve saved himself, sure, the opportunity was there.  But he had to find her.  Another guy was leaving and was incredulous that Timothy Olyphant was staying.  Timothy Olyphant’s character said to the guy: “Don’t ask me why I can’t leave without my wife, and I won’t ask you why you can.” Who wouldn’t swoon at such devotion?

The Crazies -- the wife he couldn't leave behind

The Crazies —  he couldn’t leave her behind

No-one Lives:  Don’t even get me started on this one.  Suffice it to say the title is an apt description of what happens after the seriously anti-hero’s love interest is killed.  The fact that the anti-hero was a bit of a whack job himself does not lessen my admiration of his dedication whatsoever.  Not sure what that says about me.

No One Lives -- a whack job, but dedicated

No One Lives — a whack job, but dedicated

The Notebook: “Well, if you’re a bird, I’m definitely a bird.” Oh, Ryan Gosling. That one just kind of speaks for itself. He says it like a math equation. A statement of fact. Nothing to question. Hey, what can I say?  The Notebook was an amazing movie even for someone like me.

If you're a bird, I'm a bird.

If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.

So the movies I like to watch have shaped my expectations.

Unfortunately the movies I like the best are not always your typical romances. Flowers, candy, all that is easy.  I want the kind of love that drives the guy to fight an army of the undead or break into the Russian Consulate to regain what was taken from him.

I doubt I’ll ever have the need to be encased in special armor during an attack and somehow I don’t think I’ll ever get snatched by the CIA in a convoluted plot or even chased by zombies. But the specifics aren’t what I pine for. It’s the intensity. That, I believe, can exist in this world. If not and it’s just generic love stories like you find in Cameron Diaz movies then I’m screwed.


As if life wasn’t hectic enough, the universe recently thought it could double up on my stress level and bless me with a nice medical problem on top of everything else that’s been vying for the top spot in my list of current anxieties. Or, maybe I should say it’s not so much a medical problem as it is… cue ominous music… “mystery science theatre,” because as of yet the doctors have no clue how to solve whatever it is I’ve got – or even what I have.

I’ll tell you, there’s a special category of “disheartening” when you go to your doctor seeking reassurance in the knowledge that surely to goodness somewhere in his career he’s cured things much worse than whatever it is you’ve got and he just shrugs his shoulders at you. Literally. That’s what he did.  No joke.

When I first went in to be seen the doctors went straight down the terror route. “Ahh, let’s see, maybe we should do a biopsy of something.”  Of course, my mind immediately jumped from “I thought I might need some pills for a few days” to “What the hell’s going to be on my tombstone?” Then, after wrapping my head around the possibility that I might have a malignant golf ball in my lungs and/or my sinuses, the doctors said “Nah, screw that, never mind.” They never did the biopsy.

Instead they downgraded their opinion of what I might have to something cheerfully referred to as “double pneumonia.” Just for the record, I would have been fine with just a single. That’s all the pneumonia I’ll ever need.

Then the doctors said, “Forget we mentioned that” and changed it to sudden onset asthma.  Then, another guess was thrown in the ring for good measure… bronchitis?

None of their treatment methods have worked out so far. At this point it just sort of feels like they’re flipping through pages in a medical dictionary and seeing where their finger lands. After the attempts at treating the bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia failed they at least know it’s none of those three. Thank you, Dr. Obvious.

So now we just have to keep doing more tests. Not like I have other stuff do with my day. Oh sure, Doc, I’ll be here whenever you need me. What do you want to test for? Rabies? Great! You think it could be scurvy? Let’s find out!

I’m sorry, I know diagnosing an illness isn’t exactly so cut and dry, but c’mon, Doc. You have that fancy degree hanging up on your office wall. Let’s earn it, buddy. If I have to go into another X-ray and give a 10 minute explanation about how I know for sure that I’m not pregnant one more time, my freakin’ head’s going to explode. Just mark it down on my record. I’m sure there’s a box there. Pregnant? No. In ink. And please just believe me next time. I’m not trying to pull one over on you.  Seriously.  I’ve had two kids, one is 22 years old.  I know where babies come from and would hope you’d trust me about something as life-altering as pregnant or not pregnant.  You don’t need to give me the third degree every single time.

As of today the doctors, in their infinite wisdom, have me on the steroid prednisone which, as it turns out, is the same medicine my dog takes. Go figure. If they put a cone around my head I might just seek out another healthcare provider. Until then, I’ll take the steroids and my own in-house remedy…Mucinex and Codeine-laced cough syrup.  A combo of those two and it’s nighty-night.  I didn’t even have to go to med school to figure that one out.

Death Comes to the Drive-Thru

Got an important funeral coming up and you just don’t want to run into Aunt Edna? Or you just know your ex is going to be at the cemetery with his new stick-thin blonde girlfriend? Or you can’t bother to be hassled by Grandpa Barry’s old-school sexist comments? Well, thank heavens for Paradise Funeral Chapels, one of the first funeral homes that comes complete with a drive-thru window. Hallelujah! Drop off your deceased at Paradise and come funeral time you won’t even have to bother trying to find parking. You can just roll right on up to the viewing window where sad, mournful music kicks in from an overhead speaker. Then you and your loved one get three whole minutes of alone time (separated by thick glass, of course) for you to deliver any heartfelt goodbyes.

