Friday, September 10, 2010


I've been writing this story (it's taking a while). It's a hero's journey tale, which ought to have been a simple affair to put on paper. Alas, had I only taken the Hero's Journey myself.

Well, maybe I did, a little. Maybe I'm still on the Hero's Journey. Maybe this is the part where the hero - filled with despair - succumbs to the temptations of the world and grows fat and lazy, spending all of his time looking at the amazing lives of other people on the internet and wishing he was doing more.

No, wait. That's not in the Hero's Journey, exactly, is it?

But it got me thinking. Actually, I was thinking about who inspired the protagonist of the story I'm not writing right now, because I'm writing this. And that got me thinking about who my heroes are, have been. It's a crazy, stupid, incredibly long list, but here are a few in no particular order:

Luke Skywalker

Other kids wanted to be Firemen or Astronauts or even Jedi. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I figured it out later, but that's always kind of lurked in the background, even today.

Stephen King

Say whatever the hell you want (you book snob) about the so-called "pedestrian" nature of Stephen King's work. The man can spin a tale. I can't think of one King story I've read that let me down. Silver Bullet, maybe (I read the script). Stephen King's On Writing was the book that made me think I could be a writer, after a smattering of praise from a 11th-grade English teacher. I wish now I'd abandoned everything else right then (maybe not drama) and only written until there were no words left in me. I wish I could do that now.

Richard Harris

Richard Harris was a drunk and a scalawag who quite possibly funded the IRA; but he was in a movie called "Triumph of a Man Called Horse," which was the first movie I saw that made me think I wanted to be an actor.

You may not know that I wanted to be an actor. I gave up on that dream. Fuck I don't like admitting that.

Richard Harris led an amazing life too. He told the best stories, he drank a lot, he went were he wanted to go, said what he wanted to say, and did whatever the hell he wanted to do. I always wanted to have balls like that. Sometimes I think Peter O'Toole is the man who was my hero here. Holy crap I'd loved to have gone drinking with those two. No. Richard Harris was Arthur, and John Mills, and so much more.

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan made me want to go to space even more than Luke Skywalker did, almost as much as Neil deGrasse Tyson does. More than that, Sagan makes me want to keep learning. keep studying. Be smarter. Better. More.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson seems to have picked up where Sagan, regrettably, left off - he practically studied at the man's feet. He is so infectious when he talks about science, about his own field of astrophysics, specifically. I can't help but wanting to know more. I hope for two things for Mr. Tyson. First, that he doesn't have to face any of the negativity from other scientists that Sagan is rumored to have had to face. Second, that he has the time and inclination to take the reigns of some modern incarnation of Cosmos.

Kurt Vonnegut

I came to Vonnegut kind of late in the game. I already knew I wanted to write, I already knew I wanted to speak my mind (though I haven't quite learned that trick yet). But Vonnegut gave voice to the wretched little demon under my talent and tried to kick me in the butt and make me do something. I love reading Vonnegut. Even the stuff I already read. Even when I disagree with the man, I fucking loved him.

Mel Brooks

I've always kind of secretly wished I was just half as funny as Mel Brooks.

Paul Varjak

I wanted to BE Paul Varjak because he was a) a writer, almost living the life he wanted to live - writing; and b) he was a kept man. I've wanted to be a kept man since I was a teenage boy. It's a dream, leave me alone.

I almost wanted to be Paul Varjak as much as I wanted to be "Fred." I wanted to be Fred because he got the girl. And what a girl (Audrey Hepburn in this case), crazy, psychotic, drunken (man-hating) fool with great legs and a smile that'd melt you. Wait a minute. I might've actually done that part. I hope it ended better for Fred, I mean Paul.

Charlie Chaplain

I didn't really see any Charlie Chaplain films until I was in high school, during my senior year. My Drama teacher showed us a few of them and then we improved our way through a couple of ideas brought up by the films. Watching the old silent movies, though - for the first time - in 1990, was like seeing something completely new. Actors in movies we watch now, don't do the things Chaplain did. The don't do them the way Chaplain did. I don't know if one is necessarily better than the other (if you discount the differences of medium); but Chaplain got me fired up.

Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell said once that he just wanted to act. He didn't care what the movie was, didn't care how bad it seemed or anything like that. He just wanted to act, man. True or not (I never bothered to look into its veracity), I've been impressed by that sentiment ever since. Plus, the man was Ash AND he was Elvis in Bubba Hotep. He can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.

Daniel Day Lewis

If Richard Harris made me want to act, Daniel Day Lewis made me want to act well. He also instilled in me this incredible fear (which I never quite got over), that I would never be good enough.

It was Lewis's earlier stuff that effected me most, though lately, I've viewed his work with this sinking sensation in the back of my soul telling me I should be on stage, or at least in front of a camera (there's that fear again, though).

Christopher Hitchens

Hitch is a writer who doesn't back down when his subject is likely to offend. He's a different kind of writer than I am, but he's an inspiration no matter what. He's also the man who presented about half the arguments that allowed me to let go of my belief in god(s).

