Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Twitch of the Death Nerve

I’ve been riding my bike a lot lately. It’s been very liberating to venture out on bike trails and simply choose what path to take. I haven’t made decisions for just myself in quite a long time. Choosing a path almost feels rebellious. A few weeks ago, I went down a path I’d only seen a couple of other cyclists take. It’s an off-road trail that runs past a wheat field and seems to lead into a bunch of trees. I was feeling a little reckless, so I left the comfortable and populated confines of the normal trail and went down the path alone. It led me to a big house with an iron gate that had a bunch of shit scattered around it. In front of the gate was a huge field covered in trees, mangled bushes and tons of abandoned stuff. Things like a disassembled air fan, several couch cushions and many clothes were on the ground. I’ll bet those objects could tell a good story if they had a chance.  
It was getting dark and looked like it was going to start raining any minute. I saw a flicker of lightning in the distance. As I sat on my bike looking at the debris and bushes, a thought crossed my mind that has in many places many times before: “This would be a good spot to be murdered in.”

I imagined some faceless, nameless assailant coming up behind me and choking me to death. I imagined him throwing my dead body in that field, perhaps in pieces, and imagined the pack of German Shepherds and Dobermans discovering my fingers and toes spread across the space. I imagined finally being free. No more pain. No more trying. No more failing. The thought almost made my mouth water.

I think about Laura Palmer a lot when I’m riding my bike. Maybe it’s because the trail I usually take runs alongside a river. Maybe it’s because some of the nature reminds me of my home state, Oregon, and of the beauty of the Northwest that we both (might have because she’s a fictional character) lived in and shared. Laura Palmer is one of the few characters I really relate to, which is sort of funny because I don’t even like Twin Peaks. It was a boring TV show for the most part. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, however, is one of the best women’s pictures of the last twenty-five years. I know a lot of people are annoyed the movie exists because it gives away so much of the mystery surrounding Laura, but I love it dearly. Laura's story is tragic. It's full of abuse, guilt, shame and normal teenage stuff like rebellion, experimentation and even love. She was like the Marilyn Monroe of Twin Peaks, simultaneously the most-loved and loneliest, saddest girl in town. Lynch managed to capture and present it all in one gigantic cluster fuck of a movie without judgment or a tremendous amount of pity. He just empathized. Maybe I'll write more about it in the future.
I’ve always felt guilty. It’s something I carry around with me constantly, like a cancerous lump in my emotional body that won’t go away no matter how much chemo or holistic medicine I throw at it. Sometimes the lump is bigger and sometimes it’s smaller, but it’s always there. It makes me feel afraid to be happy…like, if I’m happy, then I’m going to be punished in some way. Why should a person who feels as guilty as I do deserve to be happy? Logically, I know that I have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. I’ve made mistakes, sure, but no more than the average bear. I’ve genuinely striven to be a good, kind person. Helping people makes me happier than just about anything. I think the character of Laura Palmer felt similarly. She always felt guilty for things that weren’t her fault, for things she couldn’t control, for the fucked up life she wound up with.  We must have done something wrong to deserve all of this pain, right?  

I guess I’m lucky because, right now at least, I’m older than she was on the show. I suppose I can handle the pain a little better. Our problems definitely started when we were around the same age, but I guess that’s just made us seasoned pain professionals. Laura was a little braver and bolder than me though. She managed to find both punishment and relief in places like One-Eyed Jacks and with people like Leo and Jacques. She pushed herself to edge of oblivion with both twisted sex and copious amounts of drugs, hoping to grind that pain into nothingness and excess like metal on metal, like a razor slicing deep down a person’s arm narrowly avoiding the important bits. Punished and degraded by abusive men and stiff leather, released by cocaine and orgasms. Twitch of the death nerve. Oh, but Laura, that’s so easy. Tempting, but easy. I suppose I can’t blame you because I’ve almost been coaxed into similar situations. I grew up in a small Northwestern lumber town too, remember, but I knew that wasn’t the right way to escape or feed the pain.
Wanting to live is a far greater challenge than wanting to die. I don’t want to feel guilty all the time. I don’t want to die anymore.
That last sentence is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever had to write.  
I stood in that field all alone and got a shiver down my spine when I realized what I was thinking about and how downright pleasurable it was to feel that way. Why does the idea of dying feel so good? I decided right then and there that would be the last time I ever lusted for death, ever wanted to be punished for simply existing. No more fear, no more giving into my depression and letting it beat me to a pulp over and over again. I’m sick of that shit. I want to and I am going to take control, have fun and sucker punch my depression.
I gave the field one final look as the big drops of summer rain started to fall. Then I turned my bike around and headed back to the comfortable and populated confines of the normal bike trail to be amongst the living once again.

