Sunday, May 29, 2011

This Time Last Year: A Photo Blog

This time last year, I was living in Southwest Florida and I had flown back home for a visit.  I spent most of the week visiting with friends and family, getting to see everyone I missed, but I also spent a fair amount of time just looking at the place I had called home for most of my life with new eyes.

When you live in one place your whole life, even somewhere as beautiful as this, you tend to take it for granted.  Coming home to visit, I was overwhelmed by how many things I had simply ignored because I knew they were right around the corner.  One afternoon, I decided to drive to Pottersville and go to Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, a place I had always known about, but never visited.

Once inside, I walked a short distance down a path and scrambled up a hill to the first of the scenic viewing areas.  It took my breath away.  After the flatness of Florida, to see the rocky turrain of Upstate New York again was like magic.  I stood there for some time, drinking in the view, before heading back downhill, sweating in the unseasonal May heat.

As I walked along the rocky pathways, I was glad of the shade provided by the many trees along the way.  It seemed like such a lush, interesting landscape.  I wasn't sure how I had made it so far in life without realizing how special "home" really was.

I loved walking down into the cool seclusion of Noisy Cave, listening to the rushing of the water and breathing deep of the damp cave air.  I knew it was a well traveled place and that there were others walking the paths just outside, but for a few minutes it felt like my own secret hideaway.

Visiting a place I had never been before in my own "back yard", I felt an overwhelming love for the place I came from and a resolution not to let this feeling slip away.  Two months later, I was living back in New York.

I promise to continue to visit places I may have overlooked and places I had decided I had already seen and didn't need to pay attention to anymore.  I continue to be awed by the sight of the mountains that are the backdrop to everything in this part of the world.  I won't take home for granted any more. Registered & Protected

All photos were shot with my Canon 5D and 24-105mm zoom lens.  I used Photoshop Lightroom to adjust color and exposure wherever I felt it was needed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Little Something About Vampires

I wrote this a while back, some time shortly after Twilight came out.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the Twilight series...books and movies.  It's just that I felt like the whole Friendly Neighborhood Vampire thing had gone too far. 

Oooh, he's a NICE vampire.  He doesn't eat PEOPLE.  blech.

I felt like, if we continued in the direction we were going, all of the Vampires would be wearing dentures, blending in with humans, sucking on sterilized bags of blood.  I felt like somebody needed to give the Vamps their TEETH back.

And so, I wrote this.  Call it an excerpt from an unwritten manuscript, Call it a short story, Call it the scribbling of a madwoman,  whatever you like...just don't call my Vampires NICE.

So, without further ado, I bring you Vampires...With Teeth!

            The music was so loud that to even think of conversation was impossible.  Not that anyone in The Black Hole was there for conversation.  The strobe lights flashed across the dance floor, giving staccato outline to each movement of the dancers.  Sweat covered bodies writhed against each other, best friends and strangers all becoming part of the sea of bodies churning to the beat.  Through the crowd a solitary figure wound her way, not following the beat but stepping around it as she stepped around the dancers, looking for the right one.  Lights, purple, pink, then blue flashed across her sharp featured face, making the hollows of her cheeks appear that much deeper.
            Her eyes caught those of a young man, his damp hair clinging to his forehead, his face aglow with perspiration and the high of the evening.  She moved in close, dancing up against him, raising her arms, letting him run his hands along her body and through her long red hair.  She brought her hands down to cradle the back of his head, touching her face to his, sliding her mouth down to his neck where her tongue darted out from between her lips, tasting the salt of his sweat.

            He may have groaned in pleasure before his throat was torn open.  These things happen so quickly it’s hard to tell for sure.

            After dropping the body near the edge of the dance floor, Molly exited the club through the back door, stepping into the cool air of the darkened alley as she licked an errant streak of blood from her forearm.  She spotted Nick just as he let go of the lifeless form of a young girl, allowing her body to topple onto that of another girl already lying dead near the grimy back wall of the club.

