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Lost In Time, And In Space.

It’s really difficult to get lost these days. Not that I want to get lost but I also wouldn’t mind exploring unexplored territory, or at least having to rely on something other than technology to figure out where I am. I thought about this looking at Atlas Obscura’s map of “The Loneliest Road In Every State In America”. I have questions about that map, mainly since it just looked for the roads with the lowest average traffic. What about roads with the fewest houses, or the smallest number of places you can stop? I’ve never actually seen a filling station with a sign that said something like, “Last chance for gas next 100 miles”, but then I’ve never been to Death Valley, which seems to be where you find those.

At least I did have a small adventure the other night when I went out for a to-go order. We’re well into the time of year now when the sun sets early and the darkness that settles in seems so much deeper. I went out to pick up a to-go order from a Thai restaurant that’s in a small shopping center on a major road but, thanks to some weird urban planning, there aren’t any major intersections near it. To get there I have to wind through neighborhoods, something I didn’t really think about until I’d been on the road for about fifteen minutes and realized the way I was going wasn’t wrong but it was still taking me farther out of the way than I needed to go. It was a route I was taking out of habit, really.

Then, on the way back, with a couple of orders of curry and pad Thai as my copilot, I decided to take a different route, a way I’d never gone before, but, since it was roughly the right direction I thought I’d try it.

And I ended up disappearing down a series of cul-de-sacs and winding roads, through old neighborhoods of dimly lit houses set well back from the road. But almost every house had Halloween decorations in their yard. I may not have known where I was but I knew I was among my kind of people.

It Was Gone In A Flash.

Because once isn’t enough with the Monster Cereals this year I got my first chance to try the Monster Mash variety. This has been out there for several years but, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, chupacabras, Jersey devils, or the Fresno nightcrawler, you have to be in the right place at the right time to see it. I even thought it might be like the Mothman of West Virginia—around only once for a brief time before disappearing. Apparently the formulation changes slightly each year too. It’s not, as the box would lead you to believe, a mix of all six cereals, which some people think would be disgusting. I’m not sure why anyone would think that. There’s not that much difference between the cereals—blindfolded I couldn’t tell you the difference between Franken Berry and Boo Berry—and technically Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy are the same mix, although the Brute originally had lime-flavored marshmallows before being re-released as a cherry-flavored cereal.

The only flavor that would stand out in the group would be Count Chocula, and who doesn’t like fruit mixed with chocolate? Unless you’re allergic to chocolate. Or fruit.

This year’s Monster Mash “Remix” is a blend of about fifty-percent Carmella Creeper—as their new release and a DJ she takes center-stage—and pieces that are, for some reason, dark gray. They’re meant to represent…tombstones? The box doesn’t give any information but let’s say they’re tombstones because that makes the most sense. Not something you’d want to chew on, but that would be taking the Monster Cereals much too literally. The cereal mascots are the inspiration for the cereals, just as the classic Universal Monsters—well, some of them, anyway: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and (possibly) the Invisible Man inspired the mascots. Carmella Creeper is the only one who isn’t drawn from a cinematic monster. They skipped the Creature From The Black Lagoon because, I guess, not that many kids have seen The Shape Of Water.

Carmella’s green cereal mixed in with the tombstones does seem like a callback to her own origin as a collection of reassembled body parts, but it also makes me think she could have been given a plant-based backstory, a manipulator of all green things. Mobile trees and vines are a popular horror film trope from Poltergeist to The Evil Dead—films some of us saw when we were kids even if we shouldn’t have—but anything plant-based in your cereal might have come across as “Eat your vegetables”.

There’s also a wide array of marshmallow types in the Monster Mash. Well, four, anyway: yellow, orange, brown and white striped, and plain brown. I guess these are supposed to represent the different monsters. Four of them, anyway. Frute Brute, my personal favorite, was probably left out again.

Land Of The Found.

Any time I see construction equipment it takes me back to watching Land Of The Lost, the Sid & Marty Krofft adventure show, on Saturday mornings. I think I was too young to watch it from the very start and I’m a little surprised it ended in 1976—it seemed like it went on longer than that, thanks to the telescoping effects of time when you’re young. And for some reason I remember Sigmund & The Sea Monsters coming later, when it was really on at the same time. There was also Wonderbug, about a dilapidated dune buggy that, with the aid of a magical horn, turned into a flying super car.