And because I’m a crazy person who thinks far too much about the lives of fictional characters, even ones that freakin’ died in their universes, I got a pang as I made my way back to the land of the living because I realized Laura Palmer would never be given the same opportunity. If only she could have held out a year or two more and gone to an out of state college. If only she could have told someone about what was happening and that someone had actually done something to help her. If only she could have met Dale Cooper sooner. At least Lynch was kind enough to give her the angel, the friend, she so desperately wanted in the end.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Dear Home,
I never felt like I had a home before I met you. I lived in the same small town for basically my whole life, surrounded by family, but I never felt at home anywhere until I met you at 18. You gave me the anchor I longed for, needed and never had before then. I felt like I actually had a family. I’ve always loved our little family. I loved the home you gave me. It made me feel so safe. We’ve lived in tons of different apartments on two continents, both shitty ones and gorgeous ones, but every place felt like home because you were there with me. “Home is wherever I’m with you” as the song goes.

Now my home is gone, well half-gone. I’m still here in the last space we shared, where I can still see you sitting on our couch playing Animal Crossing and see the splatters of paint and shreds of paper scattered about your office from your artwork.  Your slippers casually sitting on the ground like they expect to be filled with your big feet at any moment. Our, or, I guess, my darling Dachshund still looking for you in every room. But it doesn’t feel like home anymore. You don’t feel like my home anymore. If I’m being honest, you haven’t felt like my home for a long time. In the last year, you’ve felt like a hurricane, an incredibly slow-moving, tremendously painful hurricane that slowly ripped away my walls of comfort and blankets of love. You rejected the home you gave me and the one we built together in favor of one that doesn’t have anything to do with me. The reasons you did this were good ones, but I still don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.

For now, I feel homeless. Living in a beautiful apartment full of gut-wrenching memories that’s too expensive and way too big for one person and a little dog. I have to move soon. I have to move to a place that doesn’t have anything to do with you. No memories of first and only Christmas trees, Star Trek marathons or knives hidden in old purses. It might be better for me, but it’s still going to be a tragic day when it happens.

The truth is, I love being a wife, love caring, sharing and loving another person. I loved you when you appreciated this and was incredibly disappointed and sad when you didn’t. I really miss you and the fun we had together, but I hope that if and when I find my new home, that home appreciates and loves everything I do. Maybe it'll be you again, maybe it'll be someone else, maybe it'll be nobody. I don't know.

Until then, and probably the most painful and difficult part about all of this, is that now I have to learn how to feel at home by myself. Find that homey feeling within somehow. Find it across the world from my actual family and many of the friends I’ve made in this fucked up life. Find it away from you. Am I strong enough? Am I brave enough? Am I confident enough? I guess we’ll see.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I've been working on this one blog post since September. Sorry if it's confusing or badly formatted. I just need to let all of this stuff go.


There's only one hour and forty-four minutes left of 2013. It's been a crazy fucking year. I think I wrote more this year than I ever have before. Libby is also in great health, I like my job, I got to see my mom for the first time in many years, I watched a shit ton of Star Trek, I traveled a little bit and I became friends with a lot of awesome people. Sounds fantastic, right? Well, yeah, but I can't say that 2013 was full of peaches and rose petals.

The truth is, it's been a really rough year checkered with some amazing events. I'm sad most of the time and seem to cry almost everyday. But it's okay to feel sad, right? I've become an expert at dealing with sadness. Sometimes it destroys me and makes me stay in bed all day, but, mostly, I kick its ass by staying focused and trying to be positive. Before I get into why I'm sad all the time, here are a few of the reasons I keep trying to thrive:

2013 Highlights


I interviewed John Hyams for Mubi. Writing for them was one of my dreams and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to interview Mr. Hyams.