            “No fair, you got a two-for?”  Molly raised an eyebrow, teasing but not teasing.  Jealous.  Nick stepped out of the shadows and kissed her.  Molly could taste the girl’s blood on his lips, and she clutched at him, falling into a frenzy of lust both of the body and the blood.

            He pulled away abruptly.  God, she hated it when he did that.  “Let’s get one more to go,” he said.

            “But I haven’t given you your present yet.”  Molly giggled and pulled something out of the pocket of her tight fitting dark wash jeans.  She extended her hand so Nick could see.  It was an earring.  A thick stainless steel hoop with an iron cross hanging from it.  It also had a bit of earlobe dangling from it.  “Oops,” she said, twisting the nugget of flesh off the hoop and letting it fall to the ground.

            “You found it,”  Nick said with a smile as he took the gory earring from Molly and pushed it through his earlobe. 

            Earlier in the evening, Nick and Molly had been hanging out at the mall, looking for something to do.  They had watched as a young man with unkempt brown hair got his ear pierced by a pretty young girl with too many tattoos at a kiosk near the food court.  As the young man flirted with the girl, he had no way of knowing that he’d been marked for death.  Nick had told Molly that he wanted that earring.  The scavenger hunt was on.

             When he left, they followed in their car to his apartment where they waited outside, climbing a tree to peer in his window while they laughed and hushed each other.  They could have taken him at any time, but they preferred to wait, to draw out the game.  After centuries of immortality, they needed to be innovative to keep things from getting stale.

            His cell phone rang, barely perceptible over the loud rock music he was listening to.  He used a remote control to turn down the stereo to talk.  “Ten o’clock.  The Black Hole.  I’ll see you there,” he said.  “Later.”  He turned the music back up and the vampires jumped silently down from the tree.  Later, thought Molly, as she and Nick skipped back to their car.

            “Come on, Nick, let’s play some Vampire Baseball!” shouted Molly.  The moon was full with not a cloud in the sky and Molly was standing in an empty field holding a human leg and a head that had presumably come from the same body.  She was tossing the head lightly up and down in her right hand.  “Pleeease.”
            “Knock it off, Molly.  That’s disgusting.”  Nick turned his back and started to walk away but stopped short when the head hit him in the middle of his back.  He spun around to glare at his companion, “You’re getting blood all over your clothes!  And mine, too, now!  It’s not funny!”
            Molly just laughed and started to peel off her clothes.  “So what?”
            “So, you don’t think we’ll draw a little more attention than we want walking around in blood soaked clothes?  Or naked?”
            Standing in the bright light of the moon without a stitch of clothing, Molly looked down at her blood smeared body.  The wet blood glistened in the moonlight.  “Oh look, I’m sparkling.”  She gave Nick her best innocent look, which, let’s face it, wasn’t very innocent.  But he finally relented and cracked a smile.
            “I’m not taking you to the movies any more,”  he said walking forward to kiss her.  “Let’s get cleaned up and go shopping.”
            “Oooh, goody!” squealed Molly, as she nipped his tongue.  “I love shopping.”