There were so many other Krofft shows on so I don’t know why Sigmund and Wonderbug are so memorable to me, but I do know why Land Of The Lost has stayed with me: dinosaurs. There only seemed to be two: a T-Rex named “Grumpy”, who was a persistent threat, and a baby brontosaurus named “Dopey”. And there were also the Sleestaks and the ape-like creatures, especially Cha-Ka. There was a kid in my neighborhood who had a dog named Cha-Ka and it’s very funny to me that the dog outlived the series by at least ten years.

I was really only interested in the dinosaurs, though. Plots characters, setting—none of it mattered. I don’t think I’d even seen Star Trek at that point so it wouldn’t have meant anything to me that Land Of The Lost was created by David Gerrold who’d also written “The Trouble With Tribbles”. Even though the dinosaurs were obviously either puppets or stop-motion animation it was really cool to me to see dinosaurs moving around and interacting with people.

That brings me back to the construction equipment. About the same time I was watching Land Of The Lost there was a house being built across the street from where I lived. There was some serious construction equipment brought in: an excavator and also something smaller. It seems like it was a steamroller but with two seats facing in both directions.

Not that it really mattered to me what they were. To me they were Grumpy and Dopey. I played around them, making up my own dinosaur adventures. All it took was a little imagination and I was transported to another world.

Keep On Creepin’ On.

It’s that time of year again—specifically Monster Cereal time, when I binge on Count Chocula, Franken Berry, Boo Berry, and, on those wonderful, rare, special occasions when they bring it back, my personal favorite, Frute Brute. Also Yummy Mummy, which knocked Frute Brute out of the lineup back in 1988, and which also only rarely makes a comeback. And this year, for the first time in thirty-five years, the first female mascot has joined the Monster Cereals team: Carmella Creeper, who seems to be a zombie. She’s also Franken Berry’s “long lost cousin”.

I would seriously love to know the Berry/Creeper family tree but General Mills hasn’t been forthcoming with more information, although one of those genealogical websites should be able to handle reanimated corpses.

Carmella is, as you might guess from her headphones, a DJ—presumably being in that booth prevents her from attacking and devouring unsuspecting dancers—and obviously shops at Hot Topic. I don’t think of Radiohead as being very bass-heavy but then I don’t know what kind of mixes Carmella spins. Still, come on, “Creep” has got to be her favorite song, right?

The story of her reunion with ol’ cousin Frankie is pretty fun. I did wonder why Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy weren’t invited to play video games with the other three—aside from Frutie being killer at Skyrim—but if you squint at the bottom panel you can see they were well ahead of the rest of the gang in bumpin’ to Carmella’s phat beats.

And, finally, there’s that cereal which is supposed to be “caramel apple” flavor. The fluorescent color had me worried that they were trying for “green apple”—a notoriously difficult flavor because you don’t want to go too sour, but instead they went for a mild sweet flavor with a caramel aftertaste. It’s not bad but I think the Monster Cereal squad’s first female deserves something better. Clever design and a funny backstory are great but with breakfast cereal it’s what’s inside that counts.

The Change.

A friend of mine told me, “I’ve been having these dreams that I’m running through the woods on all fours. I’m chasing something and I think that running on two legs would be better, but somehow I find myself going faster than I could on two legs, and it just feels natural. Anyway if I’m not around during the next full moon maybe this is why.”

And this is my reply:

Congratulations! You’re about to go through one of the great Changes Of Life. It’s like puberty in that you’ll get a lot of hair in places you never had it before, as well as extremely strong emotions, and an overwhelming desire to run around naked. Unlike puberty this isn’t a change most people go through, but I’m glad you shared it with me because I can offer you some advice.

First, it’s not the moon, it’s the mood. The moon may be full or it may be gibbous, and I’m not just saying that because “gibbous” is a funny word. It’s cyclical but it’s irregular. You’ll find it hits you primarily spring and summer, but also sometimes in the fall. Pray it doesn’t hit you in the middle of winter, especially when it’s been snowing.

