Thomm Quackenbush, author

09.20.06 8:50 p.m.

Everything that is worthwhile in life is scary. Choosing a school, choosing a career, getting married, having kids - all those things are scary. If it is not fearful, it is not worthwhile.  

-Paul Tornier

 



Previously in Xenology: Xen terrified others and did not get arrested. Emily got into grad school.

The Haunting of Bowdoin Park

This is the first Haunted Mansion cast meeting I have attended in years. I wanted to see my old associates in scaring, but recall quickly why I so often skip these. I know to wear black and to terrify the paying public without touching or confronting; I have no need to have the rules reiterated at length, unlike the pubescent new volunteers.

This is not to say that there aren't changes of note. While still under the aegis of Kevin McCurdy, the cast has new and experienced management. They intend to keep things running smoothly and orderly, with ID cards and individual make-up instead of late arrivals and costumes piled in corners. Lofty and logical, certainly showing the wisdom of nearly a decade as fellow actors, I hope that these new regulations are obeyed.
Drill that pelvis  
A pelvis and a drill... pretty much sums the Mansion up

One bit of information that does catch my attention is the name and reputed history of one of the Mansion ghosts, as well as Kevin's assurance that he knows this ghost is real because he is the one who witnessed it on several occasions. It is possible he was just telling the newbies a story to establish a suitably creepy mood - it certainly is a trite enough plot for that - but I will share it anyway. Sigmund Fryes - we do not know if the spelling is accurate - was a camp counselor at Bowdoin Park decades ago. One night, he was found hanging of an apparent suicide from a tree close to the location of what would become the old Haunted Mansion. His ghost may have followed Kevin to the new location. It is generally believed the current Mansion is just as haunted.

I previously knew nothing of Mr. Fryes, nor did I think Kevin had experienced any ghosts he hadn't made of chicken wire and plaster. The only ghost I ever saw there was a young girl and that was during my first year.

During the night of Thursday the 12th of October, eight people who win entry through a radio contest will participate in a séance to raise old Sigmund's ghost, ending at 12:01 on Friday the 13th. Kevin is a showman at the very least. It can only end well.

I will not be able to participate in the Mansion as much as I would like and certainly not as much as they would. Weekends are the only time I have to really spend with Emily now that she is in grad school and I am loath to sacrifice my nights, even on the altar of the god of fear (who I believe is Dr. Phil).

Love, What Is it Good For?

I think I would absolutely drive people crazy if they knew how much I loved them. I have been feeling very agapic of late, mixed with a healthy dose of eros. Perhaps it is the season. I feel I should give myself excuses because, in our society, love is more closely regulated than weapons grade uranium. While the French had the foresight to create as many different words for the type of love they were feelings as the Inuit did for snow, the English speakers have but one, four letter word. We can bandy about nouns like "caring" and "affection" and muck with adjectives like "romantic" and "familial", but it isn't at all the same as saying one word and knowing what someone else is feeling. It could simply be a flaw in language at all. Very technically, you can never know exactly what I mean, there are so many nuances and contexts. Assuming that you completely understand someone's intention leads to insurmountably vast amounts of interpersonal and geopolitical stress.
Melissa Ouijas Kei  
I couldn't find the picture I wanted

There are people in my social sphere whom I wish I could consider better friends because I do love them and I expect it is reciprocated, but we don't connect in any meaningful way.

Instead I feel I can only love them through their art, by reading their site or playing their CDs. Through these artifacts, I can know them even slightly and feel my love is justified.

How many people can say the same of me, I wonder? How many crave better knowledge of me and end up with a fist full of grit? How many people want to be a part of my life and have to settle on the consolation prize of Delirious, Xenology, and my stories? Will I ever know?

Transition

The only constant is change. I merely wish less change were toward the commoditization of childhood memories.

My family went on our yearly apple picking at Keepsake Farms, presently leased to people who have renamed it Barton Orchards. Along with the rechristening came numerous changes that I felt to be just as unnecessary. No longer could we drive to the section of the orchard containing our preferred variety apples, instead having to park a quarter mile away and walk. Going to the section, this would be the most minor of inconveniences - a family jaunt through an orchard, but it proves far more vexing when loaded down with bushels of apples. I believe this tact was intended to retard theft - employees were thorough as German border guards in searching my mother's car when we left - but considering the near doubling of the cost of a bushel, I don't believe we were the thieves. However, as Barton Orchards allowed our favorite apple trees to die and forced us to trounce around through heaps of bear droppings in fruitless search of them, there is little I would want to expend the effort to steal.

We returned to the adjoining farmers' market where we customarily have freshly made doughnuts and other goodies. Evidently, it is not profitable to make fresh doughnut, as we got cold, greasy rings that cost more than the fresh. Even the fun activities for kids had a price tag attached, from a dollar to stand inside a nylon pumpkin full of balloons to eight to walk through a shallow cornfield maze to learn the history of Manhattan (and I think we all know how much kids love learning history in cornfields).

The bright spot of the experience was stumbling upon Emily talking with Kendall and her fiancé. I had not seen Kendall in years except in cyberspace and am glad she is doing well, still teaching at a daycare in Cold Spring and with an engagement ring on her finger that could be brandished against attackers. What interested Emily particularly was that Kendall is presently living in a complex in Croton, about as far from us right now as from the city and therefore a way to greatly lessen her daily school commute. To invert Maslow's phrase, when all your problems are nails, you start looking for a hammer.

Everything seems to be changing when even a quaint farmers' market/orchard focuses exclusively on the bottom-line; not everything need be corporate to be good. Childhood memories most of all.

Perhaps I cling to these vestiges of childhood because I am increasingly hearkened to actual adulthood. Even my friends are changing, cloistering themselves in relationships and careers, and I hate it. I hate the details of survival eclipsing the reason to bother surviving. I miss spontaneous, arbitrary fun.

Is this all inevitable? Must we grow distant from what we once held dear to grow up?

My cat's breath smells like cat food

You'll be happy to know Emily and I will not be reduced to a diet of Ramen noodles and cat food.
Emily  
"Of course I will help them..."
Shortly after beginning her fretful work of a grad degree in being the savior, the advising center - impressed by her surname, experience, and charm - hired her on. But she isn't simply the student aid office help, she is the director of the Baird scholarship - dubbed the "Bad News Bairds" given that they have been largely ignored by the administration prior to assigning M the caretaker of its designees. M has sworn to go to bat for the recipients with every ounce of strength she has left after classes, homework, and commuting. Both the students and administration have my sympathy.

This job means that, coupled with her monthly educational stipend, she makes as much as I do working over fifty hours a week. She actually earns $5 more an hour than I do subbing most days. As such and despite my stated willingness, I will not have to bear the brunt of our household bills.

She wishes for me to make crystal clear she is pulling her weight.

Soon in Xenology: Teaching.

last watched: Little Miss Sunshine
reading: Girl, Interrupted
listening: Fashion Nugget

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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