            After rinsing off in a nearby creek, the now soggy vampires walked down a trail toward town.  Molly was still naked, but Nick had opted to keep his clothes on, since they were fairly clean, aside from the spot where the head had hit the middle of his back.  Still in the woods, they could hear music and shouting up ahead and, as they continued, they could see firelight flickering through the trees.  “I hate keg parties,” Nick muttered out of the corner of his mouth. 
            The two snuck closer, hiding behind trees to watch.  Three teenaged boys stood close to the bonfire while two girls sat on the open back of a pickup truck with their feet dangling inches from the ground.  The girls were nursing their beers and whispering to each other.  One of the guys took his beer bottle and tapped it on top of another’s open bottle, causing a volcanic foam explosion.  “Chug it! Chug it!”  They chanted and hooted while the other cursed briefly before chugging the beer and tossing the empty bottle into the fire where it landed with a hiss.  “You guys are assholes!” he sputtered.  The girls paused to watch momentarily before going on with their conversation.
            Molly stood up and tapped her chin just below the left corner of her mouth, giving Nick a significant look.  Nick slowly straightened himself up, shaking his head slightly and rolling his eyes as if to say, “here we go again”, but instantly cocked back his arm and then pistoned his fist forward, smashing the appointed spot on Molly’s face.
            Molly took a half step back and gingerly touched the edge of her lip where she could feel a few drops of blood forming.  She smeared it down her chin for maximum effect, knowing the wound would heal almost instantly, and flashed a smile before running into the firelit circle.
            “Help me!  Oh God!  Please!”  she screamed as she grasped the unbuttoned flannel shirt worn by the young man who had just finished the beer.  The girls in the truck screamed and clutched at each other while the guys shouted choruses of “Jesus Christ!  What the fuck?!”
            “He’s right behind me!  You’ve got to help me!”  Molly clung to the flannel shirt, her eyes filled with tears.
            “Who’s behind you?  What the hell’s going on?”  her would-be savior stammered.
            The boy who had initiated the beer chugging walked to the edge of the clearing near where Molly had appeared, trying to see into the dark forest.  The girls had gotten down from the truck bed and were now huddled close to the two young men standing by the fire.  “Paul, don’t go out there,” said one of them.
            He glanced back and then immediately was swept out of sight by an unseen force, disappearing into the darkness with nothing more than a grunt.
            The girls shrieked and jumped, crying now, “Paul?  Paul?!!”  But there was no reply.  The remaining boys weren’t much better off, trying to act brave and feeling anything but.  Molly could smell the fear coming off them in waves and she started to laugh, a deep throaty laugh as she lightly touched her tongue to her razor sharp teeth.
            “Oops,” she said.  “There goes Paul.” She bit into the throat of the boy whose shirt she’d been clutching, bursting his jugular and sucking down the sweet juice of his life.
            Before the others could fully register what had just happened, Nick was upon the last of the boys, grabbing the sides of his head and snapping his neck.  As Molly finished her feast, Nick grasped the girls by the hair. “What’s it to be, Moll?” he asked.
            Molly licked the last of the blood from the boy’s neck and let his body drop to the ground before turning her attention to the whimpering, hysterical girls.  Both of them were wearing blue jeans of slightly different cuts.  One had a tank top with the words “Heart Breaker” emblazoned on the front, the other wore a plain white tee. 
            “I’ll have to try the jeans on,” she said, unbuttoning the pants of one of the girls. She unceremoniously ripped the jeans off the kicking, screaming girl and slid them on.  “Hmmm.  I’m not sure.  Let’s try the other’s.”  Molly started to repeat the procedure on the second girl but then wrinkled her nose and stopped.  “You peed your pants, you little pig,” she said as she dropped the girl’s legs in disgust.
            Molly gripped the girl by the throat, tearing her out of Nick’s grasp, leaving him with a few strands of brown hair twined around his fingers.  “You ruined my shopping trip,” she stated matter of factly, crushing the girl’s windpipe in her fist.  “The shirt’s still fine,” Molly sniffed as she pulled the tank top over the dead girl’s head.
            Nick was trying to shake the hair off his left hand while holding the last girl with his right.  Molly pulled the shirt on before plucking the hairs out from between Nick’s fingers.  She checked through the guys’ pockets until she found the keys to one of the pickup trucks and she and Nick climbed in with the girl wedged between them.
            “Dinner, a show, and a doggie bag for later.  You still know how to show a girl a good time, Nick.”
            Nick chuckled and leaned across the girl to kiss his lover.  He would do anything for his girl.

    Registered & Protected

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fear and Self-Loathing at the Buffet

Let's just get this straight right from the start: I hate buffets. Since my husband is recovering from a little impromptu brain surgery, however, I felt the need to give in and take him to the (ahem) restaurant of his choice.

As we pushed open the glass doors and walked into the entryway, my nostrils began to twitch. "What's that smell?" I asked, fearing the answer.  My husband just smiled as we walked through the roped off corral to the beginning of the feed line where we helped ourselves to a plastic cafeteria tray and some cups we then filled with the beverages of our choice. "Two?" droned the cashier, and I reluctantly forked over my cash.