- My 27th birthday was a great deal of fun. My husband, Jake, surprised me with a spa day and a bottle of my favorite perfume. Best birthday ever.


- I saw Tony Scott's Deja Vu for the first time.
- I made my Andy Kaufman/Mighty Mouse video.
- I conceived of The Vulgar Cinema while washing dishes one cold afternoon and promptly Facebook messaged my favorite dudes about the idea. We've sent almost 5000 messages now. Maybe we'll publish them someday. Becoming friends with them was definitely one of the very best parts of my year.


- Libby celebrated her 16th birthday!
- The Vulgar Cinema's first series was posted. We wrote letters to John McTiernan in prison. Here's my letter.
- Baseball season started!


- The Vulgar Cinema ran its Farrelly Brothers series. I wrote about Fever Pitch. We received a lot of nice feedback on this one.
- Saw Furious 6 opening day and took pictures with the big-ass billboard for the movie in Brno.
- A bird pooped on my boobs.
- I visited Edgar G. Ulmer's childhood home in Olomouc.


- I saw Furious 6 again.
- I watched Johnnie To's Drug War.
- Bought a new computer, but it's now busted and need to take it in to be repaired.
- Went to a few BBQs with some Czech pals.
- Made some new friends because of all the Vulgar Auteurism hubbub.


- Hung out with Meghan and Sweets in Brno and Prague.
- Met up with Mr. Matt Hannigan in Vienna for a whirlwind 24 hours.
- Visited Fritz Lang's childhood home while I was there.
- Celebrated being in the Czech Republic for one whole year.
-  Watched a shitload of Sylvester Stallone movies.
- Wrote about and made a silly video for Dwayne Johnson at The Vulgar Cinema.


- Interviewed Outlaw Vern for The Vulgar Cinema.
-  Picked my mom up at the Prague airport.
- Was mentioned in an article for the Roger Ebert website by Steven Erickson. That was cool because my mom and grandparents actually know who Roger Ebert was.
- I finished watching Star Trek: TNG.
- I started watching Star Trek: DS9.


- Took my mom to the Marilyn Monroe exhibit at Prague Castle on her last day of vacation. Cried like a baby when she left.
- Football season started.


- Celebrated my 9th anniversary with the Jakester.
- I interviewed Jake about his videos for the Incite Film Journal. Still waiting for it to be published.
- Watched oodles of horror movies and had a horror movie night with my best pal, Maggie.
- Dressed as Lt. Melanie Ballard from Ghosts of Mars for Halloween.


- Shaved my head.
- Saw Jerry Lewis' Smorgasbord on 35mm at Vienna's film museum.


- Colored my hair purple.
- Finished our Carpenter series for The Vulgar Cinema. I wrote about The Ward and interviewed Sandy King Carpenter and John Carpenter.
My essay about Brian De Palma's Passion was published in La Furia Umana's online edition.
- I listed twelve of my favorite filmmakers for The Experimental Film Society.
- The Packers beat the Chicago Bears! They're now the NFC North Champions.

+ Jake made seventy videos this year. Super proud of him.

Here's a sample of what the rest of my year was like behind the scenes:

I don't feel well today, but I'm going to teach two classes later this evening. Tuesdays have become the worst day of the week in my home. My husband, Jake, has come to fear his Tuesday classes. He starts teaching at 7:30 in the morning and finishes around 6 in the evening. I don't know if he consciously does it or not, but he tends to wake me up 2-3 times in the morning while he's preparing to leave. Sometimes he wants me to acknowledge his fear and try to make him feel better. Other times he wants me to be a silent symbol of strength and goodness - something to look forward to when he finishes his long day. Wednesdays were the bad day last semester. Our 9th anniversary is this Saturday.