Second, when the mood hits you avoid people. Just get away. This is where it’s also like puberty: you’re going to want to have some companions around you but you’re also going to be irritable and difficult to deal with, even for people who know what you’re going through. You’re also not going to want to be around people, and that’s for the best. Someone could get hurt and no one wants that. Also people don’t taste very good.

Third, keep a change of clothes in your car. While you’re going to feel better after a nice long stroll through the woods chances are you’re going to forget where you left the ones you were wearing. Figure out a nice secure place to store your phone, wallet, and keys. This should probably not be inside your car since they’ve all got this auto-locking feature now, and anyway you wouldn’t want to go off and leave all that stuff in an unlocked car anyway. Hollow logs are a bad idea because animals like to go back and forth through those and you don’t want a raccoon getting your credit cards. Putting stuff under a rock usually works.

Fourth, remember where you parked your car.

Fifth, yes, silver bullets can kill you. So can copper bullets, steel bullets, pointed sticks, rocks, getting hit by a car, and pretty much anything else that can cause serious injury.

Sixth, you may feel the desire to mark your territory. I recommend you do this late at night with the lights off. Your neighbors don’t want to see that.

Finally, relax, this is all perfectly natural. If you just go with it you’ll find it can even be a lot of fun, and most of the time it’ll just pass without anyone even noticing anything. Oh, before I forget, though, if some morning you wake up in the woods naked and smeared with blood you’ll want to get checked for tularemia.

Welcome to the pack, good luck, and here’s hoping we don’t run into each other!

Crash.

I can count the number of car accidents I’ve been in on one hand with fingers left over, even after recently having someone run into me. I’d come to a stop because a car in front of me came to a stop and I have this memory, although it’s a bit fuzzy, of looking in the rearview mirror and thinking, That white car behind me is coming up awfully fast. Then there was a bump, and a second bump, and, after I put the car in park, I got out. The young woman in the white car that had crashed into me got out, and there was a red car behind her that was angled as the guy driving it had tried to swerve but crashed anyway. And we all three yelled at each other, in unison, “Are you all right?”

After confirming that the three of us seemed to be okay we stepped off to the side—luckily this all happened right next to an abandoned parking lot—and started the process of making calls and sharing information. I called the non-emergency number to file a police report and was told the white car that hit me had a crash alert and that police, the fire department, and EMTs, including an off-duty EMT who just happened to be driving by and stopped to make sure we were all okay before the others showed up, were on their way.

And then the sharing really started. We all introduced ourselves, I got the insurance information from the other two drivers, and the young woman who’d been driving the white car told me she’d lived in Nashville her entire life, she was an assistant manager at a coffee shop, and she’d just gotten her father an Alaskan cruise for Christmas. I hope he doesn’t read this or, if he does, that it’s not a surprise.

I didn’t learn as much about the guy who’d been driving the red car, but we all did have a nice chat, standing around in the noonday sun on hot asphalt while cars went by, crackling over the debris of our accidents. The other two cars needed to be towed—I also learned the young woman has a brother who owns a tow truck, so she had that taken car of—but I was able to drive away. So, after we’d all been checked out, given our statements to the police, and exchanged the necessary and unnecessary information, I, feeling a bit awkward, said, “Well, it’s nice to have met both of you. I wish the circumstances had been better.” Then I left.

That is, of course, not the end of the story. There’s still insurance to deal with. I’m the only one who’s not at fault so at least I’ve got that going for me. I also felt really calm, and that worried me. I’ve read about people who walked away from near death experiences thinking they were the bravest person in the world only to have a breakdown a few days, or even a few weeks, later. Is that going to happen to me?

Maybe not. The other accidents I’ve been in have left me a little shaken but with no lingering effects. In eighth grade my father was driving me and some friends to school and had stopped at an intersection when a van that was going well over the speed limit slammed into the back of his car. I was in the front seat with my seatbelt on and I distinctly remember blacking out briefly then thinking someone had hit the car with a rock before my friend John said, “We’ve been hit.” The trunk of my father’s car was completely crushed and I had to get out and wrench the back door open so my friends could get out. Luckily my father had just traded in his Pinto.

