Archive for February, 2013


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my most personally influential books ever, I first read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” in fifth grade in our ad-hoc honors English program taught by Mrs. Clark. This is the same Mrs. Clark who encouraged me to audition for the local playmakers production of “Oliver,” and when I said I didn’t know any of the songs in the musical, said to me, “Well, just sing Happy Birthday, then.” I did, and got the much coveted role of Orphan and Fagin’s boy. This is the same Mrs. Clark who staged a small-time production of a play called, “The Miss Witch Contest.” After I noticed that there were virtually no good male roles, I asked whether I could audition for the Queen Witch? She thought a moment, then said, “Why not?” The rest is history, and though I may have made myself somewhat of a fifth grade outcast, I nevertheless shone in her eyes, and that meant ever so much to me, then and now.

Ray Bradbury is a masterful storyteller, and in “Something Wicked This Way Comes” teaches us about the nature of evil, and our need to come to terms with mortality, all while situating his story within the fantasy realm of a wicked carnival which has come to town. Two boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, are best friends, virtually the same age, and are inexorably drawn to the spectacle and the lure of darkness, the strange scent evil sends off which alternately attracts and repels. This story, without ever moralizing, teaches us how to confront darkness, both the darkness outside and within us, and also shows us the temptation to take the easy way out, especially if we’re given the opportunity to make a deal with the dark side of human nature to extend our lives to an unnatural length, all at the cost of our soul.

I had avoided rereading this book for many years now because I feared it would not live up to the way it impacted my fifth grade mind. I never looked at a carnival the same way, and have always been fascinated by their here-today, gone-tomorrow nature. Something that breezes into town on a stiff wind to tempt us with its many lurid technicolor and cotton candy sweet offerings. Rereading this book didn’t disappoint in the slightest, and I was amazed, as someone who’s attempting to be a writer myself, at the complexity of what is conveyed in a deceptively simple tale.

I rarely say this: rush out and read this! You will appreciate the simplicity and intricacies of your life all that much more.

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Drunk Dreams

Friends have told me numerous times,  “I definitely have another drunk in me; I’m just not sure I have another recovery in me.”  I always thought, “My God, need you be so damn dramatic?”  After my drunk dream last night, however, I begin to understand their sentiment.

I dreamt last night that I was about to go on a date with Adam Levine (okay, so I gotta dream big), and I got skunk drunk, knock-down-drag-me-out-of-the-bar drunk.  I naturally humiliated myself and he wanted no part of me, leaving me ignominiously on the street corner.  Though the details are somewhat hazy now, several hours later, kind of like the hazy morning-after memories of those now long gone days, I nevertheless remember the panic, the feeling that this is it, I can’t possibly fathom putting together two days sober, two weeks sober, a month sober.  April 27th 2007 was the last day I fell down snookered, and April 28th this year I will celebrate six years sober, God and the universe willing.  I begin to understand, dramatic or not, I may not have another recovery in me so I better make this one count.

I have thought about starting up another blog site, “One Drunk to Another,” and I personally feel it might make for a great book, but I really don’t want to jinx myself.  I’ve got my life going on pretty good, heading creatively in the right direction as a writer who actually writes rather than dreaming about, but not working on the Great American Novel, and most days, I don’t have to think about alcohol or the effort involved in maintaining sobriety.  It often seems deceptively easy.  I laid a pretty good foundation, if I say so myself, and now weeks go by without me even thinking how great a Jack Daniels would be to take the edge off or make me more relaxed and interesting, or some other such nonsense.

Plus, I surround myself with positive people, and seem to naturally draw people with similar values into my life.  Even those friends who drink don’t seem to have a problem having A GLASS of wine or A BEER, or if they order a second, often leave it half finished.  This is unfathomable to me, and at times I find myself wondering, “How on earth can they simply leave a glass unfinished?”  During my drunk bar days, I needed to have a glass in my hand at all times, and though now the glass holds a soda water with a lime, that behavior hasn’t dramatically changed.  I still feel most comfortable holding that reassuring clear-bottomed glass in hand.

Strange enough, I have made numerous friends at Northwestern who speak in code, and let me know, “I had to quit drinking, or die.”  Again, these friends seem to have a flair for the dramatic, but there is truth in the sentiment.  I might not have physically died, though it was certainly a possibility driving home after far too many cocktails, I most certainly would have died spiritually and emotionally.

I have dreams again, and the courage to pursue them.  These dreams are far different than the drunken stupors I once found myself wallowing in, and it is a rare reminder to have a nightmare to reinforce that all the good in my life starts with me taking responsibility for my actions.  Hugh Jackman, in talking about the painful life experience of having his mother abandon him when he was eight, refuses to wallow in life’s disappointments.  He said, “There comes a certain point in life when you have to stop blaming other people for how you feel or the misfortunes in your life.  You can’t go through life obsessing about what might have been.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.