There's more. More Heroes. More reasons why. But I can't for the life of me think of why I'm writing this. Who are your heroes? I left some out (because there are no videos of them); but who are the people that make you who you are, or make you want to be better.

Who inspires you to be more than you were yesterday? This is kind of important to think about every once in a while. Like realizing when you're happy.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good Dream or Best Dream

I had one of those awesome dreams that makes you (me) reach for one of the dozen or more spiral notebooks strewn around my room and try to get it all down before nothing remains but a faint smile and ephemera.

I have this recurring dream about fighting vampires around this tiny old Gothic church in the middle of some city. When I say fighting vampires, I mean there are about 30 of us against what can only be described as the vampire apocalypse. Think: "every zombie movie you've ever seen" except that the zombies are smart, can turn into wolves (or bats), have psychic powers and are so much faster than you or I will ever be. It almost always sucks. Ha ha. No.

The dream (I can't adequately explain why it's not a nightmare - well, tonight I can) usually consists of anticipation. Me and the other survivors trying to scrounge weapons, secure the children, board up windows and prep ourselves for the death we all know we can only postpone a few minutes. Maybe a few hours. I often wake just as the horde of vampires come into view, striding out of the night and filling the streets like only a horde of evil bent on your utter destruction and damnation can.

This time, I was helping the preacher, I think his name was Jon. We were filling water balloons with holy water (he was blessing them as we went) and some chick said, "can I help? I don't want to just stand around."

It was Summer Glau. If you don't know who that is, I'm sorry. Father Jon (that was it for sure) and a bunch of others and I got over being star-struck, trying to figure out why she was in Chicago. I never knew the church was in Chicago before.

I think it gave us all a kind of hope - her being there. Our families weren't there, our friends and neighbors, but here was someone we almost knew. Here was someone alive. "We can do this," I said.

Later, I was trying to show her how to fire a crossbow and she said, "dude, I was a fucking terminator."

I laughed. "Okay."

We went through all the motions we usually go through. I think I've dreamt one variation of this dream or another at least a dozen times. But I felt like a schoolboy. I was arming children with sharpened stakes and locking them in a church basement and smiling at this chick who (at least in my dream) was as smart and strong and - you get the idea. Stupid.

So someone shouts, "they're here!"

We all run up to the giant, Tolkienesque doors (I can't think of any other way to describe the church's doors - like something off a church in Arda). And we're standing there. And I look over at Summer and she gives me this smirk, like she does onscreen. Kind of a cocky, "don't be stupid, we got this all day" thing. And then the horde comes into sight and the fighting starts and I lose track of her and I wake up trying to fight my way through the horde to find where the fuck she went.

Part of me wanted to save the movie star - the idea of her gave us all so much hope, part of me just wanted to be the hero, part of me wanted to be in love (I realized for the briefest moment that I was dreaming when I told myself what a dumb idea that was - falling in love with a made-up construct of my own subconscious), and part of me wanted to get laid - I might've been fully back in the dream by then, but I did fleetingly hope it would happen before I woke up. I didn't get to her.

I woke up.

There's a school of thought among the Lucid Dreamer / Out of Body Experience people that teaches Dreams are real. When you dream, your consciousness slips the bonds of this world and sojourns (however briefly) in another actual physical reality. It seems ephemeral and disconnected only because it isn't your reality. You shouldn't be able to be there. Sometimes you interact with other dreamers, sometimes with total strangers - natives of those other worlds. Often you see these as people you know just because your subconscious (sic) knows to trust them (or not to) and assigns them these appearances in your mind so that you'll associate with them more readily. I don't buy it, but hearing the theory in its entirety lends a gravity to most dreams. There are some fucked-up other realities out there. Even worse if they are really just inner realities.

I felt a distinct sense of loss when I realized I was awake. Like I blew it. Usually when I wake up from this thing, I feel bad because I know they were going to die, but I feel good that I helped give them hope. I stretched their dream-lives a few moments longer than I might have.

But I couldn't save the girl this time; and she was new. Different. Whoever she was, I hope she made it. Anyway. I wrote it all down and decided to share. Now that it's done, I still have no idea why I don't think it was a nightmare.

It had all the elements: danger, fear, sacrifice, dark and scary imagery, that disjointed feeling you get when you know something bad is about to happen. Like I said, 30 some-odd people are about to die.

But even when I wake up with my heart pounding, sweating and - sometimes - wishing I could get back to sleep and back to the fight just to die with those good people still out there fighting, somewhere in the universe, it's not a nightmare. I don't know why.

I wish I knew better how to interpret dreams (other than, "man Dave, you're fucking crazy"). Or maybe I could actually practice Lucid Dreaming so that one night, when I dream it again, I can actually fight. Make a difference. Kill a shit-ton of vampires and save the girl. Save the Day. Save the whole damn world.

Even if it isn't mine.

Maybe it isn't a nightmare because it gives me hope. I can do better. Just let me back in there.

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