This the first time I’ve been in an accident as the driver, and, even though I wasn’t at fault, there’s nothing good about being in an accident. I tense up a little when I’ve stopped at a red light or a stop sign and I see cars coming toward me in the rearview mirror, but going forward I keep my eyes on the road ahead. That’s all I can do. 

 

Fool’s Gold.

Source: Wikipedia

Costco is selling gold bars. Or they were. Apparently they’ve all sold out now. That’s okay—I have a Costco membership and there’s a lot of other stuff there I’d rather have. I love Costco because it’s the only place I can get a seven-gallon jar of Nutella, which is almost enough to last me a month. And I used to go there to get a free lunch from the samples they were giving away. Well, free if you don’t count the membership price. I went there with my parents once and they were giving out free samples of mini-bagel pizzas. My father went back so many times that finally the lady who was handing them out just said, “Here, sir, just take the whole tray.”

I lalso ove gold. Even though, as far as I know, I don’t own anything made of gold—no jewelry, no coins, not even a gold tooth, which I’d only put in for Talk Like A Pirate Day—I love that this weird yellowish metal that’s not really good for anything is one of the most valued things on the planet. Yes, I know, gold is a really good conductor—even better than copper—but how many houses do you know that are wired with gold? Because if they were they’d need all that conductivity to run a superpowered security system. Gold is valuable because its color is distinctive and it’s so non-reactive if you find some krennerite rocks you can put them next to a campfire and gold will literally ooze out. That happened in the Australian town of Kalgoorlie in the 1890s. When people discovered the bricks they’d built their homes out of contained small amounts of gold they literally started tearing the town apart, finding, in some cases, as much as two ounces of gold for every ton of rock. And I hope they got something out of that because you can build a house with a ton of bricks but you can’t sleep in two ounces of gold. That’s what I love about gold, though, and also why I don’t really want any: people get so stupid about it. One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes is “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” about four criminals who steal a million dollars worth of gold—back in 1961 when it was $35 an ounce. It’s up to $1,865.74 now. But when they wake up in 2061 it’s worthless because “they figured out a way to manufacture it.”

So here’s a tip from Rod Serling: sell your gold some time in the next thirty-eight years.

I also hope I’m around in 2061 because I would really love to have a car with giant plastic domes and no seatbelts. Even more than gold.

Source: The Twilight Zone Vortex

And The Beat Goes On.

My high school Junior year, in song:

First week of school:

“School Days” by Chuck Berry

Second through fourth week of school:

“Rock and Roll High School” by The Ramones

Fifth week of school:

“The Hard Way” by The Kinks

Sixth week of school, first report card:

“The Happiest Days Of Our Lives/Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” by Pink Floyd

Seventh through tenth week of school:

“I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats/Friday I’m In Love by The Cure

Eleventh week of school:

“School Mam” by The Stranglers

Twelfth week of school, second report card:

“Beauty School Dropout” by Frankie Avalon

Thirteenth through fifteenth week of school:

“Mark Me Absent” by The Clash

Sixteenth through seventeenth week of school:

“Parents Just Don’t Understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince

Eighteenth week of school, third report card, winter exams, getting ready for the holidays:

“I Hate My School” by Necros

Nineteenth week of school, new year, new semester:

“Entry of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik

Twentieth through twenty-third week of school:

“Flight Of The Bumblebee” by Rimsky Korsakov

Twenty-fourth week of school, fourth report card:

“Five To One” by The Doors

Twenty-fifth week of school:

“Manic Monday” by The Bangles

Twenty-sixth through twenty-ninth week:

“Ball Of Confusion” by The Temptations

Thirtieth week of school, fifth report card:

“Land Of Confusion” by Genesis

Thirty-first week of school:

“Haunted When The Minutes Drag” by Love & Rockets

Thirty-first week of school, again:

“The Reflex” by Duran Duran

Thirty-second week of school:

“Jump” by Van Halen

Thirty-third week of school:

“You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Thirty-fourth week of school, writing papers, looking ahead to summer:

“Touch Of Grey” by The Grateful Dead

Thirty-fifth week of school, final exams begin:

“The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night

Thirty-sixth week of school, finishing final exams, summer vacation, final report card hopefully lost in the mail:

“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by The Animals

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