Sometimes I get jealous of people. I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn't been the first person in my immediate family to go to college. I wonder what life would have been like if I'd had a real wedding, one with family and friends close by. I wonder what life would be like if my husband didn't have bipolar disorder. I wonder what it would be like not to be married to an artist. I wonder what life would be like to be alone.

My husband told me three times this week that he was either going to kill himself soon or was actually already in the process of dying. The pain he feels is so visceral, overwhelming, and consistent. Extremely consistent. Sometimes he walks down the street and feels like screaming or crying because of the noise. Sometimes he can't get out of bed because being alive is so stressful. I'm the only one, and I mean the only one, who has seen what this monster is really like.

But, ya know, I'm sick to death of talking about my husband. I'm sick of hearing him talk about his endless brilliant projects, how he's dealing with being mentally ill, all of it. I love him more than anything else in the world, but I wish he would stop talking about himself sometimes. Being self-absorbed is both a trait of being an artist and a symptom of bipolar disorder, so he was dealt a double dose of that when he was born. I know I'm the only one he has to talk to, but he's also the only one I have to talk to. He talks so much that I don't want to talk anymore. His disorder and his artistry have almost completely taken over my life. I'm interviewing him about his work for a magazine, I'm submitting his movies to festivals, I listen to his pain, suffering and poetic detailed descriptions of his videos every fucking day. I can't handle working, taking care of a senior dog and mentally ill husband, being a video artist's secretary AND somehow work on my own projects at the same time. I'm too worn out, mentally and physically.


I have a great work ethic. I guess I get it from my mother. I skipped work at Whole Foods as often as I could because I was miserable there, but I've only missed one day of teaching since I moved to the CR because of illness. However, I'd say that once a week or so, I go to work and everyone looks at me and says something like "you look so tired, Sara!" I tell them I don't feel well. I use that phrase a lot because it encompasses many feelings. It could mean I have a cold, a headache, cramps, whatever. I usually use it when I don't feel well emotionally.

Libby is curled up next to me because she knows I had a bad day. A really bad day.

I'm so bored talking about all of this crap, though. Who cares about  my miserable feelings and bipolar husband.

I feel like talking about something positive. I need more positivity in my life.

I recently started teaching an eight year old boy named Adam. I usually hate children, but this kid is awesome. He could barely count to ten or tell me his name when I started teaching him a month or so ago. Now we're working on simple present question forms. He learns very quickly. I teach him twice a week for forty-five minutes at a time. He usually comes to our lessons straight from school where he's been sitting and learning for 8 hours. The Czech school system sucks the life out of children.  They never do anything fun; just memorize facts and write down everything the teacher says. The teachers hardly ever directly talks to the students. When Adam's in my class, though, he acts like a real kid. We talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Avengers and hot wheel cars. I want to get him something cool for Christmas. It's such a relief to act a little like a kid when I'm teaching Adam. Life feels light for a little while.


"If our bosses cared about me, they would fire me. If you cared about me, you would leave me. If my parents cared about me, they would have drowned me when I was born."

I think I'm alone in the apartment. Jake woke me up today to ask if I needed to use the bathroom because he was going to work in the hallway and needed total darkness to do it. He seemed uneasy and anxious, but not horrible. I said no, but regretted what I said ten minutes later. I rushed in to use the bathroom and he was annoyed. Ten minutes later he came in and started having an episode. He left because he didn't want to hurt me with his words. Ten minutes later he came back in and started punching himself. He left again, I followed. I discovered he had ripped his favorite t-shirt off his body into a few pieces. He was sobbing and asked me to leave his office. I did. He came back in, started talking about his desperation and I said all the wrong things. I feel like a monster. I don't know where he is.

We were supposed to go to the ballet tonight.


It's January now and the first two weeks of 2014 haven't been very nice. Jake almost died last week. I pulled a razor out of his hand and watched him whip himself with a belt. He jumped in front of some speedy cars and regretted it at the last second. He took a shower with me for the first time in years today. Sometimes things feel like they used to, which scares me because I know I'll be punished for feeling happy sooner or later. Things are either wonderful or god fucking awful now.

It's 2:00 right now and I'm on the verge of having a panic attack because I don't know if I'm a person anymore. I think I'm just a blob of sorrow.