Gone is the need to actually be in the same room as your family members if you don’t feel like it. Paradise Funeral Chapels understands that people are getting busier every day and has designed their parlor for those on the go. Pay your respects to Grandpa on the way to Timmy’s soccer game without missing a second of the first quarter. Don’t miss a second of that conference call with your firm’s partners as you blow a kiss to dearly departed Nana.

So if you don’t know how the heck you’re going to squeeze in your last goodbyes and still make it to Nordstrom’s in time for the big sale, look no further than Paradise.  Oh and no need to worry about that last-minute beach traffic either, you’ve got that covered! Pop on over to Paradise to say adieu to Cousin Fred and be on the road to sun and surf in no time at all!

In all seriousness, I can almost, sort of, slightly see how a drive-thru funeral option would be maybe “okay.” Some families have “issues” when they get in the same room together. I suppose this could be a way to avoid any potential fisticuffs between brothers that just can’t get along. And as the article states, maybe this is an easier alternative for those who are disabled. Perhaps it has some practical causes. Maybe. Sort of. Kind of. But in reality, it just sounds tacky…especially when there are more respectful, and just as practical, alternatives to choose from: such as separate viewing times for family members (since acting like adults is apparently out of the question), handicapped accessible areas, etc.

Of course there’s nothing that can be done – no real compromise to be made – for those individuals who just don’t want to take five minutes out of their day to go inside and pay their respects to the dearly departed because they’re simply too busy or too lazy. For those people, it would seem these windows were ideally invented.

As for me, I’m still wrapping my head around drive-thru Starbucks. It’s going to take some time to absorb drive-thru eulogizing.



Eat a Banker

A few days ago I was driving along on my merry way when this car in front of me at a red light catches my eye…not because it was a particularly attractive car or because it was getting on my nerves as so many cars do at traffic lights, but because it was covered in a dozen, maybe more, bumper stickers. The driver obviously has an ax to grind because every sticker was addressing the financial crisis that started a few years ago. He (or she) definitely has bank issues. A lot of anti-1% sentiment. Others spewing condemnation at big banks and their blatant thievery.  One in particular really grabbed my attention. It said something along the lines of “give a man a gun and he can rob a bank, give a man a bank and he can rob everyone.”  You get the drift.

I didn’t really have an opinion on the matter up to this point. If you want your battle to be our financial institutions, go wild. If you want to rail against fracking, be my guest. Making your stand on health care costs? Good for you! As long as it’s not racist, sexist, and any of the other hate-filled “-ist”s I’m not going to get in your way for believing what you want to believe.

This car only got my attention because bumper stickers are very effective at doing what it takes to get read. Big letters, bright colors. Our eyes can’t avoid being sucked in to a good sticker. And this one just had soooo many.  But then, after we read them we may chuckle if it’s witty before promptly erasing it from our memory.

I was on the verge of forgetting this car even existed until I read one of the last bumper stickers. It said “save money, eat a banker.” This one, I could not let roll off so easily. The hyperbole of the message was just so extreme it baffled me, I’ll admit.

Is this what we’ve come to in our protests against big banking?  The suggestion of cannibalism? I’m sure the driver doesn’t mean for the sticker to be taken literally (well, pretty sure anyway). In all likelihood they just got a kick out of it and because they thought it was witty they popped it on the back of their car. But cannibalism as a joke?

That’s sort of a different league then say “save a horse, ride a cowboy” or “honk if you like loud noises.” Those are pretty benign, straightforward, and somewhat goofy. And in the case of “save a horse, ride a cowboy” at least you’d be getting a modicum of fun out of the deal.

I’m not trying to suggest that a certain decorum or taste be applied when one chooses a bumper sticker. I’m not running a car decoration finishing school. It just struck me as odd that the punch line to that particular joke—one that was not about the zombie apocalypse—was to ingest another human being. This is the best that the group who made the sticker could come up with? Cannibalism?

I didn’t stop there with my thinking. Oh no, I kept going. I was riding this freight train of thought to the very end.

I tested the logical reasoning behind the absurd sticker. If someone did eat a banker, would they actually save money? Does the argument hold up? I’ve come to the conclusion that, no, it is not even a valid suggestion. Chances are with how unaccustomed your stomach is for human flesh, you’d end up getting wicked sick and have to go to the hospital to get treated for food poisoning. You’d get your stomach pumped, you’d have to stay overnight for observation, then once they found out you were dining on Barry the Banker you’d probably have to attend therapy if you were lucky enough to avoid getting tossed in prison.

It just doesn’t make sense. Sounds to me like you’d end up spending a ton of money just to get yourself out of such a mess.

And really, say your stomach is fine with human meat. Say that you’ll never get caught and won’t have to go to the hospital. That still begs the question, what kind of wine goes with a banker? Or maybe a glass of brandy would be more preferable? It is a banker after all. The headaches of figuring this bumper sticker out just don’t end. It’s simply a bad idea. How about this one “save your sanity, don’t read bumper stickers.”