"Where do you want to sit?" I asked with some trepidation, surveying the dining room.  "It doesn't matter," serenely replied my husband, seemingly oblivious to the over bright lights and obese herds stampeding the feed line. A panicked cry came from across the room, "I need more biscuits!".   Tommy plunked our drinks down on an empty table and we hesitated for just a moment before beginning our own attack on the buffet line.

I headed for the salad bar and filled up a plate with lettuce, red bell peppers, grilled chicken, bacon bits and croutons topped with Italian dressing. Tommy shot me a quizzical look before disappearing down the long meandering line of food.  I found my way back to our table and started happily munching on lettuce.  "This isn't so bad," I thought, just in time for Tommy to arrive with a plate piled high with ribs slathered in a variety of sauces.

He attacked the meat with an enthusiasm that slowly waned as it became evident that he had amassed a plate of gooey bones and fat with bits of meat binding them together. For some reason, this made me want to try and see if I could get better ribs than he had, as if there was a secret stash of meaty ribs somewhere that you could have if only you could mutter the password to a man in a trench coat and hat.  "Have the guy slice them for you.  I didn't get that kind," my husband offered helpfully.

I trotted off to ask "the guy" to chop a hunk of rib onto my blue plastic plate as Tommy half-heartedly picked at his bones.  When I arrived back at the table, I tagged Tommy in and he left me to make his next selections.

I found that the ribs from "the guy" were indeed a bit better than the ones my husband had been subjected to, but still nothing to write home about. I had also acquired a greasy, overcooked ear of corn and an oddly chewy baked potato.  Meanwhile, Tommy came back with roasted chicken, stuffing and sweet potatoes with a generous coating of gravy, most of which he seemed to enjoy.  While we ate, I indulged in a little people watching.  I was fascinated by the old man in the corner who had a stack of empty plates beside him and what appeared to be a single potato on the one in front of him. The woman at the next table had a heaping plate of deep fried zucchini which she, apparently, thought was finger licking good.  Tommy noted that the employees were all getting just salad bar.  "Do you think they know something we don't?" he asked.  Just then, the speaker system blared out a message, "Everybody wish a Happy Birthday to Robin Jones!  Happy Birthday, Robin!" and I had flashbacks to the County Fair.  The feed line, the staticky announcements on the PA system interrupting the country music, the smell of was all too much.

I glanced back into the corner.  The old man had finished his potato and gone back up for seconds.  As I watched, he came back to his table with a solitary piece of chicken.  The woman at the next table had refilled her plate with more deep fried zucchini.  By now, I was working on my third plate; an eclectic mix of spicy orange chicken, Mexican rice, and lasagna.  As I pushed food around on my plate, my mind drifted and I started thinking up new slogans for the eating establishment we had chosen.  "Just like homemade...if you grew up in prison" or "Just like your mom used to make...if your mom wasn't much of a cook," came to mind.  And yet, for some reason, I was drawn once again to refill my plate...again and again.

Are you sure that was Pineapple?

And that, my friends, is the magic of the buffet line, its raison d'etre, the secret to its matter how terrible the food, you can always go back and fill your plate with something else.  Hope springs eternal at the buffet line, as do heartburn and regret.  Because, however little you may eat of your dried up pecan crusted tilapia or the oddly chewy baked potato, you have still managed to help yourself to a dozen plates of tepid, mediocre fare and consumed approximately enough to feed an Ethiopian village for a month without ever feeling sated because you never found anything that tasted very good.  You found quantity over quality and you found it to be unsettling to the stomach.  You look around you and see dissatisfied faces with double and triple chins.  You see wrinkled noses sniffing the contents of plates trying to figure out why their corn on the cob smells of grease.  And yet, you go back for more, because, for god's sake, it's All You Can Eat and you can still eat more and maybe, just maybe, there's something good up there at that ten mile long line of warming trays!

I discretely unbutton my jeans and fill a plate with chocolate lava cake and self-loathing...maybe dessert will be better. Registered & Protected

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